Petra Cetkovska

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Roland Garros Rewind: Federer, Azarenka, Serena Cruise, Monfils Leads French Parade on Day Four

Azarenka made her Roland Garros 2013 debut today after a four-day wait.

Profiting from more cooperative weather, Roland Garros produced a Day 4 replete with action.  Here’s the review of how it all went down.

ATP:

Match of the day:  Ah, the French in Paris.  Sometimes they dazzle, sometimes they implode, sometimes they puzzle, and sometimes they do all three.  Julien Benneteau achieved the trifecta in a five-set victory over Tobias Kamke, completing his first pair of consecutive victories since February.  En route to the third round, Benneteau a) won a 20-point tiebreak b) blew a two-set lead c) ate a bagel in the fourth set and d) won anyway.  Richard Gasquet, it’s your move.

Worth the wait:  After a 14-game fifth set, the epic between Horacio Zeballos and Vasek Pospisil finally ended a day and two sets after Zeballos could have ended it in a third-set tiebreak.  A young Canadian talent, Pospisil showed grit by rallying from the brink of a straight-sets loss to the brink of a five-set victory.  But Zeballos, who defeated Rafael Nadal to win a South American clay title this spring, relied on his greater experience to get the last word.

Comeback of the day:  Dutch heavy hitter Igor Sijsling looked ready to knock off the lowest men’s seed when he swept two tight sets.  Continuing a surprisingly solid clay campaign, Tommy Robredo surged through the next three sets for the loss of five total games.  The pattern of the scores recalled Roger Federer’s comeback over Juan Martin Del Potro here last year.

Surprise of the day:  Surely elated by his upset over Berdych in a first-round epic, Gael Monfils might have fallen victim to a hangover against the dangerous Ernests Gulbis.  Although he dropped the first set for the second straight match, Monfils outlasted his fellow erratic shot-maker for another quality win that jangled the nerves of his compatriots a bit less.  Up next is a more compelling test of his consistency against Robredo.  Check out the more detailed recap of Gael’s win on this site by colleague Yeshayahu Ginsburg.

Gold star:  A few of the less notable home hopes fell today, but all of the leading French men prevailed.  Like Monfils, Benoit Paire completed a comeback from losing the first set to win in four.  Gilles Simon hurled three consecutive breadsticks at clay specialist Pablo Cuevas after he too spotted his opponent a one-set lead.  Jo-Wilfried Tsonga roared through in straight sets for the second consecutive match, as did Jeremy Chardy.  And don’t forget the wacky win by Benneteau explored above.  Plenty of reason remains for French patriots to return as the third round unfolds.

Silver star:  Struggling to win matches this year, Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki both survived potentially tricky encounters.  Tipsarevic cruised past local hero Nicolas Mahut, perhaps helped by the schedule shift away from Court Philippe Chatrier after the rain.  Troicki weathered five taxing sets and two tiebreaks against clay specialist Daniel Gimeno-Traver, who had upset 17th seed Juan Monaco.

Marathon man:  For the second straight round, Andreas Seppi prevailed in five sets.  Halfway to defending his fourth-round points from last year, Seppi seemed to have a stranglehold when he bageled Blaz Kavcic in the first set.  He later would allow a two-set lead to escape before regrouping when the match hung in the balance.

Stat of the day:  All 15 men’s seeds in action today advanced, eight in straight sets.

American in Paris:  After winning just one match in his first six Roland Garros appearances, top-ranked man Sam Querrey has won two in his seventh trip here without losing a set.

Question of the day:  Second seed Roger Federer entered this tournament as a distant third favorite for the title after Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.  Looking at least as sharp as either of them, Federer now has lost just 12 games in two matches, albeit against weak competition from two qualifiers.  Should we start taking his title hopes more seriously?

WTA:

Match of the day:  After Victoria Azarenka outlasted her in a long match at the Australian Open, Jamie Hampton secured a happier ending to another three-setter at a major.  Hampton stunned 25th seed Lucie Safarova after winning the first set in a tiebreak, withstanding Safarova’s second-set surge, and closing out a 9-7 final set.  That 16-game affair was the longest set of the women’s tournament so far.

Worth the wait:  Delayed by rain, world No. 3 Azarenka did not start her Roland Garros campaign until Wednesday.  Needing to issue a strong statement, as all of her rivals had, Azarenka delivered with a resounding victory over former doubles partner Elena Vesnina.  None of the top four women has lost more than five games in a match so far.

Comeback of the day:  For the second straight tournament, Svetlana Kuznetsova ate a first-set breadstick from an unseeded opponent.  Whereas the Rome breadstick from Simona Halep preceded another breadstick, the Roland Garros breadstick from Magdalena Rybarikova spurred the 2009 champion into action.  Kuznetsova dropped just four games over the next two sets, responding much more forcefully to adversity.

Surprise of the day:  Surviving a first-round flirtation with disaster boded well for Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova’s chances here.  She almost always has ventured deep into draws this year when passing her first test.  This time, though, Pavlyuchenkova fell short in the second round to Petra Cetkovska in another tight three-setter.  The victim of painful losses here as well, coach Martina Hingis can empathize.

Unsurprising surprise of the day:  Unseeded 2012 quarterfinalist Kaia Kanepi continued her momentum from winning a Premier title in Brussels last week.  Kanepi dispatched 23rd seed Klara Zakopalova in straight sets on a difficult day for Czechs.

Gold star:  Famous forever after what happened last year, Virginie Razzano technically surpassed that performance this year.  Razzano more than justified her wildcard by reaching the third round, perhaps bolstered by the memories of her landmark victory over Serena Williams.

Silver star:  In the first match of her career at Roland Garros, promising Australian teenager Ashleigh Barty made her presence felt.  Barty stunned last week’s Strasbourg runner-up Lucie Hradecka in three sets, overcoming dramatic disparities in power, experience, and clay expertise.

Marathon woman:  Eight of Petra Kvitova’s last nine matches have reached a third set, the latest against the fossilized Aravane Rezai today.  That recent capsule from clay reflects a trend typical for Kvitova overall, for she has played 18 three-setters this year and a staggering 39 in 2012-13.  Whether caused by slow starts or mid-match hiccups, those rollercoasters illustrate her unreliability.

Stat of the day:  Bojana Jovanovski has won three matches since January, two of which have come against Caroline Wozniacki.  The Dane predictably became the first top-ten woman to lose at Roland Garros as Jovanovski accomplished what the more talented Laura Robson could not.

Americans in Paris:  Blasting past Caroline Garcia today, Serena Williams has lost just four games in two matches and 18 games in seven matches since Rome started.  While the top seed continues to look every inch the title favorite, several other American women acquitted themselves well.  Varvara Lepchenko notched a second straight routine victory, while women’s wildcard Shelby Rogers swiped a set from 20th seed Carla Suarez Navarro despite the gap between their relative credentials.  On the other hand, Madison Keys dropped a winnable match to Monica Puig, and Mallory Burdette could not find any answers to Agnieszka Radwanska.

Question of the day:  All of the top four women have roared through their early matches, confirming their elite status.  Outside that group, who has impressed you the most so far?

Paris: Jankovic, Li Withdraw; Goerges, Safarova, Pironkova in Action

Goerges r32_2_600

The Open GDF Suez WTA event in Paris saw seeded players Na Li and Jelena Jankovic both withdraw due to injuries today: Li with a sore back and Jankovic with a left thigh strain she picked up in Serbia’s 3-2 win over Belgium in the Fed Cup last week.

Li received a medical timeout, with a trainer massaging her lower back, before playing a few more points and eventually retiring after trailing in the second set to Tsvetana Pironkova.

“It was so painful,” Li said. “That’s why I called the physio to come to the court. I tried to tape and then tried to play the point, but it didn’t work. I’ll go to the hospital to take an MRI to see what happened.”

“I hurt myself in the Fed Cup at the weekend,” elaborated Li. “It had gotten better since and this morning it didn’t hurt. But the stab of pain returned, very strong and I couldn’t continue. I don’t know if it’s because of the Fed Cup, maybe I’m getting old as well,” added Li, who turns 30 later this month.

Likewise, Jankovic picked up her injury while playing Fed Cup against Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium last week and wasn’t able to heal in time to play in Paris.

“I had hoped that after treatment I could still play here but unfortunately it’s impossible,” said Jankovic. “Australia (Open) and the Fed Cup and then here, that’s a lot. But it’s important for me to play for my country… I don’t know when I will be able to resume playing but I don’t regret having played in the Fed Cup.”

Although the third and fourth seeds are gone, the tournament still has it’s top two marquee players scheduled to play, Maria Sharapova and Marion Bartoli.

Other winners include sixth seed Julia Goerges who dispatched of Shahar Peer 6-1, 6-3, while ninth-seed Angelique Kerber defeated Lucie Safarova 6-2, 7-6. Chanelle Scheepers defeated Polona Hercog 6-2, 6-2. Qualifier Mona Barthel easily dispensed of Barbara Zahlavova Strycova 6-3, 6-2, while Petra Cetkovska defeated Alberta Brianti 6-3, 6-3.

***

Catch all the great action our photographer Rick Gleijm caught during the first round main draw matches today! And make sure to check out his feature “Paris Tennis Diary: From the Photo Pit.”

Stay tuned all week for full coverage in Paris and catch Rick at the ATP Rotterdam tournament next week!

McIlroy calls Wozniacki his girlfriend, Ana Ivanovic and I are looking forward to the US Open and win another Virtua Tennis 4 goodie bag!

ana-ivanovic-adidas-us-open-2011

It has been a while since I last wrote a blog entry for TennisGrandstand. I have been on vacations and what good is a vacation if you take your laptop with workstuff with you? It’s just not a vacation.  Did you go on vacations? If so, how was the weather? I hope a lot less rainy than mine was.

Caroline Wozniacki and Rory McIlroy make it official

Caroline Wozniacki has been struggling for quite a while now. She hasn’t won a tournament since April and her performances at the French Open and Wimbledon weren’t exactly, to put it mildly, of high quality. Then the US Open series started and  two second round losses at the Cincinnati Open and the Rogers Cup versus Roberta Vinci and America’s upcoming talent Christina McHale followed in quick succession.  But this week everything seems to be good. Caroline Wozniacki made to the finals of New Haven and won in straight sets versus Czech Petra Cetkovska 6-4 , 6-1.

Rory McIlroy confirmed that Caro and him are dating by telling the press that you can “refer to her as my girlfriend now.”

Ana Ivanovic arrives in New York and shows off US Open attire

Has anyone kept up with Ana Ivanovic lately? She is making quantum leaps since she hired coach Nigel Sears. And it is as I have been saying for years now: Girl’s got game! Just got to have the right coach to put the finishing touches on her style. Just like myself, Ana is excited for the US Open 2011.

It’s always great to be back in New York and go to some of my favourite restaurants here. Practice has been going well this week – let’s just hope the weather holds up. Now that the draw is out, the excitement is even greater…

And I am not just excited because I think Ana can survive the first week but also because I like her US Open dress. For more information you can always take a look at Ana Ivanovic’ official Facebook Page.

Bondi Bands: Because I hate it when sweat gets in my eyes!

Don’t you just hate it when you are playing a sport intensely and sweat gets in your eyes. You spend more time whiping the sweat off your forehead instead of actually doing what you are supposed to do: Play the sports!  That’s why I started to use Bondi Bands.  Bondi Band is awesome athletic headwear for men, women and children. The  headband that has no slip and no drip.

 

More contests: Win a Virtua Tennis 4 goodie bag!

The last time it was won by Adilson Strahotski! The man answered the question correctly and was the first one to reply so he won.  But now I have a new contest. You can win the same goodie bag but this time I am changing the contest a little.  Join the TennisGrandstand – Unique Tennis Perspectives Facebook page and tell me why you of all people should get the goodie bag!

Thanks to Sega for making it possible!

 

Mondays With Bob Greene: Roger Federer sets historic record

Roger Federer set historic record

STARS

Wimbledon

Men’s singles: Roger Federer beat Andy Roddick 5-7 7-6 (6) 7-6 (5) 3-6 16-14

Women’s singles: Serena Williams beat Venus Williams 7-6 (3) 6-2

Men’s doubles: Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic beat Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan 7-6 (7) 6-7 (3) 7-6 (3) 6-3

Women’s doubles: Venus and Serena Williams beat Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs 7-6 (4) 6-4

Mixed doubles: Mark Knowles and Anna-Lena Groenefeld beat Leander Paes and Cara Black 7-5 6-3

Boys’ singles: Andrev Kuznetsov beat Jordan Cox 4-6 6-2 6-2

Girls’ singles: Noppawan Lertcheenakarn beat Kristina Mladenovic 3-6 6-3 6-1

Boys’ doubles: Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Kevin Krawietz beat Julien Obry and Adrian Puget 6-7(3), 6-2, 12-10.

Girls’ doubles: Noppawan Lertcheewakarn and Sally Peers beat Kristina Mladenovic and Silvia Njiric 6-1 6-1

Wheelchair women’s doubles: Korie Homan and Esther Vergeer beat Daniela Di Toro and Lucy Shuker 6-1 6-3

Wheelchair men’s doubles: Stephane Houdet and Michael Jeremiasz beat Robin Ammerlaan and Shingo Kunieda 1-6 6-4 7-3 (match tiebreak)

OTHER TOURNAMENTS

Oscar Hernandez beat Tiemurax Gabashvili to win the Nord/LP Open in Braunschweig, Germany

Potito Starace beat Maximo Gonzalez 7-6 (4) 6-3 to win the Trofeo Regione Piemonte in Turin, Italy

Polona Hercog beat Varvara Lepchonko 6-1 6-2 to win the Cuneo ITF Tournament in Cuneo, Italy

SAYING

“It’s not really one of those goals you set as a little boy, but, man, it’s been quite a career. And quite a month.” – Roger Federer, who won his sixth Wimbledon title, and 15th Grand Slam tournament crown, just four weeks after capturing his first French Open title.

“He’s a legend. Now he’s an icon.” – Pete Sampras, talking about Roger Federer after the Swiss star broke Sampras’ Grand Slam tournament victory record of 14 titles.

“Sorry, Pete, I tried to hold him off.” – Losing finalist Andy Roddick, apologizing to compatriot Pete Sampras.

“I’d rather definitely be number two and hold three Grand Slams in the past year than be number one and not have any. I don’t know what to do to be number one. I don’t even care anymore.” – Serena Williams, who won Wimbledon to go along with her 2009 Australian Open and 2008 US Open titles, yet is ranked number two in the world.

“Do I feel invincible? I’d like to say yes, but I really do work at it.” – Venus Williams, after winning her semifinal but before losing the title match to her sister Serena.

“I think I will beat him in a marathon easy.” – Robin Soderling, on meeting Roger Federer in another sport after losing to the Swiss star for the 11th straight time.

“Oh, it is only because he is better than everybody else. That’s it.” – Ivo Karlovic, when asked about Roger Federer’s secret for success.

“I don’t play to break records but it’s great to have them.” – Roger Federer.

“It’s a wonderful achievement. She’s played so well so many times. You know, a lot of the times actually at my expense.” – Venus Williams, on her sister Serena winning an 11th Grand Slam tournament title by beating Venus in the final.

“There’s no easy [way] to losing, especially when it’s so close to the crown. Either way, it’s not easy. ” – Venus Williams.

“One of the first things I noticed was our name on the board, on the big plaque. Now we get it twice. It’s obviously going to be special to come back next year and see that.” – Daniel Nestor, after teaming with Nenad Zimonjic to win their second straight Wimbledon men’s doubles title.

“It’s a game of inches and when you’re playing two guys who are serving close to 130 (mph), and you’re not getting a lot of sniffs on your return, it’s a dice roll. They were the better team today and I have to give them a lot of credit.” – Bob Bryan, on losing the men’s doubles final.

“I was Santa Claus on the court, serving so many double-faults.” – Dinara Safina, after overcoming 15 double-faults to beat Sabine Lisicki in the quarterfinals.

“I wasn’t sure if it’s Serena or Andy Roddick on the other side of the net, 125 mph all the time.” Elena Dementieva, on Serena Williams’ big serves in their semifinal match.

“Venus played as if she had some place to go and she was in a major league hurry to get a great dinner.” – Father Richard Williams, on Venus’ 51-minutes semifinal victory over Dinara Safina.

“I think she gave me a pretty good lesson today.” – Dinara Safina, after losing to Venus Williams in 51 minutes.

“I’m still scared of Serena Williams. I find her very intimidating.” – Laura Robson, a 15-year-old from Britain, talking about the ladies’ locker room at Wimbledon.

“Roof! Roof! Roof!” –Centre Court crowd chanting as the new retractable roof was closed for the first time when a light sprinkle interrupted play.

SETS RECORD

He had to work overtime to do it, but Roger Federer became the first man in history to win 15 Grand Slam tournament singles titles. His record-breaking 15th was the longest men’s Grand Slam final in history at 77 games as Federer outlasted Andy Roddick 5-7 7-6 (6) 7-6 (5) 3-6 16-14. The previous record was 71 games in the 1927 Australian Championships, while the previous Wimbledon mark was 62 games last year when Rafael Nadal beat Federer. The Federer-Roddick battle also was the longest fifth set in a men’s Grand Slam tournament final, breaking the old mark of 11-9 set in 1927 at Roland Garros. Federer served 50 aces, the most he has served in a match and only one behind Ivo Karlovic’s Wimbledon record of 51 aces. Federer’s previous best was 39 aces when he beat Janko Tipsarevic at the Australian Open in 2008.

SISTERS DOING IT

Sisters Serena and Venus Williams tried to take home all of the hardware from Wimbledon. Serena beat Venus in the women’s final, snapping the older sister’s two-year reign at Wimbledon. The two then teamed up to win the women’s doubles for the second time.

SUSTAINING TEAR

Ana Ivanovic will rest for at least a week after she suffered a slight tear in her left thigh during her fourth-round match at Wimbledon. The 2008 French Open champion left the court in tears after the first game of the second set against Venus Williams, who won the first set 6-1. Ivanovic is not scheduled to play again until August 3.

SHUT MY TOP

It took a brief shower, but Wimbledon showed off its new roof. With the crowd shouting “Roof! Roof! Roof!,” the retractable roof over Centre Court was closed for the first time on the second Monday of the tournament. The light sprinkle had halted play during he second set of a match between top-ranked Dinara Safina and 2006 Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo. By the time the roof was closed and the match resumed, the rain had stopped. But officials decided to keep the roof shut for the final match of the evening, Andy Murray beating Stanislas Wawrinka in a five-set match that ended at 10:39 p.m., more than an hour later than the previous record. Wimbledon joins the Australian Open as the only two Grand Slam tournaments with roofs. The Australian Open has roofs over its two main courts and plans to cover a third. The French Open plans on having a roof over its center court by 2011, while the US Open is looking into the possibility of covering a court.

SWINE FLU?

Twenty-eight staff members at Wimbledon were asked to stay at home because they were suspected of having swine flu. Two players – Michal Mertinak and Filip Polasek – also showed symptoms of the world-wide ailment. Mertinak withdrew from the second round of the mixed doubles because he was not feeling well. The two players were sharing a hotel room in London. All England Club spokesman Henry O’Grady said that despite the precautions, no one at Wimbledon is known to have swine flu.

SWINGING TOGETHER

India’s Prakash Amritraj and Pakistan’s Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi hope their recent play will allow them to form a full-time doubles partnership. In only their third tournament together, Amritraj and Qureshi reached the third round before falling to the fourth-seeded team of Mark Knowles and Mahesh Bhupathi 6-4 5-7 7-6 (3) 6-0. “I’m glad we had these two weeks as a team,” Amritraj said. “I think we should take this partnership forward and we’re definitely a team to be reckoned with.”

STARRING

Women’s tennis is returning to New York’s Madison Square Garden, if only for one night. Four top players will compete March 1 in the second Billie Jean King Cup featuring no-ad scoring, a one-set semifinal and best-of-three final. Serena Williams won the inaugural event earlier this year, besting her sister Venus in the final. The 2008 field also included Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic. This year’s four Grand Slam tournament winners will be invited to participate in next year’s tournament. Serena has won the Australian Open and Wimbledon, while Svetlana Kuznetsova captured the French Open.

SPANISH LOSS

Rafael Nadal won’t be there when Spain’s Davis Cup takes on Germany in a World Group quarterfinal. Nadal, who has been struggling with tendinitis in his knees, was left off the Spanish team, just as he was for last year’s final, which Spain won by defeating Argentina. Spanish captain Albert Costa has named Fernando Verdasco, Tommy Robredo, David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez for the tie that will be played on clay in Marbella, Spain, later this week.

Wimbledon quarterfinalist Ivo Karlovic and Marin Cilic will lead Croatia’s Davis C up team against the United States. Croatia, which won the Davis Cup in 2005, will stage the tie on an indoor clay court in Porec, Croatia. Led by Wimbledon finalist Andy Roddick, the American team includes James Black and brothers Bob and Mike Bryan, marking the 12th time in the last 13 Davis Cup contests that the same quartet of players will be together. Croatia has beaten the United States twice in Davis Cup competition.

SUMMER FLING?

Andre Agassi will play World Team Tennis this summer for the Philadelphia Freedoms. He will play at home on July 10 against the Boston Lobsters and at Newport Beach, California, on July 17. While Agassi played World Team Tennis before – for the Sacramento Capitals from 2002-04 – there will be two veterans stars making their WTT debuts. Michael Chang will play for the Capitals, while Kim Clijsters will suit up for two matches with the St. Louis Aces. Clijsters plans to return to the WTA Tour after a two-year retirement. Other stars playing this season include Serena Williams (Washington, DC), Venus Williams (Philadelphia), Maria Sharapova (Newport Beach), Martina Navratilova (Boston) and John McEnroe (New York). WTT is getting a boost this summer from its new partnership with the United States Tennis Association and a new team in New York City. The USTA has become a 25 percent owner of the league in an effort to expand the USTA Junior Team Tennis program.

SPECIAL NIGHT

The Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Award will be awarded by the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum (ITHFM) to Tennis Channel for its ongoing contributions to tennis. The award will be given at the 28th annual “Legends Ball” on Friday, September 11, in New York City. The special night will also honor a host of tennis luminaries, including Rod Laver, who will receive a special Life Trustee Award, and the Hall of Fame Induction Class of 2009: Donald Dell, Andres Gimeno, the late Dr. Robert Johnson and Monica Seles. The Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Award was created in honor of an individual whose passion and generosity for the game of tennis inspired others to contribute to the advancement of the sport. Cullman served as president and chairman of the ITHFM from 1982-88. Previous winners of the award include BNP Paribas, Rolex and Sony Ericsson. Tennis Channel will be covering its first US Open this year. The network also covers Wimbledon, the French Open and Australia Open in high definition, as well as the US Open Series, Davis Cup, ATP Masters series, fEd Cup and top-tier Sony Ericsson WTA Tour championship competitions.

SITTING IT OUT

Anna Kournikova won’t be playing World Team Tennis this season. The Russian star has been sidelined with a wrist injury. A WTT spokesperson said Kournikova made her decision after experiencing pain from tenosvnovitis while practicing for what would have been her seventh season with the league. The St. Louis Aces player has not responded to therapy or a series of cortisone shots. But while she’s unable to play, Kournikova plans to travel with her team to matches in Philadelphia, Washington DC, Springfield and St. Louis.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Braunschweig: Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer beat Brian Dabul and Nicolas Massau 7-6 (2) 6-4

Turin: Daniele Bracciali and Potito Starace beat Santiago Giraldo and Pere Riba 6-3 6-4

Cuneo: Akgul Amanmuradova and Darya Kustova beat Petra Cetkovska and Mathilde Johansson 5-7 6-1 10-7 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Newport: www.tennisfame.com/

Bastad: www.swedishopen.org/

Budapest: www.gazdefrancegrandprix.com/

Pozoblanco: www.tennispozoblanco.com

Davis Cup: www.daviscup.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$500,000 Campbell’s Hall of Fame Championships, Newport, Rhode Island, USA, grass

$100,000 Open Diputacion Ciudad de Pozoblanco, Pozoblanco, Cordoba, Spain, clay

WTA

$220,000 GDF Suez Grand Prix, Budapest, Hungary, clay

$220,000 Collector Swedish Open Women, Bastad, Sweden, clay

$100,000 Open GDF Suez de Biarritz, Biarritz, France, clay

DAVIS CUP

World Group Quarterfinals

Czech Republic vs. Argentina at Ostrava, Czech Republic

Croatia vs. United States at Porec, Croatia

Israel vs. Russia at Tel Aviv, Israel

Spain vs. Germany at Puerto Banus, Marbella, Spain

Americas Zone Group 1 Playoff

Peru vs. Canada at Lima, Peru

Americas Zone Group 2 Second Round

Venezuela vs. Mexico at Maracaibo, Venezuela

Dominican Republic vs. Paraguay at San Francisco de Marcons, Provincia Duarte, Dominican Republic

Asia/Oceania Zone Group 1 Playoff

Thailand vs. Kazakhstan at Nonthaburi, Thailand

Korea vs. China at Chun-cheon City, Korea

Asia/Oceania Zone Group 2 Second Round

Philippines vs. Pakistan at Manila, Philippines

New Zealand vs. Indonesia at Hamilton, New Zealand

Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 Playoffs

Belarus vs. FYR Macedonia at Minsk, Belarus

Europe/Africa Zone Group 2 Second Round

Slovenia vs. Lithuania at Otocec, Slovenia

Latvia vs. Bulgaria at Plovdiv, Latvia

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$600,000 Catella Swedish Open, Bastad, Sweden, clay

$600,000 Mercedes Cup, Stuttgart, Germany, clay

$125,000 Bogota, Columbia, clay

WTA

$220,000 Internazionali Femminili di Tennis di Palermo, Palermo, Italy, clay

$220,000 ECM Prague Open, Prague, Czech Republic, clay

Jelena Dokic Shows Her Intent to Make it Back

Last week on the challenger circuit, winning streaks continued on both the men’s and women’s sides. Several players have won consecutive challenger titles, making it clear that they’re serious about going into the draw at the French Open, which starts next week.

After limiting herself to just nine events in the last two years, it looks like Jelena Dokic of Australia is serious about making a comeback in 2008. The 25-year-old won her second challenger title in a row at the $25,000 event in Caserta, Italy, rolling over Patricia Mayr of Austria in the final with a 6-3, 6-1 victory. Dokic moves back into the top 300 with this result and was granted a main draw wildcard into the WTA event held this week in Strasbourg, France.

Petra Cetkovska of the Czech Republic is rolling into Roland Garros with as much confidence as a player could hope for. The 23-year-old won her second challenger title in a row at the $50,000 tournament in Saint Gaudens, France, with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Maria-Jose Martinez Sanchez of Spain. Cetkovska has enjoyed a fine year on the clay, reaching the quarterfinals at a WTA event in Fes, Morocco, in addition to two main draw wins during the South American swing on the WTA Tour. With the right draw, Cetkovska is definitely a candidate to win a couple of rounds at the French Open next week.

American tennis has a new promising hope to look out for after teenager Chelsey Gullickson won the first challenger title of her career at the $25,000 event in Raleigh, North Carolina. She won the title with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 win over fellow American Lauren Albanese. The 17-year-old is still listed as an amateur player, but may soon be rethinking her decision about whether or not to turn pro. Despite the loss in the finals, Albanese has all but eradicated her nightmare start to 2008, having lost her first ten matches of the year.

In other results on the women’s side, Barbara Zahalova Strycova of the Czech Republic won her third challenger title of the year at the $25,000 event in Szczecin, Poland, while teenager Kai-Chen Chang of Taipei won the first challenger title of her career at the $50,000 event in Kurume, Japan.

On the men’s side, Eduardo Schwank of Argentina is a name which has often come up in this column, which may mean that his time on the challenger circuit will soon be coming to an end. He won his third challenger title in a row at the $100,000 event in Bordeaux, France, overwhelming Igor Kunitsyn of Russia with a 6-2, 6-2 routing in the final. Schwank now moves into Roland Garros as a long-shot candidate to reach the second week.

Gael Monfils of France lived up to his billing as top seed at the $100,000 challenger in Marrakesh, Morocco, winning the title with a 7-6, 7-6 victory over Jeremy Chardy of France. Despite the loss, Chardy has been a consistent performer on the challenger circuit this year and has been granted a main draw wild card into the French Open as a result.

After losing in the finals of his last two challenger events, Yen-Hsun Lu of Taipei finally broke the streak at the $50,000 event in New Delhi, India, prevailing over Brendan Evans of the United States with a 5-7, 7-6, 6-3 victory. Lu’s strong performances on the challenger circuit this have helped move him back inside the top 100 this year and into a new career high ranking.

In other results on the men’s side, Jesse Levine of the United States won the $50,000 event in Bradenton, Florida, while Daniel Gimeno of Spain prevailed at the $50,000 tournament in Aarhus, Denmark. Diego Junqueira of Argentina took home the winners trophy at the $30,000 event in San Remo, Italy, while Christophe Rochus of Belgium won the $50,000 tournament in Zagreb, Croatia.

The challenger circuit will remain fairly quiet this week with qualifying for the French Open starting on Tuesday. Yen-Hsun Lu takes top billing at the second $50,000 challenger in New Delhi, India, while Danai Udomchoke is the top seed at the $35,000 event in Fergana, Uzbekistan. On the women’s side, Maria Kondratieva of Russia is top seed at the $25,000 event in Moscow, Russia, while Chin-Wei Chan of Taipei is the top seed at the $25,000 tournament in Nagano, Japan.

Dokic and Massu Take First Steps to Former Glory

Last week on the challenger circuit, two former top 10 players struggling with injuries and motivation took their first real steps to reclaiming their former glory, while two players on the men’s side continued their hot streaks on the circuit.

Jelena Dokic of Australia has had more than her share of personal problems. The former world No. 4 has defected from her family, switched nationalities several times, and attempted multiple half-hearted comeback attempts. However, it looks like that Dokic is serious this time around after winning her first event in six years at the $25,000 event in Florence, Italy, dominating Lucie Hradecka of Czech Republic 6-1, 6-3 in the final. The win moves Dokic up to No. 325 in the rankings (after just four tournaments) and she has contacted the All England Club for a qualifying wild card into Wimbledon.

At the $75,000 event in Zagreb, Croatia, Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden won her first title of the year by beating former Wimbledon quarterfinalist Severine Bremond of France 7-6, 6-2. The 24-year-old Swede, who has recorded high-profile scalps over Anna Chakvetadze and Marion Bartoli this year, used her aggressive groundstrokes to wear Bremond down throughout the match. Despite the loss, Bremond has been on a hot streak as of late with a 10-4 record on the challenger circuit in her last four events.

At the $50,000 tournament in Jounieh, Lebanon, players had to endure the fighting that has plagued the country, confining them to their hotel rooms and the tennis courts for the week. Anne Keothavong of Great Britain weathered her surroundings and won the first clay court of her career, defeating Lourdes Dominguez-Lino of Spain 6-4, 6-1. The win moved Keothavong up to a career high ranking of No. 102 and allows her direct entry into Wimbledon this summer. The last British player to get direct entry into Wimbledon was Samantha Smith in 1999.

In other results on the women’s side, Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium won the $50,000 event in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida. Petra Cetkovska of Czech Republic prevailed at the $50,000 challenger in Bucharest, Romania, and Tomoko Yonemura of Japan won at the $50,000 challenger in Fukuoka, Japan. Ksenia Milevskaya of Belarus won at the $25,000 challenger in Antalya, Turkey, Yan Ze-Xie of China took home the winners trophy at the $25,000 event in Changwon, Korea, and Mariana Duque-Marino of Colombia prevailed at the $25,000 event in Irapuato, Mexico.

On the men’s side, it’s been a while since we heard from Nicolas Massu. The former top 10 player and reigning Olympic gold medalist has been struggling with injuries, but took a step in the right direction by winning the $30,000 event in Rijeka, Croatia. His 6-2, 6-2 win in the final over Christophe Rochus of Belgium gives the Chilean his first title in over two years.

Ivan Miranda of Peru is continuing to ride his hot streak on the challenger circuit with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Carsten Ball of Australia at the $50,000 challenger in Tunica, Mississippi. Miranda has now reached the championship round in three of the last four challengers he has played. His experience clearly was a factor against Ball, who was competing in the first challenger final of his career.

Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil is a name that has repeatedly come up in this column, but it’s only a matter of time before he moves to the ATP Tour on a full-time basis. He won his fourth challenger title of the year (and third in a row) at the $42,500 challenger in Rabat, Morocco, rolling over Martin Vasallo-Arguello of Argentina 6-2, 6-2. Expect Bellucci to potentially do some damage at Roland Garros in just a few weeks.

In other results on the men’s side, Andreas Beck won the $42,500 challenger in Dresden, Germany, while Teimuraz Gabashvili of Russia won the $30,000 event in Telde, Spain. Jiri Vanek also won the $42,500 event in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

Fabrice Santoro of France highlights the challenger circuit this week as the top seed at the $75,000 event in Bordeaux, France, while Gael Monfis of France leads the way at the $75,000 challenger in Marrakech, Morocco. Several $50,000 events will also be contested this week; Robert Kendrick of the United States is the top seed at the one in Bradenton, Florida, Yen-Hsun Lu of Taipei will lead the way in New Delhi, India, and Denis Gremelmayr of Germany takes top billing in Zagreb, Croatia. Oscar Hernandez of Spain is top seed at the $42,500 event in Aarhus, Denmark, while Santiago Ventura of Spain is the top seed at the $30,000 challenger in San Remo, Italy.

On the women’s side, Petra Cetkovska of Czech Republic is top seed at the $50,000 event in Saint Gaudens, France. Melanie South of Great Britain leads the way at the $50,000 challenger in Kurume, Japan, Tetiana Luzhanska of Ukraine is the top seed at the $25,000 challenger in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Jorgelina Cravero of Argentina takes top billing at the $25,000 event in Caserta, Italy. Finally, Renata Voracova of Czech Republic is top seed at the $25,000 event in Szczecin, Poland.

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