The time has come! While Andrea has done a great job breaking down the World Group match-ups, I thought I’d spell out for you the specific reasons why you should set your alarm for 5AM, skip work, cancel all of your social plans, and dedicate your entire Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to the wonder that is Davis Cup.
10. The Newcomers
It’s been 8 years since Canada has been in the World Group. For Japan it’s been 27. In both cases the newcomers, led by youngsters Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori respectively, will be looking to prove that they belong with the big guns. Both teams have uphill battles- Japan hosts Croatia and Canada hosts France, but there’s nothing quite as exciting as fresh blood.
In a giant reversal of storylines, Federer is the only one of the “Big 4″ playing in Davis Cup this weekend. To top it off, he’s playing in Switzerland, against a depleted but still fun-to-beat American squad, and with good buddy Stanislas Wawrinka by his side. Love him or not, it will be fun to see the Legend soak in the well-deserved adoration and play in a team atmosphere on his home turf.
8. Russian Roulette
The Russian Davis Cup Team has undergone a bit of a makeover. Alex Bogomolov, Jr. is not only making his Russian debut, but he’s the team’s #1 player. Dmitry Tursnov and Igor Andreev, team mainstays, are absent while the struggling Nikolay Davydenko and the wildcard Igor Kunitsyn take their place. Mikhail Youzhny is coming off singles and doubles victories in Zagreb, but has been complaining to the press about an injured shoulder. All in all, there’s absolutely no telling what to expect from Team Russia as they travel to Jurgen Melzer’s Austria this weekend, and as always- that’s part of the fun.
7. Veterans Day
Some players have proven time and time again that they adapt to the Davis Cup atmosphere better than others. Whether it’s Melzer leading his Austrian team, Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek becoming mental giants for the Czech Republic, or David Nalbandian discovering the game (and legs) of his youth, there’s nothing quite as exhilarating as seeing the veteran guys play their hearts out for their country.
6. The Battle of the Misfits
One of the ties I’m most looking forward to is Spain/Kazakhstan. The Spanish Davis Cup stalwarts (Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Feliciano Lopez, and Fernando Verdasco) who have dominated the team competition for the past few years are sitting out this year, paving the way for their less heralded countrymen (Nicolas Almagro, Marcel Granollers, Legend and Former #1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, and Marc Lopez). Meanwhile Kazakhstan’s team is full of former Russians (Mikhail Kukushkin, Andrey Golubev, Yuri Schukin, and Evgeny Korolev) who migrated over to the neighboring country for a chance to shine. It will be fun to see all of these former “back-ups” take the stage and fight for Davis Cup glory.
5. Tommy Haas
Do I really need to explain this one? The often injured but forever adored German (when he’s not American) is back in Davis Cup action for the first time in five years! How lucky are we? Let’s just sit back and enjoy.
4. The Other Groups
Believe it or not, the World Group Playoffs aren’t the only Davis Cup action happening this weekend. There are some pretty crucial ties happening in “Group I” and “Group II” (don’t you dare ask me to explain what that means). Teams in action that you might be interested in are: Ukraine (Sergiy Stakhovsky! Sergei Bubka- yes, Vika’s boyfriend!) vs. Monaco, Uzbekistan (Denis Istomin- am I the only one interested in him?) vs. New Zealand, Australia (Hewitt! Tomic! You know them!) vs. China, P.R., Great Britain (Murray-less) vs. Slovak Republic (starring recent ATP Zagreb finalist Lukas Lacko). You’d be amiss if you didn’t scavenge for some (surely static) streams for the lesser-known teams this weekend too.
3. The New Heroes
Every year Davis Cup weekend, especially the first round, breeds unheralded heroes. Something about the five-set format, the team unity, and the pressure/invigoration of playing for one’s country brings out the best in some unsuspecting players. Who will it be this weekend? Could Milos lead the Canadians past the accomplished French team? Could the upstart Japanese make Davis Cup history against Croatia? Could the Swedish team find a miracle and cause the Serbian team to sweat? As cliche as it sounds, expect a new Davis Cup legend to be born.
2. Double Trouble
Davis Cup is the time for Doubles to shine, and this weekend is no different. This weekend we have spectacular Doubles storylines: the reunions of fan favorites Fedrinka (Federer and Wawrinka) and Bendra (Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra), the eternal mystery of who the other Bryan Brother will be (Bob Bryan is home playing father duty, so either Mardy Fish, John Isner, or Ryan Harrison will take his place alongside Mike Bryan in Switzerland), and the always delightful Davis Cup return of BerdWorm (Berdych and Stepanek). Whether you’re a fan of doubles, awkwardness, hysteria, or just misplaced volleys, Saturday will be a special day for you.
1. The Cheerleaders
Let’s be honest- Davis Cup really isn’t about the tennis. It’s about seeing the bromance on the benches as the fellow team members watch and frazzle along with us. Nothing is as great as seeing a good cheerleader- whether it be Roger Federer on his feet urging on Stanislas Wawrinka, Juan Carlos Ferrero fist-pumping a Nicolas Almagro winner, or John Isner and Ryan Harrison embracing when Mardy Fish gets to set point, there is no better reason to watch Davis Cup than to inspect the camaraderie on the benches.
Juan Martin del Potro won the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart, Germany, by defeating Richard Gasquet 6-4 7-5
Victor Hanescu beat Igor Andreev 6-3 6-4 to capture the Allianz Suisse Open in Gstaad, Switzerland
Tommy Robredo won his second Catella Swedish Open title by beating Tomas Berdych 6-4 6-1 in Bastad, Sweden
Fabrice Santoro won the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island, defeating Prakash Amritraj 6-3 7-5
Jesse Huta Galung beat Diego Hartfield 6-3 6-4 to win the Siemens Open in Scheveningen, Netherlands
Mariano Puerta defeated Ricardo Hocevar 7-6 (2) 7-5 to win the Seguros Bolivar Open in Bogota, Colombia
Alize Cornet won the Gaz de France Grand Prix in Budapest, Hungary, by beating Andreja Klepac 7-6 (5) 6-3
Sara Errani beat Mariya Koryttseva 6-2 6-3 to win the Internazionali Femminili di Tennis di Palermo in Palermo, Italy
“This win is more important than the first one. In 2006 I played the best tennis of my life. I was in better shape. This year I did not play very good in the beginning of the year. This gives me confidence again.” – Tommy Robredo, after winning the Swedish Open for the second time in three years.
“This is incredible. I’ve dreamed of winning a tournament since I’ve been a kid, and now I also get a car.” – Juan Martin del Potro, who received a check and a new white convertible Mercedes for winning the Mercedes Cup.
“I congratulate Juan Martin, but he’d better be careful. It’s a fast car.” – Richard Gasquet, who lost in the Mercedes Cup final.
“When you start a career at 16 years old, never, ever can you imagine you’ll win a tournament 20 years later.” – Fabrice Santoro, who at age 35 won the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships.
“Yes, I won the Wimbledon title, but it’s not such a big success for me as it’s only a junior title after all. I’ll be really satisfied when I win a men’s tournament of such magnitude.” – Grigor Dimitrov, who became Bulgaria’s first Wimbledon champion when he won the boys’ singles.
“Obviously I was happy for her. I wouldn’t want her to lose any other time – unless she lost against me.” – Serena Williams, talking about her sister Venus, who won her fifth Wimbledon title by beating Serena in the final.
“It is with a lot of sadness that I take this decision because playing for my country (in) my last Olympic Games meant a lot to me.” – Amelie Mauresmo, who decided to skip the Beijing Olympics when she was selected to play doubles only.
“I’m so happy. This is like a dream come true.” – Victor Hanescu, after winning his first ATP title in Gstaad, Switzerland
“I am obviously very happy to have won the title here in Bastad once again. … I am not even going to say that I will be back next year because everyone knows that I will.” – Tommy Robredo, after winning the Catella Swedish Open for the second time in three years.
“The standing ovation after the match was fantastic. I had to swallow hard a few times. I’m usually a very emotional person and I was very moved. I even forgot to do my signature Brussels step.” – Jonas Bjorkman, who won the Swedish Open doubles in his final trip to Bastad before he retires.
“When you’re 17 years old and you’re playing Grand Slam tournaments, you’re not thinking, `If I win this, I’ll be the youngest Grand Slam champion ever.’ … I don’t think it really sunk in until probably a couple of months after it took place.” – Michael Chang, about his winning the French Open in 1989.
Victor Hanescu won his first career ATP title and became the first Romanian since Ilie Nastase in 1973 to capture the Allianz Suisse Open in Gstaad, Switzerland, when he beat seventh-seeded Igor Andreev 6-3, 6-4. In the second round, Hanescu saved three match points in the third-set tiebreak, edging Ivo Karlovic 6-7 (4) 7-6 (3) 7-6 (11), then upset world No. 10 Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland in the semifinals. Prior to the Gstaad tournament, the 26-year-old Hanescu had not won consecutive ATP matches since he reached the final at Bucharest, Romania, last September. Hanescu is the first ATP tournament winner from Romania since Andrei Pavel won in Montreal, Canada, in 2001.
SERVE, SET AND MATCH
Sara Errani had to wait for the umpire before she won her first WTA Tour singles title. At match point, Errani’s serve was called long. But the umpire got out of the chair, checked the mark and ruled Errani had served an ace, giving her a 6-2 6-3 victory over Mariya Koryttseva at Palermo, Italy. Errani, who had never been to a tour final of any kind before this week, became the first Italian to win the singles crown in Palermo. She then won the doubles title, teaming with Nuria Llagostera Vives.
Michael Chang, one of only three American men to win the French Open singles in the Open Era, was one of the three latest inductees into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island. Chang became the youngest player to win a Grand Slam men’s title when he upset top-seeded Ivan Lendl in the fourth round, then eclipsed third-seeded Stefan Edberg in the final in 1989. His victory snapped a 34-year drought by American men on the Roland Garros clay. Also inducted into the Hall as contributors were Gene Scott, founder and publisher of Tennis Week magazine as well as a top player, promoter and tournament director, and Mark McCormick, a sports executive who was founder and CEO of International Management Group (IMG). Established in 1954, the International Tennis Hall of Fame now has 207 inductees.
When Fabrice Santoro successfully defending his Hall of Fame Tennis Championships title, he moved into elite company, becoming only the second player since 1990 to win an ATP event after his 35th birthday. Santoro became the oldest player to win the grass court tournament in Newport, Rhode Island, and joined Andre Agassi as champions after reaching the age of 35. With his sixth career title, Santoro won his 451st match, fourth among active players behind Roger Federer, Carlos Moya and Lleyton Hewitt.
SWEDE AND STEADY
Making his final appearance at Bastad, Jonas Bjorkman teamed with Robin Soderling of Sweden to win his seventh Swedish Open doubles title. Bjorkman, who announced his intention to retire at the end of this year, previously won the doubles at Bastad in 1994, 1995, 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006, teaming with Todd Woodbridge of Australia, Mahesh Bhupathi of India and fellow Swedes Jan Apell, Joachim Johansson and Thomas Johansson. Bjorkman has a remarkable 33-3 record at Bastad. It was the first doubles final for the 23-year-old Soderling.
OK, it’s not a star, but a recently discovered asteroid has been named after Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal, according to the EFE news agency. Previously known as 128036, the Rafael Nadal asteroid is four kilometers in diameter and is located between Mars and Jupiter. The Astronomical Observatory of Majorca discovered the planetoid in 2003. The decision to name the asteroid after Nadal, a native of the Majorcan town of Manacor, was taken by the International Astronomical Union in response to a request by the Spanish observatory, which said its goal is to pay tribute “to one of the greatest tennis players of all time.”
By upsetting third-seeded Novak Djokovic and eventually reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon, Marat Safin became the 20th player in the Open Era to reach the semis or better at all four Grand Slam tournaments in his career. The other active men to achieve the feat are Djokovic, Roger Federer and David Nalbandian.
Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal pulled out OF the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart, Germany, and said he won’t play again until he no longer has pain above his right knee. “My doctor said I need a few days off. I will have a checkup and treatment and won’t return to the court until I am 100 percent,” Nadal said. “The calendar is hard on us players. I have played four, five months without a break. I have to recover.”
SITTING ON TOP
Canada’s Daniel Nestor is ranked number one in the world in doubles for the fifth time in his career. His latest move to the top of the rankings came after he teamed with Nenad Zimonjic to win the Wimbledon doubles, their third title of the year. Nestor surpassed American twins Bob and Mike Bryan, who had led the rankings since April 16, 2007.
Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are the first three players to clinch spots in the year-ending Tennis Masters Cup, which will be played in Shanghai, China. The elite eight-player tournament will be held for the fourth year at Qi Zhong Stadium from November 9-16. The first two doubles places in Shanghai were seized by Wimbledon champions Daniel Nestor of Canada and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia, along with American twins Bob and Mike Bryan. Federer will be playing in his seventh consecutive Tennis Masters Cup. He has reached the final the past five years, winning consecutive titles in 2003-04 and again in 2006-07. This is the sixth straight year that Nestor has qualified for the season finale, winning it last year with long-time partner Mark Knowles.
The men’s and women’s champions at the U.S. Open this year will each take home USD $1.5 million as the year’s final Grand Slam tournament increases its total prize money to a record USD $20.6 million. The overall payout is USD $1 million more than in 2007, matching the largest single-year jump in the hard-court tournament’s history. Adding in the bonuses available to the leading finishers in the summer circuit U.S. Open Series, the overall prize money could eventually be more than USD $23 million. If a player wins both the summer series and the U.S. Open, as Roger Federer did last year, they would earn USD $2.5 million. A year ago Federer took home the largest paycheck in tennis history, USD $2.4 million.
Mardy Fish tried out another sport while playing at the Hall of Fame tournament in Newport, Rhode Island. A self-described big Minnesota Twins baseball fan, Fish threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Boston’s Fenway Park before the Red Sox played host to the Twins. The two sporting events were only about 90 miles apart.
Three days after she lost the Wimbledon singles final to her sister, Serena Williams was back on court, this time playing for the Washington Kastles of World Team Tennis. She won her singles, beating Marie-Eve Pelletier, and teamed with Mashona Washington to beat Pelletier and Raquel Kops-Jones in the women’s doubles. But she and Justin Gimelstob lost to Jan-Michael Gambill and Kops-Jones, and the Kastles lost their home opener to the Boston Lobsters 22-19. Venus also returned and played WTT for Philadelphia Freedoms.
STARTING OVER AGAIN
Australian Mark Philippoussis is making yet another comeback. This time, though, he’ll be competing on the Outback Champions Series, the international tennis circuit for men 30-and-over. Philippoussis, who lost to Roger Federer in the 2003 Wimbledon final, will join Jim Courier, Todd Martin and Wayne Ferreira at The Championships at The Palisades, to be played September 24-28 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Four other players will be announced later to complete the eight-player field.
SAN DIEGO HALL
Brian Teacher, who won the Australian Open singles title in 1980, is one of the newest members of the San Diego Tennis Hall of Fame. Teacher and four others will be inducted into the hall August 23 at the Balboa Tennis Club. The others are age-group champion Jim Perley and three administrators: Franklin Johnson, a former president of the U.S. Tennis Association; William J. Kellogg, president of the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club since 1989; and Jean Kremm, long active in the San Diego community junior tennis. The five were selected by a panel. Teacher was born in San Diego and was an All-American while helping UCLA win two NCAA championships. He beat Kim Warwick in straight sets in the 1980 Australian Open final.
Amelie Mauresmo is the latest star to skip the Beijing Olympics, saying she wants to prepare for the U.S. Open. Mauresmo said that her being passed over by the French Tennis Federation for the women’s singles competition was a major factor in her withdrawal from the Games. Mauresmo, who had been selected to compete only in doubles, lamented that she was missing a chance to join the 2008 Olympiad. She won a silver medal in the singles in Athens four years ago.
Acknowledging the rapid rise of Asian tennis and the emergence importance of Asia, the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour has opened its newest office in Beijing, China. The women’s tour has its main headquarters in St. Petersburg, Florida, and its European office in London, England. David Shoemaker will head the Asia-Pacific and is charged with growing the WTA Tour’s presence in the region as well as assuming overall leadership of all Asia Pacific staff. He will maintain his role as General Counsel as well as other executive responsibilities for the Tour.
STATEHOOD DAY SNUB
Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas skipped the Statehood Day ceremonies in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, saying he had not prepared for it. However, Kirkilas found time to play in a tennis tournament the same day. The Lithuanian Tennis Federation confirmed Kirkilas was at the Dubingial Open tournament, where the prime minister and tennis player Danielius Lencina-Ribes lost to Sarunas Marciulionis and Gabriele Masillute-Lencina. Lithuania’s president spoke at the Statehood Day festivities, while Lithuania’s ambassador to Great Britain, Vygaudas Usackas, diplomats from Russia’s embassy in Lithuania, Defense Minister Juozas Olekas as well as members of the 1998 gold medal-winning USSR basketball team, including Arvydas Sabonis, were at the tennis tournament.
A Pakistani student is in court alleging he was treated as a slave when he worked as a security guard at the Australian Open earlier this year. The Press Trust of India (PTI) reported that Faisal Durrani filed a statement of claim at the Melbourne Magistrates Court, alleging he was paid 200 Australian dollars for the 150 hours he worked at the tennis facility. Durrani claimed that at least four other security guards from the sub-continent also received a small payment for their work. Durrani’s lawyer, Andrew Weinmann, called the action “slavery.” Durrani is seeking about USD $4,000 in wages, along with interest, court costs and penalties through the Workplace Relations Act that could run into millions of dollars.
Britain’s Chris Eaton, who got into Wimbledon qualifying on a wild card, worked his way into the main draw where he reached the second round before falling to 25th-seeded Dmitry Tursunov. And while he earned more than USD $43,000 for his fortnight, Eaton says he will continue to drive his modest Vauxhall Astra, complete with taped-up side mirror. “Maybe I’ll buy some better Duct tape,” Eaton said of his big payday.
Now that he has won two Grand Slam junior boys doubles titles, Taiwan’s Yang Tsung-Hua is planning on turning pro next year. He is the world’s top-ranked junior, having also won the boys singles at the French Open. Yang and his partner, Hsieh Cheng-Peng, will compete in an upcoming tournament in India as well as the U.S. Open boy’s doubles. Hsieh, the younger bother of Hsieh Su-Wei, who competes on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, and Yang teamed up to win the boys doubles at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
SURPRISE – NOT
Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich won the Israel Open doubles title as expected, beating Sergei Bubka and Michail Elgin 6-3 7-6 (3) in the Saturday final. The Israeli duo was the only world-class team in the USD $50,000 challenger tournament play at Ramat Hasharon, Israel. They didn’t drop a set all week. The singles winner was Marsel Ilhan of Turkey, who beat Slovakia’s Ivo Klec 6-4 6-4.
It turns out the newest British tennis star, Wimbledon girls champion Laura Robson, is really a new Brit. Newspapers in England report that the 14-year-old has had a British passport for just four months. Until February, she played all of her matches representing her native Australia, although she has lived in Britain since the age of six. Her father, Andrew Robson, obtained his British passport in February, which allowed Laura to apply for citizenship in the United Kingdom.
Stuttgart: Christopher Kas and Philippe Kohlschreiber beat Michael Berrer and Mischa Zverev 6-3 6-4
Gstaad: Jaroslav Levinsky and Filip Polasek beat Stanislas Wawrinka and Stephane Bohli 3-6 6-2 11-9 (match tiebreak)
Newport: Mardy Fish and John Isner beat Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi 6-4 7-6 (1)
Bastad: Jonas Bjorkman and Robin Soderling beat Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-2 6-2
Bogota: Xavier Malisse and Carlos Salamanca beat Juan Sebastian Cabal and Michael Quintero 6-1 6-4
Scheveningen: Rameez Junaid and Philipp Marx beat Matwe Middelkoop and Melle Van Gemerden 5-7 6-2 10-6 (match tiebreak)
Budapest: Alize Cornet and Janette Husarova beat Vanessa Henke and Ioana Raluca Olaru 6-7 (5) 6-1 10-6 (match tiebreak)
Palermo: Sara Errani and Nuria Llagostera Vives beat Alla Kudryavtseva and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2-6 7-6 (1) 10-4 (match tiebreak)
SITES TO SURF
Bad Gastein: www.generali-ladies.at
San Marino: www.atpsanmarino.com
Los Angeles: www.eastwestbankclassic.com
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$890,000 Austrian Open, Kitzbuhel, Austria, clay
$525,000 Indianapolis Tennis Championships, Indianapolis, Indiana, hard
$525,000 Dutch Open Tennis, Amersfoort, The Netherlands, clay
$525,000 ATP Studena Croatia Open, Umag, Croatia, clay
$600,000 Bank of the West Classic, Stanford, California, hard
$175,000 Gastein Ladies, Bad Gastein, Austria, clay
Turkcell Legends Cup, Istanbul, Turkey, hard
Group III: Aruba, Barbados, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Puerto Rico at Tegucigalpa, Honduras, hard
Group IV: Bermuda, Costa Rica, Haiti, US Virgin Island at Honduras
Group II Playoffs: Luxembourg vs. Finland at Hanko, Finland, clay; Hungary vs. Greece at Thessaloniki, Greece, clay
Group II Second Round: Denmark vs. South Africa at Johannesburg, South Africa, hard; Algeria vs. Monaco at Monte Carlo, Monaco, clay
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$2,615,000 Rogers Cup, Toronto, Canada, hard
$100,000 Porsche Open, Poznan, Poland, clay
$100,000 San Marino CEPU Open, San Marino, clay
$600,000 East West Bank Classic presented by Herbalife, Los Angeles, California, hard
$145,000 Banka Koper Slovenia Open, Portoroz, Slovenia, hard