The Rod Laver Arena

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Wizards of Oz (VII): Djokovic, Ivanovic, Radwanska, Sharapova, Berdych and More on Australian Open Day 7

Ana Ivanovic gets ready to take a whack at world #4 Agnieska Radwanska.

At the start of the second week, all of the singles matches shift to the three show courts.  We organize our daily preview a bit differently as a result, following the order of play for each stadium.  From here to the end of the 2013 Australian Open, you can find a preview of every singles match in Wizards of Oz.

Rod Laver Arena:

Kerber vs. Makarova:  When two left-handed women last met on Rod Laver, the match unwound deep into a final set.  Viewers can expect less drama but higher quality from a meeting between the world #5 and a Russian seeking her second straight quarterfinal here.  In this round last year, Makarova recorded probably the best win of her career in upsetting Serena, and she rekindled some of those memories with a three-set upset of Bartoli.  Advancing through the draw more routinely, Kerber reached the second week here for the first time and will look to exploit the ebbs and flows in her opponent’s more volatile game.  Makarova will aim to take time away from the German counterpuncher, in part by opening the court with wide serves behind which she can step inside the baseline.  In a close match, Kerber’s outstanding three-set record and her opponent’s relative frailty under pressure could prove decisive.  The German won all three of their 2012 meetings in straight sets.

Ferrer vs. Nishikori:  Despite his clear superiority in ranking and overall accomplishments, the fourth seed might feel a bit anxious heading into this match.  Nishikori has won two of their three previous matches, both at significant tournaments.  More notable than his victory over Ferrer at the Olympics was a five-set thriller that he won from at the US Open, which introduced the Japanese star to an international audience four years ago.  Chronically beset by injuries, Nishikori overcame a knee problem early in his first match and has won nine straight sets.  As he pursues his second straight quarterfinal here, like Makarova, he cannot afford to encounter any physical issues in a grinding encounter filled with protracted rallies and few outright winners.  Ferrer wore down Baghdatis, a former nemesis here, in a routine third-round clash as his level rose with the competition, but now it rises again.

Sharapova vs. Flipkens:  Perhaps benefiting from the guidance of retired compatriot Clijsters, Flipkens has reached the second week at a major for the first time.  Still, she defeated nobody of greater significance than Zakopalova to reach that stage, and it is difficult to see any area of her game that can trouble the rampaging Russian.  Following her two double bagels, Sharapova conceded just four games to Venus in a highly anticipated encounter that turned into a demonstration of just how crisply she has started the season.  The Belgian’s best chance may lie in the hope that the world #2 enters this match a little complacent or satiated with her statement triumph, not likely from someone of her professionalism.  Their only previous hard-court meeting, in Luxembourg ten years ago, bears no relevance to what might unfold here.

Ivanovic vs. Radwanska:  Early in their careers, the Serbian former #1 hit through the Pole’s defenses with her serve-forehand combinations.  As Ivanovic has grown more erratic with time, the balance of power has shifted towards Radwanska with three straight victories in 2009-10 before a retirement from the former in their most recent meeting.  All of those matches have stayed very close, though, which can give the Serb as she realizes that she will have chances against a player who will not overpower her.  Stalling in the fourth round of majors for most of the last few years, Ivanovic has suffered a long string of losses to top-four opponents.  Currently undefeated in 2013 with two titles already, Radwanska has shown greater discipline and steadiness here (no surprise, really) than the flustered former #1, who has oscillated wildly in form.  Expect the fourth seed to outlast and outwit Ivanovic in an entertaining battle.

Djokovic vs. Wawrinka:  Not exactly known as a steely competitor, the Swiss #2 has acquired a reputation for folding at majors against elite opponents—not just Federer, but Djokovic and Murray has well.  He has lost his last ten meetings against the defending champion, last winning in 2006, although three times since then he has won the opening set.  Demolishing his first trio of victims without dropping serve, Djokovic has not shown any vulnerability that might offer Wawrinka a reason to believe.  Granted, the latter has not lost a set here either, but a matchup with the world #1 in a night session on Rod Laver Arena seems like the type of environment calculated to bring out the worst from the Swiss and something near the best from the Serb.  Parallel to Sharapova and Flipkens, one struggles to imagine any part of the underdog’s game that can threaten the favorite consistently.

Hisense Arena:

Almagro vs. Tipsarevic:  Never before have they met on a hard court, discounting an Abu Dhabi exhibition.  To no surprise, the Spaniard defeated the Serb comfortably when they met at Roland Garros last year, the most favorable surface for the former and the least favorable for the latter.  Almagro remains almost as lethal a threat on hard courts as on clay, producing a handful of fine results in Melbourne and New York behind an impressive serve and plenty of groundstroke first-strike power.  Both men can strike winners down the line from either groundstroke wing, nor will either hesitate in attempting a bold shot at any moment.  That factor, combined with their proximity to each other in the rankings, bodes well for a tightly contested match, as does their mixture of impressive and unimpressive results in the first week.

Li vs. Goerges:  If Almagro and Tipsarevic never have met on a hard court, this pair of women never has collided at all.  Whereas Li rolled through the first week without dropping a set, Goerges needed to claw through a long three-setter in her opener against Dushevina and salvage a third-round epic against Zheng after the Chinese served for the match.  Despite the accumulated fatigue, that resilience under pressure might aid her in a match likely to feature several twists and turns between two streaky women.  Under Henin’s former mentor, stern taskmaster Carlos Rodriguez, Li has hinted at improving her consistency from one tournament to the next.  Starting the year with a title and a Sydney semifinal, she enters this match with an 11-1 record in 2013.  On the other hand, Goerges has wobbled through a long span of the unpredictability typical of WTA Germans, leaving her stagnant until this week.

Margaret Court Arena:

Anderson vs. Berdych:  The first South African to reach the second week of a major since Wayne Ferreira ten years ago, Anderson did it the hard way by winning the last two sets of a five-setter against Verdasco.  Few players have started the year more impressively than he has, marching from a strong week at the Hopman Cup to the Sydney final and now a week in which he twice has won matches after losing the first set.  But Anderson may find himself eyeing adversity again when he meets a man who won all four of their matches last year.  The last two of those reached final sets, offering him some hope in this contest of crackling serves, ferocious forehands, and meager backhands, which should produce repeated holds and perhaps some tiebreaks.  Berdych has dominated the opposition through three rounds with the relentless focus that he does not always show, although he has not faced anyone of a quality approaching the South African.

 

Wizards of Oz (V): Sharapova, Djokovic, Ivanovic, Ferrer, Li, and More on Australian Open Day 5

Sharapova's shadow has loomed over the women's draw through the first two rounds, but will that trend continue?

A plethora of intriguing encounters awaits audiences as the third round begins at the Australian Open.  Foremost among them are two in the women’s draw, which we include in our latest preview.

WTA:

Kerber vs. Keys (Rod Laver Arena):  Long hovering on the horizon, the 17-year-old Madison Keys has soared into the consciousness of the tennis world by winning four main-draw matches in the last two weeks.  Moreover, she has won most of them decisively, including routs of top-20 opponent Safarova in Sydney and the 30th-seeded Paszek here.  The teenager’s serve could prove a crucial weapon against Kerber, whose superior steadiness and experience should prevail in rallies unless Keys can find a way to unsettle her, which she could with a strong start.  Featured on the show court of a major for the first time, she seems more likely to rise to the occasion than crumble under the weight of the moment.

Li vs. Cirstea (RLA):  Familiar with both rising and crumbling in spectacular style, the 2011 Australian Open runner-up split her two meetings with Cirstea at majors last year.  Li defeated the heavy-hitting Romanian at Roland Garros but lost to her at Wimbledon before battling past her in a Cincinnati three-setter, so she will know what to expect.  While Cirstea defeated Stosur in the first round here last year and can hope to capture that magic again, the moderately paced hard court in Australia would seem to favor Li’s more balanced game.

Sharapova vs. Williams (RLA):  Scanning the WTA elite, one might not find two champions more similar in playing style than these two legends of first-strike tennis.  Both Sharapova and Venus can hammer lethal missiles from both groundstroke wings, and both compete with the ferocity of women whose lungs illustrate their loathing for losing.  Both have the ability to win free points in bunches with their serves, but both also can lose control of that shot beyond repair amidst cascades of double faults.  Both have survived significant bouts of adversity, Sharapova by battling back from a career-threatening shoulder surgery and Venus by battling back from a career-threatening illness.  While the American has accumulated a richer title haul, the Russian owns the more balanced resume.

Their record reflects much of the above, neatly balanced at 4-3 in Sharapova’s favor but skewed 4-1 in her favor away from Wimbledon, where Venus has claimed her greatest achievements.  Not dropping a single game through her first two matches, Maria can expect a steep elevation in her opponent’s quality and must come as prepared to elevate her own quality as she did five years ago here against Davenport.  Like her sister, Venus has produced some of her most dazzling surges when least expected, and she has looked quietly impressive if less overtly overpowering so far.

Ivanovic vs. Jankovic (Hisense):  Those who appreciate tennis largely from an aesthetic perspective may wish to cover their eyes in a pairing of two women who sprayed disheveled errors to every corner of the court in their previous matches.  Meanwhile, those who fancy their tennis served (or double-faulted) with a dollop of drama should enjoy this battle between two countrywomen who have feuded chronically but bitterly.  The superior player by most measures, Ivanovic has dominated their head-to-head as her versatile forehand has hit through Jankovic’s baseline defense.  So high do the emotions run in these matches, though, that one never knows what to expect from one point to the next.

ATP:

Djokovic vs. Stepanek (RLA):  In addition to their five-set epic at the 2007 US Open, Stepanek has troubled the Serb on two other occasions.  He won a set from him at Wimbledon last year by using his idiosyncratic style to disrupt Djokovic’s rhythm.  Even as his career has faded, Stepanek continues to revel in the spotlight and ended 2012 on a high note by winning the decisive match in Davis Cup.  That momentum probably cannot lift him high enough to disturb Djokovic in Australia, where he looks as dominant as ever in all facets of his game.

Ferrer vs. Baghdatis (RLA):  The fourth seed in Nadal’s absence, Ferrer can falter at times with the distractions caused by partisan crowds.  Supported vociferously by Melbourne legions of Greeks and Cypriots, Baghdatis hopes to revive the memories of his charge to the 2006 final.  At this tournament two years ago, he became the first man ever to win after losing the first two sets to Ferrer at a major, surprising in view of their relative fitness.  The fourth seed looked vulnerable in stretches against an overmatched opponent in the last round, while Baghdatis did likewise in another mismatch.  His flat, net-skimming groundstrokes should offer an intriguing contrast to Ferrer’s safer topspin.

Anderson vs. Verdasco (Hisense):  Reprising their meeting at the Hopman Cup this month, this match pits a rising against a fading star.  Like Baghdatis, Verdasco has failed to duplicate his breakthrough performance in Melbourne (a 2009 semifinal), and he should count himself fortunate to escape a five-setter to start the tournament.  On the other hand, Anderson followed his strong results in Perth with a final in Sydney, where he showed poise under pressure.  Expect plenty of quick holds as each man struggles to crack the other’s serve.

Benneteau vs. Tipsarevic (MCA):  Which Tipsarevic will show up here?  The man who fired his way past Hewitt with a blizzard of electric shot-making, or the man who barely edged past Lacko in an unimaginative performance?  Tipsarevic looked a bit drained after the heroics of his opener, and he may pay the price if he enters this match flat, for Benneteau rolled past trendy dark horse pick Dimitrov in the first round.  Although streaky, the Frenchman represents a clear notch upward in quality from Lacko.

Querrey vs. Wawrinka (MCA):  The lanky American with the casual power got a little too casual early in each of his first two matches, dropping the opening sets in both.  Against Wawrinka, a natural grinder who thrives on long rallies, Querrey should discipline himself to eliminate such gifts.  Having lost both of his previous meetings to the Swiss, including a US Open five-setter, he will need to maintain a higher first-serve percentage this time and aim to end points more efficiently.

Almagro vs. Janowicz (Court 3):  In the wake of a bizarre five-set comeback against Devvarman, one wondered whether to praise Janowicz for his tenacity in roaring back after losing the first two sets, or to linger on his immaturity for letting his emotions run astray early in the match.  Without that costly burst of petulance, the match likely would not have lasted as long as it did.   Similarly, Almagro needed much longer than expected to dismiss American neophyte Steve Johnson in another five-setter.  Between the Spaniard’s backhand and the Pole’s forehand, fans should see risky, flamboyant shot-making as each man hopes to exploit a weak section of the draw.

 

Wizards of Oz (III): Stosur, Venus, Sharapova, Djokovic, and More on Australian Open Day 3

Will Stosur continue to keep her eye on the ball against a recent nemesis?

The first day of the second round looks rather sparse in general, but we picked out a few potential diamonds in the rough.  Let’s start with the ladies for a change.

WTA:

Zheng vs. Stosur (Rod Laver Arena):  When they met a week ago in Sydney, the Aussie suffered from a slow start, rallied to reach a final set, and then let a late lead slip away in a match of unpredictable twists and turns.  Although Stosur improved on last year’s performance here by escaping the first round, her first victory of 2013 did not come without a series of wobbles such as donating an early break and failing to serve out the first set.  She won fewer free points from her serve than she usually does, which could spell trouble against Zheng again.  Despite her limitations on return, due to her short wingspan, the Chinese doubles specialist competes ferociously and should outlast Stosur from the baseline with her more balanced weapons.  But she struggled even more to survive her opener and had stumbled through a string of losses before that upset of the Aussie in Sydney.

Venus vs. Cornet (RLA):  At the 2009 Australian Open, Cornet stood within a point of the quarterfinals and a signature victory over then-#1 Safina.  Match point upon match point slipped away, confidence evaporated, shoulder trouble sidelined her soon afterwards, and the petite Frenchwoman remained too mentally and physically dubious to fulfill her promise as a junior.  The relatively slow court might suit her game more than the volatile, inconsistent style of Venus, but the American raised her level dramatically from the Hopman Cup while dropping just one game in the first round.  By contrast, the Frenchwoman struggled to hold throughout that match, especially under pressure, so only an implosion by Venus could repeat the Suarez Navarro upset from the same Australian Open in which Cornet faced Safina.

Sharapova vs. Doi (Hisense Arena):  On a late afternoon without many marquee matches, the Sharapova Show offers a decent way to end the day session.  The 2008 champion has blitzed almost all first-week opponents at majors since the start of 2012, but the caliber of those opponents often has prevented one from accurately judging her form.  Doi, who defeated Schiavone last year, may surpass expectations after defeating the more familiar Petra Martic in the first round.  In general, though, the value of this match comes from juxtaposing Maria’s form here against what Venus shows in the night session, two days ahead of their highly anticipated third-round collision.

Pervak vs. Watson (Court 8):  While Murray and Robson attract most of the attention currently circulating around British tennis, and justly so, Heather Watson may develop into a meaningful talent in her own right.  The Bolletieri-trained baseliner twice has taken sets from Sharapova and defeated fellow rising star Sloane Stephens last year before finishing her season with a title in Osaka.  Not lacking for durability, she won one of the season’s longest finals there and will attempt to grind down Pervak with a combination of depth and court coverage.  Teenagers have excelled in the women’s draw so far, eleven reaching the second round, so this youth movement might bode well for the 20-year-old Watson.

ATP:

Djokovic vs. Harrison (RLA):  The Serb has won all five of their sets and looked his usual imposing self in the first round against Paul-Henri Mathieu, showing off his elastic movement and transition game at the major that most rewards it.  For Harrison, who avenged his Olympics loss to Giraldo in four sets, an upset bid will require greater focus and competitive stamina than he has shown so far in his career.  Typical of his stop-and-start results was a week in Brisbane when he defeated Isner and lost meekly to Benneteau in the next round.  Harrison will need to take more chances earlier in the rallies than he did against Giraldo, especially on his forehand, to take Djokovic outside his comfort zone against an opponent who does nothing better than he does.  As with his match against Murray last year, this meeting offers a useful measuring stick to test Harrison’s progress.

Malisse vs. Verdasco (MCA):  Even in the twilight of his career, the Belgian defeated the Spaniard on the latter’s weakest surface at Wimbledon last summer.  Malisse still can unleash blistering backhands when he times his short swings effectively, and Verdasco looked thoroughly human in a five-set rollercoaster against David Goffin.  Both men have shown a tendency to alternate the sublime with the ridiculous, often finding the latter at the least opportune moments, but a comedy of errors could provide its own form of entertainment.

Lacko vs. Tipsarevic (Court 2):  The eighth seed played his best tennis in months when he battled past Hewitt in a straight-setter closer than it looked.  Ripping winner after winner down the sidelines, Tipsarevic looked every inch the elite player that he has become and could charge deep into a draw where he inhabits the least formidable quarter.  He has struggled for much of his career with sustaining a high performance level from match to match, though, which makes a letdown a plausible possibility.  If he does, Lacko might have just enough talent to punish him for it.

Lopez vs. Stepanek (Court 3):  Aligned opposite each other are two net-rushers from opposite sides, the Spaniard from the left and the Czech from the right.  As a result, the tennis might trigger memories of decades past before baseline tennis established its stranglehold over the ATP.  Stepanek rallied from a two-set deficit in the first round to ambush Troicki, but a comeback would prove more difficult against a server like Lopez, who has won sets from Federer before.  While the Czech has dominated most of their rivalry, the Spaniard did win their last meeting on a similar speed of court in Montreal.

Querrey vs. Baker (Court 6):  The man who mounted a long-term comeback meets a man who mounted a more ordinary comeback that culminated last year when he rejoined the top 30.  Querrey typically has struggled at majors other than the US Open, however, and he lost a set to an anonymous, underpowered Spaniard in his opener.  If he can bomb a high percentage of first serves, Baker may not match him hold for hold.  On the other hand, a sloppy effort from Querrey would open the door for his compatriot to expose his meager backhand, one-dimensional tactics, and unsteady footwork.

 

Mondays with Bob Greene: Five Straight for Rafa

Rafael Nadal wins Monte Carlo

STARS

Rafael Nadal won his fifth straight Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters title, beating Novak Djokovic 6-3 2-6 61 in Monte Carlo

Sabine Lisicki won the Family Circle Cup, beating Caroline Wozniacki 6-2 6-4 in Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Roberta Vinci beat Maria Kirilenko 6-0 6-4 to win the Barcelona Ladies Open in Barcelona, Spain

Fabrice Santoro beat Rik De Voest 7-5 6-4 to win the Soweto Men’s Open in Johannesburg, South Africa

Felix Mantilla beat Albert Costa 6-4 6-1 to win the ATP Champions Cup in Barcelona, Spain

SAYING

“Everyone can improve in every surface, no? No one is perfect. Sure, I can improve. I always work to improve because when you feel you can’t improve, is difficult to wake up and go on court and practice.” – Rafael Nadal  after winning his fifth straight Monte Carlo Rolex Masters.

“She’s just a great champion. I still can’t really believe I won. … But beating Venus Williams here was just awesome.” – Sabine Lisicki, who beat Venus Williams early in the week and went on to win the Family Circle Cup.

“I wasn’t expecting that.” – Venus Williams, after losing to Sabine Lisicki at the Family Circle Cup.

“He did a good job today. He kept the ball in play.” – Roger Federer, after losing to Stanislas Wawrinka at Monte Carlo.

“I am a bit embarrassed to celebrate it.” – Stanislas Wawrinka, on his victory over Roger Federer.

“The competition is pretty tough. You have to be ready from the first round, especially playing the first tournament on clay courts. You really have to be patient and take some time before you really feel the surface.” – Elena Dementieva, noting that second-seeded Venus Williams, third-seeded Vera Zvonareva and fourth-seeded Nadia Petrova were all eliminated from the Family Circle Cup on the same day.

“If you want to get married in private, you have to go to Switzerland. They don’t actually care over there. They actually want to give you peace and privacy. That’s why I love being a Swiss and living in Switzerland.” – Roger Federer, on his marriage to long-time girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec.

“Obviously our rankings both aren’t in the top 10 anymore, so you’re not getting the protection of not playing each other early on. But, yeah, he’s obviously still a class player when he’s on.” – Lleyton Hewitt, after losing to Marat Safin in a battle of former world number ones.

“It’s nice that I know him, and he’s supporting me out here, coming to watch me play.” – Alexander Stevenson, acknowledging that her father, basketball great Julius Erving, saw her play tennis for the first time as she lost her first-round match at the Family Circle Cup.

“I had a lead and then the whole thing was, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m actually beating someone who’s 13 in the world,’ and that got in my head a little bit.” – American qualifier Melanie Oudin, after losing to third-seeded Marion Bartoli at the Family Circle Cup.

“Our personalities match. We work a lot off the court together and we really understand each other’s game. We know each other’s strengths and know how to work as a team.” – Nadia Petrova, after teaming with Bethanie Mattek-Sands to win the Family Circle Cup doubles.

“When I got my illness, I felt like I was retired and that it was finished. But then they gave me the possibility to come here and to play on the ATP Champions Tour and I thought, ‘Why not?’ It’s always nice to play your sport while having fun.” – Felix Mantilla, who has recovered from skin cancer and resumed playing, winning the Barcelona, Spain, stop on the ATP Champions Tour.

SHOCKER I

Roger Federer teamed with Stanislas Wawrinka to give Switzerland a gold medal in the doubles at the Beijing Olympics last summer. In Monte Carlo, it was Wawrinka who showed Federer the exit in their third-round match. Federer struggled throughout the match, facing 14 break points. The world number two, Federer entered the Monte Carlo Masters on a wild card after getting married the weekend before the tournament.

SHOCKER II

Venus Williams was a heavy favorite to win her Family Circle Cup third-round match against little-known Sabine Lisicki. Instead, the German right-hander shocked the tournament’s number-two seed 6-4 7-6 (5) in her remarkable run to her first WTA Tour title. “I wasn’t expecting that and, you know, I’ll try to come back next year and win,” Williams said. “I made a few errors at the wrong time, and she played some great shots.”

SWEET WEEK

Sabine Lisicki first gained notice when she pulled off the biggest victory over her career by upsetting Venus Williams early in the tournament. She capped her fantasy run by beating Caroline Wozniacki 6-2 6-4 to become the lowest-ranked player ever to win the Family Circle Cup, her first WTA Tour title. The German right-hander proved her surprise win was no fluke, knocking off Elena Vesnina in the quarterfinals, sixth-seeded Marion Bartoli in the semis and fifth-seeded Wozniacki in the final, closing out the victory on her sixth match point. Against Wozniacki, Lisicki rallied from behind in both sets.

STILL CHAMPION

It’s becoming a habit. Rafael Nadal won his fifth straight Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, this year beating third-seeded Novak Djokovic in the final and running his winning streak to 27 matches at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court tournament. The Spaniard becomes the first player to win an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament five consecutive years, and joins Roger Federer with 14 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles, second only to the 17 won by Andre Agassi. Nadal also is the first world number one player to win at Monte Carlo since Ivan Lendl in 1988.

SUPERB FINALIST

Roberta Vinci has only reached two finals in her WTA Tour career. But she’s perfect once she gets there, capturing her second career title at the Barcelona Ladies Open. Her only other title match appearance came in Bogota, Colombia, in 2007, which she also won. “It’s such a great feeling to win again,” Vinci said. “It has been a long time since I played well.” Both of Vinci’s titles have come on red clay.

SPECIAL SWINGER

The only player to win two Grand Slams – winning the Australian, French, Wimbledon and US singles championships in the same calendar year – Rod Laver is being honored again. The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum (ITHFM) will honor Laver with a special presentation on Center Court during ceremonies for the Class of 2009 inductees into the Hall of Fame. In addition, the left-hander from Australia will be named a Life Trustee of the Newport, Rhode Island, shrine. “Rod Laver is arguably the best tennis player ever to swing a racquet,” said Christopher Clouser, chairman of the ITHFM. “And beyond being a great champion of tennis, he is a great person and ambassador of tennis who continues to give back to our sport.” Laver won the Grand Slam in 1962 as an amateur, then again in 1969, one year after the Open Era began, allowing professionals to compete. In 2001, the Australian Open stadium in Melbourne was named “The Rod Laver Arena.”

SPORTS AWARDS NOMINEES

Venus Williams, Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic have been nominated for the 10th Laureus World Sports Awards. Williams, who won her fifth Wimbledon title last summer, has been nominated for the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year award. Ivanovic, the French Open winner in 2008, and countryman Djokovic, the 2008 Australian Open champion, have been nominated in the Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year category.

STADIUM TOPPER?

The US Tennis Association (USTA) is looking into the possibility of putting a roof over Arthur Ashe Tennis Stadium, site of the US Open. The stadium, which opened in 1997, seats 22,500, making it one of the largest outdoor tennis stadiums in the world. Spokesman Chris Wittmeier said the USTA is interested in whether new lightweight materials and engineering techniques could be used to make a retractable roof to prevent championship tennis events from being rained out. The stadium was not initially designed to accommodate a roof. The Australian Open’s main stadium has a retractable roof, and a roof was also added to Wimbledon for this year’s tournament. Wittmeier knocked down speculation that the New York Islanders would move their National Hockey League franchise to Arthur Ashe Stadium if a roof was installed. “It’s not even on our wish list,” Wittmeier said. “The way that Arthur Ashe is engineered and configured, it wouldn’t work for hockey.”

SAYING “I DO, TOO”

One week after Roger Federer got married, Andy Roddick walked down the aisle. The 2003 US Open champion married Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker at Roddick’s home in Austin, Texas. Elton John sang at a reception held at a country club following the ceremony. Among those attending the wedding were Billie Jean King, James Blake, Mardy Fish and Patrick McEnroe. Federer married longtime girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec in a small ceremony in his hometown of Basel, Switzerland.

STRUCK DOWN

An ankle injury knocked third-seeded Vera Zvonareva out of the Family Circle Cup singles. On serve with Virginie Razzano in the opening set, Zvonareva fell in the third game while chasing down a ball along the baseline. She cried out in pain and lay on the court for about five minutes, clutching her right ankle. She was helped to her chair where a trainer wrapped her ankle and applied ice to the injury. The Russian then was taken off the court on a golf cart.

SPONSOR SLIP

Maria Sharapova, who hasn’t played singles since last summer, has lost one of her endorsement deals. A spokesman for PepsiCo Inc. said there was no particular reason for the split other than the two-year contract has ended. Sharapova had been the first tennis player to represent PepsiCo’s Gatorade sports drink and Tropicana fruit juice brands worldwide. Since winning Wimbledon in 2004, Sharapova has become the highest-paid female athlete in the world. Sports Illustrated reported the Russian right-hander earns close to USD $22 million a year. She took over the world number one ranking when Justine Henin retired, but has since dropped to number 53 in the world after missing the Beijing Olympics, the US Open and the Australian Open. She has undergone shoulder surgery. Serena Williams endorses Gatorade in the United States.

SEEKING COMEBACK

Carlos Moya is not going to let surgery keep him down. The former world number one is planning on returning to the ATP Tour once he recovers from his pelvic bone surgery.  “They have told me that the recuperation period will be between four or five months,” said the 32-year-old Moya, who won the French Open in 1998. “I think that to come back after the US Open (in September) it’s best to accept the situation in a relaxed way and have more guarantees for next year.”

SENIOR SITE

The ATP Champions Tour has launched its own official website, www.atpchampionstour.com. The site has a new interactive FanZone where fans can send questions to their favorite player, access exclusive video and audio, and test their knowledge of the Champions. Another section explains how players are eligible to play on the ATP Champions Tour.

STEPPING DOWN I

Alfred Tesar is ending his eight-year reign as captain of Austria’s Fed Cup team. In its first match under Tesar in 2002, Austria upset the United States and reached the World Group semifinals, which they did again in 2004. But Austria was relegated to the Europe/Africa Zone last year. “Alfred Tesar and the Fed Cup team achieved outstanding successes,” Austrian Tennis Federation general secretary Peter Teuschl said. “But after eight years … it’s time for a new start.”

STEPPING DOWN II

Carl Maes has resigned as head of women’s tennis at the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA). Maes is a native of Belgium who made his reputation coaching Kim Clijsters from her time in the juniors until she was on the cusp of her Grand Slam tournament successes.

SAYS NO TO MEDIA

Australian sports organizations, including Tennis Australia, is trying to restrict reporting of their events, a move that Australian media group News Ltd. says would be an assault on free speech. Australia’s leading sporting bodies have told a Senate inquiry that the advent of online “news” reporting is affecting their revenue streams and could limit their ability to support grassroots participation. Cricket Australia, the Australian Football League and Tennis Australia are among the administrators who appeared before the Australian Senate inquiry calling for the government to create laws or regulations to put limits on what media organizations can publish, from their events, on the Internet. David Tomlin, associate general counsel of The Associated Press, told the inquiry that sports leagues and organizers were entering the publishing arena with their own web sites and digital deals and competing for advertising and other revenue.

SICHUAN HELP

Zheng Jie returned to her home in Sichuan Province for the one-year anniversary of the earthquake that killed nearly 69,000 people. Last year, Zheng Jie donated her Wimbledon prize money to the earthquake victims. This year she spoke to students at the Hong Bai School in Shifang, Sichuan Province, and also held a tennis clinic. Zheng and the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour donated racquets and balls to the students, while two sponsors, Anta and Mercedes Benz, also made donations to the children.

SOUTH AFRICAN CAPTAIN

Former top player Greer Stevens has been named captain of South Africa’s Fed Cup team. South Africa will participate in the Euro/Africa Group II competition being held in Antalya, Turkey. “Our team is in the building stages,” said Stevens, who is now married and goes by the name of Leo-Smith. Besides South Africa, other nations participating in Turkey will be Georgia, Portugal, Turkey, Latvia and Morocco.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Monte Carlo: Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic beat Bob and Mike Bryan 6-4 6-1

Charleston: Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Nadia Petrova beat Liga Dekmeijere and Patty Schnyder 6-7 (5) 6-2 11-9 (match tiebreak)

Barcelona: Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez beat Sorana Cirstea and Andreja Klepac 3-6 6-2 10-8 (match tiebreak)

Johannesburg: George Bastl and Chris Guccione beat Michail Elgin and Alexandre Kudryavtsev 6-2 4-6 11-9 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Barcelona: www.barcelonaopenbancosabadell.com/

Sofia: www.bgtennis.bg/

Fed Cup: www.fedcup.com

Estonian Tennis Federation: www.tennis.ee/

Polish Tennis Federation: www.pzt.pl/

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

Tennis Australia: www.tennis.com.au/

Rome: www.internazionalibnlditalia.it/1/default.asp

Stuttgart: www.porsche-tennis.de/prod/pag/tennis.nsf/web/english-home

Tunis: www.tct.org.tn

Rhodes: www.atcrhodes.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

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

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

FED CUP

(April 25-26)

World Group Semifinals

Italy vs. Russia at Castellaneta Marina, Italy, clay

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

World Group Playoffs

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

World Group II Playoffs

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

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$3,500,000 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Rome, Italy, clay

$125,000 Tunis Open, Tunis, Tunisia, clay

$110,000 Aegean Tennis Cup, Rhodes, Greece, hard

WTA

$700,000 Porsche Tennis Grand Pix, Stuttgart, Germany, clay

$220,000 Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem, Fez, Morocco, clay

$100,000 Open GDF Suez, Cagnes-sur-Mer, France, clay

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

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