Eight first-round Davis Cup ties unfold around the world this weekend. We discuss the key players and themes that might emerge from each of them.
Canada vs. Spain: Without any of their top three men, Davis Cup Goliath Spain finds itself at a surprising disadvantage when it travels to the western coast of North America. Had either Nadal or Ferrer participated in this tie against Canada, the visitors would remain heavy favorites even against a squad spearheaded by Milos Raonic and aging doubles star Daniel Nestor. Instead, Canada now can rely on two victories from their singles #1 against the overmatched pair of Marcel Granollers and Albert Ramos, forcing Spain to sweep the remaining three matches. Among those is a doubles rubber that pits Nestor against World Tour Finals champions Granollers and Marc Lopez, who lost three of their four Davis Cup doubles rubbers last year. If the tie reaches a live fifth rubber, as seems plausible, Spanish champion Alex Corretja might consider substituting Guillermo Garcia-Lopez for Ramos against the net-rushing Frank Dancevic. Buoyed by their home crowd, though, Canada should find a way to snatch one of the three non-Raonic rubbers and send Spain to the playoff round for the first time in recent memory.
Italy vs. Croatia: This tie should hinge on home-court advantage and the choice of ground that it entails. On a fast hard court, the formidable serves of Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig would stifle the less imposing firepower of the Italians. But Croatia faces Andreas Seppi and Fabio Fognini on the red clay of Turin, a slow surface where the superior consistency of the hosts should lead them to victory. The visitors will face the intriguing choice of whether to substitute their singles stars on Saturday for a doubles pairing almost certainly doomed to defeat. Three straight days of best-of-five matches for Cilic, Dodig, or both would leave them even more vulnerable to the Italian war of attrition, though. At any rate, the contrast of styles between the fearless first strikes of the Croats and the patient baseline rallying of the Italians should provide entertaining viewing.
Belgium vs. Serbia: One might see Djokovic’s name on the schedule and automatically checking off the “Serbia” box, but a few flickers of doubt persist. First, the Australian Open champion may have arrived physically and mentally drained from his recent exploits, and he has struggled against Friday opponent Olivier Rochus throughout his career. Breaking from a long history of Davis Cup participation, Serbian #2 Janko Tipsarevic cannot step into the breach if Djokovic falters. That duty lies in the suspect hands of Viktor Troicki, who endured a miserable 2012, and in the aging hands of Nenad Zimonjic, well past his prime despite his many accomplishments. Serbia thus might find itself in real trouble if they played a team with a notable talent, like Canada. With just the 32-year-old Rochus and the volatile but unreliable David Goffin barring their path, however, they should advance even if their stars underperform.
USA vs. Brazil: Tennis Grandstand will feature more detailed coverage of this tie over the weekend. For the moment, we will note that Team USA stands in promising position with two serving leviathans on an indoor hard court, complemented by the reigning Australian Open doubles champions. While Isner did not win a match in January as he struggled with a knee injury, and Querrey did not impress in Melbourne, both should steamroll the harmless Brazilian #2 Thiago Alves. In the best-case scenario for Brazil, which would feature two victories for their #1 Bellucci, their doubles duo of Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares still should fall short against the Bryans. All of these Americans have played some of their best tennis on home soil and in Davis Cup, including on less friendly surfaces, whereas Brazil has accomplished little of note in this competition recently.
France vs. Israel: Across from one team that often proves less than the sum of its talents in Davis Cup stands a team that typically overperforms expectations at the national level. Whereas France will bring two members of the top 10 to this tie, Israel can claim no top-100 threat in singles. The fast indoor hard court should allow the offensive might of Tsonga to overwhelm Dudi Sela and Amir Weintraub, although the latter has developed into a more credible threat over the last several months. In a tantalizing doubles rubber, a battle of all-stars pits Jonathan Ehrlich and Andy Ram against Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra. Underdogs in every singles rubber and arguably the doubles too, Israel can hope for an upset only if Gasquet crumbles under the pressure of playing for national pride on home soil as he has so infamously before. Otherwise, the talent gap simply looms too large.
Argentina vs. Germany: Perhaps the most tightly contested tie, this battle on outdoor red clay will unfold in the absence of Del Potro, who would have given the home squad a clear edge. While Argentina will field a squad of clay specialists, leading Germans Philipp Kohlschreiber and Florian Mayer have acquitted themselves well on the surafce and should not find themselves at a disadvantage parallel to Croatia in Italy. Much rests on the shoulders of Juan Monaco, tasked with avoiding the daunting 0-2 deficit after Kohlschreiber likely opens the tie by dismissing Carlos Berlocq. The top Argentine here enjoyed his best season to date last year but did not start 2013 especially well. Lurking in the shadows, as he so often does, is long-time Argentine Davis Cup hero David Nalbandian. Argentina will hope that Nalbandian’s contribution in doubles on Saturday will combine with two Monaco victories to give them the points that they need without reaching a live fifth rubber. There, one would favor Mayer to overcome both Berlocq and the Argentine crowd.
Pick: Er, Argentina?
Kazakhstan vs. Austria: In a tie without a singles star of note, the opportunity beckons for someone to seize the spotlight in a way that he could not at a major. The most likely candidate to do so would seem Austrian #1 Jurgen Melzer, the only top-100 singles player on either side. His opponents can produce better tennis than their current rankings suggest, though, and Andrey Golubev already has started the tie in promising fashion with a straight-sets victory over Andreas Haider-Maurer. The doubles edge probably belongs to Austria with the greater expertise of Alexander Peya and Julian Knowle, specialists who will allow the 31-year-old Melzer to rest for Sunday. Excluded from the initial lineup is top-ranked Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin, whose absence will force #211 Evgeny Korolev to win a best-of-five match for the hosts to survive.
Switzerland vs. Czech Republic: While Tomas Berdych is the highest-ranked man in this clash between nearby nations, the most intriguing role goes to opposing #1 Stanislas Wawrinka. After he came far closer than anyone to toppling Djokovic at the Australian Open, the latter may suffer a hangover in a competition where he has struggled lately. Moreover, Switzerland leans on Wawrinka to win both of his singles matches and contribute to a doubles victory on the intervening day, an enormous challenge for the sternest of competitors when the last of those matches involves Berdych. The Czech Republic will not enlist the services of Radek Stepanek, a rare absentee this weekend like Tipsarevic, but singles #2 Lukas Rosol intimidates much more than anyone that Switzerland can throw at him. In the Federer/Wawrinka era, no Swiss team ever has presented the united front that the defending champions have behind Berdych. The medium-slow hard court should not trouble the broad-shouldered world #6 unduly.
Pick: Czech Republic
Lleyton Hewitt‘s dreams of bagging another Grand Slam might be long gone, but he can still put out a good Davis Cup show. He won the first rubber in this weekend’s World Group play-off against Belgium and also teamed up with Paul Hanley for the doubles win. The Aussies are now up 2-1; up next is Lleyton vs. Olivier Rochus. More info here.
Love that his Yonex shoes coordinated with the rest of his Davis Cup uniform.
Richard Bloomfield is on the verge of making tennis history.
Ranked No. 552 in the world, Bloomfield is two matches away from becoming the lowest ranked player to ever win an ATP World Tour event. The 27-year-old from Norwich is ranked two spots worse than Lleyton Hewitt, who was ranked No. 550 when he won the singles title in Adelaide, Australia in 1998 as a 16-year-old, as documented in the book THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS ($35.95, New Chapter Press, www.NewChapterMedia.com)
Bloomfield reached his first career ATP World Tour semifinal with a 5-7, 7-6 (3), 7-5 win Friday over heralded 18-year-old American Ryan Harrison. He will play Mardy Fish of the United States, ranked No. 76, in the semifinals. The other semifinal features Olivier Rochus of Belgium, ranked No. 65, against Brian Dabul of Argentina, ranked No. 105.
Entering this week, Bloomfield had won only one career ATP World Tour level match – a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 first-round win at Wimbledon in 2006 over Carlos Berlocq of Argentina – a victory that attracted world-wide attention due to the suspicious betting patterns during the match. Due to irregular betting patterns, suspicious amounts of money was bet on Bloomfield, alleging that perhaps Berlocq could have been injured or was paid to “tank” the match to allow for profiteering among gamblers. Coincidentally, Bloomfield’s first-round win here in Newport over Christophe Rochus also attracted similar unwanted gambling attention.
Online gambling exchange Betfair told The Associated Press on Friday that Bloomfield’s 7-6 (1), 6-3 win over Rochus Tuesday attracted an unusual $1.5 million in wagers and was the subject of dramatic price movement.
Bloomfield was rated even money against his Rochus, ranked No. 160. In the hours before the match, the odds on Bloomfield winning were shortened to 1-4. After he won the first set, the odds shorted to 1-8.
“If people are willing to risk 4 pounds to win one, that is indicative of a substantial gamble,” Betfair spokesman Tony Calvin said to the Associated Press.
Notification of the irregular betting pattern was reported to the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU), an independent body created by the sport’s governing bodies to lead the fight against corruption.
It is standard procedure for the betting industry to share irregular activity on its markets with the TIU.
“It is not operational policy of the TIU to make any comment about an investigation that it may or may not be involved in,” TIU spokesman Mark Harrison told the AP
Randy Walker is a communications and marketing specialist, writer, tennis historian and the managing partner of New Chapter Media – www.NewChapterMedia.com. He was a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Tennis Association’s marketing and communications division where he worked as the press officer for 22 U.S. Davis Cup ties, three Olympic tennis teams and was an integral part of USTA media services team for 14 US Opens. He is the author of the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY (www.TennisHistoryBook.com).
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
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
Group I Playoff: Peru vs. Uruguay beat Peru 4-1; Group II Final: Dominican Republic beat Venezuela 3-2
Group I Playoff: China beat Thailand 4-1. Group II 3rd Round: Philippines beat New Zealand 4-1
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
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Saint Malo: www.opengdfsuez-bretagne.com
Kuala Lumpur: www.malasianopentennis.com/
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$650,000 BCR Open Romania, Bucharest, Romana, clay
$650,000 Open de Moselle, Metz, France, hard
$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
Trophee Jean-Luc Lagardere, Paris, France, clay
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$947,750 Proton Malaysia Open, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, hard
$608,500 Thailand Open, Bangkok, Thailand, hard
$2,000,000 Toray Pan Pacific Open, Tokyo, Japan, hard
$100,000 Vogue Athens Open, Athens, Greece, hard
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
“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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
New Haven: www.pilotpentennis.com/
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$3,000,000 Western & Southern Financial Group Masters, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, hard
$2,000,000 Rogers Cup, Toronto, Canada, hard
International Tennis Hall of Fame Champions Cup, Newport, Rhode Island, USA, grass
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$750,000 Pilot Pen Tennis, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, hard
$600,000 Pilot Pen Tennis Presented by Schick, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, hard
$100,000 EmblemHealth Bronx Open, Bronx, New York, USA, hard
Bud Collins, the walking tennis encyclopedia and author of the definitive tennis book THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS ($35.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennistomes.com) will celebrate his 80th birthday on Wednesday, June 17 – the same day that defending Wimbledon champion Venus Williams will celebrate her 29th birthday. Other events from June 16 and June 17 from the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennishistorybook.com) are excerpted below.
1974 – Two eighteen-year-olds – Bjorn Borg and Chris Evert – win their first major singles titles with final-round victories at the French Open in Paris. Borg comes back from two-sets-to-love down to defeat Manuel Orantes of Spain 2-6, 6-7, 6-0, 6-1, 6-1 to become the youngest winner of the French Open at the time. Evert encounters much less resistance in defeating her doubles partner Olga Morozova of the Soviet Union 6-1, 6-2 to become the youngest winner in Paris since Christine Truman in 1959. Evert wins an $8,000 first prize, while Borg takes home a $24,000.
1985 – Three weeks preceding his break-through victory at Wimbledon as an unseeded 17-year-old, Boris Becker sends a warning shot to the tennis world and wins his first ATP singles title at the Queen’s Club championships in London, defeating Johan Kriek 6-2, 6-3 in the final. Says Becker following his first victory, “It has been a dream for me when I was 10 to win a Grand Prix final. This week has been fantastic. I played my best tennis and beat a lot of good players.” Says Kriek of Becker and his chances at Wimbledon, “If he plays like that every day at Wimbledon, Becker can win the tournament.”
1975 – U.S. Open Tournament Director Bill Talbert unveils 11 new clay courts at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, Queens, N.Y., that will be used in lieu of grass courts for the 1975 US Open. “It will take a complete player to win the Open this year,” says Talbert. Asked how he would react to any player criticism of not playing the U.S. Open on the traditional grass courts, Talbert states, “This is the U.S. Open, which I consider the world’s major tournament and I believe that every player should consider it a privilege to compete in it regardless of what kind of courts we have. They should be willing to put it on the line for this championship.”
2000 – Michael Chang, the 1989 French Open champion whose baseline game never translated well on grass tennis courts, beats 18-year-old Roger Federer, the future five-time Wimbledon champion, 7-5, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the grass court event in Halle, Germany.
2006 – Roger Federer nearly loses his first grass court tournament in three years, saving four match points in beating Olivier Rochus 6-7 (2), 7-6 (9), 7-6 (5) in the quarterfinals of the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany. The win is Federer’s 39th straight on a grass court surface.
1991 – John McEnroe plays what ultimately is his final Davis Cup singles match, defeating Emilio Sanchez 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 as the United States closes out a 4-1 victory over Spain in the Davis Cup quarterfinal at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I.
1906 – The Doherty brothers – Reggie and Laurie – pair to defeat the American doubles team of Holcombe Ward and Raymond Little 3-6, 11-9, 9-7, 6-1 to clinch the Davis Cup title for Britain in the Davis Cup Challenge Round played at Wimbledon’s Worple Road courts. The win gives the Brits it fourth straight Davis Cup victory – and its second straight win over the United States in the Challenge Round. It also marks the end of the Davis Cup career of the popular Doherty brothers.
1985 – Pam Shriver needs only 43 minutes to defeat Betsy Nagelsen 6-1, 6-0 to win the singles final of the Edgbaston Cup in Birmingham, England. Nagelsen wins only 21 points in the entire match and says of Shriver, “She played much too well for me and there was little I could do about it.”
1980 – Venus Ebone Starr Williams, the sensational older Williams sister who, along with younger sister Serena, turn the tennis world on its head by taking their games from the urban streets of Compton, Calif., to Centre Court at Wimbledon, is born in Lynwood, Calif. Williams bursts on the scene as a 17-year-old wunderkind with beaded hair, reaching the final of the U.S. Open as an unseeded player ranked No. 66. Three years later, she is the champion of Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and singles and doubles gold medalist at the Sydney Olympics. In 2002, Williams becomes the first black player – man or woman – to be ranked No. 1 in the world. She and younger sister Serena play the first all sister major final since 1884 at the 2001 U.S. Open. During a stretch from the French Open in 2002 and the Australian Open in 2003, Venus reaches all four major singles finals, but loses all four finals to sister Serena.
1929 – Hall of Fame TV broadcaster, writer and tennis historian Arthur Worth “Bud” Collins is born in Lima, Ohio. Collins is best known for his work with the Boston Globe and with NBC Sports during its “Breakfast at Wimbledon” broadcasts from 1979 through 2007. An astute chronicler and tale teller of the history of the game, he is also known for his tennis encyclopedia – that most recent edition called The Bud Collins History of Tennis – not to mention his colorful wardrobe, featuring his trademark garish and bright-colored trousers.
1898 – In what became one of the most peculiar matches in the history of the U.S. Championships, Juliette Atkinson wins her third U.S. women’s singles title, coming back from a 3-5 final set deficit and saving five match points to defeat Marion Jones in the five-set women’s final 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 at the Philadelphia Cricket Club. During one of Jones’s match points, she loses the point as the ball in play strikes a stray ball on her side of the court. The New York Times describes the match’s conclusion in the following way; “The final set was the best of all. Five times during this set Miss Jones was only one point from the match and the championship but Miss Atkinson tied her and beat her out each time. In the ninth game of the set, a brilliant rally took place, which was spoiled by the ball in play hitting a ball lying in Miss Jones’s court. At that time Miss Jones needed but one point to win, and her supporters groaned as the chance faded away. The score at the time stood five games to three in favor of Miss Jones, but Miss Atkinson won the next four games and the match by fast playing. Both contestants were heartily congratulated for their plucky work.”
1939 – Don McNeill of Oklahoma City, Okla., upsets fellow American Bobby Riggs winning a stretch of 13 straight games in a 7-5, 6-0, 6-3 victory in the men’s singles final at the French Championships at Roland Garros. Says McNeill, “I never played better in my life.” Says Riggs, “Don just beat me.” The French Championships suffer a six-year hiatus following the 1939 edition of the event due to World War II and are not played again until 1946.
1911 – Hazel Hotchkiss wins her third straight U.S. women’s singles title, defeating Florence Sutton 8-10, 6-1, 9-7 at the Philadelphia Cricket Club in Philadelphia, Pa. The New York Times describes the match as one “replete with sensational features which kept the large crowd of spectators constantly on edge.” Hotchkiss institutes a tactic of lobbing at 7-7 in the third set that helped throw off the upset bid of Sutton, witnessed by approximately 1,000 fans. Hotchkiss also wins the mixed doubles title on this day, pairing with Wallace Johnson to defeat Edna Wildey and Herbert Tilden 6-4, 6-4.
2007 – Maria Sharapova’s semifinal match at the DFS Classic in Birmingham, England with Marion Bartoli is temporarily delayed twice when two spectators need medical assistance. A woman and a child fall down a staircase in the stadium, knocking the woman unconscious and requiring her to be flown via helicopter to a local hospital. Later, in another part of the stadium, a man faints. Sharapova wins the match with Bartoli 7-5, 6-0 and later in the day, loses the championship match to Jelena Jankovic 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.
Roger Federer continues the Sisyphusian task of winning a title in 2008 at the Estoril Open in Oeiras, Portugal. He’s off to a good start; R-Fed took out Olivier Rochus 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the first round.
This is the week I see him in human form. He’s finally with a coach again (training with Spanish legend Jose Higueras), he has a ginormous embedded pimple on his cheek, and his Nike clothes — while retro — are looking pretty plain.
And at last week’s Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Federer bowed out to Andy Roddick in the quarters with a 6-7 (4), 6-4, 3-6 loss. He wore a white/black ringer polo as part of an uber-striped ensemble.
All in the deets: the 9-inch Control shorts have pinstripes and a contrast-colored elastic back waist. And the mass-market version of Roger’s Sphere Polo has some subtle stripes and “Paris 2008” embroidered on the back neck.
(Estoril photos by AFP/Francisco Leong)
That turquoise makes yet another appearance, this time in the battle of the shorties, aka Olivier Rochus d. Arnaud Clement 6-4, 6-4 in the first round of the Masters Series Indian Wells.
Rochus’ polo from Sergio Tacchini has the Italian company’s staple — horizontal stripes. Clement, meanwhile stayed in white Lacoste. (What do you think of Olivier’s shirt? Tell us!)