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The Weekly Debrief – Top Moments of the Week

In the week following any Grand Slam, and especially right after the Spring slam combination of Roland Garros and Wimbledon, news is usually sparse. Even for us dedicated tennis devotees, it can feel like tennis overload at this point in the season. However, this week was an exception with Davis Cup action, an ATP 250-level tournament in Newport, Rhode Island, and a small soccer tournament you may have heard of in South Africa, the World Cup. Here is my Weekly Debrief of the Top Moments of the Week.

Top Four

1. The World Cup of soccer was played in South Africa between Holland and Spain yesterday. “How is this significant to tennis?” you may ask. Well, be not dismayed. After Rafael Nadal held up the winner’s trophy at this year’s Wimbledon, he announced he would skip the Davis Cup quarterfinals, receive platelet-infusion treatments on his knees, and fly down to South Africa to support the Spanish team in the Finals.

Rafa with one of the biggest smiles in tennis. Here, with women’s Wimbledon winner Serena Williams.

Rafa must have been a good cheerleader as Spain won 1-0. After the win, he was quoted as saying:

“I cried like a baby. We have to celebrate for a whole year, because this is unbelievable. It is very difficult to repeat this.”

2. Rafa wasn’t the only Spaniard in action this week. The entire Spanish Armada consisting of Fernando Verdasco, Feliciano Lopez, David Ferrer, and Nicolas Almagro took part in Davis Cup this week in France. Spain was the defending champion so their 0-5 loss to underdog France was a shock. But it seems that tennis may not have been the primary sport on their mind. Should we still be surprised that they lost given this?

3. In other Davis cup action, Argentina defeated Russia 3-2, Czech Republic took out Chile 4-1, and in the most controversial matchup, Serbia beat Croatia 4-1 in a fiery environment in the coastal city of Split, Croatia. The sign below was found near the Spaladium Arena were the event took place. It roughly translates into “Hang the Serbs. Never forget. Never forgive.” in reference to the political and cultural differences that have plagued this region of Europe for decades. Having myself been born in Split, Croatia and raised with the Serbian language in the United States, it is heart-breaking to hear that such anger is still existent between the two nations.

Despite the atmosphere in the Spaladium Arena, Serb Novak Djokovic ranked #2 was just happy that he won:

“It’s sensitive circumstances that we play in and considering the situation between the two countries that they had 20 years back and, of course, it’s still very fresh [in the mind],” he said. “We are professional athletes and tennis players and we don’t involve politics in sport. We want to perform our best for the country and win; that’s what I did today and in the end I got a nice appreciation from the crowd for what I have done today so this is what I remember from the match.”

Croat Ivan Ljubicic ranked #16 and a good friend of Djokovic’s said he was also annoyed by the chants from the crowd:

“They affected my concentration just as they did his,” he said. “It was strange to see guys, the crowd, whistling on Serbian anthem and the players and so loud on ours. You could feel the tension; you could feel the emotion so it was really difficult for me to play the first couple of games.”

4. Back on US soil, a newly-fit Mardy Fish won his fourth career title in Newport yesterday at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships.

But the tournament wasn’t without controversy. The first-round matchup which saw #552 Richard Bloomfield take out #160 Christophe Rochus drew suspicion of a betting scandal. A UK-based agency, Betfair, reported unusual betting changes in the hours just prior to the match and a rather hefty wager of $1.5 million riding on the match. Bloomfield, who had only won one tour-level match before this week, found himself in the semifinals before he lost to eventual champion Fish. Whether Bloomfield had any part in the scandal or was even aware of it is unsure at this point. He did, however, have the run of his life rising 260 spots to sit comfortably at world number 292 in today’s released rankings.

Another memorable moment from Newport came at the beginning of the tournament. Remember that 11 hour marathon match at Wimbledon between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut in the first round? Even though Mahut lost that encounter, he was granted a wildcard into the main draw here. He also stopped by the Hall to give a piece of tennis histroy: a signed shirt that he wore during that memorable Wimbledon match.

BONUS
Players usually drink electrolyte-infused water or some other liquid concoction to replenish their bodies on changeovers. On the Champions tour, they have come up with something quite different … beer. Watch as retired pro John McEnroe takes a few swigs before serving an ace to Goran Ivanisevic. If that’s the secret to serving in tennis, I’ll take a lifetime supply.

That’s it for this week’s Debrief. Just stop by at the beginning of every week for a recap of the ATP tour. We’ve got you covered!

Blooming in to Life Once Again

All we have been hearing over recent months is negativity surrounding British tennis.

Tales of rotten apples in the barrel, failed youngsters, squandered millions and a country lost in a downward spiral of tennis faux pas which shows no signs of halting but for the increasingly confident performances of lone star Andy Murray.

Yet this week at the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships at the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum in Newport, Rhode Island, a name nobody but the staunchest statisticians of British tennis will have been following is making a name for himself in the heat and humidity of east-coast America.

Current world No. 557 Richard Bloomfield will today (Friday) face young American Ryan Harrison in the last quarterfinal with the opportunity to face either American number 5 seed Mardy Fish (remember him from Queens?) or the Canadian Frank Dancevic in the semifinals.

Hang on, a Brit in the semifinals of a tournament other than Andy Murray? Continual sob-story Alex Bogdanovic failed to reach even the main draw here, going down in the final round of qualifying. So just who is this guy?

Richard Bloomfield was born April 27, 1983 in the small village of Alpington, just outside the beautiful Norfolk city of Norwich. He won the British Junior Tennis Championships in 2001, defeating that man Bogdanovic in the final, and picked up the equivalent title in doubles with Ken Skupski, now one half of the promising Flemski partnership alongside Colin Fleming.

He began playing on the senior tour that year and his first full ATP Tournament was the 2003 Wimbledon Championships where he gained a wildcard before losing to Anthony Dupuis in the first round.

In 2006 he reached round two of Wimbledon with a win over Carlos Berlocq which was investigated by authorities over strange betting patterns but no wrong-doing was ever discovered. That year he also reached the semifinals of the ATP Challenger Event at Rennes where he lost to rising French star Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

2007 saw him reach his first ATP Challenger final in Wrexham, Wales, where he lost to Michal Prysiezny which saw him rise to a career-high 176 in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings. He then partnered Jonathan Marray to the third round of the 2007 Wimbledon doubles Championships.

His ranking fell considerably over the next couple of years until he qualified for the 2009 Open 13 where he agonisingly lost 6-7, 6-7 to the Italian Simon Bolelli in the first round. Back injuries hampered him and his ranking fell further but then he surprisingly qualified for this year’s Hall of Fame Championships where he is beginning to make a name for himself again.

In reaching the quaterfinals he has recorded his first wins on the ATP Tour since that 2006 Wimbledon Championships and at 27 this will be a welcome boost for a man whose confidence must have been looking at rock bottom.

And hasn’t he done well. He is yet to drop a set. A 7-6 (1), 6-1 first-round win over Belgian Christophe Rochus, brother of Olivier, set up a second-round clash with second seed and world No. 56 Santiago Giraldo which nobody would have expected him to come out of. But this might just be his week. He won 6-3, 7-6 (5) and now marches in to this quarterfinal with Harrison with a renewed vigour and swagger he won’t have been feeling for a long while.

It is high time we had something positive to shout about for Britain and it’s always great to see somebody who looked down and out have a moment in the sun (literally as the temperature gauges out there are showing). If he overcomes Harrison and then Fish/Dancevic then he will be in his first final since 2007, and his first ever on the full ATP Tour. There either Olivier Rochus will be looking to avenge the slaying of his brother Christophe or Argentine Brian Dabul will be looking to put his own name up in lights.

So march on Richard, your country is firmly behind you!

Around The Corner: A Newport Preview

With Wimbledon ended it seems odd to have any grass-court tennis left and yet that is exactly what we have in the week ahead in Newport, Rhode Island. A sparse field is set for the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championship but there are a few names worth noting.

Seeded first is American Sam Querrey. After winning the grass-court title at Queen’s Club a few weeks ago, Querrey is the favourite this year to win in Newport. He finished runner-up here a year ago to Rajeev Ram. He opens the tournament against Jesse Levine.

Ram is also back to attempt to defend his title in both singles and doubles where he was victorious in both draws in 2009.

Other notable Americans include 5th seeded Mardy Fish and the 8th seeded Taylor Dent. Fish was beaten by Querrey in the Queen’s Club finals while Dent is always dangerous on a fast surface due to his imposing serve.

Dent is still trying to find his form since returning from a serious back injury that kept him off the tour for two years between 2006 and 2008. After some encouraging results a year ago Dent seems to have stumbled and holds a 4-11 record in ATP events in 2010. Perhaps a return to Newport, where he won in 2002, will help spark his game.

Canadian Frank Dancevic is also coming back from a back injury and is the lone Canuck in the draw in Newport. Dancevic will be trying to round into form as his home tournament at the Rogers Cup in Toronto is merely a month away.

Following this tournament the Davis Cup will resume with the quarter-finals followed by a few clay-court tourney’s in Europe and the start of the summer hard-court swing in North America.

John Newcombe Tennis Ranch named USTA Training Center: This Week in Tennis Business

From the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch to James Blake to Petr Korda to the ATP LA Tennis Open – these stories caught the attention of tennis fans and insiders this week…

· The USTA announced that the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch in New Braunfels, Texas, has been named a USTA Certified Regional Training Center. “We feel honored to partner with the USTA,” said Jeremy Fieldsend of the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch.

· Beginning at the US Open in August, James Blake will wear the Fila Thomas Reynolds line, which is named after his late father. The new clothing line will be featured in stores starting this week.

· 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda acted as his daughter Jessica’s caddie last week during her quarterfinal run at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship in St. Louis.

· Tournament Director Bob Kramer told Reuters that the recently completed LA Tennis Open must find a title sponsor in the next couple years in order to continue the event, after not being profitable this year. “If we aren’t able to figure this out or if the economy doesn’t turn around, I think we will probably have two more bites at the apple to right the ship,” said Kramer.

· W Sports Marketing is struggling to secure a sponsor for the Grand Slam of Asheville, which features an August 28 exhibition between Andre Agassi and Marat Safin. Despite an estimated 4,500 expected to attend the event, W Sports Marketing’s Brian Woods insists, “It’s obviously tough to sell sponsorship in this environment.” As reported by Darren Rovell on CNBC.com, Woods is offering that a company does not have to pay the $75,000 title sponsorship until the DOW Industrial Average hits 10,000.

· The ATP Tour event in Chennai, India, will stay at its present location for at least two more years, after securing a sponsorship deal with telecom company Aircel.

· The International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, will offer free tennis lessons during their United States Professional Tennis Association Day on Friday, August 21, from Noon-4pm held during the $150,000 Hall of Fame Champions Cup, the fifth event on the 2009 Outback Champions Series.

· Venus Williams re-launched her website, www.venuswilliams.com.

· The editors of Tennis Magazine agree that Roger Federer is the “Greatest Player of All-Time” in the upcoming September issue.

· Top junior and Nick Bollettieri student Filip Krajinovic has signed an endorsement deal with Wilson.

· Bob and Mike Bryan recently joined forces with respected musician and songwriter David Baron to form The Bryan Brothers Band featuring David Baron. The duo will perform three new songs during Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day at the US Open on August 29.

· SportsBusiness Journal reported that last week a settlement hearing took place between the USTA and former U.S. Fed Cup captain Zina Garrison