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10 Reasons to be Excited for Davis Cup Weekend

Switzerland's Davis Cup team member Federer speaks to Wawrinka during a practice session in Fribourg

The time has come!  While Andrea has done a great job breaking down the World Group match-ups, I thought I’d spell out for you the specific reasons why you should set your alarm for 5AM, skip work, cancel all of your social plans, and dedicate your entire Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to the wonder that is Davis Cup.

 

10. The Newcomers

It’s been 8 years since Canada has been in the World Group.  For Japan it’s been 27.  In both cases the newcomers, led by youngsters Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori respectively, will be looking to prove that they belong with the big guns.  Both teams have uphill battles- Japan hosts Croatia and Canada hosts France, but there’s nothing quite as exciting as fresh blood.

 

9.  Fedmania!

In a giant reversal of storylines, Federer is the only one of the “Big 4″ playing in Davis Cup this weekend.  To top it off, he’s playing in Switzerland, against a depleted but still fun-to-beat American squad, and with good buddy Stanislas Wawrinka by his side. Love him or not, it will be fun to see the Legend soak in the well-deserved adoration and play in a team atmosphere on his home turf.

8. Russian Roulette

The Russian Davis Cup Team has undergone a bit of a makeover.  Alex Bogomolov, Jr. is not only making his Russian debut, but he’s the team’s #1 player.  Dmitry Tursnov and Igor Andreev, team mainstays, are absent while the struggling Nikolay Davydenko and the wildcard Igor Kunitsyn take their place.  Mikhail Youzhny is coming off singles and doubles victories in Zagreb, but has been complaining to the press about an injured shoulder.  All in all, there’s absolutely no telling what to expect from Team Russia as they travel to Jurgen Melzer’s Austria this weekend, and as always- that’s part of the fun.

 

7. Veterans Day

Some players have proven time and time again that they adapt to the Davis Cup atmosphere better than others.  Whether it’s Melzer leading his Austrian team, Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek becoming mental giants for the Czech Republic, or David Nalbandian discovering the game (and legs) of his youth, there’s nothing quite as exhilarating as seeing the veteran guys play their hearts out for their country.

 

6. The Battle of the Misfits

One of the ties I’m most looking forward to is Spain/Kazakhstan.  The Spanish Davis Cup stalwarts (Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Feliciano Lopez, and Fernando Verdasco) who have dominated the team competition for the past few years are sitting out this year, paving the way for their less heralded countrymen (Nicolas Almagro, Marcel Granollers, Legend and Former #1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, and Marc Lopez). Meanwhile Kazakhstan’s team is full of former Russians (Mikhail Kukushkin, Andrey Golubev, Yuri Schukin, and Evgeny Korolev) who migrated over to the neighboring country for a chance to shine.  It will be fun to see all of these former “back-ups” take the stage and fight for Davis Cup glory.

 

5. Tommy Haas

Do I really need to explain this one? The often injured but forever adored German (when he’s not American) is back in Davis Cup action for the first time in five years! How lucky are we?  Let’s just sit back and enjoy.

 

4. The Other Groups

Believe it or not, the World Group Playoffs aren’t the only Davis Cup action happening this weekend. There are some pretty crucial ties happening in “Group I” and “Group II” (don’t you dare ask me to explain what that means).  Teams in action that you might be interested in are: Ukraine (Sergiy Stakhovsky! Sergei Bubka- yes, Vika’s boyfriend!) vs. Monaco, Uzbekistan (Denis Istomin- am I the only one interested in him?) vs. New Zealand, Australia (Hewitt! Tomic! You know them!) vs. China, P.R., Great Britain (Murray-less) vs. Slovak Republic (starring recent ATP Zagreb finalist Lukas Lacko).  You’d be amiss if you didn’t scavenge for some (surely static) streams for the lesser-known teams this weekend too.

 

3. The New Heroes

Every year Davis Cup weekend, especially the first round, breeds unheralded heroes.  Something about the five-set format, the team unity, and the pressure/invigoration of playing for one’s country brings out the best in some unsuspecting players.  Who will it be this weekend? Could Milos lead the Canadians past the accomplished French team? Could the upstart Japanese make Davis Cup history against Croatia? Could the Swedish team find a miracle and cause the Serbian team to sweat? As cliche as it sounds, expect a new Davis Cup legend to be born.

2. Double Trouble

Davis Cup is the time for Doubles to shine, and this weekend is no different.  This weekend we have spectacular Doubles storylines: the reunions of fan favorites Fedrinka (Federer and Wawrinka) and Bendra (Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra), the eternal mystery of who the other Bryan Brother will be (Bob Bryan is home playing father duty, so either Mardy Fish, John Isner, or Ryan Harrison will take his place alongside Mike Bryan in Switzerland), and the always delightful Davis Cup return of BerdWorm (Berdych and Stepanek). Whether you’re a fan of doubles, awkwardness, hysteria, or just misplaced volleys, Saturday will be a special day for you.

1. The Cheerleaders

Let’s be honest- Davis Cup really isn’t about the tennis.  It’s about seeing the bromance on the benches as the fellow team members watch and frazzle along with us.  Nothing is as great as seeing a good cheerleader- whether it be Roger Federer on his feet urging on Stanislas Wawrinka, Juan Carlos Ferrero fist-pumping a Nicolas Almagro winner, or John Isner and Ryan Harrison embracing when Mardy Fish gets to set point, there is no better reason to watch Davis Cup than to inspect the camaraderie on the benches.

Tennis great Jack Kramer dies at 88: This Week in Tennis Business

Justine Henin

From tennis legend Jack Kramer passing away at the age of 88 to a possible Justine Henin press conference this week to announce her comeback to US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro earning a winner’s paycheck of $1.6 million plus an additional $250,000 for finishing third in the Olympus US Open Series to Serena Williams being fined $10,500 for her outburst during her semifinal loss to Kim Clijsters at the US Open, these stories caught the attention of tennis fans and insiders this week.

  • Tennis legend and the first executive director of the ATP Tour, Jack Kramer passed away at the age of 88 on Saturday at his Los Angeles home. Kramer, who won Wimbledon in 1947 and the U.S. Championships in 1946 and 1947, was the top ranked player in the world for most of the late 1940’s. “Jack Kramer was truly one of the greats of the game and was instrumental in the growth and development of the sport in so many ways, both on and off the court,” said ATP Executive Chairman and President Adam Helfant. “He was like a father figure to so many in tennis and his wisdom, enthusiasm and advice will be sadly missed. On behalf of everybody at the ATP, I would like to pass on our sincere condolences to his family.”

  • According to Belgian television station RTBF, former world No. 1 Justine Henin has ordered 14 racquets and may hold a press conference as early as this week to announce her return to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.

  • By winning the US Open men’s singles title on Monday evening, Juan Martin del Potro earned a winner’s paycheck of $1.6 million plus an additional $250,000 for finishing third in the Olympus US Open Series. Women’s champion Kim Clijsters earned a winner’s paycheck of $1.6 million. Men’s doubles champions Leander Paes and Lukas Dlouhy and women’s doubles champions Venus and Serena Williams each split a winner’s paycheck of $420,000. Mixed doubles champions Travis Parrott and Carly Gullickson spilt the winner’s paycheck of $150,000.

  • Serena Williams was fined the maximum $10,000 by the US Open for unsportsmanlike conduct following her tirade during her semifinal loss to Kim Clijsters. Williams was also fined $500 for racquet abuse during her loss. The Grand Slam Committee is currently looking into the incident and could force more fines and a suspension.

  • Writing on her official website, Serena Williams says, “I want to amend my press statement of yesterday, and want to make it clear as possible – I want to sincerely apologize FIRST to the lines woman, Kim Clijsters, the USTA, and tennis fans everywhere for my inappropriate outburst.” “I’m a woman of great pride, faith and integrity, and I admit when I’m wrong.  I need to make it clear to all young people that I handled myself inappropriately and it’s not the way to act — win or lose, good call or bad call in any sport, in any manner. I like to lead by example.  We all learn from experiences both good and bad, I will learn and grow from this, and be a better person as a result.”

  • US Open officials announced that they are ready to start developing plans to build a roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium but the final decision on when and if they actually will build a roof is a little bit away. The estimated cost to build a roof would be around $100 million. “We are substantially farther along the road of consideration than we were six months ago,” said Gordon Smith, Executive Director of the USTA. “It will be some time before there’s any decision made on whether or not to go forward with the roof.”

  • According to a study by Barclays and Professor Tom Cannon of the University of Liverpool, the British economy has increased by $405 million (UK) because of Andy Murray’s recent rise to No. 2 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings. With Murray’s popularity rising at a fast pace, people are spending lots of money on everything from equipment to advertising to sponsorship. Cannon also mentioned in his study that the $1 billion (UK) spending gap between tennis and golf will soon close.

  • A LeRoy Neiman watercolor painting of Serena and Venus Williams, that was expected to be sold around $60,000, received no bids during a recent US Open auction in New York. The proceeds of some of the other items benefited USTA Serves, which funds community tennis programs and college scholarships.

  • Melanie Oudin’s magical run to the quarterfinals at the US Open was a ratings winner for ESPN2. About 2,324,000 viewers tuned in during Oudin’s loss to Caroline Wozniacki. The night before during the Venus Williams vs. Flavia Pennetta match and Rafael Nadal vs. Gael Monfils match, 2,128,000 viewers tuned in to watch.

  • BackOffice Associates, LLC, has announced that Melanie Oudin has signed a multi-year promotional partnership. BackOffice Associates, LLC, is the world leader in SAP data quality.

  • The organizers of the Shanghai ATP Masters 1000 presented by Rolex are giving fans the opportunity to vote on which trophy they would like to see presented to the tournament champion. Malaysian manufacturer, Royal Selangor, has created three trophies that fans can vote for on the official tournament website. Each person who votes for the trophy will be signed up for a chance to win a trip to Malaysia to see the trophy being made.

  • At the recent Legends Ball held at the Cipriani on 42nd Street in New York City, the following awards were given:

      • Tennis Channel CEO Ken Solomon received the Joseph F. Cullman III award.

      • Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe accepted the Eugene L. Scott award for her husband, the late Arthur Ashe.

      • Martina Navratilova earned the Danzig award.

      • Fred Stolle received the Johnston award.

  • More than $130,000 was raised during a silent auction at the Legends Ball. $18,000 was raised for a hitting session with Monica Seles, $6,000 for a hitting session with Jim Courier and $15,000 for a men’s and women’s finals travel package to Wimbledon.

  • Roger Rasheed, coach of Gael Monfils, and Vlado Platenik, coach of Dominika Cibulkova, are spearheading a new organization called, Tour Level Tennis Coaches Association, to support coaches and trainers by offering them benefits, forms of insurance, financial services, job training and mentoring.

  • On September 11, CNN’s Tony Harris and Natalie Morales of The Today Show on NBC hosted a Breaking the Barriers reception to honor the National Junior Tennis League on the 40th anniversary of its founding by Arthur Ashe.

  • Rafael Nadal will not play Davis Cup this weekend for Spain’s semifinal tie against Israel due to an abdominal injury. Juan Carlos Ferrero will take Nadal’s spot on the roster.

  • Roger Federer is scheduled to compete for Switzerland this weekend during their World Group Playoff match against Italy.

  • Andy Murray announced that he is fit to participate this weekend in Great Britain’s Davis Cup Zonal tie against Poland.

  • ATP World Tour CEO Adam Helfant said the tour is looking into an All-Star event for the players that will happen right before the Indian Wells Masters 1000 event. “We’ve talked to our players about it and our players are excited about it and committed to it,” said Helfant.

  • According to the Melbourne Herald Sun, former Australian tennis star Mark Philippoussis has sold his family house in Australia to pay off an outstanding mortgage. Philippoussis is still being sought out by American tax authorities for $500,000.

Mondays With Bob Greene: I can’t believe this happened

Del Potro wins the US Open

STARS

(US Open)

Men’s singles:

Women’s singles: Kim Clijsters beat Caroline Wozniacki 7-5 6-3

Men’s doubles: Leander Paes and Lukas Dlouhy beat Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles 3-6 6-3 6-2

Women’s doubles: Serena Williams and Venus Williams beat Cara Black and Liezel Huber 6-2 6-2

Mixed doubles: Carly Gullickson and Travis Parrott beat Cara Black and Leander Paes 6-2 6-4

Boys’ singles: Bernard Tomic beat Chase Buchanan 6-1 6-3

Girls’ singles: Heather Watson beat Yana Buchina 6-4 6-1

Boys’ doubles: Cheng Peng Hsieh and Marton Fucsovics beat Julien Obry and Adrien Puget 7-6 (5) 5-7 10-1 (match tiebreak)

Girls’ doubles: Valeria Solovieva and Maryna Zanevska beat Elena Bogdan and Noppawan Lertcheewakarn 1-6 6-3 10-7 (match tiebreak)

Men’s wheelchair singles: Shingo Kunieda beat Maikel Scheffers 6-0 6-0

Men’s wheelchair doubles: Stephane Houdet and Stefan Olsson beat Maikel Scheffers and Ronald Vink 6-4 4-6 6-4

Women’s wheelchair singles: Esther Vergeer beat Korie Homan 6-0 6-0

Women’s wheelchair doubles: Esther Vergeer and Korie Homan beat Daniela DiToro and Florence Gravellier 6-2 6-2

OTHER:

Alberto Martin beat Carlos Berlocq 6-3 6-3 to win the AON Open Challenger in Genoa, Italy

SAYING

“When I would have a dream, it was to win the US Open, and the other one is to be like Roger. One is done.” – Juan Martin del Potro, after beating Roger Federer and winning the US Open men’s singles.

“Five was great, four was great, too. Six would have been a dream, too. Can’t have them all. I’ve had an amazing summer and a great run. I’m not too disappointed just because I thought I played another wonderful tournament.” – Roger Federer, after losing the US Open men’s singles final to Juan Martin del Potro.

“I can’t believe this happened. Because it still seems so surreal that in my third tournament back I won my second Grand Slam. Because it wasn’t in the plan. I just wanted to come here and get a feel for it all over again, play a Grand Slam so to start the next year I didn’t have to go through all the new experiences over.” – Kim Clijsters, who won her second straight US Open women’s title four years after her first title.

“I think that I’ll learn that it pays to always play your best and always be your best and always act your best no matter what. And I think that I’m young and I feel like in life everyone has to have experience that they take and that they learn from, and I think that’s great that I have an opportunity to still b e physically fit to go several more years and learn from the past.” – Serena Williams, after losing her semifinal to Kim Clijsters after receiving a point penalty on match point.

“I cannot really tell that I was playing bad. She was playing good.” – Kateryna Bondarenko, after losing to Yanina Wickmayer.

“Today, I could’ve been better in pretty much every part of my game, whether it was mental, forehand, backhand, return.” – Andy Murray, after losing his fourth-round match to Marin Cilic.

“I lost it myself because I made so many unforced errors. So many unforced errors, you can’t win against anybody. No chance.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, after committing 69 unforced errors in her three-set loss to Caroline Wozniacki.

“I was thinking, every point, do the same, try to put the ball in the court. When you fight that way to the final point, you have many chances, and that’s what happened today.” – Juan Martin del Potro, after his quarterfinal win.

“I think the biggest weapon can be mental toughness. It doesn’t have to be a stroke or a shot or anything like that. If you’re mentally tough out there, then you can beat anyone.” – Melanie Oudin, after beating Maria Sharapova to advance to the fourth round.

STARTING NEW ERA

By winning the US Open, Juan Martin del Potro became only the third player to beat both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the same tournament. He also became the first player this year to defeat the world’s top three players, having also beat Andy Murray in Madrid, Spain. Del Potro is the first South American to be in the US Open final since fellow Argentine Guillermo Vilas won in 1977, and the first South African to be in a Grand Slam final since Fernando Gonzalez of Chile lost to Federer in the 2007 Australian Open.

SO SWEET, SO WRONG

After he ran onto the court to kiss Rafael Nadal, a New York City man, Noam U. Aorta, was arrested and charged with trespassing. Aorta jumped out of the stands after Nadal beat Gael Monfils in a fourth-round match. “For me it wasn’t a problem. The guy was really nice,” Nadal said. “He said, ‘I love you,’ and he kissed me.” District Attorney Richard Brown called it “particularly disturbing” since Aorta made physical contact with Nadal, noting that Monica Seles was stabbed in 1993 by a spectator who jumped out of the stands in Hamburg, Germany.

SAFINA STILL ON TOP

Serena Williams lost the chance to move back into the number one spot on the women’s tennis tour. The American could have replaced Dinara Safina on the top of the rankings if she had successfully defended her US Open title. Instead, she lost to eventual champion Kim Clijsters in the semifinals and, consequently, will remain in the number two spot.

The US Open was the third tournament back for US Open champion Kim Clijsters since she ended her two-year retirement. And you need to play three tournaments to get a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour ranking. In this week’s rankings, Clijsters is number 19 in the world.

SEASON-ENDING QUALIFIERS

The world’s top doubles team, Cara Black and Liezel Huber, are the first to qualify for the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships, which will be held October 27-November 1 in Doha, Qatar. It will be the third trip the final Championships for Black and Huber, having clinched the title in the last two years. The top four doubles teams will compete for the title. Two players have already qualified for the eight-player singles competition, Dinara Safina and Serena Williams.

STANDING FOR ELECTION

Doubles players will get a chance to shine in the 2010 International Tennis Hall of Fame ITHF) balloting. The ITHF announced the names of the 12 nominees for possible induction into the Newport, Rhode Island, shrine next year, including Beatrizs “Gigi” Fernandez, Natasha Zvereva, Todd Woodbridge, Mark Woodforde and Anders Jarryd. On the ballot in the Master Player category are Owen Davidson, Peter Fleming and Bob Lutz, while the Contributor category has four nominees: wheelchair tennis pioneer Brad Parks, coach Nick Bollettieri, Lawn Tennis Association chairman Derek Hardwick and Japan’s Eichi Kawatei. Voting for the 2010 ballot will take place over the next several months with an announcement of the induction class scheduled for January. The Class of 2010 induction ceremony will be held July 10 at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport.

SUGIYAMA RETIRING

Ai Sugiyama is ready to say sayonara. The Japanese veteran says she will probably retire at the end of this year, concluding her 17-year career. She once was ranked as high as number eight in the world. “I am normally the type that can picture what the near future holds, but to be honest at this moment in time, I can’t see myself competing next season,” Sugiyama told Kyodo news. She won six WTA Tour singles titles and doubles championships at the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. She lost in the Australian Open final this year.

SPECIAL MOMS

When Kim Clijsters won the US Open, she became the first mother to win a Grand Slam tournament singles title since Australian Evonne Goolagong Cawley captured Wimbledon in 1980. But Clijsters wasn’t the only mother competing at America’s premier tennis event. Sybille Bammer of Austria lost in the first round to Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, while Rossana de los Rios of Paraguay fell to 14th-seeded Marion Bartoli in her first-round match. After the birth of her baby, Bammer climbed as high as number 19 in the world and won at Prague, Czech Republic, earlier this year. De los Rios has won six ITF singles titles since giving birth to her daughter in 1997.

SAD WEEK

Sloane Stephens was looking forward to the US Open junior girls tournament, where she was seeded fourth. But just before junior play got underway, Stephens’ father, former NFL running back John Stephens, died in a car accident. The 16-year-old from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, took a day off to fly to her father’s funeral in Louisiana, then returned to win her second-round match. But she lost her next outing to Jana Cepelova of Slovakia 4-6 6-1 6-0. “I was trying to focus and do things I should have done, but mentally I wasn’t there,” she said. The youngster had reconnected with her father three years ago and she had met him only a handful of times, but the two had developed a relationship over the telephone.

SISTER ACT

Venus and Serena Williams won their 10th Grand Slam tournament women’s doubles title, beating the top-seeded team of Cara Black and Liezel Huber. The sisters have never lost in a Grand Slam tournament once they’ve reached the final. “Hopefully that’s a record that won’t end yet,” Serena said. It is their first US Open doubles crown since 1999, and the sisters are now halfway to the record set by Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver.

SUITE NEWS

As far as fans were concerned, Melanie Oudin didn’t outstay her welcome at the US Open. That’s not true about her New York City hotel room. The 17-year-old from Marietta, Georgia, was one of the biggest surprises of this year’s final Grand Slam event, reaching the quarterfinals before being eliminated. But she outstayed her hotel reservation at the Marriott in Manhattan, according to SportsBusiness Journal. Her management company quickly got her a room at the Intercontinental Hotel. Oudin, who was not seeded, was not expected to play in the second week of the US Open. So the room she shared with her mother was apparently reserved for someone else. “Obviously we will not be sending any of our players back to that hotel (the Marriott),” Oudin’s agent, BEST Tennis president John Tobias, told the Journal.

STILL RELEVANT

He won the first US Open in 1968 and the main stadium at America’s premier tennis tournament is named for him. But it wasn’t until this year that Arthur Ashe was inducted into the US Open Court of Champions, which honors the greatest singles champions in the history of the 128 years of the US Championships/US Open. Ashe joined prior inductees Don Budge, Maureen Connolly, Jimmy Connors, Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Althea Gibson, Steffi Graf, Billie Jean King, Jack Kramer, Rod Laver, Ivan Lendl, Molla Bjurstedt Mallory, John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, Pete Sampras, Bill Tilden and Helen Wills. An international panel of journalists selects the inductees annually. Former President Bill Clinton participated in Ashe’s induction ceremonies.

SET FOR DOHA

US Open runner-up Caroline Wozniacki and Elena Dementieva are the latest to qualify for the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships, which will be held October 27-November 1 in Doha, Qatar. The world’s top eight singles players and top four doubles teams will compete for the Sony Ericsson Championships title and a share of the record Championships prize money of USD $4.45 million.

STAYING IN TOUCH

Fans attending the US Open sent a record number of emails and text, picture and video messages from in and around Arthur Ashe Stadium the first week of the tournament. “US Open fans are letting their fingers do the talking this year as increasing numbers of Verizon Wireless customers use Smartphones and PDAs to stay in touch with their homes and offices,” said Michele White, executive director-network for company’s New York Metro Region. “The number of data connections established by Verizon Wireless customers in and around the tennis center during the busiest hours of the event last week was 80 percent higher than last year while voice traffic was down.”

STRONG SPORT

Despite the gloomy global economy, the women’s tennis circuit is doing just fine, thank you. Stacey Allaster, CEO of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, said they have lost just one title sponsor in 2009 and have added two new tournaments in 2010. “The bottom line is we want to be a credible product, consistently delivering to fans and sponsors, and in 2009 our athletes have done that,” Allaster said. Of the tour’s 51 title sponsors, only one has dropped out, and that is “an incredible success story for women’s tennis,” she said. Tournaments have been added in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia, while the Los Angeles event has moved to San Diego.

SHAMEFUL ACTIONS

Three teenagers have been convicted in Malmo, Sweden, for rioting outside a Davis Cup tie between Israel and Sweden in March. The three Swedish males, aged 17 to 19, were sentenced to community service for juveniles. Two of them were also ordered to pay USD $19,020 for sabotaging a police vehicle. The three were among 10 people arrested after protesting Israel’s offensive in Gaza. The court had previously sentenced two others to 9 and 15 months in prison. No spectators were allowed to watch the matches after Malmo officials said they could not guarantee security. The International Tennis Association (ITF) fined the Swedish tennis federation USD $5,000 for that decision and banned Malmo from staging Davis Cup matches for five years.

SAY IT AIN’T SO

A media report that he and his wife are living in fear amid crime and poverty in the Bahamas has brought an angry response from Lleyton Hewitt. The 2001 US Open champion told a newspaper that the report in an Australian magazine was “absolute rubbish.” Hewitt said he and his family have had “fantastic experiences” in the nine months they have lived in a gated community on New Providence island. “For us it’s a fantastic place to raise a young family.”

SAYS YOU, SAYS ME

You knew it had to happen. Novak Djokovic and John McEnroe took turns imitating each other during an impromptu US Open moment. Following his victory over Radek Stepanek, Djokovic called McEnroe down from his television booth, then mimicked the mannerisms and serving style of the four-time US Open champion. He tossed his racquet onto the court and screamed at an imaginary umpire. Once McEnroe arrived on court, he unbuttoned his white shirt, rolled up his sleeves and, using a borrowed racquet, bounced the ball repeatedly, imitating Djokovic’s pre-serve habits. Two years ago, Djokovic delighted the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd by impersonating Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova, among others. “What I’ve done in 2007 with those impersonations and tonight playing with Johnny Mac, I think that’s what the crowd wants, especially in these hours,” Djokovic said. “I think these night matches are very special.”

SKIPPING SCHOOL

Her exciting run to US Open quarterfinals kept Melanie Oudin in New York City doing what she wants to do. She doesn’t do the ordinary high school things, like going to the junior prom or homecoming, or even hanging out with friends at the mall. “She doesn’t do any of that kind of stuff, and she’s OK with it,” said Katherine Oudin, Melanie’s mother. “I know she misses the normal life a little, but she does not regret it at all. Zero. She’s totally OK with it because she knows this is what she’s wanted her entire life.”

SOCKING IT AWAY

Each of the singles champions here at the US Open will take home USD $1.6 million, a nice tidy sum in any language. Going into the year’s final Grand Slam tournament, Roger Federer has earned USD $36 million over the past 12 months. His three Grand Slam wins – 2008 US Open, French Open and Wimbledon – and other tournament play netted him USD $8 million. And when he won his first-round match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center this year, he became the first player to surpass USD $50 million in career earnings on the court. The 28-year-old Federer has 10-year endorsement deals with Nike, Rolex, Wilson and Swiss coffee machine maker Jura. His Nike contract extension that he signed in 2008 is worth more than USD $10 million annually. Maria Sharapova is close to Federer in off-court earnings. The Russian earned USD $22.5 million over the past year despite missing most of the season with a shoulder injury.

SUED

The US Tennis Association (USTA) has been sued by a New York City documentary filmmaker who claims the ruling tennis body discriminates against wheelchair players by refusing to sell broadcast licensing rights to their matches. Brooklyn, New York, filmmaker Alan Rich is a lawyer who is representing himself and seven handicapped players. He has been filming a documentary about the players called “Fire in the Belly.” Rich contends that because the major networks covering the tournament – CBS, ESPN and Tennis Channel – do not cover wheelchair events, he should be given the rights. USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said his organization limits filming of matches to the three television companies that have contracts with them. He said that two years ago, Tennis Channel aired the wheelchair finals competition live and produced a half-hour highlights show of the tournament.

SIMON REPLACED

Jeremy Chardy will play Davis Cup for France against the Netherlands. Chardy replaces Gilles Simon, who has a knee injury. France plays the Netherlands for a spot in next year’s World Group. The French team also includes Gael Monfils, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and doubles specialist Michael Llordra. Chardy originally had been selected as an alternative. That role now goes to Julien Benneteau.

SCRIBE AWARDS

Sixteen writers were honored at the US Open by the US Tennis Writers Association in the 10th annual USTWA Writing Contest. William Weinbaum and John Barr of ESPN.com won first place in Hard News/Enterprise for their story about the controversial match between Nikolay Davydenko and Martin Vassallo Arguello. Other first-place winners were: Bruce Jenkins, San Francisco Chronicle, Column/Commentary; Cindy Shmerler, TENNIS Magazine, Feature Story (Pro); Stephen Tignor, TENNIS Magazine, Feature Story (Non-Pro); Filip Bondy, New York Daily News, Game Story (Pro); and Paul Fein, TennisOne.com, Service Story.

The USTWA announced the election of its board of directors at its annual meeting at the US Open: Cindy Cantrell, Tennis Life; Paul Fein, freelance writer; Ann LoPrinzi, The Times of Trenton (New Jersey); Richard Kent, freelance writer; Jim Martz, Florida Tennis; and Art Spander, The (San Francisco) Examiner. Fein, Kent and Spander are new to the board. The officers will be determined by the board.

SHARED PERFORMANCE

Genoa: Daniele Bracciali and Alessandro Motti beat Amir Hadad and Harel Levy 6-4 6-2

SITES TO SURF

Davis Cup: www.DavisCup.com

Quebec: www.challengebell.com

Guangzhou: http://sports.21cn.com

Bucharest: www.bcropenromania.ro/

Metz: www.openmoselle.com

Hansol: www.hansolopen.com

Tashkent: www.tashkentopen.uz

Saint Malo: www.opengdfsuez-bretagne.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

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

WTA

$220,000 Bell Challenge, Quebec City, Canada, hard

$220,000 Guangzhou International Women’s Open, Guangzhou, China, hard

DAVIS CUP

World Group Semifinals

Croatia vs. Czech Republic at Porec, Croatia

Spain vs. Israel at Murcia, Spain

World Group Playoffs

Chile vs. Austria at Rancagua, Chile; Belgium vs. Ukraine at Charleroi, Belgium; Brazil vs. Ecuador at Porto Alegre, Brazil; Netherlands vs. France at Maastricht, Netherlands; South Africa vs. India at Johannesburg, South Africa; Serbia vs. Uzbekistan at Belgrade, Serbia; Sweden vs. Romania at Helsingborg, Sweden; Italy vs. Switzerland at Genova, Italy

Americas Zone

Group I Playoff: Peru vs. Uruguay at Lima, Peru

Group II Final: Dominican Republic vs. Venezuela at Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Asia-Oceania Zone

Group I Playoff: China vs. Thailand at Jiaxing, China

Group II 3rd Round: Philippines vs. New Zealand at Manila, Philippines

Europe/Africa Zone

Group I Playoffs: Slovak Republic vs. FYR Macedonia at Bratislava, Slovak Republic; Great Britain vs. Poland at Liverpool, Great Britain

Group II 3rd Round: Latvia vs. Slovenia at Jurmala, Latvia; Finland vs. Cyprus at Salo, Finland

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

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

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

WTA

$220,000 Hansol Korea Open, Seoul, Korea, hard

$220,000 Tashkent Open, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, hard

$100,000 Open GDF Suez de Bretagne, Saint Malo, France, clay

SENIORS

Trophee Jean-Luc Lagardere, Paris, France, clay

The Graveyard Is No More

graveyard-2

graveyard-2

The famed “Graveyard” court at Wimbledon – Court No. 2 – is no longer. The Graveyard met the gallows this week as officials at the All England Club demolished the court in its on-going efforts to refurbish the grounds and create more space for fans. The court has been the site of many upsets through the years, perhaps most notably as the court where Pete Sampras played his last Wimbledon match, a second-round upset loss to qualifier George Bastl of Switzerland in 2002. These photos are courtesy of the Wimbledon Facebook page. You can go there to see many others.

graveyard-2

Happy Birthday Roger Federer!

Happy Birthday Roger Federer!

Happy Birthday Roger Federer! The six-time Wimbledon champion – and new father – turns 28 Saturday, August 8 and will play his first tournament since his epic win over Andy Roddick in the Wimbledon final from July 5 this week in Montreal. Rene Stauffer, the author of the acclaimed Federer biography “The Roger Federer Story: Quest for Perfection” ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com) takes a look at the time when Roger was only a glimmer in his parent’s eye and his very early years in this exclusive book excerpt entitled “From Kempton Park to Basel.”

The village of Berneck is situated in the northeastern corner of Switzerland in the St. Gall Rhine valley, where the Alpine foothills are kissed by the famed Foehn winds and the inhabitants speak a rough dialect of German. The people of this village feel a closer association to Austria and its Vorarlberg state—lo­cated just on the other side of the Rhine—than they do Switzerland’s major cities of Zurich, Bern or Geneva. A few kilometers to the north, the Rhine flows into Lake Constance, where the waters comprise the borders between Switzerland, Austria and Germany.

Roger’s father, Robert, grew up in Berneck as son of a textile worker and a housewife. At the age of 20, he left the area and followed the course of the Rhine and arrived in Basel, a border city in the triangle between Switzerland, Germany and France and where the Rhine forms a knee joint and flows north out of the country. Basel is where some of the world’s most important chemical companies are headquartered and Robert Federer, a young chemi­cal laboratory worker, found his first job at Ciba, one of the world’s leading chemical companies.

After four years in Basel, Robert Federer was seized by wanderlust, and in 1970, he decided to emigrate and pull up stakes from Switzerland. It was a coincidence that he chose South Africa, but also due to formalities. Among other things, he could get an emigration visa with relative ease in the country dominated by Apartheid. It was also a coincidence that he found a new job with the same employer he had in Switzerland, Ciba. The chemical company, along with several other foreign companies, was located in Kempton Park, an extended suburb of Johannesburg near the international airport.

It was in Kempton Park where he met Lynette Durand, who came to work for Ciba as a secretary. Afrikaan was the spoken language on her family’s farm—she had three siblings; her father was a foreman and her mother was a nurse—but Lynette went to an English school and her intention was to save money as quickly as possible and to travel to Europe. She preferred England, where her father was stationed during World War II.

Robert Federer is a modest and unpretentious man who usually remains in the background. He prefers to observe and listen quietly and then to steer things in the direction desired. He is small of stature with a prominent nose and he has a distinct mustache. He is athletic, strong, quick-witted, funny, cosmopolitan and easy-going. Nothing characterizes him better than his ringing laughter that draws his eyes into narrow slits and raises his bushy eye­brows. Despite his affability, he knows how to defend himself when crossed. He is realistic but decisive. A female portrait painter once described him as being “caustic, having the bite of a bear.”

Lynette, the charming 18-year-old secretary with the piercing eyes, in­stantly made a favorable impression on Robert Federer when he saw her in the company cafeteria in 1970. They met and eventually became a couple. Robert took Lynette to the Swiss Club in Johannesburg to introduce her to his new hobby—tennis. The young woman, who used to play field hockey, was instantly enthused about the sport and began to play regularly. The couple had a wonderful time in South Africa—Apartheid hardly affected them.

Robert Federer cannot really explain why they moved to Switzerland in 1973. “You had this feeling of being a migratory bird,” he said. Back in Basel, he often asked himself why they didn’t stay in Africa, especially because his consort admitted to having difficulty with the confines of Switzerland and the narrow mentality of its people. “But one learned quickly to adjust,” she said. The couple married and a daughter, Diana, was born in 1979. Twenty-months later, Lynette Federer then bore a son, on the morning of August 8, 1981 in Basel’s canton hospital. He was named Roger because it could also be pronounced easily in English. Roger’s parents, even in the first hours of his life, felt that one day it could be beneficial for their son to have a name that was easy to pronounce in English.

The name Federer was already familiar in Berneck before 1800, but it is ac­tually an extremely uncommon clan name in Switzerland. The most famous Federer up to that point was Heinrich Federer, a priest turned poet who died in 1928. In 1966, on his 100th birthday, he was immortalized on a Swiss postage stamp.

In the 1970s, the Ciba Company that Robert and Lynette Federer continued to work for in Switzerland sponsored a tennis club in Allschwil, a suburb of Basel, and the Federer family soon became regular players. Lynette displayed a great talent for the sport with her greatest triumph coming when she was a member of the Swiss Inter-club senior championship team in 1995. She loved tennis so much that she soon became a junior tennis coach at the club. She later became involved in the tournament organization at the Swiss Indoors, the ATP tournament in Basel, working in the credential office.

Robert Federer was also a committed tennis enthusiast and was a region­ally-ranked player. He and his wife would later more frequently hit the golf course, but at the time, tennis still came first. Lynette often took her son to the tennis courts. Young Roger was fascinated by balls at a very young age. “He wanted to play ball for hours on end—even at one-and-a-half years old,” his mother recollected. His skill was plainly apparent: He could hardly walk but he managed to catch larger balls. Little Roger hit his first tennis ball over the net at three-and-a-half years old. At four, he could already hit twenty or thirty balls in a row. “He was unbelievably coordinated,” his father gushed.

The Federer family was neither rich nor poor, just solid Swiss middle class. Roger grew up in a townhouse with a yard in a quiet neighborhood in Wasserhaus in Münchenstein, a suburb of Basel. Impulsive and ambitious, he was not an easy child. “Defeats were total disasters for him, even at board games,” his father remembered. He was “a nice guy” in general “but when he didn’t like something, he could get pretty aggressive.” Dice and game board pieces sometimes flew through the living room.

Even as a little boy, his mother said, he always did as he pleased and at­tempted to push limits, whether it involved teachers at school or his parents at home or with sports. “He was very vibrant, a bundle of energy, and was sometimes very difficult,” said Lynette. When forced to do something he didn’t like, Roger reacted strongly. When bored, he questioned it or ignored it. When his father gave him instruction on the tennis court, Roger would not even look at him.

Roger was a popular boy, always friendly, not arrogant, well-behaved—and very athletic. He tried skiing, wrestling, swimming and skateboarding but it was sports that involved balls that especially fascinated him. He played soccer, handball, basketball, table tennis, tennis and, at home, he even played badminton over the neighbor’s fence. He always had a ball with him, even on the way to school. One of his idols was Michael Jordan of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls. He was outdoors every free minute he could mus­ter. Work in the classroom that required concentration and sitting still wasn’t his thing. He was not an ambitious student at school and his grades were mediocre.

Robert and Lynette were the ideal parents for a sports fanatic like Roger. They let him run free when he wanted to but didn’t force him. “He had to keep moving, otherwise he became unbearable,” Lynette said. She and her husband emphasized taking up various kinds of sports. They took him to a local soccer club called Concordia Basel at an early age so that he would learn to interact with teammates and become a team player.

His mother, however, declined giving her son tennis lessons. “I considered myself not to be competent enough and he would have just upset me anyway,” she said. “He was very playful. He tried out every strange stroke and certainly never returned a ball normally. That is simply no fun for a mother.”

For hours, Roger hit tennis balls against a wall, a garage door, in his room against a wall or even against the cupboard in the house. Pictures and dishes were not safe and his sister’s room wasn’t spared either. “Things would some­times break,” Roger admits today. Diana didn’t have an easy time with her brother and was forced to put up with the antics of her rambunctious younger brother. “He would always come around shouting when I was with my friends or he would pick up the receiver when I was on the phone,” Diana said. “He really was a little devil.”

As is the case for siblings of the highly-talented, it wasn’t easy for Diana to stand in her brother’s shadow. Whenever the family went out together, Roger became more and more frequently the center of attention. Lynette took her aside once: “Diana, it’s no different for you than for your mother,” she told her daughter. “Many people talk to me but the topic is always your brother.”

Diana, an aspiring nurse, only occasionally watched her brother’s matches. For example, at the 2005 Masters Cup in Shanghai, she and her mother left the stadium in mid-match to go on a vacation to South Africa. Diana is proud of her brother but prefers not being in the limelight and doesn’t assiduously follow every detail of his career. For example, when she watched Roger play Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic at the Swiss Indoors in Basel in 2005, she had no idea that Berdych had surprisingly defeated her brother at the Athens Olympics one year earlier, dashing his dreams of an Olympic medal.

Mondays With Bob Greene: Mirka and I became proud parents of twin girls

Dinara Safina wins Banka Koper Slovenia Open

STARS

Robby Ginepri beat Sam Querrey 6-2 6-4 to win the Indianapolis Tennis Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Nikolay Davydenko beat Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-4 6-2 to win the International German Open in Hamburg, Germany

Dinara Safina won the Banka Koper Slovenia Open in Portoroz, Slovenia, beating Sara Errani 6-7 (5) 6-1 7-5

Andrea Petkovic beat Ioana Raluca Olaru 6-2 6-3 to win the Gastein Ladies in Bad Gastein, Austria

SAYING

“I have some exciting news to share with you. Late last night, in Switzerland, Mirka and I became proud parents of twin girls. This is the best day of our lives.” – Roger Federer, announcing the births on his Web site and Facebook page.

“The twins certainly come from good tennis stock. If they are half as good as their dad they will still be a potent force on the court.” – Nick Weinberg, spokesman for British bookmaker Ladbrokes on the twin girls one day winning Wimbledon.

“When you have a lot of losses, you start questioning if you can play at this level. It creeps in the back of your mind, so this is definitely a confidence boost for me the rest of the summer.” – Robby Ginepri, after winning the Indianapolis Tennis Championships.

“It’s been a great week for me. Of course, when you are in a final you always want to win but it has been a great week for me.” – Paul-Henri Mathieu, after losing in the Hamburg, Germany, final to Nikolay Davydenko.

“I know I am good enough to beat most players on this level.” – Andrea Petkovic, after reaching her first career WTA Tour final, which she won.

“I played better each match this week. I beat two Top 30 players this week, the best wins of my career. I’m sorry about today: I wish I could have done more, but there’s always next tournament.” – Ioana Raluca Olaru, who lost in the Gastein Ladies final to Andrea Petkovic.

“I am a hundred percent. I mean, if I wasn’t at that point, I certainly wouldn’t be playing.” – Maria Sharapova, who played for the Newport Beach Breakers in a World TeamTennis match against Kansas City.

“There’s always a lot of pressure against Korie (Homan) because I have not lost a set at this tournament since 2000 and of course I have the winning streak.” – Esther Vergeer, after stretching her unbeaten singles record to 364 matches in wheelchair tennis by again beating world number two Korie Homan.

“Andy’s presence really does give a boost to County Week and British tennis in general. It proves to 12-, 13- and 14-year-old children that if the world number three can be bothered to show up and compete for his county, then they can do it, too.” – Ian Conway, captain of the North of Scotland team, on Andy Murray playing an amateur event.

SUCCESS, FINALLY

It’s been awhile since Nikolay Davydenko took home the biggest check at a tournament. The Russian won his first ATP World Tour title in over a year when he trounced Paul-Henri Mathieu at the International German Open in Hamburg. Davydenko last appeared in a final at the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai last November, and he hadn’t won a title since Warsaw, Poland, in June 2008. Davydenko also became the first Russian to win in Hamburg.

SONY TOPPER

Until this past week, Andrea Petkovic had a 3-8 lifetime record in WTA Tour-level events, with all three match wins coming at Grand Slam tournaments. That changed in Bad Gastein, Austria, where Petkovic won five straight matches and her first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title, the Gastein Ladies, when she stopped Ioana Raluca Olaru. The unseeded German dropped only one set all week, that to seventh-seeded Anna-Lena Groenefeld in the quarterfinals. “It’s the best moment of my career,” Petkovic said. “I hope I can keep playing like this and build on it.” Olaru was also appearing in her first Tour singles final, having upset third-seeded Sybille Bammer, sixth-seeded Magdalena Rybarikova and top-seeded Alize Cornet en route to the title match.

SURE BET

It didn’t take the British bookmakers long. Just a day after their birth, Roger Federer’s twin daughters were given 100-1 odds for either to win Wimbledon. Charlene Riva Federer and Myla Rose Federer are 50-1 to win a Grand Slam as part of the same doubles team and 200-1 to capture the Wimbledon women’s doubles. Andy Roddick, who has lost the Wimbledon final three times to the twins’ father, agreed with the bookies. The American sent a message from his Twitter page, which read: “Wimbledon women’s champs in 2029-2040 … the Federer girls: congrats to the new parents!”

SUPER TIEBREAKS

Playing together for the first time, Dmitry Tursunov of Russia and Ernests Gulbis of Latvia won all four matches in third-set super tiebreakers to capture the doubles title at the Indianapolis Tennis Championships. “They’re obviously better as a team, but when there’s a lot of firepower against you, there’s not much you can do,” Tursunov said after the pair beat top-seeded Ashley Fisher and Jordan Kerr 6-4 3-6 11-9 (match tiebreak). Not one to break up a winning pair, the two plan to play together in Los Angeles this week. “It’s kind of like beginner’s luck in poker, so we’ll see how it goes,” Tursunov said. “If we’re having success, it makes sense to continue to play.”

STEPPING IT UP

The knee injury must be better. Rafael Nadal has returned to training for the first time since he was sidelined by tendinitis in his right knee. Nadal is planning on returning to the ATP tour at the Montreal Masters next month. He has been out since losing to Robin Soderling in the fourth round of the French Open, where he was seeking his fifth straight title. The injury also kept him from defending his Wimbledon crown. With Nadal not there, Roger Federer won both Roland Garros and Wimbledon to record his 15th Grand Slam trophy and reclaim the number one ranking.

STRUGGLING

Leander Paes was named the league’s male MVP as he led the Washington Kastles to their first World TeamTennis Pro League championship. Paes teamed with Scott Oudsema to win the men’s doubles and with Rennae Stubbs to win the mixed doubles as the Kastles downed the Springfield Lasers 23-20. Oudsema beat Springfield’s Raven Klaasen in the men’s singles, while Washington’s Olga Puchkova downed Vania King in women’s singles. King and Liezel Huber captured the women’s doubles. King was named the league’s female MVP.

STANDING TALL

Cara Black is only 5-foot-6 ( 1.67m) but she stands tall in the tennis record book. The Zimbabwean player is second only to Hall of Famer Martina Navratilova in the number of weeks spent as the number one doubles player in the world. When Black recorded her 125th week at number one spot, she moved past Natasha Zvereva. The 30-year-old first took over the top spot on October 17, 2005, staying there for 16 weeks. She regained the spot on June 11, 2007, before relinquishing it two weeks later to Lisa Raymond. But Black began her third and current stint at number one on July 9, 2007, after winning Wimbledon. Navratilova led the doubles rankings for 237 weeks.

SPOTLIGHTED

Austria’s national anti-doping authorities are investigating Tamira Paszek after she received a medical treatment for a back injury that allegedly violated doping regulations. Authorities say that during treatment earlier this month, blood was taken from Paszek for enrichment, then later injected back into her, which is not allowed under international anti-doping rules. Paszek said she was not aware that the treatment was possibly illegal until a reporter told her. Paszek then alerted the Austrian anti-doping agency NADA, which began its investigation. The Austrian right-hander has struggled with back problems since last season. She has not played since retiring during her first-round match at Wimbledon.

STAYING HOME

Argentina’s David Nalbandian and Croatia’s Mario Ancic won’t be playing in this year’s US Open. According to the United States Tennis Association (USTA), the 15th-ranked Nalbandian is still recovering from recent hip surgery, while Ancic is battling mononucleosis. Their spots in the men’s main draw were taken by Ivan Navarro of Spain and Karol Beck of Slovakia.

An injury has caused Li Na of China to withdraw from China’s National Games in Shandong. The 27-year-old said she felt a recurrence of her right knee injury. Li will undergo tests in Beijing to determine whether she will be able to play the North American hard court season, including the US Open. “We have signed up for it and got the visa,” said Li’s husband and coach, Jiang Shan. “If she is OK by then we will go to play.”

SUSPENDED

John McEnroe seems to be a lightning rod for problems on a tennis court. His World TeamTennis club has been fined for what the league called “unprofessional conduct.” During the men’s doubles match between McEnroe’s New York Sportimes and the Washington Kastles, a shot by Washington’s Leander Paes hit New York’s Robert Kendrick. McEnroe and Sportimes coach Chuck Adams went to Paes’ side of the court and yelled at him. Four points later, Kendrick hit Paes with a serve, prompting more confrontations. The league suspended and fined Adams the next day, then, after reviewing the video and getting the umpire’s report, issued fines on both teams. Kendrick and Kastles player Olga Puchkova received individual fines.

SHORT STICH STAY

Michael Stich’s return to competitive tennis lasted only 62 minutes. The former Wimbledon champion lost his first-round doubles match at the German Open in Hamburg. The 40-year-old Stich, who retired from the sport 12 years ago, and 21-year-old Mischa Zverev were beaten by Simon Aspelin of Sweden and Paul Hanley of Australia 6-4 6-2. Stich won Wimbledon in 1991 and reached the final at both the French Open and US Open. His best ranking was number two in the world. As tournament director of the German Open, Stich gave himself and Zverev a wild card into the tournament. Stich is not the only retired player to make a brief doubles comeback. John McEnroe was 47 when he and Sweden’s Jonas Bjorkman won the doubles at San Jose, California. That came 14 years after his previous title.

SAYING AU REVOIR

Nathalie Dechy is calling it a career. The 30-year-old Frenchwoman is expecting a child and wants to devote her time to family life. Dechy reached the Australian Open semifinals in 2005, but is currently ranked 88th in the world. She won two US Open women’s doubles titles, with Vera Zvonareva in 2006 and Dinara Safina in 2007. She also won the French Open mixed doubles in 2007 with Israel’s Andy Ram. Dechy won her only WTA Tour singles title at the Gold Coast tournament in 2003 and reached her career-highest ranking in January 2006 when she rose to 11th in the world. She played for France in the Fed Cup in singles and doubles from 2000 until this year.

STRIKE IT WASN’T

Robby Ginepri had an unusual way of throwing out the game’s first pitch when he was a special guest at the Triple-A baseball game between the Indianapolis Indians and the Durham Bulls. In Indiana where he was competing in the Indianapolis Tennis Championships, Ginepri used his racquet and a tennis ball to serve to the Indians catcher. The umpire called balls on both of Ginepri’s “serves,” but the American was delighted with his performance. “It was very close to a strike,” Ginepri said. “It is quite different to have to serve at a catcher’s glove. The target is just very small.”

SCHOLARSHIPS BY MARIA

Maria Sharapova is continuing to give back. The former world number one has launched the Maria Sharapova Foundation to distribute scholarships among first-year students at Belarusian State University throughout the 2009-2010 academic year. The USD $3,500 scholarships will be available to Belarus residents attending BSU who come from areas formally recognized as affected by the Chernobyl nuclear accident. According to the BSU press office, recipients should actively participate in public, research and volunteer activities, and should have a high average grade in their general education school diplomas. It’s not the first time the tennis player has given generously. In February 2007, Sharapova, who serves as a Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations Development Program, donated USD $100,000 for eight Chernobyl relief projects in Belarus and Ukraine. Sharapova’s father and pregnant mother fled Homyel, a town 80 miles north of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, shortly after the accident in April 1986. She was born in a Siberian city months later.

SUMMER COUNTY CUP

Forget the ranking. Andy Murray took time to compete in the AEGON Summer County Cup, a 115-year-old amateur team tennis competition. With no umpires, line judges or ball-persons, the players call their own lines in the last amateur grass-court competition in the United Kingdom where senior professionals mix with junior players to represent their county in a competitive team environment. It was a huge surprise to the other players and the 300 spectators at Eastbourne when Murray showed up to play for North of Scotland. “Andy has come down to Eastbourne under his own steam, paying for his transport and lunch out of his own pocket,” said North of Scotland captain Ian Conway. “I was surprised and delighted, and his presence has given the rest of the team a huge boost.” While Murray and Owen Hadden won all three of their matches for the North of Scotland, Hertfordshire won the tie 5-4 when Andy’s brother, Jamie Murray, and his partner lost the deciding match 6-3 6-7 (3) 10-8 (match tiebreak).

STILL WINNING

Esther Vergeer is not slowing down. The Dutch woman won her ninth consecutive women’s wheelchair singles title at the British Open in Nottingham, defeating Korie Homan. Ranked number one in the world, Vergeer stretched her winning streak to 364 matches.

Shingo Kunieda of Japan won the men’s main draw singles, while American David Wagner captured the quad singles titles. Kunieda beat Stephane Houdet for his third successive men’s main draw singles title. Wagner won his second British Open quad singles in three years as he beat world number one and home favorite Peter Norfolk.

SIGNED ON

Nicole Pratt has been appointed Australian national women’s coach. A former junior Australian Open champion, Pratt will work with Australia’s Fed Cup team and on player development, according to Tennis Australia. Pratt’s highest ranking on the WTA Tour was 35th in the world.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Indianapolis: Dmitry Tursunov and Ernests Gulbis beat Ashley Fisher and Jordan Kerr 6-4 3-6 11-9 (match tiebreak)

Hamburg: Simon Aspelin and Paul Hanley beat Marcelo Melo and Filip Polasek 6-3 6-3

Bad Gastein: Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka beat Tatjana Malek and Andrea Petkovic 6-2 6-4

Portoroz: Julia Goerges and Vladimira Uhlirova beat Camille Pin and Klara Zakopalova 6-4 6-2

SITES TO SURF

Los Angeles: www.latennisopen.com/

Gstaad: www.allianzsuisseopengstaad.com/e/

Umag: www.croatiaopen.hr

Stanford: www.bankofthewestclassic.com/

Istanbul: www.istanbulcup.com/

Washington: www.leggmasontennisclassic.com/

Segovia: www.teniselespinar.com/

San Marino: www.atpsanmarino.com/

Vancouver: www.vanopen.com/

Los Angeles: www.latennischamps.com/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$700,000 Countrywide Classic, Los Angeles, California, USA, hard

$500,000 Allianz Suisse Open, Gstaad, Switzerland, clay

$450,000 Studena Croatia Open, Umag, Croatia, clay

$100,000 Orbetello Challenger, Orbetello, Italy, clay

WTA

$700,000 Bank of the West Classic, Stanford, California, hard

$220,000 Istanbul Cup, Istanbul, Turkey, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$1,402,000 Legg Mason Tennis Classic, Washington, DC, USA, hard

$150,000 ATP Open Castilla y Leon, Segovia, Spain, hard

$120,000 San Marino CEPU Open, San Marino, clay

$100,000 Odlum Brown Vancouver Open, Vancouver, Canada, hard

WTA

$700,000 LA Women’s Tennis Championships presented by Herbalife, Los Angeles, California, USA, hard

Roger Federer vs Andy Roddick…revisited

Roger Federer vs Andy Roddick revisited

Swiss journalist and author Rene Stauffer chronicles in detail three of the most important matches between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick in his definitive Federer biography THE ROGER FEDERER STORY, QUEST FOR PERFECTION (New Chapter Press, $24.95, www.rogerfedererbook.com), the first U.S.-published book on the Swiss tennis champion. In the 2004 Wimbledon final, a coach-less Federer sustained a Roddick surge to win his second Wimbledon title – and his third Grand Slam tournament title. At Wimbledon in 2005, Federer dominated Roddick to win his third Wimbledon title and his first Grand Slam tournament title with his father Robert Federer in attendance. In the 2007 Australian Open semifinals, Federer played one of the greatest matches of his career to throttle Roddick 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 en route to his third Australian Open. The book excerpts that chronicle these matches are featured below.

2004 Wimbledon Final – Federer def. Roddick 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (3), 6-4

On a rainy, bitterly cold Fourth of July, Federer played Roddick, who not only was in his first Wimbledon final on his country’s Independence Day, but on the birthday of his older brother John. Roddick clearly emerged as a solid No. 2 in the rankings behind Federer and took the identity of Federer’s primary challenger, especially on grass. The head-to-head between the two stood at 5-1 in the favor of Federer, who unlike the year before in his semifinal match with Roddick, was now considered the heavy favorite.

But Roddick and his coach Brad Gilbert both did their homework. Roddick played with an intensity that was palpable all the way to the top rows of Centre Court. Roddick’s power game dominated the early stages of the match as his brutal groundstrokes and lighting serve gave him the first set 6-4. The second set turned into a inexplicable rollercoaster ride—Federer took a 4-0 lead and had a point for 5-0, but lost two service games in a row and allowed Roddick to square the set at 4-4. But the tennis gods were in Federer’s favor. At 6-5, a let court winner gave him a set point. A gorgeously played running cross court forehand winner on the next point gave Federer the set.

The defending champion, however, was still unable to seize complete control of the match. In the third set, he trailed 2-4 when the heavens intervened as rain forced a temporary suspension in the action. The delay lasted 40 minutes and—as strange as it may sound—proved to be a pivotal moment in the match.

The rain stoppage also provided the Australian Pat Cash enough time on the BBC TV coverage of the match to make another false prediction—he wouldn’t bet any money on Federer winning the match. But Federer returned to the court as a man transformed and with a new tactic. As Cash used to do with much success, Federer rushed the net with greater frequency and began to win more and more points in that position. He won the third set in a tiebreak and was able to fend off six break points in the fourth set, before he broke Roddick’s serve at 4-3 without losing a point. In just a matter of minutes, Federer was again the Wimbledon champion.

It was 5:55 pm local time in Great Britain when Federer sank to his knees and rolled onto his back having once again won the greatest title in tennis. The sun, meanwhile, came out from the clouds, and like the year before, showered the award ceremony in sunshine. As with the ceremony in 2003, the tears flowed. “At least this time I managed to hold them back a bit during the award ceremony,” he remarked. “I’m even happier than last year.”

He admitted how surprised he was at Roddick’s aggressive and solid play. Federer said he himself made the decision during the rain delay in the third set to change tactics and to play more serve and volley. Of this, he said, he was proud. “Coach Federer is satisfied with Federer the tennis player,” he quipped.

2005 Wimbledon Final – Federer def. Roddick 6-2, 7-6 (2), 6-4

Federer unleashed a storm against Roddick at the start of the match—winning the first set in 22 minutes—a glaring difference to the previous year when the American dominated him from the start. In the second set, after the two players exchanged early breaks, Federer dominated the tie-break, taking it 7-2 to take a two-sets-to-love lead.

Although it was barely drizzling, Wimbledon officials ordered a suspension of play after the second set. Most of the spectators stayed in their seats, including Robert Federer, who watched his son play live in a Grand Slam final for the first time. While wife Lynette sat in the players’ box alongside Roche and Mirka Vavrinec, Robert sat on the complete opposite side of Centre Court.

Robert Federer didn’t have good memories of Wimbledon and it required courage for him to even venture to Centre Court to watch his son. His memories from his last visit to the All England Club in 2002 were still vivid—when he sat in the Players’ Box and expected to see his son roll through an easy first-round win over Croatia’s Mario Ancic. Instead, he witnessed “Rotschi” suffer one of the most bitter defeats of his career. Robert considered himself to be bad luck since then. His son finally convinced him to come. “Forget it! If I lose, then it certainly won’t be because of you,” Roger told him.

Robert Federer followed his son’s first two Wimbledon victories at home in Switzerland. When British reporters caught up with him afterwards, he explained that somebody had to look after the family cat. In 2005, he decided to come to Wimbledon from the beginning as a test. Most British reporters sitting only a few meters away from him in the Centre Court stands did not recognize him behind his sun glasses. The Sun actually ran a story about him, but the man in the photo associated with the story was not even him, but Federer’s physiotherapist Pavel Kovac.

Robert Federer was still nervous during the rain delay, even if his son’s two-sets-to-love lead calmed his nerves. “Even the points that Roger loses he plays well,” he said during the intermission. “I’ve always told him that he has to play aggressively and follow through with his strokes—anything else won’t work.”

Neither the short break—nor the supposed “jinx” presence of his father—could prevent Federer from winning his third Wimbledon title. After 101 minutes of play, an ace sealed his 6-2, 7-6 (2), 6-4 victory. He fell to the ground and, as before, the tears flowed. Federer became the eighth man in history—and only the third player since World War II—to win three-straight Wimbledon singles titles. The other two to turn the “hat trick” in the last 50 years were Björn Borg and Pete Sampras, but Federer resisted the comparisons. After all, the Swede won Wimbledon five straight years and Sampras won seven times in eight years. What Federer didn’t say and perhaps wasn’t even aware of was the fact that his achievement in winning his three Wimbledon titles was, in fact, more dominant than the first three titles won by both Borg and Sampras. Borg gave up nine sets in the process while Sampras surrendered 11 sets. Federer, by contrast, lost only four sets.

Federer was at a loss for words for his near perfect performance in the final. “I really played a fantastic match—one of my best in my life,” he said. “I was playing flawless. Everything was working.”

Of the 35 grass court tennis matches Andy Roddick played over the last three years, he only lost on three occasions. All three losses were to Roger Federer. “His performance this year was clearly better than last year’s,” said Roddick after his third-straight Wimbledon loss to Federer. “If I had played as well as today last year I probably would have won.”

For a third year in a row Federer was the indeed the answer to the question “Guess Who is Coming To Dinner?” His guests for the Wimbledon Champions Dinner were Tony Roche and Robert Federer. Both men beamed with pride. The Wimbledon victory was very important to them as well.

“To me, Wimbledon is the greatest tournament in the world,” said Roche, happy that he stayed in Europe with Federer for the grass season. “Playing against such a great opponent as Roddick in a Wimbledon final and playing at the level that he did—it can’t get any better than that. On a scale from one to 10, that was a 10.”

The Wimbledon champion was glad that his father was able to be with him at this special moment.

“He still gets upset if I miss a backhand or a forehand,” he said to journalists the morning after his victory. “But I’ve learned to deal with this in the meantime because I know that he doesn’t know as much about tennis as I used to think.”

2007 Australian Open – Federer def. Roddick 6-4, 6-0, 6-2

Spurred by new coach Jimmy Connors, Roddick’s career was back on the up-swing. In addition to his runner-up showing at the US Open, Roddick won the Tennis Masters Series event in Cincinnati and after his strong performances against Federer in the US Open final and Shanghai, as well as his exhibition victory over the Swiss at the Kooyong Classic, many speculated that Roddick was on Federer’s heels. The hype increased when the two faced each other again in the Australian Open semifinals. Roddick lost 12 of the 13 encounters with Federer but the longer this losing streak continued, the greater the likelihood that Federer would eventually stumble and lose to Roddick. In what many people predicted would be an upset victory for Roddick  turned into one of the bitterest days of the American’s tennis career. Federer pulled off a masterpiece—one of the best matches of his career. He trailed 3-4 in the first set and then rolled off 15 of the next 17 games and won the semifinal match 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 in 83 minutes. “It was almost surreal,” Federer said. “I’m shocked myself at how well I played.” The statistics were incredibly lopsided as Federer hit as many winners in the match as Roddick won points.

Federer hit 45 winners to Roddick’s 11, while he won 83 points to Roddick’s 45. Federer also out-aced Roddick 10 to four, never lost his serve, and converted all seven break-point chances on Roddick’s serve. At one point, Federer won 12 straight games to take a 3-0 lead in the third set. The signature shot in the match came on the opening point of the fourth game of the second set. Roddick unleashed a fierce forehand from short range that landed close to the baseline. Rather than getting out of the way of the rocket forehand, Federer leaned left into the ball and hit a reflex backhand half-volley that traveled cross-court for a winner.

“Darling, you are a maniac,” Mirka told Federer after returning from his day’s work to the locker room. Two-time Grand Slam winner Rod Laver, who witnessed the flawless display of tennis, also showed up in the locker room and congratulated the victor. “Roger played fantastic,” said Laver. “He used all the strokes there were and Andy was a little frustrated. The only thing you could do is go to the net, shake hands and say, ‘That was too good.’”

Roddick’s post-match press conference was one of the most difficult of his career, but the American took the defeat like a man and was at least able to treat the humbling defeat with some humor. “It was frustrating. You know, it was miserable. It sucked. It was terrible. Besides that, it was fine,” he said. Federer, he said, deserved all the praise that was being bestowed on him.

World’s Biggest Loser

Worlds biggest loser

One of the many charms of Wimbledon is the numerous tabloid headlines and storylines during The Championships. Back on this day, June 26, in 2000, the U.K.’s Daily Mail labeled Vince Spadea as the “World’s Biggest Loser” after he finally broke his ATP record 20-match losing streak in the first round of Wimbledon, beating Britain’s Greg Rusedski in the first round. Screamed the Daily Mail headline after Rusedski’s 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 6-7, 9-7 loss to Spadea, “Rusedski Falls To World’s Biggest Loser.” Spadea, however, has proved to be far from a loser as the 34-year-old veteran qualified this year at Wimbledon (his 14th appearance) and reached the second round, losing to Igor Andreev. The book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennishistorybook.com) chronicles the Spadea-Rusedski match – and others – in the June 25 excerpt below.

2000 – Vince Spadea breaks his ATP record 21-match losing streak by upsetting No. 14 seed Greg Rusedski of Britain 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 6-7, 9-7 in the first round of Wimbledon. Entering the match, Spadea is winless on the ATP Tour since the previous October in Lyon, France. Says Spadea, “If I had lost this match I was thinking: ‘Holy goodness! I am going to have to stay in Europe until I win a match. But here I am, six months on. It was worth the wait.” The following day, Rusedski is greeted with the headline in the Daily Mail reading, “Rusedski Falls To World’s Biggest Loser.”

2002 – Seven-time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras plays what ultimately becomes his final Wimbledon match, losing in the second round – unceremoniously on the Graveyard Court – Court No. 2 – to lucky-loser and No. 145-ranked George Bastl of Switzerland 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4. Bastl, who enters the match having won only one main draw grass court match in his career, only gains entry into the tournament when Felix Mantilla of Spain withdraws the day before the tournament begins. Despite the loss, Sampras tells reporters after the match that he would return to the All England Club to play again, but after his U.S. Open triumph later in the summer, he never plays another professional match. “You know, I’m not going to end my time here with that loss,” Sampras says after the match. “I want to end it on a high note, and so I plan on being back… As long as I feel like I can continue to win majors and contend, I’ll just continue to play.” Says Bastl, “It’s a nice story isn’t it? I gave myself chances because I was practicing on grass for the last three weeks. I had won my last three matches and I knew my game was improving match by match. I felt I would have some sort of a chance.”

1951 – On a cold and rainy afternoon, Althea Gibson walks on to Centre Court at Wimbledon as the first black player to compete in The Championships. Ten months after becoming the first black player to compete in a major when she played the U.S. Championships the previous summer, Gibson wins her first match in her debut Wimbledon, defeating Pat Ward of Great Britain 6-0, 2-6, 6-4. Reports the Associated Press of Gibson, “Although the tall Negro girl is unseeded, she convinced the British experts that she has the equipment to rank high in the world within another year or two.”

1962 – Eighteen-year-old Billie Jean Moffitt beats No. 1 seed Margaret Smith 1-6, 6-3, 7-5 in the opening round of Wimbledon, creating history as the first player to knock of the women’s No. 1 seed in the opening round at the All England Club. Smith is the heavy favorite to win the title after winning the Australian, Italian and French Championships entering the tournament. Billie Jean, who goes on to win six singles titles at the All England Club– and a record 20 titles overall at Wimbledon. Writes Bud Collins in The Bud Collins History of Tennis, “Her victory established ‘Little Miss Moffitt’ as a force to be reckoned with on the Centre Court that already was her favorite stage.”

1965 – Manuel Santana becomes the first defending champion to lose in the first round of Wimbleodn when he is defeated by Charlie Pasarell 10-8, 6-3, 2-6, 8-6. Writes Fred Tupper of the New York Times of the Pasarell’s upset of the No. 1 seed, “Over 150 spine-tingling minutes this afternoon, the Puerto Rican was the better tennis player, stronger on serve, more secure on volley, and rock steady in the crises.” Says Santana, “Charlito was good.He was fast and hit the ball hard.”

1978 – Bjorn Borg performs a first-round escape on the opening day of Wimbledon as the two-time defending champion staves off elimination by six-foot-seven inch, 220-pound Victor Amaya of Holland, Mich., prevailing in five sets by a 8-9, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 margin. Amaya, who wears size 15 sneakers, leads Borg two sets to one and 3-1 in the fourth set and holds break point in the fifth game to go up two breaks in the fourth set. “He played better than I did on the important points, and that’s always the difference in a five-set match,” says Amaya. “He came up with great shots like that on crucial points, and that’s why he is great.”

1998 – After no victories in 17 previous matches, including a 6-0, 6-0 loss 10 years earlier in the final of the French Open, Natasha Zvereva wins her first match against Steffi Graf, defeating the German 6-4, 7-5 in the third round of Wimbledon. Graf is hampered by a hamstring injury and is playing in only her fifth event of the year after recovering from knee surgery.

2007 – In his last Wimbledon singles match, Justin Gimelstob makes Wimbledon history as the first player to use the “Hawk-Eye” instant replay system at the All England Club. In his 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (3) first-round loss to Andy Roddick on Court No. 1 on the opening day of play, Gimelstob uses the Hawk-Eye system to challenge one of his serves in the first set. Says Gimelstob of his new status in Wimbledon history, “I’d like to have a few more important records, but I’ll take what I can get.”

1990 – John McEnroe is defeated in the first round of Wimbledon for only the second time in his career, as the 31-year-old three-time champion is sent packing by the hands of fellow American Derrick Rostagno by a 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 margin. McEnroe is joined on the sideline by newly-crowned French Open champion and No. 5 seed Andres Gomez, who falls to American Jim Grabb 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. “I’m going home to Ecuador and watch the matches on TV and pretend I never was here,” says Gomez. Future seven-time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras is also sent packing in the first round by South African Christo van Rensburg, who defeats the No. 12 seeded Sampras 7-6, 7-5, 7-6.

1985 – French Open champion Mats Wilander of Sweden is dismissed in the first round of Wimbledon as six-foot-six, No. 77-ranked Slobodan Zivojinovic of Yugoslavia defeats the No. 4 seeded Wilander 6-2, 5-7, 7-5, 6-0.

2004 – The USTA names the 2004 U.S. Olympic tennis team during the same day that the Olympic flame is run through the All-England Club at Wimbledon. Named to the U.S. Olympic tennis team were Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish, Taylor Dent, Vince Spadea, Bob Bryan, Mike Bryan, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Jennifer Capriati, Chanda Rubin, Lisa Raymond and Martina Navratilova.

14 Majors For Federer, Sampras and…Woods

Roger Federer wins Roland Garros 2009

Roger Federer won his 14th career major championship at the 2009 French Open, which not only tied him with one Pete Sampras, but another “rival” in professional sports, Tiger Woods. Ironically, on the same day that Federer won at Roland Garros, Woods won his 67th career PGA Tour event at The Memorial as he heads into the home stretch to try and win his 15th career major golf title at the US Open at Bethpage Black in New York. The following excerpt from the book THE ROGER FEDERER STORY: QUEST FOR PERFECTION by Rene Stauffer (www.RogerFedererBook.com, $24.95, New Chapter Press) details Federer’s relationship with both Sampras and Woods.

When Tiger Woods achieved the “Tiger Slam” in 2000 and 2001-winning all four of golf’s major championships in a row-Roger Federer was not yet 20 years old. The way that Woods dominated golf and reignited interest in the sport certainly caught the attention of the young Federer. However, he never thought that he would ever be compared to someone as dominant as Woods. “His story is completely different from mine,” he said in the spring of 2006. “Even as a kid his goal was to break the record for winning the most majors. I was just dreaming of just once meeting Boris Becker or being able to play at Wimbledon some time.”

Despite their different developments and the differences between their sports, the commonalities between Woods and Federer became unmistakable through the years. Like the four-time Masters champion, Federer is in full pursuit of sports history. While Woods is pursuing Jack Nicklaus and his 18 major championships, Federer is chasing Pete Sampras and his 14 Grand Slam singles titles. Both Woods and Federer are amazing because of their mental resilience, which is evident from the fact that they manage to make the most terrific shots under the greatest of difficulties.

Unlike his parents, Roger Federer is not a passionate golfer, but he follows Woods’ career with great interest. “It would be interesting to meet him and to see what he’s like in person,” Federer said in Key Biscayne in 2006.

Both Federer and Woods are clients of the International Management Group (IMG) and Federer’s agent, Tony Godsick, is friends with Mark Steinberg, the agent of Woods. In the summer of 2006, Federer asked Godsick if he could arrange a meeting with Woods. “The next thing I heard was that Woods would be delighted to come to the US Open final,” Federer recollected. “At that time the tournament hadn’t even started. I would have preferred meeting him in a more relaxed atmosphere than on the day of the US Open final-and I still had to get there first.”

The public had no idea that a spectacular meeting was in the making behind the scenes at the US Open. After Federer defeated the Russian Nikolay Davydenko in the semifinals, he was informed that Woods was going to make good on his promise. He flew to New York from Florida on his private jet with his wife, Elin, to watch the US Open final in person. To everyone’s surprise, Woods took a seat in Federer’s guest box-which was quite noteworthy given the fact that Federer faced an American, Andy Roddick, in the final. “The fact that Tiger was sitting there put me under extra pressure,” Federer later admitted. “It was just like when I was younger when my parents or Marc Rosset watched me play in person. You want to play especially well.”

Woods’ timing was perfect. He watched and cheered as Federer won his third straight US Open title, defeating the resurgent Roddick 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1. For the third year in a row, Federer won both Wimbledon and the US Open-a record that he didn’t have to share with anyone.

While Federer briefly met Woods before the final, the two spent well over an hour together in the locker room following the match, drinking Champagne and gazing at the US Open trophy that Federer just won. Woods even talked on the phone to Federer’s parents who were at home in bed as it was nearly three in the morning in Switzerland.

“I was impressed by how much we had in common,” Federer explained when Woods was on his way back to Florida. “He knew exactly what I was going through and I see what he has to go through. I’ve never spoken with anybody who was so familiar with the feeling of being invincible.”

“It was terrific for me to see him go into my player’s box, shake his fist, and enjoy himself,” he recollected a few weeks later. “He was the loudest one in my box. I was surprised how loose he was about it. He was happy as a kid to be able to watch the final. I think we’ll do things together more often.”

The appearance of Woods at the 2006 US Open final sparked more comparisons-and debates-between the two “athletes of the century” as to who was greater and more dominant. With all due respect to Woods, James Blake came out in favor of Federer. “In tennis, it’s a tournament where you have one bad day and you’re out,” said Blake. “That’s what we do every single week. Roger is winning every Grand Slam except for the French, winning every Masters Series tournament. That means he can’t have one bad day-that’s incredible. Not to mention he has to be out here for four hours running as opposed to walking while carrying one club-again not taking anything away from golf. Tiger’s proven himself every Sunday every time he has a lead. But look at Roger’s record in Grand Slam finals, too. In Grand Slam finals, he’s 8-1. That’s unheard of.”

The Woods camp and golf fans pointed out that the American, in contrast to Federer, already won all four major tournaments in his sport and instead of only having to defeat seven opponents at the biggest tournaments, Woods had to fight off around 150 contenders. Tennis aficionados emphasized that Grand Slam tournaments lasted two weeks and not just four days and that in tennis, having an off day is enough to get knocked out whereas in golf, players could always save the day in such a situation.

Still others highlighted the commonalities between the two. “Despite their total dominance, Tiger Woods and Roger Federer show a modest self-discipline that would have impressed the most chivalrous medieval knight,” The Daily Telegraph of Britain wrote. The Calgary Sun stated unequivocally which of the two super athletes it favored-”(Federer) is infinitely more human than Tiger Woods, more precise, more likable, more honest, less robotic, seemingly enjoying his place as a tennis player for the ages.” The Daily News of Los Angeles, by contrast, questioned all of these comparisons. “You say the Swiss dude is definitely the greatest tennis player of all time? Good, then we can switch back to the Bengals-Chiefs. Equating Roger Federer to Tiger Woods isn’t a backhanded compliment, it’s a forehanded insult. An athlete of Federer’s all-around refinement deserves better than to be defined in terms of another athlete.”

After his US Open victory, Federer returned home to Switzerland when he received a surprise phone call. Pete Sampras, whose legacy and records were now one of Federer’s biggest rivals, called to offer congratulations. “He had already text messaged me three days ago and now he was calling me to congratulate me personally,” said Federer shortly after the US Open. “He asked if I had gotten the message. I said I was just about to reply. It was almost embarrassing. Perhaps I should have replied quicker.” Sampras told Federer how much he liked to watch him play and emphasized that he now was more clearly dominant than he was during his prime. “To hear something like this from him was incredible,” Federer said. “It’s never happened to me before that my earlier idol called me to compliment me.”

Sampras and Federer continued their text message relationship, with Sampras offering more good wishes over the following few months. Before the tournament in Indian Wells in March of 2007, Federer then took the initiative and called Sampras, who meanwhile announced he was returning to competitive tennis on the Champions circuit run by his contemporary Jim Courier. Federer asked Sampras if he would like to hit some balls and train together. “I wanted to see how well he could still play because, after all, he was one of my favorite players growing up,” Federer explained. With a wink in his eye and devilish grin, he then said, “beating him in his backyard in Wimbledon was so special to me, so I wanted to try and beat him in his house.”

Federer and Sampras only played once during their careers-the memorable round of 16 match at Wimbledon in 2001. Late in Pete’s career, the two had one brief practice session together in Hamburg. “It started to rain,” Federer recollected. “I was so disappointed, but he was happy to get off.”

After their training session together in Los Angeles in the spring of 2007, Federer expressed his surprise at how well Sampras could still keep up during their practice session. “We played some great sets and tie-breaks. I’m glad to see that he’s actually still enjoying tennis.” The scores of these practice matches? “They’re secret,” Federer said. “Surprisingly, he was very good, but not good enough to beat me!”

Federer found that he and Sampras shared many commonalities and could talk in great detail of their respective lives and pressures on the tour, as well as common experiences, experiences at particular tournaments and even about players who they both played against. With Woods, this was not the case. “Pete and I played the same tournaments and even played against the same opponents,” Federer said. “I have much more in common with Pete than I have with Tiger off court.”

“When I was new on the tour, I hardly ever spoke to Pete,” he continued. “First of all, he was never around at the courts, and when he would come into the locker room, everything was quiet because he was respected so much by all the other players.” Several years later, Federer finally got a chance to find out what made Sampras so unique and what brought him so close to perfection.

Switzerland (and Federer) Set For Another Davis Cup Showdown With The USA

The U.S. Davis Cup team drew a tough first round match at home against Switzerland – and presumably five-time Wimbledon and U.S. champion Roger Federer – in the 2009 Davis Cup competition. The first round tie will be held March 6-8, 2009 at a site chosen by the United States Tennis Association. The last time the two nations met in Davis Cup play, Federer orchestrated one of the greatest single performances ever achieved by a player against a U.S. Davis Cup team, accounting for all three points in the 3-2 first round upset of the United States in 2001 in Basel, Switzerland. In review of this historic effort from Federer, the following is an excerpt from my upcoming book due out November 1 ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY on that series as well as an excerpt from Rene Stauffer’s book THE ROGER FEDERER STORY, QUEST FOR PERFECTION which discusses the month of Feburary, 2001 – one of the most important in Federer’s career.

February 9, 2001 – Patrick McEnroe makes his debut as U.S. Davis Cup captain and his top player Jan-Michael Gambill wins his first “live” Davis Cup rubber in defeating Michel Kratochvil 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 as the United States and Switzerland split the opening two matches in the first day of play in the 2001 Davis Cup first round in Basel, Switzerland. Todd Martin is defeated by Swiss No. 1 Roger Federer 6-4, 7-6, 4-6, 6-1 in the opening rubber of the tie.

February 10, 2001 – Justin Gimelstob earns a dubious Davis Cup distinction when he and Jan-Michael Gambill are defeated by Switzerland’s Roger Federer and Lorenzo Manta 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 as the United States goes down 2-1 to the Swiss after the second day of play in the Davis Cup first round in Basel, Switzerland. The loss, which ultimately becomes his Davis Cup finale, drops Gimelstob’s Davis Cup record to 0-3, tying him with Robert Wrenn and Melville Long for the worst-ever record for a U.S. Davis Cup player. Wrenn loses two singles and a doubles match in the 1903 Davis Cup Challenge Round against Britain for his 0-3 record, while Long turns the same trick in the 1909 Davis Cup Challenge Round against Australasia. Gimelstob also loses in doubles with Todd Martin in the 1998 Davis Cup semifinal against Italy and, also in that tie, loses a dead-rubber singles match to Gianluca Pozzi.

February 11, 2001 – Roger Federer clinches a near single-handed victory for Switzerland over the United States in the first round of Davis Cup, defeating Jan-Michael Gambill 7-5, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 in the 3-2 win in Federer’s hometown of Basel. Federer, who beat Todd Martin in the opening singles and paired with Lorenzo Manta to beat Gambill and Justin Gimelstob in the doubles rubber, becomes one of seven players to win three live matches against a U.S. Davis Cup team, joining Laurie Doherty of Britain, Henri Cochet of France, Frank Sedgman and Neale Fraser of Australia, Nicola Pietrangeli of Italy and Raul Ramirez of Mexico. Says Federer, the future world No. 1, “My total game was good the whole weekend. I can’t complain. I was serving well, feeling well from the baseline. … Usually when I get tired I let go a little bit mentally, but that was absolutely not the case. It was just total relief, total happiness at one time. I was so happy for the team, happy for Switzerland — to beat such a big country.” Eighteen-year-old Andy Roddick, another future world No. 1, makes his Davis Cup debut in the dead-rubber fifth-match and becomes the eighth-youngest American to play a Davis Cup match in defeating George Bastl 6-3, 6-4. Incidentally on the same day back in the United States, Venus and Serena Williams as well as Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras appear on the celebrated American television show “The Simpsons.”

Stauffer also documents Federer’s first ever ATP tournament victory in Milan, Italy the week before playing the United States in the tail end of his chapter “No Pain, No Gain.”

At the start of the season, Federer and Martina Hingis won the Hopman Cup in Perth. It was not an especially significant event but it was, after all, the International Tennis Federation’s sanctioned world mixed tennis tour­nament. He reached the third round of the Australian Open-avenging his Olympic loss to DiPasquale in the first round before losing to eventual finalist Arnaud Clement. February, however, became the best month of his career to date. At the indoor event in Milan, Italy after the Australian Open, Federer defeated Olympic Champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov for the first time in his ca­reer in the semifinals to reach his third career ATP singles final. Federer seized the opportunity and, with his parents in the stands cheering him on, he finally won his first ATP singles title, defeating No. 53-ranked Julien Boutter of France 6-4, 6-7 (7), 6-4.

Lundgren was correct. A milestone was achieved. “The relief is enormous,” Federer said. “I’ve had to wait a long time for this moment. It should get easier from here on out.” But the excursion to Milan didn’t end very happily for Roger’s father. In his excitement, he locked his car keys inside the car and had to smash in the car window to retrieve them.

A week later, another career milestone was achieved for the 19-year-old as he returned to Basel for Davis Cup duty against the United States. There was no stopping Federer. He beat Todd Martin and Jan-Michael Gambill in two breath-taking performances in singles, and in between, paired with Lorenzo Manta to defeat the American team of Gambill and Justin Gimelstob in dou­bles. With his three match victories in the 3-2 Swiss defeat of the USA, he joined Raul Ramirez, Neale Fraser, Nicola Pietrangeli, Frank Sedgman, Henri Cochet and Laurie Doherty as the seventh and the youngest player to win three live matches in a Davis Cup tie against the United States. “It’s like a dream,” said Federer, who shed tears of joy after his match-clinching victory over Gambill.

The Americans, by contrast, were stunned. “You’d have to be blind not to see that he’s got a great future in store for him,” said Gambill. U.S. Captain Patrick McEnroe didn’t try to make any excuses although he was missing his two strongest players, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras, in this match. “We knew that Federer would be tough but we didn’t expect this,” he said. “Whenever he got hold of the ball, the point was his.”

February would bring even more success for Federer. The week after his single-handed defeat of the U.S. Davis Cup team, he reached the semifinals in Marseille where his 10-match winning streak was ended by Kafelnikov. The next week, he reached his fourth career singles final, losing to Nicolas Escude of France in a third-set tie-break in the final of Rotterdam. The ATP chose him their “Player of the Month” and effusively praised in their official press communication, “The Federer Express has arrived!” A playful warning was also issued in the press release stating that Federer, “has been blessed with so much talent that it almost seems unfair to his opponents.”

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