Mirka Vavrinec

How The Federers Met: Roger and Mirka 10 Years Ago at the Olympics

It was 10 years ago on September 27, 2000 that Roger Federer concluded his participation at the Sydney Olympic Games when he was defeated by unheralded Arnaud DiPasquale of France 7-6 (5), 6-7 (7), 6-3 in the bronze medal match in men’s singles.

Despite losing this important match – the only time Federer has been this close to winning and Olympic medal in singles (he did win Olympic gold in 2008 in doubles) – the 2000 Olympic Games was a pivotal point in Federer’s life. It was at these Sydney Games 10 years ago this week where Federer and his now wife Mirka met and became a couple. Rene Stauffer, in his book ROGER FEDERER: QUEST FOR PERFECTION ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com), describes Federer and his “Olympic Experiences” in this exclusive book excerpt.

The Swiss Olympic tennis team was in shatters at the start of the Sydney Games. Martina Hingis and Patty Schnyder both withdrew from the women’s competition at the last minute. Marc Rosset, the 1992 Olympic champion was also a late withdrawal, costing Federer an opportunity to play Olympic doubles. The Swiss Olympic Committee was furious. Tennis players were depicted as pampered and spoiled athletes who didn’t appreciate the true value of the Olympic Games.

The Swiss tennis team shared living quarters, socialized and dined with fellow Olympians from the Swiss archery, judo and wrestling teams in the Olympic Village, where Federer had the privilege of occupying a single room.

“That was the best event I ever attended,” Federer said years later as he embellished his long-time fascination of the Olympic Games. The contrast to the monotony of life in the hotels could hardly be bigger. The Opening Ceremonies, the interaction with athletes from other sports, the atmosphere in the Olympic Village and the feeling of belonging also made an impression on Mirka Vavrinec, a member of Switzerland’s women’s Olympic tennis team. “The Olympics are fantastic, unbelievably beautiful, unparalleled,” Vavrinec gushed of the Olympic experience courtside following a practice session. She also had nice things to say about Federer, the youthful star of the Swiss team, who was three years her junior—“I had no idea he was so funny.”

Mirka was born an only child in Bojnice, in the Slovakian part of Czechoslovakia in 1978. Her parents fled the Communist country with her when she was two-years-old to make a new life for themselves in the Swiss border city of Kreuzlingen on Lake Constance. Her father, Miroslav, a former javelin thrower, and his wife, Drahomira, ran a jewelry shop. In the fall of 1987, when Mirka was nine, Miroslav took his family to nearby Filderstadt, Germany where Martina Navratilova happened to be competing in a WTA Tour event.

The Czech-born Navratilova dominated women’s tennis and, like the Vavrinecs, defected from Czechoslovakia. When in Filderstadt, she warmly greeted the Vavrinec family. “We got to stay a few days with her,” Mirka said of the trip. Navratilova asked her if she played tennis. Mirka said no, “I do ballet.” The eight-time Wimbledon champion (she would go on to win her ninth title in 1990) advised her to try tennis. She said that Mirka’s good physique

and athletic talent would serve her well on the tennis courts. Navratilova put out feelers and asked the former top Czech player living in Switzerland, Jiri Granat, if he could test and coach the girl.

Navratilova’s instincts were correct. Mirka immediately showcased great skills with a tennis racquet. But not only that, she also had grit and endurance. Tennis instructor Murat Gürler, who tutored her in her early years, recalled that she was “completely into it” when it came to tennis. Mirka told the Swiss tennis magazine Smash in 1994, after winning the Swiss juniors’ title for 18-year-olds at the age of 15, “Tennis is my life, but it certainly can’t be easy to work with me because I can be really stubborn.”

Her ambition and her uncompromising nature were tremendous. In 1993, following a tournament in the city of Maribor in Slovenia, she convinced her coach to take her to a tournament in Croatia. The trip required travel through a part of Croatia where there was still fighting in the Balkan civil war. The two passed through destroyed villages, tanks and burned cars. She was afraid, but her ambition was greater.

Mirka ranked among the top 300 in the world by the time she was 17. A protracted heel injury in 1996 kept her off the circuit for months, causing her ranking to fall over 300 places. She valiantly fought back to No. 262 in the rankings by the end of 1997 and looked euphorically to the future. “I really want to place in the top 30 in the world rankings,” she said.

Mirka meanwhile obtained a Swiss passport. The only connections she still had to her native land were a few relatives still living in Slovakia as well as the confused mix of German and Slovakian spoken at home. She maintained loose ties to Navratilova and was fortunate to find a patron, the Swiss industrialist Walter Ruf, who helped her to survive financially on the women’s tennis circuit.

Thanks to her ambition and her endurance—as well as to her backhand that some even considered the best in the world—Mirka cracked the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time in 2000. She luckily received a wildcard

entry to play at the Olympic Games in Sydney, even though her ranking did not qualify her to play.

While Mirka won only two games in her first-round match against eventual silver medalist Elena Dementieva of Russia, Federer began to rack up victory after victory. Benefiting from an Olympic men’s field without Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras, and upset losses by US Open champion Marat Safin, Tim Henman and Michael Chang in his half of the draw, Federer won four straight matches and found himself in the semifinals. It was his best result of his career to date and surprisingly, it came at an outdoor event

At age 19, Federer was in position to become the youngest Olympic gold medalist in modern tennis. However, he played cautiously against the German Tommy Haas, ranked No. 48 (12 places behind Federer) in the semifinals and decisively lost. He did, however, still have a chance to win the bronze medal, but instead of registering a lifetime achievement of winning an Olympic medal, Federer suffered one of his greatest disappointments, losing to Arnaud DiPasquale of France, ranked No. 61 in the world. Despite being up 3-0 in the first-set tie-break, Federer lost seven of the next nine points to lose the tie-break 7-5. In the second set, Federer fought off a match point in the tie-break at 6-7 and won the tie-break two points later. Federer broke DiPasquale, who began suffering from cramps, to take a 2-1 lead in the final set, but the Frenchmen rallied to win the two-and-half-hour match 6-7 (5), 7-6 (7), 6-3.

“Considering how the match was going, I should never have lost,” Federer said, hardly able to hold back the tears. “I really wanted to be standing on the podium. Now I have nothing to take home except my pride.” But Federer, who had recently said “I would choose tennis over a girlfriend” would leave Sydney with more than his pride. His friendship with Mirka blossomed into romance. Mirka said at first she wasn’t aware that he had taken a romantic interest in her. “He didn’t kiss me until the last day of the Olympic Games,” she admitted.

They parted ways for now. She followed the women’s tour to Japan and then to Europe. However, the relationship became more intense over the next few months. The public still had to wait a long time until stories and official pictures of the new “dream couple” surfaced. When a newspaper disregarded Federer’s request to please keep his new relationship under wraps, he reacted angrily. “I don’t think that this has to come out in public,” he complained. “I spoke with my girlfriend and she didn’t want this exposed either, because then we would both just have to talk about our relationship and not about our tennis anymore.”

Mirka’s career, however, didn’t work out as hoped. She managed to reach the third round of a Grand Slam tournament at the 2001 US Open, losing to future world No. 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne, but the price she had to pay for her victories was high. Like her Swiss colleague, Martina Hingis, Mirka encountered problems with her feet—despite several operations and rest. Her career-high ranking was achieved on Sept. 10, 2001 when she ranked No.

76 in the world, but a torn ligament in her right foot prevented her from further improving and forced her into a hiatus that lasted for months. The 2001 US Open was her last great success on the tennis tour—with the exception of the Hopman Cup in Perth in January of 2002 where she was able to celebrate a victory over Argentina alongside her boyfriend. Shortly afterwards, at the age of 24, she played her last match on the WTA Tour in Budapest. She was forced to have another operation and was once again on crutches. It was still quite some time until she finally realized that her career was really finished. Her record as a professional concluded with 202 victories and 159 defeats—including the lower-level challenger and satellite events—with overall earnings of $260,832.

The abrupt and premature end of her career cast her into a depression. “It’s not easy when you do something you like your entire life and then have to quit it from one day to the next,” she said later in an interview at Wimbledon. “I fell into a deep hole. The most difficult part was when I was home for eight months and couldn’t do anything. I had a lot of time to think and watch tennis on television. Roger was my greatest support back then. He gave my tennis life back to me. When he wins, it’s as if I win as well.”

Federer’s Business

Media reports out of Europe have indicated that Roger Federer’s fragrance and cosmetics company “RF” will cease operations. Started in 2003 by Federer’s then-girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec, “RF” was one of the Federer initiatives during the entrepreneur management phase of his career, before re-signing with the International Management Group. Rene Stauffer, in his book THE ROGER FEDERER STORY, QUEST FOR PERFECTION ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com), outlines Federer and his business career in this book excerpt below.

Lynette Federer was astonished to read one of her son’s first interviews in a Swiss newspaper when he was still a youngster. The question to Federer was “What would you buy with your first prize money paycheck?” and the answer actually printed in the paper was “A Mercedes.” Roger was still in school at the time and didn’t even have a driver’s license. His mother knew him well enough to know that the answer couldn’t be correct. She called the editors of the paper and asked to hear the taped conversation. The mother’s intuition was correct. He had really said, “More CD’s.”

Roger Federer never had extravagant tastes. Money was never the main incentive for him to improve. It was rather a pleasant by-product of his suc­cess. It is a fact that the most successful tennis players are gold-plated and are among the highest-paid individual athletes in the world. Normally, the top 100 players in the world rankings can make ends meet financially without any difficulties—but nationality plays a crucial role in this. The best player from Japan, a country that’s crazy about tennis and is an economic power house, may be only ranked No. 300 but he could still be earning substantially more than the tenth-best Spanish player even if the Spaniard is ranked 200 positions ahead of the Japanese player. Profits from advertising, endorsement contracts as well as other opportunities that arise for a top player in a particu­lar nation sometimes greatly exceed their prize money earnings.

Anybody who asks a professional tennis player how many dollars or euros they win in a tournament will seldom receive an exact answer. For most, the total prize winnings are an abstract number on a paper and when it has finally been transferred to a bank account, it doesn’t look too good anyways after taxes. By contrast, every player knows exactly how many ATP or WTA points they accumulate and how many are still out there to be gathered and where. These points ultimately decide where a player is ranked, which in turn determines the tournaments a player can or cannot compete in.

While tennis, for the most part, is an individual sport, it’s hardly an indi­vidual effort when it comes to the daily routine. Nobody can function without outside help to plan and coordinate practice sessions, to get racquets, strings, shoes and clothes ready, to make travel arrangements, to apply for visas, to work out a tournament schedules, to field questions and inquiries from the media, sponsors and fans, to maintain a website, to manage financial and legal matters, to ensure physical fitness and treat minor as well as major injuries, to maximize nutrition intake and—something that is becoming in­creasingly important—to make sure that any sort of illegal substance is not mistakenly ingested.

Tennis professionals are forced to build a team around themselves that are like small corporations. This already starts in junior tennis, although sometimes a nation’s national association will help with many of a player’s duties—as the Swiss Tennis Federation did with Federer.

Virtually all top players are represented by small or large sports agencies, where agents and their staff offer their services—not always altruistically—to players. The reputations of agents and sports agencies are not always positive as many put their own financial goals ahead of what is best for their client.

The International Management Group or IMG—the largest sports agency in the world—signed Martina Hingis when she was only 12 years old. Federer also drew the attention of the company’s talent scouts at a very young age. IMG signed a contract with the Federer family when Roger was 15 years old. Régis Brunet, who also managed the career of fellow Swiss Marc Rosset, was assigned to work with the young Federer. Lynette and Robert Federer invested a great deal of time and money in their son’s career but were also in a rela­tively privileged position because Roger was able to take advantage of the assistance of local and national structures early on. For years, Swiss Tennis picked up the bill for his travel and accommodations at many of his matches and also provided opportunities for training and sports support care.

From an early age, Federer began to earn more money in the sport than his contemporaries. By age 18, he already won $110,000 in prize money on the professional tour and by 19, he had earned over $500,000. As Federer became a top professional, his prize money earnings catapulted. At age 20, his earnings soared to $1.5 million. By the time he was 23, his official winnings surpassed $10 million and at 24, the $20 million mark was eclipsed. At the end of 2005, Federer was already in seventh place in the all-time prize money list for men’s tennis and was almost half-way to earning the $43 million that Pete Sampras earned as the top-paid player of all-time before his retirement.

At the age of 17, Federer already signed endorsement contracts with sport­ing good giants Nike (clothes and shoes) as well as Wilson (racquets). Babolat supplied him with one hundred natural gut strings each year while Swisscom picked up the bill for his cell phone use—which the teenager found pretty cool considering his numerous calls.

Federer did not care much for the details of his early business dealings. “I don’t even want to know if I am receiving money from Head and Wilson or just equipment, because if I care too much about things like that, it could change my attitude towards tennis,” he said in an interview at that time. “The prize money is transferred to my bank account and will be used later when I begin to travel even more.” He then added somewhat hastily that “I will never buy anything big. I live very frugally.”

Federer was never a player who would do anything to earn or save extra money. He also didn’t move to Monte Carlo—the traditional tax haven for tennis players—to save on his taxed earnings like many professional tennis players such as his Swiss countrymen Marc Rosset, Jakob Hlasek and Heinz Günthardt. In 2002, he told Schweizer Illustrierte, “What would I do there? I don’t like Monaco. I’m staying in Switzerland!”

He was less tempted to chase after the quick buck for several reasons. First, he was already earning considerably more money than his peers at such an early age. Second, as a Swiss citizen, there were fewer corporate opportunities than players from other countries such as the United States and Germany. Third, his creed was always “Quality before Quantity” and he wanted to con­centrate on the development of his game in the hope that his success would reap larger rewards later in his career.

Federer, however, was always very aware of his value. He slowly but steadily moved up the totem pole of pro tennis and he observed the type of oppor­tunities that opened up for the top players. When I asked him in Bangkok in the fall of 2004 if he was tempted to earn as much money as quickly as possible, he said, “I’m in the best phase of my life and I don’t want to sleep it away. I have a lot of inquiries but most importantly, any new partners have to conform to my plans. They can’t take up too much of my time and their ad campaigns have to be right. I’m not the type of person who runs after money. I could play smaller tournaments, for example, where there are big monetary guarantees, but I don’t let it drive me nuts. The most important thing for me now is that my performance is right and that I have my career under control.”

The fact that Federer does not go for the quick, easy dollar shows in his tournament schedule. After he became a top player, he only played in a very few number of smaller tournaments on the ATP Tour where players can be lured to compete with large guaranteed pay days (this is not permitted at the Masters Series and the Grand Slam tournaments). At these events, the going rate for stars the caliber of a Federer or an Andre Agassi could reach six digits. Federer is considered to be a player who is worth the price since he attracts fans and local sponsors and is certain to deliver a top performance. He won all ten tournaments in the “International Series” that he competed in between March, 2004 and January, 2006—an incredibly consistent performance.

Federer’s strategy of looking at the big picture has panned out. He has de­veloped into the champion that he is today because he hasn’t been sidetracked by distractions and has remained focused on the lone goal of maximizing his on-court performance. His successes and his reputation as a champion with high credibility have increased his marketability over the years.

The number of Federer’s advertising contracts was always manageable—in contrast to Björn Borg, for example, who had to keep 40 contract partners satisfied when he was in his prime. At 20, Federer signed a contract with the luxury watch maker Rolex—the brand that is also associated with Wimbledon. In June of 2004, Federer’s contract with Rolex was dissolved and he signed a five-year contract as the “ambassador” for the Swiss watch maker Maurice Lacroix.

This partnership was prematurely dissolved after two years. Since Rolex became aware of the value Federer had as a partner, they signed him to an­other contract in the summer of 2006, replacing Maurice Lacroix.

In addition to this, he signed contracts with Emmi, a milk company in Lucerne (which seemed appropriate for someone who owns his own cow), as well as with the financial management company Atag Asset Management in Bern (until July, 2004) and with Swiss International Air Lines. All of the contracts were heavily performance-related in general and have increased substantially in value with Federer’s successes.

Federer is a very reliable partner for companies. He was associated with his sporting goods sponsors Wilson (racquets) and Nike (clothing and shoes) since the beginning of his career and probably will be forever. His agree­ment with Nike was renewed for another five years in March of 2003 after the contract expired in the fall of 2002. The new contract was at the time considered to be the most lucrative ever signed by a Swiss athlete. Like almost all of Nike contracts, it contains a clause forbidding additional advertising on his clothing—or “patch” advertising—which is something that Nike also compensates Federer for.

But the renegotiation of the Nike contract was a long and tiresome process, which was one of the reasons that Federer dissolved his working relationship with IMG in June of 2003. In the spring of that year, he said that “one thing and another happened at IMG. Those are things that I can’t and am not al­lowed to go into.” It was a matter of money, he said, but not just that. “There were too many things that I didn’t like.”

From that point forward, Federer only wanted to work with people who he trusted implicitly. He noticed that the best control doesn’t work if there is no trust. He gave his environment a new structure that became known as “In-House Management,” based on his conviction that family companies are the best kind of enterprises. John McEnroe’s father—a lawyer—frequently managed business affairs on behalf of his son—and it all worked out well for him. Federer’s parents became the mainstay of his management and estab­lished “The Hippo Company” with headquarters in Bottmingen, Switzerland to manage their son’s affairs. “Hippo,” of course, was chosen in association with South Africa, the homeland of Roger’s mother. “My wife and I had often observed hippos during our vacations to South Africa and have come to love them,” Robert Federer explained once.

After 33 years, Lynette Federer left the Ciba Corporation in the fall of 2003 and became her son’s full-time help (she doesn’t like to be called a manager). “We grew into this business,” she said months later. “If we need expert opin­ion about a specific question, we’re not afraid to ask professionals.” The two main goals for their son were to “build Roger into an international brand name” and to “maximize profits over a lifetime.” The native South African, who, in contrast to Mirka Vavrinec, only occasionally traveled to the tourna­ments, worked very much in the background, which is exactly what her son wanted. It’s important, Federer said in 2005, that his parents go about their private lives in peace despite their business connections to him. “I don’t want them to have to suffer because of my fame,” he said. “I also pay close atten­tion that they are not in the center of media attention very often and only rarely give interviews.”

Robert Federer continued to work for Ciba until the summer of 2006 when he took his early retirement at the age of 60. Robert, however, was always part of the core of his son’s management for years. “I view myself as working in an advisory capacity and try to disburden Roger wherever possible,” he said in the summer of 2003. “But even if we have a great relationship that is based on trust and respect, we still sometimes have trouble.”

In 2003, Federer’s girlfriend officially assumed responsibility for coordinat­ing his travels and his schedule, especially with the media and with sponsors. Mirka’s new role and responsibility gave her a new purpose in life following the injury-related interruption of her own professional tennis career. While mixing a business relationship with a personal relationship can sometimes cause problems, both Roger and Mirka say balancing the two has been easier for the couple than they first anticipated. Mirka treats both roles indepen­dently as best as she can and soon decided “not to get stressed any more” when requests and requirements of her boyfriend/client pile up.

“I’ve made everyone realize that they have to put in their requests a long time in advance and it works great,” she said in 2004. She makes sure to ex­peditiously bring the most pressing matters to Roger’s attention while seeing to it that he is not unnecessarily disturbed by what she believes to be trivial matters.

Nicola Arzani, the European communications director of the ATP Tour, ex­tols the working relationship he has with Mirka. “I work regularly with Mirka and it works great,” he said. “We coordinate all inquiries and set Roger’s schedule according to priorities—usually a long time in advance.” Federer, like all players, is supported by the communications professionals on the ATP Tour or with the International Tennis Federation at the Grand Slam events.

Mirka took up additional activities in 2003 as the driving force behind a Roger Federer branded line of cosmetics and cosmetic care products that were introduced during the Swiss Indoors in Basel. RF Cosmetic Corporation was thus born and Federer actively helped create the scent for his perfume called “Feel the Touch.” Even if this perfume was generally met with wide ac­ceptance, experts in the business believe that launching this line of cosmetics was extremely risky and premature, considering Federer’s youth.

Federer had hardly replaced IMG with his In-House Management when his breakthrough months in 2003 and 2004 followed and provided many op­portunities and requests for him—and a lot of work for his entourage. Within seven months, Federer won at Wimbledon, the Tennis Masters Cup and the Australian Open and then became the No. 1 ranked player. All of his suc­cesses and its consequences subjected the structure of his management to a tough stress test. “We were all taken by surprise, no question,” Federer said. He admitted that he wanted to be informed about all activities and perceived himself to be the head of the In-House Management.

On July 1, 2004, Thomas Werder joined the team as new “Director of Communications” responsible for trademark management, public and media relations, as well as fan communication. This working relationship, how­ever, was soon terminated nearly a year later. The German consulting agency Hering Schuppener with headquarters in Düsseldorf was then introduced as a partner to manage international public relations. But it remained mostly in the background.

With the exception of Maurice Lacroix, new sponsorship agreements were not initially announced. In February, 2004, when his son became the No. 1 ranked player in the world, Robert Federer said that while they were engaged in negotiations with various businesses, space for other partners was none­theless “not infinite.” “We’re taking our time,” he said. “We don’t want to force anything. Roger can’t have 20 contracts because each contract takes up part of his time.”

According to marketing experts, the fact that Roger Federer’s attempts to take better advantage of his commercial opportunities did not initially lead to additional advertising contracts not only had to do with this restraint, but also with his team’s lack of contacts in the corporate advertising world. In addition, Federer was not the first choice for many international companies as an advertising medium, which specifically had to do with his nationality, his image, and—as absurd as it may sound—with his athletic superiority.

Federer had a limited corporate market at home in Switzerland from which to draw and, like all non-Americans, he had difficulties reaching into the financial honey jars of the corporate advertising industry. Such an undertak­ing, without the help of a professional sports marketing agency that knows the American market and that has the necessary connections, is nearly im­possible. Federer’s reputation as a fair, dependable and excellent athlete may also have made him not flamboyant or charismatic enough for many compa­nies. Federer doesn’t smash racquets or get into shouting matches like John McEnroe or Ilie Nastase used to. He doesn’t grab at his crotch like the street fighter Jimmy Connors and, at the time, he was not considered to be a legend like Björn Borg, who looks like a Swedish god. He doesn’t dive over the court until his knees are bloody like Boris Becker and he also doesn’t surround himself with beautiful film starlettes like some of this colleagues, for instance McEnroe, whose first wife was actress Tatum O’Neal and his second, the rock star Patty Smythe, as well as Andre Agassi, who married the actress Brooke Shields, before being settling down with fellow tennis superstar Steffi Graf.

Anybody who likes convertibles, safaris, playing cards with friends, good music and good food, sun, sand and sea, is too normal and unspectacular. Federer was still missing something. During his first two years as the world No. 1, Federer lacked a rival that was somewhat his equal. Tennis thrives from its classic confrontations between rival competitors. Borg had Connors and later McEnroe. McEnroe had both Connors and Borg and later Ivan Lendl. After McEnroe and Connors, Lendl had Boris Becker. Becker had Stefan Edberg and Andre Agassi had Pete Sampras. In the women’s game, there was no greater rivalry than Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. Roger Federer didn’t have anybody between 2004 and 2005 who could hold a candle to him. During the 2004 and 2005 seasons, Federer lost only 10 times to nine differ­ent players, seven of whom were not in the top 10. A real rivalry only grew starting in 2006 with Rafael Nadal.

When in July of 2005 Forbes magazine came out with its list of the world’s top-paid athletes, Federer did not make the list. His annual income (from prize money, start guarantees, advertising and sporting goods contracts) was esti­mated to be about $14 million. Forbes tallied only two tennis players on their list—Andre Agassi, who, at $28.2 million, came in seventh overall on the list, as well as Maria Sharapova, the attractive Russian Wimbledon champion of 2004 whose estimated annual income was at around $18.3 million due to various advertising contracts. The Forbes list was dominated by basketball and baseball players with golf star Tiger Woods ($80.3 million) and Formula 1 world cham­pion Michael Schumacher ($80.0 million) holding the top positions.

Given the undeniable need to play catch up to his fellow elite athletes on the Forbes list and gain more of a foothold in the commercial advertising space, nobody was surprised when Federer once again augmented his management with a professional international agency in 2005. It was a surprise, howev­er, when he chose to rehire IMG after a two-year hiatus, despite such offers made by Octagon, SFX and other top agencies. However, the world’s largest sports marketing agency was only announced as an addition to the In-House Management with the goal of “concentrating intensively on his economic op­portunities.” This was an optimal situation, Federer said, explaining that “I’m continuing to work with my present team, taking advantage of its lean struc­ture while at the same time having a world-wide network at my disposal.”

American Tony Godsick became Federer’s manager. A tennis insider who also managed the tennis career of former Wimbledon, US and Australian Open champion Lindsay Davenport, Godsick was also married to Mary Joe Fernandez, the former top tennis player who owned three pieces of hardware that Federer desperately envied—two gold medals and one bronze medal from the 1992 and 1996 Olympics.

Following the 2003 death of IMG’s founder, Mark McCormack, the com­pany was sold. The Cleveland, Ohio-based company then reduced its staff of 2,700 considerably, sold many of its properties and parts of its business, ap­parently to remedy its financial woes. IMG’s stake in professional tennis was also reduced as the company dumped its stake in events in Scottsdale, Ariz., Los Angeles and Indian Wells. The incoming IMG owner was Ted Forstmann, an investor who buys and sells companies at will, and made personal efforts to Federer to have his new company do business with him. The American was said to have paid $750 million for IMG and some insiders immediately speculated that Federer was signed to help increase the market value of the company and that he would share in the accruing profits if IMG were to be re-sold or listed on the stock market. No official comments came from either camp regarding this speculation.

Asked during the 2006 Australian Open if his new working relationship with IMG changed things for him and if he was now more active in off-the-court endeavors, Federer was unequivocal in stating that he was now in a new and much stronger position vis a vis IMG than before: “I don’t want much more to do because I’m booked pretty solid. I’ve made it clear to IMG that this is the reason that I’m coming back. It’s the opposite: IMG have to do more than before.”

IMG quickly became very active in order to optimize Federer’s economic situation and better exploit his potential. The goal was to find ideal partners and contracts that accurately reflected his status as a “worldwide sports icon.” In 2006, existing contracts were re-negotiated, cancelled (Maurice Lacroix) and new ones were signed (Rolex, Jura coffee machines). Federer also signed a lifetime contract with Wilson, despite attractive offers from rival racquet companies in Japan and Austria.

Early in 2007, Federer signed his first big endorsement contract with a com­pany that was not related to tennis or to a Swiss company. In Dubai, he was unveiled as the newest brand ambassador of the new Gillette “Champions” program, together with Tiger Woods and French soccer star Thierry Henry. “These three ambassadors were selected not only for their sporting accom­plishments, but also for their behaviour away from the game,” the company explained. “They are as much champions in their personal lives as they are in their sports.”

The highly-paid contract was a stepping-stone for Federer and reflected that he had become an international megastar. The multi-faceted marketing initiatives, including global print and broadcast advertising in over 150 mar­kets, helped him increase his popularity outside the sports world.

When I asked Federer in the end of 2006, if his relation to money had changed over the years, he said, “Suddenly, money turned into a lot of money, and in the beginning, I had problems with this.” He felt that some articles suggested the impression that top tennis players are a modern version of glo­betrotters who run after the money from town to town. He did not feel this was an accurate portrayal of his priorities. “It’s not true,” he said. “All I’m trying to do is fulfill my dreams as a tennis player.”

Roger Federer: Setting Records Around The World

Tennis fans have been very amused at the new NetJets television advertisement featured Roger Federer pulled a luggage rack full of all of his Grand Slam tournament trophies to his private jet. Federer indeed leads a jet-set lifestyle that really began to take shape in 2004 – the first year that he won the US Open. The following chapter from the Federer biography THE ROGER FEDERER STORY: QUEST FOR PERFECTION by Rene Stauffer ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com) – entitled “Setting Records Around The World” – documents a bit of the high-life of Federer and the tail end of his 2004 season.

Following his triumph at the US Open, Roger Federer and his girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec experienced four very exciting and diverse weeks. Arthur Cohn, an Academy Award-winning producer and, like Federer, a native of Basel, invited his friend to celebrate his US Open victory with him in Los Angeles. Roger and Mirka got their first introduction to Hollywood’s glamorous world. They took up residence in a luxury suite in Beverly Hills, went shopping on Rodeo Drive, visited attractions such as the Walk of Fame and met film greats such as Kirk Douglas and Danny de Vito. In between it all, Federer treated his body to hours of relaxation in the spa. Another highlight of this trip was an excur­sion in a private jet to Las Vegas to take in magician David Copperfield’s show at the Hotel Bellagio. Following the show, Federer met with Copperfield—a meeting of two magicians, one could say.

The jet-set life continued smoothly. Federer then jetted across the Pacific Ocean and the International Date Line and made a stop-over in Hong Kong, where he conducted a media day for the Asian press. The next stop was Bangkok and the Thailand Open. Traveling in a minivan from the tour­nament facilities to his hotel through the humid, rain-soaked metropolis, Federer explained that he enjoyed moving about in the world of the beautiful, the rich and the famous. “I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t want to,” he said. “I find getting to know show business exciting. I used to have trouble with the world of red carpets and formal dinners but now I’m having fun. It’s also not difficult for me to talk to other people. There’s always something to say.”

He particularly enjoyed Asia’s hospitality and the enthusiasm of the peo­ple—he was also enamored with Asian cuisine. In contrast to the other players at the event, Federer stayed at the Oriental Hotel on the Chao Phraya River, a traditional, colonial-styled structure and the best hotel in the city. Federer, in the meantime, made the conscious decision to avoid the official tournament hotels. He noticed that he could settle down quicker and relax better when he stayed away from the tournament crowd. Hotel rooms were havens where he could recuperate and escape—and he was willing to pay extra dollar for this extra luxury, but as the king of the tennis world, he was still often offered special rates to stay in the best suites in the best hotels. In Paris, it may have been the noble Hotel du Crillon, or the seven star Burj al Arab in Dubai, or the Peninsula in New York.

Federer’s trip to Bangkok ended in success—he won the Thailand Open with a 6-4, 6-0 win over Andy Roddick in a sold-out final in front of 10,000-plus spectators. It was his 12th consecutive victory in a tournament final, tying the all-time record set by Björn Borg and John McEnroe. He received the “Trophy of the King” at the award ceremony from Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya and expressed his gratitude in the country’s customary way, mak­ing a slight bow with hands folded over his chest. “I was surprised at how attractive the Princess was. She looked 35,” he said later after a long walk through many hallways accompanied by five bodyguards while retiring to his plain and windowless single dressing room. “She’s supposed to be 55!”

His “jet-set” world tour was now in its sixth week but he did not return di­rectly home after Bangkok. For the third time during the 2004 calendar year, Federer went to Dubai. What nobody knew was that the Australian coach Tony Roche was also in Dubai, on assignment to spend a few days of training with Federer in the initial stages of what later became their fascinating player-coach relationship.

By early October, Federer already won ten titles in the 2004 season. His match record stood at 69-6 and there were still four tournaments remaining on his schedule. Two more important ATP records were within reach—most victories in a season (86) and most tournament titles in a season (12), both set in 1995 by the left-handed Austrian clay courter Thomas Muster. But then, the unexpected happened. Federer withdrew from the event in Madrid because he didn’t feel sufficiently rested after his world tour. He preferred to concentrate his energies on winning the event that was as high on his wish-list as the French Open—the Swiss Indoors. At the tournament’s Monday opening presentation in Basel’s town hall, Federer was in a fine mood, upbeat and told all the assembled media how well prepared he was for the week. However, just a few hours later, he was overtaken during a practice session by what must have been the curse of Basel—he suddenly felt an unusual pain in his left thigh. The pain persisted during his practice session on Tuesday. He hastily underwent a magnetic resonance imaging examination, which re­vealed a muscle fiber rupture—an injury common for tennis players.

Instead of his long-desired triumph in his hometown, the Swiss Indoors brought him some of the bitterest hours of his career. He showed up at the St. Jakobshalle Tuesday evening—when he was scheduled to make his tourna­ment start—wearing street clothes. He withdrew from the tournament and explained to the media and the public what happened. “I never imagined that it would turn out like this,” he said. “I had made perfect preparations and had a good chance at winning the tournament.”

Federer recovered just in time to travel to Houston in his attempt to de­fend his title at the Tennis Masters Cup. However, the second year at the Westside Tennis Club was completely different than the previous year. Jim McIngvale—“Mattress Mack”—took last year’s criticisms by Federer and his fellow players to heart and significantly improved the conditions of the tour­nament. Each of the eight participants now had their own dressing room. The differences between Federer and McIngvale were resolved and the tourna­ment promoter and his wife warmly welcomed the world’s No. 1 player and congratulated him graciously for his impressive 2004 season. Federer finally felt welcome and appreciated in Texas. McIngvale even facilitated for Federer a lunch with former American President George Bush Sr., a self-confessed tennis fan, and his wife Barbara, both residents of Houston. However, there was something that McIngvale could not facilitate with his influence and his deep pocketbook—good weather. Most of the week featured rainy and windy weather, spreading gloom among fans, players and officials and causing long and persistent match delays.

At least Federer was fully recovered from his thigh injury. Six weeks went by since his last tournament competition in Bangkok, but surprisingly, he had little trouble immediately finding his rhythm. Federer negotiated round-robin wins over Gaston Gaudio, Lleyton Hewitt and Carlos Moya to reach the semifinals, where he faced Marat Safin, who was now tutored by Federer’s old coach Peter Lundgren.

The Federer-Safin semifinal was highlighted by the second-set tie-break that lasted 27 minutes and ended 20-18 in Federer’s favor. The 38 points matched the record for the longest tie-break in tennis history—equaling the amount of points Björn Borg and Premjit Lall played at Wimbledon in 1973 and that Goran Ivanisevic and Daniel Nestor played at the 1993 US Open. “Too bad we didn’t break the record,” Federer joked. “We should have made an arrangement to do this.” Federer was in a good mood because even though he blew seven match points, he also fought off six set points and won the match 6-3, 7-6 (18). Interestingly enough, television replays showed that Federer actually won the match on his third match point when leading 10-9, when the TV replay showed Federer was the victim of a bad line call. “I even saw the mark Safin’s shot made and it was out,” he stated. Almost any other player would have frantically protested such an injustice, especially at such a critical point in the match. Federer, however, reacted as if nothing had hap­pened, even though he would have won the match on Safin’s mistake. He remained entrenched in the dog fight and said he intentionally convinced himself that Safin’s stroke probably landed in. “I would have gone nuts oth­erwise,” he said.

In the other semifinal, Roddick’s game buckled against Hewitt as the American lost the last 20 points of the match, losing 6-3, 6-2. Some cynics actually offered that Roddick may have welcomed defeat to avoid a fourth final-round loss to Federer for the year. Instead, it was now Federer against Hewitt for the sixth time on the season, and for the sixth time, Federer emerged the winner. The 6-3, 6-2 win gave Federer his 13th consecutive vic­tory in a tournament final, breaking the record he previously shared with McEnroe and Borg for most consecutive victories in tournament finals.

As Federer toasted with Champagne in the player’s lounge after his post-match interview with the press, he seemed like anybody who had just ended a normal work week. But on this day, a dream year came to a close. Federer won 11 titles, three Grand Slam tournaments as well as the Tennis Masters Cup. His won-loss record for the year stood at 74-6, marking the best winning per­centage since John McEnroe went 82-3 in 1984. His reward was lavish. Just in this week—like the year before in Houston—he set a personal record in prize money winning $1.52 million and raised his season earnings to $6,357,547.

Since his devastating loss to Berdych at the Olympic Games, Federer went undefeated for the remainder of the year. He was now the champion of four Grand Slam tournaments and finished the year as the No. 1 player in the world. Federer still had one more wish before he and Mirka jetted off to the Maldive Islands for some rest and relaxation—“I would like to make time stand still and just enjoy this moment.” But nobody, of course, could fulfill this wish.

Roger Federer vs Andy Roddick…revisited

Swiss journalist and author Rene Stauffer chronicles in detail three of the most important matches between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick in his definitive Federer biography THE ROGER FEDERER STORY, QUEST FOR PERFECTION (New Chapter Press, $24.95, www.rogerfedererbook.com), the first U.S.-published book on the Swiss tennis champion. In the 2004 Wimbledon final, a coach-less Federer sustained a Roddick surge to win his second Wimbledon title – and his third Grand Slam tournament title. At Wimbledon in 2005, Federer dominated Roddick to win his third Wimbledon title and his first Grand Slam tournament title with his father Robert Federer in attendance. In the 2007 Australian Open semifinals, Federer played one of the greatest matches of his career to throttle Roddick 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 en route to his third Australian Open. The book excerpts that chronicle these matches are featured below.

2004 Wimbledon Final – Federer def. Roddick 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (3), 6-4

On a rainy, bitterly cold Fourth of July, Federer played Roddick, who not only was in his first Wimbledon final on his country’s Independence Day, but on the birthday of his older brother John. Roddick clearly emerged as a solid No. 2 in the rankings behind Federer and took the identity of Federer’s primary challenger, especially on grass. The head-to-head between the two stood at 5-1 in the favor of Federer, who unlike the year before in his semifinal match with Roddick, was now considered the heavy favorite.

But Roddick and his coach Brad Gilbert both did their homework. Roddick played with an intensity that was palpable all the way to the top rows of Centre Court. Roddick’s power game dominated the early stages of the match as his brutal groundstrokes and lighting serve gave him the first set 6-4. The second set turned into a inexplicable rollercoaster ride—Federer took a 4-0 lead and had a point for 5-0, but lost two service games in a row and allowed Roddick to square the set at 4-4. But the tennis gods were in Federer’s favor. At 6-5, a let court winner gave him a set point. A gorgeously played running cross court forehand winner on the next point gave Federer the set.

The defending champion, however, was still unable to seize complete control of the match. In the third set, he trailed 2-4 when the heavens intervened as rain forced a temporary suspension in the action. The delay lasted 40 minutes and—as strange as it may sound—proved to be a pivotal moment in the match.

The rain stoppage also provided the Australian Pat Cash enough time on the BBC TV coverage of the match to make another false prediction—he wouldn’t bet any money on Federer winning the match. But Federer returned to the court as a man transformed and with a new tactic. As Cash used to do with much success, Federer rushed the net with greater frequency and began to win more and more points in that position. He won the third set in a tiebreak and was able to fend off six break points in the fourth set, before he broke Roddick’s serve at 4-3 without losing a point. In just a matter of minutes, Federer was again the Wimbledon champion.

It was 5:55 pm local time in Great Britain when Federer sank to his knees and rolled onto his back having once again won the greatest title in tennis. The sun, meanwhile, came out from the clouds, and like the year before, showered the award ceremony in sunshine. As with the ceremony in 2003, the tears flowed. “At least this time I managed to hold them back a bit during the award ceremony,” he remarked. “I’m even happier than last year.”

He admitted how surprised he was at Roddick’s aggressive and solid play. Federer said he himself made the decision during the rain delay in the third set to change tactics and to play more serve and volley. Of this, he said, he was proud. “Coach Federer is satisfied with Federer the tennis player,” he quipped.

2005 Wimbledon Final – Federer def. Roddick 6-2, 7-6 (2), 6-4

Federer unleashed a storm against Roddick at the start of the match—winning the first set in 22 minutes—a glaring difference to the previous year when the American dominated him from the start. In the second set, after the two players exchanged early breaks, Federer dominated the tie-break, taking it 7-2 to take a two-sets-to-love lead.

Although it was barely drizzling, Wimbledon officials ordered a suspension of play after the second set. Most of the spectators stayed in their seats, including Robert Federer, who watched his son play live in a Grand Slam final for the first time. While wife Lynette sat in the players’ box alongside Roche and Mirka Vavrinec, Robert sat on the complete opposite side of Centre Court.

Robert Federer didn’t have good memories of Wimbledon and it required courage for him to even venture to Centre Court to watch his son. His memories from his last visit to the All England Club in 2002 were still vivid—when he sat in the Players’ Box and expected to see his son roll through an easy first-round win over Croatia’s Mario Ancic. Instead, he witnessed “Rotschi” suffer one of the most bitter defeats of his career. Robert considered himself to be bad luck since then. His son finally convinced him to come. “Forget it! If I lose, then it certainly won’t be because of you,” Roger told him.

Robert Federer followed his son’s first two Wimbledon victories at home in Switzerland. When British reporters caught up with him afterwards, he explained that somebody had to look after the family cat. In 2005, he decided to come to Wimbledon from the beginning as a test. Most British reporters sitting only a few meters away from him in the Centre Court stands did not recognize him behind his sun glasses. The Sun actually ran a story about him, but the man in the photo associated with the story was not even him, but Federer’s physiotherapist Pavel Kovac.

Robert Federer was still nervous during the rain delay, even if his son’s two-sets-to-love lead calmed his nerves. “Even the points that Roger loses he plays well,” he said during the intermission. “I’ve always told him that he has to play aggressively and follow through with his strokes—anything else won’t work.”

Neither the short break—nor the supposed “jinx” presence of his father—could prevent Federer from winning his third Wimbledon title. After 101 minutes of play, an ace sealed his 6-2, 7-6 (2), 6-4 victory. He fell to the ground and, as before, the tears flowed. Federer became the eighth man in history—and only the third player since World War II—to win three-straight Wimbledon singles titles. The other two to turn the “hat trick” in the last 50 years were Björn Borg and Pete Sampras, but Federer resisted the comparisons. After all, the Swede won Wimbledon five straight years and Sampras won seven times in eight years. What Federer didn’t say and perhaps wasn’t even aware of was the fact that his achievement in winning his three Wimbledon titles was, in fact, more dominant than the first three titles won by both Borg and Sampras. Borg gave up nine sets in the process while Sampras surrendered 11 sets. Federer, by contrast, lost only four sets.

Federer was at a loss for words for his near perfect performance in the final. “I really played a fantastic match—one of my best in my life,” he said. “I was playing flawless. Everything was working.”

Of the 35 grass court tennis matches Andy Roddick played over the last three years, he only lost on three occasions. All three losses were to Roger Federer. “His performance this year was clearly better than last year’s,” said Roddick after his third-straight Wimbledon loss to Federer. “If I had played as well as today last year I probably would have won.”

For a third year in a row Federer was the indeed the answer to the question “Guess Who is Coming To Dinner?” His guests for the Wimbledon Champions Dinner were Tony Roche and Robert Federer. Both men beamed with pride. The Wimbledon victory was very important to them as well.

“To me, Wimbledon is the greatest tournament in the world,” said Roche, happy that he stayed in Europe with Federer for the grass season. “Playing against such a great opponent as Roddick in a Wimbledon final and playing at the level that he did—it can’t get any better than that. On a scale from one to 10, that was a 10.”

The Wimbledon champion was glad that his father was able to be with him at this special moment.

“He still gets upset if I miss a backhand or a forehand,” he said to journalists the morning after his victory. “But I’ve learned to deal with this in the meantime because I know that he doesn’t know as much about tennis as I used to think.”

2007 Australian Open – Federer def. Roddick 6-4, 6-0, 6-2

Spurred by new coach Jimmy Connors, Roddick’s career was back on the up-swing. In addition to his runner-up showing at the US Open, Roddick won the Tennis Masters Series event in Cincinnati and after his strong performances against Federer in the US Open final and Shanghai, as well as his exhibition victory over the Swiss at the Kooyong Classic, many speculated that Roddick was on Federer’s heels. The hype increased when the two faced each other again in the Australian Open semifinals. Roddick lost 12 of the 13 encounters with Federer but the longer this losing streak continued, the greater the likelihood that Federer would eventually stumble and lose to Roddick. In what many people predicted would be an upset victory for Roddick  turned into one of the bitterest days of the American’s tennis career. Federer pulled off a masterpiece—one of the best matches of his career. He trailed 3-4 in the first set and then rolled off 15 of the next 17 games and won the semifinal match 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 in 83 minutes. “It was almost surreal,” Federer said. “I’m shocked myself at how well I played.” The statistics were incredibly lopsided as Federer hit as many winners in the match as Roddick won points.

Federer hit 45 winners to Roddick’s 11, while he won 83 points to Roddick’s 45. Federer also out-aced Roddick 10 to four, never lost his serve, and converted all seven break-point chances on Roddick’s serve. At one point, Federer won 12 straight games to take a 3-0 lead in the third set. The signature shot in the match came on the opening point of the fourth game of the second set. Roddick unleashed a fierce forehand from short range that landed close to the baseline. Rather than getting out of the way of the rocket forehand, Federer leaned left into the ball and hit a reflex backhand half-volley that traveled cross-court for a winner.

“Darling, you are a maniac,” Mirka told Federer after returning from his day’s work to the locker room. Two-time Grand Slam winner Rod Laver, who witnessed the flawless display of tennis, also showed up in the locker room and congratulated the victor. “Roger played fantastic,” said Laver. “He used all the strokes there were and Andy was a little frustrated. The only thing you could do is go to the net, shake hands and say, ‘That was too good.’”

Roddick’s post-match press conference was one of the most difficult of his career, but the American took the defeat like a man and was at least able to treat the humbling defeat with some humor. “It was frustrating. You know, it was miserable. It sucked. It was terrible. Besides that, it was fine,” he said. Federer, he said, deserved all the praise that was being bestowed on him.

Mondays with Bob Greene: Five Straight for Rafa

STARS

Rafael Nadal won his fifth straight Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters title, beating Novak Djokovic 6-3 2-6 61 in Monte Carlo

Sabine Lisicki won the Family Circle Cup, beating Caroline Wozniacki 6-2 6-4 in Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Roberta Vinci beat Maria Kirilenko 6-0 6-4 to win the Barcelona Ladies Open in Barcelona, Spain

Fabrice Santoro beat Rik De Voest 7-5 6-4 to win the Soweto Men’s Open in Johannesburg, South Africa

Felix Mantilla beat Albert Costa 6-4 6-1 to win the ATP Champions Cup in Barcelona, Spain

SAYING

“Everyone can improve in every surface, no? No one is perfect. Sure, I can improve. I always work to improve because when you feel you can’t improve, is difficult to wake up and go on court and practice.” – Rafael Nadal  after winning his fifth straight Monte Carlo Rolex Masters.

“She’s just a great champion. I still can’t really believe I won. … But beating Venus Williams here was just awesome.” – Sabine Lisicki, who beat Venus Williams early in the week and went on to win the Family Circle Cup.

“I wasn’t expecting that.” – Venus Williams, after losing to Sabine Lisicki at the Family Circle Cup.

“He did a good job today. He kept the ball in play.” – Roger Federer, after losing to Stanislas Wawrinka at Monte Carlo.

“I am a bit embarrassed to celebrate it.” – Stanislas Wawrinka, on his victory over Roger Federer.

“The competition is pretty tough. You have to be ready from the first round, especially playing the first tournament on clay courts. You really have to be patient and take some time before you really feel the surface.” – Elena Dementieva, noting that second-seeded Venus Williams, third-seeded Vera Zvonareva and fourth-seeded Nadia Petrova were all eliminated from the Family Circle Cup on the same day.

“If you want to get married in private, you have to go to Switzerland. They don’t actually care over there. They actually want to give you peace and privacy. That’s why I love being a Swiss and living in Switzerland.” – Roger Federer, on his marriage to long-time girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec.

“Obviously our rankings both aren’t in the top 10 anymore, so you’re not getting the protection of not playing each other early on. But, yeah, he’s obviously still a class player when he’s on.” – Lleyton Hewitt, after losing to Marat Safin in a battle of former world number ones.

“It’s nice that I know him, and he’s supporting me out here, coming to watch me play.” – Alexander Stevenson, acknowledging that her father, basketball great Julius Erving, saw her play tennis for the first time as she lost her first-round match at the Family Circle Cup.

“I had a lead and then the whole thing was, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m actually beating someone who’s 13 in the world,’ and that got in my head a little bit.” – American qualifier Melanie Oudin, after losing to third-seeded Marion Bartoli at the Family Circle Cup.

“Our personalities match. We work a lot off the court together and we really understand each other’s game. We know each other’s strengths and know how to work as a team.” – Nadia Petrova, after teaming with Bethanie Mattek-Sands to win the Family Circle Cup doubles.

“When I got my illness, I felt like I was retired and that it was finished. But then they gave me the possibility to come here and to play on the ATP Champions Tour and I thought, ‘Why not?’ It’s always nice to play your sport while having fun.” – Felix Mantilla, who has recovered from skin cancer and resumed playing, winning the Barcelona, Spain, stop on the ATP Champions Tour.

SHOCKER I

Roger Federer teamed with Stanislas Wawrinka to give Switzerland a gold medal in the doubles at the Beijing Olympics last summer. In Monte Carlo, it was Wawrinka who showed Federer the exit in their third-round match. Federer struggled throughout the match, facing 14 break points. The world number two, Federer entered the Monte Carlo Masters on a wild card after getting married the weekend before the tournament.

SHOCKER II

Venus Williams was a heavy favorite to win her Family Circle Cup third-round match against little-known Sabine Lisicki. Instead, the German right-hander shocked the tournament’s number-two seed 6-4 7-6 (5) in her remarkable run to her first WTA Tour title. “I wasn’t expecting that and, you know, I’ll try to come back next year and win,” Williams said. “I made a few errors at the wrong time, and she played some great shots.”

SWEET WEEK

Sabine Lisicki first gained notice when she pulled off the biggest victory over her career by upsetting Venus Williams early in the tournament. She capped her fantasy run by beating Caroline Wozniacki 6-2 6-4 to become the lowest-ranked player ever to win the Family Circle Cup, her first WTA Tour title. The German right-hander proved her surprise win was no fluke, knocking off Elena Vesnina in the quarterfinals, sixth-seeded Marion Bartoli in the semis and fifth-seeded Wozniacki in the final, closing out the victory on her sixth match point. Against Wozniacki, Lisicki rallied from behind in both sets.

STILL CHAMPION

It’s becoming a habit. Rafael Nadal won his fifth straight Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, this year beating third-seeded Novak Djokovic in the final and running his winning streak to 27 matches at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court tournament. The Spaniard becomes the first player to win an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament five consecutive years, and joins Roger Federer with 14 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles, second only to the 17 won by Andre Agassi. Nadal also is the first world number one player to win at Monte Carlo since Ivan Lendl in 1988.

SUPERB FINALIST

Roberta Vinci has only reached two finals in her WTA Tour career. But she’s perfect once she gets there, capturing her second career title at the Barcelona Ladies Open. Her only other title match appearance came in Bogota, Colombia, in 2007, which she also won. “It’s such a great feeling to win again,” Vinci said. “It has been a long time since I played well.” Both of Vinci’s titles have come on red clay.

SPECIAL SWINGER

The only player to win two Grand Slams – winning the Australian, French, Wimbledon and US singles championships in the same calendar year – Rod Laver is being honored again. The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum (ITHFM) will honor Laver with a special presentation on Center Court during ceremonies for the Class of 2009 inductees into the Hall of Fame. In addition, the left-hander from Australia will be named a Life Trustee of the Newport, Rhode Island, shrine. “Rod Laver is arguably the best tennis player ever to swing a racquet,” said Christopher Clouser, chairman of the ITHFM. “And beyond being a great champion of tennis, he is a great person and ambassador of tennis who continues to give back to our sport.” Laver won the Grand Slam in 1962 as an amateur, then again in 1969, one year after the Open Era began, allowing professionals to compete. In 2001, the Australian Open stadium in Melbourne was named “The Rod Laver Arena.”

SPORTS AWARDS NOMINEES

Venus Williams, Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic have been nominated for the 10th Laureus World Sports Awards. Williams, who won her fifth Wimbledon title last summer, has been nominated for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year award. Ivanovic, the French Open winner in 2008, and countryman Djokovic, the 2008 Australian Open champion, have been nominated in the Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year category.

STADIUM TOPPER?

The US Tennis Association (USTA) is looking into the possibility of putting a roof over Arthur Ashe Tennis Stadium, site of the US Open. The stadium, which opened in 1997, seats 22,500, making it one of the largest outdoor tennis stadiums in the world. Spokesman Chris Wittmeier said the USTA is interested in whether new lightweight materials and engineering techniques could be used to make a retractable roof to prevent championship tennis events from being rained out. The stadium was not initially designed to accommodate a roof. The Australian Open’s main stadium has a retractable roof, and a roof was also added to Wimbledon for this year’s tournament. Wittmeier knocked down speculation that the New York Islanders would move their National Hockey League franchise to Arthur Ashe Stadium if a roof was installed. “It’s not even on our wish list,” Wittmeier said. “The way that Arthur Ashe is engineered and configured, it wouldn’t work for hockey.”

SAYING “I DO, TOO”

One week after Roger Federer got married, Andy Roddick walked down the aisle. The 2003 US Open champion married Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker at Roddick’s home in Austin, Texas. Elton John sang at a reception held at a country club following the ceremony. Among those attending the wedding were Billie Jean King, James Blake, Mardy Fish and Patrick McEnroe. Federer married longtime girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec in a small ceremony in his hometown of Basel, Switzerland.

STRUCK DOWN

An ankle injury knocked third-seeded Vera Zvonareva out of the Family Circle Cup singles. On serve with Virginie Razzano in the opening set, Zvonareva fell in the third game while chasing down a ball along the baseline. She cried out in pain and lay on the court for about five minutes, clutching her right ankle. She was helped to her chair where a trainer wrapped her ankle and applied ice to the injury. The Russian then was taken off the court on a golf cart.

SPONSOR SLIP

Maria Sharapova, who hasn’t played singles since last summer, has lost one of her endorsement deals. A spokesman for PepsiCo Inc. said there was no particular reason for the split other than the two-year contract has ended. Sharapova had been the first tennis player to represent PepsiCo’s Gatorade sports drink and Tropicana fruit juice brands worldwide. Since winning Wimbledon in 2004, Sharapova has become the highest-paid female athlete in the world. Sports Illustrated reported the Russian right-hander earns close to USD $22 million a year. She took over the world number one ranking when Justine Henin retired, but has since dropped to number 53 in the world after missing the Beijing Olympics, the US Open and the Australian Open. She has undergone shoulder surgery. Serena Williams endorses Gatorade in the United States.

SEEKING COMEBACK

Carlos Moya is not going to let surgery keep him down. The former world number one is planning on returning to the ATP Tour once he recovers from his pelvic bone surgery.  “They have told me that the recuperation period will be between four or five months,” said the 32-year-old Moya, who won the French Open in 1998. “I think that to come back after the US Open (in September) it’s best to accept the situation in a relaxed way and have more guarantees for next year.”

SENIOR SITE

The ATP Champions Tour has launched its own official website, www.atpchampionstour.com. The site has a new interactive FanZone where fans can send questions to their favorite player, access exclusive video and audio, and test their knowledge of the Champions. Another section explains how players are eligible to play on the ATP Champions Tour.

STEPPING DOWN I

Alfred Tesar is ending his eight-year reign as captain of Austria’s Fed Cup team. In its first match under Tesar in 2002, Austria upset the United States and reached the World Group semifinals, which they did again in 2004. But Austria was relegated to the Europe/Africa Zone last year. “Alfred Tesar and the Fed Cup team achieved outstanding successes,” Austrian Tennis Federation general secretary Peter Teuschl said. “But after eight years … it’s time for a new start.”

STEPPING DOWN II

Carl Maes has resigned as head of women’s tennis at the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA). Maes is a native of Belgium who made his reputation coaching Kim Clijsters from her time in the juniors until she was on the cusp of her Grand Slam tournament successes.

SAYS NO TO MEDIA

Australian sports organizations, including Tennis Australia, is trying to restrict reporting of their events, a move that Australian media group News Ltd. says would be an assault on free speech. Australia’s leading sporting bodies have told a Senate inquiry that the advent of online “news” reporting is affecting their revenue streams and could limit their ability to support grassroots participation. Cricket Australia, the Australian Football League and Tennis Australia are among the administrators who appeared before the Australian Senate inquiry calling for the government to create laws or regulations to put limits on what media organizations can publish, from their events, on the Internet. David Tomlin, associate general counsel of The Associated Press, told the inquiry that sports leagues and organizers were entering the publishing arena with their own web sites and digital deals and competing for advertising and other revenue.

SICHUAN HELP

Zheng Jie returned to her home in Sichuan Province for the one-year anniversary of the earthquake that killed nearly 69,000 people. Last year, Zheng Jie donated her Wimbledon prize money to the earthquake victims. This year she spoke to students at the Hong Bai School in Shifang, Sichuan Province, and also held a tennis clinic. Zheng and the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour donated racquets and balls to the students, while two sponsors, Anta and Mercedes Benz, also made donations to the children.

SOUTH AFRICAN CAPTAIN

Former top player Greer Stevens has been named captain of South Africa’s Fed Cup team. South Africa will participate in the Euro/Africa Group II competition being held in Antalya, Turkey. “Our team is in the building stages,” said Stevens, who is now married and goes by the name of Leo-Smith. Besides South Africa, other nations participating in Turkey will be Georgia, Portugal, Turkey, Latvia and Morocco.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Monte Carlo: Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic beat Bob and Mike Bryan 6-4 6-1

Charleston: Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Nadia Petrova beat Liga Dekmeijere and Patty Schnyder 6-7 (5) 6-2 11-9 (match tiebreak)

Barcelona: Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez beat Sorana Cirstea and Andreja Klepac 3-6 6-2 10-8 (match tiebreak)

Johannesburg: George Bastl and Chris Guccione beat Michail Elgin and Alexandre Kudryavtsev 6-2 4-6 11-9 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Barcelona: www.barcelonaopenbancosabadell.com/

Sofia: www.bgtennis.bg/

Fed Cup: www.fedcup.com

Estonian Tennis Federation: www.tennis.ee/

Polish Tennis Federation: www.pzt.pl/

Belgium Tennis Federation: www.sport.be/fedcup/2009/belcan/fr/

Tennis Australia: www.tennis.com.au/

Rome: www.internazionalibnlditalia.it/1/default.asp

Stuttgart: www.porsche-tennis.de/prod/pag/tennis.nsf/web/english-home

Tunis: www.tct.org.tn

Rhodes: www.atcrhodes.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$2,645,000 Barcelona Open Banco Sabadell, Barcelona, Spain, clay

$112,000 Bulgarian Open, Sofia, Bulgaria, clay

FED CUP

(April 25-26)

World Group Semifinals

Italy vs. Russia at Castellaneta Marina, Italy, clay

Czech Republic vs. United States at Brno, Czech Republic, hard

World Group Playoffs

Spain vs. Serbia at Lleida, Spain, clay; France vs. Slovak Republic at Limoges, France, clay; Germany vs. China at Frankfurt, Germany, clay; Argentina vs. Ukraine at Mar Del Plata, Argentina, clay

World Group II Playoffs

Belgium vs. Canada at Hasselt, Belgium, clay; Estonia vs. Israel at Tallinn, Estonia, hard; Poland vs. Japan at Gdynia, Poland, clay; Australia vs. Switzerland at Victoria, Australia, grass

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$3,500,000 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Rome, Italy, clay

$125,000 Tunis Open, Tunis, Tunisia, clay

$110,000 Aegean Tennis Cup, Rhodes, Greece, hard

WTA

$700,000 Porsche Tennis Grand Pix, Stuttgart, Germany, clay

$220,000 Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem, Fez, Morocco, clay

$100,000 Open GDF Suez, Cagnes-sur-Mer, France, clay

$100,000 Soweto Women’s Open, Johannesburg, South Africa, hard

Krystle Clear: Krystle Talks Federer

Krystle discussing Roger Federer and where she wants to get married myself – while eating a chicken sandwich.

[manfred]fjDPF_n2OBg[/manfred]

Krystle Nicole Russin is a freelance writer and model living in New York City. She covers business and politics for online and print publications and tennis for TennisGrandstand.com and has previously hosted Illinois Stories on PBS.
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Roger Federer Newlywed Observations

Roger Federer married his longtime girlfriend and former top 100 tennis star Miroslava “Mirka” Vavrinec recently, and it may be just what he needed to get his spirits back into his number one ranking.

(Forget the fact that I lost another man to Ditech in the process!  I am still mourning my loss of a Mr. Tom Brady to Gisele.)

Fun facts about the newlyweds:

-“If you want to get married in private, you have to go to Switzerland,” Federer says. And why not? Switzerland was also the site of Brigitte Bardot’s nuptials to Bernard d’Ormale and Audrey Hepburn’s wedding to actor/director Mel Ferrer – no relation to that Spaniard gentleman, David.

-Like the new Mrs. Federer, Sarah Jessica Parker and many other women have chosen black over traditional white at their weddings.  In fact, there are designers devoted to creating custom black gowns, which were popular up to World War II.  While Parker claims she regrets her decision, other women proudly feel it is what makes their weddings unique.

-Mirka takes double duty as Roger’s wife and publicist – as do Timbaland and his publicist/sweetheart Monique Idlett and Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown and wife Blythe.

-Don’t write Roger off yet!  You could see him bouncing back to his old rankings.  According to Susan Brownell’s book, Training the Body for China, about the Chinese sports regimen, some athletes felt their performance “improved after marriage.”

-There’s something in the air at the Olympics.  Other couples have met at different games, like Harold Connolly and Czech Olga Fikotova, who met at the 1956 summer games, and King Carl Gustaf XVI and Queen Silvia of Sweden at the 1972 Olympics.

Krystle Nicole Russin is a freelance writer and model living in New York City. She covers business and politics for online and print publications and tennis for TennisGrandstand.com and has previously hosted Illinois Stories on PBS.
[ad#krystle-1]

Mondays With Bob Greene: It’s a great honor to reach the number one ranking

STARS

Jelena Jankovic won the Andalucia Tennis Experience by beating Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3 3-6 6-3 in Marbella, Spain

Juan Carlos Ferrero beat Florent Serra 6-4 7-5 to win the Grand Prix Hassan II in Casablanca, Morocco

Lleyton Hewitt defeated Wayne Odesnik 6-2 7-5 to capture the US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas, USA

Caroline Wozniacki beat Aleksandra Wozniak 6-1 6-2 to win The MPS Group Championships in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, USA

Rui Machado won the STATUS Athens Open, beating Daniel Munoz-de la Nava 6-3 7-6 (4) in Athens, Greece

Karolina Sprem beat Viktoria Kutuzova 6-1 6-4 to win the Koddaert Ladies Open in Torhout, Belgium

SAYING

“It’s a great honor to reach the number one ranking an
d it is a dream every girl who has ever wanted to play professional tennis shares. It is even extra special for me since my brother Marat was able to reach the number one ranking and I am happy to share this achievement with him.” – Dinara Safina, who took over the WTA Tour’s top spot from Serena Williams.

“This is what all the hard work is for, to play weeks like this and have this kind of feeling at the end. It makes going through the surgery and all the hard work worth it, so it’s good stuff.” – Lleyton Hewitt, who won the US Men’s Clay Championships, his first ATP title in two years.

“I was trying to play my best tennis but the injury prevented me from reaching my top level.” – Serena Williams, after losing to Klara Zakopalova in her first clay-court match of the season in Marbella, Spain.

“This is a great start to the clay-court season, a really good start. I proved I can beat these better players.” – Caroline Wozniacki, after winning the title in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

“I know I have not been playing well the last three months, but this win has given me back the confidence I need.” – Jelena Jankovic, after winning in Marbella, Spain.

“When I hit a good shot she hit a good shot back. I feel pretty good about going 3 and 2 with a top 10 player.” – Fourteen-year-old Madison Keys, after losing to top-seeded Nadia Petrova 6-3 6-2 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

“I have to say that we were a bit lucky. In the semifinals we were close to losing and today we made it in the match tiebreak. It is my first title and it feels great.” – Lukasz Kubot, who teamed with Oliver Marach to win at Casablanca, Morocco, their first ATP doubles title in their third final together.

“We’re very happy with the first tournament of the clay court season. We are looking forward to going to Europe and we’re going to be over there for 14 weeks. It’s really important to win a title on the clay and getting your balance and a lot of confidence.” – Mike Bryan, after he and his brother Bob won the doubles at Houston, Texas.

“Before every match I try to isolate myself from everybody with my iPod. It’s like a ritual I have before playing and it’s absolutely necessary for me to listen to one of the songs from the ‘Phantom of the Opera.'” – Rafael Nadal, on how he prepares for a match.

“He kind of forces you into that the way he plays defense. It’s no excuse for some errors, especially the ones I made at key times. If you expect to win matches you have to put that around big points.” – James Blake, after losing to Guillermo Canas 6-4 6-4 in a first-round match at the US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas.

“In the tiebreak, it’s anybody’s match.” Sania Mirza, who teamed with Chuang Chia-Jung to win the doubles at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, 6-3 4-6 10-7 (match tiebreak).

“Mentally, when you lose 10 points in a row you have to tell yourself it’s going to be OK. That’s not easy. Some people can deal with it better than others, and I’m definitely a guy who struggles with staying calm mentally and just playing my game.” – Tommy Haas, who actually lost 11 straight points yet beat Marcel Granollers in three sets.

“I must be doing something right.” – Lleyton Hewitt, noting his career record on clay going into the US Men’s Clay Court Championships was a quite respectable 80-37. He ended up winning the tournament.

SWISS KNOT

Mr and Mrs Federer

Roger Federer and long-time companion Mirka Vavrinec are now Mr. and Mrs. The two exchanged wedding vows in Federer’s hometown of Basel, Switzerland. They first met at the 2000 Sydney Olympics when both were competing for Switzerland. Vavrinec retired from the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour in 2002. Last month the two announced they are expected their first child later this summer. Federer was full of announcements. After telling of his marriage, he announced he would take a wild card and compete this week in Monte Carlo after earlier saying he planned to skip the event. Federer has reached the final at the last three Monte Carlo tournaments, only to lose each time to Rafael Nadal.

SAFINA ON TOP

Dinara Safina has pulled even with her brother in one respect. She is ranked number one in the world, replacing Serena Williams. The second Russian to be atop the women’s rankings, she is part of the first brother-sister combination to be ranked number one in the world. Her brother, Marat Safin, was ranked number one on the ATP Tour in 2000. Safina is the 19th player to top the women’s rankings. Last year she became the first player to beat three different reigning world number ones in the same season, Justine Henin, Maria Sharapova and Jelena Jankovic. Safina has won four WTA Tour titles in the last 12 months and finished runner-up five times, including Roland Garros last year and the Australian Open in January.

STRUGGLING

After losing two straight matches and her world number one ranking, Serena Williams has withdrawn from this week’s Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina, citing a left leg injury she originally suffered at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. “I need to give my leg injury time to heal,” she said. Williams was the defending Family Circle Cup champion. Williams lost to Victoria Azarenka in the Miami final, then was upset in Marbella, Spain, by Klara Zakopalova in her first clay-court match of the season

STAYING THE COURSE

It’s been a long time for Lleyton Hewitt, but he finally won his first tournament in two years when he stopped Wayne Odesnik 6-2 7-5 at the US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas. With his 498th career match victory, the Australian is just two match wins away from joining Roger Federer and Carlos Moya as the only active players with 500 or more victories. Hewitt, who ranks 35th on the career victories list, failed to win a tournament last year for the first time in his career while recovering from hip surgery. Hewitt won the US Open in 2001 and Wimbledon the following. Ranked number one in the world in 2001, Hewitt went into the Houston tournament ranked number 88.

SUCCESS AT LAST

Jelena Jankovic finally lifted the champion’s trophy this year following a disappointing start to the season. She lost her number one ranking after losing early at the Australian Open. She then dropped her opening matches at Indian Wells, California, and Miami, Florida, two American hard court events. On the red clay in Marbella, Spain, Jankovic finally got things turned around, beating Carla Suarez Navarro in the title match 6-3 3-6 6-3. For Jankovic, who was down a break early in the third set, this was her 10th career singles title, with half of them coming on clay.

STILL IN THE HUNT

Lleyton Hewitt wasn’t the only one to turn back the clock on the ATP Tour. Juan Carlos Ferrero won the Grand Prix Hassan II tournament in Casablanca, Morocco, his first title since capturing the Madrid Masters in October 2003. That was the year he won Roland Garros and lost the US Open final to Andy Roddick. And 2003 was the year Ferrero was ranked number one in the world. It was Ferrero’s first clay court championship since his victorious French Open run in 2003.

STAYING HOME

An inflamed right shoulder is the reason Victoria Azarenka won’t be playing in this week’s Family Circle Cup. In her last match, Azarenka knocked off Serena Williams to win the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Florida. Williams went on to lose her next match, then also withdrew from the Family Circle Cup with an injury to her leg. “I am really sorry that I have to withdraw from the Family Circle Cup … due to an injury in my right shoulder,” Azarenka said.  “I was looking forward to returning to Charleston and building on the momentum that I have from the past few weeks.”

SWEPT CLEAN

The US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas, wasn’t pretty for seeded players. James Blake and Mardy Fish were the top two-ranked Americans and the top two seeds in the field. At least for the first round. For the first time since 2000, the top two seeded players in an ATP tournament failed to advance past the opening round. And until his win over Blake, Guillermo Canas had lost six straight first-round matches this year. That was only the beginning. For the first time since the Open Era began in 1968, no seeded players reached the quarterfinals. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain, ranked 73rd in the world, was the highest-ranked player to make it out of the second round. The eventual winner, Lleyton Hewitt, was ranked 88th when the tournament began.

SENIOR SIGNEES

Goran Ivanisevic and Stefan Edberg are the first two entries for The Masters Tennis event to be played at the Royal Albert Hall in London in December. Six other players yet to be named will join the two Wimbledon champions in the ATP Champions Tour event. At least four of the six to be named will have been either a world number one, Grand Slam singles finalist or a Davis Cup winner in their careers. Ivanisevic played the Royal Albert Hall tournament in 2006, reaching the final, while Edberg played the senior event last year. Ivanisevic missed last year because of a knee injury.

STRENGTH AGAINST STRENGTH

Italy and Russia will battle for the fifth time when they meet in a Fed Cup World Group semifinal April 25-26 in Castellaneta Marina, Italy. The home team has never beaten the Russians in Fed Cup play, losing their last meeting in the 2007 final in Moscow. The last time the two nations met in Italy, in the 2005 quarterfinal, Italy won the first match before losing 4-1. In the last five years, Italy is the only nation other than Russia to win the Fed Cup, defeating Belgium in the 2006 final. That year Belgium eliminated Russia in the first round, the only defeat Russia has suffered in the last five years of the competition.

SWISS CHEESE

There will be a lot of holes in Switzerland’s lineup when it takes on Australia in a Fed Cup World Group II playoff April 25-26 in Victoria, Australia. Missing will be Switzerland’s top two singles players and their captain. Instead, Switzerland will rely on Stefanie Voegele, Nicole Riner and 15-year-old Mateja Kraljevic for the tie, which takes place on grass at the Mildura Lawn Tennis Club. The winning nation will stay in the World Group II for 2010, while the losing nation will drop to zonal competition. Christiane Jolissaint will replace Severin Luthi as captain for this tie. Luthi reportedly will be working with Roger Federer next week.

SIZZLING START

Fourteen-year-old Madison Keys made a successful Sony Ericsson WTA Tour debut by defeating Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia 7-5 6-4 in a first-round match at the MPS Group Championships in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Keys, who lives in Boca Raton, Florida, was given a wild card entry into the tournament. Her only other experience in a professional tournament came at a USD $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, last month. Keys is currently ranked number 37 in the International Tennis Federation World Junior Rankings. Kudryavtseva is number 81 in the world in the WTA Tour rankings. Unfortunately, her first-round victory advanced Keys to a second-round matchup against top-seeded Nadia Petrova, who beat the youngster 6-3 6-2.

SINO SWITCH

China’s top women players opted to leave the state-run system this year and keep their own prize money. So far, the money hasn’t come rolling in as neither Zheng Jie and long-time partner Yan Zi, nor Li Na and Peng Shuai have registered any notable wins. Each of the four players now has her own coaches, does her own scheduling for practices as well as tournaments, and has her own management team – all things that had been done and paid for by the state system in the past. Now, each player must pay their own expenses, including travel and hotels, out of their earnings. “This is a very difficult time for us because a lot of things have changed. We need time to get use to it,” Zheng said. “I hope we can get back in form as soon as possible.”

SISTERS

Serena and Venus Williams aren’t the only sisters battling it out on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Alona Bondarenko of Ukraine beat her younger sister Kateryna 4-6 6-4 6-3 in the second round of the MPS Group Championships in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Alona, who is two years older, trailed 1-3 in the second set before winning 11 of the last 15 games. “We have different styles, but we know each other well,” Alona said. “I have to play the long points and she doesn’t.” It was their sixth meeting on the WTA Tour – their first match since 2006 – and each has won three times. Polish sisters Agnieszka and Urszula Radwanska are also on the tour, with Urszula beating her older and higher-ranked sister in their lone WTA Tour matchup.

SPONSOR

BNP Paribas has signed a three-year agreement to sponsor both the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour and the Invacare World Team Cup. BNP Paribas already is the title sponsor of Davis Cup by BNP Paribas, Fed Cup by BNP Paribas and Junior Davis Cup and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas, as well as other tournaments. The company has supported wheelchair tennis in France since 1993.

STARTING UP

The inaugural International Tennis Federation (ITF) Beach Tennis World Championships will be held May 4-6 at the historic Folo Italico in Rome. The competition will be held alongside the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour event being played in Rome the same week. Beach Tennis merges the disciplines of tennis and beach volleyball into a single sport and is usually played as doubles on a court of similar size to beach volleyball.

SWINGING

Kelly Gunterman is now the director of tennis at Amelia Island Plantation, a site where Andre Agassi, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Martina Hingis have all won tournaments. Gunterman played tennis in college and has trained and taught with John Newcombe and Peter Burwash.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Casablanca: Lukasz Kubot and Oliver Marach beat Simon Aspelin and Paul Hanley 7-6 (4) 3-6 10-6 (match tiebreak)

Houston: Bob and Mike Bryan beat Jesse Levine and Ryan Sweeting 6-1 6-2

Ponte Vedra Beach: Chuang Chia-Jung and Sania Mirza beat Lisa Raymond and Kveta Peschke 6-3 4-6 10-7 (match tiebreak)

Marbella: Klaudia Jans and Alicja Rosolska beat Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual 6-3 6-3

Athens: Ramirez Junaid and Philipp Marx beat Jesse Huta Galung and Rui Machado 6-4 6-3

Torhout: Michaella Krajicek and Yanina Wickmayer beat Julia Goerges and Sandra Klemenschits 6-4 6-0

SITES TO SURF

Monte Carlo: http://montecarlo.masters-series.com/1/en/home/default.asp

Charleston: www.familycirclecup.com

Barcelona: www.barcelonaopenbancosabadell.com/

Sofia: www.bgtennis.bg/

Fed Cup: www.fedcup.com

Estonian Tennis Federation: www.tennis.ee/

Polish Tennis Federation: www.pzt.pl/

Belgium Tennis Federation: www.sport.be/fedcup/2009/belcan/fr/

Tennis Australia: www.tennis.com.au/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$600,000 Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, Monte Carlo, Monaco, clay

$100,000 Soweto Men’s Open, Johannesburg, South Africa, hard

WTA

$1,000,000 Family Circle Cup, Charleston, South Carolina, USA, clay

$220,000 Barcelona Ladies Open, Barcelona, Spain, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$2,645,000 Barcelona Open Banco Sabadell, Barcelona, Spain, clay

$112,000 Bulgarian Open, Sofia, Bulgaria, clay

FED CUP

(April 25-26)

World Group Semifinals

Italy vs. Russia at Castellaneta Marina, Italy, clay

Czech Republic vs. United States at Brno, Czech Republic, hard

World Group Playoffs

Spain vs. Serbia at Lleida, Spain, clay; France vs. Slovak Republic at Limoges, France, clay; Germany vs. China at Frankfurt, Germany, clay; Argentina vs. Ukraine at Mar Del Plata, Argentina, clay

World Group II Playoffs

Belgium vs. Canada at Hasselt, Belgium, clay; Estonia vs. Israel at Tallinn, Estonia, hard; Poland vs. Japan at Gdynia, Poland, clay; Australia vs. Switzerland at Victoria, Australia, grass

Meet The Parents

Roger Federer and girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec announced this month that they will become parents for the first time later this year. Swiss tennis journalist Rene Stauffer details in his book THE ROGER FEDERER STORY, QUEST FOR PERFECTION ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.rogerfedererbook.com) how the relationship between the two came into being at the 2000 Olympic Games. Chapter Seven of the book called “Olympic Experiences” is exclusively excerpted below.

The Swiss Olympic tennis team was in shatters at the start of the Sydney Games. Martina Hingis and Patty Schnyder both withdrew from the women’s competition at the last minute. Marc Rosset, the 1992 Olympic champion, was also a late withdrawal, costing Federer an opportunity to play Olympic doubles. The Swiss Olympic Committee was furious. Tennis players were depicted as pampered and spoiled athletes who didn’t appreciate the true value of the Olympic Games.

The Swiss tennis team shared living quarters, socialized and dined with fellow Olympians from the Swiss archery, judo and wrestling teams in the Olympic Village, where Federer had the privilege of occupying a single room. “That was the best event I ever attended,” Federer said years later as he em­bellished his long-time fascination of the Olympic Games. The contrast to the monotony of life in the hotels could hardly be bigger. The Opening Ceremonies, the interaction with athletes from other sports, the atmosphere in the Olympic Village and the feeling of belonging also made an impression on Mirka Vavrinec, a member of Switzerland’s women’s Olympic tennis team. “The Olympics are fantastic, unbelievably beautiful, unparalleled,” Vavrinec gushed of the Olympic experience courtside following a practice session. She also had nice things to say about Federer, the youthful star of the Swiss team, who was three years her junior-“I had no idea he was so funny.”

Mirka was born an only child in Bojnice, in the Slovakian part of Czechoslovakia in 1978. Her parents fled the Communist country with her when she was two-years-old to make a new life for themselves in the Swiss border city of Kreuzlingen on Lake Constance. Her father, Miroslav, a former javelin thrower, and his wife, Drahomira, ran a jewelry shop. In the fall of 1987, when Mirka was nine, Miroslav took his family to nearby Filderstadt, Germany where Martina Navratilova happened to be competing in a WTA Tour event.

The Czech-born Navratilova dominated women’s tennis and, like the Vavrinecs, defected from Czechoslovakia. When in Filderstadt, she warmly greeted the Vavrinec family. “We got to stay a few days with her,” Mirka said of the trip. Navratilova asked her if she played tennis. Mirka said no, “I do ballet.” The eight-time Wimbledon champion (she would go on to win her ninth title in 1990) advised her to try tennis. She said that Mirka’s good physique and athletic talent would serve her well on the tennis courts. Navratilova put out feelers and asked the former top Czech player living in Switzerland, Jiri Granat, if he could test and coach the girl.

Navratilova’s instincts were correct. Mirka immediately showcased great skills with a tennis racquet. But not only that, she also had grit and endurance. Tennis instructor Murat Gürler, who tutored her in her early years, recalled that she was “completely into it” when it came to tennis. Mirka told the Swiss tennis magazine Smash in 1994, after winning the Swiss juniors’ title for 18-year-olds at the age of 15, “Tennis is my life, but it certainly can’t be easy to work with me because I can be really stubborn.”

Her ambition and her uncompromising nature were tremendous. In 1993, following a tournament in the city of Maribor in Slovenia, she convinced her coach to take her to a tournament in Croatia. The trip required travel through a part of Croatia where there was still fighting in the Balkan civil war. The two passed through destroyed villages, tanks and burned cars. She was afraid, but her ambition was greater.

Mirka ranked among the top 300 in the world by the time she was 17. A protracted heel injury in 1996 kept her off the circuit for months, causing her ranking to fall over 300 places. She valiantly fought back to No. 262 in the rankings by the end of 1997 and looked euphorically to the future. “I really want to place in the top 30 in the world rankings,” she said.

Mirka meanwhile obtained a Swiss passport. The only connections she still had to her native land were a few relatives still living in Slovakia as well as the con­fused mix of German and Slovakian spoken at home. She maintained loose ties to Navratilova and was fortunate to find a patron, the Swiss industrialist Walter Ruf, who helped her to survive financially on the women’s tennis circuit.

Thanks to her ambition and her endurance-as well as to her backhand that some even considered the best in the world-Mirka cracked the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time in 2000. She luckily received a wild­card entry to play at the Olympic Games in Sydney, even though her ranking did not qualify her to play.

While Mirka won only two games in her first-round match against even­tual silver medalist Elena Dementieva of Russia, Federer began to rack up victory after victory. Benefiting from an Olympic men’s field without Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras, and upset losses by US Open champion Marat Safin, Tim Henman and Michael Chang in his half of the draw, Federer won four straight matches and found himself in the semifinals. It was his best result of his career to date and surprisingly, it came at an outdoor event.

At age 19, Federer was in position to become the youngest Olympic gold medalist in modern tennis. However, he played cautiously against the German Tommy Haas, ranked No. 48 (12 places behind Federer) in the semifinals and decisively lost. He did, however, still have a chance to win the bronze medal, but instead of registering a lifetime achievement of winning an Olympic medal, Federer suffered one of his greatest disappointments, losing to Arnaud DiPasquale of France, ranked No. 61 in the world. Despite being up 3-0 in the first-set tie-break, Federer lost seven of the next nine points to lose the tie-break 7-5. In the second set, Federer fought off a match point in the tie-break at 6-7 and won the tie-break two points later. Federer broke DiPasquale, who began suffering from cramps, to take a 2-1 lead in the final set, but the Frenchmen rallied to win the two-and-half-hour match 6-7 (5), 7-6 (7), 6-3.

“Considering how the match was going, I should never have lost,” Federer said, hardly able to hold back the tears. “I really wanted to be standing on the podium. Now I have nothing to take home except my pride.”

But Federer, who had recently said “I would choose tennis over a girlfriend” would leave Sydney with more than his pride. His friendship with Mirka blossomed into romance. Mirka said at first she wasn’t aware that he had taken a romantic interest in her. “He didn’t kiss me until the last day of the Olympic Games,” she admitted.

They parted ways for now. She followed the women’s tour to Japan and then to Europe. However, the relationship became more intense over the next few months. The public still had to wait a long time until stories and official pictures of the new “dream couple” surfaced. When a newspaper disregarded Federer’s request to please keep his new relationship under wraps, he reacted angrily. “I don’t think that this has to come out in public,” he complained. “I spoke with my girlfriend and she didn’t want this exposed either, because then we would both just have to talk about our relationship and not about our tennis anymore.”

Mirka’s career, however, didn’t work out as hoped. She managed to reach the third round of a Grand Slam tournament at the 2001 US Open, losing to future world No. 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne, but the price she had to pay for her victories was high. Like her Swiss colleague, Martina Hingis, Mirka encountered problems with her feet-despite several operations and rest. Her career-high ranking was achieved on Sept. 10, 2001 when she ranked No. 76 in the world, but a torn ligament in her right foot prevented her from further improving and forced her into a hiatus that lasted for months.

The 2001 US Open was her last great success on the tennis tour-with the exception of the Hopman Cup in Perth in January of 2002 where she was able to celebrate a victory over Argentina alongside her boyfriend. Shortly afterwards, at the age of 24, she played her last match on the WTA Tour in Budapest. She was forced to have another operation and was once again on crutches. It was still quite some time until she finally realized that her career was really finished. Her record as a professional concluded with 202 victories and 159 defeats-including the lower-level challenger and satellite events-with overall earnings of $260,832.

The abrupt and premature end of her career cast her into a depression. “It’s not easy when you do something you like your entire life and then have to quit it from one day to the next,” she said later in an interview at Wimbledon. “I fell into a deep hole. The most difficult part was when I was home for eight months and couldn’t do anything. I had a lot of time to think and watch ten­nis on television. Roger was my greatest support back then. He gave my tennis life back to me. When he wins, it’s as if I win as well.”

Mondays With Bob Greene: I’m completely excited

STARS

BNP Paribas Open

(First Week)

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova beat second-seeded Jelena Jankovic 6-4 6-4

Petra Cetkovska beat third-seeded Elena Dementieva 7-6 (2) 2-6 6-1

Urszula Radwanska beat sixth-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2 4-6 6-3

John Isner beat ninth-seeded Gael Monfils 6-7 (5) 6-1 6-4

Shahar Peer beat tenth-seeded Marion Bartoli 1-6 6-4 7-5

Other Tournaments

John McEnroe beat Jim Courier 6-2 6-3 to win the Rio Champions Cup in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

SAYING

“Today one person came up to me asking me if I’m the sister for Marat. I’m like, ‘yeah.’ (And they said) ‘are you playing tennis?’ And I look at them like, well, ‘OK, yes, I’m also a tennis player.’ I’m still, I think, known more as his sister.” – Dinara Safina, who is ranked number two in the world.

“Everything is wrong. I need a lot of work. I wish I had a magic wand and could just fix my game and just play awesome tennis again. I would like it to be that way, but sometimes it’s not.” – Jelena Jankovic, after losing to Anastasia Pavyluchenkova.

“I’m excited. As long as you win you’re happy. But I tried not to be very overexcited because I still have to continue in this tournament.” – Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, after beating Jelena Jankovic.

“I’m completely excited. I’ve been thinking about something like this happening for the last two or three years. So for me, this is not a massive shock. But when it does happen (that) your girlfriend (or) wife is pregnant, it definitely changes your mindset.” – Roger Federer, revealing his girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec is pregnant with their first child.

“They talk about the age, but nowadays in the US 50 is the new 40. … I saw the other guys who are younger and how they were with their backs, calves, knees hurt, and here I am, happy that I am standing. I know that if I were doing what I was doing today when I was playing the pro tour, being serious about my physical conditioning, I could have won many more titles in my career.” – John McEnroe, after winning a senior tournament in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“We asked them to be moved here to the Philippines because of the safety of our players and because of recent events in Pakistan, especially the cricket team of Sri Lanka getting attacked.” – Randy Villanueva, Philippine Law Tennis Association vice president, saying its Davis Cup tie against Pakistan should be moved.

“My chances are really small. What Rod Laver did was amazing. But at the same time it was a little bit easier in that moment than right now because in that moment I think they only had two different surfaces (grass and clay). Now we have three, and Australia and the US Open are not exactly the same.” – Rafael Nadal, playing down his chances of winning all four Grand Slam tournaments this year.

“I’m just going to focus on myself at this tournament, but that (number two) is the reward for the success that I’ve had this year. I’ve played in three tournaments and been in two finals. There is only one person in front of me and this is something big.” – Dinara Safina, who can become number one in the world by reaching the final of the BNP Paribas in Indian Wells, California.

“I probably didn’t find the answer to this question. I found the answer to the other question, which was do I want to stop, which was no. It was already quite a challenge when it happened in the summer of 2007, where I really asked myself whether I want to keep going or not. I didn’t find the answer quickly. It took me a few months to really feel that for some reason, I don’t have enough.” – Amelie Mauresmo, when asked why she keeps pushing herself at this stage of her career.

“I’m just playing tennis for myself and I always have put my health as a priority to everything. Tennis is probably my life at this moment, but it’s not the only thing in my life.” – Novak Djokovic, denying that he is a quitter because he withdrew from his Australian Open match because of heat exhaustion.

“As you get older, you start to understand that you’re not going to feel perfect every week and you try and find a way to get through the first couple of matches.” – Andy Murray.

“I learned a lot about my game and I learned it’s not all about rising. It’s also about learning how to fall and learning how to lose without being truly defeated, and that’s something that I want to take as a positive from last year and try to build up.” – Ana Ivanovic.

“Yes, it’s a dream job, and in tennis we have a very small window both as players and as coaches to make a mark. You make a lot of selfish decisions. But every time I pack the bags and walk out the door, it gets harder and harder.” – Darren Cahill, noting the need to travel almost constantly has kept him from coaching Roger Federer.

“On the court I’m a fighter. I will do anything to win. Outside, I’m actually very, very nice.” – Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who is ranked number 11 in the world.

“I just wanted to test (the shoulder) out. I started training a couple of months ago. I just wanted to … test it out in a match situation and get a little different scenery than the practice court and play in front of the crowd, so that was exciting. The main goal for here was just to get out there and be in that atmosphere again.” – Maria Sharapova, after playing and losing her doubles match.

SAFINA TO THE TOP

If Dinara Safina reaches the final of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, she will supplant Serena Williams in the number one spot in the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour rankings. The 22-year-old Safina lost to Williams in the Australian Open final in January. Neither Serena nor her sister Venus Williams are competing at Indian Wells, continuing their boycott of the tournament. They last played Indian Wells in 2001, where they were booed after Venus pulled out of her semifinal match against Serena at the last moment, saying she was injured. Serena Williams has won the last two Grand Slam tournament titles, the US and Australian Opens.

SWITCH IN ACTION

The Philippines might not have to go to Pakistan for its next Davis Cup competition. An International Tennis Federation (ITF) spokesman said the tie could me moved from Lahore, Pakistan, because of security concerns. Gunmen recently attacked the Sri Lanka cricket team bus in Lahore, killing seven Pakistanis and wounding six players. Three of the Filipino players, including Cecil Mamitt, are dual US-Philippine citizens who may be targeted because of their American passports, according to Randy Villanueva, vice president of the Philippine Lawn Tennis Association. Pakistan’s first-round Asia/Oceania Group Two tie against Oman was moved from Lahore to Muscat, Oman, because of security concerns. Pakistan won the tie 4-1, advancing to July’s tie against the Philippines.

SHARAPOVA BACK – SOMEWHAT

Maria Sharapova returned to competitive tennis for the first time in seven months, but her stay was very brief. The Russian was forced off the WTA Tour last August with a torn rotator cuff. She underwent surgery on her right shoulder two months later. She teamed with Elena Vesnina to play doubles at the BNP Paribas Open, but the pair lost their first-round match to Ekaterina Makarova and Tatiana Poutchek 6-2 4-6 10-7 (match tiebreak). Sharapova said she entered the doubles because she wanted to test her shoulder in a match situation and in front of a crowd.

SIDELINED

A hip-bone injury has sidelined Carlos Moya. The 32-year-old won the French Open in 1998 and was ranked number one in the world the next year. But he is suffering from a lesion to a tendon and ischium on his hip-bone. “It’s still too early to know when I’ll be able to return to competition,” Moya said. “It’s certain that I want to return, but only when I’m firing at 100 percent physically and mentally.”

SOLD OUT

The return of four stars – Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf, Kim Clijsters and Tim Henman – will be a sellout. All the tickets for their exhibition matches on Wimbledon’s new Centre Court in May were sold out in just five minutes. There will be men’s and women’s singles matches and a mixed doubles match as officials test the new roof and ventilation system in front of a capacity crowd.

ST. LOUIS BOUND

Wimbledon won’t be the only stop for Kim Clijsters. The Belgian will play two matches for the St. Louis Aces in the World Team Tennis League. She will make her WTT debut July 21 in St. Louis and will play in Philadelphia on July 22. Once ranked number one in the world, Clijsters retired from the WTA Tour in May 2007 and gave birth to a daughter last year. Others who will compete in the WTT this July include Andre Agassi, sisters Venus and Serena Williams, John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova.

STOPPED BY INJURY

A left heel injury caused Nikolay Davydenko to withdraw from the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California. Seeded fifth, the Russian had a first-round bye. His spot was taken by lucky loser Olivier Patience of France, who promptly lost to Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany 6-7 (5) 6-3 6-3

STUDYING

When she’s not on the tennis court, Vera Zvonareva is focusing on something else. The Russian has been studying at the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and hopes someday to be working with the United Nations. She enrolled in the school in 2007 when a wrist injury forced her off the tour for half the season. Zvonareva already has a university degree in physical education and is studying international economic relations and international affairs. “I got to know and meet a few ambassadors around the world and a few influential people and a few people who work for the UN,” Zvonareva said. “It’s great to be involved in something like this and also to give me a lot of different knowledge outside the court. I’m really enjoying it.”

SECURITY

The European Court of Justice sided with a tennis player who was kicked off his flight when airport security said he posed a terrorist threat because he was carrying his racquets. The judges ruled that the unpublished European Union register of hand luggage restrictions could not be enforced because passengers had no way of knowing exactly what was prohibited. The EU list shows that racquets are not specifically banned from the cabin, but the list contains a catch-all prohibition on “any blunt instrument capable of causing injury.” Gottfried Heinrich of Austria was on his way to a tournament when he was thrown off a flight at the Vienna airport in 2005 after having already cleared general security screening. One legal adviser called it the “fundamental absurdity” of European anti-terror regulations that outlawed a range of possible weapons from the aircraft cabin, but refused to make the list public for security reasons.

SENIOR CITIZEN

When the Outback Champions Series shows up in Surprise, Arizona, in October for the Cancer Treatment Centers of America Tennis Championships, Andre Agassi will be in the field of eight. Agassi is the first player announced for the 2009 tournament for players age 30 and over. John McEnroe won the inaugural event in 2008 in Surprise, defeating Todd Martin in the final.

SWISS PAPA

Roger Federer and his girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec are expecting their first child. The baby is due in the summer. “This is a dream come true for us,” Federer wrote on his Web site. “We love children and we are looking forward to being parents for the first time. Mirka is feeling great and everything is going well.”

SPOTLIGHT ON WHEELCHAIRS

The International Tennis Hall of Fame will begin inducting wheelchair athletes and administrators into the Newport, Rhode Island, shrine this year. Founded in 1976, wheelchair tennis is one of the fastest growing wheelchair sports in the world, helped by the fact it can be played on any regular tennis court with no modifications to racquets and balls. The rules are also the same, with one exception: wheelchair tennis players are allowed two bounces of the ball. The wheelchair category is in addition to the traditional Hall of Fame induction categories of Recent Players, Master Players and Contributors.

SEEKING HELP

Retired player Wayne Black has urged the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to help develop young talent in his home country of Zimbabwe. Black, who had been coaching in London since retiring from the doubles circuit in 2005, said he now intends to help develop players in Zimbabwe. Since the retirement from Davis Cup by Black, his older brother Byron Black and tour doubles partner Kevin Ullyett, the Zimbabwe team has fallen from the World Group to the Euro/Africa Zone groups. His sister, Cara Black, is ranked number one in the world in doubles on the WTA Tour.

SAYONARA

Tennis Week is ceasing publication as a magazine after 35 years. Begun by International Tennis Hall of Famer Eugene Scott, the magazine was acquired by IMG in 2006 after Scott’s death. While it no longer will publish the magazine, it will continue providing news online at www.tennisweek.com. Calling it a “strategic restructuring,” Tennis Week said the move will not include any layoff of its staff.

SPONSOR WOES

The reason the ATP will be rebating USD $3 million to tournaments as “financial relief” is because the men’s tour failed to line up a tour-wide sponsor to replace Mercedes-Benz. The sponsor money goes directly into the pockets of the tournaments. However, if the tour gets a new global sponsor, those tournaments that take the rebate money will not get any of the new sponsor dollars.

SURPRISE

When Pauline Callaghan celebrated her 90th birthday in Sydney, Australia, a surprise guest showed up. Mrs. Callaghan’s five children arranged for a surprise phone call for their mother. While talking to Evonne Goolagong Cawley on her mobile phone, Mrs. Callaghan looked up to see the former world number one player and her husband Roger Cawley walking towards her. Goolagong has known the Callaghan family since she was in primary school. She began calling Mrs. Callaghan “mum” when a spectator asked if Goolagong was her daughter. Callaghan’s oldest son, Tony, 62, played Wimbledon five times and has coached a number of players, including Brad Drewett, Wally Masur, Jelena Dokic, Sandon Stolle and Samantha Stosur.

SITES TO SURF

Indian Wells: www.bnpparibasopen.org

Bogota: www.bancolombiaopen.com.co/

Sunrise: www.sunrisetennis.com

Marrakech: www.arryadia.com/mtt/2009/marrakech2009/

Rio de Janeiro: http://championsseriestennis.com/rio2009/

Los Cabos: www.championsseriestennis.com/cabo2009/

Miami: www.sonyericssonopen.com/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$4,500,000 BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells, California, USA, hard (second week)

$125,000 Bancolombia Open, Bogota, Colombia, clay

$125,000 BMW Tennis Championships, Sunrise, Florida, USA, hard

$125,000 Marrakech Challenger, Marrakech, Morocco, clay

WTA TOUR

$4,500,000 BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells, California, USA, hard (second week)

SENIORS

The Del Mar Development Champions Cup, Los Cabos, Mexico

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$4,500,000 Sony Ericsson Open, Miami, Florida, USA, hard

WTA TOUR

$4,500,000 Sony Ericsson Open, Miami, Florida, USA, hard