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
Mondays With Bob Greene: Doubles is like Marriage
Jelena Jankovic beat Nadia Petrova 6-4 6-3 to win the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany
Tomas Berdych won the AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships men’s singles, defeating Juan Martin del Potro 6-1 6-4 in Tokyo, Japan
Caroline Wozniacki beat Kala Kanepi 6-2 3-6 6-1 to win the women’s singles at the AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships in Tokyo, Japan
Sorana Cirstea defeated Sabine Lisicki 2-6 6-4 7-6 (4) to capture the Tashkent Open in Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Dmitry Tursunov beat Paul-Henri Mathieu 7-6 (6) 1-6 6-4 to win the Open de Moselle in Metz, France
Teimuraz Gabashvili won the Ethias Trophy by beating Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-4 6-4 in Mons, Belgium
Richard Krajicek beat Goran Ivanisevic 7-6 7-5 to win the AFAS Tennis Classics in Eindhoven, Netherlands
“There are some days you wake up and you know it’s not going to be your day.” – Nadia Petrova, after losing to Jelena Jankovic in the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix final.
“Doubles is like marriage. It has to be good from the first day.” – Mischa Zverev, who teamed with Mikhail Youzhny to win the doubles at the AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships in Tokyo.
“She is having a great year and I knew it would be hard to beat her. But the game went according to plan.” – Venus Williams, after beating Dinara Safina 6-4 6-2.
“It feels great to be back at number one, but my goal is to finish the year as number one. I’m playing better and better, I am improving. I don’t feel any extra pressure.” – Jelena Jankovic, on her return to the top spot in the WTA Tour rankings.
“I feel fortunate to be healthy again, but I want to remain at the top of the game for many more years to come and go after the number one ranking again.” – Roger Federer, after pulling out of the Stockholm Open.
“I need to take a break now to get it back to 100 percent, which is why I have to regretfully take this decision and withdraw. I have played a lot this year and my body needs to recover.” – Serena Williams, after withdrawing from the Kremlin Cup with an ankle injury.
“After I lost the first set I checked the clock and saw it was only 20 minutes, so I told myself I had to make it at least an hour. Of course I’m very happy about my win today, and for both of my wins over the Williams sisters this year.” – Li Na, after beating Serena William 0-6 6-1 6-4 and knocking the US Open champion out of the number one ranking.
“I think I have to come to Germany more often.” – Victoria Azarenka, who has reached the semifinals in both tournaments she has played in Germany this year.
“People want to see me because I was once the number one in the world and won Grand Slam titles. People want to see the guys who they idolized. Now, as we get older, we’re really thankful that people want to see us. It’s really wonderful, and we’re going to try to give our best back.” – Yevgeny Kafelnikov, playing his first competitive tennis match in five years, the BlackRock Tour of Champions event in Eindhoven, Netherlands.
“I have played one match with her here and I have won. Not bad.” – Goran Ivanisevic, saying his 5-year-old daughter Amber, who was watching her father play for the first time, is his lucky charm.
“I still cannot fully realize that I’ve won. In the middle of the match I thought my chances of winning were about 40 percent.” – Ksenia Palkina, a teenager from Kyrgystan ranked 203rd in the world, after she upset second-seeded Olga Govortsova in the first round of the Tashkent Open.
“Our success in these junior team events against the world’s best competition is a good indication of where our players stand amongst their peers at this state. Of course there is a lot of work to be done for these kids to become world-class professionals. But, if these results are any indication, the future is very promising.” – Patrick McEnroe, on the United States sweep of the Junior Fed Cup and Junior Davis Cup competitions.
In the game of musical chairs that is called the WTA Tour rankings, Jelena Jankovic is once again in the top spot. The Serb moved up to number one when Serena Williams was upset by China’s Li Na. Jankovic held the top ranking for one week in August. Since Justine Henin retired in May, four players have been number one: Williams, Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic and Maria Sharapova. Williams held the top spot for four weeks after defeating Jankovic in the US Open final. Overall, Jankovic has won more matches than any other player on tour this year.
Adrian Mannarino had a ball in Metz, France. Ranked 181st in the world, the French qualifier didn’t lose a set in his run to the semifinals at the Open de Moselle. Then he ran into Paul-Henri Matheu, who barely escaped Mannarino 7-6 (8) 7-6 (1). The 20-year-old Mannarino had not won an ATP-level match before he upset sixth-seeded Andreas Seppi in the opening round at Metz.
China’s top two players are making a lot of noise on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour this year. At Wimbledon, Zheng Jie became the first Chinese player to beat a reigning world number one when she shocked Ana Ivanovic on her way to the semifinals. At the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany, last week, Li Na matched that feat, knocking Serena Williams out of the tournament and the number one ranking, 0-6 6-1 6-4. It was Li’s 11th career win over a top 10 player but first over a number one.
An El Al plane carrying Israeli tennis star Dudi Sela had to make an emergency landing in Beijing when a bird flew into one of its engines. Sela was returning to Israel after losing in a tournament in Tokyo. While the plane was heading back to Beijing, Sela called his brother Ofer in Israel to let him know what was happening. El Al sent a replacement jet to fly the 150 passengers to Israel.
An ankle injury has forced Serena Williams to withdraw from the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. The American withdrew two days after being upset by China’s Li Na in Stuttgart, Germany. The winner of four tournaments this year, Williams said her left ankle has been bothering her since the US Open last month, which she won.
Yevgeny Kafelnikov admits he is delighted to be back playing competitively after a five-year layoff. “It was quite exciting,” the Russian said after losing to Michael Chang in a BlackRock Tour of Champions match at Eindhoven, Netherlands. “I haven’t had this feeling in a long time.” Once he decided to play again, Kafelnikov worked hard to lose the weight he had gained after retiring. Then he asked to play in the AFAS Classics tournament in Eindhoven. He came away winless in his return, losing also to Paul Haarhuis and Goran Ivanisevic.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga became only the eighth player in the last 20 yeas to win his first ATP title by defeating a top-five opponent in the final, knocking off third-ranked Novak Djokovic to capture the Thailand Open in Bangkok. Greg Sharko, senior editor of ATPTennis.com, says Tsonga is the first to accomplish the feat since fellow Frenchman Michael Llorda did it four years ago when he beat Guillermo Coria, who was number three in the world at the time. In 1988, Mikael Pernfors won his first title in Los Angeles, beating fourth-ranked Andre Agassi. Jim Courier’s first title, in 1989 in Basel, Switzerland, came when he beat third-ranked Stefan Edberg. Others who beat top five players to capture their first tournament titles were Omar Camporese in 1991, Alberta Costa and Filip Dewulf in 1995, and Hyung-Taik Lee in 2003.
SET FOR KOOYONG
Two Swiss players – US Open champion Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka – will warm up for the 2009 Australian Open by playing at the invitational Kooyong Classic. Weakened by mononucleosis, Federer missed the tournament in 2008. Also scheduled to play in the event are Marat Safin, Fernando Gonzalez, Marcos Baghdatis, James Blake and Ernests Gulbis. The eighth spot for the tournament, which guarantees each player three matches on the same surface as that used at the Australian Open, will be named later.
Saying he needs a break, Roger Federer will not play in the upcoming Stockholm Open. Federer has not played since winning his fifth consecutive US Open last month. “(This) has been a tough year for me as I was always playing catch-up after being diagnosed with mononucleosis at the beginning of the year,” said Federer, who lost his number one ranking to Rafael Nadal in August after holding it for a record 237 consecutive weeks.
Paradorn Srichaphan is thinking about switching sports, perhaps becoming a race car driver. Beset by injury for almost two years, Thailand’s best player has been busy promoting motorsports in his country. “I’ve been really bored and it would be huge challenge to move from one sport to the next,” Srichaphan said. “I’m involved in a racing team and my sponsors are interested in having me racing for them, but only when I retire from tennis. I still plan to return to the tour.”
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has penalized Croatia for playing Davis Cup matches against Brazil on a court that was considered too fast. As part of the Davis Cup Committee’s ruling, Croatia will lose 2,000 points and pay an undisclosed fine. Marina Mihelic, head of the Croatian Tennis Federation, said she was “surprised and annoyed” by the decision. The ITF said Croatia violated the federation’s “court pace rating rule,” which assesses the speed of surfaces other than grass and clay. It’s the first such case involving the rule, which was implemented this year. The ITF rejected Brazil’s appeal to have Croatia disqualified, the victory awarded to Brazil and financial compensation paid to Brazil.
The United States Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup teams captured the 2008 World Finals without dropping a single match. The international team competition for players age 16 and under held in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, continued the American domination of junior events. The American boys’ and girls’ squads won the World Junior Tennis Championships for 14-and-under in August in Prostejoy, Czech Republic. It is the first time the same country has won all four titles in the same year. The American Junior Fed Cup team beat Colombia, Chinese Taipei, Serbia, Hungary and Great Britain. The American Junior Davis Cup squad beat Latvia, Chinese Taipei, Sweden, India and Argentina.
Mark L. Stenning has been awarded the prestigious Chairman’s Award by the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island. The Chairman’s Award recognizes outstanding service by a Hall of Fame board member. Stenning joined the ITHOF in 1980 and currently holds the position of chief executive officer. He also currently serves on the Davis Cup and Fed Cup Committees of the United States Tennis Association.
TENNIS.com is the new title sponsor of the Zurich Open, a stop on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. The Tennis Company, headquartered in Santa Monica, California, calls itself the world’s leading website for tennis fans. Aside from TENNIS.com, the company publishes Tennis Magazine and Smash Magazine. The Tennis Company is also a managing partner in the Indian Springs, California, tournament. Among others, The Tennis Company’s partners include Chris Evert, Billie Jean King and Pete Sampras.
Stuttgart: Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Patty Schnyder beat Kveta Peschke and Rennae Stubbs 6-2 6-4
Tokyo (men): Mikhail Youzhny and Mischa Zverev beat Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes 6-3 6-4
Tokyo (women): Jill Craybus and Marina Erakovic beat Ayumi Morita and Aiko Nakamura 4-6 7-5 10-6 (match tiebreak)
Tashkent: Ioana Raluca Olaru and Olga Savchuk beat Nina Bratchikova and Kathrin Woerle 5-7 7-5 10-7 (match tiebreak)
Metz: Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra beat Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski 5-7 6-3 10-8 (match tiebreak)
Mons: Michal Mertinak and Lovro Zovko beat Yves Allegro and Horia Tecau 7-5 6-3
SITES TO SURF
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$1,000,000 ATP Kremlin Cup, Moscow, Russia, carpet
$800,000 IF Stockholm Open, Stockholm, Sweden, hard
$755,000 Bank Austria TennisTrophy, Vienna, Austria, hard
$1,340,000 Kremlin Cup, Moscow, Russia, carpet
BlackRock Tour of Champions, Budapest, Hungary, carpet
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$2,450,000 Mutua Madrilena Masters Madrid, Madrid, Spain, hard
$125,000 Tashkent, Uzbekistan
$600,000 Zurich Open, Zurich, Switzerland
$100,000 Internazionali Tennis Val Gardena, Ortisei, Italy, carpet
Mondays With Bob Greene: I played unbelievable tennis against Novak
Andy Roddick won the China Open by beating Dudi Sela 6-4 6-7 (6) 6-3 in Beijing, China
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Novak Djokovic 7-6 (4) 6-4 to win the Thailand Open in Bangkok, Thailand
Jelena Jankovic beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3 6-2 to win the China open women’s singles in Beijing
Maria Kirilenko defeated Samantha Stosur to win the Hansol Korea Open in Seoul, South Korea, 2-6 6-1 6-4
Alberto Martin beat Julian Reister 6-2 6-0 to win the ATP Challenger Trophy 2008 in Trnava, Slovakia
John McEnroe won the Vivium Victory Challenge in Luxembourg, beating Henri Leconte 6-1 6-4
Jim Courier beat Todd Martin 6-2 3-6 10-5 (match tiebreak) to win the Citadel Group Championships at The Palisades in Charlotte, North Carolina
“I’ve been dreaming about this, so I’m very happy. I played unbelievable tennis against Novak. It’s one of the great moments of my life.” – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, after beating Novak Djokovic to win the Thailand Open, his first ATP singles title.
“I lost to a great player. Bravo to Jo and his team for his first ATP title. I’m sure we’ll be seeing him again often in the future.” – Novak Djokovic.
“This feels really good. It’s been a lot of years since I’ve won one of these events, so many that I can’t even remember the last one I won.” – John McEnroe, after beating Henri Leconte to win the Vivium Victory Challenge.
“At first I couldn’t believe it. I thought that maybe they were joking or something. Me, playing with all these great players like Borg, McEnroe, Guillermo Vilas and Henri Leconte, is incredible. When I started to play tennis, Borg was my idol, so this is the most fantastic thing for me.” – Johny Goudenbour, who was given a wild card to play in a BlackRock Tour of Champions event in Luxembourg.
“If I was more consistent I think I would be ranked higher, maybe Top 10 or Top 15. But I have time to improve. I’m only 21 and I’ll get more experience in the time to come.” – Maria Kirilenko, after winning her third singles title of the year.
“Svetlana beat me two times this year. I was really motivated to get a win against her, and winning in two sets is very satisfying.” – Jelena Jankovic, after beating Svetlana Kuznetsova to win the China Open.
“I’m disappointed. I wasn’t moving the ball or doing the right things on the court. I love playing here, so it was disappointing to not play well in the final.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova.
“This was a good win for me. It was in China and in front of my home crowd. There were lots of fans supporting me, which gave me even more motivation.” – Zheng Jie, after upsetting Ana Ivanovic in the China Open.
“I was defending a lot. It was like running a marathon out there. She was really aggressive and was dominating a lot. I didn’t even realize how much I was running out there.” – Ana Ivanovic, after losing to Zheng Jie.
“I had a lot of pressure on me during those years and I was too young for it. … This time, win or lose, I’m just trying to enjoy it. I’m going to have more fun. And I think this will be good for Japanese tennis too.” – Kimiko Date-Krumm, on her returning to tennis after a 12-year hiatus following her retirement.
“I didn’t feel comfortable on court. Unfortunately, I didn’t win. The other guy was better than me.” – Marat Safin, after suffering a 6-4 7-6 first-round loss to Philipp Petzschner at the Thailand Open.
“Roger (Federer) has said he wants to put the Davis Cup into his calendar, but he wants to see all the details first. He will do anything possible to be there.” – Swiss Tennis spokeswoman Sandra Perez on whether Federer will play in a first-round Davis Cup tie against the United States.
“I will have to digest this one and make sure I go back on the right track for the next few tournaments.” – Amelie Mauresmo, a former world number one who has lost her last two first-round matches.
“People tend to think athletes have a glamorous life, traveling all the time to international destinations and staying at five-star hotels. But in reality it is not all that great. We do go through some difficult moments in our careers, with struggles, intrigues and fights, like in any other job.” – Fernando Meligeni, who has written a book about his 14-year career as a professional tennis player.
“As an American player it meant a lot to me to break the record. It’s nice to have the opportunity to play so many great pro circuit events in this country. I’ve played most of the pro circuit events held in the US and have met a lot of wonderful people, and have a lot of good memories from the different tournaments.” – Julie Ditty, after becoming the new record-holder of the most career USTA Pro Circuit titles.
SERVING WITH THE STARS
Johny Goudenbour’s day job is with the local tourist board in Luxembourg. But he lived a dream this past week at the Vivium Victory Challenge, a stop on the BlackRock Tour of Champions. Goudenbour was Luxembourg’s highest ranked tennis player for six consecutive years in the 1980s, and he reached a career high world ranking of 304. Now 45 years old, Goudenbour still plays inter-club level tennis in neighboring Germany, but his main job these days is putting together cultural films promoting his home town. He was surprised when he received a telephone call offering him a wild card into the seniors tournament being played in Luxembourg. Goudenbour upset both Carl-Uwe Steeb and Cedric Pioline before losing to Henri Leconte 6-2 7-5.
With tennis tournaments scheduled for the country in November, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has expressed its concern to Pakistan about security. A Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) offical said the ITF did not call for cancellation of the events, but asked for details on security arrangements in view of travel advisories issued by the United States, European and other countries. A record number of players from Great Britain, Australia, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Tanzania, Romania, Kazakistan, Iran, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Taiwan and India have entered the first tournament, which will be held in Islamabad.
His lawyer says Nikolay Davydenko is considering suing the ATP to get the men’s tennis organization to pay the Russian’s legal costs following a 13-month gambling inquiry that found no evidence that he did anything wrong. Attorney Frank Immenga said Davydenko wants the ATP to issue a more positive press statement and “maybe apologize,” according to the Bloomberg news agency. Davydenko also is considering taking action against Betfair Ltd., the British gambling site, for making public details of its probe into a Davydenko match.
Andy Roddick says the game of tennis in the United States is in good health despite no American man winning a Grand Slam title in five years. Roddick was the last American man to win a major, the US Open in 2003. But the former world number one notes that the United States has three players in the top 25 and two in the top ten. Plus, he points out that the US won the Davis Cup in 2007 and the fact that the brothers Bob and Mike Bryan are the world’s top-ranked doubles team. “If you compare us with other countries, we’re very, very strong,” Roddick said.
Zheng Jie is proving her Wimbledon showing was no surprise. The right-hander upset second-seeded Ana Ivanovic 7-6 (4) 2-6 6-4 at the China Open in a quarterfinal baseline slugfest that lasted six minutes short of three hours. It was Zheng’s second straight win over her Serbian opponent in as many 2008 meetings. She beat Ivanovic at Wimbledon to become the first Chinese player to topple a reigning world number one. It also was her first Top 10 win. In the Beijing tournament, she also beat Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, giving Zheng her second and third career wins over players ranked in the Top 10.
SPORTS HALL INDUCTEE
Billie Jean King is in yet another hall of fame. The tennis great is one of four athletes elected to the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame (BASHOF). Others included in the 2009 class are baseball pitcher Gaylord Perry, football tight end Dave Casper and quarterback Craig Morton. The four will be inducted at a banquet March 9 in San Francisco.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Rod Laver has been elected a Life Trustee of the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum in Newport, Rhode Island. Nine new members have been elected to the Hall’s board of directors: Douglas Fonte, Lucy Garvin, Elizabeth Jeffett, Ted Leonsis , Andrew McElwee Jr., David Westin, Allen Brill, David Tyree and Nancy von Auersperg. Returning to the board are Robert Downey, Steve Lessing and Sue Ann Weinberg.
Simone Bolelli has been banned by the Italian Tennis Federation from national team events for skipping the country’s Davis Cup matches with Latvia. Bolelli, ranked 45th in the world, chose instead to play tour events in Bangkok, Thailand, and in Tokyo, Japan. Bolelli said he told Italian Davis Cup captain Corrado Barrazzutti well in advance of the international team competition that he preferred to work on his fast-court game in Asia.
For the second time in nine years, the United States could face a Roger Federer-led Switzerland team when the two countries meet in a first-round Davis Cup match next year. The last time they faced each other, Federer won three points to lead Switzerland to victory in 2001. Spain and Argentina, this year’s finalists, will begin next year’s play at home, Argentina facing the Netherlands and Spain playing host to Serbia. In other World Group first-round matches, France will be at the Czech Republic, Chile at Croatia, Israel travels to Sweden and Austria goes to Germany.
SHRIVER CHARITY CLASSIC
US Open champion Serena Williams and Olympic gold medalist Elena Dementieva will face each other at the 23rd annual Pam Shriver Charity Tennis Classic in November. Williams is ranked number one in the world, while Dementieva is ranked number four. They will meet in a “Battle of Olympic Gold Medal Champions.” Williams teamed with her sister Venus to win the doubles gold medal at the Beijing Olympics. Net proceeds from the Tennis Classic are distributed to children’s charities under the guidance of the Baltimore Community Foundation.
SAYING IT ALL
Former ATP star Fernando Meligeni has turned author. His book – “Aqui Tem! Vitórias e Memórias de Fernando Meligeni com Andre Kfouri” – was released last week in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The book was written by Meligeni and Andre Kfouri, a well-known sports journalist in Brazil who currently is working for ESPN. Ranked as high as 25th in the world, Meligeni was a French Open semifinalist in 1999. He said he wrote the book to unveil some funny and stressful behind-the-scenes moments of his 14-year career on the tour.
Julie Ditty is the new record-holder for most career USTA Pro Circuit championships. The 29-year-old swept the singles and doubles titles at a recent ITF Women’s Circuit event in Albuquerque, New Mexico, earning her 31st and 32nd career USTA Pro Circuit titles, the most of any player, man or woman. On the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, the 29-year-old Ditty’s best result came last November when she reached the semifinals of an event and broke into the Top 100 for the first time. The previous record of 30 titles was held jointly by Paul Goldstein and Nana Smith.
SIXTH SENSE ACADEMY
Justine Henin and Carlos Rodrigez have opened a tennis academy in Florida. The superstar player, who was ranked number one in the world when she retired from the sport earlier this year, and her coach opened their second 6th Sense Tennis Academy, this one in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida, located 30 miles northwest of Orlando. Their first academy was opened in Belgium almost a year ago.
When Stephen Huss and Ross Hutchins won the doubles at China Open, it was their first title as a team. The 32-year-old Huss had won two other doubles crowns, including Wimbledon in 2005 with Wesley Moodie. Hutchins, nine years younger than his partner, won his first title in just his second ATP final. But Hutchins has done well in Beijing, having reached the semifinals last year when he was teamed with Eric Butorac. Huss and Hutchins became partners in Valencia, Spain, in April where they lost in the first round. Prior to winning in Beijing, their best result had been reaching the third round at Roland Garros.
SHARAPOVA OUT FOR YEAR
Because of her lingering shoulder injury, Maria Sharapova has decided to stop playing tournaments until next year. She is currently in Arizona where she is rehabilitating her shoulder. The injury has kept her from practicing the past several weeks, but she hopes to return to practice soon. She has decided to skip tournaments in Asia, Europe and the season-ending Championships. Sharapova won the Australian Open in January along with two other singles titles and has been ranked number one in the world this year.
Beijing: Anabel Medina Garrigues and Caroline Wozniacki beat Han Xinyun and Xu Yi-Fan 6-1 6-3
Bangkok: Chuang Chia-Jung and Hsieh Su-Wei beat Vera Dushevina and Maria Kirilenko 6-3 6-0
Beijing: Stephen Huss and Ross Hutchins beat Ashley Fisher and Bobby Reynolds 7-5 6-4
Bangkok: Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes beat Scott Lipsky and David Martin 6-4 7-6 (4)
Trnava: David Zkoch and Igor Zelenay beat Daniel Koellerer and Michael Mertinak 6-3 6-1
SITES TO SURF
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$832,000 AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships, Tokyo, Japan, hard
$416,000 Open de Moselle, Metz, France, hard
$125,000 Ethias Trophy, Mons, Belgium, hard
$650,000 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, Stuttgart, Germany, hard
$175,000 AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships, Tokyo, Japan, hard
$145,000 Tashkent Open, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, hard
AFAS Tennis Classics, BlackRock Tournament of Champions, Eindhoven, Netherlands, carpet
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$1,000,000 ATP Kremlin Cup, Moscow, Russia, carpet
$800,000 IF Stockholm Open, Stockholm, Sweden, hard
$755,000 Bank Austria TennisTrophy, Vienna, Austria, hard
$1,340,000 Kremlin Cup, Moscow, Russia, carpet
BlackRock Tour of Champions, Budapest, Hungary, carpet
Mondays With Bob Greene: Andy Murray edges Novak Djokovic
Andy Murray edged Novak Djokovic 7-6 (4) 7-6 (5) to win the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters at Cincinnati, Ohio
Dinara Safina won the Rogers Cup in Montreal, Canada, beating Dominika Cibulkova 6-2 6-1
Caroline Wozniacki beat Vera Dushevina 6-0 6-2 to win the Nordic Light Open in Stockholm, Sweden
Filippo Volandri beat Oscar Hernandez 6-3 7-5 to win the Zucchetti Kos Tennis Cup in Cordenons, Italy
Dudi Sela defeated Kevin Kim 6-3 6-0 in Vancouver, Canada, to win the Odlum Brown Vancouver Open men’s singles
Urszula Radwanska won the women’s singles at the Odlum Brown Vancouver Open by beating Julie Coin 2-6 6-3 7-5
Patrick Rafter beat Michael Stich 6-3 7-6 (4) to win the s-Tennis Masters in Graz, Austria
“Since I was a young girl it has been my dream to become number one in the world. When you get older, at least one day you can say you were number one and no one can take that away from you. You are in the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour history books, and it’s a great achievement.” – Jelena Jankovic, who will take over the number one spot on August 11.
“Right now I know I’m going to be number one and I’m very, very happy to be number one. It’s a present for a lot of work in the past.” – Rafael Nadal, who will replace Roger Federer as number one on August 18.
“I secured the world number one ranking spot. I’ve never been number one in the world before, so finally I made that.” – Michael Stich, who replaced Goran Ivanisevic atop the BlackRock Tour of Champions rankings.
“It’s huge to win your first sort of major tournament, and to do it in a match like today makes it more special … I put in a lot of work off the court to be able to win these sort of tournaments, and it makes it all worthwhile.” – Andy Murray, after beating Novak Djokovic to capture the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters in Cincinnati.
“He was playing a lot of slice and changing pace to my forehand. I just lost the rhythm. Overall I wasn’t really happy with the way I played today. I could have played better.” – Novak Djokovic, after losing to Andy Murray.
“It’s the first time in my life I’ve won back-to-back tournaments. I used to win a tournament then lose first round the next week. But now I’m always just taking it one match at a time. It’s a new experience for me and really just amazing.” – Dinara Safina, after winning the Rogers Cup in Montreal.
“This was a great experience. Every round I beat a better player than me. I played really well in this tournament. Hopefully in my next final I will be more relaxed and not be scared about it.” – Dominika Cibulkova, after losing to Dinara Safina in Montreal.
“It’s been a fantastic week. But it wasn’t as easy as it looked. I was a little bit nervous in the second set when she came back.” – Caroline Wozniacki, after winning her first WTA Tour title, the Nordic Light Open, in Stockholm, Sweden.
“We’re going into the Olympics playing, I think, the best we have all year. To beat a great team like Andy (Ram) and Jonathan (Erlich), who have had a tremendous year, it bodes well.” – Mike Bryan, after he and his brother Bob won the doubles title in Cincinnati.
“It hurts me so much to miss the Olympics and the U.S. Open, you have no idea.” – Maria Sharapova, a three-time Grand Slam tournament winner who has been sidelined by a shoulder injury.
“Rainer Schuettler claims that he should be allowed to compete in the Games, considering that he has been entered by the German NOC [National Olympic Committee] and that he is eligible as a result of his position in the ITF computer ranking, due to the withdrawal of some players who were qualified for the Olympic tournament.” – Court of Arbitration for Sport, in a statement.
SET FOR NUMBER ONE – 1
Even though his match win streak was ended, Rafael Nadal will replace Roger Federer on top of the ATP rankings. He just has to wait a little bit for his crown. Nadal, who spent a record 158 weeks as the world’s number two player, assured himself of the top ranking when he beat Nicolas Lapentti in the quarterfinals of the Cincinnati Masters. But because he lost to Novak Djokovic in the semifinals, Nadal won’t move ahead of Federer until August 18, the day after the Beijing Olympic tennis ends. Federer has been ranked number one in the world for a record 235 consecutive weeks. Nadal’s loss to Djokovic snapped his 32-match winning streak, but he will become the 24th player in the history of the ATP rankings to hold the number one spot. He also will be the third Spaniard to be number one, joining Carlos Moya (1999) and Juan Carlos Ferrero (2003).
SET FOR NUMBER ONE – 2
Jelena Jankovic will take over the number one ranking in women’s tennis, replacing countrywoman Ana Ivanovic. The switch will occur on August 11 when Jankovic will have 3,620 points – eight more than Ivanovic, the French Open champion. Ivanovic was the first player from Serbia to be ranked number one. Now Serbia will have back-to-back number one players. While Jankovic will become the 18th player to be ranked number one in women’s tennis, she will be the first to reach the top without ever having played in a Grand Slam tournament final. Besides Jankovic and Ivanovic, others to be ranked number one are Chris Evert, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Martina Navratilova, Tracy Austin, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters, Jennifer Capriati, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Monica Seles, Amelie Mauresmo, Steffi Graf, Martina Hingis, Lindsay Davenport and Maria Sharapova.
Caroline Wozniacki needed two victories on the final day to capture her first WTA Tour title. Because rain washed out the semifinals on Saturday, the fourth-seeded Dane began Sunday in Stockholm, Sweden, by upsetting top-seeded and defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4 6-1. Wozniacki then completed the best week of her career by crushing Vera Dushevina 6-0 6-2 to win the Nordic Light Open. Wozniacki didn’t lose a set in her five matches as she became the first Danish player to win a WTA Tour singles title. Tine Scheuer-Larsen of Denmark won seven doubles titles in the 1980s and 1990s.
Maria Sharapova will miss both the Beijing Olympics and the U.S. Open because of two small tears in her right shoulder muscle. An MRI revealed the tears after she withdrew from the Rogers Cup in Montreal. Doctors said time would heal the injury. The Russian righthander won the U.S. Open two years ago and was ranked number one in the world going into the French Open in May. She has since dropped to number three in the rankings. Sharapova has played in each of the past 23 major championships, winning
Wimbledon in 2004 and the Australian Open in January as well as the U.S. Open.
Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina and Stephanie Vogt of Liechtenstein are the latest withdrawals from the Olympic tennis tournament because of injuries. Chela was replaced by countryman Agustin Calleri, while Vogt was replaced in the women’s singles by Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand.
SPOT FOR SCHUETTLER?
Rainer Schuettler wants to participate in the tennis competition at the Beijing Olympics. Ranked number 33 in the world, the German has asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport to order the International Tennis Federation to enter him in the men’s singles competition at the Beijing Games. The ITF used the ATP and WTA rankings as a guide to determine who gets the 56 direct spots in the men’s and women’s singles competitions. Six of the remaining eight spots in each tournament were given out by the ITF’s Olympic Committee. Each country, however, is limited to a maximum of six players in each tournament, with up to four competing in singles and up to two teams in doubles.
SMASHING FOR CHARITY
Andre Agassi, Lindsay Davenport and James Blake will be among those playing at a charity event hosted by America’s top doubles team. The Bryan Brothers’ All-Star Tennis Smash will be held in Los Angeles on September 27 and will benefit local and national charities. “We were thrilled when Andre committed to play at our event,” Bob Bryan said. “On the court, he’s of course long been a hero of ours. Off the court, he’s been a mentor to us as we’ve watched him build the Andre Agassi Foundation.”
Roger Federer and Bjorn Borg will team up for a special doubles event on November 20 in Macau. The two five-time Wimbledon winners will face John McEnroe and either Rafael Nadal or James Blake at The Venetian Macau Tennis Showdown in a Tour of Champions event. McEnroe’s partner will come from the country that loses the Davis Cup semifinal between the United States and Spain in September. The Showdown will also feature two singles matches – a one-set match between Borg and McEnroe, followed by a best-of-three sets between Federer and either Nadal or Blake.
Dinara Safina just keeps winning. The Russian right-hander won her third tournament title in her last six events by crushing Dominika Cibulkova 6-2 6-1 at the Rogers Cup in Montreal. Safina, the sister of two-time Grand Slam tournament champion Marat Safin, improved her record to 27-3 since the start of May. Nine of those victories have come against top ten players, including handing Justine Henin her career-ending loss.
With the key part of the hard court season beginning, Andy Roddick has been felled by a shoulder injury. Roddick was forced out of the Cincinnati Masters because of the injury, which he said he got from sleeping in the wrong position. The American decided to skip the Beijing Olympics so he could prepare for the year’s final Grand Slam tournament, the U.S. Open. But Roddick has suffered a series of disappointing results this summer, including a second-round loss at Wimbledon.
His match interrupted at times by torrential rain and lightning storms, Pat Rafter nevertheless captured his first BlackRock Tour of Champions title in Graz, Austria. The Australian produced some impressive serve-and-volley tennis to beat Michael Stich 6-4 7-6 (4). Despite the loss, Stich, by reaching the final, moved to the top of the South African Airways rankings, replacing Goran Ivanisevic as number one.
Kimiko Date-Krumm ran her winning streak to three straight tournaments when she captured a $25,000 International Tennis Federation tournament in Obihiro, Japan, beating Suchanun Viratprasert of Thailand 6-3 7-6 (5) in the final. The 37-year-old Date-Krumm also won two other titles in Japan in recent weeks, in Myazaki and Tokyo.
Cincinnati: Bob and Mike Bryan beat Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram 4-6 7-6 (2) 10-7 (match tiebreak)
Montreal: Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Maria Kirilenko and Flavia Pennetta 6-1 6-1
Stockholm: Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova beat Petra Cetkovska and Lucie Safarova 7-5 6-4
Cordenons: Marco Crugnola and Alessic Di Mauro beat David Skoch and Igor Zelenay 1-6 6-4 10-6 (match tiebreak)
Vancouver: Eric Butorac and Travis Parrott beat Rik De Voest and Ashley Fisher 6-4 7-6 (3)
Vancouver: Carley Gullickson and Nicole Kriz beat Christina Fusano and Junri Namigata 6-7 (4) 6-1 10-5 (match tiebreak)
SITES TO SURF
Los Angeles: www.countrywideclassic.com
Vale do Lobo: www.grandchampions.org
Olympics: www. Itftennis.com/Olympics/
Bryan brothers: www.bryanbrosfoundation.org/invite/
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$525,000 Countrywide Classic, Los Angeles, California, hard
$125,000 Open Castilla y Leon, Segovia, Spain, hard
$100,000 ITF event, Monterrey, Mexico, hard
Vale do Lobo Grand Champions CGD, Vale do Lobo, Portugal, hard
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
Olympics, Beijing, China, hard
$483,000 Legg Mason Tennis Classic, Washington, DC, hard
$100,000 ATP Challenger, Istanbul, Turkey, hard
Olympics, Beijing, China, hard
$175,000 Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open, Cincinnati, Ohio, hard
Verkerk And El Aynaoui Continue Their Comebacks
Last week on the challenger circuit saw two veteran players defy the odds by winning events in the hopes of reclaiming their former top 15 status, while the world’s No. 1 junior player won her first challenger title on the women’s side.
After losing in the first round of a futures event in February, many could have argued that it would have been time for Martin Verkerk of the Netherlands to hang up his racket. However, the former Roland Garros finalist has refused to quit and his results have improved rapidly. After winning a futures event in Montreal last month, he won the $50,000 event last week in Athens, Greece with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Adrian Cruciat of Romania. The win gives Verkerk a feed-up into the qualifying draw of an ATP event this spring and he will request a wild card into Roland Garros later this month.
Younes El Aynaoui of Morocco is also continuing his improbable comeback this week, prevailing at the $35,000 event in Chiasso, Switzerland with a dominating 7-6, 6-3 win over top-seeded Alberto Martin of Spain. The win moves the 36-year-old back inside the top 250 and with minimal points to defend for the rest of the year, a return to the top 100 by years end is not unlikely.
Other challenger results on the men’s side include Go Soeda of Japan winning at the $75,000 event in Busan, Korea. Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil delighted the local crowd by winning the $35,000 event in Florianpolis. Dawid Olejniczak of Poland won the $50,000 event in Mexico City, Mexico, and Bobby Reynolds of the United States won the $50,000 event in Tallahassee, Florida.
At the $100,000 tournament in Saint Malo, France, Frenchwoman Stephanie Cohen Aloro won the biggest title of her career with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over Jelena Kostanic Tosic of Croatia. The 25-year-old took advantage of the rain delay late in the second set, rallying off three straight games from 4-5 down to win the match. Cohen-Aloro moved back into the top 100 this week with this result. Despite the loss, Kostanic has turned her year around in Saint Malo after a disappointing 1-6 record heading into the event.
Bari, Italy hosted a $25,000 event this week, and this year girls champion at the Australian Open, Arantxa Rus of The Netherlands, won the title with a hard fought 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 win over Alberta Brianti of Italy. In winning her first challenger title, Rus will also receive a feed-up into the qualifying draw of Strasbourg, which will be just the second WTA event of her career.
After dropping down to the satellite tour for much of last year, Soledad Esperon of Argentina is now playing the best tennis of her career. She won her second challenger title in a row at the $25,000 event in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla, routing Sesil Karatantcheva of Bulgaria 6-4, 6-1. Esperon moves back into the top 200 this week and will contest her first Grand Slam qualifying event in two years at Roland Garros next month. Despite the loss, Karatantcheva has started her comeback from a drug suspension strongly, winning two challenger titles and reaching the finals of two others since January.
The spotlight stays on the men this week as Dudi Sela of Israel is the top seed at the $100,000 event in Paget, Bermuda. Benjamin Becker of Germany leads the way at the $50,000 tournament in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Kevin Anderson of South Africa takes top billing at the $35,000 event in Cremona, Italy.