Younes El Aynaoui

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YOUZHNY BEATS GASQUET IN NO. 5 LONGEST AUSSIE OPEN MEN’S SINGLES MATCH

In the longest match of the 2010 Australian Open far (4 hours, 53 minutes), Mikhail Youzhny ousted Richard Gasquet 6-7(9), 4-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(4), 6-4, trailing 0:3 in the fourth and 2:4 in the fifth set. The Russian also saved double match point on serve at 5:6 in the fourth set. What’s more interesting, Gasquet, playing on the same Margaret Court Arena, lost last year despite 2-0 lead in sets and match point up (to Fernando Gonzalez). Youzhny beat Gasquet in five sets also four years in Davis Cup in a match that lasted 4 hours, 48 minutes. According to THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS ($35.95, New Chapter Press, www.NewChapterMedia.com), the match was the fifth longest men’s match ever at the Australian Open. The list of top six are as follows;

* 5 hours, 14 minutes Rafael Nadal d. Fernando Verdasco 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (1), 6-4, SF, 2009

* 5 hours, 11 minutes Boris Becker d. Omar Camporese, 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-5), 0-6, 4-6, 14-12, 3rd rd., 1991

* 4 hours, 59 minutes Andy Roddick d. Younes El Aynaoui, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 6-4, 21-19, QF, 2003. The fifth set took 2:23, Roddick saved MP in 10th game of the fifth with inside-out forehand

* 4 hours, 59 minutes Pete Sampras def. Tim Mayotte, 7-6, 6-7, 4-6, 7-5, 12-10, 1st rd, 1990

* 4 hours, 53 minutes Mikail Youzhny def. Richard Gasquet 6-7(9), 4-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(4), 6-4, 1st rd, 2010

* 4 hours, 51 minutes Yannick Noah def. Roger Smith 6-7, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 16-14, 1st rd, 1988

Federico Gil retired against David Ferrer of Spain, trailing 0-6, 0-6, 0-2 (allegedly suffering a left knee injury). In the Open Era, there have been three triple bagels at Roland Garros, one at both Wimbledon and Us Open but it has never happened at the Australian Open.

Fabrice Santoro came back out of retirement only to become the first player in the Open Era to participate in the major tournaments in four different decades (Santoro debuted at Roland Garros in 1989). It was 70th Grand Slam in Santoro’s career, which is also a record. (Andre Agassi is No. 2 with 61).

Ivo Karlovic established last year an amazing record of 78 aces in a five-set loss to Radek Stepanek. Giant Ivo, avenged that defeat, beating Stepanek 2-6 ,7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 on Monday, serving this time “only” 34 aces, and converting his only break point of the final set in the 10th game.

Seven players won their first matches in a major so far at the 2010 Australian Open: Stephane Robert, Ivan Sergeyev, Illya Marchenko, Ivan Dodig, Santiago Giraldo, Louk Sorensen and Lukas Lacko. Four of them (the Ukrainians: Sergeyev and Marchenko and Sorensen and Dodig) are playing first match in a Grand Slam event.

FEDERER AND NADAL’S MAGIC CARPET RIDE

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Watching Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal play a tennis match can be described as being as exhilarating as riding on a magic carpet. The two modern day tennis genies kicked off the first day of the 2010 ATP World Tour with a unique photo opportunity on a magic carpet in the Souq Waqif in Doha, Qatar, where both are competing in the Qatar ExxonMobil Open. Also in the Doha field are Nikolay Davydenko, Ivo Karlovic and 38-year-old Younes El Aynaoui, who will be playing in his final ATP event.

Federer said recently that he is looking forward to the 2010 season and that he feels he can continue to maintain a near “unbeatable” level of play that he has showcased for much of the last five years.

“Last year, I had a problem at the start of the season with my back,” Federer said. “I lost to (Andy) Murray, (Novak) Djokovic and Rafa, who got the better of me at the start of the season. But I feel fine now because I have been practising enough to feel confident of winning.”

Federer’s win at the 2009 French Open gave him a career Grand Slam, while his epic win last year in the Wimbledon final against Andy Roddick gave him his record-breaking 15th major singles title and helped him take the No. 1 ranking from Nadal. He then reached the US Open final for a sixth straight year, only to lose in five sets to Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina.

“I got better and better as the season went on,” Federer said. “I was able to bounce back and was on a roll. (Winning in) Paris and Wimbledon showed that I was unbeatable. I can do it again. That’s a good feeling to have, that I can do it again.”

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Davis Cup in Croatia revisited – Roddick out, Fish in

Andy Roddick is out of the Davis Cup team

What happened the last time the U.S. Davis Cup team traveled to Croatia? Ironically, Andy Roddick was not in the U.S. line-up due to exhaustion and injury following a marathon match at a Grand Slam tournament – as is the case this week following his 16-14 fifth-set loss to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final on Sunday. Back in 2003, it was a wrist injury that placed Roddick off the U.S. team following his 21-19 in the fifth set win over Younes El Aynaoui in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and, like this week in Pec, Croatia, he was replaced in the singles line-up by Mardy Fish. The following is a summary of the last U.S. visit to Croatia back in February of 2003

The pending retirements in 2003 of Pete Sampras and Michael Chang, and the retirement of Jim Courier three years prior caused the U.S. Davis Cup focus to center more squarely on “Generation Next.” With a 33-year-old Andre Agassi still playing, but in retirement from Davis Cup play, and 33-year-old Todd Martin playing what turned out to be his final Davis Cup match at Roland Garros the previous fall, the changing of the guard was to be completed with an away match in the first round of the 2003 competition against Croatia in Zagreb.

However, Captain Patrick McEnroe’s hopes of his Andy Roddick-led youthful charge in 2003 suffered a lethal blow just 10 days before the start of the Croatia tie as Roddick’s exhausting Australian Open campaign had instigated a case of severe tendonitis in his right wrist, preventing his nomination to the team. Roddick’s 4-6, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4, 21-19 quarterfinal win over Younes El Aynaoui of Morrocco in four hours and 59 minutes contributed greatly to Roddick’s condition as did a diving attempt at a volley near the end of the match.

“I didn’t think anything about it then, and the wrist wasn’t really sore after the match,” Roddick told Bill Dwyre with the Los Angeles Times of landing on his right wrist after the diving volley attempt. “I packed up, went off, did my press, and then, when I went to leave, I picked up my big tennis bag and felt this huge pain in my wrist.”

Roddick considered defaulting the Aussie semifinal match to Rainer Schuettler of Germany, but since it was his first sojourn into a Grand Slam semifinal gave it a run. The later the match went, the more the pain affected his play in his 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 loss to Schuettler.

“At the end, it hurt so much to hit my two-handed backhand that I was, pretty much, just releasing my right hand and hitting a left-handed forehand.”
Roddick saw Dr. Norm Zemel of the Los Angeles-based Kerlan-Jobe group, who diagnosed three weeks of rest. “The doctor said it was the most severe case of tendonitis he had ever seen,” Roddick told Dwyre. “I really didn’t know what it was, how bad it was, until I saw the doctor yesterday.”

Without its No. 1 player, U.S. Captain Patrick McEnroe would have to rely on James Blake, Mardy Fish, Taylor Dent and Robby Ginepri to carry load in lieu of Roddick. All four players had been knocking at the door and waiting to burst through and make a mark on their own and follow in Roddick’s lead through to the upper echelon of world tennis. Croatia would be their opportunity to take the stage and shine.

“I’ve said from the time I became captain, it’s time for the younger guys to step up and they have and now it’s time for them to take over,” said McEnroe. “I’m excited about watching the young guns take the responsibility into their hands fully for our Davis Cup quest to bring the Davis Cup back to the U.S… It’s time for them to enjoy this challenge, to take the responsibility of being our team and get us through this match.”

Much of the responsibility would fall on Blake, who would be designated as the No. 1 player for the U.S. with an ATP ranking of No. 24. The 23-year-old – the oldest player in the green American team -  had previously only played supporting roles in Davis Cup play, playing singles behind Roddick in two previous ties – against India in Winston-Salem in 2001 and against France at Roland Garros the previous fall – while also playing doubles only in two other ties.

“It’s a little weird since I definitely feel like I’m still the one learning,” confided Blake. “Just last year, I was the brand new kid and the rookie on the team and now I’m considered the veteran. I’m the oldest member of the team. It’s going to seem a little strange.”

Blake would also be thrown into the spotlight as the draw for the U.S. vs. Croatia tie would be held on February 6 – the 10 year anniversary of the death of Arthur Ashe. The USTA would honor the legacy of Ashe by sewing the embroidery of his name on the left sleeve of the official team uniform for each U.S. team member. Said USTA Chief Executive Arlen Kantarian “The Davis Cup represents one of Arthur’s greatest ideals, to bring people together around the world through sports. On this tenth anniversary of his death, we remember an outstanding player, captain and humanitarian – and inspiration not just for his team, but to our country and the world.”

“I think being African-American, I owe him a great debt of gratitude for being able to deal with the pressures and situations. What I go through now and what anyone goes though is much easier thanks to what he did. It took a great man and great athlete like him to do that and we are so fortunate today to have had him as that role model.”

Ashe’s legacy and reputation to assist in humanitarian causes had clearly rubbed off on Jim Courier, who continued in his role as coach under McEnroe in Zagreb. Courier had been made aware of the significant land-mine problems in Croatia that remained following its war for independence in the early 1990s from Jim Lawrence, the U.S. State Department’s Director of Mine Action Initiatives and Partnerships.

Courier had arranged for the team to visit a de-mining operation on the morning of Tuesday, February 4, but snow and high winds delayed the helicopter ride that would take the team to a coastal region near the city of Zadar, where a major de-mining operation would take place.  In place of the team, the United States Tennis Association sent a group of its officials in their place. USTA Davis Cup Committee Chairmen Warren Kimball and Allen Kiel were so moved by the struggles for the Croatian people to rid their soil of such deadly land mines, that they encouraged and received the financial commitment from USTA President Alan Schwartz, to donate $25,000 to de-mining efforts in Croatia. The U.S. Embassy in Zagreb pledged a matching $25,000 grant. The money was used to clear a mine-field in the village of Mekusje, 30 miles west of Zagreb, where the mine field prevented townspeople from access the town’s local tennis court.

“This is our way of showing support to the people of Croatia, who have been such incredible hosts to our Davis Cup team and USTA contingent this week,” said Schwartz. “It is reassuring to know that the contribution by the USTA and the U.S. government will help the people of Mekusje enjoy the wonderful sport of tennis once again.”

Much of the buzz entering the first round series centered around the status of 2001 Wimbledon champion and Croatian sporting god Goran Ivanisevic. Since his celebrated win at the All England Club in 2001, Ivanisevic had been plagued with injuries and underwent surgery on his left shoulder in May of 2002. Despite not playing only three ATP singles matches in the last year due to the recovery from his surgery, Ivanisevic was determined to make his return against the Americans. He had played in the Heilbronn Challenger level event in Germany the week before Davis Cup, only to withdraw in the second round with tremendous pain in his shoulder.
“I couldn’t do anything, my arm hurt terribly,” Ivanisevic said. “I suffered for 10 months, underwent an operation to feel better and now this…I’ve never felt so miserable….I’ll let him give me 30 injections if that’d help. I’m in such a state that I’d go to Tibet on foot if I knew that would help,” he said. “I’m totally lost.”

Not surprisingly, he was not drawn to play singles against the Americans, but in doubles with Ljubicic. Fish, ranked No. 74 in the ATP rankings, was drawn to face No. 52-ranked Ljubicic to start the tie off, with Blake and Mario Ancic playing the second singles match.

Under a backdrop of a loud, flag-waving jam-packed crowd of 2,800 in the tiny Dom Hall Sportova, which resembled a high school gym than a major sporting arena, Fish and Ljubicic opened the proceedings. Ljubicic, with his future brother-in-law banging a drum to incite the small but overflowing and vocal crowd, took advantage of the fast conditions on the indoor carpet serving with equal abandon on both first and second serve. With Fish showing nerves in his first away Davis Cup action and his first ever Davis Cup singles match, he was tentative on his normally solid return of serve and was unable to hook onto Ljubicic’s blistering serves. Only after 97 minutes – at 1-2 in the third set – was Fish able to look at a break point – only to see it disappear behind a Ljubicic service winner. Of Ljubicic’s 70 service points, 30 were aces, 19 were service winners, while 16 were double faults. Final result, Ljubicic in straight sets by a 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 margin.

“I’ve never played anybody with a serve like that,” said Fish of Ljubicic. “I couldn’t read his serve and I just didn’t have an answer…I’ve never seen a first and second serve like that.”

Blake took the court with the swagger of the team leader and jumped on and dominated Ancic, easily winning the first two sets 6-1, 6-2 before maneuvering through a third set-tie-break to square the matches at 1-1 after the first day of play.

“Davis Cup is a lot of pressure and I think it’s a lot of fun out there,” said Blake. “It’s a great atmosphere out there having a biased crowd. There is going to be pressure in every match, with varying degrees. I went into it looking it as if it was another live Davis Cup rubber.”

While there was little doubt that Fish and Blake would pair in the doubles, there still remained a minor mystery on whether Ivanisevic would take the court the next day.  Said Croatian captain Niki Pilic of Goran’s availability for the Saturday doubles, “I think he will make his decision. I have made my decision already. If he has a good arm, like today (in practice), I think he will play.”

An electric atmosphere greeted Ivanisevic as he strolled onto the court with Ljubicic on Saturday afternoon. The scene, according to Bud Collins of the Boston Globe was of pandemonium. “Horns toot, a drum rat-a-tat-tats, shrill whistles pierce the fetid air, and the checker board flags of Croatia flap everywhere.”

Ivanisevic was playing in only his second complete match since undergoing left shoulder surgery on May 15, 2002. Ivanisevic retired with shoulder pain in the second round of last week’s Heilbronn Challenger in Germany, his first event since April 6, 2002, when he and Ljubicic defeated Guillermo Canas and Lucas Arnold of Argentina in the Davis Cup quarterfinal in Buenos Aires.

The rust showed early for Ivanisevic who struggled with his serves and stumbled on volleys and returns, trying desperately to find his rhythm against the energized Blake and Fish.  Leading two-sets-to-love, Blake and Fish appeared in complete control, until the third set tie-break. With the Croatians leading 4-2 in the tie-break, Fish served up a double fault to put the set on the Croatians racquet with Ljubicic serving at 5-2, but Blake and Fish won both points on Ljubicic’s serve, to cut the lead to 4-5. Blake then served to Ivanisevic, who floated a sitter return, that Fish netted on top of the net, giving Croatia two set points. A bungled volley by Blake then gave Croatia the third set tiebreak. “It was a screwy tiebreaker,” Blake said later.” Hard to believe – on a fast court, and strong servers. But I thought we were OK.” A loose service game by Fish in the first game of the fourth set, cemented the momentum change for the Croatians. At 4-4 in the fifth-set, the Croatians broke Blake at love for a 5-4 lead, with Ljubicic then serving out the incredible 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-4 victory for the vital 2-1 lead.

Wrote Collins of Ivanisevic as the match concluded, “He was beaming ecstatically after hugging Ljubicic at the conclusion of their enthralling 3-hour-4-minute rebound. They leaped, danced, and pitched their rackets into the joyful crowd. Ivanisevic grabbed a microphone to thank the crowd and lead them in a victory song. The essence of the lyrics: “We stomped the Americans!”

Said Ivanisevic, “I knew it was going to be tough because 11 months, I played (one) challenger, but not a match like this. This is Davis Cup. It was really the first time in my life (I was) lost, that you don’t know what you are doing on the court. Nervous, heavy, no ideas. Then (Ivan) was telling me, come on, don’t worry it’s going to come, we need one break, we need something to happen. By the end of the second set, I start to play better and felt it that we were going to be OK. Blake played very good and also Fish, but Blake was the guy who was really pushing. Third, fourth and fifth set, everything open…I had great pain in my elbow, biceps, everywhere, but I said, doesn’t matter what happen, you have to finish this match….

“I was taking painkillers and I said to Ivan, ‘We are going to break Blake in the fifth set’, because he is playing too good, he has to do something wrong, Yesterday, he didn’t do anything wrong and today almost three hours, he didn’t do anything wrong and nobody can do it. And then we had good returns in the last game and it was great….I needed this match. Wimbledon was different. I forgot how to play this kind of match. I was so happy I didn’t what to do, where to go, where to jump. I really need this match. I need to feel, because when you play Challenger and you win a match and nobody is jumping, but when you beat the USA in doubles from two sets to love down and after 11 months without this type of match, you have to be happy. … I knew I play good at the practice. I was very nervous today. Very stiff, very lost, but I knew it would break somewhere and I did it. I started to play well later….volley, return everything was great. Crowd was great…this is crowd this is what you say, when you have home advantage when we have crowd like this and crowd can lift you. Without this crowd, we couldn’t win today….I was so stiff, so tight, so much pressure. I started to feel my serve at the end of the second set. I served the best in the fifth set when I had the most pain. I wouldn’t stop for anything. Even with a broken shoulder I would play, but I think it’s going to fine. Now I can take off for the next five months.”

The match marked the first time since 1965 that an American doubles team has lost in Davis Cup after leading two sets to love. In 1965, Dennis Ralston and Clark Graebner lead Spain’s Luis Arilla and Manuel Santana two sets to love, only to lose 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 11-9 in Barcelona.

Said Blake, “They served great. They kept their heads high. They stayed positive. Goran, I think, got better as the match progressed. He served better than you can expect from someone coming off an eight-month layoff.”

Blake chose his post-match press conference to also vent at some of the Croatian fans in the crowd, who called out during points, in between first and second serves, during serves, during overheads.  “I feel like I was a little disappointed with the lack of class of some of the fans, but some of them might not be tennis fans, so that is possibly to be expected,” said Blake. “It didn’t really have a place in a match that was supposed to about goodwill and friendship between countries. I feel like I was more disappointed with the referee’s decision not to do anything about it and not control the situation when that’s there job and that’s the rule. I don’t think that affected us that much besides one incident of calling out in the middle of a point, which obviously affected concentration during that point. We tried to put that behind us.”

Instead Blake chose to look ahead to the fourth rubber of the series between he and Ljubicic and hopefully a live fifth rubber between Fish and Ancic. “I still see a good chance for me,” said Blake, “and I’d love to give Mardy the chance to be the hero”

On Sunday, Blake withstood the Ljubicic barrage of aces and after losing the first set, stole the second set tie-break and took a 4-2 lead in the third and appeared in complete control of the match. But Ljubicic went on a run of four straight games to win the third set, benefiting from two loose service games from Blake in the eighth and tenth games of the fourth set. Ljubicic carried his momentum to win in four sets-  6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-3 -  to clinch the tie for Croatia.
“I thought James was in control, ready to win the third set,” said McEnroe. “Maybe we both relaxed too much. Those were loose games that you can’t play against a guy serving and competing like Ljubicic. You cannot allow yourself to relax for a second. Maybe we both relaxed. Maybe I have look at myself and what I did there. Certainly, James played a loose game and you can’t afford to do that in a match like this, whether it is the Davis Cup pressure or how well Ivan was playing, because he was certainly playing well and doing things that took James out of his rhythm but that was his game plan…My job is to keep my player as a tune to what is happening without making him nervous. Maybe I could have done a better job at that.”

Ljubicic would end the match with 29 aces and 19 service winners in 97 service points. For the weekend, Ljubicic would amass 72 aces, would hold serve 50 of 51 times and only face nine break points during his three matches in joining a elite company of only eight other players to win three live matches against a U.S. Davis Cup team, joining Laurie Doherty of Great Britain (1903), Henri Cochet of France (1928), Frank Sedgman of Australia (1951), Neale Fraser of Australia (1959), Nicola Pietrangeli of Italy (1961), Raul Ramirez of Mexico (1975 and 1976) and Roger Federer of Switzerland (2001).

Blake described the matches as the most emotional match he’s ever played, but put a optimistic spin on the first round loss.

We are going to get a Davis Cup in the next four or five years with Andy, myself, Mardy, Taylor, Robby,” said Blake. “I don’t really make guarantees, because I think it’s kind of silly, but I’m confident that we are going get a Davis Cup in the next couple of years. We’re already extremely strong. We all care about Davis Cup a lot, that’s why this hurts so bad. Together, we are so emotionally high and low after a weekend or an entire week together, I don’t see how other teams can be as excited about Davis Cup as we are, that’s why I feel confident in the fact that we are going to do this together and we are going to come through one of these times.”

McEnroe was obviously disappointed in the loss, which gave him the distinction of being the only U.S. Davis Cup Captain to lose two first round matches during his tenure, but again looked at the long term potential of the team.

“I think that down the road we are going to be a damn good team,” he said. “How far that road is…I certainly thought that we could do it this year and now we are out…

“These guys care a lot. One of the reasons that I’m not dispirited is because of these kids. They care and they are passionate about it. At the end of the day, that’s what it is all about. At the end of the day, that’s what it is all about. Obviously, it’s about winning and losing and I’m disappointed to lose again in the first round. It hurts. This one hurts more than any other one, because I felt like we could go all the way this year, but there is a thin line between doing that and losing in the first round.

“This is a tough atmosphere. These guys have to get burned. There’s no other way around it. Pete Sampras is the greatest player of all time and he went through it. It’s tough to go through it. These guys love it. Taylor Dent said to me in the middle of the match today, when he was playing out there. “You know what? We lost and all, but it’s been such a great week.” That makes me feel that it is worthwhile and that these guys really do care and that if they continue to improve that we will have success down the road.”

Nadal, Verdasco Play Longest Aussie Open Singles Match, But Not Longest Ever Match At The Event

Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco added another chapter in the history of tennis with their men’s semifinal epic at the Australian Open. The two Spaniards battled for 5 hours, 14 minutes – the longest singles match in the history of the Australian Open – before Nadal edged his Davis Cup teammate 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (1), 6-4. Boris Becker and Omar Camporese held the previous record for the longest match in the history of the Australian Open when Becker edged the Italian standout 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5), 0-6, 4-6, 14-12 in 5 hours, 11 minutes in the third round in 1991. Many media outlets are mis-reporting that the Nadal-Verdasco is the longest match of any kind at the Australian Open. However, the Nadal-Verdasco match is not the longest match ever at the Australian Open according to THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS ($35.95 New Chapter Press, www.tennistomes.com) as Pieter Aldrich and Danie Visser won a 5 hour, 29 minute marathon men’s doubles match in the 1990 quarterfinals, defeating Scott Davis and Robert Van’t Hof 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 23-21. The last set of this match alone took 2 hours, 53 minutes.

Bud Collins, the Hall of Fame journalist and historian, documents the longest matches in the history of the Australian Open in his authoritative book. The updated list of longest matches at the Australian Open are as follows;

Longest Matches, Playing Time

Men’s singles

5 hours, 14 minutes Rafael Nadal d. Fernando Verdasco 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (1), 6-4

5 hours, 11 minutes Boris Becker d. Omar Camporese, 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-5), 0-6, 4-6, 14-12, 3rd rd., 1991

4 hours, 59 minutes Andy Roddick d. Younes El Aynaoui, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 6-4, 21-19, QF, 2003. The fifth set took 2:23, Roddick saved MP in 10th game of the fifth with inside-out forehand.

4 hours, 59 minutes Pete Sampras d. Tim Mayotte 7-6, 6-7, 4-6, 7-5, 12-10, 1st round, 1990

4 hours, 51 minutes, Yannick Noah d. Roger Smith, 6-7, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 16-14, 1st round, 1988.

Men’s doubles

5 hours, 29 minutes Pieter Aldrich – Danie Visser, d. Scott Davis – Bob Van’t Hof, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 23-21 (last set took 2 hours, 53 minutes), quarters, 1990

Women’s singles

3 hours, 33 minutes Chanda Rubin d. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, 6-4, 2-6, 16-14, quarters, 1996

One of the great things about THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS is that many of these statistics and lists can only be found in this book (sometimes the records that Bud has compiled are better and more detailed than the record books of the actual tournaments.)

The longest singles matches at each of the four majors is as follows:

FRENCH OPEN

6 hours, 33 minutes – Fabrice Santoro d. Arnaud Clement 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 3-6, 16-14, first round, 2004 French Open – played over two days) This match is also the longest recorded match of all-time.

WIMBLEDON

5 hours, 28 minutes – Greg Holmes d. Todd Witsken 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 14-12, second round, 1989 – played over three days

US OPEN

5 hours, 26 minutes – Stefan Edberg d. Michael Chang 6-7 (3), 7-5, 7-6 (3), 5-7, 6-4, semifinals, 1992

On This Day In Tennis History Is Latest Book Release From New Chapter Press

WASHINGTON, D.C. – New Chapter Press has announced the publication of its latest book – On This Day In Tennis History -a calendar-like compilation of historical and unique anniversaries, events and happenings from the world of tennis through the yearswritten by Randy Walker, the sports marketing and media specialist, tennis historian and former U.S. Tennis Association press officer.

On This Day In Tennis History ($19.95, 528 pages), is a fun and fact-filled, this compilation offers anniversaries, summaries, and anecdotes of events from the world of tennis for every day in the calendar year. Presented in a day-by-day format, the entries into this mini-encyclopedia include major tournament victory dates, summaries of the greatest matches ever played, trivia, and statistics as well as little-known and quirky happenings. Easy-to-use and packed with fascinating details, the book is the perfect companion for tennis and general sports fans alike and is an excellent gift idea for the holiday season. The book features fascinating and unique stories of players such as John McEnroe, Don Budge, Bill Tilden, Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, Jimmy Connors, Martina Navratilova, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Anna Kournikova among many others. On This Day In Tennis History is available for purchase via on-line book retailers and in bookstores in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. More information on the book can be found at www.tennishistorybook.com

Said Hall of Famer Jim Courier of the book, “On This Day In Tennis History is a fun read that chronicles some of the most important-and unusual-moments in the annals of tennis. Randy Walker is an excellent narrator of tennis history and has done an incredible job of researching and compiling this entertaining volume.” Said tennis historian Joel Drucker, author of Jimmy Connors Saved My Life, “An addictive feast that you can enjoy every possible way-dipping in for various morsels, devouring it day-by-day, or selectively finding essential ingredients. As a tennis writer, I will always keep this book at the head of my table.” Said Bill Mountford, former Director of Tennis of the USTA National Tennis Center, “On This Day In Tennis History is an easy and unique way to absorb the greatest-and most quirky-moments in tennis history. It’s best read a page a day!”

Walker is a writer, tennis historian and freelance publicist and sports marketer. A 12-year veteran of the U.S. Tennis Association’s Marketing and Communications Division, he served as the press officer for the U.S. Davis Cup team from 1997 to 2005 and for the U.S. Olympic tennis teams in 1996, 2000 and 2004. He also served as the long-time editor of the U.S. Open Record Book during his tenure at the USTA from 1993 to 2005.

More information on the book can be found at www.tennistomes.com as well as on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1627089030&ref=name and on myspace at http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=428100548

People mentioned in the book include, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt, Goran Ivanisevic, Andre Agassi, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Lindsay Davenport, Monica Seles, Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic, Maria Sharapova, Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters, Amelie Mauresmo, Anna Kounikova, Jennifer Capriati, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Martina Hingis, Gustavo Kuerten, Svetlana Kuznetsova, James Blake, Wilmer Allison, Mal Anderson, Arthur Ashe, Juliette Atkinson, Henry “Bunny” Austin, Tracy Austin, Boris Becker, Kark Behr, Pauline Betz, Bjorn Borg, Jean Borotra, John Bromwich, Norman Brookes, Louise Brough, Jacques Brugnon, Butch Buchholz, Don Budge, Maria Bueno, Rosie Casals, Michael Chang, Philippe Chatrier, Dodo Cheney, Henri Cochet, Maureen Connolly, Jimmy Connors, Jim Courier, Ashley Cooper, Margaret Court, Jack Crawford, Allison Danzig, Dwight Davis, Lottie Dod, John Doeg, Laurence Doherty, Reggie Doherty, Dorothea Douglass Lambert Chambers, Jaroslav Drobny, Margaret duPont, Francoise Durr, James Dwight, Stefan Edberg, Roy Emerson, Chis Evert, Bob Falkenburg, Neale Fraser, Shirley Fry, Althea Gibson, Pancho Gonzalez, Evonne Goolagong, Arthur Gore, Steffi Graf, Bitsy Grant, Darlene Hard, Doris Hart, Anne Jones, Gladys Heldman, Slew Hester, Bob Hewitt, Lew Hoad, Harry Hopman, Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman, Joe Hunt, Frank Hunter, Helen Jacobs, Bill Johnston, Perry Jones, Bob Kelleher, Billie Jean King, Jan Kodes, Karel Kozeluh, Jack Kramer, Rene Lacoste, Bill Larned, Art Larsen, Rod Laver, Ivan Lendl, Suzanne Lenglen, George Lott, Gene Mako, Molla Mallory, Hana Mandlikova, Alice Marble, Dan Maskell, Simone Mathieu, Mark McCormack, John McEnroe, Ken McGregor, Kitty Godfree, Chuck McKinley, Maurice McLoughlin, Frew McMillian, Don McNeill, Elisabeth Moore, Angela Mortimer, Gardnar Mulloy, Ilie Nastase, Martina Navratilova, John Newcombe, Yannick Noah, Jana Novotna, Betty Nuthall, Alex Olmedo, Rafael Osuna, Frank Parker, Gerald Patterson, Budge Patty, Fred Perry, Nicola Pietrangeli, Adrian Quist, Patrick Rafter, Dennis Ralson, Vinnie Richards, Nancy Richey, Cliff Richey, Bobby Riggs, Tony Roche, Mervyn Rose, Ken Rosewall, Elizbeth Ryan, Gabriela Sabatini, Pete Sampras, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Manuel Santana, Dick Savitt, Ted Schroeder, Gene Scott, Richard Sears, Frank Sedgman, Pancho Segura, Vic Seixas, Frank Shields, Pam Shriver, Stan Smith, Fred Stolle, Bill Talbert, Bill Tilden, Tony Trabert, Lesley Turner, Jimmy Van Alen, John Van Ryn, Guillermo Vilas, Ellsworth Vines, Brian Gottfried, Virginia Wade, Holcombe Ward, Watson Washburn, Mal Whitman, Mats Wilander, Tony Wilding, Helen Wills Moody, Sidney Wood, Robert Wrenn, Bob Bryan, Mike Bryan, Todd Woodbridge, Marat Safin, Leslie Allen, Sue Barker, Jonas Bjorkman, Mahesh Bhupathi, Donald Dell, Albert Costa, Mark Cox, Owen Davidson, Pat Cash, Mary Carillo, John Isner, Roscoe Tanner, Vijay Amritraj, Mark Woodforde, Tim Henman, Richard Krajicek, Conchita Martinez, Mary Joe Fernandez, Cliff Drysdale, Mark Edmondson, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Zina Garrson, Roland Garros, Wojtek Fibak, Tom Gullikson, Andres Gimeno, Vitas Gerulaitis, Fernando Gonzalez, Tim Henman, Goran Ivanisevic, Andrea Jaeger, Ivo Karlovic, Richard Krajicek, Petr Korda, Luke Jensen, Murphy Jensen, Rick Leach, Iva Majoil, Barry MacKay, Ivan Ljubicic, Cecil Mamiit, David Caldwell, Alex Metreveli, Nicolas Massu, Todd Martin, Gene Mayer, Thomas Muster, Tom Okker, Charlie Pasarell, Mary Pierce, Whitney Reed, Leander Paes, Renee Richards, Helen Sukova, Michael Stich, Betty Stove, Ion Tiriac, Brian Teacher, Wendy Turnbull,  Richards, Fabrice Santoro, Ai Sugiyama, Patrick McEnroe, Camille Pin, Phil Dent, Jelena Dokic, Mark Edmondson, Gael Monfils, Xavier Malisse, Dinara Safina, Barry Lorge, Stefano Pescosolido, Fabrice Santoro, Roscoe Tanner, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Roger Smith, Erik van Dillen, Gene Mayer, Tamara Pasek, Stefan Koubek, Jie Zheng, Gisela Dulko, Kristian Pless, Chuck McKinley, Marty Riessen, Brad Gilbert, Tim Mayotte, Andrea Petkovic, Klara Koukalova, Bobby Reynolds, Dominik Hrbaty, Andreas Seppi, Christopher Clarey, Casey Dellacqua, Anders Jarryd, Janko Tipsarevic, Nadia Petrova, Christian Bergstrom, Ramesh Krishnan, Emily Sanchez, Marcos Baghdatis, Mark Philippousssis, Wally Masur, Paul McNamee, Daniela Hantuchova, Gerry Armstrong, Younes El Aynaoui, Thomas Johansson, Pat Cash, Lisa Raymond, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Chanda Rubin, Tony Roche, Alex O’Brien, Petr Korda, Karol Kucera, Amelie Mauresmo, Juan Gisbert, Pablo Cuevas, Jim Pugh, Rick Leach, Julien Boutter, Larry Stefanki, Chris Woodruff, Jill Craybas, Sania Mirza, Mike Leach, Maggie Maleeva, Guillermo Canas, Guillermo Coria, Donald Young, Dick Stockton, Johan Kriek, Milan Srejber, Zina Garrison, Slyvia Hanika, Karin Knapp, Laura Granville, Kei Nishikori, Scott Davis, Paul Goldstein, Alberto Martin, Nicolas Kiefer, Joachim Johansson, Jonathan Stark, Jakob Hlasek, Jeff Tarango, Amanda Coetzer, Andres Gomez, Richey Reneberg, Francisco Clavet, Radek Stepanek, Miloslav Mecir, Jose-Luis Clerc, Colin Dibley, Mikael Pernfors, Martin Mulligan,  Robbie Weiss,  Hugo Chapacu, Victor Pecci, Charlie Bricker, Greg Rusedski, Robin Finn, Kimiko Date, David Nalbandian, Goran Ivanisevic, Mikhail Youzhny, Nicole Pratt, Bryanne Stewart, Novak Djokovic, Rennae Stubbs, Corina Morariu, Marc Rosset, Kenneth Carlsen, Kimiko Date, Ryan Harrison, Richard Gasquet, Jimmy Arias, Jim Leohr, Felix Mantilla, Cedric Pioline, Annabel Croft, Brooke Shields, Jaime Yzaga, Slobodan Zivojinovic, Alberto Mancini, Peter McNamara, Andrei Chesnokov, Fabrice Santoro, Bud Collins, Mardy Fish, Sebastien Grosjean, Donald Dell, Petr Kuczak, Magnus Norman, Hicham Arazi, Nduka Odizor, Lori McNeil, Horst Skoff, Karolina Sprem, Ros Fairbank, Linda Siegel, Chris Lewis, Kevin Curren, Thierry Tulasne, Guy Forget, Fred Tupper, Jaime Fillol, Belus Prajoux, Ricardo Cano, Georges Goven, Ray Moore, Charlie Pasarell, Paul Annacone, Tomas Smid, Dmitry Tursunov, Elena Dementieva, Arnaud DiPasquale, Carl Uwe Steeb, Bill Scanlon, Jose Higueras, Jay Berger, Jana Novotna, Bill Dwyre, Lisa Dillman, Sean Sorensen, Paul McNamee, Jiri Novak, Benjamin Becker, Ion Tiriac, Neil Amdur, Tim Gullikson, Jan-Michael Gambill, Taylor Dent, Bryan Shelton, Vijay Amritraj, Martin Verkerk, Brian Gottfried, Carlos Moya, Jacco Eltingh, Adriano Panatta, John Feinstein, Aaron Krickstein, Wilhelm Bungert, Derrick Rostagno, Torben Ulrich, Daniel Nestor, Ray Ruffels, Cliff Drysdale, James Reilly, Andy Murray, Leander Paes, Alicia Molik, Barry MacKay among others.

New Chapter Press is also the publisher of The Bud Colins History of Tennis by Bud Collins, The Roger Federer Story, Quest for Perfection by Rene Stauffer and Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli and the soon to be released title The Lennon Prophecy by Joe Niezgoda. Founded in 1987, New Chapter Press is an independent publisher of books and part of the Independent Publishers Group. More information can be found at www.newchapterpressmedia.com

Mondays with Bob Greene – Rafael Nadal Wins 4th Consecutive Barcelona Title

STARS

Rafael Nadal won his fourth straight Barcelona, Spain, title, the Open Sabadell Atlanatico, defeating David Ferrer 6-1, 4-6, 6-1

Fernando Gonzalez beat Simone Bolelli 7-6 (4) 6-7 (4) 6-3 to win the BMW Open in Munich, Germany

Vera Zvonareva won the ECM Prague Open, beating Victoria Azarenka 7-6 (2) 6-2 in Prague, Czech Republic

Gisela Dulko beat Anabel Medina Garrigues 7-6 (2) 7-6 (5) to win the Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Fez, Morocco

John McEnroe won the Champions Cup Boston, beating Aaron Krickstein 5-7 6-3 10-5 (Tiebreak) in Boston, Massachusetts

Viktoria Kutuzova beat Maret Ani 6-1 7-5 in Cagnes-Sur-Mer, France, to win a $100,000 ITF women’s tournament.

Tamarine Tanasugarn beat Kimiko Date-Krumm 4-6 7-5 6-2 to win an ITF women’s tournament in Gifu, Japan.

SAYINGS

“When I did make mistakes, in the second set, David was unstoppable, but I kept very focused throughout and I am very happy to be the first man to win four years in a row.” – Rafael Nadal, after winning his fourth consecutive Barcelona Open.

“I think I played a good match, but what can you do? That’s Rafa.” – David Ferrer, following his 6-1 4-6 6-1 loss to fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal for the Barcelona title.

“It’s a great relief for me.” – Vera Zvonareva, who won the ECM Prague Open, her first in 2008 after finishing second in three other finals this year.

“If someone had told me beforehand that I could reach the semifinals, I would have jumped at it.” – Younes El Aynaoui, who, at age 36, reached the semifinals of the BMW Open in Munich, Germany, before being edged by eventual champion Fernando Gonzalez 3-6 6-4 6-3.

“I felt I was regaining the feeling of playing tennis every day.” – Kimiko Date-Krumm, who ended a 12-year retirement by reaching the singles title match, which she lost, and winning the doubles in an ITF women’s tournament in Gifu, Japan.

“I took my opportunities and went for my shots. That probably made the difference today.” – Gisela Dulko, after winning the title in Fes, Morocco.

“A 13-day schedule, we feel, is about the right amount of time to get value of matches. … We see no need for change in 2008.” – Ian Ritchie, chief executive of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, explaining why there will be no play at Wimbledon on the middle Sunday this year.

“I’m thrilled with this. This is exactly right: an international city, different cultures.” – WTT co-founder Billie Jean King on the Washington Kapitals joining World TeamTennis and playing its matches in the center of the city.

“My shoulder is not up to it. I have been having pain with it again and again.” – Tommy Haas, after pulling out of this BMW Open in Munich, Germany, with a persistent shoulder injury.

STREAKING ALONG

Rafael Nadal is on a roll. Nadal defeated fellow Spaniard David Ferrer 6-1 4-6 6-1 to become the first man to win the Barcelona Open four straight years. Nadal has now won his last two tournaments and increased his clay-court winning streak to 20 consecutive matches. The lefthander is 117-3 on clay since the start of the 2005 season and has won 103 of his last 104 matches on the surface.

STREAK SNAPPED

Fernando Gonzalez of Chile won his second tournament of the year, edging Italy’s Simone Bolelli 7-6 (4) 6-7 (4) 6-3 for the BMW Open title in Munich, Germany. This year was the first time in 19 years that no German player reached the quarterfinals.

SURFACING AGAIN

When Kimiko Date-Krumm decided to end a 12-year retirement, she felt she should start at the bottom. Gaining a wild card into qualifying of a $50,000 ITF event in Giru, Japan, Date, once ranked as high as number four in the world, won six straight matches before falling in the final to Tamarine Tanasugarn 4-6 7-5 6-2. Date didn’t come away empty-handed, however. She teamed with Kurumi Nara to win the doubles.

SAYS BETTING IS OK

A French court says it’s OK to bet on matches at Roland Garros. The court ruled that betting companies like bwin did not violate the rights of the French Tennis Federation by offering bets on Roland Garros matches. The federation had filed a lawsuit, saying online betting stained the reputation of the clay court championship, especially in the wake of Internet gambling scandals. But the European Gaming & Betting Association said the court had concluded “these operations had behaved in a prudent and diligent matter.” It is not known if the French federation will take further legal action against the betting companies.

SHOOTING FROM THE LIP

Maria Sharapova is upset because the WTA Tour demands that she participate in a publicity shoot on the eve of the Italian Open. According to Sharapova, the women’s tour wants several top players, including the Australian Open champion, to take part in a four-hour commercial shoot for WTA Tour marketing materials. If she refuses to participate in the photo shoot, Sharapova could be fined $300,000, Sharapova said. A WTA Tour spokesperson said: “Players have many obligations both on and off the court, and what is being asked of players in Rome is in the rules.”

SACRED SUNDAY

The middle Sunday will remain sancrosant at Wimbledon – at least for now. While admitting there are strong arguments in favor of making “People’s Sunday” a permanent fixutre, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club says it felt no need for change this year. The wettest Wimbledon in 25 years played havoc with the schedule last year, and Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, among others, criticized the club for not scheduling play on the middle Sunday.

SPOT IN PARIS

Wayne Odesnik has a spot in this year’s French Open after winning a wild card in Boca Raton, Florida, by defeating Jesse Levine 6-2 7-5. The U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) and French Tennis Federation have a reciprocal agreement in which wild card entries into the main draw at the 2008 French Open and the 2008 U.S. Open are exchanged.

STACKING POUNDS

Roger Federer isn’t really looking at the money, but if he should win his sixth straight Wimbledon title in July he will take 750,000 pounds ($1.49 million) to the bank. That’s an increase of 7.1 percent over what he collected last year as singles champion. The women’s winner will receive the same amount as Wimbledon continues its equal prize money payout. The total prize money will rise by 4.7 percent, to 11,812,000 pounds. The doubles champions will each earn more than one million pounds for the first time, with the winning pairs receiving 230,000 pounds.

SLEEPLESS NIGHTS

Anastasia Myskina, who won Roland Garros in 2004, gave birth to a son, Zhenya, on April 28 in Moscow. Myskina missed most of last year with a left foot injury before announcing she was pregnant. She has not said whether she will return to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. The righthander was the first Russian to win a Grand Slam title and the first to break into the Top 10 in the rankings, reaching as high as number two in the world.

SOCIAL EVENT

Billie Jean King and the Class of 2008 – Michael Chang, Mark McCormack and Eugene Scott – will be honored at the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s Legends Ball, which will be held in New York City on September 5, the last Friday of the U.S. Open. More than a dozen Hall of Famers and other tennis dignitaries will be on hand when the third annual Eugene L. Scott Award will be presented to Billie Jean King. The award honors an individual who embodies Scott’s commitment to communicating honestly and critically about the game, and who has had a significant impact on the tennis world.

SPANISH BATTLE

Ten cities are bidding for the right to stage the Davis Cup semifinal September 19-21 when Spain takes on the defending champion United States. The cities are: Barcelona, Benidom, Gijon, Jerez de la Frontera, Madrid, Malaga, Marbella, Murcia, Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Santander. A decision is expected on May 9. The highest attendance for a Davis Cup tie was set in Seville, Spain, in 2004 when an average of 27,200 watched Spain win the fabled Cup by defeating the United States in the final 3-2

SERENA TO D.C.

Serena Williams is off to Washington this year to play World TeamTennis. While the eight-time Grand Slam singles champion is scheduled to play four of the Washington Kastles’ 14 regular-season matches, she will join the team for only one contest in Washington – that coming on July 8 against the Boston Lobsters. Also on the Kapitals’ roster are Justin Gimelstob, Mashona Washington, Scott Oudsema and Sacha Jones.

STARS ON PARADE

How trendy are tennis players? Well, Tommy Robredo, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Nicolas Almagro, Fernando Verdasco and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez have been featured in an eight-page magazine spread titled “Spanish Tennis Is Trendy.” The magazine is a weekly supplement of Diario AS, a daily sports newspaper in Spain.

SHOULDER STOPPER

Not only did Tommy Haas pull out of the BMW Open in Hamburg, Germany, with a persistent shoulder injury, he says he may not be able to play at Roland Garros later this month. Haas, once ranked as high as number two in the world, has suffered first-round losses in four of the seven tournaments he has played this year. In only one event, an ATP Masters in Indian Wells, California, did Haas reach the quarterfinals, losing to Roger Federer. He retired in his first-round match at Monte Carlo to Olivier Rochus while trailing 6-1 3-0.

SHARAPOVA OUT

Maria Sharapova and Daniela Hantuchova have withdrawn from this week’s Germany Open. The Australian Open champion, Sharapova has not played since losing to Serena Williams in the quarterfinals of the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina, on April 19. She has not revealed her injury. Hantuchova, ranked number ten in the world, withdrew because of a stress fracture in her right foot.

SUCCESS STILL DENIED

Jelena Dokic is having a hard time getting her career restarted. Once ranked as high as number five in the world, Dokic was a first-round loser at the Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Fez, Morocco, falling to Greta Arn of Hungary 6-4 6-2. Dokic successfully qualified for the main draw at Fez, just as she had at Hobart, Australia, in January. At Hobart, Dokic trailed Italy’s Flavia Pennetta 5-0 in the second round when she retired.

SHARED PERFORMANES

Barcelona: Bob and Mike Bryan beat Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski 6-3 6-2

Munich: Rainer Schuettler and Michael Berrer beat Scott Lipsky and David Martin 7-5 3-6 10-8

Prague: Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka beat Jill Craybus and Michaella Krajicek 1-6 6-3 10-6

Fes: Sorana Cirstea and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova beat Alisa Kleybanova and Ekaterina Makarova 6-2 6-2

Cagnes-Sur-Mer: Monica Niculescu and Renata Voracova beat Julie Coin and Marie-Eve Pelletier 6-7 (2) 6-1 10-5

Gifu: Kimiko Date-Krumm and Kurumi Nara beat Melanie South and Nicole Thyssen 6-1 6-7 (8) 10-7

SITES TO SURF

Rome: www.internazionalibnlditalia.it

Berlin: www.german-open.org

Hamburg: www.dtb-tennis.de/AmRothenbaum/

Outback Champions: www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com

BlackRock Champions: www.blackrocktourofchampions.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

ATP

$2,270,000 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Rome, Italy, clay

WTA TOUR

$1,340,000 Qatar Telecom German Open, Berlin, Germany, clay

SENIORS

BlackRock Tour of Champions, Rome, Italy, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$2,270,000 Hamburg Masters, Hamburg, Germany, clay

WTA Tour

$1,340,000 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Rome, Italy, clay

SENIORS

BlackRock Tour of Champions Hamburg, Germany, clay

Verkerk And El Aynaoui Continue Their Comebacks

Last week on the challenger circuit saw two veteran players defy the odds by winning events in the hopes of reclaiming their former top 15 status, while the world’s No. 1 junior player won her first challenger title on the women’s side.

After losing in the first round of a futures event in February, many could have argued that it would have been time for Martin Verkerk of the Netherlands to hang up his racket. However, the former Roland Garros finalist has refused to quit and his results have improved rapidly. After winning a futures event in Montreal last month, he won the $50,000 event last week in Athens, Greece with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Adrian Cruciat of Romania. The win gives Verkerk a feed-up into the qualifying draw of an ATP event this spring and he will request a wild card into Roland Garros later this month.

Younes El Aynaoui of Morocco is also continuing his improbable comeback this week, prevailing at the $35,000 event in Chiasso, Switzerland with a dominating 7-6, 6-3 win over top-seeded Alberto Martin of Spain. The win moves the 36-year-old back inside the top 250 and with minimal points to defend for the rest of the year, a return to the top 100 by years end is not unlikely.

Other challenger results on the men’s side include Go Soeda of Japan winning at the $75,000 event in Busan, Korea. Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil delighted the local crowd by winning the $35,000 event in Florianpolis. Dawid Olejniczak of Poland won the $50,000 event in Mexico City, Mexico, and Bobby Reynolds of the United States won the $50,000 event in Tallahassee, Florida.

At the $100,000 tournament in Saint Malo, France, Frenchwoman Stephanie Cohen Aloro won the biggest title of her career with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over Jelena Kostanic Tosic of Croatia. The 25-year-old took advantage of the rain delay late in the second set, rallying off three straight games from 4-5 down to win the match. Cohen-Aloro moved back into the top 100 this week with this result. Despite the loss, Kostanic has turned her year around in Saint Malo after a disappointing 1-6 record heading into the event.

Bari, Italy hosted a $25,000 event this week, and this year girls champion at the Australian Open, Arantxa Rus of The Netherlands, won the title with a hard fought 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 win over Alberta Brianti of Italy. In winning her first challenger title, Rus will also receive a feed-up into the qualifying draw of Strasbourg, which will be just the second WTA event of her career.

After dropping down to the satellite tour for much of last year, Soledad Esperon of Argentina is now playing the best tennis of her career. She won her second challenger title in a row at the $25,000 event in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla, routing Sesil Karatantcheva of Bulgaria 6-4, 6-1. Esperon moves back into the top 200 this week and will contest her first Grand Slam qualifying event in two years at Roland Garros next month. Despite the loss, Karatantcheva has started her comeback from a drug suspension strongly, winning two challenger titles and reaching the finals of two others since January.

The spotlight stays on the men this week as Dudi Sela of Israel is the top seed at the $100,000 event in Paget, Bermuda. Benjamin Becker of Germany leads the way at the $50,000 tournament in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Kevin Anderson of South Africa takes top billing at the $35,000 event in Cremona, Italy.

El Aynaoui Makes a Comeback (Again)

Once again on the futures circuit this week, another former ATP standout bravely swallowed his pride and started back at square one in the hopes of turning back the clock.

It’s hard to tell how many comebacks Moroccan Younes El Aynaoui has had. The 36 year old has overcome financial destitution and just about every injury in the book to achieve a top 15 ranking and reach the quarterfinals at both the Australian Open and US Open. This week, El Aynaoui returned from a seven month injury layoff at the $15,000 event in Castelldefels. Appearing as a late entrant, he was forced to go through the qualifying rounds before surviving several tough three set matches in the main draw. In the end, El Aynaoui won his first title in almost 12 months by beating Adam Chadaj of Poland 6-3 7-6 in the final.

At the notoriously strong $100,000 event in Sunrise, Dutchman Robin Haase won a rain-delayed final that was pushed into Monday. Haase came back from being down a set and a break to defeat Frenchman Sebastian Grosjean 5-7 7-5 6-1. For Haase, who has already scored wins over Andy Murray and Ivan Ljubicic this year, this is the biggest title of his career. He hopped in a car directly after the final to head to Miami, where he layer played in the qualifying rounds of the Sony Ericsson Open (he won his first round match in Miami Monday evening).

Another player on the comeback trail is Mariano Puerta of Argentina, who’s still trying to rebound after a second doping suspension that almost ended his career. Competing at the $50,000 event in San Luis Potosi this week, Puerta showed glimpses of the form that took him to the French Open finals as he cruised through the draw without the loss of a set. However, injury derailed his good form as he was forced to withdraw from the final before striking a single ball, which allowed Brian Dabul of Argentina to win his first title of year. Both Dabul and Puerta are scheduled at the next $50,000 event in Mexico this coming week, held in the city of Leon.

In other challenger news on the men’s side, Ivan Navarro of Spain won his first event in two years at the $35,000 event in Meknes, while Andreas Beck of Germany won the $35,000 event in Sarajevo.

With her ranking just outside of the top 100, Israeli Tzipi Obziler decided to drop back down to the challengers for the $25,000 event in Tenerife. The decision proved to be wise as she dropped just 14 games in her last four matches and overwhelmed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 6-2 6-3 in the final. The win puts Obziler back inside the top 100 and, with little to defend over the next few months, she should see her ranking continue to climb.

In other challenger news on the women’s side, Barbora Zahalova Strycova of the Czech Republic won her second title of the year at the $25,000 event in Redding, while Melanie South of Great Britain won a nail biting three-set final to take the title at the $25,000 tournament in Sorrento. Slovakia’s Magdalena Rybarikova won the $25,000 event in St. Petersburg, and Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova won her first challenger event at the $25,000 tournament in Noida.

The men keep the spotlight with two $50,000 tournaments this coming week. Werner Eschauer of Austria is the top seed in Barletta and Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer takes top billing in Leon. On the women’s side, Nuria Llagostera Vives of Spain accepted a late wild card and is the top seed at the $50,000 event in Latina. Once again this week, there are also several $25,000 women’s events. Anna Lapushchenkova of Russia will hope to keep her local fans happy at the $25,000 event in Moscow, while China’s Shuai Zhang hopes to reverse her losing streak at the $25,000 tournament in Hammond. Anastasia Yakimova of Belarus is the clear favorite a  the $25,000 event in La Palma, while Estonia’s Maret Ani takes top billing at the $25,000 event in Jersey. Finally, Tessenderlo hosts its first professional event as veteran Selima Sfar of Tunisia is the top seed at this $25,000 tournament.

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