Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters

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