winning the title

Sam Querrey: Another Victim Of The Casino Curse – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Order Restored – Just a few final thoughts as the doors close on another memorable two weeks at SW19. After one of the more unpredictable Wimbledon Championships in recent memory, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal restored some order by not only living up to their status as the heavy favorites in the finals, but doing so in emphatic fashion. For Serena, it marked her 13th major title, moving her closer to rarefied air. It may still be a big ask for her to catch Margaret Court, but Chrissie’s number of 18 is certainly looking assailable. As for Nadal, it marked his 8th major and a successful return to the hallowed grounds of the All England Club where he missed the opportunity to defend his title through injury in 2009. But the bigger payoff for Nadal in winning the title may be that between his clay and grass court seasons, he’s reestablished some of his invincible aura. He’s also coming in with a better plan for the hard court season, and he’s never been in a better position to start his campaign to take the US Open title, the lone major he has yet to add to his résumé.

More to Come? Credit also needs to be given to the losing singles finalists at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships. Both Vera Zvonareva and Tomas Berdych are talented players who have struggled to put it together between the ears, so to see them both realize their talents and make the final stage of a Grand Slam was satisfying. And while neither played at their best in their first major final, much of that must be attributed to the fact that they took on champion opponents who never allowed them to get any kind of foothold in the match. What will be interesting to see is how both follow it up during the summer hard court season, particularly the US Open. Zvonareva, though talented, is still prone to emotional meltdowns. Berdych on the other hand, who very nearly made the finals of the French a month ago, seems to have achieved a tighter grip on his emotions, much of that probably coming courtesy of his new coach. For me, Zvonareva is still a question mark, but expect to see Berdych contesting more Grand Slam finals down the road.

Back on Track? – The Wimbledon fortnight also saw Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray put together a couple of nice runs to the semifinals. Murray’s run almost came out of nowhere and should provide some much needed confidence for the young Scot whose form since the Australian Open has been particularly dismal. Given the way both men meekly folded in their semifinal matches – each losing in straight sets – it’s difficult to determine just how much they may have righted the ship. But I prefer to put a positive spin on their lengthy Wimbledon campaigns in the hopes that they’ll be a factor in what could potentially be a highly competitive US Open Series.

Curse Continues – Despite his success in Queen’s earlier this year, American Sam Querrey was no match for the “Casino Curse,” as he fell in his second round match to Jamaican Dustin Brown in straight sets. Querrey’s loss continues the 35-year streak in which the top seed has failed to emerge as the victor on the fabled green lawns of the historic Newport Casino. Other notable early losses this week include American Taylor Dent and Frenchman Nicolas Mahut, but at least Mahut was able to get one win under his belt after his devastating 68-70 loss to Isner in “The Match” at Wimbledon.

In the Hall – This coming Saturday, seven new inductees will take their place in the International Tennis Hall of Fame. But earlier in the week, Nicolas Mahut made his own way into the Hall of Fame, generously donating a shirt and racquet worn and used during his famous battle with John Isner in the first week of Wimbledon. Mahut stated he was honored to have something of his placed alongside memorabilia from some of the game’s greatest legends. While he’s no doubt mentally still smarting from the loss to Isner, the experience of seeing his shirt and racquet placed in the galleries of the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum had to help slightly soften the blow.

Courier Tops Sampras To Win Breezeplay Title In Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, N.C., September 27, 2009 – Jim Courier defeated Pete Sampras 2-6, 6-4, 10-8 (Champions Tie-breaker) Sunday to win the singles title at the $150,000 Breezeplay Championships at The Palisades at The Palisades Country Club in Charlotte, N.C. The victory was Courier’s first over Sampras since the first round of the 1997 Italian Open in Rome and his first on a hard court over the 14-time major singles champion since the quarterfinals of the 1991 US Open.

Courier earned $60,000 by winning the title in Charlotte, his ninth career title on the Outback Champions Series, the global tennis circuit for champion tennis players age 30 and over. Courier also earned 800 ranking points to extend his lead as the No. 1 player on the Outback Champions Series.

After splitting the first two sets, the two Hall of Famers played the customary first-to-10 point “Champions” tie-breaker, played in lieu of a third set. Courier clinched victory when Sampras double-faulted at 8-9 in the tie-breaker.

“That last double fault was hard on match point,” said Sampras. “I was serving right into the sun on that one and it hurt a little bit.”

Said Courier, “I wasn’t expecting that match point to end on a double fault. He was going for 110 mph second serves and sometimes he’s good enough to get away with that serve.”

During their ATP careers, Sampras and Courier played a total of 20 times, Sampras winning on 16 occasions, including the Wimbledon final in 1993. Sampras won their only previous meeting on the Outback Champions Series, a 6-2, 6-4 win in round-robin play during the 2007 event in Athens, Greece.

“I think he was having a hard time picking up my serve at the beginning,” said Sampras, who earned $30,000 for the runner-up showing. “Eventually he got there and started predicting it. Jim’s a guy who’s always going to compete and I knew that once we started the second set. I knew he was going to compete for that second set. I had a few chances in that tiebreaker and just couldn’t get it. It was disappointing.”

Due to weekend rains in Charlotte, Courier was forced to play his semifinal match against Todd Martin at 10 am on Sunday, postponed from Saturday evening. Following his 7-5, 6-2 semifinal win over Martin, Courier was able rest until the final with Sampras started at 4 pm, following Martin’s 7-5, 6-2 win over Pat Cash in the event’s third-place match.

“I was pretty relieved when his match point serve went out,” said Courier of the final point of the singles final. “I felt flat in the first set. I thought I’d be loose, but my legs felt tight and lethargic. I definitely got more boost in my legs and my serve really started to click. If my serve clicks I can hang in the match.”

The loss marked only the second time that Sampras has been defeated on the Outback Champions Series since joining the circuit in 2007. In 2008, he lost to John McEnroe 2-6, 7-5 10-4 (Champions Tie-breaker) in round-robin play in Boston.

Sampras won the opening event on the 2009 Outback Champions Series, defeating 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 Rafter in the final. Courier won his first title of the 2009 season in April at the Cayman Islands, defeating Arias in the final. Cash successfully defended his title on the grass courts at the Hall of Fame Champions Cup in Newport, R.I. in August, defeating Courier in the final. Following Charlotte, the next event on the Outback Champions Series will be held in Surprise, Ariz., where Andre Agassi will make his debut Oct. 8-11.

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 seven 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.

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, 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.

Chang And Enqvist To Clash In Final

Michael Chang and Thomas Enqvist booked their places in the final of the Jean-Luc Lagardere Trophy in Paris on Saturday after both men won their final group matches to finish unbeaten at the top of their respective groups.

In the first match of the day, Enqvist had to come through a lengthy struggle against an in-form Thomas Muster 6-3, 3-6, 10-5 (Champions’ Tie Break). Elsewhere, Chang walked on court knowing he had already booked his place in Sunday’s final but he still completed a clean sweep of round robin victories with a 4-6, 6-2, 10-2 (Champions’ Tie Break) victory over Frenchman Arnaud Boetsch.

Chang is thrilled to have reached his first ever final on the ATP Champions Tour.

“It feels really good to be in my first ATP Champions Tour final,” he said. “Today was definitely a tough one against Arnaud so I’m pleased I was able to hang in there. I’m really enjoying being here in Paris this week with my wife Amber and it’s been great to play some good tennis as well.”

Enqvist is equally pleased to be playing in his second ATP Champions Tour final in two events.

“It’s great that I’m in the final,” he said. “I think today against Thomas it was a tough match and I was lucky to get through in the Champions’ Tie Break in the end. I’ve played well this week so hopefully I will go all the way tomorrow.”

Since making his debut in Sao Paulo earlier this year, Enqvist has remained unbeaten on the ATP Champions Tour, winning the title in Brazil and now reaching the final in Paris. Despite being on a seven-match winning streak, the Swede is modest about his achievements.

“It’s been pretty close this week. Yesterday against Cedric (Pioline) and today against Thomas were both tough matches that I could have lost. Hopefully the run will continue for another day because I’d like to win another title but I’m certainly not feeling invincible. I saw Michael play against Stefan (Edberg) and he looked really good. He still moves well and he still plays really good so it’s definitely going to be an interesting match.”

Chang starts  the match with a 1-5 win/loss record against Enqvist, having never beaten him on clay.

“Thomas has always been a difficult opponent for me over the years,” he said. “I’ve definitely lost more than I’ve won against him so tomorrow’s not going to be an easy match and I’ll have to play my best that’s for sure.”

The match to decide the third and fourth place positions will be contested by Cedric Pioline and Stefan Edberg after both men won their final round robin matches to finish second in their respective groups. Pioline sped through his match against a tired-looking Yevgeny Kafelnikov, winning 6-1, 6-2, while Edberg had a slightly sterner test against Guy Forget, coming through 6-3, 6-4.

Matches are played over the best of three sets, with a Champions’ Tie-break (first to 10 points with a clear advantage of two) to decide the winner.

After Paris, the ATP Champions Tour will move on to Chengdu for the inaugural Chengdu Open (November 5-9), and after that will arrive in Turin, Italy for the city’s first ever ATP Champions Tour event (November 11-14). The Tour culminates in London at the AEGON Masters Tennis event at the Royal Albert Hall, 1-6 December.

To view the order of play and the round-robin groups, click here: http://www.atpchampionstour.com/results.html

YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV BLOG – Part One

Yevgeny Kafelnikov is back in Paris, the scene of his Grand Slam breakthrough in 1996, and as well as playing in the Jean-Luc Lagardere Trophy this week, he is also writing an exclusive blog for ATPChampionsTour.com.

In part one, the Russian, who also won the Australian Open title in 1999, talks about how he has felt to be strolling the streets of Paris again, and the memories that the trip has brought back to him.

In part two, which will be published soon, Kafelnikov gives his reaction to Kim Clijsters’ recent US Open triumph, his thoughts on Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Juan Martin Del Potro, and how the current era compares to his own.

To read part one of Kafelnikov’s blog, click here: http://www.atpchampionstour.com/blog5.html

Murray Survives Scare To Advance In Cincinnati; Federer, Nadal Advance

Defending champion and No. 3 seed Andy Murray of Scotland rallied from a set and break down in the second set to edge past lucky loser Julien Benneteau of France, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, in two hours and 11 minutes on Friday afternoon to advance to the semifinals at the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters 1000 in Cincinnati.

The 22-year-old Scot, who is the new No. 2 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings after winning the title last week in Montreal, struggled to find his form after breaking to take a 3-2 lead. Following the service break, the 27-year-old Frenchman immediately broke Murray’s serve to level the match at 3-3 before winning three of the next four games to take the opening set, 6-4.

“I knew I had to be aggressive,” said Benneteau, who got in the main draw when Juan Martin del Potro withdrew after the draw was made.

Benneteau, who is currently ranked No. 55, secured an early break in the second set to go ahead 2-0 and looked to have a big edge on Murray, who looked out of sorts on all his shots.

The turning point occurred in the next game when Murray won a thrilling 53-shot rally and quickly broke back to get back on serve. The Scot, who has now won a record 53 matches this season, insisted the 53-shot rally changed the rest of the match.
“Oh, it made a big different,” said Murray, who has won five titles this year in Doha, Rotterdam, Miami, Queen’s Club and Montreal. “I think he was very tired after that rally. I managed to stay strong after that.”
The momentum shifted immediately and it was all Murray from that point on, dropping just two more games en route to victory.
“You know, he’s been around a long time and he’s very experienced and obviously made it very difficult today,” said Murray, who has reached five of the last nine ATP World Tour Masters 1000 finals dating back to his victory in Cincinnati last August.

Murray, who earned his 72nd career win in a Masters 1000 event, smashed seven aces, won 70 percent of first serve points and broke Benneteau’s serve on six of 13 opportunities. Benneteau hit four aces, three double faults, won 59 percent of first serve points and was able to break Murray’s serve three times.

Murray’s semifinal opponent on Saturday afternoon will be world No. 1 Roger Federer, who eased past former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt of Australia, 6-3, 6-4, in 70 minutes.

Federer, who earned his 200th career win at a Masters 1000 event, was in complete control from start to finish, breaking serve once in each set to win convincingly. Federer’s serve was superb, winning 24 of 27 first serve points, smashing 11 aces, while not facing a break point the entire match.

The 15-time Grand Slam singles champion insisted holding serve against Hewitt is an important thing to accomplish during a match with the fiery Aussie.

“I think that definitely helps against Lleyton, who once he gets his teeth into your serve it can get quite tricky,” said Federer, who improved to 9-1 in quarterfinal matches this season.

Hewitt, who reached the finals in Cincinnati in 2002 and 2004, only managed to hit two aces and win 69 percent of his first serve points.

Federer improved to 15-7 against Hewitt, winning the last 13 meetings.

“He’s beaten me so many times in the past that I didn’t expect myself to all of a sudden go on such a great run against him,” said Federer, whose loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga last week in Montreal was his first loss since losing at the Masters 1000 in Madrid in May.

In the late match, No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal of Spain continued his impressive return from a knee tendinitis injury, dispatching Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic, 6-4, 7-5, in one hour and 41 minutes.

Nadal, who has won six Grand Slam singles titles including four French Open titles, was impressive on serve throughout, hitting two aces and winning 35 of 41 first serve points. The 23-year-old Spaniard was also able to break serve twice on six opportunities.

The former world No. 1 will face No. 4 seed Novak Djokovic in the night match on Saturday. Djokovic won his quarterfinal match by defeating Frenchman Gilles Simon, 6-4, 7-5, to advance to his second straight semifinal in Cincinnati.

Venus and Serena Williams Eliminated In Cincinnati; Clijsters Wins Again

No. 14 seed Flavia Pennetta continued her winning ways as she dismissed No. 3 seed Venus Williams, 7-6(2), 6-4, on Thursday afternoon to advance to the quarterfinals at the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open in Cincinnati.

The 27-year-old Italian has now won a career-best 14 consecutive matches, which includes winning the title last weekend at the Los Angeles Women’s Open and three weeks ago in Palermo.

“I’m really, really happy,” said Pennetta, who has now beaten three Top 10 players in her winning streak.

Throughout the match, Williams missed many routine shots and seemed out of sorts on the big points. The former World No. 1 had several unforced errors on crucial points in the later stages of the tiebreak that proved costly.

“I don’t feel like I executed my game effectively,” said Williams, who has won more than $1.5 million in tournament prize money this season. “I think I could have been more aggressive and played more in the court.”

Pennetta, who has won eight career singles titles, was steady on her serve and service returns throughout the one hour and 42 minute match. The Italian hit five aces, won 74 percent of first serve points and was able to win 25 of 38 second serve return points.

“After a while, it was obvious to see she was just keeping the ball in play and waiting for me to self destruct,” said Williams, the winner of 41 career singles titles.

As Williams sailed a forehand beyond the baseline, her 38 unforced error of the match, Pennetta raised her arms in excitement. With the victory, Pennetta improves to 4-3 lifetime against Williams, three of five which were played on hard courts.

The Italian advances to her sixth quarterfinal of the season where she will next clash with Slovakian Daniela Hantuchova, who beat No. 7 seed Vera Zvonareva, 7-6(0), 0-6, 7-6(5) in two hours and 50 minutes.

In other matches, the Kim Clijsters’ magical comeback story continues, as the Belgian knocked off No. 6 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russian, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, to win her third straight match against a Top 20 player in as many outings.

Clijsters, who a received a wild card to play in her first tournament since retiring in May 2007, came out of the starting gates strong for the third consecutive match, hitting remarkable angles as she jumped out to a 3-0 lead. The Belgian had a brief hiccup, as her serve was broke in the seventh game, but was able to regroup to close out the set 6-4.

“I think my mindset was very good,” said Clijsters, the newest mother on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. “”I really felt like in the rallies that I was dominating the points. “

The Belgian jumped out to another quick 3-0 lead to open the second set, before Kuznetsova fired back by winning six of the next seven games to win the second set, 6-4.

“Second set I fought hard. She was a break up and I still came back,” said Kuznetsova, a winner of 11 career singles titles including two grand slams. “

The players took a 10-minute break before the start of the final set due to the heat index rule. When they returned, Clijsters was in complete control throughout the final set, winning in convincing fashion, 6-2. Clijsters now improves to 7-1 lifetime against Kuznetsova.

“I am very happy to be able to stay focused,” said Clijsters. “I have to say I feel really good after this match.”

Clijsters will next face world No. 1 Dinara Safina, who cruised past Shuai Peng, 6-3, 6-4 in the night match.

In the final match on Stadium Court during the day session, unseeded Sybille Bammer upset No. 2 seed Serena Williams, 7-5, 6-4. Williams was off her game from start to finish, hitting 44 unforced errors, 25 of which were in the opening set. The reigning Wimbledon, Australian and US Open champ hit four double faults and just two aces, compared to 13 aces last night in her victory over Kateryna Bondarenko. Bammer, who improves to 2-0 life against Williams, hit nine winners and just 16 unforced errors in the one hour and 35 minute match. Bammer will next face No. 5 Jelena Jankovic, who defeated No. 9 Victoria Azarenka, 7-5, 7-6(4).

Other winners on Thursday in Cincinnati
No. 4 Elena Dementieva def. Sorana Cirstea, 6-4, 6-4
No. 8 Caroline Wozniacki def. Melinda Czink, 3-0 ret. Injury (low back)