Michelle Larcher de Brito

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Wizards of Oz (I): Australian Open Day 1 Preview

Pack lunch, dinner, and a midnight snack when this man enters Rod Laver Arena.

While some of the stars opening play in Melbourne should encounter little resistance, others might want to tread carefully.  We look at some of the most notable matches on Day 1 from Rod Laver Arena to the outer courts.

Chang vs. Stosur (Rod Laver Arena):  A flustered bundle of nerves on home soil, Stosur has lost six of her last seven matches in Australia and exited in the first round here last year to Sorana Cirstea.  Despite her smooth game, Chang lacks Cirstea’s intimidating weapons and thus should pose a less severe test.  But an 0-2 start to 2013 with losses to unheralded opponents in Brisbane and Sydney inspire little confidence in Stosur as she rebounds from an ankle injury.

Hewitt vs. Tipsarevic (RLA):  Quite the contrast to Stosur, the greatest Aussie champion in recent memory typically thrives under the adoring gaze of his compatriots.  In his 17th Australian Open appearance, Hewitt thoroughly deserves this showcase setting in the first night session on Rod Laver Arena.  Recent years have seen him deliver upsets over opponents like Baghdatis, Safin, and Raonic on this court, so Tipsarevic cannot take this match lightly.  The second-ranked Serb looked solid but mortal while winning Chennai, and he won’t overpower Hewitt like many opponents near his ranking.

Ivanovic vs. Czink (RLA):  This match may start very late indeed in the aftermath of Hewitt-Tipsarevic, possibly a bad sign for Ivanovic.  A morning person, the Serb can grow weary quickly when she plays late at night, and she has struggled against lefties sporadically in her career.  That said, Czink has declined since she upset Ivanovic on the much faster court of Cincinnati in 2009, and the former finalist built confidence with three decisive wins at the Hopman Cup before Medina Garrigues outlasted her in the final.  She should aim to avoid a third set whenever possible, and probably will here.

Goffin vs. Verdasco (Hisense Arena):  Four years after he reached the semifinals (and nearly the final) here, Verdasco has regressed back to his former incarnation in which he can win or lose to anyone on any given day.  Startlingly boyish in appearance, Goffin reached the second week of Roland Garros last year and recorded fall upsets over Troicki and Isner, among others.  The 22-year-old must refine his game, especially his shot selection, to rise further into the top 50, although Verdasco can teach him little in that area.

Cibulkova vs. Barty (Hisense):  The Slovak pocket rocket unleashes impressive power when on a hot streak and can collapse completely when she loses her range even a little.  Last week in Sydney, Cibulkova showed her best and worst in defeating three top-eight opponents before eating a double bagel from Radwanska.  Which memory lingers longer in her mind may define how far she goes here, while Aussie prodigy Barty will try to gain confidence from the Hopman Cup memory of upsetting Schiavone.

Bobusic vs. Radwanska (Margaret Court Arena):  For winning the Australian Open wildcard playoff, Bobusic received a berth in the main draw—against the world #4.  Radwanska also happens to have won both of her tournaments this year, so the challenge looms very large for the home hope.  The Pole sometimes does need time to settle into an event, though, wobbling through uneasy three-setters in the first round here before.

Youzhny vs. Ebden (MCA):  Yet another Aussie faces a Russian well into the twilight of his career.  Still lovely to watch with its one-handed backhand and crisp volleys, his game matches up well to the net-rushing style of Ebden.  Both men feel comfortable all over the court, which should create some variety in the ways that points unfold.

Dellacqua vs. Keys (MCA):  After reaching the Sydney quarterfinals, the 17-year-old American should have soared in self-belief by proving that she could compete with much more experience and accomplished opponents.  She eyes a winnable match against an Aussie returning from injury, not for the first time, but with a memorable run here five years ago to inspire her.

Medina Garrigues vs. Bartoli (Show Court 3):  The Spaniard enters on a somewhat hot streak from winning the Hopman Cup with Verdasco, although she defeated no notable opponent other than Ivanovic.  Bartoli has dominated their head-to-head on hard courts but has suffered a series of early upsets at the Australian Open in recent years.  The match will rest on her racket, for better or for worse.

Harrison vs. Giraldo (Court 8):  From their last meeting at the Olympics came the regrettable temper tantrum that led to Harrison’s equally regrettable apology.  He still lets his competitive fire burn too brightly at times, although a victory over Isner in Sydney may bode well for this fortnight.  Not averse to emitting some sparks himself, Giraldo will fancy his chances in the best-of-five format if he can claim an early lead.

Bolelli vs. Janowicz (Court 8):  The toast of Paris last fall when he reached the Bercy final, Janowicz reverted to ordinary toast this month in a sloppy loss to Brian Baker.  The moribund game of Bolelli, an Italian with much more flair than power, should not trouble the huge-serving Pole as long as he stays out of his own way better than he did in Auckland.

Barthel vs. Pervak (Court 11):  Reaching the fourth round here last year, Barthel recalled her strong start to 2012 when she finished runner-up in Hobart (becoming the first woman ever to lose a final to Vesnina in the process).  The gawky German owns a formidable but fickle serve and can climb into double digits in aces and double faults during the same match.  Russian by birth and Kazakh by passport, the lefty gunslinger Pervak upset Wozniacki in Brisbane by showing more fortitude than usual.

Benneteau vs. Dimitrov (Court 13):  At Wimbledon last year, the French doubles specialist came within two points of upsetting Federer as he proved again how lethal his game can become when all of its parts coalesce.  A strong server with a penetrating two-hander and excellent net skills, Benneteau held match points in the Sydney semifinal last week before his habit of losing close matches resurfaced.  The bad news for him is that he faces a man who served for the first set in the Brisbane final the previous week.  The good news is that Dimitrov never has brought his best game to any major, nor has he developed a habit of stringing together solid results.

Makarova vs. Larcher de Brito (Court 19):  Once at the vortex of the shrieking controversy, Larcher de Brito plunged into the tennis wilderness shortly after her uniquely piercing yodels had alienated fans.  She returns to the main draw of a major for the first time in years.  Is she ready for her comeback?  Perhaps more to the point, are we?

Bogomolov vs. Baker (Court 20):  From an American perspective, this match presents a good guy vs. bad guy narrative.  Fans around the world warmed to Baker when he completed an odyssey through several injury absences to rejoin the ATP with a bang last year by reaching the final at his first tournament.  His results faded a little afterwards, as one would expect, so his confidence probably rose when he defeated Janowicz in Auckland.  Whatever one thinks of Bogomolov’s shifting national allegiances, they did nothing to disturb his reputation as one of the players least likely to induce empathy in the ATP.

Hradecka vs. Bertens (Court 22):  Half of the world’s second-ranked doubles team, the Czech with an explosive serve faces one of last spring’s most surprising headlines.  Bertens became the first Dutchwoman to win a title since 2006 when she took home the hardware from Casablanca as a qualifier who never had played a main-draw match at the WTA level.  Summer upsets over Safarova and Petrova consolidated that breakthrough, so she will look to take the next step forward in 2013.

Excited about these matches and others on Day 1?  Join our live chat at newyorkobservertennis.com, which extends from the start of play through the Rod Laver Arena night session.

Mondays With Bob Greene: Well, I tried to be quiet for you guys today

Melanie Oudin

STARS

Wimbledon (First Week)

Lleyton Hewitt beat fifth-seeded Juan Martin Del Potro 6-3 7-5 7-5

Sabine Lisicki beat fifth-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2 7-5

Melanie Oudin beat sixth-seeded Jelena Jankovic 6-7 (8) 7-5 6-2

Ivo Karlovic beat ninth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (5) 6-7 (5) 7-5 7-6 (5)

Gisela Dulko beat 2004 Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova 6-2 3-6 6-4

Jesse Levine beat 2005 Australian Open champion Marat Safin 6-2 3-6 7-6 (4) 6-4

SAYING

“It is the best place to be when you are a pro tennis player and I savor every blade of it. I’ve had that crown for several years and I want to make it mine again.” – Defending champion Venus Williams.

“I come here every year expecting myself to win.” – Alex Bogdanovic, whose career record at Wimbledon is now 0-8, the second worst in tournament history only to Joe Hackett of Ireland, who went 0-9.

“Losses are tough. More here than at any other tournament. But, you know, it puts some perspective into your life.” – Maria Sharapova, after her second-round loss to Gisela Dulko.

“If I can win with only one shot, I don’t know, I’m a genius.” – Ivo Karlovic, responding to criticism that he has a one-dimensional game with his huge serve.

“Well, I tried to be quiet for you guys today.” – Michelle Larcher de Brito, who made headlines at the French Open for her on-court screeching.

“I think some people are just too noisy. For me it’s extra effort to do it, so I’d rather not do it.” – Ai Sugiyama, about players who screech on court during play.

“Everyone is from Russia. Sometimes I think I’m from Russia, too. I feel, like, you know, OK, all these new ‘Ovas.’ I don’t know anyone. I don’t really recognize anyone. … I think my name must be Williamsova.” – Serena Williams, noting the number of top women players from Russia.

“I need to get out of my brain and start from a new page.” – Marat Safin, after losing in the first round in his 10th and final Wimbledon.

“I’ve never met Serena. I haven’t even walked past her, like ever, almost. I’ve seen her, but she always has tons of security guards around her all the time, at least four or five people. But Venus, she walks around with, maybe, one person, that’s it.” – 17-year-old Melanie Oudin, who upset Jelena Jankovic.

“Women’s tennis is more speedy and more powerful. It’s tough, very tough … but I enjoy the challenge.” – Kimiko Date Krumm, who retired from the women’s tour in 1996, only returning last year.

“I remember the first time I played on grass, I think I just wanted to dive. That was the highlight, I guess, trying to dive. I don’t remember if I did or not, but when you’re growing up, you see all the players diving, and you think, I want a part of that. So that’s the first thing you want when you’re little.” – Venus Williams, remembering his first match at Wimbledon in 1997.

“Sometimes people need more respect for their opponents. When (Novak) Djokovic lost in the second round last year, (people were surprised, but) it was Marat Safin he was up against – and he can play a bit of tennis! And then Safin lost in the first round here (to Jesse Levine), so it shows that you should always have respect.” – Roger Federer.

“We should have a tiebreak at six-all in the fifth like in the US Open. All the Grand Slams should have this. That’s my personal opinion. When you’ve played so much tennis… it’s really draining.” – Tommy Haas, whose match against Marin Cilic was halted by darkness at 6-6 in the fifth set. Haas completed his 7-5 7-5 1-6 6-7 (3) 10-8 win the next day.

“I don’t think a lot of them would last five sets.” — Lleyton Hewitt, when asked about women playing best-of-five-set matches at the Grand Slam tournaments.

“I always said maybe if I was a guy I would play cricket.” – Sania Mirza, India’s top female tennis player.

STREAK STARTER

Not only is Venus Williams seeking her third straight Wimbledon women’s singles title and sixth of her career, the American has won 29 consecutive sets dating back to a third-round match against Akiko Morigami in 2007. That’s the last time Williams has dropped a set as she beat her Japanese opponent 6-2 3-6 7-5. Morigami actually led 5-3 in the final set. “That was an intense match and she was playing so well,” Venus recalled. “She played low ground strokes. I just remember playing very aggressive from 3-5, just returning aggressively. When the chips are down, I start to force the issue even more. Usually it works. You live and learn. I attribute it to that match.” If she wins, Williams would become the first woman to win three straight Wimbledon singles titles since Steffi Graf in 1993. She also would pull to within one title of Graf’s total of seven and within three of record-holder Martina Navratilova.

SPECIAL MESSAGE

Queen Elizabeth sent a message of congratulations to Andy Murray for becoming the first Briton to won the Queen’s grass court tournament in London since Bunny Austin in 1938. The last time the monarch visited Wimbledon was in 1977, where she presented the trophy to Virginia Wade after the Briton won the women’s singles title in the Queen’s Jubilee year. Buckingham Palace said Queen Elizabeth has no official engagements on the day of this year’s Wimbledon men’s final. Murray is trying to become the first British player since Fred Perry in 1936 to win the men’s singles at Wimbledon.

SLIPPERY CONDITIONS

Michael Llodra was knocked out of Wimbledon by being, well, almost knocked out. In his second-round match against Tommy Haas, the Frenchman was sprinting towards a drop shot when he was unable to stop and slammed into the umpire’s chair before collapsing on top of ball girl. Llodra quickly stood up and helped the startled girl back to her feet. After asking if she was OK, Llodra hugged her and returned to the baseline to resume the match. When the game was completed, Llodra clutched his side and asked for a trainer as he hobbled back to his chair. Following a medical timeout, Llodra played another game before being worked on by the trainer again. He attempted one more serve before retiring from the match.

SAYONARA

Two veteran players returning to Wimbledon found their stay to be short ones. Kimiko Date Krumm, a 38-year-old who last played Wimbledon in 1996, fell to Caroline Wozniacki 5-7 6-3 6-1. The Japanese player made her Wimbledon debut in 1989, a year before Wozniacki was born, and reached the semifinals in 1996. Jelena Dokic, who made her career breakthrough at Wimbledon in 1999, lost to German qualifier Tatjana Malek 3-6 7-5 6-2. Dokic, playing Wimbledon for the first time after a five-year absence, complained of feeling dizzy at the end of the second set and had her blood pressure taken at courtside.

SMASHING TIME

Ninth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was bombarded out of this year’s Championships. Ivo Karlovic slammed 46 aces to upset the Frenchman 7-6 (5) 6-7 (5) 7-5 7-6 (5). The ATP tour leader in aces in 2009, Karlovic hit a modern-era record 55 aces in a loss at the French Open last month. While he is best known for upsetting 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt in Wimbledon’s first round the following year, Karlovic had lost his opening matches at the All England Club from 2005 to 2008.

SLOWED

Ivan Ljubicic never made it to his first-round match at the All-England Club. The former world number three player from Croatia withdrew from Wimbledon with an ankle injury on the opening day of the tournament and was replaced in the draw by Danai Udomchoke of Thailand. The week before Wimbledon, Ljubicic fell heavily in his match at the Eastbourne International, injuring his ankle. Racing to the net to reach a delicate shot by his opponent, Fabrice Santoro, Ljubicic skidded on the grass, fell and cried out while clutching his left ankle. Santoro ran to the court-side freezer to get bags of ice, which he applied to Ljubicic’s ankle while officials summoned the trainer.

STARRING

There’s a new star in Lindsay Davenport’s house. The three-time Grand Slam tournament winner has given birth to her second child, a girl named Lauren Andrus Davenport Leach. Lindsay and her husband Jon Leach have a 2-year-old son, Jagger. The 33-year-old Davenport won the 1998 US Open, 1999 Wimbledon and 2000 Australian Open singles titles. She pulled out of this year’s Australian Open when she learned she was pregnant. At the time, Davenport said she would be putting tennis on hold “for the foreseeable future.”

SIGNED UP

Tommy Haas will be seeking his third title when he begins play at the 2009 LA Tennis Open Presented by Farmers Insurance Group. Haas is one of six players committed to the California tournament who are seeded in the draw at Wimbledon. “Tommy is a fan favorite, a great addition to our already strong field, and has played LA more than anyone else in the field,” said tournament director Bob Kramer. The 83rd annual LA Tennis Open will be held July 27-August 2 at the LA Tennis center on the campus of UCLA. Haas won the Los Angeles title in 2004 and again in 2005. Others already in the field include 2007 champion Radek Stepanek, Marat Safin, Mardy Fish, Fernando Gonzalez, Dmitry Tursunov, Marcos Baghdatis and Sam Querrey.

STILL TOP TICKET

Don’t look now, but the All England Club is not going through a recession. While the rest of the world grapples with the global financial downturn, Wimbled has sold more tickets than ever. “It seems people are saying, `Forget about the recession. Let’s go to Wimbledon and have some fun,” said All England Club spokesman Johnny Perkins. “People are sitting down and trying to decide what to spend their hard-earned money on. The good news for Wimbledon is, they seem to be spending it here.” The first day’s attendance was 42,811, an increase of nearly 3,500 from the previous opening day record set in 2001. While organizers will not release figures for pre-tournament ticket requests, they say they have received about 20 percent more than last year. The All England Club recently sold out 2,500 Centre Court seats in five-year blocks for USD $45,600 each.

SWITCHING BETS

No wrongdoing is suspected, but tennis wants to look into the betting pattern on a first-round Wimbledon match. When a TV commentator remarked that one of the players was injured, more than six times as many wagers as normal were placed on the match between Wayne Odesnik of the United States and Jurgen Melzer of Austria. The British bookmaker Betfair alerted tennis corruption investigators about the unusual betting pattern, but company spokesman Mark Davies said it did not suspect any wrongdoing. Melzer’s odds shortened significantly after a TV announced mentioned that Odesnik had a thigh injury. Betfair received about USD $980,000 in wagers on the match, while the average for a first-round Wimbledon match is less than USD $163,000. Melzer won 6-1 6-4 6-2.

SITES TO SURF

Wimbledon: www.wimbledon.org

Braunschweig: www.nordlb-open.org/

Cuneo: www.countrycuneo.com

Davis Cup: www.daviscup.com

Serena Williams blog: http://www.serenawilliams.com/blog(underscore)message(underscore)detail.php?msg=93

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP and WTA

The Championships (second week), Wimbledon, Great Britain, grass

ATP

$150,000 Nord/LP Open, Braunschweig, Germany, clay

$100,000 Trofeo Regione Piemonte, Turin, Italy, clay

WTA

$100,000 Cuneo ITF Tournament, Cuneo, Italy, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$500,000 Campbell’s Hall of Fame Championships, Newport, Rhode Island, USA, grass

$100,000 Open Diputacion Ciudad de Pozoblanco, Pozoblanco, Cordoba, Spain, clay

WTA

$220,000 GDF Suez Grand Prix, Budapest, Hungary, clay

$220,000 Collector Swedish Open Women, Bastad, Sweden, clay

$100,000 Open GDF Suez de Biarritz, Biarritz, France, clay

DAVIS CUP

World Group Quarterfinals

Czech Republic vs. Argentina at Ostrava, Czech Republic

Croatia vs. United States at Porec, Croatia

Israel vs. Russia at Tel Aviv, Israel

Spain vs. Germany at Puerto Banus, Marbella, Spain

Americas Zone Group 1 Playoff

Peru vs. Canada at Lima, Peru

Americas Zone Group 2 Second Round

Venezuela vs. Mexico at Maracaibo, Venezuela

Dominican Republic vs. Paraguay at San Francisco de Marcons, Provincia Duarte, Dominican Republic

Asia/Oceania Zone Group 1 Playoff

Thailand vs. Kazakhstan at Nonthaburi, Thailand

Korea vs. China at Chun-cheon City, Korea

Asia/Oceania Zone Group 2 Second Round

Philippines vs. Pakistan at Manila, Philippines

New Zealand vs. Indonesia at Hamilton, New Zealand

Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 Playoffs

Belarus vs. FYR Macedonia at Minsk, Belarus

Europe/Africa Zone Group 2 Second Round

Slovenia vs. Lithuania at Otocec, Slovenia

Latvia vs. Bulgaria at Plovdiv, Latvia

Set two: Wimbledon on the D list

Yesterday my alarm clock rang at an ugly hour: 4:30 A.M.! I was off to day three of The Championships after failing to get tickets on Tuesday. This time I was determined to get my show-court on. I caught the 5:11 bus and made it to the ground by 5:35, only to be the 1,490th queuer of the day. WTF?! These people are hardcore.

Know who else is hardcore? Wimbledon D-Listers. So hardcore in fact that I’m back with set two. Enjoy!

Maria Sharapova warmed up on Court No. 6 before her disastrous 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 loss to Gisela Dulko on Centre Court. I caught most of the warm-up, wondering why she was hitting so poorly, but definitely digging her new, abbreviated service motion. And no, Hashers, Maria doesn’t make the D-List, but her two hitting partners certainly do. They provided the most action of the session when one (we’ll call him Tweedle D) was returning Maria’s serve and smacked the other (Tweedle C) right in the groinage. There was a loud gasp from the crowd (Maria put her hand over her mouth), and then laughing at the two hitting partners giggled about it. Who knew Maria supplied them with cups and jock-straps?! I bet Yuri put that rule into action.

At the newly-christened Court No. 2 (my show court for the day) I took inRobin Soderling (of Rafa-beating fame). But my eyes were mostly on Soderling’s box, not the match, where my (and Martina Hingis’) former boyfriend sat- Magnus Norman. You remember Maggie, right? He was that cute, world no. 2 that made us all wonder: ‘how does such petite, regular-built guy compete at the top of tennis?’ He answered that question a couple years ago by completely falling off the map. But he’s re-emerged as a coach as Soderling has surged. Oh Maggie, how I’ve missed you and your Ross-inspired hair!

Later on Court 12, I took in a fierce battle between Michelle Larcher de Brito and Francesca Schiavone. While there was plenty to see (and hear) during this match, I couldn’t help but wandering my eyes back to the seats. There sat the Queen of Bad CallsMariana Alves. Mariana must’ve wanted to take in some of her compatriot’s match, and is obviously pissed that Michelle is stealing her spotlight. I mean, Mariana totally worked really, really hard for that spotlight, over-ruling balls that were three inches in and somehow still keeping her job. Look at her, you know she’s piiiiiiiiissed.

(image via atp web site)

Mondays With Bob Greene: I’ve had good times and bad times

Andy Murray: The King of Queens

STARS

Tommy Haas beat Novak Djokovic 6-3 6-7 (4) 6-1 to win the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany

Andy Murray won the AEGON Championships in London, Great Britain, defeating James Blake 7-5 6-4

Magdalena Rybarikova beat Li Na 6-0 7-6 (2) to win the AEGON Classic in Birmingham, Great Britain

Stanislas Wawrinka beat Potito Starace 7-5 6-3 to win the BSI Lugano Challenger in Lugano, Switzerland

Iona-Raluca Olaru beat Masa Zec-Peskiric 6-7 (4) 7-5 6-4 to win the Open GDF Suez de Marseille in Marseille, France

SAYING

“I’m a long way from winning Wimbledon, but I feel confident. I’ll try and not get too far ahead of myself and focus on my first match there, but if I play my best like I did this week, I’ve got a chance.” – Andy Murray, after winning at Queen’s Club.

“It’s incredible, I can hardly believe it myself when I think of the highs and lows I’ve been through in the last year and a half.” – Tommy Haas, after winning his first grass-court title.

“I was so excited last night after I beat Sharapova I forgot I had a match today.” Li Na, who lost in the final after upsetting Maria Sharapova in the semifinals of the AEGON Classic in Birmingham, Great Britain.

“I still felt like I had many chances in this match, but I have played five matches in the last six days and after that you just hope you wake up with that intensity you need. Against her you need that.” – Maria Sharapova, after losing to Li Na.

“Winning today is the best feeling of my career so far. It’s unbelievable. Just like a dream.” – Magdalena Rybarikova, after winning her first WTA title, the AEGON Classic in Birmingham, Great Britain.

“I had a good week. Playing on the grass, I always have a lot of fun playing here. I feel great. I’ve been working with my coach and trainer, and I know I’m doing the best preparation possible for Wimbledon. I’ll be ready to play and feel great about my chances.” – James Blake, after reaching the final at Queen’s Club.

“A problem a lot of people in this country have is expecting huge things, thinking that it’s just going to happen.” – Andy Murray, concerning the British public hoping he can win Wimbledon.

“I think he’s over the biggest hurdle in his tennis with the French under his belt. Pete Sampras, Boris Becker, John McEnroe, great players, never did. The monkey is off Roger’s back and he’ll play, not with abandon, but with excitement, enjoyment and freedom. He’ll be Wimbledon champion again next month unless someone catches fire like Robin Soderling did against Nadal.” – Rod Laver, on Roger Federer winning the French Open.

“I’ve had good times and bad times. That’s me. That’s how I am. I’m really lucky and I’m happy that the ATP has allowed me to do what I want to do on the court. They’ve been nice to me throughout the years and that’s made it much easier for me to play this way.” – Marat Safin, talking about his career.

“I have now, after a lot of thinking, decided to put an end to my professional tennis career.” – Thomas Johansson, announcing his retirement from competitive tennis.

“There comes a time in every man’s life when he needs to settle down. In my case, again.” – Boris Becker, after marrying Dutch model Sharlely “Lilly” Kerssenberg, his second marriage.

SUCCESS, FINALLY

When Andy Murray beat James Blake in the AEGON Championships final, he became the first British player to win at Queen’s Club since Bunny Austin in 1938. “I was quite nervous,” Murray admitted. “People were telling me that no (Briton) had won here for 70-odd years, so that got the nerves going, especially when I was serving for the match.” The fact he won on grass will only increase the belief – and the pressure – that Murray, ranked third in the world, will win Wimbledon. A Brit hasn’t won on the grass courts of the All England Club since Fred Perry did it in 1936.

SLOVAKIAN SURPRISE

Magdalena Rybarikova could be called the women’s champion of China. The little-known Slovakian won her first WTA title at the AEGON Classic in Birmingham, Great Britain, stopping China’s Li Na 6-0 7-6 (2) in the final. In the quarterfinals, the 20-year-old Rybarikova upset top-seeded Zheng Jie of China 7-6 (10) 6-4. “I was very nervous in the tiebreak, but she looked more nervous than me, so that helped me concentrate even harder,” Rybarikova said of Li. In the semifinals, Li upset Maria Sharapova, her first victory over the Russian in six career meetings.

SPECIAL ENTRY

Japan’s Kimiko Date Krumm will play at Wimbledon for the first time in 13 years. The 38-year-old Date Krumm was given a wild card into the main draw. Once ranked as high as number four in the world, Date Krumm reached the semifinals in 1996, the last time she played on the grass of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. She retired from her first-round qualifying match at the French Open last month because of a calf injury.

STRAIGHT IN

Can Laura Robson match the exploits of Martina Hingis? Thanks to a wild card, Britain’s 15-year-old junior Wimbledon champion will be the youngest player in the women’s main draw since Hingis in 1995. Hingis went on to become number one in the world. Robson is ranked 482nd in the world, but was given a wild card via a clause that allows juniors to be included under “exceptional circumstances.” Others receiving wild cards into the women’s main draw include Elena Baltacha, Alexa Glatch, Michelle Larcher de Brito, Katie O’Brien, Georgie Stoop and Melanie South.

Juan Carlos Ferrero, the 2003 French Open champion from Spain who has been ranked as high as number one in the world, has been given a wild card entry into this year’s Wimbledon men’s draw, along with 2008 Wimbledon and US Open junior champion Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria. Also given wild cards into the men’s singles were Britons Alex Bogdanovic, Daniel Evans, Joshua Goodall and James Ward.

SQUEAKER

Although he ended up winning the tournament, it didn’t appear in the semifinals that Tommy Haas had a chance of advancing in the Gerry Weber Open. In an all-German semifinal in Halle, Germany, Haas trailed 5-2 in the third set before edging Philipp Kohlschreiber 2-6 7-6 (5) 7-6 (3). A year ago, Kohlschreiber beat Haas in the second round en route to the final at Halle. This year, Kohlschreiber served for the match while leading 5-3 but played a sloppy game. Haas made him pay for it, serving his 15th ace of the day on his third match point. It was the first tournament Haas has won since Memphis, Tennessee, USA, in 2007.

SWAN SONG

Sweden’s Thomas Johansson, who won the Australian Open in 2002, retired from competitive tennis at the age of 34. Besides his surprising win in Melbourne, where he beat Marat Safin in the title match, Johansson won eight other ATP titles and reached the semifinals at Wimbledon in 2005, where he lost to Andy Roddick. Last year, Johansson teamed with Simon Aspelin to win the silver medal in doubles at the Beijing Olympics, losing the gold-medal match to Switzerland’s Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka.

SWEDISH PRISON

A 24-year-old man was sentenced to nine months in prison and fined USD $17,200 for rioting outside the Davis Cup match between Israel and Sweden. The Swede was one of 10 people arrested after protesting Israel’s offensive in Gaza. Earlier, an 18-year-old was sentenced to 15 months in prison for rioting. A third man has been acquitted because of lack of evidence.

ST. MORITZ WEDDING

Boris Becker has married for the second time. The German tennis great and Dutch model Sharlely “Lilly” Kerssenberg tied the knot in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Attending the wedding were Becker’s two sons, 15-year-old Noah and 9-year-old Elias. along with Prince Albert of Monaco, supermodel Claudia Schiffer, cyclist Jan Ulrich and his wife Sara, and soccer stars Franz Beckenbaur and Oliver Kahn, among others. The newly-weds had announced their plan to get married when they appeared on a German television show in February.

SITTING IT OUT

Saying he was “overwhelmed” and “exhausted” after winning his first French Open title, Roger Federer pulled out of the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany, his usual grass-court warm-up for Wimbledon. “I sincerely apologize to the tournament organizers, my competitors, and my fans in Germany. I only hope they will understand that I still feel emotionally overwhelmed and exhausted by the incredible events of the past few days,” Federer said on his Web site.

Before he began his victorious run at the Gerry Weber Open, Tommy Haas withdrew from Germany’s Davis Cup quarterfinal against Spain, saying the clay court matches would put too much strain on his body. Haas, once ranked as high as number two in the world, did not play in the last Davis Cup World Group against Austria after being sidelined with a shoulder injury for much of 2008.

SIGNAGE

No longer will the Swiss Indoors tournament be held at St. Jakobshalle in Basel, Switzerland. Oh, it will be held at the same venue, but the name of the hall is being changed to Roger Federer Arena. Basel sports director Peter Howald said the city had discussed ways of honoring the new French Open champion, who completed a career Grand Slam and tied Pete Sampras’ record of 14 major singles title with his clay court victory at Roland Garros. Federer is a three-time defending champion of the Swiss Indoors.

SPLITSVILLE

The team didn’t last long at all. Ana Ivanovic has broken up with coach Craig Kardon. Ivanovic had hired Kardon, once a coach for Martina Navratilova, in February as a replacement on a temporary basis for Sven Groeneveld. But the Serb, who won Roland Garros last year, continued her fall in the WTA rankings. Once ranked number one in the world, she dropped out of the top ten following her fourth-round French Open loss this year. Ivanovic said she will use a temporary coach when she plays at Wimbledon.

SENTENCED

Damir Dokic has been sentenced to 15 months in prison for making death threats against the Australian ambassador to Serbia. “The sentence is inappropriate and we are going to appeal,” said Dokic’s lawyer, Bosiljka Djukic. “We hope that the higher court will annul this sentence.” The father of tennis player Jelena Dokic, Damir Dokic was arrested in early May after he reportedly said he would “attack the ambassador and her husband with a stinger missile.” Police found two hand grenades and 20 bullets in his house for which Dokic had no permit, in addition to seven hunting rifles and a handgun which he owned legally. The alleged threats came after Jelena, once ranked fourth in the world, was quoted in Australia’s Sports & Style magazine describing the torment she endured under her father.

START DELAYED

The start of the third-round match at Queen’s Club between Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt was delayed by a bomb threat. Both players stayed on court while officials searched the entire site but found nothing. Roddick and Hewitt were seen laughing and talking with each other during the break in play. Roddick ended up winning the match.

SCOTT AWARD

The late Arthur Ashe and his widow, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, will be recognized with the Eugene L. Scott Award by the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum (ITHFM). Presented annually since 2006, the award honors an individual who embodies Scott’s commitment to communicating honestly and critically about the game and who has had a significant impact on the tennis world. “Arthur and Jeanne have used their voices, which have been amplified through the game of tennis, to change the world in so many ways that it’s fitting to present them as one with the Eugene L. Scott Award,” said Christopher E. Clouser, chairman of the ITHFM. “Humanitarians like Arthur and Jeanne are few and far between and we should recognize them for the contributions they have made to help enact change.” The award will be presented at the 29th annual “Legends Ball” on September 11 in New York City. Also being honored will be Rod Laver and the four newest members of the Hall of Fame: Donald L. Dell, Andres Gimeno, the late Dr. Robert Johnson and Monica Seles.

SELLING LIKE HOTCAKES

The 2009 US Open is a hot ticket. The first day of ticket sales to the general public for this year’s final Grand Slam tournament was the second-best opening day in US Open history. With nearly 35,000 tickets sold, it is only the second time that opening day ticket sales topped 30,000 tickets. This year’s total trails only last year’s event. In the six days leading up to the public sale, the US Open pre-sale for American Express members set an all-time sales mark of more than 31,000 tickets.

SPONSOR LOSS

The Australian Open is continuing to lose sponsors. The latest is Qantas, which is ending its 21-year agreement with the year’s first Grand Slam tournament. In the past few months, the Australian Open has lost several other major sponsors, including Master Card, Garnier and GE Money. Three major sponsors say they will continue, including Kia Motors, Rolex and Lacoste.

SLICING FINE

The Swedish Tennis Association (STA) has had its fine reduced by the International Federation of Tennis (ITF) Board of Directors. The board agreed to reduce the fine from USD $25,000 to USD $5,000, but upheld the original decision by the Davis Cup Committee not to waive the gross receipts payment of $15,000. The Committee took the action following Sweden’s first-round Davis Cup tie against Israel, which was played behind closed doors in Malmo, Sweden.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Birmingham: Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears 6-1 6-4

London: Wesley Moodie and Mikhail Youzhny beat Marcelo Melo and Andrew Sa 6-4 4-6 10-6 (match tiebreak)

Halle: Christopher Kas and Philipp Kohlschreiber beat Andreas Beck and Marco Chiudinelli 6-3 6-4

Marseille: Tathiana Garbin and Maria-Emilia Salerni beat Timea Bacsinszky and Elena Bovina 6-7 (4) 6-3 10-7 (match tiebreak)

Lugano: Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer beat Pablo Cuevas and Sergio Roitman walkover

SITES TO SURF

Eastbourne: www.lta.org.uk/Watch/

s-Hertogenbosch: www.ordina-open.nl/

Wimbledon: www.wimbledon.org

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$600,000 Ordina Open, s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, grass

$600,000 AEGON International, Eastbourne, Great Britain, grass

WTA

$600,000 AEGON International, Eastbourne, Great Britain, grass

$220,000 Ordina Open, s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, grass

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP and WTA

The Championships (first week), Wimbledon, Great Britain, grass

Mondays With Bob Greene: This is not a tragedy, losing here in Paris

Brave Nadal finally loses

STARS

Robin Soderling beat top-seeded Rafael Nadal 6-2 6-7 (2) 6-4 7-6 (2)

Agnes Szavay beat third-seeded Venus Williams 6-0 6-4

Philipp Kohlschreiber beat fourth-seeded Novak Djokovic 6-4 6-4 6-4

Samantha Stosur beat fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva 6-3 4-6 6-1

Victoria Azarenka beat eighth-seeded Ana Ivanovic 6-2 6-3

Nikolay Davydenko beat eighth-seeded Fernando Verdasco 6-2 6-2 6-4

Sorana Cirstea beat 10th-seeded Caroline Wozniacki 7-6 (3) 7-5

SAYING

“This is not a tragedy, losing here in Paris. It had to happen one day. That’s the end of the road, and I have to accept it. I have to accept my defeat as I accepted my victories – with calm.” – Rafael Nadal, after having his record 31-match victory string at Roland Garros snapped.

“This is for sure the biggest moment so far of my career. I couldn’t even dream of this before the match, so I will remember this match for the rest of my life.” – Robin Soderling, after beating Rafael Nadal.

“Everybody’s in a state of shock, I would think. At some point, Nadal was going to lose. But nobody expected it to happen today, and maybe not this year.” – Mats Wilander, a three-time French Open champion on Robin Soderling’s victory over Rafael Nadal.

“It’s just a bad day at the office, as they say.” – Novak Djokovic, after losing to Philipp Kohlschreiber.

“I’m used to beating people 6-0. I’m not used to my shot not going in and losing a set 6-0. So it completely was foreign ground for me.” – Venus Williams, after losing to Agnes Szavay 6-0 6-4

“In the fourth game, I just suddenly started feeling so dizzy, and I completely lost my balance.” – Ana Ivanovic, after losing to Victoria Azarenka.

“I’m angry, because even though it was (Roger) Federer, it was a near-miss. I was so close to winning this match.” – Jose Acasuso, after losing to Federer 7-6 (8) 5-7 7-6 (2) 6-2.

“She (a WTA Tour official) told me to play with another T-shirt otherwise I was facing a fine. I told her to find one for me otherwise I would have had to play naked.” – Virginie Razzano, who was told to change her shirt because a sponsor badge on the shirt was misplaced.

“I’m just glad I finally won a match out there.” – Andy Roddick, an American who finally won a match after three straight first-round losses at Roland Garros.

“Well, he actually looks a little bit tired to me. He doesn’t look like he’s fresh enough. I think it’s going to be tough challenge for him to win this time, actually.” – Elena Dementieva, predicting Rafael Nadal will not win a record fifth straight French Open men’s singles title.

“The point is never over. I mean, the ball is a little bit far but I have to find a solution to jump or to dive or slide or whatever, to reach it. And when I think I can, I will try some magic. On a break point, you have to jump or dive. I mean, I go for it.” – Gael Monfils, on his acrobatic style of play.

“He’s not (Rafael) Nadal, but he’s still a great player on clay.” – Janko Tipsarevic, on Andy Murray’s improved game on clay.

“Winning the semifinal is not winning the tournament, so it doesn’t change anything.” – Roger Federer, when asked if he was relieved to see his possible semifinal opponent, Novak Djokovic, lose his third-round match.

“For the Americans, a lot of times, this isn’t our main goal of the year. Ours is generally Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.” James Blake, an American, after losing a first-round match to Argentine qualifier Leonard Mayer.

“I wasn’t nervous at the beginning, but at the end, when I had to close the match, I was very nervous, yes. I was dying of nerves.” – Leonardo Mayer, a qualifier who beat James Blake.

“We’re trying as hard as we can. Once these two weeks are over, the clay talk is over, and we’ll be looking to my most fun part of the year: Wimbledon, grass courts. That’s where we play our best.” – Mardy Fish, an American, after losing a first-round match.

“I feel very disappointed. She’s Serena. She’s one of the biggest players here, so bad luck for the draw,” said Klara Zakopalova, after failing to cash in on eight match points in her first-round loss to Serena Williams.

“I don’t see trouble. What I see is a champion that found a way to win on a day that she didn’t play good. See, in order to be a champion, you have to win when you should lose.” – Richard Williams, after his daughter Serena squandered eight match points before beating Klara Zakopalova 6-3 6-7 (5) 6-4.

“I felt like I had the match in my hands and I was doing well and even if I didn’t win, I was playing really well … I felt like I probably played the best tennis that I played this year.” – Jelena Dokic, after retiring with a back injury while leading fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva.

“I think the Serena now would definitely beat the other Serena. I’m older. I think I’m wiser. I think I’m just a more mature player.” – Serena Williams, after her second-round win over Virginia Ruano Pascual.

SHOCKER

Rafael Nadal’s stranglehold on Roland Garros was smashed by Sweden’s Robin Soderling in a fourth-round match. It was the first time the Spaniard, who was seeking his fourth consecutive French Open title, had lost on the red clay of Roland Garros. In his opening round match, Nadal snapped Bjorn Borg’s record of 28 straight French Open match wins by a man. His second-round victory eclipsed Chris Evert’s overall tournament record of 29 consecutive match victories. He got to 31 straight before running into Soderling, a player Nadal had never lost to before. In their last meeting, on clay in Rome in April, Nadal won 6-1 6-0. This time Soderling finished with 61 winners, 28 more than Nadal, and advanced to the quarterfinal of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in his career.

SENT PACKING

Serbian Ana Ivanovic has failed to defend her women’s singles title at Roland Garros, losing a fourth-round match to Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-2 6-3. Last year’s French Open victory pushed Ivanovic into the top spot in the WTA Tour rankings. Since then she has struggled and came into this year’s tournament seeded eighth. Ivanovic had a trainer look at her neck before the final game of the first set, and later said she began feeling dizzy and lost her balance. Azarenka grabbed a 4-0 lead in the second set en route to her victory.

SURPRISING SHARAPOVA

She spent the first week working overtime, but Maria Sharapova was still around at the stare of the second week of the French Open. The unseeded Russian won four straight three-set matches to gain a quarterfinal berth at Roland Garros for the fourth time in her career. This is Sharapova’s first Grand Slam tournament since she lost a second-round match at Wimbledon last summer. She then suffered an injury to her right shoulder and underwent surgery in October. Sharapova only played one singles tournament before her remarkable run in Paris. “I’m definitely a little bit sore, but I’ll be fine,” Sharapova said. “That’s why the Grand Slams are great. You have a day in between, a day to recover, and that always helps the body.”

SISTERS STOPPED

Sisters Venus and Serena Williams won’t be adding to their stash of Grand Slam doubles titles at this year’s French Open. The American duo wasted a match point in their 7-6 (4) 5-7 7-6 (6) loss to Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the United States and Nadia Petrova of Russia. Venus served for the match at 6-5 and was broken. The sisters led 6-5 in the tiebreak, one point from victory, before Mattek-Sands and Petrova won the last three points of the match. The Williams sisters won the French Open in 1999, one of their eight Grand slam doubles titles.

SETBACK

Jelena Dokic was leading fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva when she was forced to retire from their second-round French Open match because of a back injury. Playing in her first French Open since 2004, Dokic appeared to pull something in her lower back at 2-2 in the second set. She left the court to receive treatment from the tournament trainer and returned to break Dementieva and take a 6-2 3-2 lead. But Dementieva won the next two games before Dokic, tears streaming down her face, retired. “I didn’t deserve to win this match,” Dementieva said. Once ranked as high as number four in the world, Dokic rolled her ankle in his fourth-round match at the Australian Open in January. “Obviously it’s not my time at the Grand Slams,” she said. “I’m not 15 anymore, so it’s time probably to take more care now.”

SQUEAKING AND SQUEALING

A teenager from Portugal, Michelle Larcher de Brito, was the talk of Roland Garros more for her sound than her game. Grunting, squealing and moaning with every shot, the 16-year-old qualifier reached the third round before she was silenced by France’s Aravane Rezai. “It’s very disturbing, it’s disturbing me,” Rezai told the umpire before insisting the umpire consult the Grand Slam supervisor on the issue. Larcher de Brito shrieked when she hit the ball, yelped when Rezai’s shots were long and slammed her racquet when she was frustrated, earning boos from the crowd. “It’s just something I’ve done always since I started playing tennis. I’m going to keep on doing it because it’s really part of my game,” said Larcher de Brito, the first Portuguese player to advance to the third round of a Grand Slam tournament.

SPANISH FIRE

It took three sets before Serena Williams finally beat her Spanish foe, but it was a point in the opening set that riled the world’s number two-ranked player. With Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez close to the net, Williams fired a shot right at her. She managed to get her racquet on the ball, but Serena says the ball also hit her opponent’s arm. “The ball did touch her 100 percent on her arm,” Serena said. “The rules of tennis are when the ball hits your body, then it’s out of play. You lose a point automatically.” Television replays seemed to back Serena’s version, but Martinez Sanchez insisted the ball did not hit her and the umpire agreed. “To say I’m a cheat is stupid,” Martinez Sanchez said. “I’m not going to comment on it.”

SAY NO TO DRUG TESTS

Rafael Nadal wants the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to stick up for the players and against the World Anti-Doping Agency’s new out-of-competition drug-testing rules. A number of top players, including Serena Williams, have complained about a new WADA rule that says athletes must say where they will be for one hour each day so they can be found for testing. Saying that’s too invasive, Nadal complains that it will be tough to keep WADA constantly updated on his whereabouts.

SANIA ENGAGED

Tennis isn’t the only thing on the mind of Sania Mirza these days. The 22-year-old Indian star has become engaged to a longtime friend, Sohrab Mirza. Despite the same last names, they are not related – yet. According to family members, the 23-year-old Sohrab Mirza, who is studying business, and the tennis star will be married on July 10 in her hometown of Hyderabad. In January, Sania became the first Indian woman to win a Grand Slam tournament title when she teamed with India’s Mahesh Bhupathi to win the Australian Open mixed doubles crown.

STRETCHED

Two-time Grand Slam tournament finalist Mark Philippoussis says he is broke, facing a legal battle to keep his home and suffers from depression. The Australian player, who earned more than USD $7 million during his career, said he is being sued for failing to pay the mortgage on his home in Melbourne, Australia. Once ranked eighth in the world, Philippoussis says he has been unable to play for three years following several knee operations. The knee injury ended his ATP tour playing career, which saw him reach the 2003 Wimbledon final, losing to Roger Federer, and the 1998 US Open final, where he fell to Patrick Rafter. Philippoussis said he is looking to play in tennis legends events with former stars like John McEnroe, Jim Courier and Pat Cash.

STRONG ENOUGH

Two freshmen are the newest National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tennis champions. Unseeded Devin Britton of the University of Mississippi became the youngest men’s singles champion, while Mallory Cecil of Duke captured the women’s singles crown. Britton ended a 22-match win streak by Steve Moneke, beating the Ohio State senior 3-6 6-2 6-3. In her final, Cecil beat Laura Vallverdu of the University of Miami 7-5 6-4.

SPANKED

Southern California has been awarded the 2008 Pac-10 Conference men’s tennis title after UCLA was penalized for using an ineligible player. The violation was self-reported by UCLA and the ineligible player wasn’t identified. UCLA had to forfeit all singles and doubles matches in which the player participated. As a result, team results of UCLA’s matches against Southern California and Arizona State were reversed, giving Southern Cal a 7-0 record. UCLA dropped into a second-place tie with Stanford at 5-2.

SITES TO SURF

Paris: www.rolandgarros.com/index.html
Prostejov: www.czech-open.com/
London: www.aegonchampionships.com
Halle: www.gerryweber-open.de/
Lugano: www.challengerlugano.ch
Marseille: www.opengdfsuez-marseille.com/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP and WTA

Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay (second week)

ATP

$170,000 UniCredit Czech Open, Prostejov, Czech Republic, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$1,000,000 AEGON Championships, London, Great Britain, grass
$1,000,000 Gerry Weber Open, Halle, Germany, grass
$119,000 BSI Lugano Challenger, Lugano, Switzerland, clay

WTA

$220,000 AEGON Classic, Birmingham, Great Britain, grass
$100,000 Open GDF Suez de Marseille, Marseille, France, clay

Megaphoto Post from the Sony Ericsson Open

I got these photos from Chris Rogers who is currently attending the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. Another two weeks of riveting and exciting tennis.  Many of the top seeded players and comeback kids are attending and this is one event you seriously can’t miss out on.

If you have photos you would like to show off here then feel free to email me using our contact form. You will ofcourse receive credit for your works and a honorary mention on the site.

For linkexchanges TennisGrandstand still maintains a strict policy which is pasted down below.

I have been receiving mails lately from people asking me if I want exchange links with them. I am always open to suggestions but I do have a set of criteria.

First of all, your site has to be up for at least one year.  Your site has to be regularly updated. I don’t want to link to dead sites. And last but nevertheless very important: Quality writing.

If your site meets the criteria then feel free to contact me by either using the comment system (no registration required) or leave me a note using our “Contact Us” form.

Unless ofcourse you submit photos to us. I will then credit you and your site.

Here we go with the photos made by Chris Rogers of Miami Tennis Photos

which include the following players: Marion Bartoli, Novak Djokovic, Alize Cornet, Jelena Dokic, Jelena Jankovic, Susil Karantcheva, Michelle Larcher de Brito, Amelie Mauresmo, Rafael Nadal, Marat Safin, Caroline Wozniacki.

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