Tamarine Tanasugarn

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Maria Sharapova Goes Down Under

Maria Sharapova

So I was reading the news about Maria Sharapova in the last couple of weeks. She split with her longtime coach Michael Joyce, who guided Sharapova to two Grand Slam titles and the world number one position on the WTA Tour. Joyce coached Sharapova for six and a half years.

Sharapova is currently in Melbourne with new coach Thomas Hogstedt.

“He sticks to his job,” she said. “He’s out there to try to make me better in different aspects of the game. I think that his experience can definitely help me, a new voice. I worked with Michael and my dad for so many years, I think it’s just really positive to bring someone in.”

In more Sharapova news she got engaged to NBA star Sasha Vujacic of the New Jersey Nets and played her first match as the fiancee just last night in Melbourne versus Thai veteran Tamarine Tanasugarn. She looked nervous throughout the match and admitted later that she was suffered from stage fright, just a little. She won the match anyway in straight sets with 6-1, 6-3.

“Last year I played first match on centre and I lost,” admitted the No 14 seed, the richest sportswoman in the world. “So I was like: ‘I don’t want this to happen again this year’.

“The first game definitely wasn’t great, and I didn’t serve good at all during the match. But, you know, otherwise she was close to being 4-1 in the second set, and I was able to win 6-1, 6-3. So that’s the positive within my game. I started playing better as the match went on. And I can only improve in the second one.”

Maria Sharapova has many dedicated followers accross the globe but this follower turned into more than just any follower.  Jamie McOnie of sports poof show “A crowd goes wild” stalked Sharapova at several press conferences. First in New Zealand at the ASB Classic and then yesterday after the first round match at the Australian Open.

Sharapova recognized him on that occasion and said: “You’re the guy from New Zealand, huh? Oh, God, you’re stalking me!”

“It’s not stalking if you love someone,” McOnie replied jokingly, to which Sharapova offered: “It can be slightly, trust me.”

McOnie made his latest appearance Monday following Sharapova’s first-round win over Thailand’s Tamarine Tanasugarn, where he unveiled a sign reading: “I am not a stalker.”

“I don’t know why you’re here today,” Sharapova said. “That shouldn’t have happened. You even have a sign. Oh, goodness, that’s wrong.”

Source Fox Sports

Some shots of yesterday’s match of Maria Sharapova:

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

Caroline Wozniacki wins Eastbourne

STARS

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

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

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

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

SAYING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STAYING HOME

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

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

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


SPOT ON TOP OPEN?

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

SICK CALL

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

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

SLUITER HISTORY

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

SAFINA SLAYER

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

SPORTS RADIO

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

STARS SHINE IN LONDON

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

SWINGING AWAY

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

SENIOR CHAMPIONS

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

SLUR

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

SWITCH

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

SEEKING HEAVIER PENALTY

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

SITTING PRETTY

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

START ANEW

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

SET FOR WIMBLEDON

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

SURFACE CLAY

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

SKIPPING DAVIS CUP

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

SUCKER-PUNCHED

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

SOONERS COACH

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

SPONSOR

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

SHARED PERFORMANCES

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

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

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

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

SITES TO SURF

Wimbledon: www.wimbledon.org

Cuneo: www.countrycuneo.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP and WTA

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

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP and WTA

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

WTA

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

On This Day In Tennis History

It was 35 years ago Saturday that perhaps the most famous single tennis match in the history of the sport was held in Houston, Texas when Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in the famed “Battle of the Sexes.” The following are events that happened this week in tennis history as documented in my soon-to-be-released book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennistomes.com).

September 20

1973 – In perhaps the most socially significant event in the history of tennis and sports history, 29-year-old Billie Jean King defeats 55-year-old Bobby Riggs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 in 2 hours, 4minutes to win the “Battle of the Sexes” played at the Houston Astrodome in Houston, Texas. The match is played in a circus-like atmosphere in front of a world record crowd of 30,492 fans and millions in front of televisions around the world. “She was too good,” says Riggs, the 1939 Wimbledon champion, following the match. “She played too well. She was playing well within herself and I couldn’t get the most out of my game. It was over too quickly.” Writes Neil Amdur of the New York Times, “King struck a proud blow for herself and women around the world.”

1988 – The sport of tennis returns to official status as an Olympic sport for the first time since 1924 as the tennis competition opens at the Seoul Games. Wimbledon champion Stefan Edberg, the winner of the gold medal in men’s singles at the 1984 demonstration in Los Angeles, plays the first match on stadium court, defeating Austria’s Horst Skoff 7-6, 6-2, 6-3. Says Edberg of tennis being part of the Olympics, “I don’t really know whether we should be here in tennis, but it is worth giving it a chance. It needs some time. In the 1920s, there weren’t that many countries competing in the Olympics. Now, here, all the top players aren’t competing so that hurts it a little bit. Plus, we have all the Grand Slam events we play in, and those are the most important right now to us. But this is only played every four years, so there’s nothing wrong with trying it.”

1977 – Ilie Nastase is upset in the round of the Grand Prix tournament in Paris by Frenchman Georges Goven, who uses a double-strung “spaghetti” racquet to post the 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 victory. The spaghetti-strung racquet provides added speed and lift to shots. “That’s the first time I’ve played against someone using one of those things,” says Nastase of the spaghetti-strung racquet.

2000 – Just one week after being crowned U.S. Open champion, No. 1 seeded Marat Safin of Russia, bows out in the first round of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, losing to Fabrice Santoro of France 1-6, 6-1, 6-4. Safin takes the court barely 24 hours after arriving in Sydney from Uzbekistan, where Safin won the President’s Cup in Tashkent.

1969 – Stan Smith and Bob Lutz give the United States an insurmountable 3-0 lead over Romania, clinching the Davis Cup title, defeating Ilie Nastase and Ion Tiriac 8-6, 6-1, 11-9 in Cleveland, Ohio.

1997 – Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge defeat Pete Sampras and Todd Martin 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2, 6-4 to cut the U.S. lead over Australia to 2-1 in the Davis Cup semifinals in Washington, D.C. Sampras is so angry at the loss that he refuses to attend the post-match press conference, causing the International Tennis Federation to fine the U.S. team $1,000. “I really didn’t have anything to say. I really didn’t,” Sampras says the next day. “I was getting a rubdown, and the key thing was to recover, because I played back-to-back matches. It was more important to get ready for an early match, an 11 o’clock match. It is early for me.”

September 21

1997 – World No. 1 Pete Sampras defeats reigning U.S. Open champion and No. 3-ranked Patrick Rafter 6-7 (8), 6-1, 6-1, 6-4 to clinch the 4-1 victory for the United States over Australia in the Davis Cup semifinal in Washington, D.C. Says Sampras of the satisfying win over the man who took the U.S. Open title he held since 1995, “I couldn’t play any better. I did everything that I could do very well. I served and returned well. If I can play at that level and that intensity, I feel like I am going to be pretty tough to beat.” Sampras never faces a break point on the afternoon and gives up only 18 points on his serve over four sets. Says Rafter, “Pete served too well today. I played Pete a lot of times before and I’ve always had at least one chance to break him. But today I couldn’t read his serve and just didn’t pick the ball up. He was too good for me on the day.” After Sampras and Michael Chang win opening day singles matches over Mark Philippoussis and Rafter, respectively, Australia cuts the U.S. lead to 2-1 in the doubles contest, defeating Sampras and Todd Martin 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2, 6-4. Sampras is so angry at the doubles loss that he refuses to attend the post-match press conference, causing the International Tennis Federation to fine the U.S. team $1,000. “I really didn’t have anything to say. I really didn’t,” Sampras says after his win over Rafter of skipping his media session after the doubles loss the previous day. “I was getting a rubdown, and the key thing was to recover, because I played back-to-back matches. It was more important to get ready for an early match, an 11 o’clock match. It is early for me.”

2000 – Venus Williams defeats Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand 6-2, 6-3 in the second round of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games and then pairs with younger sister Serena in the pair’s Olympic doubles debut, defeating Canada’s Vanessa Webb and Sonya Jeyaseelan 6-3, 6-1 in the first round. In between matches, Venus meets with Janette Howard, the wife of Australian Prime Minister John Howard, and trades pins with The Right Honorable Hage Geingob, the Prime Minister of the African nation of Namibia.

2003 – Agustin Calleri of Argentina, substituting for teammate Mariano Zabaleta, connects on an incredible 109 winners in just three sets in beating reigning French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-4, 7-5, 6-1 to level Argentina even with Spain in the Davis Cup semifinal in Malaga, Spain. Carlos Moya beats Gaston Gaudio in the fifth and decisive rubber of the tie 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 to elevate Spain to the final.

1988 – Called a “David-and-Goliath tennis match” by Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times, 19-year-old Clement N’Goran of the Ivory Coast, ranked No. 827 in the world, falls to Britain’s Andrew Castle, ranked No. 142, 6-7, 3-6, 6-2, 7-6, 7-5 in the first round of the Olympic tennis competition.

For Julie Ditty, A Career First At Age 29

At an age where many of her contemporaries have long since retired, Julie Ditty is producing the best results of her career.

In front of a standing room only crowd on Court 5, Ditty won a round in a Grand Slam for the first time in her career. Teaming with fellow American Carly Gullickson, the wild card pair beat the team of Tamarine Tanasugarn and Yaroslava Shvedova 7-5, 6-1.

“It feels awesome,” said Ditty. “We were one out from getting directly into the main draw, so I’m glad we were able to take advantage of being wild carded in.”

Displaying more tactical doubles skills than their opponents, who were pinned at the baseline throughout the match, Ditty and Gullickson regularly put away winning volleys as they attacked the net throughout the contest.

After breaking Shvedova’s serve to take a 2-0 lead in the second set, they broke her serve once again to consolidate their lead. A service winner by Gullickson on their first match point at 5-1 sent them into the next round, where they will take on the team of Tathiana Garbin and Tamira Paszek.

Although this is the first time that Ditty and Gullickson have paired up in doubles, Ditty said they’ve known each other for more than a decade.

“I’ve known her since she was 13,” Ditty said. “When I was on the team at Vanderbilt, she would come to hit with us because she was based out of Nashville. She’s a great girl and we have a lot of fun together out on the court.”

After years of toiling away on the challenger circuit, Ditty has produced the best results of her career in the last 12 months. She cracked the top 100 for the first time, reached the semifinals at a WTA event in Quebec City, and competed in the singles main draw at three Grand Slam events in 2008.

Despite her rapid progression, Ditty said that her first full year on the WTA Tour has shown her just how much she needs to improve.

“It’s been a real eye opener,” Ditty said. “I’m still kind of feeling my way through it. Everybody is so much stronger physically at this level and they have the belief that they belong here, which is something I struggle with at times. I’ve really had to improve my level of play and my fitness considerably just to be able to contend.”

Part of Ditty’s late blooming status on the tour is due to the fact that she didn’t turn professional until the age of 22, opting to gain a degree in early childhood education from Vanderbilt University while remaining of the top NCAA in the country. Fellow Americans Venus Williams and Jill Craybas are the only other players in the top 100 with college degrees.

Many of the American teenagers competing at the US Open, including Melanie Oudin and Asia Muhammad, have already turned professional, therefore foregoing their opportunity to play college tennis. While both Oudin and Muhammad spoke of the need to face stronger competition and utilize their talent tennis, Ditty said she has no regrets about finishing her education.

“If I had to do it all over again, I would in a second,” Ditty said. “I loved the experience of being able to compete on a team and have your friends around. Once you get on the tour, you’re by yourself all year and don’t have anybody cheering you on.”

In addition to gaining the college experience, Ditty said her years at Vanderbilt have allowed her time on tour to be less stressful.

“It takes the pressure off me a little bit because in the worst case scenario, I have a degree to fall back on. For a lot of these girls out here, this is their one shot. They can always go back to college afterwards, but they won’t be able to college tennis and probably won’t be able to receive a scholarship.”

Having already achieved a career milestone in winning her first main draw match at a Grand Slam, Ditty will look to beat her own personal best result when she plays her second round match on Friday.

Mondays With Bob Greene: Federer Starts Quest For Sixth Straight Wimbledon

STARS

David Ferrer beat Marc Gicquel 6-4 6-2 to win the Ordina Open men’s crown in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands

Ivo Karlovic beat Fernando Verdasco 6-2 7-6 (5) to win The Slazenger Open in Nottingham, England

Agnieszka Radwanska won the International Women’s Open in Eastbourne, England, beating Nadia Petrova 6-4 6-7 (11) 6-4

Tamarine Tanasugarn upset Dinara Safina 7-5 6-3 to win the Ordina Open women’s title in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands

Nicolas Devilder won the Nord LB Open in Braunschweig, Germany, beating Sergio Roitman 6-4 6-4

Pete Sampras beat Marcelo Rios 6-2 7-6 (5) to win the Nossa Caixa Grand Champions Brazil title in Sao Paulo, Brazil

SAYINGS

“Maybe it was more difficult for Dinara, as she was seeded and playing really well lately and I was coming out of the qualies.” – Qualifier Tamarine Tanasugarn, who upset third-seeded Dinara Safina to win the Ordina Open.

“I want to forget this match as soon as I can.” – Dinara Safina.

“I never would have imagined winning a title on grass, but I played really good this week.” – Spain’s David Ferrer who is better known for his clay court game.

“There’s no easy points against him. He’s always there and he fights so much.” – Marc Gicquel about David Ferrer.

“I think this year there are about four or five players who you could pick to win it. Of course you can never discount the Williams sisters.” – Martina Hingis, on who will win Wimbledon.

“The way the grass plays these days, I put Rafa as the slight favorite for Wimbledon this year. Rafa got so close last year to beating Federer in the final, and I reckon his reaction was to lift his own standards.” – Six-time Wimbledon doubles champion Mark Woodforde.

“I pick (Rafael) Nadal to win this year, as long as he can get through the first couple of rounds.” – Five-time Wimbledon champion Bjorn Borg.

“I will go to Wimbledon with a lot of hope.” – Roger Federer, who is seeking his sixth consecutive Wimbledon title.

“There is a burning desire in Roger to break my record, and when he does it I would like to be there.” – Pete Sampras, who holds the men’s record with 14 career Grand Slam titles.

“I hate myself. I just can’t stand myself.” – Andy Roddick, after throwing his racket at a garbage can while practicing at Wimbledon.

“She just rips that forehand withouth thinking now. Sometimes I think she has no idea where it’s going to go, but compared to other players it’s by far the best forehand out there.” – Nadia Petrova, about fellow player Ana Ivanovic.

“Women’s tennis has become much stronger and much taller, but I don’t necessarily think the players have become better athletes. There is a lot of hard hitting, but they lack the variety and the talent. It’s not that they don’t have the talent, but they play the same kind of tennis.” – Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna on today’s women players.

“Wow! It has been a quick 12 months since I was here last year. Let’s see, I graduated from fashion design school, launched my own clothing line, bought a new dog, went to India for the first time and so much more.” – Defending women’s champion Venus Williams.

“We’re changing the face, changing the picture of everything in general. We decided together that this is the best thing for sport – to join the Player Council and to try to be united in the future to make good decisions for us, for everybody.” – Novak Djokovic, on he, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal all being elected to the ATP Player Council.

“I think when people retire, they just know it’s time. For me, I wasn’t really enjoying the tour as a whole.” – Alun Jones, who reitred following a first-round loss in the Wimbldeon qualifying.

“Pete is playing v ery good tennis and it was hard to beat him as his serve is so big. On this surface it is obvious that he has a big advantage.” – Marcelo Rios, who lost the final to Pete Sampras on a hard court in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

“Straight after Wimbledon I’ll take a few weeks off because this special time with the family is time you’ll never get back.” – Mark Knowles, whose wife just gave birth to their second child.

“‘I do continue to worry about the health and well-being of the players. A person like Justine Henin retires at 25 and almost every one of our players suffers with an injury of some kind. It’s something not in your direct control, but it’s one of the reasons I’ve been so laser-focused on the need to change the calendar and reduce the commitment of players.” – Larry Scott, CEO of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.

SIXTH STRAIGHT

Roger Federer is seeking his sixth consecutive Wimbledon title, a feat that hasn’t been done since William Renshaw did it in 1886. Renshaw, of course, had an advantage. In those days the defending champion didn’t play until the final. Federer, on the other hand, must win seven matches to hold the trophy again. And he has never beaten his first-round opponent, Dominik Hrbaty, in their previous two meetings.

SLAZENGER NO-NO

Dmitry Tursunov was disqualified at the Slazenger Open when he walked off the court during a doubles match. Tursunov and his partner, Chris Haggard, were trailing 6-4 3-1 in their first-round match against Simone Bolelli and Andreas Seppi when Tursunov argued over a line call, then left the court. The ATP supervisor then disqualified Tursunov from the singles, giving Thomas Johansson a second-round walkover.

SERVING TALL

Ivo Karlovic pounded out 29 aces in his 7-5 6-7 (4) 7-6 (8) victory over Fernando Verdasco as he successfully defended his title at the Slazenger Open. Karlovic, at 6-foot-10 (2.08m), is the tallest player on the tour. He finished the tournament with 101 aces in five matches and raised his tour-leading total to 548. Due to wet weather, both the singles and doubles finals were played indoors at the City of Nottingham Tennis Centre, making Karlovic the second player to win the title indoors. Greg Rusedski did the same in 1997.

SECOND FOR BOTH

Thailand’s Tamarine Tanasugarn won her second and biggest Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title of her career, coming through qualifying to capture the Ordina Open in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, by upsetting third-seeded Dinara Safina in the final. Tanasugarn also won in Hyderabad, India, in 2003. For Safina, it was her second straight loss in a grass-court final, having fallen to Michaella Krajicek in the Ordina Open title match two years ago.

SEEKING MORE SAY

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic – the world’s top three-ranked players – have been elected to two-year terms on the ATP Player Council. The three are among the players who have opening complained about decisions made by ATP chairman Etienne de Villiers, whose contract expires this year. One of the biggest bones of contention has been the restructuring of the spring clay-court schedule, which has led to the downgrading of the Hamburg, Germany, tournament and a subsequent antitrust lawsuit filed against the ATP.

SHARING CONTROL

Three new players’ representatives have been elected the ATP Board of Directors. Justin Gimelstob will represent the Americas, Ivan Ljubicic will serve the vacant position as the European representative until the U.S. Open, and David Edges, vice president of the Tennis Channel, will serve in the International position. Gimblestob, a former player, is currently a commentator on Tennis Channel and replaces Andre Agassi’s agent, Perry Rogers, who was voted out of his job by the Players’ Council in March.

SAYONARA

Australian Alun Jones has called it quits. The 28-year-old played eight years on the tour but is probably best known for a small role as fictional tennis player Tom Cavendish in the film “Wimbledon.” His last match was a first-round loss in qualifying for Wimbledon. Born in South Africa, Jones reached a career-high ranking of 123 earlier this year when he won his first Grand Slam match, a first-rounder at the Australian Open. He made his Davis Cup debut in February. Jones plans to marry in Belgium later this month before returning to Canberra, Australia, where he will begin a coaching career.

SENIOR PETE

Pete Sampras won his first BlackRock Tour of Champions title by riding his big serve to a 6-2 7-6 (5) victory over Marcelo Rios in the Nossa Caixa Grand Champions Brazil. The American broke Rios in the fifth and seventh games of the opening set, then closed out the hard court senior tour tournament by winning the tiebreaker.

SECOND SON

Mark Knowles is a daddy again. Dawn Knowles gave birth to the couple’s second son, Brody Mark Knowles, in Dallas, Texas, on June 20. Brody made his debut three weeks early and Dawn gave her blessing for Mark to head to Wimbledon where he will partner Mahesh Bhupathi in the men’s doubles. Knowles has not played since the French Open, where he and Bhupathi were upset in the opening round. He reached the second round of the mixed doubles before withdrawing so that he could attend the birth of his second son. Their first son, Graham, will turn three in September.

STREAKING

After 36 years without a title on the surface, Spanish players have now won grass-court tournaments for two straight weeks. This time it was David Ferrer who captured his first grass-court title, the Ordina Open, with a 6-4 6-2 win over Frenchman Marc Gicquel. A week earlier, Ferrer’s fellow Spanish countryman Rafael Nadal won on grass at Queens’ Club in London. Before that you would have to go back to Andres Gimeno winning in Eastbourne, England, in 1972. It was Ferrer’s second ATP title of the season and seventh of his career.

SITE SELECTED

Spain will be at home in Madrid when they take on the defending champion Russia for the 2008 Fed Cup title. The competition will be held at Club de Campo de Madrid, where the United States won the title in 1979. It will be Spain’s 11th final and first since 2002. They have won the Cup five times. Three-time champion Russia has reached the final seven times.

SWITCHING PARTNERS

Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes reached the final in the first tournament since pairing up again. Seeded second, Bhupathi and Paes were surprised in the Ordina Open title match by unseeded Mario Ancic and Jurgen Melzer 7-6 (5) 6-3. Bhupathi and Paes were attempting to win their 24th title together, but first since capturing Toronto in 2004. The two are preparing to represent India in the Beijing Olympics. At Wimbledon, both will return to their regular partners, Bhupathi with Mark Knowles and Paes with Lukas Dlouhy.

SOUTH AFRICA

South African Airways (SAA) has extended its role as official airline of the ATP through 2012 in a deal worth USD 20 million dollars. SAA also will continue its sponsorship of several international tournaments. In making the announcement, the ATP also revealed that South Africa will regain a spot on the men’s tour next year. Several South African cities are in the running to stage the World Tour-level tournament. The country held tournaments previously, including the doubles world championships in Johannesburg from 1991 through 1993. In recent years a Challenger event has been staged in South Africa.

STUNNING

No one dazzled more at the annual Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Pre-Wimbledon Party than Serena Williams, who wore diamonds in her hair that were valued at USD two million dollars. The look was masterminded by hairdresser Stuart Phillips and jeweler Neil Duttson, who is known as the Rock Doctor. Among others at the party, hosted by Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson, were Ana Ivanovic, Venus Williams, Jelena Jankovic and Maria Sharapova.

STARRING TRIO

Three WTA stars are ranked in the Forbes Celebrity 100, with Maria Sharapova being the highest-placed female athlete on the list. Sharapova is ranked number 61, with Serena Williams ranked number 69 and Justine Henin ranked number 81. The Forbes list ranks 100 of the world’s best-known and powerful celebrities in the period from June 2007 to June 2008. Sharapova, Williams and Henin also have something else in common: they all have been ranked number one in the world at one time in their career.

SPONSORING FINALS

Barclays will be the title sponsor of the year-ending men’s tennis tournament, beginning in 2009. As part of the restructuring of men’s tennis the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals will replace the Tennis Masters Cup, which will be held in Shanghai, China, this November. Barclays signed a five-year deal worth around USD 7 million dollars.

SISTERS SHARING

Sisters Venus and Serena Williams will play doubles at Wimbledon this year. The two have combined for doubles in only three tournaments since Wimbledon in 2003. The last title they won as a team was the Australian Open in 2003, the sixth Grand Slam title for the partnership. The sisters hope to play doubles at the Beijing Olympics and repeat their gold-medal form of the Sydney Games in 2000.

SONY AD CAMPAIGN

The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour has unveiled a USD 15 million dollar ad campaign that will be seen in more than 75 countries over the next 18 months and feature 30 players. The players took part in the film and photographic shoot for the campaign at various locations in Rome, Italy, last month. This is the single largest commitment to promote the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour players in the history of women’s tennis. The advertisements ask the question “Looking for a Hero?” and bills the tour’s players as superheroes both on and off the court.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

s’-Hertogenbosch: Mario Ancic and Jurgen Melzer beat Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes 7-6 (5) 6-3

Nottingham: Bruno Soares and Kevin Ullyett beat Jeff Coetzee and Jamie Murray 6-2 7-6 (5)

Eastbourne: Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Kveta Peschke and Rennae Stubbs 2-6 6-0 10-8 (match tiebreak)

s’-Hertogenbosch: Marina Erakovic and Michaella Krajicek beat Liga Dekmeijere and Angelique Kerber 6-3 6-2

Braunschweig: Marco Crugnola and Oscar Hernandez beat Werner Eschauer and Philipp Oswald 7-6 (4) 6-2

SITES TO SURF

Wimbledon: www.Wimbledon.com

Roger Federer: www. rogerfederer.com

Ana Ivanovic: www.anaivanovic.com/

The Lawn Tennis Association: www.lta.org.uk/

Italian Tennis Federation: www.federtennis.it

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP and WTA TOUR

The Championships, Wimbledon, Great Britain, grass

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

The Championships, Wimbledon, Great Britain, grass

$125,000 Cordoba Challenger, Pozoblanco, Spain, hard

$100,000 Turin Challenger, Turin, Italy, clay

WTA TOUR

The Championships, Wimbledon, Great Britain, grass

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

Date-Krumm Makes Inspirational Comeback in Gifu

Last week on the challenger circuit, a former top 5 player and the only college graduate mother on tour recorded impressive results, while two players on the men’s side broke into the top 100 for the first time this week with their tournament wins.

Twelve years after competing in her last professional singles event, Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan returned to the tour this week at the $50,000 challenger event in Gifu, Japan. The 37-year-old, who reached a career high ranking of No. 4 in the world, accepted wild cards into the qualifying draw of the singles event and main draw of the doubles event. Date surprised everybody by coming through qualifying and storming through to the finals of the singles draw. In Sunday’s championship match against Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand, she was up a set and 4-2 before Tanasugarn prevailed 4-6, 7-5, 6-2. However, Date won the doubles event with fellow Japanese player Kurumi Nara. Date will also play in the singles and doubles draws of the $50,000 event in Fukuoka, Japan next week.

At the $100,000 challenger in Cagnes Sur Mer France, Viktoria Kutuzova of Ukraine finally lived up the expectations placed on her as a can’t miss junior prodigy, winning the biggest event of her career with a 6-1, 7-5 victory over Maret Ani of Estonia. The win also places Kutuzova back in the top 150.of the rankings. Despite the loss, Ani has been riding a hot streak as of late, having reached the semifinals of the WTA event in Estoril, Portugal last week.

At the $50,000 event in Charlottesville, Virginia, Alexis Gordon of the United States won the first title of her career with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Olga Puchkova of Russia. The 25-year-old Gordon is currently in her debut year on the tour, having finished college at the Univ. of Florida in May of last year. She also took time off in college to give birth to her daughter, Imani, who’s now three years old. Gordon moves up to No. 374 in the rankings this week and she says that her goal is to make the cut-off for the qualifying at the Australian Open next year.

In other challenger results on the women’s side, Stephanie Vogt of Liechtenstein won the $50,000 event in Makarska, Croatia and Noppawan Lertcheewakarn of Thailand won the $25,000 event in Balikpapan, Indonesia. Jarmila Gajdosova of Slovakia won the $25,000 event in Gimcheon, Korea, and Augustina Lepore of Argentina won the $25,000 tournament in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico.

On the men’s side, Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil won the biggest title of her career at the $125,000 challenger in Tunis, Tunisia, beating Dusan Vemic of Serbia 6-4, 6-4 in the final. This is Bellucci’s third challenger title of the year and propelled him into the world’s top 100 for the first time in his career.

At the $75,000 event in Prague, Czech Republic, Jan Hernych of the Czech Republic beat fellow countryman Lukas Dlouhy 4-6 6-2 6-4 in the final. This was the first all-Czech final in the tournament’s history.

Stephane Bohli of Switzerland won the title at the $50,000 event in Lanzarote, Spain with a 6-3, 6-4 over Yen-Hsun Lu of Taipei. This is the first challenger title for Bohli, having lost in all four of his previous finals. Lu has been a strong competitor on the challenger circuit this year, reaching the finals of a challenger in Busan, Korea last month and winning the title in Waikoloa, Hawaii last January.

At the $35,000 event in Rome, Italy, Eduardo Schwank of Argentina won his second challenger title in the tow with a 6-3, 6-7, 7-6 win over Eric Prodon of France. The win also moves Schwank into the top 100 for the first time in his career.

Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden leads the way next week as the top seed at the $75,000 event in Zagreb, Croatia. Lourdes Dominguez-Lino is the top seed at the $50,000 challenger in Jounieh, Lebanon, and Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium takes top billing at the $50,000 event in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida. Challenger events will also be contested next week in Bucharest, Romania, Fukuoka, Japan, Antalya, Turkey, Florence, Italy, Changwon, Korea and Irapuato, Mexico.

On the men’s side, Donald Young is the top seed at the $50,000 challenger in Tunica, Mississippi. Michael Berrer of Germany is the top seed at the $42,500 event in Dresden, Germany, Sergio Roitman of Argentina takes top billing at the $42,500 challenger in Ostrava, Czech Republic, and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez leads the way at the $42,500 challenger in Rabat, Morocco. Challenger events will also be contested next week in Rijeka, Croatia and Telde, Spain.

WTT finalizes lineups at Roster Player Draft

WTT

Written by the WTT 

WTT April 1, 2008 (Miami) – World TeamTennis franchises finalized their lineups today at the WTT Roster Player Draft in Miami, Fla., completing the player selection process that began last month when marquee player protections were announced. First round roster player draft selections for the 11 teams in the WTT Pro League presented by Advanta included Lisa Raymond, Justin Gimelstob, Rennae Stubbs and American teenager Madison Brengle.

Dmitry Tursunov will be a featured roster player for the Sacramento Capitals this summer, playing one home match on July 11. Liezel Huber, the world’s top-ranked doubles player, is a roster exempt player for the Delaware Smash. Huber will play three matches for the Smash on July 8, 9, and 11.

During the WTT Player Draft, 46 roster players representing 17 countries were added to the 2008 lineup, joining previously announced marquee players including Venus Williams (Philadelphia Freedoms), Serena Williams (Washington Kastles), Anna Kournikova (St. Louis Aces), John McEnroe (New York Sportimes), Lindsay Davenport (Newport Beach Breakers), Andy Roddick (St. Louis Aces) and Mike and Bob Bryan (Kansas City Explorers) to fill out the player list for the 2008 season.

Raymond returns to the Philadelphia Freedoms while another doubles standout, Rennae Stubbs, will play in Kansas City along with her tour partner Kveta Peschke. Gimelstob makes his WTT debut this summer with the League’s newest franchise, the Washington Kastles. Brengle, a Dover, Del. native, will play in front of a friendly home crowd this summer for the Smash.

The League’s two West Coast teams are looking to their WTT veterans to lead their 2008 squads. Sacramento protected Caps stalwart Elena Likhovtseva in the first round while Newport Beach did the same for long-time fan favorite Ramon Delgado. Jasmin Woehr returns to the Aces while 2007 WTT Female MVP Tamarine Tanasugarn will be back for the Springfield Lasers.

The Boston Lobsters selected Jan-Michael Gambill with their first pick and League newcomer Yaroslava Shvedova will make her debut for the New York Buzz.

The schedule for the WTT Pro League presented by Advanta includes 77 matches in 11 markets beginning July 3 and running through July 23 with the season-ending WTT Championship Weekend, set for July 24-27, in Roseville, Calif., home of the Sacramento Capitals.

The 11-team League was co-founded by Billie Jean King in the early 1970s. Each team has two male and two female players who play singles, doubles and mixed doubles matches. For details on the complete draft results and the 2008 schedule, visit www.WTT.com.

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