Milos Raonic won both of his singles matches, including earning the winning point on Sunday, to send Canada into the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group quarter-finals for the first time in the country’s history this weekend after defeating top-ranked Spain 3-2 at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre in Vancouver.
With Canada entering the Sunday reverse singles with a 2-1 lead following a singles sweep of day one and a doubles loss on day two, Raonic clinched victory for his team with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 triumph over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the fourth rubber. The 22-year-old Canadian was in control from the outset, hitting 22 aces and 55 winners. He saved the one break point he faced and broke Garcia Lopez’s on four occasions, including twice in the final set.
“It’s amazing to do everything we’ve done,” Raonic said. “I’ve been a minor part of it for the past few years consistently and to be able to get the win and have this conversation for the first time, it’s pretty amazing. I’m very proud with how I managed everything and how we pulled through.”
Raonic may be grabbing all of the headlines for his clinching win, but Frank Dancevic is the Canadian hero in the eyes of many after he put forth one of the most impressive performances in the history of Davis Cup en route to dismantling Marcel Granollers 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 to give Canada a commanding 2-0 lead after day one. Dancevic was, to put it mildly, in the zone and put his immense natural talent on full display.
“Just walking out on to the court I had goose bumps, and you know that everyone is behind you and that helps you play through tough situations,” Dancevic said. “The crowd was unbelievable, there were certain times when the match was difficult, and they gave me an edge. They motivated me to refocus on the point and I felt like they also put a little pressure on Granollers because the crowd was so behind me today.”
Playing without their biggest stars, This marks the first time since 2006 that Spain, the Davis Cup runner up in 2012 and champion in 2011, has lost a first round tie in World Group. In their first World Group quarter-final appearance, Canada will face Italy in the quarter-finals at home from April 5-7. Italy defeated Croatia 3-2 in the opening round thanks to a win by Fabio Fognini in the decisive fifth rubber.
“It’s a long process when you’re in group one and you’ve got to battle it out in a lot of places and for a spell there we seemed to play on the road so much,” said team Canada captain Martin Laurendeau, speaking of Canada’s journey into the World Group quarter-finals that began years ago. “I think we had a bit of a window a couple of years ago but still we were down 2-0 to Ecuador in 2011, and from there we just turned it around. We play that tie and the next one away and since then we’ve been in Canada and we’ll do that again in April. We’re happy to be in the quarters but we feel like we can keep on going. We’re riding a good wave right now and we’ve got to make the most of it while it lasts.”
The final total attendance for all three days of the tie is 17, 796, which is a new Canadian Davis Cup record.
Eight first-round Davis Cup ties unfold around the world this weekend. We discuss the key players and themes that might emerge from each of them.
Canada vs. Spain: Without any of their top three men, Davis Cup Goliath Spain finds itself at a surprising disadvantage when it travels to the western coast of North America. Had either Nadal or Ferrer participated in this tie against Canada, the visitors would remain heavy favorites even against a squad spearheaded by Milos Raonic and aging doubles star Daniel Nestor. Instead, Canada now can rely on two victories from their singles #1 against the overmatched pair of Marcel Granollers and Albert Ramos, forcing Spain to sweep the remaining three matches. Among those is a doubles rubber that pits Nestor against World Tour Finals champions Granollers and Marc Lopez, who lost three of their four Davis Cup doubles rubbers last year. If the tie reaches a live fifth rubber, as seems plausible, Spanish champion Alex Corretja might consider substituting Guillermo Garcia-Lopez for Ramos against the net-rushing Frank Dancevic. Buoyed by their home crowd, though, Canada should find a way to snatch one of the three non-Raonic rubbers and send Spain to the playoff round for the first time in recent memory.
Italy vs. Croatia: This tie should hinge on home-court advantage and the choice of ground that it entails. On a fast hard court, the formidable serves of Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig would stifle the less imposing firepower of the Italians. But Croatia faces Andreas Seppi and Fabio Fognini on the red clay of Turin, a slow surface where the superior consistency of the hosts should lead them to victory. The visitors will face the intriguing choice of whether to substitute their singles stars on Saturday for a doubles pairing almost certainly doomed to defeat. Three straight days of best-of-five matches for Cilic, Dodig, or both would leave them even more vulnerable to the Italian war of attrition, though. At any rate, the contrast of styles between the fearless first strikes of the Croats and the patient baseline rallying of the Italians should provide entertaining viewing.
Belgium vs. Serbia: One might see Djokovic’s name on the schedule and automatically checking off the “Serbia” box, but a few flickers of doubt persist. First, the Australian Open champion may have arrived physically and mentally drained from his recent exploits, and he has struggled against Friday opponent Olivier Rochus throughout his career. Breaking from a long history of Davis Cup participation, Serbian #2 Janko Tipsarevic cannot step into the breach if Djokovic falters. That duty lies in the suspect hands of Viktor Troicki, who endured a miserable 2012, and in the aging hands of Nenad Zimonjic, well past his prime despite his many accomplishments. Serbia thus might find itself in real trouble if they played a team with a notable talent, like Canada. With just the 32-year-old Rochus and the volatile but unreliable David Goffin barring their path, however, they should advance even if their stars underperform.
USA vs. Brazil: Tennis Grandstand will feature more detailed coverage of this tie over the weekend. For the moment, we will note that Team USA stands in promising position with two serving leviathans on an indoor hard court, complemented by the reigning Australian Open doubles champions. While Isner did not win a match in January as he struggled with a knee injury, and Querrey did not impress in Melbourne, both should steamroll the harmless Brazilian #2 Thiago Alves. In the best-case scenario for Brazil, which would feature two victories for their #1 Bellucci, their doubles duo of Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares still should fall short against the Bryans. All of these Americans have played some of their best tennis on home soil and in Davis Cup, including on less friendly surfaces, whereas Brazil has accomplished little of note in this competition recently.
France vs. Israel: Across from one team that often proves less than the sum of its talents in Davis Cup stands a team that typically overperforms expectations at the national level. Whereas France will bring two members of the top 10 to this tie, Israel can claim no top-100 threat in singles. The fast indoor hard court should allow the offensive might of Tsonga to overwhelm Dudi Sela and Amir Weintraub, although the latter has developed into a more credible threat over the last several months. In a tantalizing doubles rubber, a battle of all-stars pits Jonathan Ehrlich and Andy Ram against Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra. Underdogs in every singles rubber and arguably the doubles too, Israel can hope for an upset only if Gasquet crumbles under the pressure of playing for national pride on home soil as he has so infamously before. Otherwise, the talent gap simply looms too large.
Argentina vs. Germany: Perhaps the most tightly contested tie, this battle on outdoor red clay will unfold in the absence of Del Potro, who would have given the home squad a clear edge. While Argentina will field a squad of clay specialists, leading Germans Philipp Kohlschreiber and Florian Mayer have acquitted themselves well on the surafce and should not find themselves at a disadvantage parallel to Croatia in Italy. Much rests on the shoulders of Juan Monaco, tasked with avoiding the daunting 0-2 deficit after Kohlschreiber likely opens the tie by dismissing Carlos Berlocq. The top Argentine here enjoyed his best season to date last year but did not start 2013 especially well. Lurking in the shadows, as he so often does, is long-time Argentine Davis Cup hero David Nalbandian. Argentina will hope that Nalbandian’s contribution in doubles on Saturday will combine with two Monaco victories to give them the points that they need without reaching a live fifth rubber. There, one would favor Mayer to overcome both Berlocq and the Argentine crowd.
Pick: Er, Argentina?
Kazakhstan vs. Austria: In a tie without a singles star of note, the opportunity beckons for someone to seize the spotlight in a way that he could not at a major. The most likely candidate to do so would seem Austrian #1 Jurgen Melzer, the only top-100 singles player on either side. His opponents can produce better tennis than their current rankings suggest, though, and Andrey Golubev already has started the tie in promising fashion with a straight-sets victory over Andreas Haider-Maurer. The doubles edge probably belongs to Austria with the greater expertise of Alexander Peya and Julian Knowle, specialists who will allow the 31-year-old Melzer to rest for Sunday. Excluded from the initial lineup is top-ranked Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin, whose absence will force #211 Evgeny Korolev to win a best-of-five match for the hosts to survive.
Switzerland vs. Czech Republic: While Tomas Berdych is the highest-ranked man in this clash between nearby nations, the most intriguing role goes to opposing #1 Stanislas Wawrinka. After he came far closer than anyone to toppling Djokovic at the Australian Open, the latter may suffer a hangover in a competition where he has struggled lately. Moreover, Switzerland leans on Wawrinka to win both of his singles matches and contribute to a doubles victory on the intervening day, an enormous challenge for the sternest of competitors when the last of those matches involves Berdych. The Czech Republic will not enlist the services of Radek Stepanek, a rare absentee this weekend like Tipsarevic, but singles #2 Lukas Rosol intimidates much more than anyone that Switzerland can throw at him. In the Federer/Wawrinka era, no Swiss team ever has presented the united front that the defending champions have behind Berdych. The medium-slow hard court should not trouble the broad-shouldered world #6 unduly.
Pick: Czech Republic
The anticipation had been building for months following the announcement that Vancouver would host its first Davis Cup tie in 20 years. It also just so happened to be the biggest non-Rogers Cup tennis event to be held on Canadian soil in the last decade.
In the end, the Canada-France first round World Group tie lived up to the hype and delivered on expectations despite Milos Raonic being forced to withdraw from the much-anticipated reverse singles match up with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga because of pain in his knee.
Raonic played and won his singles match on Friday, defeating Julien Benneteau in straight sets, putting forth a virtually flawless performance to give Canada it’s only point of the weekend in a 4-1 defeat. Level at 1-1 after Friday’s singles, Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau substituted the in-form Raonic for Vasek Pospisil to play with Daniel Nestor for the crucial doubles point. In the end, the French pair of Benneteau and Michael Llodra played subliminal doubles to secure the second point for France and Canada was dealt a major blow when it was discovered that Raonic had tweaked his knee during the first set which would ultimately keep him out of Sunday’s reverse singles.
Frank Dancevic replaced Raonic against Tsonga in the first match on Sunday and acquitted himself more than admirably, playing inspired tennis that ignited the boisterous crowd at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre. Dancevic’s performance, perhaps his best since the former world no. 65 made a surprise run to the quarter-finals o f the Rogers Cup presented by National Bank in Montreal in 2007, just wasn’t enough against Tsonga who was also at the top of his game, hitting winners from seemingly everywhere on the court. The World no. 6 posted an impressive 6-4, 6-4, 6-1 win to propel France into the Davis Cup quarter-finals where they will play the United States on home soil. Tsonga said he was disappointed to miss out on the chance to play Raonic in this setting.
“For us it was a good surprise,” said Tsonga. “Milos (Raonic) is a good player, talented, and I was a bit sad to play against another guy, because I think it (would have been) a good confrontation with Milos.”
For his part, Dancevic thrived in his return to the Canadian Davis Cup squad and enjoyed every minute of playing in front of vocal, supportive fans.
“I felt the energy out there and I felt like I had a lot of momentum on my side,” Dancevic said. “I felt like anything could happen … and it came down to just a few important shots by him, especially in the second set. He painted the lines on a few forehands, hit some unbelievable down-line and cross-court one-hand backhands.”
Gael Monfils, who did not play Friday’s singles match against Raonic as originally anticipated, and Vasek Pospisil concluded the tie with an entertaining match that wowed the crowd featured more than one highlight reel shot from the always flamboyant Monfils. The Frenchman defeated Pospisil, Canada’s Davis Cup hero in 2011, 6-4, 6-4.
A total of 15,233 spectators attended the tie over the three days and certainly made themselves heard throughout the weekend and showed why Vancouver is the fastest growing tennis city in Canada. The Canadian team left with many lessons learned as they look ahead to their World Group playoff tie in September, but also proved they belonged among the top 16 Davis Cup countries in the world.
Just got back from day one of the qualifying draw at the Rogers Cup and it was a great day to be a tennis fan. It has been almost a year now since I’ve been able to catch some live tennis action and it was a nice way to ease back into things and get reacquainted with the game up close. Of course, having a press pass for the first time doesn’t hurt either!
I arrived on site around 9:30am local time and found my way from the parking lot to the actual venue. A short ten minute hike later and I was drenched in sweat on this humid July day but ready to begin my exploring of the site and all that the media access would allow me. Putting on the press pass for the first time was like wearing a badge of honor, and it also elicited a few curious looks from fans trying to figure out who I was and why I was fortunate enough to be wearing such a large pass around my neck. Seriously, this thing is huge!
I caught parts of a few different qualifying matches today, mostly the ones with the more familiar names. There were not a lot of well known players in the qualifying draw and I was somewhat surprised given that this is a Masters Series event. I suppose that due to the compressed schedule, many players that would otherwise be here by now are still in Europe playing in one of the three current tournaments over there. I’d be very impressed if the names, Andrey Golubev, Farrukh Dustov and Alexandre Kudryavtsev ring a bell with any of you out there, because I can honestly say I’ve never heard of them before. And these are some of the round one winners from today!
I checked out one time Grand Slam winner Thomas Johansson who won the Rogers Cup back in 1999. He was taking on local Canadian hope Philip Bester. This match went the distance with Johansson’s experience proving to be too much for the young Bester. Prior to the match I noticed Johansson having an animated discussion with ATP liaison Thomas Schrader about the ranking cutoff used to make the main tournament draw. Johansson is the number one seed in the qualifying draw and I got the impression that he was not impressed to have to go through this pre-tournament process.
I felt bad for players who did not enjoy the privilege of playing on center court today. Just outside the grounds and relatively close to the Grandstand Court and other practice courts was some sort of Reggae festival that had rhythmic music blaring all morning long. A fan on the Grandstand watching Arnaud Clement march to victory against Illia Marchenko stood up between games and yelled at the umpire to, “turn off that damn music and show the players the respect they deserve.” The umpire addressed the crowd after this comment and explained that the neighboring festival was a nuisance that we would all have to put up with.
After leaving that match I moved on to the practice courts. It is always interesting to see who hits with who on the tour. I’m not sure how much thought goes into the practice combinations, but I always enjoy seeing these pairings up close. Mikhail Youzhny was playing a practice set against Paul Henri Mathieu. I was not keeping score, but it seemed to me that Mathieu was getting the best of the Russian on this day. Fortunately still lots of time to work out the kinks. These two were hitting quite hard and the contrast between some of the qualies and these higher ranked pros was obvious.
I noticed another practice court nearby to be packed with fans and it turned out to be recent Wimbledon champ Rafael Nadal was there hitting with Tommy Robredo. After a quick break Nadal took off his shirt and all of the women in the crowd were cheering and whistling right on cue! Nadal did not seem fazed by the attention, however Robredo turned to the crowd and teased them by lifting up his shirt to see what kind of reaction he might get. Everyone got a good laugh out of his light hearted gesture.
The draw ceremony took place promptly at 2pm just outside of Center Court and brought in quite a large gathering of fans and media alike. On hand to help with the draw were Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, and Canadian Frank Dancevic. It was really interesting to see how such a ceremony was conducted and to analyze potential matchups on the spot as they were being announced. They began by placing Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s names on opposite ends of the large draw sheet. Then they randomly put the number three and four seeds, Novak Djokovic and Nikolay Davydenko into the draw. I had always thought that the number one and four seeds were together, and two and three ended up on the other side, but that is not the case. Although fortunately for Federer, that is exactly how it worked out and he won’t have to see either Djokovic or Nadal until a potential final encounter.
After this, the 5th through 8th seeds were randomly picked and placed into the appropriate slots that received first round bye’s. I prefer when the top seeds have to play from the get-go, but in recent years in Canada this is how they have operated. After the remaining seeds were placed, they allowed fans to come up on stage to select the rest of the players from a big silver cup one by one. Both players participating in the draw ceremony cringed slightly when they realized what they were up against. Gonzalez didn’t seem to mind drawing Julien Benneteau of France in the first round, but did not seem thrilled when he saw that he was in Federer’s section of the draw with a potential third round matchup looming. Dancevic for his part also looked sullen when the name of Mario Ancic was called for his opening match, with the winner to face Djokovic.
Still there is plenty of time left for the players to adjust their practice routine according to who they will face in a few days. For now, everybody is in the hunt and anything can happen. I will be back with more updates from Toronto in the coming days.
Frank Dancevic is set to square off against Prakash Amritraj in the semifinals of the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Championships on the grass courts of the International Tennis Hall of Fame in America’s Resort City. It is always exciting to see young players (aged 23 and 24, respectively) compete for high stakes as they look to establish top-class credibility.
A win for the top-ranking Canadian Dancevic would represent his second visit to an ATP Tour final. He would become the first Canadian to play for a title in Newport since Greg Rusedski in 1993, who won three times. Recall that Rusedski’s first title was for the Maple Leaf flag, about a year before he began wearing Union Jack headbands.
The Californian-bred Amritraj represents India in international competition, and should he take the title, then he and his father will be celebrated as the first father-and-son combination to have won the same ATP event. Like Rusedski, Prakash’s father Vijay Amritraj also won three times in Newport. The smiling former champion, and actor from the James Bond flick Octopussy, is in Newport this week cheering for his boy.
Prakash’s uncles, Anand and Ashok, also played in Newport, so suffice to say that the Amritraj family is pretty comfortable in this town- and certainly on the grass. Anand Amritraj defeated 18-year-old John McEnroe in the 1977 event, while McEnroe was days removed from his improbable run to the Wimbledon semifinal as a qualifier in his debut at SW19.
Speaking of John McEnroe, he is back in Newport this weekend, poised to present Gene Scott with his posthumous induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Gambling is strictly prohibited at the Newport Casino, and taboo in the world of tennis, but there are- apparently- some punters who have established an over/under of 25 minutes for McEnroe’s introduction. I would gladly take the over.
The greatest doubles team in the world was often- and famously- considered to be John McEnroe and Anybody. However, this was not always the case, and former US Davis Cupper Gene Scott was proof. In 1977, McEnroe and Scott entered the qualifying for the Wimbledon gentlemen’s doubles, but never made it out of Roehampton. McEnroe’s subsequent success (78 career doubles titles) made the story amusing, and became a source of needling between the two New Yorkers.
Gene Scott was for many years the conscious of tennis, and he used his pulpit as Founder and Publisher of Tennis Week magazine to assure that justice was always called for. McEnroe has used his pulpit as an exceptional television commentator, as well as his compulsive need for the public stage, to carry on in the Scott tradition. I hope that he speaks for as long as he pleases (and pity the soul who tries telling him to stop!).
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(Wimbledon first week)
Zheng Jie beat top-seeded Ana Ivanovic 6-1 6-4
Marat Safin beat third-seeded Novak Djokovic 6-4 7-6 (3) 6-2
Alla Kudryavtseva beat third-seeded Maria Sharapova 6-2 6-4
Mario Ancic beat fifth-seeded David Ferrer 6-4 6-4 6-7 (5) 7-6 (3)
Janko Tipsarevic beat sixth-seeded Andy Roddick 6-7 (5) 7-5 6-4 7-6 (4)
Frank Dancevic beat seventh-seeded David Nalbandian 6-4 6-2 6-4
Ranier Schuettler beat ninth-seeded James Blake 6-3 6-7 (8) 4-6 6-4 6-4
Shahar Peer beat ninth-seeded Dinara Safina 7-5 6-7 (4) 8-6
“Sport isn’t the priority at the moment. … I think food would be.” – Cara Black, discussing her native country, Zimbabwe.
“There’s only one winner in the tournament, and everyone else is disappointed. I’m one of them.” – Maria Sharapova, after her 6-2 6-4 second-round loss to Alla Kudryavtseva.
“I don’t like her outfit. It was one of the motivations to beat her.” – Alla Kudryavtseva, on Sharapova’s tuxedo-style ensemble.
“I just didn’t make anything happen out there. Zero, zero, zero.” – Andy Roddick, following his 6-7 (5) 7-5 6-4 7-6 (4) loss to Janko Tipsarevic.
“This means the world to me. I’m just glad that I won and Serbia will have more representatives in the men’s singles draw.” – Janko Tipsarevic, following his upset win over Roddick.
“Jocks win Wimbledon, and those are clearly two of the best athletes in the game. They can make the adjustments. They can play physical tennis. They can think on the move.” – Television analyst Mary Carillo, predicting Venus and Serena Williams will face each other in the Wimbledon final.
“I felt like I was about 25, maybe 30 percent. In a first-, second-round match, it’s just not good enough. It’s not going to get better the more I play on it.” – Lindsay Davenport, who withdrew from Wimbledon hours before her second-round match because of a knee injury.
“He’s trying to become number one in the world and he had a lot of pressure on him and I really didn’t have any pressure at all.” – Marat Safin, after beating third-seeded Novak Djokovic.
“It was a bad day for me.” – Novak Djokovic.
“Yeah, 127 is a good way to end it.” – Venus Williams, after hitting a 127-mph ace on match point in her third-round match.
“At the end of ther match it was pretty tough because we both, I think, couldn’t see the ball anymore.” – Marat Safin, who completed his victory over Andreas Seppi in virtual darkness.
“Maybe when you are my age you are happier as a tennis player than when you’re in the 20s. I’m happy right now even if I’m the oldest in the draw.” – Tamarine Tanasugarn, who at 31 is the oldest player in the Wimbledon women’s draw to reach the second week.
“I look forward to the rest of my 2008 season, which hopefully will include the Olympic Games in Beijing. It would be the most incredible way to finish my career if I could win a medal for Sweden.” – Jonas Bjorkman, who will retire at the end of this year.
“Tomorrow is the only day that I can think of. I never thought I could play this long. This is my 16th Wimbledon, and it’s been great. … But I just don’t want to just be here. I still need to play good.” – Ai Sugiyama, who is playing in a record 57th consecutive Grand Slam tournament.
“I put so much pressure on myself for the (Olympic) goal that I was traveling for almost three months and I couldn’t find my game. Somehow in the last moment I qualified. I catch the last train.” – Dinara Safina, who was picked for the Russian Olympic tennis team after reaching the French Open final.
“Among the targets of my comments was Anna Kournikova, not to mention a general disregard and disrespect toward women. They all deserve and have my deepest apologies. While I see how it could be implied by my remarks, I assure you that I have the utmost respect for women.” – Justin Gimelstob, apologizing for remarks he made on a radio chat show broadcast in the Washington, DC, area.
“The ATP cannot condone any form of intolerance and Justin Gimelstob’s comments last week were unacceptable. However, Justin has done the right thing in taking full responsibility for his comments by apologizing publicly to Anna (Kournikova) for what he has rightly described as his disappointing and disrespectful comments.” – The ATP, in a statement.
“I really don’t want to get into any of the off-court stuff. I’m just going to take the high road and not get into this discussion.” – Anna Kournikova.
“We’re disappointed at Justin’s remarks, which are inappropriate and contrary to what our sport should stand for.” – The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, in a statement.
Venus Williams closed out her third-round victory over Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez with a record-breaking serve. The American ended a love game with a 127-mph delivery, the fastest recorded by a woman at Wimbledon. It was her 11th ace of the match, which she won 6-1 7-5. Williams also holds the WTA Tour record for fastest serve at 129 mph.
SHUT YOUR MOUTH
When Justin Gimbelstob was interviewed for a radio chat show in the Washington, DC, area, his comments sent shock waves throughout tennis. The former player and newly-elected ATP board member, later apologized to Anna Kounikova, Sony Ericsson WTA Tour chief Larry Scott, World Team Tennis co-founder Billie Jean King, the ATP and just about everyone else. In the interview, Gimbelstob called Kournikova a “bitch” and said he wanted to make her cry, called French players Tatiana Golovin and Alize Corent “sexpots,” and said Czech player Nicole Vaidisova was a “well-developed young lady.” Gimbelstob said there was “no excuse and I am extremely disappointed in myself. I take full responsibility for all the words that came out of my mouth, and while I can’t take them back, I hope my heartfelt remorse can begin to heal the woulds felt by many.”
SEEING THE END?
Former Wimbledon champion Lindsay Davenport has hinted strongly that this is her last year on the tour. The 32-year-old recently returned to the tour after giving birth to her child. She withdrew from her second-round match because of a knee injury, then told BBC Sport: “I would be surprised if I was back here playing. I am looking forward to the Olympics and playing the U.S. Open. After that there are not a lot of plans.” Davenport won the U.S. Open in 1998, Wimbledon in 1999, the Australian Open in 2000, and a gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
Because she missed most of 2007 with an ankle injury, China’s Zheng Jie saw her ranking slip from number 27 in the world to 133. So she wrote to the All England Club asking for a wild card since she had qualified for the French Open and reached the third round, had won the women’s doubles at Wimbledon in 2006 and that China was staging the Olympics this year. She got the wild card, and turned it into history when she upset the world’s top-ranked player, Ana Ivanovic, to advance to the fourth round. Four years ago at the French Open, Zheng became the first Chinese woman to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament. Two years ago, China’s Li Na gained a quarterfinal berth at Wimbledon.
SAFINA TO BEIJING
French Open finalist Dinara Safina will play singles at the Beijing Olympics in August. The Russian Tennis Federation added Safina when Anna Chakvetadze decided to skip the Games. Also heading to Beijing are Maria Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Elena Dementieva. En route to the final at Roland Garros, Safina beat Sharapova, Dementieva and Kuznetsova. Russian tennis chief Shamil Tarpishchev said the men’s team will be picked according to the rankings, meaning Nikolay Davydenko, Mikhail Youzhny, Dmitry Tursunov and Igor Andreev will play singles in Beijing.
By playing at Wimbledon this year, Ai Sugiyama of Japan set a record for most consecutive Grand Slam main draw appearances by a man or woman. This is her 57th straight Grand Slam tournament, which she began with a victory over Belgian Yanina Wickmayer. Sugiyama, who turns 33 years old on July 5, said she has never had a serious injury, travels with a trainer and has a massage every day to prolong her career. Currently ranked number 38 in the world, Sugiyama started her unbroken stretch of majors at Wimbledon in 1994 before she had graduated from high school. South Africa’s Wayne Ferreira previously held the record at 56 straight.
SET FOR BEIJING
Two sisters and two brothers will be key players on the United States Olympic tennis team in Beijing. Serena and Venus Williams will lead the women’s squad, while Bob and Mike Bryan will be favored to win the men’s doubles. Others named to the nine-player squad include Lindsay Davenport, Liezel Huber, James Blake, Sam Querrey and Robby Ginepri. The Williams sisters will play both singles and doubles, while Davenport will play singles and team with Huber in doubles. Blake, Querrey and Ginepri will play singles and Blake and Querrey will join the Bryans in doubles. Zina Garrison will coach the women’s team, while the men’s coach is Rodney Harmon.
Anna Chakvetadze’s recent bad form is the result of an armed robbery at her Moscow house late last year. While she escaped unharmed, Chakvetadze admits she is still suffering mental stress from the ordeal. Her father, Jamal, a wealthy Russian businessman, was badly beaten during the robbery.
Nikolay Davydenko said he may have inadvertently become embroiled in a betting scandal by talking too loudly to his wife during a tournament in Poland last year. An online bookmaker, Betfair, voided all bets on a match between Davydenko and Argentina’s Martin Vassallo Arguello in Sopot, Poland, last August after the Russian retired in the third set, citing a foot injury. Davydenko said his wife was in the stands when he told her something like, “I don’t want to play or I can retire.” He feels someone may have overheard him and misunderstood what he meant. Denying any involvement in illegal betting, the 27-year-old Davydenko says he will be vindicated when the ongoing investigation is complete.
The Swedish junior team indefinitely suspended a 15-year-old player after he and two others reportedly vandalized several clay courts in Bastad, site of the Swedish Open. According to a newspaper, the vandalism occurred during Midsummer celebrations in the Swedish seaside town. The other two players are former members of the junior team. None of them was named.
The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour event that has been played at Amelia Island Plantation, Florida, since 1980 may have a new home. Residents of Sawgrass Country Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, have received a notice that the Sawgrass Board of Governors has approved in principle a proposal from Octagon Enterprises to have Sawgrass play host to the tournament. The tournament has been known as the Bausch & Lomb Championships.
STOPPED BY COPS
Two rowdy fans were ejected from Wimbledon for unruly behavior during a match between Lleyton Hewitt and Albert Montanes. While police could not confirm if the two unidentified fans were detained, they did say six people were arrested at Wimbledon for various offenses, including the possession of pepper spray.
STOPPED FROM VOTING
Serena Williams says their Jehovah’s Witness religion will keep her and sister Venus from voting for Barack Obama or anyone else in this fall’s United States presidential election. “So I’m not going to necessarily go out and vote for him. I would if it wasn’t for my religion,” Serena said.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent a letter to Tim Phillips, chairman of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, condemning the treatment of pigeons at Wimbledon. All England Club spokesman Johnny Perkins confirmed media reports that contract pest controllers had used marksmen to shoot at pigeons around the club.
Those who live in the community of Wimbledon receive free parking permits that enable them and their guests access to streets and driveways during the tennis tournament’s fortnight at the All England Club. But it seems as if some of those permits are showing up on eBay for USD 120 dollars. And it seems as if some permit holders have been making copies of the originals since one resident offered for sale no fewer than 17 permits.
The first round at Wimbledon wasn’t kind to seeded doubles teams. Among the men’s teams that lost were fourth-seeded Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles, fifth-seeded Simon Aspelin and Julian Knowle, and sixth-seeded Martin Damm and Pavel Vizner. Gone from the women’s doubles at the end of the first round were fourth-seeded Chan Yung-Jan and Chuang Chia-Jung, along with eighth-seeded Peng Shuai and Sun Tiantian.
SITES TO SURF
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
The Championships, Wimbledon, Great Britain, grass
$125,000 Cordoba Challenger, Pozoblanco, Spain, hard
$100,000 Turin Challenger, Turin, Italy, clay
The Championships, Wimbledon, Great Britain, grass
$100,000 ITF Cuneo, Cuneo, Italy, clay
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$860,000 Mercedes Cup, Stuttgart, Germany, clay
$580,000 Allianz Suisse Open, Gstaad, Switzerland, clay
$566,000 Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships, Newport, Rhode Island, grass
$480,000 Catella Swedish Open, Bastad, Sweden, clay
$125,000 Bogota Challenger, Bogota, Colombia, clay
$100,000 Scheveningen Challenger, Scheveningen, Netherlands, clay
$175,000 Gaz de France Grand Prix, Budapest, Hungary, clay
$145,000 Internazionali Femminili di Tennis di Palermo, Palermo, Italy, clay
Hall of Fame Champions Cup, Newport, Rhode Island, grass
Last week on the challenger circuit, clay-court specialists prevailed in the biggest red dirt events on the men’s and women’s side, while we also got a sneak peek of coming attractions for Wimbledon at the first grass court tune-up of the year.
The $150,000 challenger in Prostejov, Czech Republic, has always attracted a strong field and this year was no exception. Top-seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic is ranked among the world’s top 15 and all the seeded players were ranked in the top 100. In the end, Agustin Calleri of Argentina used his clay court prowess to overwhelm Martin Vasallo-Arguello of Spain 6-0, 6-3. The win propels Calleri back among into the top 50 in the rankings.
Daniel Kollerer of Austria, known as “Crazy Dani” on the ATP Tour, has attracted an infamous reputation for his bad attitude on the court and was even suspended from playing ATP tournaments for six months. He’s finally starting to become known for his tennis, winning his first title of the year at the $50,000 challenger in Furth, Germany, with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Santiago Giraldo of Colombia. This result takes some of the sting out of Giraldo’s Roland Garros performance, where he had match points to qualify for the main draw before losing to Frederico Gil of Portugal.
The $50,000 challenger in Surbiton, Great Britain, featured a top 20 entry in Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, but he withdrew from his second round match with an injury. Frank Dancevic of Canada, always a dangerous threat on the grass with his serve, won a hard fought 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 contest over Kevin Anderson of South Africa. Both Dancevic and Anderson are competing at the ATP tour event in London this week.
In other results on the men’s side, Michael Yani of the United States came through qualifying to win the $50,000 challenger in Yuba City, California, while Frederico Gil of Portugal won the $35,000 challenger in Sassuolo, Italy.
On the women’s side, Tathiana Garbin of Italy delighted the home crowd by winning the $75,000 event in Rome, Italy, rallying from being an early break in the final set to defeat Yvonne Meusburger of Austria 6-4, 4-6 7-6. This tournament also snapped a four-match losing streak for Garbin and a six-match losing streak for Meusburger.
At the $50,000 challenger in Surbiton, United Kingdom, Marina Erakovic of New Zealand continued her strong form by defeating Anne Keothavong of Great Britain 6-4, 6-2. Erakovic, who gave Jelena Jankovic a tough match in the second round of Roland Garros, could truly break through at Wimbledon on a surface which is tailor made for her game. Despite the loss, Keothavong has much to be proud about, becoming the first British woman to crack the world’s top 100 since Samantha Smith in 1999.
After coming close twice this year, Patricia Mayr of Austria finally broke through and won her first title at the $25,000 event in Grado, Italy, narrowly beating Jasmina Tincic of Croatia 6-4, 7-6. Mayr is now on track to compete in her first ever Grand Slam qualifying event at the US Open this summer. We could be hearing more from Tincic in the future though; this was only the fifth professional event she has ever played in.
Marseille, France hosts the top event on the women’s side this week as Martina Muller of Germany leads the way at the $75,000 event held there. Yvonne Meusburger of Austria is the top seed at the $75,000 event in Zlin, Czech Republic, Lauren Albanese of the United States leads the way at the $25,000 challenger in El Paso, Texas, and Ana Vrljic of Croatia takes top billing at the $25,000 challenger in Campobasso, Italy.
On the men’s side, Adrian Cruciat of Romania is the top seed at the $50,000 challenger in Sofia, Bulgaria. Teimuraz Gabashvili of Russia is the top seed at the $35,000 event in Milan, Italy, while Eric Prodon of France leads the way at the $35,000 challenger in Kosice, Slovakia.