Rennae Stubbs

Summer heats up in D.C. with the Washington Kastles tennis team: a win in photos

By Romi Cvitkovic

From a grandmother doing “The Dougie,” to 2011 Washington Kastles’ tennis players receiving commemorative championship rings, to familiar D.C. faces in the crowd like Kastles’ owner Mark Ein, former D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty and current Tennis Channel commentator Brett Haber, there is something in store for every tennis fan during the Washington Kastles’ season at The Wharf in downtown D.C.

Thursday night’s home opener against the New York Sportimes marked the Kastles’ 19th straight win that stretched from last year’s perfect 16-0 season. Returning players Leander Paes,  Bobby Reynolds and Arina Rodionova, along with newcomer Anastasia Rodionova, entertained the crowd with five tight matches and energetic play, that culminated in a 20-18 win.

The evening festivities began with mixed doubles as Anastasia Rodionova and Leander Paes took on the duo of Martina Hingis and Robert Kendrick. Paes, a thirteen time men’s and mixed doubles Slam champion, carried his partner with his deft hands at net to even the score at 4-4. Tennis wouldn’t be tennis without a disputed call, and after a brief discussion with the official by the Sportimes coach, play continued — but the Sportimes had lost their momentum. Paes quickly knocked off four clean winners, including a backhand volley to seal the set, 5-4(1).

Next up was women’s doubles featuring the Rodionova sisters (the “Hot Rods”) taking on Martina Hingis and Ashley Harkleroad (the “Models”). With Hingis, a former World No. 1, and Harkleroad, a former World No. 39, the Rodionova sisters had an uphill battle. But with competitive rallies, good looks, and giggling players, it was difficult not to get energized. Arina’s serve was broken at love with a couple of unforced errors and the “Hot Rods” quickly went down 1-3. They re-grouped and broke back on Hingis’ serve but two games later, the “Hot Rods” were again broken by the “Models”, losing 3-5.

With the Sportimes leading with a score of 9-8, the men’s doubles team of Leander Paes and Bobby Reynolds kicked it into high gear over the tandem of Robert Kendrick and Jesse Witten. Reynolds, a former World No. 46 in doubles, blasted serves while Paes fed off his lead to put away easy volleys. In the blink of an eye, the Kastles’ were up 4-0 on a Sportimes team that was struggling to find their balance. Reynolds, nicknamed “The Closer” for his ability to seal the team win on the final men’s singles matches, did much the same as he served out a 5-0 win in doubles, giving the Kastles’ a 13-9 edge.

Halftime was full of spectator giveaways, quickstart tennis with Paes and Coach Murphy Jensen with two lucky young fans, as well a ring presentation for Rennae Stubbs, who was part of the 2011 Washington Kastles Championship team. The short ceremony had Coach Jensen and Paes praising Stubbs, Paes receiving a kiss from both Stubbs and Jensen(!), and Stubbs commenting on her love of the city of Washington D.C.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Iuvk0jNRQc&hd=1&w=585

After crowd applause and appreciation, the tennis action was quickly underway as Anastasia Rodionova took on Martina Hingis in the women’s singles. As Hingis hit deep into the court, Rodionova responded with wicked backhand winners to even the set out at 2-2. After failing to convert on three break points, Rodionova self-destructed hitting error after error, giving Hingis the set, 5-2.

With the score tightly standing at 15-14 for the Kastles, the concluding men’s singles match between Bobby Reynolds and Jesse Witten had a whole season riding on the outcome. Always the most intense match of the night, it didn’t disappoint as it went the distance with a tiebreaker at 4-4 and a Reynolds fistpump to the crowd. Witten, although deceptively agile and hard-hitting, couldn’t do much to hold back an energized Reynolds who reeled off three winners to go up 3-0 in the tiebreaker. After a Witten error and an unreturnable serve by Reynolds,  the Kastles “Closer” sealed the win, 20-18.

After celebratory handshakes, and exchanges of of hugs and laughs, the Kastles team huddled together on court as any team proud of winning and keeping the steak alive would.

Catch the Washington Kastles this month as they battle for another perfect season! Full schedule and for tickets, click here.

Full gallery below; credit to author.

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Washington Kastles win World Team Tennis title; Complete perfect 16-0 season

It took nearly eight hours through three rain delays, but the Washington Kastles finally made World TeamTennis history by winning the WTT Championship and completing the first undefeated 16-0 record in WTT’s 36 seasons.  The Kastles overpowered the St. Louis Aces 23-19 at the WTT Finals presented by GEICO on Sunday evening at the Family Circle Tennis Center in Charleston, S.C.

Slowed by the first rain delay shortly after the 5 p.m. match start time, it took more than three hours for St. Louis to win the opening set of mixed doubles, 5-3. The Aces, led by Jean-Julien Rojer and 2011 Female MVP Liezel Huber, won 72% of their first service points in a tight battle with Male MVP Leander Paes and Rennae Stubbs.

Stubbs and Rodionova upended Huber and Tamira Paszek in women’s doubles, 5-0, to give the Kastles a 8-5 lead after the second set.  The Kastles continued to roll in men’s doubles, powering past Rojer and Roman Borvanov 5-2.

Rodionova, who was named MVP of the WTT Finals, took control in women’s singles and edged Paszek to push the Kastles lead to seven games heading into the final set.  St. Louis staged an impressive rally in men’s singles with Borvanov holding off Reynolds 5-4 to send the match into Overtime.  Borvanov won the first three games in Overtime to close the gap to 22-19 before Reynolds held serve to close out the historic victory just after 1 a.m.

Rennae Stubbs also made history by becoming only the fourth player in WTT history to be on five Championship teams.  Kastles co-captain Stubbs joins an elite list of 5-time WTT Champions – Martina Navratilova; Richie Reneberg; and Craig Kardon (4 as player; 1 as coach).

The Kastles finished the season with a 16-0 mark, while the Western Conference Champion St. Louis Aces finished at 9-7.

For more on WTT, visit WTT.com.

Washington Kastles win WTT Eastern conference title: Keep win streak alive at 15

The Washington Kastles moved one step closer to their second World TeamTennis title and the first undefeated season in WTT Pro League history with a 23-15 victory over the Boston Lobsters in the WTT Eastern Conference Championship final.  The Kastles advance to Sunday’s WTT Finals presented by GEICO to face the winner of Saturday’s Western Conference Championship match.

Leander Paes, who was announced as the 2011 WTT Male MVP prior to the match, partnered with Rennae Stubbs to power past Boston’s Eric Butorac and Mashona Washington, 5-2, in the opening set.  That opening match set the tone for the rest of the first half as Stubbs and Arina Rodionova dominated Washington and her partner Irina Falconi in women’s doubles 5-1.  The Kastles cruised to a 15-5 halftime lead after Paes and Bobby Reynolds defeated Butorac and Jan-Michael Gambill in men’s doubles, 5-2.

Falconi tried to turn the tide in women’s singles as she faced off against WTT’s Female Rookie of the Year Rodionova.  Falconi jumped out to a 3-1 lead before Rodionova shifted gears and evened out the set at 4-4.  Falconi hit a crosscourt forehand winner for the 5-4 victory and the first set win for the Lobsters.

Gambill won men’s singles 5-3 to send the match into overtime.  Reynolds closed out Washington’s 15th consecutive victory by winning the first Overtime game to give the Kastles the 23-15 win.  The win gives 2011 Coach of the Year Murphy Jensen and his squad a shot at making WTT history in Sunday’s final.  No team in WTT history has ever gone undefeated throughout the entire regular and post-season.

The St. Louis Aces and the Sacramento Capitals face off for the Western Conference title at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 23.  The winner will play the Kastles at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 24, for the King Trophy in the WTT Finals.  The Finals will be televised live on Tennis Channel and live streamed on http://video.wtt.com.

FINAL RESULTS FROM THE EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH:

(Home teams in capital letters)

WASHINGTON KASTLES def. Boston Lobsters 23-15 (OT)

Mixed Doubles – Leander Paes\Rennae Stubbs (Kastles) def. Eric Butorac\Mashona Washington (Lobsters) 5-2

Women’s Doubles – Arina Rodionova\Rennae Stubbs (Kastles) def. Irina Falconi\Mashona Washington (Lobsters) 5-1

Men’s Doubles – Leander Paes\Bobby Reynolds (Kastles) def. Eric Butorac\Jan-Michael Gambill (Lobsters) 5-2

Women’s Singles – Irina Falconi (Lobsters) def. Arina Rodionova (Kastles) 5-4

Men’s Singles – Jan-Michael Gambill (Lobsters) def. Bobby Reynolds (Kastles) 5-3

Overtime – Men’s Singles – Bobby Reynolds (Kastles) def. Jan-Michael Gambill (Lobsters) 1-0

Next Match: 7/23/2011

Western Conference Championship:  Sacramento Capitals @ ST. LOUIS ACES, 5:00 PM (EDT)

For live scoring and complete player / match statistics, please visit www.WTT.com

Boston, St, Louis and Sacramento join Washington for WTT finals weekend in Charleston

The Sacramento Capitals are the final team to qualify for the 2011 WTT Finals Weekend presented by GEICO.  The Capitals defeated the Springfield Lasers 21-17 on Thursday evening to qualify as the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.  Sacramento will face off against the St. Louis Aces on Saturday, July 23 at 5p.m. ET at the Family Circle Tennis Center in Charleston, S.C.o

Three of the four playoff spots were decided on the final night of the 2011 regular season.  The St. Louis Aces posted a 23-15 win over the Kansas City Explorers to earn the top seed in the West.  The Boston Lobsters overpowered the Newport Beach Breakers 22-14 to advance to Charleston, where they will take on the Washington Kastles for the Eastern Conference title.

Washington completed only the second undefeated regular season in WTT’s 36-year history with a 25-11 win over Philadelphia Freedoms on Thursday.  The only other team to finish 14-0 during the regular season was the 1994 Newport Beach Dukes.

For more information on the WTT Finals Weekend presented by GEICO, visit www.WTT.com/Finals.

SCHEDULE:  2011 WTT Finals Weekend presented by GEICO

July 22-24 – Family Circle Tennis Center in Charleston, S.C.

Friday, July 22 – 7 p.m.:  Eastern Conference Championship -  #1 Washington Kastles (14-0) vs. #2 Boston Lobsters (7-7) — Live Video Streaming on http://video.wtt.com

Saturday, July 23 – 5 p.m.:  Western Conference Championship — #1 St. Louis Aces (8-6) vs. #2 Sacramento Capitals (8-6)

Sunday, July 24 – 5 p.m.:  WTT Finals – Eastern Conference Champion vs. Western Conference Champion — LIVE Broadcast on Tennis Channel // Live Video Streaming on http://video.wtt.com

 

World TeamTennis Pro League presented by GEICO – Results for Thursday, 7/21

(Home teams in capital letters)

FINAL RESULTS – All matches complete:

WASHINGTON KASTLES def. Philadelphia Freedoms 25-11

Mixed Doubles – Leander Paes\Rennae Stubbs (Kastles) def. Liga Dekmeijere\Nathan Healey (Freedoms) 5-2

Women’s Doubles – Arina Rodionova\Rennae Stubbs (Kastles) def. Liga Dekmeijere\Beatrice Capra (Freedoms) 5-1

Men’s Doubles – Leander Paes\Bobby Reynolds (Kastles) def. Nathan Healey\Brendan Evans (Freedoms) 5-3

Women’s Singles – Arina Rodionova (Kastles) def. Beatrice Capra (Freedoms) 5-3

Men’s Singles – Bobby Reynolds (Kastles) def. Brendan Evans (Freedoms) 5-2

ST LOUIS ACES def. Kansas City Explorers 23-15

Men’s Singles – Mark Philippoussis (Aces) def. Alex Kuznetsov (Explorers) 5-2

Women’s Singles – Varvara Lepchenko (Aces) def. Jarmila Gajdosova (Explorers) 5-3

Men’s Doubles – Alex Kuznetsov\Ricardo Mello (Explorers) def. Mark Philippoussis\Jean-Julien Rojer (Aces) 5-3

Women’s Doubles – Liezel Huber\Varvara Lepchenko (Aces) def. Jarmila Gajdosova\Kveta Peschke (Explorers) 5-3

Mixed Doubles – Liezel Huber\Jean-Julien Rojer (Aces) def. Alex Kuznetsov\Jarmila Gajdosova (Explorers) 5-2

Boston Lobsters def. NEWPORT BEACH BREAKERS 22-14

Men’s Singles – Lester Cook (Breakers) def. Jan-Michael Gambill (Lobsters) 5-2

Men’s Doubles – Jan-Michael Gambill\Eric Butorac (Lobsters) def. Lester Cook\Travis Rettenmaier (Breakers) 5-2

Mixed Doubles – Eric Butorac\Coco Vandeweghe (Lobsters) def. Travis Rettenmaier\Marie-Eve Pelletier (Breakers) 5-3

Women’s Doubles – Mashona Washington\Coco Vandeweghe (Lobsters) def. Marie-Eve Pelletier\Anne Keothavong (Breakers) 5-1

Women’s Singles – Coco Vandeweghe (Lobsters) def. Anne Keothavong (Breakers) 5-3

SACRAMENTO CAPITALS def. Springfield Lasers 21-17

Men’s Singles – Dusan Vemic (Capitals) def. Greg A Jones (Lasers) 5-4

Women’s Doubles – Vania King\Yasmin Schnack (Capitals) def. Carly Gullickson\Lilia Osterloh (Lasers) 5-0

Men’s Doubles – Greg A Jones\Rik De Voest (Lasers) def. Mark Knowles\Dusan Vemic (Capitals) 5-4

Women’s Singles – Lilia Osterloh (Lasers) def. Vania King (Capitals) 5-2

Mixed Doubles – Vania King\Mark Knowles (Capitals) def. Carly Gullickson\Rik De Voest (Lasers) 5-3

Standings

Eastern Conference              MP W L PCT MB

y – Washington Kastles           14  14  0 1.000  –

x – Boston Lobsters                 14  7  7 0.500  7

New York Sportimes              14  7  7 0.500  7

Philadelphia Freedoms            14  3  11 0.214  11

Western Conference                         MP W L PCT MB

y – St Louis Aces                    14  8  6  0.571  –

x – Sacramento Capitals          14  8  6  0.571  –

Kansas City Explorers            14  8  6  0.571  –

Newport Beach Breakers        14  4  10  0.286  4

Springfield Lasers                   14  4  10  0.286  4

x = Clinched playoff spot

y = Clinched #1 seed for Conference Championship

Next Matches: 7/22/2011

Eastern Conference Finals:  Boston Lobsters @ WASHINGTON KASTLES, 7:00 PM (EDT) at Family Circle Tennis Center in Charleston, S.C.

For live scoring and complete player / match statistics, please visit www.WTT.com

Kastles remain unbeaten, top Sportimes, 23-15

The Washington Kastles kept their unbeaten season alive with a 23-15 victory over the New York Sportimes in World TeamTennis action at SPORTIME on Randall’s Island.  Serena Williams won her women’s doubles and mixed doubles matches, Leander Paes won his men’s doubles and mixed doubles and Bobby Reynolds was victorious in singles and men’s doubles to pace the victorious Kastles (13-0).

The mixed doubles team of Williams and Paes began with a 5-1 victory over Hingis and Travis Parrott, before Hingis gained a measure of revenge with a 5-3 singles victory over Williams to pull New York (7-7) to within 8-6.

The men’s doubles event followed, with Paes and  Reynolds teaming for a 5-2 victory that extended the Kastles’ margin to 13-8.  Williams and Rennae Stubbs topped Hingis and Katie O’Brien to give the Kastles a commanding 18-11 advantage.

Reynolds finished off the win with a 5-4 win over Jesse Witten.

The match concludes the regular season for the Sportimes, who now need a loss by the Boston Lobsters in their late match tonight at Sacramento or Thursday at Newport Beach, in order to qualify for the WTT Championship, Friday through Sunday in Charleston, S.C.

Washington hosts Philadelphia Thursday as it tries to complete the undefeated regular season.

Washington Kastles 23, New York Sportimes 15 at New York

Mixed doubles – Serena Williams/Leander Paes (Wash.) def. Travis Parrott/Martina Hingis, 5-1
Women’s singles – Martina Hingis (N.Y.) def. Serena Williams, 5-3
Men’s doubles – Bobby Reynolds/Leander Paes (Wash.) def. Travis Parrott/Jesse Witten, 5-2
Women’s doubles – Serena Williams/Rennae Stubbs (Wash.) def. Katie O’Brien/Martina Hingis, 5-3
Men’s singles – Bobby Reynolds (Wash.) def. Jesse Witten, 5-4

Serena Williams takes on tennis and the First Family in a Kastles’ win

In her first U.S. match in nearly two years, Serena Williams joined the Washington Kastles as they defeated the Boston Lobsters 25-10 in a thrilling evening overlooking the waterfront in Washington, D.C. Not only was there entertaining tennis, but the First Family was in attendance with Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia.

The evening began early, but “fashionably late” as Williams arrived late but took the court for a Kids’ Clinic for local youth organizations. As she was mobbed with photographers, the thing that stood out to me was her willingness to forget about the cameras and interact with the kids 1-on-1. Even though her time on-court was limited, it was not short on energy and optimism as she coached the kids to perfect their slice backhands and encouraged them to try missed shots again. The smiles on the kids’ faces told the whole story: they were excited to meet and hit with their idol.

Courtesy of: Kelyn Soong

As the Kastles’ players warmed up prior to the press conference, Coach Murphy Jensen also did not disappoint. During his serving drill, he was as audible as the capital letters in his twitter posts would have you believe. Williams also brought along her current coach, Sascha Bajin, who rallied with the players and acted as their temporary ball boy.

As the sun began to set over the Potomac River, the atmosphere was unique as first lady Michelle Obama, along with daughters Sasha and Malia, attended the second home match of the Kastles. Sasha grooved to the changeover music, holding up “Refuse to Lose” signs while her sister and mother politely cheered and clapped points.

Courtesy of: Kelyn Soong

The women’s doubles tandem of Serena Williams and Rennae Stubbs took the court for the first match of the evening against Mashona Washington and Coco Vandeweghe. Even though Serena did not look like the former #1 and 13-time Grand Slam champion that she is, the Kastles’ ladies still came out victorious 5-2.

Courtesy of: Kelyn Soong

The men’s doubles featured Kastles’ players Leander Paes and Bobby Reynolds versus Eric Butorac and Jan-Michael Gambill. The home team was in good form, quickly going up 4-0 before taking it to 5-1, bringing the score to 10-3.

With the men’s singles match occurring next, I expected only the men to take the court to warmup, but Serena jumped to her feet and warmed up Reynolds, while Butorac and Gambill warmed up on the opposite end. As much fun as it would have been to watch Serena take on Jan-Michael Gambill in the men’s singles match, it was Reynolds who did so and outplayed Gambill, 5-2.

At halftime, it looked like the First Family was leaving, but I quickly found out that they had met with the Kastles’ players and then returned to cheer on the mixed doubles team of Serena Williams and Leander Paes. For the first time in the evening, Williams seemed relaxed and chatty, taking on her old form pre-injury swiping anything that came her way and running down wide balls. From her press conference earlier in the evening, she addressed her foot fault fiasco as being “ages ago” and “so 2009.” Her renewed love for the sport was evident in Wimbledon as she broke down in tears on-court after her first round win and it was present here tonight as she smiled and danced her way to a win.

Courtesy of: Kelyn Soong

The women’s singles match concluded the evening and held the closest score all day, with Vandeweghe giving Williams good competition before going down 5-4 to take the final score to 25-10 for a Kastles’ win. Although Williams’ shot-making hasn’t faltered and her movement is deceptively quick, it’s her consistency that still needs improvement after being away from the game for almost one year. But if her renewed spirit is any indication, we will be seeing a lot more of Serena Williams this summer as she is set to play Stanford, Toronto, Cincinnati, and the U.S. Open next.

All photos provided by Kelyn Soong who is a freelance reporter and photographer. Follow his website here: http://kelynsoong.blogspot.com/ You can also follow Kelyn @Soongy12. 

Celebrity Smash Hits Boasts Entertaining Tennis, Charming Personalities, and AIDS Awareness

It’s one thing to root for your favorite players on a dimensionless TV, coaching them through the screen. It’s a completely different matter to interact with them directly and observe their personalities in a relaxed, yet competitive, setting. And that’s exactly what happened Monday night at American University’s Bender Arena where current and retired professional players took part in bringing awareness for a great cause while entertaining patrons with power-hitting tennis and charming on-court exchanges. On hand were several greats, including Elton John himself and the always entertaining Billie Jean King.

As I made my way into the arena, the atmosphere was calm, yet the anticipation of the night’s event was palpable. Patrons walked in joyful and carefree, as if entering a new world disconnected from a cold and dreary outside. For the next five hours, all that mattered was tennis and raising awareness of HIV and AIDS through the Elton John AIDS Foundation and the Washington AIDS Partnership.

Media Room

After winding stairs, small corridors, and sweaty campus athletes running by, I found myself in a room full of photographers and reporters. I felt lucky to find a spot in the third row and settled in for two press conferences. First up was Team Billie Jean King which included Rennae Stubbs, Mark Philippoussis, Martina Navratilova, Eric Butorac, and Billie Jean King. Philippoussis replaced an injured James Blake, and Butorac (given only 24 hours notice) replaced Mark Knowles who qualified for the year end doubles championship in London.

As soon as the players sat down, the noise level increased exponentially and it was only then that I realize how many photographers were present. The clicking and snapping shook me to the point where I half-believed a motor vehicle was being started right inside the room. It took more than a few minutes to adjust but the players didn’t seem to notice a difference. I guess that’s what happens when you travel the world and get grilled by media everywhere you go.

It was my first time seeing several of these players in person, including Billie Jean King whose presence filled the room. Her take-charge attitude took me by surprise but she didn’t get this far in the tennis business without her candor and resilience. Philippoussis was also incredibly microphone-shy but I completely forgot about that when he opened his mouth to speak. His Australian accent was inviting and his devilish smile put me in a trance. Navratilova was also a class act and raised awareness of one of the evenings’ causes while giving us some hard statistics: “93% of the time when a gay kid is bullied, teachers do not correct the action.” But if “any other name [had been used], they would have corrected it.” Although no source was stated, she went on to say that “a gay teenager is six times more likely to be bullied over their sexual orientation than a straight kid. It’s astonishing.” It’s truly heart-breaking to see the recent deaths of youth and it begins within our educational system she added.

Team Elton John, consisting of Anna Kournikova, Andre Agassi, Stefanie Graf, and Jan-Michael Gambill, elaborated on this phenomenon. Elton John pleaded saying that he was “worried about the current climate in America.” As much as he loves America and what we stand for, he sees the difference between us and other nations. As Americans, “we’re not talking to each other, whether it’s spite, sexuality, etc. It’s time to change and talk to each other.” He likened the situation on a global scale with his example of the Burmese woman who is in talks with the military to bring peace to her country. It’s only through communication that we can begin to solve our differences.

The mood then changed to a more light-hearted topic and Agassi’s foundation was also touched on. Graf looked calm and exquisite, while Kournikova remained relatively quiet. What Kournikova didn’t say was made up for with the amount of makeup on her face and enormous square-cut yellow-gold plated engagement ring (isn’t she supposed to be married by now?). Regardless, she was beautiful and became more engaging when her fans were present during the next stop in the evening: The very loud auction, headed by none other than Baltimore, MD-native Pam Shriver.

Live Auction

As I had never attended a live auction before, I didn’t know what to expect. But as soon as it began, it was clear who was in charge. The players were assigned to help Pam auction off the items, but she single-handedly commanded the room with her charm and humor, talking football, modern art, and even tennis. The rallies were intense and the attendees were smitten into bidding hundreds of thousands of dollars. Kournikova privately commented to Billie that Pam was “brilliant” in the way she took charge. Pammy, if commentating doesn’t work out, you’ve always got a career in auctioneering.

The auction went as follows:

  • Two signed Sir Elton John Piano Benches and a photo with Elton John went for $10,500 each.
  • 2011 BJK’s Wimbledon Package included two tickets to the Men’s and Women’s Finals in her box, private tour of the grounds with Billie Jean King and 4 nights’ accommodation, and went for $32,000.
  • 2011 US Open Package included two suite tickets in BJK’s suite for two sessions during Labor Day weekend, air transportation, and 2 nights’ accommodation, and went for $17,000.
  • Andre Agassi Grand Slam Limited Edition watch from Longines, 18-carat rose gold case set, with 56 VVS quality diamonds, and a gold ’8′ representing his grand slams. Billie herself got a bid in for $10,000 and Elton John outbid her for $12,000. Agassi then came to the microphone and surprised everybody with his offer: “I’ll hand [the watch] to you personally, I’ll sign it if you want, … and you can kiss my wife!” The crowd roared with laughter and cheers, with Pam exclaiming to Stefanie to “pucker up” when it sold for $16,000.
  • 2011 French Open Package included tickets for the first two days, 4 nights’ accommodation, a meet and greet with Tennis Channel on-air personalities and a visit to the Roland Garros set among other things. Navratilova then took the mic and said, “We’ll see you in the booth. We might even get you to answer a couple questions during the match. I’ll be there!” She sold the package for $25,000.
  • 2011 Super Bowl Package included four tickets, two hotel rooms for a three night stay. Stubbs even bid on the item but it was taken home by an attendee for $11,000.
  • Tennis lesson and hitting session with Andre Agassi and Stefanie Graf for two people for 60 minutes was the most expensive event of the night. As the rallying became heated, Agassi even bid “$25,000 NOT to do it.” Elton John bid twice among others as well. In the end, it went for $50,000.
  • An original limited-edition Herb Ritts Photograph of Madonna went for $18,000 to Billie Jean King.
  • Agassi’s Grand Slam Experience included two tickets to his “Grand Slam for Children” event in Las Vegas, two nights’ accommodation. There were two packages sold for $12,000 each.
  • 2011 International Tennis Hall of Fame Tournament and Induction Ceremony included two tickets to the induction ceremony as well as two tickets to the semifinals to the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships next July, and one night accommodation. Agassi will headline the ballot for induction. There were two packages and the winning bid was for $11,000 each.

In total, $267,000 was raised during the auction, with half of the proceeds staying in the Washington, DC area to benefit the Washington AIDS Partnership. The total money raised for the evening was around $500,000 and this took the World Team Tennis Smash Hits event over the $10 million mark during its eighteen year history. The remaining proceeds will go to the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Court Battles

After the auction, it was time for what everyone had been waiting for, the on-court matches. It began with a celebrity mixed doubles showdown, and then went into the World Team Tennis match format, consisting of men’s doubles, women’s doubles, men’s singles, and mixed doubles.

As the player introductions were being made, I noticed that although it was Team Elton John pitted against Team Billie Jean King, it might as well have been Team Nike versus Team Adidas. Elton John sported Rafael Nadal’s white/lime green Nike Court Ballistecs while the majority of his team sported other Nike shoes. Meanwhile, Billie Jean King was clad in white/dark blue Adidas Barricades, with the rest of her team also in Adidas. During the press conference Billie had mentioned that there was no method to the way teams were chosen this year, but I believe I figured out their secret.

The celebrity showdown consisted of Elton John with Martina Navratilova taking on married couple Andre Agassi and Stefanie Graf. As Elton John walked onto the court, I began to wonder if he could actually play tennis. He started this pro-am event when he was 45 years old and today he stood at a sturdy 63. My doubts completely vanished when he hit several unorthodox forehand winners and “out-lobbed” Agassi on two occasions.

It was more than once that Navratilova and Graf got into heated cross-court volley rallies while the crowd cheered and applauded. But what took me most by surprise was the level of hitting from Graf. As I had seen both Navratilova and Agassi live at the US Open the year they both retired (2006), they looked just as strong and animated in their play tonight. However, I had never before watched Graf play live. Her attitude and poise on court was unmatched. She graciously applauded unreturnable shots but hit booming cross-court forehands when she had the opportunity as well. She was not only quick on her feet, but had a gentle smile permanently glued on her face. And why not? It was a good evening to have fun for fans, for a cause, and she was playing with her hubby as well who was cheering her with “come on, baby!” and “you got this!”

The first match in WTT format was men’s doubles consisting of Agassi and Gambill taking on Philippoussis and Butorac. From Philippoussis’ first serve, it was clear that I chose the wrong seat to sit at. With media sitting directly behind the baseline, Philippoussis blasting powerful serves right at us, and no barrier between the two, I was quickly reminded how easy it can be to get hit if you’re looking down for a split second. The crowd applauded his aces and Agassi even stood baffled a few times. When Team Billie Jean King went up 4-1 due to Philippoussis’ serve it seemed like it would be over quickly, but Agassi and Gambill stepped up their games and put pressure on Team Elton John with better returning. In the end, Team Elton John came out victorious with a 5-4 win.

The women’s doubles that followed was considerably livelier with players taking body shots left and right! Of course, none were intentional as Graf and Kournikova teamed up against Navratilova and Stubbs.

At one point, Graf perfectly aimed a forehand for Stubbs’ right shoulder which playfully knocked her down before Graf ran over smiling and helping her up. The next time it was Kournikova’s shot that accidentally hit Navratilova. Stubbs retaliated by chasing Kournikova around the court and bringing the crowd to their feet. What amazed me was that as small of stature as Kournikova is, she has a piercing forehand and splendid accuracy on her volleys. Navratilova and Stubbs walked away victorious giving Team Billie Jean King the win 5-3.

In possibly the most anticipated serving clinic of the night, Philippoussis took on Agassi with both players served blinding balls that the crowd responded by “Oooing” and “Ahhhing.”

When points were actually played, it wasn’t hard to see how Agassi had won his 8 grand slams or how Philippoussis attained world number 8 in his prime. The only difference I could notice between retired players such as Agassi and Philippoussis and current pros such as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic was the level of consistency. The power of these retirees was still as compelling as ever and their precision to paint the lines was evident. It was only their somewhat decreased level of consistency that separated them from their younger and stronger counterparts. Although Philippoussis walked away with the win, 5-3, the match wasn’t without giggles from both the players and the ball kids as Philippoussis once held up play to direct the ball kids to where they were “supposed” to be standing.

In the night’s final match, Agassi once again teamed up with his wife Graf and took on Philippoussis and Navratilova. By this time, the players were even more comfortable on court and it showed by their increased interaction with fans.

Several times Agassi apologized to Graf after fumbling a point “Sorry babe, here we go!”, but it was Navratilova’s stamina that amazed me most of all. She was the oldest on court at 54 but moved like someone nearly half her age slicing backhand winners down the line. At 2-2, Graf sustained a minor injury to her upper left calf and Kournikova stepped in to finish. The baseline duel between the men continued until Kournikova stepped in to put away a perfect short volley confusing both of her opponents, Philippoussis and Navratilova. On the next point, Philippoussis took it easy on Kournikova as they hit cross-court baseline shots to each other. After 8 rallies someone in the crowd yelled “boring!” This was enough to make Philippoussis lose his focus and smile while his next shot went straight into the net. The match went to a tiebreaker but Philippoussis and Navratilova were just too much for Agassi and Kournikova, who won 5-4. This brought the final cumulative score to 19-15 for Team Billie Jean King and the 18 year record of this event was evened out at 9-9.

As the evening was brought to a close and the players began walking off court while signing autographs, I realized that I had never attended an event like this before. As a tennis fan, I appreciated the competitive yet animated edge of the evening’s festivities. As a supporter of bringing goodness and awareness into this world, I was proud to be a part of history. But I think it’s the players most of all who make this positive energy possible. They search for ways to educate and interact with their fans and the causes that are important. May we each take time in our own small ways to bring prosperity and awareness to others, and stand in the footsteps of our favorite tennis players who set the supreme example of charity.

To view a video of the evening, go to USA Today’s Tennis page

Video courtesy of USA Today Sports

Until next time, cheers!

WORLD TEAM TENNIS ROSTERS FINALIZED IN DRAFT

NEW YORK, N.Y. (March 16, 2010) – The defending World TeamTennis Champion Washington Kastles selected American Bobby Reynolds with the top overall selection in the 2010 WTT Roster Player Draft held today from WTT headquarters in New York City.  Players from 16 countries were selected in Tuesday’s Roster Draft as teams completed their lineups for the League’s 35th season beginning July 5.

Last month, teams selected an all-star lineup of marquee players including Martina Hingis (New York Buzz), Andy Roddick (Philadelphia Freedoms), Venus Williams (Washington Kastles), Serena Williams (Washington Kastles), James Blake (Boston Lobsters), Anna Kournikova (St. Louis Aces), Lindsay Davenport (St. Louis Aces), Maria Sharapova (Newport Beach Breakers), John McEnroe (New York Sportimes) and Kim Clijsters (New York Sportimes).

Reynolds, who was ranked as high as No. 63 in singles and No. 46 in doubles in 2009, is making a comeback after returning from a left wrist injury that sidelined him for the final three months of the ATP Tour season.  Reynolds joins a Kastles squad that includes Venus Williams, Serena Williams, former WTT Female MVPs Angela Haynes and Rennae Stubbs, along with 2009 Male MVP Leander Paes.

American Scoville Jenkins joins Martina Hingis on the New York Buzz lineup. Hingis, who will play the entire season for the Albany-based Buzz, is also joined by Sarah Borwell of Great Britain and rising US amateur Alex Domijan who played for the Buzz in 2009.

Jarmila Gadjosova Groth, the 2007 WTT Female Rookie of the Year, returns to Kansas City for her second WTT season.  The Explorers picked up Groth in the first round and added her husband Sam Groth with their fourth round selection.

The Sacramento Capitals picked up the 2009 Female MVP Vania King in a deal that sent their first-round draft pick Carly Gullickson to the Springfield Lasers.  This will be the second WTT season for Gullickson, who won the 2009 US Open Mixed Doubles Championship.

In other first round action, the Boston Lobsters protected fan favorite Jan-Michael Gambill while the New York Sportimes kept their rights to Robert Kendrick.

The World TeamTennis Pro League, which celebrates its 35th season this July, includes teams in 10 markets throughout the U.S.  Each team will play a total of 14 matches during the three-week regular season, July 5-22.  The top two teams from both the Western and Eastern Conferences advance to the WTT Conference Championships on July 23 with the winners playing for the WTT Championship on July 25.  Teams in the Western Conference are the Kansas City Explorers, Newport Beach Breakers, Sacramento Capitals, St. Louis Aces and Springfield Lasers.  Teams in the Eastern Conference are the Boston Lobsters, New York Buzz, New York Sportimes, Philadelphia Freedoms and Washington Kastles.

The WTT Pro League was co-founded by Billie Jean King in the early 1970s.  Each team has a coach, two male and two female players who play singles, doubles and mixed doubles matches.

For details on the complete draft results and the 2010 schedule, visit www.WTT.com.

WTT ROSTER DRAFT – March 16, 2010 – NEW YORK, N.Y.

ROUND 1:

  1. # WASHINGTON KASTLES: Bobby Reynolds
  2. NEW YORK BUZZ: Scoville Jenkins
  3. ST. LOUIS ACES: Andrei Pavel
  4. KANSAS CITY EXPLORERS: Jarmila Groth
  5. % SACRAMENTO CAPITALS: Carly Gullickson
  6. BOSTON LOBSTERS: Jan-Michael Gambill (protection)
  7. ^ KANSAS CITY EXPLORERS: Ricardo Mello
  8. NEW YORK SPORTIMES: Robert Kendrick (protection)
  9. % SPRINGFIELD LASERS: Vania King (protection)
  10. WASHINGTON KASTLES: Leander Paes (protection)

ROUND 2:

  1. * PHILADELPHIA FREEDOMS: Ramon Delgado
  2. NEW YORK BUZZ: Sarah Borwell
  3. ST. LOUIS ACES: Liga Dekmeijere (protection)
  4. KANSAS CITY EXPLORERS: Kveta Peschke (protection)
  5. SACRAMENTO CAPITALS: Dusan Vemic
  6. BOSTON LOBSTERS: Eric Butorac
  7. NEWPORT BEACH BREAKERS: Julie Ditty (protection)
  8. NEW YORK SPORTIMES: Jesse Witten (protection)
  9. SPRINGFIELD LASERS: Martin Damm (protection)
  10. WASHINGTON KASTLES: Rennae Stubbs (protection)

ROUND 3:

PHILADELPHIA FREEDOMS: Noppawan Lertcheewakarn

NEW YORK BUZZ: Alex Domijan

ST. LOUIS ACES: Tripp Phillips (protection)

^ NEWPORT BEACH BREAKERS: Lester Cook

% SPRINGFIELD LASERS: Rik de Voest

BOSTON LOBSTERS: Coco Vandeweghe

NEWPORT BEACH BREAKERS: David Martin

NEW YORK SPORTIMES: Abigail Spears (protection)

SPRINGFIELD LASERS: Chani Scheepers (protection)

# PHILADELPHIA FREEDOMS: Prakash Amritraj

ROUND 4:

PHILADELPHIA FREEDOMS: Courtney Nagle

@ SACRAMENTO CAPITALS: Riza Zalameda

ST. LOUIS ACES: PASS

KANSAS CITY EXPLORERS: Sam Groth

SACRAMENTO CAPITALS: Brett Joelson

BOSTON LOBSTERS: Raquel Kops-Jones (protection)

NEWPORT BEACH BREAKERS: Marie-Eve Pelletier

NEW YORK SPORTIMES: Ashley Harkleroad (protection)

% SACRAMENTO CAPITALS: PASS

~ WASHINGTON KASTLES: Angela Haynes (protection)

DRAFT NOTES:

ROUND ONE:

# Philadelphia Freedoms traded their first round draft pick to the Washington Kastles for the Kastles’ third round draft pick and financial consideration.

% Sacramento Capitals traded Carly Gullickson and 3rd round draft pick position to the Springfield Lasers for Vania King and the Lasers’ 4th round draft pick position.

^ The Newport Beach Breakers traded their first round draft pick to the Kansas City Explorers for the Explorers’ third round draft pick and financial consideration.

ROUND TWO:

* The Newport Beach Breakers traded the rights for Ramon Delgado to the Philadelphia Freedoms for financial consideration.

ROUND FOUR:

@ The New York Buzz sold their fourth round draft position to the Sacramento Capitals for financial consideration.

~ The Sacramento Capitals have traded the rights for Angela Haynes to the Washington Kastles for financial consideration.

2010 WTT Pro League full rosters (including marquee and roster players)

BOSTON LOBSTERS: James Blake, Eric Butorac, Jan-Michael Gambill, Coco Vandeweghe, Raquel Kops-Jones.  Coach Bud Schultz.

KANSAS CITY EXPLORERS: Jarmila Groth, Sam Groth, Kveta Peschke, Ricardo Mello.  Coach: Brent Haygarth.

PHILADELPHIA FREEDOMS: Prakash Amritraj, Ramon Delgado, Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, Courtney Nagle, Andy Roddick.  Coach:  Craig Kardon

NEW YORK BUZZ: Sarah Borwell, Alex Domijan, Martina Hingis, Scoville Jenkins.  Coach Jay Udwadia.

NEW YORK SPORTIMES: Kim Clijsters, Ashley Harkleroad, Robert Kendrick, John McEnroe, Abigail Spears, Jesse Witten.  Coach Chuck Adams.

NEWPORT BEACH BREAKERS: Lester Cook, Julie Ditty¸ David Martin, Marie-Eve Pelletier, Maria Sharapova.  Coach Trevor Kronemann.

SACRAMENTO CAPITALS: Brett Joelson, Vania King, Dusan Vemic, Riza Zalameda.

ST. LOUIS ACES: Lindsay Davenport, Liga Dekmeijere, Anna Kournikova, Andrei Pavel, Tripp Phillips.  Coach: Rick Leach.

SPRINGFIELD LASERS: Martin Damm, Rik De Voest, Carly Gullickson, Chani Scheepers.  Coach: John-Laffnie de Jager.

WASHINGTON KASTLES: Angela Haynes, Leander Paes, Bobby Reynolds, Rennae Stubbs, Serena Williams, Venus Williams.  Coach: Murphy Jensen.


AUSSIE MOVINGS AND SHAKINGS: TENNIS IN THE COMMONWEALTH

Tennis fans of Queensland, Australia, were celebrating after three of their big name stars received wild cards this week for the 2010 Australian Open.

Davis Cup star Carsten Ball, two-time junior Grand Slam winner Bernard Tomic and national under 18 champion Jason Kubler were all handed passes to the event.

Ball missed the recent wild card playoff tournament with a back injury but has performed exceptionally well in 2009 and came close to making the main draw cut off point so the organisers made the decision to hand him a wildcard.

Tomic won this year’s US Open boy’s title to add to the 2008 Aussie boy’s title he’d already picked up. The Australians view Tomic as a huge prospect for the future and he has already shown promise by reaching the second round of the 2009 tournament.

Sixteen-year-old Kubler went on a 30-match winning streak this year which included victory at the prestigious Osaka Junior Open as well as leading Australia to Junior Davis Cup victory.

Former World No. 8 Alicia Molik and rising star Olivia Rogowska received wild cards in the women’s draw, Rogowska being the losing finalist in the recent wildcard playoffs.

The decision on the final wildcards to be handed out to the men’s and women’s draws will be made soon.

*Women’s doubles pairs were left feeling nervous as one of the most successful pairings of all time, America’s Lisa Raymond and Australia’s Rennae Stubbs, announced that they will once more compete together in 2010. Between 1996 and 2005 they won 32 titles together including three Grand Slams – Australia (2000), Wimbledon and the US Open (both 2001). They also won the 2001 Sony Ericsson Championships and both held the No. 1 ranking slot. Raymond has won a further two majors with another Aussie, Samantha Stosur, but the pair were always the most successful together. Raymond commented: “It’s funny how things come full circle.”

*Australian World No. 77 Peter Luczak has signed up to play in the 2010 Movistar Open, an ATP World Tour 250 tournament beginning January 31st in Santiago, Chile. The tournament takes place during the 200th anniversary of Chilean independence and vast celebrations are set to mark the event.

*Spanish clay court coach Felix Mantilla has been added to the Australian Davis Cup coaching team and captain John Fitzgerald was full of praise for the move, describing it as one of the most significant moves in decades. “Having Felix Mantilla now is a great asset to us,” he said. “I reckon it’s a very, very important appointment.”

*British tennis has awarded its December AEGON Awards with Naomi Broady picking up player of the month, Luke Bambridge (Junior Player) and Neil Frankel (coach) being the other benefactors.

*The Australian Open Changing Ends Film Festival has extended its entry deadline until January 18th. By submitting a film of no longer than 30 seconds you could win the top prize of $5,000 and have your film shown during end changes at the 2010 Open. Films must have a tennis theme. For more information visit www.changingends.com.au.

London Showcase Set For Kick-Off: Tennis in the Commonwealth

By Leigh Sanders

The final line-up for the ATP World Finals Championship in London, England, next week has been confirmed following the conclusion of the Paris Masters. Nikolay Davydenko and Fernando Verdasco secured the last two berths following their performances on the hard courts of Paris. Eight players went in to the week’s play knowing a victory there could secure a place at the prestigious event but after the twists and turns had unfurled Davydenko and Verdasco won through after Robin Soderling and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga failed to advance past the quarterfinals.

However, with Andy Roddick having missed five weeks with a knee problem he has announced that he is unable to participate, allowing Soderling the opportunity to take his place in the event for the first time.

“I have not fully recovered from my knee injury and I won’t be able to compete,” said Roddick. “One of my goals in 2010 will be to qualify for this event again.”

The round-robin stage of the tournament has been drawn (seeds in brackets) and Group A sees career Grand Slam winner Roger Federer (1), Britain’s Andy Murray (4), US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro (5) and Fernando Verdasco (7) vying for qualification. Group B consists of 2009 Australian Open Champion Raphael Nadal (2), the 2008 winner Novak Djokovic (3), Nikolay Davydenko (6) and Robin Soderling (8).

In the doubles at Paris, Polish duo Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski took the final berth at the tournament with an emphatic win over the Bryan brothers in Paris. That victory prevents South African Wesley Moodie and his partner Dick Norman taking part. The round robin groups have also been drawn. Group A sees world No. 1 and No. 2 Daniel Nestor of Canada/Nenad Zimonjic (1), India’s Mahesh Bhupathi/Mark Knowles (3), Frantisek Cermak/Michal Mertinak (5) and Max Mirnyi/Andy Ram (7). Group B will consist of the Bryan brothers (2), Lukas Dlouhy/Leander Paes of India (4), Lukasz Kubot/Oliver Marach (6) and Mariusz Fyrstenberg/Marcin Matkowski (8).

*Great Britain’s Murray crashed back down to earth in Paris following his victory at the Valencia Open last time out. He failed to progress past the third round in Paris, sluggishly going down 6-1, 3-6, 4-6 to Radek Stepanek just sixteen hours after he had seen off James Blake in the previous round in a match that went on till the early hours of last Thursday.

* Daniel Nestor of Canada clinched his ninth doubles title of 2009 with partner Nenad Zimonjic after the pair beat the Spaniards Marcelo Granollers and Tommy Robredo 6-3, 6-4 in the final of the Paris Masters. The world No. 1 and No. 2 have now stretched their rankings lead over the Bryan brothers to 830 points. It follows on from their recent win in the Davidoff Swiss Indoors Basel. Aussie Jordan Kerr reached the third round with American Travis Parrott before they eventually went down 6-2, 6-4 to the in-form Czech-Slovak partnership of Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak. In the previous round, Kerr/Parrott had halted doubles specialist and fourth seed Leander Paes of India and partner Lukas Dlouhy. The exit of South African Wesley Moodie and Belgian Dick Norman in round two to the eventual finalists Granollers/Robredo means they miss out on a place at the ATP World Tour Finals. Another Aussie, Paul Hanley, and his Swedish partner Simon Aspelin also fell foul of the Spaniards in round three after they had beaten India’s Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles, seeded No. 3, in round two. South Africa’s Jeff Coetzee lost with his partner Marcelo Melo of Brazil in the opening round to the ever-impressive French duo Julien Benneteau and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

*In this week’s ATP World Tour Rankings for singles (16/11) there was no movement for any Commonwealth tennis star ranked in the Top 100 in the world. India’s Somdev Devvarman climbs two to 122 and Canada’s Frank Dancevic is down nine to 132. Australians Carsten Ball and Chris Guccione also saw falls this week, five and 12 respectively.

*In the doubles rankings (16/11) Canada’s Daniel Nestor extends his lead as the world’s No. 1 but there are no other changes for the other Commonwealth players ranked in to Top 10. Australia’s Paul Hanley is down a place to 28 while his compatriot Jordan Kerr climbs one to 30. Fellow Aussie Ashley Fisher is down two to 43. Despite falling in the singles rankings Carsten Ball is up one to 57 and Chris Guccione drops to 66. Following their recent leaps and bounds up the rankings Britain’s Ken Skupski (3) and Colin Fleming (4) see falls in their rankings. Countryman Jonathan Marray drops one to 92. Pakistan’s Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi sees a jump of six and is now ranked at 60. Jeff Coetzee of South Africa sees the biggest fall of all as he drops 12 to 68 while Rohan Bopanna of India climbs five to 90.

*The final WTA rankings for 2009 have been decided following the closing tournaments in Bali and Doha for the top players of the year. There were no Commonwealth players in the Top 10, Australia’s Samantha Stosur the highest ranked at 13. Canada’s Aleksandra Wozniak (35) is the only other player in the Top 50. Next up is another Australian, Jelena Dokic, at 57 while Sania Mirza of India is below her in 58. It’s been a bad year for British tennis but Katie O’Brien will be delighted to end the year as British No. 1 as her end of season form sees her end up in 88, one ahead of Elena Baltacha in 89. Anne Keothavong’s long injury sees her drop to 98 in the end-of-season rankings.

*The final doubles rankings or 2009 have also been decided. Australians Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs finish the year joint No. 7 and Sania Mirza of India is the third-highest ranked Commonwealth star at 37. Canada’s Marie-eve Pelletier ends the year ranked 66 while her compatriot Sharon Fichman is 96. British No. 1 Sarah Borwell is at 76. Natalie Grandin of South Africa, ranked No. 78, makes it only seven Commonwealth players in the Top 100 at the end of 2009.

*In a review of the British sporting “crown jewels” which decides which sporting events are to be aired on free-to-air television, it has been decided that Wimbledon should be kept on the list beyond 2017. The review, carried out by the Independent Advisory Panel for Listed Events, always causes arguments between satellite broadcasters and sports authorities but it is no question that the British public will be delighted that the prestigious tennis tournament is kept where everybody can view it without subscribing to satellite providers. The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) has already expressed concern at the decision as they believe it hampers investment in tennis. It seems money truly does talk in all sports.

*Australian tennis fans are celebrating the news that former Australian Open finalist and crowd favourite Marcos Baghdatis will return to play the Medibank International Sydney in 2010 alongside Aussie Lleyton Hewitt, Gael Monfils, Tomas Berdych and Stanislas Wawrinka. While at the Brisbane International, Frenchman Gilles Simon has announced he’ll begin his 2010 season by making his tournament debut. Both provide warm ups to the Australian Open.

*Former world No. 8 Alicia Molik of Australia won on her return to court in the first round of the Cliffs Esperance International. After a shaky start she saw of compatriot Monika Wejnert 3-6, 6-1, 6-1.

*The All England Tennis Club and the LTA have announced that the 2009 Wimbledon Championships raised a total of £29.2 million which will be invested in to British tennis. The aim this year is to improve tennis facilities throughout the country so that all communities have access to quality coaching and future players coming through the youth ranks will be of a higher calibre. It would also mean that top players like Andy Murray wouldn’t have to seek the level of coaching they require abroad.

*British tennis starlet Heather Watson has qualified for the Tevlin Challenger $50k event in Toronto, Canada, despite losing in the final of the Qualifying Tournament to American Macall Harkins. Two competitors from the main event have withdrawn allowing Watson to progress as a lucky loser.

*British No. 7 Jade Curtis reached the semifinals of the $10k AEGON Pro-Series Women’s singles event in Jersey before going down 4-6, 1-6 to No. 6 seed Matea Mezak of Croatia.