Read about what to expect from the first Premier Mandatory tournament of 2013 as we break down each quarter of the WTA Indian Wells draw in detail!
First quarter: For the second straight year, Azarenka arrives in the desert with a perfect season record that includes titles at the Australian Open and the Premier Five tournament in Doha. Able to defend those achievements, she eyes another prestigious defense at Indian Wells on a surface that suits her balanced hybrid of offense and defense as well as any other. In her opener, she could face the only woman in the draw who has won multiple titles here, Daniela Hantuchova, although the more recent of her pair came six long years ago. Since reaching the second week of the Australian Open, Kirsten Flipkens staggered to disappointing results in February, so Azarenka need not expect too stern a test from the Belgian. Of perhaps greater concern is a rematch of her controversial Melbourne semifinal against Sloane Stephens, who aims to bounce back from an injury-hampered span with the encouragement of her home crowd. Heavy fan support for the opponent can fluster Azarenka, or it can bring out her most ferocious tennis, which makes that match one to watch either way. Of some local interest is the first-round match between Jamie Hampton, who won a set from Vika in Melbourne, and Kuala Lumpur runner-up Mattek-Sands.
The most intriguing first-round match in the lower section of this quarter pits Laura Robson against the blistering backhands of Sofia Arvidsson. In fact, plenty of imposing two-handers highlight that neighborhood with those of Julia Goerges and the tenth-seeded Petrova also set to shine. The slow courts of Indian Wells might not suit games so high on risk and low on consistency, possibly lightening the burden on former champion Wozniacki. Just two years ago, the Dane won this title as the world #1, and she reached the final in 2010 with her characteristic counterpunching. Downed relatively early in her title defense last year, she has shown recent signs of regrouping with strong performances at the Persian Gulf tournaments in February. On the other hand, a quick loss as the top seed in Kuala Lumpur reminded viewers that her revival remains a work in progress. She has not faced Azarenka since the latter’s breakthrough in mid-2011, so a quarterfinal between them would offer fascinating evidence as to whether Caro can preserve her mental edge over her friend.
Second quarter: Unremarkable so far this year, Kerber has fallen short of the form that carried her to a 2012 semifinal here and brings a three-match losing streak to the desert. Even with that recent history, she should survive early tests from opponents like Heather Watson and the flaky Wickmayer before one of two fellow lefties poses an intriguing challenge in the fourth round. For the second straight year, Makarova reached the Australian Open quarterfinals, and her most significant victory there came against Kerber in a tightly contested match of high quality. Dogged by erratic results, this Russian may find this surface too slow for her patience despite the improved defense and more balanced weapons that she showed in Melbourne. Another woman who reached the second week there, Bojana Jovanovski, hopes to prove that accomplishment more than just a quirk of fate, which it seems so far. Also in this section is the enigmatic Safarova, a woman of prodigious talent but few results to show for it. If she meets Makarova in the third round, an unpredictable clash could ensue, after which the winner would need to break down Kerber’s counterpunching.
Stirring to life in Doha and Dubai, where she reached the quarterfinals at both, Stosur has played much further below her ranking this year than has Kerber. A disastrous Australian season and Fed Cup weekend have started to fade a bit, however, for a woman who has reached the Indian Wells semifinals before. Stosur will welcome the extra time that the court gives her to hit as many forehands as possible, but she may not welcome a draw riddled with early threats. At the outset, the US Open champion could face American phenom Madison Keys, who raised eyebrows when she charged within a tiebreak of the semifinals in a strong Sydney draw. The feisty Peng, a quarterfinalist here in 2011, also does not flinch when facing higher-ranked opponents, so Stosur may breathe a sigh of relief if she reaches the fourth round. Either of her likely opponents there shares her strengths of powerful serves and forehands as well as her limitations in mobility and consistency. Losing her only previous meeting with Mona Barthel, on the Stuttgart indoor clay, Ivanovic will seek to reverse that result at a tournament where she usually has found her most convincing tennis even in her less productive periods. Minor injuries have nagged her lately, while Barthel has reached two finals already in 2013 (winning one), so this match could prove compelling if both silence other powerful servers around them, like Lucie Hradecka.
Third quarter: Another woman who has reached two finals this year (winning both), the third-seeded Radwanska eyes perhaps the easiest route of the elite contenders. Barring her path to the fourth round are only a handful of qualifiers, an anonymous American wildcard, an aging clay specialist who has not won a match all year, and the perenially underachieving Sorana Cirstea. Radwanska excels at causing raw, error-prone sluggers like Cirstea to implode, and she will face nobody with the sustained power and accuracy to overcome her in the next round either. In that section, Christina McHale attempts to continue a comeback from mono that left her without a victory for several months until a recent breakthrough, and Maria Kirilenko marks her return from injury that sidelined her after winning the Pattaya City title. Although she took Radwanska deep into the final set of a Wimbledon quarterfinal last year, and defeated her at a US Open, the Russian should struggle if rusty against the more confident Aga who has emerged since late 2011. Can two grass specialists, Pironkova and Paszek, cause a stir in this quiet section?
Not much more intimidating is the route that lies before the section’s second highest-ranked seed, newly minted Dubai champion Kvitova. Although she never has left a mark on either Indian Wells or Miami, Kvitova suggested that she had ended her habitual struggles in North America by winning the US Open Series last summer with titles in Montreal and New Haven. Able to enter and stay in torrid mode like the flip of a switch, she aims to build on her momentum from consecutive victories over three top-ten opponents there. The nearest seeded opponent to Kvitova, Yaroslava Shvedova, has struggled to string together victories since her near-upset of Serena at Wimbledon, although she nearly toppled Kvitova in their most recent meeting at Roland Garros. Almost upsetting Azarenka near this time a year ago, Cibulkova looks to repeat her upset over the Czech in Sydney when they meet in the fourth round. Just reaching that stage would mark a step forward for her, though, considering her failure to build upon her runner-up appearance there and the presence of ultra-steady Zakopalova. Having dominated Radwanska so thoroughly in Dubai, Kvitova should feel confident about that test.
Fourth quarter: Semifinalist in 2011, finalist in 2012, champion in 2013? Before she can think so far ahead, the second-seeded Sharapova must maneuver past a string of veteran Italians and other clay specialists like Suarez Navarro. Aligned to meet in the first round are the former Fed Cup teammates Pennetta and Schiavone in one of Wednesday’s most compelling matches, but the winner vanishes directly into Sharapova’s jaws just afterwards. The faltering Varvara Lepchenko could meet the surging Roberta Vinci, who just reached the semifinals in Dubai with victories over Kuznetsova, Kerber, and Stosur. Like Kvitova, then, she brings plenty of positive energy to a weak section of the draw, where her subtlety could carry her past the erratic or fading players around her. But Sharapova crushed Vinci at this time last year, and she never has found even a flicker of self-belief against the Russian.
Once notorious for the catfights that flared between them, Jankovic and Bartoli could extend their bitter rivalry in the third round at a tournament where both have reached the final (Jankovic winning in 2010, Bartoli falling to Wozniacki a year later). Between them stands perhaps a more convincing dark horse candidate in Kuznetsova, not far removed from an Australian Open quarterfinal appearance that signaled her revival. Suddenly striking the ball with confidence and even—gasp—a modicum of thoughtfulness, she could draw strength from the memories of her consecutive Indian Wells finals in 2007-08. If Kuznetsova remains young enough to recapture some of her former prowess, her compatriot Pavlyuchenkova also has plenty of time to rebuild a career that has lain in ruins for over a year. By playing close to her potential, she could threaten Errani despite the sixth seed’s recent clay title defense in Acapulco. Not in a long time has anyone in this area challenged Sharapova, though.
Come back tomorrow before the start of play in the men’s draw to read a similar breakdown!
While eight of the top ten men are active in the week before Indian Wells, only two of the top ten women have chosen live matches over practice sessions. Two clay tournaments in the Western Hemisphere accompany an Asian hard-court tournament as the last chance to reverse or extend momentum before the March mini-majors.
Acapulco: One of those two top-ten women playing this week, Errani hopes to begin repeating last year’s success on red clay while extending her success from reaching the Dubai final. Little about her section suggests that she should not, although she stumbled unexpectedly on clay against Lepchenko in Fed Cup. Considering that mishap, she might find Arantxa Rus a worthy test in the quarterfinals. Rus once upset Clijsters at Roland Garros and owns a lefty forehand smothered with topspin that cause damage on this surface. She might struggle to survive an all-Dutch encounter in the opening round against Kiki Bertens, though, who broke through to win her first career title at a clay tournament in Morocoo last year.
Gone early in Bogota, where she held the second seed, Alize Cornet will hope for a more productive week in a draw where she holds the third seed. The Frenchwoman lacks weapons to overpower her opponents but will find few in this section who can overpower her. The most notable name here (probably more notable than Cornet) belongs to the returning Flavia Pennetta, who got through one three-setter in Bogota before fading in a second. Tiny Lourdes Dominguez Lino hopes that this first-round opponent still needs to shake off more rust.
An odd sight it is to see an American, a Croat, and a Swede all playing on clay during a week with a hard-court tournament, and yet all of them occupy the same section in Acapulco. Perhaps more notable than Glatch or Larsson is Ajla Tomljanovic, a heavy hitter from a nation of heavy hitters who once looked like a sure rising star before recent setbacks. Facing this Croatian wildcard in the first round, fourth seed Irina-Camelia Begu knows better how to play on clay, as 2011 finals in Marbella and Budapest showed. Begu won her first career title last fall in Tashkent, which places her a notch above the other seed in this quarter. Spending most of her career at the ITF level, Romina Oprandi recorded a strong result in Beijing last fall.
Handed a wildcard to accompany her sixth seed, Schiavone searches for relevance after a long stretch in which she has struggled to string together victories. The sporadically intriguing Sesil Karatantcheva should pose a test less stern than second seed Suarez Navarro, who shares Schiavone’s affinity for the surface. Humiliated twice in one week at Dubai, where she lost resoundingly in both the singles and the doubles draws, the small Spaniard owns one of the loveliest one-handed backhands in the WTA since Henin’s retirement. Schiavone owns another, which should make their quarterfinal pleasant viewing for tennis purists.
Final: Errani vs. Begu
Florianopolis: In the first year of a new tournament, the presence of a marquee player always helps to establish its legitimacy. The outdoor hard courts at this Brazilian resort will welcome seven-time major champion and former #1 Venus Williams as the top seed, and her draw looks accommodating in its early stages. While young Spaniard Garbine Muguruza showed potential at the Australian Open, the American’s sternest challenge may come from a much older woman. Extending Venus deep into a third set at Wimbledon in 2011, Kimiko Date-Krumm could unsettle her fellow veteran with her clever angles and crisp net play, although her serve should fall prey to her opponent’s returning power.
In the quarter below lies Kirsten Flipkens, who lost early as the top seed in Memphis after reaching the second week of the Australian Open. Also a potential semifinal opponent for Venus, Caroline Garcia possesses much more potential than her current ranking of #165 would suggest. Unlike most of the counterpunchers in Florianopolis, she will not flinch from trading baseline missiles with the top seed should she earn the opportunity. Another young star in the eighth-seeded Annika Beck might produce an intriguing quarterfinal with Garcia.
Counterpunchers dominate the third quarter, bookended by Medina Garrigues and Chanelle Scheepers. When the two met at the Hopman Cup this year, endless rallies and endless service games characterized a match filled with breaks. The heavy serve of Timea Babos might intercept Scheepers in the second round, while Medina Garrigues could encounter some early resistance from the quirky Niculescu or Shahar Peer. With her best years well behind her, the Israeli continues to show her familiar grittiness in attempting to reclaim her relevance.
Midway through 2012, the second-seeded Shvedova climbed back into singles prominence by reaching the second week at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Starting with her three-set loss to Serena at the latter major, she has suffered a series of demoralizing setbacks in early rounds since then, often in tightly contested matches that hinged on a handful of points. Shvedova once led the WTA’s rankings for overall pace of shot, though, and her power might overwhelm those around her. Aligned to meet her in the quarterfinals is Kristina Mladenovic, the surprise semifinalist at the Paris Indoors who delivered the first signature win of her career there over Kvitova.
Final: Williams vs. Mladenovic
Kuala Lumpur: With a direct-entry cutoff even lower than Florianopolis, this tournament features only eight players in the top 100. Headlining the list, however, is a former #1 who still occupies the fringes of the top 10. After she produced solid results in the Middle East, reaching a quarterfinal in Doha and a semifinal in Dubai, Wozniacki should feel confident in her ability to secure a first title of 2013. Few of the names in her quarter will strike chords with most fans, although some might remember lefty Misaki Doi as the woman who upset Petra Martic in Melbourne before eating a Sharapova double bagel. Aussie lefty Casey Dellacqua sometimes can challenge higher-ranked foes but has struggled with injury too often to maintain consistency.
Doi’s highest-ranked compatriot, the double-fister Ayumi Morita holds the fourth seed in Kuala Lumpur. Like Wozniacki, she could face an Aussie in the quarterfinals, and, like Wozniacki, she should not find the test too severe. Although she has won the Australian Open wildcard playoff twice, Olivia Rogowska has stagnated over the past few years since winning a set from then -#1 Safina at the US Open. Evergreen veteran Eleni Daniilidou rounds out this section with one of the WTA’s more powerful one-handed backhands—and not much else.
Surely pleased to recruit another player of international familiarity beyond Wozniacki, Kuala Lumpur welcomes Pavlyuchenkova as a third-seeded wildcard entrant. The Russian often has excelled at this time of year, reaching the Indian Wells semifinals before and winning consecutive titles at the Monterrey tournament that has shifted after Miami. This year, Pavlyuchenkova has shown a little of her promising 2011 form by reaching the final in Brisbane to start the season and much more of her dismal 2012 form by dropping three straight matches thereafter. She could end her four-match losing streak here in a section filled with qualifiers. But yet another Aussie in Ashleigh Barty hopes to continue what so far has become an encouraging season for WTA future stars.
When not conversing on Twitter with our colleague David Kane, 16-year-old phenom Donna Vekic has compiled some notable results. Seeded at a WTA tournament for the first time, she will look to build upon her final in Tashkent last year, a win over Hlavackova at the Australian Open, and a solid week in Fed Cup zonal play. Vekic does face a challenging first-round test in the powerful serve of American wildcard Bethanie Mattek-Sands, but no match in her section looks unwinnable. While second seed and potential quarterfinal opponent Hsieh Su-wei won her first two titles last year, the late-blossoming star from Chinese Taipei still does not intimidate despite her presence in the top 25.
Final: Wozniacki vs. Pavlyuchenkova
(Actually, can we just combine these last two draws and have Venus play a super-final against Caro?)
Leaving Federer vs. Davydenko for a special, detailed preview by one of our colleagues here, we break down some highlights from the latter half of second-round action on Day 4.
Brands vs. Tomic (Rod Laver Arena): A tall German who once caused a stir at Wimbledon, Brands has won four of his first five matches in 2013 with upsets over Chardy, Monfils, and Martin Klizan among them. As sharp as Tomic looked in his opener, he cannot afford to get caught looking ahead to Federer in the next round. Brands can match him bomb for bomb, so the last legitimate Aussie threat left needs to build an early lead that denies the underdog reason to hope.
Lu vs. Monfils (Hisense Arena): Is La Monf finally back? He somehow survived 16 double faults and numerous service breaks in a messy but entertaining four-set victory over Dolgopolov. Perhaps facilitated by his opponent’s similar quirkiness, the vibrant imagination of Monfils surfaced again with shot-making that few other men can produce. This match should produce an intriguing contrast of personalities and styles with the understated, technically solid Lu, who cannot outshine the Frenchman in flair but could outlast him by exploiting his unpredictable lapses.
Falla vs. Gasquet (Court 3): The Colombian clay specialist has established himself as an occasional upset threat at non-clay majors, intriguingly, for he nearly toppled Federer in the first round of Wimbledon three years ago and bounced Fish from this tournament last year. A strange world #10, Gasquet struggled initially in his first match against a similar clay specialist in Montanes. He recorded a series of steady results at majors last year, benefiting in part from facing opponents less accomplished than Falla. The strength-against-strength collision of his backhand against Falla’s lefty forehand should create some scintillating rallies as Gasquet seeks to extend his momentum from the Doha title two weeks ago.
Mayer vs. Berankis (Court 6): While Berankis comfortably defeated the erratic Sergei Stakhovsky in his debut, Mayer rallied from a two-set abyss to fend off American wildcard Rhyne Williams after saving multiple match points. He must recover quickly from that draining affair to silence the compact Latvian, who punches well above his size. Sometimes touted as a key figure of the ATP’s next generation, Berankis has not plowed forward as impressively as others like Raonic and Harrison, so this unintimidating draw offers him an opportunity for a breakthrough.
Raonic vs. Rosol (Court 13): The cherubic Canadian sprung onto the international scene when he reached the second week in Melbourne two years ago. The lean Czech sprung onto the international scene when he stunned Nadal in the second round of Wimbledon last year. Either outstanding or abysmal on any given day, Rosol delivered an ominous message simply by winning his first match. For his part, Raonic looked far from ominous while narrowly avoiding a fifth set against a player outside the top 100. He needs to win more efficiently in early rounds before becoming a genuine contender for major titles.
Robson vs. Kvitova (RLA): Finally starting to string together some solid results, the formerly unreliable Robson took a clear step forward by notching an upset over Clijsters in the second round of the US Open. Having played not only on Arthur Ashe Stadium there but on Centre Court at the All England Club before, she often produces her finest tennis for the grandest stages. If Robson will not lack for inspiration, Kvitova will continue to search for confidence. She found just enough of her familiarly explosive weapons to navigate through an inconsistent three-setter against Schiavone, but she will have little hope of defending her semifinal points if she fails to raise her level significantly. That said, Kvitova will appreciate playing at night rather than during the most scorching day of the week, for the heat has contributed to her struggles in Australia this month.
Peng vs. Kirilenko (Hisense): A pair of women better known in singles than in doubles, they have collaborated on some tightly contested matches. Among them was a Wimbledon three-setter last year, won by Kirilenko en route to the quarterfinals. The “other Maria” has faltered a bit lately with six losses in ten matches before she dispatched Vania King here. But Peng also has regressed since injuries ended her 2011 surge, so each of these two women looks to turn around her fortunes at the other’s expense. The Russian’s all-court style and fine net play should offer a pleasant foil for Peng’s heavy serve and double-fisted groundstrokes, although the latter can find success in the forecourt as well.
Wozniacki vs. Vekic (Hisense): Like Kvitova, Wozniacki seeks to build upon the few rays of optimism that emanated from a nearly unwatchable three-set opener. Gifted that match by Lisicki’s avalanche of grisly errors, the former #1 could take advantage of the opportunity to settle into the tournament. Wozniacki now faces the youngest player in either draw, who may catch her breath as she walks onto a show court at a major for the first time. Or she may not, since the 16-year-old Donna Vekic crushed Hlavackova without a glimpse of nerves to start the tournament and will have nothing to lose here.
Hsieh vs. Kuznetsova (Margaret Court Arena): A surprise quarterfinalist in Sydney, the two-time major champion defeated Goerges and Wozniacki after qualifying for that elite draw. Kuznetsova rarely has produced her best tennis in Melbourne, outside a near-victory over Serena in 2009. But the Sydney revival almost did not materialize at all when she floundered through a three-setter in the qualifying. If that version of Kuznetsova shows up, the quietly steady Hsieh could present a capable foil.
Putintseva vs. Suarez Navarro (Court 7) / Gavrilova vs. Tsurenko (Court 8): Two of the WTA’s most promising juniors, Putintseva and Gavrilova face women who delivered two of the draw’s most notable first-round surprises. After Suarez Navarro dismissed world #7 Errani, Tsurenko halted the surge of Brisbane finalist Pavlyuchenkova in a tense three-setter. Momentum thus carries all four of these women into matches likely to feature plenty of emotion despite the relatively low stakes.
Juan Martin del Potro won the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart, Germany, by defeating Richard Gasquet 6-4 7-5
Victor Hanescu beat Igor Andreev 6-3 6-4 to capture the Allianz Suisse Open in Gstaad, Switzerland
Tommy Robredo won his second Catella Swedish Open title by beating Tomas Berdych 6-4 6-1 in Bastad, Sweden
Fabrice Santoro won the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island, defeating Prakash Amritraj 6-3 7-5
Jesse Huta Galung beat Diego Hartfield 6-3 6-4 to win the Siemens Open in Scheveningen, Netherlands
Mariano Puerta defeated Ricardo Hocevar 7-6 (2) 7-5 to win the Seguros Bolivar Open in Bogota, Colombia
Alize Cornet won the Gaz de France Grand Prix in Budapest, Hungary, by beating Andreja Klepac 7-6 (5) 6-3
Sara Errani beat Mariya Koryttseva 6-2 6-3 to win the Internazionali Femminili di Tennis di Palermo in Palermo, Italy
“This win is more important than the first one. In 2006 I played the best tennis of my life. I was in better shape. This year I did not play very good in the beginning of the year. This gives me confidence again.” – Tommy Robredo, after winning the Swedish Open for the second time in three years.
“This is incredible. I’ve dreamed of winning a tournament since I’ve been a kid, and now I also get a car.” – Juan Martin del Potro, who received a check and a new white convertible Mercedes for winning the Mercedes Cup.
“I congratulate Juan Martin, but he’d better be careful. It’s a fast car.” – Richard Gasquet, who lost in the Mercedes Cup final.
“When you start a career at 16 years old, never, ever can you imagine you’ll win a tournament 20 years later.” – Fabrice Santoro, who at age 35 won the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships.
“Yes, I won the Wimbledon title, but it’s not such a big success for me as it’s only a junior title after all. I’ll be really satisfied when I win a men’s tournament of such magnitude.” – Grigor Dimitrov, who became Bulgaria’s first Wimbledon champion when he won the boys’ singles.
“Obviously I was happy for her. I wouldn’t want her to lose any other time – unless she lost against me.” – Serena Williams, talking about her sister Venus, who won her fifth Wimbledon title by beating Serena in the final.
“It is with a lot of sadness that I take this decision because playing for my country (in) my last Olympic Games meant a lot to me.” – Amelie Mauresmo, who decided to skip the Beijing Olympics when she was selected to play doubles only.
“I’m so happy. This is like a dream come true.” – Victor Hanescu, after winning his first ATP title in Gstaad, Switzerland
“I am obviously very happy to have won the title here in Bastad once again. … I am not even going to say that I will be back next year because everyone knows that I will.” – Tommy Robredo, after winning the Catella Swedish Open for the second time in three years.
“The standing ovation after the match was fantastic. I had to swallow hard a few times. I’m usually a very emotional person and I was very moved. I even forgot to do my signature Brussels step.” – Jonas Bjorkman, who won the Swedish Open doubles in his final trip to Bastad before he retires.
“When you’re 17 years old and you’re playing Grand Slam tournaments, you’re not thinking, `If I win this, I’ll be the youngest Grand Slam champion ever.’ … I don’t think it really sunk in until probably a couple of months after it took place.” – Michael Chang, about his winning the French Open in 1989.
Victor Hanescu won his first career ATP title and became the first Romanian since Ilie Nastase in 1973 to capture the Allianz Suisse Open in Gstaad, Switzerland, when he beat seventh-seeded Igor Andreev 6-3, 6-4. In the second round, Hanescu saved three match points in the third-set tiebreak, edging Ivo Karlovic 6-7 (4) 7-6 (3) 7-6 (11), then upset world No. 10 Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland in the semifinals. Prior to the Gstaad tournament, the 26-year-old Hanescu had not won consecutive ATP matches since he reached the final at Bucharest, Romania, last September. Hanescu is the first ATP tournament winner from Romania since Andrei Pavel won in Montreal, Canada, in 2001.
SERVE, SET AND MATCH
Sara Errani had to wait for the umpire before she won her first WTA Tour singles title. At match point, Errani’s serve was called long. But the umpire got out of the chair, checked the mark and ruled Errani had served an ace, giving her a 6-2 6-3 victory over Mariya Koryttseva at Palermo, Italy. Errani, who had never been to a tour final of any kind before this week, became the first Italian to win the singles crown in Palermo. She then won the doubles title, teaming with Nuria Llagostera Vives.
Michael Chang, one of only three American men to win the French Open singles in the Open Era, was one of the three latest inductees into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island. Chang became the youngest player to win a Grand Slam men’s title when he upset top-seeded Ivan Lendl in the fourth round, then eclipsed third-seeded Stefan Edberg in the final in 1989. His victory snapped a 34-year drought by American men on the Roland Garros clay. Also inducted into the Hall as contributors were Gene Scott, founder and publisher of Tennis Week magazine as well as a top player, promoter and tournament director, and Mark McCormick, a sports executive who was founder and CEO of International Management Group (IMG). Established in 1954, the International Tennis Hall of Fame now has 207 inductees.
When Fabrice Santoro successfully defending his Hall of Fame Tennis Championships title, he moved into elite company, becoming only the second player since 1990 to win an ATP event after his 35th birthday. Santoro became the oldest player to win the grass court tournament in Newport, Rhode Island, and joined Andre Agassi as champions after reaching the age of 35. With his sixth career title, Santoro won his 451st match, fourth among active players behind Roger Federer, Carlos Moya and Lleyton Hewitt.
SWEDE AND STEADY
Making his final appearance at Bastad, Jonas Bjorkman teamed with Robin Soderling of Sweden to win his seventh Swedish Open doubles title. Bjorkman, who announced his intention to retire at the end of this year, previously won the doubles at Bastad in 1994, 1995, 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006, teaming with Todd Woodbridge of Australia, Mahesh Bhupathi of India and fellow Swedes Jan Apell, Joachim Johansson and Thomas Johansson. Bjorkman has a remarkable 33-3 record at Bastad. It was the first doubles final for the 23-year-old Soderling.
OK, it’s not a star, but a recently discovered asteroid has been named after Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal, according to the EFE news agency. Previously known as 128036, the Rafael Nadal asteroid is four kilometers in diameter and is located between Mars and Jupiter. The Astronomical Observatory of Majorca discovered the planetoid in 2003. The decision to name the asteroid after Nadal, a native of the Majorcan town of Manacor, was taken by the International Astronomical Union in response to a request by the Spanish observatory, which said its goal is to pay tribute “to one of the greatest tennis players of all time.”
By upsetting third-seeded Novak Djokovic and eventually reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon, Marat Safin became the 20th player in the Open Era to reach the semis or better at all four Grand Slam tournaments in his career. The other active men to achieve the feat are Djokovic, Roger Federer and David Nalbandian.
Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal pulled out OF the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart, Germany, and said he won’t play again until he no longer has pain above his right knee. “My doctor said I need a few days off. I will have a checkup and treatment and won’t return to the court until I am 100 percent,” Nadal said. “The calendar is hard on us players. I have played four, five months without a break. I have to recover.”
SITTING ON TOP
Canada’s Daniel Nestor is ranked number one in the world in doubles for the fifth time in his career. His latest move to the top of the rankings came after he teamed with Nenad Zimonjic to win the Wimbledon doubles, their third title of the year. Nestor surpassed American twins Bob and Mike Bryan, who had led the rankings since April 16, 2007.
Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are the first three players to clinch spots in the year-ending Tennis Masters Cup, which will be played in Shanghai, China. The elite eight-player tournament will be held for the fourth year at Qi Zhong Stadium from November 9-16. The first two doubles places in Shanghai were seized by Wimbledon champions Daniel Nestor of Canada and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia, along with American twins Bob and Mike Bryan. Federer will be playing in his seventh consecutive Tennis Masters Cup. He has reached the final the past five years, winning consecutive titles in 2003-04 and again in 2006-07. This is the sixth straight year that Nestor has qualified for the season finale, winning it last year with long-time partner Mark Knowles.
The men’s and women’s champions at the U.S. Open this year will each take home USD $1.5 million as the year’s final Grand Slam tournament increases its total prize money to a record USD $20.6 million. The overall payout is USD $1 million more than in 2007, matching the largest single-year jump in the hard-court tournament’s history. Adding in the bonuses available to the leading finishers in the summer circuit U.S. Open Series, the overall prize money could eventually be more than USD $23 million. If a player wins both the summer series and the U.S. Open, as Roger Federer did last year, they would earn USD $2.5 million. A year ago Federer took home the largest paycheck in tennis history, USD $2.4 million.
Mardy Fish tried out another sport while playing at the Hall of Fame tournament in Newport, Rhode Island. A self-described big Minnesota Twins baseball fan, Fish threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Boston’s Fenway Park before the Red Sox played host to the Twins. The two sporting events were only about 90 miles apart.
Three days after she lost the Wimbledon singles final to her sister, Serena Williams was back on court, this time playing for the Washington Kastles of World Team Tennis. She won her singles, beating Marie-Eve Pelletier, and teamed with Mashona Washington to beat Pelletier and Raquel Kops-Jones in the women’s doubles. But she and Justin Gimelstob lost to Jan-Michael Gambill and Kops-Jones, and the Kastles lost their home opener to the Boston Lobsters 22-19. Venus also returned and played WTT for Philadelphia Freedoms.
STARTING OVER AGAIN
Australian Mark Philippoussis is making yet another comeback. This time, though, he’ll be competing on the Outback Champions Series, the international tennis circuit for men 30-and-over. Philippoussis, who lost to Roger Federer in the 2003 Wimbledon final, will join Jim Courier, Todd Martin and Wayne Ferreira at The Championships at The Palisades, to be played September 24-28 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Four other players will be announced later to complete the eight-player field.
SAN DIEGO HALL
Brian Teacher, who won the Australian Open singles title in 1980, is one of the newest members of the San Diego Tennis Hall of Fame. Teacher and four others will be inducted into the hall August 23 at the Balboa Tennis Club. The others are age-group champion Jim Perley and three administrators: Franklin Johnson, a former president of the U.S. Tennis Association; William J. Kellogg, president of the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club since 1989; and Jean Kremm, long active in the San Diego community junior tennis. The five were selected by a panel. Teacher was born in San Diego and was an All-American while helping UCLA win two NCAA championships. He beat Kim Warwick in straight sets in the 1980 Australian Open final.
Amelie Mauresmo is the latest star to skip the Beijing Olympics, saying she wants to prepare for the U.S. Open. Mauresmo said that her being passed over by the French Tennis Federation for the women’s singles competition was a major factor in her withdrawal from the Games. Mauresmo, who had been selected to compete only in doubles, lamented that she was missing a chance to join the 2008 Olympiad. She won a silver medal in the singles in Athens four years ago.
Acknowledging the rapid rise of Asian tennis and the emergence importance of Asia, the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour has opened its newest office in Beijing, China. The women’s tour has its main headquarters in St. Petersburg, Florida, and its European office in London, England. David Shoemaker will head the Asia-Pacific and is charged with growing the WTA Tour’s presence in the region as well as assuming overall leadership of all Asia Pacific staff. He will maintain his role as General Counsel as well as other executive responsibilities for the Tour.
STATEHOOD DAY SNUB
Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas skipped the Statehood Day ceremonies in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, saying he had not prepared for it. However, Kirkilas found time to play in a tennis tournament the same day. The Lithuanian Tennis Federation confirmed Kirkilas was at the Dubingial Open tournament, where the prime minister and tennis player Danielius Lencina-Ribes lost to Sarunas Marciulionis and Gabriele Masillute-Lencina. Lithuania’s president spoke at the Statehood Day festivities, while Lithuania’s ambassador to Great Britain, Vygaudas Usackas, diplomats from Russia’s embassy in Lithuania, Defense Minister Juozas Olekas as well as members of the 1998 gold medal-winning USSR basketball team, including Arvydas Sabonis, were at the tennis tournament.
A Pakistani student is in court alleging he was treated as a slave when he worked as a security guard at the Australian Open earlier this year. The Press Trust of India (PTI) reported that Faisal Durrani filed a statement of claim at the Melbourne Magistrates Court, alleging he was paid 200 Australian dollars for the 150 hours he worked at the tennis facility. Durrani claimed that at least four other security guards from the sub-continent also received a small payment for their work. Durrani’s lawyer, Andrew Weinmann, called the action “slavery.” Durrani is seeking about USD $4,000 in wages, along with interest, court costs and penalties through the Workplace Relations Act that could run into millions of dollars.
Britain’s Chris Eaton, who got into Wimbledon qualifying on a wild card, worked his way into the main draw where he reached the second round before falling to 25th-seeded Dmitry Tursunov. And while he earned more than USD $43,000 for his fortnight, Eaton says he will continue to drive his modest Vauxhall Astra, complete with taped-up side mirror. “Maybe I’ll buy some better Duct tape,” Eaton said of his big payday.
Now that he has won two Grand Slam junior boys doubles titles, Taiwan’s Yang Tsung-Hua is planning on turning pro next year. He is the world’s top-ranked junior, having also won the boys singles at the French Open. Yang and his partner, Hsieh Cheng-Peng, will compete in an upcoming tournament in India as well as the U.S. Open boy’s doubles. Hsieh, the younger bother of Hsieh Su-Wei, who competes on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, and Yang teamed up to win the boys doubles at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
SURPRISE – NOT
Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich won the Israel Open doubles title as expected, beating Sergei Bubka and Michail Elgin 6-3 7-6 (3) in the Saturday final. The Israeli duo was the only world-class team in the USD $50,000 challenger tournament play at Ramat Hasharon, Israel. They didn’t drop a set all week. The singles winner was Marsel Ilhan of Turkey, who beat Slovakia’s Ivo Klec 6-4 6-4.
It turns out the newest British tennis star, Wimbledon girls champion Laura Robson, is really a new Brit. Newspapers in England report that the 14-year-old has had a British passport for just four months. Until February, she played all of her matches representing her native Australia, although she has lived in Britain since the age of six. Her father, Andrew Robson, obtained his British passport in February, which allowed Laura to apply for citizenship in the United Kingdom.
Stuttgart: Christopher Kas and Philippe Kohlschreiber beat Michael Berrer and Mischa Zverev 6-3 6-4
Gstaad: Jaroslav Levinsky and Filip Polasek beat Stanislas Wawrinka and Stephane Bohli 3-6 6-2 11-9 (match tiebreak)
Newport: Mardy Fish and John Isner beat Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi 6-4 7-6 (1)
Bastad: Jonas Bjorkman and Robin Soderling beat Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-2 6-2
Bogota: Xavier Malisse and Carlos Salamanca beat Juan Sebastian Cabal and Michael Quintero 6-1 6-4
Scheveningen: Rameez Junaid and Philipp Marx beat Matwe Middelkoop and Melle Van Gemerden 5-7 6-2 10-6 (match tiebreak)
Budapest: Alize Cornet and Janette Husarova beat Vanessa Henke and Ioana Raluca Olaru 6-7 (5) 6-1 10-6 (match tiebreak)
Palermo: Sara Errani and Nuria Llagostera Vives beat Alla Kudryavtseva and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2-6 7-6 (1) 10-4 (match tiebreak)
SITES TO SURF
Bad Gastein: www.generali-ladies.at
San Marino: www.atpsanmarino.com
Los Angeles: www.eastwestbankclassic.com
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$890,000 Austrian Open, Kitzbuhel, Austria, clay
$525,000 Indianapolis Tennis Championships, Indianapolis, Indiana, hard
$525,000 Dutch Open Tennis, Amersfoort, The Netherlands, clay
$525,000 ATP Studena Croatia Open, Umag, Croatia, clay
$600,000 Bank of the West Classic, Stanford, California, hard
$175,000 Gastein Ladies, Bad Gastein, Austria, clay
Turkcell Legends Cup, Istanbul, Turkey, hard
Group III: Aruba, Barbados, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Puerto Rico at Tegucigalpa, Honduras, hard
Group IV: Bermuda, Costa Rica, Haiti, US Virgin Island at Honduras
Group II Playoffs: Luxembourg vs. Finland at Hanko, Finland, clay; Hungary vs. Greece at Thessaloniki, Greece, clay
Group II Second Round: Denmark vs. South Africa at Johannesburg, South Africa, hard; Algeria vs. Monaco at Monte Carlo, Monaco, clay
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$2,615,000 Rogers Cup, Toronto, Canada, hard
$100,000 Porsche Open, Poznan, Poland, clay
$100,000 San Marino CEPU Open, San Marino, clay
$600,000 East West Bank Classic presented by Herbalife, Los Angeles, California, hard
$145,000 Banka Koper Slovenia Open, Portoroz, Slovenia, hard