If Serena Williams’ troublesome foot does, in fact, keep her out for the remainder of the tennis season, seven of the world’s top 20 women will have checked out post-U.S. Open due to injury or illness. And there could be more “out-for-the-season” announcements to come.
Already Venus Williams, Justine Henin, Nadia Petrova, Agnieszksa Radwanska, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Maria Sharapova have thrown in the towel, but Na Li and Kim Clijsters have also struggled with injuries lately. With the WTA Championships in Doha and the Bali Tournament of Champions fast approaching, you can bet tournament organizers are hoping to avoid any more withdrawals.
It seems many of the top players are going to take a break whether it’s on the calendar or not. Complaints about the length of the professional tennis season are nothing new, but the women’s schedule is already about three weeks shorter than the men’s (though the ATP is scheduled to vote on shortening theirs as well).
Injuries are unavoidable, but you have to wonder whether some of those seven women would pull themselves together if the WTA year-end championships or the Tournament of Champions in Bali (which includes several more top players) fell under the Grand Slam heading.
Admittedly, the WTA does everything it can to make their season ending event an attractive tour stop. The champion in Doha stands to rake in $1.5 million, which is more than the winner’s earnings in two of the four Grand Slams. But prize money alone can’t create interest from players or fans.
When the U.S. Open wraps up in early September, most casual tennis followers join the injured players and set their sites on next season. So why not shorten the time between the final Grand Slam and the year-end championships? Why not see if it’s possible to ride the wave of U.S. Open interest? Not only would that extend the off-season for the top players, but there would be a greater chance that those invited to participate would tough it out in order to compete.
It wouldn’t be necessary to shorten the overall calendar. Just let the second tier players fight it out through mid-November for prize money and ranking points. Fall is likely their favorite time of the year anyway with many of their toughest opponents having already packed it in. Those players have undoubtedly survived long seasons as well, but consider the difference between Caroline Wozniacki and say, No. 37 Agnes Szavay. Both have played 21 tournaments to date, but the world No. 1 has played 22 more matches.
The problem with the tennis off-season, no matter when it starts, is that players not named Venus or Serena Williams can’t afford (or don’t think they can afford) to take a month or two away from the game when that may be what’s most needed for full physical and psychological rejuvenation.
Professional football and baseball players, for instance, are given training camps to get back in playing shape after their long off-seasons, but tennis requires constant practice. A player can certainly get some rest in November and December, but very few can step away completely without suffering the consequences when tournament play ramps up in January.
As it stands currently, Caroline Wozniacki, Serena Williams (yes, she’s still officially the mix), Kim Clijsters, Jelena Jankovic, Elena Dementieva, Francesca Schiavone, Sam Stosur, and Vera Zvonareva will begin round robin play in Doha on October 26th.
Interestingly, only four of this year’s scheduled competitors (Wozniacki, Dementieva, Jankovic and Williams) played the tournament last year. The handful of new faces could allow for some end-of-season surprises.
An additional eight players including Yanina Wickmayer, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Daniela Hantuchova, Alisa Kleybanova and defending champion Aravane Rezai will compete in the Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions in Bali on November 4th. Na Li has also qualified for the tournament, but will earn a spot in Doha if Serena pulls out as expected. Ana Ivanovic, who is just coming off her first title in two years, also gained entry as a wildcard.
By Blair Henley
Roger Federer was introduced last week as a new brand ambassador for Mercedes-Benz.
It is a perfect partnership as both Federer and Mercedes represent elegance and excellence.
To boot, Federer was quoted in the press since he was a youngster about wanting to buy a Mercedes – or was he misquoted?
Rene Stauffer, in his book THE ROGER FEDERER STORY: QUEST FOR PERFECTION ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com), discusses a funny misunderstanding involving Federer and his mother from when he was a young teenager. The excerpt is below.
Lynette Federer was astonished to read one of her son’s first interviews in a Swiss newspaper when he was still a youngster. The question to Federer was “What would you buy with your first prize money paycheck?” and the answer actually printed in the paper was “A Mercedes.” Roger was still in school at the time and didn’t even have a driver’s license. His mother knew him well enough to know that the answer couldn’t be correct. She called the editors of the paper and asked to hear the taped conversation. The mother’s intuition was correct. He had really said, “More CD’s.”
Roger Federer never had extravagant tastes. Money was never the main incentive for him to improve. It was rather a pleasant by-product of his success.
The 2010 Champions Series tennis circuit started Friday in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where Marat Safin made his tour debut only 17 weeks after last playing on the ATP World Tour.
Safin said his appearance on the champion’s circuit so soon after leaving the main tour was “almost comical.” Perhaps even more startling is the fact that he lost in the first round of the eight-man Rio event Friday night to Wayne Ferreira.
The loss shows two things – Safin has probably played very little tennis since November when he played his final ATP event at the Paris Indoors and the guys on the Champions Series circuit can really still play. Safin just turned 30 years old while his conqueror, Ferreira, is eight years older, but showed he is still in great shape and playing fine tennis. There is prize money on the line in each match on the Champions Series and Ferreria earned him at least another extra $10,000 for his win. Ferreira went on to finish third in the event and pocketed $25,000.
Fernando Meligeni of Brazil was the surprise tournament winner, boosted by the local fan support. He defeated Mark Philippoussis in the championship match to win his first Champions Series title and $60,000.
Here are some photos of the event provided by tournament organizers.
With the Australian Open just a week away, many players are using this time to rest from tournament play and work on their game in practice only. You won’t find Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray or Andy Roddick playing any real matches this week. All of those top-dogs have already notched several wins under their belts and are feeling confident heading towards the first Slam of the year.
For some players though, they have yet to gain enough time on the court and are looking to take advantage of some precious ranking points and prize money while the big guns rest up. This week there are two ATP tournaments and one exhibition tourney set to begin.
Tommy Robredo is the number one seed in Auckland this year and is coming in with a big win off Andy Murray at the Hopman Cup last week. The Spaniard defeated Murray 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 to help lead Spain to victory. He has a first-round bye and may face big-serving John Isner in the quarter-finals.
The only other big name in the top half of the draw is veteran Juan Carlos Ferrero who will likely face a qualifier or two on his way to the later rounds. Ferrero is still kicking his tires on tour, but expectations are low even in a tournament of this scale.
In the bottom half Philipp Kohlschreiber has the not-so-enviable task of facing David Nalbandian in his return to tour action. Nalbandian has not played since May of 2009 due to injury but started his season a year ago with a victory in his first tournament of the year. It will be interesting to see what kind of shape Nalbandian is in and whether or not he can be considered a threat at the Aussie Open.
David Ferrer is the second seed in Auckland and has a fairly open section of the draw which should enable him to reach the semi-finals. The bottom half also welcomes Sebastien Grosjean back to the tour. The Frenchman had a record of 2-6 in 2009 as he too was plagued with injury problems.
There will be a new champion in Sydney this year, as defending champion David Nalbandian is in Auckland instead. It’s hard to figure out why the Argentine would make such a move, but he never really has been an easy one to figure out.
Gael Monfils is seeded number one and should advance to face Stan Wawrinka in the semi-finals. It is surprising that Wawrinka is choosing to play in Sydney, since he already reached the finals in Chennai where he lost to Marin Cilic last week. I would not be surprised if Wawrinka drops out at the last minute to rest up for the Open.
Igor Andreev and Richard Gasquet are also in the top half of the draw and are capable of causing some damage. We’re still waiting on Gasquet to deliver some results since returning from his shortened drug-related suspension from last season.
Lleyton Hewitt, who has won here four times before, will represent the local hopes. Hewitt is eager to return to the top ten this year and with a higher ranking he should be seeded at most tournaments he enters in 2010.
Sam Querrey and Tomas Berdych are also in this section of the draw. Querrey lost in the first round last week in Brisbane, while Berdych made it to the semi-finals before falling to eventual champion Andy Roddick.
The annual Kooyong Classic exhibition normally attracts some big-name players and this year is no exception. Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin Del Potro will both be in attendance, as will Fernando Gonzalez, Tommy Haas, Fernando Verdasco, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Robin Soderling.
While there will be no ranking points awarded here, the prize money must certainly be enticing and the players have the luxury of putting as much or as little effort as they see fit in the week before the Open. The draw will not be out until January 12th.
While players are eager for some more match play before the Aussie Open, it may be more of a burden for those who advance deep into the draws. Best-of-five-set matches are just around the corner and having some gas left in the tank is going to be a necessity for most.
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (August 18, 2009) — Ever dream of serving for the big prize, in front of thousands of fans? You can live your dream through a tennis-industry-wide sweepstakes called “Racket UP, America!”
If you’re the lucky winner, you’ll receive a trip to New York City to attend the “BNP Paribas Showdown for the Billie Jean King Cup” in Madison Square Garden on March 1, which will feature the top women tennis players in the world. In the middle of it all, you’ll step up to the line and hit a serve to a target that could make you a millionaire.
In the unique promotion, anyone who buys a new tennis racket—of any brand, and at any tennis retailer or pro shop—through Sept. 30, 2009, could win the chance to serve for $1 million. Consumers simply register their racket purchase at playtennis.com/million. Other prizes include a trip for two to the 2010 US Open Men’s Singles and Women’s Doubles finals and 20 $500 tennis merchandise prize packs. (Free entry available, see playtennis.com/million for official rules and details.)
The BNP Paribas Showdown on March 1, which is part of “Tennis Night in America,” will bring together four of the world’s best women pros who are 2009 Grand Slam winners or No. 1 players, vying for $1.2 million in prize money and the Billie Jean King Cup. Serena Williams is the defending champion, and so far, she and Svetlana Kuznetsova have qualified for the Madison Square Garden event. Williams won the 2009 Australian Open and Wimbledon tournaments; Kuznetsova won this year’s French Open. (For more on the BNP Paribas Showdown, visit www.stargamesinc.com/bnpparibasshowdown.html.)
The Showdown’s format will be two one-set semifinals followed by a best-of-three-set final. The “Racket UP, America!” sweepstakes winner will hit the potential million-dollar serve between the second semifinal and the final, in front of the MSG crowd and a television audience. The winner also will meet tennis legends Billie Jean King and Ivan Lendl, along with other tennis champions.
“We are thrilled to be able to have the ‘Racket UP, America!’ sweepstakes winner go for a million dollars at the BNP Paribas Showdown,” says Jerry Solomon, president of StarGames, which is partnering with Madison Square Garden to produce the event. “This is what Tennis Night in America is all about—a real celebration of tennis. We’re happy to help bring attention to such a worthwhile industry-wide promotion.”
“‘Racket Up, America!” is a collaborative effort by the tennis industry designed to generate excitement and interest in the sport while helping to stimulate retail sales. “Tennis is a fun, social, healthy, lifelong sport,” says Jon Muir, president of the Tennis Industry Association, which is spearheading the promotion. “We’ve been thrilled that over the last eight years, tennis participation has grown 43 percent, far outpacing all other traditional sports, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.”
You can follow “Racket Up, America!” on Twitter and Facebook. More information, including official rules and details, is at playtennis.com/million.
No. 14 seed Flavia Pennetta continued her winning ways as she dismissed No. 3 seed Venus Williams, 7-6(2), 6-4, on Thursday afternoon to advance to the quarterfinals at the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open in Cincinnati.
The 27-year-old Italian has now won a career-best 14 consecutive matches, which includes winning the title last weekend at the Los Angeles Women’s Open and three weeks ago in Palermo.
“I’m really, really happy,” said Pennetta, who has now beaten three Top 10 players in her winning streak.
Throughout the match, Williams missed many routine shots and seemed out of sorts on the big points. The former World No. 1 had several unforced errors on crucial points in the later stages of the tiebreak that proved costly.
“I don’t feel like I executed my game effectively,” said Williams, who has won more than $1.5 million in tournament prize money this season. “I think I could have been more aggressive and played more in the court.”
Pennetta, who has won eight career singles titles, was steady on her serve and service returns throughout the one hour and 42 minute match. The Italian hit five aces, won 74 percent of first serve points and was able to win 25 of 38 second serve return points.
“After a while, it was obvious to see she was just keeping the ball in play and waiting for me to self destruct,” said Williams, the winner of 41 career singles titles.
As Williams sailed a forehand beyond the baseline, her 38 unforced error of the match, Pennetta raised her arms in excitement. With the victory, Pennetta improves to 4-3 lifetime against Williams, three of five which were played on hard courts.
The Italian advances to her sixth quarterfinal of the season where she will next clash with Slovakian Daniela Hantuchova, who beat No. 7 seed Vera Zvonareva, 7-6(0), 0-6, 7-6(5) in two hours and 50 minutes.
In other matches, the Kim Clijsters’ magical comeback story continues, as the Belgian knocked off No. 6 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russian, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, to win her third straight match against a Top 20 player in as many outings.
Clijsters, who a received a wild card to play in her first tournament since retiring in May 2007, came out of the starting gates strong for the third consecutive match, hitting remarkable angles as she jumped out to a 3-0 lead. The Belgian had a brief hiccup, as her serve was broke in the seventh game, but was able to regroup to close out the set 6-4.
“I think my mindset was very good,” said Clijsters, the newest mother on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. “”I really felt like in the rallies that I was dominating the points. “
The Belgian jumped out to another quick 3-0 lead to open the second set, before Kuznetsova fired back by winning six of the next seven games to win the second set, 6-4.
“Second set I fought hard. She was a break up and I still came back,” said Kuznetsova, a winner of 11 career singles titles including two grand slams. “
The players took a 10-minute break before the start of the final set due to the heat index rule. When they returned, Clijsters was in complete control throughout the final set, winning in convincing fashion, 6-2. Clijsters now improves to 7-1 lifetime against Kuznetsova.
“I am very happy to be able to stay focused,” said Clijsters. “I have to say I feel really good after this match.”
Clijsters will next face world No. 1 Dinara Safina, who cruised past Shuai Peng, 6-3, 6-4 in the night match.
In the final match on Stadium Court during the day session, unseeded Sybille Bammer upset No. 2 seed Serena Williams, 7-5, 6-4. Williams was off her game from start to finish, hitting 44 unforced errors, 25 of which were in the opening set. The reigning Wimbledon, Australian and US Open champ hit four double faults and just two aces, compared to 13 aces last night in her victory over Kateryna Bondarenko. Bammer, who improves to 2-0 life against Williams, hit nine winners and just 16 unforced errors in the one hour and 35 minute match. Bammer will next face No. 5 Jelena Jankovic, who defeated No. 9 Victoria Azarenka, 7-5, 7-6(4).
Other winners on Thursday in Cincinnati
No. 4 Elena Dementieva def. Sorana Cirstea, 6-4, 6-4
No. 8 Caroline Wozniacki def. Melinda Czink, 3-0 ret. Injury (low back)
NEW YORK – July 20, 2009 – InsideOut Sports & Entertainment announced today it has retained Amplify Sports and Entertainment for sponsorship sales representation of InsideOut’s signature property, the Outback Champions Series. InsideOut, co-founded by Hall of Fame tennis champion Jim Courier and former SFX and Clear Channel executive Jon Venison, is an independent producer of proprietary events and promotions. The Outback Champions Series is a collection of tennis events featuring many of the greatest players of the past 25 years, including Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras and many others.
Amplify will help secure Outback Champions Series corporate partnerships. Founded in 2005, it features eight events on its 2009 schedule with each event featuring $150,000 in prize money. To be eligible to compete on the Outback Champions Series, players must have reached at least a major singles final, been ranked in the top five in the world or played singles on a championship Davis Cup team.
“Amplify has a stellar record in helping build partnerships between top brands and marquee properties,” said InsideOut Sports + Entertainment co-founder Jim Courier. ”We look forward to working with them to build upon the success of the Outback Champions Series.”.
“The Outback Champions Series offers advertisers unprecedented access to many of the biggest names in tennis and the ability to connect in a meaningful way with target customers,” said Michael A. Neuman, president of Amplify Sports and Entertainment. “We’re excited to work with InsideOut to secure new corporate partners for this great property.”
About Amplify Sports and Entertainment
Amplify Sports and Entertainment specializes in maximizing clients’ investments in sports, lifestyle and entertainment sponsorship. Through strategic insight, Amplify builds brands by customizing compelling, relevant and memorable marketing programs that drive sales by establishing a deeper, more emotional bond with target consumers. Proprietary tools, the Sponsorship Snapshot™ and the Sponsorship Amplifier™, offer the industry the most comprehensive resources for evaluating return on sponsorship marketing investments. Clients include: ABSOLUT® VODKA, Allergan, Inc., American Bass Anglers, Business Clubs of America (Philadelphia), BOTOX®, Champions Series, Cruzan® Rum, Everlast, Ford Models, Gardenburger, ING Direct, International Sports Properties, Level™ Vodka, Inc., Juvéderm™, Major League Soccer, National Grid, Nikon, Inc., Pepsi Bottling Group, SportsNet New York (SNY), Strike Ten Entertainment, Time Warner Center, USA Field Hockey, U. S. National Whitewater Center, United States Tennis Association, US Speedskating, Volkswagen of America and XanGo, LLC. For more information on Amplify Sports and Entertainment, LLC visit www.ampfirm.com.
About InsideOut Sports & Entertainment
InsideOut Sports + Entertainment is a New York City-based independent producer of proprietary events and promotions founded in 2004 by former world No. 1 and Hall of Fame tennis player Jim Courier and former SFX and Clear Channel executive Jon Venison. In 2005, InsideOut launched its signature property, the Outback Champions Series, a collection of tennis events featuring the greatest names in tennis over the age of 30. In addition, InsideOut produces many other successful events including “Legendary Night” exhibitions, charity events and tennis fantasy camps such as the annual “Ultimate Fantasy Camp”. Through 2008, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment events have raised over $4 million for charity. For more information, please log on to www.InsideOutSE.com or www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com.
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., July 20, 2009 – The USTA announced today the launch of the sixth season of the Olympus US Open Series, the six-week North American summer tennis season that links 10 ATP World Tour and Sony Ericsson WTA Tour summer tournaments to the US Open. Since its inception in 2004, the six-week Olympus US Open Series has doubled television viewership and increased event attendance, while generating new corporate partnerships for the sport. The full summer schedule is attached.
Throughout the summer, the Series will feature more than 200 national television hours on ESPN2, CBS and Tennis Channel, highlighted by back-to-back men’s and women’s finals on Sundays on ESPN2 and select finals on CBS. The Olympus US Open Series premieres Friday, July 24, with two hours on Tennis Channel, followed by four hours on ESPN2. An additional seven hours of coverage on both networks will follow over the weekend, with the finals airing live on Sunday on ESPN2 beginning at 3 p.m. ET.
More than 200 of the game’s top players will compete during the Series for over $30 million in prize money. Additionally, through the Olympus US Open Series Bonus Challenge, players will be competing for more than $2.6 million in potential bonus prize money. Bonus prize money is awarded to the top three men and top three women in the Series based on their performance at the US Open.
Olympus, the Series’ inaugural sponsor, is continuing its partnership with the USTA as the title sponsor of the Series. The Olympus US Open Series season will be supported by a multi-million dollar national marketing campaign, a redesigned OlympusUSOpenSeries.com website, and increased sponsor activation on both the national and local level.
“I’m looking forward to my return to tournament tennis on the Olympus US Open Series this summer,” said Kim Clijsters, who is playing Olympus US Open Series events in Cincinnati and Toronto after leaving the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour to give birth to her first child in February last year. “I’ve played some of my best tennis during the Series and think it is a great lead-up to the US Open for players and for fans.” In 2005, Clijsters earned the biggest paycheck in the history of women’s tennis — $2.2 million — by winning the Olympus US Open Series and US Open.
“I am very excited about coming back to competition and the Olympus US Open Series is the best place to do so. Those events coming up are important in the tennis calendar and also a perfect way to gain the right pace and rhythm for the last Grand Slam of the year, the US Open,” said Rafael Nadal, who had his career best showing at the US Open last year after winning the Olympus US Open Series. “On a personal level, I know it will be tough since I have been away from competition for some time now. In any case I am confident and will give it my all out there.”
”I think creating the Olympus US Open Series was great as it puts the summer tennis season under one roof and makes it cohesive,” said Andy Roddick, who won back-to-back Olympus US Open Series titles in 2005 and 2006. “I’ve done well at a lot of the tournaments, and have a history with these lead-up events. It is one of the parts of the year that I look forward to most.”
“We created the Olympus US Open Series with the goal of elevating the sport of tennis in North America,” said Jim Curley, Chief Professional Tournaments Officer, USTA. “By working closely and collaboratively with both tours, our television partners and sponsors, and the tournaments and players, we have created a true showcase for tennis that is having great results across the board.”
National Television Broadcasts
More than 200 hours of tennis action will be televised during the six weeks of the Olympus US Open Series, with ESPN2 remaining the lead broadcaster, and additional national coverage on CBS and Tennis Channel. The Olympus US Open Series, with the US Open, provides tennis with more live national television coverage during its eight weeks than any other summer sport over the same time period. Series broadcasts have reached an average of 41 million viewers annually over the first five years, more than doubling viewership numbers of these events prior to the launch of the Series in 2004.
Instant replays and official reviews on television broadcasts will continue to be branded the “Chase Review,” and as in 2008, players will have three challenges per set plus one additional during a tiebreaker.
National Marketing Campaign
This year for the first time, the Olympus US Open Series and the US Open are being marketed under the same campaign, entitled, “It Must Be Love.” This year’s multi-million dollar marketing and advertising campaign features some of the games biggest stars and is a multimedia effort that includes national television, radio, print, digital media and customized local executions in Olympus US Open Series markets. More than a dozen top players, including Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Ana Ivanovic, Roger Federer, Venus Williams, Andy Roddick, James Blake, and Jelena Jankovic, were filmed for the campaign.
In all, 13 30-second TV ads will comprise the television campaign, which will air nationally in and outside of tennis programming on CBS, ESPN2, NBC, ABC, and Tennis Channel. Print executions will appear throughout the summer in USA Today, The New York Times and other top metropolitan markets and an accompanying radio campaign — which includes over 40,000 spots — will air in markets around the country to drive television tune-in.