th anniversary

WHERE IS BRITISH WOMEN’S TENNIS?: 25 YEARS SINCE ANNABEL CROFT’S BRITISH WIN

Today, April 28, 2010, marks the 25th anniversary of the last fully British female to win a WTA Tour singles title (Monique Javer won a WTA Tour singles title in 1988 but was only half British). On 28th April 1985, 18-year-old Annabel Croft of Great Britain, ranked No. 83 at the time defeated world No. 7 Wendy Turnbull 6-0, 7-6(5) to win the Virginia Slims of San Diego and her first WTA Tour Title, causing much excitement amongst the British press. The young British hopeful never rose to expectations caused by this victory and failed to win another title before quitting her professional career in 1988.

I doubt this statistic will bring a smile to the already frowning LTA reeling from the recent government report on their expenditure. But who within the British camp is remotely ready to step up and claim the next WTA tour singles title?

British No. 1, Elena Baltacha has certainly had a wonderful start to the year rising to a ranking high of No. 59, memorably beating world No. 10 Li Na in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells only to lose in the next round to Alicia Molik. She is currently training in preparation for the WTA event in Rome and it remains to be seen if she can produce back to back performances throughout the course of a tournament to win her first WTA title.

Britain’s Anne Keothovong and Katie O’Brien both won their first round matches of the Grand Prix De Sar La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Morocco. Keothovong recovered from an embarrassing second set performance to defeat France’s Julie Coin to win 6-3, 0-6, 6-4, but her form this year after being forced out of the game for six months due to a knee injury has hardly given enough evidence to suggest enough consistency to flip the coin of British tennis fortunes in the near future. Fellow Brit, O’Brien defeated France’s Pauline Parmentier 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 and commented “I was really pleased to come through my first match of the year on clay, especially as I haven’t had ideal preparation. I only started hitting on the clay a few days ago, as I was stranded in South Africa for six days where there weren’t any clay courts. I had to take five flights over two days to get to Fes, but I’ve recovered well, all considered. I’m now looking forward to tomorrow’s match against Renata Voracova. I lost to her last year in three sets on the clay, so I’m aiming to get my revenge.” She received more good news when it was confirmed that she had been given the key to a main draw entry in the French Open following the withdrawal of Sania Mirza. Out of the three, O’Brien is the less likely to emulate Croft’s singles victory considering her lack of victories over top ranked players.

Meanwhile, 16-year-old Laura Robson recently reached the semifinals of the $50k event in Alabama after winning five consecutive matches in the USA, battling to a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory over the world No. 144 Sophie Ferguson of Australia in the quarterfinals; an excellent indication of the consistency of Robson throughout a tournament considering she also came through two matched in the qualifying rounds. She also went on a fine run to the quarterfinals in the doubles with fellow Brit Heather Watson. Could Robson be the one to break the 25 year wait?

Robson’s achievements in Alabama have seen her rise an impressive 46 places to a career high of No. 269 in this week’s WTA singles rankings. She also sits at No. 103 in doubles, another career high due to her great run of form that saw her reach the semi finals in doubles at the $25k event in Osprey, Florida the week before. I have a feeling we may need to wait a little while longer for our young star to win a WTA singles title, however perhaps she will be the one to bring home a Grand Slam too; we can only dream.

Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter.   She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.

TENNIS IDOL BORG OR EMPEROR BORG?

Bjorn Borg, it was announced Tuesday, will be playing in his first tournament in the United States since 2000 at the Staples Champions Cup in Boston, April 29-May 2. The event is part of the Jim Courier-run Champions Cup tennis circuit. This year marks the 30th anniversary of Borg’s epic fifth straight Wimbledon title, which will no doubt be celebrated and remembered for much of the year.

Which brings up the question; do we like the Bjorn Borg look from the late 1970s, early 1980s or the contemporary “stately” looking Borg who looks more like a Roman Emperor than the teen idol of yesterday? Tell us which look you like better?

Borg will play his opening match in Boston against fellow Swede Pernfors on Thursday, April 29 at 7 pm and, if victorious, will face the winner of the Friday evening quarterfinal match between McEnroe and Wilander on Saturday evening, May 1. Courier will face Arias in his opening match on Friday at 7 pm and, if victorious, will face the winner of the Philippoussis-Ferreira match on Saturday afternoon. For more on the Staples Champions Cup, go to www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com

“Bjorn playing in the United States is a very rare occurrence so it makes the Staples Champions Cup that much more special this year,” said Courier. “He’s one of our sport’s greatest champions and to have him play on the Champions Series is a highlight for the circuit.”
In 1980, Borg was able to win his fifth-straight title at the All England Club and stave off McEnroe, playing in his first Wimbledon final, by a 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (16-18), 8-6 margin, highlighted by the famous 18-16 fourth-set tie-breaker. He stopped playing full-time on the ATP circuit after the 1981 season.

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USTA Pays Tribute To Pancho Gonzalez

FLUSHING, N.Y., September 2, 2009 – The USTA announced today that actor Benjamin Bratt will host a tribute to former U.S. Championships winner Pancho Gonzalez on-court in Arthur Ashe Stadium during the Night Session on Saturday, September 5.  The tribute will celebrate Gonzalez on the 60th anniversary of his second consecutive victory at the U.S. Championships, and members of the Gonzalez family as well as a number of former players and Hispanic community leaders will be in attendance.

Gonzalez, who taught himself how to play tennis at the age of 12, was considered one of the most talented tennis players of his generation and was a fan favorite on the professional tour throughout the 1950s and 60s.  Early in his career, which spanned four decades, he won back-to-back titles at the U.S. Championships in Forest Hills, N.Y. at the ages of 20 and 21.  He also won two matches to help the U.S. defeat Australia to capture the 1949 Davis Cup title.  His passion and intensity led to an illustrious career as the world No. 1 for an unequaled eight years.  As a 40-year-old in 1968, he reached the semifinals at Roland Garros and the quarterfinals of the inaugural US Open.  The following year, Gonzalez played Charlie Pasarell at Wimbledon in a five-hour match that spanned two days and led to the advent of the tie-break.  Gonzalez also became the oldest player to ever win a professional tournament when he won the Des Moines Open just shy of his 44th birthday.  Gonzalez was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame while still an active player in 1968.

“The USTA is proud to celebrate the life and legacy of such a great champion as Pancho Gonzalez,” said Lucy Garvin, President and Chairman of the Board, USTA.  “Pancho was a true pioneer in the sport of tennis and this tribute will shed light on the importance of Pancho Gonzalez to the game and its history.”

“Pancho Gonzalez was a trailblazer, not only in tennis, but across the greater American cultural landscape,” said Bratt.  “He was a role model for a generation of Hispanic-Americans, and this tribute will rightly call attention to his important and lasting legacy.  I’m proud to be a part of this celebration to honor a true legend.”

Members of the Gonzalez family will be in attendance, along with students from the Pancho Gonzalez TennisAcademy in Washington, D.C., one of whom will conduct the pre-match coin toss.

Hispanic dignitaries attending include:

  • Benjamin Bratt, actor
  • Lynda Baquero, NBC4 New York
  • Dr. Jane Delgado, CEO, National Alliance for Hispanic Health
  • Tim Garcia, judge, New Mexico
  • Danny Haro, producer/director, 2006 Pancho Gonzalez Documentary
  • Augustin Martinez, President, United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Martha Montoya, President, Los Kitos Entertainment
  • Charlie Pasarell, former tennis champion
  • Bobby Perez, former tennis champion
  • Tony Plana, actor
  • John Quiñones, ABC Primetime
  • Alfred Rascon, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient
  • Pancho Segura (“Little Pancho”), former tennis champion
  • Jimmy Smits, actor
  • Andrew Valdez, judge, Utah
  • Eduardo Xol, TV personality
  • Al Zapanta, CEO, U.S. – Mexico Chamber of Commerce

The 2009 US Open will mark the culmination of the Olympus US Open Series, the six-week summer tennis season linking all major ATP and Sony Ericsson WTA Tour tournaments in North America to the US Open.  The US Open is the highest-attended annual sporting event in the world.  In 2008, Roger Federer won his fifth consecutive US Open title, defeating Andy Murray in the final.  In the women’s singles final, Serena Williams defeated Jelena Jankovic to capture her third career US Open title.

The 2009 US Open will be held Monday, August 31, through Sunday, September 13.  Tickets for the 2009 US Open can be purchased four ways:  1) at USOpen.org; 2) by calling Ticketmaster at 1-866-OPEN-TIX; 3) at all Ticketmaster outlets; or 4) at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center box office.  American Express is the Official Card of the US Open.

Tennis Legends Billie Jean King and John McEnroe Rally on Hudson River Barge to Kick Off National Tennis Month

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., May 06, 2009 – Tennis legends Billie Jean King and John McEnroe have played tennis all over the world and on all surfaces. Now they can add a new venue to the list: a barge floating on the Hudson River in New York City. In a day-long celebration to kick off National Tennis Month, King and McEnroe spent the afternoon volleying back and forth in front of the Manhattan skyline, with photographs and video taken to document this unique meeting of the two great champions.  They capped the afternoon with a visit to the Statue of Liberty and New York’s South Street Seaport.

“National Tennis Month is a perfect way to get focus on our game,” said King. “It gets the beginners started and serves as a friendly reminder to get your racquet and head back to the tennis court.

“New York City is where I’m from, so we’re in a setting that is second-to-none to jump start National Tennis Month,” said McEnroe.  “For me, it’s about getting even more kids playing our sport.”

National Tennis Month is the annual celebration of the outdoor tennis season and part of an industry-wide initiative to increase tennis participation in the United States. And the 12th anniversary of National Tennis Month arrives at a great time for tennis. Recent data from the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association shows that tennis is the fastest-growing traditional sport in the country, with participation increasing 43% since 2000 and 9.6% in the last year alone.

Throughout the month, the USTA will conduct events nationwide to promote tennis, celebrate its growth and increase participation in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Headlining these efforts will be a series of “Tennis Block Parties.” Hosted at public parks, schools and tennis facilities, “Tennis Block Parties” will feature tennis instruction provided by skilled teaching professionals and special guests, and will also include interactive games and attractions offering participants the opportunity to simultaneously learn and enjoy the many benefits of the sport.