Severine Bremond

Mondays With Bob Greene: I Fought For My Country

STARS

Shahar Peer won the GDD-Guangzhou International Women’s Open, beating Alberta Brianti 6-3 6-4 in Guangzhou, China

Melinda Czink beat Lucie Safarova 4-6 6-3 7-5 to win the Bell Challenge in Quebec City, Canada

Evgeny Korolev beat Florent Serra 6-4 6-3 to win the Pekao Szczecin Open in Szczecin, Poland

DAVIS CUP

World Group Semifinals

Czech Republic beat Croatia 4-1 in Porec, Croatia

Spain beat Israel 4-1 in Murcia, Spain

World Group Playoffs

Switzerland beat Italy 3-2, France beat Netherlands 4-1, Sweden beat Romania 3-21, Serbia beat Uzbekistan 5-0, India beat South Africa 4-1, Belgium beat Ukraine 3-2, Ecuador beat Brazil 3-2, and Chile played Austria

Americas Zone

Group I Playoff: Peru vs. Uruguay beat Peru 4-1; Group II Final: Dominican Republic beat Venezuela 3-2

Asia-Oceania Zone

Group I Playoff: China beat Thailand 4-1. Group II 3rd Round: Philippines beat New Zealand 4-1

Europe/Africa Zone

Group I Playoffs: Slovak Republic beat FYR Macedonia 5-1; Poland beat Great Britain 3-2; Group II 3rd Round: Latvia beat Slovenia 3-2; Finland beat Cyprus 3-2

SAYING

“I feel like I was in a 10-round boxing match. Everything hurts.” – Ivo Karlovic, who served a record 78 aces, yet lost his Davis Cup match against Radek Stepanek.

“I fought for my country. It was an amazing game.” – Radek Stepanek, who survived Ivo Karlovic’s record 78 aces to win 6-7 (5) 7-6 (5) 7-6 (6) 6-7 (2) 16-14.

“I have to go on holiday badly. I have a problem with my leg. I have a problem with my arm – everything is hurting. And I’ve got to do some babysitting.” – Roger Federer, after helping Switzerland beat Italy and remain in the World Group in 2010.

“I tried everything, but he was particularly good today.” – Potito Starace, who lost to Roger Federer to give Switzerland an insurmountable lead in its Davis Cup playoff against Italy.

“It’s not the way to act – win or lose, good call or bad call, in any sport, in any manner.” – Serena Williams, apologizing for her verbal assault towards a line judge during the US Open women’s final.

“I was very tired after the first two sets, lost the third and the fourth. But then, when I went to the locker room when the fourth set finished, I told my brother I wasn’t going to lose the match. This is the beauty of Davis Cup, the energy of a team and the energy of a country.” – Nicolas Lapentti, whose 6-4 6-4 1-6 2-6 8-6 victory over Marcos Daniel clinched Ecuador’s World Group Playoff tie over Brazil.

“It’s like David against Goliath – and we know who won that one!” – Andy Ram, before Israel played Spain in a Davis Cup semifinal. This time Goliath won.

“I hope it’s the start of something.” – Eyal Ran, Israel’s Davis Cup captain, on his team’s surprising run to the World Group semifinals.

“I hope to come back next year and do better. Unless you win, you can always do better.” – Lucie Safarova, who lost to Melinda Czink in the final of the Bell Challenge.

“I thought they (India) were trying different tactics. I couldn’t understand why he (Mahesh Bhupathi) was serving and staying back.” – Jeff Coetzee, who with his partner Wesley Moodie earned South Africa’s lone point in their Davis Cup tie against India when the Indian doubles team was forced to retire after Bhupathi suffered a groin injury.

“At last we are where we deserve to be.” – Andy Murray, on Great Britain being relegated to Group II in the Euro/Africa Zone after losing its Davis Cup tie to Poland.

SMOKIN’

Ivo Karlovic slammed a record 78 aces yet lost his Davis Cup match against Radek Stepanek in a marathon that lasted one minute short of six hours. Stepanek’s 6-7 (5) 7-6 (5) 7-6 (6) 6-7 (2) 16-14 victory gave the Czech Republic a 2-0 first-day lead over Croatia. The Czechs captured the tie 4-1 and advanced to the final against Spain. The 82 games equaled the Davis Cup record since tiebreakers were introduced in 1989, but the elapsed time was well short of two matches played by John McEnroe, against Mats Wilander in 1982 and against Boris Becker in 1987, both of which lasted around 6½ hours. Karlovic wasted four match points in the final set, and there were only five break-point chances in the match. Karlovic obliterated both the men’s record and Davis Cup record for aces, marks he held. He had 55 aces in a loss to Lleyton Hewitt at the French Open in May, and his previous Davis Cup mark was 47, which he shared with Brazil’s Gustavo Kuerten and Switzerland’s Marc Rosset.

SMALL CHANGE?

Apparently apparel company Fila has deep pockets. According to reports, Kim Clijsters was given a significant bonus by her shoe and clothing sponsor for her surprising US Open singles championship. And where companies usually insure these bonuses, CNBC says Fila did not. The bonus is reported to be in the range of USD $300,000, which could buy a lot of shoes for Clijsters’ young daughter. Darren Rovell of SportsBiz says that while it’s standard practice for companies to insure their big incentive bonuses to minimize the risk, Fila didn’t do it with Clijsters since she had played just two tournaments following a two-year retirement. The odds on Clijsters winning were as high as 40-to-1.

STAYING UP

You can excuse Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych if they want to take an extra nap or two. Between them, the Czech duo played for nearly 10 hours on the first day of the Czech Republic’s Davis Cup semifinal against Croatia. But the two then joined forces on the second day to play – and win – their doubles, clinching a spot for the Czech Republic in the final against Spain. On the first day, Stepanek needed one minute less than 6 hours to outlast Ivo Karlovic, and then Berdych was on court for 3 hours 48 minutes to down Marin Cilic in five sets. Together, Stepanek and Berdych needed only 2 hours, 16 minutes to defeat Lukas Dlouhy and Jan Hajek. Stepanek and Berdych are unbeaten together in Davis Cup doubles, improving their record to 5-0, including 3-0 this season.

SINKING BRITS

Even with Andy Murray playing all three days, Great Britain was relegated to Group Two of the Euro/African zonal play when Poland won their Davis Cup tie 3-2. Murray won both of his singles matches, but Michal Przysiezny beat Dan Evans in the decisive singles to give Poland the victory. It is the first time in 13 years that Great Britain has been dropped to the third tier of the world-wide competition. Evans also lost his first-day singles match to Jerzy Janowicz, But Poland’s Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski beat Murray and Ross Hutchins in the doubles.

SURPRISING BELGIUM

When talking about Belgium tennis, most are thinking about the women. The country has produced former number ones Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters, the latter winning the US Open earlier this month on her return to the sport following a two-year retirement. But Belgium’s men have also proved their mettle, keeping the country in the World Group for 2010 by besting Ukraine 3-2. And that came despite Belgium losing it’s number one player with an injury just hours before the Davis Cup Playoff began. Olivier Rochus withdrew with a leg injury, but his brother Christophe Rochus joined with Steve Darcis to help Belgium beat Ukraine.

SETTLED SUIT

Zina Garrison has settled the racial discrimination suit she brought against the United States Tennis Association (USTA). A deal was signed on August 27, although its terms were not disclosed. A former Fed Cup captain, Garrison filed her lawsuit in February, saying she was unfairly treated, paid a lower salary than Davis Cup coach Patrick McEnroe while being held to higher standards. As a player, Garrison was the 1990 Wimbledon runner-up, at the time becoming the first black woman since Althea Gibson to play in a Grand Slam tournament singles final. She became the first black captain of the US Fed Cup team when she replaced Billie Jean King in 2004. Spokesman Chris Widmaier said the USTA is happy the case was resolved and looks forward to working with Garrison in the future.

STOP RIGHT NOW

Martina Hingis should stick to tennis and stay away from dancing, at least according to the British public. Hingis became the first celebrity to be ousted from the new BBBC reality talent show, “Strictly Come Dancing.” It’s England’s answer to the American TV show “Dancing With The Stars.” Hingis and her partner Matthew Cutler were in the bottom two when phone votes were added to the judges’ score. They then lost a dance-off against policeman-turned-crime-presenter Rav Wilding and his partner Aliona Vilani. Two years ago, Cutler teamed with Alesha Dixon to win the competition. This year, Dixon, a singer, is a judge on the show.

SERENA SPEAKS

Admitting she lost her cool, Serena Williams has issued an apology for her outburst towards a line judge in her women’s singles final at the US Open. “I need to make it clear to all young people that I handled myself inappropriately,” Williams said. “I want to sincerely apologize first to the lineswoman, Kim Clijsters, the US Tennis Association and tennis fans everywhere for my inappropriate outburst.” The line judge had called a foot fault on Williams on her second serve, giving Clijsters match point. William, who already had been handed a code violation for racquet abuse, unleashed a tirade towards the line judge, briefly walked away, and then returned for another blast at the official. When chair umpire Louise Engzell asked the line judge what had been said, she called for the tournament referee Brian Earley and eventually ordered a point penalty, the next level of punishment under the code. That gave the match to Clijsters. Williams was fined USD $10,000 for the infraction, and was further penalized USD $500 for the racquet abuse.

SPEAK YE NOT

Saying the “magic” word cost Roger Federer a USD $1,500 fine at the US Open. The Swiss superstar was fined for using a profanity while arguing with the chair umpire during the US Open final. Television microphones picked up the naughty word during the live broadcast of the match. Tournament spokesman said Federer was fined the same amount as two other players – Vera Zvonareva and Daniel Koellerer – for audible obscenities. Daniel Nestor was fined USD $5,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct toward a fan, but the big loser at this year’s final Grand Slam tournament was Serena Williams, who was docked USD $10,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct. She also was fined USD $500 for racket abuse.

SUCCESS

Melinda Czink is finally a winner on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. The left-hander from Hungary beat Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic to capture the Bell Challenge in Quebec City, Canada. Playing in her second career final, it was Czink’s first title. “It feels great. I haven’t really processed it year, but I will,” she said. Czink’s first final was somewhat historic. She lost to Ana Ivanovic in the final round of qualifying in Canberra, Australia, in 2005, gained entry into the main draw as a “lucky loser,” then met and lost to Ivanovic in the final, the only known time that has happened.

SAYS YOU, SAYS ME

India has two of the world’s best doubles players. Both are now sidelined with injuries. Leander Paes pulled out of India’s Davis Cup World Group Playoff tie against South Africa because of an injury he sustained during the US Open, where he won the doubles title with Lucas Dlouhy of the Czech Republic and reached the mixed doubles final with Cara Black of Zimbabwe. Mahesh Bhupathi, who lost the men’s doubles with his partner Mark Knowles of the Bahamas, suffered a groin injury during the Davis Cup doubles. The injury forced the Indian doubles team to retire, giving South Africa its lone point in the tie.

SOME KIND OF PROBLEM

Albert Costa has a problem every Davis Cup captain would love to have. Costa has been Spain’s Davis Cup captain for just nine months, but already he faces several decisions that could make him unpopular with several players and their supporters. Costa’s team just swept past Israel 4-1 to return to the final to defend their Davis Cup title. This time they will take on the Czech Republic, which beat Croatia. Costa’s problem. His top two players missed the Israeli tie because of injuries. Does he now name the players who took Spain to the final or go with the two missing players – second ranked Rafael Nadal and ninth-ranked Fernando Verdasco. Of course, there may be no problem. Although injured, both Nadal and Verdasco sat through all three live rubbers on Friday and Saturday, cheering on their compatriots.

SEATS ARE FREE

Admittance to next week’s Vogue Athens Open will be free. The organizers Liberis Publications and Hellenic Tennis Federation decided to open the doors to the public for the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour event that will be played on the same courts where five years ago the Athens Olympic Games were held. The decision was also made because of the large capacity at the Olympic Tennis Center. All seats are available to anyone, beginning with the qualifying all the way through the final, which will be played on October 4.

STAYING HOME

Juan Martin del Potro’s five-set upset of five-time defending champion Roger Federer had the fans at home turning on their television sets. The men’s final, which was postponed because of rain to Monday, drew a 2.3 rating and 5 share on CBS. That’s up 35 percent from the 2008 final, which was also played on Monday because of rain delays. That was when Federer beat Andy Murray in straight sets. Ratings represent the percentage of all households with televisions, and shares represent the percentage of all homes with TVs in use at the time.

SEEING IS BELIEVING

Things at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center are normal. The US Open set an attendance record this year, just as it has done every year. This year’s attendance was 721,059, slightly more than the previous record of 720,227 set last year. The tournament also set a Week One attendance record of 423,427, including a single-day high of 61,554 for the combined day and night sessions on the first Friday.

SPONSOR

Remember Melanie Oudin, the 17-year-old from Marietta, Georgia, who reached the quarterfinals of the US Open. Well, she has signed on to be a pitch woman for AirTran Airways Inc., an Orlando, Florida-based company. Oudin became the youngest woman to reach the US Open quarterfinals since Serena Williams did it in 1999. Oudin had victories over fourth-ranked Elena Dementieva, 13th-seeded Nadia Petrova and former US Open champion Maria Sharapova. The youngster is currently ranked 44th in the world and is the third-highest ranked American woman, behind sisters Serena and Venus Williams. AirTran, a low-cost airline, recently took over as the official airline of the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Guangzhou: Olga Govortsova and Tatiana Poutchek beat Kimiko Date Krumm and Sun Tiantian 3-6 6-2 10-8 (match tiebreak)

Quebec City: Vania King and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova beat Sofia Arvidsson and Severine Bremond Beltrame 6-1 6-3

Szczecin: Tomasz Bednarek and Mateusz Kowalczyk beat Oleksandr Dolgopolov Jr. and Artem Smirnov 6-3 6-4

SITES TO SURF

Bucharest: www.bcropenromania.ro/

Metz: www.openmoselle.com

Hansol: www.hansolopen.com

Tashkent: www.tashkentopen.uz

Saint Malo: www.opengdfsuez-bretagne.com

Bangkok: www.thailandopen.org

Kuala Lumpur: www.malasianopentennis.com/

Athens: www.vogueathensopen.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$650,000 BCR Open Romania, Bucharest, Romana, clay

$650,000 Open de Moselle, Metz, France, hard

WTA

$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

SENIORS

Trophee Jean-Luc Lagardere, Paris, France, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$947,750 Proton Malaysia Open, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, hard

$608,500 Thailand Open, Bangkok, Thailand, hard

WTA

$2,000,000 Toray Pan Pacific Open, Tokyo, Japan, hard

$100,000 Vogue Athens Open, Athens, Greece, hard

US Open Day 8: Rafael Nadal Battles Past Sam Querrey

NEW YORK – The Wimbledon women’s singles final is coming early at the US Open.

As expected, sisters Venus and Serena Williams have booked a match against each other. But instead of a title being on the line, as it usually has been when these two face each other on a court, a spot in the semifinals will be the prize this time.

“Even the semis would have been better than the quarterfinals, but at least one of us will make it to the semis,” Serena said. “I’ve got probably the toughest match of the tournament coming up next, so I’ve got to be ready.”

Both sisters easily brushed aside fourth-round opponents Monday, seventh-seeded Venus knocking off ninth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-1 6-3 before fourth-seeded Serena ended the fairy-tale run through the draw of French wild-card entrant Severine Bremond, 6-2 6-2.

In her four victories so far, Venus has allowed her opponents 15 games, one more than baby sister Serena.

In the men’s singles, Rafael Nadal, seeking his third consecutive Grand Slam tournament title, survived the power game of American Sam Querrey to gain a place in the quarterfinals.

“It was very tough,” Nadal said of the 6-2 5-7 7-6 (2) 6-3 win that took 3 hours, 15 minutes. “Sam is a big player, big server.”

Nadal next will meet yet another American, surprising Mardy Fish, a 7-5 6-2 6-2 winner over Frenchman Gael Monfils.

Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina, riding a four-tournament winning streak, stopped unseeded Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-3 6-4 6-3 in a meeting of 19-year-olds, while Great Britain’s Andy Murray beat Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland 6-1 6-3 6-3.

Joining the Williams sisters in the women’s quarterfinals were sixth-seeded Dinara Safina, a 7-5 6-0 winner over Anna-Lena Groenefeld, while 16th-seeded Flavia Pennetta of Italy eliminated Amelie Mauresmo of France 6-3 6-0.

The Sisters Williams, who have split their 16 meetings on the WTA Tour, have clashed nine times with a championship trophy on the line. They twice met for the US Open crown, Venus winning in 2001 and Serena the following year.

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They produced their best tennis against each other in their last meeting, the Wimbledon final, where Venus won in straight sets.

“It’s tough to play her because she is so good,” Venus said of Serena. “That’s hard.”

Nadal had his toughest match of the tournament by far in getting past the hard-hitting Querrey. The seventh game of the fourth and final set was a perfect example of the extended drama.

The two battled to deuce six times, with Querrey matching Nadal point for point, usually with a rifle-shot forehand deep into the corners that Nadal couldn’t track down. Yet Querrey never was able to break the world’s number one-ranked player and put the set back on serve. Each time Querrey had break point, Nadal would come up with a sizzling winner or Querrey would make an unforced error.

On the 18th point of the game, Nadal reached game point for the first time. He didn’t waste any time, holding to 5-2, just one game away from victory, when Querrey smacked a forehand into the net.

Querrey then held serve, capping the game with his 20th ace of the match, before Nadal was finally able to book a spot in the quarterfinals.

“I was taking some chances and ripping my forehand as hard as I could,” said Querrey, who had won only one match in his previous two US Opens. “I was a little nervous to begin the match, but after an hour I started hitting my shots.”

Nadal is seeking to become only the fourth men’s player in the Open Era to win three consecutive Grand Slam tournament titles – joining Rod Laver, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer – as well as becoming just the fifth man to win three Grand Slam titles in the same year after Laver, Federer, Jimmy Connors and Mats Wilander.

Querrey, on the other hand, was playing in the round of 16 at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time. After a shaky first set, in which he had only two aces to go with his one double-fault, Querrey picked up his game, pushing Nadal all over the court, forcing the Spaniard to come up with sharply angled winners or screaming ground strokes that peppered the baselines. And that Nadal did.

“He had to earn his way that third set, or that fourth set,” Querrey said. “He had to earn it. I didn’t just give it to him. … I mean it’s nice to know he actually had to go out there and fight for it rather than me kind of handing it to him.”

US Open Day 4: Ana Ivanovic Loss Is Biggest Upset In History Of Women’s Tennis

NEW YORK – Maybe the number one ranking was too heavy. If so, top-seeded Ana Ivanovic doesn’t have to worry any more. Her US Open is over in what is being called the biggest upset in the history of women’s tennis.

Julie Coin of France, ranked 188th in the world and playing in her first WTA Tour event, calmly kept her poise as she overpowered Ivanovic 6-3 4-6 6-3 in a second-round match on the hard courts of the year’s final Grand Slam tournament.

It was the earliest exit for the top-seeded woman in US Open history since 1973 and the first time the number one seed has lost in the second round of a major tournament since Justine Henin fell to Tathiana Garbin at Roland Garros four years ago. It also was the worst loss by a top-ranked player since Ivanovic lost to 133rd-ranked Zheng Jie at Wimbledon earlier this summer.

While Ivanovic struggled in her first-round victory, Thursday’s loss came as a huge shock. After all, Coin had never played in a WTA Tour event before and had failed to even qualify at the other three Grand Slam tournaments this year: the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon. She didn’t do any better at the smaller tournaments, losing in qualifying at Estoril, Birmingham, Stanford and Los Angeles.

On Thursday, though, Coin was more than Ivanovic could handle.

“She made a lot of errors, so I got a lot of free points,” Coin said. “I thought maybe she was nervous, more than I was.”

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It wasn’t all errors, however.

Coin powered five aces and finished with 19 winners and only 27 unforced errors, seven fewer than her opponent. But it was her nerves – actually the lack of them – that carried the Clemson University graduate to victory.

“Today I felt nervous at the beginning. Then it went away,” Coin said. “I was just playing on the court in a normal match for me. At match point, it (the nerves) came back. To win the last point a lot of pressure came back.”

Ivanovic has been hobbled by injuries since winning the French Open and gaining the number one ranking earlier this year. A right thumb injury caused her to withdraw from the tennis event at the Beijing Olympics earlier this month and she was unable to practice until just before the Open began.

Time and again it was Coin coming out a winner on their baseline battles. The 25-year-old showed a quickness that was more than a match for the top seed, and a power game that produced winners throughout the battle.

Coin double-faulted on her first match point. Two points later, Ivanovic saved the next match point when her cross-court forehand skipped off the sideline. Victory was Coins when, on the third match point, Ivanovic sailed a forehand wide.

“Today was just, like, perfect,” Coin said.

Closer to perfection were the Williams sisters as they both grabbed spots in the third round. Venus routed Rossana De Los Rios 6-0 6-3 before Serena opened the night session with a 6-1 6-1 romp over Elena Vesnina.

Venus needed just 28 minutes to rip through the opening set, and she never faced a break point on her serve. In fact, she was taken to deuce just twice in the match, both times as she was serving out the victory.

“I think I just had a lot more power than she did today,” Venus said. “She plays a game where she hits a lot of high balls, which at my height doesn’t, you know – I think it would be effective against a lot of players, but with my height and my reach, it doesn’t phase me as much. I think that helped me.”

Serena also was much too powerful for her Russian opponent, who tried unsuccessfully to trade ground strokes with the two-time US Open winner. Serena pounded out six aces and won 57 points to just 32 for Vesnina.

“I was disappointed I lost my serve,” Serena said. It was the lone game Vesnina won in the second set.

Two other seeded players in the women’s draw were eliminated Thursday. Italy’s Tathiana Garbin upset 13th-seeded Agnes Szavay of Hungary 5-7 6-2 6-3, and Severine Bremond of France ousted 20th-seeded Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic 7-5 6-3.

In the men’s second round, American Mardy Fish upset 24th-seeded Paul-Henri Mathieu of France 6-2 3-6 6-3 6-4. In the next round, Fish will play his best friend on the tour, ninth-seeded James Blake, who advanced when Belgium’s Steve Darcis retired while trailing 4-6 6-3 1-0.

None of the upsets had the impact of the one by Coin, a former college All-American.

“I was nervous going onto the court because I never saw her play before so I didn’t know what to expect,” Ivanovic said. “I thought I can slowly get into the match, and she played completely different than I expected. She was serving extremely well and hitting very powerful shots.

“I really struggled and made too many unforced errors, and my serve was not working really well. Obviously, it’s very frustrating, because I know I can play so much better.

“This was very, very disappointing loss for me.”

Dokic and Massu Take First Steps to Former Glory

Last week on the challenger circuit, two former top 10 players struggling with injuries and motivation took their first real steps to reclaiming their former glory, while two players on the men’s side continued their hot streaks on the circuit.

Jelena Dokic of Australia has had more than her share of personal problems. The former world No. 4 has defected from her family, switched nationalities several times, and attempted multiple half-hearted comeback attempts. However, it looks like that Dokic is serious this time around after winning her first event in six years at the $25,000 event in Florence, Italy, dominating Lucie Hradecka of Czech Republic 6-1, 6-3 in the final. The win moves Dokic up to No. 325 in the rankings (after just four tournaments) and she has contacted the All England Club for a qualifying wild card into Wimbledon.

At the $75,000 event in Zagreb, Croatia, Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden won her first title of the year by beating former Wimbledon quarterfinalist Severine Bremond of France 7-6, 6-2. The 24-year-old Swede, who has recorded high-profile scalps over Anna Chakvetadze and Marion Bartoli this year, used her aggressive groundstrokes to wear Bremond down throughout the match. Despite the loss, Bremond has been on a hot streak as of late with a 10-4 record on the challenger circuit in her last four events.

At the $50,000 tournament in Jounieh, Lebanon, players had to endure the fighting that has plagued the country, confining them to their hotel rooms and the tennis courts for the week. Anne Keothavong of Great Britain weathered her surroundings and won the first clay court of her career, defeating Lourdes Dominguez-Lino of Spain 6-4, 6-1. The win moved Keothavong up to a career high ranking of No. 102 and allows her direct entry into Wimbledon this summer. The last British player to get direct entry into Wimbledon was Samantha Smith in 1999.

In other results on the women’s side, Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium won the $50,000 event in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida. Petra Cetkovska of Czech Republic prevailed at the $50,000 challenger in Bucharest, Romania, and Tomoko Yonemura of Japan won at the $50,000 challenger in Fukuoka, Japan. Ksenia Milevskaya of Belarus won at the $25,000 challenger in Antalya, Turkey, Yan Ze-Xie of China took home the winners trophy at the $25,000 event in Changwon, Korea, and Mariana Duque-Marino of Colombia prevailed at the $25,000 event in Irapuato, Mexico.

On the men’s side, it’s been a while since we heard from Nicolas Massu. The former top 10 player and reigning Olympic gold medalist has been struggling with injuries, but took a step in the right direction by winning the $30,000 event in Rijeka, Croatia. His 6-2, 6-2 win in the final over Christophe Rochus of Belgium gives the Chilean his first title in over two years.

Ivan Miranda of Peru is continuing to ride his hot streak on the challenger circuit with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Carsten Ball of Australia at the $50,000 challenger in Tunica, Mississippi. Miranda has now reached the championship round in three of the last four challengers he has played. His experience clearly was a factor against Ball, who was competing in the first challenger final of his career.

Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil is a name that has repeatedly come up in this column, but it’s only a matter of time before he moves to the ATP Tour on a full-time basis. He won his fourth challenger title of the year (and third in a row) at the $42,500 challenger in Rabat, Morocco, rolling over Martin Vasallo-Arguello of Argentina 6-2, 6-2. Expect Bellucci to potentially do some damage at Roland Garros in just a few weeks.

In other results on the men’s side, Andreas Beck won the $42,500 challenger in Dresden, Germany, while Teimuraz Gabashvili of Russia won the $30,000 event in Telde, Spain. Jiri Vanek also won the $42,500 event in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

Fabrice Santoro of France highlights the challenger circuit this week as the top seed at the $75,000 event in Bordeaux, France, while Gael Monfis of France leads the way at the $75,000 challenger in Marrakech, Morocco. Several $50,000 events will also be contested this week; Robert Kendrick of the United States is the top seed at the one in Bradenton, Florida, Yen-Hsun Lu of Taipei will lead the way in New Delhi, India, and Denis Gremelmayr of Germany takes top billing in Zagreb, Croatia. Oscar Hernandez of Spain is top seed at the $42,500 event in Aarhus, Denmark, while Santiago Ventura of Spain is the top seed at the $30,000 challenger in San Remo, Italy.

On the women’s side, Petra Cetkovska of Czech Republic is top seed at the $50,000 event in Saint Gaudens, France. Melanie South of Great Britain leads the way at the $50,000 challenger in Kurume, Japan, Tetiana Luzhanska of Ukraine is the top seed at the $25,000 challenger in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Jorgelina Cravero of Argentina takes top billing at the $25,000 event in Caserta, Italy. Finally, Renata Voracova of Czech Republic is top seed at the $25,000 event in Szczecin, Poland.