Stefan Edberg

Mondays With Bob Greene: You just try to first get the ball back

STARS

Roger Federer beat Novak Djokovic 6-1 7-5 to win the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

Elena Dementieva beat Maria Sharapova 6-4 6-3 to win the Rogers Cup in Toronto, Canada

Pat Cash successfully defended his International Tennis Hall of Fame Champions Cup singles title, defeating Jim Courier 6-3 6-4 in Newport, Rhode Island, USA

SAYING

“It’s been a wonderful summer.” – Roger Federer, winning his first tournament title after the birth of his twin daughters.

“The closest I was going to get to the first-place trophy is now.” – Novak Djokovic, while standing five feet (1.5m) from the crystal bowl that Roger Federer collected by winning the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters.

“I returned poorly and served poorly. Against Roger, if you do both of those things, it’s going to be very difficult.” – Andy Murray, after his semifinal loss to Roger Federer in Cincinnati.

“It’s only a number. I hope to be ready in the future to come back to number two or to be in the top position. Number three is a very good number, too.” – Rafael Nadal, who is now ranked number three in the world.

“When you have so many important points and every point is so tough, you have to give 100 percent. It really kills your brain more than physical.” – Alisa Kleybanova, after outlasting Jelena Jankovic 6-7 (6) 7-6 (7) 6-2 in Toronto.

“It’s tough to think about the winner’s circle because you have to take it one match at a time.” – Maria Sharapova, who has returned to the WTA Tour following a nine-month layoff.

“It’s big because it was against Venus.” – Kateryna Bondarenko, after upsetting Venus Williams in an opening round match at Toronto.

“It’s my brain. I know exactly what I have to do, but if I’m not using my brain, I’m not doing the things my coach is telling me.” – Dinara Safina, after losing her second-round match at Toronto.

“It’s difficult to push yourself to play relaxed, even though you know this is the end. But still, you are a player deep inside, so it comes out in important moments, and you want to win no matter what.” – Marat Safin, after winning his first-round match in Cincinnati.

“I’m actually having a competition with myself to see how many errors and double-faults I can make and still win the match in two sets.” – Maria Sharapova, after winning her second-round match in Toronto.

“I’ve already missed a Masters’ event this year when I got married, so I guess that wasn’t an option here unless I wanted to pay everyone off.” – Andy Roddick, on why he played in Cincinnati despite playing the two weeks prior.

“You just try to first get the ball back.” – Roger Federer, when asked the secret of playing winning tennis.

“Depending on the draw, my pick at this point is (Andy) Murray or (Andy) Roddick.” – John McEnroe, forecasting the winner of this year’s US Open men’s singles.

“I think there could be a battle for the number one in the world. That’s what everybody hopes for. This year the tour is very tough and it’s tight at the top. Hopefully that’s what we’ll get to see.” – Andy Murray, on the battle looming at the season-ending ATP World Tour Championships.

“My overhead cost has gone down considerably.” – Brian Wood, a promoter for a tennis exhibition in Asheville, North Carolina, after replacing Andre Agassi and Marat Safin with Rajeev Ram and Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo.

SETTING THE TABLE?

Elena Dementieva put herself in good company by beating Maria Sharapova and winning the Rogers Cup in Toronto, Canada. The fourth-seeded Dementieva captured her third title of the year and during the week won her 50th match of the season, something only Dinara Safina and Caroline Wozniacki had done in 2009. The Russian hopes to follow in the footsteps of the last three Toronto winners – Justine Henin in 2003, Kim Clijsters in 2005 and Henin again in 2007. They went on to win the US Open. The gold-medalist at the Beijing Olympics, Dementieva has never won a Grand Slam tournament.

SET FOR US OPEN

Despite not winning a tournament, Rafael Nadal says he’s ready for the US Open. Nadal had not played since suffering an injury at Roland Garros this spring until the past two weeks, in Montreal and Cincinnati. “These two weeks, winning three matches here and two matches (in Montreal), winning five matches and playing seven matches in total, it’s enough matches I think,” said the Spaniard, who has seen his ranking drop from number one in the world to number three during his absence from the court. “We will see how I am physically to play the five-set matches,” he said. “I know when I am playing well I can play at this level. But you only can win against these top players when you are playing your best tennis.”

SERENA’S IN

Serena Williams is the second player to qualify for the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships, which will be played October 27-November 1 in Doha, Qatar. The reigning Australian Open and Wimbledon champion joins Dinara Safina to have clinched spots in the eight-player field. By winning both the singles and doubles titles at the Australian Open, Serena became the first professional female athlete to surpass USD $23 million in career earnings. She moved past Lindsay Davenport as the all-time prize money leader on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Davenport has earned USD $22,144,735. And because she and her sister Venus Williams have won three doubles titles this year – the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, California, USA – the sisters currently rank second in the Race to the Sony Ericsson Championships Doubles Standings.

SCOT SCORES

Andy Murray has qualified for the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, which will be held November 22-29 in London. The Scot joins Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as the first three singles players to qualify for the elite eight-man event. By winning the Rogers Cup in Montreal, Canada, Murray moved up to a career-high number two in the world behind Federer. That snapped the four-year domination of Federer and Nadal at the top of the men’s game. The 22-year-old Murray is the first ATP player to record 50 match wins this year and has won five titles in 2009: Montreal, Doha, Rotterdam, Miami and Queen’s Club in London, where he became the first British champion since Henry “Bunny” Austin in 1938.

SUCCESSFUL DEFENSE

Pat Cash loves grass court tennis. The 1987 Wimbledon champion successfully defended his singles title on the grass courts of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, beating Jim Courier 6-3 6-4 in Newport, Rhode Island, USA. It was Cash’s second career victory in the Outback Champions Series, the global tennis circuit for players age 30 and over. Courier, once ranked number one in the world, is still seeking his first professional title on grass.

SHARING A TEAM

If only the Miami Dolphins were as well-known on the football field as their owners. Sisters Serena and Venus Williams are believed to be acquiring a stake in the National Football League team. Musicians Gloria and Emilio Estefan and Marc Anthony recently bought small shared of the team, while owner Stephen Ross forged a partnership with singer Jimmy Buffett.

SKIPPING CINCINNATI

Juan Martin del Potro is paying the price for his success. The sixth-ranked Argentine pulled out of the Cincinnati Masters because of fatigue. Del Potro reached the final of the Montreal Masters one week after winning the tournament in Washington, DC. He played 24 sets in two weeks. Winning seven matches at the US Open would take between 21 and 35 sets over a two-week period.

SKIPPING FLUSHING

Gilles Muller of Luxembourg and Ivo Minar of the Czech Republic won’t be around when the year’s final Grand Slam tournament gets underway in New York’s Flushing Meadow at the end of this month. Muller withdrew from the US Open because of a knee injury. He is best known for upsetting Andy Roddick in the opening round of the US Open in 2005 when he went on to reach the quarterfinals. Muller’s spot in this year’s tournament will be taken by Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay. An injury also has sidelined Minar. With his withdrawal, Rajeev Ram moves into the main draw.

SQUANDERING MATCH POINTS

Brothers Bob and Mike Bryan led 9-4 in the match tiebreak before Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic rallied to win the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters doubles in Cincinnati. In all, Nestor and Zimonjic saved eight match points before prevailing over the top-seeded and defending champions 3-6 7-6 (2) 15-13. Nestor and Zimonjic won six straight points but failed to convert their first match at 10-9. They were successful on their second match point, improving their record to 44-10 as a team this year and collecting their eighth title of 2009. Both teams have already clinched spots in the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, which will be held in London in November.

SUBBING

Instead of Andre Agassi and Marat Safin, spectators at a tennis exhibition in Asheville, North Carolina, will instead be watching Rajeev Ram and Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo. When only 1,100 tickets had been sold for the 6,000-seat Asheville Civic Center, promoter Brian Wood decided to replace Agassi and Safin. He also dropped the ticket price from a high of USD $200 to a top price of USD $25. The promoter said tickets purchased for the Agassi-Safin match will be refunded. This wasn’t the first change in the program. Originally Safin was to play Novak Djokovic on August 6. When the date was changed to August 28, Djokovic was replaced by Agassi. “We could have canceled altogether or moved forward on a much lower scale, and that’s what we did,” Woods said. “The guys coming are still world class players who play at an extremely high level.”

SPEAKING UP

John McEnroe is covering the airwaves as tightly as he did the court in his playing days. This year Johnny Mac will join the ESPN broadcasting team for its coverage of the US Open. The broadcast will have its own brand of family ties. John will work with his younger brother Patrick, who has been a mainstay at ESPN since 1995. He also will team with ESPN’s Mary Carillo. The two won the French Open mixed doubles in 1977.

STRAIGHT IN

Taylor Dent leads a group of five Americans who have been given wild cards into the main draw of the US Open men’s singles. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) said they have also issued wild cards to Devon Britton, Chase Buchanan, Jesse Levine and Ryan Sweeting, along with Australian Chris Guccione and a player to be named by the French Tennis Association. Dent had climbed as high as 21 in the world before undergoing three back surgeries and missing two years on the tour.

Nine men have been awarded wild card entries into the US Open qualifying tournament, which will be held August 25-28 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Receiving wild card berths into the qualifying are Americans Lester Cook, Alexander Domijan, Ryan Harrison, Scoville Jenkins, Ryan Lipman, Tim Smyczek, Blake Strode and Michael Venus, along with Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.

SHE’S BACK

Australian Alicia Molik is returning to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Once ranked as high as number eight in the world, Molik hasn’t played since losing in the opening round in both singles and doubles at the Beijing Olympics. Molik has asked for a wild card into the US Open where she plans on playing only doubles with American Meghann Shaughnessy. Her future plans call for her playing singles in a low-level International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournament in Darwin, Australia, in September. Molik won four of her five WTA titles in a six-month period in 2004-05 before a middle-ear condition affected her vision and balance, forcing her off the tour in April 2005. An elbow injury followed, leading to her announcing her retirement earlier this year.

SRICHAPHAN UNDECIDED

Although he hasn’t played on the ATP Tour since March 2007, Thailand’s Paradorn Srichaphan says he has not retired from tennis. “I’m not going to quit,” he said. “I just want to be back when I’m really ready.” Srichaphan underwent operations on his wrist in Los Angeles in 2007 and in Bangkok, Thailand, this year. He originally had planned to return to play last year, and then postponed it until the Thailand Open this September. But now he says he may not play in a tournament until 2010.

SITE TO SEE

Tennis Canada is considering combining both ATP and WTA events into one tournament the same week and playing it in both Toronto and Montreal at the same time. Under that plan, each city would stage one-half of the men’s main draw and one half of the women’s main draw. Montreal and Toronto would each stage a final, meaning one of the men’s and one of the women’s finalists would switch cities, making the one-hour trip by private jet. Currently the tournaments are run on consecutive weeks with the men’s and women’s events alternating annually between Montreal and Toronto. This year the ATP tournament was held in Montreal a week ago and won by Andy Murray. Elena Dementieva captured the women’s title in Toronto on Sunday. But the ATP and WTA are pushing for more combined tournaments, a trend that resulted in the creative suggestion by Tennis Canada.

SHOEMAKER SELECTED

David Shoemaker is the new president of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. The 36-year-old Shoemaker previously was the Tour’s chief operating officer, general counsel and head of the Asia-Pacific region. The native of Ottawa, Canada, succeeds Stacey Allaster, who was recently appointed the tour’s chairman and CEO. In his new job, Shoemaker will be responsible for the day-to-day operations and business affairs of the tour, tournament and player relations, strategic expansion of the sport in key growth markets; international television and digital media rights distribution, and the tour’s year-end Championships.

STEPPING UP

The ATP also has a new executive. Laurent Delanney has been promoted to Chief Executive Officer, Europe, and will be based in the tour’s European headquarters in Monte Carlo, Monaco. A former agent who managed a number of top players, including Yannick Noah, Delanney joined the ATP’s European office in 1994, serving most recently as senior vice president, ATP Properties, the business arm of the ATP. The 49-year-old Delanney began his career with ProServ, a sports management and marketing agency, and at one time was marketing and publication operations manager for Club Med in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

SHOW AND TELL

The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum’s gallery exhibition at this year’s US Open will be titled “The Grand Slam: Tennis’ Ultimate Achievement.” The exhibit chronicles the accomplishment of the calendar-year Grand Slam as 2009 marks the 40th anniversary of Rod Laver’s 1969 singles Grand Slam and the 25th anniversary of Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver’s 1984 doubles Grand Slam. Among the many stars featured in the exhibit are Don Budge, Maureen Connolly, Margaret Smith Court, Steffi Graf, Maria Bueno, Martina Hingis and Stefan Edberg. The exhibition will be on view from August 29 through September 13 in the US Open Gallery.

SUPERB WRITING

The telling of the 2008 epic Wimbledon final between eventual winner Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer earned New York Daily News columnist Filip Bondy a first-place award from the United States Tennis Writers’ Association. The three-judge panel called Bondy’s story “a masterful, compelling account of the greatest match, told with vivid quotes and observations, a deft touch, and a grand sense of tennis history.” Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle, Tim Joyce of RealClearSports.com and Paul Fein, whose work was published by TennisOne.com and Sportstar, each were double winners. The awards will be presented during the USTWA’s annual meeting at the US Open.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Cincinnati: Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic beat Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan 3-6 7-6 (2) 15-13 (match tiebreak)

Toronto: Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez beat Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs 2-6 7-5 11-9 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

New Haven: www.pilotpentennis.com/

Bronx: www.nyjtl.org/tournaments/ghiBronx/index.htm

New York: www.usopen.org

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$750,000 Pilot Pen Tennis, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, hard

WTA

$600,000 Pilot Pen Tennis Presented by Schick, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, hard

$100,000 EmblemHealth Bronx Open, Bronx, New York, USA, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP and WTA

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

Mondays With Bob Greene: I was the number one player in the world

STARS

Andy Murray beat Juan Martin del Potro 6-7 (4) 7-6 (3) 6-1 to win the Rogers Cup in Montreal, Canada

Jelena Jankovic beat Dinara Safina 6-4 6-2 to win the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

Peter Luczak beat Olivier Rochus 6-3 3-6 6-1 to win the Zucchetti Kos Tennis Cup Internazionali del Friuli Venezia in Cordenons, Italy

Greg Rusedski beat Stefan Edberg 6-3 6-4 to win the Vale Do Lobo Grand Champions CGD in Algarve, Portugal

SAYING

“My smile is back and I’m having fun playing the matches. This is what I missed. I missed this for maybe seven months this year.” – Jelena Jankovic, after winning the Western & Southern tournament.

“The number two – maybe it’s because it’s something different – that means maybe a little bit more. But winning a tournament here is still great.” – Andy Murray, who moved ahead of Rafael Nadal and is now ranked number two in the world.

“I’m very happy to be in the final. I lost, but I’m happy. I don’t have to think in the past and now see the future.” – Juan Martin del Potro, who lost to Andy Murray in the final of the Montreal Masters.

“I would love to come back to number one, but the important thing is to play well. The thing that makes me happy is to be competitive (and) to win important tournaments.” – Rafael Nadal, who fell to number three in the world.

“I’m definitely pleased with the level I’ve had … in these four matches.” – Kim Clijsters, who in her first tournament after a two-year retirement reached the quarterfinals at Cincinnati.

“I’m realistic. I know I am not going to win (another title). There is no way. It’s getting tougher and tougher with each tournament. It really gets into you and it’s not easy to play. Every match is a battle. It’s tough not to choke in the important moments. But I want to finish up in a right note. I should enjoy it more. I just want to finish up nice.” – Marat Safin, following his first-round loss to Gael Monfils at the Montreal Masters.

“It happens in tennis, it’s never over until it’s over and it showed today. … I never should have allowed it but it did happen.” – Roger Federer, who led 5-1 in the third set before losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

“I haven’t seen her in two years. That’s the reason I didn’t start well. I was trying to figure out what she was doing instead of playing my game. By the time I figured out her tactics, I was down 0-4. It’s just a really bad draw, I guess.” – Marion Bartoli, who lost to Kim Clijsters in their first-round match.

“I look like I had a kid more than she does. She looks amazing.” – Serena Williams, on how fit Kim Clijsters looked in her return to the WTA Tour following her marriage and birth of a daughter.

“She is the same as she was before. She moves well. You can see she hasn’t been all the time on the tour but she was playing great.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, on Kim Clijsters.

“I was the number one player in the world, and I want to start winning big tournaments again. I just need to start finding my game and start playing better and better and better. But the more I play, the better I get.” – Jelena Jankovic, after winning her semifinal match.

“Definitely I want to get a grand slam, no doubt about it. It’s not that I’m number one and I want to stop. There is another goal. I want to win a Grand Slam. I will do my best to win at the US Open. If not, next year I will work even harder to get it.” – Dinara Safina.

“Just walking down to that stadium, the reception that I received, the signs, the pictures and the high-fives going to the matches … I said, ‘You know what? This feels like home. I made the right decision.’” – Monica Seles, recalling the reaction she received from Toronto fans when she returned to tennis following her stabbing.

“I was joking with my coach that now I should probably buy a flat here since it is my fifth title in Canada.” – Mahesh Bhupathi, who teamed up with Mark Knowles to win the doubles at the Montreal Masters.

SECOND IN LINE

Even before he won the Montreal Masters, Andy Murray had surpassed Rafael Nadal as the number two-ranked player in the world. The 22-year-old Scott became the first player to win 50 matches this season as he won his fifth tournament of the year, matching Nadal. Murray is the first British player to win the Rogers Cup, a tournament that once was called the Canadian Open, and becomes the first player other than top-ranked Roger Federer and Nadal to be ranked number two in the world since Lleyton Hewitt on July 18, 2005. The last Briton to reach the Canadian final was Roger Taylor, who lost in 1970 to Rod Laver. Both Federer and Nadal lost in the quarterfinals, while Murray finished the week by beating Argentine’s Juan Martin del Potro 6-7 (4) 7-6 (3) 6-1 in the title match.

STAYING THE COURSE

Form followed rank at the Montreal Masters. For the first time since the ATP rankings were introduced in 1973, a tour-level event wound up with the top eight ranked players in the quarterfinals. Once there, top-ranked Roger Federer, second-ranked Rafael Nadal and fourth-ranked Novak Djokovic all lost to lower seeded players. The other quarterfinalists were third-ranked Andy Murray, the eventual winner, fifth-ranked Andy Roddick, sixth-ranked Juan Martin del Potro, seventh-ranked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and eighth-ranked Nikolay Davydenko.

SHOWING THE WAY

Flavia Pennetta has made Italian tennis history. The 27-year-old right-hander is the first Italian woman to be ranked in the top ten in the world. Her rise up the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour rankings has come with some well-known victims added to her resume. Pennetta beat Maria Sharapova when she won the tournament in Los Angeles, then followed with a shocking upset of Venus Williams in the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open. After winning 11 matches in 13 days, a visibly tired Pennetta lost in the semifinals at Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, to top-ranked Dinara Safina.

SNAZZY COMEBACK

Marriage, a baby and two years away from the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour didn’t seem to slow down Kim Clijsters. The former world number one left some highly ranked players in her wake as she reached the quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open before finally losing. “I’ll just take each day at a time and try to be as professional as possible whenever I’m playing and we’ll see what happens,” Clijsters said after losing to top-ranked Dinara Safina. “Obviously so far it’s worked. I’ve had some really good results and I feel like my level here has risen.” Less than 18 months after giving birth to her first child, a daughter, Clijsters beat Marion Bartoli, Patty Schnyder and French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova before running into Safina. “There’s still a lot of things to work on,” said Clijsters, who owns 34 career singles titles. “I need to keep working on the good things as well.”

STRANGE STAT

Jelena Jankovic has been ranked number one in the world, a fact that had drawn some criticism, seeing that she has yet to win a Grand Slam tournament. But her victory over Dinara Safina in the final of the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, was the first time Jankovic had beaten a player ranked number one in the world. She dedicated her victory to her mother, who is at home recovering from surgery. “I dedicate this win to her,” Jankovic said. “I wanted to make her happy. It’s important.”

SELES RETURNS

When Monica Seles returned to tennis following a two-year hiatus caused when a fan stabbed her in the back, she chose the Canadian Open. Seles won the 1995 event, but she was more impressed by the warm reception she received from the fans. One of the newest members of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Seles will participate in an exhibition doubles match in Toronto during the women’s Rogers Cup event. She is being inducted into the tournament’s hall of fame as the only player in the modern era to win four straight Canadian titles, beginning with the 1995 victory. Violet Summerhayes won four straight Canadian titles from 1899 through 1904.

SOMEONE SPECIAL

It seems to make no difference as to who Mahesh Bhupathi teams with to win doubles championships. When Bhupathi and Mark Knowles won the Rogers Cup doubles in Montreal, it was the fifth time the Indian right-hander has captured the title – with four different partners. The 35-year-old won in1997 with Leander Paes, in 2003 with Max Mirnyi, in 2004 with Paes, and in 2007 with Pavel Vizner. Bhupathi and Knowles teamed up as a regular pair at the start of the 2008 season. This was the duo’s first title since last October in Basel, Switzerland, although they reached the finals at the Australian Open in January and Barcelona, Spain, in April. Bhupathi has now won at least one ATP World Tour doubles crown every year since 1997.

STRAIGHT IN

Chase Buchanan, an 18-year-old from New Albany, Ohio, and 17-year-old Christina McHale from Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, won the 2009 United States Tennis Association (USTA) National Boys’ and Girls’ 18s championships to earn wild cards into the main singles draws at the US Open. McHale also competed in the women’s main draw of this year’s Australian Open after winning the 2008 USTA Australian Open wild card playoff. Buchanan earned a wild card into the 2008 US Open men’s doubles draw by winning the USTA Junior Boys’ 18 doubles title last year.

SAYONARA

Tzipi Obziler is finally stepping down from Israel’s Fed Cup team. “This is the right time for me to retire,” she said. “I’m grateful for this wonderful and small country which gave me the opportunity to have a great career.” Obziler played 61 Fed Cup ties for Israel, equaling former teammate Anna Smashnova’s Fed Cup participation record. Obziler has played 90 matches, compiling a 51-39 win-loss record in her 16-year Fed Cup career. She was part of the Israeli team that reached the World Group in 2008 for the first time in the nation’s history. Obziler, however, didn’t completely close the door to her retirement. “If captain Lior Mor decides he wants me on the team and I see that I’m physically capable of playing, than of course I wouldn’t refuse,” she said.

SETS TARGET DATE

Recovering from a serious knee injury, Britain’s Anne Keothavong hopes to be back in action in February. The 25-year-old tore both the anterior cruciate ligament and the meniscus in her left knee when she ran into a fence while playing a doubles match at a tournament in California, USA. Keothavong, Britain’s top player on the WTA Tour, broke into the world’s top 50 for the first time earlier this year. “I hope to be back by February, which is ambitious, but achievable,” she said.

STAYING HOME

Former world number one Carlos Moya of Spain and Kei Nishikori of Japan have withdrawn from this year’s US Open because of injuries. Moya’s biggest victory came at the 1998 French Open. He has been sidelined for most of this season with a foot injury and his ranking has slipped out of the top 100. Nishikori was the top alternate and would have taken Moya’s spot in the draw, but he also withdrew because of an injury. That means Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador is directly in the main draw of the year’s final Grand Slam tournament.

STOP IT, I SAY

Lleyton Hewitt’s wife has gone to court over a magazine article. The actress wants to know the source of the story that ran last April that implied she was having an affair. New Idea magazine has twice published apologies over the article, titled “Bec’s Other Man,” which pictured Bec Hewitt with whom the magazine identified as a “hunky American fitness trainer” named Minder Mark. The man in the picture actually was Bec’s brother, Shaun Cartwright, who frequently accompanies the family on the tennis circuit.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Montreal: Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles beat Max Mirnyi and Andy Ram 6-4 6-3

Cincinnati: Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-3 0-6 10-2 (match tiebreak)

Cordenons: James Cerretani and Travis Rettenmaier beat Peter Luczak and Alessandro Motti 4-6 6-3 11-9 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Cincinnati: www.cincytennis.com/

Toronto: www3.rogerscup.com/404.html

Newport: www.championsseriestennis.com/newport2009/

New Haven: www.pilotpentennis.com/

Bronx: www.nyjtl.org/tournaments/ghiBronx/index.htm

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$3,000,000 Western & Southern Financial Group Masters, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, hard

WTA

$2,000,000 Rogers Cup, Toronto, Canada, hard

SENIORS

International Tennis Hall of Fame Champions Cup, Newport, Rhode Island, USA, grass

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$750,000 Pilot Pen Tennis, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, hard

WTA

$600,000 Pilot Pen Tennis Presented by Schick, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, hard

$100,000 EmblemHealth Bronx Open, Bronx, New York, USA, hard

Tennis History Tuesday: Bagels at Wimbledon

Bagels – in addition to strawberries and cream – were served on the opening day of Wimbledon Monday as Marion Bartoli registered a “double bagel” – a 6-0, 6-0 win over Yung-Jan Chan in the first round of women’s singles.  On Tuesday, June 23, marks the 22nd anniversary of the last TRIPLE bagel at Wimbledon when Stefan Edberg hammered his fellow Swede Stefan Eriksson. That match – and others – are documented in the June 23 chapter of the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennishistorybook.com). The full excerpt is detailed below.

June 23

1987 – Stefan Edberg defeats fellow Swede Stefan Eriksson 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 in the first “triple bagel” at Wimbledon since 1947. ”It’s nice to be able to do whatever you want to do out there,” Edberg says, ”but I felt sorry for Stefan, too. It was his first match on grass. I thought about giving him a game but you never know when you are going to have another chance to win three love sets again.”

2003 – Robby Ginepri of the United States becomes the first player in Wimbledon history to wear a sleeveless shirt in competition in his 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (3), 10-8 first-round loss to Arnaud Clement of France.

1981 – Fourteen-year-old American Kathy Rinaldi becomes the youngest player to win a match at Wimbledon at the at the time, saving a match point in defeating Sue Rollinson of South Africa 6-3, 2-6, 9-7 in 2 hours, 36 minutes on Court No. 2 at the All England Club. Rinaldi, a ninth-grader at Martin County High School in Stuart, Fla., enters Wimbledon fresh off reaching the quarterfinals of the French Open. Rollinson serves for the match twice – at 5-4 and 6-5 in the final set and holds at match point in the 12th game of the third set. Rinaldi loses her distinction nine years later when Jennifer Capriati, at the age of 14 years, 90 days – one day younger than Rinaldi – defeats Helen Kelesi 6-3, 6-1 in her first-round match on June 26, 1990.

1976 – John Feaver of Britain fires 42 aces, a Wimbledon record at the time, but is not able to put away three-time champion John Newcombe, losing to the Australian legend 6-3, 3-6, 8-9, 6-4, 6-4 in the third round on Court No. 2. Feaver’s 42 aces stands as the Wimbledon ace record for a match until 1997, when Goran Ivanisevic fires 46 aces in a 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (4), 4-16, 14-12 loss to Magnus Norman in the third round. Ivo Karlovic of Croatia breaks Ivanisevic’s record in a first round match in 2005, a 6-7(4), 7-6 (8), 3-6, 7-6 (5), 12-10 loss to Daniele Bracciali of Italy.

1992 – Jeremy Bates of Britain, a man who Robin Finn of the New York Times describes as being “more prone to be written off locally than to pulling off major upsets on the home turf” defeats No. 7 seed Michael Chang 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 in the opening round of Wimbledon. The win marks only the second match victory on the season for the 30-year-old Bates, ranked No. 113. John McEnroe, playing in what ultimately is his final singles sojurn at the All-England Club – and unseeded in the Championships for the first time since his 1977 debut – wins his opening round match with Luiz Mattar 5-7, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3.

1990 – Eighteen-year-old Californian Pete Sampras, the future seven-time Wimbledon champion, wins his first grass court tournament title of his career, defeating Gilad Bloom of Israel 7-6 (9), 7-6 (3) in the final of the Manchester Open in Manchester, England. Says Sampras following the victory, ”I was very composed, and he got a little tight on the crucial points.” Sampras, however, is not able to translate his grass-court success in Manchester onto the lawns of Wimbledon the following week as he loses in the first round of The Championships to Christo van Rensburg of South Africa 7-6 (4), 7-5, 7-6 (3).

1982 – Prior to teeing off for a round of pro-am golf at the Westchester Country Club in support of the PGA Tour’s Westchester Golf Classic, Ivan Lendl explains that his decision to skip Wimbledon is based on an allergy to grass. ”I sneeze a lot,” he says. ”I take shots every second day.” When pressed about his Wimbledon absence, Lendl says. ”I am on a vacation because I need the rest. When you are on vacation you don’t write stories. I am not at Wimbledon because I needed the rest. This is when I scheduled my holiday and I didn’t want to change it. The grass courts at Wimbledon are also a factor because of my allergy. I’ll probably play at Wimbledon next year. ”

1988 – John McEnroe suffers a second-round straight-set loss to Wally Masur, losing 7-5, 7-6, 6-3, marking the three-time Wimbledon champion’s earliest loss at the All England Club since a first-round loss in 1978. Says McEnroe after the match, “If that’s the best I’ve got to give, I’d quit tomorrow. It’s like my body went into some sort of letdown. I wasn’t even pushing myself to be my best. It’s almost enough to make me sick.”

Mondays With Bob Greene: For me Roger is the greatest player ever who played the tennis game

STARS

Caroline Wozniacki beat Virginie Razzano 7-6 (5) 7-5 to win the AEGON International women’s singles in Eastbourne, Great Britain

Dmitry Tursunov beat Frank Dancovic 6-3 7-6 (5) to win the AEGON International men’s singles in Eastbourne

Tamarine Tanasugarn beat Yanina Wickmayer 6-3 7-5 to successfully defend her Ordina Open women’s crown in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands

Benjamin Becker beat Raemon Sluiter 7-5 6-3 to win the Ordina Open men’s singles in ‘s-Hertogenbosch

SAYING

“When I start a tournament like Wimbledon, it is to try to win, and my feeling right now is I’m not ready to play to win.” – Rafael Nadal, withdrawing from Wimbledon and becoming only the fourth man in the Open Era to not defend his Wimbledon singles title.

“I love playing here.” – Tamarine Tanasugarn, after winning her second straight Ordina Open singles title at ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands.

“That loss exhausted me mentally. I am still trying to recover.” – Novak Djokovic, on his three-set, four-hour loss to Rafael Nadal in Madrid, Spain, in mid-May.

“No girl likes to be compared to another. Ultimately, what we have in common is that we play tennis. I feel flattered that people like the way I look, but it doesn’t help you win points.” – Ana Ivanovic, who is constantly being compared to Maria Sharapova and Anna Kournikova.

“For me Roger is the greatest player ever who played the tennis game. It’s always good to see him play and win and we are going to see so much more of Federer in the future, he is going to win more grand slam tournaments.” – Bjorn Borg, picking Federer to win Wimbledon this year.

“The body of work is phenomenal and now he has got that French Open and I think he can just go on and sip Margaritas for the rest of his life.” – Martina Navratilova, on Roger Federer winning in Paris.

“I can play on grass. I just need time.” – Jelena Jankovic, after losing a first-round match at Eastbourne.

“It’s my first title on grass so that means a lot to me. I wish I could have closed it off a little bit earlier but it doesn’t matter how I won, so that is the main thing and I am happy.” – Caroline Wozniacki, after winning at Eastbourne.

“I am definitely going to try to come out, unless I am going to be on crutches. Even then I will try to come out.” – Dmitry Tursunov, on whether his ankle injury will prevent him from playing Wimbledon.

“On this surface, everything is opposite. For me, it’s too much to change in three days.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, losing her first match on grass after winning the French Open, a clay court tournament.

“It’s been a very surprising week for us because before this tournament we had only won four matches in our whole career on grass. So we’ve managed to double that this week.” – Marcin Matkowski, after teaming with Mariusz Fyrstenberg to win the men’s doubles at Eastbourne.

“We managed to beat the number one seeds and French Open champions in the first round, and then we played better and better as the week progressed.” – Mariusz Fyrstenberg.

“It’s Ralph Lauren, it has a bit of a tuxedo feel but it’s flattering. I’m having a good time with it.” – Five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams, about the outfit she wore to a pre-Wimbledon player party.

STAYING HOME

Because of his aching knees, Rafael Nadal became just the fourth player in the Open Era to not defend his Wimbledon singles title. Nadal announced his withdrawal after playing two exhibition matches on grass. He lost both, the first to Lleyton Hewitt, the second to Stanislas Wawrinka. “I didn’t feel terrible, but not close to my best,” the Spaniard said. “I’m just not 100 percent. I’m better than I was a couple of weeks ago, but I just don’t feel ready.” Nadal joins John Newcombe (1972), Stan Smith (1973) and Goran Ivanisevic (2002) as the only players who did not defend their Wimbledon titles in the Open Era; in 1973, Smith joined a player’s boycott against the tennis establishment. Nadal has complained about his knees since a fourth-round loss to Robin Soderling at the French Open on May 31 ended his streak of four consecutive championships at Roland Garros. “It’s not chronic,” Nadal said of his knee problems. “I can recover, for sure.”

Frenchman Gael Monfils pulled out of Wimbledon because of a wrist injury. A week earlier, he had pulled out of his scheduled match against Steve Darcis at Queen’s Club.

Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus has withdrawn from Wimbledon due to a knee injury. An Australian Open finalist in 2006, Baghdatis was carried off the court on a stretcher for the second time in nine months after injuring his knee during a match at ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands. He also was carried off the court on a stretcher last fall at the Open de Moselle in Metz, France, when he hurt his back.


SPOT ON TOP OPEN?

Roger Federer could reclaim the number one ranking by winning his sixth Wimbledon title. The Swiss star held the top spot in the rankings for a record 237 consecutive weeks until Rafael Nadal pushed him down to number two last August. Nadal has withdrawn from Wimbledon because of his injured knees. But anything short of a sixth Wimbledon title won’t be enough for Federer, who could actually be passed in the rankings by Andy Murray. If he became the first Brit to win the men’s singles since Fred Perry in 1936, Murray would move up to number two in the rankings behind Nadal, but no higher.

SICK CALL

Ivan Ljubicic fell heavily in his match at the Eastbourne International, injuring his ankle. Racing to the net to reach a delicate shot by his opponent, Fabrice Santoro, Ljubicic skidded on the grass, fell and cried out while clutching his left ankle. Santoro dropped his racquet and ran to the court-side freezer to get bags of ice, which he then applied to Ljubicic’s ankle while officials summoned the trainer. Ljubicic had won the first set 6-3 but was 2-4 down when he fell.

Marion Bartoli is still in the Wimbledon women’s singles despite suffering a leg injury in the semifinals at the AEGON International tournament in Eastbourne. Bartoli had lost the first set to Virginie Razzano when she asked for a trainer. Her thigh was treated and strapped, but, after losing the first game of the second set to love, she retired from the match.

SLUITER HISTORY

Although he lost the title match, Raemon Sluiter made history by becoming the lowest-ranked player to reach an ATP World Tour final. Ranked number 866 in the world, Sluiter gained entry into the grass-court tournament in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, via a wild card. It was the fourth final for the Dutchman in his career, all coming on his home soil. And when he fell to Germany’s Benjamin Becker 7-5 6-3, Sluiter still was left seeking his first ATP World Tour title. Becker was only the second qualifier to reach a final this season and the first qualifier to win the Ordina Open.

SAFINA SLAYER

There’s something about Tamarine Tanasugarn when she plays the Ordina Open in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands. Just ask top-ranked Dinara Safina. Tanasugarn upset Safina for the second straight year at the grass-court warm-up to Wimbledon. A year ago the veteran Thai player beat Safina in the final. This year, the 32-year-old Tanasugarn stopped Safina in the semis 7-5 7-5 before beating 19-year-old Yanina Wickmayer 6-3 7-5 to retain her championship.

SPORTS RADIO

Aces, a one-hour radio show dedicated to tennis, has begun broadcasting in Toronto, Canada, and on the Internet just in time for Wimbledon. Listeners in t4he Toronto area can tune into FAN 590 AM on the radio, while tennis fans around the world can listen online at www.fan590.com. Rogie Lajoie and Olympic tennis broadcaster Michael Cvitkovic will host Aces, which began by interviewing 10-time Grand Slam tournament singles champion Serena Williams, Sony Ericsson WTA Tour president Stacey Allaster and Toronto Globe and Mail tennis columnist Tom Tebbutt. Aces is currently scheduled for broadcast August 6 and 13.

STARS SHINE IN LONDON

The Ralph Lauren presents the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Pre-Wimbledon Player Party brought out the stars, and not just the tennis variety. Among the players in attendance at the Kensington Roof Gardens were Venus and Serena Williams, Elena Dementieva, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Vera Zvonareva, Ana Ivanovic, Anne Keothavong, Jelena Jankovic, Victoria Azarenka, Dominika Cibulkova, Alize Cornet, Anna Chakvetadze, Alisa Kleybanova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Sabine Lisicki and Gisela Dulko. Besides the host, Sir Richard Branson, other celebrities in attendance included Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child fame, as well as Branson’s son, Sam Branson. There was even a royal presence, with Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, attending with her two daughters, the Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.

SWINGING AWAY

Three former champions, including two-time defending king Fabrice Santoro, will compete in this year’s Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island, USA. Also in the field will be Robby Ginepri, the 2003 winner, and 2002 champion Taylor Dent. The ATP World Tour event is the only professional grass-court tournament played in the United States and begins the day after the Wimbledon men’s final.

SENIOR CHAMPIONS

Stefan Edberg, Jim Courier and Michael Chang, three former champions of the LA Tennis Open, will play in featured legends matches at the 83rd annual Los Angeles tournament that begins July 27. Edberg won a gold medal during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics on the same UCLA courts that now stage the LA Tennis Open. He also won the tournament in 1990. Chang captured titles in 1996 and 2000, while Courier won in 1997.

SLUR

Brydan Klein of Australia has been fined USD $13,920 and suspended by Tennis Australia for using a racial slur against his South African opponent, Raven Klaasan, during their qualifying match at the AEGON International in Eastbourne, Great Britain. The ATP tour said in a statement that the 19-year-old Klein has been given the maximum penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct and added that it is carrying out a fuller investigation which could result in an additional penalty for aggravated behavior. Tennis Australia said it has suspended Klein from the Australian Institute of Sport Pro Tour Program and could impose further sanctions after an investigation. Klein, the 2007 Australian Open junior champion, called Klaasan a “kaffir” and spat in the direction of Klaasan’s coach and another South African player. Use of the term “kaffir” is illegal in South Africa and is regarded as a gross racial insult, especially to black South Africans. Klassen is one of South Africa’s few black players and has represented his country in Davis Cup. Klein beat Klassen 6-7 (2) 7-6 (3) 7-6 (4) before losing in the second round of the main draw to Janko Tipsarevic.

SWITCH

Bjorn Borg won five consecutive Wimbledons. Now he’s trying to pick the men’s singles champion at Wimbledon for the second straight year. A year ago, Borg picked Rafael Nadal to win the grass-court major, which the Spaniard did. This year, Borg is picking Roger Federer. And he did it before Nadal withdrew from the tournament. “Coming into Wimbledon I think he is relieved in a way that he won Paris, because that was one of his main ambitions, goals to try and win Paris,” said Borg. “So coming into Wimbledon he feels very confident, he has equaled (Pete) Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slams.”

SEEKING HEAVIER PENALTY

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) is considering an appeal from India, which is seeking a heavier penalty against Australia for forfeiting last month’s Davis Cup competition. The ITF said the appeal from the All India Tennis Association (AITA) will be discussed at a board meeting on July 15. Australia was fined USD $10,000 after refusing to travel to Chennai, India, for the zonal tie for safety reasons, but the ITF’s Davis Cup Committee decided not to ban Australia from the 2010 competition. India also wants the ITF to rule that the next two ties between the two nations should be played in India. Security for sports teams in the sub-continent had been questioned after the Sri Lanka cricket team’s bus was ambushed in Lahore, Pakistan, in March. That followed militant attacks in Mumbai, India, last November that killed 166 people.

SITTING PRETTY

The global credit crunch hasn’t affected Wimbledon. The 2,500 Centre Court debentures that were offered last month were snapped up at USD $43,830 each. Each debenture holder will receive one Centre Court ticket for every day of the two-week long Championships from 2011 through 2015. “We were heavily over-subscribed,” said All England Club chief executive Ian Ritchie. “We were very pleasantly delighted with the response. With a new roof over Centre Court, play is guaranteed there regardless of the weather.

START ANEW

It is a tournament Amelie Mauresmo would just as soon forget. The former Wimbledon champion squandered five set points in each tiebreak as she lost a quarterfinal match to Ekaterina Makarova 7-6 (8) 7-6 (13) at the Eastbourne International. “It was a very cruel match,” said Mauresmo, who received a warning from the umpire when she vented her frustration by hitting a ball high over a line of trees and into the street. “This one wasn’t for me, I guess.”

SET FOR WIMBLEDON

Could it be that Andy Murray is hoping his clothes will help him duplicate Fred Perry’s success at Wimbledon? Murray will play in a retro outfit at this year’s grass court Grand Slam tournament. The new clothes were designed specifically for Wimbledon by clothing maker Fred Perry. The company said the clothes were inspired by the shirts that Perry designed for clients and friends such as John F. Kennedy and Billie Jean King. Perry, who died in 1995, was the last Briton to win at Wimbledon, capturing three consecutive titles in 1934-36 and completing a career Grand Slam by winning the French Open in 1935. A week ago, Murray became the first Briton to win the grass-court tournament at Queen’s Club since Bunny Austin in 1938.

SURFACE CLAY

It is no surprise that Italy has decided to play November’s Fed Cup final against the United States on clay courts in Reggio Calabria, a city on the southern tip of Italy’s boot-shaped outline. The outdoor event will be held at the Rocco Polimeni club on November 7-8. Even on clay, the Americans are favorites since both Venus and Serena Williams said they hope to play in the final after missing the previous rounds.

SKIPPING DAVIS CUP

When Russia takes on Israel in a Davis Cup quarterfinal next month, Russia’s top player, Nikolay Davydenko, will be missing. Russian team captain Shamil Tarpishchev said he had allowed Davydenko to skip Russia’s first two ties in this year’s competition. The top-ranked Russians will still have Marat Safin, Igor Andreev, Dmitry Tursunov and Mikhail Youzhny for the July 10-12 encounter in Tel Aviv, Israel.

SUCKER-PUNCHED

A 20-year-old UCLA tennis player was in a coma after being punched following a country music concert in Dallas, Texas, USA. Jeffrey Fleming was attending a Rascal Flatts concert with friends when a man hit him. Fleming’s family says he was sucker-punched as he was about to catch a taxi after the concert. The blow knocked Fleming to the ground where his head hit the concrete pavement. The attacker and others ran away.

SOONERS COACH

The new men’s tennis coach at the University of Oklahoma is Andy Roddick’s brother. John Roddick was hired to take over the Sooners team that had been coached for the past 22 years by John Lockwood. Athletic director Joe Castiglione says Roddick has the ability to recruit top players and a reputation for being able to develop them. For the past seven years he has been operating a performance boarding academy for tennis players in Austin, Texas. John also helped coach his brother Andy, who is still ranked in the top 10 in the world.

SPONSOR

The 83rd annual LA Tennis Open in Los Angeles, California, USA, has a new sponsor. The Farmers Insurance Group of Companies has reached an agreement with the Southern California Tennis Association to become the presenting sponsor of the ATP World Tour 250 and Olympus US Open Series men’s event. French Open semifinalist Fernando Gonzalez leads a group of early entrants to the 28-player field. Also entering the tournament are Tommy Hass, Radek Stapanek, Marat Safin, Marcos Baghdatis, Mardy Fish and Sam Querrey. In addition, a special exhibition match will pit Pete Sampras against Safin in a rematch of the 2000 US Open won by the Russian.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Eastbourne (women): Akgul Amanmuradova and Ai Sugiyama beat Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs 6-4 6-3

Eastbourne (men): Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski beat Travis Parrott and Filip Polasek 6-4 6-4

s-Hertogenbosch (men): Wesley Moodie and Dick Norman beat Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer 7-6 (3) 6-7 (8) 10-5 (match tiebreak)

s-Hertogenbosch (women): Sara Errani and Flavia Pennetta beat Michaella Krajicek and Yanina Wickmayer 6-4 5-7 13-11 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Wimbledon: www.wimbledon.org

Cuneo: www.countrycuneo.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP and WTA

The Championships (first week), Wimbledon, Great Britain, grass

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP and WTA

The Championships (second week), Wimbledon, Great Britain, grass

WTA

$100,000 Cuneo ITF Tournament, Cuneo, Italy, clay

JIM COURIER BLOG: FEDERER SAFELY BEST IN OPEN ERA; COMPARISON TOUGH TO OTHER ERAS

NEW YORK, N.Y., June 8 – Tennis Hall of Famer Jim Courier, writing on his blog on www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com, has labeled 2009 French Open champion Roger Federer as safely the player with the best record in the Open era of tennis (since 1968), but says it is impossible to make comparisons with champions of other eras of tennis.

“I think you can safely say that Roger has the best record of any player in the Open era but it is really impossible to compare it with any of the players prior to 1968,” wrote Courier on the official website of the Outback Champions Series, the global tennis circuit for champion tennis players over the age of 30 that he co-founded in 2005. “By winning the French and equaling Pete’s record of 14 majors and joining Fred Perry, Don Budge, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and Andre Agassi in an exclusive club of men to win all four major singles titles in a career, Roger’s record is right up there against any of the all-time greats.

“He still has plenty of runway left to add to his record if he stays healthy. Looking at Open era achievements, you have to look at Laver’s 1969 Grand Slam, Pete’s 14 majors, Pete finishing the year ranked No. 1 for six straight years, Lendl reaching eight straight US Open finals, Roger’s five straight Wimbledons and five straight US Opens (and still counting in Flushing) and Roger’s semifinal or better streak at a major (also still counting).”

Courier won two French Open titles in 1991 and 1992 and also won a pair of Australian Open titles in 1992 and 1993. He is one of 15 men in tennis history to play in all four major singles finals, losing the 1993 Wimbledon final to Pete Sampras and the 1991 US Open final to Stefan Edberg. Courier is now the co-founding partner of InsideOut Sports & Entertainment, the New York-based sports marketing and event company that runs the Outback Champions Series. Courier can also be followed via his Twitter account at www.twitter.com/jimcourier.

Courier is currently the top-ranked player on the 2009 Outback Champions Series after winning his eighth career title in April in the Cayman Islands. Courier leads the field at the next event of the series – the Hall of Fame Champions Cup held on the grass courts at the International Tennis Hall of Fame August 20-23 in Newport, R.I.

Founded in 2005, the Outback Champions Series features some of the biggest names in tennis over the last 25 years, including Agassi, Sampras, John McEnroe, Courier and others. To be eligible to compete on the Outback Champions Series, players must have reached at least a major singles final, been ranked in the top five in the world or played singles on a championship Davis Cup team. The Outback Champions Series features eight events on its 2009 schedule with each event featuring $150,000 in prize money as well as Champions Series ranking points that will determine the year-end No. 1.

Sampras won the opening event on the 2009 Outback Champions Series, defeating McEnroe in the final of the Champions Cup Boston in February. McEnroe won the second event of the year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, defeating Courier in the final. Sampras won his second title of the year at the Del Mar Development Champions Cup in Los Cabos, Mexico, defeating Patrick Rafter in the final. Courier defeated Jimmy Arias in the final if Grand Cayman in April. Outback Champions Series events will next be played in Newport, R.I. (August 20-23), Charlotte (Sept. 24-27), Surprise, Ariz. (Oct. 8-11) and Dubai, U.A.E. (Nov. 18-21).

InsideOut Sports + Entertainment is a New York City-based independent producer of proprietary events and promotions founded in 2004 by former world No. 1 and Hall of Fame tennis player Jim Courier and former SFX and Clear Channel executive Jon Venison. In 2005, InsideOut launched its signature property, the Outback Champions Series, a collection of tennis events featuring the greatest names in tennis over the age of 30. In addition, InsideOut produces many other successful events including “Legendary Night” exhibitions, charity events and tennis fantasy camps such as the annual “Ultimate Fantasy Camp”. Through 2008, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment events have raised over $4 million for charity. For more information, please log on to www.InsideOutSE.com or www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com.

Vamos Rafa!

There is no denying that Rafael Nadal is “El Rey de Clay” as the Spanish lefty and world No. 1 eyes his unprecedented fifth straight French men’s singles title. It was on May 29 back in 2006 that Rafa won his record breaking 54th straight-match on clay, beating Robin Soderling in the first round of the French Open. The following documents this event – and others – from the May 29 chapter of the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY by Randy Walker ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennishistorybook.com)

2006 – Rafael Nadal wins his 54th consecutive match on a clay court, breaking the Open era record set by Guillermo Vilas, defeating Robin Soderling of Sweden 6-2, 7-5, 6-1 in the first round of the French Open in Paris. Nadal is honored for his achievement with an on-court ceremony featuring Christian Bimes, the President of the French Tennis Federation, and Vilas himself, who won 53 straight matches on clay in 1977. Says Nadal of the record, “Obviously, the record is something just extra. It’s something you want. You want to go for it, but the first round in a Grand Slam tournament is always difficult. The first round in any tournament is difficult, but in a Grand Slam, there’s a little more pressure.” Vilas was not even aware that he held the record for most consecutive clay court victories until weeks before the record was broken. He was, however, well aware of his Open-era records for consecutive victories, regardless of surface (50) and for tournaments won in a year (16) – all accomplished in 1977. Says Vilas, “I’m not sad to lose the minor record, but I’ll be mad if he breaks the others.” Nadal’s streak begins in April of 2005 at the Monte Carlo Open. The streak ends at 81 on May 20, 2007, when Roger Federer beats Nadal in the final of Hamburg, Germany.

1990 – For the first time ever in a major tournament, the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds are both eliminated in the first round. Stefan Edberg, the No. 1 seed and reigning Wimbledon champion, is defeated by little-known 19-year-old Spaniard Sergi Bruguera 6-4, 6-2, 6-1, becoming the first No. 1 seed in the 99-year-history of the tournament to lose in the first round. About four hours later, Boris Becker, the No. 2 seed and reigning U.S. Open champion, joins Edberg on the sidelines, losing to little-known Yugoslav Goran Ivanisevic 5-7, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2. “I say, ‘Bruguera beat Edberg, why cannot I beat Becker,’ you know,” Ivanisevic says. “I say, ‘Come on, (it) is your chance. He is not playing well, he is not confident.'”

1996 – Andre Agassi is defeated in the second round of the French Open by unheralded fellow American Chris Woodruff 4-6, 6-4, 6-7 (7), 6-3, 6-2. Agassi, so dejected by the loss, skips the mandatory post-match press conference and is fined $2,000. Says Woodruff of Agassi to the media following the match, “I’d never met him before, and before we went out on the court he said, ‘How ya doing; my name is Andre.’ As if I didn’t know.”Also during the day, Pete Sampras posts one of his most impressive clay court wins, defeating 1993-1994 French Open champion Sergi Bruguera 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (2-7), 2-6, 6-3 also in the second round. ”This match had a lot of everything,” Sampras says. ”It gives me some confidence that I can play with the Brugueras and whomever, and that’s one thing I haven’t had before coming into this tournament.”

2006 – For the first time in the history of tennis, a major tournament starts on a Sunday as the French Open starts play a day earlier than the traditional Monday start. Former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova saves three match points and comes back from 2-5 down the final set to defeat No. 97-ranked Mashona Washington 6-2, 5-7, 7-5 in the first round in the most exciting match played during the day.

1998 – For the first time in the Open era history of major championship play, a qualifier defeats the defending champion at a major event as 18-year-old qualifier Marat Safin from Russia defeats defeating champion Gustavo Kuerten 3-6, 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 in the second round of the French Open. Safin, ranked No. 114 and playing in his first ever major tournament, defeated Andre Agassi in five sets in the first round. Says Kuerten, ”This year I think I had a chance to go far and try to repeat, but there are many dangerous guys in the way, and today he played hard and he played strong and I couldn’t finish my work. If the other guy has a great day and you don’t have such luck, you can lose to anyone here.” Says Safin, who goes on to win the U.S. Open and become the No. 1 player in the world in 2000, ”I feel bad for Guga because he’s defending champion, but this is tennis life. What can we do? Everybody wants to beat him: a lot of points, money, everything.”

2001 – Pete Sampras avoids an embarrassing first-round loss at the French Open but hangs on to save three match points and defeat No. 250 ranked qualifier Cedric Kauffmann 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 3-6, 8-6.

2006 – Juan Antonio Marin of Costa Rica loses to Carlos Moya of Spain in the first round of the French Open to drop to a 0-17 career record in Grand Slam tournament play. No man has ever lost as many Grand Slam matches with a victory. Says Marin, “Given my stats, I don’t know if I am going to win. … I’ll keep on trying.:Marin, the only player from Costa Rica to play in a major tournament, never plays another major tournament match.

2000 – Pete Sampras is sent packing in the first round of the French Open, losing 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 8-6 to Australia’s Mark Philippoussis.

Roger Federer’s Clay Court Skills and the “Career Grand Slam”

If Roger Federer is able to win the 2009 French Open, he will complete a “Career Grand Slam” as well as tie Pete Sampras for the all-time men’s record for most major singles titles with 14. Rene Stauffer, the Swiss tennis writer and author of the book The Roger Federer Story, Quest for Perfection (www.rogerfederbook.com, New Chapter Press, $24.95), discussed the “Career Grand Slam” as well as Roger’s clay court skills in the best-selling book, as excerpted below.

Roger Federer lost out on his first opportunity to win a Grand Slam tournament in 2005 after losing to Marat Safin in the semifinals of the Australian Open. The French Open, however, offered him another opportunity for a career milestone-a milestone that only a very select few have achieved-the “Career Grand Slam.” The term stands for winning all four major titles over a tennis career-a feat only achieved by five men in the history of the sport. Rod Laver and Don Budge are the only men who have won a “real” or calendar-year Grand Slam-winning all four major titles in the same year. Budge won the first Grand Slam in 1938, while Laver won a Grand Slam in 1962 as an amateur and then again in 1969 as a professional. Fred Perry of Great Britain clinched his career Grand Slam at the 1935 French Championships, while Roy Emerson of Australia completed his career quartette at Wimbledon in 1964 at age 27. Andre Agassi joined Laver as the only professional players to win a career Grand Slam when he won the French Open in 1999.

For Agassi, as well as for many other great players in the history of the game, the French Open or “Roland Garros” proved to be the toughest nut to crack. It took him 11 attempts and three trips to the championship match until he finally won in Paris. Even in his lucky third appearance in the singles final in 1999, he decisively lost the first two sets to the unseeded Ukrainian Andrei Medvedev before rallying for the five-set victory at age 29-seven years after winning his first Grand Slam tournament title.

Clay court tennis is in some regards a different form of tennis as it requires different footwork-a “sliding-into-the-ball” approach. The clay surface slows the velocity of the ball enough to give players on the defensive just a little more time to save a passed shot that on a faster surface would otherwise be a winner. Changes in temperature as well as variations in humidity levels provide for constantly changing playing conditions. Warm weather dries out clay courts and makes them play faster and favors the more aggressive players than when it is cold and moist, when the courts play much slower and favor the more defensive-minded players.

These extraordinary-and unpredictable-conditions explain why the French Open seems to always have the most unlikely champions of all four of the Grand Slam tournaments. The clay courts and the conditions create an environment where a larger pool of players become potential champions of the event as opposed to Wimbledon or the US Open. Some of the greatest serve-and-volley and aggressive-style players have routinely left Paris defeated. Yannick Noah’s ability to play an aggressive style of play and defeat the defensive clay court style of Mats Wilander in the 1983 French final still seems like a minor miracle.

More than half of the 23 players who were ranked No. 1 in the world rankings entering 2007 do not have a French Open title on their resume. This includes Boris Becker, who reached the semifinals three times, Pete Sampras, who only reached the semifinals on one occasion in 13 attempts, John McEnroe, who lost a painful final to Ivan Lendl in 1984 after a two-sets-to-love lead, and Stefan Edberg, who led Michael Chang two sets to one in the 1989 final before losing. Jimmy Connors, who was either denied entry or did not enter the tournament for many years, is also part of the group of all-time greats without a French title. Other notables on the list include John Newcombe, Arthur Ashe, Patrick Rafter, Marat Safin and Lleyton Hewitt. Although Federer’s professional career began with 11 straight defeats on clay courts, he never allowed himself to become discouraged. In France, where he experienced the least amount of success of the Grand Slam tournaments, Federer constantly made reference to the fact that he grew up on clay courts and that this was “his surface” too. He had after all won three titles on clay at the German Open in Hamburg and proved repeatedly in Davis Cup play that he could compete with anybody on clay courts. However, to date, he was unable to even advance as far as the semifinals at Roland Garros.

Federer may have arrived in Paris with a season’s record of 41-2 but he expressed caution before his seventh French Open. “The first rounds here are always treacherous,” he said in a modest tone that was sometimes missing from previous years. “I’m not thinking about winning this tournament.” He arrived in Paris directly from Portugal and had the privilege of being able to practice every day on the Centre Court at Roland Garros-the Philippe Chatrier Court-where he suffered many of his most devastating losses as a professional. Federer’s excellent pre-event preparation and the tutoring from the now 60-year-old Tony Roche paid off. He won the first five matches of the tournament without dropping a set to reach the semifinals for the first time in his career. “It’s almost going a bit too quickly for me,” he said of his relatively easy jaunt to the semifinals.

However, waiting for Federer in the semifinals was none other than Nadal-whom he faced for the first time on a clay court. The young Spaniard was full of self-confidence and entered the match with a 22-match win streak. Due to a rain delay, as well the five-set match between Argentinean Mariano Puerta and Russian Nikolay Davydenko in the other men’s semifinal, Federer and Nadal did not take the court until 6:20 pm local time in Paris. Federer struggled from the start and was troubled-particularly off the forehand-by Nadal’s extreme topspin. After losing four of the first five games, Federer surrendered the first set 6-3-his first lost set of the tournament-as he had his serve broken an incredible four times. He managed to win the second set 6-4, but remained unusually nervous and committed nearly twice as many mistakes as Nadal in the third set. Nadal led 4-2, before Federer broke back to square the set. After Nadal held in the ninth game of the third set, he clinched the third set-and a two-sets-to-one lead-with a cross-court running forehand winner. Darkness started to fall in Paris and Federer was irritated. He seemed to be in a rush and requested the match be suspended due to darkness. The chair umpire did not allow it. Federer was flustered and Nadal took control of the match as he broke Federer’s serve in the eighth game to take a 5-3 lead and closed out the 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory one game later. “I started the match off badly and ended it badly,” Federer summarized. “I played well in between but all in all, that was not enough.”

Like at the Australian Open when Federer was defeated by Safin in the wee hours of the morning of Safin’s 25th birthday, Federer was again a birthday victim at a Grand Slam event. This Friday-June 3rd-was the 19th birthday of Nadal-and like Safin-he would go on to win the tournament. In an exciting final between two left-handed players, Nadal defeated Puerta, who, as it turned out months later, tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and was suspended from professional tennis.

The more time Federer pondered the loss to Nadal, the more positives he drew from it. He proved to himself and others that he had what it takes to win the French Open, despite what he thought was his worst performance in the later stages of a Grand Slam tournament. He was convinced that this loss to Nadal would be a learning experience. He now believed he could win the French Open and achieve the rare career Grand Slam. Another positive to temper his mood was the fact that the French public took a liking to him and rallied behind him during his matches, most notably against Nadal. “It was fantastic how they supported me,” he said. “It was almost like a victory for me because it’s not easy to win the crowd in Paris.”

Since Federer’s semifinal showing was a vast improvement from his third-round loss the year before, his grip on the No. 1 ranking rose to a record 6,980 points-giving him almost twice as many points as the No. 2-ranked Hewitt. Federer nonetheless maneuvered himself into a startling situation. He only lost three matches during the year but he stood empty-handed in Grand Slam titles. If he were to fail at Wimbledon as well, the only opportunity for a title remaining would be the always unpredictable US Open. His statementfrom the previous fall that he would be satisfied in 2005 with just one Grand Slam title suddenly took on new importance.

Mondays With Bob Greene: It’s a great honor to reach the number one ranking

STARS

Jelena Jankovic won the Andalucia Tennis Experience by beating Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3 3-6 6-3 in Marbella, Spain

Juan Carlos Ferrero beat Florent Serra 6-4 7-5 to win the Grand Prix Hassan II in Casablanca, Morocco

Lleyton Hewitt defeated Wayne Odesnik 6-2 7-5 to capture the US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas, USA

Caroline Wozniacki beat Aleksandra Wozniak 6-1 6-2 to win The MPS Group Championships in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, USA

Rui Machado won the STATUS Athens Open, beating Daniel Munoz-de la Nava 6-3 7-6 (4) in Athens, Greece

Karolina Sprem beat Viktoria Kutuzova 6-1 6-4 to win the Koddaert Ladies Open in Torhout, Belgium

SAYING

“It’s a great honor to reach the number one ranking an
d it is a dream every girl who has ever wanted to play professional tennis shares. It is even extra special for me since my brother Marat was able to reach the number one ranking and I am happy to share this achievement with him.” – Dinara Safina, who took over the WTA Tour’s top spot from Serena Williams.

“This is what all the hard work is for, to play weeks like this and have this kind of feeling at the end. It makes going through the surgery and all the hard work worth it, so it’s good stuff.” – Lleyton Hewitt, who won the US Men’s Clay Championships, his first ATP title in two years.

“I was trying to play my best tennis but the injury prevented me from reaching my top level.” – Serena Williams, after losing to Klara Zakopalova in her first clay-court match of the season in Marbella, Spain.

“This is a great start to the clay-court season, a really good start. I proved I can beat these better players.” – Caroline Wozniacki, after winning the title in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

“I know I have not been playing well the last three months, but this win has given me back the confidence I need.” – Jelena Jankovic, after winning in Marbella, Spain.

“When I hit a good shot she hit a good shot back. I feel pretty good about going 3 and 2 with a top 10 player.” – Fourteen-year-old Madison Keys, after losing to top-seeded Nadia Petrova 6-3 6-2 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

“I have to say that we were a bit lucky. In the semifinals we were close to losing and today we made it in the match tiebreak. It is my first title and it feels great.” – Lukasz Kubot, who teamed with Oliver Marach to win at Casablanca, Morocco, their first ATP doubles title in their third final together.

“We’re very happy with the first tournament of the clay court season. We are looking forward to going to Europe and we’re going to be over there for 14 weeks. It’s really important to win a title on the clay and getting your balance and a lot of confidence.” – Mike Bryan, after he and his brother Bob won the doubles at Houston, Texas.

“Before every match I try to isolate myself from everybody with my iPod. It’s like a ritual I have before playing and it’s absolutely necessary for me to listen to one of the songs from the ‘Phantom of the Opera.'” – Rafael Nadal, on how he prepares for a match.

“He kind of forces you into that the way he plays defense. It’s no excuse for some errors, especially the ones I made at key times. If you expect to win matches you have to put that around big points.” – James Blake, after losing to Guillermo Canas 6-4 6-4 in a first-round match at the US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas.

“In the tiebreak, it’s anybody’s match.” Sania Mirza, who teamed with Chuang Chia-Jung to win the doubles at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, 6-3 4-6 10-7 (match tiebreak).

“Mentally, when you lose 10 points in a row you have to tell yourself it’s going to be OK. That’s not easy. Some people can deal with it better than others, and I’m definitely a guy who struggles with staying calm mentally and just playing my game.” – Tommy Haas, who actually lost 11 straight points yet beat Marcel Granollers in three sets.

“I must be doing something right.” – Lleyton Hewitt, noting his career record on clay going into the US Men’s Clay Court Championships was a quite respectable 80-37. He ended up winning the tournament.

SWISS KNOT

Mr and Mrs Federer

Roger Federer and long-time companion Mirka Vavrinec are now Mr. and Mrs. The two exchanged wedding vows in Federer’s hometown of Basel, Switzerland. They first met at the 2000 Sydney Olympics when both were competing for Switzerland. Vavrinec retired from the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour in 2002. Last month the two announced they are expected their first child later this summer. Federer was full of announcements. After telling of his marriage, he announced he would take a wild card and compete this week in Monte Carlo after earlier saying he planned to skip the event. Federer has reached the final at the last three Monte Carlo tournaments, only to lose each time to Rafael Nadal.

SAFINA ON TOP

Dinara Safina has pulled even with her brother in one respect. She is ranked number one in the world, replacing Serena Williams. The second Russian to be atop the women’s rankings, she is part of the first brother-sister combination to be ranked number one in the world. Her brother, Marat Safin, was ranked number one on the ATP Tour in 2000. Safina is the 19th player to top the women’s rankings. Last year she became the first player to beat three different reigning world number ones in the same season, Justine Henin, Maria Sharapova and Jelena Jankovic. Safina has won four WTA Tour titles in the last 12 months and finished runner-up five times, including Roland Garros last year and the Australian Open in January.

STRUGGLING

After losing two straight matches and her world number one ranking, Serena Williams has withdrawn from this week’s Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina, citing a left leg injury she originally suffered at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. “I need to give my leg injury time to heal,” she said. Williams was the defending Family Circle Cup champion. Williams lost to Victoria Azarenka in the Miami final, then was upset in Marbella, Spain, by Klara Zakopalova in her first clay-court match of the season

STAYING THE COURSE

It’s been a long time for Lleyton Hewitt, but he finally won his first tournament in two years when he stopped Wayne Odesnik 6-2 7-5 at the US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas. With his 498th career match victory, the Australian is just two match wins away from joining Roger Federer and Carlos Moya as the only active players with 500 or more victories. Hewitt, who ranks 35th on the career victories list, failed to win a tournament last year for the first time in his career while recovering from hip surgery. Hewitt won the US Open in 2001 and Wimbledon the following. Ranked number one in the world in 2001, Hewitt went into the Houston tournament ranked number 88.

SUCCESS AT LAST

Jelena Jankovic finally lifted the champion’s trophy this year following a disappointing start to the season. She lost her number one ranking after losing early at the Australian Open. She then dropped her opening matches at Indian Wells, California, and Miami, Florida, two American hard court events. On the red clay in Marbella, Spain, Jankovic finally got things turned around, beating Carla Suarez Navarro in the title match 6-3 3-6 6-3. For Jankovic, who was down a break early in the third set, this was her 10th career singles title, with half of them coming on clay.

STILL IN THE HUNT

Lleyton Hewitt wasn’t the only one to turn back the clock on the ATP Tour. Juan Carlos Ferrero won the Grand Prix Hassan II tournament in Casablanca, Morocco, his first title since capturing the Madrid Masters in October 2003. That was the year he won Roland Garros and lost the US Open final to Andy Roddick. And 2003 was the year Ferrero was ranked number one in the world. It was Ferrero’s first clay court championship since his victorious French Open run in 2003.

STAYING HOME

An inflamed right shoulder is the reason Victoria Azarenka won’t be playing in this week’s Family Circle Cup. In her last match, Azarenka knocked off Serena Williams to win the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Florida. Williams went on to lose her next match, then also withdrew from the Family Circle Cup with an injury to her leg. “I am really sorry that I have to withdraw from the Family Circle Cup … due to an injury in my right shoulder,” Azarenka said.  “I was looking forward to returning to Charleston and building on the momentum that I have from the past few weeks.”

SWEPT CLEAN

The US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas, wasn’t pretty for seeded players. James Blake and Mardy Fish were the top two-ranked Americans and the top two seeds in the field. At least for the first round. For the first time since 2000, the top two seeded players in an ATP tournament failed to advance past the opening round. And until his win over Blake, Guillermo Canas had lost six straight first-round matches this year. That was only the beginning. For the first time since the Open Era began in 1968, no seeded players reached the quarterfinals. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain, ranked 73rd in the world, was the highest-ranked player to make it out of the second round. The eventual winner, Lleyton Hewitt, was ranked 88th when the tournament began.

SENIOR SIGNEES

Goran Ivanisevic and Stefan Edberg are the first two entries for The Masters Tennis event to be played at the Royal Albert Hall in London in December. Six other players yet to be named will join the two Wimbledon champions in the ATP Champions Tour event. At least four of the six to be named will have been either a world number one, Grand Slam singles finalist or a Davis Cup winner in their careers. Ivanisevic played the Royal Albert Hall tournament in 2006, reaching the final, while Edberg played the senior event last year. Ivanisevic missed last year because of a knee injury.

STRENGTH AGAINST STRENGTH

Italy and Russia will battle for the fifth time when they meet in a Fed Cup World Group semifinal April 25-26 in Castellaneta Marina, Italy. The home team has never beaten the Russians in Fed Cup play, losing their last meeting in the 2007 final in Moscow. The last time the two nations met in Italy, in the 2005 quarterfinal, Italy won the first match before losing 4-1. In the last five years, Italy is the only nation other than Russia to win the Fed Cup, defeating Belgium in the 2006 final. That year Belgium eliminated Russia in the first round, the only defeat Russia has suffered in the last five years of the competition.

SWISS CHEESE

There will be a lot of holes in Switzerland’s lineup when it takes on Australia in a Fed Cup World Group II playoff April 25-26 in Victoria, Australia. Missing will be Switzerland’s top two singles players and their captain. Instead, Switzerland will rely on Stefanie Voegele, Nicole Riner and 15-year-old Mateja Kraljevic for the tie, which takes place on grass at the Mildura Lawn Tennis Club. The winning nation will stay in the World Group II for 2010, while the losing nation will drop to zonal competition. Christiane Jolissaint will replace Severin Luthi as captain for this tie. Luthi reportedly will be working with Roger Federer next week.

SIZZLING START

Fourteen-year-old Madison Keys made a successful Sony Ericsson WTA Tour debut by defeating Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia 7-5 6-4 in a first-round match at the MPS Group Championships in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Keys, who lives in Boca Raton, Florida, was given a wild card entry into the tournament. Her only other experience in a professional tournament came at a USD $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, last month. Keys is currently ranked number 37 in the International Tennis Federation World Junior Rankings. Kudryavtseva is number 81 in the world in the WTA Tour rankings. Unfortunately, her first-round victory advanced Keys to a second-round matchup against top-seeded Nadia Petrova, who beat the youngster 6-3 6-2.

SINO SWITCH

China’s top women players opted to leave the state-run system this year and keep their own prize money. So far, the money hasn’t come rolling in as neither Zheng Jie and long-time partner Yan Zi, nor Li Na and Peng Shuai have registered any notable wins. Each of the four players now has her own coaches, does her own scheduling for practices as well as tournaments, and has her own management team – all things that had been done and paid for by the state system in the past. Now, each player must pay their own expenses, including travel and hotels, out of their earnings. “This is a very difficult time for us because a lot of things have changed. We need time to get use to it,” Zheng said. “I hope we can get back in form as soon as possible.”

SISTERS

Serena and Venus Williams aren’t the only sisters battling it out on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Alona Bondarenko of Ukraine beat her younger sister Kateryna 4-6 6-4 6-3 in the second round of the MPS Group Championships in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Alona, who is two years older, trailed 1-3 in the second set before winning 11 of the last 15 games. “We have different styles, but we know each other well,” Alona said. “I have to play the long points and she doesn’t.” It was their sixth meeting on the WTA Tour – their first match since 2006 – and each has won three times. Polish sisters Agnieszka and Urszula Radwanska are also on the tour, with Urszula beating her older and higher-ranked sister in their lone WTA Tour matchup.

SPONSOR

BNP Paribas has signed a three-year agreement to sponsor both the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour and the Invacare World Team Cup. BNP Paribas already is the title sponsor of Davis Cup by BNP Paribas, Fed Cup by BNP Paribas and Junior Davis Cup and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas, as well as other tournaments. The company has supported wheelchair tennis in France since 1993.

STARTING UP

The inaugural International Tennis Federation (ITF) Beach Tennis World Championships will be held May 4-6 at the historic Folo Italico in Rome. The competition will be held alongside the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour event being played in Rome the same week. Beach Tennis merges the disciplines of tennis and beach volleyball into a single sport and is usually played as doubles on a court of similar size to beach volleyball.

SWINGING

Kelly Gunterman is now the director of tennis at Amelia Island Plantation, a site where Andre Agassi, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Martina Hingis have all won tournaments. Gunterman played tennis in college and has trained and taught with John Newcombe and Peter Burwash.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Casablanca: Lukasz Kubot and Oliver Marach beat Simon Aspelin and Paul Hanley 7-6 (4) 3-6 10-6 (match tiebreak)

Houston: Bob and Mike Bryan beat Jesse Levine and Ryan Sweeting 6-1 6-2

Ponte Vedra Beach: Chuang Chia-Jung and Sania Mirza beat Lisa Raymond and Kveta Peschke 6-3 4-6 10-7 (match tiebreak)

Marbella: Klaudia Jans and Alicja Rosolska beat Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual 6-3 6-3

Athens: Ramirez Junaid and Philipp Marx beat Jesse Huta Galung and Rui Machado 6-4 6-3

Torhout: Michaella Krajicek and Yanina Wickmayer beat Julia Goerges and Sandra Klemenschits 6-4 6-0

SITES TO SURF

Monte Carlo: http://montecarlo.masters-series.com/1/en/home/default.asp

Charleston: www.familycirclecup.com

Barcelona: www.barcelonaopenbancosabadell.com/

Sofia: www.bgtennis.bg/

Fed Cup: www.fedcup.com

Estonian Tennis Federation: www.tennis.ee/

Polish Tennis Federation: www.pzt.pl/

Belgium Tennis Federation: www.sport.be/fedcup/2009/belcan/fr/

Tennis Australia: www.tennis.com.au/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$600,000 Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, Monte Carlo, Monaco, clay

$100,000 Soweto Men’s Open, Johannesburg, South Africa, hard

WTA

$1,000,000 Family Circle Cup, Charleston, South Carolina, USA, clay

$220,000 Barcelona Ladies Open, Barcelona, Spain, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$2,645,000 Barcelona Open Banco Sabadell, Barcelona, Spain, clay

$112,000 Bulgarian Open, Sofia, Bulgaria, clay

FED CUP

(April 25-26)

World Group Semifinals

Italy vs. Russia at Castellaneta Marina, Italy, clay

Czech Republic vs. United States at Brno, Czech Republic, hard

World Group Playoffs

Spain vs. Serbia at Lleida, Spain, clay; France vs. Slovak Republic at Limoges, France, clay; Germany vs. China at Frankfurt, Germany, clay; Argentina vs. Ukraine at Mar Del Plata, Argentina, clay

World Group II Playoffs

Belgium vs. Canada at Hasselt, Belgium, clay; Estonia vs. Israel at Tallinn, Estonia, hard; Poland vs. Japan at Gdynia, Poland, clay; Australia vs. Switzerland at Victoria, Australia, grass

McEnroe’s St. Patty’s Day Happenings

Happy St. Patrick’s Day – a day where a salient moment happened to John McEnroe, whose grandparents on his father’s side were from Ireland. As excerpted from my book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennishistorybook.com), McEnroe made his Davis Cup doubles debut and when he received no luck of the Irish in Key Biscayne in his swan song appearance in the modern day Sony Ericsson Open.

March 17

1927 – U.S. President Calvin Coolidge conducts the draw for the 1927 Davis Cup competition on the front lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C. Coolidge picks the card with Czechoslovakia on it, which is drawn against Greece in the first round of the European Zone. Writes the New York Times of the event, “Surrounded by diplomats from the twenty-five nations entered into the tournament, he drew the card bearing the name of Czechoslovakia from the bowl of the trophy. Joseph C. Grew, Under Secretary of State, then picked Greece, which was paired with the nation of the President’s choice. The various diplomats then formed in line and each withdrew the name of one nation from the cup.” An ironic event occurs when the representative from Belgium selects his own nation from the cup. Twenty one nations are placed in the European Zone and four in the American Zone. The winner of each zone would meet each other and the winner taking on the United States, the holder of the Davis Cup, in the Challenge Round.

1979 – John McEnroe and Peter Fleming make their Davis Cup debut as a doubles team, defeating Ivan Molina and Orlando Agudelo 6-4, 6-0, 6-4 giving the United States a match-clinching 3-0 lead over Colombia in the Davis Cup first round at the Cleveland Skating Club in Cleveland, Ohio. McEnroe and Fleming become arguably the greatest doubles combination the United States has ever fielded in Davis Cup play, ending their patriotic partnership in 1984 with a 14-1 record. They win 14 straight Davis Cup doubles matches – a record among U.S. Davis Cup doubles teams – and represent the U.S. on Davis Cup final-winning teams in 1981 and 1982. Their final Davis Cup doubles match is their only defeat – a 7-5, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 loss to Stefan Edberg and Anders Jarryd in the title-clinching win for Sweden over the United States in the 1984 Davis Cup final in Goteborg, Sweden.

1992 – John McEnroe, whose grandparents on his father’s side were born in Ireland, receives no luck of the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day in what becomes his final match ever at the Lipton Championships in Key Biscayne, Fla., losing to Richard Krajicek 7-6 (3), 6-4 in the third round.

1996 – In a final played with on-court temperatures surpassing 110 degrees, Michael Chang defeats No. 68th-ranked Paul Haarhuis of the Netherlands 7-5, 6-1, 6-1 to win the Newsweek Champions Cup in Indian Wells, Calif. “Today I could actually feel the heat coming through the soles of my shoes,” says Chang following the match. “They announced 110 degrees, but I was told it was 130 degrees. They just didn’t want to scare anybody.”

2001- Booed as she enters the court for her final round match against Kim Clijsters at the Tennis Masters Series -Indian Wells, Serena Williams withstands the harsh fan and media allegations of match-fixing, by defeating Clijsters 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. Fans react severely to the Williams family after Venus Williams abruptly withdraws from her semifinal match with Serena Williams the day before. “In the beginning, I was a little shocked,” Serena says. “Then I was like, ‘Wow, this is getting old. Move on to something new…I prayed to God just to help me be strong, not even to win, but to be strong, not listen to the crowd.” The withdrawal and aftermath came on the heels of tabloid story in the National Enquirer stating that Williams father Richard fixed the 2000 Wimbledon semifinal between the two sisters.

2007 – Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia wins her second Pacific Life Open championship in Indian Wells, Calif. – and her second career title – defeating Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia 6-3, 6-4 in the women’s singles final. “I think all the best things in life are worth waiting for, moments like this,” says Hantuchova, who wins her first title in Indian Wells five years earlier. “I guess all the hard work and everything I had to go through makes the victory that much sweeter.”

McEnroe Leads Field at Rio Champions Cup

NEW YORK, March 11, 2009 – John McEnroe, newly-turned 50 years old and fresh off reaching the final of the Champions Cup Boston, leads the field of players set to compete at the $150,000 Rio Champions Cup that starts Thursday at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Joining McEnroe in the field of eight champions are two-time French and Australian Open champion Jim Courier, 1987 Wimbledon champion Pat Cash, 1986 French Open finalist Mikael Pernfors, former U.S. Open and Wimbledon finalist Mark Philippoussis, former U.S. Davis Cup standout Jimmy Arias, and Brazilian standouts Fernando Meligeni and Jaime Oncins.

The Rio Champions Cup will be the second of eight events on the 2009 Outback Champions Series, the global tennis circuit for champion tennis players age 30 and over. The event will mark the first Outback Champions Series event held in Brazil.

“We are looking forward to bringing Outback Champions Series tennis to Brazil for the first time and have an excellent field of players that will provide high-level tennis and entertainment in Rio,” said Jon Venison, co-founding partner for the Outback Champions Series.

McEnroe, who turned 50 years old on February 16, reached his sixth career singles final on the Outback Champions Series at the Champions Cup Boston, losing to Pete Sampras in a hard-fought final 7-6 (10), 6-4. Following the match, Sampras said he was “in awe” of McEnroe and his level of play at his age. Thirty years ago in 1979, McEnroe won his major singles title at the U.S. Open – the first of his four titles in Flushing Meadows. McEnroe also won three Wimbledon singles titles and, on the Outback Champions Series, won titles in Boston and Surprise, Ariz., in 2008.

The Rio Champions Cup will feature a round-robin format with McEnroe, Pernfors, Arias and Oncins competing in “Group Maracana” and Courier, Cash, Philippoussis and Meligeni playing in “Group Corcovado.” The schedule of play for the event is as follows:

Thursday – March 12
Starting at 5 pm
Arias vs. Oncins
Courier vs. Cash
McEnroe vs. Pernfors
Meligeni vs. Philippoussis

Friday – March 13
Starting at 5 pm
Pernfors vs. Oncins
Philippoussis vs. Cash
McEnroe vs. Arias
Courier vs. Meligeni

Saturday – March 14
Starting at 3 pm
Arias vs. Pernfors
Meligeni vs. Cash
Courier vs. Philippoussis
McEnroe vs. Oncins

Sunday – March 15
Starting at noon
3rd Place Match
Starting at 2 pm
Championship Match

Following the Rio Champions Cup, Outback Champions Series events will be played in Los Cabos, Mexico (March 18-22), Grand Cayman (April 23-26), Newport, R.I. (August 20-23), Charlotte (Sept. 24-27), Surprise, Ariz. (Oct. 8-11) and Dubai, U.A.E. (Nov. 18-21).

Founded in 2005, the Outback Champions Series features some of the biggest names in tennis over the last 25 years, including Sampras, McEnroe, Courier and others. To be eligible to compete on the Outback Champions Series, players must have reached at least a major singles final, been ranked in the top five in the world or played singles on a championship Davis Cup team. The Outback Champions Series features eight events on its 2009 schedule with each event featuring $150,000 in prize money as well as Champions Series ranking points that will determine the year-end No. 1 and winner of a $100,000 bonus.

InsideOut Sports + Entertainment is a New York City-based independent producer of proprietary events and promotions founded in 2004 by former world No. 1 and Hall of Fame tennis player Jim Courier and former SFX and Clear Channel executive Jon Venison. In 2005, InsideOut launched its signature property, the Outback Champions Series, a collection of tennis events featuring the greatest names in tennis over the age of 30. In addition, InsideOut produces many other successful events including “Legendary Night” exhibitions, charity events and tennis fantasy camps such as the annual “Ultimate Fantasy Camp”. Through 2008, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment events have raised over $4 million for charity. For more information, please log on to www.InsideOutSE.com or www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com.