Vincent Spadea

Tennis In The Commonwealth: Stosur Wins, Birmingham Restored

By Leigh Sanders

The following is Leigh Sanders’ weekly look at tennis headlines in “The Commonwealth” or the traditional tennis powerhouses that were former members of the British Empire, most notably Australia, South Africa, India, Canada and, of course, Great Britain.

Revered British tennis centre, the Edgbaston Priory Club in Birmingham, has been handed a boost by the confirmation that the WTA Tour’s AEGON Classic will be returning in 2010. It was feared the tournament would be moved as part of the new British Tennis Series.

But the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) has agreed a contract for a further year with a view to extending that providing the centre makes substantial improvements to its facilities.

Discussions have now begun between the LTA, the club and Birmingham City Council to see how the site and future events can be improved.

A pre-Wimbledon event has been held here every summer since 1982 and past winners include Maria Sharapova, Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova.

Priory Club Chief Executive Robert Bray said: “We have a long tradition of hosting international tennis and we are delighted to have reached an agreement with the LTA.”

* Samantha Stosur of Australia picked up her maiden singles WTA title at the Japan Open on Sunday. She beat Francesca Schiavone 7-5, 6-1, Schiavone now losing 10 of her last 11 singles finals. Stosur dropped only one set throughout the tournament, in the semifinal to Caroline Wozniacki. She has previously won 22 doubles titles and has stated her intention to break in to the world top 10 singles following her first triumph.

* It was Wozniacki who had been the conqueror of new number two Brit Katie O’Brien in the second round. The Danish world No. 6 needed only 44 minutes to wrack up a 6-0, 6-1 victory over 94th ranked O’Brien.

* Britain’s Andy Murray dropped to 4th in this week’s ATP Rankings (10/19) following Novak Djokovic’s win in Beijing while Lleyton Hewitt of Australia climbed one place to 22nd. Fellow Aussie Peter Luczak dropped 19 places to 83rd and Chris Guccione also dropped 2 places to 109th.

* In the doubles rankings (10/19) Canada’s Daniel Nestor remains No. 1 despite his early exit from Shanghai (see below). Mahesh Bhupathi of India remains sixth after his semifinals berth at the same tournament. Aussie pair Jordan Kerr and Paul Hanley rose to 29th and 30th respectively while Jeff Coetzee of South Africa fell 9 places to 35th.

* In the WTA Rankings (10/19), Samantha Stosur’s win in Japan sees her climb two places to 13th in the singles while India’s Sania Mirza climbs to 58th after her semifinals berth at Osaka. Australia’s Jelena Dokic climbs from 69th to 62nd while Britain’s injured No. 1 Anne Keothavong continues to fall during her recovery, now down in 79th place. Katie O’Brien is now Britain’s number two after jumping above Elena Baltacha after her exploits in Japan.

* In the doubles rankings (10/19) Samantha Stosur dropped to 9th place after her singles exertions this week while India’s Sania Mirza climbed two places to 36th. Marie-eve Pelletier of Canada is up one to 66th and Britain’s Sarah Borwell is also up to 79th. Canada’s Sharon Fichman also climbs one place to 98th in the world.

* Andy Roddick has become the sixth player to secure his place at the ATP World Tour Finals to be held in London, England next month despite his withdrawal from Shanghai.

* Two Aussie women failed to follow the lead of Stosur this weekend by losing their respective ITF finals. Jelena Dokic went down to the Swede Sofia Arvidsson in the Joue-les-Tours event in France while Alicia Molik fell to Sacha Jones of New Zealand in the Port Pirie Tennis International, Port Pirie, Australia.

* French duo Julien Benneteau and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga picked up their first doubles title as a partnership in Shanghai this week having seen off the top seeds and world No. 1 and No. 2, Canada’s Daniel Nestor and partner Nenad Zimonjic in the second round and India’s Mahesh Bhupathi and his partner Mark Knowles, of the Bahamas, in the semifinals.

* Aussie tennis legend Evonne Goolagong Cawley received a strange tribute this week as the town of Barellan, where she spent most of her childhood, unveiled a giant statue of the wooden Dunlop racquet she used to win 7 Grand Slam singles titles. Seven-thousand people attended the launch that also saw the 58-year-old hosting tennis clinics and a crayfish-gathering activity known as ‘yabbying.’

* Philip Brook has been named as the new Vice Chairman of the All England Tennis Club, Wimbledon, England from December 2009. He has been a member at the club since 1989, serving on many sub-committees during that time. The decision follows the announcement by current Vice Chairman Tim Phillips indicating his intention to step down in December 2009 following ten years in the role.

* Mixed fortunes for Great Britain this week as Alex Bogdanovic won the 42.5k Euros Challenger event in Denmark while Jocelyn Rae prevailed in the £10k event in Mytilini, Greece, beating fellow Brit and doubles partner Jade Windley in the final. Not so much luck in the doubles as Jonathan Marray and his partner were beaten in the doubles final in Denmark while Rae and Windley were edged out of the doubles final in Mytilini. Colin Fleming/Ken Skupski and Jamie Murray/Jamie Delgado, have progressed though to the quarterfinals of the ATP Challenger Event in Orleans, France.

* Also at Orleans, Australia’s Carsten Ball fell in the R32 of singles to Frenchman Nicolas Mahut 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.

* Australian Peter Luczak has lost in the first round of the If Stockholm Open doubles paired with Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. They lost 7-5, 6-3 to Brazilian Bruno Soares and Zimbabwean Kevin Ullyett in 71 minutes. Fellow Aussie Jordan Kerr and American Travis Parrott are through though after victory over Brazilians Marcelo Melo/Andre Sa.

* Canadians on the march this week are Aleksandra Wozniak and Peter Polansky. Wozniak is through to the second round of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow after her first-round opponent, Sara Errani of Italy, retired after just 30 minutes. She’ll play the winner of Maria Kirilenko and Agnieszka Radwanska in the next round. At the Copa Petrobas Challenger in Santiago, Chile, Polansky is through to the second round of both singles and doubles. He beat Diego Alvarez of Argentina 6-1, 6-4 in the singles and with American Alex Bogomolov Jr. overcame Brazilian duo Ricardo Hocevar and Joao Souza in the doubles.

* Brit Dan Smethurst lost in the quarterfinals of the $15k ITF event in Dubrovnik, Croatia to Italy’s Simone Vagnozzi who was ranked 216 places above him in the rankings.

* The Canadian Junior Fed Cup team placed a respectable fifth at the recent Fed Cup finals held in Mexico. After narrowly missing out on the main draw they beat Croatia and China to top the bracket competing for fifth to eighth spot.

* Aussie Marinko Matosevic was beaten in the Round of 32 at the Royal Bank of Scotland Challenger in Tiburon, Calif., by America’s Vincent Spadea 2-6, 7-6(3), 6-0.

Mondays With Bob Greene: Rafael Nadal Wins His First Grass-Court Title

16 June 2008

STARS

Rafael Nadal won his first grass-court title, the Artois Championships, by beating Novak Djokovic 7-6 (6) 7-5 in London, England.

Roger Federer won the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany, for the fifth time, downing Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3 6-4

Nikolay Davydenko beat Tommy Robredo 6-3 6-3 to win the Orange Prokom Open in Warsaw, Poland

Kateryna Bondarenko won her first WTA Tour title, the DFS Classic in Birmingham, England, by beating Yanina Wickmayer 7-6 (7) 3-6 7-6 (4)

Maria Kirilenko defeated Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-0 6-2 to win the Torneo Barcelona KIA in Barcelona, Spain

SAYINGS

“I now have titles on all surfaces, so I am now a more complete player than I was a week ago.” – Rafael Nadal, after winning a grass-court tournament, The Artois Championships.

“It feels great. Finally I have my own title. I didn’t expect my first one to come on grass.” – Kateryna Bondarenko, who earned her first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title by capturing the DFS Classic.

“Maybe if he wins it six times people won’t question him. People are sitting here saying, `Can Roger win Wimbledon?’ Yes, he can. He’s won it five times.” – Andy Roddick, about Roger Federer.

“It’s been a terrific week. I’ve only been playing on grass for three years so it’s quite an improvement for m e to get to the final.” – Novak Djokovic, after losing to Nadal in the final at Queen’s Club.

“I need three days off. Four would be amazing! I’ve spent nine days in the last four months at home. I need to be with friends, family, forget the tennis for a few days. I need to play some golf.” – Rafael Nadal.

“We’re confident going into Wimbledon. I think we’ll be second seeds, and anytime you’re the opposite of the Bryans it’s a nice thing.” – Daniel Nestor, who with his partner Nenad Zimonjic won The Artois Championships doubles.

“I am mentally exhausted after the French Open. I am not ready to compete so soon after winning my first Grand Slam.” – Ana Ivanovic, withdrawing from the Wimbledon warm-up tournament in Eastbourne, England.

“My game plane was just to make her play every point. I knew she hadn’t had a lot of wins recently and I wanted to stop her taking the initiative out there.” – Bethany Mattek, after upsetting world number seven Nicole Vaidisova at the DFS Classic.

“I think I played well. Even though my knee hurt a lot, I kept on fighting. I’m not a quitter.” – Yanina Wickmayer,

“Nobody beats John Sadri 15 times, so he’s lucky I retired. I drew the line.” – John Sadri, noting his career record against John McEnroe was 14-0, including the 1978 NCAA championship match.

SPANISH HISTORY

When Rafael Nadal won The Artois Championships at Queen’s Club in London, he became the first Spaniard to capture a grass-court title since Andres Gimeno at Eastbourne, England, in 1972. Nadal also became the first player to win the French Open and The Queen’s Club in the same year since Ilie Nastase of Romania captured both titles in 1973. He also is the first player since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win at Roland Garros and a grass-court title in the same year. And he is the first left-hander to win The Artois Championships since Scott Draper of Australia in 1996.

SURFACE STREAK

Roger Federer has compiled an Open Era record 59-match winning streak on grass going into Wimbledon, where he is seeking his sixth consecutive title. He extended his record to 25-0 at the Gerry Weber Open, where he has won in his last five appearances on the grass in Halle, Germany. Federer’s last loss on grass was to Mario Ancic in the first round at Wimbledon in 2002. The victory was Federer’s 10th grass-court title, tying him with Pete Sampras for the Open Era record.

SERBIAN SWEEP

With Ana Ivanovic ranked number one in the world and Jelena Jankovic number two, Serbia becomes only the third nation since the rankings began in 1975 to have the world’s top two players. The United States have had five different pairs occupy first and second in the rankings at the same time, and Belgium joined the select group when Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters held those two spots.

STRATOSPHERIC MATCH

Kateryna Bondarenko of the Ukraine and Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium reached the final of a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour event for the first time when they squared off for the title at the DFS Classic in Birmingham, England. Before last week Bondarenko had never been beyond the quarterfinals of a Tour singles event, while Wickmayer’s best showing before Birmingham was a second-round appearance in Antwerp, Belgium. Bondarenko won the hard-fought battle of newcomers 3-6 (7) 3-6 7-6 (4).

SECOND-SET IRE

Fernando Gonzalez forfeited his third-round match at Queen’s Club when he let his temper get the best of him. The Chilean was warned for ball abuse in the first set, then was docked a point when he smashed his racket in anger. When he abused a ball again after losing his serve in the 11th game of the second set, umpire Les Maddock issued a game penalty, sending Gonzalez to the locker room and giving the match to Ivo Karlovic.

SEEKING MORE SAY

The world’s top three players have become political allies in an attempt to take more control over their sport. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are all but certain to be elected to the ATP Player Council. The three have complained about the current ATP leadership and have expressed concern about the potential impact of a lawsuit filed against the ATP by tournament organizers in Hamburg, Germany. Federer, Nadal and Djokovic are running unopposed for three of the four slots reserved for players ranked one to 50.

SPADEA INTO WIMBLEDON

American Vincent Spadea and Frenchman Thierry Ascione gained spots in the main draw at Wimbledon when officials decided not to award the final two of eight wild cards in the men’s singles. Spadea, ranked 110th in the world, and Ascione, ranked 119th, where the next two players in the rankings who were eligible to play at the grass court Grand Slam. Receiving wild cards into the men’s field were Belgian Xavier Malisse, Britons Jamie Baker and Alex Bogdanovic, Canadian Frank Dancevic and Jeremy Chardy of France. The women’s wild cards went to Australia’s Samantha Stosur, Poland’s Urzula Radwanska, Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro and Britain’s Elena Baltacha, Naomi Cavaday, Katie O’Brien and Melanie South.

STILL NUMBER ONE

Cara Black is moving up the all-time list of players who have held the number one ranking in doubles. The Zimbabwean has been ranked number one for a total of 68 weeks, tying her with Helena Sukova. Martina Navratilova leads the list with a total of 237 weeks being ranked number one. Liezel Huber, who teamed with Black to win the DFS Classic in Birmingham, England, joined her partner at number one and now has been ranked at the top position for 31 weeks.

SPANISH SKIN

Fernando Verdasco has bared all for a good cause. The Spanish player can be seen without clothing in the July issue of the United Kingdom’s Cosmopolitan Magazine. Verdaco is the second tennis player to pose in the nude in support of the Everyman Male Cancer Campaign. Another Spaniard, Tommy Robredo, was the first to pick a unique way to help raise awareness and funds for research into testicular and prostate cancer.

SWISS RETURN

Martina Hingis and Jana Novotna will repeat their Wimbledon final of 1997 when they play an exhibition match at the Liverpool International Tournament. Hingis retired after banned for two years from competitive tennis following a positive test for cocaine at Wimbledon last year. Hingis also took time to join Pat Cash, Goran and American Ashley Harkleroad at a charity dinner in Liverpool, England, to support Claire House, a hospice for children.

SWITCHING SPORTS

John Sadri’s current love is golf, where last week he shot an opening-round 77 that put him 10 strokes off the lead in the North Carolina Amateur in Raleigh. Now 51, Sadri once was ranked number 14 in the world in tennis and lost to Guillermo Vilas in the 1979 Australian Open men’s singles final. Sadri, who owns a construction company in Charlotte, North Carolina, said he took up golf to get closer to business clients.

SIGN OF AFFECTION

Evonne Goolagong Cawley’s home town is going big-time to honor their champion. How big? The New South Wales town of Barellan is building a giant replica of the wooden tennis racket Goolagong used during the height of her success in the 1970s. The steel construction will be 13.8 meters (45 feet) high and will stand on a 45-degree angle in the town’s Evonne Goolagong Park. Goolagong won 92 tournaments during her career, including Wimbledon in 1971 and 1980.

SPORT FOR AUSSIES

Australia’s most popular sport is tennis, according to the Sweeney Sports Report, which used various indicators such as participation, attendance at major events, viewing figures and merchandise sales to quantify the popularity of major sports. Golf, which moved into first place when Aussie Greg Norman was the world’s number one player, is now near the bottom of the list. The survey showed that swimming was second most popular and cricket third. The year’s first Grand Slam tournament, the Australian Open, was voted the third most popular sporting event in Australia behind the Australian Football Rules Grand Final and The Melbourne Cup, a horse race.

SPEED SKILLS

Tennis players can judge speed better than others, according to a study in Switzerland. But it could either be the case that tennis improves temporal processing or that better temporal processing allows people to become better tennis player. And the effects observed were quite small since we all use some of the skills on a daily basis, as when driving a car. Tennis players are only significantly better at spotting tennis balls in a match, not at spotting a cat running across the road while they are driving.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

London: Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic beat Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa 6-4 7-6 (3)

Halle: Mikhail Youzhny and Mischa Zverev beat Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes 3-6 6-4 10-3 (match tiebreak)

Warsaw: Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski beat Nikolay Davydenko and Yuri Schukin 6-0 3-6 10-4 (match tiebreak)

Birmingham: Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Yaroslava Shvedova and Tamarine Tanasugarn 5-7 6-4 10-4 (match tiebreak)

Barcelona: Lourdes Dominguez Lino and Arantxa Parra Santonja beat Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 4-6 7-5 10-4 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Eastbourne: http://eastbourne.lta.org.uk/

‘s-Hertogenbosch: www.ordina-open.nl

Wimbledon: www.Wimbledon.com

Roger Federer: www. rogerfederer.com

Ana Ivanovic: www.anaivanovic.com/

Koninklijke Nederlandse Lawn Tennis Bond: www.knltb.nl

The Lawn Tennis Association: www.lta.org.uk/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$584,000 Ordina Open, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, grass

$584,000 The Slazenger Open, Nottingham, Great Britain, grass

$125,000 Braunschweig Challenger, Braunschweig, Germany, clay

WTA TOUR

$600,000 International Women’s Open, Eastbourne, Great Britain, grass

$175,000 Ordina Open, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, grass

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP and WTA TOUR

The Championships, Wimbledon, Great Britain, grass