US Open Series

From Continent to Continent: ATP Washington and Kitzbuhel Previews

While the WTA divides its action between two coasts this week, the ATP spans the Atlantic Ocean with events on two different continents and surfaces.  The 500 tournament in Washington, part of the US Open Series, takes center stage.

Washington:

Top half:  A champion in Washington four years ago, Juan Martin Del Potro holds the top seed at the 2013 edition.  The Wimbledon semifinalist hopes to rediscover his torrid form against one of two men who shone in Atlanta.  Producing semifinal runs there last week, Lleyton Hewitt and Ryan Harrison will square off in one of the most intriguing first-round matches.  Nor can Del Potro relax if he survives the winner.  A strong grass season, highlighted by a second-week appearance at Wimbledon, will have restored Bernard Tomic’s confidence.  Although he continues to cope with controversy surrounding his father, Tomic has plenty of ways to disrupt Del Potro’s rhythm if the Argentine returns rusty from a leg injury.  A more straightforward test awaits from Kevin Anderson, seeking his third semifinal in three weeks.  Before he meets Del Potro in the quarterfinals, Anderson may find the returning Mardy Fish an opponent worthy of his steel.

If power dominates the top quarter, flair defines much of the second quarter.  The flamboyant shot-making of Tommy Haas favors precision over physicality, while the graceful one-handed backhand of Grigor Dimitrov has a vintage appeal.  Haas reached the final in Washington last year, perhaps using his training at the Bolletieri Academy in Florida as experience for coping with the humidity.  But power never lags far behind in a draw filled with Americans.  Sam Querrey will face one of two Atlanta quarterfinalists, Denis Istomin or Santiago Giraldo, in the second round.   A contrast of styles would await if Querrey advances to face Dimitrov and then Haas, although a 5-8 record since April leaves a deep run far from guaranteed.

Semifinal:  Del Potro vs. Haas

Bottom half:  Filled with question marks, the third quarter could produce a surprise semifinalist.  The favorite at first glance would seem Milos Raonic, by far the most powerful of the seeds.  Raonic’s massive serve could sizzle on a hot hard court, but he has accomplished little since winning yet another San Jose title in February.  Neither has fellow seed Nikolay Davydenko, who has struggled historically against possible second-round opponent James Blake.  Some of Gilles Simon’s best results have come in North America, including a Miami quarterfinal this spring, and the fifth seed’s steadiness might suffice to ease him past the erratic men around him.  Among them is former champion Radek Stepanek, who looks forward to American collegiate star Steve Johnson in his opener.

One might lose sight of defending champion Alexandr Dolgopolov in the fourth quarter.  Not a threat for most of 2013, Dolgopolov faces an arduous route towards a title defense.  Home hope John Isner looms in the third round if he can revive his energy after a draining title run in Atlanta.  An easier route to the quarterfinals beckons for Kei Nishikori, who won a North American 500 tournament at Memphis this year.  Bogota runner-up Alejandro Falla faded quickly in Atlanta, as did American teenage sensation Jack Sock.  The clean, balanced baseline game of Nishikori should carry him past either of those opponents, after which a first meeting with Isner could await.

Semifinal:  Simon vs. Isner

Final:  Del Potro vs. Isner

Kitzbuhel:

Top half:  An assortment of Europeans and clay specialists have headed to this Austrian event before venturing into the steamy American summer.  German top seed Philipp Kohlschreiber aims to move one round further than he did at another clay 250 event.  The finalist in Stuttgart a few weeks ago, Kohlschreiber can look ahead to a quarterfinal against Spanish dirt devil Marcel Granollers.  This Rome quarterfinalist will welcome the opportunity to erase memories of an epic loss in Gstaad last week.  Between them stand Horacio Zeballos of Nadal-defeating fame and Wimbledon surprise Kenny de Schepper, who reached the second week there.

A greater Wimbledon surprise than de Schepper came from Fernando Verdasco, who would not hold the third seed here if not for his quarterfinal appearance at the last major.  To his credit, Verdasco parlayed that breakthrough into a strong July, highlighted by victories over Nicolas Almagro, Grigor Dimitrov, and Jerzy Janowicz.  An all-lefty matchup against Brazilian clay specialist Thomaz Bellucci should not detain him for long en route to a rematch of the Bastad final.  At that Swedish tournament, Verdasco fell to Carlos Berlocq, who faces an extremely challenging assignment as the fifth seed.  Days after defeating Federer, the ominous Daniel Brands sets his sights on the Bastad champion.  Also in this deep section is Robin Haase, arriving from a series of morale-boosting wins in Gstaad.

Semifinal:  Granollers vs. Verdasco

Bottom half:   A week of mixed omens for Albert Montanes in Umag included an upset over world No. 9 Richard Gasquet and a tight loss to Gasquet’s compatriot Gael Monfils.  Twice a semifinalist on clay already this summer, Victor Hanescu finds himself on a collision course with Montanes, who won a clay title in Nice just before Roland Garros.  The winner should feel confident heading into the quarterfinals, although home hope Jurgen Melzer will have most of the audience behind him.  Melzer reached the second week of Wimbledon but has lost five consecutive clay matches dating back to Monte Carlo.

Arguably the softest section, the base of the Kitzbuhel draw lies at the mercy of second seed Juan Monaco.  This recent member of the top 10 has shown altogether too much mercy in 2013, helplessly watching his ranking decline.  All the same, Monaco has produced at least somewhat respectable tennis this summer on clay, his best surface.  Three qualifiers and a wildcard offer little competition, so any challenge would need to come from one of two Spaniards.  While Daniel Gimeno-Traver has struggled on clay this year, Roberto Bautista-Agut retired last week in Gstaad.  Monaco thus looks safe unless he implodes, admittedly not unthinkable.

Semifinal:  Montanes vs. Monaco

Final:  Verdasco vs. Montanes

From Coast to Coast: WTA Carlsbad and Washington Previews

As the Premier Five tournament in Canada looms, four of the top ten women hone their skills at tournaments on opposite coasts.  The resort atmosphere at Carlsbad, long a player favorite, contrasts with the urban surroundings of the national capital.

Carlsbad:

Top half:  World No. 3 Victoria Azarenka has not lost a match away from clay all season.  Of course, Azarenka has played only four matches away from clay since winning the Doha title in February.  Walkovers and withdrawals ended her campaigns at Indian Wells, Miami, and Wimbledon, so attention will hover around her battered knee this week.  Azarenka’s health may attract even more attention than it would otherwise because she faces a relatively mild early slate of opponents.  An all-Italian battle between Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone tantalizes only for nostalgic reasons, and Urszula Radwanska seems little more likely than her elder sister to vanquish Vika.  Among the surprises of the spring was Jelena Jankovic, a semifinalist in Miami and quarterfinalist at Roland Garros.  Jankovic troubled Azarenka in her prime, but the momentum has shifted in that rivalry to reflect their divergent career arcs

The most compelling first-round match in Carlsbad will pit defending champion Dominika Cibulkova against former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic.  Defeating Bartoli to win last year’s title, Cibulkova exploited a much weaker draw in the week of the Olympics.  Still, she will bring plenty of confidence from her title at Stanford, whereas coaching turmoil once again enshrouds the Serb.  The route will not grow much smoother for whoever survives that early test.  Although the second round looks uneventful, Roberta Vinci could await in the quarterfinals.  This crafty Italian has domianted Cibulkova on all surfaces, winning five straight from her, and she has taken her last three outdoor matches from Ivanovic.  The relatively slow surface in San Diego should help Vinci outlast the heavy serve of Bethanie Mattek-Sands before then.

Semifinal:  Azarenka vs. Vinci

Bottom half:  Around this time last year, Petra Kvitova caught fire with a Premier Five title at the Rogers Cup and a semifinal in Cincinnati.  The somewhat slower surface in San Diego may suit her game less well than those events, and North America historically has not brought out her best tennis.   A rematch of her epic Australian Open loss to Laura Robson might await in the second round.  Both women have oscillated wildly in their results this year, suggesting another rollercoaster ahead.  A former Carlsbad champion lurks unobtrusively near eighth seed Carla Suarez Navarro, enjoying her best season so far.  That former champion, Svetlana Kuznetsova, has revived her career with two major quarterfinals in 2013.  An abdominal injury has sidelined Kuznetsova since Roland Garros, but she should have time to play herself into the tournament.

The fourth-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska reached finals in each of her last two Carlsbad appearances.  Disappointed at Stanford on Sunday, Radwanska wil aim to erase that memory with her second title here.  She should outmaneuver Daniela Hantuchova, whom she has defeated here before, and may not have much to fear from Samantha Stosur unless the Aussie’s form improves dramatically.  Little in Stosur’s dismal performance at Stanford boded well for her chances of escaping a challenging opener against Varvara Lepchenko.  That 27-year-old American lefty could meet Radwanska in a quarterfinal for the second straight week.

Semifinal:  Kuznetsova vs. Radwanska

Final:  Azarenka vs. Radwanska

Washington:

Top half:  Overshadowed by the men’s event at the same tournament, this WTA International event did succeed in luring a top-10 player as a wildcard.  World No. 9 Angelique Kerber has fallen on hard times over the last few months, so a dip in the quality of opposition could prove just what the doctor ordered.  Some of the women who might face her in the quarterfinals exited early at Stanford.  Formerly promising American Christina McHale continues a rebuilding campaign in 2013 against Magdalena Rybarikova.  Her period of promise long behind her, Melanie Oudin hopes to stay somewhat relevant nearly four years after her illusory surge at the US Open.

Like McHale, Rybarikova, and Kiki Bertens in the top quarter, Madison Keys looks to bounce back from a disappointing Stanford loss.  Anchoring the second quarter, she might meet star junior Taylor Townsend in a second-round preview of future matches on more momentous stages.  The reeling but canny Monica Niculescu hopes to fluster Townsend with her distinctive style before then.  More young talent stands atop the section in Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard and France’s Caroline Garcia.  These impressive phenoms must navigate around Australian Open quarterfinalist Ekaterina Makarova, a lefty like Townsend.  Plenty of storylines and suspense will unfold in a very short time.

Bottom half:  Building on her momentum from Stanford, Sorana Cirstea eyes one of the draw’s softer sections.  Home hope Alison Riske looks to prove herself as a threat outside the small grass event in Birmingham, while Heather Watson traces the same trajectory as McHale on the long, slow road back from mononucleosis.  Ending her clay season on a high note, Alize Cornet won an International title in May.  But she threatens much less on hard courts and might well fall victim to the enigmatic Yanina Wickmayer at the outset.

By far the most established of the home threats, second seed Sloane Stephens faces high expectations this summer.  American fans know much more about the Australian Open semifinalist, Wimbledon quarterfinalist, and conqueror of Serena Williams than they did a year ago.  The 15th-ranked Stephens has produced much more convincing tennis at majors than at non-majors, where she barely has cracked the .500 threshold in 2013.  Her sturdiest pre-semifinal obstacle could come in the form of Andrea Petkovic, still producing results more disappointing than encouraging in her comeback from serious injuries.  A relatively minor illness may blunt Petkovic’s injuries this week, though, while compatriot Mona Barthel retired from her last tournament with a sore shoulder.

Final:  Makarova vs. Stephens

Future Stars Earning Their Stripes: Rising Americans in Stanford and Atlanta

Among the annual narratives of the US Open Series are the glimpses of rising American talents on both Tours.  The first week of the 2013 Series shone a spotlight on a dozen of these players in Atlanta and Stanford, small events without draws too daunting.  Some took advantage of the breathing room this week, while others allowed opportunities to escape them.

Atlanta:

Ryan Harrison:  He had not reached an ATP quarterfinal since early January, compiling barely more wins in 2013 than one could count on the figures of one hand.  But Harrison ended that drought and bolstered his sagging ranking by weathering a pair of rollercoasters against higher-ranked opponents.  He outlasted Marinko Matosevic and the fourth-seeded Igor Sijsling more from superior determination than superior tennis.  Under the Friday night lights, Harrison will face Santiago Giraldo in a rematch of an Australian Open meeting that he won comfortably.  A first career final is not inconceivable.

Christian Harrison:  Every player must remember the moment of their first victory in the main draw an ATP tournament.  For Ryan’s 19-year-old brother, that moment came in the first round of Atlanta.  While Alejandro Falla entered that match drained from last week’s Bogota finals run, Christian still showed impressive grit by battling through three tight sets to upset an opponent ranked 210 places higher.  The grit resurfaced a round later, when he fell to the top-seeded Isner by the narrowest of margins.  Christian battled a far more powerful, far more experienced opponent deep into the third set, nearly scoring a massive upset.

Jack Sock:  A quarterfinalist at Atlanta last year, Sock could not recapture his success despite his clear advantage in power over Santiago Giraldo.  This Colombian clay specialist even out-aced Sock on a hard court.  Since reaching the quarterfinals in Memphis, Sock has not advanced past the second round of any ATP tournament.  Accumulated frustration from those struggles may have contributed to his outbursts of temper in Atlanta.  Fans should remember that Sock remains a raw, unfinished talent still a few years away from fulfilling his potential.

Rhyne Williams:  Raining aces aplenty on both of his opponents, this prospect established himself as an intimidating server in the mold of many American men before him.  Williams powered past compatriot higher-ranked compatriot Denis Kudla in the first round without dropping his serve.  He threatened to spring an upset on the seventh-seeded, much more experienced Lleyton Hewitt behind another barrage of aces.  But his inexperience showed in the first-set tiebreak, which Williams lost after holding four consecutive set points and donating a costly double fault.

Denis Kudla:  The world No. 93 showed promise in North American challengers this spring and by reaching the quarterfinals at Queen’s Club.  Kudla’s modest serve left him at a critical disadvantage against a torrid Williams, so Atlanta fans could not fully appreciate his skills in other areas.  He will hope for more advantageous draws as the US Open Series continues.

Tim Smyczek:  Just behind Williams in the rankings, Smyczek earned attention at the Australian Open when he upset Ivo Karlovic and won a set from David Ferrer.  Since that promising statement, Smyczek has won just three main-draw matches at ATP tournaments.  Curiously, two of those have come against notable opponents in Fernando Verdasco and Sam Querrey.  Smyczek needs to exploit opportunities in winnable matches better than in his loss to James Blake.  At 5-5 in the third set, he could not convert break points that might have sealed the match.

Stanford:

Jamie Hampton:  Like Smyczek, Hampton emerged on the radar of observant fans in Melbourne, where she won a set from eventual champion Victoria Azarenka.  A clay upset of Petra Kvitova signaled a second peak in June, marked by a stirring run to the Eastbourne final as a qualifier.  The 23-year-old Hampton holds a seed for the first time this week.  She carried that burden with mixed results in her opener, striking over 50 winners while spraying plenty of careless errors.  A semifinal looms against Agnieszka Radwanska, whom she defeated in Eastbourne.  She must clean up her game by then.

Madison Keys:  In a tale of two matches, Keys dominated eighth seed Magdalena Rybarikova and then fell quietly to qualifier Vera Dushevina.  Eagerness to find a successor to the Williams sisters, which Keys could become, should not blind onlookers to the inconsistency in her results this year.  She often plays to the level of her competition, a trait common among young, raw talents, and more growing pains will lie ahead before we can rely on her as a late-week threat.  Stanford brought a dose of optimism and a dash of realism, a healthy recipe for both Keys and her fans to consume.

Christina McHale:  A once-promising talent veered off the rails when McHale fell victim last year to mononucleosis, often a death sentence for tennis careers.  The New Jersey native has time to regroup, though, for she just turned 21 in May.  McHale has advanced past the second round at only one tournament (Doha) in the last 11 months, but she has troubled top-15 opponents such as Li Na, Sara Errani, and Maria Kirilenko this year.  Still searching for confidence, she won just four games from Urszula Radwanska in the first round of Stanford.

Coco Vandeweghe:  Reaching last year’s Stanford final as a lucky loser, she qualified for the main draw this time and routed her first opponent.  The somewhat less inconsistent Sorana Cirstea then ended Vandeweghe’s bid for another breakthrough.  Back inside the top 200, the Southern California slugger wields a huge serve—and not much else.  She accomplished about as much as one could expect in the context of her year overall.

Mallory Burdette:  Unfortunate to draw Marion Bartoli in the first round last year, Burdette enjoyed only slightly better fortune by facing Francesca Schiavone in this year’s opener.  The Italian has feasted on inexperienced players like the Stanford alum, who became a full-time pro last fall.  Despite her dwindling form, Schiavone pulled away in straight sets to hand Burdette her fourth straight loss.  She will hope for less thorny draws as the US Open Series progresses.

Nicole Gibbs:  The best player in NCAA women’s tennis again received a wildcard to the tournament at her university.  Gibbs produced a result similar on paper to her Stanford appearance in 2012, when she won one match before losing the second.  But her three-set dogfight with the fourth-seeded Hampton revealed the toughness behind her gentle demeanor.  Gibbs easily could have grown disheartened after failing to serve out the second set, or after falling behind 0-4 in the third.  Her resilience in both of those situations suggested that she has the heart to succeed in the WTA, if perhaps not the weapons.

Plotlines to Ponder: US Open Series Edition

The Emirates Airlines US Open Series begins next week with tournaments at Atlanta (ATP) and Stanford (WTA).  More events on both Tours follow during each of the five weeks between now and the US Open, including consecutive Masters 1000/Premier Five tournaments in Canada and Cincinnati.  As the action accelerates toward the final major of 2013, here are seven key narratives to follow.

1.      Will Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray seize the upper hand?

The top two men in the world have contested the finals at the last three non-clay majors and enter the summer hard courts as co-favorites for the US Open.  Fittingly, Djokovic and Murray each have won once in New York, although the Serb has reached four finals there to the Scot’s two.  While Murray has won multiple titles at both Masters 1000 tournaments this summer, Djokovic never has conquered Cincinnati despite winning three times in Canada.  A victory for either man over the other at one of those events would earn that player an edge heading into New York.  So would a Canada/Cincinnati sweep, a feat that has occurred only three times on the men’s side in the Open era.  Back on their best surface for the rest of 2013, Djokovic and Murray have an opportunity to take their rivalry another step forward.  Abrupt shifts have defined it so far, so predict at your peril.

2.      Will Serena Williams restore order in the WTA?

The world No. 1 has compiled a somewhat strange season, dominating Roland Garros and racing undefeated through the clay season but losing by the quarterfinals at the two non-clay majors.  Serena usually responds with courage to adversity such as her stunning loss to Sabine Lisicki at Wimbledon.  One need think back barely a year to the second-half surge that she reeled off after a much more disheartening setback against Virginie Razzano.  The dominance of the top three women since the start of 2012 prepared few viewers for the implosion at Wimbledon.  That fortnight echoed the chaotic period in the WTA that preceded the current Serena/Maria/Vika Rule of Three.  For reasons developed further below, the top-ranked woman and defending US Open champion stands the best positioned of that trio to curb her inferiors.  Even as she approaches 32, her aura still intimidates.

3.      Will Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal pose the greater challenge to the top two?

On the surface, literally and figuratively, this question seems easy.  Federer has compiled the superior record of the two in the US Open Series and at the US Open.  For most of their careers, he has been the better man on hard courts and the better man in the second half, when his rival’s energy wanes.  That said, Nadal has surpassed Federer in recent years at the US Open, notching consecutive finals in 2010-11.  He also has produced the stronger season of the two by far, reaching the final at every tournament except Wimbledon, claiming a key hard-court title at Indian Wells, and overcoming Djokovic at Roland Garros.  Federer has won just one title in 2013 and has not defeated a top-five opponent.  The two superstars never have met in the US Open Series or at the US Open.  They responded in contrasting ways to early Wimbledon losses, Nadal resting his ever-fragile knees and Federer entering two clay tournaments in July.

4.      Can the Wimbledon women’s finalists consolidate their breakthroughs?

Hovering over Murray’s quest to defend his US Open title is the question of how he will respond to his Wimbledon feat.  The women’s champion there also faces the task of overcoming the inevitable post-breakthrough hangover.  Like Murray, however, Marion Bartoli may have the maturity to avoid that lull.  She has earned some of her finest successes on North American hard courts, including a Stanford title won from Venus Williams, finals at Indian Wells and San Diego, and semifinals at Miami and the Rogers Cup.  Bartoli might return at Stanford next week.

Much more a grass specialist than Bartoli, the woman whom she defeated in the Wimbledon final has reached four quarterfinals there but none at any other major.  Sabine Lisicki still looks to build on her victories over two top-four opponents at Wimbledon, and there is no reason why her massive serve cannot shine on fast hard courts.  Her main challenge has consisted of staying healthy long enough to build momentum, so her ranking could climb if she does.

5.      What to expect from Wimbledon’s walking wounded?

About five top-eight players limped out of the grass season with injuries that may linger.  On the men’s side, Juan Martin Del Potro should recover quickly from a minor sprain caused by hyper-extending his left knee.  The Wimbledon semifinalist and former US Open champion should prove the most compelling threat in New York outside the Big Four.  World No. 3 David Ferrer may need more time to recover from his ankle injury, while Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has voiced uncertainty over whether he will return from a knee injury by the Open.

Eager to ignite her partnership with Jimmy Connors, Maria Sharapova withdrew from Stanford next week to rest a hip injury incurred at Wimbledon.  Sharapova posted playful photos of her rehab work, not sounding overly concerned.  Still, both Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka may need to brush off some rust early in the US Open Series.  Limited to one match since Roland Garros, Azarenka has played only five tournaments in the last five months.  Her coach, Sam Sumyk, reported that her knee incurred no structural damage, though.

6.      Will home soil inspire the American men?

At the US Open last year and at Wimbledon this summer, nobody in this group reached the second week, something once taken for granted.  With Andy Roddick retired and Mardy Fish chronically ill, American men’s tennis has plunged down an elevator shaft with embarrassing velocity.  Not much light shines into the bottom of the shaft from former phenom Ryan Harrison, who has developed into an uninspired journeyman.  The more explosive Jack Sock may evolve into a future star, as French sports magazine L’Equipe thinks, but his time will not come for at least a few years.  Until then, the two lethargic giants John Isner and Sam Querrey remain the only real hopes for the US.  The good news is that they have played their best tennis on home soil, winning 10 of 13 career titles there.  The bad news is that neither has done anything meaningful on hard courts this year.

7.      Which rising stars on each Tour will shine?

In the wake of a Wimbledon semifinal appearance, many eyes will focus on Jerzy Janowicz over the summer.  The boyish, lanky Pole has virtually nothing to defend during the US Open Series as he aims to rise toward the top 10.  Grigor Dimitrov has drawn attention mostly on account of his resemblance to Federer and his relationship with Sharapova, but he impressed at both Indian Wells and Miami this year.  And the deeply talented, deeply enigmatic Bernard Tomic could build on a promising Wimbledon if he finds more discipline on the court and stability off the court.

The women’s game features some youngsters who have advanced faster than their male counterparts.  One of three women to reach the second week at every major in 2013, the 20-year-old Sloane Stephens offers the home nation its most genuine threat outside Serena.  Stephens needs to transfer some of her feistiness from verbal barbs to her game, not an obstacle confronted by the powerful Madison Keys.  American fans should relish the sight of Keys this summer, showcasing a serve reminiscent of the Williams sisters and the penetrating groundstrokes designed for WTA success.  Reaching the second week at Wimbledon and at last year’s US Open, meanwhile, British teenager Laura Robson has shown the power and belief to strike down the elite.

 

Alexandr Dolgopolov overcomes Tommy Haas challenge to win Citi Open title

By Romi Cvitkovic

WASHINGTON, D.C. – After a three-set marathon match that included two rain delays, young Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov pulled out the win over former world No. 2 Tommy Haas, 6-7(7), 6-4, 6-1.

Dolgopolov has struggled with injuries since January and is just now returning to his good form of last year when he broke through into the top 15. With the title in Washington, Dolgopolov moves solidly back into the top 20 and is guaranteed a seeding at the U.S. Open.

Dolgopolov’s road to the win tonight, however, looked uncertain as he lost the first set, even when playing much cleaner tennis than his opponent. He served eight aces and no double faults, while Haas struggled to find his rhythm, double-faulting three times alone in the seventh game to get broken.

An extended rain delay occurred at 6-5 with Dolgopolov serving to stay in the set. After nearly two hours, both men returned highly emotional, with the self-talk and frustrations beginning to surface. Dolgopolov stuck to his game plan of hitting to the weaker Haas backhand, but it backfired as Haas was able to strike some smart plays and convert on his second set point due to a Dolgopolov error.

The second set started much like the first but the frustrations escalated as the often composed Dolgopolov began slapping his thigh while Haas kept yelling at himself. Neither player made a move until the very last game of the set when Dolgopolov broke a visibly irritated Haas.
“Whether I won or lost the second set there, I cracked a little bit mentally,” Haas admitted, and it was the beginning of the end for the German.

Sensing that Haas was “giving away more free points than in the first set,” Dolgopolov started the third set with an ace and never looked back, reeling off three games instantly to take command. Haas succumbed to his emotional outbursts, and after sending a ball long, went into full self-destruction mode, yelling in German, scolding the chair umpire for not getting the ball kids to clean a wet spot, and eve threw his racquet repeatedly.

Although he was able to recollect himself somewhat, Haas was down 1-4 and double-faulted for his last time, giving Dolgopolov the chance to serve out the match. Facing his first match point, Dolgopolov won on an unreturnable second serve that Haas shanked wide.

It had been almost exactly a year since Dolgopolov’s sole title in Umag last year, so there was a sense of urgency to do well this week giving the upcoming U.S. Open.

“I think a small part of me [knew that] I had to play better when I needed. I dropped some points from Umag and I understood that I needed to get some points to get back into the top 20. Because once you are there, you don’t really want to get out of there. That was additional motivation for me.”

After the match, the two players put aside their emotions and enjoyed each other’s company at the podium with their glass trophies. Haas, followed by Dolgopolov, stopped to sign endless autographs for the diehard fans that had stuck out through the rain delays. Dolgopolov even took the shirt off his back and gave it to a young fan who requested it. Now, that’s a player who loves what he does and gives respect to his fans.

Former UVA players Huey and Inglot win the Citi Open doubles title over favorites Querrey and Anderson

In doubles action, two unseeded teams battled for the Citi Open title as Sam Querrey and Kevin Anderson took on Treat Huey and Dominic Inglot. While Querrey and Anderson may be household names, it was Huey and Inglot that brought out the cheering crowds. Both are former University of Virginia tennis players, with Huey graduating high school locally in the District.

The young upstart team of Huey and Inglot didn’t succumb to pressure as they got out to an early start, breaking to go up 3-0. A little tightness set in and the first set was forced into a tiebreaker. With Inglot’s deft hands at net and Huey’s ability to stand ground at the baseline against his much more experienced opponents, the duo took the tiebreak 9-7 when Anderson double-faulted.

The second set was a battle for both teams as neither gave up serve. In the fifth game of the set, Inglot served four aces in a row against Querrey and Anderson, who are notably two of the tallest and most difficult guys to pass on tour. When asked to comment on this serving dominance, Inglot replied that he “actually know that until you just told me, but, it feels fantastic. Serve has always been the strongest part of my game. I know there were some games that got a little sticky, so to be able to come with a game like that is really helpful.”

Querrey and Anderson came back strong, not allowing the former Cavaliers much wiggle room, and forced a second set tiebreak when Huey hit the final approach volley into the net.

The deciding ten point match tiebreak saw both teams fight mightily, but Huey and Inglot broke through at 5-4 and never looked back. They reeled off the next five-of-six points, winning on a Querrey error.

This is the pair’s second ATP doubles final and first title together. They previously met Querrey when they lost to him and Blake in Houston, and Treat acknowledged that “we didn’t want to lose to [Querrey] again in the finals of another tournament. So it was good we got the win in the end.”

Huey continued: “I didn’t think I’d really win a title [so soon after college]. Last year was my first final where Somdev Devvarman and I lost, but I was thinking, “I just got to an ATP final, how cool is that?!” But winning one is obviously cooler, and it’s a lot more fun to be on the winning end of the match.”

Wozniacki’s Woes Continue; Davis Cup Backpedaling – The Friday Five

by Maud Watson

Finger Pointing

That’s pretty much all a stunned Swiss team could do after a shocking loss to the United States in Davis Cup play last weekend (and if the damage control Federer was rightfully forced to do following that loss is any indication, they couldn’t even explain the defeat diplomatically).  There were many factors that contributed to the upset, but first and foremost was the inspired play by the United States under the cunning captaincy of Jim Courier.  The American squad comprised of Fish, Isner, Harrison and Mike Bryan was a talented group, but up against a Swiss team that included Federer, playing in Switzerland, and on clay, it was to be an uphill battle for the red, white and blue.  But boy did they deliver.  Then there was the subpar play of Wawrinka, who appeared to struggle with the pressure.  Federer was also at fault, as he seemed pressed at times.  His backhand, especially on the return, proved a real liability, particularly in the doubles.  Finally, there was the surface itself.  Never mind that both teams found it nearly unplayable.  They shouldn’t have played on clay in the first place.  With the possible exception of Spain, countries need to chuck out the conventional wisdom that it’s best to play the U.S. on the red dirt.  In this case, an indoor hard court similar to the World Tour Finals would have been best.  It would have eliminated many of the high backhands Federer had to field, plus there would have been the confidence he would have felt on that surface after the way he finished 2011.  That assurance likely would have rubbed off on Wawrinka, and then the whole weekend might have been different.  But hindsight is 20/20.  Hats off the Americans for some fine play, and it’s back to the drawing board for the Swiss.

Woz Continue

Whether she is aware of it or not, Caroline Wozniacki is at a crucial point in her career.  Playing in Doha in her first match since losing in the Aussie Open and the No. 1 ranking in the process, she not only suffered defeat to Safarova, she did so after holding three match points.  Safarova is no slouch, and she’s proven her ability to beat the game’s top stars on multiple occasions.  But this was still a bad loss for Wozniacki.  This was a match that wasn’t in her hands, and it was ultimately Safarova’s willingness to take risks and control the situation that allowed her to snatch victory away from her Danish opponent.  This should be a wakeup call to Wozniacki that she needs to be looking to beef up her game and add more offense.  She’s still No. 4, and even by women’s tennis standards, she’s still young.  There’s still time to change.  But she’s not going to turn it around by being obstinate and keeping only her father as coach and acting relatively indifferent to these losses.  Without changes, losses like the one to Safarova are only going to pile up, and pretty soon, she may just find herself on the outside of the Top 10 looking in.

No Fluke

Last year, audiences saw a woman by the name of Angelique Kerber make a Cinderella run to reach the semifinals of the US Open, where she lost in three sets to the eventual champion, Sam Stosur.  But in 2012, Kerber is playing some great tennis, showing that run to the semis of the US Open was a precursor of what was to come.  She surprised Sharapova en route to the final last week in Paris, before breaking some hearts by defeating native Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli in the final.  She needs to continue to work on her fitness and consistency, but with her big strokes, fighting spirit, and the unpredictable nature of the women’s tour, there’s definitely room for her in the upper echelons of the game.

Walking Wounded

As is par for the course, injuries continue to plague the top players.  Gael Monfils has pulled out of both San Jose and Memphis citing a right knee injury.  Unfortunately for Monfils, with the way he plays, these injuries are apt to only grow in number and severity as his career progresses.  Andy Roddick is also nursing a hamstring injury and a freshly hurt ankle, which nearly cost him his match against qualifier Kudla in San Jose.  As a player who is used to being at the top and not particularly known for his patience, this latest setback will be one more test as Roddick thinks about how much longer he wants to go through the grind and stay on tour.  Spare a thought for Tommy Robredo also, who appeared to have his game back on track early last season before suffering a severe leg injury at Indian Wells.  The Spaniard played only a handful of matches after that and will now be undergoing leg surgery.  He hopes to be back for the spring clay court season.  On the women’s side, Kim Clijsters has already opted to pull out of Indian Wells, citing an ankle injury.  Her case is a little suspect given the way she played on a bum ankle in Australia and the fact that Indian Wells is still a few weeks away, but the Belgian’s history of injuries is well-documented.  In her case, it wouldn’t be shocking to see her pull the plug immediately following the Olympics, as she hobbles across the finish line of her career.

New Deal

The USTA has signed a new sponsorship deal with Emirates Airlines to be the title sponsor of the US Open Series and the official airline of the US Open.  Sponsorship dollars are a major plus, especially since the US Open Series has helped increase tennis viewership throughout the summer hard court season.  But this is just one piece of the puzzle to helping the USTA solve the problems that have plagued them the last few years.  They are going to have to look into making other changes and improvements if they wish to keep players, fans, television carriers, and all sponsors happy.

(photo © Getty Images)

Serena Williams Pulls out of Australian Open 2011 – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Progress Coming

At the front part of this week, the powers-at-be of the ATP were happy to announce that a decision had been made to shorten the season by two weeks, beginning in 2012. In order to achieve shaving off two weeks from the current schedule, the week between the Paris Masters and ATP World Tour finals was eliminated, and four other smaller tournaments will be shifted around to different weeks in the calendar. In the end, the decision was not surprising, and all parties had to be fairly pleased with the outcome. The bigger question to look out for in the next few years to come will be if they opt to shorten the season any further. As that will most likely mean cutting tournaments, it may be dependent upon how much the players take advantage of the new 2012 off season as opposed to playing exhibitions. At the very least, expect the odds to increase that such a future decision will be messier than this current breakthrough.

More Changes

In recognition of the fact that the ATP has planned to shorten its season starting in 2012, the ITF has been forced to consider the possibility of moving both the Fed Cup and Davis Cup finals further up in the year. Such a move would most likely benefit both players and fans, as things tend to run more smoothly when all of the governing bodies work in sync. In addition to this consideration, it would probably be even more beneficial if the ITF sinks its energies into revamping the structure of the Davis Cup, a subject that people are hearing more and more whispers about.

Pay Up

Another legal battle appears to be on the horizon as the USTA has filed a claim against Olympus, the company that has served as the title sponsor of the US Open Series. The USTA claims Olympus is looking to save the nearly $11.7 million it will cost to sponsor the 2011 US Open Series, while Olympus is claiming it has the right to pull out of the contract due to category conflicts with Panasonic. The USTA will seek to acquire the $11.7 million for the 2011 US Open series sponsorship, as well as a declaratory judgment that it didn’t violate Olympus’ exclusive sponsorship rights. It will certainly be a hassle and a blow if the USTA comes out on the short end of the stick, but at least with the success of the series and the US Open itself, one would like to think that the USTA won’t have to look far to find a new title sponsor with Olympus having pulled out of the contract that was slated to run through 2013.

The Battle Wages On

It seems that mediation efforts between Tennis Channel and Comcast have failed, and now the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is apt to have to get involved. Tennis Channel is alleging that it shouldn’t be on one of the more costly sports tier of channels when two of Comcast’s own channels – Golf Channel and Versus – are part of the basic service package. Comcast claims Tennis Channel agreed to its place on the sports tier back when they first negotiated a deal. Comcast seems relatively confident that the FCC will find in its favor, but tennis fans will be hoping otherwise. A finding in favor of the Tennis Channel could help the game grow in a multitude of ways.

Out…Again

Well, the foot injury plaguing Serena Williams has once again forced her out of another Grand Slam, as she has already announced that she will not be in Melbourne to defend her 2010 title. Williams stated that she had to have additional surgery on the foot due to training too hard and too soon following her first surgery. The pullout will cost Williams 1,000 ranking points, and it is apt to cost her a place in the Top 10. It’s a blow to the younger of the two Williams sisters and her fans, but rest assured that when she is healthy, it’s difficult to imagine any scenario in which she won’t shoot back up towards the upper echelons of the women’s rankings. In fact, assuming she makes a full recovery from the freak foot accident, don’t be shocked to see her named the favorite going into SW19.

Elena Dementieva Returns…And Wins

By Luís Santos

Games, Set and Match, Dementieva. These were the final words of Elena’s first match since Roland Garros where she was forced to retire due to a calf injury. She missed the entire grasscourt season including Wimbledon and was staging her comeback at Stanford drawing veteran Kimiko Date Krumm.

It was a bitter ending to what could have been her first Grand Slam title after the likes of Henin, Serena Williams and other direct rivals were all sent packing early on. But injury would slow Dementieva down and force her to retire during the second set.

But fresh of 8 weeks of rest and world traveling to visit friends and family, Dementieva is back on track, back to training and as fit as ever, ready to shake the rust off and flourish in one of her favorite parts of the season – the US Open Series, which she won last year.

Her first hurdle came in the shape of Kimiko Date Krumm, a time capsule of tennis so to speak, a player blasted away from the 90s and a complete headache to another Russian – Dinara Safina. Safina has gone 0-2 since Date returned including a loss in the first round of Stanford. Dementieva was not fazed though and after a first set hiccup, she regrouped and won 3-6 6-3 6-4.

Elena now awaits the winner of the match between Maria Sharapova and Olga Govortsova in hopes of fighting for a semifinal spot.
Let’s hope Elena can make a revival of the tennis that saw her claim the Series last year and fortunately go one tournament better this year – the US Open.

The Weekly Debrief – Mardy Fish’s Winning Secret Weapon

The US Open Series went into full effect this week in Atlanta seeing big names such as Mardy Fish and James Blake in both the singles and doubles draws. We also had a full-on twitter explosion speculating whether Juan Martin Del Potro is ready to defend his US Open title in Flushing Meadows, as well as a new title winner in Hamburg. There was also a dose of celebrity stardom in Los Angeles this weekend seeing the likes of Gavin Rossdale, Jon Lovitz and a slew of tennis legends. Let’s check out this week’s Top Moments in the Weekly Debrief.

Top Four

1. Mardy Fish has been bursting through the scene at lightning speed, picking up his second title in as many weeks at the Atlanta Tennis Championships.

Fish first took out top seed Andy Roddick in the semifinals 7-5, 6-3. This marked Fish’s first win over his good friend in their last ten meetings: “It’s one of the best wins I’ve had … It’s tough to beat a great friend … He (Roddick) said to me at the net: ‘I know how hard you’ve worked, so enjoy it.”

Fish then went on to defeat John Isner 4-6, 6-4, 7-6, in a humid and hot day that saw on-court temperatures reaching well over the 100 degree mark. The 2 hour and 45 minute match saw both players affected by the heat, with Fish even needing an IV after the match because of dehydration. He also had a long visit in the trainer’s room stating that he “sort of went into a lower body cramp with both legs.” In September of last year, Fish underwent knee surgery and had not shown great results until this summer. But he states: “It’s night and day. A year ago I would have fallen in the second set probably, or probably played a match to where I knew physically I couldn’t last so I needed to change my tactics. I just simply don’t have to do that anymore.”

The question surrounding Mardy Fish is how can he rebound so quickly this summer and have the best results of his career? It may be his slimmed down figure or the rehabilitation on his knee, but we found something else that could be the answer: a winning secret weapon, the Power Balance silicone wristband (pictured below).

Hundreds of athletes in various sports are using Power Balance, and the company is stressing that the athletes wouldn’t be wearing them if they didn’t firmly believe in its benefits. Several NBA players stand behind the product, including Los Angeles Lakers’ Lamar Odom who wears one on each wrist. “I definitely feel a difference on the court when I wear the wristbands. It gives me more energy and balance when I’m on court.” Fish also recently started wearing one on each wrist and the results are fast coming. Power Balance bands feature a “performance technology using holograms embedded with frequencies that react positively with the body’s natural energy field to improve balance, strength and flexibility.” Check out Power Balance’s website and the numerous athlete testimonials advocating its benefits at http://www.powerbalance.com/ .

2. Over at the German Open Tennis Championships in Hamburg, first-time ATP winner Andrey Golubev took out Jurgen Melzer in 90 minutes, recording a 6-3, 7-5 win. Ranked 82 in the ATP rankings, he will move up to a career-high of 37. Golubev just turned 23 last week and celebrated by beating world number 6 Nikolay Davydenko. After his run to the finals in Saint Petersburg in 2008, he failed to win more than two matches in a row at any ATP level tournament and had only won eight matches this entire season before coming to Hamburg. This also marks the first time a player from Kazakhstan has won a title.

3. If you were anywhere near twitter this past week, then you could have come across the news that Juan Martin Del Potro was “expected” to defend his title at the US Open. News first broke out when a provisional entry list for the US Open came out with Del Potro’s name on it, after which the USTA claimed that the Argentine has begun hitting in preparation for the US Open. The fact that Del Potro’s name is on the provisional entry list should not be news. For Grand Slams, players are usually on this list until they officially pull out. Undoubtedly, this news was meant as promotion and marketing for the event but it was handled poorly by the USTA.

After several hours of back-and-forth communication between reporters, media and writers, a dependable source out of Argentina claimed to have spoken to Del Potro’s camp and was told that he was not hitting yet. Later that evening, Del Potro updated his twitter and addressed his return (via translation): “I haven’t picked up a racquet yet so I can’t tell an exact date. When I know I’ll tell you the news here. I’m improving, that’s a good thing.”

The same day, Del Potro’s kinesiologist spoke on ESPN Radio in Argentina and confirmed that Del Potro is slated to still come back at the Thailand Open in September, but most likely not in time for the US Open.

4. In a new partnership with the Andre Agassi Foundation, this week’s Farmers Classic tournament held a “Stars Under the Stars” gala in Los Angeles in preparation for the event this week. As part of the opening, Andre Agassi took on John McEnroe and defeated him 6-4, 6-2. Below are photos of their warm-up and post-match handshake.

This was followed by a celebrity showdown, consisting of Michael Chang and musician Gavin Rossdale beating out Jim Courier and comedian Jon Lovitz, 5-3. Laughs were exchanged as well as some great points between the players. Rossdale is married to fellow musician, Gwen Stefani. He may better be recognized in the tennis world as a friend and supporter of Roger Federer, having often been seen in Federer’s box at both Wimbledon and the US Open.

Tennis player, Tommy Haas with pregnant fiancè Sara Foster were among the spectators.

Clockwise from top left: Courier and Lovitz; Rossdale and Chang; Rossdale serving; Lovitz, Courier, Rossdale, Chang

ATP BONUS
The ATP catches up with James Blake as he answers questions posed by his Facebook fans. See what he has to say about Serena Williams, why he doesn’t shave his beard during tournaments and what he has in store for the future. http://www.atpworldtour.com/News/Tennis/2010/07/30/Blake-Facebook-Answers.aspx

That’s it for this week’s Debrief. Just stop by anytime you want a recap of the ATP tour. We’ve got you covered!

Mondays With Bob Greene: I’m Recharged

STARS

Caroline Wozniacki beat Elena Vesnina 6-2 6-4 to win the women’s singles at the Pilot Pen in New Haven, Connecticut, USA

Fernando Verdasco beat Sam Querrey 6-4 7-6 (6) to win the Pilot Pen men’s singles in New Haven

Tatjana Malek won the EmblemHealth Bronx Open, beating Kristina Barrois 6-1 6-4 in The Bronx, New York, USA

SAYING

“Now it’s my time. It’s my turn to win some tournaments. I just feel I’ve had a great year. I’m so happy that it’s my name coming up a lot of times now.” – Caroline Wozniacki, after successfully defending her Pilot Pen Tennis women’s singles championship.

“I never got a chance to go back there to defend my title in 2006 because I was injured with my left wrist and then pregnant in 2007. So while this does feel like a new beginning, I am looking forward to walking through those gates again for the first time in four years.” – Kim Clijsters, who won the US Open in her last appearance at the year’s final Grand Slam tournament.

“I am number three in the world, and the number three in the world should have a chance to win, no?” – Rafael Nadal, on his chances to win the US Open.

“I have to take it as a positive that I will have more time to get ready for the Open. It’s been a really busy summer for me so I’ll just take advantage of these (early losses) and keep training and preparing for the Open.” – Venus Williams, talking about early exits from her last two tournaments.

“I’m recharged. I know I can play and move well and compete with the top players as good as I was, if not better. The US Open is my main goal.” – Jelena Jankovic.

“With every tournament I feel physically I’m getting better and getting a good sense of the court, but it’s still a work in progress. I’d like to forget I was gone for a long time but you have to put things in perspective.” – Maria Sharapova, noting her chances of winning the US Open this year are slim.

“This year I equaled my best result in Australia (last 16), did two rounds better than I ever did at the French (quarterfinals) and got further than I have done at Wimbledon (semifinals). So now the slam is the last thing I need to do. I believe that I can do it.” – Andy Murray, saying he’s one of the favorites to win the US Open.

“Andy’s not under the radar anymore and that’s probably a good thing. Now that the expectations are there I think he’s ready to handle it. He is definitely one of the six guys capable of winning.” – Brad Gilbert, speaking about Andy Roddick.

“One of the important things he has over everyone, and he has it more than any other player I’ve seen since (Jimmy) Connors, is his love for the sport. Real love. He loves to be out there, to be around tennis, everything about it.” – John McEnroe, talking about Roger Federer.

“I’ve never had a normal life, so I don’t know what a normal life means.” – Fabrice Santoro, who, playing in his 20th season on tour, will retire after the US Open.

“I just look to be prepared for the Open. This is my first important thing for me is to just get there and be prepared for a fight.” – Flavia Pennetta.

“I think I’ve learned, especially in the last year, that it’s a lot simpler than I realized, playing professional tennis. There are no secrets. You got to do what you do well and you have to bring that to the table every day.” – Rajeev Ram, who won his first ATP Tour title earlier this summer…

“I don’t think I am going to do anything special because it is my last Grand Slam. I am not planning it. But you never know what can happen. I know I am not going to win, there is no chance. So we will just see.” – Marat Safin, the 2000 US Open champion who will retire at the end of this year.

“For the next year or so I’m not going to put any pressure on myself. I just want to stay healthy and enjoy my tennis.” – Katarina Srebotnik, whose US Open appearance is her first tournament in 10 months because of injuries.

“She was just playing with me like a pussy cat, one corner to other corner. In the second set I started to be more aggressive and I started serving a lot better.” – Elena Vesnina, after her three-set semifinal win over Amelie Mauresmo in New Haven.

“I elected to go with disaster control and the high powder-puff. Everyone asks did you bounce it. I just threw it over the catcher.” – Andy Roddick, talking about throwing out the first pitch at a New York Yankees baseball game.

“I contemplated things like whether I would be able to accept myself for not being on the level that I was in my teens, twenties, and when I was 25; whether I would be able to accept losing, moreover be able to accept a losing streak. I did spend a lot of time contemplating about this. Yet, after I made my decision to be back on court again and challenge myself, I haven’t really thought about it.” – Kimiko Date Krumm, who returned to the WTA Tour after a 12-year retirement.

“It makes for something special. You sit in the players’ lounge and you wait. It doesn’t rain so often here so I don’t think they should change anything.” – Dinara Safina, saying she thinks something might be lost if a roof is installed over Arthur Ashe Stadium and there were no rain delays to sit though.

“I’ve peeked at the draw and seen where some of the qualifying spots are. I’d love to play a Federer or Nadal or a Roddick. We’ll see. I just want to play in there.” – Michael Yani, who at age 28 qualified for his first US Open, pointing at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

S’WONDERFUL

Twice Andre Agassi closed out the US Open by winning the men’s singles. This year, he is the headliner on opening day, being honored for “giving back.” In 1994, the year he won his first US Open title, Agassi established the Andre Agassi Foundation, which is dedicated to transforming public education in Las Vegas, Nevada. As part of the Opening Night celebration, the USTA is recognizing the 40th anniversary of the National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL), which was founded in 1969 by Arthur Ashe, Charlie Pasarell and Sheridan Snyder as a network of community tennis organizations seeking to develop the character of young people through tennis and education. Besides Agassi, others honored on opening night include Mia Hamm, David Robinson and Doug Flutie.

Andre Agassi’s autobiography, “Open,” will be published in November. The eight-time Grand Slam singles champion writes about his start in tennis, his relationship with his father and his failed marriage to actress Brooke Shields.

SAM THE MAN

There could be a USD one million dollar payday in Sam Querrey’s future. By winning the US Open Series, the American has a chance to earn a bonus of between USD $15,000 and $1 million, according to how he finishes in the US Open. Querrey reached the final of the Pilot Pen in New Haven, Connecticut, before falling to Spain’s Fernando Verdasco 6-4 7-6 (8).

SHHHHH!!

The US Open wants players and their entourages to be careful about what they post on the social networking site Twitter. Signs at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center warn that Twitter messages could violate the sport’s anti-corruption rules. The signs say tweeting is not allowed on court during matches and warns about using Twitter away from the court, saying information about players, weather, court conditions, status, outcome or any other aspect of an event could be determined as the passing of “inside information.” The warnings say they apply to players, coaches, agents, family members and tournament staff.

SEMFINAL SWITCH

Because of tropical storm Denney, the semifinals of the Pilot Pen tournament in New Haven, Connecticut, were moved indoors. After waiting in vain most of Friday for the steady rain to cease, the women’s semis were switched from a 13,000-seat stadium to an indoor college court where only 300 fans were able to be squeezed into the building and leaned over a balcony that overlooked the court or stood on adjacent courts. There, Caroline Wozniacki beat Flavia Pennetta and Elena Vesnina downed Amelie Mauresmo. The men’s semis followed suit Saturday morning, with Sam Querrey stopping Jose Acasuso and Fernando Verdasco defeating Igor Andreev. Both finals were played outdoors late Saturday as the storm finally subsided and the hard courts were dried.

SITTING IT OUT

Dominika Cibulkova won’t be able to match her French Open performance at this year’s final Grand Slam tournament. The semifinalist at Roland Garros pulled out of the US Open because of a rib injury. Her withdrawal allowed Alberta Brianti of Italy to move into the main draw, while Agnes Szavay becomes the number 32 seeded player.

SORE BUT THERE

Several players are nursing injuries as they begin their US Open run. Marion Bartoli retired from her match at the Pilot Pen in New Haven, Connecticut, because of a left thigh strain. A hand injury forced Agnieszka Radwanska to retire before the third set of her match in New Haven. And Nikolay Davydenko needed a doctor to look at his right wrist midway through his quarterfinal final loss to Sam Querrey in the Pilot Pen men’s singles. Davydenko said his wrist became sore from the force of Querrey’s serves hitting his racquet. Sabine Lisicki, who has been sidelined with a shoulder injury, will play in the US Open.

India’s Sania Mirza received acupuncture treatment on her right wrist before heading to New York and the US Open. The 22-year-old underwent wrist surgery in April 2008, but the problem flared up again at the Beijing Olympics, forcing her to miss the last year’s US Open. She had reached the semifinals of a challenger event in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, when she again felt pain in her right wrist. So she flew home to Hyderabad, India, to get treatment. “I’m much better now, but not absolutely pain-free,” she said.

STARTING OVER

Katarina Srebotnik is making her comeback at the US Open. She was ranked as high as number 20 in the world in singles and number four in doubles, and had posted victories over Serena Williams at Roland Garros and Svetlana Kuznetsova at the US Open a year ago. But pain in her Achilles tendon and a shoulder injury forced her off the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour for 10 months. It’s called the luck of the draw, and for Srebotnik it’s bad luck. Her first-round opponent will be 13th-seeded Nadia Petrova.

SUBSTANCE ABUSE?

Ivo Minar of the Czech Republic has denied deliberating taking a banned substance. The 25-year-old tested positive for a derivative of the banned stimulant pseudo ephedrine following a Davis Cup quarterfinal match against Argentina in July. “I have never consciously taken a banned substance,” said Minar, who is ranked 66th in the world. “This is why I rejected the accusation of doping in my reaction sent to the ITF.” Minar cited an injury when he withdrew from this year’s US Open.

SERENA, THE AUTHOR

Serena Williams says she is telling all in her autobiography, “Queen of the Court,” which is going on sale during the US Open. Serena says it was important for her to give an honest account of her life because she has not been as open as she should have been since the shooting death of her sister, Yetunde Price. She said that while she told the press injuries kept her from playing, she was also beset by depression because of a delayed reaction to Tunde’s death. Serena says three things got her out of her depression: seeing a therapist, going to Africa where she began a school, and winning the 2007 Australian Open over Maria Sharapova. “It opened up a lot of doors I left closed to the public and to myself,” Serena said of writing the book.

SENSITIVITY COURSE ALUMNI

Brydan Klein promises to be on his best behavior after completing a racial sensitivity course. The former Australian Open junior champion was banned for six months and fined USD $10,000 by the ATP after making a racial slur against a black South African player during a tournament in England in June. The 19-year-old Klein has a history of clashes with officials, having been suspended from the Australian Institute of Sport for repeated on-court misbehavior. Ranked 223rd in the world, Klein said he has apologized to fellow player Raven Klaasen for the slur. He also said he cannot afford to slip up again. “I’m definitely on my last warning,” he said. “This has been a step back for me and it hasn’t been a nice experience.”

STANDING TALL

John McEnroe has always been a big man in New York City, but this is ridiculous. A 100-foot high by 35-foot wide (30.48m by 15.24m) banner of McEnroe hangs on the side of Madison Square Garden promoting prostate cancer screening guidelines. McEnroe’s father was diagnosed with the illness in 2006 but is now doing well. Now 50 years old, the younger McEnroe says he knows many men his age are reluctant to get screened for cancer for the same reason they don’t like to ask for directions: they may view it as a sign of weakness.

SPOKESPEOPLE

Billie Jean King and actor Alec Baldwin will be the spokespeople for the expanded environmental initiatives at the National Tennis Center named in her honor. The two will join the United States Tennis Association (USTA) in encouraging US Open fans and others to help preserve the environment. Expanded 2009 initiatives will include a site-wide recycling effort placing more than 500 recycling receptacles across the 42 acres of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. There also will be on sale an exclusive organic t-shirt designed by two-time US Open champion Venus Williams.

STRONG VENUS

Venus Williams has been named to the first Power List of O, the Oprah Magazine. Selecting “20 remarkable visionaries who are flexing their muscles in business and finance, politics and justice, science and the arts,” the magazine picked Venus Williams as “The Power of Female Strength.” Noting her Grand Slam and Olympics medals as well as her voice in the lobbying effort to win equal prize money for female players, the magazine said: “Both on and off the court, Venus Williams embodies a perfect marriage of power and grace. In the singular artistry of her play, we see that beauty and brawn aren’t mutually exclusive.”

SUCCESS

The US Open logo – a flaming tennis ball – accounts for about 42 percent of all sales at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center during the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. Sarah Cummins, the USTA’s managing director for merchandising, told Bloomberg News that clothing, hats and other gear bearing the US Open logo brought in almost USD $14 million during the two-week tournament last year.

SPIRITED CLOTHES

When James Blake debuts his new Fila line of clothes at the US Open, he will be thinking about his father. The logo on Blake’s new clothing is “TR,” and the line is called Thomas Reynolds, the first and middle names of his late father, who died in 2004. Fila will help capture the lessons instilled in James by his father through print ads and through hang tags on the line. While Blake will be wearing the clothes on a tennis court, there are plans for the Thomas Reynolds brand to be on golf, fitness and leisurewear as well. “I wanted to be part of something that wouldn’t necessarily have to always be tied to me and be more about the spirit that father embodied,” Blake said.

STEPPING DOWN

Following her third hip surgery, Jamea Jackson is retiring from the women’s tour and will become assistant tennis coach at Oklahoma State University. The 22-year-old from Lafayette, Louisiana, USA, will also be a student at OSU. Jackson was a member of the United States Fed Cup team.

STANDING FOR OFFICE

John Alexander’s new game is politics. The former tennis player and commentator has joined the Liberal Party and is running for a seat in the Australian parliament. Alexander is an advocate for preventive health and believes the decline of public tennis courts and other facilities in Australia has contributed to childhood obesity and health problems. He said he joined the Liberal Party at the invitation of a friend, who told him he would be more effective in securing change by trying to be part of a government. Ranked as high as eighth in the world, Alexander was the youngest player to represent Australia in Davis Cup. He played Davis Cup from 1968 to 1980 and has been captain of Australia’s Fed Cup team.

STEADY SHOW

The US National Championships, known since 1968 as the US Open Tennis Championships, is the second oldest of the four Grand Slam tournaments and is the only one to have been played each year since its inception in 1881. This is the 129th version of America’s premier tennis event and has been played on three different surfaces: grass, clay and hard court. The tournament has been held on hard court at Flushing Meadows since moving from Forest Hills in 1978. The only major sporting event in the United States older than the US Open is the Kentucky Derby, which began in 1875.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

New Haven (men): Julian Knowle and Jurgen Melzer beat Bruno Soares and Kevin Ullyett 6-4 7-6 (3)

New Haven (women): Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez beat Iveta Benesova and Lucie Hradecka 6-2 7-5

The Bronx: Anna-Lena Groenfeld and Vania King beat Julie Coin and Marie-Eve Pelletier 6-0, 6-3

SITES TO SURF

US Open: www.usopen.org

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/

Venus Williams: www.venuswilliams.com/

Andy Roddick: www.andyroddick.com

Andre Agassi Foundation: www.agassiopen.com/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP and WTA

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

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP and WTA

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

ATP

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