Goran Ivanisevic won the inaugural Turkcell Legends Cup in Istanbul, Turkey to take his first BlackRock Tour of Champions title of 2008 and jump to No.1 in the South African Airways Champions Tour Rankings.
A capacity crowd generated an electric atmosphere for the final, which Ivanisevic won 6-4, 6-4 against Fernando Meligeni of Brazil.
The match was closer than the scoreline suggested, but the Ivanisevic serve was the deciding factor. In the first set, the two players exchanged breaks of serve before Ivanisevic took the decisive advantage at 4-4. Meligeni kept fighting in the second set and made the match competitive, but again Ivanisevic broke the Meligeni serve and from then on the outcome was never in doubt.
“I played really good today and I really had a great time,” said Ivanisevic.
“It’s been such a well-organised tournament and everybody has been so welcoming and kind. I’m really grateful to play here and I hope the tournament exists next year and I hope to be here. I’m happy to be number one (in the rankings), that’s really nice. But there’s still a lot of tournaments and a lot of competition between now and then but if I play like this then it’s definitely possible (that I could finish the year No.1).”
Meligeni was disappointed to lose, but not surprised, having lost all of his three meetings with Ivanisevic on the ATP circuit.
“Always when I play Goran it’s very tough and he served unbelievably and put me under a lot of pressure,” said Meligeni.
“I think it was a good match and it was fun but I was under pressure all the time and he was definitely the deserving winner today, he played better. It’s an honour for me to be playing here and competing with these guys on the circuit. This week has been unbelievable with great hospitality and a great welcome here in Istanbul. I would love to have the chance to come back.”
In the 3rd/4th place play-off, Cedric Pioline defeated Thomas Muster 4-6, 7-5, 11-9 (Champions’ Tie Break).
Next, the BlackRock Tour of Champions moves on to two of the most popular and long-standing tour-dates – Graz, Austria for the s Tennis Masters (July 29 – August 2) and then Algarve, Portugal for the Vale do Lobo Grand Champions CGD (August 5-8).
These are exciting times for the Tour, with former World No.1’s Pete Sampras Sao Paulo, London), Stefan Edberg (Paris, London) and Yevgeny Kafelnikov (Eindhoven) all joining the circuit for World No.1’s, Grand Slam finalists and Davis Cup winners in 2008.
The 1989 French Open champion Michael Chang and 1996 Wimbledon finalist Malivai Washington also announced that they will join Kafelnikov at the AFAS Tennis Classics in Eindhoven, October 2-5.
Ivanisevic, Muster, John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, Pat Cash, Marcelo Rios and Michael Stich will also be back in action as the year progresses.
To go inside the Borg/McEnroe rivalry and watch an exclusive video, click here: http://www.blackrocktourofchampions.com
RESULTS – SUNDAY, 20 JULY, 2008
Cedric Pioline d. Thomas Muster 4-6, 7-5, 11-9 (Champions’ Tie Break)
Goran Ivanisevic d. Fernando Meligeni 6-4, 6-4
FINAL GROUP STANDINGS
Matches won/lost (sets)
Fernando Meligeni 3-0 (6-0)
Cedric Pioline 2-1 (5-3)
Sergi Bruguera 1-2 (3-4)
Alladin Karagoz 0-3 (0-6)
Matches won/lost (sets)
Goran Ivanisevic 3-0 (6-1)
Thomas Muster 2-1 (5-3)
Pat Cash 1-2 (2-5)
Andrei Chesnokov 0-3 (2-6)
BLACKROCK TOUR OF CHAMPIONS POINTS ALLOCATION
Winner – 400 points
Finalist – 250 points
3rd place – 200 points
4th place – 125 points
5/6th place – 80 points
7/8th place – 60 points
SOUTH AFRICAN AIRWAYS 2008 TOUR OF CHAMPIONS RANKINGS (after six events)
POS. PLAYER PTS
1 Goran Ivanisevic 660
2 Michael Stich 650
2= Marcelo Rios 650
4 Anders Jarryd 525
5 Thomas Muster 515
6 Pat Cash 420
7= Pete Sampras 400
7= Cedric Pioline 400
9 Fernando Meligeni 375
10= Mikael Pernfors 330
10= Marc-Kevin Goellner (WC) 330
12 Henri Leconte 240
13= Chris Wilkinson (WC) 200
13= Jaime Oncins 200
15 Sergi Bruguera 160
16= Jeremy Bates (WC) 125
16= Albert Costa 125
18= Magnus Larsson 80
18= John McEnroe 80
18= Andrei Cherkasov 80
21= Bjorn Borg 60
21= Carl Uwe Steeb 60
21= Jaime Yzaga 60
21= Alladin Karagoz (WC) 60
21= Andrei Chesnokov 60
WC denotes Wild Card.
The BlackRock Tour of Champions Calendar 2008
Belfast, Northern Ireland – February 21-24 (Tennis Legends) – Champions: Anders Jarryd; Runner-up: Mikael Pernfors
Barcelona, Spain – April 24-27 (Champions Cup ’08) – Champion: Marcelo Rios; runner-up: Michael Stich
Rome, Italy – May 10-11 – Champion: Thomas Muster; runner-up: Goran Ivanisevic
Hamburg, Germany – May 14-17 (BlackRock Tennis Classic)
Champion: Michael Stich; Runner-up: Marc-Kevin Goellner
Sao Paulo, Brazil – June 19-22 (Nossa Caixa Grand Champions Brasil)
Champion: Pete Sampras; Runner-up: Marcelo Rios
Istanbul, Turkey – July 17-20
Champion: Goran Ivanisevic; Runner-up: Fernando Meligeni
Graz, Austria – July 29-August 2 (s Tennis Masters)
Algarve, Portugal – August 5-8 (Vale do Lobo Grand Champions CGD)
Paris, France – September 18-21 (5e Trophée Jean-Luc Lagardère)
Luxembourg, Luxembourg – September 25-28
Eindhoven, Netherlands – October 2-5 (AFAS Tennis Classics)
Budapest, Hungary – October 9-12
Frankfurt, Germany – November 13-16 (klarmobil.de Champions Trophy)
Brussels, Belgium – November 20-23
London, UK – December 2-7 (BlackRock Masters Tennis)
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BlackRock is one of the world’s largest publicly traded investment management firms. At December 31, 2007, BlackRock’s assets under management (AUM) was US$1.357 trillion. The firm manages assets on behalf of institutions and individuals worldwide through a variety of equity, fixed income, cash management and alternative investment products. In addition, a growing number of institutional investors use BlackRock Solutions(r) investment system, risk management and financial advisory services. Headquartered in New York City, as of December 31, 2007, the firm has approximately 5,500 employees in 19 countries and a major presence in key global markets, including the U.S., Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. For additional information, please visit the Company’s website at www.blackrock.com.
South Africa’s international flagship airline and the continent’s most awarded carrier, South African Airways is the official airline of the BlackRock Tour of Champions. Its modern fleet features a comfortable Economy Class cabin recently reconfigured for extra legroom and a Premium Business Class cabin featuring the airline’s award-winning, lie-flat seat. Complimentary South African wines, inspired cuisine and personal on-demand entertainment for all travellers make the trip to Africa fly by. Built on a venerable 72-year history of bringing the world to Africa and taking Africa to the world, the airline’s network is unsurpassed on the continent – connecting travellers to more than 20 destinations within South Africa and more than 20 cities across Africa. As a recent member to the worldwide Star Alliance, South African Airways is now able to offer its customers 852 destinations in 152 countries and more than 15,500 flights daily.
For the Latest News, Features and Updates from the BlackRock Tour of Champions: www.blackrocktourofchampions.com
and for further information:
Some final thoughts from Newport, Rhode Island and the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Championships… It was a treat to see “The Magician”, Fabrice Santoro, defend a title for the first time in his long career. The Frenchman did not lose a set all week at the Hall of Fame Championships. He served well, moved exceptionally well, and treated fans to his usual assortment of quirky, disguised shots.
The grass courts at the Newport Casino played like grass courts from yesteryear. In fact, they played like the courts at the All England Club prior to 2002. After years of complaints that Pete Sampras was boring and the big-serving efforts of Goran Ivanisevic during his improbable run to the title in 2001, the AEC committee changed the texture of the grass (by importing four tons of quicksand) to make sure that longer rallies were more likely. Be careful what you wish for… most matches at Wimbledon 2008 looked like they were being played on medium-paced hard courts. Newly-inducted Hall of Famer Michael Chang spoke of the obvious changes in playability of the Wimby grass. Had the courts been as slow during Chang’s prime as they are these days, then he would have surely contended for a title at the Big W.
If there were more old-style grass courts or lightning-fast indoor courts on the ATP Tour, then Prakash Amritraj would be ranked higher than No. 204 in the world. He volleys decisively and moves aggressively in the forecourt, and these skills are becoming increasingly rare in professional tennis. Vijay Amritraj was a beacon of fair play and sportsmanship throughout his playing career. It was a little surprising to observe his constant and blatant (illegal) coaching during his son Prakash’s semifinal and final round matches.
John Isner took his first ATP Tour doubles title with Mardy Fish. It was great to see these American players working so hard on their fitness on the practice courts after they both lost their first matches in singles. It will be another grinding hard court season this summer, and that fitness work will pay dividends.
Monica Seles ought to be inducted into the Hall of Fame next July. She should surely be joined by her former coach, Nick Bollettieri. The ageless Bollettieri was in Newport last weekend supporting the sport, and has been the most successful coach in the Open era. Michael Stich should also receive serious consideration for the roll of honor.
Lastly, for the thousands of tennis enthusiasts who are eager to feel what it is like to play on natural grass, visit http://www.tennisfame.com/ithof.aspx?pgID=895.
For Bill Mountford tennis instruction videos click here!
Photos by Catherine O’Neal
Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim previewed the Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer Wimbledon final by suggesting that it was the most anticipated championship final in the history of our sport. High praise indeed, but when does the competition outdistance the hype in this day and age? Practically never is when.
Sunday’s match was simply astonishing. Two absolute giants of our great game did battle for nearly five hours on the world’s most important court. As John McEnroe of NBC Sports likened it to his 1980 final against Bjorn Borg, he acknowledged that there were, truly, no losers in this match. No less an authority than Bud Collins called it the “best Wimbledon final ever.”
When McEnroe interviewed Roger Federer as he walked off the court, it was incredibly poignant. They now share a bond, as both lost epic “Greatest Match of All Time” encounters on Wimbledon’s centre court. Federer started to lose his composure and McEnroe offered a hug. It would have been appropriate for Mac to have consoled Federer by telling him that more people have patted him on the back for his efforts in losing the 1980 final then for his three wins at the Big W.
A few weeks ago, Bill Simmons, a writer for ESPN Magazine, took some snarky shots at the sport of tennis. In fact, his article- which was, by the way, abruptly removed from ESPN.com- was based on the premise that if he was offered the promise of the greatest match ever in the Wimbledon final, then he would still not choose to watch it. I admire Simmons, and as a die-hard Boston sports fan, I always appreciate his (warped) perspective. After reading his article, I actually felt defensive for a little while. I thought: What the hell is he talking about!?!? Thankfully, I am confident that if Simmons tuned into “Breakfast at Wimbledon” for Rafa and Roger, then his perspective would be considerably different.
Simmons offered some idiotic “solutions” to what ails our sport. I presume that these were written in jest, because they were pretty lazy ideas. In giving “The Sports Guy” more benefit of doubt, he has purposely written reverse jinx pieces before (such as, the Celtics cannot win this year) that have proved to be good luck for his hometown teams. Maybe that was his true intention. If so, then we all owe him a big Thank You.
Venus Williams did not lose a set in singles or doubles during the 2008 Championships.
Serena did not look happy (big surprise!) after losing in the final. Expect her to dominate at Flushing Meadows in a few weeks.
Congratulations to Canada’s Daniel Nestor for re-gaining the world’s #1 ranking in doubles and completing the career grand slam in doubles. Not bad for a 35 year old!
Farewell to Jonas Bjorkman. Saturday marked his final Wimbledon appearance in The Championships. Of course, guys are already “queuing up” to play in the senior invitational doubles with him next year.
The Bryan Brothers faced off against one another in the mixed doubles final. Reportedly, they evenly split all of their prize money and endorsements. I am guessing that would have been a pretty relaxed final round encounter. Bob and Sammy Stosur straight-setted Mike and Katarina Srebotnik over on Court One while Federer and Nadal were playing their fifth set on Centre Court.
A few final thoughts on The Championships…
Thank heavens that there will be a retractable roof on the Centre Court beginning next year. The delayed start to the gentlemen’s singles final, and the two subsequent rain delays, would have been avoidable. This adversely affects several million world-wide fans. In the end, the sport loses when viewers tune out. I wish that Wimbledon had made- and then acted on- this decision thirty years ago, but it is a sign of progress.
One example of where there has been NO PROGRESS is the middle Sunday of The Championships, the tournament’s traditional “day of rest.” Like millions of tennis fanatics all over the world, an ideal Sunday for me is a good breakfast, hit some balls and maybe even play a few sets, and then watch tennis for the rest of the day. The AELTC sacrifices tens of millions of pounds (double that figure in US dollars!) in sponsorship revenue and international TV licensing fees by refusing play on that prime weekend slot. By 2008 standards, it is outrageous, arrogant, and archaic. It is also hypocritical, because the men’s final has been played on a Sunday for a quarter century. They were lucky that the weather was uncharacteristically pleasant during the first week of the tournament. Relying on luck each year is foolish though.
The Russian women made another huge splash, with 6 of the final 16 players hailing from Russia. There were 17 Russian ladies in main draw of the singles. That is impressive. It is not unprecedented, however, and- in fact- pales in comparison to some years where the Americans reigned supreme. In 1984, 64(!!!!) of the 128 singles players were American men. The Yanks had the champion, the runner-up, two semi-finalists, four quarterfinalists, and 11 who reached the round of 16. As American Frank Sinatra used to sing… it was a very good year.
Does everybody still think that Roger Federer will annihilate Pete Sampras’ all-time records? It says here that he might get to 14 majors, but this is not a mortal lock. The sport has changed before his very eyes. He will need some luck (a Nadal injury, or a Novak Djokovic disappearance in the autumn) to finish as the year-end #1. The expectation that this would be Federer’s fifth straight year at the top is fading, and he would still be one year shy of what Pete Sampras accomplished.
In Pete Sampras’ new book A Champion’s Mind, he lists (in no particular order) himself, Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Roger Federer, and Ivan Lendl as the top-five players of the Open era. After his Wimbledon victory, I would place Rafael Nadal among John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi and (probably) Mats Wilander in the next tier (with apologies to Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, John Newcombe, Gustavo Kuerten, and Jim Courier).
Speaking of Pistol Pete, it took him a little while to “solve” grass court tennis. In fact, a surprising number (17) of different players registered wins over the once-and-still GOAT. Our Editor in Chief, Manfred Wenas, has a little swag for the first reader to submit the complete list of players that owned a piece of Sampras’ scalp on grass.
World Team Tennis began its 33rd professional season in the US over the weekend. Go to www.wtt.com for information about players, upcoming matches, standings, etc. It is a great opportunity to watch past, present, and future Wimbledon champions. It is also the only competition in tennis that prioritizes doubles and team-play over singles.
Venus and Serena Williams are shattering the myth that good doubles teams would beat great singles players who pair up together. They won their 7th major doubles title together, and it would be safe to assume that they do not practice the nuances of doubles too frequently.
At the beginning of Rafael Nadal’s ascent up the rankings, I asked Wayne Bryan (whose sons Bob and Mike were ranked #1 in the world at the time) who would win a match between his boys and Federer-Nadal. He hedged his bets, but thought that his boys would pull through. He did suggest, however, that if Federer were to play with Lleyton Hewitt, who had more doubles success at that stage, then he thinks the result would be reversed. So, I will pose these questions to our readers, who would win the follow mythical doubles matches?
1) Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer vs. Bob and Mike Bryan
2) Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi vs. Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde
3) Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg vs. Ken Flach and Robert Seguso
4) John McEnroe and Peter Fleming vs. John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl (yes, you read that correctly)
5) Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors vs. Bob Lutz and Stan Smith
Tennis Week in Newport is always one of my favorite times of the year. This year’s class of inductees is highlighted by Michael Chang, and supported by contributors Mark McCormack and Eugene Scott. Visit www.TennisFame.com for a wealth of information about these new- and, in fact, all- hall of famers.
When Gene Scott died suddenly in 2006, it was an awful loss for our sport. It also, naturally, affected hundreds (more like thousands, actually) of people personally. I had developed a great fondness for Gene Scott and treasured the time I got to spend with him. I believed that- for some unknown reason- he had taken a liking to me, and wished to help me along in my career. During the outpouring of grief, his dear friends at Tennis Week created a Web site (www.EugeneLScott.com) where people were urged to offer their tributes to the great man. Reading some of these tributes, a few years after his passing, left me feeling as sad as the day he died. Back then I wrote:
Gene Scott was like the North Star. Speaking with him or reading his column… he’d always bring you to your senses. Nobody else had his vantage point, and he knew it. That never kept him from sharing though, and his generosity was unparalleled. His departure has already left a terrible void. Goddamn that he is gone. Lucky that he touched so many while he was around.
I wish that Gene Scott had been enshrined into the International Tennis Hall of Fame a decade ago. His induction speech would have been brilliant. Hall of Famer John McEnroe will offer his testimonial and introduce Gene’s wife, Polly, who will accept on his behalf this weekend.
Who else should be inducted into the Hall of Fame? I offer a dozen candidates who I believe ought to be bronzed:
1) Donald Dell.
2) Monica Seles.
3) Andre Agassi.
4) Gustavo Kuerten.
5) Jennifer Capriati.
6) Martina Hingis.
7) Nick Bollettieri.
8) Dennis Van Der Meer.
9) Michael Stich.
10) Yevgeny Kafelnikov.
11) Justine Henin.
12) Todd Woodbridge & Mark Woodforde.
Of course I will be in America’s Resort City (Newport, Rhode Island) this week to watch the best little tournament in the world and then enjoying the induction ceremony of the latest inductees into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. If you are a fan of this great sport, you MUST make a pilgrimage to Newport.
While at the Newport Casino, I will spend a lot of time rehashing points and moments and drama from the “greatest tennis match ever played” with old and new tennis friends. Congratulations Rafa! Congratulations Roger!
Note by the Editor-in-Chief: The little swag for the first reader to submit the complete list of players that owned a piece of Sampras’ scalp on grass only goes for those who use the comment system down below on TennisGrandstand.com. Other submissions will not count.
Mark Keil, former professional tennis player and now tennis coach writes on his experiences playing the qualies of Wimby. Wimbledon qualifying is played at the Bank of England, Roehampton. It’s about a twelve minute drive to the site of the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon. The courts are cricket fields with tennis lines drawn on them. There’s nothing really special about the place at all. There is prize money in the qualifying, so it is beneficial to play. Usually the first 104 ranked male and female players are accepted straight into the main draw if Wimbledon. Then the next 128 or so best players on the ATP/WTA computer ranking lists play for the 16 open main draw spots.
I played Wimbledon qualifying a few times, and it was not that big of a deal. You are so far removed from thinking that if you win three singles matches, you will be in the greatest tournament on earth. One year, in the first round I played the 1985 US Open junior champion Tim Triguero, and won 8-6 in the third set. “I thought we played a breaker in the third, so when I realized we had to play it out, it screwed me up a bit,” recalled Tim on that occasion in ’91. I also played Bryan Shelton, a former All American out of Georgia Tech and class act. He won two grass court titles in Newport and one year, beat former Wimbledon champion Michael Stich at the All England Club in 1994. I barely beat him, and it was one of my best singles wins come to think of it now. Another year, I lost to Todd Woodbridge in qualifying 6-4 in the third. Todd would go on to win a record nine Wimbledon doubles titles and get to the semis of singles once. In the final round of qualifying, the men play three-out-of-five sets. I qualified one year by beating Cyril Suk of the Czech Republic. The second and only time I qualified I played Fabio Silberberg of Brazil in the final round. I warmed up for the match with Elena Bovina, the tall Russian player. That put me in good spirits heading into the match!
The weather had been so bad that week that we were forced to play only two out of three sets. I lost the first set, and it started to rain. We got postponed until the next day. That night, Pat Cash’s annual Wimbledon Hard Rock Party was going on. I went, thinking I had no chance to win. I met another nameless, faceless many that evening. The next day, I came out and won 6-4 in the third set. I was very happy, and excited to get in.
Until the main draw begins next week, have a cold one on me.
Men’s Singles: Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer 6-1 6-3 6-0
Women’s Singles: Ana Ivanovic beat Dinara Safina 6-4 6-3
Men’s Doubles: Pablo Cuevas and Luis Horna beat Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic 6-2 6-3
Women’s Doubles: Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual beat Casey Dellacqua and Francesca Schiavone 2-6 7-5 6-4
Mixed Doubles: Victoria Azarenko and Bob Bryan beat Katarina Srebotnik and Nenad Zimonjic 6-2 7-6 (4)
Boys Singles: Tsung-Hua Yang beat Jerzy Janowicz 6-3 7-6 (5)
Girls Singles: Simona Halep beat Elena Bogdan 6-4 6-7 (3) 6-2
Boys Doubles: Henri Kontinen and Christopher Rungkat beat Jaan-Frederik Brunken and Matt Reid 6-0 6-3
Girls Doubles: Polona Hercoq and Jessica Moore beat Lesley Kerhove and Arantxa Rus 5-7 6-1 1-0 (7)
Under 45 Doubles: Goran Ivanisevic and Michael Stich beat Richard Krajicek and Emilio Sanchez 6-1 7-6 (5)
Over 45 Doubles: Anders Jarryd and John McEnroe beat Mansour Bahrami and Henri Leconte 6-4 7-6 (2)
Men’s Wheelchair Singles: Shingo Kunieda beat Robin Ammerlaan 6-0 7-6 (5)
Men’s Wheelchair Doubles: Shingo Kunieda and Mailkel Scheffers beat Robin Ammerlaan and Ronald Vink 6-2 7-5
Women’s Wheelchair Singles: Esther Vergeer beat Korie Homan 6-2 6-2
Women’s Wheelchair Doubles: Jiske Griffioen and Esther Vergeer beat Korie Homan and Sharon Walraven 6-4 6-4
Agustin Calleri beat Martin Vassallo Arguello 6-0 6-3 to win the UniCredit Czech Open 2008 in Prostejov, Czech Republic
Tathiana Garbin won the Tiro A Volo in Rome, Italy, by defeating Yvonne Meusburger 6-4 4-6 7-6 (6)
“Roger, I’m sorry for the final.” – Rafael Nadal, after destroying Roger Federer 6-1 6-3 6-0 to win his fourth straight French Open.
“After a loss like this, you don’t want to play Rafa again tomorrow, that’s for sure.” – Federer.
“Roger’s going to be back, and so will Rafa.” – Bjorn Borg, the only other player to win four consecutive French Open singles titles.
“This was amazing. I think we both played a very nervous match. I’m just so happy to keep my composure at the end.” – Ana Ivanovic, after beating Dinara Safina and winning the French Open women’s title.
“Tennis is an easy sport. You don’t need to change anything when you do things well.” – Rafael Nadal, who has never lost at Roland Garros, winning 28 consecutive matches.
“Not one job is easy out there. I mean, the great thing about being a tennis player is that there are some opportunities that you’re going to get during the year, and it’s really up to you to take those opportunities.” – Maria Sharapova, after a fourth-round loss in Paris.
“If Rafa continues to play the way he plays, it’s just impossible.” – Nicolas Almagro, after winning three games against Nadal, the most lopsided French Open men’s quarterfinal in the Open era.
“I was just, I think, tired, mental and physically. Even though I wanted to, my heart couldn’t and my body couldn’t do it anymore.” – Dinara Safina after the women’s final.
“Those are not drop shots. I don’t know what they are, but those are not drop shots. His balls were not bouncing up at all. They had a spin effect. I’ll ask him to explain to me because I don’t know what those were.” – Gael Monfils, on drop shots hit by Roger Federer in their semifinal.
“Kill myself? No, I will have some dinner and maybe get drunk or do something. I don’t know. Whatever makes me feel better.” – Jelena Jankovic, after losing to Ana Ivanovic in the semifinals.
“It was pretty horrible. I felt pretty bad out there.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, after her semifinal loss to Dinara Safina.
“I feel like I’m playing a Russian championship, not Roland Garros.” – Elena Dementieva after beating compatriot Vera Zvonareva to set up a quarterfinal meeting against another Russian, Dinara Safina, who then went on to beat yet another Russian, Svetlana Kuznetsova.
“I am just mother. Win or lose, it’s my children.” – Raouza Islanova, a famed Russian tennis coach who is the mother of Dinara Safina and Marat Safin.
“I’m not the girl to keep all the emotions I have inside. I guess I have to pay lots of fines because that’s the way I am.” – Dinara Safina.
“If somebody would tell us when we were 12 or 13 when we were practicing that we would play on Suzanne Lenglen in a quarterfinal, I wouldn’t have believed it.” – Ernests Gulbis, after losing to Novak Djokovic, friends since the two trained together at the Niki Pilic academy in Munich, Germany..
“It’s hard to comprehend that a person so young had to die. He accompanied me, challenged me and motivated me over the years.” – Thomas Muster, about fellow Austrian player Horst Skoff.
“He’s the defending champion. … What he achieved back in Athens, winning singles and doubles, maybe it’s never going to happen again.” – Roger Federer, backing defending Olympic champion Nicolas Massu’s bid to gain a wildcard entry to the Beijing Olympics.
“Leander and Mahesh, being true patriots and professionals, have agreed to put in their best effort by pairing up for Beijing Olympics to win a medal for the country.” – India Tennis Association (AITA) secretary Anil Khanna, announcing Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi will team up again for the Summer Games.
“He wanted to work with me, a lowly tennis player. He saw something in me that no one else has ever seen, the side that’s classic tennis player with elegance and grace.” – Venus Williams, about photographer Koto Bolofo’s new book, “Venus.”
“I am fulfilling my role as president according to the constitution. I am not interfering in the government at all. These days I play a lot of tennis, go swimming. Sometimes I play a hand of bridge.” – Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.
SURGE TO THE TOP
Ana Ivanovic left Roland Garros with her first Grand Slam tournament title and the world number one ranking. The first player from Serbia to reach the top in the rankings, Ivanovic replaced Maria Sharapova as number one when she defeated fellow Serb Jelena Jankovic in the semifinals.
Defending champion Jelena Jankovic and French Open runner-up Dinara Safina will skip this week’s DFS Classic, a grass-court tournament in Birmingham, England. Jankovic has been bothered by an arm injury, while Safina withdrew because of a bad back.
SOUTH AMERICAN SHUFFLE
Luis Horna of Peru and Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay became the first South American team to win a Grand Slam doubles title when they knocked off second-seeded Daniel Nestor of Canada and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia 6-2 6-3 at Roland Garros. Horna and Cuevas beat three other seeded teams in the fortnight, including top-seeded Bob and Mike Bryan in the quarterfinals and number seven Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra in the opening round. The only other South American man to win a Grand Slam doubles title was Ecuador’s Andres Gomez, who captured the U.S. Open in 1986 with Slobodan Zivojinovic of Yugoslavia and Roland Garros in 1988 with Emilio Sanchez of Spain.
Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi are setting aside their differences and teaming for the Beijing Olympics. Winners of three Grand Slam titles together, the pair are India’s best shot at a medal in Beijing. The two will play together in two events before and after Wimbledon.
Maria Sharapova will play just one grass court tournament this year: Wimbledon. The 21-year-old Russian said on her web site that she will bypass grass-court warmup events in Birmingham and Eastbourne in order to focus on Wimbledon, a tournament she won in 2004.
Justine Henin, who retired just before defending her French Open title, was among those honored at the ITF World Champions Dinner in Paris for finishing the year ranked number one. Henin and Roger Federer were honored as singles champions. Other recipients were doubles champions Bob and Mike Bryan, junior champions Ricardas Berankis and Urzula Radwanska, and wheelchair champions Shingo Kunieda and Esther Vergeer. The Philippe Chatrier Award, the ITF’s highest accolade, was presented to Neal Fraser, an integral part of Australia’s Davis Cup history. Fraser played on 11 Davis Cup-winning squads, including four as captain, a position he held for 24 years to become the competition’s longest-serving captain.
SPOT IN OLYMPICS GONE
Any chance Tzipi Obziler had to participate in the 2008 Beijing Olympics ended when fellow Israeli Shahar Peer lost in the quarterfinals of the French Open doubles. Obizer needed Peer to reach the tourney’s final, which would put Peer in the top ten in the rankings. And that would have allowed the two Israelis to have direct entry into the tennis event at Beijing.
SAYS NO WAY
Japan’s Akiko Morigami denied she was told by a coach to throw a doubles match at the French Open. It had been widely reported that she had been asked to deliberately lose the match in order to boost partner Aiko Nakamura’s chances of qualifying for the Beijing Olympics. “I am aware of the media reports, and unfortunately my comments were misunderstood,” Morigami said in a statement. On her blog, Morigami said: “I’m sorry for the trouble my remarks have caused.”
Horst Skoff, who won four ATP Tour titles during his career, died in Hamburg, Germany, while on a business trip. He was 39. The Austrian tennis federation said Skoff died of a heart attack, but Skoff’s friend, Arno Puckhofer, said German police have ordered an autopsy to verify the cause of death. Once ranked as high as 18th in the world, Skoff helped lead Austria to the 1990 Davis Cup semifinals along with Thomas Muster. Skoff won the first two sets before losing a five-setter to Michael Chang in the decisive fifth match as the United States won 3-2.
Two former U.S. presidents are expected to be on hand when Chris Evert and golfer Greg Norman are married later this month in the Bahamas. According to news reports, the guest list includes Lleyton Hewitt, Anna Kournikova, Lindsay Davenport, Jim Courier, Martina Navratilova and Jimmy Connors from the tennis world. Entertainers Chevy Chase, Jon Lovitz, Kenny Loggins, Gwen Stefani, Matt Lauer also will watch the nuptials, alongside ex-Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush Sr. Evert and Norman, both 53, will reportedly tie the knot in a dusk ceremony on a private beach at The One And Only Ocean Club Hotel on Paradise Island. An Australian newspaper, The Sunday Telegraph, reported that Norman’s son Gregory will be best man at the wedding.
SO LONG BARRY
Barry Lorge, who had been tennis writer for the Washington Post and sports editor of The San Diego Union, died after a long battle against cancer. He was 60. Lorge’s first Wimbledon was in 1970, right after he had graduated from Harvard with a degree in political science. Since leaving the Union, Lorge operated a public relations firm in San Diego.
SMALL WORLD INDEED
Another way of proving tennis is the number one sport in the world. The semifinalists in all the competitions played at the French Open – including men, women, boys, girls, singles, doubles and wheelchair – represented 32 nations: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Ukraine, United States, Uruguay, and Zimbabwe. The senior exhibitions added two more countries: Paraguay and Croatia.
France’s top player, Richard Gasquet, will not compete in the Beijing Olympics this summer. Ranked number nine in the world, Gasquet withdrew from the French Open with a knee injury but is scheduled to play at Wimbledon later this month. Also skipping the Summer Games will be Americans Ashley Harkleroad, Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish.
The 1950 Davis Cup-winning team has been honored by the Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Frank Sedgman and John Bromwich headed the squad that beat the United States 4-1 at Forest Hills in New York City, starting a golden era for Australia, which held the Cup for 15 of the next 18 years.
Scott MacLeod has joined the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour as senior vice president of business development, a new position. MacLeod, who will be based in London, will be responsible for sponsorship sales development, on-line advertising sales and licensing.
Prostejov: Rik De Voest and Lukasz Kubot beat Chris Haggard and Nicolas Tourte 6-2 6-2
Rome: Klaudia Jans and Alicja Rosolska beat Alina Jidkova and Marie-Eve Pelletier 6-3, 6-1
SITES TO SURF
Akiko Morigami: www.40love.jp/morigami/
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$1,125,000 The Artois Championships, London, England, grass
$1,125,000 Gerry Weber Open, Halle, Germany, grass
$670,000 Orange Prokom Open, Warsaw, Poland, clay
$200,000 DFS Classic, Birmingham, Great Britain, grass
$145,000 Torneo Barcelona KIA, Barcelona, Spain, clay
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$584,000 Ordina Open, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, grass
$584,000 The Nottingham Open, Nottingham, Great Britain, grass
$125,000 Braunschweig Challenger, Braunschweig, Germany, clay
$600,000 International Women’s Open, Eastbourne, Great Britain, grass
$175,000 Ordina Open, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, grass
Rafael Nadal defeated Roger Federer 7-5 6-7 (3) 6-3 to win the Hamburg Masters in Hamburg, Germany.
Jelena Jankovic defended her Italian Open title by beating Alize Cornet 6-2 6-2 in Rome
Michael Stich beat Marc-Kevin Goellner 6-2 7-6 (4) to win the BlackRock Tour of Champions in Hamburg, Germany.
Eduardo Schwank beat Igor Kunitsyn 6-2 6-2 to win a $132,523 ATP Challenger event in Bordeaux, France.
Gael Monfils beat Jeremy Chardy 7-6 (2) 7-6 (6) to win a $132,523 ATP Challenger event in Marrakech, Morocco.
“I am happy that I won and that I beat the number one in the world (Roger Federer) and the best player of the year (Novak Djokovic), and that should give me some more confidence for the French Open.” – Rafael Nadal, after beating both Djokovic and Federer en route to winning at Hamburg.
“I wish I could have won today, then I would have an even better feeling.” – Roger Federer, after losing to Nadal in the Hamburg final.
“My goal and dream is to become Number One in the world, and at the moment I think I’m on the right track. If I continue like this, I have a big chance.” – Jelena Jankovic, who beat qualifier Alize Cornet in the Rome final.
“Right now I’m just disappointed. I couldn’t do my best tennis today because of my physical condition, because I was tired because of my six matches before.” -Alize Cornet, who came through qualifying before losing in the final in Rome.
“I think we have a great future … I’m looking forward now to Roland Garros. I think this is a great boost.” – Nenad Zimonjic, who teamed with Daniel Nestor to win the doubles at the Hamburg Masters, beating twins Bob and Mike Bryan in the final.
“I had a lot of great opportunities, and I made a lot of opportunities for myself. But then I made a mistake.” – Venus Williams, after losing to Jelena Jankovic at Rome.
“I really struggled with my intensity today, and obviously that caused a lot of errors. It’s something I have to work on. Now I have ten days to prepare for the French Open.” – Ana Ivanovic, after losing early at Rome.
“I don’t expect this to cause any problems with my preparation for the French. It just happened all of a sudden.” – Serena Williams, who pulled out the Italian Open when her back froze up while warming up for her quarterfinal match.
In a shocking end to a short but highly successful career, Justine Henin retired from tennis while ranked number one in the world. The 25-year-old Belgian has won seven Grand Slam singles titles in her career and 10 tournaments in 2007. She had been in a slump this year, her last title coming at her home tournament in Antwerp, Belgium, in February. Henin’s retirement came just one year after another Belgian, Kim Clijsters, retired from the sport at the age of 23. Clijsters had won a Grand Slam title and had also reached the number one ranking.
“I thought long about this. I started thinking about it late last year. I was at the end of the road. I leave with my head held high.” – Justine Henin, announcing her immediate retirement from tennis.
“It is rare that an athlete leaves at the very top of her game in this day and age, but Justine has always played by her own rules.” – Larry Scott, WTA Tour chief executive.
“Justine is an extraordinary player, a special person and a true champion in both tennis and in life.” – Billie Jean King.
“Her victory at the 2004 Athens Olympics was Belgium’s only gold medal at the Games and we are sorry that she won’t be able to defend her title in Beijing.” – Francesco Ricci Bitti, International Tennis Federation (ITF) president.
“It is a new beginning for me. I feel like I already lived three lives. I gave the sport all I could and took everything it could give me.” – Justine Henin.
“I couldn’t imagine deciding out of the blue to retire, especially if I was number one. I would prefer to take a year off if it was all getting too much for me.” – Roger Federer.
“She gave me a world of trouble.” – Serena Williams.
“She’s 25 years old and she’s achieved so much in her career. If I was 25 and I’d won so many Grand Slams, I’d quit too.” – Maria Sharapova.
“I take this decision without the least bit of regrets. It is my life as a woman that starts now.” – Justine Henin.
“It can sometimes be very difficult, many years playing and traveling around the world. Being there, being at the top, can be very difficult. We will miss her.” – Jelena Jankovic.
“She was a great champion. She always challenged herself to play her best tennis no matter what the circumstances. She was just a real fighter.” – Venus Williams.
“(Tennis loses) another champion. She was a great player and she achieved so much. She bought a lot to the women’s game.” – Ana Ivanovic.
“I don’t understand it. She was number one and she retires … Maybe it’s a woman thing. I don’t understand women.” – Goran Ivanisevic.
“It’s a lot of pressure to keep playing at that level. Certain players, like Bjorn Borg, retired early, and you can’t blame them.” – Pat Cash.
“She was one of the most complete players of the last 10 years, winning seven Grand Slams. She was small compared to the other girls, but she had a very complete game. She made up for her size with her tennis.” – Michael Stich.
“At the end of the match in Berlin, (retirement) all of a sudden was there as something evident. I decided to stop fooling myself and accept it.” Justine Henin.
“She never craved fame and money. All she wanted to do was play and win.” – Carlos Rodriguez, Justine Henin’s coach.
“This is the end of a child’s dream.” – Justine Henin.
SITTING ON TOP
Due to circumstances not of her own making, Maria Sharapova is sitting on top of women’s tennis today. When Ana Ivanovic failed to reach the final of the German Open, the Serb lost her world number two ranking to Sharapova, who at the time had not played since losing a match in April. Then, when Justine Henin shocked the sport by announcing her immediate retirement, Henin was replaced as number one in the world by Sharapova.
Rafael Nadal became only the third player since 1990 to win the three ATP Masters Series clay-court tournaments in the same year, joining Gustavo Kuerten and Marcelo Rios, when he defeated Roger Federer in Hamburg, Germany. A year ago, Federer had won Hamburg while snapping Nadal’s 81-match winning streak. This year, Federer took a 5-1 lead in the first set, only to see Nadal win six consecutive games. Federer led the second set 5-2 before Nadal rallied, forcing the world’s number one player into a tiebreak, which Federer won. It was Nadal who jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the third set before finally winning the match 7-5 6-7 (3) 6-3. Since April 2005, Nadal has won 108 of 110 matches on clay.
Alize Comet came out of qualifying to reach her first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Tier One final at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. And while she lost the title match to defending champion Jelena Jankovic, Comet became only the second qualifier to reach a Tour singles final this year. The Frenchwoman, at 18 years, 3 months, had been seeking to become the youngest Tour champion this year. The first female qualifier to reach the final at the Foro Italico in the Open Era, Comet beat third-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova before fifth-seeded Serena Williams withdrew from the quarterfinals with a back problem. Comet then advanced with a semifinal win over sixth-seeded Anna Chakvetadze.
Twins Sanchai and Sonchat Ratiwatana of Thailand, with wet towels wrapped around their faces, helped the wife and son of Argentine doubles specialist Lucas Arnold Ker escape a smoky fire that broke out on the third floor of the tournament hotel in Bordeaux, France. The twins, top-seeded in the doubles in the Challenger Series tournament, fell in the quarterfinals to Tomasz Bednarek and Dusan Vemic 6-2 7-6 (5). South Africa’s Rik De Voest fled the fire by crawling on his hands and knees. Argentine Eduardo Schwank, whose room was destroyed in the blaze, lost his passport, equipment, clothes, laptop computer and his Rome Challenger winner’s prize money in the fire. Schwank went on to win the Bordeaux tournament.
First, Maria Sharapova reached a compromise with the WTA Tour and did a promotional photo shoot before the Italian Open began. The women’s tour had threatened to fine her $300,000 if she refused. Then the Russian pulled out of the semifinals at Rome because of a strained left calf, but said the injury wouldn’t affect her preparations for the French Open. And, thanks to a series of events, Sharapova wound up the week as the number one player in the world.
SAMPRAS DEBUT DELAYED
Pete Sampras won’t make his debut on the BlackRock Tour of Champions circuit until June 19, one month than originally scheduled. That’s because the senior event in Sao Paulo, Brazil, was changed until next month.
India’s top player, Sania Mirza, may be forced to skip the French Open. Her father, Imran Mirza, said his 21-year-old daughter, currently ranked number 33 in the world, has not yet fully recovered from wrist surgery performed in April. The 21-year-old Sania is expected to return to the tour at the $200,000 DES Classic in Birmingham, England, next month.
When Anne Keothavong won an International Tennis Federation tournament in Jounieh, Lebanon, she ended up qualifying for Wimbledon. The tournament title boosted Keothavong up to number 104 in the world rankings, enough for her to become the first British woman to automatically qualify for Wimbledon since 1999. “I thought I was going to withdraw from the tournament because of all the problems in Lebanon,” Keothavong said. “I was ready to get on a bus to Syria, but five minutes before I was due on court for my quarterfinal they told us that the border was closed and there was no way out.” The rest is history.
Once ranked as high as number four in the world, Jelena Dokic won her second consecutive tournament on the comeback trail. Dokic beat Patricia Mayr 6-3 6-1 to capture a $25,000 clay-court event in Caserta, Italy. The week before, Dokic won a $25,000 tournament on clay in Florence, Italy.
Roger Federer wants to celebrate his 27th birthday on August 8 by carrying the Swiss flag in the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games. “It’s my birthday on the day of the opening ceremony,” Federer said. “Maybe I will carry the flag again for Switzerland. I’d be very honored.”
SPOTLIGHT UNDER THE LIGHTS
The Australian Open women’s singles final will be played at night starting next year. The men’s singles title match has been a night event since 2005. Defending champion Maria Sharapova says the cooler conditions at night will make for a better match. The U.S. Open women’s singles title match is also held at night.
Ending his career where he won three times, Gustavo Kuerten was given a wild-card entry into this year’s French Open. The Brazilian clay court specialist, once ranked number one in the world, won Roland Garros in 1997, 2000 and 2001. Other wild cards into the men’s draw went to French players Eric Prodon, Olivier Patience, Jeremy Chardy, Adrian Mannarino and Jonathan Eysseric. French players given spots in the women’s draw are Olivia Sanchez, Severine Bremond, Stephanie Foretz, Mathilde Johansson, Youlia Fedossova and Violette Huck. Other wild cards were won by Americans Madison Brengle and Wayne Odesnik, and Australians Robert Smeets and Samantha Stosur.
SPEAKING IN TONGUES
It’s a wonder members of the University of Arkansas women’s tennis team can speak to each other. The Lady Razorbacks include Aurelija Miseviciute of Lithuania, Audrey Bordeleau of Canada, Maryori Franco of Colombia, Ela Kaluder of Croatia, Nanar Airapetian of Germany, Delia Damaschin of Romania, Fien Maes of Belgium, Anouk Tigu of the Netherlands and Melissa Hoffmeister, who comes from Joplin, Missouri, about a 90-minute drive from the campus in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The coach is Michael Hegarty, a native of Australia.
After a 25-year run, the USA Network is losing its US Open cable television coverage to ESPN and Tennis Channel, beginning in 2009. The six-year deal was announced by the U.S. Tennis Association. ESPN now owns TV rights to parts of all four Grand Slam tournaments. The broadcast network rights are still held by CBS, which has a contract through 2011. Besides the US Open, the new contract means ESPN2 will also be the lead cable carrier for the US Open Series, the circuit of hard-court tournaments leading up to the US Open.
Florida drivers may be able to show their love for tennis in the near future. The Florida legislature passed a bill enabling drivers to support tennis through a new specialty license plate. The money raised from the sale of the plates would be used for grants to nonprofit organizations operating youth tennis programs and adaptive programs for special populations of all ages, as well as for building, renovating and maintaining quality public tennis facilities. The tennis plates, with the phrase “Play Tennis” on the bottom, should be available starting October 1.
Hamburg: Nenad Zimonjic and Daniel Nestor beat Bob and Mike Bryan 6-4 5-7 10-8 (match tiebreak)
Rome: Chan Yung-Jan and Chuang Chia-Jung beat Iveta Benesova and Janette Husarova 7-6 (5) 6-3
Bordeaux: Diego Hartfield and Sergio Roitman beat Tomasz Bednarek and Dusan Vemic 6-4 6-4
Marrakech: Frederico Gil and Florin Mergea beat James Aukland and Jamie Delgado 6-2 6-3
SITES TO SURF
French Open (Roland Garros): www.rolandgarros.com/
French Tennis Federation: www.fft.fr/portail/
Maria Sharapova: www.mariasharapova.com
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
$1,500,000 ARAG ATP World Team Championship, Duesseldorf, Germany, clay
$576,866 The Hypo Group Tennis International 2008, Poertschach, Austria, clay
$576,866 Grand Prix Hassan II, Casablanca, Morocco, clay
$200,000 Istanbul Cup, Istanbul, Turkey, clay
$175,000 Internationaux de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France, clay
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$11,034,805 Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay
$10,891,368 Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay