open men

US Open Men’s Draw Analysis and Picks — Nalbandian, Fish, Nadal?

The 2010 US Open Men’s Draw was announced just hours ago, but there are already stories and predictions circulating the scene. Even though the qualifying tournament is still in progress, I’ll break down some of the potential matchups, great first- and second-rounders, and announce my picks, starting with the quarterfinalists!

First off, let’s take a look at where the top four seeds have landed in the draw. #4 Andy Murray finds himself in the top half with #1 Rafael Nadal, while #2 Roger Federer has #3 Novak Djokovic in his half of the draw.

Nadal’s 1/8

Nadal probably won’t face much opposition until the third round where he could meet Gilles Simon or Philipp Kohlschreiber. Feliciano Lopez and Ivan Ljubicic are then the only other seeded opponents left for Nadal to meet in the fourth round, but he hasn’t had much trouble with any of these players. Ljubicic has been pretty quiet this season having only had two matches on hard courts this summer. And while Lopez did make a run to the semis in Los Angeles last month, he continues to be wildly inconsistent having lost in the first round of both Toronto and Cincinnati.

Quarterfinalist: Rafael Nadal
Verdasco’s 1/8

Fernando Verdasco may find himself in trouble from the very first round, where he’ll meet his Wimbledon nemesis, Fabio Fognini. Fognini took out Verdasco in a tight four sets in the first round of Wimbledon this year — can he do it again in New York? If Verdasco does get past him, he’ll be rewarded with a newly resurgent David Nalbandian in the third round.

In the top half of this section, David Ferrer may also face a cruel first round opponent, Alexandr Dolgopolov. “Dolgo” is a fresh face and took Ferrer to three sets in Cincinnati just a couple of weeks ago. He has a unique playing style and could easily gain good rhythm that may take him to the third round. Here, he could face Ernests Gulbis, a player with a load of talent, but it’s anybody’s guess if his mental state is in the right drive to make a run here.

With Nalbandian’s first two rounds being fairly straight-forward wins, I see him overcoming both Verdasco and Gulbis in this section.

Quarterfinalist: David Nalbandian

Murray’s 1/8

Andy Murray’s first test may come in the third round when he faces #25 Stanislas Wawrinka. Wawrinka has recently changed coaches, but he may not even be a valid threat as he failed to reach a third round in any hard court tournament this summer. He may even find himself ousted in the second round by Yen-Hsun Lu, who defeated Andy Roddick at this year’s Wimbledon.

In the bottom half of this section, the most likely third rounder may be between Sam Querrey and Nicolas Almagro. Almagro, known for his clay court game, and Querrey, having another successful summer on the hard courts, should have a quick match with Querrey moving on. He will then face Murray but lose in a close four sets.

Quarterfinalist: Andy Murray

Berdych’s 1/8

Tomas Berdych comes in with a ‘slam high’ having made the semis in Roland Garros and finals in Wimbledon this year already. His first round against Michael Llodra could be a tricky one, as he plays a serve-and-volley game predominantly. Berdych likes hard fast balls and Llodra’s pace may throw him off. If Berdych survives he may meet another Frenchman Julien Benneteau or countryman Radek Stepanek in the third round.

The top half of this section may see a potential matchup between Mikhail Youzhny and John Isner. Isner is still questionable for the US Open due to an ankle injury he sustained in Cincinnati two weeks ago. If he is fully healed, he could be facing Berdych in the fourth round, but if not, it will be Mikhail Youzhny. Either way, this section’s quarterfinalist is set.

Quarterfinalist: Tomas Berdych

Davydenko’s 1/8

Nikolay Davydenko usually keeps a low profile while still winning, so it should be no surprise he is the #6 seed. Somehow, it still perplexes me he has managed to stay this high in the rankings. Davydenko’s first tough encounter may be as early as the second round, where he could face Richard Gasquet and his elegant one-handed backhand. Thomas Bellucci, with his steady results and great runs in the last two slams, could face Davydenko in the third round and come out victorious.

The bottom half of this section may be the biggest draw for fans. Andy Roddick will most likely take on Janko Tipsarevic in the second round. Tipsarevic has taken players (including Roger Federer) deep into the fifth set in past slams and he could easily tire a player like Andy out, who is still recovering from mono. The winner will get the treat to play the skilled acrobat, Gael Monfils in the third round. I’m optimistic with my choice for this section, but here it is.

Quarterfinalist: Andy Roddick

Djokovic’s 1/8

This section of the draw may be the most interesting. Novak Djokovic is a clear favorite, or is he? He complains of asthma-like lung problems in the heat and humidity, so he may not fare as well this year as in the past. He’ll quickly be challenged by his comrade and friend Viktor Troicki in the first round. If he survives, he’ll face Philipp Petzschner in the second round. Petzschner is a skilled player, having not only hoisted the Wimbledon doubles trophy this year, but also took Rafael Nadal to five sets as well at the same tournament. The only positive is that the third round opponent may be a breather, as potentials may be either James Blake or Juan Monaco.

The top half of this section boasts a potentially great matchup in the third round between Marcos Baghdatis and Mardy Fish. Both have had breakthrough summers and are near the top of the list in hard court wins on the year. For this to happen though, Baghdatis must overcome Arnaud Clement in the first round and probably Robby Ginepri in the second round. Fish, on the other hand, should have no trouble in his first two rounds. While Baghdatis has played five tournaments in a row coming into the US Open, Fish took a smart break after Cincinnati and should be ready to overtake Baghdatis. Fish will come in much fresher than Djokovic into their fourth round encounter, and while it’ll go five sets, the winner will be clear.

Quarterfinalist: Mardy Fish

Soderling’s 1/8

In the biggest cakewalk of the draw, Soderling has five qualifiers in his section, with one of them being his first round opponent. Imagine to get through three grueling rounds in qualifying only to find out you’re playing the world #5 in your first main draw round. Ouch! Soderling should breeze through Taylor Dent in the second round and not even be challenged in the third round by Fernando Gonzalez who is still recovering from injury.

Marin Cilic is Soderling’s greatest threat in the fourth round. But he must first overcome Evgeny Korolev in the second round and possibly Australian Carsten Ball in the third. Although, Korolev has had great results in the warmup tournament in New Haven so we could see an upset as early as the second round here.

Quarterfinalist: Robin Soderling

Federer’s 1/8

And in the second biggest cakewalk of the draw, Roger Federer may not be challeneged until the third round where he faces Lleyton Hewitt. Hewitt retired with an injury several weeks ago in Washington, DC and has recently split with his coach. Will this change of events take over Hewitt or will he put up a great fight and possibly overcome the champion?

In the top half of this section, we see Jurgen Melzer taking on Dmitry Tursunov, a player who has a protected ranking and decided to enter the US Open under that exemption. Melzer could then face tough young American Ryan Sweeting in the second round and veteran Juan Carlos Ferrero in the third. The match then between Melzer and Federer should be as straight forward as it was in Wimbledon this year.

Quarterfinalist: Roger Federer

Now, that my quarterfinalist picks are in order, let’s quickly breakdown my predictions to the semifinals!

Quarterfinal #1: Rafael Nadal d. David Nalbandian

Nadal has pretty much been unstoppable this season. He’s healthy and happy: no “broken abdominals” or knees, no familial problems and he finely-tuned his schedule to allow himself enough rest and recovery during the summer. Although Nalbandian is a confident competitor and his angles may blow some players off the court, he simply won’t last in a five-setter in the heat against Nadal.

Quarterfinal #2: Andy Murray d. Tomas Berdych

Berdych has a strong game and is a very powerful competitor if his mental stamina holds up. Andy Murray is known to complain and simply lose a match because of his own temper. It’s a tough draw between the two opponents, but Murray’s footwork will outlast Berych’s serve. Get ready for an even more grueling battle if Murray decides to be aggressive in his tactics.

Quarterfinal #3: Mardy Fish d. Andy Roddick

Fish has never been more fit and Roddick is coming off of a tough summer. On top of that, Fish has won their last two encounters within the last couple of months. Many are calling Fish the “darkhorse” this year and I’m jumping on the bandwagon. As much as Roddick has stayed consistent in his rankings the last six years, his results haven’t given much inspiration lately.

Quarterfinal #4: Roger Federer d. Robin Soderling

This is another tough one to call, but Soderling’s lackluster summer will catch up with him in New York and he’ll see himself crash out to Federer in a tough four sets. Although Soderling’s game is more suited to the hard courts, you can’t discount Federer’s run here the last six years. Elegance and precision will overcome power and grit.

In the semifinals, the matchups between both Nadal vs. Murray and Fish vs. Federer will be epic performances as each player could beat any other on any given day. It’s hard to predict the winner of each and I’ll leave that up to you. But for now, my vote is with Rafael Nadal, 2010 US Open Champion. It’s about time to add another flame to his Babolat bag and Nike shoes.

Happy watching and cheering!

FEDERER-MURRAY TIE-BREAKER HISTORY; BRYANS MAKE HISTORY

Roger Federer and Andy Murray’s third-set tie-breaker in their 2010 Australian Open men’s final was second-longest tie-breaker ever played in major men’s final – only the epic Bjorn Borg-John McEnroe 32-point “Battle of 18-16” tie-breaker 30 years ago in the 1980 Wimbledon final lasting longer. Federer saved off five set points in the third-set tie-breaker in his 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (13-11) victory. The five longest tie-breakers ever in men’s singles finals at Grand Slam tournaments are as follows;

Wimbledon 1980: Bjorn Borg def. John McEnroe 1-6 7-5 6-3 6-7(16) 8-6… Mac saved 7 match points (5 in TB)

Australian Open 2010: Roger Federer def. Andy Murray 6-3 6-4 7-6(11)… Fed saved 5 set points in TB

Wimbledon 2000: Pete Sampras def. Patrick Rafter 6-7(10) 7-6(5) 6-4 6-2… Pat saved 2 set points in TB

US Open 1976: Jimmy Connors def. Bjorn Borg 6-4 3-6 7-6(9) 6-4… Jimmy saved 4 set points in TB

Wimbledon 1998: Pete Sampras def. Goran Ivanisevic 6-7(2) 7-6(9) 6-4 3-6 6-2… Pete saved 2 set points in TB

The first two sets were more one-sided than the score line would suggest, especially the second set when Federer broke Murray’s serve only once, despite a 40-15 and 40-0 lead in two other service games of the Brit. In the third set, Murray broke Federer’s serve for the second time in the match (first one at 0:2 in the first set) and led 5:2, later was two points away from taking the set at 5:3 on serve. In the tie-breaker, Murray had five set points (6:4, 6:5, 7:6, 9:8, 11:10) and saved two match points, at 9:10 in a spectacular way with a passing-shot off of Federer’s drop shot. The Swiss maestro converted his third match point to improve his all-time record 16 Grand Slam triumphs in singles. Federer won fourth Australian Open (2004, 2006-2007) what gives him second place Down Under right after Roy Emerson, who won six times between 1961 and 1967. For Murray, it was the longest tie-break of his pro career, while Federer won three longer tie-breaks (14-12 against Martin Verkerk, 16-14 against David Ferrer and a record 20-18 against Marat Safin).

“I always knew it was going to be a very intense match,” said Federer. “I’m happy I was able to play so aggressively and patiently at the same time because that’s what you got to be against Murray.”

* Murray is now the eighth player in the Open Era with a 0-2 record in Grand Slam finals joining two-time Aussie Open finalist Steve Denton, Wimbledon and Aussie Open finalist Kevin Curren, U.S. and Australian finalist Miloslav Mecir, U.S. and Wimbledon finalist Cedric Pioline, U.S. and Australian finalist Todd Martin, two-time French finalist Alex Corretja and Wimbledon and U.S. Open finalist Mark Philippoussis. There is a strong analogy between Murray, Mecir and Pioline as only these three players have not won a set in a major final, and all three reached finals at two different majors and lost to the same best player on both occasions at three different periods of time:

1986 US Open: Ivan Lendl (1) def. Mecir (16) 6-4 6-2 6-0
1989 Australian Open: Lendl (2) def. Mecir (9) 6-2 6-2 6-2

1993 US Open: Pete Sampras (1) def. Pioline (16) 6-4 6-4 6-3
1997 Wimbledon: Sampras (1) def. Pioline 6-4 6-2 6-4

2008 US Open: Federer (2) def. Murray (6) 6-2 7-5 6-2
2010 Australian Open: Federer (1) def. Murray (5) 6-3 6-4 7-6(11)

“Tonight’s match was a lot closer than the one at Flushing Meadows,” said Murray, comparing his first and second major finals. “I had a chance at the beginning of the match, and I had chances at the end of the match.

* In doubles, the Bryan brothers beat Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3 in their record-breaking 16th career major final as a team. The Bryans eclipsed Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde – the Woodies – who reached 15 major finals from 1992 to 2000, according to THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS book ($35.95, New Chapter Press, www.NewChapterMedia.com.) The title was the eighth major for the American identical twins – their fourth in Australia – and leave them four shy of equaling the record set by John Newcombe and Tony Roche for most majors won by a team with 12 titles (four Australian, two French, five Wimbledon and one U.S. title won from 1965 to 1976). Woodbridge and Woodforde won the most major doubles titles by a team in the Open Era with 11 titles (two Australian, one French, six Wimbledon and two U.S. titles).

The Bryans were close to clinch the match in straight sets but wasted a 5:2 lead in the tie-break. The Americans have won four Australian Open titles, which is an Open Era record for a team. The all-time record belongs to Adrian Quist and John Bromwich, who won the Australian title eight times between1938-1950.

* Leander Paes won his 11th career major title when he paired with Cara Black to win the mixed doubles final with a 7-5, 6-3 decision over the Russian-Czech duo of Ekaterina Makarova and Jaroslav Levinsky. Paes won his fifth mixed doubles title in a major – two each with both Black and Martina Navratilova and once with Lisa Raymond. He won six majors in men’s doubles.

* Murray avenged his loss to Marin Cilic from last year’s U.S. Open by defeating his Croatian opponent 3-6 6-4 6-4 6-2 in the Australian Open semifinals. It was the third meeting between the two players in the last four majors but two previous occurred in the fourth round: Murray won in straight sets in Paris, while Cilic did the same thing to Murray in New York, when Murray was seeded No. 2. In Australia this year, the Brit won 10 of last 13 games in the match. “This is the best I’ve played at a Slam,” said Murray. “Obviously the match against Rafa [Nadal] was great. Tonight, the majority of the match was great, as well. Physically I’m going to be fresh for the final. You know, [it] just comes down to who plays the better tennis on the day. It’s my job to do that.”

* Federer did not face break point in his 88-minute 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semifinals. Tsonga had an identical score line (116 minutes) when he won his semifinal two years ago against Rafael Nadal.

* Cilic was the first Croatian to ever reach the semifinals of the Australian Open. Other Croats who reached the quarterfinals in Melbourne were Goran Ivanisevic (1989, 94, 97), Goran Prpic (1991) and Ivan Ljubicic (2006). Cilic was the fifth player in the Open era to win three five-setters en route to the semifinal in Melbourne, after Colin Dibley (1979), Steve Denton (1981), Andre Agassi (1996) and Nicolas Escude (1998). Nicolas Lapentti needed four five-setters to advance to the semis in Australian in 1999.

Federer’s Last US Open Loss

Roger Federer’s reign as US Open champion is over. The Swiss maestro’s quest to win a sixth straight US Open men’s singles title came to an end Monday as Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro defeated the world No. 1 3-6, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2 in the championship match. “Delpo” and David Nalbandian account for “Argentine book-ends” as the two countrymen combined to be the only two players to beat Federer at the US Open since 2003 – Federer winning 40-straight matches between losing to Nalbandian in the round of 16 of the 2003 US Open and losing to del Potro in the 2009 US Open final. Rene Stauffer, in his book THE ROGER FEDERER STORY: QUEST FOR PERFECTION ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com) discusses Roger’s loss to Nalbandian in 2003, when Roger was first on the verge of becoming the No. 1 player in the world, in this exclusive book excerpt below.

The US Open, the final Grand Slam tournament of the year, presented another opportunity for him to seize the top spot. As the tournament be­gan, Federer seemed in the best position to capture the No. 1 ranking as he was the player with the least amount of points to defend from the previ­ous year among the contenders for the No. 1 ranking. He survived the first three rounds without being seriously challenged, but in the round of 16, once again, his opponent was none other than Nalbandian.

Media and tennis insiders tagged the Argentinean as the arch-nemisis of Federer. The two players played four times as professionals, with Nalbandian winning all four times. Federer, however, rejected the idea that Nalbandian was the player he feared the most.

“That bothers me because I’ve never said that and I don’t see it that way either,” he told reporters almost defiantly in New York. “I’ve never lost to him decisively and I’ve even beaten him in the juniors.”

The second week of the US Open became an ordeal as rain created a sched­uling chaos. The round of 16 matches that were scheduled for the second Tuesday of the event did not start until 3 pm on Thursday. After four hours of play and two more interruptions due to rain, Federer had—for the fifth time in five professional matches—succumbed to Nalbandian 3-6, 7-6 (1), 6-4, 6-3. The Argentinean was still a mystery to him.

“I find it difficult understanding why I take the lead or fall behind,” Federer said after the loss. “I knew that I had to play aggressively. But I just don’t know how much I should risk when serving against him. He gets to many balls quickly and is great at reading my game. I don’t know what to make of him.” Federer could only watch from a distance as Nalbandian reached the semifinals, where he lost a heart-breaking five-setter to Roddick after leading two-sets-to-love and holding a match point. Roddick went on to win the championship, defeating Juan Carlos Ferrero, who assumed the No. 1 ranking by virtue of his runner-up showing. The American wept after his first Grand Slam title just as Federer had two months earlier at Wimbledon. Roddick won the tournaments in Montreal and Cincinnati earlier in the summer and moved to No. 2 in the world rankings.

Federer Serves Bagels To Hewitt At 2004 US Open

Roger Federer is looking for his sixth straight US Open men’s singles title at the 2009. The first of his five straight titles in New York came in 2004 when he defeated Lleyton Hewitt, his third-round opponent in 2009, in the final. Rene Stauffer, the author of the Federer biography THE ROGER FEDERER STORY: QUEST FOR PERFECTION ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com) details the 2004 US Open final between Federer and Hewitt in his celebrated tome. The brief book excerpt is seen below…

Awaiting him in the final was another of his past nemeses, Lleyton Hewitt, the 2001 US Open champion. The Australian skipped the Olympic Games, but won the two ATP tournaments played concurrently to the Olympics in Washington, D.C. and in Long Island. Entering his match with Federer, he won his last 16 matches and did not surrender a set in his six-match run to the final.

It only took 17 minutes for Federer to hand Hewitt his first lost set of the tournament, losing only five points in a near perfect execution of tennis. When Hewitt won his first game of the match after Federer led 6-0, 2-0, the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium gave him a standing ovation. Federer contin­ued to be the much stronger player, until a lapse of concentration and a run of errors and missed serves allowed Hewitt to win four straight games after trailing 2-5 in the second set.

“If he had managed to win the second set, it would have turned out to be an entirely different match,” Federer said. “I forced myself to keep positive. I said to myself that I only got this break because I was playing against the wind and I was serving with old balls. When I changed sides, everything actually did go easier.”

Federer held serve at 5-6 to force the tiebreak and won that 7-3. The two-set lead broke Hewitt’s resistance and Federer plowed through the final set 6-0 to win his first US Open championship.

“First I was surprised that Lleyton was no longer getting to the ball,” Federer said of his moment of victory. “Then I was suddenly lying on my back, look­ing into the sky at the lights of the stadium. I thought, ‘That’s unbelievable.’ Once again I was close to tears.”

Resurgent Taylor Dent, NCAA Champion Devin Britton, USTA Boys’ 18s National Champion Chase Buchanan Among US Open Wild Card Recipients

FLUSHING, N.Y., August 19, 2009 – The USTA announced today that a talented group of Americans consisting of Devin Britton (Jackson, Miss.),Chase Buchanan (New Albany, Ohio),Taylor Dent (Newport Beach, Calif.),Brendan Evans (Key Biscayne, Fla.), Jesse Levine (Boca Raton, Fla.) and Rajeev Ram (Carmel, Ind.), along with two international players including Australian Chris Guccione and a player to be named by the French Tennis Association, have been awarded men’s singles main draw wild card entries into the 2009 US Open Tennis Championships.  The 2009 US Open will be played August 31 – September 13 at the USTA Billie Jean King NationalTennis Center in Flushing, N.Y.

Both the men’s and women’s US Open singles champions will earn $1.6 million with the ability to earn an additional $1 million in bonus prize money (for a total potential payout of $2.6 million) based on their performance in the 2009 Olympus US Open Series.  In addition, both US Open singles champions will receive a new 2010 Lexus IS Convertible.

Britton, 18, of Jackson, Miss., burst onto the tennis scene by reaching the 2008 US Open boys’ final as a qualifier.  After winning the doubles title at the Dunlop Orange Bowl in December, he enrolled at the University of Mississippi, where in May he became the youngest man ever to win the NCAA Division I singles title.  Britton then returned to junior competition this summer, sweeping the singles and doubles titles at Roehampton, a Wimbledon warm-up, and then advancing to the semifinals of the Wimbledon juniors.  He is currently No. 14 in the ITF World Junior Rankings.

Buchanan, 18, of New Albany, Ohio, earned his wild card into the 2009 US Open main draw by winning the USTA Boys’ 18s National Championships on Sunday.  Last year, he won the Easter Bowl singles title and the USTA Boys’ 18s doubles title (earning a wild card into the 2008 US Open men’s doubles main draw with partner Ryan Harrison), and peaked at No. 6 in the ITF World Junior Rankings after reaching the singles quarterfinals and the doubles final at the Dunlop Orange Bowl.  Buchanan went 17-7 (11-4 in singles) to help lead the Ohio State Buckeyes to the 2009 NCAA team final as a freshman.

Dent, 28, of Newport Beach, Calif., returned to the ATP World Tour briefly in 2008 after three back surgeries that forced him to miss two years and nearly ended his career.  This year, he played in the main draw at the 2009 Australian Open, advanced to the fourth round in Miami and qualified for Wimbledon.  Dent finished in the year-end Top 35 every year from 2003-05 and climbed to a career-high No. 21 in 2005.  He advanced to the bronze medal match at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, and was a member of the U.S. Davis Cup team and reached the round of 16 at the US Open in 2003.

Evans, 23, of Key Biscayne, Fla., is currently ranked a career-high No. 122.  He recently reached the quarterfinals at the ATP World Tour event in Newport, R.I.  Also this year, Evans has won Challengers in Noumea, New Caledonia, and Nottingham, England, and he reached the final at the $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Dallas and qualified for the ATP World Tour event in Indian Wells.  In 2004, Evans and fellow American Scott Oudsema teamed to win three of the four Grand Slam junior doubles titles, including the US Open.

Levine, 21, of Boca Raton, Fla., broke into the Top 100 earlier this year and is currently ranked No. 112.  He had his best Grand Slam showing at Wimbledon this summer, upsetting 14th-seeded Marat Safin and reaching the third round as a qualifier.  In 2008, Levine was a quarterfinalist at Pilot Pen in New Haven,Conn., an Olympus US Open Series event, and reached the second round at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon.  He played one year of college tennis, going 24-1 as a freshman at the University of Florida in 2007

Ram, 25, of Carmel, Ind., is currently ranked No. 121.  He won his first ATP World Tour title this summer at the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships, in Newport, R.I., after receiving a “lucky loser” spot into the main draw, defeating Sam Querrey in the final and also winning the doubles title.  On the USTA Pro Circuit, he has won 20 doubles titles and two singles titles.  Ram played one semester at the University of Illinois in 2003 and won the NCAA doubles title.

Guccione, 24, of Australia, is ranked No. 124 and received his wild card through a reciprocal agreement with Tennis Australia, which will grant a men’s main draw wild card into the 2010 Australian Open to a player designated by the USTA.  On this year’s USTA Pro Circuit, he swept the singles and doubles titles at the $75,000 Challenger event in Aptos, Calif.

An eighth player will also receive a main draw wild card through a reciprocal agreement with the French Tennis Federation, which granted a men’s draw wild card at the 2009 French Open to John Isner. (Isner was forced to withdraw due to illness.)

In addition to the eight US Open men’s singles main draw wild cards, the USTA also announced the nine men who have been awarded wild card entries into the US Open Qualifying Tournament, which will be held August 25-28 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Players receiving US Open qualifying wild cards are: Lester Cook (25, Sherman Oaks, Calif.), 2008 US Open boys’ singles champion Grigor Dimitrov (18, Bulgaria), Alexander Domijan (17, Wesley Chapel, Fla.), Ryan Harrison (17, Bradenton, Fla.), Scoville Jenkins (turns 23 on Sunday, Atlanta), 2009 USTA Boys’ 18s runner-up Ryan Lipman (18, Nashville, Tenn.), Tim Smyczek (21, Milwaukee, Wis.), Blake Strode (22, St. Louis) and Michael Venus (21, Orlando, Fla.).  Strode and Venus are both members of the 2009 USTA Summer Collegiate Team.

The 2009 US Open will be held Monday, August 31 through Sunday, September 13.  Tickets for the 2009 US Open can be purchased four ways: 1) at usopen.org; 2) by calling Ticketmaster at 1-866­OPEN-TIX; 3) at all Ticketmaster outlets; or 4) at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center box office.  American Express is the Official Card of the US Open.

Win a Chance to Serve for $1 Million on National TV!

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (August 18, 2009) — Ever dream of serving for the big prize, in front of thousands of fans? You can live your dream through a tennis-industry-wide sweepstakes called “Racket UP, America!”

If you’re the lucky winner, you’ll receive a trip to New York City to attend the “BNP Paribas Showdown for the Billie Jean King Cup” in Madison Square Garden on March 1, which will feature the top women tennis players in the world. In the middle of it all, you’ll step up to the line and hit a serve to a target that could make you a millionaire.

In the unique promotion, anyone who buys a new tennis racket—of any brand, and at any tennis retailer or pro shop—through Sept. 30, 2009, could win the chance to serve for $1 million. Consumers simply register their racket purchase at playtennis.com/million. Other prizes include a trip for two to the 2010 US Open Men’s Singles and Women’s Doubles finals and 20 $500 tennis merchandise prize packs. (Free entry available, see playtennis.com/million for official rules and details.)

The BNP Paribas Showdown on March 1, which is part of “Tennis Night in America,” will bring together four of the world’s best women pros who are 2009 Grand Slam winners or No. 1 players, vying for $1.2 million in prize money and the Billie Jean King Cup. Serena Williams is the defending champion, and so far, she and Svetlana Kuznetsova have qualified for the Madison Square Garden event. Williams won the 2009 Australian Open and Wimbledon tournaments; Kuznetsova won this year’s French Open. (For more on the BNP Paribas Showdown, visit www.stargamesinc.com/bnpparibasshowdown.html.)

The Showdown’s format will be two one-set semifinals followed by a best-of-three-set final. The “Racket UP, America!” sweepstakes winner will hit the potential million-dollar serve between the second semifinal and the final, in front of the MSG crowd and a television audience. The winner also will meet tennis legends Billie Jean King and Ivan Lendl, along with other tennis champions.

“We are thrilled to be able to have the ‘Racket UP, America!’ sweepstakes winner go for a million dollars at the BNP Paribas Showdown,” says Jerry Solomon, president of StarGames, which is partnering with Madison Square Garden to produce the event. “This is what Tennis Night in America is all about—a real celebration of tennis. We’re happy to help bring attention to such a worthwhile industry-wide promotion.”

“‘Racket Up, America!” is a collaborative effort by the tennis industry designed to generate excitement and interest in the sport while helping to stimulate retail sales. “Tennis is a fun, social, healthy, lifelong sport,” says Jon Muir, president of the Tennis Industry Association, which is spearheading the promotion. “We’ve been thrilled that over the last eight years, tennis participation has grown 43 percent, far outpacing all other traditional sports, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.”

You can follow “Racket Up, America!” on Twitter and Facebook. More information, including official rules and details, is at playtennis.com/million.

What Really Happened During The 1983 U.S. Open Final

So what really happened during the 1983 U.S. Open men’s singles final? As you may recall, Jimmy Connors, playing in his seventh – and final – U.S. Open singles final, was hobbled during his match with Ivan Lendl with major foot problems and left the court in the third set after with what he later described as a case of diarrhea. Was Connors lying?

Donald Dell, the tennis agent supreme, founder of ProServ (now BEST) and Connors agent at the time, tells the REAL story behind the curious events that unfolded as Connors won his record fifth Open title in his entertaining and useful new book called NEVER MAKE THE FIRST OFFER (Portfolio Books, $25.95 click here to pre-order).

This Saturday in Newport, R.I., Dell will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, along with Monica Seles, Andres Gimeno and Dr. Robert “Whirlwind” Johnson.

Connors was diagnosed with a blood blisters and the morning of the Open final and could not run or practice. He said he was going to default the final to Lendl. Dell, who will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame this week in Newport, R.I., wrote “The growth of tennis really started to plateau, and I could see this non-finals really hurting the game.” So, the day of the final, Dell got in touch with a trainer with the New York Jets who recommended Connors take a shot of xylocaine, a sort of “souped-up novacaine.” Dell presented Connors with this option and he agreed not to forfeit the final to Lendl. The only problem with the shot was that it only lasted about 90 minutes before the effects would wear off and the pain would return. Should the match go longer than 90 minutes, Connors had to somehow get off the court so the trainer could administer another pain-killing shot. Players are authorized to leave the court for one bathroom break during a match, so when the pain-killer would begin to wear off, Dell orchestrated for Connors to take a bathroom break, where the trainer would be secretly hiding in the bathroom to administer another pain-killing shot. After Connors won the first set 6-3, he lost the second set 6-7, and at 2-1 in the third set, he began to limp noticeably on court. Dell signaled for the trainer to make his secret move to the bathroom to wait for Connors. While Lendl protested in vain that Connors should not receive medical treatment, no tournament officials followed Connors off-court into the bathroom. Another shot was administered and Connors went on to beat Lendl 6-3, 6-7, 7-5, 6-0 to win his fifth Open title.

Wrote Dell, “Afterward the official doctor for the Open came up to me and said “Donald, I don’t know what you did, and I don’t want to know,” I said, “If that’s the way you feel, fine. But I can live with what I did.”

Connors, in his post match press conference, was asked why he left the court, and answered “I had a horrible attack of diarrhea.”

Now that’s a genuine behind-the-scenes story.

In addition to other fascinating stories and anecdotes, NEVER MAKE THE FIRST OFFER is an excellent read and must-have for tennis and sports business enthusiasts.