tennis star

Ana Ivanovic is a Dance Machine

So anyone else got teary eyed when they looked at the WTA rankings to find Ana Ivanovic back in the top 20? I would like to say “Atta girl” but somehow I managed to set off a real tearjerker speech in my head. I would love to write it down and share it with you dear readers but alas, the best I can do is a tribute to that wonderful epiphany. Since a photo is a thousand words I will upload 25 photos but that is not even close to the amount of words I had in my head.

Last month at the Australian Open Ana was very open about her personal life. She told that breaking up with golfer Adam Scott was one of the reasons for her downfall on the WTA rankings. Which is totally understandable. I mean who hasn’t had his life turned upside down after a break up?

“It’s tough,” the 2008 French Open champion said. “I think it’s better not to mix professional life and personal life, although that’s hard.

“If you’re happy in your private life that will affect your tennis and that will help you, actually.

“While you want to pursue your career 100 per cent, I think it is very hard to give 100 per cent in something else.”

She still believes she can win another major but that is what I have been saying for years now.  And even though she got her form back in the latter part of 2010 and despite the early loss this year at the Australian Open, I believe that she can come back and the take the world by storm starting with a spot in the top 20.

But next to being a true  winner, Ana also has dance moves. Not just dance moves but THE moves:

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And I really did miss that big smile at press conferences:

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What makes a TV interview complete? Right…

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Ofcourse where would today’s tennis star be if she didn’t participate in the charity events?

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But seriously all these photos, they still do not even come close to that tearjerker speech but I am thinking these videos do:

Ana Ivanovic, Maria Kirilenko and Vera Zvonareva arrive in Pattaya, Thailand:

And here is Ana Ivanovic at the Kids Day for the Australian Open 2011. Enjoy!!

Wozniacki to be No. 1? Keothavong Faces Racism and Paes on a Mission

*Danish star Caroline Wozniacki is only one win away from taking the No. 1 slot in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings following her opening win over Sara Errani at the China Open. Victory over Petra Kvitova in the quaterfinals will see her climb above Serena Williams. If she does she will be the 20th player ever to do so since the rankings began.

*British No. 3 Anne Keothavong has had her preparations for the AEGON GB Pro-Series Open tournament in Barnstaple, England, hampered after suffering racial abuse outside her hotel on the weekend. Police have said: “Three men aged 20, 23, 25 have been arrested for this offence and for a separate shoplifting incident. They remain in police custody waiting to be interviewed. Police investigations continue.” Keothavong wrote on her Twitter account: “I was on my own and completely outnumbered. Gave a statement to the police, hoping CCTV will get them.” She won the tournament in 2008.

*Leander Paes has accepted an offer from the Cambodian Tennis Association to become the spokesperson for their “Killing Fields to Tennis Courts” campaign which aims to clear many of the minefields planted by the former Khmer Rouge regime and make large areas safer for children. These areas will be used for modified tennis courts enabling those disabled by the mines to play. “What attracted me to this foundation is that I can help bring landmine awareness to the tennis industry,” said Paes. “Though the genocide in Cambodia has been over for many years, the results of millions of landmines planted by the Khmer Rouge continue to be an everyday danger for the Cambodian people. And for those victims of landmines, it is now my mission to share this great sport of tennis with them. Through tennis, I can hopefully inspire children and coaches to dare to dream and that hard work and persistence you can overcome many of life’s obstacles.” For the full interview check out the ATP website.

*Former Thai tennis star Paradorn Srichapan was honoured in a special retirement ceremony at the end of his hometown tournament, the PTT Thailand Open, in Bangkok on Sunday. He reached the semifinals there three times and got to No. 9 in the world before playing his final match last year in his hometown. “I’d like to thank all the ATP staff,” said Srichaphan at the ceremony. “From the very first time I entered the ATP, it was like a second home to me. It meant that every year when I was travelling on the Tour for eight or nine months I was able to not miss home too much. Thank you for everything.” Since hanging up his racquet Paradorn has been starring in Thai movies.

*Svetlana Kuznetsova has called time on her 2010 season by pulling out of next week’s tournament in Moscow. Writing on her Twitter account she said: “my health issues won’t al[low] me to play in my home country tournament in Moscow! I have to end this difficult season now and recover.” She has also attributed her early exit from this week’s Beijing meeting to illness which prevented her from preparing. “I got sick,” she told the WTA website. “From Sunday to Saturday, one week, I wasn’t home, I didn’t go out, I didn’t do any fitness, I was in bed. I didn’t have time, but that’s how it is.”

*Russian Nikolay Davydenko overcame Marin Cilic 7-5, 7-5 at the China Open to record the 400th ATP win of his career. He is the eighth active player on the tour to do so. “It was a very good match for me,” said Davydenko. “[My] baseline [play] was good control and I played fast.”

*Venus Williams today (October 6) released a statement saying that she would not be competing for the remainder of 2010 due to a recurrence of her troublesome knee problems that have dogged a large chunk of her season. She will miss the WTA Finals in Doha as well as the USA’s Fed Cup Final matchup with Italy. The statement, released to the Associated Press, said: “ [I am] very disappointed to announce that I will be unable to play in the WTA Tour Championships at the end of October, and the Fed Cup final between the United States and Italy at San Diego in November. I have been getting treatment and therapy on my knee and have been making progress, but unfortunately must continue to keep weight off my knee for the short term and won’t be ready to return to competition in 2010. I am looking forward to returning to full health in time for the start of 2011 season and hopefully having the opportunity to play in both the Fed Cup and WTA Championships next year.”

*Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska has also ended her season due to a stress fracture in her foot and says she is also a doubt for next year’s Australian Open. “I’m done for this year with a very serious injury, a stress fracture,” said Radwanska. It’s a complicated injury and there’s some chance it won’t be healed in time for Australia. I just realized how serious the injury was just before I came to Asia to play in Tokyo and Beijing.”

*Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters have joined both Caroline Wozniacki and Vera Zvonareva in qualifying for the season-ending WTA Championships in Doha. This leaves only four qualifying berths for the remaining hopefuls to fight over.

*Malaysian tennis fans are in for an extra special treat as the Showdown of Champions 2010 rolls in to Kuala Lumpur this week. Former tennis superstars Ivan Lendl and Goran Ivanisevic will commence battle against Pat Cash, Mats Wilander and Martina Hingis in the Asian paradise. Lendl has eight Grand Slams to his name while Ivanisevic will be most fondly remembered as being the only male wildcard to lift the Wimbledon Championships. Tickets are still available from www.fatdeal.com.my for an event which really cannot be missed.

*Following his title win last week Mikhail Youzhny is the new world No. 8 in this week’s South African Airways ATP World Rankings. His current form should see him make a late push for the ATP Finals in London next month. He climbs above Spain’s Fernando Verdasco. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez leaps 14 places to No. 39 while Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen sees a return for his recent form by climbing twelve to No. 48. Russia’s Igor Andreev is back in the world’s Top 100 at No. 85.

*There are changes too in the Sony Ericsson WTA world rankings where Italy’s Francesca Schiavone is the new world No. 6, giving the French Open winner pole position to qualify for Doha. The Belarusian Viktoria Azarenka is also putting her US Open horror behind her and she is back in to the world’s Top 10. Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska drops out. Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer climbs a place to enter the Top 20 while Maria Sharapova drops from No. 15 to No. 21. Olga Govortsova continues her recent rise by entering the Top 50 at No. 48 and there are no fewer than six climbers in to the Top 100.

*Juan Martin del Potro certainly isn’t panicking despite a so-far winless return from a long injury layoff. “I need time, I need to work on a few things to get back to my best level,” he said. “If work in a good way, I will be in good shape in a month or so.”

*Great news for the Shanghai Masters set to begin next week; every player within the world’s Top 20 is set to compete.

*Belgian Christophe Rochus has said he will retire at the end of the season following tournaments in Mons (Belgium) and Valencia. “I don’t have the capacity to aim for a place in the top 100,” he said. “To play to be 200th in the world rankings doesn’t interest me.”

*To finish off this week, how about something a little different? Head over to YouTube to see Jelena Jankovic, Flavia Penetta and Gisela Dulko take part in a Ninja demonstration at the Players Party for the Toray Pan Pacific Open. It’s certainly not like anything you’d usually associate the three with, but perhaps they might want to stick to the tennis.

Ana Ivanovic Snubbed By Rogers Cup – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

The Plot Thickens – Once again, mystery surrounds American tennis star Serena Williams. No doubt she’s injured, and no doubt she is questionable for the final major of the year. But it’s fair to say that there are a number of question marks surrounding how Williams acquired the injury and just how much of a threat is it to her chances of competing at the US Open. First we heard she hurt her foot and would miss the World Team Tennis season. Then we hear she needed stitches and has pulled out of all of her scheduled hard court tune up events. Now we know the World No. 1 has undergone surgery and may not make it to the Big Apple. Throw into the mix the type of injury (deep cuts on the bottom of her foot from stepping on broken glass in a restaurant), and Serena Williams has left many in the general sports world scratching their heads. The good news for Williams is that if she is able to play the US Open, she’ll still be considered one of the heavy favorites. She’s never needed many matches going into a major to post big results, so while not ideal, her lack of preparation will not be nearly as detrimental as it would be to her fellow competitors. And perhaps just maybe this latest injury will work up a little sympathy for the 13-time Grand Slam champion so that others prove less apt to revisit her infamous meltdown in the semifinals against Clijsters last year.

Serbian Snub – One of the more surprising stories of the week was the wildcard snub of Ana Ivanovic for the upcoming Montreal event. Tournament organizers defended the snub, stating that they wanted to ensure Quebec native Stephanie Dubois, whom they felt was an equal, if not bigger draw than Ivanovic for the Canadian crowd, received a wildcard into the event. As Ivanovic never quite reached the popular status of a Maria Sharapova or Williams sisters, it’s difficult to argue with the logic of the tournament organizers who presumably know what their fans want. Playing the qualies could also work in Ivanovic’s favor. Players have talked about the added hunger and mental boost that comes with earning a place in the main draw, not to mention the added advantage of having a few matches under the belt when coming up against an opponent when main draw play is underway. So while already having a ranking that would automatically see her entered in the main draw would have been preferred, qualifying for and playing the Montreal event has the potential to pay dividends later.

Recognition for Martina – The International Tennis Hall of Fame has announced that the 2010 recipient of the Eugene L. Scott Award will be none other than Martina Navratilova. The award is being given in recognition of Navratilova’s contributions to the sport of tennis, which includes her commitment to insightfully and thoughtfully commenting about the nature and state of the sport. It is appropriate that Navratilova receive this award at this stage in the game, given that she has continued to contribute to the sport of tennis in the face of her own battle with breast cancer.

Two for Two – Rising Hungarian star Agnes Szavay completed two spectacular weeks this past weekend, taking her second title in as many weeks in the Czech capital of Prague. She won the Budapest title the previous week in her native Hungary. Granted, the fields at both of these events were not exactly stacked the way that they are at the top tier tournaments, but Szavay may finally be starting to gain some consistency and deliver on the some of the promise she showed earlier in her career. Her Prague win saw her jump 11 places in the rankings, and she’ll be keen to maintain the momentum and raise that ranking even more over the course of the hard court summer season.

Mixed Bag – In a recent poll of America’s favorite female sports stars, tennis took the cake, with current stars Serena and Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova making the list, as well as Anna Kournikova and tennis legends Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova also earning spots among that elite ten. It was great to see such a wide spread among the tennis stars that appeared on the list, and particularly for someone like Billie Jean King who played a huge role in laying the groundwork for women’s tour, to see women’s tennis so well represented had to be immensely satisfying. On the flip side of all of this, no male tennis player earned a spot among the top ten male sports stars. One could argue they face stiffer competition with the popularity of the NFL, NBA etc., but it was still mildly surprising to not see the likes of Federer or Nadal on the list. Not that either of the European men will be broken up about losing a popularity contest in the United States, but it would still be great to see the men fare a little better in 2011.

ODESNIK DRAGS TENNIS IN THE MUD

So another tennis star has found themselves on the front pages of newspapers linked to the now menacing black cloud hanging over the sport in recent years – “drugs.”

Richard Gasquet “snogging” cocaine in to his system, Agassi’s admittance of crystal meth use, Greg Rusedski’s positive testing for nandrolone, the two Belgians – Yanina Wickmayer and Xavier Malisse – and their dances with the anti-doping board about missed tests.

Recent years have seen tennis’ relatively clean image dragged further through the mud when it comes to naughty substances and they seem to have rivaled the ever-guilty world of athletics in cases rising to the surface.

American Wayne Odesnik’s case is slightly different of course. He hasn’t actually failed a doping test. Yet he was caught trying to smuggle human growth hormone (HGH) in to Australia and has been fined by their courts.

The world No. 111, 24 years of age, hasn’t actually been banned from playing but has now self-imposed a playing ban until his independent tribunal is held within the coming months. He is free to pick up his racquet at any time should he choose to.

Odesnik was halted by Australian customs on January 2 as he was arriving to compete in the Brisbane International and he was fined Aus$8,000 for his trouble. Eight vials holding around 6mg each of the banned substance were found in his belongings.

The Tennis Anti-Doping Program (TADP) possesses a whole host of powers for banning players coming up positive for taking substances, but has little to no powers against those found holding a substance. By taking a voluntary ban it might favor him in terms of punishment come his tribunal.

The one major question coming out of this is, as always, why? Why do players find it necessary to jeopardize their livelihood with the use of such substances? Is it desperation to succeed? To be remembered for more than being the world No. 111? He was world No. 77 this time last year, does he wish to stop the slide? Is it a drive for financial reward as your career draws on? A chance to make those later years even more comfortable?

Recreational drugs pose different answers. Perhaps an ego and a love of the “party hard” lifestyle. But doping always leaves brows furrowed. I suppose it’s easy for people like us outside of the sport to sit here and judge. “How could he? There are thousands of kids who’d love to be in his position…” blah blah blah.

We don’t know first-hand the pressures of playing top class tennis every other week. With a calendar stretching over the eleven-month boundary now perhaps players are finding it harder to keep up. It’s slightly easier on the body for the top 10 in the world who can afford to miss the ATP250s to recuperate as the points gained won’t harm them.

But for those chasing the pack just how long can their bodies go on as the sport becomes quicker and more physically demanding every year? You now have to serve harder, move about the court more often and produce tenacious shots one minute and powerful cross-court drives the next. The sport has even transformed in the fifteen years I have been following it.

This isn’t new of course. Looking back through recent history you can go back to 1999 to remember Czech star Petr Korda’s run-ins with the authorities over his use of nandrolone alongside sprinters and footballers the world over. Rusedski’s later positive testing in 2004 led to revelations of an unnamed 44 players having used the drug. How we’d love to know who they were.

The Men’s Tennis Council began testing in the 1980s and their early studies looked for use of recreational drugs. However over recent times performance enhancing substances have risen to the forefront of most scandals and this is perhaps the more saddening aspect.

You can perhaps forgive the likes of Hingis and Capriati, young protégés given little guidance over such important life lessons like growing up and maturing. Given the wrong influence by the wrong people they can easily fall in to the wrong lifestyle and their dalliances with drugs shows how easy it really is. The story is the same throughout every sport. Youngsters earning vast amounts of money and with no idea how to spend it.

Odesnik shows how these performance enhancing substances are still an issue and the punishments put in place by the anti-doping agencies are still not enough to deter players.

Would they think twice if a lifetime ban was threatened? Would more severe punishments really flush out the “bad eggs” and stop players turning to superficial help once and for all rather than coaches and training?

“For possession there’s a possible two-year ban,” said an ITF spokeswoman back in March. Is this enough?

American No. 1 Andy Roddick certainly didn’t think so. “There’s nothing worse than that,” he said back at the Sony Ericsson Open when the story first broke. “That’s just plain cheating, and they should throw him out of tennis. There’s just no room for it.”

But he certainly didn’t think the authorities were to blame: “We have the most stringent drug-testing policies in sports,” he said. “We’re up there with the Olympics. We can’t take Sudafed.” While the tests are in place perhaps the severe punishments are not.

And what of Odesnik’s coach, Argentina’s former top 10 player Guillermo Canas? He himself failed a doping test in 2005 and served a fifteen month ban. His silence coupled with Odesnik’s self-imposed ban speaks volumes of the guilt.

It really is a problem which tennis should not have to face but it does time and again. Until new, possibly more severe, sanctions are threatened it will continue to do so too.

ANOTHER JELENA JANKOVIC PICTORIAL!

This is just another Jelena Jankovic pictorial. I mean she amazingly goodlooking and when I found these photos I just had to show you the class and style she possesses offcourt. The way she dresses is definitely class.

I am sure a whole lot of you know the biography of Jelena Jankovic, I figure I skip the less interesting parts for the more juicy parts. Her personal life. Taken straight from the pages of  my best friend next to Starbucks, Wikipedia:

Janković was born in Belgrade, in then Yugoslavia, now Serbia, as the third child of Veselin and Snežana Janković, both economists. Her mother is from Serbia and her father is from Montenegro (Vasojevići clan). She also has two brothers, Marko and Stefan. She is a student at the Megatrend University in Belgrade, studying economics; however, she has put her course of study on indefinite hold as she continues to pursue her tennis career. She trained at tennis club “Crvena Zvezda.”

Janković was the subject of the 2008 autobiographical documentary, Jelenin svet (Jelena’s World),featuring Justine Henin, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Ana Ivanović and other notable players.

The British press have linked Janković and Jamie Murray romantically but she has remained coy about their relationship, though she joked in interviews that she used kisses as a way of motivating the Scot.[3] In September 2008, Janković announced that she has been dating Montenegrian water polo player Mlađan Janović since August 2008.[4] The pair had been dating since the 2008 Summer Olympics.

On December 5, 2007, Janković became a UNICEF National Ambassador for Serbia, for Children’s Fund. “I am happy to have become a UNICEF ambassador for Serbia. This is a great honour for me and I will try to justify the role that has been given to me”, she said. Janković is the second Serbian tennis star to have volunteered to help promote the rights of children and collect funds for UNICEF after Ana Ivanović became an ambassador in September.

Feel free to comment on the pics as usual. That’s what that little box is here for. For you to comment on my articles.

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The Friday Five: Sex, Drugs And Gambling

By Maud Watson

Pretty Woman Gone Bad – In an odd story that ran earlier this week, it was reported that two players competing in the If Stockholm Open had been detained by police on Sunday for soliciting prostitutes.  It has since been discovered that one of the two players involved was allegedly Latvian Ernests Gulbis, while the second player remains a mystery. European media outlets suggest it could be Argentine Juan Monaco or Italian Simone Bolelli, the latter pulling out of Stockholm citing personal reasons. Maybe someone should have told these guys that sort of thing only works for Richard Gere in the movies.

Another Comeback?  We Didn’t Think So – With the triumphant return of Kim Clijsters and the much-anticipated return of Justine Henin, fans around the world were asking if there would be a third major comeback from one of the WTA’s greatest stars, Martina Hingis.  Martina’s answer?  A resounding “no.” “You can’t just snap your fingers and say ‘Let’s go and play the Australian Open,’” said Hingis, who was suspended for two years for testing positive for cocaine. We can’t say we’re surprised by this. A third go at a comeback is asking a lot of any athlete.  We just hope she stays involved with the sport and look forward to the day she takes her place in the International Hall of Fame.

Who’s Ready for 2010? – Justine Henin is!  The Belgian tennis star has announced that she’ll make her official return to tennis at the Brisbane tune-up event prior to the Australian Open.  And speaking of being ready for 2010, I’d be remiss not to throw a few props out to former Top 10 player David Nalbandian.  After a nine-month injury layoff that included undergoing hip surgery in August, the Argentine has announced he plans to return to the tour in Auckland as he prepares for the Australian Open.  This guy has collected some serious scalps over the course of his career, and you can bet that hip surgery or no hip surgery, the likes of Federer, Nadal & Co. won’t want to see him waiting on the opposite side of the net.

Another Gambling Scandal?  You Bet!  – Tennis authorities are currently investigating a match that took place in Luxembourg earlier this week between sixth-ranked Caroline Wozniaki and Anne Kremer.  Bettors began to pile large wagers on Krember, despite the fact that she was trailing her much higher-ranked opponent 5-7, 0-5.  The reason for the surprising wagers?  Nearby microphones picked up Wozniaki’s father encouraging her to retire when she was up 3-0 in the second set, alerting spectators to Wozniaki’s injury.  This to me represents a strong case against on court coaching.  To utilize on court coaching, the coaches have to agree to wear a mic in order that fans can hear what they’re saying to their charges.  Given that these conversations take place during matches that are seen by millions, the powers-at-be had to know this was a betting scandal just waiting to happen, and I hope that this incident serves as the catalyst to do away with on-court coaching on the WTA Tour.

Parting is Such Swede Sorrow – After six years of serving as Sweden’s Davis Cup captain, former Grand Slam champion and 2002 Hall of Famer Mats Wilander is stepping down from his post.  Though he never took his team to the title, he did lead them to the semifinals in 2007, as well as three quarterfinal appearances.  The parting comes on amicable terms, as the quiet Swede stated he wanted to spend more time at home and with his family (though we hope he’ll continue to make regular appearances on the senior tour!). Wilander will be replaced as Davis Cup captain by veteran Swede Thomas Enqvist.

Macau Sure Knows How To Promote Things

An interesting picture was sent to us today. It’s a photo of a tram design for the October Macau exhibition tournament. 17 year old tennis star Ryan Harrison will feature.    Harrison will play alongside Pete Sampras ,  Andre Agassi and junior number one Yuki Bhambri.

It’s really a lovely poster and we couldn’t keep it away from you even if we wanted to.

Clijsters comes through again, reaches Open semis

Kim Clijsters pulled off another upset that didn’t really look like one. Now, she’s only two wins from a U.S. Open title hardly anyone could have seen coming.

The mother of 18-month-old Jada, Clijsters dismantled 18th-seeded Li Na, 6-2, 6-4 in the quarterfinals Tuesday, punishing China’s top tennis star with deep, stinging groundstrokes that were part of a game that looked about like it did when Clijsters retired two years ago.

Or maybe better.

The 26-year-old Belgian is back at the U.S. Open for the first time since 2005, when she won the tournament, and now has a winning streak of 12 matches at Flushing Meadows. Her next match will be against the winner between No. 2 Serena Williams and No. 10 Flavia Pennetta.

Clijsters has already beaten No. 3 Venus Williams and two other seeded players, and nothing seems like too big a stretch at this point.

“I’m glad I got through it again, stayed focused on my game,” Clijsters said. “I wanted to be aggressive and I think that’s what helped winning those important points today.”

The few important points there were in this one came midway through the second set, after Clijsters had lost a break to turn a 3-1 lead into a 4-4 tie. Li responded with four unforced errors to give away the ninth game and the match was over a few minutes later.

Clijsters became the first unseeded player to make the U.S. Open semifinals since Elena Dementieva in 2000. Clijsters was unranked because she hadn’t played enough tournaments in her comeback to get on the board, but she’ll be in the low-50s or better when the next rankings come out.

As efficient as she has been—moving better now than she did when she was constantly battling injuries toward the end of her last stint—her run through this tournament might also be seen as a statement about the state of women’s tennis.

Serena Williams is the only top-five seed left. Three of the players on the opposite side of the draw—the “Melanie Oudin side”—are ranked 50 or higher, joined by No. 9 Caroline Wozniacki. All are playing in their first major quarterfinals.

“I saw her when she came back in her first tournament,” Li said, referring to Clijsters. “I knew she was at a high level. She’s much stronger than other girls, so I knew, if she was going to come back, it must be a strong comeback.”

The men’s tournament, meanwhile, is going much more to form.

Roger Federer breezed through his fourth-round match Monday with a 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 victory over No. 14 Tommy Robredo for his 38th straight win at the U.S. Open. The world’s top player is going for his sixth straight title at Flushing Meadows.

Clijsters’ match was followed by one between No. 2 Andy Murray and No. 16 Marin Cilic.

Third-seeded Rafael Nadal, winning less impressively so far—possibly because of an abdominal injury that caused him to call for the trainer in his last match—had a match against No. 13 Gael Monfils later Tuesday.