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John Isner breaks Newport curse, US Davis Cup team diggs deep, Wozniacki’s dad slams critics – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Diggin’ Deep

That pretty much sums up Spain’s performance this past weekend. When it was first known that the United States would be facing Spain on U.S. soil in the Davis Cup quarterfinals, odds were already slightly in favor of the U.S. Throw in that it would be staged in Roddick’s adopted hometown of Austin and played on a fast indoor surface that had more than one set of Spanish eyebrows raised in concern, and the scales were tipped even further in Uncle Sam’s favor. Then came Nadal’s announcement that he would not be playing in order to rest that week, and you really had to like the American squad’s chances of moving on to the semifinals. But the Spaniards had other ideas, as Captain Albert Costa was able to pull from Spain’s wealth of talented players to put together a winning combination. Feliciano Lopez, whose backhand is much improved, got things off on the right note with an enthralling five-set victory over new top American Mardy Fish. And while the Bryans notched a win over Verdasco and Granollers, the two Spaniards staged a valiant fight before succumbing in four. But the man of the weekend had to be David Ferrer. Often in the shadows of many of his countrymen, he put in an extraordinary workman-like performance, defeating Roddick in straights on the opening day before finding a way to hold his nerve and seal the win with a victory over Fish on final Sunday. Hats off to Spain for a very impressive victory, and no doubt they will prove a formidable opponent in the semifinals.

Curse Broken

The curse of the Newport Casino is no more, as John Isner, who came to play on a wildcard, won the tournament as the number one seed – the first player seeded number one to do so. Isner was in desperate need to string some matches together and come up with a big win to get back on track, so hopefully this tournament will prove a springboard to a good hard court summer, much as it did for Fish in 2010. Given that Isner missed his brother’s wedding to see the tournament through to the end (allegedly much to the chagrin of his new sister-in-law), he’d better hope that this victory continues to pay dividends. At least he had the decency to pay for the honeymoon as a peace-offering.

Capstone Moment

It was a great weekend for American tennis period in Newport, as tennis legend Andre Agassi took his place in the Hall of Fame. There’s nothing more to say about Agassi and what he’s done on and off the court that hasn’t already been said, but there was one refreshing thing that came out of his acceptance speech. After all of the publicity that was given to his comments about hating tennis when his book was first released, it was good to hear him thank tennis and recognize it for the life and opportunities that it has given him, as well as his wife. And while the day was really all about Agassi, it’s also worth noting Fern “Peachy” Kellmeyer also took her place in the Hall. Not only has she done a lot for women’s sports in general, but she has tirelessly devoted years of her life to the WTA and turning the tour into what it is today.

Father Knows Best?

Piotr Wozniacki, father of current World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, has had a few things to say to the critics who have gone after him and his daughter, suggesting that she needs to replace her father with a new coach. While it’s not fair to go after Wozniacki for her ranking without a major win – it’s not her fault the other top players prove less than consistent week in and week out or don’t play at all – it is right to question if she couldn’t benefit from a new voice in her ear. The current combination of daughter-father as player-coach hasn’t proven able to clear that final hurdle to win one of the four grandest prizes in tennis. If anything, she has shown some regression in the last couple of majors. The positive is that Caroline recognizes the need for some changes in the future. Dad doesn’t have to give up the reigns completely, but a new coach in the corner would most likely prove a welcome change.

Lining some Pockets

Earlier this week, the USTA announced that it would be upping its overall prize money by more than one million dollars, with each of the singles winners taking home $1.8 million of the pot. It seems every year the majors keep upping the prize money, and while it’s understandable each desires to keep up with the others, the USTA might be better served to save some of this prize money and gear it towards further improvements to the site. Already at Wimbledon there were mumbles about how the US Open is lagging behind the other majors, and a string of storms or torrential rains from the remnants of a hurricane (as has happened the last three years) will only ensure these mumbles grow louder.

Tennis Is Well Represented At The ESPY Awards – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Defending Champs Out – This past weekend marked the quarterfinals of the 2010 Davis Cup competition and promised plenty of good tennis matchups. But one result few could have seen coming was France’s thrashing of defending two-time champion Spain. Spain has gotten used to dishing out some 5-0 defeats of its own, but unexpectedly found itself on the receiving end of such a defeat as it suffered its first 5-0 loss since 1957. There’s little doubt that this was a disappointing showing for Spain, irrespective of the fact that they were without their No. 1 Rafael Nadal. They have won without him before, and France certainly wasn’t able to field their star players either. It was Spain’s misfortune that they ran into the one team that could match them for depth of players, and congratulations are in order for the nation of France that may be ready to make its first run to the title since 2001.
Coach in the Corner – Peter Lundgren is going to be coaching a man from Switzerland, but this time it isn’t Roger Federer. It’s the number two man for the Swiss, Stanislas Wawrinka. This is a great move on Wawrinka’s part, whose results over the course of the past year have been up and down and have seen his ranking slip to outside of the Top 20. Lundgren has had another high profile pupil in Marat Safin, so there’s no doubt he possesses the ability to handle talented players and get their careers going in the right direction. Hopefully he will be able to do the same for Wawrinka by getting him to channel his talent and play within his own boundaries. If so, he could well be headed back to the Top 10.

Back on Track – On the historical grass courts of the Newport Casino, Mardy Fish suddenly found his game and emerged victorious. Fish has been an unfortunate victim of some serious injuries over the course of his career, and he’s also admitted to being more than a little negligent when it came to ensuring he was putting in the time on and off the court to be at his best. But they say it’s never late than never, and nearing his 29th birthday, Mardy Fish may be ready to make a run to the upper echelons of the men’s game, his ranking having jumped 30 places with his victory in the city by the sea. Last year’s Newport finalist appearance turned out to be a catalyst to a great summer for Sam Querrey, and it may bring Fish the same kind of results during the 2010 US Open Series.
Highest Honor – This past Saturday saw the induction of seven new members into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. This induction also had a different feel as it focused on some of the greatest doubles teams of all time (though not the first…see Hewitt/McMillan, Class of 1992), and saw the induction of the first wheelchair tennis player, wheelchair tennis founder and pioneer Brad Parks. Don’t expect this to become a trend at the Hall, but rightfully I think we can expect to see more stellar doubles teams and wheelchair tennis athletes behind the podium during Enshrinement Weekend in the future.
And the ESPY goes to… – Okay, not as prestigious as the Oscars or the Emmys, and personally I think there’s a bit of American bias with these awards, but it is worth noting that tennis was well-represented at the 2010 ESPY Awards. Not surprisingly, Roger Federer and Serena Williams took top honors in the sport of tennis, while Kim Clijsters was named the Comeback of the year. But what was best was seeing that John Isner vs. Nicolas Mahut took the cake for best Record-breaking Performance. Again, the quality of the tennis was not the greatest in this match, but a big thank you to those guys for gutting it out for just over 11 hours and putting tennis on the map in a multitude of ways.