Stanford

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Many Players miss US Open through Injury, the Seeds are Named and Evert Praises Serena

Clijsters out of US Open:

“Unfortunately, I will not be able to defend my US Open title this year,” the Belgian said in a statement.  “Two weeks of rehab was not enough. Obviously I’m very disappointed. I trained very hard this summer and felt in a good shape to play. If a gradual approach is not taken I will relapse, and therefore I have also no other possibility than to withdraw from the [upcoming] tournaments in Tokyo and Beijing [as well].” The 2001 men’s Champion Lleyton Hewitt is also out of the tournament after failing to recover from a foot injury. He had been handed a wildcard and hoped to partake in the tenth anniversary of his triumph but he has had to withdraw, his wildcard going to fellow Aussie Marinko Matosevic. “He’ll definitely play next year. He wants to help Australia get back into the World Group [of the Davis Cup],” his manager David Drysdale told The Herald Sun. Also disappointingly for neutrals, Canadian prospect Milos Raonic will also miss the year’s final Grand Slam as he recovers from hip surgery. “After extensive deliberation with my doctors + team, I have decided to delay my tournament return until after the US Open at DC vs Israel,” he revealed on his Twitter account. That Davis Cup match takes place September 16-18. “I am feeling great, and working hard w/ my coach, physio, and fitness coach. I am excited to comeback and will continue to keep u updated,” another post read. Sam Querrey and Tommy Robredo will also miss out.

US Open Seeds Named:

World number one Caroline Wozniacki will lead the 2011 US Open women’s draw when the tournament proper kicks off at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre in New York on Monday. The 21-year-old Dane has struggled for form this term but has kept her place at the summit of the women’s game and so has been rewarded with the top billing at the tournament for a second successive year. The returning Serena Williams, who missed nearly an entire year due to a foot injury which then led to life-threatening blood clots, used her injury-protected ranking to enter the tournament. But despite her recent excellent form which has seen her win her first titles since her return, back-to-back crowns at Stanford and then the Rogers Cup in Toronto, she has only been seeded 28 in the draw. Russian players Vera Zvonareva and Maria Sharapova make up the top three, while Belarusian Victoria Azarenka is seeded fourth and Wimbledon Champion Petra Kvitova makes up the top five. As with the women’s seeds, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) has used the current world rankings for the men, meaning world number one Novak Djokovic will get top billing at Flushing Meadows next week. 2010 winner Rafael Nadal is seeded second with five-time champion Roger Federer third. British number one Andy Murray is seeded fourth with Spain’s David Ferrer making up the top five. Mardy Fish will be the biggest American hope as the eighth seed continues his Indian summer towards the end of his career with a semi-final posting at Cincy last week. 2003 winner Andy Roddick is seeded only 21st, while John Isner is the number 28 seed. France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is also in good form and he enters the tournament seeded 11th, while the 2009 US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro is seeded 18th as he continues a return from a long injury spell that has hampered much of his playing time since shocking Roger Federer on Arthur Ashe Stadium almost two years ago.

Serena Receives Highest Praise:

There are few better sources of praise for a modern female tennis star than Chris Evert, and that is just who has been labelling Serena Williams as the favourite to win the US Open. Further to that, she believes the 13-time Grand Slam winner should be compared to Martina Navratilova (who won 18) and Steffi Graf (22). Evert herself won 18. “We saw her at Wimbledon, and I think even though she lost a close match to [Marion] Bartoli, Bartoli played out of her head,” said Evert in an ESPN conference call. “I think that exceeded people’s expectations, that Serena would do that well at Wimbledon after being out for a year and all her health issues. She committed herself. She practiced. She’s won two tournaments. That’s unbelievable. Not to undermine the rest of the field, but it just shows that she’s head and shoulders above anybody else, again, when she’s healthy.  I’d put her right up there [as the greatest of all time] with Martina and Steffi,” she continued. “She’s the best comeback player we’ve ever seen. If you look at the last 10 years, she’s been out, she comes back. Even when she hasn’t been in shape, she can still win a Grand Slam. She is an incredible athlete. She’s got the power. She’s got the speed. She’s got the mental toughness. There isn’t a chink in the armour there at all. Her health is her own worst enemy. Her health is her rival or competitor.”

Nadal “Considered Golf”:

In his upcoming autobiography Rafael Nadal talks about how he considered switching to golf when doctors diagnosed him with a career-threatening foot injury in 2005. The Spanish multi-Grand-Slam-winner described a feeling of “deepest gloom” upon hearing the news. “(The) diagnosis had initially been like a shot to the head,” Nadal writes. “The bone still hurts me. It remains under control, just, but we can never drop our guard.” He also talks of the mental strength that has helped him to his many victories, and speaks of how it also helped him through tough periods such as then. “What I battle hardest to do in a tennis match is to quiet the voices in my head, to shut everything out of my mind…should a thought of victory suggest itself, crush it,” he continues. “I think I have the capacity to accept difficulties and overcome them that is superior to many of my rivals.”

Roddick Denies Slump:

American Andy Roddick has denied he is currently in a slump despite dropping out of the world’s Top 20, instead blaming injuries and illness suffered this year for the decrease. “I’ve read a lot and heard a lot about a slump, but this is my third event in six months or five months so it’s tough to win when you haven’t been playing,” Roddick told reporters.

Murray Hits Big Milestone:

Andy Murray’s 6-3, 7-6(8) win over Mardy Fish in the semi-finals of the Cincinnati Masters last week was the 300th win of his ATP Tour career.

Kendrick Ban Reduced:

America’s Robert Kendrick has had his ban for doping cut to eight months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Kendrick had originally been banned by an ITF independent panel for 12 months, backdated to May 22, for failing a drugs test. The CAS has decided to cut the initial period down to eight months, meaning he will be able to return to competitive action as of January 22 2012. His results and ranking points he received for Roland Garros have been scratched, and he has been ordered to pay back all the prize money he received for the tournament.

Pre-US Open Rankings Watch:

Spain’s David Ferrer climbed above Robin Soderling in to fifth in the world in this week’s ATP Tour World Rankings just in time to make him the fifth seed at next week’s US Open. Gael Monfils climbs above Mardy Fish in to seventh and Nicolas Almagro climbs back above Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in to the Top 10 and takes the tenth seeding as a result. Fernando Verdasco climbs back in to the Top 20 at No.19. Marcos Baghdatis drops 20 places to No.60 as Japan’s Kei Nishikori (No.48) and Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen (No.50) climb in to the Top 50. While Andy Roddick has dropped out of the Top 20 at No.21, there are two Americans celebrating big climbs as James Blake leaps 21 to No.63 and Ryan Harrison climbs 11 to No.67. Ivo Karlovic, Andrey Golubev and Marsel Ilhan all climb in to the Top 100. Cincinnati Champion Maria Sharapova is in her highest ranking slot in three years as she climbs back up to No.4 in the world in this week’s Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings. China’s Peng Shuai has risen another spot to No.14 in the world to get another career best, and she has also overtaken Zheng Jie as China’s second-highest ranked player ever behind Li Na. Petra Cetkovska is also at a new career-high; No.40. Petra Martic leaps from No.72 to No.59, while Chanelle Scheepers is up from No.101 to No.82. Anastasia Rodionova also leaps in to the Top 100 from No.113 to No.97.

Another Quarters Exit for Rafa and Roger ahead of US Open:

Both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer prepared for the US Open with quarterfinal exits from the Cincinnati Masters last week. Nadal lost 3-6, 4-6 to Mardy Fish, while R-Fed crashed out 2-6, 6-7(3) to Czech star Tomas Berdych. They both received 25 points for the GOAT Race totals, Federer’s points helping him break the 1,000 points mark.

Roger: 1000 Rafa: 1710

Fish snaps Isner streak, Serena is back and Ivanovic nervous in loss

Fish Win Snaps Isner Streak:

John Isner’s loss to Mardy Fish in last week’s Atlanta Tennis Championships final, a repeat of the 2010 championship match, was his first in nine matches after his title win previously at Newport. Isner led 6-4 in the second-set tie-breake, but Fish put together a four-point streak to force a decider in which he would ultimately take the title. “In hindsight, I should have served and volleyed on the second serve,” Isner admitted afterwards. “He got it in play and I went for too big of a backhand and missed it by a lot. He played the point well and the next two points, he served two really good serves.” Fish was understandably delighted with the turnaround. “When you’re in that position, it’s almost over,” he said. “I was lucky to get out of it. I stuck some returns and put some balls in play. I played some good points from then on.”

Serena Back on Form:

Serena Williams played her first match on American soil since 2009 yesterday at the Bank of West Classic in California, which resulted in a 6-0, 6-0 double bagel over Anastasia Rodionova. “I’ve always said if I play my best no one can beat me,” she said. “Hopefully I can get back to that level.” She fell as low as 175 in the world rankings during her year out of the sport but now looks set to rise back towards the pinnacle. She dominated from start to finish, losing just five points in six service games and not letting Rodionova convert any of her five game points in the match. She also won all 17 of her 17 first serve points. “I’ve only played about seven matches since coming back – it’s still early on and I’m taking it one day at a time, one match at a time,” Williams continued in her post-match press conference. “I wanted to be more consistent, and I think I did that tonight. I feel good. I don’t think of the match as being easy – I think it was just me being focused. I was out there just trying to do my best.”

Ivanovic Blames Nerves for Morita Loss:

Former world No.1 Ana Ivanovic has said that her shock 3-6, 5-7 first-round loss to Japan’s Ayumi Morita at Stanford was because she was nervous playing in front of new coach Nigel Sears. The pair only began working together last week and Ivanovic said she kept dwelling on the need to impress as she went down. “I just started with a new team and [it] takes time for things to come into place and nerves played a part to impress the new coach, but that’s normal,” she said. “We spoke a lot about things we were working on, but [Nigel said] when you go out there I want you to trust your instincts, but I still thought too much about technical stuff. It’s [a] matter of practicing and doing it over and over until it becomes automatic. A few times I was not aggressive enough and was thinking too much [about] what I had to do.” Meanwhile, Agnieszka Radwanska has admitted she isn’t sure if she will continue with her father Robert as her coach this summer. Robert has coached both Agnieszka and her younger sister Ursula since they started playing, but recently fractions and arguments have become commonplace. “Sometimes it’s good to have a break, especially from someone you’ve been working with for 17 years already and sometimes it’s just too much,” Agnieszka told Tennis.com. “We are going to go with one coach here and then we will see. It’s hard to separate the [roles]. On court he’s still dad and coach and then sometimes he brings tennis off the court and it’s too much. That’s why we are trying to have a break.”

Azarenka Explains Herself:

In an interview with Matt Cronin recently Victoria Azarenka gave some insight in to what makes her tick and what is behind her various behavioural patterns. Talking about her good rapport with the tour, she said: “For me it’s not about having friends, it’s about being civilized and a good person. It’s a matter of being respectful. It’s difficult to deal with other people sometimes because you are in your zone and trying to focus and someone keeps asking you a question and you don’t mean [to respond] in a bad way, it’s just the wrong time.” And talking about the constant interest in her on-court shrieking as she plays, she quipped: “[It’s] just sometimes it gets to such a ridiculous point, that I have no comments about that. It’s funny to me that people spend all this money to measure how loud [the grunting is]. Go give your money to someone else. C’mon.” She also outlined her intention to challenge for the upcoming US Open title in New York, saying: “One of my goals is to go there and win the title, but there a lot of things that have to come together and I have to be really focused on improving my game to get all things together for the big events.”

Ferrer May Miss Rogers Cup:

World No.6 David Ferrer has revealed via his official website that he has suffered a hairline fracture in his left hand, sidelining him for around two-three weeks. This makes him “very doubtful” for the Canadian Masters, which begins August 9 in Montreal. Meanwhile, defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova joins Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova and Kim Clijsters as withdrawals from the San Diego Open next week. “Sorry guys, I have to say I won’t defend my title in San Diego and very sad about it,” the Russian announced on Twitter.

Qureshi Donates Grant to Pakistan Flood Victims:

Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi has donated the $10,000 his foundation received from the ATP Aces for Charity grant program to victims of the flood which ravished his country last year. The district of Thatta in southern Pakistan was almost completely destroyed by the floods and has slowly been rebuilding itself since. The grant will go towards the construction of new housing and other facilities communities need to survive. “I am deeply impressed by the resilience and self-help spirit of the community,” he said on a recent visit to the region.

Dementieva Ties the Knot:

Former Russian tennis beauty Elena Dementieva last week tied the knot with ice hockey star fiancé Maxim Afinogenov. Much of the top Russian talent was on show, including Maria Kirilenko who was in attendance with her long-time partner Igor Andreev. Vera Zvonereva, Dinara Safina, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Elena Vesnina and Vera Dushevina, among others, were also at the star-studded bash. Kirilenko even went as far as saying that it was the greatest wedding she had ever attended. “Elena and her husband were always with the guests,” Kirilenko told Tennis.com. “They were sitting with us, talking on the microphone, they were dancing together. It was unbelievable. Normally when you go to [a] wedding, you are sitting and watching and it’s kind of boring.” Kirilenko also admitted that she had lost out when attempting to catch the bouquet during the customary toss. “All the girls were trying to catch it and then suddenly from somewhere Dushevina came and sprinted and stole it from me,” she joked.

Rankings Watch:

With the big male seeds putting their feet up somewhat since Wimbledon concluded the rest of the tennis world has had a chance to shine over the past few weeks. Spain’s Nicolas Almagro has re-entered the Top 10 of the South African Airways ATP World Rankings following his finals appearance in Hamburg last week. France’s Gilles Simon, his conqueror in that match, climbs seven to No.11. Fernando Verdasco re-enters the Top 20, while Kei Nishikori of Japan and France’s Adrian Mannarino are in to the Top 50. America’s Ryan Harrison leaps 26 places to No.94 in the world, and he is joined in the Top 100 by Thiemo de Bakker (No.99) and Stephane Robert (No.98). The big movers in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings this week were also title winners in the previous seven days. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez was the victor at Bad Gastein and as a result she climbs from No.54 in the world to No.39. Anabel Medina Garrigues also climbed after winning Palermo, up to No.34 from No.39. Petra Cetkovska matched her career-best No.49 after reaching the Palermo semis, while Patricia Mayr-Achleitner leapt from No.109 to No.76 after reaching the Bad Gastein final.

Azarenka Collapses on Court: A Strange and Terrible Saga

So this article will be short today. I am in a foul mood.  I always had a thing for Victoria Azarenka ever since I watched her play at the Australian Open 2009. Watching YouTube videos and reading Fastscript interviews followed quickly after that to feed my infatuation. Every interview I could find of her, I read.  And every tournament she played, I would check the draw to see if she’s got a half decent chance of winning it.

I am not asking for much but a win, much like the one she recorded at Stanford a few weeks ago, every now and then would be great. Especially with a victory over fellow Russian countrywoman Maria Sharapova.

With the Stanford win in her pocket, a good run at the US Open 2010 seemed very very possible. I secretly even dreamed of her winning the 2010 edition of the final major of the year.

Alas, this afternoon while I was surfing the net and keeping scores in my browser I received the notification  that Azarenka had collapsed and was wheelchaired off the court during her match versus Argentinan Gisela Dulko. Azarenka trailed 5-1 in the first set.

Of course, major panic struck on the court. Her trainer and tournament officials came rushing to check if Vika was still breathing.

“I was scared,” Dulko said. “She went to the floor. I was worried for her. I went to see her, brought some ice, did whatever I could do to help.”

The weather has been incredibly hot at the US Open since the start. With temparatures during the day rising to mid 90s.  But tournament officials did not activate the Extreme Weather Policy which allows for icebags and a request for a 10-minute break amongst other things during changeovers.

“It’s tough to play out there,” Dulko said. “It’s really hot, really humid. You sweat so much, sometimes it’s impossible to hold the racket.”

And Dulko is pretty much right. Playing under these circumstances is tough and for a player who has a history of not being able to cope with heat like Azarenka (retired match versus Serena Williams in the fourth round of the Australian Open 2009) it must be even tougher.

But then tweets started to appear about Azarenka bumping her head prior to the match. If that is so, then why did no one even do a quick medical examination before the match started? Just to see if she can actually play.

And John Koblin from The Observer wrote the following from the pressroom:

The early consensus in the press room seems to be that this was likely related to her fitness, and not exclusively a reflection of the heat out there. It’s just over 90 degrees now, and it was hotter at times yesterday.

Yes, hotter at times yesterday. But she didn’t play yesterday. She may have practiced but that’s different from a match.

The WTA was asked for a comment but they were quick to say that it is up to the USTA. The USTA came with the following statement:

US Open Tournament Referee Brian Earley said in a statement following the match: “Victoria Azarenka retired from her match with headache-like symptoms. She was taken to a nearby hospital for diagnostic testing. Out of respect to her privacy, we cannot give any more details. However, we can say that this does not seem to be primarily a heat-related illness.”

Greg Couch of Fanhouse was quick to Tweet that all this may be a cover up. But then again, a cover up for what? Surely something must be at stake, if there are any cover ups in the first place.

Azarenka wobbling from the start in high heat. WTA won’t comment. USTA gives odd statement she had a headache-like. That passes smell test? – Greg Couch

With temparatures rising up until 90 degrees, things outside decay quicker. Let’s hope that this one doesn’t and that we get a full explanation in either a  press release or a press conference.

An early conclusion based on the reports I have read is that her collapse on the court could very well be a combination of two things: The heat and her bumping her head prior to the match. But then the question still remains: Why wasn’t there a medical examination before she started her match versus Dulko?

Azarenka’s official statement is as follows:

“I was warming up in the gym prior to my match against Gisela Dulko when I fell while running a sprint,” Azarenka later said in a statement. “I fell forward and hit my arm and head. I was checked by the medical team before I went on court and they were courtside for monitoring.

“I felt worse as the match went on, having a headache and feeling dizzy. I also started having trouble seeing and felt weak before I fell.

“I was taken to the hospital for some medical tests and have been diagnosed with a mild concussion.”

Check the gallery and video to see how Victoria Azarenka lays on the Grandstand court and later is wheeled off in a wheelchair.

Elena Dementieva Returns…And Wins

By Luís Santos

Games, Set and Match, Dementieva. These were the final words of Elena’s first match since Roland Garros where she was forced to retire due to a calf injury. She missed the entire grasscourt season including Wimbledon and was staging her comeback at Stanford drawing veteran Kimiko Date Krumm.

It was a bitter ending to what could have been her first Grand Slam title after the likes of Henin, Serena Williams and other direct rivals were all sent packing early on. But injury would slow Dementieva down and force her to retire during the second set.

But fresh of 8 weeks of rest and world traveling to visit friends and family, Dementieva is back on track, back to training and as fit as ever, ready to shake the rust off and flourish in one of her favorite parts of the season – the US Open Series, which she won last year.

Her first hurdle came in the shape of Kimiko Date Krumm, a time capsule of tennis so to speak, a player blasted away from the 90s and a complete headache to another Russian – Dinara Safina. Safina has gone 0-2 since Date returned including a loss in the first round of Stanford. Dementieva was not fazed though and after a first set hiccup, she regrouped and won 3-6 6-3 6-4.

Elena now awaits the winner of the match between Maria Sharapova and Olga Govortsova in hopes of fighting for a semifinal spot.
Let’s hope Elena can make a revival of the tennis that saw her claim the Series last year and fortunately go one tournament better this year – the US Open.

LARCHER DE BRITO DRAWS SERENA WILLIAMS

By Luís Santos

For the second year running Serena Williams will face a Portuguese in the first round of Wimbledon. Last year she met Neuza Silva, sailing 6-1 7-5 despite a close second set. This year she meets Michelle Larcher de Brito, arguably the best Portuguese player in the women’s tennis history.

This is Larcher de Brito’s second Wimbledon main draw. She lost to Francesca Schiavone in last year’s second round 7-6 7-6. Michelle comes into Wimbledon with a 2-1 record on grass this year after reaching the third round at Birmingham where she beat number 7 seed Olga Govortsova before falling to resurgent Kaia Kanepi.

Despite being ranked outside the top 100 and only 17 years of age, Larcher de Brito holds an extensive number of wins over top 50 players and has actually pushed many of the latest Grand Slam champions to tough matches. One of her ‘almost-casualties’ was Serena Williams herself back at Stanford 2008, where the American had her hands full for three sets before finally prevailing 4-6 6-3 6-2.

These are Serena’s lawns but can Michelle turn the tables? We’ll see.

Mondays With Bob Greene: It shows how important Andy is for the team

Andreas Beck

STARS

Rajeev Ram beat Sam Querry 6-7 (3) 7-5 6-3 to win the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island, USA

Agnes Szavay won the GDF Suez Grand Prix, beating Patty Schnyder 2-6 6-4 6-2 in Budapest, Hungary

Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez beat Caroline Wozniacki 7-5 6-4 to win the Collector Swedish Open Women in Bastad, Sweden

Julia Goerges beat Ekaterina Dzehalevich 7-5 6-0 in Biarritz, France, to win the Open GDF Suez de Biarritz

Karol Beck won the Open Diputacion Ciudad de Pozoblanco in Pozoblanco, Cordoba, Spain, beating Thiago Alves 6-4 6-3

DAVIS CUP

World Group Quarterfinals

Czech Republic Argentina 3-2; Croatia beat the United States 3-2; Israel beat Russia 4-1; Spain beat Germany 3-2

Americas Zone Group 1 Playoff: Peru vs. Canada; Group 2 Second Round: Venezuela beat Mexico; Dominican Republic beat Paraguay; Netherlands Antilles beat Jamaica; Bahamas vs. Guatemala

Asia/Oceania Zone Group 1 Second Round Playoffs: Kazakhstan beat Thailand 5-0; Korea vs. China; Group 2 Second Round: Philippines beat Pakistan 3-2; New Zealand beat Indonesia 5-0; Group 2 Playoffs: Hong Kong-China beat Oman 5-0; Malaysia beat Kuwait 4-1

Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 Playoffs: Belarus beat FYR Macedonia 4-1; Group 2 Second Round: Slovenia beat Lithuania 5-0; Latvia beat Bulgaria 4-1; Finland beat Monaco 3-2; Cyprus beat Ireland 3-1; Group 2 Playoffs: Egypt beat Georgia 5-0; Hungary beat Moldova 3-2; Denmark beat Montenegro 3-2; Portugal beat Algeria 5-0

SAYING

“It’s a beautiful way to celebrate my career. … I wish my dad would have been here today, but I know he’s here in spirit because without him I wouldn’t be sitting here today.” – Monica Seles, on her installation into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

“These days don’t come around very often unless you’re (Roger) Federer or (Rafael) Nadal. There’s definitely pressure. … Winning tournaments is not normal on the tour for 99 percent of us.” – Rajeev Ram, after beating fellow American Sam Querry in Newport to win his first ATP title.

“I’m sorry I spoiled your (birthday) celebrations, but I promise I will buy you something instead.” – Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez of Spain, after beating Caroline Wozniacki on the Dane’s 19th birthday.

“For the first time I have absolutely nothing to say, usually I just can’t stop talking, and I started to cry like a little boy.” – Andy Ram, after teaming with Jonathan Erlich to win the doubles and clinch Israel’s first semifinal berth in Davis Cup competition.

“It was a great fight. At the end I was just fighting like a tiger. That was the difference, I think. It wasn’t about the tennis in that match. I was so close to losing.” – Agnes Szavay, after beating Patty Schnyder in the final in Budapest.

“I was so embarrassed to be with them that I called everybody sir. Those players have won Wimbledon, Davis Cup, Forest Hills, French Open, and I have one trophy, Monte Carlo.” – Andres Gimeno, who joined Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Lew Hoad and others on the pro tour before he won his only Grand Slam tournament title, the French Open, in 1972.

“It shows how important Andy is for the team. Being on the No. 2 spot is less pressure than playing on the No. 1 spot.” – James Blake, losing both of his singles matches after being forced to play No. 1 when Andy Roddick pulled out of the United States-Croatia Davis Cup quarterfinal tie with a hip injury.

SWEET DAY INDEED

In a string of circumstances, Andy Roddick’s hip injury may have been the catalyst that led to Rajeev Ram winning his first ATP title. When Roddick pulled out of Davis Cup with the injury, he was replaced by Mardy Fish, the top seed at the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island. Knowing he would get a spot in the main draw because of Fish’s leaving, Ram withdrew from his final round of qualifying, then became the tournament’s “lucky loser.” With rain curtailing play on Tuesday and Wednesday, Ram played eight matches over the last three days of the tournament as he became just the third player on the ATP World Tour this year to win both singles and doubles at the same event. He downed fellow American Sam Querrey 6-7 (3) 7-5 6-3 for the singles title, then teamed with Austria’s Jordan Kerr to beat Michael Kohlmann of Germany and Dutchman Rogier Wassen 6-7 (6) 7-6 (7) 10-6 (match tiebreak) in the doubles. Ram, playing in his fist ATP final and ranked 181 in the world, is the lowest ranked player to win a tournament this year. Until the Newport tournament, he had won a total of six career ATP matches.

SHOCKER

In the biggest shocker of the Davis Cup weekend, Israel advanced to the semifinals of the World Group for the first time by upsetting Russia 4-1. The Israelis clinched the tie when Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich bested Marat Safin and Igor Kunitsyn to win the doubles and give their side an unassailable 3-0 lead over the two-time Davis Cup champions. “I actually can’t describe how I feel. … I am so proud to be an Israeli today, to be a part of this team, so proud to be part of this sport and Davis Cup tennis, it was a classic tie,” said Israel team captain Eyal Ran. Israel took a surprising 2-0 lead on the opening day when 210th-ranked Harel Levy upset Igor Andreev before Dudi Sela beat Mikhail Youzhny. Israel will take on defending champion Spain in the semifinals on September 18-20.

The other semifinal will pit two other surprising teams against each other. The Czech Republic edged Argentina, last year’s Davis Cup finalists, 3-1, while Croatia defeated the Andy Roddick-less United States 3-2.

STRIKING GOLD

The singles winners at the US Open will pocket at least a record USD $1.6 million. The two champions also can earn an additional USD $1 million in bonus prize money, which could help in building a new garage on their home since they will also receive a new 2010 Lexus IS convertible vehicle. The USTA announced that the total US Open purse will top USD $12.6 million, making it the third consecutive year that the prize money has increased by USD $1 million. In addition to the base purse of USD $21.6 million, the top three men and top three women finishers in the Olympus US Open Series may earn up to an additional USD $2.6 million in bonus prize money. And just in case that’s not enough to make ends meet, the US Open winners – like all the other players in the field – will receive per diem payments to help with the cost of accommodations and other expenses during their New York City stay.

STAR POWER

Andre Agassi is returning to the US Open. Twice a champion in the year’s final Grand Slam tournament, Agassi will headline the opening night ceremony on August 31 as the US Open celebrates charity work by athletes. Agassi, who began the Andre Agassi Foundation in 1994, ended his 21-year career by retiring at the end of the 2006 US Open. His foundation has a charger school in Las Vegas, Nevada, which graduated its first senior class in June, sending all 34 students to college.

SEEING IS BELIEVING

The marathon Wimbledon final in which Roger Federer outlasted Andy Roddick was the most-watch All England Club men’s final in the United States in 10 years. NBC said an average of 5.71 million people tuned in to watch Federer win his record-setting 15th Grand Slam title, the most since Pete Sampras beat Andre Agassi in the 1999 final. The 3.8 rating and 10 share was the best for a men’s final since Sampras defeat4ed Patrick Rafter in 2000, and surpassed last year’s five-set battle between Federer and Rafael Nadal by nine percent. The fifth set of the Federer-Roddick match was the longest in major final history.

SMILE

While in Newport, Rhode Island, to attend his colleague Donald Dell’s induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Ray Benton told the story about how he once advised Ivan Lendl that if he showed how much he enjoyed playing tennis it could help the bottom line. Benton, Lendl’s agent, theorized that if the stoic-looking Lendl just smiled and acted happy after he won matches, it would result in the player earning an additional USD $1 million dollars a year in endorsements. Benton said Lendl pondered the idea for a few moments, then said, “It’s not worth it.” Lendl, who won 94 singles titles in his career, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001.

SOMETHING TO PLAY FOR

The top mixed doubles team in the Advanta World TeamTennis Pro League will be playing on the big stage come this August. The mixed doubles team that finishes at the top of the WTT Pro League rankings will receive a wild card into the 2009 US Open mixed doubles tournament. More than 50 players are competing in the Advanta WTT Pro League this month for 10 franchises throughout the United States. “World TeamTennis has long featured some of the best players in the world, especially in doubles,” said WTT commissioner Ilana Kloss. “We are very excited to work with the USTA to provide our players with this opportunity to be rewarded for their high level of play.” World TeamTennis matches feature three sets of doubles – men’s, women’s and mixed – along with one set each of men’s and women’s single. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) is a minority owner and promotional partner of World TeamTennis.

SPANISH LION

Spain reached back into the past to gain a victory in their Davis Cup tie against Germany. When Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer both pulled out of the World Group quarterfinal because of injuries, Juan Carlos Ferrero was added to the team. Then Spanish captain Albert Costa replaced Tommy Robredo with Ferrero in the decisive fifth match, and the former world number one bested Andreas Beck 6-4 6-4 6-4. It was the first time since 2005 against Italy that Spain won a fifth match to determine the outcome of a tie. It was Ferrero that time also who came away victorious. “It’s amazing what I felt on the court today,” Ferrero said. “It’s a long time I didn’t play Davis Cup competition and this tie for me was very special. To come back and play the last point, I felt amazing on the court.”

SMITTENED

India’s Sania Mirza is making headlines for reasons beyond her tennis. In the latest incident, two engineering students have been arrested and accused of stalking her. All of this comes as she is being engaged to family friend Sohrab Mirza, whose father owns Universal Bakers chain in Hyderabad, India. The 23-year-old Sohrab is reportedly heading to the United Kingdom to pursue an MBA degree. Police said Ajay Singh Yadva was apprehended as he tried to barge into the tennis player’s house, apparently to profess his love. He was taken into custody when he refused to leave. Yadav’s arrest came a day after another student threatened to commit suicide if the engagement was not called off. Last month, the Andhra Pradesh state government found that a man had secured a white ration card showing Sania Mirza as his wife, complete with photos of the tennis star. White ration cards are meant for people living below the poverty line. The 22-year-old Mirza became the first Indian woman to climb into the top 40 in the rankings. At one time, the Muslim player was assailed by conservative elements of the Indian community for competing in short skirts and sleeveless shirts.

SERVING BAN

Former junior Australian Open champion Brydan Klein has been banned from the game for six months for racially abusing South African Raven Klaasen during an ATP event in England last month. The 19-year-old Australian also will undergo a racial sensitivity course and was fined USD $10,000 by the ATP. Australian media said Klein called Klaasen a “kaffir” and spat at his coach and another player. Klein earlier had been fined USD $13,290 by Tennis Australia, which suspended him from the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and cut off his funding grants. “I sincerely regret my error in judgment in using the language I did and I am deeply sorry for the offense caused,” Australian Associated Press (AAP) quoted Klein as saying in a statement. “I am accepting the ATP’s ruling and am now looking to put the whole incident behind me. I will undergo a racial sensitivity course and am determined to learn from this mistake.” The suspension covers all ATP World Tour and ATP Challenger Tour events. The final two months of the suspension and extra fine will be waived if Klein successfully completes the racial sensitivity training course.

SIDELINED

Jelena Dokic’s ailment has been diagnosed as mononucleosis. The illness has plagued Dokic since the end of the French Open. Blood tests taken after she lost at Wimbledon revealed the illness. She was told by doctors to do nothing but rest for at least two weeks. “I am disappointed to have to pull out of a couple of events, but I am also relieved to finally know what was wrong,” said Dokic, who once was ranked as high as fifth in the world before dropping off the tour with personal problems. “It has been so frustrating since the French. My natural work ethic is to get on court and train hard with intensity. I just haven’t been able to do that, and until now I didn’t know why.”

SELECTED

Todd Woodbridge is Australia’s new Davis Cup coach. A 16-time doubles Grand Slam tournament champion, Woodbridge has been appointed national men’s and Davis Cup coach in an expanded full-time role. Tennis Australia made the move in an effort to reverse the country’s flagging fortunes in the competition, which they have won 28 times, second only to the United States. Woodbridge is Australia’s longest serving Davis Cup player and was a member of the 1999 and 2003 Davis Cup winning teams. The country currently has only one player ranked in the top 100 in the world, Lleyton Hewitt. It ended its 2009 campaign by forfeiting a regional group tie against India earlier this year, claiming security concerns on the sub-continent.

SOME HELP NEEDED

Being that tweeting while playing is against the rules, Justin Gimelstob needed help to tweet during his doubles match at the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island. Gimelstob would write notes and give them to a ball girl who would run over to the side of the court where another person would post them on Gimelstob’s Twitter account. Some times he would mouth a few comments for the intern to post in between points. Most of the twittering was standard play-by-play recaps. “There’s so much competition for the entertainment dollar,” Gimelstob explained. “Fans want to know what goes on behind the scenes. Fans want to know what goes on in the players’ heads.”

SAD NEWS

The death of French tennis player Mathieu Montcourt has been attributed to cardiac arrest. Montcourt, who had just begun a five-week ban from tennis for gambling on other players’ matches, was found outside his apartment in Paris after he spent the evening at the home of Patrice Dominguez, technical director of the French Tennis Federation. Ranked 119th in the world, Montcourt was cleared of influencing the outcome of any of the matches he had bet on. He also had been fined USD $12,000 for the offense, which he called ridiculous since he had only bet a total of USD $192.

SPONSOR

NH Hoteles has extended its sponsorship of Davis Cup by BNP Paribas for an additional three years. Originally a Spanish brand, NH Hoteles has grown to 348 hotels in 22 countries in Europe, Africa and the Americas. The International Tennis Federation (ITF), in making the announcement, noted that since NH Hoteles joined the Davis Cup family in 2004 as an international sponsor it has added 106 hotel properties to its portfolio.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Newport: Rajeev Ram and Jordan Kerr beat Michael Kohlmann and Rogier Wassen 6-7 (6) 7-6 (7) 10-6 (match tiebreak)

Bastad: Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta beat Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-2 0-6 10-5 (match tiebreak)

Budapest: Alisa Kleybanova and Monica Niculescu beat Alona Bondarenko and Kateryna Bondarenko 6-4 7-6 (5)

Biarritz: Yung-Jan Chan and Anastasia Rodionova beat Akgul Amanmuradova and Darya Kustova 3-6 6-4 10-7 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Indianapolis: www.tennisindy.com/

Bastad: http://men.swedishopen.org/

Stuttgart: www.mercedescup.de/

Prague: www.pragueopen.cz/

Palermo: www.countrytimeclub.com/web/club/home.asp

Portoroz: www.sloveniaopen.si/

Bad Gastein: www.matchmaker.at/gastein/

Los Angeles: www.latennisopen.com/

Gstaad: www.allianzsuisseopengstaad.com/e/

Umag: www.croatiaopen.hr

Stanford: www.bankofthewestclassic.com/

Istanbul: www.istanbulcup.com/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$600,000 Catella Swedish Open, Bastad, Sweden, clay

$600,000 Mercedes Cup, Stuttgart, Germany, clay

$125,000 Bogota, Columbia, clay

WTA

$220,000 Internazionali Femminili di Tennis di Palermo, Palermo, Italy, clay

$220,000 ECM Prague Open, Prague, Czech Republic, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$1,500,000 Bet-at-Home Open, Hamburg, Germany, clay

$600,000 Indianapolis Tennis Championships, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, hard

WTA

$220,000 Banka Koper Slovenia Open, Portoroz, Slovenia, hard

$220,000 Gastein Ladies, Bad Gastein, Austria, clay

Hitting The Books Or The Courts: Top American Players Weigh In

At this year’s US Open tennis championships, many of the top American junior players found themselves facing a pivotal fork in the road. Players including Asia Muhammed and Kristie Ahn, are now entering their junior and senior years of high school. With a full year of classes (if not more) ahead of them, they have already been contacted by some of the best universities in the country, including Stanford and Princeton, with guarantees of full athletic scholarships if they commit to playing on their tennis team. However, these teenagers already possess a game well beyond their years. They already have the ability to compete at the professional level and are aware of the relatively small time frame they have to utilize their talents. This ultimately begs a crucial question for these players and their families: Is it best to turn pro or go to college?

For many in the tennis community, college tennis is almost seen as a consolation prize; for those who lack the ability to make it on the pro tour, they have the opportunity to receive a free education. The odds of becoming a successful player on the pro tour after college are slim at best. Out of the tens of thousands of women who competed at the college level over the last 15 years, only five of them have ever cracked the top 100 in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) rankings. Only two of these girls (Jill Craybas and Julie Ditty) actually graduated from their school of choice; the rest dropped out by their sophomore year to pursue their careers. This year’s NCAA champion, Amanda McDowell of Georgia Tech, is currently ranked No. 797 in the world

“The level of play in college tennis is not nearly what it used to be 15 or 20 years ago,” said Lisa Raymond, the 1992 and 1993 NCAA women’s singles champion. “Players don’t have that same opportunity to compete and develop their games anymore.”

The lack of strong competition at the college level has prompted top American junior Asia Muhammed to turn professional this summer. In declaring their pro status and accepting prize money, she is no longer allowed to compete at the amateur level. This means she is not only giving up her chances to play college tennis, but is also forfeiting any athletic scholarship opportunities should she choose to go to college in the future.

“America is the only place where college tennis is really even an option,” said Muhammed, 17. In Europe or Australia, you turn professional when you’re young and then go back to college if you haven’t made it on tour. There isn’t that intermediate step.”

Despite now having the chance to pursue her dreams of tennis stardom, players like Muhammed now have to face the realization of the cost and time commitment that it takes to compete at this level. Unlike most sports, professional tennis tournaments are held year round at locations all over the world. The majority of players travel for at least 30 weeks a year, completely on their own, and often in foreign locations where they don’t know the language. The international travel, combined with the coaching that takes place at home, leads to a staggering bill that is often placed on the shoulders of their families.

“I would say that it costs about $50,000 a year to compete on the tour, and if that’s if you’re doing it very cheaply,” said Mashona Washington, a 31 year old player from Houston. “If you travel with a coach, you can pretty much double that amount.”

Muhammed is also coached partly by her father, which brings up a potentially harmful situation. Although she doesn’t have to pay for a coach, Muhammed now faces the responsibility of becoming the primary breadwinner in their family while not even out of her teen years. In many cases, the decision to turn pro is that of the parents and not the child themselves.

“There are some girls who are turning pro right now and there isn’t anything about their game that stands out,” said Raymond. “Being a professional athlete can be an incredibly tough life at times. I think it’s important for most of these girls to at least go to college initially and be able to mature as people. Playing with the pros and actually becoming a pro are two completely different things.”

Factors such as this have prompted Kristie Ahn to keep her amateur status and plan on attending college for all four years, regardless of her professional results.

“I don’t see the big rush to turn pro right away,” said Ahn. “Rather than focusing on the pros, I’m just glad to have the honor of being of the top junior players in the country.”

While many of her contemporaries have shuttled off to tennis academies in California and Florida, Ahn has heeded the advice of her family and remained at home in New Jersey. She takes classes at home and limits her tournament schedule to roughly one event per month. While Ahn has yet to make a decision about attending a particular college, she believes that she can find a balance between attending college and competing in professional events.

“Everybody says that college is the best four years of your life and I really want to experience that,” said Ahn. “Even if the level of play in college isn’t that strong, I can still play pro events during the summer.”

While there will always be exceptions to the rule, Dr. Jack Ditty, the tournament director in Ashland, feels that many players are short changing themselves by not getting an education.

“So many of these girls invest their entire lives into tennis and leave with no money, nothing to show for it, and no education,” said Dr. Ditty. “What kind of life is that?”

He cites his daughter Julie, a current pro on the WTA Tour, as an example that a player can get a college degree and still be successful in tennis. After graduating from Vanderbilt in 2002 with a degree in early childhood education, Julie turned pro. After five years of competing on tour, she had a breakout year in 2007 and finished just outside of the top 100. In January of 2008, she made her main draw debut in a Grand Slam at the Australian Open. At the age of 29, she became the oldest player in WTA history to make their debut showing at a Grand Slam.

“If I had to do it all over again, I would definitely still have gone to college,” said Ditty. “It takes the pressure off me as a player because in the worst case scenario, I have a degree to fall back on. I don’t know if I would have achieved more as a pro by starting earlier, but by finishing up at Vanderbilt, I now have something that will last me for the rest of my life.”

Bucharest, Romania: Beware of Dracula!

Mark Keil, senior tennis coach at Westboro Tennis and Swim Club outside of Boston, chats about the tour event in Bucharest, along with lovely Ljubijana, Slovenia.

Bucharest is a fascinating city full of history and folklore.  I partnered in 1995 with the infamous Jeff Tarango.  Jeff grew up in Palos Verdes, California and had a great junior career.  He stared at Stanford, and then went onto a pro career where he probably is most famous for his performance at Wimbledon on year.

While playing an early round match against Germany’s Alexander Mronz, Tarango got fed up with Bruno Rebeuh, the French umpire.  After being exasperated over too many bad line call’s, Jeff stormed off the court in a rage, and was defaulted.  Upon exiting the court, Mr. Rebeuh was slapped by Jeff’s wife at the time, Benedicte, a French woman.  His antic’s even made NBC’s nightly Tom Brokaw newscast.  Jeff was a true character; a maniac on the court but very giving off of it.  We beat Marc-Kevin Goellner of Germany and Piet Norval of South Africa in the first round.  Norval won a silver medal in doubles at the Barcelona Olympic’s with Wayne Ferreira.  He had a tragic car accident while hunting in South Africa, but has recovered fully and now coaches in his homeland.

We then beat the Dutch contingent of Tom Kempers and Menno Oosting.  Menno unfortunately passed away in a car accident driving from France back to Holland a few year’s later.  I regret not going to his memorial service the player’s held in London a few weeks later.  At the time, Bucharest was a million dollar event, where the doubles winner’s would split a cool $100,000.

In the semis, we were up against Byron Talbot and Libor Pimek and it was nerve wracking.  After we broke at 5-4 in the third set, Tarango sat down on the changeover and then went on a ten minute bathroom break.  He did this to make me relax and pretend like I was just starting out the match, and wanted to simulate the first game of the match. I proceeded to serve four first serves and we won the match!  In between matches, I went down to the train station and encountered all of the Romanian orphans who lived under the station. It was an eye opening experience, and made me realize how lucky I was to be living in the US.

Nicolai Ceausescu was once the dictator, and I wanted to check out the tunnel maze’s he constructed underneath his parliament buildings. In the finals, Jeff and I defeated Cyril Suk and Daniel Vacek for the title.  It was a great week.

Also on tap this week, is the challenger event in Ljubijana, Slovenia.  It is a scenic town, and one should visit this place.  I teamed up with the Kiwi James Greenhalgh.  We took out Massimo Ardinghi of Italy Nebojsa Djordjevic of Yugoslavia in a tie breaker in the third.  We lost to the current tour player’s from the Czech Republic Petr Pala and Pavel Vizner.  Vizner was a Grizzly Adam’s TV show character  lookalike, who used the same racket as me for a long time.

Hope everyone enjoyed the US  Open, now to the dessert menu of the tennis season!

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