open women

The Greatest Match of All-Time?

There has been much talk about the greatest match of all-time. The last two Wimbledon finals (Rafael Nadal defeating Roger Federer 9-7 in the fifth set in the 2008 final and Federer edging Andy Roddick 16-14 in the fifth  set in 2009) certainly are integral part of this conversion. One match that deserves consideration is the 1996 final of the year-end ATP Tour World Championship between Pete Sampras and Boris Becker. The summary of this match, as well as other events that also happened on November 24, are documented below in this book excerpt from ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com).

November 24

1996 – Pete Sampras and Boris Becker play what many say is one of the greatest matches of all-time, with Sampras fending off Becker and a raucous pro-German crowd 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4), 6-7 (11), 6-4 to win the year-end ATP Tour World Championship in Hannover, Germany. Sampras says the match is perhaps the most dramatic of his career. “This is one of the best matches I have ever been part of,” says Sampras. “This is what the game is all about. It’s not the money, it’s not all that, it’s the great matches.’

1996 – Steffi Graf needs five sets to defeat 16-year-old Martina Hingis 6-3, 4-6, 6-0, 4-6, 6-0 to capture the year-end Chase Championships at Madison Square Garden in New York. Graf wins despite twisting her knee in the seventh game of the fourth set. Hingis, herself, considered quitting the match after pulling her left thigh muscle in the fourth set.

1991 – Seventeen-year-old Monica Seles wins the year-end Virginia Slims Championships, defeating Martina Navratilova 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 in a rematch of the U.S. Open women’s singles final. The win ends one of the most lucrative years in the history of women’s tennis as Seles wins three major singles titles – the Australian Open, the French Open and the U.S. Open – as well as 10 tournament titles. She reaches the final of all16 tournament she enters and earns $2.457 million in prize money, a record at the time.

1999 – Andre Agassi defeats top rival Pete Sampras 6-2, 6-2 in round robin play at the year-end ATP Tour World Championships in Hannover, Germany. Playing only his third match after recovering from hip and back injuries, Sampras gives much of the credit to Agassi for his victory, ”I was a touch rusty, but it had a lot to do with Andre,” Sampras says. ”It’s not an excuse, he clearly outplayed me.” Says Agassi, “On my best day, I couldn’t beat Pete 2 and 2 if he’s playing what he’s capable of. I could have everything go well for me and I am not going to beat him 2 and 2.” Says Sampras of his rivalry with Agassi, “When we are both playing well, on top of our game, there’s a good chance we’ll get through these tough matches and meet in the finals or semis of the Slams. If that happens, we can definitely take this game to a whole new level, especially in the United States.”

1969 – Neale Fraser, the retired Australian tennis standout and current insurance salesman, is named captain of the Australian Davis Cup team. The 36-year-old Fraser replaces Australia’s legendary Harry Hopman, who steers the Australian Davis Cup team for 22 years – and 16 titles – since 1939. Fraser goes on to captain the Aussie Davis Cuppers for one more year than Hopman – a record 23 years – and guides Australia to four titles.

Clijsters Wins US Open Yet Again

NEW YORK – In a strange way, the US Open women’s singles champion was no surprise. After all, Kim Clijsters was the defending champion.

Yes, she shows up in New York City only every few years, but when she does she walks away with some of the top hardware.

Sunday night, Clijsters defeated Caroline Wozniacki 7-5 6-3 to capture her second Grand Slam tournament title, both coming on the hard courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

“I’m glad I was able to come back and defend my title,” Clijsters said.

OK, so Serena Williams won the women’s singles in 2008. The same Serena Williams who put on a nasty display of pique that resulted in a point penalty at match point in her semifinals against Clijsters.

But Clijsters won in her last appearance in Arthur Ashe Stadium, in 2005. And the last time she played the US Open before that, in 2003, she lost to fellow Belgian Justine Henin in the title match.

Now she becomes the first wild card entry to win a US Open title and the first to win a Grand Slam singles title since Goran Ivanisevic captured Wimbledon in 2001. And with her daughter Jada in the stands watching mommy play, Clijsters becomes the first mother to capture a Grand Slam singles since Evonne Goolagong Cawley won Wimbledon in 1980.

Winning the year’s final Grand Slam tournament, however, was not in Clijsters’ plans.

“I just wanted to start these three tournaments to get back into the rhythm of playing tennis and get used to the surroundings again,” said Clijsters, who earned USD $1.6 million to go along with the trophy. “So I have to thank the USTA for giving me the wild card to come back here.”

The men’s semifinals were also held Sunday in the rain-delayed US Open. Roger Federer, seeking his sixth straight men’s singles crown at America’s premier tennis event and his third straight Grand Slam title of the year, defeated Novak Djokovic 7-6 (3), 7-5 7-5 after Juan Martin del Potro dominated third-seeded Rafael Nadal 6-2 6-2 6-2. The men’s final will be played Monday afternoon.

After her 2005 US Open victory, Clijsters suffered an injury that forced her to miss the event in 2006. Then she retired in early 2007, got married and gave birth to a daughter.

It was earlier this year that she decided to end her retirement and return to the women’s tour. The US Open was her third tournament, enough now to give her a ranking.

Clijsters was the heavy favorite against the ninth-seeded Wozniacki. They forgot to tell Wozniacki that.

In a series of streaks, Clijsters, who beat sisters Serena and Venus Williams en route to the title match, took the first two games of the final before the 19-year-old Wozniacki, playing in her first Grand Slam tournament final, reeled off the next four games for a 4-2 lead. Clijsters, who had committed a slew of unforced errors, tightened her game considerably and began finding the lines with her shots, especially her inside-out forehand.

The former world number had the firepower, while Wozniacki played a steady game, keeping the ball in play, taking the pace off the ball. Yet when the young Dane served for the opening set at 5-4, Clijsters showed the form that has taken her to six Grand Slam tournament finals. She won the next two games to close out the set.

Wozniacki never gave up, her quickness along the baseline and spirited returning keeping her in the points. But Clijsters also has quickness, and the veteran had much more firepower in her ground strokes.

Clijsters finished with 36 winners and 34 unforced errors. The counter-punching Wozniacki had just 10 winners in the match.

Wozniacki had one advantage over Clijsters on this night. When she accepted the runner-up trophy, she thanked the crowd in three languages: English, Danish and Polish.

Several other titles were determined Sunday.

Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes won the men’s doubles, defeating Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles 3-6 6-3 6-2.

Seventeen-year-old Heather Watson of Great Britain defeated Russia’s Yana Buchina 6-4 6-1 to capture the junior girls title, while Australian Bernard Tomic stopped American Chase Buchanan 61 6-3.

Cheng Peng Hsieh of Chinese Taipei teamed with Marton Fucsovics of Hungary to win the junior boys doubles, edging Julien Obry and Adrien Puget of France 7-6 (5) 5-7 10-1 (match tiebreak). The girls doubles was won by Valeria Solovieva of Russia and Maryna Zanevska of Ukraine, 1-6 6-3 10-7 (match tiebreak) over Elena Bogdan of Romania and Noppawan Lertcheewakarn of Thailand.

In the wheelchair competition, Shingo Kunieda of Japan bested Maikel Scheffers of the Netherlands 6-0 6-0 for the men’s singles; and Esther Vergeer blanked fellow Dutch player Korie Homan 6-0 6-0 for the women’s singles.