wimbledon title

WTA Spotlight on American Tennis Player Vania King


American Vania King may seem like a veteran on the WTA Tour but at only 23-years-old, she is one of the more experienced younger players in women’s tennis. Currently sitting at a steady world number 54, she will soon best her career-high of #50 from back in 2006. I had a chance to chat with Vania after her first-round win about her Wimbledon title, her education, and the players she would most want to party with.

What is your most memorable moment on court?

Winning Wimbledon with my doubles partner [Yaroslava Shvedova]. I think I screamed for like twenty minutes straight — I couldn’t believe it. It took me like two weeks for it to settle in, so that was pretty incredible.

If you weren’t a tennis palyer, what would you be?

I think I would be like a guidance counselor for kids; that’s something that I want to pursue. I haven’t declared my major yet, but I’m studying it online right now. I would like to work in elementary education or psychology.

How long have you been studying?

For about half a year.

Do you have any superstitions on court?

I try not to. I know girls that don’t like to step on the line. Sometimes I make it a point to step on the line to make sure that I don’t have a superstition. Some players want to stay on one side if they keep winning. But eventually, you’re going to lose on any side you’re on and eventually you’re going to lose if you didn’t step on the line. So I think superstitions shouldn’t affect you. The only thing they can do is harm you.

If you were hosting a party, what three tennis players would you invite?

(Laughs) Obviously, everyone wants to see Rafa [Nadal]. And then one of my good friends is Anna-Lena Groenefeld and we’ve gone out and partied before and she’s really fun. And the third one, I would say one of my best friends is my doubles partner, Yaroslava Shvedova. I would have to invite her or she would be really mad at me! (Laughs)

What is your biggest indulgence?

I try not to let tennis consume me, so I try to be good with food. But sometimes I’m not good with food — I just figure that I’m really hungry and I want to east what I want to eat. (Laughs)

Is there a sweet that you tend to go for?

Cupcakes and French macaroons.

What are two things you can’t live without?

Music and books.

Any type of music in particular that you like?

It varies on the mood. I can’t pick just one because when I’m in an upbeat mood or if I need to have some energy, then I’ll listen to some club music. If I need to calm down, I’ll listen to classical or cinematic music.

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.

Roger Federer Faces Doubts In Toronto

Roger Federer held his first tournament press conference at the Rogers Cup on Monday and was bombarded by questions about his current slip to the No. 3 position in the ATP rankings. Such is the reality the Swiss star faces wherever he goes these days as his game has dropped a notch in recent months.

After making a record 23 consecutive Grand Slam semi-finals, Federer’s streak was snapped at Roland Garros in May where he lost to surging Swede Robin Soderling. Then at Wimbledon, a tournament he has owned the past seven years, he lost to Tomas Berdych in four sets. Having just turned 29 years old on Sunday, fans and media alike are both starting to question Federer’s tenure at the top of the men’s game.

In fact, this is not the first time that Roger has been faced with a barrage of doubts about his grip on the upper echelon of the ATP tour. In 2008, after falling to Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of the Australian Open, Federer would go on to lose the finals of both the French Open and Wimbledon to Rafa Nadal. This time two years ago in Toronto he was bounced in his opening match to Gilles Simon and then the vultures were really out to get him.

Federer rebounded of course by winning three of the next four Slams. He triumphed at the U.S. Open that September and then won his first French Open title last year, followed by another Wimbledon title. Could Federer have some late season magic up his sleeve for Flushing Meadows again this year?

One sign that Federer is serious about re-establishing his dominance is the new partnership he is testing out with Paul Annacone, former coach of Pete Sampras. The relationship began shortly after Wimbledon with a visit from the American tennis coach to Roger’s home in Switzerland and the Rogers Cup offers the first tournament action to test out their short-term progress.

“I’ve always gotten along very well with Paul,” Federer said. “Him being obviously the coach of Sampras and Henman who were sort of friends to me and I know very well. So I thought it was a good time to do a test, and this is our first test tournament we’re doing. We’re taking it slow, and we’ll see what happens next week.”

As for all the media attempts to speculate about his demise, Federer quipped that the press sometimes rushes their judgments and forgets some of the obstacles he has faced over the past year and a half. He also stated that Nadal had to endure the same type of negativity a year ago as he battled his injury issues.

“…the press gets too carried away too quickly. It’s understandable with our success we’ve had, Rafa, myself, you know, the last couple of years…I had mono, the lung infection, I had back issues a couple of times.”

Excuses aside, it is coming to the time where Federer is going to have to let his results do the talking. A strong start to his summer hard-court season here in Toronto would certainly put some of the doubts aside.

Federer takes to Centre Court this evening against Juan Ignacio Chela to try to take that first step forwards.

FEDERER’S EXPANDING TROPHY CABINET: TENNIS PEOPLE

* Roger Federer has been boasting about his expansive trophy cabinet as he goes looking for a record-equaling seventh Wimbledon title alongside Pete Sampras and W.G. Renshaw. “All the US Opens, all the Wimbledons, they’re all lined up next to each other,” he beamed. “They almost go in a circle, so it’s nice. I’m lucky enough to have won that many.” Does he think about that record? “Maybe obviously a little bit because I’m aware of the great things he [Sampras] achieved, being one title away from it, you’re obviously aware of it,” he continued. “But then again, you have to break it down and make it simple for yourself, trying to win the first round, being here, trying to defend the title before everything.”

* This week’s Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings have seen former No.1 Jelena Jankovic re-enter the top 3 for the first time in over a year despite not playing a warm-up tournament on grass this year. She swaps with the Dane Caroline Wozniacki who failed to defend her title at Eastbourne last week. Sam Stosur now finds herself a career-high No. 6 while the returning Belgians Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters find themselves ranked at No. 16 and No. 8 respectively, the highest slots since they returned to the tour.

* The South African Airways ATP World Rankings were a bit quieter this week. There was no movement in the top 36, Michael Llodra climbing nine places to No. 37 in a big leap following recent performances. Janko Tipsarevic enters the top 50 at 45 while Sergiy Stakhovsky jumps 24 places to a career-best No. 47 following his victory over Tipsarevic at the UNICEF Open in Holland last week.

* The Lawn Tennis Association has hit back at claims by Aussie former Wimbledon Champ Pat Cash that Roger Draper’s “shocking” tenure at the governing body has seriously jeopardised Britain’s chances of rearing future Champions, according to the Press Association. An LTA spokesman said: “Investment in grass roots is our priority. We are spending over £40million over five years in improving facilities. We have more than half a million people playing tennis in England alone. That number is growing and we are looking to increase that number further.” The spokesman laid out future objectives by saying: “We are four years into a 10-year project, so yes, this will take time, but we are already starting to see encouraging signs both in performance tennis and at grass roots level. The accusation is that we are not getting kids playing tennis but club membership among children has grown by 16% in the last three years.” You can see the full war of words here.

* Russian Nikolay Davydenko is adamant he will face Argentina for Russia in the crucial forthcoming Davis Cup quarterfinal next month. “Yeah, I will play,” he said in a post-match interview following on from his gritty five-set win over American Kevin Anderson at Wimbledon on Monday. There had been fears over his fitness. You can see the interview in full on the Davis Cup website. This comes after the No. 7 seed claimed he was playing through the pain against Anderson. “My wrist is okay but the rest of my body? I don’t know. I will need treatment now,” reported the British newspaper The Sun.

* Kim Clijsters has spoken of her frustration at missing most of the clay-court season with a damaged foot following such an impressive performance at Miami earlier in the year. “It was frustrating because I felt that I was playing well,” she said in an interview published on the FOX Sports website. “I was finally in a routine where I started to play more tournaments. After Miami, as well, I was looking forward to play the Fed Cup and then to play the clay-court season.”

* Serena Williams says she can’t wait to have the chance to make it three Olympic Gold Medals in her trophy cabinet when the 2012 competition takes place at the All England Club. “I think it’s great as an Olympic venue,” she said. “It’s probably the best venue in the world.”

* A couple of players gave interesting verdicts following shock exits in the early days of Wimbledon 2010. Aussie Sam Stosur was gracious following her shock exit to Estonian qualifier Kaia Kanepi. “She’s a quality opponent.” said the 26-year-old French Open finalist. “She has been ranked a lot higher than what she is. For whatever reason, she slipped back. She’s definitely played a lot of matches recently as well. She qualified at the French as well as here and has been playing well, so it wasn’t an easy first round by any means. The last couple of days I practiced quite well, tried to prepare for the match as best I could…I just didn’t play my best.” Former world No. 4 James Blake was far more damning of his performance following his shock defeat to Dutchman Robin Haase in straight sets. “To be honest, it’s almost embarrassing to go out and play a Grand Slam match like that,” said the former US and Aussie Open quarterfinalist. “Maybe it says to me that I came back too soon [from a recent knee injury], or maybe I’m just too far away from where I think I need to be. The knee is not great. If it doesn’t get better soon, I’m not sure how much longer I want to play in pain. Something like this, and overuse injury, it’s a tough balance to have to find,” he said. “I want to be out there hitting, but I might be doing more harm than good.” Fans of Blake will hope that talk of retirement is just a knee-jerk reaction to a disappointing day. Sam Querrey, who saw opponent Sergiy Stakhovsky retire through illness while trailing by two sets and 2-1 down in the third, has revealed an almost McEnroe-like approach to his recent improvement. “My coach, David Nainkin, said if you’re gonna get angry, yell something out and smash the racquet and move on to the next point. Don’t carry it with you,” Querrey said. “Occasionally in practice (I do it). I guess this year, I’ve probably broken two or three in practice. I can’t really remember the specific moments. Sometimes it just needs to be done.”

* Dustin Brown, the first Jamaican to play at Wimbledon for 40 years, has placed the LTA on standby by claiming he would like to defect to play Davis Cup for Great Britain, according to The Sun newspaper. He crashed 3-6, 6-4, 2-6, 3-6 to Austrian Jurgen Melzer on Monday but won over fans with his flowing dreadlocks and stylish play. “I last played for Jamaica in 2002 and I’m pretty sure the cooling-off period is three years,” said the 25-year-old. “The Jamaican authorities are not giving me any funds, no coaching and no help. They are not doing their job. They even sent an email to me two days ago [Saturday] saying ‘Congratulations on your wild-card’ – I got in with a direct entry and didn’t have to qualify. If the president doesn’t know what the No.1 player is doing, he doesn’t care.” Brown qualifies for GB through his grandfather but says he will wait for the LTA to make the first move. “Something also has to happen from the Lawn Tennis Association. If they are interested, then they have to step towards me.”

* The first-round exits of Sam Stosur and Francesca Schiavone at Wimbledon this week means this is the first Championships where both Roland Garros finalists have fallen at the first hurdle.

* Serena Williams’ first-round victory over Portuguese teenager Michelle Larcher de Brito on Tuesday means her career record for Grand Slam openers reads 43-0, an outstanding achievement.

* Rafa Nadal took time out from his Wimbledon preparations by splashing out £130 for himself and three pals to play a round of golf at the Coombe Wood Golf Club. He applauded the presentation ceremony for Charlie Coleman, son of former Brit tennis star Annabel Croft, who became the club’s youngest Champion in its 106-year history at just 14-years-old.

* American Andy Roddick showed his disgust at the recent refereeing gaff which cost the USA a third goal in what would have been a thrilling second-half comeback against Slovenia at the FIFA football World Cup. The match ended 2-2 after midfielder Maurice Edu had what looked like a seemingly good goal wrongly chalked off. Roddick, asked if he understands the rules of football, said: “I understand the rules of football so well that apparently when two Slovenian guys mug an American guy the American guy gets called for a foul. That’s how well I understand the rules.”

ARE MURRAY AND ROBSON THE START OF A GOLDEN AGE FOR BRITISH TENNIS?

By Melina Harris

The start of the Millenium was not particularly memorable for the British public despairing on Henman Hill over Tim’s recent exit in the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2000; but unbeknown to us, a rather talented little gem, aged 6, had moved across to the UK from Australia with her parents Andrew, an oil executive and Kathy Robson, a sports coach and former professional basketball player.

Luckily, nature and nurture (great genes and financial backing) combined forces in the Noughties to produce Britain’s potential star of the future; Laura Robson, who entered a tennis academy aged 7, signed with management company, Octagon aged 10 and subsequently landed lucrative sponsorship deals with Wilson and Adidas aged 11. Winning the junior Wimbledon title in July 2008 crowned her as ‘the new darling of British tennis,’ catapulting her dramatically into the public eye with many tennis commentators hailing Robson as the one to watch.

Our lovely leftie, currently ranked No. 406 in the world aged 15 recently added to her growing army of admirers and fans, including Aussie legend and Wimbledon winner Pat Cash during her impressive performances with fellow Brit Andy Murray, in the Hyundai Hopman Cup in Australia earlier this month.

Although Murray claimed to be “rubbish” at mixed doubles, together, Murray and Robson were a formidable force, blowing opponents away in both their level of play (they were the first Great British pair to compete in the Hopman Cup final) and sheer entertainment value for the Aussie crowd. Despite their defeat in the final to Spain’s Tommy Robredo and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez through Murray’s loss in the singles, it was his behavior throughout the tournament and Robson’s charisma and potential that grabbed the headlines.

A couple of years ago Tim Henman labeled Murray as “a bit of a miserable sod,” however no comment could have been further off the mark as the tennis world witnessed a most astonishing event – Murray’s smile! I doubt I will ever forget the sight of his wide grin to coach Miles Maclagan and fitness trainer Jez Green during his devastating demolition of Andreev in the group stages of the tournament, which Pat Cash claimed was “as good as it could possibly be for any player.”

This sunny disposition continued throughout the tournament and especially during the pair’s mixed-doubles encounters. Significantly, Robson’s coach, Martijn Bok, noted of Murray in a post match interview, “in the first two mixed doubles matches, Andy did really well to keep Laura calm, had time to make a joke and give her confidence. Even here, we’ve seen other teams whose male player looks away when the woman makes a mistake, as if she does not belong out there.” Did we hear correctly: the words ‘joke’ and ‘Murray’ in the same sentence? According to his website and Team Murray, he loves nothing more than a bit of banter, but in the past this has rarely come across on court or in interviews.

In a rare moment of gracious humour,  Murray admitted in a post match interview, “the man is supposed to dominate in mixed doubles but every time I tried to take over the point we lost it, so I just let her do it all by herself.”

Indeed, the way that Murray looked out for his younger partner, joking and smiling throughout the tournament, allowing her to take centre stage, has definitely endeared him to the harshly critical British public and arguably improved his image worldwide. Perhaps he’d taken some advice from his older brother, Jamie – famous for winning the Wimbledon mixed doubles flirtatiously with Jelena Jankovic in 2007 or was it simply due to the infectious charm and charisma of his partner? Whatever the reason, his management company, 19 must be literally jumping for joy with the results gained from this new partnership. Please check them out on YouTube if you don’t believe me!

Never before have we seen this side to Andy Murray and Robson must be congratulated for drawing out this side to his personality, which has often been criticized in the past and even Pat Cash noted, in his recent Sunday Times article Why I’m mad about Laura Robson that “she can make Andy Murray smile, which is no mean feat.”

Murray has definitely started the new decade with the conscious or subconscious decision to show another side to his often surly demeanor. Robson’s mother even went so far as to say “Andy Murray is a good boy, a true gentleman and we all absolutely adore him.” The PR will no doubt help his marketability and maybe even his relationship status (he recently split with long term love, Kim Sears due to his excessive obsession with the computer game ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’ it was reported)- along with half of the male population, I must add.

Although Robson’s coach, Dutchman Martijn Bok admitted “Laura could not be described as a natural athlete…she will need more attention on the physical side of her game than the tennis side,” there is much hope for this precocious talent. If, once her growth spurt comes to an end, Laura can learn from Andy’s dedication to his physical development with his infamous and grueling 400m runs (just one aspect of the vigorous fitness regime set out by Jez Green) and Andy continues to be infected by Laura’s charm and charisma, what an exciting marketing prospect we have on our hands. I cannot help but be exhilarated by the thought of Andy and Laura competing together in the mixed doubles event staged at Wimbledon in the London Olympics in 2012 and the role models they will become for future generations of British talent.

Are the twenty teens indeed the start of a golden era for British tennis? As the Queen might say; one truly hopes so Philip!

TENNIS IDOL BORG OR EMPEROR BORG?

Bjorn Borg, it was announced Tuesday, will be playing in his first tournament in the United States since 2000 at the Staples Champions Cup in Boston, April 29-May 2. The event is part of the Jim Courier-run Champions Cup tennis circuit. This year marks the 30th anniversary of Borg’s epic fifth straight Wimbledon title, which will no doubt be celebrated and remembered for much of the year.

Which brings up the question; do we like the Bjorn Borg look from the late 1970s, early 1980s or the contemporary “stately” looking Borg who looks more like a Roman Emperor than the teen idol of yesterday? Tell us which look you like better?

Borg will play his opening match in Boston against fellow Swede Pernfors on Thursday, April 29 at 7 pm and, if victorious, will face the winner of the Friday evening quarterfinal match between McEnroe and Wilander on Saturday evening, May 1. Courier will face Arias in his opening match on Friday at 7 pm and, if victorious, will face the winner of the Philippoussis-Ferreira match on Saturday afternoon. For more on the Staples Champions Cup, go to www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com

“Bjorn playing in the United States is a very rare occurrence so it makes the Staples Champions Cup that much more special this year,” said Courier. “He’s one of our sport’s greatest champions and to have him play on the Champions Series is a highlight for the circuit.”
In 1980, Borg was able to win his fifth-straight title at the All England Club and stave off McEnroe, playing in his first Wimbledon final, by a 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (16-18), 8-6 margin, highlighted by the famous 18-16 fourth-set tie-breaker. He stopped playing full-time on the ATP circuit after the 1981 season.

bjorn-borg

Nadal returns, beats Gasquet, at US Open

Everyone’s been curious about the condition of Rafael Nadal’s knees, so it made sense that his first Grand Slam opponent in three months would wonder as well.

Which might explain why Richard Gasquet tried a drop shot deep in the third set of his U.S. Open match against Nadal on Wednesday. Nadal made the long run necessary to get to the ball, and flipped it back over the net, winning the point.

A moment later, as if conspiring with Nadal to show everyone how fit the six-time major champion truly is these days, Gasquet offered up another drop shot.

Nadal got to that one, too.

Starting a bid to win the only Grand Slam title missing from his resume, Nadal encountered no apparent trouble from his much-scrutinized legs in a 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Gasquet at Flushing Meadows.

Gasquet, for one, was impressed.

“He can win the tournament,” said Gasquet, a 2007 Wimbledon semifinalist and former top-10 player. “Day after day, he will improve his level. For sure, he can win.”

Nadal’s matter-of-fact assessment: “I played well, no?”

Nadal didn’t wear any tape near his knees Wednesday, something he’s done in the past, much less the sort of bulky bandages Venus Williams showed up with near her left knee for a second-round match she won easily.

One could certainly make the case Nadal wasn’t facing the toughest competition. Gasquet has been away from the tour, too, recently. He served a 2 1/2 -month ban after testing positive for cocaine; Gasquet successfully appealed what would have been a far more severe punishment, saying the drug entered his system inadvertently when he kissed a woman at a nightclub.

Nadal’s absence was far more run-of-the-mill. He hadn’t played at a major tournament since May 31, when his 31-match French Open winning streak ended in the fourth round at Roland Garros. The Spaniard cited knee tendinitis in deciding not to defend his Wimbledon title, and the layoff was a big reason Nadal has dropped from No. 1 in the rankings to No. 3.

He ceded the top spot to Roger Federer, whose bid for a sixth consecutive U.S. Open championship—and third Grand Slam title in a row this year— progressed with a 6-3, 7-5, 7-5 victory over Simon Greul of Germany in front of a night-session record crowd of 24,206.

Next for Federer is a matchup against two-time major winner Lleyton Hewitt, who defeated Juan Ignacio Chela 6-3, 6-3, 6-4. Federer has won 13 matches in a row against Hewitt, including in the 2004 U.S. Open final.

Williams, the 2000-01 champion in New York, had wide patches of white tape above and below her left knee, which began bothering her when she struggled through a first-round win Monday. Like Nadal, Williams looked hale Wednesday, and she easily dispatched Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the United States 6-4, 6-2.

“She was moving like a cat,” Mattek-Sands said.

Nadal never mentioned his knee issues publicly until after the French Open, but he said Wednesday the pain dated to April, when he won the Monte Carlo Masters. He also won the next week, and the week after that, but he now attributes that success to “being on a roll.”

The recent time off means he has played a lot less than he’s accustomed to by this time in the season, which is a benefit at the last Grand Slam event of the year. He’s never been past the semifinals in New York.

“I am more fresh, yeah. Fresher than ever in this tournament. I don’t know if this kind of fresh is good,” he said. “No excuses about being very tired.”

Still, Nadal finds it amusing that there has been so much discussion about his knees and his time away from the tour.

“Seems like I was two years outside of competition,” he said. “It was two months.”

Kim Clijsters was away for two years, having ended her retirement in August, and she continues to play as if she never left. Unseeded and unranked and playing at the U.S. Open for the first time since winning the 2005 title, the 26-year-old Belgian reached the third round by knocking off No. 14-seeded Marion Bartoli 5-7, 6-1, 6-2.

Other seeded women sent home included No. 15 Samantha Stosur, a French Open semifinalist, who was beaten by Vania King of Long Beach, Calif., 7-5, 6-4; two-time major champion Amelie Mauresmo, who lost to Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada; No. 12 Agnieszka Radwanska and No. 20 Anabel Medina Garrigues.

Two fixtures on the men’s tour said goodbye to Grand Slam tennis with first-round exits: Marat Safin of Russia and Fabrice Santoro of France, who are retiring at the end of the season.

The 29-year-old Safin, the 2000 U.S. Open champion, lost to Jurgen Melzer of Austria 1-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4; the 36-year-old Santoro, appearing in his record 69th major tournament, was beaten by No. 24 Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

Safin won two Grand Slam titles and briefly was ranked No. 1. There are those—including Melzer, after Wednesday’s match—who wonder aloud whether Safin’s talent could have taken him to a half-dozen major championships or more.

One person who doesn’t worry about that? Safin.

“I don’t regret anything at all. Things that happened to me throughout the life, whatever I said, whatever I did—it took me to where I am right now,” Safin said. “So I think it was pretty nice ride.”

Cash Repeats As Newport Champion; Denies Courier First Grass Title

NEWPORT, R.I., August 23, 2009 – Pat Cash successfully defended his singles title at the $150,000 Hall of Fame Champions Cup defeating Jim Courier 6-3, 6-4 Sunday in the championship match at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The tournament victory was Cash’s second career title on the Outback Champions Series, the global tennis circuit for champions tennis players age 30 and over, and earned the 1987 Wimbledon champion $60,000. Cash’s tournament win at Newport last year was also over Courier in the final by the exact 6-3, 6-4 score line.

“I’ve been lucky this week,” said Cash. “I got a few lucky breaks today and you need that to beat these guys, who are all champions. The great thing about this tour, the Outback Champions Series, is that it is serious tennis. We get out there and you can see how hard we’re trying, but it’s also fun,”

Cash is regarded as one of the best serve-and-volley and grass-court players in tennis over the last 30 years. In addition to his 1987 Wimbledon title, Cash was a singles finalist on grass at the 1987 Australian Open. The 44-year-old Australian was the lone Wimbledon singles champion in the eight-player Newport field and was most comfortable on the grass courts at the International Tennis Hall of Fame all week.

“I wouldn’t say I grew up on the grass-court but I have played a lot of grass-court tennis,” said Cash. “It’s natural for me to play this style of game. It’s easy. I don’t have to think about it. I just serve and volley. I’m not smart enough to work out a game tactic against Jim so I just kind of keep serving and running to the net.”

Courier, playing in his 13th career Outback Champions Series final, was seeking the first career professional title on grass courts. However, the 1993 Wimbledon finalist and four-time major tournament champion earned $30,000 with the runner-up showing as well as 800 ranking points that further solidified his No. 1 ranking on the Outback Champions Series.

“If you watched this match at all you could see how difficult it is to return Pat’s serve,” said Courier. “He really spotted his serve beautifully once he got in to the rhythm today and from there I’m struggling because he’s such a beautiful volleyer. If he gets his hands on anything at the net then it seems the point’s over. I felt under pressure because I wasn’t getting to break point on his serve then that’s a lot of pressure on mine. He’s a great champion. He’s obviously a great grass-court champion. You don’t win Wimbledon if you’re not. It’s disappointing because I was hoping to win my first grass-court title.”

In Sunday’s third-place match, Todd Martin defeated Mark Philippoussis 6-3, 6-7(4), 10-6 (Champions Tie-Breaker).

Pete Sampras won the opening event on the 2009 Outback Champions Series, defeating John McEnroe in the final of the Champions Cup Boston in February. McEnroe won the second event of the year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, defeating Courier in the final. Sampras won his second title of the year at the Del Mar Development Champions Cup in Los Cabos, Mexico, defeating Patrick Rafter in the final. Courier won his first title of the 2009 season in April at the Cayman Islands, defeating Jimmy Arias in the final. Following Newport, remaining events on the Outback Champions Series will be held in Charlotte (Sept. 24-27), Surprise, Ariz. (Oct. 8-11) and Dubai, U.A.E. (Nov. 18-21).

Founded in 2005, the Outback Champions Series features some of the biggest names in tennis over the last 25 years, including Andre Agassi, Sampras, McEnroe, Courier and others. To be eligible to compete on the Outback Champions Series, players must have reached at least a major singles final, been ranked in the top five in the world or played singles on a championship Davis Cup team. The Outback Champions Series features eight events on its 2009 schedule with each event featuring $150,000 in prize money as well as Champions Series points that will determine the year-end Champions Rankings No. 1.

The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, established in 1954, is a non-profit institution dedicated to preserving the history of tennis, inspiring and encouraging junior tennis development, enshrining tennis heroes and heroines, and providing a landmark for tennis enthusiasts worldwide. It was recognized as the sport’s official Hall of Fame in 1986 by the International Tennis Federation, the governing body of tennis. The International Tennis Hall of Fame’s legendary grass courts remain the only competition grass courts available for professional events and exhibitions, while also available for public play. For more information about the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, events and programs, please call 401-849-3990 or log on to www.tennisfame.com

InsideOut Sports + Entertainment is a New York City-based independent producer of proprietary events and promotions founded in 2004 by former world No. 1 and Hall of Fame tennis player Jim Courier and former SFX and Clear Channel executive Jon Venison. In 2005, InsideOut launched its signature property, the Outback Champions Series, a collection of tennis events featuring the greatest names in tennis over the age of 30. In addition, InsideOut produces many other successful events including “Legendary Night” exhibitions, charity events, private corporate outings and tennis fantasy camps such as the annual “Ultimate Fantasy Camp”. Through 2008, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment events have raised over $4 million for charity. For more information, please log on to www.InsideOutSE.com or www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com.

Federer Doubters Beware

Even after winning his sixth Wimbledon title, his record-breaking 15th major singles title and completing the career Grand Slam by winning the French Open, people are still writing off Roger Federer. Many experts and observers have pegged Andy Murray and Andy Roddick as the favorites to win the US Open – assuming that Federer has lost his competitive zest after achieving his major goals of winning in Paris and eclipsing the all-time major singles title record set by Pete Sampras. Throw in the fact that Roger is now a father of baby twin girls post-Wimbledon and you could theorize that this guy has enough distractions and lack of motivation that he may as well pick out his plot on the grounds of the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I. and start to work on his golf game.

Federer, however, is still very much to be reckoned with – his 6-2, 7-6 (8) win Saturday over Andy Murray in the semifinals of the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters in Cincinnati on Saturday as proof.

In a rare – and perhaps unprecedented – semifinal match between the world No. 1 and world No. 2, it was the top-ranked Federer who controlled the match from the outset, ending a four-match losing skid to the Scotsman and closing gap in the career head-to-head with Murray to 6-3. Federer did, however, dump Murray 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 in the final of the 2008 US Open final last September.

Murray, so frustrated with his play Saturday against Federer, punched his fist against his racquet strings enough to cause bleeding and call for treatment from the ATP trainer.

Federer will be seeking his sixth straight US Open title in New York starting August 31. A win Sunday in Cincinnati will give him a 61st career title, which, according to the book THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS, will move him ahead of Andre Agassi into seventh place alone for most men’s singles titles won in a career. (He will be two shy of overtaking Bjorn Borg and Guillermo Vilas, who each won 62 titles, in jumping into fifth place, and five shy of overtaking Pete Sampras and his 64 titles and moving into fourth place by himself. Jimmy Connors holds the record with 109 singles titles, followed by Ivan Lendl with 94 and John McEnroe with 77.

“He deserved it,” said ESPN2’s Darren Cahill on-air after the match of Roger’s win. “He came out of the blocks on fire. This means something to him…There was a lot for him to prove in this match.”

“It was a tough match,” said Federer on the air on the ESPN2 set after the match. “I have had a tough head to head with Andy in the past… Today, I never really gave him a chance, I didn’t really allow him to play his game and I ended up hanging on to win.”