January 9, 2013 — Top ranked American and world No. 13 John Isner has officially withdrawn from the 2013 Australian Open due to a bone bruise in his knee.
On Wednesday, top-seeded at the Sydney tournament, Isner went out to qualifier Ryan Harrison, 6-4 6-4, hinting at continued issues with his knee.
“I have been feeling some discomfort in my knee and have recently learned that I have a bone bruise,” Isner said. “Doctors have told me that continuing to play on the knee could result in a more serious injury.”
Isner also pulled out of last week’s Hopman Cup exhibition tournament in Perth after losing both of his matches against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Kevin Anderson in order to be ready for Sydney. Via Twitter, Isner’s manager stated that the American “gave it a weeks rest before the match and wanted to test it.” But it was not meant to be.
Fellow American Mardy Fish withdrew last month due to continued recovery from his heart troubles, leaving No. 22 Sam Querrey as the highest-ranked American left in the main draw of the year’s first Slam.
By Jesse Pentecost
So far as I can ascertain, Bernard Tomic has defeated Novak Djokovic twice, and lost three times. It might have been more, but notwithstanding their status as high profile athletes, and despite our era’s ungovernable urge to document everything, it has proved surprisingly difficult to be sure. Perusing the official records doesn’t help. The tour website lists their head-to-head as 3-0 in the Serbian’s favour. The reason for this is that Tomic, quite unforgivably, chose to beat Djokovic unofficially, which is to say at mere exhibition events not worthy of the ATP’s imprimatur.
The first of these victories came at the AAMI Classic at Kooyong in 2010, and was so unofficial that it doesn’t even figure in the record for that event: an interlude within an exhibition, no more than a few practice sets with paying spectators. You can guess how seriously Djokovic took the whole thing. It couldn’t have been less official had the players removed their pants, although it would undoubtedly have been more widely discussed. As it was, even the local Australian media found it difficult to get sufficiently excited. It made the six o’clock news, but it wasn’t quite the lead story.
Tomic’s second win over Djokovic occurred in Perth last week, at the Hopman Cup, and made front pages across the country. This is a tougher result to place, because the Hopman Cup as an event resists easy categorisation. Strictly, it’s an exhibition. But is it just an exhibition? Personally, I am not enamoured of ‘exhibition’ as a blanket term, since it covers then smothers too many disparate types of match. If Sharapova and Wozniacki stage a one-night unremunerated love-in at Madison Square Garden for the benefit of charity, then that is categorically unlike the top men parachuting in to the Emirates to play a three-day tune-up for a million bucks each. The events occurring the week before majors – such as Kooyong or The Boodles – are a different matter again.
Charity exhibitions have pre-decided outcomes, and are heavily laced with farce and crowd interaction. Warm-up events, on the other hand, can be contested as vigorously as an official tour match. Certainly most players gave their all in Perth last week, at least in the singles. (One questions whether Djokovic did in going down to Tomic. But if he didn’t, I can’t imagine he would have given more at, say, the World Team Cup in Dusseldorf, which is played the week before Roland Garros, and the only ‘exhibition’ the ATP endorses.) Perth saw a number of withdrawals, but most appeared legitimate.
Normally the reward for an opponent’s withdrawal is unimpeded passage to the next round. At worst you’re expected to join your critically wounded foe on court and launch tennis balls into the crowd, in the misplaced belief that this helps them forget the cost of their tickets. However, in Perth when Isner pulled out, Fernando Verdasco was obliged to see-off a hastily-located replacement, who turned out to be promising junior Thanasi Kokkinakis. Hopman Cup here betrayed its exhibitionist tendencies: it was, after all, about the crowd. Verdasco was happy to do it, because unlike a real tournament he was in Perth for match practice. He hopefully wasn’t averse to winning the event – although he did is personal best not to – but that’s not why he was there.
It is a curiosity of Hopman Cup is that it doesn’t really build towards anything. I’ve watched it for fifteen years, but I’ve never once known who the finalists were without being told. Tournament draws have a discernible momentum, a teleological promise of heightening quality as the rounds progress, a promise which then may be realised or frustrated. The stakes are raised as the draw pares down. With the exhibition’s typical round-robin format this clarity is lost, such that any match can feel as important or trivial as any other. Djokovic’s victory over Verdasco in the final didn’t feel more elevated than his victory over Seppi earlier in the week. But I’m not convinced it was less special than if they’d played in Montpellier, where the result would be official. I’m unconvinced that singles results in Hopman Cup shouldn’t count, even if it’s a just an exhibition. Perhaps it’s a question of definition.
Everything seems to exist along some sort of continuum these days, defined not merely in opposition to something else, but by where it falls within a spectrum. For example, whereas people were once pronounced sane or crazy according to official whimsy, we now assess mental health according to a range of scales, which led to the breakthrough discovery that most of us are suffering a mental illness. In an effort to make all this comprehensible, there has also been an exponential rise in the use of flowcharts and other diagrams. In any case, it should be possible to forsake the traditionally dichotomous view of tennis tournaments as being ‘official’ or ‘exhibition’, and instead subscribe to a more supple definition.
I propose the Gangnam Scale. Under the Gangnam Scale any tournament can be defined by the point at which it becomes theoretically acceptable for its participants to mount imaginary K-pop steeds, and thenceforth to caper like lunatics. In the course of his recent blitzkrieg though South America, Federer went Gangnam at the change of ends during a singles match. This tour therefore scores a solid five on the Gangnam Scale. Djokovic and Almagro’s Gangnam-heavy tussle in Taipei last September rates similarly.
In Perth such folly was quarantined to the mixed doubles, traditionally a playground for absurdity. The singles matches remained uncontaminated (this was confirmed by the resident bio-containment team), and might therefore be considered safe for consumption. Meanwhile at official ATP events, such as Beijing’s China Open, Gangnam’s influence was only felt after the trophy ceremony. At the Majors Gangnam can be found only in designated safe zones, except for Wimbledon, which mandates a short prison term for any offending spectators or players. Grand Slams therefore default to a one on the Gangnam Scale.
Periodically any tournament can be audited by the ATP or WTA for traces of Gangnam or other exhibition-grade hilarity – and the list of proscribed memes and hijinks will broaden over time – by an independent unit co-funded by each tour, and reporting to the ITF. Assuming that an event’s draw comes up clean, it is permitted to award points according to its status. On the other hand, if a player willingly rolls up his sleeves and thus believes he has riotously parodied Rafael Nadal, all results from that tournament will be nullified, and struck from the official record for a period of no less than two years. Thus Kooyong, set to begin in two days, will remain just an exhibition – you may recall that last year Tomic stole an umpire’s shoe, a vaguely creepy move that earned him neither a reprimand nor a psychiatric evaluation.
Hopman Cup, despite its lighter tone, seemed clean. Consequently it rates a three on the Gangnam Scale. On his internal and therefore unofficial record, I suspect Tomic has added that lone victory over Djokovic to the three official losses. It’s something to savour while lounging at home on his huge pile of purloined shoes.
by James A. Crabtree
What we have learned Down Under, so far…
The Hopman Cup got the new tennis year started, even before the New Year had arrived.
Perth, the worlds most isolated city welcomed Tomic the Tank Engine who quickly became Saint Bernie after an impressive victory over a jet-lagged Djokovic. Still, it was a memorable enough performance by Bernard Tomic to inspire a tennis rich nation, starved of a real contender, to put their hopes in someone for the month of January.
John Isner looked rusty before he pulled out with an injury. Jo-Wilfred Tsonga looked confident and played aggressive focused tennis that would have pleased new coach Roger Rasheed. Fernando Verdasco and Tommy Haas both displayed improved physiques, sculptured during the off-season although they both may need a few matches until they find some form.
Surprisingly Spain took the spoils that included a diamond encrusted ball, much in part thanks to Anabel Medina Garrigues who only lost one match, that being in a dead group match versus Venus Williams.
Praise should be bestowed on Djokoic and Ivanovic who won the hearts of the Perth crowd, for their lighthearted manor and their attempt at Gangnam Style.
Meanwhile the Brisbane Open had been playing out over on the other side of the country. This turned out to be a relative disaster for the home nation. Every Aussie player fell by the second round. Only qualifier John Millman, in his second round loss, showed true guts with a three set thriller against eventual champion Andy Murray.
Over on the women’s side Puerto Rican qualifier Monica Puig turned heads with the sort of hard hitting not seen since Seles. Although she lost to Angelique Kerber she is most certainly a player for the future.
Serena Williams won the women’s event in typically devastating fashion that we have come to expect from the most dominant woman on tour. She wasn’t however seen supporting her rumoured boyfriend of last year, and young riser….
‘Baby Fed’ Grigor Dimitrov, who is on the verge of getting a new nickname that has no reference to anybody but himself. His play this past week has been sensational, capped off by clear cut victories over Milos Raonic, Marcos Baghdatis and Jurgen Melzer.
In truth the final versus defending champion Andy Murray could have been a very different story after Grig-er Dimit-ederer (ok so that’s a poor nickname, help me here!) punished with his inside out forehand and his new and improved serve. The young Bulgarian took a 5-2 lead in the first set and had breaks in the second as we all wondered if we were witnessing the second coming of Fed.
Murray, who is wearing the tightest shirts seen since Borg this year, staged his usual counter-punching comeback every time he was counted out. Regardless, place a bet on Grigs the Great to be a top twenty player by the end of this year.
Up next is Sydney which was won last year by Victoria Azarenka and surprise winner Jarkko Nieminen. Oh yes midway through next week is the invitational AAMI Classic at Kooyong, where there is a strong rumour ol’ Mr Federer will be appearing for the first time since 2009.
At first, 2011 appeared to mark the breakthrough of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova when she reached two major quarterfinals and stood toe to toe with many of the WTA’s leading ladies. The former junior #1 looked likely to become the latest Russian woman to rise in a sport riddled with them over the past decade, blending ferocious groundstrokes from both wings with a keen competitive instinct. Soon afterwards arrived the apparent emergence of Australian prodigy Bernard Tomic. The lanky, enigmatic teenager delivered his “hello, world” moment by soaring from Wimbledon qualifying all the way to the quarterfinals of the main draw, where he won a set from eventual champion Djokovic. Two majors later, Tomic thrilled his home fans by reaching the second week of the Australian Open with electrifying five-set victories over Verdasco and Dolgopolov.
Not entirely concealed by those achievements, however, were the shortcomings in the games of both nascent stars. While Pavlyuchenkova grappled with a serve that leaked too many double faults and untimely service breaks, Tomic struggled less with his body than with an undisciplined mind that too often drifted away from the task at hand. For most of 2012, they not only stagnated but regressed dramatically. The Russian struggled to string together consecutive victories and did not advance past the first week at any major, while she defeated top-30 opponents at only one tournament (Cincinnati). Meanwhile, Tomic combined on-court with off-court embarrassments that ranged from a visibly disinterested loss at the US Open to surly altercations with media and Davis Cup team members. A nation that values hard work and humility, Australia recoiled from the man whom they had prized so recently when he admitted his failures to commit full effort and sounded detached while doing so.
During those demoralizing seasons, then, Pavlyuchenkova and Tomic absorbed a series of bruising blows that might well have left their confidence in tatters. But this week they began 2013 with promising performances that hinted at a revival.
On opposite sides of the Australian continent, the two faltering phenoms delivered victories over players who would have dismissed them with ease last year. At the Premier tournament in Brisbane, Pavlyuchenkova recorded consecutive victories over top-eight opponents for the first time in her career, thus improving even upon her success in 2011. Neither Kvitova nor Kerber played convincing tennis for long stretches in those matches, to be sure, but journeywomen of the WTA had not needed to play even average tennis to unravel her during her slump. In those two straight-sets victories, a fitter and generally calmer Pavlyuchenkova found the courage to win crucial points late in sets. The serve that had betrayed her so relentlessly over the past year became an occasional weapon and only a rare liability. Rallying from a dismal first set in a semifinal against lucky loser Lesia Tsurenko, the Russian also showed the maturity to reverse the momentum of a match while shouldering the pressure of a heavy favorite. In view of the field’s overall quality, Brisbane marked arguably her most significant final to date.
Thousands of miles to the west in Perth, Tomic toppled three consecutive top-25 opponents at the Hopman Cup. The experience of playing before the fans whom he had alienated over the preceding months seemed to energize rather than weigh upon him. Crucial to his week was his first match against Tommy Haas, the author of a remarkable resurgence in 2012. Having let a one-set lead slip away, the Aussie quickly dropped the second set and fell behind by an early break in the third, at which point familiar chatter about “Tomic the Tank Engine” reverberated around Twitter. Many onlookers, including me, expected him to fade meekly and lose the set, perhaps by a double break. To the contrary, Tomic stayed within range until Haas served for the match, when edgy play from the German veteran allowed the youngster to sweep the last four games. Galvanized by this comeback, he then notched straight-sets victories over Italian grinder Andreas Seppi, who had compiled the best season of his career last year, and world #1 Djokovic. Granted, the Serb seemed a bit out of tune in that match, and exhibition tournaments rarely elicit A-list tennis from A-list names. As in the case of Pavlyuchenkova in Brisbane, however, Tomic deserved credit for capitalizing on an opportunity that would have eluded him last season. And the speed with which his compatriots embraced him again illustrated how easily he can reverse the tide of public opinion that had flowed against him.
A tennis season is a marathon, not a sprint, and one should beware of placing too much emphasis on a single strong week. All the same, plenty of draws would become more intriguing if Pavlyuchenkova and Tomic rediscovered the talents that deserted them in 2012, and they took important steps in that direction during the first week of 2013.
By Victoria Chiesa
“Settle down, it’ll all be clear; don’t pay no mind to the demons, they fill you with fear. The trouble it might drag you down; if you get lost, you can always be found. Just know you’re not alone, ’cause I’m gonna make this place your home.” -“Home”, Philip Phillips
Twelve months ago, Jarmila Gajdosova opened her 2012 season at the Hopman Cup in Perth, partnering Lleyton Hewitt and representing Australia. The Australian sporting fans were slow to embrace her in that event, but rallied her and pulled her through a tough opening win against Anabel Medina Garrigues. In Australia’s second team tie against France however, Gajdosova was double-bageled by Marion Bartoli in 50 minutes, and was reduced to tears after the loss. Following that loss to Bartoli, Gajdosova was the victim of obscene and ongoing abuse on Twitter in regards to both her on-court performance and her, well, Australian-ness. She was called “gutless,” “a joke” and others referred to her as “a refugee.”
Gajdosova was born in Bratislava, Slovakia and her WTA bio states that she “fell in love with Australia in her first trip to the Australian Open as 14-year-old”; she became an Australian citizen on November 23rd, 2009. She was married to ATP Tour journeyman Australian Sam Groth, and went by the name Jarmila Groth from February 2009 until late 2011. Following their divorce, Gajdosova was again subjected to abuse on Twitter and the ongoing harassment led to her absence from the social media site for a period of time.
On the court, she has had decidedly mixed success in her adopted homeland. In 2010, ranked outside the top 100, she fell in qualifying in both Brisbane and Sydney. Gajdosova started off 2011 again in Brisbane, where she knocked off top-seeded Sam Stosur in straight sets for her first win over a top 10 ranked opponent. She would go on to win her second career title in Hobart the next week, as she posted wins over Johanna Larsson, Tamira Paszek, Roberta Vinci, Klara Zakopalova and Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Despite these results in the lead-up events, Gajdosova has never won a match at the Australian Open in her career, posting a 0-7 record.
Gajdosova’s best career results in Grand Slams came in 2010, where she reached the fourth round of the both French Open and Wimbledon. She reached a career high ranking of No. 25 in May of 2011 but her high-risk, high-reward style of play always leaves her vulnerable to extended dips of poor form. Her 2012 season was the imperfect storm, as her tennis and personal life went into a tailspin. Her last match win of the 2012 season came in May at Roland Garros, where she benefitted from a retirement from Magdalena Rybarikova. She ended the season on a nine-match losing streak, and plummeted from No. 45 to her current ranking of No. 183. Gajdosova’s mother passed away in late September and she could not grieve with her family, as she was competing at the WTA event in Guangzhou.
Gajdosova returned to Brisbane in 2013 for the fourth straight year as the beneficiary of a main draw wild card; a new year offered her a new start. With new coach Antonio Van Grichen in tow, she faced off against Roberta Vinci in the opening round. She was greeted with a warm reception and after dropping the opening set, the crowd was a huge factor in propelling her on to victory. After Gajdosova ripped her final backhand past Vinci at the net, handing her a 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory, she again walked off an Australian court in tears. These tears were different from 12 months ago. These were tears of relief, tears of triumph. Gajdosova later recognized how much she had finally been embraced by the Australian crowd.
Thank you all for lovely messages!great support and lots of love from you all!!!I feel the love Australia!!!thank you means a world to me!
— Jarmila Gajdosova (@Jarka_Tennis) December 30, 2012
As the last Australian standing in Brisbane, Gajdosova fell in the next round to lucky loser Lesia Tsurenko, who replaced Maria Sharapova in the draw. Despite getting off to a good start in the match, Gajdosova could not contain her unforced errors and eventually fell, 6-1, 1-6, 4-6. As Gajdosova tried to fight back late in the third set, chants of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie” could be heard throughout the stadium.
Gajdosova will continue her long road back up the rankings next week in Hobart, the site of her last tournament triumph. Her goal is to return to the main draw of the Australian Open, via either qualifying or a main draw wild card. One thing is certain; Australians are famous for the passion they show for their athletes, and they’ll finally be cheering Gajdosova on in her own backyard. After all she’s been through in the past twleve months, Gajdosova deserves nothing less.
By Jesse Pentecost
The Australian Summer of tennis is under way, mainly in Perth and Brisbane, but also in those parts of the country unaccountably located in Doha, Shenzhen, Auckland and Chennai. We have now commenced the single month of the year when Australia strives mightily to convince the rest of the world that it is a tennis-mad nation, a month otherwise known as January.
Indeed, for a month Australia is mad for tennis. Last night there was a news feature about the guy painting lines on the Rod Laver Arena court-surface. In a couple of weeks Channel 7, the Australian Open’s official network, will relocate its entire base of operations to Melbourne Park, from which to broadcast its nightly news. Meanwhile, two-time defending Australian Open champion and world No.1 Novak Djokovic has finally arrived amidst general fanfare, fresh from triumph in Abu Dhabi. Amongst his unnumbered mainstream media commitments, there is some hope he’ll be permitted to play tennis.
Of course, Djokovic landed in Perth, and not Melbourne, but he’s well on the way. Paired with Ana Ivanovic, he’s contesting the Hopman Cup, which to the enduring outrage of the ATP and WTA maintains the highest profile of all the lead-up events. Within hours of arriving, and on virtually no sleep, Djokovic saw off Andreas Seppi. By his own admission he took a while to hit his stride, but thereafter demonstrated that it is possible to be at once the overwhelming favourite and the sleeper in the draw.
Interviewed on court immediately afterwards the question was put to Djokovic that having just flown in from the Middle East, he was therefore well-qualified to say which city was hotter, Abu Dhabi or Perth? It was akin to the cringe-worthy old practice whereby visiting movie stars were breathlessly asked for their thoughts on Australia even as they exited the plane, but before their feet had found the tarmac. Djokovic, by now an old-hand at reading the subtext, remained sufficiently awake to provide the desired answer. ‘Perth’ he replied, after only a slight hesitation. The crowd duly cheered: damn right we’re hotter.
In any case, Djokovic was probably right. Perth is suffering through a heatwave that can be readily termed biblical, insofar as it is only justifiable as divine retribution. Most days have seen the temperature exceed 40C (104F for those countries – the Cayman Islands, the United States – that have retained Fahrenheit). Happily, New Year’s Day has brought blessed relief. Today it is merely 34C (93.2F). The Hopman Cup is intended to provide useful acclimatisation for Melbourne, but so far it has usefully prepared its attendees for a manned mission to Venus.
It helps that its new venue – the evocatively named Perth Arena – is a truly leading-edge facility. Its designers had the foresight to install individual air conditioning units under every seat. Spectators are thus afforded the rare treat of watching professional athletes expire from sunstroke even as their own buttocks remain blissfully climate-controlled. Truly we live in an age of wonders.
The Perth Arena’s other defining characteristic is blue. It is probably the bluest venue I have ever seen. Indeed, great swatches of retina-searing cobalt more or less define the entire Australian tennis summer, to a degree that must make even Ion Tiriac weep with envy. Tiriac’s contention, amply borne out in Madrid, was that blue courts make for greater visibility. It’s a hard contention with which to argue. The ball in Perth is clearly visible from Melbourne. The venue itself is clearly visible from space.
Meanwhile the Queensland Tennis Centre in Brisbane looks, from low geosynchronous orbit, like nothing so much as an extravagant arrangement of swimming pools, although the main Pat Rafter Arena rather ruins the effect with its bone-white roof. Nevertheless, beneath that roof Sam Stosur has already initiated another defining characteristic of the Australian summer, which is for her to suffer home-soil losses that would be more shocking if only they were less common. She fell to Sofia Arvidsson in straight sets. It says a lot that the same domestic media that is busily canonising Bernard Tomic for beating Tommy Haas didn’t even bother to act surprised. Meanwhile the first-round loss for Marinko Matosevic, the nation’s top-ranked male, generated barely even a ripple.
Australians expect their elite athletes to be world-beaters, but in Stosur’s case they no longer expect her to do it in the part of the world she lives in. She already proved she can do it in New York, and the same impulse that compels Australian reporters to demand validation from foreign visitors before they clear customs, elevates triumph overseas above triumph at home. If Lleyton Hewitt had won the Australian Open in 2005 it would have meant the world, but it would have done so because he’d previously claimed Wimbledon and the US Open. By not winning he wasn’t the least diminished in his compatriot’s eyes (for all that he himself was bitterly disappointed). He’d already proved himself to be ‘world-class’; it’s a tired phrase, but in Australia there is no higher accolade.
Hewitt, incidentally, will open his season later today in Brisbane against Radek Stepanek, whose Davis Cup triumph may or may not do for him what it did for Djokovic in 2011. Time will tell. The only guarantee is that, win or lose, the prevailing opinion of Hewitt won’t change, just as it hasn’t changed for Stosur.
For Tomic, on the other hand, there’s still a great deal to prove, and, Wimbledon aside, the Australian tennis-mad summer is time in which he is obliged to prove it. He proved it the other night against Haas, twice recovering from desperate situations. Tomorrow night he’ll get to prove it in the azure immensity of Perth Arena against Djokovic, who by then may have shaken off the vestiges of jet-lag and the Hopman Cup ball. It’s a perfect match for the Australian, assuming he gives his all. There’s no shame in losing, but if he wins, he’ll be anointed as world-class.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat David Nalbandian 6-3 4-6 6-4 to win the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris, France
Nadia Petrova won the Bell Challenge, beating Bethanie Mattek 4-6 6-4 6-1 in Quebec City, Canada
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova won the Ritro Slovak Open in Bratislava, Slovak Republic, beating Michaella Krajicek 6-3 6-1
David Koellerer beat Pau Capdeville 6-4 6-3 to win the Bancolombia Open 2008 in Cali, Colombia
Ivo Minar beat Alex Bogomolov Jr. 6-1 2-0 retired to win the Flea Market Cup Busan Challenger in Busan, Korea
“I’m going to go (to Shanghai) really to represent France and all my family and my friends. That’s it. I’m going to represent everyone and I’m going to give my best.” – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, after winning the Paris Masters and qualifying for the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai, China.
“I didn’t play bad, but I didn’t play like the other days.” – David Nalbandian, after losing to Tsonga in the final at Paris and a chance to qualify for the Tennis Masters Cup.
“If I feel like I want to continue to play, I will. If not, it will be over. For the moment, I just need to rest.” – Marat Safin, former world number one player on whether or not he will retire from tennis.
“Now I have a long journey ahead of me to Doha, but it’ll definitely be worth it. And then it’ll be really nice to put the racquets aside for a few weeks.” – Nadia Petrova, after winning the Bell Challenge.
“I saw him in the locker room five minutes before my match and he told me he had a pain in the back. I said, maybe we are both going to be going home tonight.” – Rafael Nadal, talking about Roger Federer after both withdrew from the Paris Masters with injuries.
“It wasn’t going to do me any good to play patty-cake back and forth with him. I’m not as quick as he is and I’m not as consistent as he is. It actually made for a pretty simple game plan.” – Andy Roddick, after his victory over Gilles Simon in Paris.
“I think with this calendar it’s very difficult to play a lot of years in a row. I think the ATP and everybody have to think about these things happening at the end of the season.” – Rafael Nadal, on the injuries to him and Federer.
“For him, it can’t all be serious. Off the court he is just a kid.” – Agent Tony Godsick, talking about his client, Roger Federer.
“We have now accomplished all that we set out to do at the USTA. The best time to move on is when the business is at an all-time high and a solid foundation has been built for the future.” – Arlen Kantarian, who is quitting at the end of the year as the USTA’s CEO for professional tennis.
The world’s top two players turned up injured on the same day. First, second-ranked Roger Federer pulled out of his quarterfinal match at the BNP Paribas Masters with back pain. Then top-seeded Rafael Nadal dropped the first set before retiring from his match against Nikolay Davydenko with a knee injury. By his standards, Federer has had a down year, winning his fifth straight US Open title but losing in the final at both the French Open and Wimbledon, and also losing his world number one ranking. This is the first time since 2003 that Federer has gone the entire season without a Masters Series trophy, and his four titles this year are his fewest since 2002. Nadal, who had a trainer work on his right knee and thigh before he retired, said he had never had this kind of injury before.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was instrumental in completing the field for the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai. Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina earned a spot in the elite field when Tsonga beat American James Blake in the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Masters. Then Tsonga clinched the final berth for himself when he beat David Nalbandian in the final in Paris. Earlier in the week, American Andy Roddick secured a spot in the Shanghai tournament by beating France’s Gilles Simon in a third-round match. Completing the singles field for the November 9-16 tournament are Spain’s Rafael Nadal, Swiss Roger Federer, Serb Novak Djokovic, Briton Andy Murray and Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko.
The final two teams to qualify for the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha, Qatar, are Kveta Peschke and Rennae Stubbs, along with Katherina Srebotnik and Ai Sugiyama. Previously qualified for the four-team field were Cara Black and Liezel Huber as well as Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual. The Peschke-Stubbs duo is making its second consecutive appearance as a team at the season finale.
Arlen Kantarian is leaving his post as the US Tennis Association’s chief executive officer for professional tennis. A former National Football League executive, Kantarian joined the USTA in March 2000 and is credited with turning the year’s final Grand Slam tournament into an entertainment spectacular. During his tenure, the US Open revenues jumped 80 percent as the tournament set annual records for attendance and revenue. He is credited with developing the instant replay and challenge format, moving the women’s final to Saturday night and securing television deals to boost the tournament’s profile and income.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum will pay tribute to Jane Brown Grimes at a dinner in New York City in December. Grimes began a two-year stint as president of the United States Tennis Association in January 2007 and has been a member of the USTA Board for Directors for the past seven years. She represents the United States on the International Tennis Federation Fed Cup and Grand Slam Committees. She served as the Hall of Fame’s president and chief executive officer from 1991 until 2000, overseeing a major reconstruction of the historic buildings and grounds of the Hall of Fame’s headquarters in Newport, Rhode Island.
Aleksandra Wozniak’s bid to become the first Canadian to reach the final of the Bell Challenge women’s tournament ended when she fell to American Bethanie Mattek in the semifinals at Quebec City. A native of Blaineville, Quebec, the 21-year-old Wozniak won a tournament in Stanford, Connecticut, just before the US open, making her the first Canadian in 20 years to win a WTA title. Mattek fell in the title match to top-seeded Nadia Petrova.
When the United States plays Switzerland in the opening round of Davis Cup next year, the Americans will be facing Roger Federer again. The last time Federer played a first-round Davis Cup tie was in 2004, when he led the Swiss to victory over Romania. The United States and Switzerland have met only twice in Davis Cup play, with the countries splitting their two meetings. The Americans won the 1992 final at Fort Worth, Texas. The last time they played, Federer had a hand in all three points as the Swiss beat the United States in Basel, Switzerland, in a first-round match in 2001.
STEP IN STEP
Serena Williams and James Blake will team up for the Hopman Cup in January. Serena and Mardy Fish won the mixed teams title a year ago, the second time Williams has won the event. Blake also has won the Hopman Cup twice, joining with Serena in 2003 and with Lindsay Davenport in 2004. Tournament director Pal McNamee said the Americans will be the top-seeded team. Others who are scheduled to be in the field include Dinara Safina and her brother Marat Safin – if he decides to continue his career, Germans Sabine Lisicki and Nicolas Kiefer, and the Slovak duo of Dominika Cibulkova and Dominik Hrbaty.
The season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships will be shown in the United States on the Tennis Channel and ESPN2. More than 30 live hours are planned from the prestigious women’s event being held this week in Doha, Qatar, almost all of which will be telecast in high definition. Combined with taped segments, the networks plan to televise close to 70 hours of high definition match coverage during the six-day tournament that features the world’s top eight singles players and top four doubles teams.
History was made at a USD $10,000 International Tennis Federation women’s tournament in Vila Real De Santo Antonio, Portugal, when two Moroccan Fed Cup teammates met in the final. It was the first all-Moroccan singles final on the ITF Women’s Circuit. Nadia Lalami, playing in her first career singles final, won the tournament when Lamia Essaadi retired from the match while trailing 2-1 in the opening set. Lalami also teamed up with her regular Fed Cup doubles partner Fatima El Allami to win the doubles. Prior to 2008, Bahia Mouhtassine was the only Moroccan woman to win a singles title, and she finished her career with eleven singles titles. This year, however, has been a banner one for Moroccan women’s tennis as Essaadi won a tournament in July and El Allami won a title in August.
Marat Safin is not sure he wants to continue playing tennis. After the 28-year-old Russian suffered a first-round loss at the Paris Masters, he said: “I need to enjoy my life without tennis. I will see if I continue.” Safin won the US Open in 2000 and was ranked number one in the world. He also won the Australian Open in 2005, the last of his 15 titles. Many times he has self-destructed in matches, and his latest defeat was no exception. After losing the opening set, Safin began the second set with four double faults. His career has been hampered by his volatile temper and, more recently, injuries.
SERVING THE GAME
Harold Mitchell is one of four new directors on the Tennis Australia board. The others are former Fed Cup player Janet Young, Stephen Healy and Graeme Holloway. Mitchell is a media buyer. Tennis Australia president Geoff Pollard was re-elected to the job he has held since 1989.
Paris: Jonas Bjorkman and Kevin Ullyett beat Jeff Coetzee and Wesley Moodie 6-2 6-2
Quebec City: Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Vania King beat Jill Craybas and Tamarine Tanasugarn 7-6 (3) 6-4
Cali: Daniel Koellerer and Boris Pashanski beat Diego Junqueira and Peter Luczak 6-7 (4) 6-4 10-4 (match tiebreak)
Bratislava: Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka beat Akgul Amanmuradova and Monica Niculescu 7-6 (1) 6-1
Busan: Rik De Voest and Ashley Fisher beat Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-2 2-6 10-6 (match tiebreak)
SITES TO SURF
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$4,450,000 Sony Ericsson Championships, Doha, Qatar, hard
$100,000 ITF women’s event, Krakow, Poland, hard
$106,500 Tatra Banka Open, Bratislava, Slovakia, hard
Cancer Treatment Centers of America Championships at Surprise, Surprise, Arizona
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$3,700,000 Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai, China, carpet
$125,000 PEOPLEnet Cup, Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, hard