Vince Spadea

James Blake, Luke Jensen, Vince Spadea and Jan-Michael Gambill To Play Forest Hills Friday

Former standout tennis professionals James Blake, Luke Jensen, Vince Spadea and Jan-Michael Gambill will compete in a special one-day tennis tournament Friday, August 25 starting at 4:00 pm at the historic West Side Tennis Club at Forest Hills in Queens, New York as part of the club’s 125-year celebration.

The tennis matches are part of a day-long celebration at the club, the long-time former home of the U.S. Open Tennis Championships and the site of the most ever U.S. Davis Cup matches. The public has the opportunity to play on the famed grass tennis courts, watch the pro tennis matches and a special anniversary ceremony at the Forest Hills Stadium, followed by a Gala dinner with entertainment and dancing.

Blake, the former world No. 4 and member of the 2007 championship winning U.S. Davis Cup team, will play Gambill, the former world No. 14 and also a former member of the U.S. Davis Cup team, in the first semifinal match at 4:00 pm. It will be followed by Spadea, the two-time U.S. Olympic team member and former world No. 18, taking on Jensen, the charismatic winner of the 1994 French Open doubles title, in the second semifinal. The winners of each semifinal will then compete in a championship match. Each match will consist of one FAST-4 set, first to four games, no-ad scoring and a tie-breaker at three games all.

Following the tennis, fans will also be able to stay for a special 125-year anniversary ceremony featuring USTA President Katrina Adams and International Tennis Hall of Fame CEO Todd Martin. The legacies of Jack Kramer, a two-time U.S. singles champion, and Maureen Connolly, the second player to win the “Grand Slam” of tennis in 1953, will also be honored with a banner raising ceremony at the famed Forest Hills Stadium, the site of their greatest triumphs, with each family being represented.

Tickets for the tennis tournament and the Anniversary ceremony – that includes an Open Bar – are $100, with $50 being a tax-deductible contribution to the West Side Tennis Club Foundation, the non-profit organization that helps introduce tennis to children and the physically challenged while also preserving the history of the West Side Tennis Club.. A $250 ticket ($125 tax-deductible) includes play on the grass tennis courts starting at 2 pm, including the tennis and ceremony viewing, and the Gala Dinner starting at 7:30. To order tickets, go to www.WSTCFoundation.org or by calling the West Side Tennis Club front desk at 718 268 2300.

The West Side Tennis Club was founded in 1892, then located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The private club moved to its current location in Forest Hills in 1913, where it hosted the U.S. National Tennis Championships (known as the modern-day U.S. Open since 1968) from 1915 until 1977. In addition the club has hosted a total of 16 U.S. Davis Cup ties, more than any other facility. The club features 38 tennis courts featuring four different court surfaces – grass, hard, red clay and Har-Tru – including the 13,000-seat Forest Hills Stadium that is now a popular concert venue. The club also features a junior Olympic-size pool, paddle tennis courts and its famous Tudor-style clubhouse. For more information on the club, including membership information, go to www.ForestHillsTennis.com

Death And Federer’s Vienna

This week, the ATP World Tour visits Vienna, Austria for the Vienna Trophy championships. While Roger Federer is not in the field this week, the event has been very important to him. Vienna was the site of Roger Federer’s first ever ATP World Tour semifinal back in 1999 when as an 18-year-old, he defeated Vince Spadea, Jiri Novak and Karol Kucera before losing to Greg Rusedski. In 2002, Federer won a very emotional final against Novak 6-4, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 to win his first tournament since the death of his childhood coach Peter Carter. In 2003, his last visit to the event, Federer won the title over Carlos Moya for his 10th career ATP World Tour final. Fittingly, Federer dedicated the 2002 tournament victory to Carter. “I dedicate this title to him,” he said with glistening eyes at the award ceremony, wrote Rene Stauffer in the book THE ROGER FEDERER STORY: QUEST FOR PERFECTION ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com). Stauffer re-counts the death of Carter and the emotional toll it took on Federer in this exclusive book excerpt below.

South Africa was always a special place for Roger Federer. He held a South African passport since birth and became endeared to his mother’s native country. He routinely traveled there with his family when he was little. “South Africa is a haven for him away from the world of tennis to find fresh inspira­tion,” his mother explained once. “It has a certain openness to it. You grow up with a lot of space in South Africa, which is something different compared to the narrowness of a mountain landscape. South Africans are more open, less complicated. Roger had taken on these characteristics.”

Meanwhile, Federer acquired a valuable piece of property along the pic­turesque Garden Route on the western coast of South Africa at the luxurious Pezula Resort. After the exhausting 2000 season, Federer vacationed in South Africa, where he went on safari with his godfather, Arthur Dubach, a work colleague of Federer’s father during his work days in South Africa. They even experienced a rare site for tourists—a group of leopards killing and eating a gazelle.

In the early afternoon on August 2, 2002, the announcement came over the Swiss news agency Sportinformation—“Davis Cup Captain Carter Killed In Car Crash.” According to the story, the accident occurred in South Africa where he was vacationing with his wife Silvia. There was no further informa­tion. The bad news was then updated with the report that a second man died in the accident.

What really transpired during this belated honeymoon between Peter and his wife was not immediately known. Carter was driving in a Land Rover in the vicinity of the Krueger National Park on August 1, Switzerland’s national holiday. The accident occurred in the Phalaborwa area, about 450 km north of Johannesburg. The vehicle where Carter was a passenger and which friends and his wife were apparently following, was reported to have gone out of control due to a defective tire. The car then crashed into a river bed and rolled over.

The news reports were contradictory. At first, it was announced that Carter died in the evening and later that both passengers were killed instantly. According to initial reports, it was Carter who was driving at the wheel. Later, it was reported that a friend of Carter’s was driving the car and later that a native South African was behind the wheel. The Limpopo police spokesperson in South Africa then issued the statement: “Carter and the driver, a South African, were killed instantly when the roof of their vehicle was crushed in.”

Silvia Carter explained what really happened. “My husband was in the car with a very good friend of ours. We were driving ahead of them and they were following behind us. The vehicle did not have a defective tire. Our friend had to swerve to avoid a minibus that was heading directly at them. Such risky passing maneuvers are unfortunately a daily occurrence in South Africa. In order to avoid a frontal collision, he pulled off onto the ‘accident lane.’ The fateful thing was that a bridge was coming and they had to pull back onto the tarred lane. The speed as well as the difference in surfaces—the natural surface and the tarred surface—that the wheels had to deal with spun the Land Rover. It broke through the bridge railing and landed about three meters below on its roof.”

Federer received the shocking news courtside at the Tennis Masters Series event in Toronto. He was never so upset in his life. Carter was a good friend and the most important coach in his career.

Although Federer lost already in the first round in Toronto, but was still playing in the doubles tournament partnering with Wayne Ferreira, ironical­ly, a South African. The mood was grim for the third-round doubles match, which Federer and Ferreira lost to Joshua Eagle and Sandon Stolle. Federer played the match wearing a black armband in honor of Carter. His eyes were red. He nonetheless announced after the doubles loss that he was prepared to give an interview. “We spent a lot of time together, since I was a boy,” Federer said of his relationship with Carter. “I saw him everyday when I was a boy. It’s terrible…He died so young and unexpectedly.” Federer said that the two always had a connection and they were born under the same Zodiac sign—he was born on August 8, the coach one day later. “Peter was very calm but he was also funny with a typical Australian sense of humor. I can never thank him enough for everything that he gave to me. Thanks to him I have my entire technique and coolness.”

Carter watched Federer play for the first time when Roger was a kid in the 1990’s and exuberantly told his parents in the Barossa Valley in Australia that he had discovered a gigantic talent who could go a long way. He worked with him for all but two years until 2000 and led him to his storied success in the world junior ranks as well as to a top 50 world ranking. After Federer chose Lundgren as his private coach, Carter remained a coach with the Swiss Tennis Federation and took up responsibilities in promoting new talent in men’s tennis. He married Silvia von Arx from Basel in May of 2001.

Carter was the players’ favored choice as Davis Cup team captain for a long time. However, when his wife suffered from lymph node cancer, Carter put his coaching duties on hold until Silvia’s recovery was certain. Since Carter was not a Swiss citizen with a Swiss passport, he was not permitted, as Davis Cup captain, to sit with the players on the court or assume the role as the “official” Davis Cup captain. However, the International Tennis Federation, agreed to recognize him as a Swiss citizen and as the official Davis Cup cap­tain as soon as he acquired a resident permit, which he was scheduled to receive in September of 2003. Carter led the team only once, in February of 2002 in Moscow.

Federer left Toronto for Cincinnati where, like in Paris, Wimbledon and Toronto, he lost in the first round. He couldn’t concentrate. He no longer had confidence in his game and tennis was no longer fun. His thoughts were with Peter Carter. “When something like this happens,” he said, “you see how really unimportant tennis is.” He pulled the emergency brake. He withdrew from the doubles event in Cincinnati and pulled out of the next week’s event in Washington, D.C., and flew home to Switzerland.

The funeral took place on August 14, 2002 on a warm summer’s day in the Leonhard Church in Basel. About 200 people were in attendance to bid farewell, among them many familiar faces in the tennis world. Carter’s friend from his youth, Darren Cahill, who was now coaching Andre Agassi, was also present. The simple ceremony, accompanied by music, was conducted by the same clergyman who married the Carters a year before. Silvia Carter gave a brief, touching speech, as did a friend who came from Australia, Davis Cup physiotherapist Caius Schmid and Christine Ungricht, the President of Swiss Tennis. “He was such a great person,” she said. “Why him? Why does it always happen to the best?”

Federer’s parents were also inconsolable. Carter formed a link to their son over the years. He informed them about everything concerning Roger when they were traveling together. “It was the first death Roger had to deal with and it was a deep shock for him,” his mother said. “But it has also made him stronger.”

Federer left the church with a sense of grief that he never before experienced in his life. “Any defeat in tennis is nothing compared to such a moment,” he explained weeks afterwards. “I usually try and avoid sad events like this. It was the first time that I’d been to a funeral. I can’t say that it did me good but I was close to him in thought once again and I could say goodbye in a dignified setting. I feel somewhat better now, especially in matters concerning tennis.”

US Open Qualifying Might Be The Best Deal In Tennis

Where can you watch former top 10 players, Grand Slam finalists, and rising stars of the game, all completely free of charge?

The US Open qualifying, that kicked off today at the USTA/Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and runs until Friday, attracts tens of thousands of spectators each year. With free admission and front row access to virtually any match during the week, in addition to the chance to watch top players practice in preparation for the main draw, the qualifying is arguably the best deal in tennis.

This rings even more true this year as the Open qualifying boasts likely its strongest field in tournament history. On the men’s side, 2004 Roland Garros champion Gaston Gaudio of Argentina will become the first Grand Slam champion to compete in US Open qualifying since Pat Cash in 1996. Former Wimbledon semifinalist Xavier Malisse of Belgium, former Australian Open finalist Arnaud Clement and former top 20 player Vince Spadea of the United States are other highlights in the field. Two finalists at ATP events in 2009, Carsten Ball of Australia and Somdev Devvarman of India, will also help round out the draw.

The women’s draw features former top 10 player  Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic, and 38-year-old and former U.S., Wimbledon and French Open semifinalist Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan, who will be competing in Flushing Meadows for the first time since 1996. Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain, part of the No. 3 ranked women’s doubles team with fellow Spaniard Anabel Medina Garrigues, will be competing in the final singles event of her career as she sets her sights on retirement at the end of the season.

All qualifying sessions start at 11:00 a.m. each day and run until approximately 7:00 p.m. The opening round of qualifying continues through Wednesday, second round matches take place on Thursday, and qualifying round matches will be held on Friday. For more information, visit www.usopen.org

You Have To Step On His Throat

Seventeen years ago today, July 23, one of the great rivalries ever in tennis played out for the last time as Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe played for the 36th and final time in their careers. As excerpted from my book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennishistorybook.com), Lendl won his sixth straight match against McEnroe 6-2, 6-4 in quarterfinals of the event now known as The Rogers Cup. Lendl’s post-match comments following his win back in 1992 certainly reflected part of the tone of this epic rivalry. The full July 23 chapter is excerpted below…

1992 – In their 36th and final meeting as professionals, Ivan Lendl routs rival John McEnroe 6-2, 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the Canadian Open in Toronto. Says Lendl of McEnroe, “If you have him on the ground on his back, you have to step on his throat. You can’t put out your hand and say come on over here and hit me. You have to concentrate all the time and not give him any chances.” When he was asked what kind of technique he used on McEnroe’s throat, Lendl smiles and replies, “I have spikes in my shoes and I try to twist them as much as I can. That’s the killer instinct.” Lendl wins the all-time series with McEnroe 21-15, including winning the last six meetings and 10 of the last 11.

1984 – Sixteen-year-old Aaron Krickstein becomes the youngest player to win the U.S. Pro Championships, defeating Jose-Luis Clerc 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 in the men’s singles final at the Longwood Cricket Club in Brookline, Mass. Clerc leads 3-0 in the final set, before Krickstein rallies for victory.

2000 – The United States is shut out for the first time ever in a Davis Cup series other than a Challenge Round or Final as Juan Carlos Ferrero and Juan Balcells complete a 5-0 shutout of the United States in the Davis Cup semifinal in Santander, Spain. In the final days’ dead-rubber matches, Ferrero defeats Vince Spadea 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, while Balcells defeats Jan-Michael Gambill 1-6, 7-6, 6-4. The shutout loss marks the end of John McEnroe’s short tenure as U.S. Davis Cup captain. In November, McEnroe announces his resignation as U.S. captain after only one year in the position. Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, the top two U.S. players, beg off the match with Spain with injuries. McEnroe, distraught with the loss, skips out on the post-match press conference, but  says to Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times in a pool phone interview from his car hours later driving to Bilboa airport,  “I’m totally spent. I’m deflated. It was tough and it was tough for everybody. I feel like I’m going to throw up. I’m not sure if it’s emotional or what, but I’m about to heave.”

2006 – Third-seeded Novak Djokovic of Serbia captures his first ATP title in his first final at the Dutch Open Tennis in Amersfoort. The 19-year-old does not lose a set at the championship and beats No. 4 seed Nicolas Massu of Chile 7-6(5), 6-4 in 2 hours, 41 minutes in the final.

1996 – The Olympic tennis competition opens in Atlanta with defending men’s singles gold medalist Marc Rosset of Switzerland winning the opening match on Stadium court, defeating Hicham Arazi of Morocco 6-2, 6-3.

2006 – A rookie into the top 10 rankings, James Blake defeats fellow American top tenner Andy Roddick 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(5) in the final at the RCA Championships at Indianapolis. Says Blake, “This was extremely exciting for me, to play really my best tennis. It’s a little more gratifying to do it when your opponent is playing well. I feel like I’ve earned the No. 5 ranking. It’s crazy what confidence will do. Every break goes against you when you don’t have confidence. And every break goes your way when you do have confidence. I have confidence now and they all seem to be going my way.”

1991 – Michael Chang and Pete Sampras are unceremoniously dumped in the second round of the Canadian Open in Montreal – Chang falling 7-6 (6), 3-6, 6-3 to Italy’s Stefano Pescosoliso, while Sampras losing to Japan’s Shuzo Matsuoka 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (10-8)

World’s Biggest Loser

One of the many charms of Wimbledon is the numerous tabloid headlines and storylines during The Championships. Back on this day, June 26, in 2000, the U.K.’s Daily Mail labeled Vince Spadea as the “World’s Biggest Loser” after he finally broke his ATP record 20-match losing streak in the first round of Wimbledon, beating Britain’s Greg Rusedski in the first round. Screamed the Daily Mail headline after Rusedski’s 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 6-7, 9-7 loss to Spadea, “Rusedski Falls To World’s Biggest Loser.” Spadea, however, has proved to be far from a loser as the 34-year-old veteran qualified this year at Wimbledon (his 14th appearance) and reached the second round, losing to Igor Andreev. The book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennishistorybook.com) chronicles the Spadea-Rusedski match – and others – in the June 25 excerpt below.

2000 – Vince Spadea breaks his ATP record 21-match losing streak by upsetting No. 14 seed Greg Rusedski of Britain 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 6-7, 9-7 in the first round of Wimbledon. Entering the match, Spadea is winless on the ATP Tour since the previous October in Lyon, France. Says Spadea, “If I had lost this match I was thinking: ‘Holy goodness! I am going to have to stay in Europe until I win a match. But here I am, six months on. It was worth the wait.” The following day, Rusedski is greeted with the headline in the Daily Mail reading, “Rusedski Falls To World’s Biggest Loser.”

2002 – Seven-time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras plays what ultimately becomes his final Wimbledon match, losing in the second round – unceremoniously on the Graveyard Court – Court No. 2 – to lucky-loser and No. 145-ranked George Bastl of Switzerland 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4. Bastl, who enters the match having won only one main draw grass court match in his career, only gains entry into the tournament when Felix Mantilla of Spain withdraws the day before the tournament begins. Despite the loss, Sampras tells reporters after the match that he would return to the All England Club to play again, but after his U.S. Open triumph later in the summer, he never plays another professional match. “You know, I’m not going to end my time here with that loss,” Sampras says after the match. “I want to end it on a high note, and so I plan on being back… As long as I feel like I can continue to win majors and contend, I’ll just continue to play.” Says Bastl, “It’s a nice story isn’t it? I gave myself chances because I was practicing on grass for the last three weeks. I had won my last three matches and I knew my game was improving match by match. I felt I would have some sort of a chance.”

1951 – On a cold and rainy afternoon, Althea Gibson walks on to Centre Court at Wimbledon as the first black player to compete in The Championships. Ten months after becoming the first black player to compete in a major when she played the U.S. Championships the previous summer, Gibson wins her first match in her debut Wimbledon, defeating Pat Ward of Great Britain 6-0, 2-6, 6-4. Reports the Associated Press of Gibson, “Although the tall Negro girl is unseeded, she convinced the British experts that she has the equipment to rank high in the world within another year or two.”

1962 – Eighteen-year-old Billie Jean Moffitt beats No. 1 seed Margaret Smith 1-6, 6-3, 7-5 in the opening round of Wimbledon, creating history as the first player to knock of the women’s No. 1 seed in the opening round at the All England Club. Smith is the heavy favorite to win the title after winning the Australian, Italian and French Championships entering the tournament. Billie Jean, who goes on to win six singles titles at the All England Club– and a record 20 titles overall at Wimbledon. Writes Bud Collins in The Bud Collins History of Tennis, “Her victory established ‘Little Miss Moffitt’ as a force to be reckoned with on the Centre Court that already was her favorite stage.”

1965 – Manuel Santana becomes the first defending champion to lose in the first round of Wimbleodn when he is defeated by Charlie Pasarell 10-8, 6-3, 2-6, 8-6. Writes Fred Tupper of the New York Times of the Pasarell’s upset of the No. 1 seed, “Over 150 spine-tingling minutes this afternoon, the Puerto Rican was the better tennis player, stronger on serve, more secure on volley, and rock steady in the crises.” Says Santana, “Charlito was good.He was fast and hit the ball hard.”

1978 – Bjorn Borg performs a first-round escape on the opening day of Wimbledon as the two-time defending champion staves off elimination by six-foot-seven inch, 220-pound Victor Amaya of Holland, Mich., prevailing in five sets by a 8-9, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 margin. Amaya, who wears size 15 sneakers, leads Borg two sets to one and 3-1 in the fourth set and holds break point in the fifth game to go up two breaks in the fourth set. “He played better than I did on the important points, and that’s always the difference in a five-set match,” says Amaya. “He came up with great shots like that on crucial points, and that’s why he is great.”

1998 – After no victories in 17 previous matches, including a 6-0, 6-0 loss 10 years earlier in the final of the French Open, Natasha Zvereva wins her first match against Steffi Graf, defeating the German 6-4, 7-5 in the third round of Wimbledon. Graf is hampered by a hamstring injury and is playing in only her fifth event of the year after recovering from knee surgery.

2007 – In his last Wimbledon singles match, Justin Gimelstob makes Wimbledon history as the first player to use the “Hawk-Eye” instant replay system at the All England Club. In his 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (3) first-round loss to Andy Roddick on Court No. 1 on the opening day of play, Gimelstob uses the Hawk-Eye system to challenge one of his serves in the first set. Says Gimelstob of his new status in Wimbledon history, “I’d like to have a few more important records, but I’ll take what I can get.”

1990 – John McEnroe is defeated in the first round of Wimbledon for only the second time in his career, as the 31-year-old three-time champion is sent packing by the hands of fellow American Derrick Rostagno by a 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 margin. McEnroe is joined on the sideline by newly-crowned French Open champion and No. 5 seed Andres Gomez, who falls to American Jim Grabb 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. “I’m going home to Ecuador and watch the matches on TV and pretend I never was here,” says Gomez. Future seven-time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras is also sent packing in the first round by South African Christo van Rensburg, who defeats the No. 12 seeded Sampras 7-6, 7-5, 7-6.

1985 – French Open champion Mats Wilander of Sweden is dismissed in the first round of Wimbledon as six-foot-six, No. 77-ranked Slobodan Zivojinovic of Yugoslavia defeats the No. 4 seeded Wilander 6-2, 5-7, 7-5, 6-0.

2004 – The USTA names the 2004 U.S. Olympic tennis team during the same day that the Olympic flame is run through the All-England Club at Wimbledon. Named to the U.S. Olympic tennis team were Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish, Taylor Dent, Vince Spadea, Bob Bryan, Mike Bryan, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Jennifer Capriati, Chanda Rubin, Lisa Raymond and Martina Navratilova.

Mondays With Bob Greene: Roger generates pressure just by being in front of you

STARS

Andy Murray beat Gilles Simon 6-4 7-6 (6) to win the Mutua Madrilena Masters Madrid in Madrid, Spain

Venus William won the Zurich Open, beating Flavia Pennetta 7-6 (1) 6-2 in Zurich, Switzerland

Lu Yen-Hsun won the Tashkent Challenger by beating Mathieu Montcourt 6-3 6-2 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Mara Santiago won the Internazionali Tennis Val Gardena in Ortisei, Italy, when Kristina Barrois lost the first set 6-3, then retired.

SAYINGS

“The serve is the reason I won the tournament because today Gilles was hitting the ball better than me from the back of the court. He was obviously more tired than me. I didn’t play my best, but I’m really happy I won.” – Andy Murray, after beating Gilles Simon to win the Madrid Masters.

“I was really tired today. I didn’t move like I usually do and Andy knew it. He just wanted to kill me, just wanted to make me run.” – Gilles Simon, after losing to Andy Murray.

“I love the pressure. I need it in my life.” – Venus Williams, after winning the Zurich Open.

“It is tough to play against someone who serves like she did today.” – Flavia Pennetta, after losing to Venus Williams, who won one game with four straight aces.

“I was a little unlucky today. I had some mistakes with the backhand, which didn’t help. But I’m not surprised. He’s playing very well and with great confidence.” – Rafael Nadal, after losing to Gilles Simon in the semifinals at Madrid.

“Roger generates pressure just by being in front of you.” – Juan Martin del Potro, who lost to Roger Federer at Madrid.

“I didn’t play tennis because of money, that was never my drive, but I have been very successful. I’ve had an incredible run in slams lately that racks up the money and also the Masters Cup. There is a lot of money involved there.” – Roger Federer, after becoming the ATP career leader in earnings.

“I had no gas left in the tank. I am not a robot and after winning three titles in different time zones and climates I felt mentally and physically tired.” – Jelena Jankovic, after her second-round loss to Flavia Pennetta 5-7 6-3 6-3 at the Zurich Open.

“I think maybe mentally she might have been tired from all the tennis she played recently, but I also served better in the second and third sets than she did.” – Flavia Pennetta, after upsetting top-seeded Jelena Jankovic.

“The mental ability that I have at the moment is one of my advantages. What divides top players from the rest is mental calmness and an ability to cope with pressure in certain moments. … If you are mentally able to play the right shots at the right time, then your place is at the top. That’s the key of this game.” – Novak Djokovic.

“I have to do my things, but in Davis Cup he is the leader and he is the one that counts above everyone else. We don’t compete to see who is the best from Argentina.” – Juan Martin del Potro, after beating compatriot and seventh-seeded David Nalbandian 6-4 6-2 at the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Masters.

“For the last two months, I’ve been very serious. It’s all changing for me.” – Gael Monfils, saying his new approach to his career is paying off with victories on the court.

“We are going to deliver on our contract at Melbourne. We’ve had a great run, massive growth in Melbourne. Australia is really behind the event as a Grand Slam. It’s a good event in Melbourne.” – Steve Wood, Tennis Australia chief executive, explaining that the Australian Open will not move from Melbourne to Sydney.

“In my career I’ve stood here on the final day like this nine times now. Not a lot of weeks go by where everything goes right like this.” – Vince Spadea, after winning a Challenger tournament in Calabasas, California, his ninth tournament title in his 15-year professional career, eight of them coming on the Challenger tour.

STOPPING AT THE TOP

Rafael Nadal will finish the year as the number one player in the ATP rankings, ending Roger Federer’s four-year reign. The Spaniard was guaranteed to claim the top spot at the end of the year when Federer lost in the semifinals of the Mutua Madrilena Masters Madrid. Nadal becomes the first left-hander to finish the year at number one since John McEnroe in 1984 and only the third lefty in the 36-year history of the ATP Rankings. McEnroe was number one from 1981-84 and Jimmy Connors finished number one from 1974-78. The first Spaniard to finish the year as number one, Nadal has won an ATP-leading eight titles in 2008, including Roland Garros and Wimbledon.

SVETLANA’S IN

Svetlana Kuznetsova has clinched a spot in the season-ending WTA Championships in Doha. The Russian is the sixth player to qualify for the eight-woman field, joining Jelena Jankovic, Serena Williams, Dinara Safina, Ana Ivanovic and Elena Dementieva. The tournament will be held November 4-9.

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SO IS NIKOLAY

Nikolay Davydenko is the fifth player to qualify for the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai, China. The Russian joins Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in the elite eight-player field for the November 9-16 tournament. Also qualifying for the doubles competition at the Tennis Masters were Mahesh Bhupathi of India and Mark Knowles of the Bahamas, along with Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay and Luis Horna of Peru. Cuevas and Horna qualified by winning the title at Roland Garros.

SPECIAL BRIT

When Andy Murray beat Gilles Simon 6-4 7-6 (6) to win the Madrid Masters, he gained a spot into a pretty select group. Murray is the first Briton to win four ATP titles in a season and will be the first from Great Britain since Fred Perry in 1936 to finish the year as the fourth-ranked man. Both Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski reached number four in the rankings, but neither finished the year there nor won four titles and played in a Grand Slam final in one season.

SUPER FRENCH

For the first time in ATP ranking history there are four Frenchmen in the top 20 in the world: Richard Gasquet, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils.

SERBIAN STOP

If Novak Djokovic has his way, an ATP tournament will be held in his home country of Serbia. The reigning Australian Open champion said his family has bought the license to the ABM Amro Open, which has been held in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Djokovic hopes to move the tournament to Belgrade next May.

SURPRISE, NOT

Roger Federer has another title in his trophy case. The Swiss superstar has become the all-time leader in career prize money earnings in men’s tennis, surpassing Pete Sampras. Federer, who has won the U.S. Open five times, has earned more than USD $43.3 million. Sampras has won 14 Grand Slam tournament titles, one more than Federer. Andre Agassi is third in career earnings with USD $31.1 million, with Boris Becker in fourth place on the career money list.

SPONSOR OUT

The United States Davis Cup team is losing its main sponsor. The Associated Press reported that insurance giant American International Group Inc. (AIG) will not renew its contract when it expires at year’s end. One of the world’s largest insurance companies, AIG was on the brink of failure last month when the U.S. government offered it a USD $85 billion loan. On October 8, the Federal Reserve agreed to provide AIG with another loan of up to USD $37.8 billion.

SWITCHING COACHES

A former player will be Svetlana Kuznetsova’s new coach. The Russian star, who has been ranked as high as number two in the world, has hired world-renowned coach Olga Morozova. Kuznetsova had been working with Stefan Ortega from the Sánchez-Casal Academy in Spain. As a player, Morozova was runner-up at both the French Open and Wimbledon in 1974. She has coached the Russian Fed Cup squad and a number of other Russian players, including Elena Dementieva.

STAYING PUT

The Australian Open is staying in Melbourne. Organizers of the year’s first Grand Slam tournament said they will spurn an offer to move the event to Sydney when the current contract with Melbourne expires in 2016. New South Wales recently announced it was building a world-class tennis facility in Sydney and would attempt to get the Australian Open moved there. Although the tournament has been played in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and even New Zealand since it’s inception in 1905, it has been played continually at Melbourne Park since 1988.

STARRING

The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour is the recipient of the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Billie Jean King Contribution Award for its 35-year history of supporting equal opportunity for women on the courts. The award honors an individual or organization that has made significant contributions to the development and advancement of women’s sports. When the WTA Tour secured equal prize money for players at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 2007, it fulfilled a 30-year goal of parity.

SPADEA A WINNER

When veteran Vince Spadea won a USD $50,000 USTA Challenger tournament in Calabasas, California, he moon walked to the net following the final point. Spadea’s 7-6 (5) 6-4 win over Sam Warburg was his eighth career singles Challenger title. Spadea has won once on the ATP tour in his 15-year pro career.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Madrid: Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski beat Mahesh Bupathi and Mark Knowles 6-4 6-2

Zurich: Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Patty Schnyder 6-1 7-6 (3)

Tashkent: Flavio Cipolla and Pavel Snobel beat Michail Elgin and Alexandre Kudryavtsev 6-3 6-4

Ortisei: Mariya Koryttseva and Yaroslava Shvedova beat Maret Ani and Galina Voskoboeva 6-2 6-1

SITES TO SURF

Budapest: www.tennisclassics.hu/

Linz: www.generali-ladies.at

Lyon: www.gptennis.com/

Basel: http://www.davidoffswissindoors.ch/

Luxembourg: www.fortis-championships.lu

Seoul: www.kortennis.co.kr

Paris: www.fft.fr/bnpparibasmasters//

Quebec: www.challengebell.com

Bratislava: www.stz.sk

Busan: www.busanopen.org/

Cali: www.tennissegurosbolivar.com/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$1,000,000 Davidoff Swiss Indoors, Basel, Switzerland, carpet

$1,000,000 St. Petersburg Open, St. Petersburg, Russia, hard

$800,000 Grand Prix de Tennis De Lyon, Lyon, France, carpet

$125,000 Samsung Securities Cup Challenger, Seoul, Korea, hard

WTA TOUR

$600,000 Generali Ladies Linz, Linz, Austria, hard

$225,000 FORTIS Championships Luxembourg

$100,000 Internationaux Feminins de la Vienne, Poitiers, France, hard

$100,000 2008 OEC Taipei Ladies Open, Taipei, Taiwan, carpet

SENIORS

Stanford Championships, Outback Champions, Dallas, Texas

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$2,450,000 BNP Paribas Masters, Paris, France, carpet

$125,000 Seguros Bolivar Open, Cali, Colombia, clay

$100,000 Busan Open Challenger, Busan, South Korea, hard

WTA TOUR

$175,000 Bell Challenge, Quebec City, Quebec, hard

$100,000 Ritro Slovak Open, Bratislava, Slovak Republic, hard

Mark Keil – Tales from Cincinnati and Boise

Mark Keil, tennis teaching instructor at the Westboro Tennis and Swim Club, MA writes on two exciting events going on in the states this summer.  The tour stop in Cincinnati, is now a big Master Series event.  The winner in singles and doubles gets a free membership for life in the ATP Tour.  I think it is is the hottest tour event all year, and can sap all of your energy.  I teamed up with Peter Nyborg of Sweden in 1995.  We beat Arnaud Boetsch of France, a former Davis Cup player. He partnered the current player Vince Spadea of Boca Raton, Fla.  We played great and won 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. In the next round we drew Jared Palmer, the NCAA singles and doubles champion out of Stanford.  His dad was the curator of the Palmer Academy, a tennis school in Tampa that produced many junior champion’s. Jared had the best technique, he played like Richard Avedon was taking his picture on every stroke.  He was a Davis Cup doubles team member, and also reached top 40 in the world in the ATP singles rankings.  His wingman that week was Richey Reneberg, the most unheralded American player ever. This guy played solid every time he stepped on the court. He was the king of eating room service, and hardly ventured out of his room. He played Davis Cup doubles for the United States, and played in a few dead rubbers in singles also.

He did play a few practical jokes on player’s with his mate Scott Davis. They use to travel with the “winger,” a sling shot for firing water balloons from hotel balconys. One year at Queen’s, John McEnroe was practicing on an outside court, and these two dudes fired balloons from the clubhouse and kept hitting a metal shack next to his court, making him even more paranoid than he already is. We lost 7-5, 6-3.

At this time of year I played World Team Tennis for the Idaho Sneakers. Boise is a nice town, and Patrick McEnroe picked me to play doubles with him. The South African Michael Robertson was our coach, and I could have given a better effort.  He ended up being my coach for awhile, and I learned how to think more on the court.  Katie Schlukebir, Debbie Graham, Gigi Fernandez, and Wesley Whitehouse rounded out our team.  We would always have early morning flights to the next city to play, and it was an exhausting but fun experience. Patrick would travel with a medicine ball, and it was tough putting it up in the carry on bins on the plane. Gigi was a multiple major doubles champion along with two Olympic gold medals, and had scary volleys. Debbie had a bigger serve than me, and had an unbelievable playing record at Stanford.  Katie was a very sweet girl, who relished on the gossip of our season.  Whitehouse won the Wimbledon junior singles title, and had a lot of angst that it didn’t carry over to the pros. We finished 3-11, mainly due to my unprofessionalism.  All in all, being a part of the team was enjoyable and I picked up a lot information on how to be a better tennis player.  The road to the US Open continues, and what a ride it is.

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Bill Mountford – Dispatches From Newport, R.I, Part II

Vince Spadea “ain’t afraid a-ya” and the magical Fabrice Santoro have reached the other semifinal.  When these thirty-somethings square off, it will be a nice contrast to the first semifinal that I wrote about in the previous column.

Santoro, referred to as The Magician for his inventive ways of returning balls, is the defending champion.  At the age of 35, he has been battlin g on the ATP Tour for nearly two decades.  Remember that he was once a precocious teenager, and he played in his first Roland Garros main draw at the age of 16 in 1989.  Santoro is the defending champion, having beaten fellow Frenchman Nicolas Mahut in the 2007 final.  He is certainly a crowd favorite in Newport.

A few weeks ago, Santoro achieved a unique career milestone when he lost to Andy Murray at Wimbledon.  He had played on the main stadium courts at all of the majors except for the Big W.  While he lost in three entertaining sets, it was nice to see another of the two-hander’s dreams fulfilled.

Vince Spadea, soon-to-be 34 years old, reached the Newport finals in 2005, losing a heartbreaker to Greg Rusedski after leading 5-3 in the 3rd set.  This loss would have haunted him, because Spadea has taken but one ATP Tour title in his 16 year career.  Considering that Spadea has played 344 tourneys as a professional, the fact that he has only garnered one title is a remarkable statistic.  His lifetime professional record stands at 304 wins against 343 losses.

The grass courts are playing plenty soft and the bounces are low and erratic.  It is like old-time grass court tennis.  I had the privilege of playing on these courts yesterday, as anybody can.  These are the only public grass courts in America, and one more reason that all tennis players and fans should pilgrimage to Newport at least once each summer.

I played against former University of Georgia Bulldog and current publishing magnate Randy Walker.  Thankfully, the book orders for his recently published The Bud Collins History of Tennis, are coming in more consistently than any of Walker’s service returns.

Saturday’s induction ceremony is shaping up to be another wonderful day for our sport.  There will be six speeches, including from John McEnroe and Monica Seles, and the usual flawless Newport summer weather.  Missing, however, will be Hall of Famer and MC extraordinaire Arthur “Bud” Collins.  The ageless Collins has been a fixture at every summer tennis event in Newport, Rhode Island since 1881, including the first US National Championships which were played at the Casino.

The colorful Collins is nursing a leg injury sustained in Paris (where was Billy Norris when he needed him the most!?!).  While the injury will keep Collins from playing barefoot on the grass courts this summer, a full recovery is expected.  Collins is the greatest player- or hacker- in the history of Lima, Ohio and his humor and grace will be missed at this year’s ceremony.  Get well soon, Bud.  Our sport needs you.

For Bill Mountford tennis instruction videos click here!