tournament tennis

PEER POLITICS, HENIN AND THE MAGICIAN: THE FRIDAY FIVE

By Maud Watson

Political Pandemonium – Once again, there was an ugly scene at the WTA Auckland event, as protesters against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians voiced their discontent during Israeli Shahar Peer’s matches. All credit to Peer, however, who managed to block it all out and reach the semifinals before losing to Yanina Wickmayer. Another positive bit of news for Peer is that the WTA has received, in writing, assurances from the UAE that she will be granted a visa to compete in Dubai. For those who remember, Peer was denied the visa in 2009, and the WTA was forced to impose a $300,000 fine on the Dubai event. While things are still far from perfect, it’s nice to see that sometimes sports can rise above politics.

She’s Ba-ack! – The moment tennis fans around the world have been waiting for has arrived as Justine Henin made her official return to tournament tennis at the Brisbane event this week.  With the exception of her quarterfinal match in which she was forced to show her true grit and determination to grind out a third set tiebreak win, Henin has crushed the competition en route to the final, including a dominating performance over former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic in the semifinals.  She now faces the current comeback queen and fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters in the final.  Looks the WTA season has started with a bang!

History Beckons – No, Fabrice Santoro hasn’t caught the contagious comeback bug.  He is merely unable to resist the opportunity to etch his name into the record books.  The Frenchman affectionately known as “the magician,” who retired at the 2009 Paris Masters event, has changed his mind and opted to play the 2010 Australian Open.  By playing at the opening Major of the season, Santoro will become the first player to have competed at the Grand Slam events over the course of four different decades.  It’s a great achievement, and I’m sure fans will appreciate the chance to see this crafty player take to the courts as he makes his final curtain call.

Suck It Up – That’s essentially what the ITF will be saying to those players who find themselves wilting under hot conditions or over the course of long matches in all ITF events, which includes the four Slams. I for one was thrilled to read that the ITF was taking a stand on this issue, as it’s been long overdue.  It about time those players who put in the time during the off season are allowed to start reaping the benefits of their hard work instead of having to watch a physically weak opponent break the momentum of a match to receive a massage for cramps, and in some cases, unjustly squeak out the win.  Now, if we could just get the governing bodies to start enforcing the time rule in between points we’d be in business.

Murray Out Of Davis Cup – Once again, Andy Murray has disappointed the people of Great Britain by stating he will not be representing his country in the upcoming tie with Lithuania.  It has to be disappointing for a nation that at one time was one of the top dogs in the tennis world.  That said, it is hard to fault Murray when Roger Federer also appears reluctant to represent Switzerland against Spain in early March, with his reason being a scheduling conflict with the regular tour season.  This is just another blaring example that shows the ITF needs to do something to change the format of the Davis Cup competition, or else blockbuster matchups such as Switzerland vs. Spain are going to continue to go bust in a hurry.

Newport Philippoussis Beats Pernfors In “Comfortable” Newport

NEWPORT, R.I., August 21 – Playing in his fourth career Outback Champions Series event, Philippoussis co-incidentally last captured a tournament title on the International Tennis Hall of Fame grounds back in 2006 when he won the ATP Tour’s Campbell’s Hall of Fame Championships, his 11th career ATP title.

“It feels nice to be back in Newport,” said Philippoussis. “I had a great experience and a memorable week here in 2006. Everything feels so comfortable because it’s absolutely gorgeous here. You can mill around. The town is very easy on the eyes. It’s a great little tournament. You hit some balls, play matches, and it just feels very laid back and obviously winning here was even nicer.”

Since his ATP win in Newport, Philippoussis, 32, has struggled with knee injuries that has kept him on and off the ATP Tour and the Outback Champions Series circuit. He last played against ATP level competition at the 2007 Hopman Cup mixed team event in Perth, Australia. Following knee surgery in early 2007, Philippoussis returned to competitive tournament tennis at the Outback Champions Series event in Dallas in 2007, losing the third-place match to John McEnroe. Earlier this year, he competed in Outback Champions Series events in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he finished with a 1-2 round-robin record, and in Grand Cayman, where he reached the semifinals losing to Jim Courier.

Nick-named “Scud” for his missile-like velocity of his first serve, the 2003 Wimbledon finalist and former world No. 8 struggled at times with his serve against Pernfors as a brisk breeze from the Atlantic Ocean descended upon the Hall of Fame complex. The Scud’s deliveries, however, were enough to cause Pernfors to offer a “just get out of the way” defense of how you handle the Australian’s rocket first serve.

“It was a good serve day except for that one game (at 4-3 in the second set) where I had like nine double faults and ten aces,” said Philippoussis. “It kept him guessing.”

Cash, the defending champion who beat Jim Courier in last year’s final, rallied from a 1-4 first-set deficit against Wilander in a re-match of the 1988 Australian Open final, won by Wilander in five sets. Cash said he is looking forward to his match Saturday with Philippoussis, a player he coached during a short stint just over 10 years ago.

In the other men’s semifinal Saturday, 2007 Hall of Fame Champions Cup winner Todd Martin will face Courier, the current No. 1 ranked player on the Outback Champions Series.

The matches on Friday were played 109 years to the day on the same court as the men’s singles final of the 1900 U.S. Championships (the modern day U.S. Open) when Malcolm Whitman defeated fellow American Bill Larned 6-4, 1-6, 6-2, 6-2.

Ticket information for the weekend’s matches can be found at www.TennisFame.com. The remaining schedule of play is as follows;

Saturday, August 22nd – 1pm
Singles Semifinal – Martin vs. Courier
Followed by Doubles Exhibition
Followed by Singles Semifinal – Philippoussis vs. Cash winner

Sunday, August 23rd – 1pm
Championship Match
Followed by
3rd Place Match

Pete Sampras won the opening event on the 2009 Outback Champions Series, defeating John McEnroe in the final of the Champions Cup Boston in February. McEnroe won the second event of the year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, defeating Courier in the final. Sampras won his second title of the year at the Del Mar Development Champions Cup in Los Cabos, Mexico, defeating Patrick Rafter in the final. Courier won his first title of the 2009 season in April at the Cayman Islands, defeating Jimmy Arias in the final. Following Newport, remaining events on the Outback Champions Series will be held in Charlotte (Sept. 24-27), Surprise, Ariz. (Oct. 8-11) and Dubai, U.A.E. (Nov. 18-21).

Courier leads the current Champions Rankings on the Outback Champions Series entering Newport with 2000 points, followed by Sampras with 1600 points and McEnroe with 1300 points. Arias sits at a career-high No. 4 Outback Champions Series ranking with 1050 points, followed by Cash with 700 points at No. 5 and Philippoussis at No. 6 with 600 points. Wilander, Pernfors and Patrick Rafter are tied at No. 7 with 500 points, while Martin rounds out the top 10 with 400 points.

Founded in 2005, the Outback Champions Series features some of the biggest names in tennis over the last 25 years, including Andre Agassi, Sampras, McEnroe, Courier and others. To be eligible to compete on the Outback Champions Series, players must have reached at least a major singles final, been ranked in the top five in the world or played singles on a championship Davis Cup team. The Outback Champions Series features eight events on its 2009 schedule with each event featuring $150,000 in prize money as well as Champions Series points that will determine the year-end Champions Rankings No. 1.

The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, established in 1954, is a non-profit institution dedicated to preserving the history of tennis, inspiring and encouraging junior tennis development, enshrining tennis heroes and heroines, and providing a landmark for tennis enthusiasts worldwide. It was recognized as the sport’s official Hall of Fame in 1986 by the International Tennis Federation, the governing body of tennis. The International Tennis Hall of Fame’s legendary grass courts remain the only competition grass courts available for professional events and exhibitions, while also available for public play. For more information about the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, events and programs, please call 401-849-3990 or log on to www.tennisfame.com

InsideOut Sports + Entertainment is a New York City-based independent producer of proprietary events and promotions founded in 2004 by former world No. 1 and Hall of Fame tennis player Jim Courier and former SFX and Clear Channel executive Jon Venison. In 2005, InsideOut launched its signature property, the Outback Champions Series, a collection of tennis events featuring the greatest names in tennis over the age of 30. In addition, InsideOut produces many other successful events including “Legendary Night” exhibitions, charity events, private corporate outings and tennis fantasy camps such as the annual “Ultimate Fantasy Camp”. Through 2008, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment events have raised over $4 million for charity. For more information, please log on to www.InsideOutSE.com or www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com.

Olympus US Open Series Sixth Season Launches Today With The Indianapolis Tennis Champion

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., July 20, 2009 – The USTA announced today the launch of the sixth season of the Olympus US Open Series, the six-week North American summer tennis season that links 10 ATP World Tour and Sony Ericsson WTA Tour summer tournaments to the US Open.  Since its inception in 2004, the six-week Olympus US Open Series has doubled television viewership and increased event attendance, while generating new corporate partnerships for the sport.  The full summer schedule is attached.

Throughout the summer, the Series will feature more than 200 national television hours on ESPN2, CBS and Tennis Channel, highlighted by back-to-back men’s and women’s finals on Sundays on ESPN2 and select finals on CBS.  The Olympus US Open Series premieres Friday, July 24, with two hours on Tennis Channel, followed by four hours on ESPN2.  An additional seven hours of coverage on both networks will follow over the weekend, with the finals airing live on Sunday on ESPN2 beginning at 3 p.m. ET.

More than 200 of the game’s top players will compete during the Series for over $30 million in prize money.  Additionally, through the Olympus US Open Series Bonus Challenge, players will be competing for more than $2.6 million in potential bonus prize money.  Bonus prize money is awarded to the top three men and top three women in the Series based on their performance at the US Open.

Olympus, the Series’ inaugural sponsor, is continuing its partnership with the USTA as the title sponsor of the Series.  The Olympus US Open Series season will be supported by a multi-million dollar national marketing campaign, a redesigned OlympusUSOpenSeries.com website, and increased sponsor activation on both the national and local level.

“I’m looking forward to my return to tournament tennis on the Olympus US Open Series this summer,” said Kim Clijsters, who is playing Olympus US Open Series events in Cincinnati and Toronto after leaving the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour to give birth to her first child in February last year.   “I’ve played some of my best tennis during the Series and think it is a great lead-up to the US Open for players and for fans.” In 2005, Clijsters earned the biggest paycheck in the history of women’s tennis — $2.2 million — by winning the Olympus US Open Series and US Open.

“I am very excited about coming back to competition and the Olympus US Open Series is the best place to do so. Those events coming up are important in the tennis calendar and also a perfect way to gain the right pace and rhythm for the last Grand Slam of the year, the US Open,” said Rafael Nadal, who had his career best showing at the US Open last year after winning the Olympus US Open Series.  “On a personal level, I know it will be tough since I have been away from competition for some time now. In any case I am confident and will give it my all out there.”

”I think creating the Olympus US Open Series was great as it puts the summer tennis season under one roof and makes it cohesive,” said Andy Roddick, who won back-to-back Olympus US Open Series titles in 2005 and 2006.  “I’ve done well at a lot of the tournaments, and have a history with these lead-up events.  It is one of the parts of the year that I look forward to most.”

“We created the Olympus US Open Series with the goal of elevating the sport of tennis in North America,” said Jim Curley, Chief Professional Tournaments Officer, USTA.  “By working closely and collaboratively with both tours, our television partners and sponsors, and the tournaments and players, we have created a true showcase for tennis that is having great results across the board.”

National Television Broadcasts

More than 200 hours of tennis action will be televised during the six weeks of the Olympus US Open Series, with ESPN2 remaining the lead broadcaster, and additional national coverage on CBS and Tennis Channel. The Olympus US Open Series, with the US Open, provides tennis with more live national television coverage during its eight weeks than any other summer sport over the same time period.  Series broadcasts have reached an average of 41 million viewers annually over the first five years, more than doubling viewership numbers of these events prior to the launch of the Series in 2004.

Instant replays and official reviews on television broadcasts will continue to be branded the “Chase Review,” and as in 2008, players will have three challenges per set plus one additional during a tiebreaker.

National Marketing Campaign

This year for the first time, the Olympus US Open Series and the US Open are being marketed under the same campaign, entitled, “It Must Be Love.” This year’s multi-million dollar marketing and advertising campaign features some of the games biggest stars and is a multimedia effort that includes national television, radio, print, digital media and customized local executions in Olympus US Open Series markets.  More than a dozen top players, including Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Ana Ivanovic, Roger Federer, Venus Williams, Andy Roddick, James Blake, and Jelena Jankovic, were filmed for the campaign.

In all, 13 30-second TV ads will comprise the television campaign, which will air nationally in and outside of tennis programming on CBS, ESPN2, NBC, ABC, and Tennis Channel.  Print executions will appear throughout the summer in USA Today, The New York Times and other top metropolitan markets and an accompanying radio campaign — which includes over 40,000 spots — will air in markets around the country to drive television tune-in.

Bogomolov Wins Gotham Tennis Academy “Hamptons 20-Ball Open”

AMAGANSETT, N.Y. July 5, 2009 – Alex Bogomolov of Long Branch, N.J. defeated Noam Okun of Israel 20-18, 17-20, 10-8 to win the $10,000 first prize at the first annual Gotham Tennis Academy “Hamptons 20-Ball Open” Sunday at the Napeague Tennis Club. The unique single day event featured first-to-20-point match formats beginning with a ground-stroke feed.

“It feels great to win this tournament,” said Bogomolov, ranked No. 179 in the ATP singles rankings. “I love this format and I challenge anybody to play me in a groundstroke game.”

Bogomolov has never been beaten in this unique competitive format. Last summer in Los Angeles, he won the only other known professional “20-ball” tournament, defeating John Isner in the semifinals and Philip King in the final. Bogomolov used the Hamptons 20-Ball as a preparation for his return to ATP tournament tennis. The bronze medalist for the United States at the 2003 Pan American Games team will play in Newport, R.I. this week in his first ATP-level tournament since the 2008 Sony Ericsson Open and since he underwent surgery on his left wrist late last year. Since his surgery, Bogomolov, ranked as high as No. 97 in 2003, has served as the touring professional for Gotham Tennis and worked with its officials to create the special formatted tournament for this summer at Napeague.

Okun, a member of Israel’s Davis Cup team from 1999 to 2008, traveled to the Hamptons from Winnetka, Ill., where he competed in the Nielsen USTA Challenger, losing in the round of 16.

“We both played really well and it was a great atmosphere and a great event here in the Hamptons,” said Okun, ranked No. 309, but as high as No. 95 in 2002. “Alex was just too tough and too solid for me. This is the first time I have played a tournament in this format, and I enjoyed it. The Napeague Tennis Club is very nice. The courts here are great. They are so even, which is very unusual for a clubs with clay courts, where they have courts that have a lot of bad bounces, but not here.”

The tournament was played simultaneously as the epic men’s singles final at Wimbledon, where Roger Federer won his record-breaking 15th major singles title, defeating Andy Roddick 5-7, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 16-14. When not playing their matches, players were glued to the television watching the drama unfold at the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

“Andy was outplaying Roger for most of the match,” said Bogomolov, who beat Roddick to win the 1998 USTA National Boy’s 16 Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich. “The match is a different story if Andy wins one of those points at 6-2 in the second set tie-breaker and goes up two sets to love. I think losing that set from being up 6-2 made Andy uncertain about himself for the much of the rest of the match, even though he won the fourth set.”

“It was a great match,” said Okun, who lost to Roddick 6-3, 6-3 in a round of 16 match in Indianapolis in 2005. “I feel really bad for Andy. He played unbelievable, but not well enough to beat Roger Federer. There are no words to describe Roger Federer. He is the best player ever. He is so great for tennis.”

The one-day “20-Ball” event featured many fast-paced and entertaining matches featuring men and women who have represented their countries in Davis Cup, Fed Cup and Pan American Games competitions.

Three women registered wins over men in the co-ed event. Former Slovenian Fed Cupper Petra Rampe, currently ranked No. 375 in the WTA rankings, defeated Napeague member Rick Rudeman 20-12 in the first round before losing to Felipe Meier of Sweden 20-16 in the second round. Former Ukrainian Fed Cupper Elena Jirnova of Kiev defeated Napeague member and film director Mark Levin 20-5 in the first round before falling to East Hampton junior standout Max Hirsh in the second round. Suzanne Sales of Boston defeated Scott Marden in the first round 20-1 before losing to Ytai Abougzir 20-6 in the second round.

Sponsors of the Hamptons 20-Ball include Grand Central Racquet, Tiffany’s of East Hampton, Gubbins Sports of East Hampton, Gone Local, Hamptons.com, Montauk Chamber of Commerce, WHEN Radio and Pop Chips.

The Napeague Tennis Club is located at 2145 Montauk Highway in Amagansett, N .Y.  The club features four immaculately-maintained clay courts and one artificial grass court. The Napeague Tennis Club offers excellent tennis programming at reasonable prices including individual and family memberships, corporate memberships, adult and children’s tennis clinics, tennis parties, tennis camps and private tennis lessons. It is the preferred destination for tennis in the Hamptons because of its relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere, beautiful clay courts, close proximity to the beach, and reasonable prices. “Napeague is a very special place” says Tennis Director Brian Helm. “It’s an oasis of calm with high-level, state-of-the-art tennis programming for players of all levels.”

The mission of Gotham Tennis Academy is to provide friendly, personalized, high-performance tennis instruction in convenient facilities for Manhattan and Hamptons clients. In addition to operating the Napeague Tennis Club in the Hamptons, Gotham Tennis Academy has established a reputation for excellent tennis programming at three Manhattan locations — the Harlem Armory Tennis Center, the Midtown Tennis Club and the Riverside Clay Tennis Association. Gotham Tennis Academy offers tennis programs year-round to players of all ages and skill levels. Gotham Tennis Academy’s goal is to help each player improve all aspects of his or her tennis game. More information on Gotham Tennis Academy can be found at www.GothamTennis.com .