Sony Ericsson WTA Tour

WHEN TENNIS GETS GOING, TENNIS GOES INDIAN WELLS

So one of my favourite tournaments of the year starts this week and I am all excited about it. I have tracked many of my favorite tennis players through twitter and subscribed to many RSS feeds of various tennis site to be completely up-to-date as possible. It’s time to get ready for a good time, sunny weather and Eurosport.

I have read Bobby Chintapalli’s comprehensive list of favorites to win the tournament and I agree with most of them.  The only big name that was missing from that list was Caroline Wozniacki. Though I understand the criteria Chintapalli to compile the list and her reasons to leave out Wozniacki from her, otherwise, great list.

Chintapalli argues, and I quote:

I had to start somewhere, and I started with the players who have the best match win percentages so far this year. Of course there are many other great players with the potential to go far at Indian Wells. (Caroline Wozniacki’s clearly very good and very good for tennis, but her match win percentage this year is 57.1% — that’s the only reason she’s not on this list.)

Like I said, her argument for leaving out Wozniacki is a good one.

Then I started to read the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour website.  And every week they have a player from the WTA Tour blog from a certain location. I have to say that I loved the introduction to the blog of this week’s player.

INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA – Indian Wells has been the stage for some of Daniela Hantuchova’s most glorious moments, so is there really anywhere better for the Slovak No.1 to do the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Blog from?

It’s true. I remember vividly when Hantuchova beat Hingis back then.  And I remember the second time that she won the tournament too. Hantuchova is a master on the courts of Indian Wells and always a force to be reckoned with. You never know.  Life’s full of surprises, so is tennis.

After that I started to read the Twitters of Elena Dementieva and Victoria Azarenka, just to see what they were up to and if they had any expectations.

Victoria “Vika” Azarenka prepared herself for the tournament hitting some balls with Gisela Dulko and afterwards she told that Kim Clijsters entered the courts.  Then there was something funny on Vika’s Twitter account.

Somebody asked her what she would like to have as an extraordinary talent.

Her answer:

my personal answer is i want to be able to read people minds! it think its kinda cool! well thanks again..i hope u enjoyed it as well

To read more about Victoria Azarenka, sign up for Twitter and start following her  @vika7 . She’s often very funny and takes time out for her fans.

Elena Dementieva’s Twitter was less interesting. It’s less personal but she did leave a link to an audiocast with an interview of her at Indian Wells. You can find it by clicking here: http://www.bnpparibasopen.org/News/Interviews-Audio/Interviews-Audio.aspx More interviews are available including but not limited to: Caroline Wozniacki (who has surprisingly not Twittered about Indian Wells at all) and Sam Stosur.

Then I decided to hop over to a very decent site that I have visited quite a lot in the past two weeks. It’s WTA  Women’s Tennis who have  comprehensive coverage with great videos and photos of the Indian Wells tournament. Like the photos of Jelena Jankovic training. If she doesn’t win the tournament then she at least should win the “The most beautiful smile” award. Because that’s what she has.

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MURRAY IS NOT THE ONLY BRIT FLYING THE FLAG DOWN UNDER

By Melina Harris

Andy Murray is not the only one flying the flag for Brits down under after his comprehensive dismantling of Marc Gicquel in the second round in difficult weather conditions: the first round victories of Brits Elena Baltacha and Katie O’Brien in the women’s singles meant that for the first time since 1992, Britain had two women into the second round of a Grand Slam tournament outside of Wimbledon.

Unfortunately, while O’Brien looked out of her depth as she lost to former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic in straight sets Wednesday admitting, ‘I was trying to go for a little bit too much, I think I expected her to put me under more pressure, and to be honest, she didn’t. She just played solid but she didn’t do anything outstanding.’ Elena Baltacha’s impressive and gutsy win against Kateryna Bonderenko, an opponent ranked 51 places higher on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, has set up a fantastic duel against world No. 2 Dinara Safina in the third round Friday.

This will be a great challenge for Britain’s top player, whose career has taken more knocks than Muhammad Ali, suffering from tonsillitis, glandular fever and liver problems to name just a few. However, she is now certain to establish a new career highest ranking once the event is over. The world No. 83 said ‘I feel good. No, I feel fantastic’ after her victory revealing ‘the thing that has changed with me is confidence…if you really believe you can deliver, whether it’s in a very tight situation or not, then you can get there. I know there’s a lot more to improve on my tennis but mentally I think I’m getting there now.’

She went on to say ‘Now I have got nothing to lose against Safina. I know she is a good player, but she has had her blips recently. I have a day off to recharge and then I’m going to go for it again.’ Safina is in desperate need of a Grand Slam tournament victory to silence her critics and justify her elevated world ranking but this pressure could actually go in Baltacha’s favour if she can capitalize early in the match.

Next up for Murray is Florent Serra, who struggled through five sets and saved two match points in his match against the Finn, Jarkko Nieminen, so hopes are high in Britain that a relatively rested Murray can dispatch of him with ease. In his post match interview Murray noted ‘He’s been around the 50 mark for quite a long time. He’s a solid player. He’s had two very long matches so far. Saved a couple of match points today. So, you know, he’s gonna go for it. Have to make sure I’m on my game.’

Let’s not forget Laura Robson, who was granted a sweet 16th birthday present with an impressive win against the experienced American pair, Jill Craybas and Abigail Spears, 6-3, 7-5 with the shrewd choice of Aussie, Sally Peers as her partner. Robson has been adopted by the Aussie crowd, with one cheeky spectator even giving her a certificate to change her residency to Australia; sorry mate, she’s ours!

JUSTINE HENIN MAKES TRIUMPHANT RETURN

Justine Henin made a triumphant return to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour in Brisbane on Monday with a 7-5, 7-5 win over second seeded Nadia Petrova.

In her first competitive match since retiring eighteen months ago, Henin showed no signs of rust as she advanced against an opponent she has dominated 11-2 in their career head-to-head meetings.

Henin also defeated Petrova last month in an exhibition match in Cairo by a score of 7-5, 6-2, so the result should come as no surprise.

The crafty Henin only lost five points on her first serve in the opening set and broke Petrova at 5-5. She would later close out the frame with an ace.

In the second set Petrova staked an early 2-0 lead before Henin fought back and again broke at 5-5 to march towards victory.

Petrova seemed to take the defeat in stride and had nothing but praise for Henin in her post-match press conference.

“I think she is a better player than before she retired. She’s more aggressive,” Petrova said. “Previously, she was more of a clay court player, but now I see her a hardcourt player as well. She’s certainly playing high level of tennis.”

Personally, I would be embarrassed as a professional tennis player to lose to someone who has been away from the game for a year and a half. Henin however is not just any returning player. The Belgian has won 7 Grand Slams, an Olympic Gold as well as 41 other WTA titles in her career. At only 27 years old, there is still plenty left in the tank both physically and emotionally for Henin.

“I feel better today than when I retired, that’s for sure,” Henin said. “Better emotionally, mentally, better with myself—and that makes a big difference that I will enjoy being on the tour again.”

Under normal circumstances, a win over a top-twenty player like Petrova after such a sustained absence from the game would garner more attention and praise. While many eyes are on Henin, the bar has been set high by her compatriot Kim Clijsters. Winning a couple of rounds will not suffice and anything short of a title in the near future may be deemed a disappointment by some – a fact that would have seemed ridiculous before Clijsters’ incredible run at Flushing Meadows in August.

The comparisons to Clijsters are inevitable and not simply because of their shared Belgian heritage. Both took approximately the same amount of time away from the game and both are former top level players who have enjoyed Grand Slam success. The immediate returns that Clijsters enjoyed during the summer spoke volumes about the immense talent that she possesses. As much, if not more, will be expected from Henin.

Henin now advances to the second round where she will face qualifier Sesil Karatantcheva.

The Friday Five: Hingis ban has been lifted

By Maud Watson

WTA Woe in Tokyo – As one of the Premier events on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, the Toray Pan Pacific Open drew a great field, including 9 of the current top 10 players.  Fans and tournament organizers alike should have been able to pencil in some mouth-watering quarterfinal match-ups.  But as it seems has happened so often throughout the year, the draw fell apart, with 7 of the top 10 seeds losing before the third round.  Like ‘em or hate ‘em, the WTA needs some players with consistency, who show up week in, week out, and win Majors.  One hopes the nation of Belgium might soon be providing such competitors…

Great Panes – This past Monday, American up-and-comer Sam Querrey suffered what has to be considered among one of the most freak accidents in the world of sports.  After his practice session at the PTT Thailand Open, Sam sat on a glass table, which he fell through, resulting in him badly cutting his forearm and requiring emergency surgery.  He is expected to be out 4-6 weeks.  As one of the great hopes for American tennis and a player who has really turned it on over the past couple months, I hope to see Sam back in action sooner rather than later.

The Comeback Bug Continues – Perhaps not as notable as the return of both Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin, two other players making their comeback appearances earlier this week were Paradorn Srichaphan and Joachim Johansson.  Srichaphan ended a two-and-a-half year absence from the tour by pairing up with fellow countryman Danai Umdomchoke.  Though the pair lost in their opening match (and a successful Srichaphan comeback is unlikely), it was still nice to see one of the players so largely responsible for helping to put Asian tennis on the map have another go at it.  I was more excited about the return of big Swede Joachim Johansson in Malaysia.  With an impressive win over Lleyton Hewitt and a relatively tight three-set loss to Richard Gasquet, Johansson proved he still has game.  And at the age of 27 with his big serve, there’s no reason he can’t still do some damage on the ATP World Tour.

Rafa Ready – Contrary to some of the news you might have read in recent days, Rafael Nadal has declared himself fit and ready to go, and with the absence of Swiss maestro Roger Federer in Shanghai, Rafa will be looking to regain some of the ground (and aura) he lost over the summer.  More importantly to him, Rafa is prepared to represent his country in the Davis Cup final to be played in Spain against the Czech Republic December 4-6.  All I know is, I don’t envy the tough decisions Spanish Davis Cup captain Albert Costa is going to face!

The Ban is Lifted – This is a story that might fall through the cracks, but this past Wednesday marked the end of the two-year Martina Hingis was forced to serve, which effectively ended her comeback and her career.  I personally hated to see the ban slapped on her, because she brought a craftsmanship to the game that few of her peers could, not to mention the fact that the foundation of the case against her was suspect.  Her ban seemed even harsher and more ridiculous when Richard Gasquet got off with a mere two-month ban for essentially the same offense.  Hopefully the powers-at-be will learn from this miscarriage of justice, and hopefully Martina will continue to contribute to the sport in a myriad of other ways.

Federer commemorative stamp launched in Austria: This Week in Tennis Business

From the Austrian Postal Service launching a commemorative Roger Federer stamp to the Andre Agassi Foundation raising $8 million during the Grand Slam for Children event in Las Vegas to former top-ranked doubles player Ai Sugiyama retiring from professional tennis to Li Na signing with IMG to tennis icon Jack Kramer being remembered at a memorial service at Starus Stadium at UCLA to John Isner and Melanie Oudin agreeing to team up in January to represent the United States in Hopman Cup, these stories caught the attention of tennis fans and insiders this week.

  • According to a report by AFP, the Austrian Postal Service will launch a commemorative stamp honoring Roger Federer and his record 15 Grand Slam singles titles. About 400,000 Federer stamps will be issued.

  • The Andre Agassi Foundation’s Grand Slam for Children event raised $8 million over the weekend in Las Vegas. The Engelstad Family Foundation also pledged another $7.5 million to Agassi’s Foundation over a five year period.

  • Ai Sugiyama of Japan has retired from the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour following a first round defeat to Nadia Petrova at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. Sugiyama was honored on court during a special ceremony put on by WTA Tour officials and players to honor her remarkable career, which included speeches by her regular doubles partners Daniela Hantuchova and Katarina Srebotnik. Throughout her career, Sugiyama won six singles titles, 38 doubles titles and earned more than $8 million in tournament prize money.

  • Li Na, the highest ranked Chinese player ever on the WTA Tour, has signed a representation deal with IMG. “We are very pleased to have Li Na as an IMG client,” said Max Eisenbud, the Senior Vice President of IMG.

  • Tennis legend and the first executive of the ATP Tour Jack Kramer was remembered on Saturday during a memorial service at the Los Angeles Tennis Center on the campus on UCLA. Hundreds of people were in attendance during the service, as former WTA Tour star Pam Shriver and Los Angeles Times reporter Bill Dwyre acted as hosts of the ceremony. Barry MacKay, Tracy Austin, Donald Dell, US Open tournament director Jim Curley and former player Charlie Pasarell were among the speakers during the service.

  • John Isner and Melanie Oudin will represent the United States at the Hopman Cup from January 2-9, 2010 in Perth, Australia.

  • The inaugural Maria Sharapova South American Tour will take place from November 29 to December 4 and will feature the former Grand Slam singles champion and Argentine Gisela Dulko. The tour will feature exhibition matches between the players in San Paulo, Brazil on November 29, Santiago, Chile on December 2 and Buenos Aires, Argentina on December 4. Fashion shows, charity appearances and tennis clinics for the local children will also be a part of the three-city exhibition series.

  • The USTA and Levy Restaurants, the official restaurateur of the US Open, combined to donate more than 21,000 pounds of unused food from the US Open to City Harvest. City Harvest, which is based in New York City, is a food rescue organization that feeds people in need of food. “We are very thankful to the USTA and Levy Restaurants and for this generous donation,” said Jilly Stephens, the Executive Director at City Harvest. “Our long-standing partnership with the US Open demonstrates their commitment to helping us feed hungry New Yorkers.”

  • AEGON signed a five-year deal until 2013 to become the title sponsor of the prestigious Masters Tennis at Royal Albert Hall in London and will now be called the AEGON Masters Tennis. The tournament has featured former Wimbledon champions such as Pete Sampras, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg. “We are delighted to welcome AEGON as our new title sponsor,” said Peter Worth, the Senior Vice President of IMG.

  • Defending US Open champion Kim Clijsters has announced her 2010 tournament schedule. Clijsters will play at Brisbane, Australian Open, Fed Cup, Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, French Open, Eastbourne/Rosmalen, Wimbledon, Cincinnati, Montreal, US Open, Beijing and possibly the year-end championships in Doha.

  • The 2010 Davis Cup World Group opening round ties have been announced:

      • Spain vs. Switzerland

      • France vs. Germany

      • Russia vs. India

      • Sweden vs. Argentina

      • Croatia vs. Ecuador

      • Serbia vs. United States

      • Chile vs. Israel

      • Belgium vs. Czech Republic

  • Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu has signed a sponsorship deal with Lagardere.

  • Romanian Andrei Pavel officially retired from the ATP World Tour following a straight sets loss to Pablo Cuevas in his hometown tournament last week in Bucharest. Pavel, who lives in the United States, will continue to be the captain for the Romanian Davis Cup team and has plans to open a tennis academy in Arizona.

  • Argentine tennis player Sergio Roitman has announced that he will retire from the ATP World Tour at the conclusion of the Copa Petrobas Challenger tournament in Buenos Aires. Roitman reached a career high ranking of No. 62 in October 2007 and has won more than $1.2 million in tournament prize money. “It is a strange moment for me, but the time has come for me to leave professional tennis,” said Roitman.

  • A lawsuit filed against Frenchman Richard Gasquet has been dismissed in Parisian courts stating no finding whether he took cocaine or if somebody else was responsible.

  • A Serbian court has confirmed that Jelena Dokic’s father has been sentenced to 15-months in prison for threatening to kill the Australian Ambassador to Serbia.

  • The Tennis Industry Association (TIA) is set to launch the website, www.playtennis.com. The website is designed to allow people to join the sport, learn more about tennis and get on a system to become a frequent player. “PlayTennis.com will be the first step,” said TIA President Jon Muir. “We’ll get key messaging out there through this site. It’s a wonderful opportunity for all stakeholders to get behind.”

  • Nine tennis professionals earned the distinction of Master Professional by the USPTA. The nine honorees were honored during the recent USPTA World Conference on Tennis at the Marriott Resort, Golf Club and Spa in Marco Island, Fla. Only about one percent of the 15,000 USPTA members have achieved the Master Professional merit.

  • Cory Ross of Littleton, Colo., won the men’s open division $30,000 USPTA International Championships on Thursday in Marco Island, while Marina McCollom of West Des Moines, Iowa won the women’s open division title.

  • Robert Greene Jr., of Rangeley, Maine, who is the Director of Tennis at the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel in Dixville Notch, N.H., earned the USPTA’s Alex Gordon Award for the Professional of the Year.

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

D Arthur Ashe to be inducted to the US Open Court of Champions: This Week in Tennis Business

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.

Mondays With Bob Greene: The Summary Of The First Week Of The US Open

STARS

(US Open First Week)

Petra Kvitova beat top-seeded Dinara Safina 6-4 2-6 7-06 (5)

Kim Clijsters beat third-seeded Venus Williams 6-0 0-6 6-4

Melanie Oudin beat fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva 5-7 6-4 6-3

John Isner beat fifth-seeded Andy Roddick 7-6 (3) 6-3 3-6 5-7 7-6 (5)

Yaroslava Shvedova beat fifth-seeded Jelena Jankovic 6-3 6-7 (4) 7-6 (6)

Francesca Schiavone beat eighth-seeded Victoria Azarenko 4-6 6-2 6-2

SAYING

“I learned, once again, proved to myself that I can compete with these top girls. And if I believe in myself and my game, then I can beat them.” – Melanie Oudin, after upsetting Maria Sharapova to advance to the fourth round.

“She was playing very aggressively, really enjoying this atmosphere, the crowd support and really going for the winners. So it’s just the beginning, but it looks like she has a good future.” – Elena Dementieva, on American Melanie Oudin, who upset the fourth-seeded Russian in a second-round match.

“I like to do aces on the match points. I did it (at) the French Open. I did it twice. Yeah, close my match with an ace. So it was nice.” – Yaroslava Shvedova, who finished her upset of Jelena Jankovic with an ace.

“She pretty much takes my advice if I offer good advice. I don’t traditionally offer good advice, so she doesn’t normally take it.” – Serena Williams, asked if she gives advice to her sister Venus.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come here a little bit tired, a little bit sore, a little bit injured, a little bit distracted. There’s nowhere to hide out there, so I’ve lived and died on this court many times and taken a lot of people with me.” – Andre Agassi, talking about playing at the US Open.

“What Andre did in his career is incredibly impressive. But to have someone who can be more impressive after their career is so rare. It’s why someone like Arthur Ashe is my idol. I’m sure a lot of kids have grown up in this era after mine. I hope they have someone like Andre Agassi as their idol.” – James Blake.

“I was jealous. I was happy for everybody that was doing well. I’m friends with them all, but I was jealous. I wanted to be here competing and playing well and playing matches. So to be back here accomplishing that is pretty remarkable. I still have a long way to go. I still feel like my game is still pretty rough around the edges, but it’s extremely exciting.” – Taylor Dent, making his first US Open appearance since 2005 and after three back surgeries.

“My goal (was) to not get crushed and make it interesting for a little while at least. I got up a break a couple of times and that was fun while it lasted.” – Devin Britton, a wild card entry who lost a first-round match to top-seeded Roger Federer.

“I don’t want to make the decision to stop and then after two, six, eight months thinking, it was not quite the time yet. Because then it’s too hard, I would say, probably to make a comeback as Kim (Clijsters) is making now, given the age.” – Amelie Mauresmo, now 30 years old, saying she will wait until the end of the year before making a decision on whether to retire.

“I love winning tennis matches. If I get more money for more matches I win, that’s why we play. … It’s nice to get money for what you love to do.” – Jesse Witten, a qualifier who reached the third round before losing to Novak Djokovic.

I hated to lose more than I liked to win. – Jimmy Connors, explaining his mindset when he played.

SONY ERICSSON WTA TOUR

In 2010, the women’s tennis tour returns to San Diego, California, and will stage new events in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Copenhagen, Denmark. The 2010 calendar features 53 tournaments, in addition to the four Grand Slam events, with total prize money of more than USD $83 million. The international breadth of tournaments includes 24 events in Europe, 15 events in the Americas and 18 events in the Asia-Pacific region. “With three new tournaments investing in our sport in each of the United States, Europe and Asia-Pacific regions, the Tour’s 2010 calendar continues to showcase the global commercial strength of women’s tennis,” said Stacey Allaster, chairman and CEO of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. “I am proud of the fact that despite a worldwide recession we have been able to achieve modest growth.”

SAFINA SWITCH

When John Isner’s upset victory over fifth-seeded Andy Roddick went so late in the evening, tournament schedulers moved Dinara Safina’s match against the Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova from Arthur Ashe Stadium to Louis Armstrong. Safina wasn’t happy with the switch. “I’m number one player in the world, why did they move me?” Safina asked. “This is not an excuse, but I don’t think it’s a fair decision they made.” To make matters worse, the Russian lost to Kvitova 6-4 2-6 7-6 (5).

SUDDEN END

Sabine Lisicki left the court in a wheelchair after she severely sprained her ankle on the final point of her second-round match. Qualifier Anastasia Rodionova of Australia, ranked 139th in the world, upset the German 6-3 3-6 7-5. On match point, Lisicki, seeded 23rd in the year’s final Grand Slam tournament, raced to her left. But as she slid for the ball, she rolled her left ankle and stayed on the court for several minutes. The ankle was heavily wrapped and a wheelchair was brought to the court. Lisicki was taken to a hospital where x-rays showed there was no break.

STATISTICS AND OTHER LIES

Numbers don’t lie. Sometimes they just don’t tell the truth. Philipp Petzschner of Germany out-aced his foe 17-1 and had 52 winners – 24 more than his opponent. Yet when the 3-hour, second-round match was over, the winner was 24th-seeded Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain 1-6 3-6 6-4 6-2 6-4. The reason: Petzschner had 20 more unforced errors than Ferrero, 68-48, and the Spaniard won 147 points, nine more than the German.

Marat Safin had 15 aces to eight for Jurgen Melzer in their first-round battle. The two each had 40 winners, and Melzer had one fewer unforced errors, 28 to 29. The Austrian won three more points than his Russian opponent, 107-104, and when the contest was over, Melzer was the winner 1-6 6-4 6-3 6-4.

Andy Roddick won everything but the score in his third-round match against fellow American John Isner. Roddick won 162 points to Isner’s 155 and had his serve broken only once. Isner lost his serve twice, but he boomed 38 aces in the 3-hour, 51-minute battle and advanced to the fourth round at a Grand Slam event for the first time. It also was Isner’s first victory over a top five player.

STILL RELEVANT

The story of Rod Laver’s second Grand Slam season, capped by winning the US Open, is the subject of a book, “The Education of a Tennis Player.” Written with Hall of Fame journalist and historian Bud Collins, the book is Laver’s first-hand account of his 1969 Grand Slam season. Laver also writes about his childhood and early days in tennis, his 1962 Grand Slam and offers tips on how players of all levels can improve their games. Originally published in 1971, “The Education of a Tennis Player” was updated by Laver and Collins in 2009 with new content including Laver’s recovery from a near-fatal stroke in 1998. Laver won 11 major singles titles during his career, including Wimbledon in 1961, 1962, 1968 and 1969.

STARTING LATE

The US Open had its latest night session start in history during the first week. On Saturday, James Blake and Tommy Robredo took to the court at 10:35 p.m. following a special ceremony honoring Pancho Gonzalez. The night session normally starts at 7 p.m., but the last day match in Arthur Ashe Stadium, an all-American affair between fifth-seeded Andy Roddick and John Isner, lasted until 9:26 p.m. Officials moved the scheduled first night match between Dinara Safina and Petra Kvitova to Louis Armstrong Stadium and began the Blake-Robredo match in Ashe. Kvitova upset the top-seeded Safina, while Robredo beat Blake in a match that ended just shy of 1 o’clock in the morning.

SERIOUS THEY ARE

The US Open battles between Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe are legendary. The two left-handers, who defined a generation and won 15 Grand Slam tournament titles between them, still excite the crowds at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Now tennis commentators, Connors and McEnroe returned to the courts to face other during the first week of the US Open. The practice courts, that is. “Definitely brings back a few good memories,” McEnroe said.

SWOOP NOT

When James Blake walked onto the court to play his first-round match, the umpire made the American change his headband. “I didn’t know the rule,” Blake admitted. “I didn’t know you couldn’t have any writing on the headband or wristband.” A player can wear a logo on their headband, as in the Nike swoop. But Blake’s clothing sponsor, Fila, had the name “Fila” written on the headband. That’s a no-no. “I didn’t know we couldn’t do that,” Blake said.

SENOR PANCHO

The US Open honored two-time winner Richard A. “Pancho” Gonzalez on the 60th anniversary of his second consecutive victory in America’s premier tennis tournament. Gonzalez won the US Championships in 1948 and 1949, then turned pro at a time when only amateurs were allowed to play the Grand Slam tournaments. He went on to become the top draw on the professional circuit, then, when he was 40 years old, reached the semifinals of the French Open and the quarterfinals of the inaugural US Open. That same year he was elected into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. In 1972, three months shy of his 44th birthday, Gonzalez became the oldest man to win a tournament title, capturing the championship at an event in Des Moines, Iowa. Among those participating in the on-court ceremony were members of the Gonzalez family as well as several Hispanic dignitaries.

STEPPING

You can’t find former US Open champion Martina Hingis on the tennis courts these days, thanks to a two-year ban after testing positive for cocaine. But the 28-year-old Swiss star has signed up to take part in the seventh season of BBC’s reality talent show “Strictly Come Dancing,” which starts September 18. Other former athletes participating in the show include boxer Joe Calzaghe, Olympic long jumper Jade Johnson, cricketer Phil Tufnell and jockey Richard Dunwoody.

SO FINE

The town of Midland, Michigan, has been named winner of the USTA’s “Best Tennis Town” search. The initiative by the United States Tennis Association (USTA) was designed to identify and reward American communities that “best exemplify the passion, excitement, spirit and impact that tennis brings to the local level.” Midland, which received the most votes during the nationwide, online balloting, will receive a USD $100,000 grant from the USTA to be used for community-wide tennis programming or facility enhancements. Finishing second was Ojai, California, which received a USD $50,000 community tennis grant from the USTA, while Independence, Kansas, was third in the balloting and received a USD $25,000 USTA grant.

SITES TO SURF

US Open: www.usopen.org
Davis Cup: www.DavisCup.com
Kim Clijsters: www.kimclijsters.be/
Roger Federer: www.rogerfederer.com/en/index.cfm
Rafael Nadal: www.rafaelnadal.com/nada/en/home
Serena Williams: www.serenawilliams.com/
Quebec: www.challengebell.com
Guangzhou: http://sports.21cn.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP and WTA

US Open (second week), New York, New York, USA, hard

ATP

$120,000 Genoa Open Challenger, Genoa, Italy, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$150,000 Pekao Open, Szczecin, Poland, clay

WTA

$220,000 Bell Challenge, Quebec City, Canada, hard
$220,000 Guangzhou International Women’s Open, Guangzhou, China, hard

DAVIS CUP

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

Americas Zone

Group I Playoff: Peru vs. Uruguay at Lima, Peru
Group II Final: Dominican Republic vs. Venezuela at Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Asia-Oceania Zone

Group I Playoff: China vs. Thailand at Jiaxing, China
Group II 3rd Round: Philippines vs. New Zealand at Manila, Philippines

Europe/Africa Zone

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

Consistency Is Key To Being No. 1

NEW YORK – OK, so what if Serena Williams has won the women’s singles at the three of the last four Grand Slam tournaments. Who cares that Serena is the defending champion here at the US Open. After all, we’re talking consistency, and that’s what really counts on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.

“If you play consistent, you can be very highly ranked,” said Venus Williams, Serena’s older sister. “I guess it’s all about playing consistent these days.”

Kim Clijsters knows something about being ranked number one in the world. She held that lofty spot herself some six years ago.
“It’s just a matter of consistency,” Clijsters said. “It’s the biggest key.”

If nothing else, Dinara Safina is consistent. She entered the US Open with the best main draw match winning percentage on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour with a 52-12 win-loss record. The Russian is one of four players to have won three titles this year, and she has reached the semifinals or better in the last four Grand Slam tournaments.

She also has consistently failed to come away from one of the sport’s four major tournaments with the championship bling. And that’s why there is controversy about her number one ranking.

“The poor girl, she’s trying her best,” said someone who should know, Marat Safin, Dinara’s brother and a former number one on the men’s tour. “She gets the attention, but not the kind of attention that a person deserves, especially when you’re number one in the world.

“Everybody is giving her hard time about, ‘Are you really number one in the world?’ Yes, yes, she’s really number one in the world. Go check on the ranking. She didn’t do the ranking.”

The burden of expectations proved Thursday to be almost heavier on Safina than the weight of her opponent’s shots. For her second straight match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Safina fought through her nerves as well as over-matched opponents.

She advanced to the third round by outlasting Germany’s Kristina Barrois 6-7 (5) 6-2 6-3, but instilled no fear in her future foes. As she did in her opener, another three-setter, Safina survived her own twin terrors of double faults and unforced errors.
“She was playing better at the end, serving better,” said Barrois, who turns 28 at the end of this month but has been a professional player for only three years. “I’m disappointed I came close. It was close, but not close enough.”

Barrois was playing in just her second US Open, losing in the opening round a year ago. Safina, on the other hand, was a finalist at both the Australian and French Opens earlier this year, falling to Serena Williams “Down Under” and Svetlana Kuznetsova in Paris.
That history made no difference under the bright skies and strong sunshine at Louis Armstrong Stadium. For most of the match, Barrois played Safina evenly, for better or worse. The world’s top player had 38 unforced errors, five fewer than her opponent; Barrois had six double faults, Safina 15.

“In the first set I played on my highest level,” the German said. “At the end she was serving well. The important thing is how you play the important points.”

For the second straight match, Safina was forced to go three sets. For the second straight match, she emerged the winner. That’s what number ones do.

American teen-ager Melanie Oudin pulled off the tournament’s first big upset, knocking off fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva 5-7 6-4 6-3. The 17-year-old is no stranger to the big stage, having reached the fourth round at Wimbledon earlier this summer.

“I played with no fear today,” said Oudin, a 17-year-old from Marietta, Georgia. “She’s expected to win and I just went out there and played my game and I came out with a win.”

Sixth-seeded Jelena Jankovic followed Dementieva out of the tournament, falling to Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan 6-3 6-7 (4) 7-6 (6). Jankovic, who held the world number one ranking at the beginning of this year, said the death of her grandmother Wednesday night was uppermost in her mind rather than the match.

Safina may have been able to have had a much easier day. She had two set points in the 12th game of the opening set, when Barrois double-faulted to 30-40 and again at ad point following a razor-sharp backhand pass down the line. But Barrois was able to hold and send the set into a tiebreak.

Of the 12 points played, seven went against serve. Barrois took the lead when Safina double-faulted at set point. Safina wasted no time moving out front in the second set. But Barrois broke back in the fourth game.

“I play a lot of slice,” Barrois said. “She likes a heavy ball, so I play slice to her and short.”

That strategy worked until unforced errors began overwhelming the German’s game. At the same time, Safina finally was able to quiet her nerves and cut down on her mistakes.

After Safina took a 4-3 lead in the final set, breaking her opponent in the seventh game at 30, Barrois jumped out to 0-40 advantage, triple break point, thanks to two double faults and a wild forehand that sailed wide. Safina won the next two points before Barrios had an open court but sailed a backhand long.

She bent over and buried her head into her hands, knowing her best chance at an upset had disappeared.

Safina finally held to 5-3 , then broke Barrois at love to advance to a third-round meeting against Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, who beat Italy’s Tathiana Garbin 6-1 6-3.

Safina Stumbles but Survives

NEW YORK – It was not a performance to cherish, but it was one to celebrate. After all, Dinara Safina survived –barely.

Just before becoming the first top-seeded woman to be ousted in the opening round of the US Open, Safina pulled her game together enough to escape a wild-card entry from Australia, Olivia Rogowska. And it wasn’t pretty.

Even Safina called Tuesday’s 6-7 (5) 6-2 6-4 win “ugly,” but added, “I pulled it out, and that’s what counts for me.”
Her “pull” was aided greatly by her opponent’s mistakes and miscues.

Safina is the world’s top-ranked player; Rogowska, who gained a wild card entry into the US Open through an agreement between the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and Tennis Australia, is 167th in the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour rankings. But they had one thing in common: both were seeking their first Grand Slam tournament title. Now only Safina still is in the running to do that this year.
The 18-year-old Rogowska matched Safina stroke for stroke, even, unfortunately, double fault for double fault in the sloppily played contest.

Never before has the women’s top seed fallen in the opening round at America’s premier tennis tournament. But it appeared as if Safina would do just that as Rogowska won the first three games to begin the third set. The two then took turns breaking each other’s serve before Safina held at love, the last point on her first ace of the day, to level the set at 4-4.

Rogowska fell behind 0-30 with two unforced errors – two of her 65 in the match – before winning the next three points. But her 12th double fault of the day took the game to deuce. Then came one of the most critical points of the day, one that was a glimpse at why Safina won and Rogowska lost the 2-hour, 35-minute battle.

The point began like most of the day’s battles were contested – long-range baseline rallies with both players using the entire court, keeping their opponent on the move while probing for an opening. It was Safina who blinked first, chipping a shot short, bringing Rogowska to the net.

The Australian replied by chipping a backhand down the line with plenty of spin. Safina caught up with the ball and returned a running forehand crosscourt. There was Rogowska, waiting at the net, but she failed to put away the volley and gave Safina another chance.
This time Safina threw up a short defensive lob. Rogowska again failed to hit a winning smash, and instead popped a weak overhead back across the net.

Safina needed no more chances. She rifled a backhand crosscourt pass that caught Rogowska making an off-balance stab at the net. The youngster sat down on the court and both watched the point while it was being replayed on the giant screens atop Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“When it comes like this tight, it’s not easy to swing,” Safina said. “I saw like her volley was not good. I was like, OK, so she’s not so comfortable. First of all, she had an easy smash and she didn’t went for it. Then when I made it, it was like, ‘OK, come one. Make this break now.’”

Yet another forehand error by Safina made the score deuce again, and again Rogowska followed with a double fault. There was one more deuce, earned with a sharply hit inside-out forehand, before Rogowska made her 34th and 35th forehand unforced errors of the match.

Four points later, Safina had a spot in the second round at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center where she will take on Germany’s Kristina Barrios, a 6-4 6-4 winner over Urzula Radwanska of Poland.

“It doesn’t matter how I’ll play, but I will run and I will stay there forever,” said Safina. “I will do everything to win the match.”
In the day matches, two seeded players failed to make it into the second round. Sixteenth-seeded Virginie Razzano of France was ousted by Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer 6-4 6-3, while 32nd-seeded Agnes Szavay of Hungary fell to Israel’s Shahar Peer 6-2 6-2.
Among the seeded players joining Safina in the winner’s circle Tuesday included Svetlana Kuznetsova, Maria Sharapova, Sorana Cirstea, Caroline Wozniacki, Nadia Petrova, Elena Dementieva, Jelena Jankovic, Alona Bondarenko, Sabine Lisicki, Patty Schnyder, Alisa Kleybanova and Zheng Jie.

In the men’s singles, American qualifier Jesse Witten upset 29th-seeded Igor Andreev of Russia 6-4 6-0 6-2.

“Last couple weeks I’ve been playing well and I’m not even sure why,” Witten said. “I’m just going to roll with it.”

Other early winners in the men’s singles included Novak Djokovic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Fernando Gonzalez, Marin Cilic, Tomas Berdych, Fernando Verdasco, Sam Querrey and Viktor Troicki.