Ryan Sweeting

Sweeting wins in Washington, D.C., calls out Odesnik

The Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, DC is featuring some very candid and thoughtful up-and-coming American men. Among them, is 24-year-old Ryan Sweeting who gave elaborate details and opinions on Robert Kendrick’s current situation, calling it “absolutely ridiculous.”

Sweeting defeated a tired-looking Alex Bogomolov, Jr in straight sets 6-2, 6-4 on Tuesday evening. Bogomolov had just traveled from the Los Angeles Farmers’ Classic tournament where he was a semifinalist and he seemed sluggish because of it on-court.

After the match, Sweeting arrived to his presser calm and composed, but engaging. After responding to the typical questions, he talked about his dominant performance: “I felt I got to see the ball really big today. Most importantly, I served well. I’ve been struggling with my serve a little bit this summer. It’s something I’ve been working on a lot … I feel being aggressive on my second serve was a strength … and I competed well.”

He then referenced his serve at the Australian Open compared to his serving today: “That’s been my main priority this whole year. I want to get back on track. A few years ago, I relied on my serve and used it as a weapon but somehow it got away from me a little bit. It’s something I’ve been working on … today I have to credit my win to my serve, definitely.”

He also touched on his upcoming match against #1 seed Gael Monfils: “It’s going to be a tough match. I’ve never played him before. Obviously, I’ve seen a lot of his matches … definitely the fastest person I’ve ever seen in most sports. I’m going to have to play well and stay aggressive. If I hit a great shot, I have to expect it to come back … he’s going to get every ball back. If I just sit back he’s going to run for days and make me look like an idiot (laughs).”

But the most honest and intriguing response of the day came at the very end of his interview. I didn’t anticipate how much heart he would show in his answer as I referenced American Robert Kendrick, who recently tested positive for a banned substance and was sentenced to a year away from the tour. I asked Sweeting if he’d been in touch with Kendrick or rallied behind him given his current situation. As his answer went on, he became more fired up reflecting on the situation. He responded:

“I’ve been in touch with him; we’re speaking every day. I think it’s absolutely ridiculous he’s gotten 1 year … the tribunal agreed and believed he took a pill for [jet lag] … granted, we have to be careful about what we injest; it’s our responsibility … however, the punishment he received compared to punishments other players received is absolutely absurd … when [Wayne] Odesnik got caught smuggling performance enhancing drugs into another country and he got 6 months. Richard Gasquet tested positive for cocaine, said that he kissed a girl, and I don’t think he received any punishment. For a 31-year-old to take 1 pill for jet lag and receive a year ban, I just don’t understand. I don’t understand the logic behind it and all the players know this and all the players are wondering what the hell is going on. It’s just unfortunate because everybody knows that Rob has never taken a performance enhancing drug his entire life. He’s a good guy … It’s just really sad that this had to happen.”

He calls out Odesnik with no hesitation, and it seems to be the norm among the other American players, including former world #4 James Blake.

Follow me on twitter as I cover the Legg Mason Tennis Classic all week. @TennisRomi

Muscles, sweat, and skin: players’ funny practices

The Legg Mason Tennis Classic has been flooded this week with players from all around the world as they compete to pocket a cool $264,000 and 500 ranking points.  I’ll catch you up on all the intricate behind-the-scenes happenings and special events so far this week.

If there’s one partnership of players you should catch practicing together on court, it’s the duo of Bulgarian 20-year-old Grigor Dimitrov and his headband-wearing Russian comrade Dmitry Tursunov. Their off-court friendship translates into pure comedy gold on-court for the fans.

Dimitrov is at his highest ATP ranking of #57 and claimed two junior grand slam titles in 2008, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. He is best known for his fluid strokes and one-handed backhand reminiscent of Roger Federer’s, and is often likened unto him. Tursunov, on the other hand, is a veteran, having turned pro in 2000. He quickly ascended up the rankings before succumbing to an ankle injury that required surgery and took him off the circuit for eight months. Even with his bumpy road back since 2010, he’s currently sitting comfortably at #45, and he displays that confidence on court.

The two players chatted up a storm, with Dimitrov’s coach Peter McNamara joining in on the fun and giving his pupil the nickname “Muscles,” while calling Tursunov “Mother.” What makes the exchange even better is that McNamara has a thick Australian accent, and well, everything sounds cooler in Australian. Between the smiles and teasing, the two had their serious moments as they got frustrated when they sent a ball long or shanked it into the net.

At one point, because Tursunov was sweating through his blonde curls, he planted a bright red headband on his head and called himself “Justin” joking how he looked like Timberlake. A few indecent nicknames were exchanged. For a full recap and video, click over to Rachel’s post from OnTheGoTennis.

Dimitrov also enjoyed a funny and engaging practice with Tommy Haas out on Stadium Court. Dimitrov seems to thrive off of the attention and there are some candid rundowns and goof-ups below:

Speaking of quirky headbands, American Phillip Simmonds was sporting the look on court yesterday as well. Think Tursunov would approve?

Also practicing on court two days in a row together were Farmers’ Classic semifinalists Ryan Harrison and Alex Bogomolov, Jr., who are both having breakthrough years. Harrison warmed up by throwing around a football and then jumped on court for an intensive hit. To see his forehand in person is revelatory to his unique style of play. His swing and follow-through are especially distinctive with a quick, almost unnatural, motion. But it gets the job done, as he is currently plowing his way through reaching #82 in the rankings.

Last year’s champion, Argentine David Nalbandian, was also on court hitting with Nikolay Davydenko in the hot afternoon sun. Equipped in a neon yellow t-shirt, he was looking noticeably fitter and moving much better than last year. With his uncanny feel for the ball and perfectly-placed backhand, he is again one that players need to watch out for. He won as a wildcard last year after being off tour for several months due to a right leg injury, and this year is primed to be an even better one for him.

24-year-old American Ryan Sweeting hasn’t had any big runs at the grand slams yet, but he’s steadily climbed to a career-high #65 in the world this week. If his physique is any testament, the hard work must be paying off on the court. He was seen practicing against John Isner and hitting the ball exceptionally well. As a fun tidbit, I spotted two tattoos, one on each oblique spelling out two very distinctive concepts. The more captivating one spells out the word MAYHEM within the whole of the tattoo: siMplicity, peAce, Youth, Hope, lovE, and memories, while the second one stands for “blood, sweat and tears.”

Catch more of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic as I cover it live all week. Follow me on Twitter for up-to-the-minute information and photos! @TennisRomi

Clijsters may miss French Open, Serena back in training and Wozniacki lifts another title

Clijsters French Open Fears:

Belgian star Kim Clijsters is a doubt for the French Open after injuring her ankle at a wedding. The current US and Australian Open champion, who was already sidelined by shoulder and wrist complaints, severely strained medial and lateral ligaments in her right ankle as well as tearing the capsule of the ankle joint and suffering both a haematoma and torn tendon sheath. The 27-year-old has not competed since losing to Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinals of the Miami Masters on March 31 and was a doubt for the second Grand Slam of the year, which starts in exactly six weeks. A statement on her website read: “Kim’s presence in Paris is very uncertain. Her ankle is completely immobilised. Kim faces a recovery of at least four to six weeks”.

Serena Back in Training:

Serena Williams has returned to training following a long-running foot injury as well as health scares including blood clots on her lung. The 13-time Grand Slam winner has not played competitively since lifting Wimbledon last July after cutting her foot on glass at a restaurant while celebrating her triumph. After two operations on her foot and medical treatment following a pulmonary embolism, she has finally returned to the training courts after predicting in March she would be back in the “early summer.” Using her Twitter account to link to a picture of herself serving in a bright pink body suit, she wrote: “Look who I spotted on the court. Her first day back…”

Wozniacki Family Patriarch:

Caroline Wozniacki won her third title of 2011 by beating Elena Vesnina 6-2, 6-3 to lift her first Family Circle Cup in her second final. Lifting the first WTA clay tournament of the year will be a massive boost for the Danish world No.1 as she hopes to break her Grand Slam duck at the French Open. “I played aggressively today and everything worked for me,” Wozniacki said. “I was able to adapt my game to the clay. It’s the first tournament on clay so I’m very happy the way it turned out, and it gives me some confidence I can play well on clay as well. I beat some good players here, so I’m very satisfied.” Vesnina said that she had lost to a better opponent: “Caroline really makes you play. You hit a lot of balls and then you get tired, and it didn’t work for me that well like the whole week before,” she said. “I would consider her the best player in the world. It’s really tough to play against her, believe me. Sometimes you feel she’s everywhere on the court.”

Azarenka on a Roll:

Victoria Azarenka continued her fantastic April by winning her second straight title. After conquering Miami she held off the challenge of Irini-Carmelia Begu 6-3, 6-2. Other than dropping her serve in the first game of the second set the Belarusian never looked in trouble. “It was unusual to go from Miami on hardcourts to here on clay and do so well. I’m more than pleased with the experience,” she said. “It was important just to keep my mind fresh and do the same things I did in Miami. I used to practice here when I was 14, so coming here brings me back – I love it here.”

Two New Winners on the ATP Tour:

Ryan Sweeting and Pablo Andujar were this week celebrating after lifting their maiden ATP titles. American prodigy Sweeting, in his maiden ATP final, overcame Japanese star Kei Nishikori at Houston having entered the tournament as a wildcard. The 23-year-old overcame the 21-year-old 6-4, 7-6(3) to become the first homegrown star to triumph there since Mardy Fish in 2006. Speaking of crucially holding serve to tie the second set at 5-5, he said: “It was definitely an important hold for me. I think it was a 20-minute long game. It definitely wore me out a little bit. I knew that I wanted to try and win the second set, obviously, to win the match, but it was a good hold and I felt that it gave me a little bit of momentum going into the rest of the set. It sort of hit him a little harder that he didn’t get the break – he had a lot of break points – but I just fought hard today.” Nishikori was a little dejected over his performance following the match. “I was struggling today, missing a lot with easy shots and he was more aggressive than me, so that’s why I was struggling, I guess,” he said. “It was a final and I really wanted to win today, but I think that made me a little tight.” Meanwhile in Casablanca, Andujar also won his first ATP title after besting fifth seed Potito Starace 6-1, 6-2. That final victory came just a day after he shocked the top seed Albert Montanes in the semifinal. “I was very confident before the match,” said Andujar. “I thought about winning and yesterday’s win gave me a lot of confidence. I played in a way that made him tired, being very aggressive and making him run a lot.” It was Starace’s fourth defeat in four ATP Tour level finals yet he was still very gracious in defeat. “He played a great match,” said the Italian. “He was too aggressive and didn’t give me one chance, so congratulations to him. He was playing a very high level.”

Noah Reveals Racial Death-Threats:

Former French Open winner-turned-singer Yannick Noah has revealed to French newspaper France Soir that he was targeted by Neo-Nazis who racially abused him before a concert in Roanne, central France last Friday. He took the threats to police. The 50-year-old said the threats for himself and French actor Jamel Debbouze were left on a table close to the entrance of the theatre he was performing in and were signed by Phinehas, a known local extremist. The 1983 French Open winner performed the concert as planned once he had reported the issue to the authorities.

Wilander Speaks of Close Escape:

Mats Wilander has revealed that he was due to be on Pan Am Flight 103, which infamously became involved in the Lockerbie Bombings. Speaking to the Desert Sun, the former Swedish star revealed that he was supposed to take a cortisone injection for shin splints but “chickened out.” He then cancelled his flight from Lockerbie, Scotland to New York that was destroyed by a bomb, killing all 243 passengers, 16 crewmembers and 11 people on the ground. “You never know what’s around the next corner,” said the seven-time grand Slam winner. “It’s the same thing as how you meet your wife, by accident. I just wasn’t on it and I’m still here and I feel sorry for the unfortunate ones who are not with us anymore.”

Raonic Unsure of Grass Prospects:

Canadian firecracker Milos Raonic says he is unsure how he will fare at Wimbledon this year as he can count the amount of time he has spent playing on grass in “minutes, hours.” He believes it may be too early for him to challenge there yet. “I think it’s going to be an amazing challenge. The thing is, every week this year, I’ve never played any other tournaments before,” he said. “So every week is sort of like a new challenge, something new to sort of absorb, something new to get used to, figure out which courts have the bad bounces, which courts are better, which lockers are your lucky locker, all these kind of things. I don’t think about this stuff too much, but every week is something new. I think I’m just not getting ahead of myself. I’m trying to control what I can and stay within myself and take care of what I need to do. I think the more I keep improving, because of the difficulty of movement on grass, it’s a bit slippery at times, you have to stay low. I think getting better on clay, as far as moving goes, is going to help me there. I’ll make sure after the French I have time to prepare and obviously give myself the best chance I can to win.”

Nadal Ready for Ranking Battle:

World No.1 Rafa Nadal expects the battle for the year-end No.1 ranking to be blown open by the 2011 clay-court season. The 24-year-old is set to defend a wealth of points accumulated during this period of the 2010 campaign when he went on a 22-match winning streak, lifting all three ATP Masters 1000 clay tournaments as well as the French Open. In all four tournaments he dropped just two sets. Roger Federer has said he aims to make up ground on Nadal and world No.2 Novak Djokovic over the coming months and the Spaniard knows it will be a tough battle. “What I did last year, winning Monte-Carlo, Rome, Madrid and Roland-Garros, was historic,” he said. “I don’t think that I can do it this year. It didn’t happen in 50 or 60 years. So I guess I can’t do the same two times in a row.” He claims he also knows who his main challengers will be: “Of course, it’s very open,” said the left-hander. “Roger has a chance; Djokovic as well. I have some advantage in the ATP Rankings for now, but you never know how things will turn out. Novak is playing extremely well. He’s got a huge potential and he’s on a winning streak, which gives him a lot of confidence. So we’ll see at the end of the year who will be No. 1.” Nadal is this week challenging for a record seventh-straight Monte Carlo title. With the currently unstoppable Djokovic missing through injury it is a great chance for Nadal to defend some of his 2010 ranking points and reinforce his bid to keep his ranking.

Djokovic Shows Inner Party Animal Still Prevails:

World No.2 Novak Djokovic showed that his recent improved tennis form hasn’t eradicated the clown prince aspect of his persona by starring in a bizarre series of sketches at the annual Monte-Carlo Player Show. Joined by other tennis stars he sent up some of their fellow pros with hilarious results. A host of dance routines also took place including one Bollywood remake of ‘Jai Ho’ where Djokovic joined the “Indo-Pak Express” Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and Rohan Bopanna on-stage. Viktor Troicki, Federico Gil and Robin Haase were among the stars to take to the stage for the sketches and one unnamed pro even needed to be treated by ATP trainers for a stiletto-related injury.

Odesnik “Back in Love with Tennis:”

American Wayne Odesnik has spoken out about his year-long ban from tennis after being caught trying to take the performance-enhancing steroid HGH in to Australia in January 2010. He is now back on the circuit trying to rebuild his career in Challenger and Futures events. “I did not know that the sole possession of any banned substance at that time was a violation,” he said. “ know if you take something and test positive it’s a violation, but seeing as I’ve never taken it, I never thought that with a doctor’s consultation or whatever that it would be a doping violation. When everything was up in the air – that was a very scary time for me. It really brought the love of tennis back to me when I realized it could go away so fast.”

Landmark for Simon:

Gilles Simon’s emphatic first-round victory over the Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci in Monte Carlo was the 200th of his career. It was his first victory at the event since his debut in 2006 when he reached the third round before losing to Ivan Ljubicic.

Li Na Not Quitting:

Chinese star Li Na has rubbished reports of an impending retirement after four consecutive defeats. “I am working hard to prepare the red clay season in Munich,” she wrote in her blog. “Hopefully I can get rid of the bad form that has bothered me for a while. Since the April Fool’s Day is gone, please don’t believe the rumours. I love tennis to be in my life, so I will continue.”

Nadal Achievements “Almost Rival Borg’s:”

Legendary coach Jose Higueras has said that Rafael Nadal’s achievements in tennis are closing in on Bjorn Borg’s. If Nadal wins his sixth Roland Garros this year he will tie with the Swede in the all-time list. Like the player-turned-designer, Nadal is also no slouch on the other surfaces and has already achieved a career Grand Slam, something Borg never achieved before he prematurely retired at 26. “What Borg has in common with Nadal is that they have the two best heads I’ve ever seen on clay,” said Higueras. “They have the unique ability to play every point the same and that’s remarkable. I beat Bjorn once when he was about 15 and then he got stronger. If you couldn’t come in and take time away from him, serve and volley and not give him rhythm like (Adriano) Panatta once did in Paris, you had no chance. I didn’t have the weapons to do that. I’d play the best I could and he’d beat me 6-2, 6-1. His footwork was incredible. Anybody who played from the back had no chance on clay.”

Rankings Watch:

There was no movement in the Top 10 of the South African Airways ATP World Rankings this week but Andy Roddick (No.13) and Mikhail Youzhny (No. 14) have climbed above the Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka. Kei Nishikori’s finals appearance at Houston catapults him 13 places to No. 48 in the world while Pablo Andujar’s win at Casablanca sees him rise 17 to No. 52. Ryan Sweeting’s win over Nishikori means he jumps 26 spots to No. 67. Germany’s Julian Reister rises 25 places to enter the Top 100 for the first time. Following wins in Miami and Marbella Victoria Azarenka has cracked the Top 5 on the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings for the first time. She has now equalled the best ranking for a Belarusian after Natasha Zvereva sat in that slot in May 1989. Elena Vesnina is in to the Top 50 at No.45 after her runners-up berth at Charleston while Sania Mirza jumps from No.90 to No.73. Patricia Mayr-Achleitner of Austria (No.94), Irina-Camelia Begu (No.97) and Vania King (No. 99) all enter the Top 100.

Both GOAT Contenders in Action in Monte-Carlo:

Both Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer are in action at Monte-Carlo this week, adding ten points apiece to their 2011 season totals:

Roger 570 Rafa: 360

Mondays With Bob Greene: Did I hear the baby? My grandmother in Russia heard the baby

STARS

Juan Martin del Potro beat Andy Roddick 3-6 7-5 7-6 (6) to win the Legg Mason Tennis Classic title in Washington, DC, USA

Flavia Pennetta beat Samantha Stosur 6-4 6-3 to win the LA Women’s Tennis Championships in Los Angeles, California, USA

Feliciano Lopez won the ATP Open Castilla y Leon in Segovia, Spain, defeating Adrian Mannarino 6-3 6-4

Andreas Seppi beat Potito Starace 7-6 (4) 2-6 6-4 to win the San Marino CEPU Open in San Marino

Marcos Baghdatis beat Xavier Malisse 6-4 6-4 to win the Odlum Brown Vancouver Open men’s singles in Vancouver, Canada

Stephanie Dubois beat Sania Mirza 1-6 6-4 6-4 to win the Odlum Brown Vancouver Open women’s singles in Vancouver, Canada

SAYING

“We play until the tiebreaker, and then I did the best service of my life.” – Juan Martin del Potro, who hit five of his 19 aces in the tiebreaker to beat Andy Roddick and win his second straight Legg Mason Tennis Classic.

“I kind of forced him to play high-risk tennis, especially with the heat. He was taking big cuts, especially for the last 30, 45 minutes we were out there, and he was connecting.” – Andy Roddick, after losing to Juan Martin del Potro in the final at Washington, DC.

“Every match I improved. I had a great chance in the second set and I took it, that’s why I won.” – Flavia Pennetta, who won the LA Women’s Tennis Championships.

“My whole career I’ve been trying to get to this point. It kind of looks like I’ve done it late, but I don’t worry too much about that. I took a little longer to develop.” – Samantha Stosur, after reaching the final of the LA Women’s Tennis Championships.

“I don’t have fear if I miss that important point. If you don’t take a risk, you don’t gain.” – Fernando Gonzalez, after beating Tommy Haas at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic.

“Did I hear the baby? My grandmother in Russia heard the baby.” – Maria Sharapova, after a baby started crying in the first set of her 6-4 (4) 6-4 6-2 victory over Victoria Azarenka at the LA Women’s Tennis Championships.

“I have to give him a lot of credit. He helped turn my mind around. I’m no longer looking at tennis as a matter of life and death.” – Philip Bester of Canada, speaking about his several sessions with sports psychologist Jim Loehr.

”I realized how much I missed it and how it made me sharper, and, in some ways, more focused. Then I realized I wanted it back.” – Ana Ivanovic, talking about the pressure of being number one in the world.

“Maybe some people think it’s too crazy, but I’m enjoying a lot. For me it’s not only for the ranking or always to win the tournament. It’s just to enjoy life.” – Kimiko Date Krumm, on returning to the WTA Tour after her 12-year retirement.

SECONDING THE CALL

After battling through 14 points in the final-set tiebreaker, Andy Roddick and Juan Martin del Potro waited at the net for the replay to tell them if their match was over. Del Potro appeared to win the match with a crosscourt forehand winner, but Roddick challenged the call. “I actually thought it might have been out, and I asked him and he said it might have been out,” Roddick said. “So imagine the disappointment when it wasn’t.” The disappointment was all Roddick’s as del Potro won his second straight Legg Mason Tennis Classic title in Washington, DC, edging Roddick 3-6 7-5 7-6 (6).

STRIKING BACK

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has appealed a ruling that essentially cleared Richard Gasquet, who said he inadvertently took cocaine by kissing a woman in a nightclub. The ITF is appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport after an independent tribunal decided to exonerate Gasquet for a positive cocaine test. The Frenchman was allowed to resume playing after serving a 2½-month retroactive ban. The ITF is seeking a two-year ban under the terms of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s code.

SKIPPING SUSPENSION

Tamira Paszek will not be suspended while officials investigate whether medical treatment the Austrian tennis player received for a back injury violated doping regulations. The disciplinary committee of Austria’s anti-doping agency said Paszek can continue to play on the WTA Tour until a verdict is reached in about seven weeks. Last month Paszek had blood taken for homeopathic enrichment, and then re-injected into her lower back. Re-injecting one’s own blood is banned under international anti-doping rules. It was Paszek herself who alerted the doping agency when she learned that her treatment may have been illegal. She hasn’t played a match since retiring in the first round of Wimbledon in June.

SPARKLING MARK

Andy Roddick reached another milestone at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, DC. When the Wimbledon finalist beat fellow American Sam Querrey in a third-round match, it was his 500th career match victory, making Roddick only the fourth active player and the 36th in the Open Era to win 500 matches. Roger Federer – no surprise there – leads the active players with 657 match wins, while Carlos Moya has 573 and Lleyton Hewitt 511.

SODERLING STOPPED

An elbow injury did what an opponent couldn’t at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, DC. An injury to his right elbow forced Sweden’s Robin Soderling to withdraw from his quarterfinal match against second-seeded Juan Martin del Potro. Soderling reached the French Open final this year, losing to Roger Federer, then won the Swedish Open in Bastad, Sweden, in his last two tournaments.

SQUEEZE PLAY

After years of paying on consecutive weeks, men and women will compete for the Rogers Cup at the same time but in separate Canadian cities. The men and women take turns playing one year in Montreal, then the next in Toronto. This year, the men will play in Stade Uniprix at Jarry Park in Montreal this week; the women will play at Rexall Centre at York University in Toronto next week. But because of increased international pressure for more combined men’s and women’s tournaments, Tennis Canada will squeeze its two marquee events into the same week beginning in 2011. That’s the only way the Rogers Cup can be played three weeks before the US Open, the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. Despite the two tours playing in separate cities, Tennis Canada will be calling it the world’s first “virtually-combined” tournament, melding the two events into one through the medium of television.

SINGLES WINNER

On her way to the court to play for the title, Stephanie Dubois noticed the photos of the previous winners of the Vancouver Open. “I visualized myself on that wall with the others,” said Dubois, a native of Quebec, Canada. “I worked very hard for this.” The 22-year-old Dubois made sure her picture will be added to the “winners’ wall” when she became the first Canadian to capture the Odlum Brown Vancouver Open women’s singles title by beating India’s Sania Mirza 1-6 6-4 6-4. The winner didn’t hold serve until 3-2 in the second set, then knotted the match at one set apiece when she cashed in on her sixth set point. “I’m very happy to have won,” Dubois said. “I came here with that objective.”

SWEETING FINED

When he suffered a second-round loss at the Odlum Brown Vancouver Open, Ryan Sweeting had a few choice words to say to the chair umpire. The officials weren’t impressed by his choice of words and instead fined Sweeting USD $1,500 for verbal abuse of a chair umpire. The young American made his expensive speech after losing to Canada’s Philip Bester 6-4 6-3.

SIGN UP, PLEASE

Two tennis stars, Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza, have asked cricketers in India to sign the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code despite apprehension about the “whereabout” clause. “Lots of the tennis players had apprehensions early but we are all doing it,” Bhupathi said. The disputed clause makes it mandatory for athletes to disclose their whereabouts three months in advance. Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams are two tennis stars who are the most vociferous critics of the clause, but both have signed it. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) supports its players and has asked the International Cricket Council, a WADA signatory, to explore the possibility of having an anti-doping agency of its own. “It would not be fair to all the other sports and sportsmen of the world to make exceptions to WADA’s rules, and I’m sure any doubts that the cricketers have can be sorted out amicably through consensus before they sign on the dotted line,” Sania said.

SWISS DOUBLES

Roger Federer posted the first public photo of his twin daughters on the Internet. The Swiss tennis star wrote below the photo on his Facebook account that the girls and mother are “doing great,” and thanks friends and fans for their wishes. Federer and his wife Mirka are each holding a baby in the picture. Charlene Riva and Myla Rose were born July 23. Federer said the photo was taken by his father.

SPECIAL HONOR

Jane Brown Grimes and John Reese are the 2009 recipients of the prestigious International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum (ITHFM) Chairman’s Award, which recognizes outstanding service by a board member. Brown Grimes opened the ITHFM’s New York office in 1977 and became the Hall of Fame’s executive director in 1981. In 1986 she became managing director of the Women’s Tennis Council, then returned to the Hall of Fame as its president and CEO in 1991, serving until 2000. A board member since 1983, Reese became executive vice president of the Hall of Fame board and later served in a number of positions, including president and CEO, chairman and CEO, and chairman of the executive committee. In 1998, Reese was inducted into the United States Tennis Association’s Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame.

SPOT CLINCHED

Dinara Safina is the first player to clinch a spot in the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships, which will be held October 27-November 1 at the Khalifa International Tennis Complex in Doha, Qatar. The world’s top eight singles players and top four doubles teams from the 2009 Sony Ericsson WTA Tour will compete for the year-ending title and a share of the record Championships prize money of USD $4.45 million. It will be Safina’s second trip to the Championships, having made her debut a year ago. The Russian reached the world number one ranking on April 20. Her 16-match winning streak is the best on the WTA Tour this season. She also has reached the final of the Australian Open and Roland Garros, while gaining a semifinal berth at Wimbledon. “Qualifying for the year-end Sony Ericsson Championships is one of the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year,” Safina said. “I’ve accomplished a lot of milestones this season and am thrilled to be the first to qualify for the Championships.”

STAR JUNIORS

The United States became the first nation to win three straight World Junior Tennis titles when the 14-and-under girls beat the Czech Republic 2-1 in the final held in Prostejov, Czech Republic. Aneta Dvorakova beat Victoria Duval of Delray Beach, Florida, to begin the title competition. After Sachia Vickery of Miramar, Florida, beat Petra Rohanova 6-4 6-7 (3) 6-2 of knot the tie at one match each, the American doubles team of Duval and Vickery beat Dvorakova and Rohanova 6-2 6-7 (4) 6-1 to clinch the crown. Also on the winning team was Brooke Austin of Indianapolis, Indiana.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Washington: Martin Damm and Robert Lindstedt beat Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski 7-5 7-6 (3)

Los Angeles: Chuang Chia-Jung and Yan Zi beat Maria Kirilenko and Agnieszka Radwanska 6-0 4-6 10-7 (match tiebreak)

Segovia: Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin beat Sergiy Stakhovsky and Lovro Zovko 6-7 (4) 6-3 10-8 (match tiebreak)

San Marino: Lucas Arnold Ker and Sebastian Prieto beat Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer 7-6 (4) 2-6 10-7 (match tiebreak)

Vancouver (men): Kevin Anderson and Rik De Voest beat Ramon Delgado and Kaes Van’t Hof 6-4 6-4

Vancouver (women): Ahsha Rolle and Riza Zalameda beat Madison Brengle and Lilia Osterloh 6-4 6-3

SITES TO SURF

Montreal: http://www3.rogerscup.com/men/english/home.php

Cincinnati: www.cincytennis.com/

Cordenons: www.euro-sporting.it/challenger/

Toronto: www.rogerscup.com/

Algarve: www.atpchampionstour.com/

Newport: www.championsseriestennis.com/newport2009/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$3,000,000 Rogers Cup, Montreal, Canada, hard

$120,000 Internazionali del Friuli Venezia Guilia Tennis Cup Cordenons, Italy, clay

WTA

$2,000,000 Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, hard

SENIORS

Vale Do Lobo Grand Champions CGD, Algarve, Portugal, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$3,000,000 Western & Southern Financial Group Masters, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, hard

WTA

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

SENIORS

International Tennis Hall of Fame Champions Cup, Newport, Rhode Island, USA, grass

Let’s spend the night together

I guess the title of the famous Rolling Stones song is what Tommy Haas and Jesse Levine musta thought when they visited the Playboy Mansion and were surrounded by astonishing Playboy models. Hey that’s what I woulda thought anyway. Enjoy the photos!

American Jesse Levine had two important dates Wednesday – one on-court with two-time champion Tommy Haas at the LA Tennis Open, and another earlier in the day with a Playmate at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion.

The 21-year-old Boca Raton resident tweeted on Tuesday: “Pretty pumped for my night match tomorrow night @latennisopen vs Haas. But also pumped for playboy mansion!!!”

Levine joined fellow tennis players Robert Kendrick, Ryan Sweeting and Ross Hutchins at the famous mansion in nearby Holmby Hills, where they were greeted by May 2006 cover girl Alison Waite. The Playmate gave the ATP players a personal tour, providing historical information about the Mansion and Hugh Hefner while escorting them around the lavish 5.3 acre estate.

In addition to visiting the garden and the tennis courts on the grounds, the players took photos with birds in the zoo and tried out the pinball machine in the game room. They were most intrigued, however, by the famous grotto and asked Waite for details of what happened there. They finished the visit with a photo in front of the Playboy Mansion.

“It was a lot of fun to see a place we often get to watch on TV,” said Levine. “It was a really nice opportunity for us tennis players. It’s not like people get to check out the Playboy Mansion everyday, so it was a fun activity.”

Source: ATPWorldTour.com
Photo Credit: Cynthia Lum

Mondays With Bob Greene: This is unbelievable, to be in the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam

STARS

(Australian Open)

Marion Bartoli beat number 1 Jelena Jankovic 6-1 6-4

Alisa Kleybanova beat number 5 Ana Ivanovic 7-5 6-7 (5) 6-2

Carla Suarez Navarro beat number 6 Venus Williams 2-6 6-3 7-5

Kateryna Bondarenko beat number 9 Agnieszka Radwanska 7-6 (7) 4-6 6-1

Lu Yen-hsun beat number 10 David Nalbandian 6-4 5-7 4-6 6-4 6-2

SAYING

“When I’m on the top of my game it’s very hard to beat me, because you really have to kind of spill blood if you want to win the match. But at the moment, I’m not there yet.” – Jelena Jankovic, after losing to Marion Bartoli 6-1 6-4

“The times when you’re number one in the world, you put your head down, you try to win as many tournaments as possible. Maybe sometimes you forget to enjoy it.” – Roger Federer.

“This is unbelievable, to be in the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam. I was going to have the week off.” – Jelena Dokic, after her unexpected fourth straight win, meaning she will play in the second week.

“It’s just lucky that I went through. I guess she was just not ready to beat me.” – Dinara Safina, who won the last five games to beat Alize Cornet 6-2 2-6 7-5.

“For me, I’m number 61 in the world and I have no pressure. I just go on the court and play my game and it’s not about who is better.” – Lu Yen-hsun, after upsetting tenth-seeded David Nalbandian.

“I just thought, my eyes, my innocent eyes.” – Serena Williams after a man, wearing only a shirt, dashed onto the court during her doubles match with sister Venus.

“Any chance she gets she just does it to get under my skin, and she does it very successfully.” – Andy Roddick, on Serena Williams boasting that her best career victory came over Roddick when they both were 10 years old.

“I don’t like this bye-bye part. It’s just a sad story. It’s not for me. I prefer to leave this way, quietly, nice, with a great match.” – Marat Safin, who says he has played his last Australian Open.

“When I was top 10 before, I was not comfortable because it had never happened, a Japanese player in the top 10. Always I put too much pressure to me, I must win, I must win, always I was thinking. Of course I don’t like to lose. But too much pressure. I didn’t like so much traveling… always I felt alone.” – Kimiko Date-Krumm, who played – and lost – her first Grand Slam tournament match in 12 years.

“As we all know, Bosnians and Serbs have had some differences in the past. However, this is not the place nor time to settle those differences.” – Bosnian-born American Amer Delic, after boisterous fans disrupted his match against Paul-Henri Mathieu of France.

SURPRISING DOKIC

Back in Australia, Jelena Dokic is back in the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament. By herself, thank you. Dokic warned her estranged father Damir to stay away after he told an Australian television network that he was considering showing up in Melbourne to watch his daughter. Jelena told reporters after her 7-5 5-7 8-6 win over Russian Alisa Kleybanova that her father was not welcomed. In 1999, Damir was ejected from the stands at a tournament in England for shouting during his daughter’s match. The following year he fought with a television cameraman at the Australia Open, was evicted from Wimbledon and kicked out of the US Open, the latter for abusing staff over the price of a plate of salmon. He was subsequently banned from attending tournaments for six months by the WTA Tour. Jelena split with her family in 2003 and returned to Australia a year later.

STREAKING

Venus and Serena Williams had their doubles match briefly interrupted by a man wearing no briefs. The man, wearing only a shirt, jumped onto the court, sprinted across the sidelines and made several dance moves before he was arrested and banned from the event. Australian Open officials said the streaker was on the court for 14 seconds. When play continued, the Williams sisters easily won their match, defeating Japan’s Ayumi Morita and Germany’s Martina Muller 6-3 6-3.

SHAMEFUL

The streaker wasn’t the only problem Australian Open organizers faced in the first week. Violent clashes between ethnic factions marred the tennis as Serbs and Bosnians hurled chairs at each other in the beer garden outside center court. Police arrested two men and ejected another 30 people from the grounds after the rivals traded punches and kicks. Tensions between rival ethnic factions from the former Yugoslavia had been rising all week, breaking out when Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, the defending champion, beat Bosnian-born American Amer Delic.

SHIRT WITH SLEEVES

Rafael Nadal has a new look. The world’s number one player showed up for his Australian Open matches wearing a T-shirt and shorts instead of his trademark sleeveless tops and Capri pants. “For sure, when you have a change some people like (it), other people don’t,” Nadal said. “Not everybody liked the sleeveless. … Important thing in the end is not the clothes, (it) is the ball and racquet and playing well.”

SSSSHHHH!!

France’s Sebastien de Chaunac had problems with one of his very vocal fans. It seems that when the Frenchman was serving to James Blake at the beginning of their third set, a spectator began to encourage him. The man was so loud de Chaunac asked the chair umpire to intervene. Later, during a rally, the man started again. De Chaunac walked over to the fan and spoke to him. “I just told him in a bad way in French to shut up,” the player said. The man apologized but later was escorted out of the stadium when he continued to talk during points. Blake won the match 6-3 6-2 6-3.

SHUTEYE

The Hawk-Eye line-calling system was asleep during Roger Federer’s five-set escape from the upset-minded Tomas Berdych. The ball-tracking system failed to register a shot on center court, probably due to a heavy shadow over the line in question. Berdych, who had disputed the line call, was furious when it was found out the machine was not working. “If they bring some new system and it doesn’t work, why should it be on the courts,” the Czech player complained. Federer, who is a long-time opponent of the system, said the incident only confirmed his doubts. “It’s horrible. I don’t like it,” said Federer, who escaped with a 4-6 6-7 (4) 6-4 6-4 6-2 victory. “Tomas doesn’t like it since today. Finally one guy understood.” The Hawk-Eye technology reconstructs the ball’s most likely path by combining its trajectory with images from cameras positioned around the court.

SERENA THE WINNER

Serena says her greatest victory in tennis came over Andy Roddick. He reluctantly agreed that he had lost to the reigning US Open champion, but noted they were about 10 years old at the time. “There’s an argument about the score,” Serena said. “I think I beat him like 6-1. He says it was 6-4. He always says he’s ready for a rematch, but there’s no need for a rematch.” Holding up his little finger, Roddick said, “When we were 10 I had to literally run around in the shower to get wet – I was this big. She was bench-pressing dump trucks already at that time.”

SETTLING UP

When Nicole Vaidisova decided to skip her mandatory post-match news conference, she was fined USD $2,000 by the International Tennis Federation. Vaidisova was the first woman to be fined at this year’s Australian Open, joining 18 men who had been penalized for bad behavior at the year’s first Grand Slam tournament. The heftiest fine was meted out to Russia’s Dmitry Tursunov, who was fined USD $500 for racquet abuse and another USD $2,500 for verbal abuse. American Ryan Sweeting, who lost in the final round of qualifying, received three separate fines totaling USD $1,000 for racquet and verbal abuse.

SAFINA SURVIVES

Dinara Safina barely made it to the quarterfinals, having to stave off two match points and rallying from a 5-2 third-set deficit before edging French teenager Alize Cornet 6-2 2-6 7-5. Cornet twice served for the match, and squandered two match points in the 10th game of the third set when Safina played aggressive tennis. Safina, who could take over the number one ranking if she wins the Australian Open, won the last five games of the match.

STILL WINNING

Elena Dementieva ran her match winning streak to 14 in a row when she advanced into the Australian Open quarterfinals by crushing Dominika Cibulkova 6-2 6-2. The fourth-seeded Dementieva won titles at both Auckland, New Zealand, and Sydney, Australia, in tuning up for the year’s first Grand Slam tournament. Against Cibulkova, the Russian won nine straight games before being broken while she was serving for the match. That only delayed the inevitable for 10 more mintues. Dementieva won the Beijing Olympics singles gold medal last year.

SITES TO SURF

Australian Open: www.australianopen.com/

Heilbronn: www.heilbronn-open.de/Live/de_Homepage.CMS?ActiveID=1001

Zagreb: www.zagrebindoors.com/indoors.htm

Vina del Mar: www.movistaropen.cl/

Johannesburg: www.zagrebindoors.com/indoors.htm

Wroclaw: www.kghm-atp.pl

Fed Cup: www.fedcup.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia (second week)

$112,000 Heilbronn Open, Heilbronn, Germany

WTA TOUR

Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia (second week)

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$581,850 PBZ Zagreb Indoors, Zagreb, Croatia, hard

$500,000 SA Tennis Open, Johannesburg, South Africa, hard

$496,750 Movistar Open, Vina del Mar, Chile, clay

$137,704 KGHM Dialog Polish Indoor, Wroclaw, Poland, hard

FED CUP

(First Round)

World Group

Russia vs. China at Moscow, Russia

France vs. Italy at Orleans, France

United States vs. Argentina at Surprise, Arizona, USA

Czech Republic vs. Spain at Brno, Czech Republic

World Group 2

Slovak Republic vs. Belgium at Bratislava, Slovak Republic

Switzerland vs. Germany at Zurich, Switzerland

Serbia vs. Japan at Belgrade, Serbia

Ukraine vs. Israel at Kharkiv, Ukraine

Europe Zone Group 1

At Tallinn, Estonia

Austria, Belarus, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Great Britain, Hungary, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Sovenia and Sweden

American Zone Group 1

At Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Paraguay, Puerto Rico and Venezuela

Asia/Oceania Zone Group 1

At Perth, Australia

Australia, Chinese Taipei, Indonesia, Thailand, Uzbekistan, India, New Zealand and Korea

Asia/Oceana Zone Group 2

At Perth, Australia

Kazakhstan, Hong Kong China, Iran and Singapore