Like last week, the upcoming ATP slate features two European tournaments on indoor hard courts and a South American tournament on outdoor red clay. Only one of the Big Four participated in last week’s action, but this week his archrival returns to the spotlight as well.
Rotterdam: Back in action for the first time since those consecutive five-setters in Melbourne, Federer prepares for a title defense closer to home soil. He often has produced his crispest tennis on indoor hard courts late in his career, and he finds himself near familiar victim Youzhny. Tested by rising star Raonic last year, Federer could meet another rising star in Jerzy Janowicz at the quarterfinal stage. Massive servers trouble him more than they once did, although Janowicz has looked less intimidating in the early events of 2013 than he did while reaching the Paris Indoors final last fall. Of further interest in this section is the first-round clash between doubles partners Benneteau and Llodra, both of whom should shine on this surface.
Continuing the French theme from Benneteau-Llodra, the second quarter lies in the shadow of two top-20 Frenchmen: the third-seeded Tsonga and the fifth-seeded Simon. No player of note would bar their routes to a quarterfinal, which their recently solid form suggests that they should reach. Both Frenchmen charted a course to the second week at the Australian Open, and Tsonga in particular excelled by extending Federer to a final set in their quarterfinal. His meeting with Simon should present a compelling contrast of styles, in which one would fancy the third seed’s chances on a surface that favors aggression.
Although both men enter the tournament unseeded, Tomic and Dimitrov offer the most notable storyline of the third quarter with the looming first-round clash between these two phenoms. Greatly celebrated for reaching the Brisbane final in January, the latter has not built upon that breakthrough but instead slipped back into the inconsistency that has slowed his progress. A hero on home soil again, Tomic recaptured much of the reputation that he lost with his 2012 antics by showing a more professional attitude to start 2013. Meanwhile, a strong week in Montpellier continued Gasquet’s strong start to the season and leaves him the favorite to reach the semifinal here. The fourth seed could repeat the Montpellier final against compatriot Benoit Paire in the second round.
Leaping from the lowest part of the draw is the first-round match between wildcard Gael Monfils and second seed Del Potro. While the former left Melbourne in mildly promising fashion, the latter fell well short of expectations in suffering a third-round exit to Jeremy Chardy. Del Potro can waste little time in recapturing his rhythm at a tournament where he finished runner-up to Federer last year, for Monfils’ two finals at the Paris Indoors prove his ability to succeed on this surface. Less likely to shine is the sixth-seeded Seppi, a player who prefers slow courts and lacks the firepower of either projected quarterfinal opponent.
Final: Tsonga vs. Del Potro
San Jose: In the last edition of this tournament, long a mainstay of Bay Area sports, Milos Raonic attempts to complete a title three-peat on the scene of his first trophy. Among the faster indoor hard courts on the calendar, San Jose will showcase a serve nearly unanswerable at its best. In the last two years, opponents struggled even to earn a break point against Raonic. Fresh from his Davis Cup heroics, last year’s top seed could repeat the 2012 final against Denis Istomin in the quarterfinals, or he might meet home hope Ryan Harrison in a rematch of a 2012 semifinal. Both of those men struggled to match Raonic hold for hold last year with their modest serves, and neither has taken a significant step forward since then.
Someone who can match the Canadian hold for hold, the third-seeded Sam Querrey seeks to continue building on his recent upward trend in the rankings. Returning to relevance midway through last year, Querrey plays his best on American soil and mirrored Raonic’s contributions last weekend by lifting Team USA past Brazil with two singles victories. He faces the possibility of consecutive matches against Australians, first the fading Lleyton Hewitt and then the surging Marinko Matosevic. Near his career-high ranking, the latter man will meet the teenage sensation Jack Sock, still in the process of refining his explosive serve and forehand.
If North Americans dominate the top half of the San Jose draw, a more European flavor emerges from the third quarter. Following his best season since his prime in the mid-2000s, Tommy Haas lurks near the edge of the top 20 after starting 2012 outside the top 200. Injuries and recurrences of his volatile temper hampered him in January, but expect his forecourt skills to flourish on a court where he can shorten points. Female fans would enjoy a quarterfinal between Haas and Fernando Verdasco, two slots below him in the rankings. Unfortunately for them, former finalist Ivo Karlovic might topple the Spanish lefty in the second round, although he lost to him here two years ago. Can wildcard Steve Johnson, who took Almagro to a fifth set at the Australian Open, build on that momentum to upset Dr. Ivo?
The only man in the ATP shorter than Karlovic, the second-seeded Isner needs to build momentum much more urgently than Johnson, for he defends finalist points at Indian Wells. Still the top-ranked American man by a small margin over Querrey, Isner withdrew from the Australian Open with a knee injury and looked unimpressive in Davis Cup last weekend. No player in his vicinity looks like a convincing dark horse, however, with the most notable resistance coming from Xavier Malisse. Otherwise, this section features a handful of promising-but-not-quite-there-yet figures like Vasek Pospisil and Evgeny Donskoy, the latter of whom defeated Youzhny in Melbourne.
Final: Querrey vs. Verdasco
Sao Paulo: In a draw that greatly resembles Vina del Mar last week, Nadal again shares a half with Jeremy Chardy amid a collection of players from South America and southern Europe. Few Spaniards have shown the determination to challenge Rafa on his favored red clay, and Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo should prove no exception. One of the few Spanish journeymen to defeat him on any surface, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez could meet the man whom he defeated in Bangkok at the quarterfinal stage, although Vina del Mar semifinalist Carlos Berlocq seems more plausible. Yet another Spaniard, the eighth-seeded Albert Ramos, opens against Garcia-Lopez.
Splitting his two Davis Cup rubbers in the United States, Thomaz Bellucci transitions back to his homeland and a friendlier surface for his traditional lefty game. The fifth-seeded Brazilian would meet Chardy in the quarterfinals with no legitimate threat between them. Fellow Brazilian Ricardo Mello, known better for his doubles success, received not only a wildcard but a winnable opening match as a reward for his victory over the Bryans in Davis Cup. Facing aging Federer-killer Volandri is Vina del Mar quarterfinalist Daniel Gimeno-Traver, who mustered some decent resistance to Rafa last week.
World #15 Monaco looked nearly certain to meet Nadal in the Vina del Mar final until the unheralded Guillaume Rufin upset him, only to issue a walkover a round later. At least the Argentine enjoyed accompanying Nadal through the doubles draw, which gave him plenty of opportunities to refine his clay skills before this second opportunity. A former top-10 player, Spanish veteran Tommy Robredo could become Monaco’s first opponent in a grinding match of counterpunchers who rarely miss. Cast from a similar mold is Robredo’s compatriot Albert Montanes, situated near the seventh-seeded Pablo Andujar. The latter must start the tournament on a high note to escape Santiago Giraldo, a Colombian who has upset much more notable players on clay before.
The key difference between the draws in Vina del Mar and Sao Paulo, Nicolas Almagro hopes to rebound from a memorable fortnight in Melbourne. While he reached an Australian Open quarterfinal, he may need time to forget his repeated inability to finish off Ferrer there and perhaps also to recover from a leg injury. Like Nadal, though, Almagro will find the clay accommodating to his ailing body, and he has won a set from Rafa on the surface before. Opening against surprise Vina del Mar champion Horacio Zeballos, he finds himself near the most dangerous unseeded player in the draw, David Nalbandian. The grouchy gaucho languishes in a semi-retirement from which he emerges just often enough to remain relevant, and a player lacking in fitness, confidence, or both would seem plausible prey. Nalbandian has tested Nadal severely before, even during his decline, but can he string together the solid efforts necessary to produce that tantalizing final?
Final: Nadal vs. Almagro
Check out the companion preview of the WTA Premier Five tournament in Doha, and return on Friday for the next entry in my column.
By Lisa-Marie Burrows
On Tuesday it was only the second day of the US Open main draw action in New York, but yesterday served up some fantastic round one matches which entertained for hours and thrilled the audience.
The three five set matches involving Juan ‘Pico’ Mónaco vs Guillermo García-Lopez, Fabio Fognini vs Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Alexandr Dolgopolov vs Jesse Levine may not have featured the infamous rivalries between the top guys that we have been so accustomed to seeing, but last night at Flushing Meadows, audiences both at home and on site were treated to matches worthy of that caliber.
The matches that took place between the players mentioned above showed the spirit and the fight of a toe-to-toe match reminiscent of the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
On Grandstand Argentine and No.10 seed Juan Mónaco had an extremely tough first round opponent against Spain’s Guillermo García-Lopez who proved to be more than a handful for Mónaco. The Argentine took the advantage quickly as he led by two sets and 4-1 up in the third, but García-Lopez had other plans – he was not giving up that easily.
In a match that was played with as many highs and lows as a roller coaster and with such determined grit from both players, you would not have thought it was a first round match, the way the players fought and with such heart, you would have been forgiven for being fooled into thinking it was a Grand Slam final and they were fighting for the trophy, not a place in the second round.
Mónaco and García-Lopez fought against their nerves and against each other as it clearly meant so much to them to win. They ventured into the all-important fifth set tiebreak, after Mónaco broke back twice in the set from the brink of defeat and stopped the Spaniard from serving out the match. With a Davis Cup atmosphere on the tennis court and football style chants heavily in the favour of the Argentine with ‘Olé, olé, olé, olé, Pi-co, Pi-co,’ the match was there for the taking and it all boiled down to who could hold their nerve and the realization suddenly dawned that one of them was going to win… but also that one was going to lose and it would be a painful loss.
The joy and jubilation belonged to Guillermo García-Lopez after playing a very solid tiebreak, releasing his heavily weighted forehand continuously and used his well placed serve to give him the upper hand. After his 3-6, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6(6), 7-6(3) victory a very relieved and emotional García-Lopez sat in his chair with a tear in his eye, whilst Mónaco visibly annoyed and understandably upset quickly exited the court.
Up next for García-Lopez is Fabio Fognini of Italy who was also involved in an epic five-set encounter against Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France. The Italian will be equally as tired going into his second round match against the Spaniard as he too was on court for nearly four hours with his 3-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 comeback victory against the Frenchman and will be relieved of the day off to recover from that match.
It was during the key moments that Fognini was able to withstand the pressure and contained his fraught emotions to claw his way back into the match. As match point dawned on the Italian, the atmosphere around the court was raucous with expectation and disbelief with what Fognini was about to achieve. The Italian was clearly delighted with the turnaround of the match, but visibly tired too, as he and his weary legs exited the court knowing that he had finally booked his place into the second round.
Alexandr Dolgopolov found himself caught up in a difficult opening round against home country hopeful, Jesse Levine on court 17. The first two sets did not go as planned for the Ukrainian who played some loose service games which proved to be costly as he was suddenly staring at defeat after losing the first two sets.
At the start of the third set, Dolgopolov was quickly broken again and found himself 0-4 down and two games away from packing up his belongings and leaving New York. As Levine became tight, Dolgopolov began his revival and battled his way back into the match. Despite facing a heavily partisan crowd, Dolgopolov kept his composure to break back and take the third set 6-4 and stamped his authority in the fourth set by taking it 6-1.
Eyebrows were raised at his comeback and it was evident that Levine was disappointed with the renaissance that Dolgopolov was bringing to the court. Eventually the Ukrainian won 3-6 4-6 6-4 6-1 6-2 and he will now play Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis in the second round.
There was so much entertainment and drama in one evening and we are still only in the early stages of the tournament, but it shows that for all of these players, it does not matter whether it is the first round or the final, they will fight for the win – yesterday they were the comeback kings. Their matches may not have been pretty, but a win is a win and they will be happy to take it all the same and improve ready for their next battles.
After the matches feelings of being emotionally, mentally and physically drained were evident – and that was just me! I don’t know how the players do it!
Stanislas Wawrinka suffered the most painful (6-3 6-7 6-7) defeat of the year at the hands of German qualifier Benjamin Becker and practically lost chances to book his place at the Masters Cup in Shanghai. Wawrinka couldn’t handle the pressure playing in front of the home crowd. Lost the second set despite a comfortable lead at 6-3 5:3 up and the third set despite 4:1 up and two match points on 6:5 on Becker’s serve. Wawrinka stayed positive after the bitter loss: “I’ve still had a great year and I have one more chance to qualify for Tennis Masters Cup when I compete in Paris next week”.
Swiss No. 1 Roger Federer surprsingly lost a set after wasting match point but finally won the match against Bobby Reynolds 6-3 6-7 6-3 without facing a break point in the whole match.
Other contenders to play in Shanghai: those with big opportunities like Juan Martin Del Potro and James Blake, and those with theoretical chances like Igor Andreev and David Nalbandian, all won their 1st round matches without too much trouble
One out of 12 Frenchmen, who played in the 1st round in Lyon, Josselyn Ouanna has got his first ATP victory, beating former champion Ivan Ljubicic 6-7 7-6 6-4. Ljubic was serving for the match at 5:3 in the second set. In Lyon, likewise in Basel, three players fight for a spot in Masters Cup. All of them (Andy Roddick, Gilles Simon and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga) won first round matches. Madrid’s hero Gilles Simon needed a three-setter again to win another match on the road to Shanghai. Defending champion Sebastian Grosjean playing first match since US Open, lost 7-6 4-6 4-6 to Robby Ginepri. In the next round Ginepri will face Andy Roddick for the 9th time in his career but for the first time in the European indoor season.
Ernests Gulbis demolished Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-0 6-2 in just 51 minutes, serving 11 aces at 81% of the first serve and for the first time in the history, Latvian tennis will be represented by two players in the second round of an ATP tournament. Gulbis’ compatriot and peer, Karlis Lejnieks playing first ATP match in career beat Alexandre Koudriavtsev 3-6 7-6(1) 6-3. Lejnieks saved double match point at 5:6 (15-40) in the second set.
The Croats were unlucky in the first round : Mario Ancic lost to Jeremy Chardy 4-6 6-3 4-6 despite a 3:1lead in the third set, in turn Marin Cilic wasted two match points in the final set tie-break against unknown Kazakhstan qualifier Mikhail Kukushkin in a match which lasted 3 hours.
Basel – First Round
(1)Roger Federer (SUI) d. Bobby Reynolds (USA) 6-3 6-7(6) 6-3
Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) d. Eduardo Schwank (ARG) 6-2 6-4
Marcel Granollers (ESP) d. Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) 6-2 4-6 6-2
Simone Bolelli (ITA) d. (7)Tomas Berdych (CZE) 6-4 7-5
(4)James Blake (USA) d. Nicolas Kiefer (GER) 3-6 6-3 6-4
Oscar Hernandez (ESP) d. (q)Lukas Dlouhy (CZE) 7-6(6) 6-7(5) 6-1
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) d. (WC)Marco Chiudinelli (SUI) 7-6(5) 7-6(7)
(8)Mardy Fish (USA) d. Agustin Calleri (ARG) 7-6(5) 6-2
(6)Igor Andreev (RUS) d. Jurgen Melzer (AUT) 7-6(5) 7-5
Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) d. Denis Gremelmayr (GER) 6-4 7-6(5)
(WC)Stephane Bohli (SUI) d. Jose Acasuso (ARG) 6-3 6-2
(3)Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) d. (q)George Bastl (SUI) 6-2 6-4
(q)Benjamin Becker (GER) d. (5)Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) 3-6 7-6(5) 7-6(5) – 2 M.P.
(LL)Andreas Beck (GER) d. Nicolas Devilder (FRA) 6-4 6-4
(q)Kristof Vliegen (BEL) d. (WC)Philipp Petzschner (GER) 6-2 6-3
(2)David Nalbandian (ARG) d. Albert Montanes (ESP) 6-4 6-2
Lyon – First Round
(1)Andy Roddick (USA) d. Nicolas Mahut (FRA) 7-6(5) 6-4
Robby Ginepri (USA) d. (WC)Sebastien Grosjean (FRA) 6-7(4) 6-4 6-4
(q)Christophe Rochus (BEL) d. Gilles Muller (LUX) 6-2 6-4
(7)Robin Soderling (SWE) d. (q)Thierry Ascione (FRA) 6-4 6-1
(4)Gilles Simon (FRA) d. Juan Monaco (ARG) 2-6 6-4 6-1
Andreas Seppi (ITA) d. (q)David Guez (FRA) 6-2 7-5
(WC)Josselyn Ouanna (FRA) d. Ivan Ljubicic (CRO) 6-7(2) 7-6(5) 6-4
Nicolas Lapentti (ECU) d. (6)Ivo Karlovic (CRO) 7-6(4) 6-3
(8)Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA) vs Guillermo Canas (ARG) 6-3 6-4
Juan Carlos Ferrero (ESP) d. Samuel Querrey (USA) 6-3 7-5
Fabrice Santoro (FRA) d. Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-4 6-1
(3)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) d. Marc Gicquel (FRA) 7-5 4-6 6-3
(5)Tommy Robredo (ESP) d. Michael Llodra (FRA) 6-4 6-3
Julien Benneteau (FRA) d. Arnaud Clement (FRA) 6-3 6-2
Steve Darcis (BEL) d. (WC)Radek Stepanek (CZE) 6-4 3-6 6-3
(2)Richard Gasquet (FRA) d. (q)Santiago Giraldo (COL) 5-7 6-3 7-6(3)
Basel – First Round
(1)Andy Murray (GBR) d. Viktor Troicki (SRB) 6-3 6-3
Ernests Gulbis (LAT) d. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP) 6-0 6-2
Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) d. Potito Starace (ITA) 6-3 7-6(4)
Jeremy Chardy (FRA) d. (7)Mario Ancic (CRO) 6-4 3-6 6-4
(3)Fernando Verdasco (ESP) d. (q)Teimuraz Gabashvili (RUS) 1-6 6-4 6-3
(WC)Karlis Lejnieks (LAT) d. (WC)Alexandre Koudriavtsev (RUS) 3-6 7-6(1) 6-3 – 2 M.P.
Rainer Schuettler (GER) d. Igor Kunitsyn (RUS) 6-2 6-3
Dominik Hrbaty (SVK) d. (6)Dmitry Tursunov (RUS) 6-1 6-1
(8)Marat Safin (RUS) d. Sergey Stakhovsky (UKR) 6-2 6-4
(q)Andrey Golubev (KAZ) d. Olivier Rochus (BEL) 6-1 6-4
(q)Michael Zverev (GER) d. Florent Serra (FRA) 6-4 6-2
(4)Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) d. Ivan Navarro-Pastor (ESP) 6-2 6-1
(q)Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) d. (5)Marin Cilic (CRO) 7-6(4) 4-6 7-6(6) – 2 M.P.
Victor Hanescu (ROU) d. Evgueni Korolev (RUS) 6-1 6-2
(WC)Michail Elgin (RUS) d. Filippo Volandri (ITA) 6-4 6-4
(2)Nikolay Davydenko (RUS) d. Chris Guccione (AUS) 6-4 6-4
Roger Federer got his bid to capture a third straight title in Basel off to winning start on Tuesday, but not without a scare. American Bobby Reynolds took the second set in a tiebreaker, but Federer turned things around to prevail 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-3 in one hour and 50 minutes.
Fellow Swiss and Olympic doubles gold medalist Stanislas Wawrinka was not as lucky on Monday against Benjamin Becker. The unheralded German, known almost exclusively as the man who beat Andre Agassi in the final match of Agassi’s illustrious career, stunned Wawrinka 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(5). Not only did Wawrinka suffer a setback in his own country, but his Masters Cup hopes were dealt a serious-probably crippling-blow.
In St. Petersburg, seeds Marin Cilic and Dmitry Tursunov are already out after just one match. Nikolay Davydenko, Mikhail Youzhny, and Ernests Gulbis, however, took care of business to reach the second round. Gulbis crushed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in a mere 48 minutes on Tuesday. He could get Madrid champion and No. 1 seed Andy Murray in round two. The Scot faces Viktor Troicki in his opener on Wednesday.
The French favorites, for the most part, are still alive in Lyon. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet, however, both needed three sets to advance on Tuesday. No. 1 seed Andy Roddick and fifth-seeded Tommy Robredo are also safely through to round two. Ivo Karlovic, on the other hand, crashed out to Nicolas Lapentti in straight sets just days after reaching the Madrid quarterfinals. The surprise of round one-much to the delight of the French crowd-was wildcard Josselin Ouanna, who stunned Ivan Ljubicic 6-7(2), 7-6(5), 6-4.
The women, meanwhile, are in Linz, Austria and all eyes will be on Ana Ivanovic to see if she can end a dismal season-ending slump before the conclusion of 2008 play. Ivanovic is the No. 1 seed and is joined as a first-round bye recipient by Vera Zvonareva, Agnieszka Radwanska, and Patty Schnyder. So far all eight seeded players are still alive.
Last week on the challenger circuit, a former top 5 player and the only college graduate mother on tour recorded impressive results, while two players on the men’s side broke into the top 100 for the first time this week with their tournament wins.
Twelve years after competing in her last professional singles event, Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan returned to the tour this week at the $50,000 challenger event in Gifu, Japan. The 37-year-old, who reached a career high ranking of No. 4 in the world, accepted wild cards into the qualifying draw of the singles event and main draw of the doubles event. Date surprised everybody by coming through qualifying and storming through to the finals of the singles draw. In Sunday’s championship match against Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand, she was up a set and 4-2 before Tanasugarn prevailed 4-6, 7-5, 6-2. However, Date won the doubles event with fellow Japanese player Kurumi Nara. Date will also play in the singles and doubles draws of the $50,000 event in Fukuoka, Japan next week.
At the $100,000 challenger in Cagnes Sur Mer France, Viktoria Kutuzova of Ukraine finally lived up the expectations placed on her as a can’t miss junior prodigy, winning the biggest event of her career with a 6-1, 7-5 victory over Maret Ani of Estonia. The win also places Kutuzova back in the top 150.of the rankings. Despite the loss, Ani has been riding a hot streak as of late, having reached the semifinals of the WTA event in Estoril, Portugal last week.
At the $50,000 event in Charlottesville, Virginia, Alexis Gordon of the United States won the first title of her career with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Olga Puchkova of Russia. The 25-year-old Gordon is currently in her debut year on the tour, having finished college at the Univ. of Florida in May of last year. She also took time off in college to give birth to her daughter, Imani, who’s now three years old. Gordon moves up to No. 374 in the rankings this week and she says that her goal is to make the cut-off for the qualifying at the Australian Open next year.
In other challenger results on the women’s side, Stephanie Vogt of Liechtenstein won the $50,000 event in Makarska, Croatia and Noppawan Lertcheewakarn of Thailand won the $25,000 event in Balikpapan, Indonesia. Jarmila Gajdosova of Slovakia won the $25,000 event in Gimcheon, Korea, and Augustina Lepore of Argentina won the $25,000 tournament in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico.
On the men’s side, Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil won the biggest title of her career at the $125,000 challenger in Tunis, Tunisia, beating Dusan Vemic of Serbia 6-4, 6-4 in the final. This is Bellucci’s third challenger title of the year and propelled him into the world’s top 100 for the first time in his career.
At the $75,000 event in Prague, Czech Republic, Jan Hernych of the Czech Republic beat fellow countryman Lukas Dlouhy 4-6 6-2 6-4 in the final. This was the first all-Czech final in the tournament’s history.
Stephane Bohli of Switzerland won the title at the $50,000 event in Lanzarote, Spain with a 6-3, 6-4 over Yen-Hsun Lu of Taipei. This is the first challenger title for Bohli, having lost in all four of his previous finals. Lu has been a strong competitor on the challenger circuit this year, reaching the finals of a challenger in Busan, Korea last month and winning the title in Waikoloa, Hawaii last January.
At the $35,000 event in Rome, Italy, Eduardo Schwank of Argentina won his second challenger title in the tow with a 6-3, 6-7, 7-6 win over Eric Prodon of France. The win also moves Schwank into the top 100 for the first time in his career.
Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden leads the way next week as the top seed at the $75,000 event in Zagreb, Croatia. Lourdes Dominguez-Lino is the top seed at the $50,000 challenger in Jounieh, Lebanon, and Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium takes top billing at the $50,000 event in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida. Challenger events will also be contested next week in Bucharest, Romania, Fukuoka, Japan, Antalya, Turkey, Florence, Italy, Changwon, Korea and Irapuato, Mexico.
On the men’s side, Donald Young is the top seed at the $50,000 challenger in Tunica, Mississippi. Michael Berrer of Germany is the top seed at the $42,500 event in Dresden, Germany, Sergio Roitman of Argentina takes top billing at the $42,500 challenger in Ostrava, Czech Republic, and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez leads the way at the $42,500 challenger in Rabat, Morocco. Challenger events will also be contested next week in Rijeka, Croatia and Telde, Spain.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Outback Champions: www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com
BlackRock Champions: www.blackrocktourofchampions.com
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
$2,270,000 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Rome, Italy, clay
$1,340,000 Qatar Telecom German Open, Berlin, Germany, clay
BlackRock Tour of Champions, Rome, Italy, clay
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$2,270,000 Hamburg Masters, Hamburg, Germany, clay
$1,340,000 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Rome, Italy, clay
BlackRock Tour of Champions Hamburg, Germany, clay