Caroline Wozniacki won’t beat you with power.
She doesn’t have a booming serve to guarantee her easy points. She won’t intimidate you with her reckless aggression, nor will she take time away with forays to the net. Through her struggles during this year’s clay court season, it has become readily apparent that the source of the former No.1′s prior successes laid almost exclusively on one concept: belief.
Far from a simple “I think, therefore I am” scenario, the Dane’s belief was two-fold. For one, she believed in herself, in her fitness and consistency. An underrated athlete, Wozniacki could run all day, tracking down what would be a winner against any other player, and force her opponent to hit one extra ball. At her best, she did everything well which, against her more combustible rivals, was good enough to take her through most of the matches she played over the course of 18 months.
This leads to the second, more changeable part of Wozniacki’s sense of belief. She not only believed in her own ability, but she also believed in the inability of others. Though her opponents could hit more winners and endear crowds with their flashier styles, Caroline was consistent, maddeningly so. Even with her back against the wall, she was content to keep grinding until she had worn her opponents down into a pile of frustration over what appeared to be wasted opportunities.
When trying to fend off the criticism she faced as a Slamless No. 1, Wozniacki once quipped, “if I don’t have a weapon, then what do the others have? Since I’m No. 1, I must do something right. I think they’re not actually criticizing me. I think the other players should be offended.”
To a large degree, that was true. More often than not, Wozniacki figuratively (and literally) put the ball in her opponent’s court, seemingly begging them to put away the high ball she would plant in the middle of the court. Time and again, however, the big hitters missed that ball at a match’s most crucial junctures. They would get overexcited, they would get nervous, they would get tentative. Either way, they would hit the ball out and Wozniacki would go on to win the match.
But in the last year, something changed. The big hitters stopped missing. They began to grow in their own belief, chipping away at Caroline’s confidence in the process and causing her game to regress as a result. Now lacking her once unshakable on-court calm, she still goes for as much (or as little) as ever, but the errors have begun to pile up, allowing players like Bojana Jovanovski leverage to borrow against her own blistering groundstrokes.
Against this compromised version of Wozniacki, more risk pays off. Locked in a first set tiebreaker, the young Serb played emphatic tennis, with five of her seven points ending on a winner. Jovanovski parlayed this momentum into a 3-0 lead in the second set, and even had two chances for a double break.
For a moment, though, it still looked like Wozniacki maintained a degree of mental ascendency over her competition. She steadied her game and made Jovanovski think about that which she was on the verge of doing: beating a top 10 player at a major tournament. Even as Jovanovski took the lead again, there were questions about whether the more mentally fragile Serb could close the deal as she served for the match. More surprising than the upset itself, Jovanovski played a calm, drama-free game to serve out the match to 15, ending Wozniacki’s clay court season with an abysmal 3-5 record (including her two wins on Charleston’s green clay).
There will be those who will look to Wozniacki’s shaken confidence as the sole contributor to a loss like this, but attention must be equally paid to the young woman who followed up a nail-biter of a win over Wozniacki in Rome with a decisive victory in Paris. The Dane is not playing with the same ruthless efficiency of two years ago, but the ball was as much in Jovanovski’s court as ever. Perhaps sick and tired of missing when it mattered most, the unseeded Serb got out of her head and bundled the struggling Wozniacki out of the tournament. For Wozniacki, there is an air of tragic irony to lose in this way. After all, it wasn’t about Jovanovski’s ability to hit her opponent off the court.
It was that Jovanovski believed she could.
In the immediate aftermath of any match, circumstances (both external and internal) are analyzed to the point where nearly all results would appear to warrant an asterisk.
This player was injured. That player was tired. His ranking was too high. Her ranking was too low.
Valid as they may be, we eventually forget those excuses and move on to the next match with a simple truth: “a win is a win.” Except, of course, when history repeats itself, the analysis becomes the same, and excuses become battle cries.
Such has been the case for Jelena Jankovic. Once a World No. 1 and Grand Slam finalist, “JJ” had been in a prolonged slump for the better part of 18 months, one that seemed to stem from a complacency that grew into a crisis of confidence. A true offensive counterpuncher, Jankovic relied on a blend of relentless retrieving and smart shot selection to rise to the top of the rankings in 2008.
But after attempts to alter her game to become a Slam contender, her results dipped, and aside from a dramatic (and I do mean dramatic) run to the Cincinnati final in 2011, the Serb’s results have been subpar. The gameplan that seemed so clear during her mainstay among the game’s elite had become a mess of poor execution and shaky nerves. Unable to take advantage of even the kindest of draws, Jankovic was getting soundly beaten by big names and journey women alike.
Still, JJ made herself hard to forget. With her ready smile, unfiltered humor, and “glittery” fashion sense, Jankovic remained pseudo-relevant, even if (much to fans’ amusement) she skipped a tournament near her residence in Dubai to play a small clay event in Bogota.
Surely, this is where dreams of Slam trophies go to die.
JJ’s week in Colombia was hardly straightforward. But then, even at her peak, there was rarely a business-like air to her matches. Her strength was in her ability to get the job done week in, week out. If the process took longer, so what? A win is still a win, and at least it was a good story.
Unfortunately for Jankovic, one story has been haunting her during her apparent spring renaissance. She may be playing better, and her confidence may be growing, but the quality of opponents has rarely become more difficult than those she faced to win Bogota. En route to the semifinals of Miami, a Premier Mandatory event, she played two top 16 players before getting drubbed by old Bollettieri Academy rival Maria Sharapova. This week in Charleston, she only drew two players in the top 100 before fading to current No. 1 Serena Williams in the final after winning a competitive opening set.
Enter the aforementioned analysts who assess JJ’s form, and the fans who take umbrage with the notions that Jankovic has returned to her best. The question remains: do we call her wins what they are, or do we place those pesky asterisks on results deemed too dependent on a collapsing field and the Serb’s good fortune?
In Jankovic’s case, there is merit to be found in both arguments. When a former No. 1 enters a tournament like Bogota, she is making no pretense about her desire for match play. Considering where she was (literally and figuratively), quantity was more than point-grabbing.
Quantity was confidence building.
By the time she reached the final in Charleston, her list of recent wins read like a list of players who were beating her only six months ago. A player ranked 114 might sound like someone Jelena Jankovic should beat, but for so long, she simply wasn’t. In that sense, these last few weeks have been a critical process of reacquainting Jankovic with top-flight tennis in that now she’s playing more than one match per tournament.
Where few can doubt that the Serb has recouped her small-match experience, her performances against Sharapova and Williams left something to be desired. Oddly enough, both could be called asterisk-worthy matches, given the poor scheduling that saw Jankovic playing two matches in less than 24 hours in Miami and the verbal dispute with Williams that shook her concentration in Charleston. Her wealth of quantity wins were necessary to reaffirming her self-belief; without that, it would have been impossible for JJ to have played Serena as tough as she did otherwise. The final step is translating the belief she earned from the quantity into the quality victories that would eliminate all asterisks from her resurgence. The good news for JJ is that these quantity wins will only create more opportunities for that quality scalp.
With a little extra “day glitter,” anything is possible.
Yesterday, the up-and-coming Sloane Stephens fought off a mid-match surge from a game opponent to reach her debut Grand Slam quarterfinal. After taking the deciding set 7-5, the bubbly American was pleased to have put on a show for the crowd, and promised another one when she played her mentor and idol, Serena Williams.
Leave it to the media to turn a show into a circus.
As the match unfolded, Stephens seemed to establish an unassailable advantage over her equally inexperienced opponent, Bojana Jovanovski. A heavy hitting but inconsistent player from Serbia, Jovanovski was deemed a beatable foe, one who would easily bend to the will of the quickly rising American teenager.
As the second set reached a critical juncture, however, Stephens began to retreat and revert to a safer, more defensive style. Jovanovski had been missing badly up to that point, so waiting for the error was not a completely ill conceived strategy. Yet, in doing so, she made an almost fatal mistake: giving Bojana Jovanovski a short ball is like feeding live bait to a shark.
The No. 3 Serb hits groundstrokes like missiles, and is an exciting player to watch when she is striking the ball well. Most comfortable playing in Australia, she had her breakthrough tournament in Sydney two years ago where, as a qualifier, she reached her first Premier semifinal. A week later, she pushed then-world No. 2 Vera Zvonareva to three tight sets at this very tournament. Since then, she won her first WTA title last summer in Baku and is also a player on the rise, give or take a few hiccups and patches of poor form.
Despite her obvious talent, she is still better known for the quirkier aspects of her life and bio. For one, not a televised match of Jovanovski’s goes by without a retelling of the embarrassing story where the Serb traveled to the famed WTA event in San Diego via Carlsbad only to wind up in Carlsbad, New Mexico.
Quirkier still is her unusual grunt. Oft-described as a sound similar to a sneeze (“ha-choo!”), it is definitely one of the stranger sounds one hears during a tennis match, but is not nearly as off-putting as many seem to think. Having watched the majority of her US Open singles campaign, I can say that it was hardly as noticeable in person as it is when amplified by the on-court microphones.
But as Jovanovski began to take control of a match she seemed well and truly out of last night, the focus centered not on her screaming winners, but on the alleged screaming itself. Stephens lost the plot and allowed her fiery opponent back into the match. Instead of giving praise to Jovanovski for not giving up and playing some inspiring offense, she was castigated, mocked and name-called for her grunting.
A lot of people take issue over noises that aren’t perceived to imply exertion. “How does shrieking assist a person in hitting a ball?” asks a public often corralled by visibly disgusted commentators (for more on grunting and the hindrance rule, I refer you to unseededandlooming’s comprehensive take on the matter). But as bizarre as Jovanovski’s grunt sounds, it is still a grunt at its very core.
And if you stopped to watch the Serbian bombshell scurry about the baseline, you would see a shockingly high level of exertion, mixed with some extreme torque and intensity.
What makes Jovanovski so electrifying on the court is the reckless abandon with which she hits every ball. The notion that “a tennis ball is there to be hit” is taken to delirious extremes during her matches, much to the delight of those who enjoy “Big Babe Tennis.” In fact, it was her tentative serve, the one shot in her repertoire that lacks her almost hysterical punch, that did her in late in the third set against the American, who eventually regrouped to serve out the match herself.
In her first Slam fourth round appearance, Bojana Jovanovski did herself proud. She recovered from a lackluster beginning and found her range in impressive fashion, only to fall just short of the finish line. In all, the week that the Serbian star had was a tremendous effort, and definitely as much noise with her tennis as she did with her grunting.
You may not like Bojana’s grunt from an aesthetic point of view, but it is hard to argue that her bite doesn’t match her bark.
“Rivals,” my high school gym teacher once said, “always hate each other. Mac does not like PC. Coke does not like Pepsi. Competition makes the world go round!”
Had he been a tennis fan at the time, he might have added Serbian rivals Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic to his list of those between whom little love was lost.
In the mid-to-late 2000s, Ivanovic and Jankovic were the fire and ice of the WTA Tour’s elite. Ana was the big-hitter with an on-court effusiveness that was as jarring as it was endearing. Not to say that the counter-punching Jankovic was reserved; she saved her quirky personality and for the pressroom, where she gave quotes that continue to defy explanation.
Both hailed from the war torn city of Belgrade. Both became famous in their home country. Both wanted to be the best.
With few other compatriots, isolation combined with a singular goal could have bonded these young women together. The Italian and Czech Fed Cup teams are shining examples of on-court camaraderie in an individual sport. Off the court? The guest list at Elena Dementieva’s wedding was a “who’s who” of Russian tennis (Vera Dushevina caught the bouquet).
Yet, there is something about countries that boast only two talented players. Perhaps that it serves as a microcosm for the game itself, the idea of a dual between two players and only one can emerge victorious, intensifies what could otherwise be a friendly rivalry. Whatever the reason, like Belgians Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin before them, the relationship between Ivanovic and Jankovic was always cool at best. Never overtly friendly, the two had ways of reminding fans and media where the two women stood with one another.
After scoring a win over her rival in Madrid a few years ago, Jelena was seen mocking Ana’s signature fist pump:
Upon seeing it, Ana quipped, “…Sport doesn’t build character, it shows it.” Far from contrite, Jelena defended the gesture and struck out against players who fist pump “in the player’s face, and especially after not winning a point [but] after your opponent missed an easy ball, I don’t think that’s fair play.”
For all of their differences, Ana and Jelena ended up having two fairly similar careers.
At their peaks, they fought for the No. 1 ranking at the 2008 French Open. Jankovic squandered a third set lead and Ivanovic went on to win her only Slam title. From there, she promptly entered a slump that persists to this day; she has only made one Slam quarterfinal in the last (going on) five years.
Jankovic eventually wrested the top spot from her rival and went on a late-season tear to finish the year atop the rankings. A move to change her game in order to better compete for majors saw her not only remain slamless, but also caused her to tumble from the game’s elite.
This year’s Australian Open saw the two play one another for the first time at a Slam since that fateful French Open encounter. Far from the penultimate round, the rivals were seeded outside the top 10 and competing for a spot in the fourth round, where the winner would take on the much-higher ranked Agnieszka Radwanska.
Ostensibly, the stakes were as high as ever as each woman strives to retain relevancy on a Tour that has moved on without them. Once highly marketable stars, the rivals were relegated to Hisense Arena for a competitive, though more lighthearted, battle. While showing flashes of their former brilliance, the two shared a laugh several times during Ivanovic’s two-set victory. With that, the “Serbian Sisters” wordlessly confirmed the news that they had buried the hatchet.
Reflecting on their frosty past, Jankovic mused, “Back then we were competing for No. 1 and we both wanted what we never achieved and it was different circumstances.” In the heat of the moment, it was easy to see things less clearly, but in retrospect, Jelena poignantly describes the fate of the rivalry with her compatriot, one that was never truly realized.
But rather than dwelling on what might have been, it is comforting to see the two former foes together, now able to laugh and reminisce about their time at the top.
Serbian fatalism was in full swing at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, D.C. last night as the two remaining Serbs, world #15 Viktor Troicki and #25 Janko Tipsarevic went out to John Isner and Gael Monfils, respectively. Being from the former Yugoslavia myself, I have an intimate look into the way Serbians, as a culture, are hard-wired and these two young men are no exception. Perhaps, they are the example.
After losing the first set, 7-6(5), Troicki could have easily faded away thinking Isner was serving just too well for any opportunities to arise. Instead, he took advantage of Isner’s fading confidence and broke him to go up 3-0 in the second set. As Isner became increasingly negative with his own movement, Troicki’s belief and body language surpassed any inkling of doubt he may have had earlier in the match. He began to play like a dangerous top player and won 91% of his first serves pushing Isner into a hole. Isner himself even stated that in the second set, he was “either missing wildly or missing weakly into the net” and that was a true tale of the type of pressure Troicki was putting on him.
Then the third set began to unfold and with it, Troicki began to doubt. After a resurgence, his performance plummeted as his serve and return percentages dwindled, and he created a large gap in the deficit for his winners to unforced errors. Likewise, Tipsarevic stayed with Monfils for the majority of the match, but when the point was on his racquet, he succumbed, looking to his box and simply saying “nemogu,” or “I can’t” in Serbian, when referencing getting broken in the first game of the second set.
The word ‘fatalism’ is commonly used to refer to an attitude of resignation in the face of some event which is thought to be inevitable, as in the case of a loss. Even if a player believes he can win and does well initially, disbelief creeps in and takes hold, refusing to let go. In the case of both Troicki and Tipsarevic, good friends that fell out of the tournament in the same evening, it shows how contagious the doctrine actually is: they feel powerless to do anything other than what they actually do, because they are bound to lose in the end, no matter how much they put into the match. And although this type of attitude can be witnessed in other players who dismantle mentally on-court, it’s the Serbian political history that gives the greatest context. From the assassination of Austrian emperor Franz Ferdinand by a Yugoslavian nationalist to launch World War I, to the Serbia-Kosovo conflict last decade, Serbians and Croatians alike, have had a turbulent history that seems to be against our own best interest. As a culture and nation, we strive to be better people, and we achieve success, but the dark cloud still hangs over us and we doubt our abilities, even if we don’t want to admit it.
In his press conference, Tipsarevic referenced that the reason he lost wasn’t his “forehand or backhand, it was more my lack of concentration. I was getting so frustrated, that I couldn’t win free points off my serve and couldn’t finish off the points as I wanted to, and as I did in the previous two matches.” Fatalism isn’t always present, but it appears in the most inopportune times, making us believe that acceptance is appropriate, rather than resistance against inevitability.
But the reward will come one day for these two players, as it has for current #1 Novak Djokovic. After winning the Australian Open in 2008 at age 20, it took him three full years to win another grand slam. The time in between was filled with drama of apologies about on-court antics to a pronounced and immense struggle with his serve. And then a breakthrough occurred, and he became unstoppable. He was able to shun away any mental strife and play for himself, and for his country in the Davis Cup finals, winning it for the first time in Serbia’s existence. What was a handicap turned into the ultimate asset: Djokovic learned how to direct his energy to attain his goals, and even surprised a few people on the way up to the top of the men’s tennis game. Hopefully, Tipsarevic and Troicki can follow in his steps, but not without drama of their own.
In what was sadly seen as offensive, a photo and corresponding caption posted by Tipsarevic of him holding up a plastic gun at Djokovic with his hands in the air and reading “How much $$$ would Rafa gief … ”, stirred up a storm on the internet recently. Ben Rotherberg of The Daily Forehand got the full scoop by asking Tipsarevic to comment on the situation. Tipsarevic stated that “it was a bad joke. We were really happy that we won Davis Cup. We were at dinner … I think it was a plastic gun … it was a bet and a stupid joke. At the time it seemed funny because the joke was about how dominant Novak is [on tour], that nothing can stop him this season. The next day, I took it off Facebook and Twitter. As I heard later, it was all over the internet, people were blaming me for thinking that ‘I hate Rafa.’ I called Novak and Rafa the next day. I spoke to them and they were fine about it. They told me to be careful because of social networking and [how] people can get things like this in a wrong way.” This is Serbian fatalism at its finest, ladies and gentleman. But all credit to Tipsarevic for realizing how grave of a situation it really was and commenting whole-heartedly on it.
Tipsarevic finished appropriately with: “I still blame myself. I think it was a bad, bad joke. You can make a bad story out of anything if you want to. I apologize to anyone that thinks it was offensive to anybody on tour.” To a non-native speaker, expressing sincerity may be tough, but the aura surrounding Tipsarevic’s response ensured all those present that he meant what he said. And remember too, that he had just lost a tough match to Monfils not even an hour before.
Hopefully, one day in the near future, these two young Serbians will be able to channel their energy into attaining the goals that their talents are capable of. Until then, we can struggle in their drama-filled journey with them.
Follow me on twitter as I cover the Legg Mason Tennis Classic all week! @TennisRomi
*There were fabulous scenes in Belgrade on Sunday as Serbia defeated France to lift their first Davis Cup title and none bettered that of the Serbian players shaving their heads on court after the final rubber. It was Viktor Troicki who sealed the dramatic victory and he described it as: “…the most unbelievable moment of my life. Seriously, I think we all did a great job this year. I would like to thank everyone, the whole team. We truly believed that we could do it, even though we were 2 1 down. I’m without the words. This is the most easiest [way] to explain. I’m without the words. No words can describe my feeling right now.” World No. 3 Novak Djokovic was adamant that what they had achieved would take a while to set in: “It’s historic. This is our biggest success as individuals, as a team, as a country. We are not even aware of what we have done. This is the best moment of my career and probably of my nation. This is like winning the World Cup for us.” He also added the beautiful sentiment that it was “a team effort that won the title.” Serbian coach Bogdan Obradovic added: “My players showed that they are mentally the strongest team in the world. We showed we are number one.” Serbia are the thirteenth nation to win the much-rejuvenated tournament.
*World No. 5 Robin Soderling has split with his coach Magnus Norman after two years working together. Norman, a former world No. 2, joined forces with the top-ranked Swede when he was ranked No. 35 in the world. A statement on Soderling’s official website stated that Norman wished to focus more on his personal life and other projects. “I’ve had the two best years of my career so far with Magnus as a coach,” said 26-year-old Soderling. Norman added: “I look back on a fun and fantastic 26-month-long period of time together with Robin.” The Swede has replaced Norman with Claudio Pistolesi.
*Aussie star Sam Stosur believes she can one day reach the pinnacle of the sport. The current world No. 6, who reached her first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros this year (losing to Francesca Schiavone), said: “I’d love to get to that spot and even though six seems pretty close, there is a long way to go before you could ever contemplate being No. 1. But I guess you’ve got to be able to put those little steps in place and be able to kick off those short-term goals to try to get there. I believe in myself and my tennis enough that maybe one day it is possible, but it’s not going to happen without doing a lot of things correctly for a long time. I’ve been in the Top 10 for nearly a year now and I think that’s a good first step.”
*The doubles team of Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi have been awarded the 2010 Grand Prix of Peace & Sports at the fourth International Forum Peace and Sport in Monaco. The pairing, whose slogan is “Stop War, Start Tennis,” have pleaded for the ending of hostilities between their native India and Pakistan. The citation of the award said, “Their commitment to promoting peace between the two countries and their conviction that peace was possible was shown amply during the year. In the US Open tournament they managed to bring together the ambassadors of India and Pakistan to support the same team.”
*Juan Martin del Potro will continue his comeback from injury at the Sydney International in January after accepting a wildcard in to the tournament.
*Former world No. 4 Jelena Dokic has received a wildcard in to Brisbane, the first tournament on the 2011 WTA calendar.
*The ATP have named their ‘Top 5 Newcomers’ for 2010. Tobias Kamke of Germany, Lithuania’s Richard Berankis, Dutchman Thiemo de Bakker, Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov and Mikhail Kukushkin of Russia are the lucky recipients.
*The WTA have announced their player of the year awards for 2010. Kim Clijsters was voted Player of the Year for the second time in her career while Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta were voted Doubles Team of the Year. Petra Kvitova won Newcomer of the Year and Franchesca Schiavone was instated as Most Improved Player. The full list of winners and the reasons behind the selections can be viewed at the WTA Website.
*World No. 1 Rafa Nadal has been nominated for the prestigious 2011 Laureus World Sportsmen of the Year Award. The Spaniard, who won the Newcomer Award in 2006, will face Formula One World Champion Sebastien Vettel, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and football stars Lionel Messi, Diego Forlan and Andres Iniesta, among others. Academy Member Boris Becker said: “I can’t wait to see who the Media Selection Panel will vote for, but I would be amazed if Rafael Nadal and Sebastian Vettel were not at the top the list.” The full thoughts of Becker can be seen at the ATP Website.
*Tennis legend Pete Sampras has had much of his career memorabilia stolen from a storage facility in West Los Angeles. His first Aussie Open title, 64 Tour trophies and prizes from a further 24 finals have been pinched, including two Davis Cups, five ATP World Finals trophies, eleven Masters titles and an Olympic Ring. “I was like, ‘What?’” Sampras said. “I thought there were security cameras. I thought these things were locked up tight. I was shocked. I’m not one to gloat about trophies, or show them off. I’ve never been like that. I just want them for my kids to see. They didn’t see me play, but I’d like them to see these things.” The full story can be read at Kentucky.com.
Ana Ivanovic continues her free fall by losing in the first round of the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart. But saying that would mean not giving credit to a well deserved victory for Agnieszka Radwanska.
In another first-round match, fifth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland defeated former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic of Serbia 7-6 (4), 6-4.
Radwanska led 4-1 before Ivanovic pulled even to force the tiebreaker. But the less error-prone Radwanska won it and also took the second set. Ivanovic has dropped to No. 57 in less than two years since winning the French Open.
Photos by our photographer Ralf Reinecke.
Women’s singles: Kim Clijsters beat Caroline Wozniacki 7-5 6-3
Men’s doubles: Leander Paes and Lukas Dlouhy beat Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles 3-6 6-3 6-2
Women’s doubles: Serena Williams and Venus Williams beat Cara Black and Liezel Huber 6-2 6-2
Mixed doubles: Carly Gullickson and Travis Parrott beat Cara Black and Leander Paes 6-2 6-4
Boys’ singles: Bernard Tomic beat Chase Buchanan 6-1 6-3
Girls’ singles: Heather Watson beat Yana Buchina 6-4 6-1
Boys’ doubles: Cheng Peng Hsieh and Marton Fucsovics beat Julien Obry and Adrien Puget 7-6 (5) 5-7 10-1 (match tiebreak)
Girls’ doubles: Valeria Solovieva and Maryna Zanevska beat Elena Bogdan and Noppawan Lertcheewakarn 1-6 6-3 10-7 (match tiebreak)
Men’s wheelchair singles: Shingo Kunieda beat Maikel Scheffers 6-0 6-0
Men’s wheelchair doubles: Stephane Houdet and Stefan Olsson beat Maikel Scheffers and Ronald Vink 6-4 4-6 6-4
Women’s wheelchair singles: Esther Vergeer beat Korie Homan 6-0 6-0
Women’s wheelchair doubles: Esther Vergeer and Korie Homan beat Daniela DiToro and Florence Gravellier 6-2 6-2
Alberto Martin beat Carlos Berlocq 6-3 6-3 to win the AON Open Challenger in Genoa, Italy
“When I would have a dream, it was to win the US Open, and the other one is to be like Roger. One is done.” – Juan Martin del Potro, after beating Roger Federer and winning the US Open men’s singles.
“Five was great, four was great, too. Six would have been a dream, too. Can’t have them all. I’ve had an amazing summer and a great run. I’m not too disappointed just because I thought I played another wonderful tournament.” – Roger Federer, after losing the US Open men’s singles final to Juan Martin del Potro.
“I can’t believe this happened. Because it still seems so surreal that in my third tournament back I won my second Grand Slam. Because it wasn’t in the plan. I just wanted to come here and get a feel for it all over again, play a Grand Slam so to start the next year I didn’t have to go through all the new experiences over.” – Kim Clijsters, who won her second straight US Open women’s title four years after her first title.
“I think that I’ll learn that it pays to always play your best and always be your best and always act your best no matter what. And I think that I’m young and I feel like in life everyone has to have experience that they take and that they learn from, and I think that’s great that I have an opportunity to still b e physically fit to go several more years and learn from the past.” – Serena Williams, after losing her semifinal to Kim Clijsters after receiving a point penalty on match point.
“I cannot really tell that I was playing bad. She was playing good.” – Kateryna Bondarenko, after losing to Yanina Wickmayer.
“Today, I could’ve been better in pretty much every part of my game, whether it was mental, forehand, backhand, return.” – Andy Murray, after losing his fourth-round match to Marin Cilic.
“I lost it myself because I made so many unforced errors. So many unforced errors, you can’t win against anybody. No chance.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, after committing 69 unforced errors in her three-set loss to Caroline Wozniacki.
“I was thinking, every point, do the same, try to put the ball in the court. When you fight that way to the final point, you have many chances, and that’s what happened today.” – Juan Martin del Potro, after his quarterfinal win.
“I think the biggest weapon can be mental toughness. It doesn’t have to be a stroke or a shot or anything like that. If you’re mentally tough out there, then you can beat anyone.” – Melanie Oudin, after beating Maria Sharapova to advance to the fourth round.
STARTING NEW ERA
By winning the US Open, Juan Martin del Potro became only the third player to beat both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the same tournament. He also became the first player this year to defeat the world’s top three players, having also beat Andy Murray in Madrid, Spain. Del Potro is the first South American to be in the US Open final since fellow Argentine Guillermo Vilas won in 1977, and the first South African to be in a Grand Slam final since Fernando Gonzalez of Chile lost to Federer in the 2007 Australian Open.
SO SWEET, SO WRONG
After he ran onto the court to kiss Rafael Nadal, a New York City man, Noam U. Aorta, was arrested and charged with trespassing. Aorta jumped out of the stands after Nadal beat Gael Monfils in a fourth-round match. “For me it wasn’t a problem. The guy was really nice,” Nadal said. “He said, ‘I love you,’ and he kissed me.” District Attorney Richard Brown called it “particularly disturbing” since Aorta made physical contact with Nadal, noting that Monica Seles was stabbed in 1993 by a spectator who jumped out of the stands in Hamburg, Germany.
SAFINA STILL ON TOP
Serena Williams lost the chance to move back into the number one spot on the women’s tennis tour. The American could have replaced Dinara Safina on the top of the rankings if she had successfully defended her US Open title. Instead, she lost to eventual champion Kim Clijsters in the semifinals and, consequently, will remain in the number two spot.
The US Open was the third tournament back for US Open champion Kim Clijsters since she ended her two-year retirement. And you need to play three tournaments to get a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour ranking. In this week’s rankings, Clijsters is number 19 in the world.
The world’s top doubles team, Cara Black and Liezel Huber, are the first to qualify for the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships, which will be held October 27-November 1 in Doha, Qatar. It will be the third trip the final Championships for Black and Huber, having clinched the title in the last two years. The top four doubles teams will compete for the title. Two players have already qualified for the eight-player singles competition, Dinara Safina and Serena Williams.
STANDING FOR ELECTION
Doubles players will get a chance to shine in the 2010 International Tennis Hall of Fame ITHF) balloting. The ITHF announced the names of the 12 nominees for possible induction into the Newport, Rhode Island, shrine next year, including Beatrizs “Gigi” Fernandez, Natasha Zvereva, Todd Woodbridge, Mark Woodforde and Anders Jarryd. On the ballot in the Master Player category are Owen Davidson, Peter Fleming and Bob Lutz, while the Contributor category has four nominees: wheelchair tennis pioneer Brad Parks, coach Nick Bollettieri, Lawn Tennis Association chairman Derek Hardwick and Japan’s Eichi Kawatei. Voting for the 2010 ballot will take place over the next several months with an announcement of the induction class scheduled for January. The Class of 2010 induction ceremony will be held July 10 at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport.
Ai Sugiyama is ready to say sayonara. The Japanese veteran says she will probably retire at the end of this year, concluding her 17-year career. She once was ranked as high as number eight in the world. “I am normally the type that can picture what the near future holds, but to be honest at this moment in time, I can’t see myself competing next season,” Sugiyama told Kyodo news. She won six WTA Tour singles titles and doubles championships at the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. She lost in the Australian Open final this year.
When Kim Clijsters won the US Open, she became the first mother to win a Grand Slam tournament singles title since Australian Evonne Goolagong Cawley captured Wimbledon in 1980. But Clijsters wasn’t the only mother competing at America’s premier tennis event. Sybille Bammer of Austria lost in the first round to Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, while Rossana de los Rios of Paraguay fell to 14th-seeded Marion Bartoli in her first-round match. After the birth of her baby, Bammer climbed as high as number 19 in the world and won at Prague, Czech Republic, earlier this year. De los Rios has won six ITF singles titles since giving birth to her daughter in 1997.
Sloane Stephens was looking forward to the US Open junior girls tournament, where she was seeded fourth. But just before junior play got underway, Stephens’ father, former NFL running back John Stephens, died in a car accident. The 16-year-old from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, took a day off to fly to her father’s funeral in Louisiana, then returned to win her second-round match. But she lost her next outing to Jana Cepelova of Slovakia 4-6 6-1 6-0. “I was trying to focus and do things I should have done, but mentally I wasn’t there,” she said. The youngster had reconnected with her father three years ago and she had met him only a handful of times, but the two had developed a relationship over the telephone.
Venus and Serena Williams won their 10th Grand Slam tournament women’s doubles title, beating the top-seeded team of Cara Black and Liezel Huber. The sisters have never lost in a Grand Slam tournament once they’ve reached the final. “Hopefully that’s a record that won’t end yet,” Serena said. It is their first US Open doubles crown since 1999, and the sisters are now halfway to the record set by Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver.
As far as fans were concerned, Melanie Oudin didn’t outstay her welcome at the US Open. That’s not true about her New York City hotel room. The 17-year-old from Marietta, Georgia, was one of the biggest surprises of this year’s final Grand Slam event, reaching the quarterfinals before being eliminated. But she outstayed her hotel reservation at the Marriott in Manhattan, according to SportsBusiness Journal. Her management company quickly got her a room at the Intercontinental Hotel. Oudin, who was not seeded, was not expected to play in the second week of the US Open. So the room she shared with her mother was apparently reserved for someone else. “Obviously we will not be sending any of our players back to that hotel (the Marriott),” Oudin’s agent, BEST Tennis president John Tobias, told the Journal.
He won the first US Open in 1968 and the main stadium at America’s premier tennis tournament is named for him. But it wasn’t until this year that Arthur Ashe was inducted into the US Open Court of Champions, which honors the greatest singles champions in the history of the 128 years of the US Championships/US Open. Ashe joined prior inductees Don Budge, Maureen Connolly, Jimmy Connors, Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Althea Gibson, Steffi Graf, Billie Jean King, Jack Kramer, Rod Laver, Ivan Lendl, Molla Bjurstedt Mallory, John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, Pete Sampras, Bill Tilden and Helen Wills. An international panel of journalists selects the inductees annually. Former President Bill Clinton participated in Ashe’s induction ceremonies.
SET FOR DOHA
US Open runner-up Caroline Wozniacki and Elena Dementieva are the latest to qualify for the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships, which will be held October 27-November 1 in Doha, Qatar. The world’s top eight singles players and top four doubles teams will compete for the Sony Ericsson Championships title and a share of the record Championships prize money of USD $4.45 million.
STAYING IN TOUCH
Fans attending the US Open sent a record number of emails and text, picture and video messages from in and around Arthur Ashe Stadium the first week of the tournament. “US Open fans are letting their fingers do the talking this year as increasing numbers of Verizon Wireless customers use Smartphones and PDAs to stay in touch with their homes and offices,” said Michele White, executive director-network for company’s New York Metro Region. “The number of data connections established by Verizon Wireless customers in and around the tennis center during the busiest hours of the event last week was 80 percent higher than last year while voice traffic was down.”
Despite the gloomy global economy, the women’s tennis circuit is doing just fine, thank you. Stacey Allaster, CEO of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, said they have lost just one title sponsor in 2009 and have added two new tournaments in 2010. “The bottom line is we want to be a credible product, consistently delivering to fans and sponsors, and in 2009 our athletes have done that,” Allaster said. Of the tour’s 51 title sponsors, only one has dropped out, and that is “an incredible success story for women’s tennis,” she said. Tournaments have been added in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia, while the Los Angeles event has moved to San Diego.
Three teenagers have been convicted in Malmo, Sweden, for rioting outside a Davis Cup tie between Israel and Sweden in March. The three Swedish males, aged 17 to 19, were sentenced to community service for juveniles. Two of them were also ordered to pay USD $19,020 for sabotaging a police vehicle. The three were among 10 people arrested after protesting Israel’s offensive in Gaza. The court had previously sentenced two others to 9 and 15 months in prison. No spectators were allowed to watch the matches after Malmo officials said they could not guarantee security. The International Tennis Association (ITF) fined the Swedish tennis federation USD $5,000 for that decision and banned Malmo from staging Davis Cup matches for five years.
SAY IT AIN’T SO
A media report that he and his wife are living in fear amid crime and poverty in the Bahamas has brought an angry response from Lleyton Hewitt. The 2001 US Open champion told a newspaper that the report in an Australian magazine was “absolute rubbish.” Hewitt said he and his family have had “fantastic experiences” in the nine months they have lived in a gated community on New Providence island. “For us it’s a fantastic place to raise a young family.”
SAYS YOU, SAYS ME
You knew it had to happen. Novak Djokovic and John McEnroe took turns imitating each other during an impromptu US Open moment. Following his victory over Radek Stepanek, Djokovic called McEnroe down from his television booth, then mimicked the mannerisms and serving style of the four-time US Open champion. He tossed his racquet onto the court and screamed at an imaginary umpire. Once McEnroe arrived on court, he unbuttoned his white shirt, rolled up his sleeves and, using a borrowed racquet, bounced the ball repeatedly, imitating Djokovic’s pre-serve habits. Two years ago, Djokovic delighted the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd by impersonating Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova, among others. “What I’ve done in 2007 with those impersonations and tonight playing with Johnny Mac, I think that’s what the crowd wants, especially in these hours,” Djokovic said. “I think these night matches are very special.”
Her exciting run to US Open quarterfinals kept Melanie Oudin in New York City doing what she wants to do. She doesn’t do the ordinary high school things, like going to the junior prom or homecoming, or even hanging out with friends at the mall. “She doesn’t do any of that kind of stuff, and she’s OK with it,” said Katherine Oudin, Melanie’s mother. “I know she misses the normal life a little, but she does not regret it at all. Zero. She’s totally OK with it because she knows this is what she’s wanted her entire life.”
SOCKING IT AWAY
Each of the singles champions here at the US Open will take home USD $1.6 million, a nice tidy sum in any language. Going into the year’s final Grand Slam tournament, Roger Federer has earned USD $36 million over the past 12 months. His three Grand Slam wins – 2008 US Open, French Open and Wimbledon – and other tournament play netted him USD $8 million. And when he won his first-round match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center this year, he became the first player to surpass USD $50 million in career earnings on the court. The 28-year-old Federer has 10-year endorsement deals with Nike, Rolex, Wilson and Swiss coffee machine maker Jura. His Nike contract extension that he signed in 2008 is worth more than USD $10 million annually. Maria Sharapova is close to Federer in off-court earnings. The Russian earned USD $22.5 million over the past year despite missing most of the season with a shoulder injury.
The US Tennis Association (USTA) has been sued by a New York City documentary filmmaker who claims the ruling tennis body discriminates against wheelchair players by refusing to sell broadcast licensing rights to their matches. Brooklyn, New York, filmmaker Alan Rich is a lawyer who is representing himself and seven handicapped players. He has been filming a documentary about the players called “Fire in the Belly.” Rich contends that because the major networks covering the tournament – CBS, ESPN and Tennis Channel – do not cover wheelchair events, he should be given the rights. USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said his organization limits filming of matches to the three television companies that have contracts with them. He said that two years ago, Tennis Channel aired the wheelchair finals competition live and produced a half-hour highlights show of the tournament.
Jeremy Chardy will play Davis Cup for France against the Netherlands. Chardy replaces Gilles Simon, who has a knee injury. France plays the Netherlands for a spot in next year’s World Group. The French team also includes Gael Monfils, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and doubles specialist Michael Llordra. Chardy originally had been selected as an alternative. That role now goes to Julien Benneteau.
Sixteen writers were honored at the US Open by the US Tennis Writers Association in the 10th annual USTWA Writing Contest. William Weinbaum and John Barr of ESPN.com won first place in Hard News/Enterprise for their story about the controversial match between Nikolay Davydenko and Martin Vassallo Arguello. Other first-place winners were: Bruce Jenkins, San Francisco Chronicle, Column/Commentary; Cindy Shmerler, TENNIS Magazine, Feature Story (Pro); Stephen Tignor, TENNIS Magazine, Feature Story (Non-Pro); Filip Bondy, New York Daily News, Game Story (Pro); and Paul Fein, TennisOne.com, Service Story.
The USTWA announced the election of its board of directors at its annual meeting at the US Open: Cindy Cantrell, Tennis Life; Paul Fein, freelance writer; Ann LoPrinzi, The Times of Trenton (New Jersey); Richard Kent, freelance writer; Jim Martz, Florida Tennis; and Art Spander, The (San Francisco) Examiner. Fein, Kent and Spander are new to the board. The officers will be determined by the board.
Genoa: Daniele Bracciali and Alessandro Motti beat Amir Hadad and Harel Levy 6-4 6-2
SITES TO SURF
Davis Cup: www.DavisCup.com
Saint Malo: www.opengdfsuez-bretagne.com
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$150,000 Pekao Open, Szczecin, Poland, clay
$220,000 Bell Challenge, Quebec City, Canada, hard
$220,000 Guangzhou International Women’s Open, Guangzhou, China, hard
World Group Semifinals
Croatia vs. Czech Republic at Porec, Croatia
Spain vs. Israel at Murcia, Spain
World Group Playoffs
Chile vs. Austria at Rancagua, Chile; Belgium vs. Ukraine at Charleroi, Belgium; Brazil vs. Ecuador at Porto Alegre, Brazil; Netherlands vs. France at Maastricht, Netherlands; South Africa vs. India at Johannesburg, South Africa; Serbia vs. Uzbekistan at Belgrade, Serbia; Sweden vs. Romania at Helsingborg, Sweden; Italy vs. Switzerland at Genova, Italy
Group I Playoff: Peru vs. Uruguay at Lima, Peru
Group II Final: Dominican Republic vs. Venezuela at Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Group I Playoff: China vs. Thailand at Jiaxing, China
Group II 3rd Round: Philippines vs. New Zealand at Manila, Philippines
Group I Playoffs: Slovak Republic vs. FYR Macedonia at Bratislava, Slovak Republic; Great Britain vs. Poland at Liverpool, Great Britain
Group II 3rd Round: Latvia vs. Slovenia at Jurmala, Latvia; Finland vs. Cyprus at Salo, Finland
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$650,000 BCR Open Romania, Bucharest, Romana, clay
$650,000 Open de Moselle, Metz, France, hard
$220,000 Hansol Korea Open, Seoul, Korea, hard
$220,000 Tashkent Open, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, hard
$100,000 Open GDF Suez de Bretagne, Saint Malo, France, clay
Trophee Jean-Luc Lagardere, Paris, France, clay
So for you Ana Ivanovic fanboys and girls; I have some bad news! Yes I cried in the corner too when I came home late at night and turned on my computer and found that Ana Ivanovic was dating somebody new! OMG NO!!!!
There goes the love of my life wandering in NYC with SOMEBODY ELSE. But I still got one card up my sleeve. I got dozens of Ana Ivanovic stamps. Freshly imported from Serbia. And noone can take that away from me! Booya!
And I have one thing to say about the one thing they have in common: They both like to play with balls.
The lucky guy is Adam Scott. A promising young golfer.
And it’s not just Ana Ivanovic who’s dating somebody new, no it’s Elena Vesnina as well. And who is the guy she is dating? Well it’s none other than Anastasia Myskina’s ex -boyfriend Konstantin Andreev. A professional icehockey player. And long live the internet for allowing us to view videos and photos of a relationship that’s supposed to be private. Long live voyeurism and long live my 90 mbps internet connection for making the stream go as fast as lightening.
Here is the video graciously taken from the Russian Life magazine (if you cant view the video on our site then click here):
From the USTA announcing that Arthur Ashe will be inducted into the US Open Court of Champions to Midland, Mich., being named the “Best Tennis Town” in America to WTA CEO and Chairman Stacey Allaster issuing an apology to world No. 1 Dinara Safina for the late notice on moving her match at the US Open, these stories caught the attention of tennis fans and insiders this week.
The USTA announced on Monday that Arthur Ashe, the first African American men’s singles champion at the US Open and the famed ambassador to tennis, will be inducted on Thursday into the 2009 US Open Court of Champions at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York. Former President Bill Clinton will participate in a ceremony to commemorate the tennis legend. “Arthur Ashe is one of the greatest champions to ever compete at the US Open and we are proud to honor his remarkable legacy,” said Lucy Garvin, Chairman of the Board and President of the USTA. “Arthur was a great humanitarian and his legacy and his performance helped the tournament become one of the world’s premier sporting events.”
The USTA has named the city of Midland, Mich., the “Best Tennis Town” in America after nationwide voting. Midland earned a $100,000 grant to be used towards community-wide tennis programming and/or facility enhancements. Second place Ojai, Calif., earned $50,000, while Independence, Kan., earned $25,000 for finishing in third place.
On Monday, Sony Ericsson WTA Tour CEO and Chairman Stacey Allaster said the USTA has issued an apology to world No. 1 Dinara Safina for the late notice on moving her third round match against Petra Kvitova from Arthur Ashe Stadium to Louis Armstrong Stadium due to the day session being extended because of the Andy Roddick vs. John Isner five-set match. “It was really the process,” Allaster said. “[The USTA] should have notified Dinara, our players, much earlier in the process of what was going to happen. They’ve apologized for that.”
Also on Monday, Allaster announced that the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour tournament in Dubai will be canceled in 2010 if the country doesn’t grant a visa to Israeli Shahar Peer, who was not allowed to participate in the tournament this year because her visa was denied because she is from Israel.
Lastly, Allaster said Sony Ericsson WTA Tour lost only one of its 51 title sponsors in 2009. The Tour also cut back on its player withdrawals by 36 percent this year, which was a major past problem.
The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour announced last week that the Premier-level Los Angeles Open in Carson, Calif., will be moved in 2010 to the La Costa Resort & Spa and will be renamed the San Diego Open. The Malaysia Classic in Kuala Lumpur and e-Boks Danish Open in Copenhagen will also be added to next year’s tournament schedule.
Lleyton Hewitt has hired former Australian doubles specialist Nathan Healey as his full-time coach. Hewitt’s previous coach, Tony Roche, left his coaching duties to take a position at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy in Paris.
The 29th Annual Legends Ball will take place on September 11 at the Cipriani in New York City. Racquets signed by Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova , a hitting session with Jim Courier and VIP ticket packages to three of the Grand Slam tournaments will be some of the items auctioned off to benefit the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
World Team Tennis has named Bill Mountford as Senior Vice President. Mountford, who started at WTT in November 2008, will oversee staff in marketing, communications, pro league and recreational league and will be based in New York City. Before joining WTT, Mountford held positions at the Lawn Tennis Association in Great Britain and the USTA as the Director of Tennis at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
Last Saturday evening at the US Open, the USTA paid tribute to tennis legend Pancho Gonzalez during a ceremony to celebrate the 60 year anniversary of his second consecutive victory at the U.S Championships. “The USTA is proud to celebrate the life and legacy of such a great champion as Pancho Gonzalez,” said Lucy Garvin, the USTA President and Chairman of the Board. “Pancho was a true pioneer in the sport of tennis and this tribute will shed light on the importance of Pancho Gonzalez to the game and its history.”
The USTA announced that they have extended its contract with DecoTurf through December 2014. DecoTurf has been the official surface of the US Open for the last 31 years. “We are thrilled to extend our contract with DecoTurf for six years,” said Jim Curley, Chief Professional Tournaments Officer of the USTA. “The US Open and DecoTurf are a natural partnership, providing the most recognized tennis court surface at one of the world’s most prestigious tennis tournaments.”
Alan Schwartz, former USTA President and CEO, was inducted into the Tennis Industry Hall of Fame. Schwartz is the creator of the National Tennis Rating Program (NTRP).
17-year-old rising American player Jordan Cox, who will soon turn pro, has agreed to a three-year international contract with Babolat to use its racquet and strings. The contract is set to begin in January 2010.
Many of the top tennis professionals were seen wearing Oakley sunglasses during their matches at the 2009 US Open. Croatian Ivo Karlovic and Serbian Janko Tipseravic were among the men wearing Oakley sunglasses throughout the US Open, while world No. 15 Samantha Stosur, Elena Baltacha, Rossana de Los Rios, Anastasia Rodionova and Yaroslava Shvedova were the women spotted wearing Oakley’s.
World No. 36 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has dropped Patrick Mouratoglou as her coach.
Austrian player Tamira Paszek will not be punished by accidently breaking an anti-doping rule when receiving back treatment during a tournament earlier this year. The Austrian anti-doping agency said she is free to compete on the Sony Ericsson Tour once she is fit enough to play since she was not to blame because of the incident.
Italian Simone Bolelli, who was suspended 10-months by the Italian Tennis Federation for skipping a tie against Latvia, will return to play for the Italy Davis Cup team in the World Group playoff against Switzerland on September 18-20.