retirement

Marino takes inspirational step back from tennis

By Melissa Boyd

Former world no. 38 Rebecca Marino announced last week that she is stepping away from tennis for the second time in a year. The 22-year-old Canadian revealed that she has been dealing with depression for the past six years and was also a victim of cyber bullying. She felt this to be the best time to move on with the next chapter of her life without completely leaving tennis behind.

“I’m looking at other endeavours at this point. I would like to go to school, seek a job that sort of stuff, but I am very careful not to use the word retiring because I don’t feel it very appropriate because tennis will still be a very big part of my life,” Marino said.

While Marino openly discussed her struggles, she made it clear that depression and cyber bullying were not the reasons behind her decision to leave the sport.

“Social media has also taken its toll on me, it’s not the main reason I’m stepping back neither is the depression. Those are just two parts of my life that I would like to bring awareness to and wipe the slate clean in a sense so that it’s all out in the open. The reason I am stepping back is just because I don’t think I am willing to sacrifice my happiness and other parts of my life to tennis,” Marino explained.

Marino’s rise to the upper echelon of the women’s game was a rapid one, and somewhat unexpected given that she was a late bloomer. The native of Vancouver, British Columbia began playing tennis at the age of 10. At 17, Marino spent half a year in Switzerland and at 19, she moved from Vancouver to Montreal to train at Tennis Canada’s National Tennis Centre which is where her career took off. Marino enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2011 that saw her reach her first WTA final in Memphis and the third round at Roland-Garros. She posted two Top 20 wins over Marion Bartoli and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, played a memorable match against Venus Williams on Arthur Ashe Stadium at the U.S. Open, and also won three consecutive Challenger titles during the Fall indoor hard court season in 2010.

Regardless of how much success she enjoyed on the court, Marino’s most inspirational moment came last week when she revealed the details of her battle with a disease that so many are afraid to talk about. She became a hero in the eyes of many, especially those who are also struggling with depression and cyber bullying. Over the past week, Marino has done countless interviews and been approached by the likes of Canadian Olympic legend Clara Hughes who also suffers from depression.  Her courage in coming forward will not only change her life, but also the lives of so many others.

“I’d like to get rid of the stigma attached to depression and mental illnesses in the public and in professional sports,” Marino said. “Depression is nothing to be ashamed of. If I can open up about my struggle to the public, I hope I can give someone the courage to seek the help they deserve.”

Marino had a great run in tennis, one that should be celebrated and not remembered with the premise of what could have been.

The Greatness of Gonzo

Not every story has fairy tale ending.  The final match of Fernando Gonzalez’s career- a 5-7, 6-4, 6-7 loss to Nicolas Mahut in the first round of Miami- took place without a television camera in sight. It ended in the worst way possible- on a double fault.

“I was a little bit tired at the end.” Gonzalez admitted afterwards.

He had every right to be tired. In his thirteen year career the Chilean played 571 ATP singles matches and 207 ATP doubles matches. He won a combined 479 of them (370 in singles), earned 11 singles titles, and amassed over 8 million dollars of prize money. He made it to the finals of the Australian Open in 2007, the semis of the French Open in 2009, and won three Olympic medals- one of each color.  He amassed all his accolades in signature style- with fun, flair, and a famously ferocious forehand.

You didn’t just see Fernando Gonzalez hit a forehand- you felt it.

I only had the pleasure of seeing him play live once, but it was the most memorable tennis match I have ever attended. It was a 4th Round clash at the 2009 U.S. Open. Fernando took on Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a late afternoon into the evening match on Louis Armstrong Stadium.  It was a perfect storm of greatness- two of the most entertaining players on tour, a rowdy New York crowd (with Chilean and French fans to spare), and a beautiful sunset providing relief from the mid-day September sun.

The match was sensational (check out the highlights below), and Gonzalez was in rare form. Down a break in the first set- and naturally unhappy with his play- he nonchalantly handed his racket to an elated woman in the front row (1:54 in the video).  Later in the same set, when Jo had a great look at an overhead smash, Gonzalez turned his back and ducked (3:30).  At various points throughout the evening he smashed his racket, pumped up the crowd, and applauded his opponent’s crafty shots.  I was so used to tennis players putting up a wall when they came out onto the court, but with Gonzalez it was the opposite.  I felt like I knew what he was thinking and feeling at all times- almost to the point where I thought I was on the court running around right beside him. And every single time, without fail, that he unleashed the fury of his forehand I got chills– no small feat in the New York summer heat.

http://youtu.be/_ReQmejWYy4

Eventually Gonzalez won that match 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(3), 6-4.  He went on to face Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals and I left Flushing Meadows that evening with a greater understanding and appreciation for what tennis could be.  Tennis wasn’t merely a sport when Gonzalez was on his game- it was a theatrical experience that transcended country club stereotypes, pushed boundaries, and often defied logic.

Many pundits throughout his career wondered why he couldn’t- or wouldn’t- tone down the histrionics. It was often said that if he could stop with the outbursts and the racket smashes and learn to keep his composure that he would have had an even more decorated career. But that’s just not who Fernando Gonzalez was. He gave it his all- for better or for worse. There were no filters, no falseness, no reigning it in. It’s what made the forehands so chill-inducing and the dramatics so head-scratchingly entertaining. He held nothing back. It was exhilarating, maddening, and why he captured the hearts of so many tennis fans.

But at the end of the day- in his 571st ATP singles match- there was nothing left to give.  His body had been breaking down often over the past year and a half, clearly paying the price for laying it all out there every single time.  The endless cycle of pain and rehab had left him fatigued. Simply put, when he could no longer give his matches 100%, he decided to call it a day.

After he hugged Nicolas Mahut, flashed his trademark smile, and soaked in the applause from the crowd, Gonzalez turned his attention to the big screen.  The ATP played a tribute video for him where Roger Federer, David Nalbandian, Andy Murray, and Rafael Nadal (among others) sang his praises.  He was clearly moved by the video- these weren’t just his competitors, they were his friends. “I think (it) is much better to remember as a person than as a tennis player,” he told the press afterwards.

Of course, that’s the greatest thing about Gonzo- the person and the tennis player were always one in the same.

http://youtu.be/0khJUxEVaDw

Djokovic, Murray And Nadal Battle Through First Matches At Rogers Cup

It was an incredibly hot and humid day in Toronto on Wednesday as Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray made their first singles appearances at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. Both advanced to the third round but not without a struggle in their respective matches.

With on-court temperatures around the forty degree Celsius mark, Djokovic unsurprisingly struggled with the heat and had trainers come to his aid at several points throughout the match. As has been the case in the past, the talented Serbian was hindered more so by the weather than his opponent.

Red in the face and obviously labouring on the court between points, he had to come back from down a break against Julien Benneteau of France early in the second set. Djokovic managed to avoid going to a second set tie-break when he broke the Frenchman’s serve in the final game of the match. Had the match gone to a decisive set I believe we might have seen a retirement from the fragile world number two.

After the match Djokovic faced question after question about his health and why he seems to struggle so often in these types of conditions.

Asked to clarify what exactly goes on, he said, “Well it’s really hard to explain. Anybody who didn’t play professional level will not understand quite what’s going on. Today I was really on the edge, so health is the most important thing for me, and then tennis and success and whatever comes with it.”

Djokovic tried to reveal what he feared the worst case scenario might have been, “…at a certain moment you might collapse or whatever. But after half an hour, hour, with the proper recovery, you will get back to the normal feeling and normal state of body. I guess that in the long term it can hurt you, and it happens to me quite often. And, I don’t know, it’s just something that you cannot fight against. Nobody can turn off the sun and just do me a favour, even though I would like it.”

I’m not sure if Djokovic is struggling with some medical condition that he would rather not specifically describe or if he is just super-sensitive in the heat-threshold department. One thing is clear though – if these conditions hold up as expected, Djokovic will have trouble advancing deep into the draw. With Roger and Rafa likely to continue grabbing the prime-time evening spots in the schedule I think it is safe to say Novak will have to find a way to overcome his issues with the weather or he will soon find himself on a flight to Cincinnati.

For Andy Murray the obstacle today was not so much weather-related but rather a veteran opponent with a fierce forehand by the name of Xavier Malisse. In the early stages it appeared as though Murray was going to be in for a long match as the X-man raced out to a 4-2 lead. Serving at 5-4 however, Malisse would lose the next three games and have his serve broken twice in the process to lose 5-7.

In the second set Malisse completely fell apart and his once lethal forehand was suddenly missing the mark with regularity. Murray’s game was moving in the opposite direction and he was cleverly using his well-rehearsed drop shot to his advantage.

I watched the match today with my girlfriend, and she remarked how frustrating it used to be when I would drop shot her in a tennis video game we used to play together. That’s pretty much how Malisse felt during the second set as he stopped even trying to get to them towards the end of the match.

Serving at 2-3, Malisse would find a way to lose all four points in the game to surrender the critical break to Murray. At 2-5 he once again found himself down 0-40, but this time was able to salvage a couple of points before losing on Murray’s third match point. The final score was 7-5, 6-2 for Murray and he seemed happy with his first match as defending champion at the Rogers Cup.

“I feel good,” Murray said after the match had ended. “I mean, today could have been a little better from the start, but, you know, the first round is tough, and I was playing a very good player.”

During the evening session, Rafael Nadal finally made his singles debut. Going up against Stan Wawrinka seemed like it would be test on paper, but one that the Spaniard would likely handle with ease. Instead it took him 93 minutes to get through the first set. He would have to survive multiple set points against him during a see-saw tie-break that ended in his favour, 14-12.

The second set went more according to plan and Rafa closed it out without any unnecessary drama for a 7-6(12), 6-3 victory.

With Querrey and Marin Cilic both having been eliminated from that quarter of the draw, Nadal should now have an easier time advancing towards the finals.

In other results of note on Wednesday at the Rogers Cup, Fernando Verdasco the 9th seed lost to Jeremy Chardy. It was the second time in two career meetings that Chady has emerged victorious in their head-to-head although Verdasco came within one game of advancing. After winning the first set in a tie-break, Verdasco was serving for the match at 5-4 but could not hold. Chardy eventually closed it out 6-7(7), 7-6(5), 6-2. You can add his name to an impressive list of French players within the top hundred of the ATP rankings.

On an outside court, American Sam Querrey who has won four tournaments this year, was defeated by Kevin Anderson a qualifier from South Africa 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-4.

Thursday will be highlighted by what’s sure to be a fierce battle between David Nalbandian and Robin Soderling, as well as Federer vs Michael Llodra and Andy Murray against Gael Monfils.

9 FINGERED HENIN OVERCOMES JANKOVIC

When asked about things you wouldn’t want to experience in life then being beaten by a woman with 9 fingers is definitely on my list. Since I don’t actively play tennis, I guess this won’t ever happen to me. Who did experience it?  Jelena Jankovic.  I feel sorry for the girl in green. Nine she has tried to beat Justine Henin to no avail.

The endscore of the match is 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3 with Henin staying on course for her first title since coming out of retirement.

“She is playing the same, she is still one of the best on clay. You have to hold your ground, as soon as you lose concentration she takes advantage, she has so much experience,” said Jankovic, another former No. 1 who won the Stuttgart tournament in 2008 and was seeded fourth this time. “We both played a good match and maybe I was a little unlucky at the crucial times. I had a break point at 5-5 in the second and I was hoping to pounce on her serve but she hit one of her best serves of the match with her second serve.”, said Jelena Jankovic.

Henin analyzed her opponent and had the following to say:

“She played very consistently in the first set and I was under a lot of pressure,” Henin said. “I kept fighting and I am really happy to get through.”

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DINARA SAFINA QUITTING? I HOPE NOT!

More photos from Stuttgart. Our photographer, Ralf Reinecke, attended the opener of the Porsche Grand Prix last night in Stuttgart. He came back with gorgeous photos of Gisela Dulko, Ana Ivanovic, Agnieszka Radwanska, Victoria “Vika” Azarenka and many more.

Now I am wondering with so much beauty gracing the courts in Stuttgart this week, will we ever have a dull moment? I think not!  And I think many would agree with me here.

However there are some concerning reports from Stuttgart. Dinara Safina is thinking of quitting the WTA Tour if her injuries persist.  I do share the concerns of Dinara Safina’s but I sincerely hope that she will remain pain free this week and enjoys the game. It would be bad for her to quit now. But then again a certain Belgian, Kim Clijsters, quit a few years ago as well citing the many injuries as one of the reasons of retirement and she made a succesful come back.  Perhaps Dinara Safina can pull a Kim Clijsters as well and, might she retire, make a come back in a few years.

“I am glad to be here, this is my first big test after having come back from my injury,” Safina said. “My physio is here and I really want to take it step by step. I only started playing on court again on April 3.

“Everybody, including my brother Marat (Safin), told me to take my time but it was really difficult because I wanted to come back on court so badly.

“Right now I feel safe and comfortable, but I need to watch closely that it stays that way.

“My back injury is the worst you can get, because if things go wrong again, that might be it for my professional career altogether.”

Safina was the world number one exactly a year ago, when she reached the final in Stuttgart, but 12 months on she now realises how much she loves the game after her enforced lay-off.

“There is no way that you can go easy on a lower back injury,” she added.

“With a broken arm or leg, you can rest it, but with your back it is almost impossible. It has made me realise how much I love tennis.

“I just want to get back on court. Regarding things like rankings, titles, defending points – who really cares?”

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WHY JUSTINE HENIN REALLY CAME BACK TO TENNIS

As Justine Henin soars in her comeback to tennis at the 2010 Australian Open, it again begs the question – why REALLY did she come back to tennis? She ended her a 20-month retirement be venturing down to Australia to return to the WTA Tour and do what she does best – play tennis. As the following video clips show, we certainly know that what Justine does not do best is acting, singing and being a television presenter… Justine may have come to this conclusion and realized tennis wasn’t so bad after all….

Acting

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

Singing

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

Television Presenter

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

Tennis World Mourns Jack Kramer Loss

The tennis world mourns the death of Jack Kramer, who passed away at age 88 Saturday night in California. Bud Collins, the Hall of Fame journalist and television personality, summarizes the incredible tennis career of one of the game’s all-time greats in his book THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS, excerpted below.

Jack Kramer

The impact of John Albert “Jake” Kramer on tennis has been fourfold: as great player, exceptional promoter, thoughtful inno­vator and astute television commentator.

Kramer, born Aug. 1, 1921, in Las Vegas, Nev., grew up in the Los Angeles area. He achieved international notice in 1939 as a teenager when he was selected to play doubles, alongside Joe Hunt, for the U.S. in the Davis Cup finale against Australia. At 18, Kramer was the youngest to play in the Cup title round, although John Alexander of Australia lowered the record to 17 by play­ing in 1968.

Kramer and Hunt were the golden boys out of Southern Cali­fornia, their careers intertwined. Joe beat Jake, at Forest Hills in 1939, where they were both losing semifinalists the following year. Both were to go to sea during World War II, Jake in the Coast Guard, Joe in the Navy, and to receive leaves to play again in the U.S. Championships of 1943, where they collided in the final. Hunt won, barely, sprawling on the court with cramps as Kram­er’s last shot flew long. Kramer, who’d had a bout with food poi­soning, laughed later, “If I could’ve kept that ball in play I might have been a champ on a default.” Hunt was killed 17 months afterwards in a military plane crash.

Because of the war, Jake had to wait three years to return to Forest Hills. He then rose to prominence as a splendid cham­pion, so dominant that he was voted fifth on a list of all-time greats selected by a panel of expert tennis journalists in 1969. The powerful right-hander was the leading practitioner of the “big game,” rushing to the net constantly behind his serve, and frequently attacking on return of serve. His serve took oppo­nents off the court, setting them up for the volley, as did his crushing forehand.

A blistered racket hand probably decided his gruelling fourth-round defeat by cunning lefty Jaroslav Drobny, and pre­vented Jake from winning the first post-war Wimbledon. But he came back awesomely in 1947, the first to win in shorts, making short work of everybody. Whipping doubles partner Tom Brown in 48 minutes, 6-1, 6-.3, 6-2, he lost merely 37 games in seven matches, the most lopsided run to the championship.

Brown had been his 1946 U.S. final-round victim, 9-7, 6-3, 6-0, another one-sided excursion for Jake, a crew-cut blond whose goal was to reclaim the Davis Cup that he and Hunt failed to clinch in 1939. In December, he and good buddy Ted Schroeder—the U.S. doubles champs of 1940—were members of a highly-talented team that captain Walter Pate took to Austra­lia for the challenge round. Every man—those two plus Brown, Frank Parker, Gardnar Mulloy, Bill Talbert—thought he should play. Pate picked Ted and Jake to do it all, controversial until the pals paralyzed the favored Aussies on opening day. Schroeder overcame John Bromwich, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 0-6, 6-3 and Kramer nailed Dinny Pails, 8-6, 6-2, 9-7. Together, they grabbed the Cup by flatten­ing the team that had beaten Hunt and Kramer in ‘39: Bromwich and Adrian Quist, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4.

The following summer, Jake and Ted repelled the Australian challenge for the Cup at Forest Hills. Then Kramer closed out his amateur career memorably by overhauling Parker in the U.S. final. He lost the first two sets, and was in danger of losing out on a lucrative professional contract as well as his champion­ship. Counterpunching, he won, 4-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-0, 6-3, and set off in pursuit of Bobby Riggs, the reigning pro champ. Kramer, who had lost only two matches in 1946, dropped but one (to Talbert) in 1947, winning eight of nine tournaments on 48-1, closing his amateur life with a 41-match rush, and 18 singles titles.

Kramer knocked Riggs off the summit by winning their odys­sey of one-nighters throughout the U.S., which was the test of professional supremacy of that day. Their opener was a phenom­enon: New York was buried by a blizzard that brought the city to a stop, yet 15,114 customers made it on foot to the old Madison Square Garden on Dec. 27, 1947, to watch Riggs win. But Bobby couldn’t keep it up. Kramer won the tour, 69-20, and stayed in action while Riggs took over as the promoter and signed Pan­cho Gonzalez to challenge Kramer. Nobody was up to Kramer then. He bruised the rookie Gonzalez 96-27 on the longest of the tours. Kramer made $85,000 against Riggs as his percentage, and $72,000 against Gonzalez.

In 1952, Kramer assumed the position of promoter himself, the boss of pro tennis, a role he would hold for over a decade, well past his playing days. Kramer’s last tour as a principal was against the first man he recruited, Frank Sedgman, the Aussie who was tops among amateurs. Kramer won, 54-41. An arthritic back led to his retirement as a player, but he kept the tour going, resurrecting one of his victims, Gonzalez, who became the strongman.

One of the shrewdest operators in tennis, Kramer was looked to for advice when the Open era began in 1968. He devised the Grand Prix for the men’s game, a series of tournaments lead­ing to a Masters Championship for the top eight finishers, and a bonus pool to be shared by more than a score of the leading players. The Grand Prix, incorporating the most attractive tourna­ments around the world, functioned from 1970 until 1990, when the ATP Tour took over the structure. In 1972, he was instrumental in forming the ATP (Association of Tennis Pros), the male play­ers’ union, and was its first executive director. His role as leader of the ATP’s principled boycott of Wimbledon in 1973 made him unpopular in Britain for a time. Nevertheless, it was a landmark act, assuring the players the right to control their own destiny after being in thrall to national associations until then. Later, he served on the Men’s International Professional Tennis Council, the worldwide governing board.

For more than 20 years, Kramer served as a perceptive ana­lyst on tennis telecasts in many countries, notably for the British Broadcasting Corporation at Wimbledon and for all the Ameri­can networks at Forest Hills, and at other events, second to none. He ranked in the U.S. Top 10 five times between 1940 and 1947, No. 1 in the U.S. and the world in 1946 and 1947. Kramer won the U.S. Pro title in 1948 over the defender, Riggs, 14-12, 6-2, 3-6, 7-5, and the world pro title in 1949 over Riggs, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3.

Kramer, winner of 13 U.S. singles and doubles titles, was named to the Hall of Fame in 1968. His son, Bob Kramer, con­tinues the family’s tennis interests as director of the Los Angeles ATP tourney.

MAJOR TITLES (10)—Wimbledon singles 1947: U.S. singles, 1946, 1947; Wimbledon doubles, 1946, 1947: U.S. doubles, 1940, 1941, 1943, 1947; U.S. mixed, 1941.

OTHER U.S.TITLES (6)—Indoor singles, 1947; Pro singles. 1948; Pro doubles, 1948, 1955, with Pancho Segura; Indoor doubles, 1947, with Bob Falkenburg; Clay Court doubles, 1941, with Ted Schroeder. DAVIS CUP—1939, 1946-47, 6-0 singles, 1-2 doubles.

SIN­GLES RECORD IN THE MAJORS—Wimbledon (10-1), U.S. (24-5)

Ma Clijsters Continues Hot Play at US Open

NEW YORK –Ma Clijsters took another giant step for motherhood Sunday and moved closer to regaining her women’s singles title at the US Open.

Playing in her first Grand Slam tournament since giving birth to her daughter, Kim Clijsters out-gunned Venus Williams 6-0 0-6 6-4 to advance into the quarterfinals of America’s premier tennis event.

“I’m not trying to get carried away with it all,” Clijsters said of her surprising run into the second week of the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. “Just trying to focus on what I have to do because the tournament’s still going. I just want to keep focusing on my tennis without having to worry too much about what’s going on around.”

Two years ago, Clijsters retired from the sport. She got married to an American basketball player and gave birth to their daughter. Earlier this year, she decided she wanted to return to the tennis tour and is playing the US Open for the first time since she captured the title in 2005. She was injured when the 2006 US Open came around, and retired the following year.

This is her third tournament back since retirement, and it’s as if she had never been away. She reached the quarterfinals at Cincinnati and the third round in Toronto, losing in the latter to Jelena Jankovic.

“Although I lost to Jankovic, it really helped me a lot knowing that I was capable of taking her to a 5-3 in that third set,” Clijsters said. “That’s where after Toronto I felt like, OK, I feel at this moment I can compete with those best players. … I had a good feeling that I can have a chance against these girls. That’s something that I didn’t have before I went to Cincinnati.”

She was almost perfect in the opening set against the third-seeded Williams, a two-time US Open champion, but the last title coming in 2001. Williams turned the table in the second set, needing only 23 minutes to run through the six games, allowing Clijsters to win just nine points.

“I just said to myself, OK, forget about what happened this last hour,” Clijsters said. “You start from zero and just make sure that you stay aggressive, keep serving well, and it worked.”

The mother broke Williams in the third game of the final set, then held on to hold her own serve for the rest of the match. In the final game, Williams won three of the first four points before Clijsters, pounding the ball deep into the recesses of the court, won the final four points to grab a spot in the quarterfinals.

Clijsters is trying to become the third mother to win a Grand Slam singles title in the Open Era, after two Australians, Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong.

Clijsters will next face 18th-seeded Li Na, a 6-2 6-3 winner over Italy’s Francesca Schiavone. Li is the first Chinese player to reach the quarterfinals at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

The other quarterfinal in the bottom of the draw will pit second-seeded Serena Williams against No. 10 Flavia Pennetta of Italy, who staved off six match points before beating No. 7 Vera Zvonareva 3-6 7-6 (6) 6-0.

Williams is 0-6 in her career after losing the first set at love. The last time she lost a 6-0 set at the US Open was in the final in 1997 against Martina Hingis.

Serena Williams began Sunday’s play by crushing Daniela Hantuchova 6-2 6-0, winning the last 10 games of the match.

“I traditionally play well in fourth-round matches,” Serena said. “I want to keep this level, stay focused and play well my next match. I enjoy every moment. I enjoy walking out there and I like to battle.

“I’m blessed to be in this position, to travel the world, play tennis and do something I love every day.”

Third-seeded Rafael Nadal grabbed a fourth-round spot in the men’s singles in an early match, beating Nicolas Almagro 7-5 6-4 6-4.
In other early third-round matches, seventh-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Julien Benneteau 7-6 (4) 6-2 6-4; No. 11 Fernando Gonzalez ousted No. 17 Tomas Berdych 7-5 6-4 6-4; No. 13 Gael Monfils advanced when Jose Acasuso retired with a left knee injury while trailing 6-3 6-4 1-0; No. 6 Juan Martin del Potro beat Daniel Koellerer 6-1 3-6 6-3 6-3; No. 24 Juan Carlos Ferrero upset No. 9 Gilles Simon, who retired with a right knee injury while trailing 1-6 67-4 7-6 (5) 1-0; and No. 16 Marin Cilic stopped Denis Istomin 6-1 6-4 6-3.

Mondays With Bob Greene: You just try to first get the ball back

STARS

Roger Federer beat Novak Djokovic 6-1 7-5 to win the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

Elena Dementieva beat Maria Sharapova 6-4 6-3 to win the Rogers Cup in Toronto, Canada

Pat Cash successfully defended his International Tennis Hall of Fame Champions Cup singles title, defeating Jim Courier 6-3 6-4 in Newport, Rhode Island, USA

SAYING

“It’s been a wonderful summer.” – Roger Federer, winning his first tournament title after the birth of his twin daughters.

“The closest I was going to get to the first-place trophy is now.” – Novak Djokovic, while standing five feet (1.5m) from the crystal bowl that Roger Federer collected by winning the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters.

“I returned poorly and served poorly. Against Roger, if you do both of those things, it’s going to be very difficult.” – Andy Murray, after his semifinal loss to Roger Federer in Cincinnati.

“It’s only a number. I hope to be ready in the future to come back to number two or to be in the top position. Number three is a very good number, too.” – Rafael Nadal, who is now ranked number three in the world.

“When you have so many important points and every point is so tough, you have to give 100 percent. It really kills your brain more than physical.” – Alisa Kleybanova, after outlasting Jelena Jankovic 6-7 (6) 7-6 (7) 6-2 in Toronto.

“It’s tough to think about the winner’s circle because you have to take it one match at a time.” – Maria Sharapova, who has returned to the WTA Tour following a nine-month layoff.

“It’s big because it was against Venus.” – Kateryna Bondarenko, after upsetting Venus Williams in an opening round match at Toronto.

“It’s my brain. I know exactly what I have to do, but if I’m not using my brain, I’m not doing the things my coach is telling me.” – Dinara Safina, after losing her second-round match at Toronto.

“It’s difficult to push yourself to play relaxed, even though you know this is the end. But still, you are a player deep inside, so it comes out in important moments, and you want to win no matter what.” – Marat Safin, after winning his first-round match in Cincinnati.

“I’m actually having a competition with myself to see how many errors and double-faults I can make and still win the match in two sets.” – Maria Sharapova, after winning her second-round match in Toronto.

“I’ve already missed a Masters’ event this year when I got married, so I guess that wasn’t an option here unless I wanted to pay everyone off.” – Andy Roddick, on why he played in Cincinnati despite playing the two weeks prior.

“You just try to first get the ball back.” – Roger Federer, when asked the secret of playing winning tennis.

“Depending on the draw, my pick at this point is (Andy) Murray or (Andy) Roddick.” – John McEnroe, forecasting the winner of this year’s US Open men’s singles.

“I think there could be a battle for the number one in the world. That’s what everybody hopes for. This year the tour is very tough and it’s tight at the top. Hopefully that’s what we’ll get to see.” – Andy Murray, on the battle looming at the season-ending ATP World Tour Championships.

“My overhead cost has gone down considerably.” – Brian Wood, a promoter for a tennis exhibition in Asheville, North Carolina, after replacing Andre Agassi and Marat Safin with Rajeev Ram and Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo.

SETTING THE TABLE?

Elena Dementieva put herself in good company by beating Maria Sharapova and winning the Rogers Cup in Toronto, Canada. The fourth-seeded Dementieva captured her third title of the year and during the week won her 50th match of the season, something only Dinara Safina and Caroline Wozniacki had done in 2009. The Russian hopes to follow in the footsteps of the last three Toronto winners – Justine Henin in 2003, Kim Clijsters in 2005 and Henin again in 2007. They went on to win the US Open. The gold-medalist at the Beijing Olympics, Dementieva has never won a Grand Slam tournament.

SET FOR US OPEN

Despite not winning a tournament, Rafael Nadal says he’s ready for the US Open. Nadal had not played since suffering an injury at Roland Garros this spring until the past two weeks, in Montreal and Cincinnati. “These two weeks, winning three matches here and two matches (in Montreal), winning five matches and playing seven matches in total, it’s enough matches I think,” said the Spaniard, who has seen his ranking drop from number one in the world to number three during his absence from the court. “We will see how I am physically to play the five-set matches,” he said. “I know when I am playing well I can play at this level. But you only can win against these top players when you are playing your best tennis.”

SERENA’S IN

Serena Williams is the second player to qualify for the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships, which will be played October 27-November 1 in Doha, Qatar. The reigning Australian Open and Wimbledon champion joins Dinara Safina to have clinched spots in the eight-player field. By winning both the singles and doubles titles at the Australian Open, Serena became the first professional female athlete to surpass USD $23 million in career earnings. She moved past Lindsay Davenport as the all-time prize money leader on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Davenport has earned USD $22,144,735. And because she and her sister Venus Williams have won three doubles titles this year – the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, California, USA – the sisters currently rank second in the Race to the Sony Ericsson Championships Doubles Standings.

SCOT SCORES

Andy Murray has qualified for the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, which will be held November 22-29 in London. The Scot joins Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as the first three singles players to qualify for the elite eight-man event. By winning the Rogers Cup in Montreal, Canada, Murray moved up to a career-high number two in the world behind Federer. That snapped the four-year domination of Federer and Nadal at the top of the men’s game. The 22-year-old Murray is the first ATP player to record 50 match wins this year and has won five titles in 2009: Montreal, Doha, Rotterdam, Miami and Queen’s Club in London, where he became the first British champion since Henry “Bunny” Austin in 1938.

SUCCESSFUL DEFENSE

Pat Cash loves grass court tennis. The 1987 Wimbledon champion successfully defended his singles title on the grass courts of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, beating Jim Courier 6-3 6-4 in Newport, Rhode Island, USA. It was Cash’s second career victory in the Outback Champions Series, the global tennis circuit for players age 30 and over. Courier, once ranked number one in the world, is still seeking his first professional title on grass.

SHARING A TEAM

If only the Miami Dolphins were as well-known on the football field as their owners. Sisters Serena and Venus Williams are believed to be acquiring a stake in the National Football League team. Musicians Gloria and Emilio Estefan and Marc Anthony recently bought small shared of the team, while owner Stephen Ross forged a partnership with singer Jimmy Buffett.

SKIPPING CINCINNATI

Juan Martin del Potro is paying the price for his success. The sixth-ranked Argentine pulled out of the Cincinnati Masters because of fatigue. Del Potro reached the final of the Montreal Masters one week after winning the tournament in Washington, DC. He played 24 sets in two weeks. Winning seven matches at the US Open would take between 21 and 35 sets over a two-week period.

SKIPPING FLUSHING

Gilles Muller of Luxembourg and Ivo Minar of the Czech Republic won’t be around when the year’s final Grand Slam tournament gets underway in New York’s Flushing Meadow at the end of this month. Muller withdrew from the US Open because of a knee injury. He is best known for upsetting Andy Roddick in the opening round of the US Open in 2005 when he went on to reach the quarterfinals. Muller’s spot in this year’s tournament will be taken by Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay. An injury also has sidelined Minar. With his withdrawal, Rajeev Ram moves into the main draw.

SQUANDERING MATCH POINTS

Brothers Bob and Mike Bryan led 9-4 in the match tiebreak before Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic rallied to win the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters doubles in Cincinnati. In all, Nestor and Zimonjic saved eight match points before prevailing over the top-seeded and defending champions 3-6 7-6 (2) 15-13. Nestor and Zimonjic won six straight points but failed to convert their first match at 10-9. They were successful on their second match point, improving their record to 44-10 as a team this year and collecting their eighth title of 2009. Both teams have already clinched spots in the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, which will be held in London in November.

SUBBING

Instead of Andre Agassi and Marat Safin, spectators at a tennis exhibition in Asheville, North Carolina, will instead be watching Rajeev Ram and Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo. When only 1,100 tickets had been sold for the 6,000-seat Asheville Civic Center, promoter Brian Wood decided to replace Agassi and Safin. He also dropped the ticket price from a high of USD $200 to a top price of USD $25. The promoter said tickets purchased for the Agassi-Safin match will be refunded. This wasn’t the first change in the program. Originally Safin was to play Novak Djokovic on August 6. When the date was changed to August 28, Djokovic was replaced by Agassi. “We could have canceled altogether or moved forward on a much lower scale, and that’s what we did,” Woods said. “The guys coming are still world class players who play at an extremely high level.”

SPEAKING UP

John McEnroe is covering the airwaves as tightly as he did the court in his playing days. This year Johnny Mac will join the ESPN broadcasting team for its coverage of the US Open. The broadcast will have its own brand of family ties. John will work with his younger brother Patrick, who has been a mainstay at ESPN since 1995. He also will team with ESPN’s Mary Carillo. The two won the French Open mixed doubles in 1977.

STRAIGHT IN

Taylor Dent leads a group of five Americans who have been given wild cards into the main draw of the US Open men’s singles. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) said they have also issued wild cards to Devon Britton, Chase Buchanan, Jesse Levine and Ryan Sweeting, along with Australian Chris Guccione and a player to be named by the French Tennis Association. Dent had climbed as high as 21 in the world before undergoing three back surgeries and missing two years on the tour.

Nine men have been awarded wild card entries into the US Open qualifying tournament, which will be held August 25-28 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Receiving wild card berths into the qualifying are Americans Lester Cook, Alexander Domijan, Ryan Harrison, Scoville Jenkins, Ryan Lipman, Tim Smyczek, Blake Strode and Michael Venus, along with Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.

SHE’S BACK

Australian Alicia Molik is returning to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Once ranked as high as number eight in the world, Molik hasn’t played since losing in the opening round in both singles and doubles at the Beijing Olympics. Molik has asked for a wild card into the US Open where she plans on playing only doubles with American Meghann Shaughnessy. Her future plans call for her playing singles in a low-level International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournament in Darwin, Australia, in September. Molik won four of her five WTA titles in a six-month period in 2004-05 before a middle-ear condition affected her vision and balance, forcing her off the tour in April 2005. An elbow injury followed, leading to her announcing her retirement earlier this year.

SRICHAPHAN UNDECIDED

Although he hasn’t played on the ATP Tour since March 2007, Thailand’s Paradorn Srichaphan says he has not retired from tennis. “I’m not going to quit,” he said. “I just want to be back when I’m really ready.” Srichaphan underwent operations on his wrist in Los Angeles in 2007 and in Bangkok, Thailand, this year. He originally had planned to return to play last year, and then postponed it until the Thailand Open this September. But now he says he may not play in a tournament until 2010.

SITE TO SEE

Tennis Canada is considering combining both ATP and WTA events into one tournament the same week and playing it in both Toronto and Montreal at the same time. Under that plan, each city would stage one-half of the men’s main draw and one half of the women’s main draw. Montreal and Toronto would each stage a final, meaning one of the men’s and one of the women’s finalists would switch cities, making the one-hour trip by private jet. Currently the tournaments are run on consecutive weeks with the men’s and women’s events alternating annually between Montreal and Toronto. This year the ATP tournament was held in Montreal a week ago and won by Andy Murray. Elena Dementieva captured the women’s title in Toronto on Sunday. But the ATP and WTA are pushing for more combined tournaments, a trend that resulted in the creative suggestion by Tennis Canada.

SHOEMAKER SELECTED

David Shoemaker is the new president of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. The 36-year-old Shoemaker previously was the Tour’s chief operating officer, general counsel and head of the Asia-Pacific region. The native of Ottawa, Canada, succeeds Stacey Allaster, who was recently appointed the tour’s chairman and CEO. In his new job, Shoemaker will be responsible for the day-to-day operations and business affairs of the tour, tournament and player relations, strategic expansion of the sport in key growth markets; international television and digital media rights distribution, and the tour’s year-end Championships.

STEPPING UP

The ATP also has a new executive. Laurent Delanney has been promoted to Chief Executive Officer, Europe, and will be based in the tour’s European headquarters in Monte Carlo, Monaco. A former agent who managed a number of top players, including Yannick Noah, Delanney joined the ATP’s European office in 1994, serving most recently as senior vice president, ATP Properties, the business arm of the ATP. The 49-year-old Delanney began his career with ProServ, a sports management and marketing agency, and at one time was marketing and publication operations manager for Club Med in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

SHOW AND TELL

The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum’s gallery exhibition at this year’s US Open will be titled “The Grand Slam: Tennis’ Ultimate Achievement.” The exhibit chronicles the accomplishment of the calendar-year Grand Slam as 2009 marks the 40th anniversary of Rod Laver’s 1969 singles Grand Slam and the 25th anniversary of Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver’s 1984 doubles Grand Slam. Among the many stars featured in the exhibit are Don Budge, Maureen Connolly, Margaret Smith Court, Steffi Graf, Maria Bueno, Martina Hingis and Stefan Edberg. The exhibition will be on view from August 29 through September 13 in the US Open Gallery.

SUPERB WRITING

The telling of the 2008 epic Wimbledon final between eventual winner Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer earned New York Daily News columnist Filip Bondy a first-place award from the United States Tennis Writers’ Association. The three-judge panel called Bondy’s story “a masterful, compelling account of the greatest match, told with vivid quotes and observations, a deft touch, and a grand sense of tennis history.” Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle, Tim Joyce of RealClearSports.com and Paul Fein, whose work was published by TennisOne.com and Sportstar, each were double winners. The awards will be presented during the USTWA’s annual meeting at the US Open.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Cincinnati: Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic beat Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan 3-6 7-6 (2) 15-13 (match tiebreak)

Toronto: Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez beat Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs 2-6 7-5 11-9 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

New Haven: www.pilotpentennis.com/

Bronx: www.nyjtl.org/tournaments/ghiBronx/index.htm

New York: www.usopen.org

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$750,000 Pilot Pen Tennis, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, hard

WTA

$600,000 Pilot Pen Tennis Presented by Schick, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, hard

$100,000 EmblemHealth Bronx Open, Bronx, New York, USA, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP and WTA

US Open (first week), New York, New York, USA, hard

Justine retires; adidas sticks by her side

I’m sure you all know by now that Justine Henin has announced her immediate retirement from the sport of tennis. I’ll leave the reminiscing and the obituaries about her career to my fellow writers, and instead I’ll leave you an e-mail I received from the folks at adidas Sport Performance, who has partnered with Justine in recent years:

Adidas would like to wish the WTA World Number One all the best in her future endeavors.

adidas has been side-by-side with Justine Henin since 2003 during which time she won seven Grand Slams, including a record-equalling four French Open titles at Roland Garros, and Olympic Gold in Athens.

Justine Henin has been an outstanding player for adidas Tennis and will remain an ambassador of the adidas brand, continuing to inspire and enable young athletes worldwide.

Martina Hingis had the same support from the German tennis giant after her retirement. They dropped her as soon as the positive drug test results for cocaine were confirmed by a third party. So Justine, just stay away from the blow, ok? We don’t want you to be without clothes!