Gonzalez, Haas To Play L.A.
By Tennis Week
Australian Open finalist Fernando Gonzalez
of Chile beat Tommy Haas
in the tournament semifinals today and the pair could meet again in Los Angeles this summer. Both Haas and Gonzalez have committed to the 81st Countrywide Classic, July 16-22, at the Los Angeles Tennis Center-UCLA.
Gonzalez advanced to Sunday’s Australian Open final against No. 1 ranked Roger Federer with a straight sets victory over Haas in Friday‘s semifinals. If Gonzalez wins in his first Grand Slam final, he will be ranked No. 3 in the world and if he loses he will be No. 5, either way a career high. Gonzalez defeated Lleyton Hewitt, James Blake, Rafael Nadal and Haas en route to the finals.
A semifinalist last year in his first appearance in the Countrywide Classic, Gonzalez defeated Andre Agassi in the quarterfinals. Gonzalez achieved a No. 7 ranking in October 2006, the first Chilean to finish in the top 10 since Marcelo Rios in 1999. He is one of only five Chileans to rank in the top 20 and only he, Rios and Nicolas Massu have been ranked in the top 10. He owns seven ATP career singles titles. He enjoyed his finest season in 2005, when he won three titles on three different surfaces. He reached the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open in 2002, at Roland Garros in 2003 and at Wimbledon in 2005. He teamed with Massu to win the doubles gold medal for Chile at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
Haas, a native of Hamburg who resides in Bradenton, Fla., won his second title in three years at the 2006 Countrywide Classic. It was his 10th singles title in 19 ATP career finals. He won three titles last year, also winning at Memphis and Delray Beach. He won four titles in 2001, at Adelaide, Long Island, Vienna and Stuttgart. His first title came at Memphis in 1999. He was also an Australian Open semifinalist in 1999 and 2002 and he reached the U.S. Open quarterfinals in 2004 and 2006. Haas was ranked as high as No. 2 in the world in May 2002. He was the silver medallist at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. In 1997, he was the youngest player at age 19 to finish in the Top 50. He has two titles and a quarterfinals showing in five appearances in Los Angeles.
The Countrywide Classic features a 32-player singles draw and a 16-team doubles competition. For the fourth consecutive year, the Countrywide Classic will be a part of the U.S. Open Series, the eight-week summer tennis season linking 10 major ATP and WTA Tour tournaments to the U.S. Open. Television viewership for the 2006 U.S. Open Series was a record 42 million.
One of the highlights each year at the Countrywide Classic is the Monday night charity gala "Gibson Baldwin Night at the Net." In 2006, the event featured Agassi, the champion doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan and tennis great Pam Shriver (joining in as chair umpire).
Previous winners of the Countrywide Classic, whose history dates to 1927, include Agassi, Michael Chang, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Michael Stich, Boris Becker, Richard Krajicek, Stefan Edberg, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Stan Smith, Arthur Ashe, Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Pancho Gonzalez, Jack Kramer, Bobby Riggs, Don Budge, Ellsworth Vines, Fred Perry and Bill Tilden.
Proceeds from the Countrywide Classic, held in conjunction with UCLA, benefit the grassroots programs of the non-profit Southern California Tennis Association (SCTA) and UCLA. The SCTA offers programs, leagues, and tournaments involving 300,000 juniors and 50,000 adults and seniors. Inquiries regarding tickets and information may be directed to the Countrywide Classic tournament office on the UCLA campus. For information, please call (310) 824-1010 or visit www.countrywideclassic.com