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The Friday Five: Hingis ban has been lifted

Hingis ban has been lifted

By Maud Watson

WTA Woe in Tokyo – As one of the Premier events on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, the Toray Pan Pacific Open drew a great field, including 9 of the current top 10 players.  Fans and tournament organizers alike should have been able to pencil in some mouth-watering quarterfinal match-ups.  But as it seems has happened so often throughout the year, the draw fell apart, with 7 of the top 10 seeds losing before the third round.  Like ‘em or hate ‘em, the WTA needs some players with consistency, who show up week in, week out, and win Majors.  One hopes the nation of Belgium might soon be providing such competitors…

Great Panes – This past Monday, American up-and-comer Sam Querrey suffered what has to be considered among one of the most freak accidents in the world of sports.  After his practice session at the PTT Thailand Open, Sam sat on a glass table, which he fell through, resulting in him badly cutting his forearm and requiring emergency surgery.  He is expected to be out 4-6 weeks.  As one of the great hopes for American tennis and a player who has really turned it on over the past couple months, I hope to see Sam back in action sooner rather than later.

The Comeback Bug Continues – Perhaps not as notable as the return of both Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin, two other players making their comeback appearances earlier this week were Paradorn Srichaphan and Joachim Johansson.  Srichaphan ended a two-and-a-half year absence from the tour by pairing up with fellow countryman Danai Umdomchoke.  Though the pair lost in their opening match (and a successful Srichaphan comeback is unlikely), it was still nice to see one of the players so largely responsible for helping to put Asian tennis on the map have another go at it.  I was more excited about the return of big Swede Joachim Johansson in Malaysia.  With an impressive win over Lleyton Hewitt and a relatively tight three-set loss to Richard Gasquet, Johansson proved he still has game.  And at the age of 27 with his big serve, there’s no reason he can’t still do some damage on the ATP World Tour.

Rafa Ready – Contrary to some of the news you might have read in recent days, Rafael Nadal has declared himself fit and ready to go, and with the absence of Swiss maestro Roger Federer in Shanghai, Rafa will be looking to regain some of the ground (and aura) he lost over the summer.  More importantly to him, Rafa is prepared to represent his country in the Davis Cup final to be played in Spain against the Czech Republic December 4-6.  All I know is, I don’t envy the tough decisions Spanish Davis Cup captain Albert Costa is going to face!

The Ban is Lifted – This is a story that might fall through the cracks, but this past Wednesday marked the end of the two-year Martina Hingis was forced to serve, which effectively ended her comeback and her career.  I personally hated to see the ban slapped on her, because she brought a craftsmanship to the game that few of her peers could, not to mention the fact that the foundation of the case against her was suspect.  Her ban seemed even harsher and more ridiculous when Richard Gasquet got off with a mere two-month ban for essentially the same offense.  Hopefully the powers-at-be will learn from this miscarriage of justice, and hopefully Martina will continue to contribute to the sport in a myriad of other ways.

Mondays With Bob Greene: The Summary Of The First Week Of The US Open

Kim Clijsters

STARS

(US Open First Week)

Petra Kvitova beat top-seeded Dinara Safina 6-4 2-6 7-06 (5)

Kim Clijsters beat third-seeded Venus Williams 6-0 0-6 6-4

Melanie Oudin beat fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva 5-7 6-4 6-3

John Isner beat fifth-seeded Andy Roddick 7-6 (3) 6-3 3-6 5-7 7-6 (5)

Yaroslava Shvedova beat fifth-seeded Jelena Jankovic 6-3 6-7 (4) 7-6 (6)

Francesca Schiavone beat eighth-seeded Victoria Azarenko 4-6 6-2 6-2

SAYING

“I learned, once again, proved to myself that I can compete with these top girls. And if I believe in myself and my game, then I can beat them.” – Melanie Oudin, after upsetting Maria Sharapova to advance to the fourth round.

“She was playing very aggressively, really enjoying this atmosphere, the crowd support and really going for the winners. So it’s just the beginning, but it looks like she has a good future.” – Elena Dementieva, on American Melanie Oudin, who upset the fourth-seeded Russian in a second-round match.

“I like to do aces on the match points. I did it (at) the French Open. I did it twice. Yeah, close my match with an ace. So it was nice.” – Yaroslava Shvedova, who finished her upset of Jelena Jankovic with an ace.

“She pretty much takes my advice if I offer good advice. I don’t traditionally offer good advice, so she doesn’t normally take it.” – Serena Williams, asked if she gives advice to her sister Venus.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come here a little bit tired, a little bit sore, a little bit injured, a little bit distracted. There’s nowhere to hide out there, so I’ve lived and died on this court many times and taken a lot of people with me.” – Andre Agassi, talking about playing at the US Open.

“What Andre did in his career is incredibly impressive. But to have someone who can be more impressive after their career is so rare. It’s why someone like Arthur Ashe is my idol. I’m sure a lot of kids have grown up in this era after mine. I hope they have someone like Andre Agassi as their idol.” – James Blake.

“I was jealous. I was happy for everybody that was doing well. I’m friends with them all, but I was jealous. I wanted to be here competing and playing well and playing matches. So to be back here accomplishing that is pretty remarkable. I still have a long way to go. I still feel like my game is still pretty rough around the edges, but it’s extremely exciting.” – Taylor Dent, making his first US Open appearance since 2005 and after three back surgeries.

“My goal (was) to not get crushed and make it interesting for a little while at least. I got up a break a couple of times and that was fun while it lasted.” – Devin Britton, a wild card entry who lost a first-round match to top-seeded Roger Federer.

“I don’t want to make the decision to stop and then after two, six, eight months thinking, it was not quite the time yet. Because then it’s too hard, I would say, probably to make a comeback as Kim (Clijsters) is making now, given the age.” – Amelie Mauresmo, now 30 years old, saying she will wait until the end of the year before making a decision on whether to retire.

“I love winning tennis matches. If I get more money for more matches I win, that’s why we play. … It’s nice to get money for what you love to do.” – Jesse Witten, a qualifier who reached the third round before losing to Novak Djokovic.

I hated to lose more than I liked to win. – Jimmy Connors, explaining his mindset when he played.

SONY ERICSSON WTA TOUR

In 2010, the women’s tennis tour returns to San Diego, California, and will stage new events in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Copenhagen, Denmark. The 2010 calendar features 53 tournaments, in addition to the four Grand Slam events, with total prize money of more than USD $83 million. The international breadth of tournaments includes 24 events in Europe, 15 events in the Americas and 18 events in the Asia-Pacific region. “With three new tournaments investing in our sport in each of the United States, Europe and Asia-Pacific regions, the Tour’s 2010 calendar continues to showcase the global commercial strength of women’s tennis,” said Stacey Allaster, chairman and CEO of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. “I am proud of the fact that despite a worldwide recession we have been able to achieve modest growth.”

SAFINA SWITCH

When John Isner’s upset victory over fifth-seeded Andy Roddick went so late in the evening, tournament schedulers moved Dinara Safina’s match against the Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova from Arthur Ashe Stadium to Louis Armstrong. Safina wasn’t happy with the switch. “I’m number one player in the world, why did they move me?” Safina asked. “This is not an excuse, but I don’t think it’s a fair decision they made.” To make matters worse, the Russian lost to Kvitova 6-4 2-6 7-6 (5).

SUDDEN END

Sabine Lisicki left the court in a wheelchair after she severely sprained her ankle on the final point of her second-round match. Qualifier Anastasia Rodionova of Australia, ranked 139th in the world, upset the German 6-3 3-6 7-5. On match point, Lisicki, seeded 23rd in the year’s final Grand Slam tournament, raced to her left. But as she slid for the ball, she rolled her left ankle and stayed on the court for several minutes. The ankle was heavily wrapped and a wheelchair was brought to the court. Lisicki was taken to a hospital where x-rays showed there was no break.

STATISTICS AND OTHER LIES

Numbers don’t lie. Sometimes they just don’t tell the truth. Philipp Petzschner of Germany out-aced his foe 17-1 and had 52 winners – 24 more than his opponent. Yet when the 3-hour, second-round match was over, the winner was 24th-seeded Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain 1-6 3-6 6-4 6-2 6-4. The reason: Petzschner had 20 more unforced errors than Ferrero, 68-48, and the Spaniard won 147 points, nine more than the German.

Marat Safin had 15 aces to eight for Jurgen Melzer in their first-round battle. The two each had 40 winners, and Melzer had one fewer unforced errors, 28 to 29. The Austrian won three more points than his Russian opponent, 107-104, and when the contest was over, Melzer was the winner 1-6 6-4 6-3 6-4.

Andy Roddick won everything but the score in his third-round match against fellow American John Isner. Roddick won 162 points to Isner’s 155 and had his serve broken only once. Isner lost his serve twice, but he boomed 38 aces in the 3-hour, 51-minute battle and advanced to the fourth round at a Grand Slam event for the first time. It also was Isner’s first victory over a top five player.

STILL RELEVANT

The story of Rod Laver’s second Grand Slam season, capped by winning the US Open, is the subject of a book, “The Education of a Tennis Player.” Written with Hall of Fame journalist and historian Bud Collins, the book is Laver’s first-hand account of his 1969 Grand Slam season. Laver also writes about his childhood and early days in tennis, his 1962 Grand Slam and offers tips on how players of all levels can improve their games. Originally published in 1971, “The Education of a Tennis Player” was updated by Laver and Collins in 2009 with new content including Laver’s recovery from a near-fatal stroke in 1998. Laver won 11 major singles titles during his career, including Wimbledon in 1961, 1962, 1968 and 1969.

STARTING LATE

The US Open had its latest night session start in history during the first week. On Saturday, James Blake and Tommy Robredo took to the court at 10:35 p.m. following a special ceremony honoring Pancho Gonzalez. The night session normally starts at 7 p.m., but the last day match in Arthur Ashe Stadium, an all-American affair between fifth-seeded Andy Roddick and John Isner, lasted until 9:26 p.m. Officials moved the scheduled first night match between Dinara Safina and Petra Kvitova to Louis Armstrong Stadium and began the Blake-Robredo match in Ashe. Kvitova upset the top-seeded Safina, while Robredo beat Blake in a match that ended just shy of 1 o’clock in the morning.

SERIOUS THEY ARE

The US Open battles between Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe are legendary. The two left-handers, who defined a generation and won 15 Grand Slam tournament titles between them, still excite the crowds at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Now tennis commentators, Connors and McEnroe returned to the courts to face other during the first week of the US Open. The practice courts, that is. “Definitely brings back a few good memories,” McEnroe said.

SWOOP NOT

When James Blake walked onto the court to play his first-round match, the umpire made the American change his headband. “I didn’t know the rule,” Blake admitted. “I didn’t know you couldn’t have any writing on the headband or wristband.” A player can wear a logo on their headband, as in the Nike swoop. But Blake’s clothing sponsor, Fila, had the name “Fila” written on the headband. That’s a no-no. “I didn’t know we couldn’t do that,” Blake said.

SENOR PANCHO

The US Open honored two-time winner Richard A. “Pancho” Gonzalez on the 60th anniversary of his second consecutive victory in America’s premier tennis tournament. Gonzalez won the US Championships in 1948 and 1949, then turned pro at a time when only amateurs were allowed to play the Grand Slam tournaments. He went on to become the top draw on the professional circuit, then, when he was 40 years old, reached the semifinals of the French Open and the quarterfinals of the inaugural US Open. That same year he was elected into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. In 1972, three months shy of his 44th birthday, Gonzalez became the oldest man to win a tournament title, capturing the championship at an event in Des Moines, Iowa. Among those participating in the on-court ceremony were members of the Gonzalez family as well as several Hispanic dignitaries.

STEPPING

You can’t find former US Open champion Martina Hingis on the tennis courts these days, thanks to a two-year ban after testing positive for cocaine. But the 28-year-old Swiss star has signed up to take part in the seventh season of BBC’s reality talent show “Strictly Come Dancing,” which starts September 18. Other former athletes participating in the show include boxer Joe Calzaghe, Olympic long jumper Jade Johnson, cricketer Phil Tufnell and jockey Richard Dunwoody.

SO FINE

The town of Midland, Michigan, has been named winner of the USTA’s “Best Tennis Town” search. The initiative by the United States Tennis Association (USTA) was designed to identify and reward American communities that “best exemplify the passion, excitement, spirit and impact that tennis brings to the local level.” Midland, which received the most votes during the nationwide, online balloting, will receive a USD $100,000 grant from the USTA to be used for community-wide tennis programming or facility enhancements. Finishing second was Ojai, California, which received a USD $50,000 community tennis grant from the USTA, while Independence, Kansas, was third in the balloting and received a USD $25,000 USTA grant.

SITES TO SURF

US Open: www.usopen.org
Davis Cup: www.DavisCup.com
Kim Clijsters: www.kimclijsters.be/
Roger Federer: www.rogerfederer.com/en/index.cfm
Rafael Nadal: www.rafaelnadal.com/nada/en/home
Serena Williams: www.serenawilliams.com/
Quebec: www.challengebell.com
Guangzhou: http://sports.21cn.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP and WTA

US Open (second week), New York, New York, USA, hard

ATP

$120,000 Genoa Open Challenger, Genoa, Italy, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$150,000 Pekao Open, Szczecin, Poland, clay

WTA

$220,000 Bell Challenge, Quebec City, Canada, hard
$220,000 Guangzhou International Women’s Open, Guangzhou, China, hard

DAVIS CUP

World Group Semifinals

Croatia vs. Czech Republic at Porec, Croatia
Spain vs. Israel at Murcia, Spain

World Group Playoffs

Chile vs. Austria at Rancagua, Chile; Belgium vs. Ukraine at Charleroi, Belgium; Brazil vs. Ecuador at Porto Alegre, Brazil; Netherlands vs. France at Maastricht, Netherlands; South Africa vs. India at Johannesburg, South Africa; Serbia vs. Uzbekistan at Belgrade, Serbia; Sweden vs. Romania at Helsingborg, Sweden; Italy vs. Switzerland at Genova, Italy

Americas Zone

Group I Playoff: Peru vs. Uruguay at Lima, Peru
Group II Final: Dominican Republic vs. Venezuela at Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Asia-Oceania Zone

Group I Playoff: China vs. Thailand at Jiaxing, China
Group II 3rd Round: Philippines vs. New Zealand at Manila, Philippines

Europe/Africa Zone

Group I Playoffs: Slovak Republic vs. FYR Macedonia at Bratislava, Slovak Republic; Great Britain vs. Poland at Liverpool, Great Britain

Group II 3rd Round: Latvia vs. Slovenia at Jurmala, Latvia; Finland vs. Cyprus at Salo, Finland

The Robbie Koenig Blog: Can Anyone Beat Rafa In Paris?

Can Anyone Beat Rafa In Paris?

Anyway, the clay court season thus far, one word….” NADAL”….the kid is from another planet!!! Mentally and physically, on this surface, he’s the greatest I’ve ever seen, and probably the best of all time…and he’s only just 23 (in a few days)!!!

For me, what makes him so good are a few things. Firstly, his ability to “compartmentalize” his thoughts. He NEVER gets ahead of himself. He only focuses on the present. He only ever talks about his next opponent, never who he might meet later in the draw and potential match-ups down the line, thereby giving respect to each guy he faces and taking nothing for granted. And on the match court, its more of the same. He rarely lets the previous point affect the next one and he has this ability to play each point like there was none before, or none to follow.
Secondly, he loves the battle more than anyone! It’s the “process” of winning that seems to consume all his effort and he constantly rewards himself with a “Vamos,” sometimes as early as the second or third game, if he’s had a tough hold. And coupled with the joy he takes out of each victory, again often early on in a tournament, is so refreshing and just goes to show how much he enjoys the “small” victories. Let’s face it, anyone can enjoy the big or classic wins!

From a physical point of view, his movement is “two days on horseback” ahead of his peers.(Must be said, Djokovic has been impressive with his challenge). I’m sure good genes help, given the athletic ability of his uncles, it obviously runs in the family. His footwork is the key to his shot-making, both in attacking and defending. It’s so easy to get a little slow with your feet when attacking because you generally got time on the ball, but Rafa never lets his intensity wane, and always makes sure he’s perfectly setup to pull the trigger!!!

Can anyone beat him in Paris? Not unless they cut off his left arm…and even then, he’s pretty damn good with the right one as we all know! The problem for the chasing pack is doing it over five sets. The semifinal against Djokovic in Madrid was an epic, but remember that was at altitude, quick clay courts and best-of-three sets and the Serb still couldn’t get the W!!! I can’t see him hanging with Rafa over five sets. I think Murray can hang with him over five sets, but he doesn’t move well enough on this stuff. Firstly, he’s gotta get far enough to meet Nadal, and secondly, I can’t see him handle the Spaniard, because Rafa will out-maneuver him over the distance. Hard court, different story, it just shows how important movement is at the highest level, and clay is unique in that regard!

What about Roger? I can’t see it happen. I don’t read much into the Madrid win for the obvious reasons already discussed. Wimby and the US Open are his best bets to bag another major, but even those are gonna be a lot tougher than previous years.

Djokovic is the main challenger, no question – the results don’t lie! Hopefully he and Nadal are in separate sections of the draw. That would be my preferred final.

Watchout for: Stan Wawrinka, Juan Monaco, Fernando Gonzalez, Fernando Verdasco and Marin Cilic

Hope you all looking foward to Rafa being challenged at Rolland Garros as much as I am.

Mondays With Bob Greene: Quite frankly, I’m the best in the world

Serena Williams is the best in the world according to Serena Williams

STARS

Tomas Berdych beat Mikhail Youzhny 6-4 4-6 7-6 (5) to win the BMW Open in Munich, Germany

Dinara Safina beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3 6-2 to win the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, Italy

Novak Djokovic beat Lukasz Kubot 6-3 7-6 (0) to win the Serbia Open in Belgrade, Serbia

Albert Montanes defeated James Blake 5-7 7-6 (8) 6-0 to win the Estoril Open men’s singles in Estoril, Portugal

Yanina Wickmayer beat Ekaterina Makarova 7-5 6-2 to win the Estoril Open women’s singles in Estoril, Portugal

Yen-Hsun Lu beat Benjamin Becker 6-3 3-1 retired to win the Israel Open 2009 in Ramat Hasharon, Israel

Andrea Petrovic won the GDF Suez Open Romania, beating Stefanie Voegele 6-3 6-2 in Bucharest, Romania

DAVIS CUP

Americas Zone Group 1

(Second Round)

Brazil beat Colombia;Ecuador beat Peru

Asia/Oceania Group 1

(Third Round)

India beat Australia, default; Uzbekistan beat Japan 3-2

Europe/Africa Zone Group 1

(Second Round)

South Africa beat Belarus 5-0

SAYING

“If we are looking at the category of the event (ATP World Tour 250 tournament) it’s not the biggest success I ever had, but it certainly is the most important win for me.” – Novak Djokovic, after winning the inaugural Serbia Open in his hometown, Belgrade.

“It’s hard to say who I would rather face in the final because I didn’t expect to be here either.” – Lukasz Kubot, a “lucky loser” who reached the final of the Serbia Open where he faced Novak Djokovic – and lost 6-3 7-6 (0)

“It was a little bit like Christmas today; I was giving too many presents.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, after losing to Dinara Safina in the final at Rome.

“Quite frankly, I’m the best in the world.” – Serena Williams, the day before she lost her first match at the Italian Open to Patty Schnyder.

“It’s great to be number three. I just want to win. The ranking will come when it comes.” – Venus Williams, after losing to top-ranked Dinara Safina.

“I hope this gives me even more proof that I deserve to be there (at the top of the ranking) and it helps me maybe on the big stage to win a Grand Slam.” – Dinara Safina, after beating Venus Williams in the Italian Open semifinals.

“I don’t really have many words to describe the feeling – I’m nearly speechless!” – Yanina Wickmayer, after winning the Estoril Open women’s singles in Portugal.

“To me, she (got) too upset for no reason. It was just one ball in the match.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, after Victoria Azarenka lost her concentration as she disputed a call, then lost the next five games and ultimately the match.

“I really tried hard to avoid surgery, but with my doctor and professional team we have decided it is the only solution.” – David Nalbandian, announcing he will undergo hip surgery May 13 in Barcelona, Spain.

“Physically I’m not as strong as I can be, but mentally I’m very tough.” – Nikolay Davydenko.

“Because I am a perfectionist, I had just assumed I would play perfectly all the time, but I have learned that in those times I have to find a way to win and I am much more OK with that.” – Ana Ivanovic.

“Champions do the ordinary things a bit better than anyone else.” – Craig Kardon, who is coaching Ana Ivanovic.

“I played what she liked and she has more power than me. Today was her day, she was the better player, she deserved to win.” – Jelena Jankovic, after losing to Svetlana Kuznetsova.

“It’s nice to seee Americans doing well on clay. We have taken a lot of heat over the years.” – Scott Lipsky, noting an all-American team won the doubles and an American reached the singles final on the clay courts of Estoril, Portugal.

“It’s a fact that there are too many matches, but that’s the way the calendar has been set.” – Rafael Nadal, saying the men’s tennis calendar has too many tournaments after he played 14 matches in three weeks, winning clay-court titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome.

SUSPENDED

Richard Gasquet has been suspended by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) after testing positive for cocaine. The 22-year-old Frenchman will miss the French Open, which begins May 24 in Paris. Gilbert Ysern, director general of the French Tennis Federation, said the test was considered an in-competition control, meaning Gasquet could be banned for two years if found guilty. Announcing cocaine traces were found in Gasquet’s urine sample at a tournament in Miami, Florida, in March, the ITF said it expects to have a panel in place within 60 days for a hearing. Gasquet says he’s innocent, despite two samples that tested positive. Once ranked as high as number seven in the world, Gasquet reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 2007.

SAD HISTORY

The father of Jelena Dokic is serving a 30-day prison sentence after he reportedly made threats against the Australian ambassador to Serbia. Damir Dokic was detained in his home in northern Serbia where police found seven hunting rifles, a gun and two bombs. The Serbian newspaper Blic quoted Dokic as saying he had called the Australian embassy in Belgrade and threatened to “fire a rocket” at the car belonging to the ambassador. Jelena Dokic, who has been estranged from her father since 2002, had been playing in Bucharest, Romania, where she reached the semifinals of the USD $100,000 GDF Suez Open Romania before falling to Andrea Petkovic of Germany 6-1 3-6 6-1. In a statement released in London, her agent, Lawrence Frankopan, said: “Jelena is very distressed and saddened by her father’s arrest. … She understands very well the severity of the situation. Obviously, she cannot, in any way, be held responsible for her father’s actions. Jelena remains 100 percent focused on her tennis in preparation for the upcoming French Open.”

SO, TAKE THAT

Patty Schnyder was leading Serena Williams 5-0 in the final set of their Italian Open match when she called her husband/coach onto the court to give her a pep talk. She promptly lost the next game before going on to oust the second-ranked Williams, who a day earlier had proclaimed that she was the top player in women’s tennis despite the WTA Tour rankings. Schnyder’s 6-2 2-6 6-1 victory perhaps shouldn’t be considered that big of a surprise. Although Williams has an 8-4 advantage in their career meetings, Schnyder has won all three times the two have played on clay, including an Italian Open match two years ago.

SURPRISE

When Lukasz Kubot lost in the final round of qualifying to Slovakia’s Dominik Hrbaty, he had no thoughts about playing for the title of the inaugural Serbia Open in Belgrade. However, Kubot gained entry into the main singles draw as a “lucky loser,” thanks to Belgium’s Steve Darcis pulling out with a shoulder injury. Kubot then made the most of his second chance, becoming the first Polish player to reach an ATP final since Wojtek Fibak in 1983 by beating Serbian wild card Arsenije Zlatanovic, Russia’s Igor Andreev, Belgium’s Kristof Vliegen and Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic. The dream ended in the title match when Kubot fell to home crowd favorite Novak Djokovic 6-3 7-6 (0). However, Kubot wasn’t finished. Making it even a better week, he teamed with Oliver Marach of Austria to win the doubles, beating Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-2 7-6 (3).

STANDING TALL

Yanina Wickmayer won her first WTA Tour title by defeating Ekaterina Makarova 7-5 6-2 in the final of the Estoril Open and becoming Belgium’s first Tour singles champion since Justine Henin more than a year ago. Wickmayer, who was ranked 88th going into the tournament, broke her opponent’s serve in the fourth game to take a 3-1 lead in the second set. Makarova, also runner-up at the Grand SAR in Morocco the week before, is still seeking her first Tour singles title. In her only previous title match, Wickmayer lost to Kateryna Bolndarenko in Birmingham, England, last year.

SURGERY SET

Saying his right hip is hurting more each day, David Nalbandian has decided to undergo surgery. The decision means Nalbandian will miss “the rest of the season – including all three Grand Slams,” he said. “I feel deeply sad because I won’t be able to play Davis Cup this year.” The surgery was set for May 13 in Barcelona. A Wimbledon finalist in 2002, Nalbandian reached the semifinals at Roland Garros in 2004 and 2006. The Argentine said he tried other treatment, but it didn’t work out as he and his doctor had hoped. “Unfortunately I have decided to have surgery because I have not felt a substantial improvement in the injury during my training sessions,” Nalbandian said.

STELLAR COMPANY

Lleyton Hewitt has joined Roger Federer and Carlos Moya as the only active players on the ATP Tour to have won 500 matches. The Australian reached the 500-victory plateau in the opening round of the BMW Open in Munich, Germany, when he staved off two match points in beating Philipp Petzschner 6-2 6-7 (2) 7-6 (8). Hewitt increased his match win record to 501 before running into eventual winner Tomas Berdych.

SWINE FLU NO-NO

Two International Tennis Federation (ITF) women’s tournaments in Mexico have been canceled due to the swine flu outbreak. Players who had been accepted for the tournament in Mazatlan this week have been permitted to sign-in as an on-site alternate at any other ITF tournament. And those players entered into next week’s event in Los Mochis can enter another tournament in accordance with the order of priority system. The two tournaments were canceled after the Mexican government suspended all non-essential work in the first five days of May because of the swine flu outbreak.

STILL MISSING

A knee injury will keep Ana Ivanovic from playing in the Madrid Open. However, the Serbian right-hander said she will be ready to defend her French Open title later this month. Ivanovic said her right knee has been bothering her since she and Jelena Jankovic teamed to lead Serbia over Spain in Fed Cup last month. A doctor in Munich, Germany, advised her not to play competitively for a week.

SETTING UP SHOP?

Nikolay Davydenko and Sabine Lisicki could have another career when they finish playing tennis. Before playing their first Estoril Open matches in Estoril, Portugal, the two were taught how to cook the famous Portuguese cake “Pasteis de Belem.” The two players visited the original Casa Pasteis de Belem, founded in 1837, then went into the factory to learn the secret recipe for the cakes. Only the original Pasteis de Belem carry the name, while the cakes are more commonly known in Portugal as Pasteis de Nata. The original recipe was invented by two Catholic sisters in the convent at the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos. Beginning in 1837, the cakes were sold to raise money for the monastery, which today is an UNESCO heritage site.

SWEET PAIRING

Jan Henrych and Ivo Minar play on the same team at the Czech Lawn Tennis Club in Prague, but had never played doubles together until the BMW Open in Munich, Germany. They probably are wondering why they waited so long. The two knocked off top-ranked twins Bob and Mike Bryan in the first round and went on to capture the title, upsetting second-seeded Australians Ashley Fisher and Jordan Kerr 6-4 6-4 in the final. “We only decided to play together 30 minutes before the (sign-in) deadline for doubles, and then we saw the draw against the Bryans, so we just went to the court and tried our best,” said the 24-year-old Minar.

SAC STATE STARS

Sacramento State has the best tennis team in the Big Sky Conference, thanks to a lifeline that extends into Eastern Europe. The California school’s top two women and three of its six men’s singles players, including the top player, come from the Belarus. But then so do the Hornets head coaches Slava Konikov (men) and Dima Hrynashka (women). The players include All-American Katrina Zheltova, Maria Meliuk and Kiryl Harbatsiuk. At the Big Sky Conference championships, Zheltova and Harbatsiuk were named most valuable players and Konikov and Hrynashka were selected Coaches of the Year. Sacramento State is not alone in looking abroad for college tennis players. About 43 percent of the ranked women and 64 percent of the ranked men in American collegiate tennis are international players. India’s Somdev Devvarman, playing for the University of Virginia, won the last two National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men’s singles titles.

SCOTT’S WEDDING GIFT

Last weekend was when Scott Lipsky was supposed to be in Miami, Florida, at the wedding of his girlfriend’s twin sister. Instead, he was with fellow American Eric Butorac in Estoril, Portugal, where the two won their first ATP World Tour doubles title, beating Martin Damm and Robert Lindstedet 6-3 6-2 in the final. “The first day I had a flight on Wednesday, we won,” Lipsky said. “We played again on Thursday. I had a flight for Friday evening. We played our semifinal and won. I couldn’t get back for the wedding. I hope I still have a girlfriend.” It was Lipsky’s second doubles title, having teamed with David Martin to win at San Jose, California, in February 2008. Butorac also had won a doubles title earlier, teaming with Rajeev Ram in Channai, India, earlier this year.

SET FOR THE CAPITAL

Washington, D.C., will be the site for this year’s World TeamTennis championship finals. The July 26 competition, being played in America’s capital for the first time, will pit the 10-team league’s Eastern Conference champions against the winners of the Western Conference.

SWITCH AT TOP

John Tobias has been named president of Blue Entertainment Sports Television’s Tennis division. In 2005, Tobias was named by Sports Illustrated as one of the top 30 sports industry executives under the age of 30. He replaces tennis agent Ken Meyerson, who has left the company. BEST Tennis represents more than 100 professional tennis coaches and players, including Victoria Azarenka, Anna Chakvetadze, Caroline Wozniacki, Mardy Fish and Sam Querry. The company also produces tennis events such as the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, and holds television production rights for the US Open, French Open and various US-based ATP tournaments. According to Bob Larson’s Tennis News, Meyerson left to establish a US office for a new company, Lagardere Unlimited, a division of the French media giant Lagardere. Meyerson reportedly is taking a number of tennis players with him, including Andy Roddick.

SHANGHAI STOP

The Qizhong Tennis Center in Shanghai is adding new courts as it gets ready to stage an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in October. The Tennis Center was the site for the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup for five years, an event that this year will be held in London. For this year’s tournament, Qizhong’s main stadium roof will be opened, turning it into a 15,000-seat outdoor facility. The Grand Stand Court 2 will accommodate 5,000 spectators, while Court 3 will seat 2,000. Construction of the new facilities is expected to be completed by August. The tournament will be held October 10-18 and will conclude a four-week Asian tour, following stops in Bangkok, Tokyo and Beijing.

SUCCESS, HOPEFULLY

Tanzania figures tennis is the way to go. The government has urged the Tanzania Lawn Tennis Association (TLTA) to focus on international tournaments, including the 2010 Commonwealth Games to be held in New Delhi, India. Bernard Membe, the minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said Tanzania could become known if its athletes do well in international competition. Membe noted that Ethiopia and Kenya are well known because of their success in sports.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Rome: Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai beat Daniela Hantuchovga and Ai Sugiyama 7-5 7-6 (5)

Munich: Jan Hernych and Ivo Minar beat Ashley Fisher and Jordan Kerr 6-4 6-4

Estoril (men): Eric Butorac and Scott Lipsky beat Martin Damm and Robert Lindstedt 6-3 6-2

Estoril (women): Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears beat Sharon Fichman and Katalin Marosi 2-6 6-3 10-5 (match tiebreak)

Belgrade: Lukasz Kubot and Oliver Marach beat Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-2 7-6 (3)

Ramat Hasharon: George Bastl and Chris Cuccione beat Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram 7-5 7-6 (6)

Bucharest: Irina-Camelia Begu and Simona Halep beat Julia Goerges and Sandra Klemenschits 2-6 6-0 12-10 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Madrid: www.madrid-open.com/

Bordeaux: www.atp-primrosebordeaux.com

Duesseldorf: www.arag-world-team-cup.com/

Kitzbuhel: www.atpkitz.at

Warsaw: www.warsawopen.com.pl/

Strasbourg: www.internationaux-strasbourg.fr/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$4,500,000 Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open, Madrid, Spain, clay

$110,000 BNP Paribas Primrose Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France, clay

WTA

$4,500,000 Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open, Madrid, Spain, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$490,000 Interwetten Austrian Open, Kitzbuhel, Austria, clay

$1,800,000 ARAG ATP World Team Championships, Dusseldorf, Germany, clay

WTA

$600,000 Warsaw Open, Warsaw, Poland, clay

$220,000 Internationaux de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France, clay

SENIORS

Grand Champions Brazil, Sao Paulo, Brazil, hard

The X-Factor

71642847MC039_2006_U_S_Open

71642847MC039_2006_U_S_Open What seperates the top coaches from the rest is in what I like to call the “X Factor”. The great ones have it; Brad Gilbert (Andre Agassi), Vince Lombardi (Green Bay Packers), Johan Brunyeel (Lance Armstrong), Michael Joyce (Maria Sharapova), and Phil Jackson (Chicago Bulls), have all been great athletes and top performers in their respective sports. After hanging up their sports shoes, they have taken their talent, and have injected into the players. Yes these coaches have knowledge when it comes to:

- Psychology
- Physical Training
- Strategy
- Technical Advice

But they also have what I call THE X FACTOR!

_41426311_agassi_initialsuccessWhat is the X Factor? In my opinion it is all the non tangible attributes the coach brings to the table. It is the ability to crawl into the athlete’s skin and head, and bring out the absolute best in them. Their charisma draws the attention and respect out of their players and they get them to listen. Their approach to practice is meticulous and they make the training sessions harder and tougher than the actual competitions.

The X Factor also refers to the coaches understanding of what their player goes through physically and mentally. Because these coaches have experienced the ups and downs from their previous careers and endeavors, they know when to be tough on their player and when to back way off.johanb

The top coaches can make considerable impact on the career of the athletes that are so fortunate to come across them. I know I was lucky. Without my coach Lenny Preheim, I would have never done as well as I did in cycling. His words of wisdom and coaching techniques made a significant contribution to my success.


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