Wayne Odesnik

Wimbledon Tidbits: Tomic Wants Father Back on Tour, Odesnik Denies Involvement with Clinic, Rus Ties an Undesirable WTA Record

(June 25, 2013) Despite plenty of on-court action at the All England Club on Tuesday at Wimbledon, several stories were making quite a stir off the courts as well.

Bernard Tomic Calls Out ATP’s Handling of Father’s Case

It has been more than seven weeks since John Tomic’s physical attack of son Bernard’s practice partner in Madrid, but the issue is still a topic of debate.

According to the ATP, John has been banned from the ATP Tour for a 12-month period both in accreditation rights and in accessing grounds via a paying ticket. The ITF and the recent Grand Slam tournaments have followed suit, including Wimbledon this week.

After his first round win over Sam Querrey, the younger Tomic spend most of his post-match press conference defending his father and instead pointing the finger at the ATP’s mishandling of the situation.

“Growing up with your father is a good thing for me because this is how I became good at tennis at a young age,” Bernard said. “I was there with my dad. We worked hard. We were on the court together. Now, all of a sudden, there’s a change. There’s always a change in life, a decision that was made. I’m going to blame the ATP a lot for this. They have a lot of bad decisions, a few good ones, but I’m saying this is a very bad one.”

Bernard then commented on how Wimbledon upheld the ATP’s decision to ban his father, “so at the end of the day, it’s the ATP I’ve got to be talking to” to fix anything, he stated. He also said that he would ask Wimbledon officials to reconsider the ban before his second round match against James Blake, but as of Tuesday evening local time, no such appeal had been filed.

Just as we thought the younger Tomic would be somewhat freed of his father’s antics on the court at least, it seems to not have really helped all that much. If anything, it’s alarming to think what Bernard’s home life may be like now that his father is not able to vent his frustrations at his son during practice. John is still apparently traveling with his son, so that must still weigh heavily into how Bernard acts and what he says publicly. Despite all of Tennis Australia’s and past Australian tennis legend’s willingness to help Bernard, no real progress can really be made until Bernard actively separates himself from his father in all aspects of his life. It’s simply a poisonous relationship that he has become too comfortable playing the victim in.

Wayne Odesnik Again Denies Involvement with Florida Clinic

It’s not easy being the target of discussion any time a reference to doping in tennis comes up. It’s also not easy when two of the top Google searches of your name include the words “snitch” and “rat.” But this is exactly what American Wayne Odesnik deals with week in and week out on the ATP Tour.

Odesnik was issued a two-year ban when he was found in possession of eight vials of the performance-enhancing drug HGH upon trying to enter Australia in 2010. His suspension was eventually halved  when he cooperated with officials.

The American is now again being questioned about his involvement with a Florida clinic that is under investigation for reportedly selling performance-enhancing drugs to Major League Baseball players such as Alex Rodriguez, who has admitted to using PEDs in his past. Odesnik’s name was apparently found among handwritten notes kept at the clinic, and the American simply calls this “erroneous.”

“None of that’s true,” Odesnik continued. “I don’t have any connection to it.”

In a March 2013 New York Times article, Odesnik recounted his involvement with the clinic a little differently.

“I have no idea what that was about,” Odesnik said. “They had called me, and I said I had no idea what that was about. They probably saw my name from three years ago and thought that they’d put my name in something. And yeah, I had nothing to do with it.”

Tuesday’s comments from Odesnik leave his connection to the clinic murky, and it doesn’t help that he initially admitted to having been a part of the clinic years earlier, then calling his name on the clinic’s records “erroneous.”

The judgement is out on Odesnik, and as much as he tries, he seems to only dig himself into a bigger hole when answering questions about his doping case.

Arantxa Rus Ties Record for Most Consecutive Losses

There are many records that tennis players would be happy to hold, but most consecutive tour-level match losses is not one of them.

With her first round exit from Wimbledon on Tuesday, Dutch player Arantxa Rus has extended her losing streak to 17 — tying the WTA record that Sally Collins set in the 1980s. On the men’s side, American Vince Spadea holds the ATP record, with 21 consecutive matches lost from 1999 to 2000.

“I lost a lot of matches,” Rus said on Tuesday. “Yeah, it’s hard, but I try to keep working hard. That’s the only thing you can do.”

The 22-year-old last won a tour-level match on August 19, 2012 – that’s more than ten months ago. Rus has had some notable wins on tour, including over Kim Clijsters at the 2011 French Open and Sam Stosur at last year’s Wimbledon. She was also a No. 1 ranked junior and won the Junior Australian Open title in 2008. Clearly, the Dutch player is no slacker on the court, but just going through a rough patch.

Despite having fallen 90 ranking spots since last August to world No. 151, Rus may want to look to Jelena Jankovic for encouragement.

The Serb went through a similar streak between October 2005 and May 2006, where she held a 2-15 losing record. She admitted to seriously considering quitting tennis at that time, but just over two years later, Jankovic went on to climb to world No. 1. How’s that for inspiration?

And Rus seems to understand the transient nature of her current predicament, saying it hasn’t changed who she is.

“I’m still the same person,” she said. “You have … life (apart from) tennis.”

James Blake on Odesnik: “Oh, is he American?”

James Blake knocked out defending champion David Nalbandian, 6-2, 6-4, from the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, D.C. Tuesday evening. He was looking like his former top 10 self and claimed to have served better than any time in the “past 2 years.” But a deeper story lied within his after-match press conference.

Aside from detailing his great play this evening, he was the second American of the night to specifically call out Wayne Odesnik for carrying banned performance enhancing drugs. Ryan Sweeting had called Odesnik out in his own presser earlier in the evening as well.

Romana Cvitkovic: Speaking of friendships on tour, and Robert Kendrick being in the media recently, testing positive for a performance enhancing drug, what’s your take and have you rallied behind him?

James Blake: “Yea, I’ve talked to him and I’ve written a letter to help him in his appeals’ process. He’s a great guy. I grew up in juniors with him; I go way back … I played him the first time when I was about 14 years old. He’s always been a generous and great guy. I know there s no ill will in what he did. He was trying to get over jet lag, something that he thought was completely legal, and… he wasn’t doing anything performance enhancing to put him out for a year. For all intents and purposes, to end his career, I think is pretty harsh. I don’t know all the details of the appeals’ process … but I do think it’s harsh. I’d love to see him back on tour; he’s a great guy. And that would be a terrible way to end his career. I was faced at times with my career possibly ending not on my terms and for him to possibly end it not on his terms, is unfair, after a career that he’s put a lot of hard work into, a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. And to go out this way, I don’t think it’s fair. Especially when we got a guy who’s playing in this tournament that I think has done a lot worse.”

A follow-up question by Ben at the Daily Forehand dealt with his allusion to Odesnik above and Odesnik’s status in American tennis: “Oh, is he American? Oh, I didn’t even know that. (laughs) I wouldn’t say he’s at our dinner table too often, or at our card games too often. I actually don’t think I’ve really said a whole lot to him since he’s been back. I didn’t agree with what he did, and as I think he said, I saw some article about him where he even admitted that he probably wasn’t that close to a lot of the Americans before all this happened. And now that it has happened, it’s probably even more of a divide. He’s never really been on the forefront of any of our minds as a guy to call and really support and go out and cheer for. [All the other Americans] are out there cheering for me, I can’t say that I ever seen Wayne doing the same for us.

Follow me on twitter as I cover the Legg Mason Tennis Classic all week. @TennisRomi

Sweeting wins in Washington, D.C., calls out Odesnik

The Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, DC is featuring some very candid and thoughtful up-and-coming American men. Among them, is 24-year-old Ryan Sweeting who gave elaborate details and opinions on Robert Kendrick’s current situation, calling it “absolutely ridiculous.”

Sweeting defeated a tired-looking Alex Bogomolov, Jr in straight sets 6-2, 6-4 on Tuesday evening. Bogomolov had just traveled from the Los Angeles Farmers’ Classic tournament where he was a semifinalist and he seemed sluggish because of it on-court.

After the match, Sweeting arrived to his presser calm and composed, but engaging. After responding to the typical questions, he talked about his dominant performance: “I felt I got to see the ball really big today. Most importantly, I served well. I’ve been struggling with my serve a little bit this summer. It’s something I’ve been working on a lot … I feel being aggressive on my second serve was a strength … and I competed well.”

He then referenced his serve at the Australian Open compared to his serving today: “That’s been my main priority this whole year. I want to get back on track. A few years ago, I relied on my serve and used it as a weapon but somehow it got away from me a little bit. It’s something I’ve been working on … today I have to credit my win to my serve, definitely.”

He also touched on his upcoming match against #1 seed Gael Monfils: “It’s going to be a tough match. I’ve never played him before. Obviously, I’ve seen a lot of his matches … definitely the fastest person I’ve ever seen in most sports. I’m going to have to play well and stay aggressive. If I hit a great shot, I have to expect it to come back … he’s going to get every ball back. If I just sit back he’s going to run for days and make me look like an idiot (laughs).”

But the most honest and intriguing response of the day came at the very end of his interview. I didn’t anticipate how much heart he would show in his answer as I referenced American Robert Kendrick, who recently tested positive for a banned substance and was sentenced to a year away from the tour. I asked Sweeting if he’d been in touch with Kendrick or rallied behind him given his current situation. As his answer went on, he became more fired up reflecting on the situation. He responded:

“I’ve been in touch with him; we’re speaking every day. I think it’s absolutely ridiculous he’s gotten 1 year … the tribunal agreed and believed he took a pill for [jet lag] … granted, we have to be careful about what we injest; it’s our responsibility … however, the punishment he received compared to punishments other players received is absolutely absurd … when [Wayne] Odesnik got caught smuggling performance enhancing drugs into another country and he got 6 months. Richard Gasquet tested positive for cocaine, said that he kissed a girl, and I don’t think he received any punishment. For a 31-year-old to take 1 pill for jet lag and receive a year ban, I just don’t understand. I don’t understand the logic behind it and all the players know this and all the players are wondering what the hell is going on. It’s just unfortunate because everybody knows that Rob has never taken a performance enhancing drug his entire life. He’s a good guy … It’s just really sad that this had to happen.”

He calls out Odesnik with no hesitation, and it seems to be the norm among the other American players, including former world #4 James Blake.

Follow me on twitter as I cover the Legg Mason Tennis Classic all week. @TennisRomi

2011 Set For a Cracker

With the dust still settling in our memories over the stunning year that was 2010 the new tennis calendar is already upon us. It seems not too long ago that Federer was dismantling a shattered Rafa Nadal at London’s o2 Arena in the ATP Tour Finals. But with Christmas coming and going with its ever-rapid characteristics Down Under has opened its tennis season with aplomb.

Everyone has their favourite star and their own pantomime villains. And everyone has an ideal year mapped out in their mind with their top men and women coming out trumps at all the major tournaments, myself included.

So, as a year-beginning blog I have decided to look ahead to the 2011 men’s tour and predict, not entirely seriously, what may (or probably not) happen throughout the year ahead…

January

The early hard court season jumps in to life at Brisbane, Chennai and Doha building up to the first slam of the year in Australia. Andy Murray falls in the second round blaming the heat and a low-flying seagull and promptly sacks his coach. Juan Martin del Potro is still suffering with his troublesome wrist but plays his way to the quarter finals using only his good hand. The final is slightly predictable with Rafa and Roger battling their way there but to spruce things up after their recent exhibition exploits on water, centre court is flooded and the pair do battle in full scuba gear. Roger comes out as winner in four sets. As January winds down in Santiago, Chile, Juan Ignacio Chela wins the Movistar Open and is touted as this year’s big hope to challenge Rafa in the clay season.

February

As the early hard season slowly slides in to clay, Thomaz Belluci lifts his home Brasil Open title while Gael Monfils dances his way to the Open 13 in Marseille where he celebrates with a perfectly executed Moonwalk across court. Four Americans reach the semifinals at Memphis and again at Delray Beach. Wayne Odesnik wins both tournaments which causes mass outrage throughout the sport. He is touted for a Davis Cup call but Jim Courier decides to take a seething Mardy Fish instead.

March

The first Masters events of the year begin and fresh off Davis Cup victory Andy Roddick, Fish, The Bryans and John Isner are on fire. A sulking Sam Querrey falls early in both. Andy Murray comes out on top at Indian Wells beating Roddick in the final but then typically falls early at Miami and promptly sacks his coach. Nadal faces Robin Soderling in the final who has been slating the ‘Big Two’ all year. Rafa takes it with two bagel sets bringing tears and tantrums from the egotistical Swede.

April

April begins with Rafa rubbing his hands and licking his lips at the prospect of another clay season. Young Yank Ryan Harrison takes the title at Houston and is the latest star to be labelled ‘the next Sampras.’ Rafa takes Monte Carlo as expected with a straight set win over Fernando Verdasco in the final. Most notably throughout the tournament he seems to be multitasking while on court, even seen filing his nails whilst rallying with his compatriot. There is no real sign of Chela. Novak Djokovic again takes the Serbia Open in Belgrade and is installed as ruler of the nation for his achievements. He decides to sit out the rest of the 2011 season to concentrate on his new role.

May

Madrid and Rome are again taken by Rafa who now appears to be growing bored on court. Whilst dismantling Marcos Baghdatis in the final in Rome he appears to give interviews to Spanish television during the match. As everyone arrives in Paris the shocking news emanates that Rafa has decided he is bored of lifting the French Open with such ease and has decided to umpire the tournament instead to see who else can win it. With the new celebrity chair the French players really kick on in the race to be crowned their nation’s new hero. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga retires from his first round match injured while Michael Llodra comes through an epic five set semi with R-Fed to face Monfils in the final. The marathon man then takes Monfils through six hours of stupendous Gallic play and the greatest French Open final of all time ends with Monfils on the floor in a tantrum pounding the floor with his fists. Llodra is crowned the saviour of France.

June

As the ATP Tour comes to Britain tennis stars snap up as much Royal Wedding memorabilia as they can get their hands on as the traditional Wimbledon plate is switched for a porcelain edition bearing the faces of beloved Wills and Kate. Andy Murray takes both Queens and Eastbourne and is believed to be a dead cert for Wimbledon. But he crashes out in round three and promptly sacks his coach. John Isner and Nicolas Mahut somehow weave their way to the final and the tents are brought out in preparation for the impending marathon. Isner wins in three sets. Roger Federer makes some possible unsavoury comments about Mahut after he overcame the Swiss God in the semis and the world’s media call him unsporting and a scurvy dog for the next six months before involving him in another betting scandal claiming he and Rafa betted on many of the matches the Spaniard had chaired at the French Open.

July

Serbia’s Davis Cup title defence ends at the quarter final stage and King Djokovic has the entire team executed for letting their nation down. Federer re-hits form late on again by taking Bastad and Gstaad while Roddick is doing well by taking Hamburg and Los Angeles. The Americans work themselves in to a fervour over the home prospects for the US Open and many pundits are with them because of the top form of A-Rod, Harrison and Isner. David Nalbandian wins in Atlanta and everyone once again remembers who he is. There is talk of a possible push in New York. Surely not…

August

Nalbandian again wins at the Legg Mason Classic. He takes a marathon final against Baghdatis, his other eternally injured friend. Andy Murray loses in the second round in Montreal and sees his title slip away. He again blames a lack of love for tennis and promptly sacks his coach before announcing his retirement from the sport. Roger takes the title before losing the Cincinnati final to Roddick. America is literally on the edge of its seat. Rafa ruptures the tendons in both knees in the third round at Cincy against Ernests Gulbis and will miss the rest of the season.

September

The final Slam of the year in New York explodes in to life with the partisan crowd firmly behind Roddick. He finally puts all the pain behind him by overcoming Federer at last in the semis in five sets. Federer is immediately written off by the world’s media, again. In the other semi Soderling falls to a resurgent Nalbandian and America gears itself up to crown Roddick their new leader. But he falls apart. His serve leaves him, his ground strokes are erratic and Nalbandian triumphs in four to become the second Argentine in three years to silence Arthur Ashe court. He quickly sees his title switch from the best player of the last decade not to win a major to the sixth best player of the last decade to win one.

October

With no Rafa, Murray or Djokovic to compete with Federer once again silences his critics by beginning a clean sweep of the late tournaments. He takes the China Open, Shanghai, the Kremlin Cup, Vienna and Basel without losing a set. Over in Valencia David Ferrer shoots to the final after a quiet year where he meets the marathon man Llodra. Ferrer takes the final in five much to the delight of the home fans. Murray decides he was wrong to be so hasty and announces his return to tennis, promising he will win that first Slam in 2012. Djokovic declares that all Serbian children will take karaoke lessons as well as practice tennis at school as of 2015.

November

In Paris, Federer finally runs out of steam and drops a set against Brian Dabul. Critics are again on his back saying he is finished. He manages to reach the quarter finals where he falls to Ryan Harrison. The American youth then falls to Del Potro in the semi who in turn loses to Soderling in the final. The Swede moves to No. 3 in the world and says he is ever so close to breaking the Top 2 but nobody is listening anymore. The ATP Finals kick off with a somewhat decimated lineup. Federer, Soderling, Roddick, Del Potro, Nalbandian, Isner, Ferrer and Verdasco do battle in London with the eyes of the tennis world watching on. Ferrer, Verdasco, Nalbandian and Roddick fall at the group stage leaving Soderling and Federer to battle it out in the final after overcoming Del Potro and Isner respectively. Federer triumphs in straight sets and the Swede storms off court refusing to take part in the ceremony, predictions in tatters. The USA take the Davis Cup home after defeating Russia in the final and it is seen as a victory for politics rather than tennis.

Well, stranger things have happened!

Henin to return this weekend, Murray to continue with Corretja, Gilbert to Help Nishikori

*Justine Henin is to return to action this weekend at the Hopman Cup in Australia having been kept out since Wimbledon with an elbow injury. The former world No. 1 hopes to be able to compete in the Australian Open but fears it may take her up to six months to regain full fitness. “There were concerns about the future of my career,” the 28-year-old Belgian said. “I hope I can build my condition by playing tournaments this year and hope to be really ready around June-July.” 2010 was the seven-time Grand Slam winner’s return from an 18-month retirement and she will hope to add that elusive Wimbledon title to her CV before giving up permanently.

*British No. 1 Andy Murray has confirmed that Spaniard Alex Corretja will remain as his coach for at least the first half of 2011. Corretja, a former world No. 2, took over the role after Murray split with Miles Maclagan back in July. “Andy has taken time out from his busy pre-season fitness training to confirm that the current coaching set-up, with both Alex Corretja and Dani Vallverdu, will continue into the first half of next year,” read a statement on Murray’s official website.

*Brad Gilbert has confirmed that he will work as a consultant to Japanese star Kei Nishikori at fifteen tournaments throughout 2011. Gilbert retired from the tour in 1994 and his since coached Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray on a permanent basis. “I have been working at the IMG Bollettieri Academy for a few years now, helping out Kei and other players,” Gilbert told ATPWorldTour.com.

“I decided to expand my role with Kei to 15 tournaments, but TV work with ESPN will remain my first priority.”

*World No. 8 Jelena Jankovic has begun working with former Romanian world No. 13 Andrei Pavel on a trial basis after lifting only one title in 2010 at Indian Wells. She was being handled by Ricardo Sanchez but they have now parted ways.

*American Wayne Odesnik has had his two-year doping ban overturned after 12 months. He is now free to return to competitive matches from December 29. Whilst entering Australia for last year’s Brisbane International he was stopped by customs and eight vials of the growth hormone HGH were found in his luggage, although Odesnik never tested positive for taking the substance. Whilst at one time being ranked as high as No. 77 in the world, Odesnik was ranked No. 111 when the incident occurred and has now slipped off the rankings altogether.

*Maria Sharapova has reserved a wildcard entry in to the Sydney tournament for if she falls early on in the previous week’s festivities at Auckland. The former world No. 1 is usually pretty lax in her preparations for Melbourne Park but has opted for a more strenuous approach after losing in the first round in 2010.

*Alona Bondarenko has announced she will miss the Australian Open after undergoing the second knee surgery of her career. 2010 semifinalist Jie Zheng will also miss the competition after failing to recover from the wrist surgery she underwent in September. In the men’s draw, Robby Ginepri is set to miss out after he set March as his benchmark to return to the tour after suffering a motorbike accident in November whilst swerving to avoid a squirrel.

*The GB Fed Cup team have announced that teen starlets Heather Watson and Laura Robson are set to compete in next month’s Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 tie in Israel. Watson, 18, was the 2009 US Open junior champion while Robson, 16, won the Wimbledon junior title in 2008 aged just 14. Watson said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to have been selected. It’s a dream come true as I’ve grown up watching the competition. I can’t wait to head out to Israel with the girls and give it our all.” Captain Nigel Sears added: “It is the right time for Heather and Laura to try and make it a successful week.”

*Teens the world over were celebrating early Christmas presents after receiving wildcards in to the 2011 Australian Open main draw. Australia’s No. 11 Olivia Rogowska was celebrating after defeating former world No. 4 Jelena Dokic 1-6, 7-6(3), 6-3 in the final of the Australian Open Wildcard Playoffs. Dokic, though, has since been handed a discretionary wildcard by the Aussie tennis authorities. Marinko Matosevic overcame Peter Luczak in five sets in the men’s final to earn his place and Luczak has also been handed an entry card. Tennis Australia have also handed discretionary wildcards to Matt Ebden and Alicia Molik. In the American equivalent, played at the Racquet Club of the South, Georgia, world No. 444 Lauren Davis, 17, upset No. 113 Coco Vandeweghe, 19, in their final 6-2, 6-2. Ryan Harrison won the male playoffs after overcoming Jack Sock. The French Tennis Federation have awarded their discretionary pass in to the main draw to Virginie Razzano.

*Latest Career Grand Slam achiever Rafa Nadal was voted the 2010 BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year. “For me it’s an honour, thank you very much to the BBC for giving me this award,” said the 24-year-old. “It’s just a dream being in the list of great champions to receive this award.” For reaction and to see the Spaniard collect the trophy visit the BBC Tennis website. Marca.com also named him ‘Spanish Athlete of the Decade’ while elpais.es readers voted him the ‘Spanish Athlete of the Year.’

*The ATP website has interviews with a host of top stars available to read at your leisure including how Andy Roddick and Marcos Baghdathis have prepared themselves for the 2011 season and whether Novak Djokovic can keep up his impressive end to 2010.

*You have until midnight on December 31 to cast your votes in the TennisReporters.net 2010 Tennis Awards so get over there now before it’s too late to have your say on who were the players of the year, which matches really set your fires alight and which stars provide the greatest eye candy.

ODESNIK DRAGS TENNIS IN THE MUD

So another tennis star has found themselves on the front pages of newspapers linked to the now menacing black cloud hanging over the sport in recent years – “drugs.”

Richard Gasquet “snogging” cocaine in to his system, Agassi’s admittance of crystal meth use, Greg Rusedski’s positive testing for nandrolone, the two Belgians – Yanina Wickmayer and Xavier Malisse – and their dances with the anti-doping board about missed tests.

Recent years have seen tennis’ relatively clean image dragged further through the mud when it comes to naughty substances and they seem to have rivaled the ever-guilty world of athletics in cases rising to the surface.

American Wayne Odesnik’s case is slightly different of course. He hasn’t actually failed a doping test. Yet he was caught trying to smuggle human growth hormone (HGH) in to Australia and has been fined by their courts.

The world No. 111, 24 years of age, hasn’t actually been banned from playing but has now self-imposed a playing ban until his independent tribunal is held within the coming months. He is free to pick up his racquet at any time should he choose to.

Odesnik was halted by Australian customs on January 2 as he was arriving to compete in the Brisbane International and he was fined Aus$8,000 for his trouble. Eight vials holding around 6mg each of the banned substance were found in his belongings.

The Tennis Anti-Doping Program (TADP) possesses a whole host of powers for banning players coming up positive for taking substances, but has little to no powers against those found holding a substance. By taking a voluntary ban it might favor him in terms of punishment come his tribunal.

The one major question coming out of this is, as always, why? Why do players find it necessary to jeopardize their livelihood with the use of such substances? Is it desperation to succeed? To be remembered for more than being the world No. 111? He was world No. 77 this time last year, does he wish to stop the slide? Is it a drive for financial reward as your career draws on? A chance to make those later years even more comfortable?

Recreational drugs pose different answers. Perhaps an ego and a love of the “party hard” lifestyle. But doping always leaves brows furrowed. I suppose it’s easy for people like us outside of the sport to sit here and judge. “How could he? There are thousands of kids who’d love to be in his position…” blah blah blah.

We don’t know first-hand the pressures of playing top class tennis every other week. With a calendar stretching over the eleven-month boundary now perhaps players are finding it harder to keep up. It’s slightly easier on the body for the top 10 in the world who can afford to miss the ATP250s to recuperate as the points gained won’t harm them.

But for those chasing the pack just how long can their bodies go on as the sport becomes quicker and more physically demanding every year? You now have to serve harder, move about the court more often and produce tenacious shots one minute and powerful cross-court drives the next. The sport has even transformed in the fifteen years I have been following it.

This isn’t new of course. Looking back through recent history you can go back to 1999 to remember Czech star Petr Korda’s run-ins with the authorities over his use of nandrolone alongside sprinters and footballers the world over. Rusedski’s later positive testing in 2004 led to revelations of an unnamed 44 players having used the drug. How we’d love to know who they were.

The Men’s Tennis Council began testing in the 1980s and their early studies looked for use of recreational drugs. However over recent times performance enhancing substances have risen to the forefront of most scandals and this is perhaps the more saddening aspect.

You can perhaps forgive the likes of Hingis and Capriati, young protégés given little guidance over such important life lessons like growing up and maturing. Given the wrong influence by the wrong people they can easily fall in to the wrong lifestyle and their dalliances with drugs shows how easy it really is. The story is the same throughout every sport. Youngsters earning vast amounts of money and with no idea how to spend it.

Odesnik shows how these performance enhancing substances are still an issue and the punishments put in place by the anti-doping agencies are still not enough to deter players.

Would they think twice if a lifetime ban was threatened? Would more severe punishments really flush out the “bad eggs” and stop players turning to superficial help once and for all rather than coaches and training?

“For possession there’s a possible two-year ban,” said an ITF spokeswoman back in March. Is this enough?

American No. 1 Andy Roddick certainly didn’t think so. “There’s nothing worse than that,” he said back at the Sony Ericsson Open when the story first broke. “That’s just plain cheating, and they should throw him out of tennis. There’s just no room for it.”

But he certainly didn’t think the authorities were to blame: “We have the most stringent drug-testing policies in sports,” he said. “We’re up there with the Olympics. We can’t take Sudafed.” While the tests are in place perhaps the severe punishments are not.

And what of Odesnik’s coach, Argentina’s former top 10 player Guillermo Canas? He himself failed a doping test in 2005 and served a fifteen month ban. His silence coupled with Odesnik’s self-imposed ban speaks volumes of the guilt.

It really is a problem which tennis should not have to face but it does time and again. Until new, possibly more severe, sanctions are threatened it will continue to do so too.

IVANOVIC, DRUGS, INJURIES, DAVIS CUP AND NADAL: THE FRIDAY FIVE

By Maud Watson
No Fed Cup for Ana – I’m sure it was a difficult decision, but I fully support Ana Ivanovic’s move to sit out for Serbia in the upcoming Fed Cup tie with the Slovak Republic due to her poor run of form. The Serb has slipped all the way down to 58 in the rankings, and with the return of the two Belgians and the depth in women’s tennis continuing to grow, it’s going to be extremely difficult to muscle her way back into the Top 10.  Here’s hoping the break allows her to once again get all of her ducks in a row.

Drug Bust – No, this time it wasn’t a player testing positive for a banned substance, but American journeyman Wayne Odesnik did get caught red-handed in possession of human growth hormone (HGH). It will be interesting to see what punishment the ITF metes out for this one. I’m personally all for a two-year ban as opposed to throwing him out of the game altogether as some have suggested. It is a first offense, and quite frankly, if the guy were ranked inside the top 20 instead of barely inside the top 100, I don’t think other players would be clamoring for such a harsh punishment. To me, the interesting thing to see will be if Odesnik has been supplying other players with the HGH and if he names names.

More WTA Injuries – Serena Williams is continuing to nurse the knee injury she sustained at this year’s Australian Open, and now she is a doubt for the Italian Open. With the French Open looming, Serena will be hard pressed to get in some time on the dirt, and with Henin possibly licking her chops to add to her impressive Roland Garros tally, Serena had better get it in gear.  And speaking of Roland Garros champions, current defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova reportedly suffered a shoulder injury while competing in Miami. The Russian will be in a race against time to get fit for the clay court season where she can certainly inflict some damage on her competitors.

Deaf Ears – It was announced earlier this week that the ITF has not only voted, but has unanimously voted to keep the current Davis Cup format despite the World Cup proposal put forth by some of the game’s leading players. I had to shake my head at this one. Roger Federer rarely plays, and the same goes for Andy Murray, now Andy Roddick, now James Blake, and who knows how many others over the course of the season. It’s clear the system is broken, the players have attempted to propose a change, and despite that, as Roddick so candidly tweeted “in the most unshocking news of the day, the ITF does nothing” Well said, Andy.

Times Up – This wasn’t a news story, but I have to rant on this one. While watching tennis in Miami, the coverage once again included a “stopwatch” to track how much time Rafael Nadal takes between points. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga even complained to the chair umpire, stating he had winded Nadal and deserved to benefit from it, but was unable to due to the 40+ seconds Nadal took before playing the next point. Don’t get me wrong. Nadal is not the only player to abuse the clock, but certainly Nadal, along with Novak Djokovic, are some of the highest profile competitors to violate this rule. It infuriates me that the chair umpires don’t step in and start assessing warnings, point penalties, and game penalties if necessary. Other players manage to play within the allotted time, so they all should. To allow them to do otherwise is to allow them to cheat, by both physically and mentally shortchanging their opponents. It’s time the officials start enforcing the rules and put a stop to the clock eaters.

Mondays With Bob Greene: Well, I tried to be quiet for you guys today

STARS

Wimbledon (First Week)

Lleyton Hewitt beat fifth-seeded Juan Martin Del Potro 6-3 7-5 7-5

Sabine Lisicki beat fifth-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2 7-5

Melanie Oudin beat sixth-seeded Jelena Jankovic 6-7 (8) 7-5 6-2

Ivo Karlovic beat ninth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 (5) 6-7 (5) 7-5 7-6 (5)

Gisela Dulko beat 2004 Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova 6-2 3-6 6-4

Jesse Levine beat 2005 Australian Open champion Marat Safin 6-2 3-6 7-6 (4) 6-4

SAYING

“It is the best place to be when you are a pro tennis player and I savor every blade of it. I’ve had that crown for several years and I want to make it mine again.” – Defending champion Venus Williams.

“I come here every year expecting myself to win.” – Alex Bogdanovic, whose career record at Wimbledon is now 0-8, the second worst in tournament history only to Joe Hackett of Ireland, who went 0-9.

“Losses are tough. More here than at any other tournament. But, you know, it puts some perspective into your life.” – Maria Sharapova, after her second-round loss to Gisela Dulko.

“If I can win with only one shot, I don’t know, I’m a genius.” – Ivo Karlovic, responding to criticism that he has a one-dimensional game with his huge serve.

“Well, I tried to be quiet for you guys today.” – Michelle Larcher de Brito, who made headlines at the French Open for her on-court screeching.

“I think some people are just too noisy. For me it’s extra effort to do it, so I’d rather not do it.” – Ai Sugiyama, about players who screech on court during play.

“Everyone is from Russia. Sometimes I think I’m from Russia, too. I feel, like, you know, OK, all these new ‘Ovas.’ I don’t know anyone. I don’t really recognize anyone. … I think my name must be Williamsova.” – Serena Williams, noting the number of top women players from Russia.

“I need to get out of my brain and start from a new page.” – Marat Safin, after losing in the first round in his 10th and final Wimbledon.

“I’ve never met Serena. I haven’t even walked past her, like ever, almost. I’ve seen her, but she always has tons of security guards around her all the time, at least four or five people. But Venus, she walks around with, maybe, one person, that’s it.” – 17-year-old Melanie Oudin, who upset Jelena Jankovic.

“Women’s tennis is more speedy and more powerful. It’s tough, very tough … but I enjoy the challenge.” – Kimiko Date Krumm, who retired from the women’s tour in 1996, only returning last year.

“I remember the first time I played on grass, I think I just wanted to dive. That was the highlight, I guess, trying to dive. I don’t remember if I did or not, but when you’re growing up, you see all the players diving, and you think, I want a part of that. So that’s the first thing you want when you’re little.” – Venus Williams, remembering his first match at Wimbledon in 1997.

“Sometimes people need more respect for their opponents. When (Novak) Djokovic lost in the second round last year, (people were surprised, but) it was Marat Safin he was up against – and he can play a bit of tennis! And then Safin lost in the first round here (to Jesse Levine), so it shows that you should always have respect.” – Roger Federer.

“We should have a tiebreak at six-all in the fifth like in the US Open. All the Grand Slams should have this. That’s my personal opinion. When you’ve played so much tennis… it’s really draining.” – Tommy Haas, whose match against Marin Cilic was halted by darkness at 6-6 in the fifth set. Haas completed his 7-5 7-5 1-6 6-7 (3) 10-8 win the next day.

“I don’t think a lot of them would last five sets.” — Lleyton Hewitt, when asked about women playing best-of-five-set matches at the Grand Slam tournaments.

“I always said maybe if I was a guy I would play cricket.” – Sania Mirza, India’s top female tennis player.

STREAK STARTER

Not only is Venus Williams seeking her third straight Wimbledon women’s singles title and sixth of her career, the American has won 29 consecutive sets dating back to a third-round match against Akiko Morigami in 2007. That’s the last time Williams has dropped a set as she beat her Japanese opponent 6-2 3-6 7-5. Morigami actually led 5-3 in the final set. “That was an intense match and she was playing so well,” Venus recalled. “She played low ground strokes. I just remember playing very aggressive from 3-5, just returning aggressively. When the chips are down, I start to force the issue even more. Usually it works. You live and learn. I attribute it to that match.” If she wins, Williams would become the first woman to win three straight Wimbledon singles titles since Steffi Graf in 1993. She also would pull to within one title of Graf’s total of seven and within three of record-holder Martina Navratilova.

SPECIAL MESSAGE

Queen Elizabeth sent a message of congratulations to Andy Murray for becoming the first Briton to won the Queen’s grass court tournament in London since Bunny Austin in 1938. The last time the monarch visited Wimbledon was in 1977, where she presented the trophy to Virginia Wade after the Briton won the women’s singles title in the Queen’s Jubilee year. Buckingham Palace said Queen Elizabeth has no official engagements on the day of this year’s Wimbledon men’s final. Murray is trying to become the first British player since Fred Perry in 1936 to win the men’s singles at Wimbledon.

SLIPPERY CONDITIONS

Michael Llodra was knocked out of Wimbledon by being, well, almost knocked out. In his second-round match against Tommy Haas, the Frenchman was sprinting towards a drop shot when he was unable to stop and slammed into the umpire’s chair before collapsing on top of ball girl. Llodra quickly stood up and helped the startled girl back to her feet. After asking if she was OK, Llodra hugged her and returned to the baseline to resume the match. When the game was completed, Llodra clutched his side and asked for a trainer as he hobbled back to his chair. Following a medical timeout, Llodra played another game before being worked on by the trainer again. He attempted one more serve before retiring from the match.

SAYONARA

Two veteran players returning to Wimbledon found their stay to be short ones. Kimiko Date Krumm, a 38-year-old who last played Wimbledon in 1996, fell to Caroline Wozniacki 5-7 6-3 6-1. The Japanese player made her Wimbledon debut in 1989, a year before Wozniacki was born, and reached the semifinals in 1996. Jelena Dokic, who made her career breakthrough at Wimbledon in 1999, lost to German qualifier Tatjana Malek 3-6 7-5 6-2. Dokic, playing Wimbledon for the first time after a five-year absence, complained of feeling dizzy at the end of the second set and had her blood pressure taken at courtside.

SMASHING TIME

Ninth-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was bombarded out of this year’s Championships. Ivo Karlovic slammed 46 aces to upset the Frenchman 7-6 (5) 6-7 (5) 7-5 7-6 (5). The ATP tour leader in aces in 2009, Karlovic hit a modern-era record 55 aces in a loss at the French Open last month. While he is best known for upsetting 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt in Wimbledon’s first round the following year, Karlovic had lost his opening matches at the All England Club from 2005 to 2008.

SLOWED

Ivan Ljubicic never made it to his first-round match at the All-England Club. The former world number three player from Croatia withdrew from Wimbledon with an ankle injury on the opening day of the tournament and was replaced in the draw by Danai Udomchoke of Thailand. The week before Wimbledon, Ljubicic fell heavily in his match at the Eastbourne International, injuring his ankle. Racing to the net to reach a delicate shot by his opponent, Fabrice Santoro, Ljubicic skidded on the grass, fell and cried out while clutching his left ankle. Santoro ran to the court-side freezer to get bags of ice, which he applied to Ljubicic’s ankle while officials summoned the trainer.

STARRING

There’s a new star in Lindsay Davenport’s house. The three-time Grand Slam tournament winner has given birth to her second child, a girl named Lauren Andrus Davenport Leach. Lindsay and her husband Jon Leach have a 2-year-old son, Jagger. The 33-year-old Davenport won the 1998 US Open, 1999 Wimbledon and 2000 Australian Open singles titles. She pulled out of this year’s Australian Open when she learned she was pregnant. At the time, Davenport said she would be putting tennis on hold “for the foreseeable future.”

SIGNED UP

Tommy Haas will be seeking his third title when he begins play at the 2009 LA Tennis Open Presented by Farmers Insurance Group. Haas is one of six players committed to the California tournament who are seeded in the draw at Wimbledon. “Tommy is a fan favorite, a great addition to our already strong field, and has played LA more than anyone else in the field,” said tournament director Bob Kramer. The 83rd annual LA Tennis Open will be held July 27-August 2 at the LA Tennis center on the campus of UCLA. Haas won the Los Angeles title in 2004 and again in 2005. Others already in the field include 2007 champion Radek Stepanek, Marat Safin, Mardy Fish, Fernando Gonzalez, Dmitry Tursunov, Marcos Baghdatis and Sam Querrey.

STILL TOP TICKET

Don’t look now, but the All England Club is not going through a recession. While the rest of the world grapples with the global financial downturn, Wimbled has sold more tickets than ever. “It seems people are saying, `Forget about the recession. Let’s go to Wimbledon and have some fun,” said All England Club spokesman Johnny Perkins. “People are sitting down and trying to decide what to spend their hard-earned money on. The good news for Wimbledon is, they seem to be spending it here.” The first day’s attendance was 42,811, an increase of nearly 3,500 from the previous opening day record set in 2001. While organizers will not release figures for pre-tournament ticket requests, they say they have received about 20 percent more than last year. The All England Club recently sold out 2,500 Centre Court seats in five-year blocks for USD $45,600 each.

SWITCHING BETS

No wrongdoing is suspected, but tennis wants to look into the betting pattern on a first-round Wimbledon match. When a TV commentator remarked that one of the players was injured, more than six times as many wagers as normal were placed on the match between Wayne Odesnik of the United States and Jurgen Melzer of Austria. The British bookmaker Betfair alerted tennis corruption investigators about the unusual betting pattern, but company spokesman Mark Davies said it did not suspect any wrongdoing. Melzer’s odds shortened significantly after a TV announced mentioned that Odesnik had a thigh injury. Betfair received about USD $980,000 in wagers on the match, while the average for a first-round Wimbledon match is less than USD $163,000. Melzer won 6-1 6-4 6-2.

SITES TO SURF

Wimbledon: www.wimbledon.org

Braunschweig: www.nordlb-open.org/

Cuneo: www.countrycuneo.com

Davis Cup: www.daviscup.com

Serena Williams blog: http://www.serenawilliams.com/blog(underscore)message(underscore)detail.php?msg=93

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP and WTA

The Championships (second week), Wimbledon, Great Britain, grass

ATP

$150,000 Nord/LP Open, Braunschweig, Germany, clay

$100,000 Trofeo Regione Piemonte, Turin, Italy, clay

WTA

$100,000 Cuneo ITF Tournament, Cuneo, Italy, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$500,000 Campbell’s Hall of Fame Championships, Newport, Rhode Island, USA, grass

$100,000 Open Diputacion Ciudad de Pozoblanco, Pozoblanco, Cordoba, Spain, clay

WTA

$220,000 GDF Suez Grand Prix, Budapest, Hungary, clay

$220,000 Collector Swedish Open Women, Bastad, Sweden, clay

$100,000 Open GDF Suez de Biarritz, Biarritz, France, clay

DAVIS CUP

World Group Quarterfinals

Czech Republic vs. Argentina at Ostrava, Czech Republic

Croatia vs. United States at Porec, Croatia

Israel vs. Russia at Tel Aviv, Israel

Spain vs. Germany at Puerto Banus, Marbella, Spain

Americas Zone Group 1 Playoff

Peru vs. Canada at Lima, Peru

Americas Zone Group 2 Second Round

Venezuela vs. Mexico at Maracaibo, Venezuela

Dominican Republic vs. Paraguay at San Francisco de Marcons, Provincia Duarte, Dominican Republic

Asia/Oceania Zone Group 1 Playoff

Thailand vs. Kazakhstan at Nonthaburi, Thailand

Korea vs. China at Chun-cheon City, Korea

Asia/Oceania Zone Group 2 Second Round

Philippines vs. Pakistan at Manila, Philippines

New Zealand vs. Indonesia at Hamilton, New Zealand

Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 Playoffs

Belarus vs. FYR Macedonia at Minsk, Belarus

Europe/Africa Zone Group 2 Second Round

Slovenia vs. Lithuania at Otocec, Slovenia

Latvia vs. Bulgaria at Plovdiv, Latvia

Mondays With Bob Greene: It’s a great honor to reach the number one ranking

STARS

Jelena Jankovic won the Andalucia Tennis Experience by beating Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3 3-6 6-3 in Marbella, Spain

Juan Carlos Ferrero beat Florent Serra 6-4 7-5 to win the Grand Prix Hassan II in Casablanca, Morocco

Lleyton Hewitt defeated Wayne Odesnik 6-2 7-5 to capture the US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas, USA

Caroline Wozniacki beat Aleksandra Wozniak 6-1 6-2 to win The MPS Group Championships in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, USA

Rui Machado won the STATUS Athens Open, beating Daniel Munoz-de la Nava 6-3 7-6 (4) in Athens, Greece

Karolina Sprem beat Viktoria Kutuzova 6-1 6-4 to win the Koddaert Ladies Open in Torhout, Belgium

SAYING

“It’s a great honor to reach the number one ranking an
d it is a dream every girl who has ever wanted to play professional tennis shares. It is even extra special for me since my brother Marat was able to reach the number one ranking and I am happy to share this achievement with him.” – Dinara Safina, who took over the WTA Tour’s top spot from Serena Williams.

“This is what all the hard work is for, to play weeks like this and have this kind of feeling at the end. It makes going through the surgery and all the hard work worth it, so it’s good stuff.” – Lleyton Hewitt, who won the US Men’s Clay Championships, his first ATP title in two years.

“I was trying to play my best tennis but the injury prevented me from reaching my top level.” – Serena Williams, after losing to Klara Zakopalova in her first clay-court match of the season in Marbella, Spain.

“This is a great start to the clay-court season, a really good start. I proved I can beat these better players.” – Caroline Wozniacki, after winning the title in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

“I know I have not been playing well the last three months, but this win has given me back the confidence I need.” – Jelena Jankovic, after winning in Marbella, Spain.

“When I hit a good shot she hit a good shot back. I feel pretty good about going 3 and 2 with a top 10 player.” – Fourteen-year-old Madison Keys, after losing to top-seeded Nadia Petrova 6-3 6-2 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

“I have to say that we were a bit lucky. In the semifinals we were close to losing and today we made it in the match tiebreak. It is my first title and it feels great.” – Lukasz Kubot, who teamed with Oliver Marach to win at Casablanca, Morocco, their first ATP doubles title in their third final together.

“We’re very happy with the first tournament of the clay court season. We are looking forward to going to Europe and we’re going to be over there for 14 weeks. It’s really important to win a title on the clay and getting your balance and a lot of confidence.” – Mike Bryan, after he and his brother Bob won the doubles at Houston, Texas.

“Before every match I try to isolate myself from everybody with my iPod. It’s like a ritual I have before playing and it’s absolutely necessary for me to listen to one of the songs from the ‘Phantom of the Opera.'” – Rafael Nadal, on how he prepares for a match.

“He kind of forces you into that the way he plays defense. It’s no excuse for some errors, especially the ones I made at key times. If you expect to win matches you have to put that around big points.” – James Blake, after losing to Guillermo Canas 6-4 6-4 in a first-round match at the US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas.

“In the tiebreak, it’s anybody’s match.” Sania Mirza, who teamed with Chuang Chia-Jung to win the doubles at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, 6-3 4-6 10-7 (match tiebreak).

“Mentally, when you lose 10 points in a row you have to tell yourself it’s going to be OK. That’s not easy. Some people can deal with it better than others, and I’m definitely a guy who struggles with staying calm mentally and just playing my game.” – Tommy Haas, who actually lost 11 straight points yet beat Marcel Granollers in three sets.

“I must be doing something right.” – Lleyton Hewitt, noting his career record on clay going into the US Men’s Clay Court Championships was a quite respectable 80-37. He ended up winning the tournament.

SWISS KNOT

Mr and Mrs Federer

Roger Federer and long-time companion Mirka Vavrinec are now Mr. and Mrs. The two exchanged wedding vows in Federer’s hometown of Basel, Switzerland. They first met at the 2000 Sydney Olympics when both were competing for Switzerland. Vavrinec retired from the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour in 2002. Last month the two announced they are expected their first child later this summer. Federer was full of announcements. After telling of his marriage, he announced he would take a wild card and compete this week in Monte Carlo after earlier saying he planned to skip the event. Federer has reached the final at the last three Monte Carlo tournaments, only to lose each time to Rafael Nadal.

SAFINA ON TOP

Dinara Safina has pulled even with her brother in one respect. She is ranked number one in the world, replacing Serena Williams. The second Russian to be atop the women’s rankings, she is part of the first brother-sister combination to be ranked number one in the world. Her brother, Marat Safin, was ranked number one on the ATP Tour in 2000. Safina is the 19th player to top the women’s rankings. Last year she became the first player to beat three different reigning world number ones in the same season, Justine Henin, Maria Sharapova and Jelena Jankovic. Safina has won four WTA Tour titles in the last 12 months and finished runner-up five times, including Roland Garros last year and the Australian Open in January.

STRUGGLING

After losing two straight matches and her world number one ranking, Serena Williams has withdrawn from this week’s Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina, citing a left leg injury she originally suffered at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. “I need to give my leg injury time to heal,” she said. Williams was the defending Family Circle Cup champion. Williams lost to Victoria Azarenka in the Miami final, then was upset in Marbella, Spain, by Klara Zakopalova in her first clay-court match of the season

STAYING THE COURSE

It’s been a long time for Lleyton Hewitt, but he finally won his first tournament in two years when he stopped Wayne Odesnik 6-2 7-5 at the US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas. With his 498th career match victory, the Australian is just two match wins away from joining Roger Federer and Carlos Moya as the only active players with 500 or more victories. Hewitt, who ranks 35th on the career victories list, failed to win a tournament last year for the first time in his career while recovering from hip surgery. Hewitt won the US Open in 2001 and Wimbledon the following. Ranked number one in the world in 2001, Hewitt went into the Houston tournament ranked number 88.

SUCCESS AT LAST

Jelena Jankovic finally lifted the champion’s trophy this year following a disappointing start to the season. She lost her number one ranking after losing early at the Australian Open. She then dropped her opening matches at Indian Wells, California, and Miami, Florida, two American hard court events. On the red clay in Marbella, Spain, Jankovic finally got things turned around, beating Carla Suarez Navarro in the title match 6-3 3-6 6-3. For Jankovic, who was down a break early in the third set, this was her 10th career singles title, with half of them coming on clay.

STILL IN THE HUNT

Lleyton Hewitt wasn’t the only one to turn back the clock on the ATP Tour. Juan Carlos Ferrero won the Grand Prix Hassan II tournament in Casablanca, Morocco, his first title since capturing the Madrid Masters in October 2003. That was the year he won Roland Garros and lost the US Open final to Andy Roddick. And 2003 was the year Ferrero was ranked number one in the world. It was Ferrero’s first clay court championship since his victorious French Open run in 2003.

STAYING HOME

An inflamed right shoulder is the reason Victoria Azarenka won’t be playing in this week’s Family Circle Cup. In her last match, Azarenka knocked off Serena Williams to win the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Florida. Williams went on to lose her next match, then also withdrew from the Family Circle Cup with an injury to her leg. “I am really sorry that I have to withdraw from the Family Circle Cup … due to an injury in my right shoulder,” Azarenka said.  “I was looking forward to returning to Charleston and building on the momentum that I have from the past few weeks.”

SWEPT CLEAN

The US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas, wasn’t pretty for seeded players. James Blake and Mardy Fish were the top two-ranked Americans and the top two seeds in the field. At least for the first round. For the first time since 2000, the top two seeded players in an ATP tournament failed to advance past the opening round. And until his win over Blake, Guillermo Canas had lost six straight first-round matches this year. That was only the beginning. For the first time since the Open Era began in 1968, no seeded players reached the quarterfinals. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain, ranked 73rd in the world, was the highest-ranked player to make it out of the second round. The eventual winner, Lleyton Hewitt, was ranked 88th when the tournament began.

SENIOR SIGNEES

Goran Ivanisevic and Stefan Edberg are the first two entries for The Masters Tennis event to be played at the Royal Albert Hall in London in December. Six other players yet to be named will join the two Wimbledon champions in the ATP Champions Tour event. At least four of the six to be named will have been either a world number one, Grand Slam singles finalist or a Davis Cup winner in their careers. Ivanisevic played the Royal Albert Hall tournament in 2006, reaching the final, while Edberg played the senior event last year. Ivanisevic missed last year because of a knee injury.

STRENGTH AGAINST STRENGTH

Italy and Russia will battle for the fifth time when they meet in a Fed Cup World Group semifinal April 25-26 in Castellaneta Marina, Italy. The home team has never beaten the Russians in Fed Cup play, losing their last meeting in the 2007 final in Moscow. The last time the two nations met in Italy, in the 2005 quarterfinal, Italy won the first match before losing 4-1. In the last five years, Italy is the only nation other than Russia to win the Fed Cup, defeating Belgium in the 2006 final. That year Belgium eliminated Russia in the first round, the only defeat Russia has suffered in the last five years of the competition.

SWISS CHEESE

There will be a lot of holes in Switzerland’s lineup when it takes on Australia in a Fed Cup World Group II playoff April 25-26 in Victoria, Australia. Missing will be Switzerland’s top two singles players and their captain. Instead, Switzerland will rely on Stefanie Voegele, Nicole Riner and 15-year-old Mateja Kraljevic for the tie, which takes place on grass at the Mildura Lawn Tennis Club. The winning nation will stay in the World Group II for 2010, while the losing nation will drop to zonal competition. Christiane Jolissaint will replace Severin Luthi as captain for this tie. Luthi reportedly will be working with Roger Federer next week.

SIZZLING START

Fourteen-year-old Madison Keys made a successful Sony Ericsson WTA Tour debut by defeating Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia 7-5 6-4 in a first-round match at the MPS Group Championships in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Keys, who lives in Boca Raton, Florida, was given a wild card entry into the tournament. Her only other experience in a professional tournament came at a USD $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, last month. Keys is currently ranked number 37 in the International Tennis Federation World Junior Rankings. Kudryavtseva is number 81 in the world in the WTA Tour rankings. Unfortunately, her first-round victory advanced Keys to a second-round matchup against top-seeded Nadia Petrova, who beat the youngster 6-3 6-2.

SINO SWITCH

China’s top women players opted to leave the state-run system this year and keep their own prize money. So far, the money hasn’t come rolling in as neither Zheng Jie and long-time partner Yan Zi, nor Li Na and Peng Shuai have registered any notable wins. Each of the four players now has her own coaches, does her own scheduling for practices as well as tournaments, and has her own management team – all things that had been done and paid for by the state system in the past. Now, each player must pay their own expenses, including travel and hotels, out of their earnings. “This is a very difficult time for us because a lot of things have changed. We need time to get use to it,” Zheng said. “I hope we can get back in form as soon as possible.”

SISTERS

Serena and Venus Williams aren’t the only sisters battling it out on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Alona Bondarenko of Ukraine beat her younger sister Kateryna 4-6 6-4 6-3 in the second round of the MPS Group Championships in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Alona, who is two years older, trailed 1-3 in the second set before winning 11 of the last 15 games. “We have different styles, but we know each other well,” Alona said. “I have to play the long points and she doesn’t.” It was their sixth meeting on the WTA Tour – their first match since 2006 – and each has won three times. Polish sisters Agnieszka and Urszula Radwanska are also on the tour, with Urszula beating her older and higher-ranked sister in their lone WTA Tour matchup.

SPONSOR

BNP Paribas has signed a three-year agreement to sponsor both the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour and the Invacare World Team Cup. BNP Paribas already is the title sponsor of Davis Cup by BNP Paribas, Fed Cup by BNP Paribas and Junior Davis Cup and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas, as well as other tournaments. The company has supported wheelchair tennis in France since 1993.

STARTING UP

The inaugural International Tennis Federation (ITF) Beach Tennis World Championships will be held May 4-6 at the historic Folo Italico in Rome. The competition will be held alongside the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour event being played in Rome the same week. Beach Tennis merges the disciplines of tennis and beach volleyball into a single sport and is usually played as doubles on a court of similar size to beach volleyball.

SWINGING

Kelly Gunterman is now the director of tennis at Amelia Island Plantation, a site where Andre Agassi, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Martina Hingis have all won tournaments. Gunterman played tennis in college and has trained and taught with John Newcombe and Peter Burwash.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Casablanca: Lukasz Kubot and Oliver Marach beat Simon Aspelin and Paul Hanley 7-6 (4) 3-6 10-6 (match tiebreak)

Houston: Bob and Mike Bryan beat Jesse Levine and Ryan Sweeting 6-1 6-2

Ponte Vedra Beach: Chuang Chia-Jung and Sania Mirza beat Lisa Raymond and Kveta Peschke 6-3 4-6 10-7 (match tiebreak)

Marbella: Klaudia Jans and Alicja Rosolska beat Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual 6-3 6-3

Athens: Ramirez Junaid and Philipp Marx beat Jesse Huta Galung and Rui Machado 6-4 6-3

Torhout: Michaella Krajicek and Yanina Wickmayer beat Julia Goerges and Sandra Klemenschits 6-4 6-0

SITES TO SURF

Monte Carlo: http://montecarlo.masters-series.com/1/en/home/default.asp

Charleston: www.familycirclecup.com

Barcelona: www.barcelonaopenbancosabadell.com/

Sofia: www.bgtennis.bg/

Fed Cup: www.fedcup.com

Estonian Tennis Federation: www.tennis.ee/

Polish Tennis Federation: www.pzt.pl/

Belgium Tennis Federation: www.sport.be/fedcup/2009/belcan/fr/

Tennis Australia: www.tennis.com.au/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$600,000 Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, Monte Carlo, Monaco, clay

$100,000 Soweto Men’s Open, Johannesburg, South Africa, hard

WTA

$1,000,000 Family Circle Cup, Charleston, South Carolina, USA, clay

$220,000 Barcelona Ladies Open, Barcelona, Spain, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$2,645,000 Barcelona Open Banco Sabadell, Barcelona, Spain, clay

$112,000 Bulgarian Open, Sofia, Bulgaria, clay

FED CUP

(April 25-26)

World Group Semifinals

Italy vs. Russia at Castellaneta Marina, Italy, clay

Czech Republic vs. United States at Brno, Czech Republic, hard

World Group Playoffs

Spain vs. Serbia at Lleida, Spain, clay; France vs. Slovak Republic at Limoges, France, clay; Germany vs. China at Frankfurt, Germany, clay; Argentina vs. Ukraine at Mar Del Plata, Argentina, clay

World Group II Playoffs

Belgium vs. Canada at Hasselt, Belgium, clay; Estonia vs. Israel at Tallinn, Estonia, hard; Poland vs. Japan at Gdynia, Poland, clay; Australia vs. Switzerland at Victoria, Australia, grass

Mondays with Bob Greene: I’m chasing a lot of records

STARS

David Nalbandian beat Jarkko Nieminen 6-3 6-7 (9) 6-2 to win the Medibank International men’s singles in Sydney, Australia

Juan Martin del Potro beat Sam Querrey 6-4 6-4, winning the Heineken Open in Auckland, New Zealand

Elena Dementieva won the Medibank International women’s singles, beating Dinara Safina 6-3 2-6 6-1 in Sydney, Australia

Petra Kvitova beat Iveta Benesova 7-5 6-1 to win the Moorilla Hobart International in Hobart, Australia

Roger Federer won the AAMI exhibition event in Melbourne, Australia, beating Stanislas Wawrinka 6-1 6-3

SAYING

“New season, big opportunities for me. I’m chasing a lot of records.” – Roger Federer, who needs only one more Grand Slam tournament singles title to tie Pete Sampras with a men’s record 14.

“I was hoping for a good start but I couldn’t imagine I was going to win two titles.” – Elena Dementieva, who won the Medibank International in Sydney, Australia, to go with the title she won the week before in Auckland, New Zealand.

“I don’t know if I can call her a friend anymore. We are sharing a room, but I think I will kick her out tonight.” – Iveta Benesova, joking after losing to her roommate Petra Kvitova in the final of the Hobart International.

“It’s very good. I mean, winning a tournament before (the Australian Open) is almost perfect to arrive.” – David Nalbandian, who beat Jarkko Nieminen to win the Medibank International men’s title.

“The livestock industry in Melbourne is well developed and it impresses me that there are so many flies here. But since it is so hot, the flies get tired here and do not feel like flying much!” – Sun Tiantian, writing in her blog on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour website.

“In Serbia we don’t have the best facilities in the world, especially in wintertime it’s very hard for to us train. But we are really hungry and motivated to do well. The three of us that have achieved and came to the top of the tennis game, we all did it in different ways, going to different places and really wanted to become the best that we can be.” – Jelena Jankovic, on the fact that she, Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic give Serbia three of the world’s top players.

“The ATP Board believes it has secured a new leader with the necessary strategic vision, operational strength and international perspective.” – ATP tournament board representative Graham Pearce in announcing Adam Helfant as the new head of the men’s professional tennis tour.

SELES TO HALL

Monica Seles is the newest member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The nine-time Grand Slam singles champion will be inducted into the shrine at ceremonies on July 11 in Newport, Rhode Island. Also being inducted will be Andres Gimeno of Spain, a star in the 1960s; pioneer marketer Donald Dell and the late Robert Johnson, who was instrumental in the development of Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe. Seles won the 1991 and 1992 US Opens, the 1990-1992 French Opens and 1991-1993 and 1996 Australian Opens. In 1990 she became the youngest French Open champion in history at 16½ years.

SUPER START

Elena Dementieva is off to a tremendous start in 2009. She beat fellow Russian Dinara Safina 6-3 2-6 6-1 to win the Medibank International in Sydney, Australia, her second title in two weeks. She had won in Auckland, New Zealand, the week before. With the 13th title of her career, Dementieva increased her match record to 10-0 this year. She is currently ranked a career-high number four in the world and at Sydney beat two top three players at the same tournament for the second time in her career. Besides Safina, who is ranked number three in the world, Dementieva also bested second-ranked Serena Williams. Safina has now lost her last three matches to Dementieva, including last year’s Olympic singles final in Beijing.

STRUCK DOWN

Nicolas Kiefer is out of the Australian Open before it begins. The German withdrew from the year’s first Grand Slam tournament after suffering an injury to his left ankle while playing in the Hopman Cup. A semifinalist at the Australian Open in 2006, Kiefer had been scheduled to play Argentina’s Guillermo Canas in the opening round. He was replaced in the draw by another German, qualifier Dieter Kindlmann.

SUSPENDED 1

Italy’s Filippo Volandri has been banned for three months by the International Tennis Federation for abusing an asthma drug. In making the announcement, the Italian Tennis Federation said Volandri’s use of salbutamol was deemed beyond therapeutic needs. The ban began last week and will end April 14. Ranked 109th in the world, Valandri was to face Mario Ancic of Croatia in the opening round of the Australian Open. His spot has been taken by American qualifier Wayne Odesnik. Volandri failed a drug test last March at a tournament in Indian Wells, California. The ITF also announced that all of Volandri’s results from March 13 on will be voided and he also will forfeit USD $166,000 in prize money he won and ATP points earned.

SUSPENDED 2

The Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, has upheld the two-year doping ban given to Spanish tennis player Laura Pous Tio. She tested positive for banned drugs during the 2007 Wimbledon qualifying tournament. Her ban started in October 2007, but she appealed to the CAS. The CAS also upheld the disqualification of Pous Tio’s results from the Wimbledon qualifying tournament and subsequent events. The 24-year-old, who had a career-high ranking of 75th in the world in 2005, will be eligible to play again in October 2009.

SWITCHING DATES?

The top men believe that moving the Australian Open to February would make more sense. Lleyton Hewitt doesn’t agree. Roger Federer said moving the year’s first Grand Slam tournament to a few weeks later would let the players work into the new year more gradually. He was joined by Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. However, Australian Open organizers don’t want to move the tournament back because the existing slot coincides with Australia’s national summer holidays. “I think as an Australian it’s probably the ideal time,” Hewitt said. “This is the time that I’ve always known it as the Australian Open, the dates that I’ve always come to since I was coming here as a young kid to watch.”

SHOWTIME

Tennis fans can watch matches live on the Internet this year – for a price. The ATP and WTA Tours announced the creation of TennisTV.com, which will offer streaming video from 41 events, including the season-ending championships. However, no Grand Slam tournament matches will be included, and not everyone in the world will be able to see the matches, even if they are willing to pay for it. Among others, the WTA Tour is blacking out Europe, while the ATP is not offering live service in Brazil. And the two singles finals of this year’s Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Florida, will not be available in the United States.

SELA IN

Israeli Dudi Sela saved six match points before winning his qualifying match and gaining a spot in the Australian Open main draw. The 23-year-old Sela trailed 5-3, 40-0 in the third set before fighting back for a 6-0 2-6 8-6 victory over Grega Zemlja of Slovenia. Sela saved three match points in the ninth game of the third set, then staved off the others in the 10th and 11th games. He was to play Rainer Schuettler of Germany in the opening round of the year’s first Grand Slam tournament.

SIGNED

Adam Helfant is the new head of the men’s professional tennis tour. The former National Hockey League lawyer replaces Etienne de Villiers, who stepped down last year after heading the ATP since 2005. Most recently Helfant was Nike’s corporate vice president for global sports marketing.

SAID WHAT?

Zina Garrison’s departure as captain of the United States Fed Cup team apparently wasn’t as smooth as the United States Tennis Association (USTA) led everyone to believe. In December 2007, the USTA announced that 2008 would be Garrison’s final season and that she would be replaced by Mary Joe Fernandez. No reason was given for Garrison being dumped, although her record as captain was only 5-5 over five seasons, losing in the semifinals four times and the quarterfinals once. In 1990, Garrison was the Wimbledon runner-up, becoming the first black woman since Althea Gibson in 1958 to reach a Grand Slam tournament singles final. When she replaced Billie Jean King for the 2004 season, she became the first black captain of the US Fed Cup squad.

SPONSOR CHANGE

The Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, California, has a new name. It now will be called the BNP Paribas Open as the France-based bank took over sponsorship of the event. Organizers of the tournament also announced equal prize money of USD $4.5 million each for the men and women. The tournament began in 1976 and is said to rank only behind the four Grand Slam tournaments in attendance.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Sydney (men): Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan beat Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic 6-1 7-6 (3)

Sydney (women): Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai beat Natalie Dechy and Casey Dellacqua 6-0 6-1

Auckland: Martin Damm and Robert Lindstedt beat Scott Lipsky and Leander Paes 7-5 6-4

Hobart: Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta beat Alona Bondarenko and Kateryna Bondarenko 6-2 7-6 (4)

SITES TO SURF

Australian Open: www.australianopen.com/

Heilbronn: www.heilbronn-open.de/Live/de_Homepage.CMS?ActiveID=1001

WTA Tour: www.sonyericssonwtatour.com

ATP Tour: www.atpworldtour.com

International Tennis Federation: www.itftennis.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

ATP and WTA TOUR

Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia (first week)

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia (second week)

$112,000 Heilbronn Open, Heilbronn, Germany

WTA TOUR

Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia (second week)