Raquel Kops-Jones

Blake, Hewitt, McHale take part in Sony Open Lindt Kids’ Day

MIAMI, FL (March 19, 2013) — More than 1500 children from Miami-Dade and Broward county public schools descended on the Sony Open today for the annual Lindt Kids’ Day. The children participated in a tennis clinic and received encouraging words from WTA doubles’ team Abigail Spears and Raquel Kops-Jones; as well as James Blake, Christina McHale and former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt. The players not only spoke with the children, but joined the kids on court to hit around with them.

At the conclusion of the day, the children were showered with goodies from Buddy Fruits, Head Penn and of course delicious Lindt Chocolates!

(Photos: Getty Images)

Tennis In The Commonwealth – Stosur on Verge of Top 10

By Leigh Sanders

Britain’s Andy Murray has offered his support to Andre Agassi after the former star’s revelations about crystal methamphetamine use in his autobiography. While other top players, such as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, have voiced disappointment at the news, Murray claims it has not ruined his views on his boyhood hero.

“I judge him as a tennis player; he was great, one of the best of all time,” said Murray. “I loved Andre, met him numerous times. I guess it’s something he has to deal with himself. He’s entitled to say whatever he wants and I wish him the best.”

Meanwhile, Murray tasted victory on his return to the court at the Valencia Open after he defeated Spanish qualifier Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-3, 6-1 in his first match in six weeks. It was Murray’s first appearance on court since Great Britain’s embarrassing Davis Cup defeat to Poland in September.

*A dozen WTA stars who have excelled on the international tournament level this season have gathered in Bali for the inaugural Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions. The draw on Monday split the stars in to four round-robin groups of three with Australia’s Samantha Stosur drawn in Group B alongside Maria Jose Martina Sanchez and Agnes Szavay. After the three competitors in each group play each other the group winner will advance to the semifinal on Saturday with the final held on Sunday. Depending on results this week, Stosur could realise her dream of entering the World’s Top 10 with victory in Bali.

*In this week’s ATP singles rankings (02/11) there was little movement for Commonwealth tennis players. Australian Peter Luczak continued his climb up the top 100 with a three place jump to 80 while his compatriot Chris Guccione jumped one place to 103. Somdev Devarrman of India climbed five to 116 while South African Kevin Andersen is up to 120.

*The ATP doubles rankings for November 2 see a little more movement for Commonwealth players. Daniel Nestor (Canada, 1), Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes (India, 7 and 8) and Wesley Moodie (South Africa, 9) all remain unmoved in their top 10 berths. Australians Paul Hanley and Jordan Kerr remain in 26 and 29 respectively while Ashley Fisher drops to 40 and Stephen Huss climbs to 45. South African Rik De Voest is behind him in 46 and Briton Ross Hutchins is 47. Fellow Britons Ken Skupski (16) and Colin Fleming (14) saw massive climbs to 50 and 53 respectively following their victory in St. Petersburg (see below). South Africa’s Jeff Coetzee dropped 21 places to 56. Jonathan Marray of Great Britain climbs one place to enter the Top 100.

*This week’s Sony Ericsson WTA Singles Rankings (02/11) see Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada fall from 30 to 34 while Australia’s Jelena Dokic has jumped from 64 to 57. British No. 1 Anne Keothavong now finds herself ranked 84 as she continues to fall during her period of injury while her compatriot Elena Baltacha also dropped one spot to 87. British No. 3 Katie O’Brien also dropped a place to 91 but there are now only a few ranking spots and only 63 ranking points between the No. 1 and No. 3 ranked players from the British Isles.

*In the doubles (02/11) The Australian duo Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs dropped from No. 5 to No. 7 this week while Sania Mirza of India climbed a place to 37. Canada’s Marie-eve Pelletier fell a place to 67 and British No. 1 Sarah Borwell was up three to 75. Another Canadian, Sharon Fichman, climbed to 97.

*The race for the final two ATP World Tour Finals places in London, England, later this month heated up this week. At the Valencia Open, Gilles Simon, Jo Wilfried-Tsonga and Gael Monfils led the French charge in to round two as they looked to make the Championships while the Spaniards Tommy Robredo and Fernando Verdasco also progressed as they look to secure a place. The Russian Nikolay Davydenko is also looking for one of those two slots and he is through in Valencia too, beating Alejandro Falla of Columbia 6-2, 6-1.

*In the doubles at Valencia, British-Australian pair Ross Hutchins and Jordan Kerr were knocked out in the first round by the in-form third seeds Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak on Monday. The match was closely fought and they eventually went down 4-6, 6-4, 10-6. The Czech-Slovak duo are one team with a chance of claiming a berth at the ATP World Tour Finals in London, England, later this month. In the quarterfinals they will face South African-Australian pair Jeff Coetzee and Stephen Huss who overcame Spanish wild cards Marc Lopez and Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo.

*British doubles pair Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski picked up their second ATP World Tour title when they beat the French pairing of Richard Gasquet and Jeremy Chardy in the final of the St. Petersburg Open. The win capped a memorable year for the pair who won their first title at Metz in September and followed that up by winning the ATP Challenger event in Orleans, France last week. They are expected to represent GB against Lithuania in their forthcoming Davis Cup tie.

*Aussie Paul Hanley has lost in the first round of the Davidoff Swiss Indoors Basel doubles with Swedish partner Simon Aspelin. The fourth seeds were upset by the South American pairing of Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa 5-7, 3-6. Canadian world No. 1 Daniel Nestor and his partner Nenad Zimonjic survived a scare against South Americans Lucas Arnold Ker and Fernando Gonzalez as they came from a set down to win 4-3, 6-3, 10-5 in the same competition. Nestor has triumphed twice here in 2003 and 2006 with long-time partner Mark Knowles. Wildcard home favourites Roger Federer and Marco Chiudinelli were also defeated in the first round. They fell to Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan and American James Cerretani.

*Another Aussie to taste an early defeat was Peter Luczak in the singles at the Davidoff Swiss Indoors Basel. The qualifier was downed by the Czech Jan Hernych who saved six break points to win through 6-3, 6-4 in 76 minutes.

*Jelena Dokic of Australia continued to show her fine form as she won her second ITF title in two weeks in Poitiers, France. She beat the Swede Sofia Arvidsson in the final. Despite a few setbacks this year including a back injury and a debilitating virus she has climbed from 198 to 64 in the rankings this year. “I’m very happy with the way things have played out these last three tournaments,” said Dokic. “It shows that my consistency is at a very high level and the fact that I can win so many matches in a row.”

*Britain was mightily close to more glory this week at the $15K AEGON Pro-Series Event in Cardiff, Wales. Marcus Willis and Dan Evans both reached the semifinals of the singles before losing to Yannick Mertens (BEL) and Henri Kontinen (FIN) respectively. In the doubles, Brits Alexander Slabinsky and Tim Bradshaw lost in the final to the Irish pair of James McGee and Barry King.

*Sarah Borwell of Great Britain partnered American Raquel Kops-Jones to the semifinals of the $100k Doubles Event in Ortisei, Italy. The No. 2 seeds went down 6-7(3), 3-6 to Tathiana Garbin (ITA) and Timea Bacsinszky (SUI), who went on to win the tournament.

*Christopher Simpson won the AEGON British Tour in Taunton after winning 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 against Artiom Kolpakov (LTU). He had beaten fellow Briton David Brewer in the semi final. In the women’s event, Jessica Ren triumphed over another British girl, Alexandra Walker 6-3, 6-3 in the final. She had beaten her sister and No. 1 seed, Jen Ren, in the semifinal.

*Marinko Matosevic of Australia was knocked out of the quarter finals of the Samsung Securities Cup in Seoul, Korea by The Dutch third seed Thiemo De Bakker. His compatriot Greg Jones fell at the same stage to Lester Cook of the USA. Moving on to the Flea Market Cup in Chuncheon, Korea, Matosevic has reached the same stage with victory over the German Matthias Bachinger. Fellow Aussies Greg Jones and Sadik Kadir fell in the round of 32.

*Hot Canadian prospect Vasek Pospisil clinched his third straight tournament win in Mexico over the weekend. The 19-year-old won the $10K event in Obregon to add to his two wins in September in Italy. In the doubles, he partnered Australian Nima Roshan to the Championship, beating Adrien Bossel and Julien Dubail 6-7(5), 6-3, 11-9 in the final.

*Young Australian tennis starlets Olivia Rogowska and Bernard Tomic have been nominated for the 2009 Sports Performer of the Year awards. Rogowska came perilously close to upsetting Dinara Safina in the first round of the US Open while Tomic is the most anticipated Australian prospect since Lleyton Hewitt.

Mondays With Bob Greene: I’ve had good times and bad times

STARS

Tommy Haas beat Novak Djokovic 6-3 6-7 (4) 6-1 to win the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany

Andy Murray won the AEGON Championships in London, Great Britain, defeating James Blake 7-5 6-4

Magdalena Rybarikova beat Li Na 6-0 7-6 (2) to win the AEGON Classic in Birmingham, Great Britain

Stanislas Wawrinka beat Potito Starace 7-5 6-3 to win the BSI Lugano Challenger in Lugano, Switzerland

Iona-Raluca Olaru beat Masa Zec-Peskiric 6-7 (4) 7-5 6-4 to win the Open GDF Suez de Marseille in Marseille, France

SAYING

“I’m a long way from winning Wimbledon, but I feel confident. I’ll try and not get too far ahead of myself and focus on my first match there, but if I play my best like I did this week, I’ve got a chance.” – Andy Murray, after winning at Queen’s Club.

“It’s incredible, I can hardly believe it myself when I think of the highs and lows I’ve been through in the last year and a half.” – Tommy Haas, after winning his first grass-court title.

“I was so excited last night after I beat Sharapova I forgot I had a match today.” Li Na, who lost in the final after upsetting Maria Sharapova in the semifinals of the AEGON Classic in Birmingham, Great Britain.

“I still felt like I had many chances in this match, but I have played five matches in the last six days and after that you just hope you wake up with that intensity you need. Against her you need that.” – Maria Sharapova, after losing to Li Na.

“Winning today is the best feeling of my career so far. It’s unbelievable. Just like a dream.” – Magdalena Rybarikova, after winning her first WTA title, the AEGON Classic in Birmingham, Great Britain.

“I had a good week. Playing on the grass, I always have a lot of fun playing here. I feel great. I’ve been working with my coach and trainer, and I know I’m doing the best preparation possible for Wimbledon. I’ll be ready to play and feel great about my chances.” – James Blake, after reaching the final at Queen’s Club.

“A problem a lot of people in this country have is expecting huge things, thinking that it’s just going to happen.” – Andy Murray, concerning the British public hoping he can win Wimbledon.

“I think he’s over the biggest hurdle in his tennis with the French under his belt. Pete Sampras, Boris Becker, John McEnroe, great players, never did. The monkey is off Roger’s back and he’ll play, not with abandon, but with excitement, enjoyment and freedom. He’ll be Wimbledon champion again next month unless someone catches fire like Robin Soderling did against Nadal.” – Rod Laver, on Roger Federer winning the French Open.

“I’ve had good times and bad times. That’s me. That’s how I am. I’m really lucky and I’m happy that the ATP has allowed me to do what I want to do on the court. They’ve been nice to me throughout the years and that’s made it much easier for me to play this way.” – Marat Safin, talking about his career.

“I have now, after a lot of thinking, decided to put an end to my professional tennis career.” – Thomas Johansson, announcing his retirement from competitive tennis.

“There comes a time in every man’s life when he needs to settle down. In my case, again.” – Boris Becker, after marrying Dutch model Sharlely “Lilly” Kerssenberg, his second marriage.

SUCCESS, FINALLY

When Andy Murray beat James Blake in the AEGON Championships final, he became the first British player to win at Queen’s Club since Bunny Austin in 1938. “I was quite nervous,” Murray admitted. “People were telling me that no (Briton) had won here for 70-odd years, so that got the nerves going, especially when I was serving for the match.” The fact he won on grass will only increase the belief – and the pressure – that Murray, ranked third in the world, will win Wimbledon. A Brit hasn’t won on the grass courts of the All England Club since Fred Perry did it in 1936.

SLOVAKIAN SURPRISE

Magdalena Rybarikova could be called the women’s champion of China. The little-known Slovakian won her first WTA title at the AEGON Classic in Birmingham, Great Britain, stopping China’s Li Na 6-0 7-6 (2) in the final. In the quarterfinals, the 20-year-old Rybarikova upset top-seeded Zheng Jie of China 7-6 (10) 6-4. “I was very nervous in the tiebreak, but she looked more nervous than me, so that helped me concentrate even harder,” Rybarikova said of Li. In the semifinals, Li upset Maria Sharapova, her first victory over the Russian in six career meetings.

SPECIAL ENTRY

Japan’s Kimiko Date Krumm will play at Wimbledon for the first time in 13 years. The 38-year-old Date Krumm was given a wild card into the main draw. Once ranked as high as number four in the world, Date Krumm reached the semifinals in 1996, the last time she played on the grass of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. She retired from her first-round qualifying match at the French Open last month because of a calf injury.

STRAIGHT IN

Can Laura Robson match the exploits of Martina Hingis? Thanks to a wild card, Britain’s 15-year-old junior Wimbledon champion will be the youngest player in the women’s main draw since Hingis in 1995. Hingis went on to become number one in the world. Robson is ranked 482nd in the world, but was given a wild card via a clause that allows juniors to be included under “exceptional circumstances.” Others receiving wild cards into the women’s main draw include Elena Baltacha, Alexa Glatch, Michelle Larcher de Brito, Katie O’Brien, Georgie Stoop and Melanie South.

Juan Carlos Ferrero, the 2003 French Open champion from Spain who has been ranked as high as number one in the world, has been given a wild card entry into this year’s Wimbledon men’s draw, along with 2008 Wimbledon and US Open junior champion Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria. Also given wild cards into the men’s singles were Britons Alex Bogdanovic, Daniel Evans, Joshua Goodall and James Ward.

SQUEAKER

Although he ended up winning the tournament, it didn’t appear in the semifinals that Tommy Haas had a chance of advancing in the Gerry Weber Open. In an all-German semifinal in Halle, Germany, Haas trailed 5-2 in the third set before edging Philipp Kohlschreiber 2-6 7-6 (5) 7-6 (3). A year ago, Kohlschreiber beat Haas in the second round en route to the final at Halle. This year, Kohlschreiber served for the match while leading 5-3 but played a sloppy game. Haas made him pay for it, serving his 15th ace of the day on his third match point. It was the first tournament Haas has won since Memphis, Tennessee, USA, in 2007.

SWAN SONG

Sweden’s Thomas Johansson, who won the Australian Open in 2002, retired from competitive tennis at the age of 34. Besides his surprising win in Melbourne, where he beat Marat Safin in the title match, Johansson won eight other ATP titles and reached the semifinals at Wimbledon in 2005, where he lost to Andy Roddick. Last year, Johansson teamed with Simon Aspelin to win the silver medal in doubles at the Beijing Olympics, losing the gold-medal match to Switzerland’s Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka.

SWEDISH PRISON

A 24-year-old man was sentenced to nine months in prison and fined USD $17,200 for rioting outside the Davis Cup match between Israel and Sweden. The Swede was one of 10 people arrested after protesting Israel’s offensive in Gaza. Earlier, an 18-year-old was sentenced to 15 months in prison for rioting. A third man has been acquitted because of lack of evidence.

ST. MORITZ WEDDING

Boris Becker has married for the second time. The German tennis great and Dutch model Sharlely “Lilly” Kerssenberg tied the knot in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Attending the wedding were Becker’s two sons, 15-year-old Noah and 9-year-old Elias. along with Prince Albert of Monaco, supermodel Claudia Schiffer, cyclist Jan Ulrich and his wife Sara, and soccer stars Franz Beckenbaur and Oliver Kahn, among others. The newly-weds had announced their plan to get married when they appeared on a German television show in February.

SITTING IT OUT

Saying he was “overwhelmed” and “exhausted” after winning his first French Open title, Roger Federer pulled out of the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany, his usual grass-court warm-up for Wimbledon. “I sincerely apologize to the tournament organizers, my competitors, and my fans in Germany. I only hope they will understand that I still feel emotionally overwhelmed and exhausted by the incredible events of the past few days,” Federer said on his Web site.

Before he began his victorious run at the Gerry Weber Open, Tommy Haas withdrew from Germany’s Davis Cup quarterfinal against Spain, saying the clay court matches would put too much strain on his body. Haas, once ranked as high as number two in the world, did not play in the last Davis Cup World Group against Austria after being sidelined with a shoulder injury for much of 2008.

SIGNAGE

No longer will the Swiss Indoors tournament be held at St. Jakobshalle in Basel, Switzerland. Oh, it will be held at the same venue, but the name of the hall is being changed to Roger Federer Arena. Basel sports director Peter Howald said the city had discussed ways of honoring the new French Open champion, who completed a career Grand Slam and tied Pete Sampras’ record of 14 major singles title with his clay court victory at Roland Garros. Federer is a three-time defending champion of the Swiss Indoors.

SPLITSVILLE

The team didn’t last long at all. Ana Ivanovic has broken up with coach Craig Kardon. Ivanovic had hired Kardon, once a coach for Martina Navratilova, in February as a replacement on a temporary basis for Sven Groeneveld. But the Serb, who won Roland Garros last year, continued her fall in the WTA rankings. Once ranked number one in the world, she dropped out of the top ten following her fourth-round French Open loss this year. Ivanovic said she will use a temporary coach when she plays at Wimbledon.

SENTENCED

Damir Dokic has been sentenced to 15 months in prison for making death threats against the Australian ambassador to Serbia. “The sentence is inappropriate and we are going to appeal,” said Dokic’s lawyer, Bosiljka Djukic. “We hope that the higher court will annul this sentence.” The father of tennis player Jelena Dokic, Damir Dokic was arrested in early May after he reportedly said he would “attack the ambassador and her husband with a stinger missile.” Police found two hand grenades and 20 bullets in his house for which Dokic had no permit, in addition to seven hunting rifles and a handgun which he owned legally. The alleged threats came after Jelena, once ranked fourth in the world, was quoted in Australia’s Sports & Style magazine describing the torment she endured under her father.

START DELAYED

The start of the third-round match at Queen’s Club between Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt was delayed by a bomb threat. Both players stayed on court while officials searched the entire site but found nothing. Roddick and Hewitt were seen laughing and talking with each other during the break in play. Roddick ended up winning the match.

SCOTT AWARD

The late Arthur Ashe and his widow, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, will be recognized with the Eugene L. Scott Award by the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum (ITHFM). Presented annually since 2006, the award honors an individual who embodies Scott’s commitment to communicating honestly and critically about the game and who has had a significant impact on the tennis world. “Arthur and Jeanne have used their voices, which have been amplified through the game of tennis, to change the world in so many ways that it’s fitting to present them as one with the Eugene L. Scott Award,” said Christopher E. Clouser, chairman of the ITHFM. “Humanitarians like Arthur and Jeanne are few and far between and we should recognize them for the contributions they have made to help enact change.” The award will be presented at the 29th annual “Legends Ball” on September 11 in New York City. Also being honored will be Rod Laver and the four newest members of the Hall of Fame: Donald L. Dell, Andres Gimeno, the late Dr. Robert Johnson and Monica Seles.

SELLING LIKE HOTCAKES

The 2009 US Open is a hot ticket. The first day of ticket sales to the general public for this year’s final Grand Slam tournament was the second-best opening day in US Open history. With nearly 35,000 tickets sold, it is only the second time that opening day ticket sales topped 30,000 tickets. This year’s total trails only last year’s event. In the six days leading up to the public sale, the US Open pre-sale for American Express members set an all-time sales mark of more than 31,000 tickets.

SPONSOR LOSS

The Australian Open is continuing to lose sponsors. The latest is Qantas, which is ending its 21-year agreement with the year’s first Grand Slam tournament. In the past few months, the Australian Open has lost several other major sponsors, including Master Card, Garnier and GE Money. Three major sponsors say they will continue, including Kia Motors, Rolex and Lacoste.

SLICING FINE

The Swedish Tennis Association (STA) has had its fine reduced by the International Federation of Tennis (ITF) Board of Directors. The board agreed to reduce the fine from USD $25,000 to USD $5,000, but upheld the original decision by the Davis Cup Committee not to waive the gross receipts payment of $15,000. The Committee took the action following Sweden’s first-round Davis Cup tie against Israel, which was played behind closed doors in Malmo, Sweden.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Birmingham: Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears 6-1 6-4

London: Wesley Moodie and Mikhail Youzhny beat Marcelo Melo and Andrew Sa 6-4 4-6 10-6 (match tiebreak)

Halle: Christopher Kas and Philipp Kohlschreiber beat Andreas Beck and Marco Chiudinelli 6-3 6-4

Marseille: Tathiana Garbin and Maria-Emilia Salerni beat Timea Bacsinszky and Elena Bovina 6-7 (4) 6-3 10-7 (match tiebreak)

Lugano: Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer beat Pablo Cuevas and Sergio Roitman walkover

SITES TO SURF

Eastbourne: www.lta.org.uk/Watch/

s-Hertogenbosch: www.ordina-open.nl/

Wimbledon: www.wimbledon.org

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$600,000 Ordina Open, s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, grass

$600,000 AEGON International, Eastbourne, Great Britain, grass

WTA

$600,000 AEGON International, Eastbourne, Great Britain, grass

$220,000 Ordina Open, s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, grass

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP and WTA

The Championships (first week), Wimbledon, Great Britain, grass

Mondays With Bob Greene: Fabrice Santoro Wins Newport

STARS

Juan Martin del Potro won the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart, Germany, by defeating Richard Gasquet 6-4 7-5

Victor Hanescu beat Igor Andreev 6-3 6-4 to capture the Allianz Suisse Open in Gstaad, Switzerland

Tommy Robredo won his second Catella Swedish Open title by beating Tomas Berdych 6-4 6-1 in Bastad, Sweden

Fabrice Santoro won the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island, defeating Prakash Amritraj 6-3 7-5

Jesse Huta Galung beat Diego Hartfield 6-3 6-4 to win the Siemens Open in Scheveningen, Netherlands

Mariano Puerta defeated Ricardo Hocevar 7-6 (2) 7-5 to win the Seguros Bolivar Open in Bogota, Colombia

Alize Cornet won the Gaz de France Grand Prix in Budapest, Hungary, by beating Andreja Klepac 7-6 (5) 6-3

Sara Errani beat Mariya Koryttseva 6-2 6-3 to win the Internazionali Femminili di Tennis di Palermo in Palermo, Italy

SAYINGS

“This win is more important than the first one. In 2006 I played the best tennis of my life. I was in better shape. This year I did not play very good in the beginning of the year. This gives me confidence again.” – Tommy Robredo, after winning the Swedish Open for the second time in three years.

“This is incredible. I’ve dreamed of winning a tournament since I’ve been a kid, and now I also get a car.” – Juan Martin del Potro, who received a check and a new white convertible Mercedes for winning the Mercedes Cup.

“I congratulate Juan Martin, but he’d better be careful. It’s a fast car.” – Richard Gasquet, who lost in the Mercedes Cup final.

“When you start a career at 16 years old, never, ever can you imagine you’ll win a tournament 20 years later.” – Fabrice Santoro, who at age 35 won the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships.

“Yes, I won the Wimbledon title, but it’s not such a big success for me as it’s only a junior title after all. I’ll be really satisfied when I win a men’s tournament of such magnitude.” – Grigor Dimitrov, who became Bulgaria’s first Wimbledon champion when he won the boys’ singles.

“Obviously I was happy for her. I wouldn’t want her to lose any other time – unless she lost against me.” – Serena Williams, talking about her sister Venus, who won her fifth Wimbledon title by beating Serena in the final.

“It is with a lot of sadness that I take this decision because playing for my country (in) my last Olympic Games meant a lot to me.” – Amelie Mauresmo, who decided to skip the Beijing Olympics when she was selected to play doubles only.

“I’m so happy. This is like a dream come true.” – Victor Hanescu, after winning his first ATP title in Gstaad, Switzerland

“I am obviously very happy to have won the title here in Bastad once again. … I am not even going to say that I will be back next year because everyone knows that I will.” – Tommy Robredo, after winning the Catella Swedish Open for the second time in three years.

“The standing ovation after the match was fantastic. I had to swallow hard a few times. I’m usually a very emotional person and I was very moved. I even forgot to do my signature Brussels step.” – Jonas Bjorkman, who won the Swedish Open doubles in his final trip to Bastad before he retires.

“When you’re 17 years old and you’re playing Grand Slam tournaments, you’re not thinking, `If I win this, I’ll be the youngest Grand Slam champion ever.’ … I don’t think it really sunk in until probably a couple of months after it took place.” – Michael Chang, about his winning the French Open in 1989.

SUISSE SWEET

Victor Hanescu won his first career ATP title and became the first Romanian since Ilie Nastase in 1973 to capture the Allianz Suisse Open in Gstaad, Switzerland, when he beat seventh-seeded Igor Andreev 6-3, 6-4. In the second round, Hanescu saved three match points in the third-set tiebreak, edging Ivo Karlovic 6-7 (4) 7-6 (3) 7-6 (11), then upset world No. 10 Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland in the semifinals. Prior to the Gstaad tournament, the 26-year-old Hanescu had not won consecutive ATP matches since he reached the final at Bucharest, Romania, last September. Hanescu is the first ATP tournament winner from Romania since Andrei Pavel won in Montreal, Canada, in 2001.

SERVE, SET AND MATCH

Sara Errani had to wait for the umpire before she won her first WTA Tour singles title. At match point, Errani’s serve was called long. But the umpire got out of the chair, checked the mark and ruled Errani had served an ace, giving her a 6-2 6-3 victory over Mariya Koryttseva at Palermo, Italy. Errani, who had never been to a tour final of any kind before this week, became the first Italian to win the singles crown in Palermo. She then won the doubles title, teaming with Nuria Llagostera Vives.

SPARKLING CAREERS

Michael Chang, one of only three American men to win the French Open singles in the Open Era, was one of the three latest inductees into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island. Chang became the youngest player to win a Grand Slam men’s title when he upset top-seeded Ivan Lendl in the fourth round, then eclipsed third-seeded Stefan Edberg in the final in 1989. His victory snapped a 34-year drought by American men on the Roland Garros clay. Also inducted into the Hall as contributors were Gene Scott, founder and publisher of Tennis Week magazine as well as a top player, promoter and tournament director, and Mark McCormick, a sports executive who was founder and CEO of International Management Group (IMG). Established in 1954, the International Tennis Hall of Fame now has 207 inductees.

SENIOR SANTORO

When Fabrice Santoro successfully defending his Hall of Fame Tennis Championships title, he moved into elite company, becoming only the second player since 1990 to win an ATP event after his 35th birthday. Santoro became the oldest player to win the grass court tournament in Newport, Rhode Island, and joined Andre Agassi as champions after reaching the age of 35. With his sixth career title, Santoro won his 451st match, fourth among active players behind Roger Federer, Carlos Moya and Lleyton Hewitt.

SWEDE AND STEADY

Making his final appearance at Bastad, Jonas Bjorkman teamed with Robin Soderling of Sweden to win his seventh Swedish Open doubles title. Bjorkman, who announced his intention to retire at the end of this year, previously won the doubles at Bastad in 1994, 1995, 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006, teaming with Todd Woodbridge of Australia, Mahesh Bhupathi of India and fellow Swedes Jan Apell, Joachim Johansson and Thomas Johansson. Bjorkman has a remarkable 33-3 record at Bastad. It was the first doubles final for the 23-year-old Soderling.

STAR NADAL

OK, it’s not a star, but a recently discovered asteroid has been named after Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal, according to the EFE news agency. Previously known as 128036, the Rafael Nadal asteroid is four kilometers in diameter and is located between Mars and Jupiter. The Astronomical Observatory of Majorca discovered the planetoid in 2003. The decision to name the asteroid after Nadal, a native of the Majorcan town of Manacor, was taken by the International Astronomical Union in response to a request by the Spanish observatory, which said its goal is to pay tribute “to one of the greatest tennis players of all time.”

SEMIFINAL STEADY

By upsetting third-seeded Novak Djokovic and eventually reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon, Marat Safin became the 20th player in the Open Era to reach the semis or better at all four Grand Slam tournaments in his career. The other active men to achieve the feat are Djokovic, Roger Federer and David Nalbandian.

STEPPING GINGERLY

Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal pulled out OF the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart, Germany, and said he won’t play again until he no longer has pain above his right knee. “My doctor said I need a few days off. I will have a checkup and treatment and won’t return to the court until I am 100 percent,” Nadal said. “The calendar is hard on us players. I have played four, five months without a break. I have to recover.”

SITTING ON TOP

Canada’s Daniel Nestor is ranked number one in the world in doubles for the fifth time in his career. His latest move to the top of the rankings came after he teamed with Nenad Zimonjic to win the Wimbledon doubles, their third title of the year. Nestor surpassed American twins Bob and Mike Bryan, who had led the rankings since April 16, 2007.

SHANGHAI BOUND

Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are the first three players to clinch spots in the year-ending Tennis Masters Cup, which will be played in Shanghai, China. The elite eight-player tournament will be held for the fourth year at Qi Zhong Stadium from November 9-16. The first two doubles places in Shanghai were seized by Wimbledon champions Daniel Nestor of Canada and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia, along with American twins Bob and Mike Bryan. Federer will be playing in his seventh consecutive Tennis Masters Cup. He has reached the final the past five years, winning consecutive titles in 2003-04 and again in 2006-07. This is the sixth straight year that Nestor has qualified for the season finale, winning it last year with long-time partner Mark Knowles.

SUPER PRIZE

The men’s and women’s champions at the U.S. Open this year will each take home USD $1.5 million as the year’s final Grand Slam tournament increases its total prize money to a record USD $20.6 million. The overall payout is USD $1 million more than in 2007, matching the largest single-year jump in the hard-court tournament’s history. Adding in the bonuses available to the leading finishers in the summer circuit U.S. Open Series, the overall prize money could eventually be more than USD $23 million. If a player wins both the summer series and the U.S. Open, as Roger Federer did last year, they would earn USD $2.5 million. A year ago Federer took home the largest paycheck in tennis history, USD $2.4 million.

STRIKE

Mardy Fish tried out another sport while playing at the Hall of Fame tournament in Newport, Rhode Island. A self-described big Minnesota Twins baseball fan, Fish threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Boston’s Fenway Park before the Red Sox played host to the Twins. The two sporting events were only about 90 miles apart.

SERENA’S BACK

Three days after she lost the Wimbledon singles final to her sister, Serena Williams was back on court, this time playing for the Washington Kastles of World Team Tennis. She won her singles, beating Marie-Eve Pelletier, and teamed with Mashona Washington to beat Pelletier and Raquel Kops-Jones in the women’s doubles. But she and Justin Gimelstob lost to Jan-Michael Gambill and Kops-Jones, and the Kastles lost their home opener to the Boston Lobsters 22-19. Venus also returned and played WTT for Philadelphia Freedoms.

STARTING OVER AGAIN

Australian Mark Philippoussis is making yet another comeback. This time, though, he’ll be competing on the Outback Champions Series, the international tennis circuit for men 30-and-over. Philippoussis, who lost to Roger Federer in the 2003 Wimbledon final, will join Jim Courier, Todd Martin and Wayne Ferreira at The Championships at The Palisades, to be played September 24-28 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Four other players will be announced later to complete the eight-player field.

SAN DIEGO HALL

Brian Teacher, who won the Australian Open singles title in 1980, is one of the newest members of the San Diego Tennis Hall of Fame. Teacher and four others will be inducted into the hall August 23 at the Balboa Tennis Club. The others are age-group champion Jim Perley and three administrators: Franklin Johnson, a former president of the U.S. Tennis Association; William J. Kellogg, president of the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club since 1989; and Jean Kremm, long active in the San Diego community junior tennis. The five were selected by a panel. Teacher was born in San Diego and was an All-American while helping UCLA win two NCAA championships. He beat Kim Warwick in straight sets in the 1980 Australian Open final.

STAYING HOME

Amelie Mauresmo is the latest star to skip the Beijing Olympics, saying she wants to prepare for the U.S. Open. Mauresmo said that her being passed over by the French Tennis Federation for the women’s singles competition was a major factor in her withdrawal from the Games. Mauresmo, who had been selected to compete only in doubles, lamented that she was missing a chance to join the 2008 Olympiad. She won a silver medal in the singles in Athens four years ago.

SINO OFFICE

Acknowledging the rapid rise of Asian tennis and the emergence importance of Asia, the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour has opened its newest office in Beijing, China. The women’s tour has its main headquarters in St. Petersburg, Florida, and its European office in London, England. David Shoemaker will head the Asia-Pacific and is charged with growing the WTA Tour’s presence in the region as well as assuming overall leadership of all Asia Pacific staff. He will maintain his role as General Counsel as well as other executive responsibilities for the Tour.

STATEHOOD DAY SNUB

Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas skipped the Statehood Day ceremonies in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, saying he had not prepared for it. However, Kirkilas found time to play in a tennis tournament the same day. The Lithuanian Tennis Federation confirmed Kirkilas was at the Dubingial Open tournament, where the prime minister and tennis player Danielius Lencina-Ribes lost to Sarunas Marciulionis and Gabriele Masillute-Lencina. Lithuania’s president spoke at the Statehood Day festivities, while Lithuania’s ambassador to Great Britain, Vygaudas Usackas, diplomats from Russia’s embassy in Lithuania, Defense Minister Juozas Olekas as well as members of the 1998 gold medal-winning USSR basketball team, including Arvydas Sabonis, were at the tennis tournament.

SLAVE TREATMENT?

A Pakistani student is in court alleging he was treated as a slave when he worked as a security guard at the Australian Open earlier this year. The Press Trust of India (PTI) reported that Faisal Durrani filed a statement of claim at the Melbourne Magistrates Court, alleging he was paid 200 Australian dollars for the 150 hours he worked at the tennis facility. Durrani claimed that at least four other security guards from the sub-continent also received a small payment for their work. Durrani’s lawyer, Andrew Weinmann, called the action “slavery.” Durrani is seeking about USD $4,000 in wages, along with interest, court costs and penalties through the Workplace Relations Act that could run into millions of dollars.

SHOPPING

Britain’s Chris Eaton, who got into Wimbledon qualifying on a wild card, worked his way into the main draw where he reached the second round before falling to 25th-seeded Dmitry Tursunov. And while he earned more than USD $43,000 for his fortnight, Eaton says he will continue to drive his modest Vauxhall Astra, complete with taped-up side mirror. “Maybe I’ll buy some better Duct tape,” Eaton said of his big payday.

SERVING STRONG

Now that he has won two Grand Slam junior boys doubles titles, Taiwan’s Yang Tsung-Hua is planning on turning pro next year. He is the world’s top-ranked junior, having also won the boys singles at the French Open. Yang and his partner, Hsieh Cheng-Peng, will compete in an upcoming tournament in India as well as the U.S. Open boy’s doubles. Hsieh, the younger bother of Hsieh Su-Wei, who competes on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, and Yang teamed up to win the boys doubles at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

SURPRISE – NOT

Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich won the Israel Open doubles title as expected, beating Sergei Bubka and Michail Elgin 6-3 7-6 (3) in the Saturday final. The Israeli duo was the only world-class team in the USD $50,000 challenger tournament play at Ramat Hasharon, Israel. They didn’t drop a set all week. The singles winner was Marsel Ilhan of Turkey, who beat Slovakia’s Ivo Klec 6-4 6-4.

SWITCHING SIDES

It turns out the newest British tennis star, Wimbledon girls champion Laura Robson, is really a new Brit. Newspapers in England report that the 14-year-old has had a British passport for just four months. Until February, she played all of her matches representing her native Australia, although she has lived in Britain since the age of six. Her father, Andrew Robson, obtained his British passport in February, which allowed Laura to apply for citizenship in the United Kingdom.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Stuttgart: Christopher Kas and Philippe Kohlschreiber beat Michael Berrer and Mischa Zverev 6-3 6-4

Gstaad: Jaroslav Levinsky and Filip Polasek beat Stanislas Wawrinka and Stephane Bohli 3-6 6-2 11-9 (match tiebreak)

Newport: Mardy Fish and John Isner beat Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi 6-4 7-6 (1)

Bastad: Jonas Bjorkman and Robin Soderling beat Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-2 6-2

Bogota: Xavier Malisse and Carlos Salamanca beat Juan Sebastian Cabal and Michael Quintero 6-1 6-4

Scheveningen: Rameez Junaid and Philipp Marx beat Matwe Middelkoop and Melle Van Gemerden 5-7 6-2 10-6 (match tiebreak)

Budapest: Alize Cornet and Janette Husarova beat Vanessa Henke and Ioana Raluca Olaru 6-7 (5) 6-1 10-6 (match tiebreak)

Palermo: Sara Errani and Nuria Llagostera Vives beat Alla Kudryavtseva and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2-6 7-6 (1) 10-4 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Istanbul: www.tedclub.org.tr

Stanford: www.bankofthewestclassic.com

Bad Gastein: www.generali-ladies.at

Scheveningen: www.siemens-open.nl

Toronto: www.rogerscupmen.com

Poznan: www.porscheopen.pl

San Marino: www.atpsanmarino.com

Los Angeles: www.eastwestbankclassic.com

Portoroz: www.sloveniaopen.sl

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$890,000 Austrian Open, Kitzbuhel, Austria, clay

$525,000 Indianapolis Tennis Championships, Indianapolis, Indiana, hard

$525,000 Dutch Open Tennis, Amersfoort, The Netherlands, clay

$525,000 ATP Studena Croatia Open, Umag, Croatia, clay

WTA

$600,000 Bank of the West Classic, Stanford, California, hard

$175,000 Gastein Ladies, Bad Gastein, Austria, clay

SENIORS

Turkcell Legends Cup, Istanbul, Turkey, hard

DAVIS CUP

(July 18-20)

Americas Zone

Group III: Aruba, Barbados, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Puerto Rico at Tegucigalpa, Honduras, hard

Group IV: Bermuda, Costa Rica, Haiti, US Virgin Island at Honduras

Europe/Africa Zone

Group II Playoffs: Luxembourg vs. Finland at Hanko, Finland, clay; Hungary vs. Greece at Thessaloniki, Greece, clay

Group II Second Round: Denmark vs. South Africa at Johannesburg, South Africa, hard; Algeria vs. Monaco at Monte Carlo, Monaco, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$2,615,000 Rogers Cup, Toronto, Canada, hard

$100,000 Porsche Open, Poznan, Poland, clay

$100,000 San Marino CEPU Open, San Marino, clay

WTA Tour

$600,000 East West Bank Classic presented by Herbalife, Los Angeles, California, hard

$145,000 Banka Koper Slovenia Open, Portoroz, Slovenia, hard

Starace Lives Up to Top Billing; Baltacha Breaks Through

The challengers circuit was graced with the presence of a top 50 player on the men’s side who hoped to get an early start to the clay court season, while several women followed up their victories on the challenger circuit last week with repeats this week.

The clay court season is about to get underway next week, but two players have already shown their intentions to leave a mark on it this season. At the $100,000 event in Napoli, Italy, Potito Starace won a nail-biting final in front of his local fans by beating Marcos Daniel of Brazil 6-4 4-6 7-6. Daniel was coming of a win at the $125,000 tournament in Bogota, Colombia last month, and came within two points of the biggest win of his career against the 36th ranked Starace. However, Starace fought back from 5-6 down in the final set and won the last three points of the tiebreak to win his first title of the year. Two other prominent players, French Open finalist Gullermo Coria and Olympic gold medalist Nicolas Massu, took part in the tournament, but failed to get past the first round.

At the $35,000 tournament in St. Brieuc, France, Christophe Rochus of Belgium took the title with a 6-2 4-6 6-1 over Marcel Granollers of Spain. Granollers has had a fine start on the clay this year by winning a challenger event in Morocco and reaching the quarterfinals at the ATP event in Acapulco, Mexico, but ran out of gas in the end against the experienced Belgian. Rochus is a long way from his career high ranking of #38, but winning his first title in three years is certainly a step back in the right direction.

There inevitably comes a time for any good player to graduate from the futures circuit, and it seems that Rui Machado of Portugal has more than worn out his welcome at this level. His win at the $15,000 event in Loja, Spain, is his fifth futures title of 2008.

On the women’s side, British tennis has been in dire straits for almost two decades now. The last woman to be in the top 100 was Samantha Smith in 1999. However, Elena Baltacha demonstrated this week that she might be ready to finally break through at the level. She won her second challenger title in a row, and the biggest of her career, at the $75,000 event in Torhout, Belgium, with a 6-7 6-1 6-4 over Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic. Benesova has also been a hot streak as of late, having won the $50,000 event in Latina, Italy last week. Her characteristically fragile nerves got the better of her though as she was broken in the final set at 4-4, allowing Baltacha to serve out the win.

Magdalena Rybarikova also won her second title in a row at the $50,000 tournament in Patras, Greece, defeating Great Britain’s Anne Keothavong 6-3 7-5 in the final. The win puts her inside of the top 150 for the first time in her career, and with minimal points to defend until late this fall, she looks poised to break through into the top 100 by then.

After struggling with injuries and poor form through 2007, Kristina Barrois of Germany has finally turned her game around. She won her second title in a row at the $25,000 event in Hamburg, Germany, taking the title when Ana Vrljic of Croatia retired with a leg injury after losing the first set 6-2. The win puts Barrois back in the top 200 and guarantees her spot in the qualifying for Roland Garros this spring.

In other challenger news, Betima Jozami of Argentina won the $25,000 event in Civatechia, Italy, and Raquel Kops-Jones of the United States won the $25,000 event in Pelham, Alabama.

The spotlight turns over to the women at the $75,000 event in Monzon, Spain, where American Lilia Osterloh is the top seed. Martina Muller of Germany is the top seed at the $25,000 tournament in Biarritz, France, while Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada hopes to continue her strong form as the top seed at the $25,000 event in Jackson, Mississippi. On the men’s side, professional tennis finally returns to Puerto Rico with former Australian Open finalist Rainer Schuttler playing top seed at the $50,000 event in Humacao. Albert Montanes of Spain is also the top seed at the $35,000 event in Monza, Italy.