It’s that time of year when many Brits start to become interested in tennis.
But, thanks to the success of Andy Murray, Elena Baltacha and James Ward at the pre-Wimbledon warm-up tournaments, some of us are dusting off our rackets and heading down to the local rec’s courts a little earlier than normal.
It’s interesting to look at how these successes (Ward’s victories were particularly unexpected) have affected sentiment surrounding the phrase ‘British Tennis’.
The phrase has traditionally attracted many negative connotations. Years of heavy investment has led to years of under-achievement. No British man has won Wimbledon since 1936 when champion Fred Perry won in long trousers, wielding a wooden racket.
For the period June 9th to June 15th 2011, social media monitoring tool Brandwatch collected 576 mentions of the phrase across news and social networking sites; it is a sign of how successful the period was that only three per cent of them were negative.
Brits are still hedging their bets though – burned by years of false dawns (remember John Lloyd, Buster Mottram, Jeremy Bates and Tim Henman all falling short at Wimbledon) only five per cent of the mentions were positive!
Mentions of British tennis peaked on Friday June 10th with 88 being collected by Brandwatch. This was the afternoon when Brit newcomer James Ward (ranked 216th in the world) beat defending champion Sam Querrey in the Queen’s Club quarter-finals.
Duanne Jackson on Facebook said what many of us were saying: “Watching a British tennis player that isn’t Murray, Henman or Rusedski. Shocked!”
Better was to come a few hours later in the day when Facebook messages such as “Two British tennis players into the semi-finals of a tournament: isn’t this a sign of the apocalypse?” started clogging up the networks.
On Saturday, 11th June, armchair tennis fans were still trying to figure out their new tennis hero. Was he a baseliner or a serve and volleyer? Single handed or double-handed on the backhand wing? And more importantly who did he look like? Lisa Jane Riley on Twitter commented: “Do you not think he looks a little like a thin Alex Reid (the cage fighter ex-partner of Jordan)?”
Later in the afternoon, he was looking a little less like a winner but he still posted a highly-respectable performance during a 6-3, 7-6 defeat against world number 17 (and Muhammad Ali-look-alike) Jo Wilfried Tsonga.
Murray kept the British flag flying with a demolition job on his nemesis Andy Roddick in the other semi-final and fellow Scot Elena Baltacha reached the Ladies final at the Eastbourne event.
This might explain why The Scotsman was one of the top ten sites mentioning British Tennis during the week studied.
Both players would go on to win their final but mentions of “British tennis” had already peaked the day before: quarter-final day received 88 mentions and semi-final day just 60.
Finals day on June 12th received even fewer mentions; just 57. Perhaps understandable given that Murray’s final was washed out by rain. It was good to see Ms Baltacha receive the lion’s share of the mentions as she won an Eastbourne final which was switched indoors.
Murray’s moment in the sun finally came on Monday June 13th as he played a couple of between-the-leg shots to win his rain-delayed final on a day when British tennis received 65 mentions.
There were several cynical social networkers who pointed out that the win might not be such a good omen for British tennis: people who win rain-delayed Queen’s tournaments are often eliminated early when Wimbledon begins (the springy-haired John McEnroe in 1979 springs to mind).
Mentions of British tennis continued to climb on the Tuesday and the Wednesday as Britain continued to bask in the success of Mr Murray and the Wimbledon qualifying tournament got underway in overcast Roehampton.
So why did mentions of “British tennis” peak on quarter-final day, rather than on finals day when Murray triumphed at Queens?
This might be down to the James Ward effect – his unexpected victories surprisingly might seem to offer more hope for the overall future of British tennis than Murray’s victories do.
We already know how good Murray is but the thought of another Brit breaching the top 50 might suggest a pattern of British success whereas Murray’s position near the top of the tennis summit is just isolated success.
In a way, Murray’s success is the exception to the rule of British tennis – Brits are expected to lose – but Ward might be challenging this rule.
Roll on Wimbledon!
Author: Dominick Soar
Brandwatch is a Social Media Monitoring Tool that measures online buzz and sentiment.
By Maud Watson
Coach Onboard – One of the two big news stories that broke earlier in the week was that Swiss No. 1 Roger Federer has announced that he’ll be working with American coach Paul Annacone. Paul Annacone is one of the most respected coaches in the sport, and his work speaks for itself. He’s had the experience of dealing with a legend of the game in Pete Sampras, as well as helping a guy discover his best form late in a career as shown in his work with Tim Henman. With the possible exception of someone like a Darren Cahill, it’s hard to imagine a better fit for Federer at this stage in his career. The move also represents just one more signal that Federer is still hungry and is committed to getting back to the top, and he’s not afraid to admit that he may not be able to do it solo. Annacone still has some lingering commitments to the LTA before the two can consider going fulltime, but this has all the makings of another positive turnaround in Federer’s career.
Coach Overboard – On the opposite end of the coaching carousel is the news concerning Andy Murray and Miles Maclagan. Murray announced that after just less than three years, he is parting ways with Maclagan. Murray explained the reasons behind the split, with most of them stemming from MacLagan and Murray having differing opinions about where he is and how to get to where he wants to be. I’m inclined to see this as a very positive move for Murray, and it’s no disrespect to Maclagan. He’s done a great job with Murray, taking him to two Grand Slam finals and the No. 2 singles ranking. But there’s no doubt that Murray’s career has at best stalled, and at worst, has been in a steady decline since the Aussie Open final, excluding his unexpected run to the semis of Wimbledon. Murray is in no rush to replace Maclagan and will be staying with his part-time coach, former professional Alex Corretja, through the US Open before reevaluating the situation. Sometimes a ball of negative energy, Andy Murray can undoubtedly be a handful to coach, but there’s bound to be a nice selection of coaching candidates willing to harness that emotion and take a talented player like Murray to the next level. Stay tuned…
Fish Flying High – Confident coming off his win in Newport, Fish continued to accumulate the victories with his second straight tournament win in the inaugural ATP event in Atlanta. Battling the competition and searing summer temperatures, Fish hung on to take a third set tiebreak over fellow American John Isner in the final. It’s great to see Mardy’s hard work to get in better shape and bounce back from injury is paying dividends in a relatively short window of time. It’s also good to see him playing it smart, opting to withdraw from singles competition in Los Angeles in order to rest and give his tweaked ankle an opportunity to recuperate (and it’s probably not such a bad thing his attempt to win the doubles was abruptly cut short by the Bryan Brothers). If Fish continues to grow in confidence, he could be a dangerous floater this summer, and with his ranking jumping yet another 14 places after his performance in Atlanta, he may even earn a seed for the final major of 2010.
The Road Back? – Less publicized over the weekend was former World No. 5 Anna Chakvetadze’s win over Johanna Larsson to win the Slovenia Open. Chakvetadze seems to have predominantly (and understandably) gone in a downward spiral ever since the traumatic robbery experience she and her family endured at their family home in Moscow in late 2007. With her ranking now outside the top 100, Chakvetadze has been a mere shadow of the Top 5 player she once was, but this win in Slovenia may just give the Russian the confidence she needs to get her ranking and her game going in the right direction once again.
Not Hanging it Up…Yet – Earlier in the year, James Blake looked all but ready to retire. He wasn’t enjoying himself on the court, the wheels had come off his game, and he was playing with pain and a lingering injury. Now, after playing without pain and earning a relatively routine win over Leonardo Mayer in his opening match L.A. , Blake is feeling much more positive about his game. His current approach couldn’t be better, setting small goals and just enjoying being out on the court. Blake has always been one of the better sportsmen in the game, and he’s had some great results in his career. Will he get back into the Top 20? Top 50? That’s hard to say, but it’s great to see that Blake may at least be able to go out on a positive note and on his terms when the time comes.
Check World Tennis Magazine’s Interview with James Blake:
Tennis People – Murray And Federer Looking At New Coaches, Del Potro May Make US Open And Golubev Another “Tennis First”
*World No. 4 Andy Murray and coach Miles Maclagan have parted ways after nearly three years working together. Maclagan has always been reportedly uneasy with Murray’s insistence on keeping Alex Corretja as an advisor although the split is reported to be amicable. “I’ve had a great relationship with Miles over the past two-and-a-half years and I want to thank him for his positive contribution to my career,” said Murray. “We have had a lot of success and fun working together.” Maclagan said of the situation: “It’s been a privilege to work with Andy as his coach and I’m happy to have played my part in his career. I also want to thank the team for all their hard work over the years and I will miss working with them and Andy on a day-to-day basis. Andy is a great player and I know he will continue to have the success his talent and hard work deserves.” Murray was No. 11 in the world when the pair began working together in 2007 so the success has been plain for all to see. Murray will work with Corretja until the US Open later this year and then review the situation further.
*In other coaching news, Roger Federer is having a trial period working with former Pete Sampras and Tim Henman coach Paul Annacone. Federer is now ranked No. 3 in the world following being knocked out at the quarter final stage of the past two Slams and he said: “I’ve been looking to add someone to my team and I’ve decided to spend some days with Paul Annacone,” Federer told his official website. “As Paul winds down his responsibilities working for the Lawn Tennis Association, we will explore our relationship through this test period. Paul will work alongside my existing team and I am excited to learn from his experiences.” An LTA spokesperson told BBC Sport: “As outlined in Roger Federer’s statement, Paul will do a number of days with Roger as he winds down his work with the LTA.”
*The USTA is claiming that defending champion Juan Martin Del Potro is “expected” to return from injury at the US Open finals despite missing much of the year since his miraculous win over Roger Federer in the final. The player’s agent, Ugo Colombini, added that: “Del Potro is working and hopefully he will get back soon.” Del Potro has also spoken out saying he will play the Thailand Open starting September 27 so the three parties are offering differing opinions. “I am looking forward to playing the PTT Thailand Open on my return from injury,” said Del Potro. “I really enjoyed myself on my last visit to Bangkok and hope for good results at this year’s tournament.” World No. 1 Rafa Nadal has also been confirmed for the event.
*There has been yet another “tennis first” for 2010 with Andrey Golubev becoming the first player from Kazakhstan to lift an ATP Tour title by defeating the Austrian Jurgen Melzer in Hamburg. “I’m really excited,” he said. “I can’t believe what happens now in Kazakhstan. I’m really, really happy to make a page in the history of the country. I’m a little bit surprised but I believe in my game on all surfaces so that was the key.” A full interview with the beaming champ can be viewed now over at the ATP website.
*The lineup for the Malaysian Open, beginning September 25, is looking very tantalising. World No. 5 Robin Soderling, Nikolay Davydenko (6), Tomas Berdych (8) and David Ferrer (12) are the main draws. Mikhail Youzhny (14), Nicolas Almagro (18), popular Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis (25) and Aussie Lleyton Hewitt (30) will also be big crowd-pullers.
*Two former World No. 1s have been talking about renewed faith in their games in the women’s game this week. Russian Dinara Safina has admitted that: “players aren’t afraid of me anymore,” in an interview with TennisReporters.net. “Now I have to earn back their respect. Now it’s a new time for me,” she continued. “I’m playing well but you need a breakthrough and in many matches I’m playing, I’m just not closing them up. I’m playing better and trying to win matches, but I need to start to cruise and I’m not there yet.” On the same website, the leaner-looking Serb Ana Ivanovic has been speaking in a similar vein. “I’ve been working a lot on foot work drills and that’s been something in my game that’s been lacking,” she said. “I’m better getting into balls into the corners and that’s important. I feel like I got the joy back like when I was 16 or 17 rather than feeling like I have so much pressure on me,” the 22-year-old continued. “I still think I’m very young. It all comes down to pressure because regardless of my ranking I still have a lot of expectations of myself. If I can reduce that it will be a huge step for me.”
*Maria Sharapova has announced that she is finally overcoming her troublesome shoulder problems and is able to serve with her old service motion more easily. “I knew eventually I would go back, I just didn’t quite know when,” said Sharapova, who underwent shoulder surgery in October 2008. “But I knew that if I was going to come back when I did last year, I had to start with an abbreviated motion. I’m just trying to work myself toward the U.S. Open,” she added. “I’m just happy to be back playing.”
*Jelena Jankovic expects to be fit for next week’s event in San Diego despite twisting her ankle in Portoroz. “Unfortunately, in my second round match, I was up 6-1, 2-0 and went running for a ball and twisted my ankle. I had to retire and I haven’t hit since then. I’m still recovering,” said Jankovic on her website. “I came back to Serbia afterwards and have a whole team of doctors helping me get healthy as fast as possible. I’m hoping to leave for San Diego in the next few days. I love it there. That’s where my new house is going to be. Next year in San Diego, I’ll be playing at home.”
*James Blake is now backtracking on the retirement thoughts he had after exiting Wimbledon following a vast improvement in his knee. “I’ve done a complete 180,” Blake was quoted as saying by the Los Angeles Times. “Wimbledon was a pretty disappointing time. I wasn’t able to train, but now I’m feeling great, the knee is feeling good.”
Bottom of Form
*After the Dane Caroline Wozniacki recently turned 20 years old the mantle of top-ranked teen in the Sony Ericsson WTA rankings falls on the young shoulders of Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. The 2006 ITF World Junior Champion took time out of her practice schedule to talk to the WTA website about her life on the circuit. “I was the best in juniors, and then everyone expected me to be the best in the pros quite quickly, which I did also expect,” said the 19-year-old. “But sometimes now I feel juniors doesn’t really matter so much – the real tennis starts after you stop playing those events. It’s a pretty tough step mentally, even for me. You just have to try to handle it and pass it.” You can catch up with the full interview here.
*Former tennis star Roscoe Tanner is reportedly wanted by the authorities once more for failing to pay maintenance on his many children from various relationships. The two-time Aussie Open champ has been in and out of prison over the last decade for various offences and has spent much more time in hiding from the law. A defendant of one of his ex wives said: “Mr. Tanner, I would say, is one of the most difficult people we have ever dealt with, just to comply with basic court orders.” You can see the full report at the American News Channel 9 website.
*In this week’s South African Airways ATP World Rankings Mardy Fish (No. 35, 14 places), Hamburg winner Andrey Golubev (No. 37, 45) and Florian Mayer (No. 40, 14) have all seen great rises in the rankings. Donald Young of the USA enters the Top 100 at No. 99 as does Pablo Andujar of Spain who leaps 19 places to No. 100.
*There are a few career bests in this week’s Sony Ericsson WTA Rankings following last week’s play. After winning in Bad Gastein, Julia Georges entered the Top 50 for the first time at No. 42 while Timea Bacsinszky, Georges’ victim, is now ranked No. 39, within touching distance of her career best No. 37. Portoroz runner-up Johanna Larsson of Sweden also achieved a career-best No. 66 after leaping from No. 84.
*The hottest player on the ATP Tour right now, Mardy Fish, has revealed it was a mixture of fatigue and an ankle injury which forced him to withdraw from the LA Open this week. “Due to fatigue and a sprained ankle in Atlanta, I am not in good shape to play,” the 28-year-old said in an official statement. “I need to rest in order to compete at a high level.”
*American star James Blake has been answering fans’ questions via the new ATP World Tour Facebook page. Giving his views on the perks of being a pro, his favourite female star and Lady Gaga he gives a range of insights in to his lifestyle. You can see the full Q+A at the ATP website.
Wow, doesn’t the year go quickly. Wimbledon is now upon us again
Around this time of the year popularity in tennis increases in Britain about ten-fold before it falls in to obscurity again in three weeks time until next year’s Championships. For years the country ground together all its emotional resources to back golden boy Tim Henman before shedding a tear or two at another close call in the semis.
Henman Hill (or Rusedski Ridge to some) has now become Murray Mound and last year in particular it was a similar story. I guess the patriots in this country just want a Brit to do well.
Of course the media will do their best. They will build him up to make him sound like he is the Fed Express itself and if (when) he tastes defeat he will be destroyed by those same pen-pushers. There will be accusations about his private life, he didn’t try hard enough, and he’s just another British failure. Nobody is more scathing of British sports stars than the British press.
This year we have some great stories before we even enter the courtside action. Federer has lost his No. 1 ranking to Rafa Nadal and will want that back. He will also, I’m sure, have one eye on a possible ten titles before he retires or at least surpassing Pete Sampras’ dominating seven.
We also have a few welcome returns too. Richard Gasquet is set to compete and try to get his career moving in the right direction again following the doping scandal and his recent play suggests he is ready to do so. Anna Kournikova and Martina Hingis will compete in the legends doubles tournament too this year. It will be Hingis’ first appearance at SW19 since her own cocaine scandal a few years back.
With the Australian and French Opens throwing us a few surprises this year here’s hoping Wimby can continue the trend and give us something special. Sam Querrey to win his first Grand Slam?
As a build-up to the greatest grass tournament of them all, we have compiled a list of great Wimby facts you may or may not already know. Enjoy:
* The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club was founded in 1868.
* In 1875 it began hosting lawn tennis, a game recently developed by Major Walter Clopton Wingfield.
* In 1877 a men’s singles Championship was held which culminated in Spencer Gore winning a final watched by over 200 spectators paying one shilling each for the pleasure.
* 1884 saw the women’s singles incorporated with Maud Watson victorious.
* From 1897 the legendary Doherty brothers, Laurie and Reggie; began a ten-year dominance of the grass courts which helped reignite a waning public interest in tennis.
* In 1905, May Sutton of the USA became the first foreign player to win at Wimbledon in the ladies singles.
* The current site opened for business in 1922 after the Championships outgrew its former Worple Road base. King George V opened the festivities and the new home saw the abolition of the Challenge Round in favour of the holder participating in the whole tournament.
* Every year during the 1920s the French produced at least one singles champion.
* 1934-37 was a Golden Era for the Brits at Wimbledon as 11 titles were captured. This included three consecutive singles titles for Fred Perry, two for Dorothy Round and three successful Davis Cup defenses on Centre Court.
* During the Second World War, the facility was used for a host of activities including a variety of civil defense and military functions, Home Guard and a decontamination unit. A small farmyard including pigs and chickens was stationed on-site and in 1940, Centre Court was bombed with a loss of 1,200 seats.
* From 1956 to 1970 Wimbledon became a home away from home for Australian players as Lew Hoad, Neale Fraser, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and John Newcombe dominated the Championships.
* 1973 was the famous ‘Boycott Year’ as 81 members of the Association of Tennis Professionals refused to play after the suspension of Nikki Pilic by the Yugoslavian Lawn Tennis Association. Despite this, attendances still topped 300,000 as Jan Kodes won the men’s singles title.
* The tournament celebrated its centenary in 1977.
* Following recent work on Centre Court it can now hold 15,000 fans and has a retractable roof to counter the often-long rain delays.
* The USA are the most successful country at Wimbledon. They have won 33 of the 123 men’s singles championships and 53 of the 116 women’s championships.
* Pete Sampras and W.C. Renshaw are tied with the most Championships wins with seven each. Martina Navratilova leads the ladies’ field with nine.
* Laurie Doherty is the most successful overall male competitor at Wimbledon with five singles titles and eight doubles between 1897 and 1906. Martina Navratilova is tied on 20 (nine singles, seven doubles, four mixed 1976-2003) with Billie Jean King (six singles, 10 doubles, four mixed 1961-1979).
* Boris Becker became the youngest men’s champion in 1985 at 17 years, 227 days old. Miss C. Dod has been the youngest female champion since 1887 when she won just 15 years, 285 days old.
* In 1990, Jennifer Capriati became the youngest ever competitor at Wimbledon at the tender age of 14 years, 90 days old.
* The record daily attendance was achieved on the Wednesday of week one at the 2002 Championships when 42,457 attended the All England Club.
* The total prize money handed out this year will be £13,725,000, a 9.4% increase on 2009.
*The two singles champions will receive a cool £1,000,000 each, a 17.6% increase on 2009. This compares to £2000 being given to the male champion at the beginning of the Open Era in 1968 and £750 handed to the women’s champion.
Rather than pick one topic to rant at/praise today, I have decided to produce a post of some random aspects of tennis I have noticed recently.
However, what cannot be ignored was Andy Murray’s revelation this week that he has “fallen out of love with tennis.” Following on from his horrific 4-6, 4-6 defeat to American Mardy Fish he looked like a lost individual, a man gripped in a mid-life crisis.
Following on from that soul-destroying tennis lesson from Federer in the Aussie Open final in January, Murray really hasn’t had things all his own way. And as noted by fellow columnist Melina Harris he may be beginning to believe his own hype.
But to come out and declare this? It screams of spoiled brat syndrome. But read on:
“I need to start enjoying my tennis again. This has been going on for a few weeks now,” he said. “I’ve been very happy off the court but just not on it, and that’s where I need to be happy because that’s my career, this is what I do. It’s only me who can figure it out.
“People think sportsmen are different to other people but we’re not – we all go through bad patches. I’ve got to get back to how I felt in Australia at the start of the season.”
Still feel the same way readers? You can understand him. The tennis tour is now so complex and all-encompassing that there is no escape without a prolonged break that can heavily disadvantage your ranking. So players may feel the need to continue regardless of their health and happiness in fear of losing ground on their rivals.
It’s a very sorry state for a young man who was being declared as the best in the world after taking the Miami title this time last year.
Great Britain will be hoping Murray pulls through and doesn’t drop out of the sport a la Borg, or a certain Mister Tim Henman may need to get out the old tennis shoes again.
*Is it me, or is tennis becoming more and more ‘showbiz’ by the day? I think during the recent matches in Miami we have had more players’ box shots of model girlfriends and celebrity chums than ever before. Gwen Stefani got more TV time in Federer’s box at the US Open last year than any participating player. And it is always a curse during Wimbledon fortnight when we have to watch Cliff Richard’s perma-tanned, beaming, puppet-like face every day for two weeks.
*That hugely cringe worthy confrontation between Sampras and Agassi at the HitForHaiti event recently – does anybody else agree Federer should look at a career taking over from Jerry Springer when he hangs his racquet up?
*I, for one, am disappointed to see Sam Querrey failing to live up to his fantastic year in 2009. The boy is a true gentleman and could well be a great ambassador for the sport for many years to come. The saying has always been that “nice guys finish last” but in Querrey’s case I really hope this is not true. Another sporting cliché: “form is temporary, class is forever.” I think that’s a better one to keep in mind.
*One for British readers: am I the only one who likes to use the red interactive button to view matches so I don’t have to listen to the Sky commentators? Their constant attempts to make each other’s careers look laughable are very tiring. If you don’t have anything interesting to say during breaks in play please keep your traps shut.
*What a joy it has been watching Marin Cilic in Miami. Despite losing to Fernando Verdasco in straight sets the man’s game continues to improve following his marathon-esque court time Down Under. He now looks more and more like his coach, and the further he progresses the more we get to see and hear from fan-favourite Goran Ivanisevic about his protégé. Goran is never one to disappoint.
*I, for one, will be screaming Mikhail Youzhny on in his upcoming Miami quarter-final with the pantomime villain Robin Soderling. There are many players I love in the modern game, and none I love to hate more than Robin.
*With Murray, Federer and Djokovic falling by the wayside early on Miami gives Rafa Nadal a real chance to put a troubled year behind him. A win here could give him the confidence he so desperately needs and imagine a rejuvenated Rafa going in to the clay-court season. It’s not going to be easy but a few lucky breaks he hasn’t received recently and this could be a real turning point.
*Finally, I should really stop making predictions! Those who read last week’s blog will have noted how wrong I was yet again with my quarterfinal picks. However my late prediction that this tournament would be a goodun has come true, so I can take small consolation in that!
By Melina Harris
The start of the Millenium was not particularly memorable for the British public despairing on Henman Hill over Tim’s recent exit in the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2000; but unbeknown to us, a rather talented little gem, aged 6, had moved across to the UK from Australia with her parents Andrew, an oil executive and Kathy Robson, a sports coach and former professional basketball player.
Luckily, nature and nurture (great genes and financial backing) combined forces in the Noughties to produce Britain’s potential star of the future; Laura Robson, who entered a tennis academy aged 7, signed with management company, Octagon aged 10 and subsequently landed lucrative sponsorship deals with Wilson and Adidas aged 11. Winning the junior Wimbledon title in July 2008 crowned her as ‘the new darling of British tennis,’ catapulting her dramatically into the public eye with many tennis commentators hailing Robson as the one to watch.
Our lovely leftie, currently ranked No. 406 in the world aged 15 recently added to her growing army of admirers and fans, including Aussie legend and Wimbledon winner Pat Cash during her impressive performances with fellow Brit Andy Murray, in the Hyundai Hopman Cup in Australia earlier this month.
Although Murray claimed to be “rubbish” at mixed doubles, together, Murray and Robson were a formidable force, blowing opponents away in both their level of play (they were the first Great British pair to compete in the Hopman Cup final) and sheer entertainment value for the Aussie crowd. Despite their defeat in the final to Spain’s Tommy Robredo and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez through Murray’s loss in the singles, it was his behavior throughout the tournament and Robson’s charisma and potential that grabbed the headlines.
A couple of years ago Tim Henman labeled Murray as “a bit of a miserable sod,” however no comment could have been further off the mark as the tennis world witnessed a most astonishing event – Murray’s smile! I doubt I will ever forget the sight of his wide grin to coach Miles Maclagan and fitness trainer Jez Green during his devastating demolition of Andreev in the group stages of the tournament, which Pat Cash claimed was “as good as it could possibly be for any player.”
This sunny disposition continued throughout the tournament and especially during the pair’s mixed-doubles encounters. Significantly, Robson’s coach, Martijn Bok, noted of Murray in a post match interview, “in the first two mixed doubles matches, Andy did really well to keep Laura calm, had time to make a joke and give her confidence. Even here, we’ve seen other teams whose male player looks away when the woman makes a mistake, as if she does not belong out there.” Did we hear correctly: the words ‘joke’ and ‘Murray’ in the same sentence? According to his website and Team Murray, he loves nothing more than a bit of banter, but in the past this has rarely come across on court or in interviews.
In a rare moment of gracious humour, Murray admitted in a post match interview, “the man is supposed to dominate in mixed doubles but every time I tried to take over the point we lost it, so I just let her do it all by herself.”
Indeed, the way that Murray looked out for his younger partner, joking and smiling throughout the tournament, allowing her to take centre stage, has definitely endeared him to the harshly critical British public and arguably improved his image worldwide. Perhaps he’d taken some advice from his older brother, Jamie – famous for winning the Wimbledon mixed doubles flirtatiously with Jelena Jankovic in 2007 or was it simply due to the infectious charm and charisma of his partner? Whatever the reason, his management company, 19 must be literally jumping for joy with the results gained from this new partnership. Please check them out on YouTube if you don’t believe me!
Never before have we seen this side to Andy Murray and Robson must be congratulated for drawing out this side to his personality, which has often been criticized in the past and even Pat Cash noted, in his recent Sunday Times article Why I’m mad about Laura Robson that “she can make Andy Murray smile, which is no mean feat.”
Murray has definitely started the new decade with the conscious or subconscious decision to show another side to his often surly demeanor. Robson’s mother even went so far as to say “Andy Murray is a good boy, a true gentleman and we all absolutely adore him.” The PR will no doubt help his marketability and maybe even his relationship status (he recently split with long term love, Kim Sears due to his excessive obsession with the computer game ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’ it was reported)- along with half of the male population, I must add.
Although Robson’s coach, Dutchman Martijn Bok admitted “Laura could not be described as a natural athlete…she will need more attention on the physical side of her game than the tennis side,” there is much hope for this precocious talent. If, once her growth spurt comes to an end, Laura can learn from Andy’s dedication to his physical development with his infamous and grueling 400m runs (just one aspect of the vigorous fitness regime set out by Jez Green) and Andy continues to be infected by Laura’s charm and charisma, what an exciting marketing prospect we have on our hands. I cannot help but be exhilarated by the thought of Andy and Laura competing together in the mixed doubles event staged at Wimbledon in the London Olympics in 2012 and the role models they will become for future generations of British talent.
Are the twenty teens indeed the start of a golden era for British tennis? As the Queen might say; one truly hopes so Philip!
Andy Murray has ended weeks of speculation by confirming he has pulled out of Great Britain’s Davis Cup match against Lithuania in March as they begin life in the competition’s third tier. Murray claimed that he would prefer to concentrate on his efforts to lift more Masters Event trophies and break his Grand Slam duck.
Captain John Lloyd will now look to give his other players valuable experience and hopes that talents like Dan Evans and the doubles team of Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski will be enough to lift Britain back in to the Davis Cup’s second tier where Murray can then step back in alongside an improved crop of British talent.
It has now been over a decade since a British player other than Murray, Tim Henman, or Greg Rusedski won a live Davis Cup rubber.
“You’ve got to do what is right for your tennis. That period of the year just before Indian Wells and Miami is very important for me,” Murray said.
“I’ve got a lot of ranking points to defend. I think it’s the right decision.”
*Britain’s first match at the Hopman Cup since 1992 ended in a 2-1 victory over Kazakhstan after Andy Murray and Laura Robson combined to defeat Andrey Golubev and Yaroslava Shvedova despite the losers fighting to 10-12 in the final set. Murray had beaten Golubev 6-2, 6-2 in his singles rubber while Robson lost to Shvedova. They followed this up with an identical result against Germany. Murray won and Robson lost their respective singles rubbers before they combined to beat Philipp Kohlschreiber and Sabine Lisicki 6-3, 6-2. They face Russia tomorrow (Friday) in the final group match.
*Australia’s opening Hopman Cup Group A encounter didn’t go to plan. The top seeds were shocked by Romania as 19-year-old Sorana Cirstea overcame world No. 13 Samantha Stosur 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. Former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt defeated Victor Hanescu in their singles rubber but the Romanians triumphed in the mixed doubles.
*There was more Aussie disappointment at the Brisbane International where three top players suffered first round defeats. Jelena Dokic went down 5-7, 6-1, 3-6 to former world No.1 Ana Ivanovic while in the men’s draw 2009 Wimbledon finalist Andy Roddick won his first match since suffering the knee injury which kept him out of the ATP World Tour Finals last September. He defeated Aussie Peter Luczak 7-6(5), 6-2 before knocking out compatriot Carsten Ball in round two. Matt Ebden caused a stir by knocking out Jurgen Melzer before going down to Richard Gasquet of France and John Millman is also out. This means there are no Commonwealth players in the men’s quarterfinals. Kazakhstan’s Sesil Karatantcheva overcame upcoming Aussie star Casey Dellacqua in the women’s draw and her reward is a second round matchup with the returning Justine Henin. In her first Tour event since returning to tennis Alicia Molik notched a win, defeating Ekaterina Makarova of Russia before losing to 2009 US Open winner Kim Clijsters in round two. Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak also lost in round two to Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic.
*In the doubles at Brisbane, top seeded Leander Paes of India leads the Commonwealth charge after he and partner Lukas Dlouhy overcame Sam Querrey and Australia’s Carsten Ball in round one. A tremendous battle of the home-grown players saw Ashley Fisher/Stephen Huss defeat the wild cards Kaden Hensel/Bernard Tomic 4-6, 6-3, 10-6 while another Aussie pair, Peter Luczak and Joseph Sirianni, crashed out to Frenchman Michael Llodra and Andy Ram of Israel. Aussie doubles specialist Jordan Kerr and Britain’s Ross Hutchings as well as Aussie Paul Hanley and partner Thomaz Belluci (Brazil) are also out. The two Rodionovas, Anastasia of Australia and Russia’s Arina, are through to the semi finals of the women’s draw where they face Melinda Czink and Arantxa Parra Santonja.
*The Aircel Chennai Open, India, kicked off on Sunday evening with the hugely popular Kingfisher Fashion show which featured local stars Rohan Bopanna and Somdev Devvarman among others.
*On court at Chennai, Great Britain’s James Ward went down in the opening round to Spain’s Marcel Granollers while India’s Rohan Bopanna lost to Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka. Qualifier Prakash Amritraj, son of Indian legend Vijay Amritraj, lost to the USA’s Michael Russell while Somdev Devvarman upset Rainer Schuettler before losing to Janko Tipsarevic in round two.
*In the doubles at Chennai, Indian wild cards Somdev Devvarman and Sanam Singh are through to the second round of the doubles after overcoming Rik de Voest of South Africa and American Scott Lipsky 6-2, 7-5. Other victors included Brits Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski and South Africa’s Jeff Coetzee who overcame Pakistan’s Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and partner Igor Kunitsyn with the help of Rogier Wassen. India’s Yuki Bhambri is also through.
*Jeremy Chardy, David Ferrer and India’s Somdev Devvarman have all put their names in to the hat for the 2010 South African Open in Johannesburg.
*British No. 1 Elena Baltacha has qualified for the first round of the Auckland Classic after defeating Canada’s Stephanie Dubois 6-3, 6-1 in the final of the qualifying draw. Baltacha then lost in the opening round to Romania’s Ioana Raluca Olaru. India’s Sania Mirza and wild card New Zealander Marina Erakovic are also out ending Commonwealth interest in the singles draw. In the doubles, South Africa’s Natalie Grandin is the last Commonwealth woman standing as her and partner Laura Granville of the USA prepare to face Vladimira Uhlirova and Renata Voracova in the semi finals.
Roger Federer is no doubt the King of the US Open. He will be seeking his sixth straight men’s singles title in 2009, equaling the effort by Bill Tilden, who won six straight titles from 1920-1925. The all-time tournament record for consecutive men’s singles titles came when Richard Sears won the first seven U.S. titles, but Sears only had to win one match – the challenge round – to win the last six of his titles.
Roger’s reign in Flushing began in 2004, highlighted by an incredible five-set win over Andre Agassi in the quarterfinals and a decisive “double bagel” over Lleyton Hewitt in the final. Swiss journalist and author Rene Stauffer summarizes Roger’s first US Open title in his book THE ROGER FEDERER STORY: QUEST FOR PERFECTION ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFederer Book.com), excerpted below.
Federer had little trouble advancing into the quarterfinals, where he faced Agassi, now age 34. After a European summer highlighted by physical problems and unexpected defeats, Agassi found his groove on the American hard courts, defeating both Roddick and Hewitt to win the title in Cincinnati—his first title in over a year. Agassi’s confidence was high.
In one of the US Open’s celebrated night matches, Federer and Agassi battled on Wednesday evening, September 8, and Federer immediately found his rhythm. He was leading 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 when it began raining and play was postponed. The match resumed the following afternoon and the players were greeted with gale force winds—as part of the weather front that swept through New York as a leftover from Hurricane Frances that battered Florida earlier in the week. Federer described the wind swirls as being the worst conditions that he ever played under. “Just five years ago I would have gone nuts playing in such a wind,” he said.
The wind forced Federer to change tactics. He no longer tried to go for winners and display his usual aggressive style, but concentrated on getting the ball and his serves over the net and simply into play—which in the windy conditions was itself a challenge. “I played just like at practice and that was the right recipe,” he said. A 6-3, 2-6, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 win over Agassi put him into the semifinals of the US Open for the first time, where he would face an old acquaintance, Tim Henman. The 30-year-old Brit won six of his eight career matches with his Swiss rival, but Federer was a different player than many of the previous matches, with more self-confidence and stamina. As in March in Indian Wells, Federer encountered little resistance with Henman, winning 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 to advance into the championship match at the US Open for the first time.
Awaiting him in the final was another of his past nemeses, Lleyton Hewitt, the 2001 US Open champion. The Australian skipped the Olympic Games, but won the two ATP tournaments played concurrently to the Olympics in Washington, D.C. and in Long Island. Entering his match with Federer, he won his last 16 matches and did not surrender a set in his six-match run to the final.
It only took 17 minutes for Federer to hand Hewitt his first lost set of the tournament, losing only five points in a near perfect execution of tennis. When Hewitt won his first game of the match after Federer led 6-0, 2-0, the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium gave him a standing ovation. Federer continued to be the much stronger player, until a lapse of concentration and a run of errors and missed serves allowed Hewitt to win four straight games after trailing 2-5 in the second set.
“If he had managed to win the second set, it would have turned out to be an entirely different match,” Federer said. “I forced myself to keep positive. I said to myself that I only got this break because I was playing against the wind and I was serving with old balls. When I changed sides, everything actually did go easier.”
Federer held serve at 5-6 to force the tiebreak and won that 7-3. The two-set lead broke Hewitt’s resistance and Federer plowed through the final set 6-0 to win his first US Open championship.
“First I was surprised that Lleyton was no longer getting to the ball,” Federer said of his moment of victory. “Then I was suddenly lying on my back, looking into the sky at the lights of the stadium. I thought, ‘That’s unbelievable.’ Once again I was close to tears.”
Roger Federer’s victory at the 2004 US Open provided new content for the record books of tennis. Statisticians and historians of the game quickly discovered that he was only the second man in the “Open Era” of professional tennis (since 1968) to win a Grand Slam final with two 6-0 sets. The other was the Argentinean Guillermo Vilas, who dominated American Brian Gottfried 6-0, 6-3, 6-0 at Roland Garros in 1977. The last time a player won a final at the U.S. Championships with two 6-0 sets came back in 1884 in only the fourth edition of the U.S. national championship and in the days of tennis infancy.
In the United States, 6-0 sets are referred to as “bagels” with a “double bagel” being considered the bitterest variety when a match is lost 6-0, 6-0. In German-speaking countries, these whitewashes are called a “bicycle.” Although, Lleyton Hewitt was able to force a second-set tie-break against Federer in the US Open final, he was not spared the shame of the “double bagel” or “the bicycle.” The Australian Associated Press (AAP) exaggerated that Hewitt’s loss was “the greatest humiliation in the history of Grand Slam finals.” One reporter in the post-match press conference even had the audacity to ask Hewitt if it was difficult to swallow a “double bagel.”
More importantly in historical significance was that Federer, with his victories at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open, became only the fourth man in the Open Era of tennis to win at least three of the four Grand Slam titles in a calendar year. Mats Wilander from Sweden was the last man to manage such a feat in 1988, as did Rod Laver, who won all four Grand Slams in 1969, and Jimmy Connors, who won the Australian, Wimbledon and the US Open in 1974. Don Budge was the first player to win all four major titles in the same year—the Grand Slam—in 1938. The term “Grand Slam” was first coined when American tennis writer Allison Danzig suggested in 1938 that Budge scored a Grand Slam of victories—like a winning bridge player—at the four most prestigious championships of the year.
Laver, a left-hander given the nickname the “Rockhampton Rocket,” even managed to win the Grand Slam twice—once in 1962 as an amateur and again in 1969 as a professional. In Laver’s time, however, this accomplishment had a different value and was less significant than today as three of the four Grand Slam events were played on grass courts, unlike the four different surfaces of today’s game.
In women’s tennis, three players have won the Grand Slam—the American Maureen Connolly (1953), the Australian Margaret Smith Court (1970), as well as Steffi Graf (1988). The German, who married Andre Agassi after her tennis career, also won at the Olympic Games in Seoul in 1988 giving her the distinction of winning what is called the “Golden Slam.” Martina Hingis, like Federer, won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open in 1997, narrowly missing the Grand Slam, with her surprising loss to Iva Majoli in the French final preventing her from joining this elite club.
In New York, Federer once again proved his ability to amplify his performance in the final stages of the tournament. He became the first professional player to win all of his first four Grand Slam tournament finals. It was almost equally amazing that in this feat, he lost only one set in his eight matches in the semifinals and finals. In the meantime, Federer’s US Open final marked the 11th straight victory in a tournament final. For Federer, a tournament final proved to be his greatest motivation. His attitude was simple—what’s the use of all the effort and match victories if you ultimately lose in the final? Winners stay, losers go.
The coup at Flushing Meadows transformed him into a sports star on Broadway. The American media celebrated him lavishly and some journalists even asked the question at such a pre-mature stage if he would be the man who would break Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slam titles.
Federer remained grounded and modest in the hour of his greatest achievement in the United States. “I honestly never expected to win the US Open,” he said. “Until a year ago, I always had problems in the United States. The Americans always play with more confidence in their home tournaments than anywhere else. Conditions are difficult with the high heat and humidity.”
But he admitted something else; “I had a strange feeling before the final because everybody was talking about how long it had been since anybody had won his first four Grand Slam finals. I knew that I only had this one chance to do this.” Some were already talking that Federer was in a position to achieve the Grand Slam, but he didn’t allow these musings of grandeur to mislead him. “I would be really happy if I were to win one of the four Grand Slams next year,” he said the day after his US Open triumph during an extended interview session with a select group of journalists. “I know that I have to work hard for each match and for each title. It’s crazy what’s happening to me now. It’s out of this world.”
Federer’s US Open title generously extended his points lead on the No. 1 ranking. His margin between him at No. 1 and Roddick, his next challenger at No. 2, was extended from 1390 points to 2990 points—the equivalent of three Grand Slam titles. It would be impossible for any player to overtake him before the end of the year, even if Federer lost every match for the rest of the year. In the last four years, the year-end Tennis Masters Cup was the final determining tournament to decide the year-end No. 1 player. However, 2004 was not a normal year and thanks to the US Open, the year-end No. 1 was already in the books.
The Monday after the US Open brought Federer to the realization that the clocks tick differently in the American media world. He was chauffeured in a stretch limousine from one television station to another—7:45 am at ESPN’s show “Cold Pizza,” then at 8:30 am to the “CBS Early Show” and then at 9:30 am at “Live with Regis and Kelly,” followed by a photo shoot in Times Square, and a meeting with a select group of print journalists at the Hard Rock Café. At 2:30 pm, he was a guest on John McEnroe’s television talk show, and finally he appeared on the “Charlie Rose Show.” He had to prove his dexterity at ping-pong at two of his television appearances. Many things are possible in the United States, but setting up a tennis court in a television studio is not one of them.
It was 40 years ago today, June 25, that one of the greatest matches in the history of Wimbledon – and in tennis – was concluded on Centre Court at Wimbledon. Forty-one-year-old Pancho Gonzales finished off his 5 hour, 12 minute victory over Charlie Pasarell, coming back from two-sets-to-love down and saving seven match points. That match – as well as other Wimbledon Classics – are documented below in the June 25 excerpt from ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennishistorybook.com).
1969 – Forty-one-year-old Pancho Gonzales finishes off his classic, darkness-delayed five-set win over Charlie Pasarell 22-24, 1-6, 16-14, 6-3, 11-9 in 5 hours, 12 minutes – the longest match played at Wimbledon at the time. Gonzales, 20 years removed from when he won his last major at age 21 at Forest Hills, trails Pasarell two-sets to love when the match was suspended the night before due to darkness after 2 hours, 20 minutes of play. Gonzales sweeps all three sets on its resumption to move into the second round, but heroically fights off seven match points in the fifth set – at 4-5, 0-40, at 5-6, 0-40 and at 7-8, ad-out. Writes Fred Tupper of the New York Times of the match’s conclusion, “It was a question of raw courage now. How long could Pancho go on? He was leaning on his racquet between exchanges, flicking globules of sweat off his brow. At 9-9, Pasarell played a bad game. He double-faulted, hit a volley wide, a lob over the baseline and another volley just out. Gonzalez served for the match. A serve, a smash to deep court and a backhand volley that creased the sideline put him at match point. In sepulchral silence, Gonzalez toed the tape to serve. Then Pasarell lobbed out. Gonzalez had taken 11 points in a row. He had clawed his way back and won.” In 1989, in a second-round match played over three days, Greg Holmes beats fellow American Todd Witsken 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 14-12 in 5 hours, 28 minutes.
1953 – In the what the New York Times calls “one of the finest matches seen here since the war,” No. 4 seed Jaroslav Drobny defeats 1950 champion Budge Patty 8-6, 16-18, 3-6, 8-6, 12-10 in four-and-a-half hours in the third round of Wimbledon. The match, concluded in fading light on Centre Court, is the longest match played at Wimbledon at the time – eclipsed by the Pancho Gonzalez-Charlie Pasarell match in 5:12 in 1969. Patty has six match points in the match – three in the fourth set and three more in the fifth set – but is unable to convert.
1973 – The 1973 editions of The Championships at Wimbledon begins, but not with 82 of the top men’s players who boycott the event in support of Yugoslav player Nikki Pilic, who is suspended by the International Lawn Tennis Federation for not participating in Davis Cup for his country. The boycott is led by the new men’s player union, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and includes such notable players as defending champion Stan Smith, John Newcombe, Ken Rosewall and Arthur Ashe. Ilie Nastase, Jimmy Connors and Britain’s Roger Taylor are among the notable players who refuse to boycott the tournament. Jan Kodes of Czechoslvakia, the No. 2 seed, goes on to win the tournament, defeating Alex Metreveli of the Soviet Union in the men’s final.
1979 – Wimbledon’s famous “Graveyard Court” – Court No. 2 – claims two high profile first round victims as 1975 Wimbledon champion Arthur Ashe, in what ultimately becomes his final match at the All- England Club, is defeated by No. 139 ranked Australian Chris Kachel 6-4, 7-6, 6-3, while No. 4 seed Vitas Gerulaitis is defeated by fellow American Pat DuPre 7-6, 6-3, 3-6, 3-6, 6-3.
2001 – For the second time in three years, Martina Hingis exits in the first round of Wimbledon as the No. 1 seed. Hingis, 20, loses on Court No. 1 to No. 83-ranked Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain 6-4, 6-2 in 1 hour, 7 minutes. Two years earlier, in 1999, the top-seeded Hingis is also bounced in the first round by qualifier Jelena Dokic. Says Hingis, the 1997 Wimbledon champion, after her loss to Ruano Pascual, “It seems like I do really well here or I lose in the first round here.”
2005 – Jill Craybas, the No. 85-ranked player in the world, performs a shocking upset of two-time champion Serena Williams 6-3, 7-6 (3) in the third round of Wimbledon. “Horrible,” Williams mutters in a post-match press conference when asked how she was feeling. “I guess I had a lot of rust. I just didn’t play well today. I mean, the other days I kind of played through it and got better in the second and third sets. Today, I just didn’t do anything right.” The match was originally scheduled for Centre Court, but due to weather delays, the match is moved to Court No. 2, the “Graveyard Court” where champions such as Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Pete Sampras have all lost. At one point during the match, Williams misses a backhand and exclaims, “What am I doing out here?!”
2002 – One year removed from his stunning round of 16 upset of seven-time champion Pete Sampras No. 7 seed Roger Federer is bounced in the opening round of Wimbledon by 18-year-old Croat Mario Ancic by a 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-3 margin. Says the No. 154-ranked Ancic, “I came first time to play Centre, Wimbledon, they put me on Centre Court for my first time. I qualified, nothing to lose, I was just confidence. I knew I could play. I believe in myself and just go out there and try to do my best. Just I didn’t care who did I play. Doesn’t matter…I knew him (Federer) from TV. I knew already how is he playing. I don’t know that he knew how I was playing, but that was my advantage. And yeah, I didn’t have any tactics, just I was enjoying.” Following the loss, Federer goes on to win his next 40 matches at Wimbledon – including five straight titles – before losing in the 2008 final to Rafael Nadal of Spain.
1996 – “Hen-mania” begins at Wimbledon as 21-year-old Tim Henman wins his first big match at the All England Club, coming back from a two-sets-to-love deficit – and saving two match points – to upset No. 5 seed and reigning French Open champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov 7-6 (8-6), 6-3, 6-7 (2-7), 4-6, 7-5 in the first round in what Jennifer Frey of the Washington Post calls “a cliffhanger that enraptured the winner’s countrymen in the Centre Court seats.” Henman goes on to reach the quarterfinals, where he is defeated by American Todd Martin 7-6 (5), 7-6 (2), 6-4, but remains a threat to win the title of much of the next decade, thrilling British fans in the excitement of the possibility of a home-grown player becoming the first player to win the men’s singles title at Wimbledon since Fred Perry won his last of three titles in 1936.
1988 – Thirty-five-year old Jimmy Connors fights back after trailing two-sets-to-love to defeat fellow American Derrick Rostagno 7-5, 4-6, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 in 4 hours, 2 minutes in the third round of Wimbledon. Says Rostagno of Connors, “He comes up with things you haven’t seen before. Tennis is an art and he’s an artist. It was thrilling, a pleasure to play against.” Says Connors, “My game has always been to stay in until I die.”
2001 – In his third appearance in the main draw at Wimbledon, Roger Federer finally wins his first match in the men’s singles competition, defeating Christophe Rochus of Belgium 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 in the first round.
Roger Federer beat Rafael Nadal 6-4 6-4 to win the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open men’s singles in Madrid, Spain
Dinara Safina beat Caroline Wozniacki 6-2 6-4 in Madrid, Spain, to win the women’s singles at the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open.
Marc Gicquel beat Mathieu Montcourt 3-6 6-1 6-4 to win the BNP Paribas Primrose Bordeaux in Bordeaux, France
“I thought I took all the right decisions today. In the end it was a perfect game for me. (You) stay positive and I did. I got the win I needed badly.” – Roger Federer, after beating Rafael Nadal.
“There are no positives, there is little to analyze. He broke and broke and I went home.” – Rafael Nadal, after losing to Roger Federer.
“I’m very disappointed I can play this well and still not win a match.” – Novak Djokovic, after losing to Rafael Nadal in the semifinals.
“Since I became No. 1 I’m playing better and better.” – Dinara Safina, after winning the Madrid Open women’s title.
“I don’t want anybody telling me all the time what to do. I want to do my own thing. I’m more relaxed, easy going. I’m not worried too much. If it goes my way, fine. If not, I’ll keep trying.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, who hired Larisa Savchenko as her new coach.
“After a few weeks of training I got the hunger back. I felt really good and wanted the challenge to see if I can still be up there (competing on the tour).” – Kim Clijsters, a former top-ranked player who will return to the WTA Tour in August.
“It’s going to be a challenge but she seems really determined. She has the talent and the tennis. I really think she can do it.” – Steffi Graf, on Kim Clijsters rejoining the WTA Tour.
“It is truly a page that has been turned. It was 20 years of my life. Now life is something different.” – Justine Henin, saying she will not follow Kim Clijsters in returning to the WTA Tour.
“Sometimes it’s hard to fully accept change in some respects. It’s an exciting change, it’s an asset for fans and for players.” – Andre Agassi, about the roof over Wimbledon’s famed Centre Court.
“That’s saying something when this is already the best and most famous court in the world, but I’m intrigued to see what level the atmosphere might go to. Given the right scenarios with the right match and players, it could be really something.” – Tim Henman, on the new roof covering Wimbledon’s famed Centre Court.
“The small amounts gambled (and) the absence of influence of the bets on the matches in question.” – The Court of Arbitration for Sport, announcing the reason that the suspension of Mathieu Montcourt for betting on matches has been reduced from eight to five weeks.
SUCCESS AT LAST
Roger Federer ended his five-match losing streak to his top rival when he shocked Rafael Nadal in the final of the Madrid Open. That stretch included the finals at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the Australian Open. Calling his first win over Nadal since the 2007 Masters Tennis Cup “very satisfying,” Federer now trails in their head-to-head meetings 7-13. It was the 16th time the two have played for a title, with Nadal winning 11 times. Only Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe have met in more finals among the men: 20. And it was only the second time that Federer has beaten Nadal on clay. The Swiss star is the only player ranked in the top 10 to have ever beaten Nadal on the surface.
Organizers of the Dubai Tennis Championships have agreed to pay a USD $300,000 fine assessed against the tournament when Israel’s Shahar Peer was not allowed to enter the country. The WTA Tour board rejected Dubai’s appeal of the record fine, which was more than twice as much as the previous highest. The United Arab Emirates refused to grant Peer a visa just before she was due to arrive at the Dubai tournament in February. The WTA Tour also demanded that any Israeli players who qualify for the 2010 tournament must receive visas at least eight weeks before the tournament. “I just say that it’s a shame that Shahar could not compete in the tournament because she has nothing to do with the politics – she’s a tennis player,” said top-ranked Dinara Safina.
Emilie Loit and five other Frenchwomen have been awarded wild cards for direct entry into the main draw at this year’s Roland Garros. The French Open begins on May 24 in Paris. Claire Feuerstein, Kinnie Laisne, Kristina Mladenovic, Irena Pavlovic and Olivia Sanchez will be joined by American Lauren Embree and Australian Olivia Rogowska in receiving wild cards from the French Tennis Federation. Given wild cards into the women’s qualifying draw were Chloe Babet, Simona Halep, Florence Haring, Violette Huck, Karla Mraz, Laura Thorpe, Aurelie Vedy and Stephanie Vongsouthi.
Kim Clijsters made a splash when she helped inaugurate the new roof over Wimbledon’s Centre Court. After Clijsters and Tim Henman teamed up to win a mixed doubles challenge against Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi, Clijsters beat Graf 6-4 and earned a standing ovation from the crowd for the quality of tennis. “I had started practicing again, but I was really out of shape and I didn’t want to embarrass myself,” said Clijsters, who has married and had a child since she retired from the sport. “About four weeks into training I felt I would like to compete again on tour. Since then I have been training really hard.”
SEX AND TENNIS
Anna Kournikova wants to get away from her sexy tennis star image – at least somewhat. The Russian, who works for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the Cartoon Network, says she is driven to get kids more involved in sports and exercise. Kournikova began her professional tennis career at the age of 14. And while many think of her as the sexy tennis player, she was ranked as high as eighth in the world in singles and won two Grand Slam tournament doubles titles, partnering with Martina Hingis. While she has not played on the WTA Tour since 2003, Kournikova participates in World Team Tennis and occasionally plays exhibitions. And she hasn’t abandoned modeling. “You’ve got to have some kind of income,” Kournikova said.
SPOT FOR GAUDIO
Gaston Gaudio of Argentina will be playing at Roland Garros again. Gaudio, who won the French Open in 2004, was granted a wild card for this year’s tournament. The 30-year-old right-hander last won a tournament at Kitzbuhel, Austria, in 2005. Once ranked fifth in the world, Gaudio has dropped to 395th in the world rankings.
It was a doubleheader at the Madrid Open when both Philipp Kohlschreiber and Nikolay Davydenko pulled out of the tournament. Both players said they had injured their left leg and had to withdraw. Kohlschreiber was facing Rafael Nadal in his next match, while Davydenko was scheduled to face Andy Roddick. Both Nadal and Roddick moved into the quarterfinals with walkovers.
SEE, ME TOO
Roland Garros is playing follow the leader, with officials saying the French Open will have a new center court with a retractable roof in place by 2013 or 2014. Wimbledon will have a retractable roof on its Centre Court for the first time at this year’s tournament. The retractable roof-covered stadium in Paris was supposed to be ready for the 2012 Olympics, but it was delayed when France failed to get the Games. Jean Gachassin, president of the French Tennis Federation (FFT), said the future of Roland Garros depends on it getting the roof. “The goal is to have an outdoor stadium that can be covered, instead of an indoor stadium that can be uncovered,” said Marc Mimram, the head architect for the project. The Australian Open has two courts with roofs, while organizers of the US Open are considering building a roof over its main court, Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf say their names and trademarks are being used on Web sites without their permission. The two, who are married, have filed separate cyber squatting claims in federal court. Agassi claims that the domain names andre-agassi.com, andre-agassi.net and andre-agassi.info have been registered. Graf says steffigraf.com, steffigraf.net and steffigraf.info have been registered without her consent. Both Agassi and Graf are seeking ownership of the domain names.
When he finally serves his suspension for betting on matches, Mathieu Montcourt will only miss five weeks on the ATP tour instead of eight weeks. And he will be able to compete at both Wimbledon and the US Open this summer. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) noted the 24-year-old Montcourt bet a total of USD $192 on 36 different tennis events, but none on his own matches or at tournaments where he was playing. Citing “the small amounts gambled (and) the absence of influence of the bets on the matches in question,” the CAS reduced Montcourt ban to five weeks, starting July 6. The Frenchman was a finalist this past week at the BNP Paribas Primrose Bordeaux where he lost to Marc Gicquel 3-6 6-1 6-4 in Bordeaux, France.
Just because she has picked up a racquet and hit with longtime coach Carlos Rodriguez, Justine Henin says she has no plans to un-retire like fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters. “I hasten to add, just to improve my condition and stay healthy,” Henin said of the practice. A year after she surprised the world by retiring while ranked number one in the world, Henin says she still feels the pain of competitive tennis every day. “If it is not the knee, it is the shoulder,” she said. The seven-time Grand Slam tournament champion is now a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, earlier this year visiting eastern Congo, and is appearing on Belgian television in a show titled “12 works of Justine Henin.”
SCRAPPING TENNIS PROGRAMS
In cost-cutting moves, two American colleges have dropped their tennis programs. Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana, suspended indefinitely its tennis programs affected 12 student-athletes, seven men and five women, as well as coach Malik Tabet and assistant coach Martha Montoya. Athletic director Ron Prettyman said he had to cut USD $350,000 from his budget. The university says it will honor all scholarships for the 2009-2010 school year for tennis players who want to stay at ISU, while those who want to transfer will be able to play at other schools.
At Southeastern Louisiana in Hammond, Louisiana, the men’s tennis team was cut because of the budget. Officials said the move to drop the 10-player squad was because next year’s proposed state budget calls for chopping millions of dollars from public universities. Southeastern plans to retain men’s tennis coach Jason Hayes, who also oversees the women’s team, which for now will be spared.
The University of La Verne in Southern California won’t drop its women’s tennis team after all. Two weeks after announcing it was dropping the sport temporarily, the women’s program has been reinstated. The biggest problem at the La Verne, California, school – located 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles – was the lack of a facility since the school turned the courts into a parking lot in 2007. But the school worked out a deal to use the facilities at The Claremont Club during the spring, making it possible for the school to keep its program. The men’s tennis program, however, remains on hiatus with no definitive timetable for its return.
Madrid (men): Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic beat Simon Aspelin and Wesley Moodie 6-4 6-4
Madrid (women): Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Kveta Peschke and Lisa Raymond 4-6 6-3 10-6 (match tiebreak)
Bordeaux: Pablo Cuevas and Horacio Zeballos beat Xavier Pujo and Stephane Robert 4-6 6-4 10-4 (match tiebreak)
SITES TO SURF
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$490,000 Interwetten Austrian Open, Kitzbuhel, Austria, clay
$1,800,000 ARAG ATP World Team Championships, Dusseldorf, Germany, clay
$600,000 Warsaw Open, Warsaw, Poland, clay
$220,000 Internationaux de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France, clay
Grand Champions Brazil, Sao Paulo, Brazil, hard
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
ATP and WTA
Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay (first week)