Peng Shuai

Wimbledon Rewind: Thoughts on Marion Bartoli’s Magical Fortnight, and More

Six of the ten Wimbledon finalists took to Centre Court on Saturday, spearheaded by a first-time women’s champion in singles.

Stage fright:  Since the start of 2010, the WTA has produced several first-time major finalists.  Some have dazzled in their debuts, such as Francesca Schiavone at Roland Garros 2010, Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon 2011, and Victoria Azarenka at the Australian Open 2012.  Others have competed bravely despite falling short, such as Li Na at the Australian Open 2011 and Sara Errani at Roland Garros 2012.  Still others have crumbled under the stress of the moment, and here Sabine Lisicki recalled Vera Zvonareva’s two major finals in 2010 as well as Samantha Stosur’s ill-fated Roland Garros attempt that year.  In an embarrassingly one-sided final, Lisicki held her formidable serve only once until she trailed 1-5 in the second set.  One hardly recognized the woman who had looked so bulletproof at key moments against world No. 1 Serena Williams and world No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska.

Straight down the line:  Pause for a moment to think about this fact:  Marion Bartoli won the Wimbledon title without losing a set or playing a tiebreak in the tournament.  The wackiest major in recent memory found a fittingly wacky champion in one of the WTA’s most eccentric players.  Detractors will note that world No. 15 Bartoli did not face a single top-16 seed en route to the title, extremely rare at a major.  But she could defeat only the players placed in front of her, which she did with gusto.  Bartoli lost eight total games in the semifinal and final, assuring that the words “Wimbledon champion” will stand in front of her name forever.

Greatest since Seles:  Bartoli became the first French player of either gender to win a major title in singles since Amelie Mauresmo captured the Venus Rosewater Dish in 2006.  More intriguingly, she became the first woman with two-handed groundstrokes on both sides to win a major since Monica Seles in 1996.  One wonders whether more tennis parents and coaches will start to think seriously about encouraging young players to experiment with a double-fisted game.  That might not be a bad development from the viewpoint of fans.  Bartoli’s double-fisted lasers intrigue with their distinctive angles, despite their unaesthetic appearance.

Walter vindicated:  Earlier this spring, Bartoli served a deluge of double faults in a first-round loss to Coco Vandeweghe in Monterrey.  She had attempted to part ways from her equally eccentric father, Walter, only to find that she still needed his guidance.  Within a few short months of his return, Bartoli secured the defining achievement of her career.  One need not like the often overbearing Walter, or his methods, but his daughter is clearly a better player with him than without him.

Greatest since Graf:  Lisicki became the first German woman to reach a major final since Steffi Graf in 1999.  That fact might come as a surprise, considering the quantity of tennis talent that Germany has produced since then.  Andrea Petkovic and Angelique Kerber have reached the top ten, while Julia Goerges has scored some notable upsets.  Yet none of them has done what Lisicki has, a tribute to the finalist’s raw firepower and ability to overcome injury upon injury.  One wonders whether Petkovic in particular will take heart from seeing Lisicki in the Wimbledon final as she battles her own injury woes.

The grass is greener:  In her last four Wimbledon appearances, Lisicki has recorded a runner-up appearance, a semifinal, and two quarterfinals.  She has not reached the quarterfinals at any other major in her career.  While the grass suits her game more than any other surface, Lisicki has the talent to succeed elsewhere as well.  For example, the fast court at the US Open should suit her serve.  Will she remain a snake in the grass, or can she capitalize on this success to become a consistent threat?

Rankings collateral:  Into the top eight with her title, Bartoli will start receiving more favorable draws in the coming months.  If she avoids a post-breakthrough hangover, she will have plenty of chances to consolidate her ranking in North America, where she usually excels.

Holding all the cards:  Two other finals unfolded on Centre Court today, both more competitive than the marquee match.  In the first of those, Bob and Mike Bryan claimed the men’s doubles title as they rallied from losing the first set to Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo.  This victory not only brought the Bryans their third Wimbledon but made them the first doubles team ever to hold all of the four major titles and the Olympic gold medal simultaneously.  They stand within a US Open title of the first calendar Slam in the history of men’s doubles.

Tennis diplomacy:  In a women’s doubles draw almost as riddled with upsets as singles, eighth seeds Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai prevailed in straight sets over the Australian duo of Casey Dellacqua and the 17-year-old Ashleigh Barty.  The champions did not face a seeded opponent until the final, where the joint triumph of Chinese Taipei citizen Hsieh and People’s Republic citizen Peng illustrated how tennis can overcome rigid national boundaries.

Question of the day:  Where does Bartoli’s triumph rank among surprise title runs in the WTA?  I would rate it as more surprising than Samantha Stosur at the 2011 US Open but less surprising than Francesca Schiavone at Roland Garros 2010.

 

Wimbledon Rewind: Thoughts on the Men’s Semifinals

We can anticipate a blockbuster meeting between two members of the Big Four in the Wimbledon final after all.  The route getting there took some intriguing twists and turns, however.  Here are some reactions to Friday’s action.

That was…expected:  For the seventh time in ten years, the Wimbledon final will feature the top two men in the world.  When Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal tumbled by the first Wednesday, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray became overwhelming favorites to reach the second Sunday.  Credit to them for taking care of business and ensuring a worthy climax to the tournament.

But also better than expected:  With Djokovic’s semifinal opponent injured and Murray’s semifinal opponent highly inexperienced, two routs could have unfolded on Friday.  Instead, a captivated crowd saw more than seven and a half hours of high-quality tennis, courtesy of underdogs who showed determination and resilience.  Credit to Juan Martin Del Potro and Jerzy Janowicz for battling the favorites bravely.

Marathon man:  The world No. 1 played the longest major final ever last year at the Australian Open, and this year he played the longest semifinal in Wimbledon history.  Novak Djokovic’s super fitness and physical style of play predispose him toward these epics, as do the ebbs and flows that still characterize his emotions.  His five-set victory over Del Potro lasted 4 hours and 43 minutes, just five minutes shorter than the Federer-Nadal classic in 2008 and longer than the Federer-Roddick thriller in 2009.

The march of grass revenge continues:  Having defeated his 2009 Wimbledon nemesis in the fourth round and 2010 Wimbledon nemesis in the quarterfinals, Djokovic avenged his loss on grass to Del Potro in the bronze-medal match of the 2012 Olympics.  In the final, he will get a crack at the man who denied him a chance at the gold medal there.

That was then, this is now:  Djokovic’s Wimbledon semifinal followed almost exactly the opposite pattern of his Roland Garros semifinal.  He took an early lead, let it get away, took another lead, let that get away in a fourth-set tiebreak, but then closed the fifth set in style by winning his opponent’s last service game.  With just a month between those memorable matches, the similar situation combined with the contrasting result should give him even more confidence for the final.

E for effort:  Deep in the fourth set, Del Potro cracked an unthinkable 120-mph forehand, a speed comparable to the average first serves of many players.  He also saved two match points in the fourth-set tiebreak before forcing a final set.  The Tower of Tandil came to play despite a painful knee injury, and he willed himself to retrieve more balls and survive longer in rallies than anyone could have asked of him.  Fans could see why he had not lost a set en route to the semifinal, where he made his most impressive statement at a major since winning the 2009 US Open.

But Z for zero:  On the other hand, Del Potro remains winless against the Big Four of Djokovic, Murray, Nadal, and Federer at majors since the start of 2010, with at least one loss at each major.  He has won at least one set in four of those six losses, but an 0-6 record is what it is.  Players don’t get points or trophies for “almost” in this cruel sport.

Murray’s mulligan:  For the second time, Andy Murray reached the final at consecutive majors.   The previous do-over did not end well when he lost the 2011 Australian Open final to Djokovic in straight sets, a year after falling to Federer.  Losing last year’s final at his home major likely taught the Scot some valuable lessons that he can apply to his second chance, though, and he came much closer in his first attempt than he did in Melbourne.  One can expect Murray to shed tears for one reason or another on Sunday, and the British fans will do their best to facilitate a happier ending to the remake.

Guru of grass:  Great Britain should count itself fortunate in producing not only a remarkable champion in Murray but one suited to succeed at his home major.  Murray has won 17 straight matches and reached four consecutive finals on grass, including the Olympics gold medal and the Queens Club title earlier this month.  He will hold the surface advantage against Djokovic on Sunday with his superior first serve and stronger forecourt skills.

Contrasting paths:  Just as in the women’s draw, one finalist has survived a significantly more difficult route than the other.  Like Lisicki, Djokovic has halted three top-15 opponents en route to the final, including two top-eight seeds.  Like Bartoli, Murray has not faced a top-16 seed in his first six matches.

Contrasting trajectories:  In each of his last three matches, Djokovic has started impressively in winning the first set and then stumbled in the second set.  He rallied to win that set from Haas and Berdych anyway, but he trailed the German 2-4 and the Czech by a double break.  In contrast, Murray has started slowly in each of his last two matches, dropping the first set before roaring back to win.  If this trend continues, the final could become a best-of-three affair after the first two sets.

Rubber match:  Djokovic and Murray have contested three of the last four major finals, equal to any span compiled by Federer and Nadal.  The rivalry between the top two men has not quite caught fire yet, although they split those two previous matches in New York and Melbourne.  Perhaps extending their clashes beyond hard courts will raise the successor to Federer-Nadal a notch higher in intrigue.

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie:  Overlooked amid the drama on Centre Court, Casey Dellacqua and Ashleigh Barty reached their second doubles final in three majors.  The two Australians defeated two of the top five teams in the world to reach the final, where they will face Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai.  Their Fed Cup team will have a solid pairing on whom to rely in decisive doubles rubbers moving forward.

My picks for the singles finals:  I’m taking Lisicki in two and Murray in four.  This Wimbledon has belonged to the underdogs, and I think that it will stay that way.

 

Wimbledon Rewind: Smooth Sailing for Djokovic, Serena, Berdych, Del Potro, Radwanska, and More on Day 4

After the turmoil of Wednesday, a tranquil Thursday came as a welcome respite.  Rain forestalled several of the matches at Wimbledon, but most of the familiar names managed to take the court—and live to fight another day.

ATP:

Match of the day:  The grass on the outer courts continued to score victories in its ongoing rivalry with those patrolling it.  Two Frenchmen, Michael Llodra and Paul-Henri Mathieu, added themselves to the accumulating body count with retirements.  As the tournament unfolds, one wonders whether the specter of so many injuries will cause many players to move more tentatively, undermining the quality of tennis.

Upset of the day:  Only one top-20 player on either side fell on Thursday, but he fell with a resounding thud.  No. 17 Milos Raonic exited in straight sets to Igor Sijsling, forcing only one tiebreak.  Unimpressive on grass throughout his career, Raonic has not followed in the footsteps of other huge servers from Balkan origins who have shone at Wimbledon.  To his credit, Sijsling unleashes plenty of power himself, as an upset of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga earlier this year showed.

No, not again:  For the second straight day, one of the Big Four reached a first-set tiebreak on Centre Court against an unremarkable opponent.  In contrast to Federer-Stakhovsky yesterday, though, Novak Djokovic’s encounter with Bobby Reynolds grew less rather than more intriguing after the first set.  The world No. 1 settled down with discipline to surrender just four games over the next two sets as his challenger faded.

Gold star:  What a difference a year makes for Tomas Berdych, who has brushed aside the memories of his first-round exit at Wimbledon in 2012.  Berdych halted Daniel Brands in straight sets, impressive considering the effort that Brands mounted against Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros.  When Berdych last defeated Brands at Wimbledon, with much more difficulty, he reached the final.

Silver star:  The eighth-seeded Juan Martin Del Potro usually finds grass his worst surface, but he has cruised through the first two rounds without dropping a set.  After hitting a flashy around-the-netpost winner in his first match, Del Potro earned the chance to shine on Centre Court against Jesse Levine.  He did not disappoint despite a second-set lull, starting and finishing with conviction.

Caution light:  Extended to four sets in his first match, world No. 9 Richard Gasquet again spent longer than necessary on court in finishing off Go Soeda.  Having lost just three games in the first two sets, Gasquet lost the plot temporarily and let the third set slip away in a tiebreak.  His best result at a major came at Wimbledon with a 2007 semifinal, but he looks vulnerable this year.

Americans in London:  RIP, this category, after just two rounds of the main draw.  Bernard Tomic followed his upset of Sam Querrey with a predictably dominant effort against James Blake, while Ivan Dodig dispatched Denis Kudla in straight sets.  The last man standing at Wimbledon 2013, Bobby Reynolds, stood no real chance against Djokovic.  Andy Roddick, where hath thou gone?

Question of the day:  Far from the spotlight, Kei Nishikori quietly has strung together a pair of solid victories.  He lurks in the section of Ferrer, mediocre in his first match and defeated by Nishikori on grass last year.  Could Nishikori mount an upset or two to reach a quarterfinal or semifinal?

WTA:

Match of the day:  Much superior to her opponent, Jana Cepelova, the 11th-seeded Roberta Vinci could not dispatch her in straight sets and nearly paid the price.  Cepelova nipped at her heels until 7-7 in the final set, when the Italian reeled off one last burst to cross the finish line and keep her Wimbledon campaign alive.

Upset of the day:  Court 2 has started to acquire the reputation of the preceding Court 2 as a haven for upsets, at least in the women’s draw.  Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki fell there yesterday, and today it witnessed the demise of No. 24 Peng Shuai at the hands of Marina Erakovic.  Granted, few fans will remember that result after the tournament.

Top seeds sail:  Facing Caroline Garcia in the second round for the second straight game, Serena Williams generously gave her two more games than she did in Paris.  Stingier was world No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska, who has lost fewer games through two rounds than any other women’s contender.  Like Del Potro, Radwanska made the most of her Centre Court assignment and should return there later this fortnight if her form persists.

Gold star:  With an Eastbourne title behind her, Elena Vesnina entered Wimbledon with more momentum than most players.  All of that momentum crumbled when she collided with grass specialist Sabine Lisicki, a quarterfinalist or better in her last three Wimbledon appearances.  Lisicki’s impressively dominant victory moved her within two rounds of an intriguing collision with Serena.

Silver star:  The oddest scoreline of the day came from the fifth seed, Li Na, who defeated Simona Halep 6-2 1-6 6-0.  Not unfamiliar with such rollercoasters, Li managed to stop Halep’s 11-match winning streak, which had carried her to two June titles on two different surfaces.  The Chinese veteran drew a formidable early slate of opponents, but her route looks smoother from here.

The story that never grows old:  Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Sara Errani have departed Wimbledon.  Kimiko Date-Krumm has not.  The Japanese veteran reached the third round, although now she must face Serena.  Date-Krumm took Venus deep into a third set at a recent Wimbledon, defying the power gap between them.

Americans in London:  Rain postponed Alison Riske’s match against Urszula Radwanska, but Madison Keys beat both the rain and 30th seed Mona Barthel with ease.  Up next for Keys is Agnieszka Radwanska in an intriguing contrast of styles.  While an upset seems like a bridge too far for Keys at this stage, she can only benefit from the experience of facing a top-five opponent at a major.

Question of the day:  Usually feckless on grass, Samantha Stosur has wasted little time in dispatching two overmatched opponents.  She next faces occasional doubles partner Lisicki in a battle of mighty serves.  Can she overcome Lisicki’s substantial surface edge, or were these first two wins a mirage?

Roland Garros Fast Forward: Sharapova, Li, Stosur, Nadal, and More Set to Shine on Day 5

Our Thursday preview discusses eight matches from each singles draw, starting this time with the WTA.

WTA:

Kristina Mladenovic vs. Samantha Stosur:  Her opening victory over Kimiko Date-Krumm looked impressive on paper with the loss of just two games.  Now, however, Stosur must face a Frenchwoman much more worthy of her steel.  Mladenovic caught fire on home soil in February when she reached the semifinals of the Paris Indoors, although she faces an uphill battle against an opponent more accomplished on clay and much more experienced at this level.

Maria Sharapova vs. Eugenie Bouchard:  Teenagers have troubled Sharapova in the first week of majors before, from the Melanie Oudin catastrophe at the US Open to a hard-fought encounter with Laura Robson at Wimbledon and a narrowly avoided stumble against Caroline Garcia here.  Bouchard reached the semifinals of Strasbourg last week, where she threatened eventual champion Alize Cornet.  On the other hand, the 19-year-old Canadian eked out only two games from the woman who designs her Nike outfits when they met in Miami this spring.

Francesca Schiavone vs. Kirsten Flipkens:  Logic suggests that the second round marks the end of the road for Schiavone, who faces a seeded opponent there.  Her history at this tournament suggests that we should not lean too heavily on logic and give her a fighting chance against a young Belgian more successful on faster surfaces.

Li Na vs. Bethanie Mattek-Sands:  When they met in Stuttgart this spring, the 2011 Roland Garros champion eased past her fellow veteran.  Mattek-Sands pulled off a series of impressive victories that week, reaching the semifinals as a qualifier.  The indoor conditions in Stuttgart fit her game better than the outdoor terre battue here, and Li looked much crisper in her opener against Anabel Medina Garrigues than she had earlier this clay season.

Marion Bartoli vs. Mariana Duque-Marino:  Surviving the grueling three-hour trainwreck in her first-round match may have liberated Bartoli to swing more boldly henceforth.  Or Colombian clay specialist Duque-Marino might finish what Govortsova started, capitalizng on the double faults that continue to flow.  Bartoli cannot count on the Chatrier crowd to rescue her this time.

Ashleigh Barty vs. Maria Kirilenko:  Both women enter this match in excellent form, the Australian teenager having scored her first career victory at a major and the Russian having yielded just a single game.  This tournament has offered a fine showcase for some of the WTA’s rising stars, although Kirilenko’s consistency should leave Barty few options.

Jelena Jankovic vs. Garbine Muguruza:  Continuing her clay success this spring, Jankovic won more of the key points than she often does in fending off occasional nemesis Daniela Hantuchova.  A heavy-hitting Spaniard awaits in Muguruza, who knocked off another Slam-less No. 1 this year in Caroline Woznacki.  Consecutive fourth-round appearances at Indian Wells and Miami suggested Muguruza’s readiness to take the next step forward on a hard court, but her clay results have lagged behind.

Petra Kvitova vs. Peng Shuai:  Yet another three-set rollercoaster defined Kvitova’s path to the second round.  While she looks invincible at her best, seemingly anyone will have a chance against her on her vulnerable days.  Far from just anyone, Peng won a set from Kvitova on a hard court this year and another set on grass last year.  Last week, she reached a Premier final in Brussels, by far her most notable result since her career year in 2011.

ATP:

Lucas Pouille vs. Grigor Dimitrov:  Never has Dimitrov advanced past the second round of a major.  Barring unforeseen circumstances, that streak of futility should end here.  Ranked outside the top 300, Pouille has spent most of his limited career at the challenger level, although he did win his first match in straight sets.  Dimitrov aims to set up a third-round rematch of his Madrid meeting with Novak Djokovic.

Rafael Nadal vs. Martin Klizan:  Unable to deliver a strong opening statement in his first match, Nadal instead revealed some notable signs of frailty.  He should settle into a groove more smoothly against a less explosive opponent, using the opportunity to reassert his clay supremacy.  Few players bounce back from a shaky effort better than Nadal.

Fernando Verdasco vs. Janko Tipsarevic:  In their most significant match to date, Tipsarevic held match points against Verdasco at the 2011 Australian Open before tanking the fifth set when the fourth slipped away. The Serb remains an enigmatic competitor who has struggled through a barren season, but he did win their two meetings since then.  Also in dismal form for most of 2013, Verdasco appeared to raise his confidence over the last month.  He demolished his first opponent and should hold a clear surface edge.

Tommy Haas vs. Jack Sock:  The raw American won his first main-draw match at Roland Garros in scintillaing fashion after notching three wins in qualifying just as easily.  Fourteen years his senior, Haas shares Sock’s preference for faster surfaces.  He has produced some solid clay results this year, though, whereas his opponent lost five straight matches before arriving in Paris.  If Sock maintains a high first-serve percentage, this match could become very competitive but still probably not an upset.

Lukas Rosol vs. Fabio Fognini:  With the winner almost certianly destined to face Rafael Nadal, this match bears the whiff of intrigue over the possibility of a Wimbledon rematch.  Fognini’s superior clay game should snuff out Rosol’s hopes for another chance at the Spaniard, especially across a best-of-five match.  The Italian reached a Masters 1000 semifinal in Monte Carlo, although his results have tapered since then.  For his part, Rosol won his first career title in Bucharest, defeating Gilles Simon en route.

Ryan Harrison vs. John Isner:  Rare is the all-American match in the second round of Roland Garros, created this time by an odd quirk of the draw.  Harrison defeated Isner at Sydney just before the older American withdrew from the Australian Open, the start of a disastrous season for him outside a small title in Houston.  Nor did the upset launch Harrison’s season in style, for he fell outside the top 100 this spring and has won just two main-draw matches since that January victory over Isner.  The latter can draw inspiration from his five-setter here against Rafael Nadal in 2010.

Stanislas Wawrinka vs. Horacio Zeballos:  One of these men barely finished off his match on Tuesday, while the other needed to return on Wednesday for two more sets.  Both Wawrinka and Zeballos defeated marquee Spaniards to win clay titles this spring, Zeballos stunning Nadal in Vina del Mar and Wawrinka dominating Ferrer in Portugal.  The Swiss No. 2’s achievement marked merely one episode in a general upward trend, though, whereas the Argentine’s breakthrough has remained an anomaly.

Robin Haase vs. Jerzy Janowicz:  Haase recently collected the ATP record for consecutive tiebreaks lost, halting at the same number as Roger Federer’s record of major titles won.  The floundering Dutchman might play a few more tiebreaks against a man who can match him hold for hold.  The clay-court savvy of both men languishes relatively low, causing them to battle the surface as well as each other.

 

Their Just Deserts: The Mega WTA Indian Wells Draw Preview

Read about what to expect from the first Premier Mandatory tournament of 2013 as we break down each quarter of the WTA Indian Wells draw in detail!

First quarter:  For the second straight year, Azarenka arrives in the desert with a perfect season record that includes titles at the Australian Open and the Premier Five tournament in Doha.  Able to defend those achievements, she eyes another prestigious defense at Indian Wells on a surface that suits her balanced hybrid of offense and defense as well as any other.  In her opener, she could face the only woman in the draw who has won multiple titles here, Daniela Hantuchova, although the more recent of her pair came six long years ago.  Since reaching the second week of the Australian Open, Kirsten Flipkens staggered to disappointing results in February, so Azarenka need not expect too stern a test from the Belgian.  Of perhaps greater concern is a rematch of her controversial Melbourne semifinal against Sloane Stephens, who aims to bounce back from an injury-hampered span with the encouragement of her home crowd.  Heavy fan support for the opponent can fluster Azarenka, or it can bring out her most ferocious tennis, which makes that match one to watch either way.  Of some local interest is the first-round match between Jamie Hampton, who won a set from Vika in Melbourne, and Kuala Lumpur runner-up Mattek-Sands.

The most intriguing first-round match in the lower section of this quarter pits Laura Robson against the blistering backhands of Sofia Arvidsson.  In fact, plenty of imposing two-handers highlight that neighborhood with those of Julia Goerges and the tenth-seeded Petrova also set to shine.  The slow courts of Indian Wells might not suit games so high on risk and low on consistency, possibly lightening the burden on former champion Wozniacki.  Just two years ago, the Dane won this title as the world #1, and she reached the final in 2010 with her characteristic counterpunching.  Downed relatively early in her title defense last year, she has shown recent signs of regrouping with strong performances at the Persian Gulf tournaments in February.  On the other hand, a quick loss as the top seed in Kuala Lumpur reminded viewers that her revival remains a work in progress.  She has not faced Azarenka since the latter’s breakthrough in mid-2011, so a quarterfinal between them would offer fascinating evidence as to whether Caro can preserve her mental edge over her friend.

Semifinalist:  Azarenka

Second quarter:  Unremarkable so far this year, Kerber has fallen short of the form that carried her to a 2012 semifinal here and brings a three-match losing streak to the desert.  Even with that recent history, she should survive early tests from opponents like Heather Watson and the flaky Wickmayer before one of two fellow lefties poses an intriguing challenge in the fourth round.  For the second straight year, Makarova reached the Australian Open quarterfinals, and her most significant victory there came against Kerber in a tightly contested match of high quality.  Dogged by erratic results, this Russian may find this surface too slow for her patience despite the improved defense and more balanced weapons that she showed in Melbourne.  Another woman who reached the second week there, Bojana Jovanovski, hopes to prove that accomplishment more than just a quirk of fate, which it seems so far.  Also in this section is the enigmatic Safarova, a woman of prodigious talent but few results to show for it.  If she meets Makarova in the third round, an unpredictable clash could ensue, after which the winner would need to break down Kerber’s counterpunching.

Stirring to life in Doha and Dubai, where she reached the quarterfinals at both, Stosur has played much further below her ranking this year than has Kerber.  A disastrous Australian season and Fed Cup weekend have started to fade a bit, however, for a woman who has reached the Indian Wells semifinals before.  Stosur will welcome the extra time that the court gives her to hit as many forehands as possible, but she may not welcome a draw riddled with early threats.  At the outset, the US Open champion could face American phenom Madison Keys, who raised eyebrows when she charged within a tiebreak of the semifinals in a strong Sydney draw.  The feisty Peng, a quarterfinalist here in 2011, also does not flinch when facing higher-ranked opponents, so Stosur may breathe a sigh of relief if she reaches the fourth round.  Either of her likely opponents there shares her strengths of powerful serves and forehands as well as her limitations in mobility and consistency.  Losing her only previous meeting with Mona Barthel, on the Stuttgart indoor clay, Ivanovic will seek to reverse that result at a tournament where she usually has found her most convincing tennis even in her less productive periods.  Minor injuries have nagged her lately, while Barthel has reached two finals already in 2013 (winning one), so this match could prove compelling if both silence other powerful servers around them, like Lucie Hradecka.

Semifinalist:  Ivanovic

Third quarter:  Another woman who has reached two finals this year (winning both), the third-seeded Radwanska eyes perhaps the easiest route of the elite contenders.  Barring her path to the fourth round are only a handful of qualifiers, an anonymous American wildcard, an aging clay specialist who has not won a match all year, and the perenially underachieving Sorana Cirstea.  Radwanska excels at causing raw, error-prone sluggers like Cirstea to implode, and she will face nobody with the sustained power and accuracy to overcome her in the next round either.  In that section, Christina McHale attempts to continue a comeback from mono that left her without a victory for several months until a recent breakthrough, and Maria Kirilenko marks her return from injury that sidelined her after winning the Pattaya City title.  Although she took Radwanska deep into the final set of a Wimbledon quarterfinal last year, and defeated her at a US Open, the Russian should struggle if rusty against the more confident Aga who has emerged since late 2011.  Can two grass specialists, Pironkova and Paszek, cause a stir in this quiet section?

Not much more intimidating is the route that lies before the section’s second highest-ranked seed, newly minted Dubai champion Kvitova.  Although she never has left a mark on either Indian Wells or Miami, Kvitova suggested that she had ended her habitual struggles in North America by winning the US Open Series last summer with titles in Montreal and New Haven.  Able to enter and stay in torrid mode like the flip of a switch, she aims to build on her momentum from consecutive victories over three top-ten opponents there.  The nearest seeded opponent to Kvitova, Yaroslava Shvedova, has struggled to string together victories since her near-upset of Serena at Wimbledon, although she nearly toppled Kvitova in their most recent meeting at Roland Garros.  Almost upsetting Azarenka near this time a year ago, Cibulkova looks to repeat her upset over the Czech in Sydney when they meet in the fourth round.  Just reaching that stage would mark a step forward for her, though, considering her failure to build upon her runner-up appearance there and the presence of ultra-steady Zakopalova.  Having dominated Radwanska so thoroughly in Dubai, Kvitova should feel confident about that test.

Semifinalist:  Kvitova

Fourth quarter:  Semifinalist in 2011, finalist in 2012, champion in 2013?  Before she can think so far ahead, the second-seeded Sharapova must maneuver past a string of veteran Italians and other clay specialists like Suarez Navarro.  Aligned to meet in the first round are the former Fed Cup teammates Pennetta and Schiavone in one of Wednesday’s most compelling matches, but the winner vanishes directly into Sharapova’s jaws just afterwards.  The faltering Varvara Lepchenko could meet the surging Roberta Vinci, who just reached the semifinals in Dubai with victories over Kuznetsova, Kerber, and Stosur.  Like Kvitova, then, she brings plenty of positive energy to a weak section of the draw, where her subtlety could carry her past the erratic or fading players around her.  But Sharapova crushed Vinci at this time last year, and she never has found even a flicker of self-belief against the Russian.

Once notorious for the catfights that flared between them, Jankovic and Bartoli could extend their bitter rivalry in the third round at a tournament where both have reached the final (Jankovic winning in 2010, Bartoli falling to Wozniacki a year later).  Between them stands perhaps a more convincing dark horse candidate in Kuznetsova, not far removed from an Australian Open quarterfinal appearance that signaled her revival.  Suddenly striking the ball with confidence and even—gasp—a modicum of thoughtfulness, she could draw strength from the memories of her consecutive Indian Wells finals in 2007-08.  If Kuznetsova remains young enough to recapture some of her former prowess, her compatriot Pavlyuchenkova also has plenty of time to rebuild a career that has lain in ruins for over a year.  By playing close to her potential, she could threaten Errani despite the sixth seed’s recent clay title defense in Acapulco.  Not in a long time has anyone in this area challenged Sharapova, though.

Semifinalist:  Sharapova

Come back tomorrow before the start of play in the men’s draw to read a similar breakdown!

Wizards of Oz (IV): Tomic, Gasquet, Raonic, Kvitova, Wozniacki, And More on Day 4

Leaving Federer vs. Davydenko for a special, detailed preview by one of our colleagues here, we break down some highlights from the latter half of second-round action on Day 4.

ATP:

Brands vs. Tomic (Rod Laver Arena):  A tall German who once caused a stir at Wimbledon, Brands has won four of his first five matches in 2013 with upsets over Chardy, Monfils, and Martin Klizan among them.  As sharp as Tomic looked in his opener, he cannot afford to get caught looking ahead to Federer in the next round.  Brands can match him bomb for bomb, so the last legitimate Aussie threat left needs to build an early lead that denies the underdog reason to hope.

Lu vs. Monfils (Hisense Arena):  Is La Monf finally back?  He somehow survived 16 double faults and numerous service breaks in a messy but entertaining four-set victory over Dolgopolov.  Perhaps facilitated by his opponent’s similar quirkiness, the vibrant imagination of Monfils surfaced again with shot-making that few other men can produce.  This match should produce an intriguing contrast of personalities and styles with the understated, technically solid Lu, who cannot outshine the Frenchman in flair but could outlast him by exploiting his unpredictable lapses.

Falla vs. Gasquet (Court 3):  The Colombian clay specialist has established himself as an occasional upset threat at non-clay majors, intriguingly, for he nearly toppled Federer in the first round of Wimbledon three years ago and bounced Fish from this tournament last year.  A strange world #10, Gasquet struggled initially in his first match against a similar clay specialist in Montanes.  He recorded a series of steady results at majors last year, benefiting in part from facing opponents less accomplished than Falla.  The strength-against-strength collision of his backhand against Falla’s lefty forehand should create some scintillating rallies as Gasquet seeks to extend his momentum from the Doha title two weeks ago.

Mayer vs. Berankis (Court 6):  While Berankis comfortably defeated the erratic Sergei Stakhovsky in his debut, Mayer rallied from a two-set abyss to fend off American wildcard Rhyne Williams after saving multiple match points.  He must recover quickly from that draining affair to silence the compact Latvian, who punches well above his size.  Sometimes touted as a key figure of the ATP’s next generation, Berankis has not plowed forward as impressively as others like Raonic and Harrison, so this unintimidating draw offers him an opportunity for a breakthrough.

Raonic vs. Rosol (Court 13):  The cherubic Canadian sprung onto the international scene when he reached the second week in Melbourne two years ago.  The lean Czech sprung onto the international scene when he stunned Nadal in the second round of Wimbledon last year.  Either outstanding or abysmal on any given day, Rosol delivered an ominous message simply by winning his first match.  For his part, Raonic looked far from ominous while narrowly avoiding a fifth set against a player outside the top 100.  He needs to win more efficiently in early rounds before becoming a genuine contender for major titles.

WTA:

Robson vs. Kvitova (RLA):  Finally starting to string together some solid results, the formerly unreliable Robson took a clear step forward by notching an upset over Clijsters in the second round of the US Open.  Having played not only on Arthur Ashe Stadium there but on Centre Court at the All England Club before, she often produces her finest tennis for the grandest stages.  If Robson will not lack for inspiration, Kvitova will continue to search for confidence.  She found just enough of her familiarly explosive weapons to navigate through an inconsistent three-setter against Schiavone, but she will have little hope of defending her semifinal points if she fails to raise her level significantly.  That said, Kvitova will appreciate playing at night rather than during the most scorching day of the week, for the heat has contributed to her struggles in Australia this month.

Peng vs. Kirilenko (Hisense):  A pair of women better known in singles than in doubles, they have collaborated on some tightly contested matches.  Among them was a Wimbledon three-setter last year, won by Kirilenko en route to the quarterfinals.  The “other Maria” has faltered a bit lately with six losses in ten matches before she dispatched Vania King here.  But Peng also has regressed since injuries ended her 2011 surge, so each of these two women looks to turn around her fortunes at the other’s expense.  The Russian’s all-court style and fine net play should offer a pleasant foil for Peng’s heavy serve and double-fisted groundstrokes, although the latter can find success in the forecourt as well.

Wozniacki vs. Vekic (Hisense):  Like Kvitova, Wozniacki seeks to build upon the few rays of optimism that emanated from a nearly unwatchable three-set opener.  Gifted that match by Lisicki’s avalanche of grisly errors, the former #1 could take advantage of the opportunity to settle into the tournament.  Wozniacki now faces the youngest player in either draw, who may catch her breath as she walks onto a show court at a major for the first time.  Or she may not, since the 16-year-old Donna Vekic crushed Hlavackova without a glimpse of nerves to start the tournament and will have nothing to lose here.

Hsieh vs. Kuznetsova (Margaret Court Arena):  A surprise quarterfinalist in Sydney, the two-time major champion defeated Goerges and Wozniacki after qualifying for that elite draw.  Kuznetsova rarely has produced her best tennis in Melbourne, outside a near-victory over Serena in 2009.  But the Sydney revival almost did not materialize at all when she floundered through a three-setter in the qualifying.  If that version of Kuznetsova shows up, the quietly steady Hsieh could present a capable foil.

Putintseva vs. Suarez Navarro (Court 7) / Gavrilova vs. Tsurenko (Court 8):  Two of the WTA’s most promising juniors, Putintseva and Gavrilova face women who delivered two of the draw’s most notable first-round surprises.  After Suarez Navarro dismissed world #7 Errani, Tsurenko halted the surge of Brisbane finalist Pavlyuchenkova in a tense three-setter.  Momentum thus carries all four of these women into matches likely to feature plenty of emotion despite the relatively low stakes.

Murray Relishing Run, Djokovic’s Influence Grows and Peng Shuai set for Bali

Murray Relishing Run:

New world No.3 Andy Murray is enjoying a magnificent autumn run that has seen him pick up three titles on the trot and replace Roger Federer in the world’s Top 3. It is the first time Federer has been ranked fourth or lower since before he earned his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2003. “My goal for the last three-four months after the US Open was to try to finish as high as possible and win as many matches as I could,” said the Scot. “It’s obviously been a great start. But I’m still not guaranteed to finish at No. 3. I’m still going to have to win some more matches. But if you finish in front of Federer in a year, then there’s not many people the last five, six, seven years that have been able to say that. So that’s obviously a nice thing if I can do it.” It makes for a great piece of symmetry; Murray the world No.3 after three titles in three weeks.

Djokovic’s Amazing Year Increases Influence:

World No.1 Novak Djokovic hasn’t just seen his ranking and bank balance increase significantly this year, he has also seen his global influence widen according to the latest poll by AskMen.com. In their sixth annual Top 49 most influential men poll readers voted Djokovic the third most influential athlete, and the 19thmost influential man overall. “Just when it looked like Rafael Nadal was set to begin his long reign atop the men’s ATP rankings, the notoriously hot-headed Djokovic quieted all the outside noise, put all his tools together and reminded us why, right now, men’s tennis is the most exciting sport on the planet, after defeating Nadal at the 2011 Wimbledon Championships and the 2011 US Open,” read the Serbian’s bio on the website. Barcelona and Argentinean football star Lionel Messi was the top-ranked athlete at No.10 in the poll, while Dutch cyclist Cadel Evans was ranked No.11. Former Barca star and current manager Pep Guardiola was one place above Djokovic at No.18. Recently deceased former Apple CEO Steve Jobs was voted in at No.1. SEAL Team Six, who were presented to the world as the men to finally kill Osama Bin Laden were voted second, while Google co-founder Larry Page was third.

Peng set for Bali:

China’s Peng Shuai has become the second player after Ana Ivanovic to be handed a wildcard entry in to the Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions in Bali in two weeks. She has had a career-best season in which she began the year at No.72 in the world, going on to become only the third player behind Li Na and Zheng Jie to crack the Top 15 in the WTA World Rankings. The rest of the line-up is still undecided as the tour enters its final tournaments. “Peng Shuai is not only one of the most talented and exciting players in Asia, but she [has] made her mark across the world in both singles and doubles,” said tournament director Kevin Livesey. “She is no stranger to Bali after she claimed the doubles title in 2008, and we are confident that she will once again be a fan favourite as she returns to Bali for the Commonwealth Bank Tournament Of Champions.”

Soderling to Miss Season’s End:

France’s Tennis Magazine is reporting that Robin Soderling will miss the Stockholm Open and the Paris Masters as he continues his battle with mononucleosis. The world No.6 has not played since he won Bastad in July. “I’m extremely disappointed and sad right now,” he said on his official Facebook page. “Playing in Stockholm is very special for me and it’s a title I still miss and dream about. I made an attempt to train, but my body just could not do it. I felt worse after practice and so had to make a tough decision to not play in Stockholm. I have to think long term and plan to play tennis for years to come. I believe the best days are in front of me. I will do everything I can to get through this difficult time and come back stronger and more motivated than ever.”

Nestor Enjoys Record-Breaking Week:

Canadian doubles star Daniel Nestor is used to winning things. But when he and Max Mirnyi lifted last week’s doubles title at the Shanghai Masters, despite facing match points against Michael Llodra and his former partner Nenad Zimonjic, it added an unprecedented record to his achievements roll. He is now the only player to have won all four major titles, every ATP Masters 1000 event, a season-ending ATP Finals and an Olympic gold medal. That record added to the one he clinched earlier in the year by becoming the first doubles player to reach 800 wins. His achievements have also been recognised by his native Canada this year. As well as receiving the Order of Canada back in January he was also inducted in to the Canada Hall of Fame with his own star before he flew out to Shanghai.

Date-Krumm Joins Exclusive Circle:

41-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm joined illustrious company when she lifted the doubles title at Osaka with Zang Shuai. She became the oldest player other than Martina Navratilova to win a doubles title. Navratilova was 49 years and nine months when she won in Montreal in 2006 and she also has another eleven titles to her name at an older age than the Japanese star. Billie Jean King is the next oldest player to win a title behind Date-Krumm as she lifted the 1984 Chicago doubles title at the age of 40 years and two months. Date-Krumm also spoke out against the playing styles of many of today’s performers, stating that they were too “uniform”. She said: “Martina Navratilova had the serve and volley and the touch for net play but now when you look at the young players, their styles are all the same. It’s only power, big serve, and then bam, bam, bam – no tactics.” Speaking to Tennis World, she continued: “Before it was mainly defensive styles. Martina had her leftie serve and volley game; Steffi Graf had a superb backhand slice and big forehand; Gabriela Sabatini had more spin; Arantxa Sanchez did also, she ran very fast and was mentally tough. Martina Hingis had a lot of talent. She’s not a big player, not a lot of muscle and her tennis was all about touch. For Asian players today, she’s a good model. She didn’t have the power but she was very smart. Back then most players had a good serve but they were still very different. Now they are all almost identical.” (Excerpts taken from Tennis World USA)

Venus to Play Aussie Open:

Current world No.101 Venus Williams, who has only played four tournaments this year, has posted on Twitter that she is: “absolutely planning on being in Australia” to compete at the year’s first Grand Slam in January. Given that she has no rankings points to defend from this year, if she decides to enter she will go directly in to the main draw.

No More Fishing:

Australian doubles specialist Ashley Fisher has retired from professional tennis at the age of 36 following a first-round exit at the Beijing Open. He missed the latter part of 2009 and all of 2010 with a knee injury and after a slow start to 2011 he found success at the French Open where he and Stephen Huss upset third seeds Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes on their way to the third round. He got his ranking back inside the Top 100 but has now decided to call it a day. “My knee issues were a big part in the decision,” he said. “Earlier in the year playing on clay and grass I was able to practise and play pain-free, but after Wimbledon the hard courts begun to take a toll on my knees. I was becoming too reliant on [anti-inflammatory] Advil and felt like I was doing serious long term damage to my body. I also felt like I was unable to play at a similar level to 2009 when I had my best year and it was frustrating.”

Bogomolov Jr. Considers Russian Davis Cup Career:

Russian-born but American-registered 28-year-old Alex Bogomolov Jr. has said that he would consider playing Davis Cup tennis for Russia, the homeland of his father Alexander. Alex Sr. is a well-known tennis coach and moved back to Russia in 2003 after he grew tired of the lack of work ethic of the American youths he taught in Florida. “I didn’t think about it before but in case I receive a concrete proposal to play for Russia I will seriously think about it,” said the world No.37. “I will also have to consult with my family and my team on the case before taking the decision.”

New McEnroe Enjoying Champions Circuit:

Former world No.1 John McEnroe says that he is enjoying the Champions Circuit he continually flaunts his talent on and that the wiser, more mature McEnroe appreciates the wider aspects of tennis more than the wise-cracking youth who played professionally in the late 1970’s and early 80’s. “Ironically, I find myself enjoying the working-out part more than I ever did. I feel like I benefit mentally, not just physically,” McEnroe said. “I go the gym three days a week and play three days a week. I’m lucky in that I don’t have a job where I have to work 10 hours a day. But part of my job is to keep myself in condition and close to the game so I can interpret what I’m watching when I’m commentating. I’m much more appreciative. I’ve been able to get some perspective and it’s a lot better than when I was in the midst of trying to be the best player in the world. I feel like I’m in a pretty good place now.”

Meyerson Passes On:

Andy Roddick’s long-time agent Ken Meyerson has passed away aged 47 on Wednesday night after suffering a heart attack in his sleep. Meyerson rose quickly as an agent, signing Roddick as well as Justine Henin, Chris Evert, Gael Monfils, Fernando Gonzalez and the Radwanska sisters. Tributes have been flooding in from fellow agents who knew him, but most poignant was Roddick’s message in his honour on Twitter, which read: “I love you and miss you. I will be forever grateful for your faith & loyalty, You will forever be my brother. As always ‘thanks Meyerson.’” Gonzalez also tweeted in Meyerson’s honour, saying: “We [going to really miss] Ken like he use to say ‘wuuoooh love you baby.’”

Murray Above Federer in This Week’s Rankings Watch:

British No.1 Andy Murray has climbed above Roger Federer in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings to No.3 in the world for the first time since February 2010. Mardy Fish crucially climbs in to the Top 8 at the expense of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga with the ATP World Finals just around the corner. Germany’s Florian Mayer climbs three to enter the Top 20. Kei Nishikori’s good form sees him climb 17 in to the Top 30, while Marcos Baghdatis and Philipp Kohlschreiber climb in to the Top 50. Australia’s Matthew Ebden jumps a mammoth 44 places to No.80 in the world, while Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer climbs one place to No.100. Marion Bartoli has thrown herself in to strong contention for the WTA Finals in Istanbul by climbing from No.11 to No.9 in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings and can qualify for the event should she win the Kremlin Cup in Moscow this week. Dominika Cibulkova is in to the Top 20 this week, while Zheng Jie and Petra Martic climb in to the Top 50. Russia’s Evgeniya Rodina, Austria’s Patricia Mayr-Achleitner and Iryna Bremond of France are in to the Top 100.

Early Roland Garros casualties, Wozniacki wins in Brussels and Almagro triumphs in Nice

Berdych First Major FO Casualty:

Czech star Tomas Berdych became the first major casualty of the 2011 French Open when he fell to French qualifier Stephane Robert in the first round. He led the 32-year-old qualifier by two sets to love but let it slip to crash out in five. He was a semi-finalist here on route to the Wimbledon final in 2010 so his early exit here is a big shock. “I gave it all today,” said an ecstatic Robert, the world No.140 who had never previously won at Roland Garros. “I fought for my life. In the third set, he started to give me some points. Winning that set gave me confidence and I became more aggressive on the return.” The giant Croat Marin Cilic was also a first round casualty as he bowed out on day one to Spain’s Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo 6-7(5), 4-6, 4-6. Nicolas Almagro was also another early-round casualty. The Spaniard had recently been on an excellent run that saw him climb in to the world’s Top 10, but despite leading by two sets to love on his favoured surface he, like Berdych, let it slip. The Polish world No.122 Lukas Kubot was the beneficiary, profiting to win 3-6, 2-6, 7-3(3), 7-6(5), 6-4. In the women’s draw, former world No.1 Ana Ivanovic struggled with recent injuries as she fell to the Swedish No.1 Johanna Larsson 6-7(3), 6-0, 2-6 amid fits of tears. The 22-year-old Larsson’s only previous Grand Slam win came here a year ago, which makes her victory over the Serbian star doubly impressive.

 

Wozniacki Lifts Brussels Open:

World number one Caroline Wozniacki lifted her fourth title of the year on the eve of the French Open when she overcame Peng Shuai 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the final of the Brussels Open. Shuai started the stronger on the clay-court surface Wozniacki usually finds difficult to play on and it wasn’t long before she took the first set. But the Dane rallied to take her WTA finals record to 16-10. “It’s my fourth title of the season. I was pleased with the way I played and fought today,” Wozniacki said afterwards. “I’m happy to be the first winner of this [inaugral] tournament. It’s a beautiful city and the crowd has been great all week. Now I’m looking forward to Roland Garros.” Despite the result Shuai was happy with her week’s performance. “I’m really happy to have reached the final here and to play so many good matches on the clay,” Peng said. “I played really well in the first set today but then Caroline fought and came back. I’m really looking forward to Paris.”

Almagro Secures Nice Title:

Nicolas Almagro’s early French Open exit was a surprise given his recent good form in the sport, including lifting the Open de Nice Cote d’Azur last weekend with a 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-3 win over Romania’s Victor Hanescu. It was his third clay-court title of the season and cemented his place among tennis’ top tier in 2011. He was made to work hard during the win but showed good poise to overcome his industrious opponent. “I feel good. I’m very happy with the victory today,” said Almagro. “I think I didn’t play my best tennis at the beginning of the match, but in the second set I started to play better, hitting my forehand with more confidence, and finally I was able to win the match.”

Petkovic Triumphs in Strasbourg:

It’s not the way any player wants to win, but Germany’s Andrea Petkovic lifted her second WTA title via an opponent’s retirement as France’s Marion Bartoli limped out of the final of the Internationaux de Strasbourg. Petkovic led 6-4, 1-0 when a thigh strain meant that Bartoli could no longer continue. “It’s always a strange feeling when someone retires because you feel happy and sad at the same time,” Petkovic said. “I’m happy to win the title and the points – we’re all in a rush for points during the year! But I was sad to end there because I was playing really well. I also feel sad for Marion – I really like her; she’s a really nice girl. I had a bad injury in 2008 so I know how it feels.”

Germany Claim Record Fifth Team Cup:

Germany claimed its record fifth Power Horse World Team Cup in Dusseldorf on the weekend following a 2-1 win over Argentina in the final. World No.19 Florian Mayer got them off to a great start with a 7-6(4), 6-0 victory over Juan Monaco in the first singles rubber but Juan Ignacio Chela tied proceedings with a 6-4, 7-6(4) win over Philipp Kohlschreiber. So it fell to the doubles rubber, where Kohlschreiber and Philipp Petzschner teamed up to overcome Chela and Maximo Gonzalez 6-3, 7-6(5) to secure the title. “Every title is important, but a team title is something very special in tennis,” said Kohlschreiber afterwards. “We have a great team, it’s real fun. I lost my singles match, but I came out strongly for the doubles and it’s great to have a happy ending. We’ve been looking forward to this event because we knew we had a great team spirit and this success is a really great honour for everybody.”

Del Potro Back in LA:

2008 Farmers Classic winner Juan Martin del Potro will return to the event this summer. The 2009 US Open winner is returning to top form after missing most of 2010 with a wrist injury and organisers are delighted that the Argentine star is returning to the site of his first hard court title when he overcame Andy Roddick in the final three years ago. He is the only man other than Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer to have won a Grand Slam title since the 2005 French Open. “I really look forward to returning to the Farmers Classic and Los Angeles this summer where I won my first major American event,” del Potro said. “My tremendous early success and victory over Andy Roddick really helped me launch my run to the world’s Top 10. I have many great memories of the Farmers Classic fans, UCLA Tennis Center, and the beautiful city of Los Angeles.”

Querrey in for Newport:

Sam Querrey has signed up to play at the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships at the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Newport, RI, this summer. The world No.28 was a finalist there in 2009 and joins a field already including Ivo Karlovic as well as young Americans Ryan Harrison and Ryan Sweeting. The tournament week also includes the 2011 induction ceremony where this year Andre Agassi takes his seat among the sport’s greats.

Federer Bemoans Ball Choice:

Roger Federer, head of the ATP Players Council, says that there are too many types of ball in use around the tour, and that players are struggling to come to terms with the continual changes. The comments come after many players, including Novak Djokovic and David Ferrer, criticised the new Babolat balls used in the 2011 French Open for being harder and faster than many of their contemporaries. “I guess the disappointing part here in this whole story, because I’m hearing a lot of conversations about the balls, it’s just that they’re not the same from what we’ve just played for the last month,” said Federer. “And that for us is the most frustrating part, is that the tournaments all changed to the Roland Garros ball after last year; Roland Garros has changed their balls again. Now we’re stuck with a different deal for all the different ATP Tour events. That is the frustrating part that we need to adjust before the French, different balls.”

Battling Razzano Falls:

Brave French star Virginie Razzano has spoken about playing her first round French Open match just days after losing her fiancé and former coach Stephane Vidal due to a brain tumor, aged just 32. “I can’t explain this strength. It took me a lot of courage to get on the Philippe Chatrier court today,” Razzano told reporters after she fell 3-6, 1-6 to Jarmila Gajdosova. “I had lots of emotions and sighs because it’s difficult for me to be here today. It’s painful. It’s hard. If I did it, it’s for Stephane. But also for me, because [he] wanted me to play. He wanted me to continue to go on with my life, even if in these very painful circumstances, very difficult circumstances. He had faith in me. He knows I have this strength that he also had, and this is also why we worked so well together. We had courage. We fought together day after day. And if I played today, it was as if it was something written. I grabbed all my courage. I don’t have much. I’m very fragile. I feel lonely, and even though there are many people around me supporting me, but I still have the strength in me that keeps me standing up and moving on step by step. I’m mourning right now, and it’s difficult.”

Myskina Jets In for Russian Mission:

Two-time Grand Slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova has confirmed that former French Open Champion Anastasia Myskina is jetting in to Paris to coach her through the tournament. The 2004 winner has flown in to help the 2009 champ who has recently been through a flurry of coaches due to her continued slump in form. Young American Ryan Harrison also told a small group of reporters that he has hired coach Scott McCain through to the end of the US Open. McCain will split his time between Harrison and Indian star Somdev Devvarman.

Vaidisova still Happily Married:

A representative for Nicole Vaidisova has denied that her and husband Radek Stepanek have split. The two, who married last summer, are at RG together this week.

Ferrer Improves Clay Record:

David Ferrer’s 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 second-round win over Julien Benneteau at Roland Garros was the Spaniard’s 200th win on clay during his career. Rafael Nadal’s five-set thriller against John Isner in round one was the first time the Spaniard has ever had to go the distance at the French Open. Last week at the Power Horse World Team Cup in Dusseldorf, Germany, Swedish star Robin Soderling notched the 300th win of his career when he beat Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan 6-7(4), 7-6(7), 6-3.

Little Pre-Slam Change in Rankings Watch:

Germany’s Florian Mayer entered the Top 20 of the South African Airways ATP World Rankings at No.19 following last week’s play. Romania’s Victor Hanescu climbs nine to No.60 while Igor Kunitsyn jumps 11 to No.75. The Israeli Dudi Sela’s 17-slot climb sees him enter the Top 100 at No.91 while Germany’s Rainer Schuettler climbs three to No.98. Andrea Petkovic’s victory in Strasbourg saw her rise to a career-high No.12 in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings while Brussels finalist Peng Shuai is a career-high No.25 after her title defeat to Caroline Wozniacki. Sam Stosur climbs back above Maria Sharapova and Li Na to No.6 in the world. Bojana Jovanovski makes her Top 50 debut while Ayumi Morita joins her there at No.47. Mirjana Lucic returns to the Top 100 at No.96, her highest slot since 2000.

GOAT Race Update:

Both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have earned themselves 20 extra points in the 2011 GOAT race for entering the French Open, Nadal edging himself over 1,000 points. All points are doubled for Grand Slam events.

Roger: 685 Rafa: 1010

Mondays With Bob Greene: Andy Murray Fancies His Chances At The AusOpen

STARS

Andy Murray beat Rafael Nadal 6-4 5-7 6-3 to win an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi. Murray beat Roger Federer in the semifinals of the eight-player event.

Emirates Abu Dhabi Capitala Tennis

SAYING

“That’s what I’m aiming for. I worked really hard in November, December to give myself the best chance.” – Andy Murray, talking about his chances to win the Australian Open.

“I’m just not ready to play against the top-class competition in Hong Kong, although I remain hopeful for Australia where I’m the defending champion.” – Maria Sharapova, after withdrawing from a Hong Kong exhibition tournament because she is still recovering from a shoulder injury.

“Ken Rosewall is one of Australia’s sporting legends and without question one of the greatest tennis players of all time.” — Tennis New South Wales president Stephen Healy, on naming the Sydney Olympics stadium the Ken Rosewall Arena.

“I accomplished a lot of my dreams as a player, winning at Roland Garros, and now I’ve managed another one, becoming captain of our Davis Cup team.” – Albert Costa, after being named to the helm of Spain’s Davis Cup squad.

“We have chosen two professionals with a lot of experience and long careers in tennis. The AAT based its decision on the technical and leadership qualities of the two coaches.” — Enrique Morea, president of the AAT, after Modesto Vazquez was picked as Argentina’s new Davis Cup captain and Ricardo Rivera was selected as his assistant.

STERLING START

It hasn’t taken long for Andy Murray to show he should be considered one of the favorites for this month’s Australian Open. Although it was just an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi, the Brit walked away with the USD $250,000 first-place prize after defeating Rafael Nadal 6-4 5-7 6-3 in the final. Murray also beat Roger Federer in the semifinals and James Blake in his opening match. It was Murray’s second straight win over Nadal and the fifth time he has beaten Federer.

SPOT TAKEN

Former Wimbledon semifinalist Jelena Dokic will be playing in this year’s Australian Open after winning a wild card spot in the draw. The 25-year-old Dokic was ranked as high as number four in the world in 2002. But a series of injuries and personal problems, many of them involving her father Damir, saw her ranking drop to 617 in 2006. Last year she won three ITF tournaments and improved her ranking to 179, her highest in four years.

SUPER MOM

Expecting her second child, Lindsay Davenport has taken herself off the WTA Tour indefinitely. The three-time Grand Slam winner learned she was pregnant just a week after agreeing to play in this month’s Australian Open. After returning to the tour following the birth of her first child, Jagger, Davenport won four of her 55 career singles titles. She also has won 37 doubles titles, including Roland Garros in 1996 with Mary Joe Fernandez, the US Open in 1997 with Jana Novotna and Wimbledon in 1999 with Corina Morariu. Her Grand Slam singles titles came at the US Open in 1998, Wimbledon in 1999 and the Australian Open in 2000.

SYDNEY STADIUM

Sydney’s 2000 Olympics tennis stadium has been named in honor of eight-time Grand Slam champion Ken Rosewall. The 10,000-seat stadium at Sydney Olympic Park will now be known as the Ken Rosewall Arena. Rosewall played in four Wimbledon finals during his career, with a 20-year gap between the first in 1954 and the last in 1974. He won four Australian titles, two French titles and two US titles. He turned 74 last month.

SPANISH LEADER

Albert Costa is Spain’s new Davis Cup captain. The 33-year-old replaces Emilio Sanchez Vicario, who stepped down after leading the Spaniards to their third Davis Cup title with a 3-1 win over Argentina. Costa, the 2002 French Open winner, played on Spain’s first Davis Cup winning team in 2000. He will make his debut as captain in a first-round World Group match against Serbia on March 6-8.

STEPPING UP

Little-known Modesto Vazquez is the new captain for Argentina’s Davis Cup team. The 59-year-old Vazquez replaces Alberto Mancini, who led Argentina to the finals in both 2006 and 2008, only to lose both times. Currently the development director for the Argentina Tennis Association (AAT), Vazquez played two Davis Cup ties for Argentina in 1968 and 1970. The AAT also selected Ricardo Rivera to be Vazquez’s assistant.

SET FOR AUSTRALIA

Two Americans have won wild-card spots for the Australian Open. Christina McHale will be making her first main-draw appearance at a Grand Slam tournament, while John Isner played in all four Grand Slam tournaments in 2008, losing to Fabrice Santoro in the first round of the Australian Open. The US Tennis Association and Tennis Australia have a reciprocal agreement to exchange wild-card berths for the US and Australian Opens.

SHARAPOVA HURTING

A shoulder injury is still bothering Maria Sharapova, who will be defending her Australian Open singles crown later this month. The injury forced Sharapova to withdraw from an exhibition event in Hong Kong, where she will be replaced by fellow Russian Anna Chakvetadze. Sharapova has not played competitively since pulling out of a tournament in Montreal, Canada, in July following a match in which she double-faulted 17 times. Medical tests found a torn rotator cuff tendon in her right shoulder.

SITE CHANGE?

Upset that a first-round Davis Cup tie was relocated because of security fears, Pakistani tennis officials are demanding USD $60,000 from the International Tennis Federation (ITF). Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) president Dilawar Abbas said the ITF last month gave his country the option of playing its Group II tie against Oman scheduled for March 6-8 in either Oman or Malaysia. Abbas, denying there are security issues in his country, said the switch will incur losses to Pakistan and the ITF should pay compensation. “If the ITF still wants to switch the tie, we demand it to be played on a neutral venue, either in Singapore or Malaysia and not in Oman,” Abbas said.

SERVING

China’s Peng Shuai has a new coach. She began training with Tarik Benhabiles last month in Florida and will continue to work together fulltime throughout 2009. The 22-year-old Peng had split with former coach Zhang Depei. Benhabiles, who reached a career-high ranking of 22nd in the world and represented France in Davis Cup, ended his playing career in 1992 and coached a young Andy Roddick. He has worked with other players, including Benjamin Becker, Ivo Karlovic and Gael Monfils.

STEFFI THE TARGET

Andre Agassi’s former agent and longtime friend has filed a lawsuit against the tennis star’s wife, Steffi Graf. In the lawsuit, sports agent Perry Rogers charges Graf, herself an inductee into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, owes USD $50,000 to Rogers and his Alliance Sports Management Co. for services outlined in a 2002 agreement. Graf declined to comment. Her husband released a statement saying he was “saddened and disappointed” by the lawsuit. When Agassi and Rogers split last October, both described the parting as friendly.

STAYING PUT

The International Tennis Federation has decided to allow Nigeria to remain in the Euro/Africa Group 3 Davis Cup competition. The ITF initially dropped the African nation to Group 4 when the Nigerian team failed to show up in Bulgaria last March for their tie. But the ITF reversed its decision when it learned that the Bulgarian Embassy in Lagos, Nigeria, refused to give visas to the Nigerian team.

STEPPING DOWN

Oded Yaakov has stepped down as captain of Israel’s Fed Cup team, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family. However, Yaakov has not ruled out the possibility of coaching the national team again in the future. “When you have the soul of a coach, you’re wired with an element of competitiveness and adrenaline,” Yaakov said. “These are traits that stay with you, and you can’t get rid of them. I’m sure I’ll feel them again, and that’s why I’m not ruling out returning to the [Fed Cup] team sometime in the future.”

SAD NEWS

Former USA Davis Cup captain George MacCall is dead at the age of 90. MacCall directed the American Davis Cup teams in 1965-67 that featured Arthur Ashe, Dennis Ralston and Marty Riessen. He is credited with pushing through a rule that allowed the players to be paid USD $28 a day for expenses. MacCall, who won USA senior titles as a player, organized the National Tennis League in 1967 and signed Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Pancho Gonzalez, Fred Stolle among others. He also signed women players, including Billie Jean King, Rosie Casals, Ann Jones and Francoise Durr, helping force tennis into the Open Era.

SITES TO SURF

Doha: www.qatartennis.org

Brisbane: www.brisbaneinternational.com.au/

Chennai: www.chennaiopen.org/

Auckland: www.asbclassic.co.nz

Sao Paulo: www.abertosp.com.br/

Sydney: www.Medibankinternational.com.au

Hobart: www.hobartinternational.com.au

Australian Open: www.australianopen.com/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

ATP

$1,110,250 Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Doha, Qatar, hard

$484,750 Brisbane International, Brisbane, Australia, hard

$450,000 Chennai Open, Chennai, India, hard

$100,000 Prime Aberto de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil, hard

WTA TOUR

$220,000 Brisbane International, Brisbane, Australia, hard

$220,000 ASB Classic, Auckland, New Zealand, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$484,750 Medibank International, Sydney, Australia, hard

$480,750 Heineken Open, Auckland, New Zealand, hard

WTA TOUR

$600,000 Medibank International, Sydney, Australia, hard

$220,000 Moorilla Hobart International, Hobart, Australia, hard

Mondays With Bob Greene: I Still Have 21 Spots To Go

STARS

Marin Cilic beat Mardy Fish 6-4 4-6 6-2 to win the Pilot Pen Tennis in New Haven, Connecticut.

Caroline Wozniacki beat Anna Chakvetadze 3-6 6-4 6-1 to win the women’s singles at the Pilot Pen in New Haven

Lucie Safarova won the Forest Hills Classic in New York City by beating Peng Shuai 6-4 6-2

SAYINGS

“There is always a little buzz, even in the middle of the points. That’s the main difference between this tournament and others. It’s good for the crowd to get into. It’s different to Wimbledon, which is very quiet. Here it is the opposite – it’s much louder. It’s good and it’s a different feeling to play. I love coming here.” – Britain’s Andy Murray on playing the US Open.

“I want to dedicate my victory today to all the victims and all the families of the victims in the flight in Madrid and send them all of my support and everything of me that I can help for them. It is my hometown, and when this thing happened I felt so bad.” – Spain’s Fernando Verdasco, playing in the Pilot Pen Tennis but thinking of the Spanair jetliner crash in Madrid, Spain, that killed 153 people.

“I was injured at the beginning of the year and haven’t had my best results, but this week has helped me regain my confidence in time for the US Open.” – Lucie Safarova, who won the Forest Hills Classic.

“I am having fun. I enjoy playing. I enjoy playing for a big crowd. You know, when you’re in the finals, you don’t have anything to lose. You can just win.” – Caroline Wozniacki, after winning the Pilot Pen women’s singles.

“This was a very important week for me. I don’t think I could have asked for a better week before the U.S. Open.” – Daniela Hantuchova, who is coming off an injury, after losing in both singles and doubles at the Pilot Pen.

“I would love to become number one in the world and win Grand Slams. I think everyone practicing this hard, you know, putting such an effort in it wants to become number one in the world. But there’s only one number one. You know, I still have 21 spots to go. And hopefully after this tournament I have a little bit less.” – Caroline Wozniacki.

“This is my eleventh final and I’ve only won twice. It’s starting to really sting, nine times losing. I’ve got a lot of runner-up trophies in my office in my house. These are the ones I need to get.” – Mardy Fish, after losing the Pilot Pen final.

“I had never faced a serve like that before. I needed to return better, and I didn’t.” – John Isner, the 6-foot-9 (205 cm) American, after losing to 6-foot-10 (208 cm) Ivo Karlovic of Croatia at the Pilot Pen.

“I am looking forward to playing again in January in my home country and using that as a springboard to compete at my best again on the world stage for at least a couple of more years.” – Lleyton Hewitt, who has undergone hip surgery and will miss the rest of 2008.

“It’s very disappointing for me to miss the U.S. Open. I’ve always done well in this tournament.” – Sania Mirza, who pulled out of the year’s final Grand Slam tournament with a right wrist injury.

“We’ve had a great year so far and look forward to finishing the season in Doha and defending our Championships title.” – Cara Black, after she and Liezel Huber became the first doubles team to qualify for the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships.

“I have nothing more to say to this man. We spoke to him last year, trying to understand why he is doing these things, but it is impossible, it’s a waste of time.” – Rafael Nadal, talking last spring about Etienne de Villiers, who is stepping down as head of the ATP.

“I understand how much the Olympics means to many people. But for me, as a professional tennis player, it is just a tournament.” -Li Na, who made Chinese history by beating Svetlana Kuznetsova and Venus Williams and reaching the semifinals at the Beijing Games.

SOARING SPANIARD

If Rafael Nadal wins his third straight Grand Slam tournament, he would take home the biggest paycheck in tennis. Nadal clinched the 2008 Olympus US Open Series men’s title, and that would result in a USD $1 million bonus should he win the US Open. Add that to the winner’s purse at the two-week event and Nadal could increase his bank account by USD $2.5 million. Roger Federer won the Open Series title and the US Open last year, pocketing a record USD $2.4 million. Dinara Safina won the women’s Open Series and could also earn a USD $1 million bonus should she win the US Open women’s singles.

STAR-STUDDED NIGHT

A parade of past winners will be in Arthur Ashe Stadium when the US Open’s Opening Night Ceremony celebrates the 40th anniversary of open tennis, including Billie Jean King, John McEnroe, Rod Laver, Ivan Lendl, Tracy Austin, Martina Navratilova, Stan Smith, Boris Becker, Gabrielle Sabatini, John Newcombe, Ilie Nastase, Guillermo Vilas and Mats Wilander. Virginia Wade, winner of the first U.S. Open in 1968, will be on hand, while the men’s champion, the late Arthur Ashe, will be represented by his widow, Jeanne Moutossamy-Ashe, and daughter, Camera Ashe. Other past champions on hand will include Roger Federer, Lindsay Davenport, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Marat Safin and Andy Roddick.

STANDING DOWN

The man from Disney, Etienne de Villiers, is stepping down as executive chairman and president of the ATP, the governing body of men’s professional tennis, when his contract expires at the end of the 2008 season. De Villiers has served as ATP executive chairman since June 2005. A native of South Africa, de Villiers had come under heavy criticism from the game’s top players, including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. In March at the Sony Ericsson Open, every top 20 player signed a letter to the ATP Board of Directors demanding that de Villiers’ contract not be renewed until other candidates were interviewed for the position. An executive at Disney, de Villiers was hired by the ATP with a mandate to make change. He did that while also making enemies. The ATP recently won a court case but spent millions on its defense.

SURGERY

Hip surgery will keep Lleyton Hewitt from playing in this year’s U.S. Open. The 2001 winner at New York’s Flushing Meadows, Hewitt said in a statement published on his web site that he is frustrated at not being able to play but had exhausted every possibility besides surgery. He also will miss Australia’s Davis Cup World Group playoff in Chile later in September. His last tournament was the Beijing Olympics where he lost in the second round to Rafael Nadal.

STEPS DOWN

Leander Paes has stepped down as captain of India’s Davis Cup team. A Davis Cup regular for 17 years, Paes has been named to the Indian team that will play Romania in a World Group playoff September 19, with the winner remaining in the World Group. Sumant Misra has been named non-playing captain for the tie in Bucharest, Romania, with Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Somdev Devvarman and Prakash Amritraj on the squad. In an uneasy partnership, Paes and Bhupathi reached the quarterfinals at the Beijing Olympics before losing to eventual gold medalist Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland. Once one of the world’s top doubles teams, Paes and Bhupathi split, and Bhupathi and his teammates tried unsuccessfully in February to have Paes removed as Davis Cup captain.

SANIA OUT

A right wrist injury means India’s Sania Mirza will miss the US Open. Mirza had surgery on her wrist in April, keeping her off the WTA Tour for some time. The injury flared up during her first-round match at the Beijing Olympics, and after tests, she was advised to rest for three weeks. In 2005, Mirza had her best US Open, reaching the fourth round.

SKIPPING FLUSHING

Stefan Koubek of Austria has pulled out of this year’s US Open. Ranked 105th in the world, Koubek has not played since being routed by Robin Soderling 6-0 6-1 at the Sony Ericsson Masters in Miami in March.

STILL EFFECTIVE

Ivan Ljubicic is the newest member of the ATP Player Council. The 29-year-old Ljubicic was elected to the vacant position of European Player Board Representative and will fulfill the existing term that ends in December 2009. Ljubicic served as vice president and president of the ATP Player Council in 2006-07.

SO TIRED

Having won his last four tournaments, Juan Martin del Potro said he was tired and withdrew from the Pilot Pen in New Haven, Connecticut. The 19-year-old Argentine won titles at Stuttgart, Germany; Kitzbuhel, Austria; Los Angeles, California, and Washington, D.C., moving up to number 17 in the world rankings.

SPARKLING NIGHT

The International Tennis Hall of Fame’s Legends Ball will be held in New York City on Friday, September 5, the last Friday of the US Open. The special night will honor Billie Jean King, Michael Chang, Mark McCormack and Eugene L. Scott along with others. Chang, McCormack and Scott were inducted into the Hall of Fame earlier this summer. A highlight of the evening will be the presentation of the third annual Eugene L. Scott Award to King. The award honors an individual who embodies Scott’s commitment to communicating honestly and critically about the game, and who has had a significant impact on the tennis world.

SONY ERICSSON QUALIFIERS

Cara Black and Liezel Huber are the first doubles team to qualify for the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships, to be played in Doha, Qatar, November 4-9. Black and Huber have teamed up so far this year to win seven WTA Tour titles, giving them 19 career doubles titles as a team. The top eight singles players and top four doubles teams will compete at the Championships.

STREAKING

Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki continued her winning ways in New Haven, Connecticut, capturing the Pilot Pen by knocking off top-seeded Anna Chakvetadze 3-6 6-4 6-1 in the final. It was Wozniacki’s second title of her career, both coming this month. The 18-year-old had never even been in a WTA Tour final until this month, winning her first crown in Stockholm, Sweden, before reaching the third round at the Beijing Olympics where she lost to eventual gold-medalist Elena Dementieva. Her run at New Haven included victories over third-seeded Marion Bartoli, seventh-seeded Alize Cornet and eighth-seeded Dominka Cibulkova.

STOPPED

Two tournaments scheduled to be held in the nation of Georgia have been canceled due to the current political situation. The International Tennis Federation called off a USD $10,000 event to be held at Tbilisi, beginning September 15, and a USD $25,000 tournament scheduled to be held in Batumi, beginning September 22.

SUCCESS

Marin Cilic is finally a champion on the ATP circuit. The 19-year-old from Croatia beat Mardy Fish 6-4 4-6 6-2 at the Pilot Penn in New Haven, Connecticut, a US Open tuneup tournament. Cilic, playing in a final for the first time in his pro career, broke Fish five times, including three times in the third set. Cilic joines Ivo Karlovic as the only Croats to win ATP titles this year.

STADIUM EXHIBITION

The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum will present a gallery exhibition at the 2008 US Open entitled “Home Court: The Family Draw.” The exhibition will be on view at the US Open Gallery in Louis Armstrong Stadium during the two weeks of the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. The exhibit provides an inspiring look at the relationship of tennis and family and features stories of many remarkable families.

SCOTLAND YARD

The four governing bodies of tennis have hired a former Scotland Yard detective to run the sport’s new integrity unit. Besides hiring Jeff Rees, the WTA and ATP tours, the International Tennis Federation and the Grand Slam Committee adopted an anti-corruption code to ensure the same set of penalties apply across the professional ranks. Rees, who previously worked for the International Cricket Council’s security unit, was part of an independent panel that issued a report in May saying 45 matches merited further investigation because of irregular betting patterns.

SHOWING OFF

Players on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour aren’t the only ones taking it off for the camera. Some of the ATP players are shedding their sports gear for more natural attire in a new calendar. Among those showing off their “muscles” are Fernando Verdaso, Ivan Ljubicic, Tommy Haas, Juan Monaco, Paradorn Srichaphan and Dmitry Tursonov.

SPORTING CHANCE

Paraguayan javelin thrower Leryn Franco finished 51st overall in a field of 52 competitors at the Beijing Olympics, but nobody seemed to care. The 26-year-old part-time model and bikini contestant was competing in her second Olympics: She placed 42nd overall at the 2004 Athens Games. It is reported that she is dating Novak Djokovic, who in January became the first player from Serbia to win a Grand Slam tournament and the youngest player in the Open era to have reached all four Grand Slam semifinals. Franco and Djokovic were seen walking hand-in-hand at the Olympic village in Beijing.

SO RELAXING

One day after he resigned as president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf was playing tennis on the court at his home and relaxing with family and friends. “He was in a good mood, very relaxed,” said Tariq Azim, who was among 30 supporters who gathered at Musharraf’s house outside the capital, Islamabad. “We used to meet him there in the past, but with no official duties, he was completely different.”

SAD NEWS

Harry Marmion, the 43rd president of the United States Tennis Association, is dead. Marmion, foremost an educator, served as president of St. Xavier College in Chicago and of Southampton College of Long Island University. He also was vice president for academic affairs at Fairleigh Dickinson University. But he was best known as the USTA president when Arthur Ashe Stadium, the main stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, was opened in 1997. Upon his retirement from the presidency, he was credited with playing an integral role in electing Judy Levering as the first female president of the USTA.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

New Haven men: Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa beat Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles 7-5 6-2

New Haven women: Kveta Peschke and Lisa Raymond beat Sorana Cirstea and Monica Niculescu 4-6 7-5 10-7 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

US Open: www.usopen.org

ATP: www.atptennis.com

WTA Tour: www.sonyericssonwtatour.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP and WTA TOUR

U.S. Open, Flushing Meadows, New York, hard (first week)

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP and WTA TOUR

U.S. Open, Flushing Meadows, New York, hard (second week)