Yesterday, the up-and-coming Sloane Stephens fought off a mid-match surge from a game opponent to reach her debut Grand Slam quarterfinal. After taking the deciding set 7-5, the bubbly American was pleased to have put on a show for the crowd, and promised another one when she played her mentor and idol, Serena Williams.
Leave it to the media to turn a show into a circus.
As the match unfolded, Stephens seemed to establish an unassailable advantage over her equally inexperienced opponent, Bojana Jovanovski. A heavy hitting but inconsistent player from Serbia, Jovanovski was deemed a beatable foe, one who would easily bend to the will of the quickly rising American teenager.
As the second set reached a critical juncture, however, Stephens began to retreat and revert to a safer, more defensive style. Jovanovski had been missing badly up to that point, so waiting for the error was not a completely ill conceived strategy. Yet, in doing so, she made an almost fatal mistake: giving Bojana Jovanovski a short ball is like feeding live bait to a shark.
The No. 3 Serb hits groundstrokes like missiles, and is an exciting player to watch when she is striking the ball well. Most comfortable playing in Australia, she had her breakthrough tournament in Sydney two years ago where, as a qualifier, she reached her first Premier semifinal. A week later, she pushed then-world No. 2 Vera Zvonareva to three tight sets at this very tournament. Since then, she won her first WTA title last summer in Baku and is also a player on the rise, give or take a few hiccups and patches of poor form.
Despite her obvious talent, she is still better known for the quirkier aspects of her life and bio. For one, not a televised match of Jovanovski’s goes by without a retelling of the embarrassing story where the Serb traveled to the famed WTA event in San Diego via Carlsbad only to wind up in Carlsbad, New Mexico.
Quirkier still is her unusual grunt. Oft-described as a sound similar to a sneeze (“ha-choo!”), it is definitely one of the stranger sounds one hears during a tennis match, but is not nearly as off-putting as many seem to think. Having watched the majority of her US Open singles campaign, I can say that it was hardly as noticeable in person as it is when amplified by the on-court microphones.
But as Jovanovski began to take control of a match she seemed well and truly out of last night, the focus centered not on her screaming winners, but on the alleged screaming itself. Stephens lost the plot and allowed her fiery opponent back into the match. Instead of giving praise to Jovanovski for not giving up and playing some inspiring offense, she was castigated, mocked and name-called for her grunting.
A lot of people take issue over noises that aren’t perceived to imply exertion. “How does shrieking assist a person in hitting a ball?” asks a public often corralled by visibly disgusted commentators (for more on grunting and the hindrance rule, I refer you to unseededandlooming’s comprehensive take on the matter). But as bizarre as Jovanovski’s grunt sounds, it is still a grunt at its very core.
And if you stopped to watch the Serbian bombshell scurry about the baseline, you would see a shockingly high level of exertion, mixed with some extreme torque and intensity.
What makes Jovanovski so electrifying on the court is the reckless abandon with which she hits every ball. The notion that “a tennis ball is there to be hit” is taken to delirious extremes during her matches, much to the delight of those who enjoy “Big Babe Tennis.” In fact, it was her tentative serve, the one shot in her repertoire that lacks her almost hysterical punch, that did her in late in the third set against the American, who eventually regrouped to serve out the match herself.
In her first Slam fourth round appearance, Bojana Jovanovski did herself proud. She recovered from a lackluster beginning and found her range in impressive fashion, only to fall just short of the finish line. In all, the week that the Serbian star had was a tremendous effort, and definitely as much noise with her tennis as she did with her grunting.
You may not like Bojana’s grunt from an aesthetic point of view, but it is hard to argue that her bite doesn’t match her bark.
By David Kane
Two tweets from former World No. 2s, Vera Zvonareva’s announcement that she would be missing the upcoming Australian Open, and Svetlana Kuznetsova’s suspense-filled declaration that she indeed loved life, seemed to sum up the status quo for Russian women’s tennis these days. It feels like a lifetime ago that to be a Russian on the WTA Tour usually signified a player with a high ranking who made deep runs in major tournaments and, if nothing else, was a fierce competitor, a member of a contingent strong in numbers. As recently as 2009, there were four Russian women in the top 10, two in the top 4. As the 2013 season approaches, only Maria Sharapova remains among that elite group, with three others floating around the top twenty.
The formerly proud and prolific Russian horde even found themselves the butts of a light joke from Tennis Australia, who boasted that their best player, Samantha Stosur, could beat anyone with an “-ova” surname. That Stosur has failed to beat a player inside the top 50 Down Under since 2006 (and has a paltry head-to-head record against most Russians in general) illustrates how far things have fallen for what used to be the game’s most indomitable force.
With Christmas only hours away, imagine if you will, jaded tennis fans, several midnight visits from three of the most knowledgeable spirits: the Ghosts of Tennis Past, Present and the always ominous Ghost of Tennis Future. Allow these spirits to remind you of what has already been, and perhaps warn you of that which is soon to be.
It was a little over a decade ago that “Anna’s Army,” led by the glamorously talented Anna Kournikova, burst onto the women’s tour. While their leader failed to win a singles title, those who followed in her footsteps took full advantage of the road she paved. In 2004, thirty years after Soviet Olga Morozova reached the finals of Roland Garros and Wimbledon, the first three Russian women won Grand Slam titles at major tournaments that featured two all-Russian finals. While Sharapova has won most often on the sport’s biggest stages, compatriots like Svetlana Kuznetsova, Dinara Safina and Elena Dementieva have more than made names for themselves with multiple Slam titles (Kuznetsova), 26 weeks atop the world rankings (Safina) and multiple Slam finals and semifinals (Dementieva).
The year 2009 represented a second crest on the wave of Russian dominance: Kuznetsova won the third all-Russian final of the Open Era, Safina was ranked No. 1 for most of the year, and Dementieva came within one backhand passing shot of upsetting Serena Williams for a place in the Wimbledon final. As the decade came to a close and talented youngsters like Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Maria Kirilenko began to post impressive results, the Russian horde looked as strong as ever.
Barely two years on, the Ghost of Tennis Present presents a wholly grimmer reality. Vera Zvonareva may have been the breakout player of 2010, reaching two Slam finals and peaking just behind the top spot in the rankings, but since then, “Anna’s Army” has done an almost complete about face. What could explain such a dramatic reversal of fortune? Ostensibly, injuries and early retirements are to blame. Dementieva retired at the end of 2010. Safina is indefinitely absent with a broken back. Kuznetsova and Zvonareva are rehabbing injuries in the hopes of reviving their stalled careers.
Truthfully, however, most of the Russian contingent could be diagnosed with problems that are as mental as they are physical. Over the years, it has become increasingly uncomfortable to watch these talented women fail to get out of their own way time and time again in important situations. Matches that look to be straightforward from the outset end up having more twists and turns than a Tolstoy novel, complete with double-digit double-faults and screaming into hands. Where most of the top men could have their names etched in to the final rounds of major tournaments in pen, even the faintest pencil tracing could derail what should be unassailable progress.
In fact, Maria Sharapova has been so successful at deviating from this tragic formula that, despite bearing the Russian flag at the London Olympics, American journalists and commentators hardly believe her to be of the same ilk, and frequently attempt to claim her as their own. This is wrong. Not only is Sharapova as Russian as her compatriots, but she has also suffered her own heart-wrenching losses to prove it.
The average Russian tennis player can be accused of many things, but rarely can it be said that she does not want success badly enough. In the last decade and a half, this diverse group of women has taken passion in this sport to a level where every point is a battle, every match a war. Painful as it can be to watch, the inherent entertainment value cannot be denied. More often than not, when a Russian takes the court, she takes on two adversaries: her opponent, and herself. When she wins, then, the victories are twice as sweet, for her and those who were swept up in her almost spiritual fervor and feel as if they helped will her over the finish line.
All of this is why what the Ghost of Tennis Future has to say is so important. Because they are so rarely the champions at the end of the fortnight, they may appear inconsequential to the many storylines in the canonical WTA soap opera. However, the drama that the Russian contingent brought and continues to bring (although on a muted level) kept viewers interested. They emit a passion for the game that could convert any causal fan (Bah Humbug!) into a diehard (Merry Christmas!).
Once, it was said that the Russians were coming. For a few brief-shining moments, they had arrived. Now, there are more than a few ghostly moans in the night, calling for their return.
By Lisa-Marie Burrows
Kim Clijsters has enjoyed an illustrious career in tennis – dampened by injuries, but nonetheless, she has enjoyed many successes on the court. She is a firm fan favourite, always enthusiastically supported wherever she competes and is popular with her fellow players. Could an Olympic victory tempt her to decide not to halt her career just yet, or could it be the perfect way for the former world No.1 to bow out of competitive tennis for the second time?
Kim Clijsters is a four-time Grand Slam champion, who made her final Wimbledon appearance in July after 14 years of competing as a junior and a senior at the event. This week she is back on the grass courts of the Olympics, representing Belgium and hoping to add an Olympic medal to her list of achievements and victories.
Clijsters admitted earlier this year that she is retiring for the second time due to her age and not for family reasons:
“I have no regrets. I’m too old to play the game that I want to play physically. It’s not for family reasons; it’s down to the physical side. I’ve put my body through enough strain and everything.”
It has been a tough 2012 for the 29-year-old, who missed the French Open due to a hip injury and battled to recover from an abdominal injury in time for Wimbledon, but this week she is proving that she is beginning to find her feet at the All England Lawn Tennis Club and would love to build on her semi-final appearances in 2003 and 2006.
Many would love to see her win an Olympic medal – a fitting way to remember her final year on Tour, to add her to many wonderful achievements during her career – and here are a few of those many moments she will undoubtedly cherish:
Winning her first Grand Slam title in 2005: Kim Clijsters won her first Grand Slam title in 2005 on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows in New York against Mary Pierce. This was the first time she had won a Grand Slam and it was her first appearance in a Grand Slam final since missing out on the trophy in 2004 in Australia. Clijsters had a difficult year in 2004 and was happy to have recovered so well after her operation to remove a cyst from left wrist, which saw her miss Wimbledon and the US Open the previous year.
Back-to-back US Open titles in 2009 and 2010: Clijsters has always felt very comfortable on the hard courts and in New York she found her feet and showed her best tennis during a year which proved to be a sensational comeback season for the Belgian. Clijsters won the US Open in New York in extraordinary fashion – she had only played three previous hard court events before entering the Grand Slam and participated as an unranked wildcard defeating Caroline Wozniacki in the final.
In 2010 Clijsters battled against a left and right foot injury, which forced her to withdraw from Roland Garros, but in August whilst fighting off her injury demons, the former world No.1 lifted the trophy at Flushing Meadows for the third time after defeating Vera Zvonareva in the final.
‘Aussie Kim’ happy to be crowned champion at the Australian Open: Kim Clijsters has always been fondly welcomed at the Australian Open and many of the Aussies accepted her as one of their own after her long relationship with Australian tennis player Lleyton Hewitt. She reached the finals in 2004 but was unable to lift the trophy, but after returning to competitive tennis once again, she finally got the Grand Slam win she so desperately seeked in Melbourne and ‘Aussie Kim’ was happily crowned champion.
After this year when Kim Clijsters eventually retires, it will be a sad day for her supporters, team and fellow players as her kind and sporting nature on and off the court will be missed. Right now though for Kim Clijsters, she will not be thinking about putting down her racquet for the last time, she will be completely focused on picking it up again tomorrow to continue her assault on the Olympics and the impending, final hard court season ahead.
Flavia Pennetta has been a force on the WTA Tour for over ten years, but she only broke through the top echelons of women’s tennis back in 2009 when she became Italy’s first top 10 singles player in history. I had a chance to chat with the bubbly, pleasant, and smiling Flavia during the Sony Ericsson Open as she shared insights about her unforgettable 2009 U.S. Open match against Vera Zvonareva, dancing, beach volleyball, Monica Seles and Angelina Jolie.
What is your most memorable moment on court?
U.S. Open against Vera Zvonareva in 2009. Was a really nice match. I won 6-0 in the third set with 7, or 6, match points.
Is that the one in which Vera was ripping the tape off her knees?
How was that experience in the moment?
It was intense. It was good for me because I won, but not for her. (Laughs)
What is the best part of being a tennis player?
To have the chance to travel and see different places and meet different people, so that when you stop playing, you have friends everywhere. (Laughs)
If you weren’t a tennis player, what would you be?
I always like different sports. Maybe I would play volleyball or horse (be an equestrian).
Do you like to cross-train with volleyball?
I love to play beach volleyball when I’m at the beach. (Laughs)
If you could play against any player in history, who would it be and why?
(Long pause) Maybe … I never played against Monica Seles. I met her because I was at the tour during the last two years she was playing. She was my idol when I was young, and I never played against her, so maybe against her.
She did that show, like “Dancing with the Stars.”
I didn’t see her! But they told me she was really good.
Would you ever want to do that?
Ooof! (Laughs) Maybe one single time, I can do that. But if it’s every Saturday like it is in Italy, would be tough. But one time? Would be fun.
If you are hosting a party, what three tennis players would you invite and why?
My friends. Gisela [Dulko] for sure! (Thinking) Gisela … Gisela …….. Gisela! Doubles partners are the best. Of course, Francesca. I like to spend time with different people, but most of the time I like to be with my friends because it would be the most beautiful party.
Do you have any superstitions on court?
No. Well, on court? (Pause) No. I’m not …. No. (Laughs)
If you could have dinner with any three people, who would it be and why?
Brad Pitt. And also Angelina [Jolie]. She’s nice, really nice. I like her a lot.
Did you meet her ever?
No, but I have one friend who is a friend of Angelina’s and she told me Angelina is a really nice person. I really like her when I watch her on TV because I think she is a really good actress, but I’ve never met her. So maybe when you meet someone … they maybe will disappoint. Most of the time it’s like this, because when you feel so much respect for someone, you just think ‘They are going to be perfect’ and then when you meet them, it’s not like this. So you get disappointed.
I think I would also like to eat with Valentino Rossi because he is one of my best friends. So, I love to spend with him. And another one? Wait, I said three.
Well, and my mom. (Laughs)
The top tennis players in the world converge this week for the 2012 Sony Ericsson Open in pristine Key Biscayne, Florida. As the world’s premier tournament outside of the four grand slams, these next two weeks are sure to bring many storylines and possibly some surprise winners on both the ATP and WTA tours.
Last week during the BNP Paribas Open, the tournament saw several high-profile players pull out due to a sweeping 48-hour long stomach bug that effected players, coaches and fans alike. One theory not yet tested in tennis is just how successful these same players will be in the week after their bodies and immune systems have had to fight off a vicious virus. That being said, will the players affected by last week’s stomach bug perform better or worse than their healthier counterparts this week in Key Biscayne? The answer: much better, and here’s why.
When the body is forced to fight an infection or virus, the immune system is initially compromised. But because of immunological memory, the body becomes more alert and “remembers” the pathogen it previously killed. You may have experienced this added alertness after recovering from a cold – you are less likely to contract another cold or virus directly after your initial cold because your immune system is more alert to foreign pathogens.
As tennis players’ immune systems are no different than our own, it’s very likely that they will respond in the same manner: the players who pulled out last week from the BNP Paribas Open are less likely to contract any new virus this week, and thus more likely to have extra energy as their bodies should be fully recovered and their immune systems more alert.
The list of pull-outs is no short list, and includes Petra Kvitova, Francesca Schiavone, Gael Monfils, Vera Zvonareva, Vania King, Jurgen Melzer, Mike Bryan, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Andreas Seppi, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, and Magdalena Rybarikova. Meanwhile, even Roger Federer stated he felt “under the weather” at the beginning of the tournament.
As the players range anywhere from number 1 on the ATP rankings to number 86 on the WTA rankings, it will be interesting to see the players’ progression through the draw. As some will undoubtedly fizzle out due to other factors, it’s no certain science, but I would bet that at least a few of these players will have better than expected results during the next two weeks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Schiavone or Melzer bust through with excellent runs, and now you would know why. It’s all thanks to their immune system.
The battle of two former world No. 1s turned out to be a one-sided affair.
Ana Ivanovic, playing some of her best tennis in recent memory, overwhelmed defending champion Caroline Wozniacki in a convincing 6-3, 6-2 victory at the 2012 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. It was her first top-10 win since October 2011, when she defeated No. 3 Vera Zvonareva in Beijing.
The pair had split their encounters coming into the fourth round match, with two victories each, but there was no stopping Ivanovic on this night.
The 24-year-old Serb, currently ranked No. 16 in the world, blasted forehands and backhands past Wozniacki, the No. 4 seed, and dictated points from the beginning of the match. Ivanovic finished with 24 winners and 28 unforced errors, while the error-prone Wozniacki had only four winners and 17 unforced errors. Normally a shaky server, Ivanovic turned in three aces for good measure.
“I was really looking for opportunities, and, you know, trying to come in, as well, whenever I had chance, and trying to step in from both sides and trying to stay calm in my serve and execute the way I was executing in practice,” said Ivanovic in her post match press conference. “I really managed to do that well today.”
And she not only played with power, but with precision and poise.
Up 4-2 in the second set and holding a break point, a long rally ensued. Wozniacki started to hit with conviction but a well timed and perfectly placed drop shot by Ivanovic left the 21-year-old Dane flat-footed. Ivanovic, whose right thigh was taped throughout the match, had broken Wozniacki for the fifth time.
“She just played better than me today,” said a dejected Wozniacki. “I just need to get back and practice on a few things and hopefully get back strong for Miami.”
The victory improves Ivanovic’s 2012 record to 10 wins and 5 losses. She takes on No. 7 seed Marion Bartoli next in the quarterfinals. Wozniacki’s 2012 record drops to 9 wins and 5 losses, and questions on whether she can regain her top spot or win a Grand Slam will persist.
Both players have been world No. 1, but on this night it was the confident Ivanovic who looked as if she could dominate on the WTA Tour.
Tennis From All Angles is a semi-weekly roundup of tennis happenings from the ATP and WTA pro tours, highlighting the most entertaining on-court and off-court news and gossip.
OnTheGoTennis‘ Rachel Vinson is in Indian Wells, CA this week covering the first U.S. outdoor tournament of the season. She snapped photos of tennis’ elite on the green carpet as they arrived for the BNP Paribas Open Players’ Party. The gallery includes Sam Querrey and Gael Monfils in their respective strange hats, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Julian Benneteau in European chic, Ana Ivanovic in an elegant indigo sleeveless dress, and Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Caroline Wozniacki all in clean-cut blazers. Bonus: David Ferrer, simple and stunning.
- On a similar note, this year’s Hollywood themed Players’ Party posed the following question to tennis players: Who is your favorite actor and actress? Novak Djokovic keeps his allegiance to Robert De Niro, Ana Ivanovic goes with one of my personal favorites, Rafael Nadal sticks with the Spaniards, and Andy Murray picks a comedian. And guess which player answers “Sean Connery” as the actor who would play them in a movie. Doh! (Side note: Josh Hartnett still acts??)
- The BNP Paribas tournament website spotlights Novak Djokovic as he begins his title defense from last year. “I’m not really trying to position myself as a defending champion, because then defending is not really something that I want to have. I always try to get that aggressive approach… I still have the same daily routine, same approach to my career, to the life that I’m having. I don’t consider myself being in the top of the world, being untouchable or unbeatable. That’s out of the question.”
- Matt Fitzgerald caught up with past BNP Paribas champion Vera Zvonareva to get her take on winning the 2012 Australian Open Women’s Doubles title with countrywoman Svetlana Kuznetsova, and who she would most want to perform with at the Grammys and why. Good choice, Vera, but don’t party too much!
- After the recent retirement announcement from Fernando Gonzalez that he will hang up the racquet after the Sony Ericsson Open later this month, Croat Ivan Ljubicic is following suit. With 10 titles and a career-high world number 3 ranking, Ljubicic is expected to play his last pro tournament at April’s Monte Carlo Masters. Tennis will miss you, Ivan!
- Haven’t had a chance to check out the top 8 ladies on the WTA engage in a little “Fun Facts Challenge” about each other? Watch as they (sometimes unsuccessfully!) answer questions on IQs, Nickelback, and Sam Stosur’s dog. I won’t deny some of these moments are embarrassing to watch!
- Ever wonder how SI.com’s tennis writer Courtney Nguyen first fell in love with live tennis? Well, wonder no more.
(Photo © OnTheGoTennis)
Maria Sharapova giggled and jumped in the snow with her Russian compatriots. Forty-one year old Kimoko Date Krumm upset Polona Hercog, ranked 42 spots above her and born 21 years after her. Serena Williams destroyed a racket. Christina McHale served a bagel. Julia Goerges nearly upset Wimbledon Champion Petra Kvitova, but fell just short and broke down in tears on court. The upstart and adorable British team, led by new coach Judy Murray, stormed (and tweeted) their way through their competition. Francesca Schiavone (over)-dramatically won a match.
It was a predictably unpredictable Fed Cup weekend, what many would describe as “typical” WTA, and I loved every single minute of it.
It’s been a tumultuous few years for the most popular female sports league in the world. In 2007 the tour seemed invincible when Wimbledon became the final Grand Slam to offer the women equal pay. However, an unfortunate series of events have left the tour in flux ever since. In 2008 World #1 Justine Henin abrubtly retired, leaving a vacuum at the top of the game. With various injuries crippling The Williams Sisters and Sharapova, a group of talented young girls were thrust into the spotlight at the top of the game a bit prematurely. The “Slamless Number One” saga overshadowed everything else, only rivaled in media coverage by the incessant shrieking debate (which often reaked of sexism). Some of the best female athletes on the planet were constantly declared out of shape and mentally weak by the experts of the game, many of whom were former WTA stars themselves. To make matters worst, all of this turmoil transpired simultaneously with the “Golden Era” of the ATP. The more Federer, Nadal, and recently Djokovic dominated the Slams the more it seemed to diminish whatever “product” the WTA tried to produce.
As a WTA fan it’s been a sad few years. Wait- no, I actually don’t mean that at all. It’s been a rollercoaster for sure, but it’s been a blast.
I love parity, I love unpredictability, I love my sports to come with a side of “WTF is going on here?”. I love the fact that every Grand Slam you could pick fifteen women who have a legitimate shot to hold the trophy at the end of two weeks. I love the fact that Schiavone, Li Na, and Samantha Stosur are now Grand Slam Champions. I love that Vera Zvonareva, despite a history of meltdowns that would have made her eligible for the Real Housewives of Russia, made two Grand Slam Finals and climbed to number 2 in the world. I love that Kim Clijsters retired, had a baby, then came back to the tour and won three more Grand Slams- 3 times more than she had pre-motherhood. I love that Sharapova has fought her back from what many feared would be a career-ending shoulder injury and now, at 24, seems poised to be a factor for years to come. I love that Serena went from hospital bed to U.S. Open Final in less than six months. I love that Andrea Petkovic dances in victory. I love that the outspoken Agnieszka Radwanska seems to only win when she’s taped up like a mummy. I love Petra Kvitova’s forehand, Victoria Azarenka’s backhand, Marion Bartoli’s insane serve, and yes- even Caroline Wozniacki’s moonball. (Sometimes).
I love that the best days are yet to come. Champions and superstars Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova are sill hungry and fighting for titles. Azarenka and Kvitova, twenty-two and twenty-one respectively, seem unfazed by the pressure of expectations. Clijsters is with us for the rest of the year (and I still not-so-secretly hope for more) and will be extra motivated to win her first French Open and/or Wimbledon trophy. Venus Williams might not ever win another Slam again, but it won’t be without trying like a true Champion to deal with her Sjogren’s Syndrome and find a way to compete on the top level again. Wozniacki will (surely) be determined to regain her spot at the top of the rankings and earn that elusive Slam. Li, Schiavone, and Stosur will all be eager to get rid of the “One Slam Wonder” label. And then of course there’s Svetlana Kuznetsova. Any given Slam.
I don’t think that dominance is the only way to measure success. I don’t think that unpredictability is always a sign of weakness. If you disagree with the prior statements then that’s fine, but I do think that these female athletes deserve heaps more respect than they get on a regular basis.
Yes, I unabashedly love the WTA, flaws and all.
Today, January 6, 2009, provides us with another edition of “Tennis History Tuesday” where TennisGrandstand.com gives readers another exclusive excerpt from my book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY. (New Chapter Press, $19.95, www.tennishistorybook.com). With the ATP Tour in Doha and Chennai this week, it is interesting to remember Ivan Ljubicic winning “the golden falcon” and Rafael Nadal losing in not-so-memorable fashion.
1992 – Twenty-year-old Stefano Pescosolido of Italy is defaulted from his final round qualifying match at the New South Wales Open in Sydney, Australia, when, after being aced by his opponent, Johan Anderson of Australia, he slams his racquet to the ground in disgust and drop kicks the racquet into the stands, striking a 22-year-old woman in the face. The woman is taken to the hospital where she receives stitches over her right eye. Pescosolido is also fined $1,500.
2007 – Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia wins “the golden falcon” – the championship trophy of the Doha Open in Qatar – when he defeats Andy Murray of Scotland 6-4, 6-4 in the men’s singles final for his seventh career ATP tournament title Says Ljubicic, “This trophy is one of the most beautiful we have in tennis – the golden falcon. I wanted it so bad. Andy was a very good opponent. He fought hard and didn’t miss many balls, but I was patient. I knew I had to be aggressive but not too aggressive. Against someone like Andy you need to find the perfect balance, because if you go to the net too much, he will pass you. And if you stay at the baseline, he’s too solid. So the combination was the key today.”
2008 – World No. 2 Rafael Nadal has nothing left in the tank in a 57-minute, 6-0, 6-1 loss to Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny in the final of the Chennai Open in India. The previous night, Nadal defeats fellow Spaniard Carlos Moya 6-7 (3), 7-6 (8), 7-6 (1) in 3 hours, 54 minutes – saving four match points in the second-set tie-break – in the longest three-set match on the ATP Tour in 15 years.”Rafa was not Rafa,” says Youzhny of Nadal winning only one game against him in the final. “I did not win today, it was Rafa who lost. I did not expect it to be so easy. I was lucky as he just couldn’t move and couldn’t play.” Says a classy Nadal, “Maybe I was a bit tired after the long semifinal, but I lost the final because Mikhail played very well.”
2007 – Dinara Safina of Russia, the younger sister of U.S. and Australian Open champion Marat Safin, wins her fifth career WTA title, defeating Martina Hingis 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 in the final of the Australian women’s hard court championships on the Gold Coast. Says Hingis of Safina, “Today she was just too good and everyone should watch her because she’s gonna be maybe even better than her brother. Marat is such a genius. He can play unbelievable tennis. She (Safina) definitely doesn’t have as much touch but she has more will and desire.”
2008 – In the final edition of the Australian Hardcourt Championships at the famed Memorial Drive tennis courts in Adelaide, Australia, Michael Llodra of France defeats Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen 6-3, 6-4 to win his second career ATP singles title. Llodra was the last directly accepted player into the 32-player field and only received entry into the event when countryman Richard Gasquet pulls out of the tournament due to a knee injury. Memorial Drive had hosted the highest-level of professional tennis since 1922 when Wimbledon champion Gerald Patterson first won at the site in 1922 at the South Australian Championships. In 2007, Tennis Australia announces it is moving the event to Brisbane.
1992 – John McEnroe is selected to the U.S. Davis Cup team for a record 12th time as he, Rick Leach, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi are named to the U.S. team that will face Argentina in the first round in Hawaii. McEnroe is previously tied for the U.S. lead of team selections with Bill Tilden and Stan Smith.
2007 – Jelena Jankovic of Serbia wins the first WTA Tour singles title of the 2007 season, defeating Russia’s Vera Zvonareva 7-6 (11-9), 5-7, 6-3 in the final of the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand.
1936 – Hall of Famer member Darlene Hard, winner of 21 major titles including the French in 1960 and the U.S. Championships in 1960 and 1961, is born in Los Angeles. Hard, also a two-time Wimbledon finalist, was a member of victorious U.S. Fed Cup team in the inaugural year of the competition in 1963, teaming with Billie Jean King and Carole Graebner.
Venus Williams beat Vera Zvonareva 6-7 (5) 6-0 6-2 to win the Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha Qatar
Anne Keothavong won the Salwator Cup in Krakow, Poland, beating Monica Niculescu 7-6 (4) 4-6 6-3
Jan Hernych beat Stephane Bohli 6-2 6-4 to win the Tatra Banka Open in Bratislava, Slovakia
John McEnroe won the Cancer Treatment Centers of America Tennis Championships at Surprise, Arizona, by beating Todd Martin 3-6 7-6 (3) 11-9 (Champions tiebreaker)
“Thanks to your Royal Highness for coming. Wow!” – Venus Williams, after being presented the Sony Ericsson Championships trophy by the first lady of Qatar, Sheika Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned.
“Venus is very powerful. She came up with some great serves when she needed. It was tough on me.” – Vera Zvonareva, after losing the final at Doha, Qatar.
“I just don’t like the ring of it. It sounds a bit awkward to me. It is a challenge to get back to number one.” – Roger Federer, on being ranked number two in the world.
“I didn’t even look like a top-eight player today. Maybe top 600 in the juniors.” – Serena Williams, after losing 5-7 6-1 6-0 to sister Venus in a round-robin match at the Sony Ericsson Championships.
“Competing at so many events might have harmed, especially at the end of the season, my physical condition, taking away the freshness needed to play at the top level of the game on these last events.” – Rafael Nadal, writing on his web site about his right knee injury.
“Being a professional tennis player is about a lot more than just hitting tennis balls and winning matches. The off-court side of things is also very important, and it’s essential that we as athletes do what we can to promote the sport.” – Ana Ivanovic, after winning the ACES award.
“It’s the first time I’ve got the chance to play against top 10 players five matches in a row. And I was able to come up with four wins, so, of course it’s a good week.” – Vera Zvonareva.
“It’s really a tough format here, just because there are four teams and the way the draw is. It’s really hard to just come out and be ready to play like in the semifinals. So we were just really happy with our performance.” – Cara Black, who teamed with Liezel Huber to win the doubles at the Sony Ericsson Championships.
“I haven’t thought too much about next year yet, but I have high and wonderful hopes for it, and at the appropriate time I’ll start working hard again.” – Venus Williams, after winning the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships.
“I thought this may have been the best I played all year and I think a lot of that had to do with the crowds. I was able to feed off of their energy all week.” – John McEnroe, who won a seniors tournament in Surprise, Arizona.
“Sometimes I really enjoy playing not at home. I don’t think about any pressure.” – Nikolay Davydenko, on why he won his opening match at the Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai.
“When you play against (Rafael) Nadal, (Roger) Federer or (Novak) Djokovic, you have just one chance or two. I had a break point. I didn’t get it.” – Juan Martin del Potro, after losing to Djokovic in his opening Tennis Masters Cup match.
“I can’t play singles competitively any more, but like to play doubles up to three times a week, although sometimes injuries do not permit that frequency.” – Michael Henderson, who at age 76 is still playing and winning matches.
Tendinitis in his right knee caused world number one Rafael Nadal to pull out of the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai, China. It is hoped that a week of rest and treatment will mean Nadal will be able to lead Spain in the Davis Cup final against Argentina later this month. The injury forced Nadal to retire from his Paris Masters quarterfinal against Nikolay Davydenko. Nadal blamed the injury on the busy tennis calendar, saying it took its toll on his body. Angel Ruiz-Cotorro, a Spanish Tennis Federation doctor, said Nadal was being treated with anti-inflammatories, physiotherapy and ice packs.
US Open champion Serena Williams and French Open winner Ana Ivanovic both withdrew from the Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha with injuries. Williams suffered from a pulled stomach muscle while Ivanovic had a virus. Serena beat Dinara Safina in her first round-robin match, then suffered a strange 5-7 6-1 6-0 loss to her sister Venus. Serena said she only felt the problem develop after she returned to her hotel. Ivanovic played two round-robin matches, losing both. Nadia Petrova replaced Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska replaced Ivanovic in the eight-player competition.
The WTA Tour is changing next year’s rules to reinstate byes in two big tournaments. Several players complained that they were being asked to play two high-intensity events in a row with no opportunity to rest between tournaments. WTA CEO Larry Scott said the problem came because twice in the year there are two big tournaments played in consecutive weeks: Rome being followed by Madrid and, in the fall, Tokyo followed by Beijing. The four players reaching the semifinals at Rome and Tokyo will get first-round byes in the following events. Scott said adjustments also were made to allow players to participate in at least two of the following tournaments: Paris Indoors, Charleston, Stuttgart, Stanford and Los Angeles.
Former Wimbledon champion Boris Becker and his fiancée of three months have separated. The 40-year-old Becker and Sandy Meyer-Woelden, who is 16 years younger, became engaged in August. She is the daughter of Becker’s former manager, Axel Meyer-Woelden. Becker has been divorced from Barbara Becker for seven years. They have two children. He also has a daughter with London-based model Angela Ermakova.
SAYS NO WAY
Andy Roddick said he was only joking when he said he would give a tennis lesson in the nude. That offer brought a USD $11,200 bid from a woman at a charity auction earlier this year. “First and foremost, I am not going to be playing naked tennis,” Roddick said. “It was said in jest and the lady who bid was really cool afterwards.” The offer from Roddick was auctioned off to help Elton John’s AIDS Foundation fundraiser.
Ana Ivanovic is the 2008 winner of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour ACES Award. The award is given to the player who consistently goes above and beyond to promote women’s tennis to fans, media, in the community and beyond. The French Open champion said her most enjoyable off-the-court activities this year were playing doubles with amateur players in Tokyo and participating in a photo shoot by the WTA Tour players in Dubai. Larry Scott, CEO of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, said: “Ana is not only an incredible athlete and champion, but also a player who has earned the respect and admiration of fans, media and sponsors by continuously giving back. Throughout the 2008 season, Ana has given of herself selflessly and been a true ambassador in promoting our sport.”
Formula One auto racing is moving its 2009 date in Shanghai to make room for a Tennis Masters tournament. The 2009 Chinese Grand Prix will be run in April, following the Australian Grand Prix on March 29 and the Malaysian Grand Prix on April 5. The Chinese Grand Prix had previously been run in Shanghai in October. But with the new tennis calendar set for next year, the ATP tournament will be held in Shanghai October 12 to 18.
John McEnroe saved three match points and finally beat Todd Martin in a wild final to win the $150,000 Cancer Treatment Centers of America Tennis Championships at Surprise, Arizona, in suburban Phoenix. After losing to Martin in three previous finals on the Outback Champions Series tour, the 49-year-old McEnroe outlasted Martin 3-6 7-6 (3) 11-9 (Champions tiebreaker) to win his second career title on the tennis circuit for champion players over the age of 30. Martin served for the match and led 6-3 6-5 40-0 before McEnroe rallied for the victory.
Israel’s top women’s player, Shahar Peer, has got a new coach. Peer is now working with Pablo Giacopelli, a Peruvian-born British citizen. She will begin her training with Giacopelli in South Africa, accompanied by her physical trainer, Muli Epstein. According to published reports in Israel, Peer will train for two weeks at high altitude in the Johannesburg area, followed by two weeks in the Durban area. She will compete in the Israeli Championships in December.
Britain’s Lawn Tennis Association has honored Dennis and Doris Lloyd with the LTA’s meritorious service award. The two met during World War II and have been members of Westcliff Hardcourts tennis club for 62 years. As a player, Dennis Lloyd won numerous titles and was district doubles champion six times with partner Howard Stone. Dennis became a coach and helped develop many players, including his own children. Attending the ceremony was two of their sons, David and Tony, and their daughter Ann, who was a strong club player. Their third son is John Lloyd. David Lloyd is a former Davis Cup captain.
It will be “old home week,” with the emphasis on old, when the Grand Slam Winners Classic is held in the Sarasota, Florida, area next month. The competition will help raise money and awareness for The Wellness Community, a national not-for-profit organization that offers free education, support and hope for patients diagnosed with cancer. Among those scheduled to participate in the tennis are Eddie Dibbs, Fred Stolle, Virginia Wade, Hana Mandlikova, Johan Kriek, Owen Davidson, Robbie Seguso, Ken Flach and Kathy Rinaldi.
Billie Jean King has been appointed a Global Mentor for Gender Equality by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). She was named to the post at a ceremony in Doha, Qatar, during the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour season-ending championships. As part of the appointment, the Billie Jean King Leadership Internship program will be set up to give young women experience in the sports industry through internships at the Women’s Sports Foundation and then job placement opportunities in the sports business. Besides winning 12 Grand Slam singles titles between 1966 an 1975, King has been a vocal advocate against sexism in sports. She also founded the WTA Tour and the Women’s Sports Foundation.
The man who coached Bjorn Borg for 12 years and captained Sweden to its first Davis Cup title has died. Lennart Bergelin was 83 when he died from heart failure at a hospital in Stockholm, Sweden. As a player, Bergelin won nine Swedish singles titles between 1945 and 1955, and captured the French Open doubles in 1948. But he was more famous for coaching Borg from 1971 to 1983, helping him win eleven Grand Slam tournament titles. Bergelin coached the Swedish Davis Cup team from 1971 through 1976, giving a 15-year-old Borg his Davis Cup debut in 1972 against New Zealand’s Onny Parun. Borg won the match.
STARTING THE HALL
The three new inductees into the Nevada Tennis Hall of Fame includes Andre Agassi’s father, Mike. Also being inducted later this month are community leader Ann Rockwell and twins Catrina and Christian Thompson. Mike Agassi gave free lessons to the children in his neighborhood, including his son Andre. “What Mike Agassi has doe for the world of tennis is immeasurable, his kindness is limitless and this is our community’s chance to thank and recognize him,” said Ryan Wolfington, executive director of USTA-Nevada. Rockwell played on the United States Wightman Cup team and won the USPTA National Championships in singles and doubles. The Thompson twins were junior standouts and, while at Notre Dame, were ranked number one in doubles by the NCAA.
With a combined age of 156, Michael Henderson and Tony Bennett are doubles partners who are still playing winning tennis. Bennett won the British Veterans’ grass court over-80 doubles title at Wimbledon with another partner in the summer. Henderson, the younger of the two at 76, played in the Wimbledon Junior doubles in 1949. He was set to return 50 years later after qualifying for the 70-year-old singles, but pulled so many muscles in the qualifier he couldn’t play in the event.
Doha: Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Kveta Peschke and Rennae Stubbs 6-1 7-5
Krakow: Angelique Kerber and Urzula Radwanska beat Olga Brozda and Sandra Zaniewska 6-3 6-2
Bratislava: Frantisek Cermak and Lukasz Kubot beat Phillipp Petzschner and Alexander Peya 6-4 6-4
SITES TO SURF
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$3,700,000 Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai, China, carpet
$125,000 PEOPLEnet Cup, Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, hard
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
Argentina vs. Spain at Mar Del Plata, Argentina, hard
$125,000 IPP Open, Helsinki, Finland, hard
$100,000 Nordea Danish Open, Odense, Denmark, carpet
Blackrock Tour of Champions, Macao, China