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!
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.
Andy Murray beat Rafael Nadal 6-4 5-7 6-3 to win an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi. Murray beat Roger Federer in the semifinals of the eight-player event.
“That’s what I’m aiming for. I worked really hard in November, December to give myself the best chance.” – Andy Murray, talking about his chances to win the Australian Open.
“I’m just not ready to play against the top-class competition in Hong Kong, although I remain hopeful for Australia where I’m the defending champion.” – Maria Sharapova, after withdrawing from a Hong Kong exhibition tournament because she is still recovering from a shoulder injury.
“Ken Rosewall is one of Australia’s sporting legends and without question one of the greatest tennis players of all time.” — Tennis New South Wales president Stephen Healy, on naming the Sydney Olympics stadium the Ken Rosewall Arena.
“I accomplished a lot of my dreams as a player, winning at Roland Garros, and now I’ve managed another one, becoming captain of our Davis Cup team.” – Albert Costa, after being named to the helm of Spain’s Davis Cup squad.
“We have chosen two professionals with a lot of experience and long careers in tennis. The AAT based its decision on the technical and leadership qualities of the two coaches.” — Enrique Morea, president of the AAT, after Modesto Vazquez was picked as Argentina’s new Davis Cup captain and Ricardo Rivera was selected as his assistant.
It hasn’t taken long for Andy Murray to show he should be considered one of the favorites for this month’s Australian Open. Although it was just an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi, the Brit walked away with the USD $250,000 first-place prize after defeating Rafael Nadal 6-4 5-7 6-3 in the final. Murray also beat Roger Federer in the semifinals and James Blake in his opening match. It was Murray’s second straight win over Nadal and the fifth time he has beaten Federer.
Former Wimbledon semifinalist Jelena Dokic will be playing in this year’s Australian Open after winning a wild card spot in the draw. The 25-year-old Dokic was ranked as high as number four in the world in 2002. But a series of injuries and personal problems, many of them involving her father Damir, saw her ranking drop to 617 in 2006. Last year she won three ITF tournaments and improved her ranking to 179, her highest in four years.
Expecting her second child, Lindsay Davenport has taken herself off the WTA Tour indefinitely. The three-time Grand Slam winner learned she was pregnant just a week after agreeing to play in this month’s Australian Open. After returning to the tour following the birth of her first child, Jagger, Davenport won four of her 55 career singles titles. She also has won 37 doubles titles, including Roland Garros in 1996 with Mary Joe Fernandez, the US Open in 1997 with Jana Novotna and Wimbledon in 1999 with Corina Morariu. Her Grand Slam singles titles came at the US Open in 1998, Wimbledon in 1999 and the Australian Open in 2000.
Sydney’s 2000 Olympics tennis stadium has been named in honor of eight-time Grand Slam champion Ken Rosewall. The 10,000-seat stadium at Sydney Olympic Park will now be known as the Ken Rosewall Arena. Rosewall played in four Wimbledon finals during his career, with a 20-year gap between the first in 1954 and the last in 1974. He won four Australian titles, two French titles and two US titles. He turned 74 last month.
Albert Costa is Spain’s new Davis Cup captain. The 33-year-old replaces Emilio Sanchez Vicario, who stepped down after leading the Spaniards to their third Davis Cup title with a 3-1 win over Argentina. Costa, the 2002 French Open winner, played on Spain’s first Davis Cup winning team in 2000. He will make his debut as captain in a first-round World Group match against Serbia on March 6-8.
Little-known Modesto Vazquez is the new captain for Argentina’s Davis Cup team. The 59-year-old Vazquez replaces Alberto Mancini, who led Argentina to the finals in both 2006 and 2008, only to lose both times. Currently the development director for the Argentina Tennis Association (AAT), Vazquez played two Davis Cup ties for Argentina in 1968 and 1970. The AAT also selected Ricardo Rivera to be Vazquez’s assistant.
SET FOR AUSTRALIA
Two Americans have won wild-card spots for the Australian Open. Christina McHale will be making her first main-draw appearance at a Grand Slam tournament, while John Isner played in all four Grand Slam tournaments in 2008, losing to Fabrice Santoro in the first round of the Australian Open. The US Tennis Association and Tennis Australia have a reciprocal agreement to exchange wild-card berths for the US and Australian Opens.
A shoulder injury is still bothering Maria Sharapova, who will be defending her Australian Open singles crown later this month. The injury forced Sharapova to withdraw from an exhibition event in Hong Kong, where she will be replaced by fellow Russian Anna Chakvetadze. Sharapova has not played competitively since pulling out of a tournament in Montreal, Canada, in July following a match in which she double-faulted 17 times. Medical tests found a torn rotator cuff tendon in her right shoulder.
Upset that a first-round Davis Cup tie was relocated because of security fears, Pakistani tennis officials are demanding USD $60,000 from the International Tennis Federation (ITF). Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) president Dilawar Abbas said the ITF last month gave his country the option of playing its Group II tie against Oman scheduled for March 6-8 in either Oman or Malaysia. Abbas, denying there are security issues in his country, said the switch will incur losses to Pakistan and the ITF should pay compensation. “If the ITF still wants to switch the tie, we demand it to be played on a neutral venue, either in Singapore or Malaysia and not in Oman,” Abbas said.
China’s Peng Shuai has a new coach. She began training with Tarik Benhabiles last month in Florida and will continue to work together fulltime throughout 2009. The 22-year-old Peng had split with former coach Zhang Depei. Benhabiles, who reached a career-high ranking of 22nd in the world and represented France in Davis Cup, ended his playing career in 1992 and coached a young Andy Roddick. He has worked with other players, including Benjamin Becker, Ivo Karlovic and Gael Monfils.
STEFFI THE TARGET
Andre Agassi’s former agent and longtime friend has filed a lawsuit against the tennis star’s wife, Steffi Graf. In the lawsuit, sports agent Perry Rogers charges Graf, herself an inductee into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, owes USD $50,000 to Rogers and his Alliance Sports Management Co. for services outlined in a 2002 agreement. Graf declined to comment. Her husband released a statement saying he was “saddened and disappointed” by the lawsuit. When Agassi and Rogers split last October, both described the parting as friendly.
The International Tennis Federation has decided to allow Nigeria to remain in the Euro/Africa Group 3 Davis Cup competition. The ITF initially dropped the African nation to Group 4 when the Nigerian team failed to show up in Bulgaria last March for their tie. But the ITF reversed its decision when it learned that the Bulgarian Embassy in Lagos, Nigeria, refused to give visas to the Nigerian team.
Oded Yaakov has stepped down as captain of Israel’s Fed Cup team, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family. However, Yaakov has not ruled out the possibility of coaching the national team again in the future. “When you have the soul of a coach, you’re wired with an element of competitiveness and adrenaline,” Yaakov said. “These are traits that stay with you, and you can’t get rid of them. I’m sure I’ll feel them again, and that’s why I’m not ruling out returning to the [Fed Cup] team sometime in the future.”
Former USA Davis Cup captain George MacCall is dead at the age of 90. MacCall directed the American Davis Cup teams in 1965-67 that featured Arthur Ashe, Dennis Ralston and Marty Riessen. He is credited with pushing through a rule that allowed the players to be paid USD $28 a day for expenses. MacCall, who won USA senior titles as a player, organized the National Tennis League in 1967 and signed Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Pancho Gonzalez, Fred Stolle among others. He also signed women players, including Billie Jean King, Rosie Casals, Ann Jones and Francoise Durr, helping force tennis into the Open Era.
SITES TO SURF
Sao Paulo: www.abertosp.com.br/
Australian Open: www.australianopen.com/
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
$1,110,250 Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Doha, Qatar, hard
$484,750 Brisbane International, Brisbane, Australia, hard
$450,000 Chennai Open, Chennai, India, hard
$100,000 Prime Aberto de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil, hard
$220,000 Brisbane International, Brisbane, Australia, hard
$220,000 ASB Classic, Auckland, New Zealand, hard
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$484,750 Medibank International, Sydney, Australia, hard
$480,750 Heineken Open, Auckland, New Zealand, hard
$600,000 Medibank International, Sydney, Australia, hard
$220,000 Moorilla Hobart International, Hobart, Australia, hard
Marin Cilic beat Mardy Fish 6-4 4-6 6-2 to win the Pilot Pen Tennis in New Haven, Connecticut.
Caroline Wozniacki beat Anna Chakvetadze 3-6 6-4 6-1 to win the women’s singles at the Pilot Pen in New Haven
Lucie Safarova won the Forest Hills Classic in New York City by beating Peng Shuai 6-4 6-2
“There is always a little buzz, even in the middle of the points. That’s the main difference between this tournament and others. It’s good for the crowd to get into. It’s different to Wimbledon, which is very quiet. Here it is the opposite – it’s much louder. It’s good and it’s a different feeling to play. I love coming here.” – Britain’s Andy Murray on playing the US Open.
“I want to dedicate my victory today to all the victims and all the families of the victims in the flight in Madrid and send them all of my support and everything of me that I can help for them. It is my hometown, and when this thing happened I felt so bad.” – Spain’s Fernando Verdasco, playing in the Pilot Pen Tennis but thinking of the Spanair jetliner crash in Madrid, Spain, that killed 153 people.
“I was injured at the beginning of the year and haven’t had my best results, but this week has helped me regain my confidence in time for the US Open.” – Lucie Safarova, who won the Forest Hills Classic.
“I am having fun. I enjoy playing. I enjoy playing for a big crowd. You know, when you’re in the finals, you don’t have anything to lose. You can just win.” – Caroline Wozniacki, after winning the Pilot Pen women’s singles.
“This was a very important week for me. I don’t think I could have asked for a better week before the U.S. Open.” – Daniela Hantuchova, who is coming off an injury, after losing in both singles and doubles at the Pilot Pen.
“I would love to become number one in the world and win Grand Slams. I think everyone practicing this hard, you know, putting such an effort in it wants to become number one in the world. But there’s only one number one. You know, I still have 21 spots to go. And hopefully after this tournament I have a little bit less.” – Caroline Wozniacki.
“This is my eleventh final and I’ve only won twice. It’s starting to really sting, nine times losing. I’ve got a lot of runner-up trophies in my office in my house. These are the ones I need to get.” – Mardy Fish, after losing the Pilot Pen final.
“I had never faced a serve like that before. I needed to return better, and I didn’t.” – John Isner, the 6-foot-9 (205 cm) American, after losing to 6-foot-10 (208 cm) Ivo Karlovic of Croatia at the Pilot Pen.
“I am looking forward to playing again in January in my home country and using that as a springboard to compete at my best again on the world stage for at least a couple of more years.” – Lleyton Hewitt, who has undergone hip surgery and will miss the rest of 2008.
“It’s very disappointing for me to miss the U.S. Open. I’ve always done well in this tournament.” – Sania Mirza, who pulled out of the year’s final Grand Slam tournament with a right wrist injury.
“We’ve had a great year so far and look forward to finishing the season in Doha and defending our Championships title.” – Cara Black, after she and Liezel Huber became the first doubles team to qualify for the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships.
“I have nothing more to say to this man. We spoke to him last year, trying to understand why he is doing these things, but it is impossible, it’s a waste of time.” – Rafael Nadal, talking last spring about Etienne de Villiers, who is stepping down as head of the ATP.
“I understand how much the Olympics means to many people. But for me, as a professional tennis player, it is just a tournament.” -Li Na, who made Chinese history by beating Svetlana Kuznetsova and Venus Williams and reaching the semifinals at the Beijing Games.
If Rafael Nadal wins his third straight Grand Slam tournament, he would take home the biggest paycheck in tennis. Nadal clinched the 2008 Olympus US Open Series men’s title, and that would result in a USD $1 million bonus should he win the US Open. Add that to the winner’s purse at the two-week event and Nadal could increase his bank account by USD $2.5 million. Roger Federer won the Open Series title and the US Open last year, pocketing a record USD $2.4 million. Dinara Safina won the women’s Open Series and could also earn a USD $1 million bonus should she win the US Open women’s singles.
A parade of past winners will be in Arthur Ashe Stadium when the US Open’s Opening Night Ceremony celebrates the 40th anniversary of open tennis, including Billie Jean King, John McEnroe, Rod Laver, Ivan Lendl, Tracy Austin, Martina Navratilova, Stan Smith, Boris Becker, Gabrielle Sabatini, John Newcombe, Ilie Nastase, Guillermo Vilas and Mats Wilander. Virginia Wade, winner of the first U.S. Open in 1968, will be on hand, while the men’s champion, the late Arthur Ashe, will be represented by his widow, Jeanne Moutossamy-Ashe, and daughter, Camera Ashe. Other past champions on hand will include Roger Federer, Lindsay Davenport, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Marat Safin and Andy Roddick.
The man from Disney, Etienne de Villiers, is stepping down as executive chairman and president of the ATP, the governing body of men’s professional tennis, when his contract expires at the end of the 2008 season. De Villiers has served as ATP executive chairman since June 2005. A native of South Africa, de Villiers had come under heavy criticism from the game’s top players, including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. In March at the Sony Ericsson Open, every top 20 player signed a letter to the ATP Board of Directors demanding that de Villiers’ contract not be renewed until other candidates were interviewed for the position. An executive at Disney, de Villiers was hired by the ATP with a mandate to make change. He did that while also making enemies. The ATP recently won a court case but spent millions on its defense.
Hip surgery will keep Lleyton Hewitt from playing in this year’s U.S. Open. The 2001 winner at New York’s Flushing Meadows, Hewitt said in a statement published on his web site that he is frustrated at not being able to play but had exhausted every possibility besides surgery. He also will miss Australia’s Davis Cup World Group playoff in Chile later in September. His last tournament was the Beijing Olympics where he lost in the second round to Rafael Nadal.
Leander Paes has stepped down as captain of India’s Davis Cup team. A Davis Cup regular for 17 years, Paes has been named to the Indian team that will play Romania in a World Group playoff September 19, with the winner remaining in the World Group. Sumant Misra has been named non-playing captain for the tie in Bucharest, Romania, with Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Somdev Devvarman and Prakash Amritraj on the squad. In an uneasy partnership, Paes and Bhupathi reached the quarterfinals at the Beijing Olympics before losing to eventual gold medalist Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland. Once one of the world’s top doubles teams, Paes and Bhupathi split, and Bhupathi and his teammates tried unsuccessfully in February to have Paes removed as Davis Cup captain.
A right wrist injury means India’s Sania Mirza will miss the US Open. Mirza had surgery on her wrist in April, keeping her off the WTA Tour for some time. The injury flared up during her first-round match at the Beijing Olympics, and after tests, she was advised to rest for three weeks. In 2005, Mirza had her best US Open, reaching the fourth round.
Stefan Koubek of Austria has pulled out of this year’s US Open. Ranked 105th in the world, Koubek has not played since being routed by Robin Soderling 6-0 6-1 at the Sony Ericsson Masters in Miami in March.
Ivan Ljubicic is the newest member of the ATP Player Council. The 29-year-old Ljubicic was elected to the vacant position of European Player Board Representative and will fulfill the existing term that ends in December 2009. Ljubicic served as vice president and president of the ATP Player Council in 2006-07.
Having won his last four tournaments, Juan Martin del Potro said he was tired and withdrew from the Pilot Pen in New Haven, Connecticut. The 19-year-old Argentine won titles at Stuttgart, Germany; Kitzbuhel, Austria; Los Angeles, California, and Washington, D.C., moving up to number 17 in the world rankings.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame’s Legends Ball will be held in New York City on Friday, September 5, the last Friday of the US Open. The special night will honor Billie Jean King, Michael Chang, Mark McCormack and Eugene L. Scott along with others. Chang, McCormack and Scott were inducted into the Hall of Fame earlier this summer. A highlight of the evening will be the presentation of the third annual Eugene L. Scott Award to King. The award honors an individual who embodies Scott’s commitment to communicating honestly and critically about the game, and who has had a significant impact on the tennis world.
SONY ERICSSON QUALIFIERS
Cara Black and Liezel Huber are the first doubles team to qualify for the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships, to be played in Doha, Qatar, November 4-9. Black and Huber have teamed up so far this year to win seven WTA Tour titles, giving them 19 career doubles titles as a team. The top eight singles players and top four doubles teams will compete at the Championships.
Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki continued her winning ways in New Haven, Connecticut, capturing the Pilot Pen by knocking off top-seeded Anna Chakvetadze 3-6 6-4 6-1 in the final. It was Wozniacki’s second title of her career, both coming this month. The 18-year-old had never even been in a WTA Tour final until this month, winning her first crown in Stockholm, Sweden, before reaching the third round at the Beijing Olympics where she lost to eventual gold-medalist Elena Dementieva. Her run at New Haven included victories over third-seeded Marion Bartoli, seventh-seeded Alize Cornet and eighth-seeded Dominka Cibulkova.
Two tournaments scheduled to be held in the nation of Georgia have been canceled due to the current political situation. The International Tennis Federation called off a USD $10,000 event to be held at Tbilisi, beginning September 15, and a USD $25,000 tournament scheduled to be held in Batumi, beginning September 22.
Marin Cilic is finally a champion on the ATP circuit. The 19-year-old from Croatia beat Mardy Fish 6-4 4-6 6-2 at the Pilot Penn in New Haven, Connecticut, a US Open tuneup tournament. Cilic, playing in a final for the first time in his pro career, broke Fish five times, including three times in the third set. Cilic joines Ivo Karlovic as the only Croats to win ATP titles this year.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum will present a gallery exhibition at the 2008 US Open entitled “Home Court: The Family Draw.” The exhibition will be on view at the US Open Gallery in Louis Armstrong Stadium during the two weeks of the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. The exhibit provides an inspiring look at the relationship of tennis and family and features stories of many remarkable families.
The four governing bodies of tennis have hired a former Scotland Yard detective to run the sport’s new integrity unit. Besides hiring Jeff Rees, the WTA and ATP tours, the International Tennis Federation and the Grand Slam Committee adopted an anti-corruption code to ensure the same set of penalties apply across the professional ranks. Rees, who previously worked for the International Cricket Council’s security unit, was part of an independent panel that issued a report in May saying 45 matches merited further investigation because of irregular betting patterns.
Players on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour aren’t the only ones taking it off for the camera. Some of the ATP players are shedding their sports gear for more natural attire in a new calendar. Among those showing off their “muscles” are Fernando Verdaso, Ivan Ljubicic, Tommy Haas, Juan Monaco, Paradorn Srichaphan and Dmitry Tursonov.
Paraguayan javelin thrower Leryn Franco finished 51st overall in a field of 52 competitors at the Beijing Olympics, but nobody seemed to care. The 26-year-old part-time model and bikini contestant was competing in her second Olympics: She placed 42nd overall at the 2004 Athens Games. It is reported that she is dating Novak Djokovic, who in January became the first player from Serbia to win a Grand Slam tournament and the youngest player in the Open era to have reached all four Grand Slam semifinals. Franco and Djokovic were seen walking hand-in-hand at the Olympic village in Beijing.
One day after he resigned as president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf was playing tennis on the court at his home and relaxing with family and friends. “He was in a good mood, very relaxed,” said Tariq Azim, who was among 30 supporters who gathered at Musharraf’s house outside the capital, Islamabad. “We used to meet him there in the past, but with no official duties, he was completely different.”
Harry Marmion, the 43rd president of the United States Tennis Association, is dead. Marmion, foremost an educator, served as president of St. Xavier College in Chicago and of Southampton College of Long Island University. He also was vice president for academic affairs at Fairleigh Dickinson University. But he was best known as the USTA president when Arthur Ashe Stadium, the main stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, was opened in 1997. Upon his retirement from the presidency, he was credited with playing an integral role in electing Judy Levering as the first female president of the USTA.
New Haven men: Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa beat Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles 7-5 6-2
New Haven women: Kveta Peschke and Lisa Raymond beat Sorana Cirstea and Monica Niculescu 4-6 7-5 10-7 (match tiebreak)
SITES TO SURF
US Open: www.usopen.org
WTA Tour: www.sonyericssonwtatour.com
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
ATP and WTA TOUR
U.S. Open, Flushing Meadows, New York, hard (first week)
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
ATP and WTA TOUR
U.S. Open, Flushing Meadows, New York, hard (second week)
Novak Djokovic beat Stanislas Wawrinka 4-6 6-3 6-3 to win the Rome Masters in Rome, Italy.
Dina Safina defeated Elena Dementieva 3-6 6-2 6-2 to win the Qatar Telecom German Open in Berlin, Germany.
Thomas Muster won the BlackRock Tour of Champions in Rome, Italy, by a walkover when Goran Ivanisevic was unable to play because of a shoulder injury.
“This year has been like a dream for me, but I want to continue. I want to finish the year as number one.” – Novak Djokovic, who added the Rome Masters to his 2008 Australian Open title.
“My mother can buy anything she wants. She can walk into any store and I will pay for it.” – Dina Safina, after beating her third top-ten player of the week and winning the German Open.
“I’m a little surprised, because in one week playing the final in Masters Series, and to be 44 and then top ten after the week is a big jump for me.” – Stanislas Wawrinka, whose surprising week at the Rome Masters has boosted his ranking from number 44 in the world to number 10.
“It happens once in a while, but never anything like this – a tournament without semifinals.” – American tennis commentator Bud Collins on players retiring from both Rome Masters semifinals because of injuries.
“The problem is there’s a real risk the injury might get worse.” – Amelie Mauresmo, who said a scan showed she has an intercostal tear in her rib area, the reason she has pulled out of two tournaments, including the Italian Open.
“This is another showing that the season is really tough. The players are not getting injured for nothing.” – Novak Djokovic, after both Rome Masters semifinals ended with retirements because of injury.
“We are aware that this year’s calendar asks a great deal of all ATP players in terms of scheduling for the European spring clay court season.” – Andy Anson, ATP CEO of Europe, about the players’ complaints of the packed ATP calendar.
“You can put me on the list if you want to, but I don’t know if I can keep playing like this. This week I played so good, starting with Justine (Henin), just so good.” – Dina Safina, when asked if she should be considered one of the favorite for the French Open women’s title later this month.
“I came into the match with the belief that I can win.” – Radek Stepanek, after upsetting Roger Federer 7-6 (4) 7-6 (7) in the quarterfinals of the Rome Masters.
“It’s quite disappointing. I played so poorly on the big points.” – Roger Federer, after losing to Radek Stepanek.
“If someone had told me I would be in the final I would have shaken his hand and given him half the prize money.” – Dinara Safina before she won the German Open title.
“I definitely lost that match, rather than she won it off me. It just wasn’t my day out there. It wasn’t pretty for me out there at all.” – Serena Williams, following her 2-6 6-1 7-6 (5) loss to Dinara Safina at the German Open.
“It’s a very important win for me and I feel special right now. I haven’t had this special feeling for a long time.” – Juan Carlos Ferrero, after handing Rafael Nadal only his second loss on clay in three years, 7-5 6-1 in the second round of the Rome Masters.
“I have this pain at the back of my foot, so it was tough for me. I just congratulate Juan Carlos. I think this is an important win for him because he’s trying to go to the Olympics.” – Rafael Nadal, after losing to Juan Carlos Ferrero.
“This dispute isn’t specifically about whether or not Madrid is the venue. The players and Davis Cup team captain (Emilio Sanchez Vicario) have once again been misled, and a promise has not been kept to defend and approve the conditions established for us so as not to give our rivals an advantage.” – Statement from Spain’s top players complaining about the choice of venue for September’s Davis Cup semifinal against the United States.
“It just comes to the point where the schedule is too long without the biggest sporting event in the world shoved right in the middle of its busiest part of the season.” – Andy Roddick, saying he’s skipping the Beijing Olympics tennis tournament to instead prepare for the U.S. Open
“For my favorite fan base – 75-year-old women – this proves to you that can still be young at an advanced age.” – John McEnroe, 49, after winning his first Outback Champions Series title in Boston in his 13th career tournament on the 30-and-over tour.
Dina Safina rode her string of upsets to the title at the Qatar Telecom German Open in Berlin, Germany. The 22-year-old Russian knocked off world number one Justine Henin, then fifth-seeded Serena Williams during the week. In the final, Safina beat ninth-ranked Elena Dementieva 3-6 6-2 6-2. Safina is the sister of two-time Grand Slam tournament champion Marat Safin.
Switzerland has been represented in many tournament finals over the past few years, but the Rome Masters produced a surprise from the Alpine confederation. It was Stanislas Wawrinka, not Roger Federer, who reached the title match before Novak Djokovic struggled to a 4-6 6-3 6-3 victory. Wawrinka’s run included victories over two top ten players, James Blake and Andy Roddick, as well as Britain’s Andy Murray and Juan Carlos Ferrero right after he had shocked fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal. The run to the final boosted Wawrinka’s ranking to number 10 in the world, make it the first time since the rankings began in 1973 that two Swiss players have been in the top ten at the same time.
The Rome Masters singles semifinals lasted all of 10 games. Total. Andy Roddick pulled out of his match against Stanislas Wawrinka with a back injury while trailing 0-3. Then Radek Stepanek retired from his semifinal with Novak Djokovic leading 6-0 1-0. Djokovic’s quarterfinal opponent, Nicolas Almagro, also retired with an injury. And although he didn’t retire, defending champion Rafael Nadal suffered from a blister on his right foot in his second-round loss to Juan Carlos Ferrero. In all, there were a tournament-record five retirements as Fernando Gonzalez withdrew from his third-round match because of a right leg injury and Juan Martin Del Potro retired in his first-round match against Andy Murray.
Fans at the Rome Masters should have expected as much. One day after both men’s singles semifinals were drastically shortened because of injury retirements, the BlackRock Tour of Champions final wasn’t held at all: Goran Ivanisevic, who beat Pat Cash on Saturday in three sets, woke up Sunday with a sore shoulder and couldn’t play, giving the title to Thomas Muster on a walkover. Muster did take to the court, however, playing an exhibition match with Henri Leconte.
The top two players in both the men’s and women’s singles- Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, and Justine Henin and Ana Ivanovic – were among the big names who were upset in tournaments the past week, the men in Rome and the women in Berlin. Others who were upset this week included Svetlana Kuznetsova, Jelena Jankovic and Serena Williams in Berlin, while David Ferrrer, James Blake and David Nalbandian were among those toppled in Rome.
Spanish players are upset that their nation’s Davis Cup semifinal against the United States will be played in Madrid. The players, who want to play at sea-level where the ball would be slower, feel that Madrid’s 600-meter (1,968 feet) altitude will favor the big-serving American team. Emilio Sanchez Vicario was confirmed as team captain even though Sanchez sided with the players in complaining that Spanish Tennis Federation president Pedro Munoz had gone back on a promise to listen to the players’ advice regarding the selection of the site. Munoz said: “They can say I didn’t keep my promise, but not that I lied.”
Maria Sharapova’s decision to skip the German Open has proved beneficial to her ranking. When Ana Ivanovic was upset in the semifinals of the Berlin tournament by Elena Dementieva, it meant the Serbian player would slip from her world number two ranking and be overtaken by Sharapova. The Russian still hasn’t said why she pulled out of the Berlin event.
Two-time champion Amelie Mauresmo has pulled out of this week’s Italian Open because of a rib injury. The Frenchwoman won the Rome tournament in 2004 and 2005 and has twice been runner-up. Mauresmo was replaced in the draw by Nadia Petrova.
STAKING A CLAIM
Madison Brengle, an 18-year-old from Dover, Delaware, earned a spot in the main draw of the French Open after winning a USTA wild card tournament in Boca Raton, Florida. Currently ranked number 274 in the world, Brengle has now won four USTA wild card playoffs – for the Australian Open main draw wild cards in 2007 and 2008, and a French Open qualifying draw wild card in 2007. The U.S. Tennis Association and the French Tennis Federation have a reciprocal agreement in which wild card entries into the main draw at the 2008 French Open and 2008 U.S. Open are exchanged.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has appointed Andrew Jarrett as Chief of Officiating. A former British Davis Cup player, Jarrett coached the British Olympic team and has been manager of Women’s National Training at the Lawn Tennis Association. He is a gold badge referee and has worked as a Grand Slam supervisor at the Australian Open and U.S. Open. In 2006, he was appointed Wimbledon referee.
SITE FOR SENIORS
Three players who have been ranked number one in the world and have been inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame – John McEnroe, Jim Courier and Mats Wilander – will play in the Hall of Fame Champions Cup in Newport, Rhode Island, August 13-17. The three Hall of Famers will be joined by five other tennis champions in the five-day singles round-robin competition.
While heavy fighting was going on in the country, Anne Keothavong of Britain beat Lourdes Dominguez-Lino of Spain 6-4 6-1 to win a $50,000 International Tennis Federation women’s tournament in Jounieh, Lebanon. Jounieh is located eight miles (30 kilometers) north of Beirut, which for four days during the week was the focus of bloody sectarian clashes between Sunnis and Shiites. The tournament was conducted with no problems.
Justine Henin was slapped with a $20,000 (USD) fine by the WTA Tour when the world number one player was a late withdrawal from the Italian Open, citing fatigue. Henin lost in the third round of the German Open this past week after taking a month off with a knee injury. The four-time French Open champion will head to Roland Garros with having played just two clay court matches this spring.
Chinese star Peng Shuai helped celebrate the 100-day countdown to the Beijing Olympics by becoming UPS’s star Courier For A Day. The first stop for courier Peng was the Beijing Organizing Committee where she presented a letter for commitment from United Parcel Service, one of the sponsors of the Games. Then Peng headed to the China Charity Federation to make a special delivery. Besides sponsoring the 2008 Paralympics Games, the UPS Foundation is donating $100,000 (USD) to the China Paralympics Games Management Center.
Jelena Jankovic says she has been taking acting lessons, with a possible movie role in the future. “It was super,” she said of the acting lesson. “I’ve always enjoyed activity that is not connected with tennis. It (the lesson) lasted only an hour. I got instructions to use my imagination and I acted the scene without anybody’s advice. At the end we did several exercises because they wanted to test my acting talent.”
Kimiko Date-Krumm’s comeback ran into reality in Fukuoka, Japan. Ranked as high as number five in the world, Date-Krumm’s second tournament back from a 12-year retirement ended in the quarterfinals of the $50,000 International Tennis Federation event when she lost to top-seeded Aiko Nakamura 6-2 6-2. The eventual winner was Tomoko Yonemura of Japan, who beat Thailand’s Tamarin Tanasugarn in the final 6-1 2-6 7-6 (8). In her first tournament back, Date-Krumm won the doubles. This time she and her partner lost in the first round.
SEE FOR YOURSELF
ESPN360.com will provide more than 150 hours of live online tennis coverage from Sony Ericsson WTA Tour events around the world. The coverage has already begun and will conclude with coverage of the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha, Qatar. Additionally, matches will be available for on-demand replay for at least 48 hours after their completion.
SUPPORTING THE SPORT
Juan Maria Tintore, president of the Real Club De Tenis Barcelona, has been awarded the Golden Achievement Award for 2008 by the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The award is presented annually to individuals who have made important contributions to tennis in the fields of administration, promotion or education, and have devoted long and outstanding service to the sport. Tintore was presented the award at a ceremony in Barcelona by Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.
SCORING DAVIS CUP
Bosnia/Herzegovina, Lithuania, Moldova and Norway took another step toward being promoted to Davis Cup Europe/Africa Zone Group II next year. Competing in an eight-nation round-robin competition played on clay in Yerevan, Armenia, the four will now play for two spots in Group II. The other four nations – Armenia, Andorra, Estonia and Ghana – will meet, with the teams finishing third and fourth being relegated to Europe/Africa Zone Group IV in 2009.
Rome: Bob and Mike Bryan beat Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic 3-6 6-4 10-8
Berlin: Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 3-6 6-2 10-2
SITES TO SURF
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
$2,270,000 Hamburg Masters, Hamburg, Germany, clay
$1,340,000 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Rome, Italy, clay
BlackRock Tour of Champions Hamburg, Germany, clay
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$1,500,000 ARAG ATP World Team Championship, Duesseldorf, Germany, clay
$370,000 The Hypo Group Tennis International 2008, Poertschach, Austria, clay
$370,000 Grand Prix Hassan II, Casablanca, Morocco, clay
$200,000 Istanbul Cup, Istanbul, Turkey, clay
$175,000 Internationaux de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France, clay
$1,340,000 Qatar Telecom German Open, Berlin, Germany, clay
BlackRock Tour of Champions, Sao Paulo, Brazil, clay
Rafael Nadal won his first title of 2008 and his fourth consecutive Monte Carlo Masters, defeating Roger Federer 7-5 7-5.
Nuria Llagostera Vives won both of her singles and teamed up to capture the doubles and lead Spain over China 4-1 and into the Fed Cup World Group finals.
Vera Zvonareva beat Vania King to clinch the Fed Cup World Group semifinals victory as Russia beat the United States 3-2.
Marcelo Rios beat Michael Stich 6-3 6-3 to win the BlackRock Champions Cup in Barcelona, Spain.
“Winning four times here is unimaginable.” – Rafael Nadal, who became the first player to win four straight titles at Monte Carlo since Anthony Wilding of New Zealand did it from 1911-14.
“He deserves to win. I’m pushing Rafa today, having the feeling I can beat him if I play the right way. That’s the feeling I didn’t have after (Monte Carlo) last year.” – Roger Federer after his 7-5 7-5 loss to Rafael Nadal for the Monte Carlo Masters title.
“I knew I could do it, but there were times when I wondered.” – Robert Dee, who finally won his first professional match after 54 consecutive losses.
“It was my first match on red clay in almost two years. That’s why I was a little nervous at the start of the match.” – Vera Zvonareva, who beat Vania King 4-6 6-3 6-2 to give Russia an insurmountable 3-0 lead over the United States in their Fed Cup semifinal.
“I felt really sorry. I really didn’t want to lose.” – Peng Shuai, after losing 6-4 6-4 to Nuria Llagostera Vives as Spain clinched its Fed Cup semifinal victory over China.
“We knew we could win the tie, but we never expected to win three matches in a row.” – Nuria Llagostera Vives on Spain’s Fed Cup semifinal win.
“It’s not worth it. I’m just 20 years old. Still a lot of time, a lot of tournaments to come.” – Novak Djokovic, on how he felt it was too risky to continue his semifinal match against Roger Federer because of dizziness and a sore throat.
“Physically I was tired. That’s why next week is good. I don’t play any tournament.” – Nikolay Davydenko, who is taking a week off before playing in the Rome Masters.
“It’s still enjoyable. It’s nice to play the tournaments again where I have such great memories of what’s happened in the past.” – Gustavo Kuerten, after losing in the opening round of the Monte Carlo Masters. Kuerten is on a farewell tour which will culminate at the Roland Garros.
“We should have both (Maria) Sharapova and (Svetlana) Kuznetsova in the lineup. I might even have them play doubles together.” – Russian captain Shamil Tarpishchev, talking about who might play for his team at the Fed Cup finals in September against Spain.
Rafael Nadal joined Jim Courier as the only players in ATP Masters Series history to win both the singles and doubles at the same event. Nadal beat Roger Federer 7-5 7-5 for the singles title, and teamed with fellow Spaniard Tommy Robredo to down Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles 6-3 6-3 for the doubles crown. Nadal is the first player to win both titles at Monte Carlo since Ilie Nastase in 1973. Courier won both titles in an ATP Masters Series tournament in 1991 at Indian Wells, California.
SUCCESS – FINALLY
Robert Dee walked off the tennis court a winner after 54 consecutive defeats. The Briton defeated Arzhang Derakhshani of the United states 6-4 6-3 in qualifying for a Futures tournament in Reus, near Barcelona in Spain. Dee’s 54-match losing streak was the worst since Diego Beltranena of Guatemala also lost 54 straight matches between 1997 and 2005, although Beltranena at least managed to win a set. Until his victory over Derakhshani, Dee had played 108 sets – losing them all – since turning pro.
SUCH A PAYDAY
The payout at Roland Garros this year will be more than 15.5 million euros, an increase of more than 2 percent from last year. With equal prize money again awaiting men and women, the champions will each pocket one million euros. The French Tennis Federation (FFT) said the biggest prize money increases are in the wheelchair events where the total prize money available is 60 percent higher than in 2007.
When Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Nikolay Davydenko reached the semifinals of the Monte Carlo Masters, it marked the first time since Roland Garros in 2006 that the world’s top four ranked players were in the semifinals of the same tournament. It is the first time since the ATP Rankings began in 1973 that the top four-ranked players were semifinalists at Monte Carlo.
STOPPING THE BOMB
Frenchman Gael Monfils pulled off a unique feat in his 7-6 (8) 6-1 win over huge-serving Ivo Karlovic at the Monte Carlo Masters. Monfils didn’t concede a single ace against the 6-foot-10 Croatian. It was the first time in his career that Karlovic had failed to serve at least one ace in the match.
A record number of visitors checked out the Davis Cup web site as the nations played quarterfinals on April 11-13. The official site of the event, www.daviscup.com, recorded 4,568,701 page views, a 35 percent increase on the quarterfinals weekend in 2007. The total number of visitor sessions also saw a 39 percent rise from the previous year.
Clarisa Fernandez, who upset Kim Clijsters en route to the semifinals at Roland Garros in 2002, is calling it quits because of knee injuries. The lefthander from Argentina played her first professional tournament at an ITF event in Buenos Aires in 1997. She was ranked as high as number 26 in the world before undergoing surgeries in 2004, 2005 and 2007.
Donald Young, the youngest player ranked in the ATP Top 100, will work out at Nick Bollettieri’s Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Florida. It is one of the first examples of the USTA Elite Player Development’s new collaborative approach with top coaches and private academies in a bid to develop the next generation of American champions. The USTA also announced that three top junior prospects – 12-year-old Sachia Vickery, 12-year-old of Victoria Duval and 9-year-old Alicia Black – will be working with Bollettieri.
Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish, two of America’s top three players, will skip the Beijing Olympics, opting instead for a U.S. Open tuneup event. Roddick will defend his title and Fish will join him at the ATP Washington Classic, which will be played August 9-17 opposite the Olympic men’s tennis tournament. Fish was a silver medalist at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Spain being in the Fed Cup final is no surprise. Peng Shuai losing three matches and Spain crushing China 4-1 in the semifinal at Beijing are shockers. Peng was the highest ranked singles player in the competition, ranked number 68 in the world. She and Sun Tian Tian are ranked ninth in the world in doubles. Instead, Nuria Llagostera Vives won three matches, teaming with Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez in the doubles, while Carla Suarez-Navarro, ranked number 132 in the world, beat Peng in straight sets.
Russia will have Australian Open champion Maria Sharapova for its Fed Cup final against Spain in September. Sharapova made her Fed Cup debut against Israel in February and won both of her singles matches to lead Russia to a 4-1 quarterfinal victory. Svetlana Kuznetsova led Russia to a 3-2 win over the United States in semifinal play. Against Spain, Russia could field both Sharapova and Kuznetsova, who are ranked third and fourth in world, respectively.
BoscoSport, a Russian sporting goods company, is the new official clothing sponsor of Fed Cup. It will outfit the linespeople and ball kids at all Fed Cup ties. BoscoSport has been the official Russian Olympic team outfitter since the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games and is also the outfitter of the Russian Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams.
Bud Collins has written a new book about tennis. The writer, historian and Tennis Hall of Fame member has written The Bud Collins History of Tennis, which is due in bookstores later this spring in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, and is available now with internet retailers. Collins’ achievements include being the recipient of the ATP’s 2007 Ron Bookman Media Excellence Award.
Monte Carlo: Rafael Nadal and Tommy Robredo beat Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles 6-3 6-3.
SCORING FED CUP
World Group Playoffs
Italy beat Ukraine 3-2; France beat Japan 4-1; Argentina beat Germany 3-2; Czech Republic beat Israel 3-2
World Group II Playoffs
Belgium beat Colombia 5-0; Switzerland beat Austria 3-2; Slovak Republic beat Uzbekistan 5-0; Serbia beat Croatia 3-2
SITES TO SURF
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
$824,000 Open Sabadell Atlantico 2008, Barcelona, Spain, clay
$370,000 BMW Open, Munich, Germany, clay
$145,000 Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem, Fes, Morocco, clay
$145,000 ECM Prague Open, Prague, Czech Republic, clay
$150,000 Outback Champions Cup Boston, Boston, Massachusetts, hard
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$2,270,000 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Rome, Italy, clay
$1,340,000 Qatar Telecom German Open, Berlin, Germany, clay
BlackRock Tour of Champions Rome, clay