Nicolas Lapentti

THOMAZ BELLUCCI: MAN ON A MISSION

As the dust settles and the tears dry following Roger Federer’s whitewashing of Andy Murray in Melbourne the ATP marches on.

Last week saw ATP 250 Tournaments held in Zagreb, Croatia, Johannesburg, South Africa and Santiago, Chile. It is testament to the worldwide appeal that tennis holds so strongly.

The giant Marin Cilic took his home title for the second consecutive year and Feliciano Lopez ended his six-year title drought in Johannesburg. But in Santiago, a little-known Brazilian was taking the plaudits following a 6-2, 0-6, 6-4 victory over the Argentinean Juan Monaco.

South American tournaments are always interesting given the political histories between many of the nations crammed in to the vast island and Thomaz Bellucci will revel in the defeat of one of the “old enemy” to lift the title.

Standing at 6 ft. 2 the left hander considers his serve and forehand as his main strengths and has a powerful repertoire of shots to back this up.

The No. 3 seed had an impressive march to the final. He overcame the likes of Nicolas Lapentti and home favorites Paul Capdeville and reigning Champion Fernando Gonzalez as well as beating another Argentinean Eduardo Schwank on route to facing Monaco.

It was a second title in a five-year career for the 22-year-old following his victory at Gstaad last August. It has lifted him to a career-high rank of No. 28 in the world and has made him the first Brazilian since Gustavo Kuerten in 2004 to hold a top 50 ranking.

Thomaz Cocchiarali Bellucci was born on December 30, 1987, in Tiete, Brazil. His father, Ildebrando, was a salesman while his mother, Maria Regina, owned her own business. Bellucci began playing tennis at a young age and started well. Two weeks after turning 17, he reached a career-high juniors ranking of No. 15 in the world in January 2005.

He then began playing the ATP Challenger Circuit where he registered numerous victories to help propel him in to the world Top 100. He began 2007 ranked No. 582 but a meteoric rise saw him end the year No. 202 with his best results two losing final appearances in Challenger Events in Ecuador and Columbia.

The 2008 season was when people began to hear his name more regularly. He picked up four ATP Challenger titles, all clay. He also qualified for the French Open for the first time where he lost to Rafael Nadal. But at Wimbledon, he saw his first Grand Slam match victory, overcoming Igor Kunitsyn in four sets before losing to the German Simon Stadler in round two.

Thomaz opened 2009 well by overcoming former world No. 1 and 2003 French Open Champion Juan Carlos Ferrero in the quarterfinals of the Brasil Open before losing to Tommy Robredo in the final.

But in August he went one better. After qualifying for the Swiss Open in Gstaad he beat local favorite Stanislas Wawrinka, former world No. 4 Nicolas Keifer, and two-time tournament runner-up Igor Andreev on his way to victory. Beginning the tournament ranked at No. 119 in the world he leapt 53 spots to No. 66 as a result of his victory.

In October, he then reached his first hard-court ATP semifinal, losing to Olivier Rochus at the Stockholm Open in four sets, and was by-now an established member of the Brazilian Davis Cup squad.

The 2010 season has again begun well for the Brazilian. He reached the quarterfinals at Brisbane before being edged out 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-7(3) by the Czech Thomas Berdych before losing to Andy Roddick in the second round of the Australian Open, his best record at the tournament to date.

Now ranked at No. 28 in the world following his victory in Santiago, his next goal is to push towards the top 20. He will have high hopes for the French later this year as he considers clay his best surface and he will no doubt have the samba passion of Brazil behind him as they look for the successor to three-time French Open Champion Gustavo Kuerten’s crown.

He will be looking to improve on his 34-37 career win record and adding to a pot already worth nearly $800,000. Look out for the name Thomaz Bellucci in 2010, there could be some surprises in store.

Mondays With Bob Greene: I Fought For My Country

STARS

Shahar Peer won the GDD-Guangzhou International Women’s Open, beating Alberta Brianti 6-3 6-4 in Guangzhou, China

Melinda Czink beat Lucie Safarova 4-6 6-3 7-5 to win the Bell Challenge in Quebec City, Canada

Evgeny Korolev beat Florent Serra 6-4 6-3 to win the Pekao Szczecin Open in Szczecin, Poland

DAVIS CUP

World Group Semifinals

Czech Republic beat Croatia 4-1 in Porec, Croatia

Spain beat Israel 4-1 in Murcia, Spain

World Group Playoffs

Switzerland beat Italy 3-2, France beat Netherlands 4-1, Sweden beat Romania 3-21, Serbia beat Uzbekistan 5-0, India beat South Africa 4-1, Belgium beat Ukraine 3-2, Ecuador beat Brazil 3-2, and Chile played Austria

Americas Zone

Group I Playoff: Peru vs. Uruguay beat Peru 4-1; Group II Final: Dominican Republic beat Venezuela 3-2

Asia-Oceania Zone

Group I Playoff: China beat Thailand 4-1. Group II 3rd Round: Philippines beat New Zealand 4-1

Europe/Africa Zone

Group I Playoffs: Slovak Republic beat FYR Macedonia 5-1; Poland beat Great Britain 3-2; Group II 3rd Round: Latvia beat Slovenia 3-2; Finland beat Cyprus 3-2

SAYING

“I feel like I was in a 10-round boxing match. Everything hurts.” – Ivo Karlovic, who served a record 78 aces, yet lost his Davis Cup match against Radek Stepanek.

“I fought for my country. It was an amazing game.” – Radek Stepanek, who survived Ivo Karlovic’s record 78 aces to win 6-7 (5) 7-6 (5) 7-6 (6) 6-7 (2) 16-14.

“I have to go on holiday badly. I have a problem with my leg. I have a problem with my arm – everything is hurting. And I’ve got to do some babysitting.” – Roger Federer, after helping Switzerland beat Italy and remain in the World Group in 2010.

“I tried everything, but he was particularly good today.” – Potito Starace, who lost to Roger Federer to give Switzerland an insurmountable lead in its Davis Cup playoff against Italy.

“It’s not the way to act – win or lose, good call or bad call, in any sport, in any manner.” – Serena Williams, apologizing for her verbal assault towards a line judge during the US Open women’s final.

“I was very tired after the first two sets, lost the third and the fourth. But then, when I went to the locker room when the fourth set finished, I told my brother I wasn’t going to lose the match. This is the beauty of Davis Cup, the energy of a team and the energy of a country.” – Nicolas Lapentti, whose 6-4 6-4 1-6 2-6 8-6 victory over Marcos Daniel clinched Ecuador’s World Group Playoff tie over Brazil.

“It’s like David against Goliath – and we know who won that one!” – Andy Ram, before Israel played Spain in a Davis Cup semifinal. This time Goliath won.

“I hope it’s the start of something.” – Eyal Ran, Israel’s Davis Cup captain, on his team’s surprising run to the World Group semifinals.

“I hope to come back next year and do better. Unless you win, you can always do better.” – Lucie Safarova, who lost to Melinda Czink in the final of the Bell Challenge.

“I thought they (India) were trying different tactics. I couldn’t understand why he (Mahesh Bhupathi) was serving and staying back.” – Jeff Coetzee, who with his partner Wesley Moodie earned South Africa’s lone point in their Davis Cup tie against India when the Indian doubles team was forced to retire after Bhupathi suffered a groin injury.

“At last we are where we deserve to be.” – Andy Murray, on Great Britain being relegated to Group II in the Euro/Africa Zone after losing its Davis Cup tie to Poland.

SMOKIN’

Ivo Karlovic slammed a record 78 aces yet lost his Davis Cup match against Radek Stepanek in a marathon that lasted one minute short of six hours. Stepanek’s 6-7 (5) 7-6 (5) 7-6 (6) 6-7 (2) 16-14 victory gave the Czech Republic a 2-0 first-day lead over Croatia. The Czechs captured the tie 4-1 and advanced to the final against Spain. The 82 games equaled the Davis Cup record since tiebreakers were introduced in 1989, but the elapsed time was well short of two matches played by John McEnroe, against Mats Wilander in 1982 and against Boris Becker in 1987, both of which lasted around 6½ hours. Karlovic wasted four match points in the final set, and there were only five break-point chances in the match. Karlovic obliterated both the men’s record and Davis Cup record for aces, marks he held. He had 55 aces in a loss to Lleyton Hewitt at the French Open in May, and his previous Davis Cup mark was 47, which he shared with Brazil’s Gustavo Kuerten and Switzerland’s Marc Rosset.

SMALL CHANGE?

Apparently apparel company Fila has deep pockets. According to reports, Kim Clijsters was given a significant bonus by her shoe and clothing sponsor for her surprising US Open singles championship. And where companies usually insure these bonuses, CNBC says Fila did not. The bonus is reported to be in the range of USD $300,000, which could buy a lot of shoes for Clijsters’ young daughter. Darren Rovell of SportsBiz says that while it’s standard practice for companies to insure their big incentive bonuses to minimize the risk, Fila didn’t do it with Clijsters since she had played just two tournaments following a two-year retirement. The odds on Clijsters winning were as high as 40-to-1.

STAYING UP

You can excuse Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych if they want to take an extra nap or two. Between them, the Czech duo played for nearly 10 hours on the first day of the Czech Republic’s Davis Cup semifinal against Croatia. But the two then joined forces on the second day to play – and win – their doubles, clinching a spot for the Czech Republic in the final against Spain. On the first day, Stepanek needed one minute less than 6 hours to outlast Ivo Karlovic, and then Berdych was on court for 3 hours 48 minutes to down Marin Cilic in five sets. Together, Stepanek and Berdych needed only 2 hours, 16 minutes to defeat Lukas Dlouhy and Jan Hajek. Stepanek and Berdych are unbeaten together in Davis Cup doubles, improving their record to 5-0, including 3-0 this season.

SINKING BRITS

Even with Andy Murray playing all three days, Great Britain was relegated to Group Two of the Euro/African zonal play when Poland won their Davis Cup tie 3-2. Murray won both of his singles matches, but Michal Przysiezny beat Dan Evans in the decisive singles to give Poland the victory. It is the first time in 13 years that Great Britain has been dropped to the third tier of the world-wide competition. Evans also lost his first-day singles match to Jerzy Janowicz, But Poland’s Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski beat Murray and Ross Hutchins in the doubles.

SURPRISING BELGIUM

When talking about Belgium tennis, most are thinking about the women. The country has produced former number ones Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters, the latter winning the US Open earlier this month on her return to the sport following a two-year retirement. But Belgium’s men have also proved their mettle, keeping the country in the World Group for 2010 by besting Ukraine 3-2. And that came despite Belgium losing it’s number one player with an injury just hours before the Davis Cup Playoff began. Olivier Rochus withdrew with a leg injury, but his brother Christophe Rochus joined with Steve Darcis to help Belgium beat Ukraine.

SETTLED SUIT

Zina Garrison has settled the racial discrimination suit she brought against the United States Tennis Association (USTA). A deal was signed on August 27, although its terms were not disclosed. A former Fed Cup captain, Garrison filed her lawsuit in February, saying she was unfairly treated, paid a lower salary than Davis Cup coach Patrick McEnroe while being held to higher standards. As a player, Garrison was the 1990 Wimbledon runner-up, at the time becoming the first black woman since Althea Gibson to play in a Grand Slam tournament singles final. She became the first black captain of the US Fed Cup team when she replaced Billie Jean King in 2004. Spokesman Chris Widmaier said the USTA is happy the case was resolved and looks forward to working with Garrison in the future.

STOP RIGHT NOW

Martina Hingis should stick to tennis and stay away from dancing, at least according to the British public. Hingis became the first celebrity to be ousted from the new BBBC reality talent show, “Strictly Come Dancing.” It’s England’s answer to the American TV show “Dancing With The Stars.” Hingis and her partner Matthew Cutler were in the bottom two when phone votes were added to the judges’ score. They then lost a dance-off against policeman-turned-crime-presenter Rav Wilding and his partner Aliona Vilani. Two years ago, Cutler teamed with Alesha Dixon to win the competition. This year, Dixon, a singer, is a judge on the show.

SERENA SPEAKS

Admitting she lost her cool, Serena Williams has issued an apology for her outburst towards a line judge in her women’s singles final at the US Open. “I need to make it clear to all young people that I handled myself inappropriately,” Williams said. “I want to sincerely apologize first to the lineswoman, Kim Clijsters, the US Tennis Association and tennis fans everywhere for my inappropriate outburst.” The line judge had called a foot fault on Williams on her second serve, giving Clijsters match point. William, who already had been handed a code violation for racquet abuse, unleashed a tirade towards the line judge, briefly walked away, and then returned for another blast at the official. When chair umpire Louise Engzell asked the line judge what had been said, she called for the tournament referee Brian Earley and eventually ordered a point penalty, the next level of punishment under the code. That gave the match to Clijsters. Williams was fined USD $10,000 for the infraction, and was further penalized USD $500 for the racquet abuse.

SPEAK YE NOT

Saying the “magic” word cost Roger Federer a USD $1,500 fine at the US Open. The Swiss superstar was fined for using a profanity while arguing with the chair umpire during the US Open final. Television microphones picked up the naughty word during the live broadcast of the match. Tournament spokesman said Federer was fined the same amount as two other players – Vera Zvonareva and Daniel Koellerer – for audible obscenities. Daniel Nestor was fined USD $5,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct toward a fan, but the big loser at this year’s final Grand Slam tournament was Serena Williams, who was docked USD $10,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct. She also was fined USD $500 for racket abuse.

SUCCESS

Melinda Czink is finally a winner on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. The left-hander from Hungary beat Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic to capture the Bell Challenge in Quebec City, Canada. Playing in her second career final, it was Czink’s first title. “It feels great. I haven’t really processed it year, but I will,” she said. Czink’s first final was somewhat historic. She lost to Ana Ivanovic in the final round of qualifying in Canberra, Australia, in 2005, gained entry into the main draw as a “lucky loser,” then met and lost to Ivanovic in the final, the only known time that has happened.

SAYS YOU, SAYS ME

India has two of the world’s best doubles players. Both are now sidelined with injuries. Leander Paes pulled out of India’s Davis Cup World Group Playoff tie against South Africa because of an injury he sustained during the US Open, where he won the doubles title with Lucas Dlouhy of the Czech Republic and reached the mixed doubles final with Cara Black of Zimbabwe. Mahesh Bhupathi, who lost the men’s doubles with his partner Mark Knowles of the Bahamas, suffered a groin injury during the Davis Cup doubles. The injury forced the Indian doubles team to retire, giving South Africa its lone point in the tie.

SOME KIND OF PROBLEM

Albert Costa has a problem every Davis Cup captain would love to have. Costa has been Spain’s Davis Cup captain for just nine months, but already he faces several decisions that could make him unpopular with several players and their supporters. Costa’s team just swept past Israel 4-1 to return to the final to defend their Davis Cup title. This time they will take on the Czech Republic, which beat Croatia. Costa’s problem. His top two players missed the Israeli tie because of injuries. Does he now name the players who took Spain to the final or go with the two missing players – second ranked Rafael Nadal and ninth-ranked Fernando Verdasco. Of course, there may be no problem. Although injured, both Nadal and Verdasco sat through all three live rubbers on Friday and Saturday, cheering on their compatriots.

SEATS ARE FREE

Admittance to next week’s Vogue Athens Open will be free. The organizers Liberis Publications and Hellenic Tennis Federation decided to open the doors to the public for the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour event that will be played on the same courts where five years ago the Athens Olympic Games were held. The decision was also made because of the large capacity at the Olympic Tennis Center. All seats are available to anyone, beginning with the qualifying all the way through the final, which will be played on October 4.

STAYING HOME

Juan Martin del Potro’s five-set upset of five-time defending champion Roger Federer had the fans at home turning on their television sets. The men’s final, which was postponed because of rain to Monday, drew a 2.3 rating and 5 share on CBS. That’s up 35 percent from the 2008 final, which was also played on Monday because of rain delays. That was when Federer beat Andy Murray in straight sets. Ratings represent the percentage of all households with televisions, and shares represent the percentage of all homes with TVs in use at the time.

SEEING IS BELIEVING

Things at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center are normal. The US Open set an attendance record this year, just as it has done every year. This year’s attendance was 721,059, slightly more than the previous record of 720,227 set last year. The tournament also set a Week One attendance record of 423,427, including a single-day high of 61,554 for the combined day and night sessions on the first Friday.

SPONSOR

Remember Melanie Oudin, the 17-year-old from Marietta, Georgia, who reached the quarterfinals of the US Open. Well, she has signed on to be a pitch woman for AirTran Airways Inc., an Orlando, Florida-based company. Oudin became the youngest woman to reach the US Open quarterfinals since Serena Williams did it in 1999. Oudin had victories over fourth-ranked Elena Dementieva, 13th-seeded Nadia Petrova and former US Open champion Maria Sharapova. The youngster is currently ranked 44th in the world and is the third-highest ranked American woman, behind sisters Serena and Venus Williams. AirTran, a low-cost airline, recently took over as the official airline of the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Guangzhou: Olga Govortsova and Tatiana Poutchek beat Kimiko Date Krumm and Sun Tiantian 3-6 6-2 10-8 (match tiebreak)

Quebec City: Vania King and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova beat Sofia Arvidsson and Severine Bremond Beltrame 6-1 6-3

Szczecin: Tomasz Bednarek and Mateusz Kowalczyk beat Oleksandr Dolgopolov Jr. and Artem Smirnov 6-3 6-4

SITES TO SURF

Bucharest: www.bcropenromania.ro/

Metz: www.openmoselle.com

Hansol: www.hansolopen.com

Tashkent: www.tashkentopen.uz

Saint Malo: www.opengdfsuez-bretagne.com

Bangkok: www.thailandopen.org

Kuala Lumpur: www.malasianopentennis.com/

Athens: www.vogueathensopen.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$650,000 BCR Open Romania, Bucharest, Romana, clay

$650,000 Open de Moselle, Metz, France, hard

WTA

$220,000 Hansol Korea Open, Seoul, Korea, hard

$220,000 Tashkent Open, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, hard

$100,000 Open GDF Suez de Bretagne, Saint Malo, France, clay

SENIORS

Trophee Jean-Luc Lagardere, Paris, France, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$947,750 Proton Malaysia Open, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, hard

$608,500 Thailand Open, Bangkok, Thailand, hard

WTA

$2,000,000 Toray Pan Pacific Open, Tokyo, Japan, hard

$100,000 Vogue Athens Open, Athens, Greece, hard

Mondays With Bob Greene: I was the number one player in the world

STARS

Andy Murray beat Juan Martin del Potro 6-7 (4) 7-6 (3) 6-1 to win the Rogers Cup in Montreal, Canada

Jelena Jankovic beat Dinara Safina 6-4 6-2 to win the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

Peter Luczak beat Olivier Rochus 6-3 3-6 6-1 to win the Zucchetti Kos Tennis Cup Internazionali del Friuli Venezia in Cordenons, Italy

Greg Rusedski beat Stefan Edberg 6-3 6-4 to win the Vale Do Lobo Grand Champions CGD in Algarve, Portugal

SAYING

“My smile is back and I’m having fun playing the matches. This is what I missed. I missed this for maybe seven months this year.” – Jelena Jankovic, after winning the Western & Southern tournament.

“The number two – maybe it’s because it’s something different – that means maybe a little bit more. But winning a tournament here is still great.” – Andy Murray, who moved ahead of Rafael Nadal and is now ranked number two in the world.

“I’m very happy to be in the final. I lost, but I’m happy. I don’t have to think in the past and now see the future.” – Juan Martin del Potro, who lost to Andy Murray in the final of the Montreal Masters.

“I would love to come back to number one, but the important thing is to play well. The thing that makes me happy is to be competitive (and) to win important tournaments.” – Rafael Nadal, who fell to number three in the world.

“I’m definitely pleased with the level I’ve had … in these four matches.” – Kim Clijsters, who in her first tournament after a two-year retirement reached the quarterfinals at Cincinnati.

“I’m realistic. I know I am not going to win (another title). There is no way. It’s getting tougher and tougher with each tournament. It really gets into you and it’s not easy to play. Every match is a battle. It’s tough not to choke in the important moments. But I want to finish up in a right note. I should enjoy it more. I just want to finish up nice.” – Marat Safin, following his first-round loss to Gael Monfils at the Montreal Masters.

“It happens in tennis, it’s never over until it’s over and it showed today. … I never should have allowed it but it did happen.” – Roger Federer, who led 5-1 in the third set before losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

“I haven’t seen her in two years. That’s the reason I didn’t start well. I was trying to figure out what she was doing instead of playing my game. By the time I figured out her tactics, I was down 0-4. It’s just a really bad draw, I guess.” – Marion Bartoli, who lost to Kim Clijsters in their first-round match.

“I look like I had a kid more than she does. She looks amazing.” – Serena Williams, on how fit Kim Clijsters looked in her return to the WTA Tour following her marriage and birth of a daughter.

“She is the same as she was before. She moves well. You can see she hasn’t been all the time on the tour but she was playing great.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, on Kim Clijsters.

“I was the number one player in the world, and I want to start winning big tournaments again. I just need to start finding my game and start playing better and better and better. But the more I play, the better I get.” – Jelena Jankovic, after winning her semifinal match.

“Definitely I want to get a grand slam, no doubt about it. It’s not that I’m number one and I want to stop. There is another goal. I want to win a Grand Slam. I will do my best to win at the US Open. If not, next year I will work even harder to get it.” – Dinara Safina.

“Just walking down to that stadium, the reception that I received, the signs, the pictures and the high-fives going to the matches … I said, ‘You know what? This feels like home. I made the right decision.’” – Monica Seles, recalling the reaction she received from Toronto fans when she returned to tennis following her stabbing.

“I was joking with my coach that now I should probably buy a flat here since it is my fifth title in Canada.” – Mahesh Bhupathi, who teamed up with Mark Knowles to win the doubles at the Montreal Masters.

SECOND IN LINE

Even before he won the Montreal Masters, Andy Murray had surpassed Rafael Nadal as the number two-ranked player in the world. The 22-year-old Scott became the first player to win 50 matches this season as he won his fifth tournament of the year, matching Nadal. Murray is the first British player to win the Rogers Cup, a tournament that once was called the Canadian Open, and becomes the first player other than top-ranked Roger Federer and Nadal to be ranked number two in the world since Lleyton Hewitt on July 18, 2005. The last Briton to reach the Canadian final was Roger Taylor, who lost in 1970 to Rod Laver. Both Federer and Nadal lost in the quarterfinals, while Murray finished the week by beating Argentine’s Juan Martin del Potro 6-7 (4) 7-6 (3) 6-1 in the title match.

STAYING THE COURSE

Form followed rank at the Montreal Masters. For the first time since the ATP rankings were introduced in 1973, a tour-level event wound up with the top eight ranked players in the quarterfinals. Once there, top-ranked Roger Federer, second-ranked Rafael Nadal and fourth-ranked Novak Djokovic all lost to lower seeded players. The other quarterfinalists were third-ranked Andy Murray, the eventual winner, fifth-ranked Andy Roddick, sixth-ranked Juan Martin del Potro, seventh-ranked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and eighth-ranked Nikolay Davydenko.

SHOWING THE WAY

Flavia Pennetta has made Italian tennis history. The 27-year-old right-hander is the first Italian woman to be ranked in the top ten in the world. Her rise up the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour rankings has come with some well-known victims added to her resume. Pennetta beat Maria Sharapova when she won the tournament in Los Angeles, then followed with a shocking upset of Venus Williams in the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open. After winning 11 matches in 13 days, a visibly tired Pennetta lost in the semifinals at Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, to top-ranked Dinara Safina.

SNAZZY COMEBACK

Marriage, a baby and two years away from the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour didn’t seem to slow down Kim Clijsters. The former world number one left some highly ranked players in her wake as she reached the quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open before finally losing. “I’ll just take each day at a time and try to be as professional as possible whenever I’m playing and we’ll see what happens,” Clijsters said after losing to top-ranked Dinara Safina. “Obviously so far it’s worked. I’ve had some really good results and I feel like my level here has risen.” Less than 18 months after giving birth to her first child, a daughter, Clijsters beat Marion Bartoli, Patty Schnyder and French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova before running into Safina. “There’s still a lot of things to work on,” said Clijsters, who owns 34 career singles titles. “I need to keep working on the good things as well.”

STRANGE STAT

Jelena Jankovic has been ranked number one in the world, a fact that had drawn some criticism, seeing that she has yet to win a Grand Slam tournament. But her victory over Dinara Safina in the final of the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, was the first time Jankovic had beaten a player ranked number one in the world. She dedicated her victory to her mother, who is at home recovering from surgery. “I dedicate this win to her,” Jankovic said. “I wanted to make her happy. It’s important.”

SELES RETURNS

When Monica Seles returned to tennis following a two-year hiatus caused when a fan stabbed her in the back, she chose the Canadian Open. Seles won the 1995 event, but she was more impressed by the warm reception she received from the fans. One of the newest members of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Seles will participate in an exhibition doubles match in Toronto during the women’s Rogers Cup event. She is being inducted into the tournament’s hall of fame as the only player in the modern era to win four straight Canadian titles, beginning with the 1995 victory. Violet Summerhayes won four straight Canadian titles from 1899 through 1904.

SOMEONE SPECIAL

It seems to make no difference as to who Mahesh Bhupathi teams with to win doubles championships. When Bhupathi and Mark Knowles won the Rogers Cup doubles in Montreal, it was the fifth time the Indian right-hander has captured the title – with four different partners. The 35-year-old won in1997 with Leander Paes, in 2003 with Max Mirnyi, in 2004 with Paes, and in 2007 with Pavel Vizner. Bhupathi and Knowles teamed up as a regular pair at the start of the 2008 season. This was the duo’s first title since last October in Basel, Switzerland, although they reached the finals at the Australian Open in January and Barcelona, Spain, in April. Bhupathi has now won at least one ATP World Tour doubles crown every year since 1997.

STRAIGHT IN

Chase Buchanan, an 18-year-old from New Albany, Ohio, and 17-year-old Christina McHale from Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, won the 2009 United States Tennis Association (USTA) National Boys’ and Girls’ 18s championships to earn wild cards into the main singles draws at the US Open. McHale also competed in the women’s main draw of this year’s Australian Open after winning the 2008 USTA Australian Open wild card playoff. Buchanan earned a wild card into the 2008 US Open men’s doubles draw by winning the USTA Junior Boys’ 18 doubles title last year.

SAYONARA

Tzipi Obziler is finally stepping down from Israel’s Fed Cup team. “This is the right time for me to retire,” she said. “I’m grateful for this wonderful and small country which gave me the opportunity to have a great career.” Obziler played 61 Fed Cup ties for Israel, equaling former teammate Anna Smashnova’s Fed Cup participation record. Obziler has played 90 matches, compiling a 51-39 win-loss record in her 16-year Fed Cup career. She was part of the Israeli team that reached the World Group in 2008 for the first time in the nation’s history. Obziler, however, didn’t completely close the door to her retirement. “If captain Lior Mor decides he wants me on the team and I see that I’m physically capable of playing, than of course I wouldn’t refuse,” she said.

SETS TARGET DATE

Recovering from a serious knee injury, Britain’s Anne Keothavong hopes to be back in action in February. The 25-year-old tore both the anterior cruciate ligament and the meniscus in her left knee when she ran into a fence while playing a doubles match at a tournament in California, USA. Keothavong, Britain’s top player on the WTA Tour, broke into the world’s top 50 for the first time earlier this year. “I hope to be back by February, which is ambitious, but achievable,” she said.

STAYING HOME

Former world number one Carlos Moya of Spain and Kei Nishikori of Japan have withdrawn from this year’s US Open because of injuries. Moya’s biggest victory came at the 1998 French Open. He has been sidelined for most of this season with a foot injury and his ranking has slipped out of the top 100. Nishikori was the top alternate and would have taken Moya’s spot in the draw, but he also withdrew because of an injury. That means Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador is directly in the main draw of the year’s final Grand Slam tournament.

STOP IT, I SAY

Lleyton Hewitt’s wife has gone to court over a magazine article. The actress wants to know the source of the story that ran last April that implied she was having an affair. New Idea magazine has twice published apologies over the article, titled “Bec’s Other Man,” which pictured Bec Hewitt with whom the magazine identified as a “hunky American fitness trainer” named Minder Mark. The man in the picture actually was Bec’s brother, Shaun Cartwright, who frequently accompanies the family on the tennis circuit.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Montreal: Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles beat Max Mirnyi and Andy Ram 6-4 6-3

Cincinnati: Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-3 0-6 10-2 (match tiebreak)

Cordenons: James Cerretani and Travis Rettenmaier beat Peter Luczak and Alessandro Motti 4-6 6-3 11-9 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Cincinnati: www.cincytennis.com/

Toronto: www3.rogerscup.com/404.html

Newport: www.championsseriestennis.com/newport2009/

New Haven: www.pilotpentennis.com/

Bronx: www.nyjtl.org/tournaments/ghiBronx/index.htm

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$3,000,000 Western & Southern Financial Group Masters, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, hard

WTA

$2,000,000 Rogers Cup, Toronto, Canada, hard

SENIORS

International Tennis Hall of Fame Champions Cup, Newport, Rhode Island, USA, grass

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$750,000 Pilot Pen Tennis, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, hard

WTA

$600,000 Pilot Pen Tennis Presented by Schick, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, hard

$100,000 EmblemHealth Bronx Open, Bronx, New York, USA, hard

One last time: Guga Kuerten as an ATP pro in Miami

Guga Kuerten lost his first round match against Sebastien Grosjean in the first round of the Sony Ericsson Open. The scoreline: 6-1, 7-5.

While his game might not have held up, his fashion sense sure did. He wore a bright orange/red kit (with red hat, red shoes) from Diadora Guga Kuerten. Le sigh, we’ll sure miss his flair when he retires.

In doubles, he wore white and won one match with Nicolas Lapentti against Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco. They lost in the next round to Aspelin and Knowles.

Gustavo Kuerten - award - Miami 2008

Lapentti also presented Kuerten with an award at an ATP banquet during the tournament.

Looking forward: Kuerten’s next stop on his farewell tour is a Challenger-level tournament in Florianopolis, Brazil. That event begins on April 14.

Gustavo Kuerten - Miami 2008

Gustavo Kuerten - Miami 2008

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Gustavo Kuerten - Miami 2008

(photos by Getty Images)