By Maud Watson
Political Pandemonium – Once again, there was an ugly scene at the WTA Auckland event, as protesters against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians voiced their discontent during Israeli Shahar Peer’s matches. All credit to Peer, however, who managed to block it all out and reach the semifinals before losing to Yanina Wickmayer. Another positive bit of news for Peer is that the WTA has received, in writing, assurances from the UAE that she will be granted a visa to compete in Dubai. For those who remember, Peer was denied the visa in 2009, and the WTA was forced to impose a $300,000 fine on the Dubai event. While things are still far from perfect, it’s nice to see that sometimes sports can rise above politics.
She’s Ba-ack! – The moment tennis fans around the world have been waiting for has arrived as Justine Henin made her official return to tournament tennis at the Brisbane event this week. With the exception of her quarterfinal match in which she was forced to show her true grit and determination to grind out a third set tiebreak win, Henin has crushed the competition en route to the final, including a dominating performance over former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic in the semifinals. She now faces the current comeback queen and fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters in the final. Looks the WTA season has started with a bang!
History Beckons – No, Fabrice Santoro hasn’t caught the contagious comeback bug. He is merely unable to resist the opportunity to etch his name into the record books. The Frenchman affectionately known as “the magician,” who retired at the 2009 Paris Masters event, has changed his mind and opted to play the 2010 Australian Open. By playing at the opening Major of the season, Santoro will become the first player to have competed at the Grand Slam events over the course of four different decades. It’s a great achievement, and I’m sure fans will appreciate the chance to see this crafty player take to the courts as he makes his final curtain call.
Suck It Up – That’s essentially what the ITF will be saying to those players who find themselves wilting under hot conditions or over the course of long matches in all ITF events, which includes the four Slams. I for one was thrilled to read that the ITF was taking a stand on this issue, as it’s been long overdue. It about time those players who put in the time during the off season are allowed to start reaping the benefits of their hard work instead of having to watch a physically weak opponent break the momentum of a match to receive a massage for cramps, and in some cases, unjustly squeak out the win. Now, if we could just get the governing bodies to start enforcing the time rule in between points we’d be in business.
Murray Out Of Davis Cup – Once again, Andy Murray has disappointed the people of Great Britain by stating he will not be representing his country in the upcoming tie with Lithuania. It has to be disappointing for a nation that at one time was one of the top dogs in the tennis world. That said, it is hard to fault Murray when Roger Federer also appears reluctant to represent Switzerland against Spain in early March, with his reason being a scheduling conflict with the regular tour season. This is just another blaring example that shows the ITF needs to do something to change the format of the Davis Cup competition, or else blockbuster matchups such as Switzerland vs. Spain are going to continue to go bust in a hurry.
CHARLOTTE, N.C., September 25, 2009 – Jim Courier defeated Mikael Pernfors 6-4, 6-2 just ahead of arriving rain showers Friday evening to advance into the semifinals of the $150,000 Breezeplay Championships at The Palisades at The Palisades Country Club in Charlotte, N.C. Courier will face Todd Martin in Saturday’s semifinals in a re-match of the 2006 and 2008 singles finals at the Charlotte event on the Outback Champions Series global tennis circuit.
Friday night’s other quarterfinal match between Pat Cash and Jimmy Arias was moved indoors due to the rain with Cash advancing into a semifinal meeting with Pete Sampras with a 6-4, 6-3.
Sampras and Cash will play the afternoon semifinal on Saturday at noon,
while Courier and Martin will compete in the evening semifinal to start at 5 pm.
Courier was happy to finish his match outdoors Friday night before the rain suspended play.
“I wanted to get through that match,” said Courier. “No one likes rain
delays when you’re already warmed up and playing. I was able to become more aggressive by necessity. I didn’t want to move much on the court so it forced me to go on the offense and play aggressively. If the rain got any harder at all it would have been unplayable and lines would have been too wet.”
The Courier-Martin semifinal will mark the fourth straight year the two
former U.S. Davis Cup teammates have squared off at The Palisades. In 2006, in the first-year of the event in Charlotte, Courier defeated Martin 5-7, 7-6 (6), 10-4 (Champions Tie-Breaker) in the singles final, while in 2008 Courier again got the better of Martin in the championship match, winning 6-2, 3-6, 10-5 (Champions Tie-Breaker). In 2007, Martin defeated Courier 6-4, 6-7 (4), 10-5 in round-robin play prior to the tournament switching to a single knock-out format.
Martin will be looking to reach the Charlotte final for a fourth straight year. In addition to his losses to Courier in the 2006 and 2008 finals, he lost to Sampras in the Palisades final in 2007.
The remaining schedule of play for the tournament is as follows.
Saturday, Sept. 26
Starting at Noon
Pete Sampras vs. Pat Cash
Followed by Doubles
Starting at 5 pm
Todd Martin vs. Jim Courier
Followed by Doubles
Sunday, Sept. 27
Starting at 2 pm
Third Place Match
Sampras won the opening event on the 2009 Outback Champions Series,
defeating John McEnroe in the final of the Champions Cup Boston in February. McEnroe won the second event of the year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, defeating Courier in the final. Sampras won his second title of the year at the Del Mar Development Champions Cup in Los Cabos, Mexico, defeating Patrick Rafter in the final. Courier won his first title of the 2009 season in April at the Cayman Islands, defeating Arias in the final. Cash successfully defended his title on the grass courts at the Hall of Fame Champions Cup in Newport, R.I. in August, defeating Courier in the final. Following Charlotte, the next event on the Outback Champions Series will be held in Surprise, Ariz., where Andre Agassi will make his debut Oct. 8-11.
Founded in 2005, the Outback Champions Series features some of the biggest names in tennis over the last 25 years, including Andre Agassi, Sampras, McEnroe, Courier and others. 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. The Outback Champions Series features seven events on its 2009 schedule with each event featuring $150,000 in prize money as well as Champions Series points that will determine the year-end Champions Rankings No. 1.
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, corporate outings 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.
French player Marc Gicquel will take on Andy Roddick in the third round of Roland Garros and will be especially wary of Roddick’s famed rocket serve – clocked at a record 155 mph back in 2004. Back on June 14, 2007, as documented in the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press www.tennishistorybook.com), Gicquel took the brunt of a 129 mph serve in the groin area, which is documented below from the book.
2007 – French tennis player Marc Gicquel is dragged off the court to be treated after being on the receiving end of a 129 mph serve in the groin. Gicquel eventually returns to the court and beats Germany’s Benjamin Becker 6-2, 7-6 (5) but spends the night vomiting and suffers with swelling and pain and withdraws from his quarterfinal match with Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen the next day.