professional tennis

ATP Rotterdam Day One Roundup & Photos: Lopez, Gasquet, Mathieu, Dolgopolov

Catch all the action this week and follow professional tennis photographer Rick Gleijm as he covers ATP Tour’s ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. The gallery below includes day one action.

Three top players were surprised to find themselves on the losing end of their first-round matches.

  • Paul-Henri Mathieu came to Rotterdam as a wildcard into the qualifying draw only to find himself in the second round of the main draw, after stunning Spaniard Feliciano Lopez 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-4.
  • Jesse Huta Galung dispensed of former world number 3 Ivan Ljubicic 7-6(6), 6-3.
  • Sixth-seed Alexandr Dolgopolov also saw his time in Rotterdam come to a premature end as he was defeated by Lukasz Kubot 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2.
  • Richard Gasquet also came through in three sets beating Flavio Cipolla 6-3, 1-6, 6-1.

For a full recap of Roger Federer‘s and Juan Martin Del Potro‘s press conferences from earlier today, go here.

Full Tuesday schedule below.

SCHEDULE – TUESDAY, 14 FEBRUARY, 2012

CENTRE COURT start 11:00 am
[Q] R De Voest (RSA) vs A Seppi (ITA)
[WC] I Sijsling (NED) vs J Nieminen (FIN)

Not Before 1:30 PM
[7] V Troicki (SRB) vs [WC] T de Bakker (NED)
F Cermak (CZE) / F Polasek (SVK) vs J Del Potro (ARG) / P Petzschner (GER)

Not Before 7:30 PM
R Haase (NED) vs N Davydenko (RUS)
M Youzhny (RUS) vs I Kunitsyn (RUS)

COURT 1 start 2:00 pm
A Bogomolov Jr. (RUS) / D Norman (BEL) vs [4] M Bhupathi (IND) / R Bopanna (IND)

Not Before 3:30 PM
[8] M Granollers (ESP) vs P Kohlschreiber (GER)

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Roger Federer & Rafael Nadal’s legendary rivalry continues, Na Li the big winner, Novak Djokovic is mentally flexible – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Mission Accomplished

Despite his lacking confidence and putting in some of his most shaky performances at Roland Garros in recent memory, Rafael Nadal, as he has done so often, found a way to cross the finish line on final Sunday. After being just a set away from losing in the first round to John Isner, the Spaniard buckled down, surrendering only one additional set en route to the title. And while his play may not have been as sharp as some of his previous title runs, in many ways, this win was the most impressive one of all. It not only ensured that he would retain the No. 1 singles ranking for the time being, but more importantly, it tied him with tennis legend Bjorn Borg for most men’s singles titles at Roland Garros with six. It also moved him up the list of all-time greats with this victory representing his tenth overall Grand Slam singles title. Hats off to Rafa for putting together another fine two weeks in Paris, and let’s see how much he can use this win as a springboard to further big results throughout the summer.

 

Happy Returns

Nine years ago, Na Li was convinced she couldn’t make it in professional tennis and left the game to attend university. But on the final Saturday of the French Open, the charismatic Chinese woman proved to herself and the rest of the world that she had made the right decision in returning to tennis, as she not only won her first major singles title, but the first singles championship for a Chinese player, man or woman. It was evident from the start that she had learned from her first final appearance in Melbourne, and it was admirable the way she was able to right the ship after her second set wobble. At 29, she is unlikely to garner several more Slams, but with her game and the new-found confidence and belief that come with securing her first major, it’s certainly not out of the question that she may hoist up other major singles trophies. Be sure to keep an eye on her as the season progresses.

Mixed Bag

Though he fell short in the final match, this year’s Roland Garros saw what could be termed a mini-revival in the career of Roger Federer. The Swiss Maestro cruised through his matches until he reached the semifinals – where he was supposed to lose. Djokovic had owned Federer in 2011, but on that Friday, Roger Federer played one of the best matches he’s played in years to remind everyone that he still has plenty of game left in the tank, earning a hard fought victory in four scintillating sets to reach the final. As he took to the court in the final, he appeared the most relaxed he’s ever been when facing Nadal at this stage, and he ultimately did play the best match he’s ever played against Nadal on final Sunday in Paris. But in the biggest moments – particularly at the end of the first set – it was plain to see that Federer is still Nadal’s pigeon, at least on the Parisian clay, as the doubt crept across his face and into his game. Hopefully this loss won’t linger, and Federer will instead take away all the positives from the French Open fortnight as he heads into the heart of the summer season.

One to Watch

Although he had never even reached the final in Paris, having not lost a match all season, Novak Djokovic went into Roland Garros as one of the heavy favorites. He fought his way through a tough draw to reach the semifinals where Roger Federer stood between him and history. Had Djokovic beaten Federer, not only would he have reached his first Roland Garros final, but he would have secured the No. 1 singles ranking and tied John McEnroe’s 42 consecutive matches for best start to a season. In the end, the combination of that pressure and more so the spectacular tennis coming off the Federer racquet proved too much for the Serb, as he saw his streak and Paris hopes come to a halt one match shy of the final. Shortly thereafter, Djokovic announced his withdrawal from Queen’s, citing tendinitis. His knee issues this year are well documented, but most would surely be in agreement that his withdrawal is more about having to mentally recover from what was truly a devastating loss considering what all was at stake. Djokovic appears to have the type of personality that would allow him to quickly bounce back, but be sure to watch for how he comes out of the gates after suffering his first defeat of 2011.

This One Might Take

Earlier this week, the return of Team Williams was announced, with both sisters scheduled to compete in the Eastbourne grass court tune up for Wimbledon. As always, it’s safest to assume an attitude of “I’ll believe it when I see it” when it comes to either of these two making a return to tour tennis, but this one definitely has more of an air of certainty about it. All eyes will be on the Americans to see where their games are after extended layoffs. But even if either Williams – who are both currently ranked outside the top 20 – should crash out early, it won’t matter. Rest assured that they will still be considered favorites (albeit not heavy favorites) to win the title at SW19. Their ability to flip the switch on little to no match play is well known. Besides, Venus Williams has always appeared indifferent to what others have thought of her and her game, and for a drama queen like Serena Williams, defying the odds to come back from a year of injuries and successfully defend her Wimbledon title is not a challenge to back down from, but an opportunity to be relished.

Justine Henin Retires: Sound Familiar, Right?

Tennis is a sport for insomniacs. It’s played nearly all year and at all hours, so if you so much as blink, or in most cases take a nap, you might miss something monumentally important. Lately, I seem to have slept through some of the most shocking moments in tennis and last night was no different. When I finally got around to checking twitter, I had to ask myself whether this was 2011 or 2008. The very first tweet that I saw was from @WTATour saying, “Seven-time Grand Slam champion @Justine_Henin has announced her retirement from professional tennis. You’ll be missed Justine!”

In case you’ve been living in a hole, I’ll explain. Between 2003 and 2007, Justine Henin won seven Grand Slam titles, including 4 French Opens, 2 US Opens, and 1 Australian Open, as well as an Olympic gold medal and 2 WTA Championships. Going into the 2008 season, Henin was celebrating one year as the No. 1 player in the world. She appeared to have a near lock on the title at Roland Garros and was generally pegged as the favorite for that year’s tournament. Then, just one week before the start of the clay court major, Henin called a press conference and announced her retirement from tennis. This was truly shocking. It’s not often that the No. 1 player in the world, at the age of 25, opts to call it quits, particularly the week before her favorite Slam. Actually, Henin was the only woman to retire while still ranking No. 1.

At the time of her first retirement, she stated, “I am leaving as the world No. 1 and that is important as it is always better to go out at the top, I leave without any regrets and I know it is the right decision.” Clearly, she had regrets because at the end of the 2009 season, she announced her return to tennis in 2010. She was motivated by the idea of finally winning Wimbledon and achieving a career Grand Slam, as Roger Federer had done in 2009. She intended to continue playing through the 2012 Olypmics.

Justine’s comeback seemed almost as good as Kim Clijsters’ when she reached the final at the Australian Open, only her second tournament back on tour. She seemed well on track to finally attain the illusive career Grand Slam at Wimbledon. But things came to a crashing halt when she injured her elbow after falling in her 4th round match against compatriot Kim Clijsters. The injury was grave and cost Henin the rest of the season, but there was little doubt that she would return to the tour healthy and get back to her winning ways. Henin warned the world that she came to Australia not 100%, but ready to compete. Unfortunately, her Australian Open ended early when she lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the 3rd round.

Somehow Justine managed to shock us all over again this morning, by announcing her retirement from professional tennis, again. This time, there will be no coming back. Justine released a letter to her fans saying, “After having well considered and following the advice of doctors, it is now clear and I accept that my career here … … finally ends. Even though it’s hard, very hard, while I came back with a tremendous fighting spirit. I’m sorry … I had hoped for a different return and dreamed of a different ending. I will need time to process all this, but I remain convinced that even with little progress, my level with my return did not meet my expectations, despite everything I’ve learned a lot over the past 15 months.”

Whether you’re a fan or not, Justine is a great champion and has contributed a great deal to this sport. It’s a real shame that resurgence was cut short because of an injury. I offer the best of luck to Justine in her future endeavors.

ROGER FEDERER: PUTTING THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE

By Peter Nez

Roger Federer is in Halle, Germany this week playing his typical warm up tournament before Wimbledon (Germany’s only grass court event) where the latest news reports that Roger has signed a lifetime contract with tournament organizers, meaning he is committed to the event as long as he is playing professional tennis. “It’s a sort of marriage,” Roger quipped about the lofty contract with the Gerry Weber Open. And while the entire media world is buzzing over Rafael Nadal’s fifth Roland Garros title he attained last Sunday by smearing the red clay with Robin Soderling’s face, nicknamed Rockin’ Robin, after his blistering ground strokes that sound like cannon fire when struck, who appeared more like a subdued Canary tweeting rather than Rockin’- and big headlines announcing the ‘Return of the King of Clay’ and ‘Rafa is back!’, referring to his reacquisition of the top slot in men’s tennis, there is another king, of another surface, some would say the true king going quietly into the night, preparing for a Wimbledon defense, and maybe something else…


 

One thing that is amazing about Roger, among many other things, is his ability to put things in perspective, and shrug off losses that most players would never be able to bounce back from. Andy Murray comes to mind, whom after losing to Roger in the Australian Open final this past January, hasn’t been the same player since. Novak Djokovic, another top player, who won his first slam in 2008, has been hampered by uncharacteristic losses and henceforth hasn’t been able to muster a similar run at any of the subsequent slams. Andy Roddick, after losing to Federer in the epic 2009 Wimbledon final, lost to John Isner in the following slam (US Open) in a startling fashion. After attending the Annual ITF awards dinner in Paris, following his defeat to Soderling in the quarterfinals of the French Open a week ago, which garnered stunned faces by reporters, participants, attendees, and Gustavo Kurten himself (guest of honor), as to his appearance after a loss like that, “Nobody expected him to show,” Mary Joe Fernandez commented; a salivating press contingent swooned to get some time with the great one, and Roger was blasted with the usual doubts, speculations on his demise, questions as to his game, ect. He answered, in his usual candid demeanor, full of cool, that he was grateful for the past year where he won the French Open and Wimbledon back to back, about the birth of his daughters, and the magnificent summer, and the Australian Open victory this year, without a shade of despondency, or any signs that he was worried in the least. He exemplified gratitude, and emitted a perspective that was just thankful to still be playing, and healthy, and with a huge smile on his face, was looking forward to grass, where, let’s face it, the records speak for themselves, he is the King. I only wish that the media and fans alike had this propensity to put things in perspective.

All I read about now, and hear about in the rumblings and byways of the tennis realm, is Rafa this, and Rafa that, and Rafa is the one to beat, and Rafa is the usurper and all of that. I have no qualms with Rafael Nadal. I think he is a fantastic player, a true ambassador, and a great role model. But, when I read things like Roger can’t beat Rafa, and that Roger has never beaten a fully healthy Nadal, and things of this sort, there is an obvious upset in the balance of things; people are not looking at the big picture, and least of all adopting any sort of sensible perspective on matters.

I have no desire to list off all of the accolades of Mr. Federer, for they should be automatic by now, and need no mention. Let us take the notion of Roger never beating a healthy Nadal, especially on clay. First of all, the health of your opponent is out of your control, can we at least agree on that? Second, if the running statement that Roger can’t beat a healthy Nadal stands on any significant grounds, how about the vice versa? Let’s take a look at the 2008 Wimbledon final, touted as the ‘Greatest Match of All Time’. If we have a short term memory, many may not remember that Mr. Federer was battling a year long bout with Mononucleosis that started just prior to the Australian Open and, maybe didn’t subside until the end of that same year. That would mean that not only was Federer “unhealthy” but it took a super healthy, super confident, super momentum filled man in Rafael Nadal to beat Roger, and it took everything he had, all the way to an epic fifth set finale. Nobody speaks of that of course. On top of that, does anyone fail to see that Rafa has an outstanding record against Roger maybe because most of their head to head matches have taken place on clay? And there is little argument as to who is the greatest of all time on clay. Also, has anyone commented on why there are so many masters’ series tournaments on clay, and why the clay season is the longest on tour, and why there are only two tournaments on grass each season, and no masters series tournaments on grass? I’ve never heard mention of this either. Let us take a look at Federer’s legacy as far as slams go: Roger has reached a staggering 23 of the last 24 slam semi-finals, a staggering 19 out of the last 21 finals over the past six years, and 16 grand slam titles and counting. Who beat Roger in the last six years? Well, let’s see: Rafael Nadal, the king of clay; Novak Djokovic, a top four player, playing a not so healthy Roger (2008 AUS Open); Marat Safin, in the 2005 AUS Open, playing his absolute best tennis; Del Potro (2009 US Open) and Soderling (2010 French Open) who defied physics with their pace for over two hours of play. Do you ever hear Roger justifying himself, as is his right, about any of all the talk and doubt and scrutiny? No. He talks about one thing: moving forward. And what is ahead? Grass. The king returns to the holy grounds where he has set up his palace shrine for the past seven years. Maybe after he wins another Wimbledon will things finally be put in perspective… I doubt it.

HALL OF FAMER BOOK SIGNINGS IN INDIAN WELLS

Rod Laver and Bud Collins were doing a lot of book signing this week at the BNP Paribas Open. The two Hall of Famers collaborated on Laver’s memoir THE EDUCATION OF A TENNIS PLAYER back in 1969 and reunited to work on an updated, newly released version that will officially re-launch on April 1.

THE EDUCATION OF A TENNIS PLAYER ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.NewChapterMedia.com) is Laver’s first-hand account of his 1969 Grand Slam season, capped off by his 7-9, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 win over fellow Australian Tony Roche in the final of the U.S. Open on September 8. Laver also writes about his childhood and early days in tennis, his 1962 Grand Slam and offers tips on how players of all levels can improve their game. He also shares some of the strategies that helped him to unparalleled success on the tennis court.

“I am delighted that THE EDUCATION OF A TENNIS PLAYER is back in circulation and available for a new generation of tennis fans,” said Laver. “Winning the Grand Slam for a second time in 1969 seems just like yesterday and this book brings back a lot of memories of the great matches and exciting times. I hope people enjoy reading my story.”

Collins also signed his signature book, his tennis encyclopedia, THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS ($35.95, New Chapter Press, www.NewChapterMedia.com). The 784-page tome is the ultimate compilation of historical tennis information, including year-by-year recaps of every tennis season, biographical sketches of every major tennis personality, as well as stats, records, and championship rolls for all the major events. The author’s personal relationships with major tennis stars offer insights into the world of professional tennis found nowhere else.

Here are some photos, courtesy of Anita Klaussen, of Rod and Bud this week in Indian Wells.

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Federer, Nadal Set To Play In Abu Dhabi

Flash Entertainment, in partnership with Capitala, has announced six of the most prominent players currently competing in the world of professional tennis are set for a thrilling return to the Capitala World Tennis Championship.

Following last year’s successful tournament, the event has attracted a star-studded field with world number one Roger Federer and Spanish superstar Rafael Nadal, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Nikolay Davydenko, Fernando Verdasco and Robin Soderling completing a spectacular line-up of the world’s top tennis players.

The Capitala World Tennis Championship will see the players in action across three spectacular days at the Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex at Zayed Sports City from 31 December 2009 – 2 January 2010.

Tickets for the event are on sale online at www.boxofficeme.com. Fans who buy their tickets before 31st October 2009 will have a chance to win a signed Roger Federer Wilson racket! Visit www.capitalawtc.com for more information.

As well as three days of spectacular tennis, the Capitala World Tennis Championship will also boast its very own Tennis Village which will include a range of fun and exciting activities including player signings and practice sessions, competitions and a Nintendo Wii wall. The Tennis Village is absolutely free and open to the public and for those who don’t get their hands on a ticket there will still be the opportunity to soak up all the atmosphere in the village and catch the live action on the big screens.

“Shorts Around His Ankles, Underpants In Full View” – On This Day In Tennis History

Fifteen years ago on Oct. 12, 1994, one of the most unusual on-court incidents in the history of tennis happened in Tokyo when American Jeff Tarango “dropped his drawers” on court during his second-round match against Michael Chang. That event, plus others, are outlined below in this excerpt from the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com).

1994 – American Jeff Tarango performs one of the most unusual on-court activities in professional tennis, dropping his shorts after having his serve broken in the first game of the third set in his loss to Michael Chang in the second round of the Seiko Championships in Tokyo. Following his serve being broken, Tarango, in the words of Britain’s Daily Record, “pulled his shorts down, raised his arms and waddled to his seat courtside with his shorts around his ankles and his underpants in full view.” Says Tarango, “I felt that I let the match slip away a little bit, and I wanted to make light of it. I had exposed my weakness to Michael.” Tarango, who would famously walk off the court in a third round match at Wimbledon in 1995, retires from his match with Chang with a left forearm injury, trailing 4-1 in the third set. Tarango is given a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct and is fined $3,000. Says Chang, who goes on to lose to Goran Ivanisevic in the final of the event, “I know the ATP has been trying to create a little bit more interest in the game but I don’t know if that is what they had in mind.”

2001 – One hundred and one years after three Harvard students make up the first U.S. Davis Cup team, former Harvard student James Blake makes his Davis Cup debut against India in the Davis Cup Qualifying Round at the Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C. Blake, playing in his first Davis Cup match, defeats India’s Leander Paes, playing in his 79th Davis Cup match, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 to give the U.S. a 2-0 lead. Blake also becomes the first Harvard student to play Davis Cup for the U.S. since Titanic survivor Richard Norris Williams in 1926 and becomes only the third African-American man to play Davis Cup for the U.S. – joining Mal Washington and Arthur Ashe. Earlier in the day, Andy Roddick defeats India’s Harsh Mankad 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead.

1998 – Lindsay Davenport ascends to the No. 1 ranking in women’s professional tennis for the first time in her career, taking the No. 1 WTA ranking from Martina Hingis, whom she beat in the U.S Open final the previous month. Davenport holds the No. 1 ranking for 98 weeks in her career.

2003 – Roger Federer wins his 10th career ATP singles title and successfully defends a title for the first time in his career when he defeats Carlos Moya of Spain 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 to win the CA Trophy in Vienna, Austria. Says Federer of successfully defending a title for the first time, “I’m over the moon about that.”

1980 – Ivan Lendl needs nearly five hours to defeat Guillermo Vilas 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 in the final of the Spanish Open championships in Barcelona.

Austrian Cancer Survivor Klemenschits To Make Grand Slam Debut In US Open

Austrian doubles specialist Sandra Klemenschits, who returned to the tour in July 2008 after overcoming a rare form of abdominal cancer, will make her Grand Slam debut this week at the US Open in the women’s doubles event. Partnering Aravane Rezai of France, they will play Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia and Ai Sugiyama of Japan, the No. 5 seeds. The match will take place either on Wednesday or Thursday during the first week of the tournament.

Klemenschits, currently ranked No. 111 in doubles, is a winner of 28 doubles titles on the ITF circuit. 20 of these titles came when she partnered with her twin sister, Daniela. In January of 2007, both Sandra and Daniela were diagnosed with a rare form of abdominal cancer, squamous cell carcimona, forcing them to retire.

Players including Roger Federer, Justine Henin, and Martina Hingis donated items for an online auction in June of 2007, raising over $70,000 for their medical bills. In April of 2008, Daniela Klemenschits died at age 25.

In July of 2008, Sandra Klemenschits announced she had beaten her illness and returned to professional tennis at a WTA event in Bad Gastein, Austria. Since returning to the pro tour 13 months ago, Klemenschits has won eight ITF circuit titles in doubles. She arrives at the US Open having won 10 of her last 11 matches.

Justine Needs To Comeback, For Her Own Sake

The Belgian media have recently been speculating that former world No. 1 Justine Henin is preparing for a return to professional tennis at the beginning of next year. Henin, who will compete in an exhibition in Dubai this December, has denied the rumors through her former coach, Carlos Rodriguez.

However, based on her recent forays into the workforce outside of tennis via acting, singing, and as a television presenter, we hope she hasn’t truly quit her day job.

Acting

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x98c22_justine-henin-dans-plus-belle-la-vi_sport

Singing

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xE-wMeWqP0&feature=PlayList&p=A30ECF7B2FB157AD&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=14

Television Presenter

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5gS1i3a_hQ

Kim Clijsters Victorious In Return To Sony Ericsson WTA Tour

Kim Clijsters’ highly anticipated comeback to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour after a two year hiatus was marked by an impressive, 6-4, 6-3, victory over No. 12 seed Marion Bartoli on Monday night at the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open in Cincinnati.

Clijsters, the 2005 US Open champion, came out firing, jumping out to a 4-0 lead by running down every shot in sight and smashing winners from all across the baseline. The former world No. 1 then saw her lead slip away, as Bartoli evened things at 4-4. But Clijsters broke Bartoli’s serve to take a 5-4 lead and then consolidated the break to take the opening set in front of the pro-Clijsters crowd.

The momentum stayed with Clijsters throughout the second set as the Belgian maintained her high-level of play by breaking serve for a 3-1 lead. Although she faced 10 break points, the 26-year-old and mother of 18-month-old daughter, Jada, won 20 of 30 first serve points and broke serve on four of six occasions en route to victory.

“I was really excited to be out there,” said Clijsters. “I’m excited I will be playing another match.”

Monday’s match was Clijsters’ first match since May 2007, when she lost to Julia Vakulenko in straight sets in the first round in Warsaw, Poland, and later that month announced her retirement from professional tennis citing injuries.

With a compelling victory over a Top 15 player, who just beat Venus Williams to win the title in Stanford, Clijsters’ peers will immediately feel her presence on the tour.

“Without playing a match for two years, it is pretty amazing the level she already has right now,” said Bartoli.

Although her entourage will be with her all week in Cincinnati, as well as next week in Toronto and at the US Open, Clijsters indicated that she will have to balance the physical demands of competitive tennis and family life on the road before she can commit to a full-time schedule.

“I’m not going to have the same type of schedule, 20, 21 tournaments,” said Clijsters, a winner of 34 career singles titles. “I want to see where I am and what is possible, how many weeks I can be away, those are the type of details I need to work out. It is very hard for me to say these are my long term plans.

Awaiting Clijsters in the second round is Patty Schnyder, who beat Gisela Dulko, 6-4, 6-0. Clijsters owns a 5-2 edge against the lefty from Switzerland and has won three of the meetings on hardcourts.