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Gun Shots, Protesters, Bomb Scares and Religious Fanatics – The Most Unusual Delays In Tennis History

Rafael Nadal

By Randy Walker

@TennisPublisher

 

There is nothing worse than when you are locked into playing – or watching – a great tennis match and there is a delay in play. Rain and sometimes darkness are the most commons delays in play but in the history of tennis, there have been some rather unusual ways where play was delayed.

Here are six of the most unusual delays as documented in my book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY, which is also a mobile app (www.TennisHistoryApp.com) listed in no particular order. Which one do you think is the strangest? Please share any other worthy episodes in the comment section below or via TennisGrandstand@gmail.com.

 

March 18, 1984 – A bomb scare forces the Rotterdam men’s singles final between Ivan Lendl and Jimmy Connors to be called off. Lendl sweeps through the first set, 6-0, and breaks service in the first game of the second set when the police, reacting to an anonymous telephone call, order the evacuation of the Ahoy Sports Hall. The caller, claiming to represent an anti-capitalism movement, tells the police that a bomb had been placed close to center court. A search does not yield any suspicious articles, and spectators are then allowed to return to their seats. However, the crowd is then informed that Lendl and Connors would not be resuming their match. Wim Buitendijk, the organizer of the Grand Prix tournament, fails to persuade Lendl to stay and finish the match. He says Connors may have been persuaded to resume the game but ”Lendl was not prepared to take any risks.”

March 30, 1980 – Bjorn Borg dominates Manuel Orantes 6-2, 6-0, 6-1 in the final of the Nice Open in France in a match delayed by 25 minutes when a group of local physical education students storm the court and stage a “sit-in” to protest their department being closed by the French education ministry.

April 16, 1977 – Anti-apartheid protestors spill oil on court to protest the United States competing against South Africa and disrupt the doubles match between Stan Smith and Bob Lutz and Frew McMillan and Byron Bertram in Newport Beach, Calif.  U.S. Captain Tony Trabert hits one of the two protestors with a racquet before police apprehend the culprits. After a 45-minute delay to clean the oil, Smith and Lutz defeat McMillan and Bertram 7-5, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 to give the United States an insurmountable 3-0 lead over the South Africans.

April 27, 2006 – The only thing bothering Rafael Nadal during his 6-4, 6-2 second round match with Spanish qualifier Ivan Navaro-Pastor at the Barcelona Open is a female intruder, who bursts onto the court and handcuffs herself to the net post. Nadal is leading 6-4, 4-0 when the woman enters the court and a brief delay ensues while the protester is cut loose and taken away by security guards.

September 4, 1977 – James Reilly, a 33-year-old resident of New York City, is shot in the left thigh as a spectator at the John McEnroe – Eddie Dibbs third-round night match at the U.S. Open at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills. The shooting, from a .38 caliber gun, occurs at the start of the match near Portal 8 in the north section of the stadium and delays play for about six minutes as Reilly is taken from the stands to the first aid station and then to nearby St. John’s Hospital. Most of the 6, 943 fans in attendance are not aware that a shooting had occurred. Police conclude it was likely a shot that came from outside the stadium. McEnroe wins the best-of-three set match 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.

October 20, 1985 – A religious fanatic walks on the court, serves drinks to Ivan Lendl and Henri Leconte and preaches a sermon in the middle of the final round match of the Australian Indoor Championships in Sydney. In the ninth game of the third set, the man, wearing a caterer’s uniform, walks onto the court with a tray with two glasses of orange juice and religious pamphlets that he presents to both Lendl and Leconte. Reports the Associated Press of the incident, “To the astonishment of the players, officials and crowd, he put the tray down in the center of the court and proclaimed loudly, ‘I would like to bring these gentlemen two drinks.’ He then began babbling about the evil of credit cards and the devil before being escorted away by embarrassed officials. The tournament was sponsored by a credit finance company.” Says Lendl of the incident, “I was really, really mad at that. Not for the security reason, but because they were too gentle with him. They should have been rougher with him.” Lendl wins the match from Leconte by a 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 margin.

Roger Federer Will Continue to Make History

Roger Federer is excited about the rest of the season.  (Photo credit: Ben Solomon)

Roger Federer: 17-time Grand Slam champion, 6-time Year-End Championships winner, 21-time ATP Masters 1000 champion (he holds the record amount of titles alongside Spaniard, Rafael Nadal), Olympic silver medalist and Olympic gold medalist in the doubles with compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka. Overall, he has won 76 career singles titles in total, but why am I collating a list of his outstanding career achievements? Well, it is because Roger Federer made it to the semifinals of a Grand Slam and for many tennis players that would be a dream come true, for Federer’s critics, it’s simply not good enough.

World No.2, Roger Federer, was bundled out of the semifinals of the Australian Open by eventual finalist Andy Murray after 5 gruelling sets against the world No.3, not too dissimilar to his Australian Open achievements last year.

At the start of 2012 after Federer lost to Rafael Nadal in four sets during the semifinals of the first Grand Slam of the year, some began to question his future in tennis and if it would be the beginning of his career decline due to his age, after starting a family and having other players emerging and dominating in the major tournaments.

Last year in Rotterdam during the press conferences I heard the former world No.1 being questioned about his career and possible retirement (he went on to win the title in Rotterdam), whether he would ever win another Slam again (Wimbledon 2012 anybody?) and if he believed he would regain his place at the top of the rankings again (on July 16th 2012 he tied Pete Sampras’ record of 286 weeks at No.1 after taking back the top spot once more). Prior to these achievements, Roger Federer had been written off in the minds of some people, but in 2013, write him off at your own peril.

After his 2012 semifinal Australian Open defeat, Federer went on to win consecutive titles in Rotterdam (where he defeated Del Potro), Dubai (where he beat Murray) and Indian Wells (once again beating the then-ranked No. 9 Del Potro, No. 2 Nadal and No. 11 Isner, all in straight sets).

His success continued back in Europe where he was successful in the final against Tomas Berdych on the controversial blue clay in Madrid and won a record 5th Cincinnati title against world No.1 Novak Djokovic. His victories continued on his beloved grass courts of Wimbledon where he was crowned champion for the seventh time against Andy Murray and two weeks later he was avenged by the Brit in the final of the Olympics where he was awarded the Olympic silver medal.

His 2012 season did not end too badly either with back-to-back final appearances in hometown Basel and at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the 02 Arena in London.

There is no doubt that current world No.1 Novak Djokovic and world No.3 Andy Murray are a formidable force on the tennis court and the ‘Novandy’ battles could serve up a rivalry lasting several more years, but whilst Roger Federer is around, he still has the ability to beat the top players – after all he is still one of them. If Federer remains healthy, he may go on to win another major, let’s remember what he achieved last year. Could 2013 be a bit of history repeating? For many Federer fans, they are hoping so and they never give up on their hero.

Ahead of the Australian Open, Federer had not played a tournament going into the first Grand Slam of the year and by his own admission, he was pleased to reach the semis with very little match practice prior to the tournament:

“So I go from here with a good feeling for the year. I didn’t play a tournament leading in, so now obviously I know where my level is at.”

Murray may have knocked Federer out of the semifinals, but has that knocked his confidence or willingness to improve? Of course not…

“I have even more time to work on my game, work on my fitness this year. It’s something I’m excited about.”

With Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray frequently taking centre stage in Grand Slam finals and with the imminent return of Rafael Nadal after his lengthy injury battle with his knee, domination is something which Roger Federer will have to fight for, but he is a sportsman and losing is a learning experience that teaches you to work harder.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion is often referred to as arguably one of the greatest of all time (GOAT) players and as long as the Swiss maestro has the desire to continue playing, he will endure fighting amongst the greatest for more Grand Slam glory and to continue making history. For this reason I would not write him off for future success, after all, he is Roger Federer.

Federer Trumps Murray in Dubai and Continues to Even Out Head-to-Head Stats

Federer of Switzerland celebrates after winning his men's singles final match against Murray of Britain during the Dubai Tennis Championships

Roger Federer continued his resurgence as he beat Andy Murray in the final of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in a well-fought 96 minutes, winning 7-5, 6-4. Although that can hardly seem like an intense or arduous match compared to the six hour long Australian Open final between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, it still had it’s moments of tennis brilliance. With the win, Federer also continued his effort to even out his losing record to Murray, now nearly level at 7-8 in lifetime meetings between the two.[Gallery at bottom]

Winning 33 of his past 35 matches since losing in the semifinals of the US Open to Djokovic, Federer has been blazing through the draws, including taking home the winner’s trophy last week in Rotterdam.

“It’s great. There is no substitute to confidence,” declared Federer. “I’ve played great. It’s not just that I’ve taken my chances. I really thought I played a good tournament here. I played a great tournament in Rotterdam. The end of last year was exceptional, so it’s nice to also win a tournament outdoors now. That gives me hope that I can carry it over to Indian Wells and Miami.”

Federer caught momentum winning the first set and came out firing in the second, quickly going up 3-1. The tables quickly turned as Murray pressured the Swiss into errors, taking the next three games to go up 4-3. But that is where Murray hit a roadblock and dropped his form, never to regain it for the rest of the match.

“I think second set he played better than me,” said Murray. “For sure I made a few too many mistakes in the second, and he was playing a lot more aggressive than in the first set. But overall it was a good week. It was perfect preparation for the stretch over in America. Got through very tough matches against top, top players, so it was good.”

It’s hard to imagine that the last time the world #3 played the world #4 was over one year ago but that was precisely the case before today’s match. Federer (currently #3) and Murray (currently #4) last met at the ATP World Tour Finals in London in November 2010 with Federer prevailing then as well. Time may pass, Federer may falter against Nadal, and Murray may still be the hardest worker in terms of physicality in the business, but that still didn’t change the outcome from the last time the two met on court. Murray has exuded better mental strength since his Australian Open and has stayed fairly positive compared to previous years, but with that, what more does Murray have to do in order to win on a consistent basis and against the top 3? Does he need to change his style, update his core team again, or is it simply that he hasn’t fully matured yet? Only time will tell, but I hope he figures it out sooner rather than later for his and all his fans’ sakes.

(Photos credit to Reuters and Getty Images)

 

Roger Federer on Re-Inventing Himself, His Top Three Grand Slam Wins, Mental Strength and Retirement

Roger Federer on Tuesday evening in press

Roger Federer is a man of many talents, and giving honest and stirring interviews is no exception. On Tuesday evening at the Manhattan Hotel in Rotterdam, Federer participated in a JURA coffee sponsorship event, where he was interviewed in front of exclusive guests before participating in a media conference. Federer reminisced on his top three grand slam wins, spoke on overcoming obstacles and becoming mentally strong, elaborated on his love for tennis, and gave his thoughts on retirement.

Roger Federer sat, calm and relaxed, fielding questions that brought guests and journalists to both laughter and astonishment on several occasions. Dissecting a champion’s brain is no easy task, but Federer always brings new inspirations to the table.

After former ATP professional and current Rotterdam tournament director Richard Krajicek was presented with a limited edition Roger Federer coffee machine from JURA as a token of appreciation, Federer was quick to recall Krajicek’s everlasting presence in tennis. It seems that any bad blood between the two that occurred at the end of last year when Federer opposed Krajicek’s candidacy for the ATP CEO position has washed away.

“I remember when [Krajicek] won Wimbledon [in 1996] … and he beat one of my heros back then, Pete Sampras, along the way. It’s great to see him again and still around tennis because I think it’s nice when legends and great players are still seen within the sport.”

In going back to his own history with Sampras, the only meeting between the two occurred at the 2001 Wimbledon where Federer prevailed in five sets over his hero. In those days, serve-and-volley style dominated the game. But today, the courts and technology have been built so that courts are slower, balls heavier, rallies longer, and this has all been done, as some speculate, to increase the entertainment factor for tennis fans.

“To some degree I wish that we had serve-and-volleyers in the game, but players just move and return and serve so well today that it really makes it difficult to come to the net, and then you get into the habit of playing from the baseline mostly. It’s really gotten different since I started because I did play Sampras, Krajicek, Henman and that generation, and I do miss that.” Federer then joked: “[The baseline style] doesn’t worry me too much yet, but if it stays like this for another 20 years, then I will start to worry!”

Federer was also quick to point out that “there is definitely not the outright clay-court specialist anymore or a true grass-court specialist. I think they have all merged together and today, you have to be able to play on any surface. You saw that in Davis Cup as well, as sometimes a home court advantage and choosing your own surface [as Federer’s Swiss team did], is not such an advantage anymore. We lost 5-0 this past weekend; Germany picked clay as well at home and lost 5-0 as well, so I think today players can really play on all surfaces.”

As a junior, Federer was often seen in tears following defeat and in recalling what made the difference for him during those early years, he concluded that “the biggest improvement that I have been able to make is the mental part. I used to be quite crazy when I was younger, and I eventually got my act together and started to understand why it’s so important to work hard. Once I started to work extremely hard, all of a sudden, I had this really fluid game and I was able to unlock my potential — which I knew was big but I didn’t know it was this great. I’m really amazed overall how well I’ve done.”

To hear Federer say those words reaffirms that nothing in life comes easy, even for a champion that holds countless records, including 16 grand slams and 70 career titles. People may be gifted and talented, but without the proper supplement of training and support, the world may have quickly ended up in short supply of grand slam tennis champions.

“You always have to re-invent yourself; come up with different ideas of how you can improve as a person and as a player. For me, it’s been a great evolution through the rankings from back in ’98 when I was a junior to today, and [how] the game has changed tremendously… I never thought I could play such good tennis. I really had to put in a lot of hard work. Sometimes it doesn’t look like it because it’s all so fluid and people give me so many compliments. But I did put in the hard work and there’s no way around that in the professional game of tennis.”

As he alluded to earlier, Federer credits his success to equal parts mental strength, fitness and technique, and talks about “tennis as an emotional sport” when you are just starting out in the smaller Futures and Challenger tournaments. To transition overnight to playing top players on a center court is “not so easy … as that can play a lot of tricks on your mind, and fighting your own demons is a difficult thing. I had them as well when I was younger … afraid of the unknown and [asking yourself questions] ‘How confident are you?’ and ‘Are you doing the right things?’ A lot of open questions is sometimes a difficult thing to handle — especially if you bring in the pressure, the travels and the tiredness of it all … I think if you work hard, are smart and have enough breaks, the right tournaments and schedule, the results will follow. That is my personal opinion.”

It looks like Federer has taken his own advice in conquering his “demons” and is one of the most celebrated athletes in the world. But some opponents still stump the Swiss maestro, including Rafael Nadal whom he holds a 9-18 losing record against, and Novak Djokovic, the current world number 1.

“I think the ranking doesn’t lie in our sport. I think Novak has had the best year in the last 360 somewhat days of all of us, otherwise he wouldn’t have won so many matches in a row. I think the big difference at this very moment is that he has more confidence than we do … But maybe I do struggle more against Nadal and maybe he’s the toughest competitor out there, but the other guys are equally strong, if not better at the moment, like Novak.”

And what of his current streak of not winning a major since the 2010 Australian Open?

“I think it’s in the details. I don’t think I have done a whole lot wrong. Obviously, things have changed in the last few years since having a family but I don’t put that down to less success. I just think I was extremely close but wasn’t able to push luck on my side. I had an extremely tough last year at the Grand Slam level to be honest; I think I could have won [the matches I played in].” (Click here to see video of Federer answering this question.)

Never one to deflate himself, Federer took the opportunity to sit back and recall his three fondest memories of his best grand slam wins, with the first one being his first slam final win at the tender age of 21, at the 2003 Wimbledon Championships against Australian Mark Philppoussis.

“Maybe the first one just because it’s got to be!” Federer remarked. After losing in the first rounds of both the 2002 French Open and Wimbledon, and then following it up with another first round exit at the 2003 French Open, “critics were coming up and saying ‘This guy has talent, but he’ll probably never do it.’ And thank God I won Wimbledon months later,” he joked. “It was a huge relief. After that, everything seemed to hold much easier and clearer because I knew where my strengths are, where my weaknesses are and managing them. It was the ultimate dream achieved for me, winning Wimbledon, where Becker, Edberg, Sampras, all of my heroes, won so many times.”

His next memory was unexpectedly the 2005 US Open final where he beat Andre Agassi, the American’s last slam final appearance. “Playing under the lights, in New York, it’s somehow special and electrifying … The crowds were the toughest that I ever had to endure because I think people thought that Agassi was maybe going to retire if he would have beaten me … It was such a tough match to come through and the emotions were different. It proved to me that I was a worthy number 1 in the world and a good grand slam match player.”

Federer then recalled his win at the 2009 French Open “just because I chased it for so long.”  But it doesn’t end there. “The French Open has to be in there, but for some reason, I also have to put in when I was going for my fifth Wimbledon [in 2007] or the ultimate grand slam record at 15 against [Andy] Roddick in 2009 [at Wimbledon where Federer won 16-14 in the fifth set]. Those two matches had something mystical about them. Borg and Sampras were sitting there and all of my heroes were there. There was “record” pressure all around me and I was sort of a character in a play. So, for me to get that Cinderella finish was amazing.”

Being in a fairytale has its disadvantages, but Federer will never admit it. With the ruggedness and brutality of today’s game, it’s rare that a player is not nursing an injury or battling exhaustion from traveling. And after 13 years on the professional tour, Federer still rarely turns down the opportunity to be an outspoken promoter of tennis, even when his schedule is packed with commitments.

“I like when there is an excitement and a buzz for tennis. I am happy when I can promote tennis in a different part of the world than just Switzerland … so I don’t mind all of the stress I have [from doing these events], I really don’t. I was aware that it was going to happen and I was prepared for it … It’s just a natural thing for me today and it gives me an opportunity to also give great stories, meet great people and I don’t mind that part of my job which is part of the joy.”

Outside of his family and friends, another aspect of his life that brings him great joy is his Foundation with the simple mission “I am Tomorrow’s Future,” and he talked about how his involvement will grow once he is no longer playing professional tennis.

“I think the involvement in a few years’ time is going to be a whole lot different. I will have a lot more time to travel and see the projects, go and do more fundraising potentially, and meet more influential people in the field of philanthropy.”

He then touched on the charity his mother instilled in his heart, and also the influence Andre Agassi played in starting his Foundation.

“My mom has always reminded me that when I do have the opportunity to give back in some shape or form, it doesn’t always need to be financially, it can also be something you donate, like time, going to a project, and helping other projects. I also remember Andre Agassi always saying that he should have started his Foundation a whole lot earlier. That quote resonated with me and I thought I would like to start somewhat early and see how it goes.”

And in many ways, Federer’s and Agassi’s Foundations have similar purposes of granting children the help to reach their full potential.

“My dream has always been to support kids ages 5 to 14 in some shape or form, [especially] through education … I am a believer that education is not something you can take away from someone, but can be translated to other people in a very positive way. We have many different projects we support all around Africa, some in South Africa, some in Zimbabwe, in Ethiopia, Malawi and Tanzania as well. We have had many different countries we have been looking at and we will be expanding more over time and as we are able to raise more money.”

But there is still time before Federer will devote himself more exclusively to his charities and retire his tennis racquet. Recently, Serena Williams stated that she no longer “loves” tennis and Federer agrees that “love of the game is not enough. You need to have the fire and wanting to become better or achieve more.” But unlike Williams in many ways, he is not afraid to show his dedication to the game by stating that playing is still “clearly on my agenda. I would like to re-live the great moments I’ve had, such as Wimbledon. Everybody says, ‘What’s the point of winning another Wimbledon?’ That’s exactly the point. I want to be there hopefully one more time, holding up the trophy, going through the goosebumps before match point, trying to show how good I still am for my team, my country, myself. There’s too many reasons not to be playing, and I’m in physically really good shape today and I feel better than I have in quite a few years.”

That is precisely the reason he is committed to playing an unusually tough schedule this year, including Davis Cup last week, Rotterdam (a tournament he has not played since winning it in 2005), Dubai, and the Summer London Olympics.

“I have a tough schedule that shows I’m very eager and trying to also maybe get back to world number 1. There are still so many things to achieve … Some of the media think ‘What else is there to achieve?’ Well, there’s always more to do in something that you really enjoy. So for me, there’s no reason to even think about how, and when, and what retirement will look like, or how it’s all going to happen. Because I think the moment you start asking yourself those questions, that means the end is near. The body will tell me, and my family, we’ll decide when it’s time for me to hang up the racquet. For the time being, I really enjoy it too much to stop.”

 

(Roger Federer interview transcript, press conference photo, and YouTube video courtesy of Tennis Grandstand writer, Lisa-Marie Burrows, who is in Rotterdam for the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament as media.)

Two Days in Rotterdam: A Love Affair With Tennis

2010-02-ABN-AMRO-World-Tennis-Tournament--82070281

It’s Valentine’s Day and this year, I want to tell you the story of how I fell in love with tennis. The ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament is one of those ATP 500 level tournaments that brings in the top tennis talent. Year after year the tournament draw is stacked big name players. This year’s list includes Roger Federer, Tomas Berdych, Juan Martin del Potro, and Feliciano Lopez (well, not anymore), just to name a few. For me, this week of the year is a reminder of how much I love tennis. Two years ago, I walked into the AHOY Arena in Rotterdam on a Wednesday afternoon and purchased a ticket for the evening session. I was about to watch my first ever live tennis match. You might want to abandon reading this if you aren’t looking forward to hearing me wax poetic about the joys of live tennis.

I grew into my tennis fanaticism slowly, and by the time I realized my true love of our sport, I was living in St. Louis, Missouri. In case you’re not familiar with the tennis calendar, it doesn’t stop in St. Louis, or really anywhere even close. Then everything fell into place. I moved to London in January 2010 and as luck would have it I had a week off in February and nowhere to go. There was one obvious choice. I bought a ticket to Amsterdam that night and hopped a train to Rotterdam.

It was a short metro ride from the hotel to the stadium and I couldn’t have been more excited. This was what I had been waiting for, real live tennis. The players that I spent so much time reading about and watching on TV would finally be right in front of me. There was still about an hour before I could enter the stadium for the evening session, so I wandered around the massive indoor maze of AHOY to kill the time. That’s when I happened upon the practice courts. There were two of them in use, and I was mesmerized. This differs by tournament, but in Rotterdam the two main practice courts have a few rows of chairs on risers just about three feet from the short dividing wall between the players and their audience.

I plopped down in one of the empty seats, perhaps one of three people watching. More than an hour passed before I realized I’d watched two practice sessions and already missed the beginning of the evening’s main event. I was absolutely amazed, not just by how good these players really are, but by how much personality they had. Sure, some players have their quirks on court, but there’s only so much a player can do during a match. Some players were serious, some were pretty clowny, and some were downright strange.

I eventually made it to the main stadium. The first night, I had seats way up in the rafters (the stadium in Rotterdam is far larger than you would think). I think James Blake was playing Marcos Baghdatis. Again, I couldn’t have been happier, even if my view was far worse than it would have been watching the match on television. The atmosphere was great.

Anyway, you don’t need to hear more about my experience with live tennis. Just know that two days in Rotterdam became a weekend in Monte Carlo, a few days in Estoril, a sojourn in Paris, and trips to Newport, Washington, Toronto, and New York. That was just 2010. I left Rotterdam already making plans to watch my new favorite players, which was pretty much every player I saw that weekend. Sure, some of those have fallen by the wayside, but at least one of them stuck at a fanatical level. Someone I guarantee I never would have paid attention to unless I saw him live.

Now, why should you care about what a great time I had two years ago at a tournament most of you will never go near? You shouldn’t. But, I’d like to think that this experience resonates with some of you and encourages the rest of you to go out of your way a little. Book an impromptu trip to Shanghai or spend the next year planning your trip to Indian Wells. Just go watch some tennis.

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

Lopez r32_1

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

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

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

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

Full Tuesday schedule below.

SCHEDULE – TUESDAY, 14 FEBRUARY, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elena Dementieva wins Rogers Cup

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

Another Croatian Surprise?

Bob and Mike Bryan

Croatia stands just one win away from a third incredible win over the United States in Davis Cup play. Croatia, in fact, is the only nation the United States has never beaten in Davis Cup play and it will remain as such unless James Blake and Mardy Fish can sweep Marin Cilic and Ivo Karlovic in Sunday’s reverse singles. On Saturday, Bob and Mike Bryan defeated Roko Karanusic and Lovro Zovko 6-3, 6-1, 6-3, cutting the Croatian lead from 2-0 to 2-1.

After losing to Croatia 3-2 in the opening round of the 2003 competition, the United States was again upset by Croatia in the first round in 2005, despite the United States having Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and the Bryan twins on the squad. That 2005 upset – a match that was ultimately the Davis Cup swan song for Agassi – is documented below.

The day after returning back in New York after the 2004 Davis Cup Final in Sevilla, Spain, where the U.S. lost 3-2 to the Carlos Moya/Rafael Nadal led Spanish team, U.S. Davis Cup Captain Patrick McEnroe called into the nationally-syndicated morning radio and MSNBC cable show “Imus in the Morning,” where host Don Imus and his sports reporter Sid Rosenberg had been ridiculing McEnroe for the final round loss to Spain – or as Imus described “a team of leaf blowers and cab drivers.” McEnroe was introduced onto the program as the “tennis terrorist” in that he had embarrassed the United States to the largest degree.

After taking the playful ribbing, McEnroe told “the I-man” and gang that he wanted to have a serious reflection on the Davis Cup Final, stating that he felt proud in the way that he and his team represented the United States in Spain and that the conduct and sportsmanship displayed by his team “had restored a little respect for our country in a part of the world where the U.S. is not looked upon in the most positive way” in reference to Spain’s recent objection to the foreign policy of the United States, most notably the war in Iraq.

“Next year,” Pmac then boasted. “We’re going to bring back the Cup I-man.”

Imus, quick with the retort, then stated, “When the authorities find you, they’re going to ask that you give it back.”

The United States had drawn a first round home tie against Croatia and the USTA selected The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles, as the site of the contest. Los Angeles is a town that like stars and while the U.S. Davis Cup team did have a star in Andy Roddick, the one star that it was missing was one Andre Agassi.

McEnroe had always kept Agassi in the loop as far as Davis Cup goes since taking over as captain and, after asking him to play in the Final against Spain, sensed that Agassi was considering a return to Davis Cup in 2005. McEnroe began to push the buttons again at the Australian Open, where Agassi first addressed his possible comeback after his second round romp over Rainer Schuettler.

“I’m going to have this discussion with Patrick, just because he’s made the effort to want to have conversations with me about it, so I’ll be respectful of that,” said the 34-year-old Agassi. “But it’s just two-fold. I have a lot of regret not playing because it’s one of the best memories of my career, playing Davis Cup, not to mention playing with another generation of guys that have such a good fellowship and team camaraderie together. To experience that would be a great feeling. But the other side of the coin is really what my decision has come down to in the past, which is what can I really do. I’ve never been a big fan of being halfway playing at your convenience. It’s always been something I haven’t respected a whole lot in the past when it’s come to that for others. The decision I had to make is not an easy one and it hasn’t been easy, but it’s something I’ll discuss with him.”

A few days after Agassi’s quarterfinal loss to Roger Federer, McEnroe phoned Agassi at his home in Las Vegas and offered to sit down with him in person en route back to New York after the Australian Open. Agassi told McEnroe he was still hung up on the year-long commitment that he expected he would have to give to Davis Cup. On Monday January 31, McEnroe arrived in Los Angeles from Melbourne and stopped off in Carson for a media luncheon to promote the USA vs. Croatia tie. McEnroe then revealed to the gathered guests and media that he was en route to Las Vegas that evening to meet with Agassi.

”I think (Agassi) finds that right now, it’s hard for him to commit to every match because of his family and his responsibilities and because he is going to be 35 and it’s a little taxing on him,” McEnroe told the assembled press. “My job is to alleviate his fear that we don’t necessarily have to have him play ever match… I don’t need to hear from Andre ‘I’m going to play every match.’ My feeling is, let’s see how it goes. Let’s get you to play in the first round and let’s see what happens and take it from there.”

McEnroe tagged his chances at “less than 50-50” before boarding the AmericaWest Airlines flight to Las Vegas. “I don’t have any expectation other than I hope he says yes,” said McEnroe. “I have to field the best team I can and I have to exhaust all possibilities. If that means getting on a plane and sitting down with him face to face, than that’s a small price to play for trying to get him to join up.”

McEnroe met Agassi and his coach Darren Cahill for a two-and-a-half hour dinner at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. The three reminisced about Davis Cup stories of old, talked of the passion of the current group of Davis Cuppers and addressed the concerns and issues that Agassi had with committing to Davis Cup. McEnroe later said he told Agassi, “Don’t cut off your options by saying it’s all or nothing, because to me it’s not. We’ve never had a year where we’ve had the same four guys every match. It’s too unrealistic for that to happen, with injuries, with different surfaces, with schedules, you name it.” McEnroe said he, the team and the tennis industry in general would not hold it against him if he could not commit for every match in 2005.

Two days later, after consulting with others in his inner circle – most notably his wife Steffi Graf -  Agassi phoned McEnroe to tell him to count on him to be in Carson. Agassi then called all the members of the team – Roddick, the Bryan twins and Taylor Dent (who would travel to Carson as the “fifth” player on the four-man team and would have been the No. 2 singles player had Agassi not decided to play) – to get their approval on his returning to the team. On Monday, February 7, McEnroe made the Agassi news public in a conference call with the media.

“We’re going to take it one match at a time,” said McEnroe in explaining Agassi’s commitment to the team. “It’s not just this match. It’s not every match. I think it’s a case-by-case basis situation. He’s not coming back simply to play because it happens to be the week before Indian Wells. At the same time, I didn’t ask him to say, “Are you going to play every match?’ I understand where he is in his career, personally, professionally with all the different things on his plate. We will take it one step at a time…To me, it doesn’t make any sense to say to him, ‘Listen, you’ve got to play every match.” Things happen, things come up, whether it’s injuries, whether it’s having a tough major, whether it’s not having a tough major and maybe wanting some extra matches. I think you have to take all those things into account and understand that Andre is going to make the decision based on a variety of factors.”

Two days later, Agassi first addressed his return to Davis Cup following his first round win over xx in San Jose, Calif.

“What had a big influence on me was the camaraderie I saw last year,” said Agassi. “They’ve built a great team and are a part of something I never got to experience. I played Davis Cup with guys who were fighting to be the best in the world and everyone had a sense of their own goals…This group of guys really seems to look out for each other. I respect and admire it a lot.”

Agassi again addressed his absence from Davis Cup for five years, citing the demanding schedule and the difficultly in committing to potentially four ties during a calendar year, especially at age 34 with a wife and two children.

“I had gotten to a point that I didn’t have enough to give anymore when it came to the full goal of winning the Cup,” said Agassi. “I did it for 12 years and wasn’t convinced I could do it anymore and accomplish the things I needed to stay out here for the last few years. I never respected those guys who played at their convenience and didn’t play all times. Patrick was the first captain to show a strong sense of understanding and support in knowing it’s not realistic for me to play every tie.”

Roddick was estactic at the news and struggled to stay composed when Agassi reached him by phone while Roddick was in his car in driving several of his buddies around his hometown of Austin. Said Roddick, “I told him I was excited he was on board and then hung up the phone and started screaming.”

While the Agassi hype was substantial, insiders were paying close attention to the progress of the Croatian team. Ivan Ljubicic, who had almost single handedly defeated the United States in Zagreb two years prior in the first round, was fast becoming the hottest player on the circuit. Entering Davis Cup week, he posted three straight final round appearances in Marseille, Rotterdam and Dubai – the latter two losing to world No. 1 Roger Federer in three tight sets. Ancic had reached the semifinals of Marseille (losing to Ljubicic) and Rotterdam (losing to Federer) and had reached his second career ATP singles final in Scottsdale, Ariz., the week before Davis Cup. With Ljubicic and Ancic boasting a bronze medal in men’s doubles from the 2004 Olympics in Athens, the Bryan twins would also face a stern test. Cautioned Ancic, “In Davis Cup, there are many surprises.” Croatian Captain Niki Pilic, who also captained Germany to Davis Cup victories over the United States in 1985, 1987 and 1989, echoed the sentiment of his young charge. “In Davis Cup,” he said, “there are no rules.”

To add to the intrigue of the first round tie, Roddick suffered a scare during his quarterfinal win over Robby Ginepri at the ATP event in Memphis, spraining his ankle just two weeks before the start of the tie. Roddick chose to default his semifinal match with Kenneth Carlsen of Denmark rather than risk further injury that would jeopardize his form for the tie with Croatia.

“The repercussions of this injury won’t just affect me, but they’d affect my teammates it would affect me playing for my country as well,” said Roddick. “That’s a lot of responsibility that I have to take into consideration.”

Gavin Rossdale of the rock band “Bush” and the husband of rock star Gwen Stefani pulled the ceremonial chip at the Davis Cup draw ceremony at The Home Depot Center that placed Andre Agassi against Ivan Ljubicic in the opening rubber of the best-of-five match series. Roddick would follow against Ancic, while the Bryan twins would face Ancic and Ljubicic in Saturday’s doubles contest. Whether it was nerves, discomfort with the cool, blustery conditions or Ljubicic’s game, Agassi showed distress and tentativeness as his return to Davis Cup began at 1 pm Los Angeles time on Friday, March 4. There was no swagger in the legend’s step or game as Ljubicic swept the first set 6-3. Agassi got out of his funk in the second set, taking a 5-2 lead, but faltered when serving for the second at 5-3 and was skunked 7-0 in the second set tie-break to go down two-sets-to-love. The eventual 6-3, 7-6 (0), 6-3 loss marked only the third time that Agassi has been dismissed in straight sets in 36 Davis Cup singles matches.

His anger and displeasure was apparent on his face as he briskly left the court for the U.S. team locker room where his Head tennis racquet was tendered to multiple fragments scattered throughout the locker room within minutes.

“Today was one of those days,” said a dazed Agassi in the post-match press conference. “I just never got settled and never got comfortable. It was just frustrating. You’re trying hard to figure things out and sometimes you wonder if you’re just trying too hard…I was useless to be quite honest, as far as being clear on what was going on out there.“

Said McEnroe, “Everybody gets nervous playing Davis Cup – even Andre Agassi.”

Down 0-1, the match virtually sat on the shoulders of Roddick against Ancic, who quickly bounced upon the tentative Roddick taking the first set 6-4 as panic began to set in among the American hopefuls.  The second set marked the start of “the street fight” as Roddick’s trainer Doug Spreen would later describe the Roddick swagger and attitude, that translated the match into a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 victory for the American – tying the first day’s play at 1-1.

‘I’m not going to lie, I was really tight during the first set today,” admitted Roddick. “I’m happy because I was able to dig down…I think this was a big steppingstone for me.”

The Bryans entered the pivotal doubles match on Saturday having not lost a set in Davis Cup play in their previous five matches. However, the twins from Camarillo, Calif., knew that Ljubicic and Ancic were by far the best team they had faced in Davis Cup play.

Jumping like a pair of Mexican jumping beans, the Bryans were quick out of the blocks to take the first set 6-3 in just 27 minutes, but Ljubicic and Ancic would stay tight in the second set, forcing a tie-break. The Bryans would hold three set points, including one of Mike Bryan’s serve at 7-6, but were unable to deliver what would be a near lethal two-sets-to-love blow. They surrendered the second set tie-break – and their first ever set in Davis cup play – 10 points to eight and gave new life to Ancic and Ljubicic. As the Croatians gained in confidence, the Bryans appeared drained and dismayed. As the sun dripped below the Pacific Ocean just xx miles away, conditions became cooler and slower, helping Ljubicic and Ancic close out the final two sets for the vital 3-6, 7-6 (8), 6-4, 6-4 win and the 2-1 lead for Croatia heading into the climatic third day.

Former Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers basketball coach Phil Jackson entered the U.S. team locker room to try and cheer up the Bryan twins. “You guys think you are going to win every match you play?” a jovial Jackson told the Bryans as one must of wondered whether Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or Shaquille O’Neal received the same speech after losing an NBA game. Jackson’s words could not take the sting out of the loss for the Bryans, who for the first time tasted Davis Cup defeat in front of their father and numerous friends and family from Southern California

“We’ve had a lot of disappointing losses, but this ranks pretty high,” said Mike Bryan. “It hurts.”

McEnroe’s posture still exuded confidence. After all, the United States was still favored to win the final two singles matches – Roddick against Ljubicic in the fourth rubber and Agassi against Ancic in the fifth rubber. Roddick held a 5-1 career record with Ljubicic, having won the last five meetings, while Agassi’s experience and aura would make him the clear favorite against the 20-year-old Ancic, who had lost to Agassi in their only previous meeting.

“If there are two guys you want to roll out down 2-1, we’ve got the two guys we want,” said McEnroe. “I’m extremely confident that they’re both going to play well. Andre’s been in this position before and Andy’s been in a position where he’s had to win a match. These are the two guys we want to bring out. This is our best team. It’s our one-two punch. We’re playing at home. They’re going to have to play with a little more pressure on them now. Up until now, I think they’ve been able to sort of swing away and been the underdogs and go for their shots. If they can do that, if Ljubicic can do that against Agassi, the Bryans and Roddick, than that’s too good. But we’ll see if he can.”

Roddick and Ljubicic would battle in the fourth rubber of the tie – Ljubicic, like in 2003, trying to shut the door on the Americans – while Roddick trying to stave off elimination, a position he had been in on two other occasions without success – against France in 2002 and Spain in 2004.

After splitting the first two sets, the epic – and pivotal – third-set tie-break ensued with neither Roddick or Ljubicic willing to give the other the two-sets-to-one lead. Roddick jumped to a 4-1 lead and held three set points throughout the 24 point tie-break – tying the longest tie-break in U.S. Davis Cup history. However, Roddick’s inside-out cross court forehand at 11-12 landed wide giving Ljubicic the fourth set. The two players would again go toe-to-toe in a tie-break in the fourth set, with Ljubicic fighting off four set points before double faulting at 7-8 on the fifth-set point to give Roddick the set and square the match at two-sets apiece. The momentum appeared to be with Roddick, but he was not able to capitalize. Ljubicic ran off with the first eight points of the fifth set, breaking Roddick at love in the first game of the fifth set and cashing in on an insurance break in the fifth game of the final set. Three game later, Ljubicic closed out the crushing 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (11), 6-7 (7), 6-2 victory in three hours and 57 minutes.

Roddick and McEnroe slumped on their courtside seating while Ljubicic, Ancic, Pilic and the rest of the Croatian delegation danced and sang on the court with handfuls of Croatian fans in the audience waving flags and rejoicing in the historic first round upset. It marked the first time in 105 years of Davis Cup that the United States was eliminated in the first round on home soil.

Ljubicic would become one of only two players to win three live rubbers against a U.S. Davis Cup team on two occasions – joining Mexico’s Raul Ramirez who turned the trick against the United States in the 1975 and 1976 Davis Cup campaigns.

In all, Ljubicic labored for a total of eight hours and 44 minutes over 12 sets over the weekend. His career record against the United States in Davis Cup play now stood at 6-0 – with only Laurie Doherty of Great Britain holding a better record against the U.S. with a 10-0 record in matches against the U.S. in 1902, 1903, 1905 and 1906.

“I have no words, really,” said Ljubicic. “To beat Andre, the Bryans and Roddick in three days….it is amazing.”

Roddick was crushed, irritable, devastatingly angry and disappointed. He slumped in front of the microphone in the interview room and was asked to share how he was feeling.

“Probably not in words you would understand,” he slurred. “It’s tough to describe. Really, really bad….There’s no worse feeling than losing a match in Davis Cup in our sport, especially when your teammates are counting on you.”

“It hurts a lot,” said McEnroe, who spoke with the press after coaching Bob Bryan to a three-set win over Roko Karanusic in the dead-fifth rubber that made the final verdict a 3-2 win for Croatia. “After getting to the final last year, starting off at home with our best team, it’s disappointing.”

Week 7 Preview: Buenos Aires, Rotterdam, San Jose

The 7th week of the ATP Tour is coming up and so here is another preview. The preview includes Buenos Aires (Argentina), ABN Amro in Rotterdam (Netherlands), San Jose (USA).

Buenos Aires

* Singles Draw
* Doubles Draw

The South American claycourt swing heads to Buenos Aires this week and all the usual suspects are there to try to win this title. Three of the top four seeds are hometown players looking to claim their first title of the year – #4 seed Juan Ignacio Chela especially will be looking to turn around an abysmal start to the year but faces a very tough opener in Santiago Ventura. We will have to wait and see if this is one of the weeks #1 seed David Nalbandian decides to care about tennis (though we’d like to think he’d care at his home tournament), and it is #2 seed Juan Monaco’s first tournament back after a pretty serious ankle injury that dashed his hopes for a title two weeks ago at Vina del Mar; he also faces a tough opener in Agustin Calleri. Also joining the party and poised to make deep runs are this week’s Brasil Open finalists Nicolas Almagro and Carlos Moya, depending on how they rebound physically. Filled with claycourters and possible upsets, it’s really impossible to know how this one might turn out.

Rotterdam

* Singles Draw
* Doubles Draw

Despite losing world #3 Novak Djokovic before the draw was made, this tournament is clearly still the strongest of the week, as it boasts half of the world’s top ten (in fact, all eight seeds are in the top 20) and 125 ranking points more than Buenos Aires or San Jose. This means there are no easy draws, evidenced by the fact that #1 seed Rafael Nadal must open against tough Dmitry Tursunov right away in the first round and a potential second round with Lleyton Hewitt. In the very same first quarter of the draw, Marcos Baghdatis faces no easy task in first round opponent and indoor monster Robin Soderling.

Headed by #4 seed and defending champion Mikhail Youzhny and #7 Juan Carlos Ferrero, this quarter is easily the weakest of the four, and Youzhny is the obvious favorite to make it through to the semis from this section, but Ferrero should not be counted out either. This quarter is not without dangerous floaters, though. Gilles Simon or Feliciano Lopez could make for a tricky second round match for Youzhny, and while not his favorite surface, the fact that Tommy Robredo is ranked 19 in the world and is unseeded just shows just how strong this draw is.

The third quarter of the draw is where things really get interesting. Fresh off his uh, challenger win this week, last year’s finalist Ivan Ljubicic sees himself unseeded and thus will have his hands full – very full – with #5 seed Tomas Berdych in the first round. Right next to them in the draw is perhaps the funniest-looking match on the ATP tour with pint-sized Olivier Rochus taking on the giant Ivo Karlovic. #3 Ferrer’s draw to the quarterfinals appears to be a fairly smooth one, but he cannot overlook Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber.

In the final quarter of the draw, #6 seed Andy Murray, fresh off his Marseille win, should make it through to the quarterfinals, where he’d also be favored against #2 seed Nikolay Davydenko. Also lurking in this quarter is Michael Llodra, who could be a formidable player indoors if he gets his serve-volley game working, and local players Robin Haase and Raemon Sluiter, who announced that he is making this Rotterdam event his last ATP appearance.

San Jose

* Singles Draw
* Doubles Draw

What can we really say except that this is Roddick’s tournament to lose (which means he probably will). Stopped by Andy Murray the past two years in the semifinals and champion the two years after that, Murray’s decision to play the European indoor swing, as well as Ivo Karlovic’s, conbined with the absence of Fernando Gonzalez, leaves this tournament Roddick’s for the taking. Whether he will take it, we will have to wait and see. He faces lucky loser Chris Guccione, a late replacement Vince Spadea, in the first round and could face Delray Beach champ Kei Nishikori in what would be a most intriguing second round. At the bottom of the draw, James Blake will have to rebound quickly from the disappointment of losing the Delray Beach final and could face Robby Ginepri again, if Ginepri makes it there (he opens in a rematch of last week’s match against Michael Russell).

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this event is something not even related to the tournament draw at all. Tomorrow night, Pete Sampras will play an exhibition against Tommy Haas and the following night, the entire US Davis Cup team will be present with the trophy itself, which is making a stop in San Jose, for a nice celebration.

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