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03-12-2005, 07:58 PM
March 7, 2005

J.A. Adande:

Roddick Reminds Us Again That He's Good but Not Great

If Andy Roddick is going to make Andre Agassi irrelevant, this isn't the way to do it.

Roddick couldn't keep the U.S. Davis Cup hopes alive against Croatia on Sunday. He couldn't give Southern California tennis fans an extra chance at one of the now-dwindling opportunities to see Agassi play in person.

And Roddick still hasn't made good on his potential to replace Agassi as America's preeminent tennis name.

It was Agassi's presence that gave this Davis Cup first-round match at the Home Depot Center a little extra sizzle, helping to sell 18,760 tickets — a three-day record for a first-round matchup in the United States. But Agassi lost to Ivan Ljubicic in straight sets Friday, a reminder that his presence is becoming more ceremonial than functional. And when Roddick's five-set loss to Ljubicic on Sunday clinched a victory for Croatia in the best-of-five format, Agassi didn't even have to take the court for the "dead rubber" final match. The U.S. sent out Bob Bryan instead.

Agassi, 35, will play in Indian Wells this week. He might play in the Mercedes-Benz Cup at UCLA this summer. Beyond that, who knows? He has told his agent that one day, when he feels he can't win Grand Slams anymore, he'll call it quits. There'll be little advance warning and no farewell tour.

We could have witnessed the torch passing Sunday. Instead it looked more like a bobbled baton.

Roddick remains among the tennis elite, ranked No. 3 in the world. And he did get the United States' only victory of the weekend when he beat Mario Ancic on Friday.

The problem is that he hasn't vaulted to that higher level, the place formerly occupied by Agassi and Pete Sampras.

It was all the way back at the 2002 U.S. Open that Sampras called Roddick "the future of the game, especially in the U.S."

Unfortunately, since those words left Sampras' mouth on the eve of their quarterfinal matchup in New York, Sampras and Agassi have won more Grand Slams than Roddick, 2-1.

We might end up saying that Roddick had the misfortune of coming of age at the same time as Roger Federer, the same way Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing and Karl Malone are all ringless because they entered the NBA at the same time as Michael Jordan.

But it seems as if Roddick keeps squandering his opportunities, and there were many examples of that Sunday in a match that had as many turns as a marathon — and lasted even longer.

After splitting the first two sets, Roddick and Ljubicic entered a tiebreaker in the third. Roddick raced out to a 4-1 lead, but couldn't make it stand. He blew three set points and fell to Ljubicic, 13-11.

Roddick rallied to win the fourth set in a tiebreaker, had the rambunctious crowd roaring … and promptly was broken to start the fifth set.

Ljubicic was admittedly tired, and had to have a trainer rub his legs to relieve a sore knee in the middle of the set. But it was Roddick who folded like a poker player holding 2-6-9.

He wasted three break points in the fourth game, then was broken himself again in the fifth.

"I just played a loose game," Roddick said. "Bottom line, I didn't make him play good tennis."

There should be a sense of urgency for Roddick right now. At 22 he's in the heart of his tennis career. Despite that, what he needs right now is patience.

Instead of forcing Ljubicic to run around, wear down and make unforced errors, Roddick kept going for the kill. He often wound up whacking balls out of bounds or even against the back wall. A costly example came in the eighth game of the first set. Roddick led, 40-15, and went into attack mode.

But his forehand went wide, the beginning of a Ljubicic comeback that enabled him to break Roddick.

Roddick's still more power than precision. So even though he cranked his serve up to 150 mph, Ljubicic could handle him.

"I have much more difficulty to return the serves that are really accurate, not with all the power," Ljubicic said.

So the Davis Cup moves on without the United States, although I never can tell exactly what stage the competition is in. First round? Finals? Is it ever over? Who's the current champion? Does anyone know?

We don't know if we'll ever see Agassi compete for the United States again. And, from a figurative standpoint, who will stand beside Roddick to carry the American flag in the tennis world? Besides Roddick and Agassi (ninth), the only other American in the top 30 of the ATP rankings is Vince Spadea, at No. 18. And you don't see Spadea in any ESPN commercials.

When Agassi bungee-jumped up and down the world rankings, Sampras was always there as the steady force. There's no one else for Roddick right now, and he has yet to take the final step to the top.

"Andy is getting better," Davis Cup Captain Patrick McEnroe said. "So are the other guys.

"He's doing a lot of things really well. He's just going to have to continue to work on that and continue to get better, because so is everybody else."

Ljubicic went out of his way to point out how impressed he was that Agassi dropped by the Croatian locker room to congratulate them and say how much he enjoyed watching the match.

"I appreciate that from him and I think he's a great person," Ljubicic said.

And, unfortunately, still the only American ambassador of tennis.

03-12-2005, 08:11 PM
Article Last Updated: 03/09/2005

It's difficult for U.S. stars to team up

INDIAN WELLS — It was an American team that won the Super Bowl, right? Just want to make sure that wasn't an hallucination.
We didn't win the Olympic gold medal in basketball, merely the game invented in the United States.

Last fall, the Great Britain and European golfers scuffed us around in the Ryder Cup.

And then a couple of days ago, in a first-round Davis Cup match in Carson, we were embarrassed by Croatia.

Not a lot of countries together, like the Ryder Cup, one lousy, little nation.

And on our home court, so to speak, the way the Euros beat us in the Ryder Cup on our home course, Oakland Hills.

The U.S. Davis Cup guys, Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and the Bryan twins, Bob and Mike, have traveled the 100 miles to the desert near Palm Springs where for the next two weeks the Pacific Life Open, considered one of the four major events outside of the Grand Slam tournaments, will be held at 16,000-seat Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Presumably, they'll do well. Just the way Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have done well.

When they're playing against each other.

They certainly didn't do very well when they were with each other.

It must be something in our psyche. Or something in our water.

Get Phil and Tiger together for a couple of Ryder Cup matches and they not only can't get the ball on the fairway or in the hole, seemingly they can't get along.

Separate them at Doral Country Club and put them head-to-head in the Ford Championship, and they not only create drama that draws 35,000 fans and golf's best television rating since the U.S. Open in June but offer words of respect to the opponent.

"I watched it from start to finish," Hal Sutton, captain of last year's beaten U.S. Ryder Cup team told the Associated Press. "What part of my body wouldn't say, 'Where was this in September?' We all knew both were capable of that. I don't know why they didn't do it together."

Why don't Americans in other sports do well together? Why should great NBA players linking up with other great NBA players fall 20 points behind Puerto Rico in the Olympics?

Why did Roddick, No.3 in the world, Agassi, No.9 and the Bryan twins, No.2 in world doubles, all lose in Davis Cup, virtually to one man, Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic? Ljubicic beat both Roddick and Agassi in singles and teamed with Mario Ancic in doubles.

Three years ago, before the matches in England, Tiger issued the most provocative statement about the Ryder Cup, admitting he placed more importance on winning the previous week's American Express Championships and the $1 million first-place check than he did the Ryder Cup.

Nobody made any similar comments about Davis Cup. What Todd Martin, a former Cup player in attendance at Indian Wells, said was, "I was a little bit surprised about the doubles. Ljubicic has been playing well enough that you could conceive him winning two singles. But I didn't expect him to win the doubles as well.

"But I wouldn't say the team is struggling. We ran into a guy who this year is playing as well as the best player in the world. (Roger Federer)."

Paul Annacone, also an American Davis Cup player and a former coach of Pete Sampras, reminded that last year the U.S. reached the finals before losing to Spain in Barcelona.

"Without Andre," mused Annacone. "Then as soon as Andre plays, with Andy, and we're here in the states you figure it's automatic, cruise control. But the line is so fine, that when one guy plays really well, it changes the match. It doesn't happen much, but it does happen."

"The Ryder Cup," said Annacone, "presents formats, alternate shots, four-ball, pro golfers normally don't play.

"But the Davis Cup is still what we do all the time, a match," he said. "It's just the pressure that's different. And it takes a lot out of you, a week before to get ready, a week after to unwind."

Said Martin: "Croatia? They've beaten us twice in four years. There are countries that used to just recognize soccer now are playing everything. Kids starting young in tennis, golf, basketball."

And the United States, seemingly is losing to them all.

Art Spander has earned a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He can be reached at

03-14-2005, 07:13 PM
March 14, 2005, 12:42AM


Pacific Life field lacking
Indian Wells tourney missing several top names on women's side

Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

If the men's draw at the Pacific Life Open — the first mini-major of the tennis season — represented a quorum of the game's best and the brightest, the women's bracket was less complete. Four former but active No. 1s were conspicuously missing from the California tournament for physical and, let's say, philosophical reasons.

There is no word on when Jennifer Capriati, who underwent major shoulder surgery in January, will be able to resume playing full time or even if she will. At least Justine Henin-Hardenne, ranked first this time a year ago, is slated to make her latest comeback next week at the Nasdaq-100 Open in Key Biscayne, Fla.

Injuries and illness have kept Henin-Hardenne's participation spotty and her play erratic since she won the 2004 Australian Open, coming off the 2003 U.S. Open

Serena and Venus Williams also will be in the Miami field chasing the $3,115,000 purse, the WTA's largest in the United States except for Flushing Meadow. Serena slightly injured her shoulder in Dubai, blaming "heavy balls," but that had nothing to do with why the reigning Australian Open champion skipped Indian Wells.

She and her sister, Venus, have said they never will play there again because of an ugly reaction from the Pacific Life crowd when Venus defaulted a much-anticipated final between the sisters a number of years ago. In those days, there were lingering rumors Venus and Serena did everything they could to avoid playing each other, and the fans' jeering indicated they had judged Venus' alleged injury to be bogus.

But later, both Williamses and their father Richard would suggest the crowd's response was racist. The bad blood never has dissipated, on either

U.S. Davis Cup loss irks Mack

Jim McIngvale is peeved. He is convinced the U.S. Davis Cup team's surprising first-round loss to Croatia at Carson, Calif., last weekend never would have happened at his Westside Tennis Club, where he insists the home-court advantage does mean something.

The loss that upset him was Bob and Mike Bryan falling to Ivan Ljubicic and Mario Ancic in the doubles. That put the Americans in a 2-1 hole starting the final day, and Andy Roddick then was beaten by Ljubicic, the hottest player on the ATP Tour save for Roger Federer.

"The Bryans have won two Masters Cups at Westside," McIngvale said. "You can't tell me that's a coincidence. We've got the best fans, the best atmosphere in the world out there. No way we wouldn't have pulled them through."

McIngvale has tried to convince the United States Tennis Association to make Westside its Davis Cup base of operations, but the USTA prefers to spread the wealth, thinking it needs to put ties in different markets. Bah, Mack says.

"All I know is," he said, "for $120 million (the USTA's annual budget, according to McIngvale), how do you lose to Croatia? I guarantee you they don't beat us here."

Aggies gig 'em

Texas tennis is serious stuff, even if California and Florida hog the limelight. For proof, I offer up the results of the USA Team Tennis National Campus Championships, which Texas A&M has won three times in four years — twice by beating the University of Texas in the final.

The Aggie Tennis Club captured its second title in a row Saturday night, beating the Longhorns 26-22 at San Diego. A record 48 teams from around the country participated in the tournament, which determined national champions for coed, non-varsity club and intramural tennis teams.

Texas A&M opened the day with a 25-20 semifinal victory over Harvard before beating UT in the final. The Aggies also defeated Texas in the 2002 final at Austin and then lost to Florida in 2003 before beating Virginia last year. They have won 15 matches in a row in the event, founded in

A&M's Kim Mathews, a senior from Nacogdoches, was the star of the day, winning singles and doubles with Selyna Nu ñez.

Changes at Westside

Chris Young, Westside's popular tournament director, has left the club and the tennis whirl altogether to go to work in fund-raising. The club also has a new head pro, with Scott Muller having replaced Nigel Waithe.

Linda McIngvale, who runs the club while her husband sells furniture, has appointed herself interim tournament director. If Linda decides she does a good job, she might keep it.

Young cut her tournament director's teeth running the River Oaks International before she moved to Westside when McIngvale bought the Clay Court's dates.

Roddick at River Oaks

He won't play in the tournament next month, but Andy Roddick will keep alive an almost unbroken succession of superstars to trod on River Oaks' center court, one of the country's most storied and beautiful tennis venues. He and childhood buddy Mardy Fish are going to face off April 7 in what has become a traditional Thursday night exhibition.

Two years ago, Fish flew in and walloped John McEnroe, but this time he is picking on somebody his own age.

Most rising stars have passed through the River Oaks International before reaching professional prominence — precocious 15-year-old Donald Young Jr. becomes the latest this year — but the third-ranked Roddick did not. The one year he entered, he was summoned away at the last minute to be a hitting partner for the U.S. Davis Cup team in Los Angeles.

Otherwise, every A-list player since the 1930s is believed to have set foot on the River Oaks courts at one time or another except for Sweden's Stefan Edberg. Andre Agassi slipped through anonymously, losing a first-round match there when he was 16.

Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and Michael Chang also dropped by to pay their respects before they became rich and famous.

03-16-2005, 12:13 AM

Davis Cup losing its appeal to U.S. fans

Published March 15, 2005

The combination of Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick was supposed to propel the United States past Croatia in the Davis Cup's first round while giving the event a much-needed injection of American interest.

It did neither.

Croatia advanced 3-2, and despite the star power of Agassi and Roddick, few Americans seemed to care, as evidenced by TV ratings that were nothing short of abysmal. Locally, the March 6 conclusion drew a 0.1 rating. The same day, something called Fairly Odd Parents on Nickelodeon had a 2.9. That kind of puts things in perspective, wouldn't you say?

The U.S. team's defeat isn't worth panicking about. After all, anything can happen on any given day, so the fact Agassi, Roddick and the doubles team of brothers Bob and Mike Bryan lost does not signal the end of American tennis.

But the ratings slide is particularly troubling. Once a fan favorite stateside, the Davis Cup has become insignificant to the casual fan. The United States hasn't won the title since 1995, and that doesn't help, but the greater problem might be its scheduling - at least to Americans. Only die-hards know when the next round is and who's playing whom. The Cup is worked around an already crowded men's schedule, not the other way around.

NBC analyst Bud Collins thinks it's too spread out. ESPN commentator Cliff Drysdale , a former Davis Cup player for South Africa, has a plan he thinks would generate interest. He says the matches should be played over several consecutive weeks. "I'd like to see it every weekend," Drysdale told the Times last year.

The question is, when is a good time? The suggestion here would be to play the 16-team main draw every December (the qualifying matches can be held earlier), when the schedule is light. That way, there might be an actual buildup to the final.

Will it happen? The International Tennis Federation, the world governing body and the organization responsible for running the Davis Cup, has not expressed interest in changing things.

DRESS FOR SUCCESS: The father of rising star Sania Mirza thinks the short dresses worn by players stop some Indian parents from letting their daughters play. "Many Hindu, Muslim and Christian parents have told me that the tennis dress is working as a deterrent against sending their girls to the court," Imran Mirza told the Asian Age newspaper. "Is there a possibility of changing it to suit our needs?" WTA Tour rules state only that players must dress appropriately in tennis attire. In other words, there's a certain bit of freedom. Short dresses and shorts are optional. Then again, so are long ones.

ODDS AND ENDS:, the Web site for Tennis Magazine , is celebrating its 10-year anniversary by relaunching the site, coinciding with the yearlong celebration of the magazine's 40th anniversary. The redesign focuses on educating tennis enthusiasts and connecting them through interactive features. ... The USTA and Polo Ralph Lauren reached a deal that designated Polo as the official apparel sponsor of the U.S. Open through 2008. ... Daniela Hantuchova is the latest WTA star to hit the glossy pages with a provocative photo spread. Hantuchova, a 21-year-old Slovakian ranked No. 22 in the world, was featured in a recent edition of Italian Vogue . ... Pete Sampras and his wife, actor Bridgette Wilson-Sampras , are expecting their second child this fall. They have a 2-year-old son, Christian . ... Tickets remain for the March 21 Mercedes-Benz Classic at the St Pete Times Forum in Tampa. The lineup includes Agassi, Jim Courier , James Blake and Mardy Fish . Proceeds benefit the Raymond James Courier's Kids Foundation. For information, call 813 301-2500 or visit

03-16-2005, 10:50 PM

March 16, 2005

Dent Sends Safin Home Early

Russian, ranked fourth in the world, can't handle his opponent's big serve-and-volley game and loses in straight sets at the Pacific Life Open.


By Bill Dwyre, Times Staff Writer

It will be written that the demons that have haunted Marat Safin for years in the Pacific Life Open tennis tournament popped up again Tuesday night, as he made his usual early departure. In fact, what popped up was the temporary reincarnation of Boris Becker.

Only this boom-boom, serve-and-volley player was a Southern California kid named Taylor Dent, the pride of Newport Beach, whose high-risk game paid the ultimate dividend on Center Court, a 7-5, 6-4 shocker over the fourth-seeded Australian Open champion.

In an age of tennis where the practice of following the serve to the net has become low percentage, as more tournaments are played on slower courts, more baseline bangers beget carbon copies and players spend hours working on passing shots and minutes on volleying, the day of the true serve-and-volley player is mostly a memory.

That makes Dent's devotion to it more exceptional.

Afterward, Safin, a colorful Russian who has been the only player this year to beat the unbeatable Roger Federer, doing so in the semifinals at the Australian, said he lost because "I played the worst match I ever played, maybe in my entire career."

He also said he felt like "I wasn't even there," and said that most frustrating was that he wasn't even winning points from the baseline. "That says a lot, because, from there, I am better than him."

All true, but what he didn't say was that that is how an effective serve-and-volley player makes you feel — like you aren't there. Becker did it better than almost anybody. Stefan Edberg was a little slicker, relying less on a big serve and more on serving and volleying angles. Pete Sampras could do it at will, but didn't live and die with it like Becker, Edberg and Richard Krajicek.

Dent, 23, at 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, is a throwback, a Becker big-banger. Of course, to be a Becker or a Safin, he is several major titles shy, and he knows it.

"I can't really compare my career to Safin's yet," he said. "He's had an unbelievable career. I think 99% of the players out there would take his two Slams and all the titles he's won."

However, a lot fewer than 99% of the players out there would be willing to take Safin's record at Indian Wells, where he has a 9-6 record and has never advanced past the fourth round.

"Today, I couldn't put two balls in the court," he said, "and it's really frustrating that it happens, especially here in Indian Wells, at a Tennis Masters Series event."

Safin finished the match with the ultimate frustration, a double fault.

He had begun by losing the first three games, then breaking to get back to 3-3, then 5-5. With Dent serving, Safin, despite playing the "worst match of his career," had three shots at the set with three break points. He converted none of those, especially the one where Dent threw a 136-mph first serve at him. Then Dent broke him in the next game, when he won an exchange of drop shots, and suddenly, the No. 4 player in the world was down a set.

In the second set, Dent's serve continued to contribute to the "worst match" of Safin's career by starting with a hold at love, finishing out one game with a 131-mph ace and never facing a break point. Safin, on the other hand, had to save five break points at 1-2, two more at 2-3 and even got lucky at 4-5 when a double fault at 15-all wasn't called and he won the point. But soon, he hit a backhand wide, and Dent was at match point.

And when Safin's second serve missed well long, the handful of serve-and-volley players left in the game nodded, because one of them had had a moment, brief as they are these days. One statistic told all: When he got his first serve in, Dent won all but one of the points.

At one point in his press conference, while describing what went right, Dent said that he was "sticking" his volley. But he didn't just say it, he gestured a well-hit, backhand volley with his arm. In his press conferences, Becker often did the same thing.

In addition to the Dent upset, Tuesday's play produced a marquee round-of-16 match. Federer, in total control as usual, stopped Gilles Muller of Luxembourg, 6-3, 6-2, and will play Croatian Davis Cup hero Ivan Ljubicic, who beat the Czech Republic's Tomas Berdych, 6-4, 6-1.

Ljubicic has lost three times to Federer this year, all in finals, the last two in tough three-setters. They will put that match on Center Court on Wednesday, starting no sooner than 8:30 p.m.

03-17-2005, 08:31 PM
Tennis mailbag, with CNN's Candy Reid

Thursday, March 17, 2005 Posted: 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)

(CNN) -- Do you have a question about tennis for World Sport Anchor Candy Reid? E-mail

Q. Hi Candy. Serena Williams pulled out of her Dubai Open semi-final, blaming the ball for her injury. Tell me if Serena has a point or is she just being her usual "ungracious self" and making excuses instead of congratulating her opponent and accepting defeat. Even when she wins she is still very ungracious. Always making out like it could have been a better victory if she wasn't playing under stress from one mysterious ailment or the other.
Regards, Tony, Nigeria.

A. Tony, I agree that Serena is not always the most gracious loser but there aren't too many on the women's tour that are (Kim Clijsters and Lindsay Davenport being the obvious exceptions.) I often hear both Serena and Venus saying after they have lost a match "well she played well ... but I was absolutely awful" or something to that effect. I'm sure these kinds of things are said because even though they know their opponent played well, saying it out loud may give that player extra confidence next time they meet. However, there's no doubt Serena was struggling with an arm injury during that match and the heaviness of the balls may well have been to blame. If you strike it late or not quite on the 'sweet spot' a heavy ball (or a ball which is wet) can cause all kinds of problems.

Q. Hey Candy! I actually saw you play for the University of Tennessee back in the day. My question is about Andy Roddick. I think his game is too one-dimensional for him to add to his major haul. He has a big serve but not much else to rely on. To me he's just another Ivanisevic or Philippoussis. If an opponent like Safin or Hewitt can withstand his big serve, Roddick doesn't have a "Plan B" and will likely lose. I feel his BH and net play needs work for him to truly be one of the best. Your thoughts?
Nick Keller, Dallas, Texas

A. Well Nick, I think Andy would agree that his backhand and volley need to improve for him to grab a few more grand-slams. And it's obvious he's been working on both. He's been getting up to the net a lot more recently and with that serve why not? If he can win a few more easy points then it's going to help him in the majors which of course require you to win 7 matches to be the champ. Okay, so his backhand may not be the weapon his forehand is, but he's using the slice much more now to change it up and if he can improve his backhand down the line and turn it in to a winning shot then more trophies will be hitting him on the head! I believe he has a better all-around game than both Ivanisevic and Philippoussis and that reflects in his ranking and the fact that he's very consistent. I can't remember the last time that Roddick lost in the first round of a tournament. Can you?

Q. Who (overall) has been the most consistent female player over the last 3 years?
Sowari Wilcox

A. Hmmm, tough one Sowari. I'd have to say Lindsay Davenport. Alright she hasn't won a Grand-Slam in over five years now but she's got to at least the 4th round in every Major she's played in since 2002. She's also won 9 tournaments in that time and has played in countless finals. Perhaps though, she wins by default -- so many of the other top players have been forced to take time off through injury and/or illness in the past few years.

Q. Candy, why does Roy Emerson get no respect from the media or tennis fans when talking about the best players of all time? He won 12 majors, including the career Grand Slam twice over. I'm too young to have seen Emerson play but it sound like he was unstoppable.
Bradley Smith, Columbus, OH

A. Well Bradley, I suppose it's because Emerson's last major win came in 19-67 and so many tennis fans like you didn't get the opportunity to see him in action. His name, in fact, only really came up when Pete Sampras was close to breaking his Grand-Slam record in 2000.

Q. Hi Candy my name is Camilia and I'm from Espoo, Finland. I'm a huge Daniela Hantuchova fan. What do you think of her recent form and will she be able to get back into the top 10?

A. It's great to see Hantuchova winning again and looking healthy and happy on court Camilia. She certainly is one of the most graceful players on tour. However, I don't think she's going to get back to her 2002 heights when she got into the top 10. She's a top 20 player in my opinion, and definitely capable of beating some big names from time to time.

03-18-2005, 08:35 PM
Hits and misses, just like a scud

Philippoussis set to launch another rally

By Charles Bricker
Staff Writer
Posted March 18 2005

SUNRISE · It has been 10 years since Mark Philippoussis, then just 18 years old, was anointed the man to challenge Pete Sampras' domination of tennis -- 10 years in which his career has coughed and sputtered and risen and fallen with his fitness level.

Thursday, his ranking having slipped from No. 8 after his runner-up finish at the 2003 Wimbledon to No. 191, the newly engaged Philippoussis was once again trying to resurrect himself after missing more than two months this year to a strained adductor muscle.

"Matches. I need matches. And the more matches I play, the confidence will come out," Philippoussis said after defeating Jeff Morrison 6-3, 7-6 (7) in a first-round match at the $100,000 Pro Tennis World Open.

He served well enough at the right moments, crashing nine aces, and his mobility looked OK for a man in need of rust remover. But you couldn't fault his fight. His game might be nowhere near his 178-ace run through Wimbledon two years ago, but there was nothing wrong with his competitiveness.

With his 18-year-old fiancée, Alexis Barbera, clapping his best shots from her sideline seat, the man they call "The Scud Missile" got a major gift when Morrison missed a simple volley at 5-3 in the tiebreak, giving Philippoussis the opening he needed to rally back and close out the match.

It was also a good day for No. 1 seed Dominik Hrbaty, who, like Philippoussis, avoided having to play a second match during the evening because of persistent rain that struck the hardcourts at 4 p.m. and wiped out the rest of the day's program.

Hrbaty's exquisite backhand was crackling, and his forehand wasn't missing, either. He snapped off 10 service returns for winners in a 6-2, 6-3 win over hard-serving Peter Wessels.

Also Thursday: No. 2 seed Luis Horna, playing only his second match since the Australian Open, was beaten by Tomas Zib 6-3, 6-2; No. 5 Igor Andreev defeated qualifier Alex Bogomolov, a graduate of Sunset High School in Miami; and No. 7 Alberto Martin just beat the rain with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Bohdan Ulihrach.

In matches placed in suspension until today: Gilles Simon of France led countryman Julien Benneteau 6-4, 4-2 and Florian Mayer of Germany was at 6-0, 1-4 with compatriot Bjorn Phau.

The tournament, hoping not to get dangerously behind, will begin play at 10 today instead of noon.

"When the time's right, the time's right," Philippoussis said of his engagement to the Miami student and model. But he wouldn't talk further about this impending major change in his life.

"I just want to talk about tennis," he said. "I don't want to get into personal things."

For years, the 6-foot-4 Philippoussis has been the subject of countless stories in the Australian press about real or alleged romances with Anna Kournikova, Paris Hilton and numerous other Aussie entertainment personalities.

According to those who know him well, Philippoussis is planning a postseason wedding, either in November or December, and a move out of Delray Beach, though he's not sure of his next residential destination.

The new relationship might have a calming effect on his life in general, but it's hard to see how it will affect his ongoing struggle with injuries, though he insisted Thursday that "I'm stronger than I was when I reached the final at Wimbledon."

Philippoussis will play the clever Belgian Christophe Rochus today, and Hrbaty moves into the second round against former Delray Beach titlist Davide Sanguinetti.

Ranked 27th, Hrbaty, the leading player in the Slovak Republic, played strong, very aggressive tennis from the baseline to thwart the big-serving Wessels.

Thursday's results First round: Dominik Hrbaty d. Peter Wessels 6-2, 6-3; Mark Philippoussis d. Jeff Morrison 6-3, 7-6 (7); Jan-Michael Gambill d. Tobias Summerer 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4); Second round: Alberto Martin d. Bohdan Ulihrach 6-3, 6-4; Igor Andreev d. Alex Bogomolov 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4; Tomas Zib d. Luis Horna 6-3, 6-2. Today's schedule Center court: Florian Mayer vs. Bjorn Phau (completion of suspended match), 10 a.m.; Dominik Hrbatry vs. Davide Sanguinetti; Mark Philippoussis vs. Christophe Rochus, 1 p.m. Court 9: Gilles Simon vs. Julien Benneteau (completion of suspended match), 10 a.m.; Jan-Michael Gambill vs. Karol Beck; Gilles Simon or Julien Benneteau vs. Tomas Zib.

Charles Bricker can be reached at

03-19-2005, 08:35 PM
Saturday, March 19, 2005

Quiet, reserved Federer is more than a typical tennis star

By Jerry Green / The Detroit News

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- Most of them are extra tall and wear their hair to their shoulders. The men and the women, both. They speak Russian or Spanish or German as their first language, though the grunts when they hit the tennis balls are identical in any language. They are young, rich, well traveled and terribly pampered.

When the sun shines -- as it usually does here in the California desert -- the athletes are shaded during the rest intervals beneath umbrellas wielded by scurrying youngsters with their own lofty aspirations.

From this collection of athletic aristocrats, Roger Federer has emerged to become the champion of the tennis set. He is genuine, and his game is pure, and he stands in at a normal 6-foot-1.

Federer, in the past year, has become the most dominant athlete in sports. I think of Tiger Woods when he was hot and blistered every golf course. This Federer guy, at age 23, is hotter.

He is as hot as Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors were -- combined -- during the boom years of tennis. He is as hot as Pete Sampras was when the sport dipped into its decline. As hot as Rod Laver generations ago. As hot as Boris Becker when he arrived with sudden thunder, diving and tumbling and winning at Wimbledon.

"The most talented player I ever laid eyes on," McEnroe often has said publicly to journalists.

And as we all know, John sometimes is prone to dipping into the tart, critical, sarcastic commentary about athletes in the sport he once popularized in America.

Similar to McEnroe? Roger Federer is hardly a John McEnroe. On the court, his body language is well below the demonstrative level displayed by the angry young tennis athletes of years ago. Off the court, to this first-time viewer, he seems quiet and self-effacing.

But he is a championship tennis player. Wimbledon two years ago. Australian, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year. Three-quarters of the grand slam in 2004, just like Connors 30 years before. McEnroe never did that. Borg and Sampras never did that. No men's singles player had won three grand slam events in the same year since Mats Wilander in 1988.

And in America, Federer still is woefully under-publicized. He remains relatively unknown except to those who relish the sport so much that they attend matches dressed as wannabees in their own tennis costumes.

Once he broke through at Wimbledon in July of 2003, all of it has been quite simple for Federer. Sort of.

"When I go into a match, that's what I think about, that it's going to be a tough one even though I'm a big favorite," Federer said this week as he dominated another tournament on his championship tour around the world.

He had just rubbed out another opponent, Gilles Muller from Luxembourg, in the Pacific Life Open at the pristine Indian Wells Tennis Garden. The score was 6-3, 6-2. Federer felt he had been challenged -- and perhaps he was.

"I had the match under control all the time," Federer said. "Maybe the match took longer than it usually does. I took too many chances. We had a couple of long games."

Very simple, an account of another crush job.

Roger from Switzerland, playing in his powder-blue shorts and matching tennis shoes, wearing his white headband with the Nike swoosh, and ferociously swinging his red-and-white racquet with the Wilson W etched onto the strings.

These international athletes have become human billboards for American sporting goods purveyors.

Observed from high above the deep purple Stadium 1 Court of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, Federer displays a tennis game that combines power with deftness and the ability to chase down shots. On the occasional point, he forces himself to dive onto the hard court surface. Something out of Boris Becker.

"You almost have to mix it up, you know?" Federer would say after his victory.

He wows the crowd with a backhand winning shot into a corner. His one-handed backhand, he says proudly later, shunning the two-fisted style now used by most of these tennis vagabonds.

He lambastes his strokes from the backcourt, then wins a set with a drop shot from near the net.

From my perch, Federer reminds me of a crafty pitcher. His serve is clocked at 121 miles an hour, then an ace at 126 miles per -- and then he breaks it up with a twisting first serve clocked at slow-motion 90.

Similar to McEnroe?

There was an obvious bad call the other day. Federer pointed to the where Muller's serve had landed -- out.

Federer muttered a word or two.

After his victory, he discussed his language skills.

"English, French and German," he said, hesitating, then continuing, "Swiss German and some Italian."

What he muttered when he was dismayed was in English.

"Anything," he said.

Becker was the player Federer watched when he was a lad learning tennis in the Swiss city of Basel. Federer would watch as the TV flicked the signal in from Wimbledon in the 1980s.

"He was always there," Federer said. "He was my favorite player. He was from Germany, I'm from Switzerland, you know, we're neighbors."

Federer is 24-1 in his matches this early in 2005. He has already won three tournaments -- the Doha, Rotterdam and Dubai events -- while trotting the globe. He plays today in the semifinals of the Pacific Life Open, a tournament he won last year along with his three grand slam victories.

But it takes four to win the grand slam. And Federer is not destined to win the grand slam this year as Laver did in 1969. Federer missed out by losing in the French last year. His solitary loss this year was in the Australian to Marat Safin, from the Russian contingent.

Some year, the grand slam -- the Australian, French, Wimbledon and the U.S. Opens in succession - will be won again, in one calendar year.

And Roger Federer is just 23, only recently emerged -- and hot. The most talented player John McEnroe ever laid eyes on!

You can reach Jerry Green at

03-21-2005, 08:45 PM


March 21, 2005

LTA's pursuit of Connors ends in failure
From Neil Harman, Tennis Correspondent in Indian Wells, California

“I LIKE my life the way it is; I’d just like something else to do.” That was Pete Sampras talking last week. It could just as easily have been Jimmy Connors’ thoughts a few months ago when he heard that the LTA were coming to call because they wanted someone high-profile to help to toughen up the young players in their charge.
The Connors deal, trumpeted with as much enthusiasm as was John McEnroe’s involvement at Queen’s Club the year before last (McEnroe did hit for a couple of hours with a group of juniors before moving on to something more important), has fallen through over money, about as surprising as anyone believing it would work in the first place.

What looked brilliant on paper, and in them, was always susceptible to the forces of finance and once the LTA and its partners could not raise enough it came a cropper, which is probably just as well. Connors had been peeved that his own USTA had not entertained his working for them, but they remembered this great champion saying not many moons ago that he was not remotely interested in tennis.

What would have made him change his mind so abruptly? Could it be USTA/LTA largesse? Better that the money is invested more wisely. As Sampras said when the subject of McEnroe and Connors working for the LTA was raised and that with a bit of spare time on his hands, maybe he would like to join the search for a cadre of potential champions: “Yeah, for my first coming out party that’s what I’ll do,” he said, rocking back in the sofa. “Send me to Surrey to see if I can find some local talent.”

There have been too many encouraging signs of progress in the LTA’s performance programme in the past few months for the sport to be sidetracked trying to find time for egos such as Connors and McEnroe, who have had no experience of coaching anyway. Let them get at each other’s throats in the commentary box, rather than fake an interest in coaching and developing British juniors.

Speaking of coaches, Roger Federer is performing very handily without one to call on except in an emergency, which makes Tony Roche’s task relatively simple. The meeting of the two best players in the world in the Pacific Life Open final yesterday was never a stroll for the Swiss, but he had that little bit extra than Lleyton Hewitt, which is saying something.

Hewitt normally wears his opponents down to the point of frazzling their minds — as he managed against Andy Roddick in the semi-finals. To do that against Federer requires more than any player has managed in recent times, other than Marat Safin in the semi-finals of the Australian Open in January. Hewitt, hindered by an injury to the sole of his right foot, made impressions although never enough to offer the sustained promise of denying Federer the retention of his title.

The final will, perhaps, be remembered for one point rather than the victor. At 1-1 in the second set, a rally of extraordinary range, brilliant athleticism and gung-ho strokes, ended with Federer flicking a forehand crosscourt and Hewitt, lunging like a goalkeeper, plucking it out of the air with a winning forehand volley. A one-minute standing ovation was the sweetest of symphonies. It did not get any better than that for the Australian, whose consolation was that he broke Federer ’s serve midway through the third set to prolong matters. Eventually, he went down 6-2, 6-4, 6-4. Another routine few days in the sun for the world No 1.

03-22-2005, 10:10 PM


March 23, 2005

Henman has fitness plan to realise his Wimbledon title dream

By Gary Jacob

TIM HENMAN is nearly a pensioner in tennis terms, but the British No 1’s flirtation with winning Wimbledon is to continue for a few years yet. After a decade of competition that has taken its toll on his frame, Henman has said that his body feels good enough to be able to play until his mid-thirties.
He will be 31 in September and dedicates up to an extra hour per day in gym and exercise time just to keep his back in condition for the rigours on court. “There’s no reason why I can’t play on for another three or four more years,” Henman said. “Look at the way [Andre] Agassi’s been playing. He’s changed people’s thinking about the age [34] you’re meant to be retiring.”

Henman, who has been in indifferent form, has reached four Wimbledon semi-finals in his quest to become the first Briton to win the men’s singles title since Fred Perry in 1936. “They want me to win it, it’s the one I want to win as well,” Henman said. “When I first went to Wimbledon, that was my ultimate ambition. Certainly, I’ll be looking to give it another crack this year.”

The notion that Henman would dominate Wimbledon once Pete Sampras retired seemed to ignore the fact that other great players would emerge, such as Roger Federer, who has won the past two Wimbledon titles. “I just need to raise it one more level and if I do that it’ll be a pretty exciting fortnight,” Henman said. “The support that I get playing in those surroundings outweighs the negatives. I’ve played the best tennis of my career at Wimbledon.”

03-22-2005, 10:15 PM
The Sun-Sentinel.Com

Roddick gets a break

By Charles Bricker
Staff Writer
Posted March 22 2005

KEY BISCAYNE · If this Nasdaq-100 Open follows form, at least through the first three rounds, defending champion Andy Roddick will be revisiting a couple of Davis Cup nemeses to whom he owes paybacks.

Now living part-time in Boca Raton and Austin, Texas, Roddick received something of a break even before the draw was pulled Monday afternoon when No. 2-ranked Lleyton Hewitt pulled out of the tournament with a toe injury.

That pushed Roddick into the No. 2 seed, which means he couldn't face Roger Federer, the current god of the tennis universe, until a final. He got no luck from the draw, however.

He is very likely to face young Spanish star Rafael Nadal in the third round and Ivan Ljubicic in the fourth. Nadal whipped him on clay in the Davis Cup final in December vs. Spain, and Ljubicic took him down in Croatia's upset of the United States this month.

In the top of the draw, Federer, 26-1 for the season and 100-7 since the start of the 2004 season, has good players facing him before the semis -- probably Paradorn Srichaphan, Tommy Haas and Joachim Johansson. But what does it matter. He's beating everyone.

Statistically, Federer is rolling up the sort of numbers Pete Sampras once registered at Wimbledon. Starting with the 2004 U.S. Open, he has won 42 of his 43 matches -- the only defeat to Marat Safin in the semifinals of the Australian Open.

He has won 97 of the 109 sets he has played and, during that period, compiled a 12-1 record against top-10 opponents.

On the women's side, tournament officials could not convince No. 1 Lindsay Davenport to play, making Amelie Mauresmo the No. 1 seed and the only player who could replace Davenport at the top of the rankings at the conclusion of the Nasdaq.

Mauresmo would have to make the final to get back to No.1.

Three-time defending champion Serena Williams, seeded third, gets a first-round bye and then the winner of Vera Douchevina vs. Emilie Loit in the second round. Sister Venus also has a bye, then the winner of Anna-Lena Groenefeld vs. a qualifier in the second.

The Williams sisters are on the same side of the draw and could only meet in the quarterfinals. They haven't played each other since the 2003 Wimbledon final.

The Draw

Notable first-round matchup: The tallest on the men's tour, 6-foot-10 Ivo Karlovic, faces the shortest, 5-foot-5 Olivier Rochus. They've split two matches with Rochus winning at the Boca Raton challenger last year. This could be a difficult handshake at net.

Karol Beck of Slovakia, who won the $100,000 Pro Tennis World challenger at Sunrise on Sunday, is on target for a second-round match against slumping Sebastien Grosjean of Boca.

French reporters, who lose six hours to deadline here, will be hoping for an early start to the match between countryman Michael Llodra and 18-year-old rising star Gael Monfils -- an intriguing first-rounder.

Charles Bricker can be reached at

03-23-2005, 09:23 PM
Posted 3/23/2005 12:54 AM



Rivalry comes full circle in Florida

By Douglas Robson, Special for USA TODAY

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — One is muscular, powerful, fleet-footed and African-American. The other is lithe, leggy, blond and Russian. Both immovable forces that first met on this sandy strip of land southeast of Miami at the Nasdaq-100, which begins today.
Serena Williams powered past Maria Sharapova in straight sets on her way to a third consecutive title in Key Biscayne in that first meeting 12 months ago. But three emotionally charged matches since have turned Williams-Sharapova into one of the most compelling rivalries in women's tennis in years.

"The fact that all the matches we've had have been so dramatic and intense and everybody has been curious about what's going to happen — I guess that makes it a rivalry," says Sharapova, who is making her third appearance at the NASDAQ-100.

After losing in straight sets to Williams in the fourth round here, the ingénue from Siberia upset the two-time defending Wimbledon champ 6-1, 6-4 in the Wimbledon final, and then overcame a hobbled Williams in another topsy-turvy final at November's WTA Championships in Los Angeles.

In the semifinals of January's Australian Open, Williams returned the favor, staving off three match points — two with dramatic forehand winners — to knock off Sharapova in three sets en route to a seventh Grand Slam title. Their head-to-head record stands at 2-2.

"I definitely think she has a fighting spirit, and I think that's gotten her to where she is today," Williams said after their Melbourne match, in a nod of respect.

However, it's not just close matches from which classic rivalries are hewn.

Contrasting styles or cultures, frequent meetings on big-time stages and opposing physical makeups all play a role. That's what made the iron curtain-born, net-charging Martina Navratilova the perfect foil to the baseline-hugging, American sweetheart Chris Evert.

Great rivalries also need an intangible excitement, something that makes the atmosphere crackle with anticipation. "Even if you don't understand it, you feel it," explains tennis legend Billie Jean King.

The viewing public appears to agree. Their Australian Open semifinal on ESPN2 drew more than 1 million households, making it the most-watched tennis telecast ever on the cable station at the time. ESPN's broadcast of their WTA Championships clash surpassed the previous year's final by 189%.

While off the court Williams, ranked No. 4, and Sharapova, No. 3, are consumed with their stylish sides — Williams dabbles in her own line of fashion wear, and Sharapova her own eponymous perfume — but deep down both are never-say-die competitors.

They yelp. They thigh-slap in the first game of matches. They fist pump and glare. It's up-close combat the game has not seen in a while.

"They just have this primal fight," says ESPN commentator and two-time U.S. Open champ Tracy Austin.

"Compelling rivalries make for great television and have always been good for tennis," says NBC Sports President Ken Schanzer. "It's much too early to say if Sharapova-Serena has the makings of (Bjorn) Borg-(John) McEnroe, (Pete) Sampras-(Andre) Agassi or Evert-Navratilova, but both players have dynamic games and personalities that offer that potential."

The similarities are striking, too. Both reside in Florida, have go-for-broke baseline games, play with flamboyant emotion and were sculpted by dominating fathers who are often lightning rods for controversy. Both possess an insatiable desire to win. Off the court, they are opinionated, A-List celebrities with huge marketing power.

A bit of iciness can also spice up a rivalry. After her Wimbledon defeat, Williams claimed tongue-in-cheek that she hadn't actually been on the court. She grew irritated when asked if she considered Sharapova a rival on a recent conference call and insisted she had no memory of playing Sharapova in Key Biscayne.

"I honestly can't say I do," Williams huffed. "She would probably have a better memory than me."

When told of Williams' comments, Sharapova rolled her eyes.

"I'm sure she remembers playing me," she says. "After she lost at Wimbledon, she said she wasn't there, but I'm sure she knows."

03-23-2005, 09:28 PM
Ten key questions with Grand Slams looming

Dan Weil / Special to
Posted: 22 hours ago

Tennis' top players are gathering in Key Biscayne outside Miami for the U.S.' second biggest tournament of the year. The Nasdaq-100 Open begins Wednesday, and marks the end of the spring hardcourt season. With the year's three remaining Grand Slam tournaments looming on the horizon, 10 major questions dominate the tennis world.

1. Can anyone stop Roger Federer?
In a word, no. As Pete Sampras said recently, the Swiss wunderkind's biggest opponent now is the record book. The 23-year-old Federer already has racked up four major victories and is on course to challenge Sampras' record of 14. Federer is a genius shotmaker with no holes in his game. He moves as well as anyone in the sport and can hit any shot at any time. On top of that, he makes it look easy. Like Sampras, he barely seems to be working up a sweat. It's no wonder he's won 42 of 43 matches since the Olympics last year. If not for a narrow loss to Marat Safin at the Australian Open in January, Federer would be a serious threat to win the Grand Slam this year.

2. What's up with the Williams sisters?
Serena won the Australian Open for her first major victory since 2003. But she captured the crown more on guts and self-belief than the strength of her game. The 23-year-old has a good to chance to garner her fourth Nasdaq crown, but she isn't the dominant player she once was. Other players have caught up to her power. And while Serena is pre-occupied with acting and fashion design, others are working harder on their tennis. Serena hasn't made any improvements since dropping from No. 1 in 2003. Those points ring even truer with Venus. She really seemed to lose interest in tennis after Serena beat her in five consecutive major finals in 2002-2003. Look for the 24-year-old to continue her slow fade.

3. Can Marat Safin challenge Federer for No. 1?Not likely. Safin's results since his amazing Australian Open win in January have been disappointing. Whenever the 25-year-old Russian has raised expectations for greatness with big wins, like the 2000 US Open, he has quickly succumbed to the pressure. He's likely to fizzle not only at the Nasdaq but perhaps the final three slams of the year too. Safin plays his best tennis at the beginning of the year and at the end, when the pressure is lightest.

4. What's going on with the Belgian Bashers?
Former No. 1 Kim Clijsters and former No. 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne are back on tour from injuries. The likable Clijsters just won the Pacific Lite Open in Indian Wells. But the 21-year-old has shown a propensity for losing big matches throughout her career. She dropped all three of the major finals in which she played — all of them to her compatriot Henin-Hardenne. It is Henin-Hardenne who seems headed for greatness if she can get over injuries, the latest one being to her knee. Henin-Hardenne is the most exciting woman player since Australia's Evonne Goolagong in the 1970s. The 22-year-old is a bit like a female version of Roger Federer. She was dominating the game until a virus took her out of action last year. And it's no wonder why. She can do it all, and does it with grace and style.

5. What's Andre Agassi's story?
After a couple impressive wins, he had to pull out of the Pacific Lite Open last week with a toe injury. It's sad to say, but the 34-year-old Las Vegas native looks headed for retirement. Injuries are becoming a constant drumbeat for the man who has taken tennis fitness to a new level. And he appears to have lost a step. His eight major titles are quite an accomplishment, but don't expect a ninth.

6. How about those Russian women?
Three different Russians captured the last three majors last year, with Anastasia Myskina taking the French, Maria Sharapova winning Wimbledon and Svetlana Kuznetsova emerging victorious at the US Open. And the beautiful Elena Dementieva was runner-up at the French and US Open. Those players are here to stay, but perhaps Sharapova is a bit too busy chasing her $18 million in endorsements. She was destroyed 6-0, 6-0 by Lindsay Davenport in the Pacific Lite Open.

7. Can Andy Roddick get back to the top?
Probably not. The 22-year-old has the misfortune of coming into the prime of his career at the same time as Roger Federer. Roddick has a huge serve and forehand, great footspeed and feisty competitiveness. But his game is limited compared to Federer. If the Swiss Superman doesn't get injured, Roddick's 2003 US Open crown may be the only major title of his career.

8. Why is Lindsay Davenport the women's top-ranked player?
You can thank an arcane ranking system and a weak field for that. Davenport hasn't won a big match since the Australian Open in 2000. The good-natured 28-year-old has beautiful booming groundstrokes and a huge serve, but loses confidence in big moments. She was ready to retire last year until she went on a hot streak. This year may be it.

9. What can we expect from Lleyton Hewitt?
A lot of wins but no major titles. The tenacious Australian doesn't have enough game to challenge Federer — or Safin when the Russian is capable of coping with pressure. Hewitt, 24, does have Roddick's number, beating the American in six of their seven meetings. But unfortunately for Hewitt, the two are unlikely to meet in any major finals.

10. Where's Jennifer Capriati?
She's coming back from shoulder surgery at the Nasdaq, but sadly the 28-year-old's best days are behind her. She's unlikely to contend for any more major titles.

03-25-2005, 08:44 PM
Fish aces first-round test

By Charles Bricker
Staff Writer
Posted March 25 2005

KEY BISCAYNE · Mardy Fish said he thought he served great.

Great? He won his first 17 service points and cracked a career-high 34 aces, which might be a Key Biscayne record. No one was quite sure because the tournament doesn't keep that mark, but ATP officials were rummaging through past matches by Mark Philippoussis, Pete Sampras and Richard Krajicek, trying to sort it out.

The 7-6 (2), 6-7 (3), 6-3 win was only Fish's 10th match since connecting with Todd Martin as his coach in January. While Fish put together one of his best serving performances, his return game was not at its best. There was no question, however, about his improving fitness.

On a near-cloudless, 84-degree day, Fish triumphed in a 21/2-hour match.

"I've really worked hard off the court, so it's nice to see it paying off with matches like that, and not getting tired at the end," he said.

French flashback

Paul-Henri Mathieu, hero of France's Davis Cup win over Sweden earlier this month, won his opening match and now faces Andre Agassi, recalling one of the great performances of Agassi's French Open career.

Down two sets and a break in the third round in 2002, Agassi fought back in a round of 16 match to beat Mathieu in five sets, scoring on 12 drop shots.

Long hair disappears

Ponytails are disappearing. Roger Federer no longer has his, and Fish cut his long hair at the Australian Open.

"We were working out at the gym, and he suddenly left. When he came back, he had his head shaved. He didn't even tell me he was going to do it," said good buddy Andy Roddick.

Ginepri gets serious

Part of Robby Ginepri's training program with new coach Francisco Montana of Miami is a lot more two-a-days than he's used to between tournaments, plus doubles, doubles, doubles until he becomes an efficient volleyer.

Ginepri had lost 18 of 19 doubles matches with various partners, dating back to the 2003 season, when he and Jan-Michael Gambill made the semis at San Jose and quarters at Memphis this year.

He'll play Nasdaq doubles with his training partner, world-class volleyer Taylor Dent.

Federer reaching out

Like Agassi, Federer has a philanthropic foundation, but he's years behind Agassi in getting it better organized.

He says he'll possibly set up a meeting with Agassi to compare notes.

Ill-timed road work

Inexplicably, Dade County began doing road improvements Wednesday on the onramp from Key Biscayne to I-95, forcing a horrendous backup of cars six miles back to the Nasdaq site. After a conversation with tournament officials, they announced they have suspended that project until after April 3.

03-26-2005, 08:05 PM
U.S. men's hopes hurting early
Blake and Roddick are out, leaving Agassi and a pack of also-rans to take on the world at Nasdaq.


Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Saturday, March 26, 2005

KEY BISCAYNE — Friday wasn't all that good for Andy Roddick.

And suddenly the Easter basket doesn't look so full for American men's tennis in general at the second-largest tournament on U.S. soil.

After one hour and 15 minutes, the top-ranked U.S. player pulled himself out of the Nasdaq-100 Open, the biggest tournament he won a year ago.

Roddick, ranked third in the world and seeded second here, retired with a right wrist sprain, trailing 7-6 (9), 4-3 to Fernando Verdasco of Spain. It marked earliest exit for a defending Nasdaq champion since Andre Agassi lost in the second round in 1997.

"My kick serves were a bit of a struggle, and so was really getting over on a forehand," Roddick said. "Trying to hit flat and hit my flat serves was OK, but you're only going to go so far without a second serve."

Roddick smashed his racket in anger after double-faulting three times in the tiebreaker. He handed the mangled racket to kids in the stands on the way out.

To defend the honor of American tennis, Roddick hands off to no kid, but to 10th-ranked Andre Agassi tonight. Agassi, 34, withdrew with a swollen toe from the Pacific Life Open last week but hopes to rally at a tournament he has won six times. Agassi meets No. 76 Paul-Henri Mathieu of France in the second match of the 7 p.m. session.

After that, who's left in the dugout of U.S. men's tennis? There's plenty of rankings room between the rest of the Americans and No. 1 Roger Federer of Switzerland, who faces 5-foot-5 Oliver Rochus of Belgium today in the third match of the 11 a.m. session.

No. 23 Vince Spadea of Boca Raton, who beat fellow American and world No. 68 Robbie Ginepri 6-3, 6-4 Friday, says it is time for somebody to play big off the U.S. bench.

"Andre's a great example for any athlete, and Roddick's been holding his level," Spadea said. "Some of the other guys are trying to pick it up, including me. I've been struggling for 10 years to do that, though I've had some good things happening and I'm trying to build on that."

American wild-card entry James Blake came within an eyelash of beating fifth-seeded Carlos Moya of Spain, but collapsed with muscle spasms after losing 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (11).

Moya congratulated him with a handshake as Blake lay face down on the court receiving treatment. The stadium-court crowd gave both a standing ovation.

"I couldn't lose to a nicer guy," Blake said. "I feel like I'm back to where I play at a pretty high level, but I need to string together some wins to prove that."

There's Taylor Dent at No. 33, and Olympic silver medalist Mardy Fish at No. 54, but clearly this is not the age of Connors and McEnroe, or Sampras, Courier and Chang.

"We need somebody to step up and win the French, or win Wimbledon twice," Spadea said.

The goal of winning twice in Miami began slipping out of Roddick's grasp at 5-all in the first set, with him serving at 40-love. He jammed the wrist on a forehand, he said. He could still hit hard flat serves, but the painful wrist made it hard to spin in second serves, he said.

"He hit a return really deep," Roddick said. "I kind of did one of these really quick" — he indicated a snap of his wrist — "and just caught something the wrong way, just jammed it a little bit."

ATP trainer Per Bastholt examined Roddick's wrist after the second game of the second set. During a change-over two games later, he taped it.

"Let's try taping it, and see if that kind of maybe just gives it some support," Roddick said Bastholt advised. "If that helps, then go for it. If it doesn't help, then, you know, there's an element of risk."

Roddick called it a "slight sprain" and said he is optimistic he will be able to play again in a matter of weeks, perhaps at the U.S. Men's Clay Court championships in Houston starting Apri 18.

"I'm glad that right now they don't think there's anything permanently damaged. That's good," said Roddick, who said he did not want to risk serious injury. "But it's going to take some rest."

In Friday's late match, No. 3 seed Marat Safin of Russia fought off Irakli Labadze of Georgia, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (5).

03-28-2005, 08:32 PM
Two thousand strokes - one point

Jon Henderson
Sunday March 27, 2005
The Observer

Those who saw it say that it was one of the great tennis rallies, climaxed by the forty-fifth stroke - a winning volley by Lleyton Hewitt that gave the Australian a brilliant success in an otherwise fruitless campaign. Wimbledon champion Roger Federer monopolised the other high points as he won the Masters final in Indian Wells, California, a week ago in straight sets. Here, surely, was another opportunity for a list: the greatest rallies in tennis history. But no. There really are things better left untrammelled by the hack's urge to grade just about anything into a journo-list. First, a long rally should not be confused with a good one. Anyone who has watched a match on slow clay between players who are defensively minded will know that rallies on this surface can be as protracted and riveting as the process by which mould forms on jam. Phyllis Satterthwaite, a British player, can probably lay claim to being the progenitor of the extended rally. She decided that the best way to compensate for not having a winning shot was simply to keep the ball in play for as long as possible and she achieved perfection with this tactic in 1930, when she played Lucia Valerio, of Italy, in the final of an event in Bordighera on the Italian Riviera. On match point, Satterthwaite's determination not to make an error resulted in a rally, which she won, of 450 strokes. History does not record who stayed awake long enough to count.

Had Satterthwaite been around 54 years later to witness Vicki Nelson-Dunbar play Jean Hepner in a $50,000 tournament in Richmond, Virginia, she would doubtless have been bowled over by admiration - even if most people who saw the 29-minute, 643-stroke point in the second-set tie-break were overwhelmed by boredom. 'She was like a backboard,' said Nelson-Dunbar's coach and brother Jim Nelson, reflecting on his sister's style of play. 'You could never get a ball past her.' It was with a rare flourish that Nelson-Dunbar won the point, an overhead that levelled the tie-break at 11-all. Hepner then quickly folded to a 6-4 7-6 (13-11) defeat.

Match point can create terrible, mistake-inducing tension or kill all sense of ambition - the latter being the case when Ken Phelan beat Richard Cohen 6-1 6-3 in the Philadelphia clay-court championships in 1981. The deciding point lasted an estimated 2,095 strokes and ended not with a bang but a drop shot. The rally swallowed up 29 minutes 25 seconds, longer than many a set. It is worth considering the proposition that it is perfectly possible to nominate, say, a three-stroke rally as the best of all time. A big, awkward serve at Wimbledon returned with such brilliance that the server, charging in behind his or her missile, is required to answer with an off-balance, ankle-high volley can be as spectacular and compacted with excellence as anything in the sport. A first-round match between those explosive servers Greg Rusedski and Mark Philippoussis at Wimbledon in 1997 did not contain a single rally of more than five strokes, but the match remained compelling throughout as each man attempted to reap the other's whirlwind.

Once you remove the notion that the number of strokes helps to define the quality of a rally, you have to accept that every rally played has to be considered. That leaves you with an awful lot of contenders. 'Jeez, that's some ask,' was the gist of most answers when this column did a ring-round of tennis cognoscenti who might have had an opinion on the greatest rallies. 'I'll get back to you.' One rally, though, was mentioned more than once by the few who did get back. It was the one with which Pete Sampras clinched the first set of the 1995 US Open final against Andre Agassi, a match that Sampras won in four sets.

It lasted 19, 22 or 24 strokes depending on whose report you read (further evidence of the irrelevance of the number of shots) and was remarkable in that every stroke might have won the rally. Nearly everyone who saw it rated it an exceptional passage of play. 'It was probably one of the best points that I've ever been part of,' said Sampras. So good they even made an advert in which it featured. But the best rally ever played? Agassi had another slant on it: 'I ran him 12 corners.... The point sucked.' Better than the Hewitt-Federer rally, which was similarly stocked with great shots? Better than the millions of other great rallies? Sometimes you wish that no one had ever started this list thing.

03-28-2005, 08:34 PM
Posted on Sat, Mar. 26, 2005

Federer has easy day with Rochus; No. 1 player now 27-1 this season


South Florida Sun-Sentinel

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. - (KRT) - Andy Roddick was wrong. It doesn't take Roger Federer but three steps to cover sideline to sideline. It takes four.

You can excuse Roddick's minor miscalculation because to watch Federer sweep along his baseline is to watch a more of a dance than a run as he tracks down one ball, then races right to wallop another, as he did Saturday with Olivier Rochus serving at 30-love in the ninth game of the opening set.

The God of Tennis, the man who could be No. 1 until the Cubs win a World Series, had scrambled to the left doubles alley to snap back one Rochus shot, then fled to his right one, two, three, four steps with his feet in perfect harmony with the ball he slammed up his forehand line for a clean winner.

From there, Federer cracked a backhand service return for 30-all and, with all the composure of a man punching a button on a vending machine, tapped the most delicate lob-volley to reach 30-40.

Twelve points later, after continually frustrating Rochus' serving, Federer had won the set, was leaning back in his changeover chair, sipping water and on his way to a 6-3, 6-1 win in his opening match at the Nasdaq-100 Open.

It was the third consecutive magnificent day of weather at this bucolic setting and, for Tampa's Jeff Morrison, it couldn't be any cheerier after he stroked 15 aces and won 30 of his 31 first-serve points in an upset of No. 10 seed Joachim Johansson of Sweden 7-6 (3), 6-4.

Morrison gets full credit for this win, having arrived at Nasdaq on a six-match losing streak that dates to last season, seven if you count a loss at the Sunrise Challenger two weeks ago. He has served demonically here, winning four in row including two qualifying matches, while facing only two break points.

"I knew that I was close and just needed to keep the faith," said the former Florida All-American.

Still, there was a disquieting feeling about Johansson's performance. He is now 0-3 in South Florida without winning a set, having lost a year ago to Mario Ancic at Boca Raton and Juan Monaco at the Nasdaq. Maybe the 6-foot-6 ace leader of the men's tour doesn't like the stifling heat and humidity.

There was one significant upset on the women's side, too, with Ana Ivanovic of Serbia-Montenegro taking out No. 10 seed Nadia Petrova 6-4, 7-5.

Meanwhile, several big names progressed to the third round: No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo, No. 4 Elena Dementieva and No. 16 Karolina Sprem in three sets, and No. 5 Anastasia Myskina, No. 6 Svetlana Kuznetsova, No. 12 Nathalie Dechy, No. 13 Elena Bovina and Kim Clijsters.

On the men's side, No. 4 Guillermo Coria, the 2004 runner-up; No. 6 Tim Henman; No. 9 Andre Agassi and No. 15 Fernando Gonzalez made the third round. Gonzalez was handed a walkover by injured Mark Philippoussis.

Also, No. 27 Sebastien Grosjean of Boca Raton broke a five-match losing streak by defeating Nicolas Lapentti 6-1, 6-3.

And, of course, world No. 1 Federer once again illustrated the beauty of winning (27-1 for the season) without serving any faster than 129 mph.

For those who haven't watched the elegance of the 23-year-old Swiss' game, it is perhaps difficult to understand what makes him great. He doesn't have Pete Sampras' big, crackling serve or Andre Agassi's court presence.

But there are so many nuances in his game it would take a book to describe all of them. It's his ability to return serve deep. His ability to snap his wrist with so much topspin on his forehand that the shot feels like a medicine ball on opponents' rackets. It's his ability to make the fastest transition in tennis from defense to offense. He doesn't make a habit of volleying, but when he does it is with perfect form, converting 17 of 24 points at net against Rochus.

And there is the Federer anticipation of where his opponent will play a shot.

"I don't study my opponents," he said. "I think you know maybe where they might go off your shot, so you anticipate it. But you can be wrong as well."

Not often for Federer, who blasted 33 winners to only 17 unforced errors, 12 aces to one double fault and never faced a break point.

On Monday, he'll draw Mariano Zabaleta in the third round, one of six players who has beaten him here since 1999. He has never won this tournament, but in 1998 he won the junior Orange Bowl title on the stadium court, beating Guillermo Coria. "I thought about that today," said Federer.

Perhaps a week from today, at the men's final, he'll get the same feeling again.

03-29-2005, 11:20 PM
Posted on Tue, Mar. 29, 2005


Agassi has learned a lot about himself


1). Were you an insecure superstar?

``I don't know about the superstar part. I can attest to the insecurity, which I still fight pretty much by the day. Being objective about yourself is a very hard thing to do. But when you are on the world stage, you can't help but hear the truth quite often, and in a pretty harsh way. That's been a curse and a great blessing because I deal well with honesty and try to evolve from it.''

2). The character trait you most admire in others?

``Empathy -- the ability to look at any given situation through the lens of someone else. Understand the full capacity of that emotion. It holds you accountable and leaves you fulfilled.''

3). You were around Steffi Graf for a long time before you began a relationship. How did you figure out you loved her?

``[Laughter] Same way anyone else does, I guess: I had the opportunity to understand how and who she was. I've marveled at her from a distance, like so many. For a lot of reasons. The looks are something I always responded most to when I didn't know her. . . . [Such a caveman . . .] Hey, an honest question deserves honest answer. But then you notice the pillars in her life that are a testament to who a person is. The saying is so true: You are what you do. I've always respected how she goes about her work, business, relationships. Companies. Coaches. People she has been so loyal to. The people in her life. Then I basically stalked her. Then I got to know her. And it has been a joy since.''

4). Three athletes anywhere you most respect?

``Wow. That's not an easy one. Alonzo Mourning has impressed me a lot through his foundation and what he cares about. His heart and commitment, pretty amazing. And seeing what people can do when they are 40 is pretty darned inspiring. Jerry Rice or Karl Malone. That hits the spot for me.''

5). During the last 15 years of growth from child star to introspective adult, what are you most embarrassed by?

``[Laughter] Probably my mullet. My hair. Sometimes it is better to not have any options anymore. [He is bald now.] Early on, I'm rather embarrassed about not understanding the world stage and that things you say and do in a casual sense get perceived in a grand sense and you can get boxed in. I've tried to make sure that everything I say and do now has some sort of reflection on who I am. It's a discipline.''

6). You look back at photos of yourself with that hair and think what?

``Boy, I would like to burn those. The hardest part is after games, when you are signing autographs and there are loyal fans who have been with you since the beginning. And they are pulling out pictures taken of you when you started. [Laughter] I mean, I want to be there for you and sign it, but I'm having a hard time signing that for you.''

7). You got much better older. What is the difference between the second half of your career and the first?

``I grew up. I started choosing my battles and realizing I could only expect a commitment from myself to be the person I aspire to be. That's not an easy thing. Still isn't. The effort and the journey is something people can respect and identify with, I hope.''

8). What are you proudest of professionally?

``I've taken a sport I've had a rough time with, and I've allowed it to make me better as a person. Tennis has been so good to me. Taught me a lot about myself. I've allowed it to become quite a friend. To play it at a time in my life when I'm old enough to appreciate and embrace the opportunity is probably my greatest joy.''

9). What do you love and hate most about tennis?

``Here's what I love about it: I love that tennis is a one-on-one sport only about problem solving. There are so many parallels between those lines and life. It taught me how to dig deep and take that next step even if you question it. That helped me in other parts of my life when I thought I was on the ropes. Get back to the fundamentals and know the most important point is the next one. And, to be quite honest, the hardest part is the grind -- putting yourself in position to do it every day. The traveling. The commitment. Takes its toll. But that's what makes the good times special.''

10). Where do you place yourself among the greatest male tennis player of all time?

``It's hard to argue with stats. Rod Laver, what he accomplished, every slam in the same year twice. And Pete Sampras, most slams ever. Hard to argue with that. Where do I put myself? I don't know. I was privileged to be on the other end of the court with Pete. I expected to win every time and, most of the time, I didn't. Thirty-five times, he beat me 19. You sort of marvel at everyone else. If you aren't watching the ball and moving your feet, it's a useless conversation. So I put my effort there.''

11). You are forever linked with Sampras. You like him? Respect him? Describe that relationship.

``I respect him tremendously. We've done battle. What surprises most people is how little I knew him off the court. He was a very single-minded man, and we only dealt with each other across that net. Hard not to respect someone like him. Liking him? He was always easy to get along with. [Laughter] But I think both of us would say that both of our greatest nightmares would be to wake up and have the other one's life.''

12). You have been trying to convince Steffi to play doubles with you. Why won't she?

``I'm the good guy in that part. I try to talk her into it. She's convinced we have a very happy life together. She doesn't want to risk that, I don't think. It just might be the only real argument we get into will be over something trivial, so she chooses to avoid that.''

13). You have built an inner-city school in Las Vegas. Why?

``It's the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy. It gives the highest standard of education to children who wouldn't normally have that. When you see a child who has no hope or opportunity or the ability to even dream, and to watch them take ownership of their future, it is probably the greatest feeling you can have in your experiences with people.''

14). What is the most moved you have been by something that project has produced?

``We have certain rules at our school. Parents have to sign contracts that they are going to volunteer and sign off on homework because we want to include the home environment. One young man called and said he understood the rules. But he said he had only one parent, his father, and that his father would not live up to this standard, but he didn't want it to cost him his chance. The child was the parent. His father was too irresponsible. One of the most touching stories I've ever heard.''

15). What is the greatest thing about your hometown of Las Vegas?

``Its soul and culture. I've done press conferences defending the city. And the one thing you don't ever hear in the recording is the chuckles when I defend it. It's the fastest-growing city the last 30 years running. It is a city that believed something, dreamed it, then did it. And it's a mentality instilled in everyone there.''

16). You have won $29 million in career prize money alone. What's the dumbest money you have spent?

``[Laughter] Brutal question. As a teenager, on the vehicles getting you from one destination to another. So much energy put into the car you rode in. At any given time, I'd have half a dozen cars on the expensive side. Learned real quick, it's not the ride to get somewhere -- it's where it is you are going. I have the minivan now. Greatest car in the world. Doors open on the keychain. Awesome with grocery bags and two children hanging on you.''

17). How has being a dad changed you most?

``Taught me to do more listening than talking. The more you know me, the more you know that's a skill I have to work on. You can't teach unless you are willing to learn. There's no space greater than a child's life. Learned how to learn. Be receptive to who they are. Discover that before going to what I believe.

18). When you were young, didn't you go to the mailbox and find checks for $1.4 million that you weren't even expecting?

``I don't know where any of this money has come from. It's a yellow, fuzzy tennis ball. I've learned real quickly to keep my eyes focused on that.''

19). Five adjectives you would use to describe yourself to a stranger?

``I was never good in English class. I don't even think I know what an adjective is, honestly. I just always hope to come across as somebody willing to take that step every day to become more of who I want to be. That's what it is about. It's about not accepting yourself not getting a day better. And being patient enough to understand you can't get more than one day better in one day. That's what I try to live by.''

20). How much longer you going to do this? When will you know to walk away?

'The simple answer is `I don't know' and 'I don't know.' As long as I'm healthy and able to be out there playing my best tennis with the real expectation of finding a way to win, I've got to believe I'll keep pushing myself to do it. When the day comes that I don't feel my best tennis could get the job done, that would be my signal. If you had asked me six years ago where I'd be today, I could never have imagined this. I feel like I burn out every day. That's the given. Everyone gets tired of punching the clock and struggles. But it is what I do. I have to look for ways to fuel those batteries. And I don't have to look far anymore. Beautiful family and friends. Those batteries get recharged.''

04-02-2005, 06:30 PM
Federer downs Agassi
From correspondents in Miami, Florida

FOR sheer variety, Roger Federer's arsenal is more impressive even than that of 14-time Grand Slam champion Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi said today after falling to the nearly invincible Swiss for the seventh straight time.

Federer beat Agassi 6-4 6-3 to reach the final of the Key Biscayne Masters Series tournament, improving his record since the start of last year's US Open to 47-1.

The defeat was Agassi's third to Federer this year, and marked the first time in his career he has lost to one opponent seven times in a row.

Once again, Agassi could only marvel at the various ways in which Federer can win.

"He's playing levels above everybody else," Agassi said. "He's proved that for a while now - 47-1 since the Open. It's crazy."

Agassi, who fought some memorable duels with the now-retired Sampras, said his old rival relied more on his serve, and had fewer fall-backs than Federer.

"There were a lot of lapses with Pete," Agassi said. "You could play a bad set and possibly get into a breaker with him.

"With Roger, there is just no relief. He'll take advantage of you on any part of the court.

"I think Roger has a better return than Pete," Agassi said. "I think Pete volleys better. I think Roger moves better, is better from the baseline. But Pete's serve was probably better.

"They pose different problems entirely, but Roger makes you do it from start to finish - Pete made you do something incredibly special at a lot of given times."

But Agassi said that no one, including Federer, was invincible.

"He has to show up every day and do it, and if he doesn't he's going to have problems like everybody else," Agassi said.

"But he does have more to fall back on. If he doesn't like the way he's hitting his backhand, he serve-volleys. If he doesn't like the way he's hitting his slice, he doesn't hit a slice. If he doesn't like top spin, he doesn't hit top spin. That's good options."

04-05-2005, 09:01 PM
The Sunday Times - Sport

April 03, 2005

Big-hitter Nadal aims for an upset

The Spanish teenager has beaten Roger Federer, but the world No 1 is in the form of his life ahead of today’s Nasdaq-100 Open final. By Barry Flatman

LIKE anybody raised in Nevada, Andre Agassi appreciates how important it is to remember the numbers and respect the odds. Begrudgingly accepting the fact that four weeks short of his 35th birthday, his best is no longer good enough to overcome Roger Federer, he speculated on whether 18-year-old Rafael Nadal could fare any better.
“You know I’m from Vegas, so I don’t mind taking some chances,” said the man who knows more about winning on the cement of Miami’s Key Biscayne than any other player in the history of this tournament, the world’s most prestigious after the four Grand Slams.

“I’m going to go out on a limb and say the person who is 48-1 over the past seven months has got to be the favourite.”

How could anyone possibly take issue with him? It does not matter that Nadal got the better of Federer a year ago in the third round of the 2004 Nasdaq-100 Open. On a blustery evening the Swiss player was suffering the after-effects of sunstroke, caused by taking too long to overcome Tim Henman in the preceding Indian Wells final.

Nadal has also gone 16 matches without defeat, titles in the Brazilian outpost of Costa Do Sauipe and Acapulco priming the Majorcan for this campaign, in which he has become the youngest-ever contestant in a Masters Series final, but Federer has gone 21 matches since losing to Marat Safin at the Australian Open. Before that, his winning streak stretched back a further 27 contests, through the Masters Cup and US Open to a surprising defeat at the Olympic Games.

And although Nadal, so heroic in the service of Spain in last year’s Davis Cup final, when he scored the crucial first-day victory over Andy Roddick, is a talent gifted with strength and guile, as well as possessing the advantage of being left-handed, Federer is probably better than any player before him at restyling his game to suit the opponent or situation.

Last summer’s Wimbledon final against Roddick was a masterpiece, but Federer used a different strategy in Miami to beat Agassi in straight sets than he’d employed against Henman a day earlier. Nadal’s ability to hit with huge top-spin and to whip the most ferocious backhand across the court from positions more than 10ft behind the baseline may pose an altogether contrasting threat, but nobody expects Federer to be unhinged by such ability.

“There’s a number of departments of Roger’s game that are arguably better than anybody,” said Agassi, who in 19 years of contesting the men’s tour can cast his mind back to confrontations with Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg and, of course, Pete Sampras. “That’s an incredible thing to say when you realise most players count on one thing to be special. He has a few.

“The guy moves incredibly well. His forehand is dangerous from anywhere on the court, and when you think you are in a good position, you’re not. He changes the whole perspective of the dynamics out there because when you think you see daylight or have a hole, you just can’t be tempted. And you know that’s a sign of playing somebody a level above.”

Federer has never won the Key Biscayne title. The closest he has come was three years ago, when Agassi needed four sets to beat him in the final. Going back to the mid-1990s, Agassi also contested a couple of finals with Sampras, and is quite prepared to compare the two opponents.

“Inside the lines playing Roger and Pete, the biggest difference was there were a lot of lapses with Pete,” says Agassi. “You could play a bad set and possibly get in a tie-breaker with him, but against Roger there’s no relief. In every department you have to be concentrating and ready to go, because he will take advantage of you on any part of the court.

“That’s not to say that Pete’s upside wasn’t just as spectacular. When he missed a first serve, I thought to myself, ‘God, just get this thing in play so that you have a chance’. I think Roger has a better return than Pete, while Pete’s volleys were better. Roger moves better and is stronger from the baseline, but Pete’s serve was probably better. Roger makes you do it from start to finish, while Pete made you do something incredibly special at a lot of given times.”

Nadal would no doubt have listened with attentiveness. He is rapidly learning about the nuances of the top echelon of the game, and if his progress continues at the same pace, he will undoubtedly be a contender for the game’s top prizes, most likely the French Open; quite possibly next year, if not this.

He out-hit his Spanish compatriot, David Ferrer, in the Miami semi-final in exactly the same manner as he did former Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson a round earlier.

However, tennis-watchers who genuinely expect Nadal to prevail in today’s best- of-five-sets final are hard to find. As Nadal said in his distinctly broken English: “I hope Federer don’t play one of his best matches. And if he don’t play well and and I have one of my best matches, I think I have a little bit chance. But if I play very good and he plays very good, he wins.”

Federer is not a man to dwell on defeats. He prefers to leave them behind and move on to the next potential achievement. He insisted that the loss to Nadal a year ago did not enter his thoughts until a few days ago.

Casting his mind back, he recalled struggling in his opening match against Russia’s Nicolay Davydenko and then having to wait an extra day to face Nadal because of rain. But still he admitted: “Maybe my legs weren’t moving as they usually do. Still, he played a terrific match. I never got into it and couldn’t make the necessary adjustments. Now I’ve got the matches under my belt and like the court, so I give myself a much better chance.”

The dominance of Federer is rapidly turning into one of the most memorable phases of men’s tennis.

With the chance of completing the elusive Grand Slam gone until next year, Federer intimated that he was joking when he said his goal for 2005 was to win all nine of the calendar’s Masters Series events. But was he really?

04-05-2005, 09:06 PM
Federer Sweeps Past Agassi in Semifinals

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 2, 2005;

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla., April 1 -- Andre Agassi's expressions told a more complete story than the scoreboard, which, at times, seemed to be flat-out lying. This was never a close match. Even while hanging on dearly to his serve, matching Switzerland's Roger Federer game-for-game early in both sets of Friday night's semifinal at the Nasdaq-100 Open, Agassi seemed to sense his fading predicament.

As Federer coolly and methodically swatted down threats, Agassi's level of frustration and irritation bubbled over. He stalked around the baseline shaking his head, grimacing, looking like the loser he was about to become.

This was his tournament, his adopted home turf, and Federer, the world's No. 1 player, swept him off of it as placidly as a pile of leaves in the fall. With the 6-4, 6-3 victory, Federer advanced to Sunday's final against Spain's Rafael Nadal, who defeated countryman David Ferrer by the same margin in the early semifinal, and extended a few astonishing marks: Federer is 47-1 since last year's U.S. Open, 30-1 this season and has won 21 straight matches.

"You can play a quality match . . . but he has the ability at any given moment to play spectacular tennis and break something open," Agassi, 34, said. "There's a number of departments of his game that are arguably better than anybody's."

Nadal, the 29th seed, has only this going for him: He defeated Federer here in the third round last year.

When Agassi got close, collecting five break points in the seventh game of the second set, Federer responded with almost alarming flashes of power. After falling behind 15-40 with the score tied at 3 in the second set, Federer, 24, evened the score with back-to-back aces -- two of his eight. On Agassi's fifth break point, Federer smashed a service winner, then followed it with two forehand winners to claim the game.

"The guy moves incredibly well," said Agassi, who has won this tournament six times. "His forehand is dangerous from anywhere on the court. When you think you're in good position, you're not. . . . He's playing levels above everybody else."

Even so, it took time for Federer to get an edge on Agassi, each holding serve through eight games of the first set. After going up 5-4, Federer took advantage of several unforced errors to break Agassi for the first time. That gave him the first set and left the pro-Agassi crowd of 12,772 murmuring with concern.

"When you have all of those tough rallies, tough situations, you really have to stay calm," Federer said. "That's what I've been doing for the last few years now."

Though Agassi seemed anything but calm, he kept hanging on, albeit precariously. In the second game of the second set, he fended off four break points, claiming the game on a Federer backhand that sailed wide. The two stayed on serve through seven games, but then Agassi fell behind 15-40 and Federer seemed determined not to miss another opportunity.

An Agassi backhand that struck the net gave Federer a 5-3 lead, and the crowd seemed to sense an all but automatic invitation to Sunday's final.

"I really had the feeling this was near-to-as-good as I can play tonight," Federer said. "The way I'm playing now, of course, leaves me very confident."

Federer has won 17 finals in a row heading into his match against Nadal, a crafty left-hander who has two tour victories this season and a 22-4 record.

"I'm used to these big occasions," Federer said. "I'm going to hope that's going to carry me through. . . . But I know I have a tough opponent waiting for me."

Nadal's opponent, however, in Agassi's estimation, compares favorably to all-time great Pete Sampras. Other than losing to Marat Safin in this year's Australian Open semifinals, Federer -- who won last year's Australian Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open -- has suffered no missteps.

"There were a lot of lapses with Pete," Agassi said. "With Roger, there's just no relief, you know. In every department, you have to be concentrating and ready to go because he will take advantage of you on any part of the court."

04-07-2005, 08:28 PM
Commentary: Federer No. 1 for a reason
By Dave George

Palm Beach Post Columnist

Monday, April 04, 2005

KEY BISCAYNE — Roger, over and out, that's what it almost was Sunday, an unimaginable failure for an unrivaled champion.

Truth is, the only reason world No. 1 Roger Federer ended up winning the Nasdaq-100 Open is because the tournament muscles up its requirements to a best-of-five format for the championship match alone. If two sets had been sufficient to take the title, Rafael Nadal, the teenage Spanish lefty in the clamdigger pants, had that much knocked in a little more than 90 minutes.

In high-stakes tennis, though, it's the last point in a match that's the hardest to get. You try to stay aggressive, but the court suddenly shrinks to the size of a postage stamp. You want to hit a court-scorching ace, but it's the specter of a double fault that fogs the mind just before every toss.

You pretend that the whole world isn't watching, but there's nowhere to turn that a camera isn't staring right back.

Federer, winner of every Grand Slam title but the French Open, used all of that chaos to grand advantage in a match that lasted just 17 minutes short of four hours. He is the best player on the planet. His opponent, for all his fashion flair and bravado, isn't even the brightest star in his home region of Mallorca, where Carlos Moya is king.

In the end, then, this title match went about as expected, with Federer blitzing his way through the decisive sets 6-3, 6-1. All that early stuff, such as Nadal winning the first set in 32 minutes, was just a tease. And all that drama about the kid being two points away from winning the match in a third-set tiebreaker, well, it really doesn't count for anything unless he goes ahead and does it.

It's the difference between Al Gore hosting Saturday Night Live and getting fitted for an inaugural ball tuxedo. Just a few points, here or there, right?

"Every match I go into, I'm the huge favorite," said Federer, whose 2005 match record has grown to a startling 32-1. "I lose a set and it's, like, crazy."

Imagine then the sheer lunacy of Federer being down two sets and trailing Nadal 4-1 in the third. This, after all, is an athlete with more tools than the famous army knife from his native Switzerland. The startled stadium crowd didn't know what to make of it, particularly when Federer was sun-blinded on a crucial point and smashed an easy overhead long. The top seed slammed his racket down in disgust. The fans, a few moments later, broke into a rowdy stadium wave, figuring they had better have their fun while they could because the match was all but over.

Quite possibly, Nadal made the same mistake. He's a tough kid, no doubt, as proven by a four-set win over Andy Roddick last December to help Spain edge the U.S. in the Davis Cup final. Being not quite 19, however, he is subject to the same miscalculations that limited Federer at that same age, when Roger was still looking for his first ATP Tour victory.

"Of course, it's surprising to see Federer throw his racket," Nadal said. "It makes you think you're closer to victory because he's frustrated."

The next time Federer had a put-away opportunity at the net, however, he knocked the fuzz off the ball, bouncing it onto the court for a winner and into the courtside seats. That came at 5-5 in the third-set tiebreaker. Nadal had invested two hours and 42 minutes in a fantasy at that point. He may still have thought about winning the biggest match of his career, but it's not altogether certain that he believed it anymore.

How dominant physically is Federer? He won this enormous match, just one step below a Grand Slam final, while committing 74 unforced errors, which is something like winning the Daytona 500 with a flat tire.

How much better can he get? Well, this victory gives the 6-foot-1 slammer an 8-8 career record in five-set matches. This is only his third successful climb, too, from a two-sets-to-none sinkhole. Once the guy ever gets the hang of this overtime business, in other words, the last conceivable weakness in his game will be eliminated. We'll be looking at Pete Sampras all over again.

Andre Agassi must feel that he already is. Agassi lost 6-4, 6-3 to Federer in Friday's Nasdaq semifinals and actually played very well.

"The biggest distinction inside the lines that I feel playing Roger versus playing Pete is that there were a lot of lapses with Pete," Agassi said. "You could play a bad set and, you know, possibly get into a tiebreaker with him. With Roger, there's just no relief. In every department, you have to be concentrating and ready to go because he'll take advantage of you on any part of the court."

Nadal will win some important tournaments in his career, maybe even a French Open, based on the fact that he's really a clay-court specialist and shouldn't have been expected to do so well on the Nasdaq hard-courts. Federer, though, he's already the best, and certain that his struggle at Key Biscayne will only make him better.

"I'm very happy and extremely proud to beat all these guys back-to-back," said Federer, who beat Lleyton Hewitt in the Indian Wells final before this one. "That I could actually beat (Tim) Henman and Agassi here the way I did, playing really great, and then come back from two sets to love, this is one of the tournaments I'll remember probably most throughout my career."

That's because he finished the job, of course. Funny thing about a great champion. They're even more admirable when they're bloodied a bit but keep right on coming.

04-07-2005, 08:31 PM
Posted on Thu, Apr. 07, 2005


With hot start, the future is now for 18-year-old Nadal


Roger Federer was only half-kidding when he replied: ''I don't want to talk about the future of this guy,'' responding to a question about Rafael Nadal's future after surviving a five-set marathon against the 18-year-old Spaniard in the NASDAQ-100 Open on Sunday.

Nadal, the electrifying lefty with the calf-length pants, is the second-hottest player on tour behind Federer and could move into the top 10 by the time the clay season is complete. Nadal is 15-1 during his past 16 matches, and won back-to-back titles in Brazil and Mexico. He jumped from No. 31 to No. 17 in the rankings this week and needed just 57 minutes to knock off former French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-2, 6-1 in the first round at Valencia on Wednesday.

Though he has never played in the French Open, missing the past two due to injuries, he will be considered a favorite next month. He is playing tune-up events at Valencia, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome and Hamburg.

''Nadal is so strong for his age, he's ripped, and he's so intense,'' TV analyst Patrick McEnroe said. ``He's going to be top 10, maybe even top five by the end of the year. It would not surprise me at all if he wins the French Open.''

Said Federer: ``He's an outstanding athlete, and because he's a lefty, he moves totally different from most players. His forehand is huge, even on the run, he can hit it with spins. His backhand, he hits very close to the body, but still gets it back well. We'll see very much from him in the future.''

Andre Agassi was particularly impressed with Nadal's strength, considering his age. Nadal's biceps bulge from his orange sleeveless T-shirt.

''You see the evolution of athletes getting bigger, stronger, more powerful, faster and explosive and hitting the ball harder,'' Agassi said. ``Me at 18, looking at Nadal at 18, from the neck down you would think one person was 26 and the other was 12.''


Agassi has had the honor (or misfortune, depending how you look at it) to play Pete Sampras and Federer. Asked to compare them, Agassi had this to say:

'The biggest distinction inside the lines I feel playing Roger versus playing Pete is there were a lot of lapses with Pete. You could play a bad set and possibly get into a breaker with him. With Roger, there's no relief. He'll take advantage of you on any part of the court. That's not to say Pete's upside wasn't as spectacular, because when Pete missed a first serve, I still thought to myself, `God, just get this thing in play so you have a chance.' With Roger, he misses a first serve, I'm thinking, `OK, here we go.'

``Roger has a better return than Pete. Pete volleys better. Roger moves better, is better from the baseline. But Pete's serve was probably better. They pose different problems entirely, but Roger makes you do it from start to finish, and Pete made you do something incredibly special at given times.''


Thirty-eight juniors from South Florida are entered in the 2005 Easter Bowl, which begins Friday and runs through April 17 in Palm Springs, Calif. Among the locals in the 18s division are No. 2 seed Jenni-Lee Hienser (Miami), No. 6 Julia Cohen (Weston), No. 3 Jesse Levine (Boca Raton) No. 6 Holden Seguso (Boca Raton), Jennifer Stevens (Miami) and Melissa Saiontz (Miami). Donald Young, the 15-year-old phenom from Atlanta, will be back to defend his title.

• Who's hot: Kim Clijsters -- Skyrocketed from No. 138 to No. 17 since her comeback a month ago, won back-to-back titles at Indian Wells, Calif., and the NASDAQ-100 Open, and beat six of the top nine women along the way.

• Who's not: Marat Safin -- Hard to believe this is the only guy who has beaten Federer in the past seven months. Amelie Mauresmo -- Super-nice person, but how can one be ranked No. 2 in the world and lose 6-1, 6-0 in the NASDAQ-100 Open semifinals?

04-09-2005, 08:18 PM
April 7, 2005, 11:13PM

Agassi, Courier team up
Earlier pairing prompts decision to play doubles in Clay Court event

Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

Jim McIngvale, the Westside Tennis Club owner, has always been a huge doubles fan, so the announcement he made Thursday doubly warmed his heart.

Andre Agassi and Jim Courier, who own 12 Grand Slam singles titles between them, have decided to play together in the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships, which begin April 18 at Westside. They apparently had so much fun in a pro-am celebrity event in Tampa, Fla., recently, defeating the defending Houston champions, James Blake and Mardy Fish, that they decided to reprise the partnership for the first time in an ATP event.

"A very pleasant surprise for us," said McIngvale, who worked with Courier to put on the Serving for Tsunami Relief tennis fund-raiser at the Toyota Center on Jan. 31.

Courier, 34, retired from the tour in 2000. His last ATP doubles victory came with Jonathan Stark in the U.S. Clay Court finals in 1999, when the tournament was held at Disney World. They defeated the Bryan brothers, U.S. Davis Cuppers Bob and Mike, in the Bryans' first ATP final.

For Agassi, it will be only his second doubles match in five years. He and Andy Roddick teamed up at the Queens Club Wimbledon tuneup last summer, losing in the second round.

Agassi, also 34, is 40-41 lifetime in doubles. Courier, who also won the Italian Open with Pete Sampras when they were teenagers in 1989, is 122-101. But they impressed Blake in that just-for-fun match in Tampa.

"They're really good," he said. "Andre returns unbelievably, same as he does in singles, and he stays back and rips passing shots from the baseline. They'd told us afterwards they were thinking about this."

But, Blake added that he and Fish are planning to enter as well, and they will welcome the opportunity for a rematch.

04-09-2005, 08:21 PM
Posted on Sat, Apr. 09, 2005

Gimelstob to meet Vahaly in USTA final

By St. Clair Murraine


Justin Gimelstob escaped the upset bug that has taken every other seeded player out of the Tallahassee Challenger. Now the onus is on him to do what he's never done in three previous trips here - win the singles title in the $50,000 event.

Gimelstob, who is seeded fifth, secured a spot in today's final by dominating Frederic Niemeyer 6-2, 6-3 in Friday's semifinals at Forestmeadows. The Canadian struggled for an hour and 15 minutes, never getting his game on track under overcast skies.

Niemeyer had knocked off the fourth and eighth seeds en route to the semifinals. But Gimelstob's game was too steady to be denied his second berth in the final.

So how badly does he wants to win the title? He referred to his matches against Pete Sampras on center court at Wimbledon and Andre Agassi on center court at the U.S. Open.

"I'm going to want to win tomorrow as badly as I wanted to win any of those other matches," Gimelstob said. "I just have to concentrate on my style of play and play aggressively. That's all I can do."

Gimelstob will meet Brian Vahaly, who eliminated Robert Kendrick 6-4, 6-4 in a semifinal, for the singles title. They will meet in a rematch of the 2003 championship, won by Vahaly, beginning at 2p.m. The doubles final will begin at noon.

Niemeyer managed to hold serve three times throughout the match, just once in the second set. His groundstrokes collapsed and his net game was ineffective, allowing Gimelstob to have his way in the third meeting between them.

But Gimelstob had to be patient, as he got the best of Niemeyer from the baseline.

"It's a tough balance," said Gimelstob, who now leads the all-time meetings 2-1. "I didn't want to play too passively and let him control play, and I didn't want to take too much risk when he was not making a lot of errors. He made a lot of errors today, and that was the difference."

After splitting the first two games, Niemeyer committed several unforced errors on his service. A double fault on his last serve of the third game gave Gimelstob a 2-1 lead. Niemeyer resorted to bringing the game to the net, but Gimelstob got the upper hand there, too.

"Not many things were there for me today," Niemeyer said. "It was kind of bad day. I tried to fight and stay in the game. I was trying to be patient and it never came today. You have some games like that, and he's the kind of guy that, when you're not playing well, it's hard to get in position to play well."

The pressure got to Niemeyer twice. He tossed his racket to the ground in the first set and slammed a ball against the fence at the back of the court after a point during the second set.

"I was kind of frustrated because I was trying to stay patient and work on my game and work into the match," he said. "Every time I had an opening, I didn't hold serve. Today I wasn't there. I guess it's one of those days I just have to put behind me."

04-11-2005, 11:38 PM
Bruguera reliving the pastPublished: Sunday, 10 April, 2005,
By N.D. Prashant

Sergi Bruguera’s face reflected a great sense of accomplishment on Friday. After all, he had tamed Croatian Goran Ivanisevic, who till last year was battling the world’s best on the professional circuit.
The win was particularly satisfying because the Spaniard had come from a set down to eventually put matters beyond the reach of Ivanisevic, a former Wimbledon champion.
“I played great tennis. One has to play quality tennis to beat someone like Goran and I am happy that I played quality tennis. It was like reliving old memories,” said Bruguera.
Ever since Bruguera retired from the pro game, he has been pursuing his long-cherished dream - football.
“Football has always been the first love for any Spaniard and I am no different. When I was playing tennis, I always wanted to play football and after I quit tennis I have got hooked on to it.
“For the last three years I have been playing professional football for a second division club - Leckera Aashapla.”
Bruguera, like the other veterans participating in the tournament, is happy that he is apart of such an ATP Championship.
“Such tournaments bring old friends together. We get a feeling that there’s lots of tennis left in us. The competitiveness is still there and we like to do well,” said Bruguera, who has fond memories of victories over Pete Sampras, Andrei Medvedev and Jim Courier to become the first Spaniard to win a grand slam - the French Open - since Andres Gimeno in 1972.
According to Bruguera there are quit a few young talents emerging from his country and they have all the potential to make it big in the coming years.
“Tennis has grown in leaps and bounds in Spain and there are many players keen to make it big, which is a good thing. So there will be quite a few names ready to enter the big arena.”

Gulf Times Newspaper, 2005 ©

04-11-2005, 11:40 PM
Roger Federer rolls into Monte Carlo next week looking to continue his dominance of tennis with a fourth consecutive Masters Series victory. After winning the Masters Cup in Houston, the Swiss phenomenon has been unbeatable this year and claimed back-to-back titles in Indian Wells and Miami

With just one defeat, in the semi-final of the Australian Open, since last year's Olympics, Federer has established an aura of invincibility not seen since Pete Sampras was at his peak.

The start of the European claycourt season, however, could level the playing field, with a long list of baseline grinders lining up for a shot at the quadruple grand slam winner.

The 23-year-old Federer already has two Wimbledons under his belt, along with an Australian and a U.S. Open title, although he will be well aware that clay has proved a sticky surface for some of the game's greatest players.

Federer, though, beat Argentina's Guillermo Coria to win the Hamburg Masters last year and, unlike Sampras, has the all-court game to claim a French Open title.

The glitzy surrounds of the Monte Carlo Country Club will provide an early clue as to Federer's chances at Roland Garros. He took a week off after beating Spain's Rafael Nadal in the final of the Nasdaq-100 and will need his batteries fully charged to come through a draw loaded with Argentines and Spaniards.

Coria, the 2004 champion, leads the Argentine challenge along with French Open champion Gaston Gaudio, while the 19-year-old Spaniard Nadal, who led Federer two sets to love in Miami, will be a formidable obstacle.

World number three Andy Roddick, Australian Open champion Marat Safin and Briton Tim Henman add weight to a high-quality draw, although Safin's upbringing on Spanish claycourts makes him the better bet of that trio.

Brazil's Gustavo Kuerten and Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero will arrive at Monte Carlo with fond memories, having both won the title twice.

However Kuerten, winner in 1999 and 2001, was thrashed on his return from a hip injury in Valencia last week and Ferrero, winner in 2002 and 2003, was humbled by Nadal at the same tournament.

04-13-2005, 11:34 PM
April 12, 2005, 1:11AM

Farming for title? Stay away from clay
U.S. drought on France's favorite surface leaves many top men digging for answers

Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

The South American/Mexican clay-court season came and went in February without American participation, and the two European kickoff events last week in Spain and Morocco were completely bereft of Yanks as well.

In the first 2005 Masters Series tournament on red clay in Monte Carlo, which began Monday, only Vince Spadea was there to wave Old Glory.

But he's already out, having lost the first official American clay-court set of the year 6-0 to Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic. At least some face was saved in the 7-5 second set.

If you sense a trend here, you're on to something.

Little to hope for
The top Americans are all scheduled to play in the French Open, and they will grudgingly prepare for it the best they can. But the next two months on the ATP calendar remain the longest, hardest, least-rewarding slog for the U.S. contingent on the Tour. The top six Americans have little to show for their efforts to conquer clay over the last four seasons, and there's no reason to expect anything to change soon among the men.

"It's just not our surface," concedes James Blake, whose finest moments on the stuff have come at the River Oaks International, a non-ATP-sanctioned event he won for the second time on Sunday. "None of us grew up on it, and none of us practice on it that much."

So until the French Open is behind them and preparations for Wimbledon begin, the Americans figure to be mostly stuck in the mud on dirt. But because none of the top clay-court stars will be leaving Europe to visit Houston for the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships starting Monday — there's a bigger prize-money tournament in Barcelona opposite the one at Westside Tennis Club — at least the Americans stand a fighting chance of holding their own on the home turf.

Not counting Blake's River Oaks dominance, only Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi among the Americans have won, or even come remotely close to winning, clay-court titles anywhere in the world since 2001, when the U.S. championships moved to Houston from Disney World. And three of their combined six victories have been at Westside, where Roddick has also been runner-up the last two years.

Eighteen of his 41 match wins on clay since he became a fixture on the ATP Tour in 2001 have come in Houston — including eight of his 11 in 2003-04. He has withdrawn from the Monte Carlo festivities each of the last two years, no doubt sensing futility.

"But I'm a long way from giving up on clay," Roddick said. "I still think I can learn to play effectively on it if I can improve my movement, and that's what I'm emphasizing."

Agassi's regimen
Agassi hasn't entered Monte Carlo since 1998, when he lost in the second round to Pete Sampras. In fact, his preparation for the French Open in 2004 consisted of only the Austrian stop, where he stumbled in the first round. He also succumbed straightaway in Paris, ending a run of three consecutive quarterfinal appearances.

This year, he'll play Houston and Rome (May 2-8), then see how he's holding up physically before deciding on a tuneup in Germany or Austria.

"The work on clay will do me good," Agassi said recently from Las Vegas, conceding his extra-light schedule of a year ago didn't serve him well. "It will help prepare me for the (grass and hard-court) seasons. Then when I get on those surfaces, where I'll obviously have a better chance to win, I'll be in better match condition."

Agassi, who turns 35 at the end of the month, is the only American to conquer the French Open (1999) since his new doubles partner Jim Courier's back-to-back triumphs in 1991-92. None of Sampras' record 14 Grand Slams were won in Paris, and Roddick has made it past the second round but once.

As for the other second-tier Americans — Blake, Vince Spadea, Taylor Dent, Mardy Fish and Robby Ginepri — they are a combined 7-10 on French clay, with only Spadea boasting a winning record (5-3). Fish, Dent and Ginepri are all winless at Roland Garros.

Coria beaten in better days
No American has a victory over an elite clay-courter anywhere in the last four years, save for Roddick's beating Guillermo Coria in three sets at Westside in 2002. But Coria, the French Open runner-up in 2004, ranked just 109th in the world at the time. When Roddick won in St. Poelten, Austria, in 2003, he defeated Russia's Nikolay Davydenko in the final. Only recently, though, has Davydenko cracked the top 20.

Among the Yanks, Agassi possesses the lone clay-court Masters title of the new millenium, having defeating Tommy Haas in the Rome final in 2002. Agassi, of course, beat Roddick in Houston for his other title on dirt, and his conspicuous oh-fer of a year ago notwithstanding, he has still won 27 of 37 matches on clay dating to 2001.

04-16-2005, 07:14 PM
Monte Carlo Masters

Federer's run blown by Gasquet

Stephen Bierley in Monte Carlo
Saturday April 16, 2005
The Guardian

Roger Federer's attempt to become the first player to win three back-to-back Masters Series titles was ended by 18-year-old Richard Gasquet in the quarter-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters yesterday. The French teenager staved off three match points for a remarkable 6-7, 6-2, 7-6 victory, culminating in a backhand down the line that would have had Rod Laver nodding in appreciation.
Gasquet made his Tour debut here in 2002 as a 15-year-old and played at Roland Garros the same year. But since then he has lost his way, with Spain's Rafael Nadal, also 18, grabbing the teenage centre stage. Nadal is currently No17 in the world while Gasquet is at No101.

The two will meet in the semi-finals today, the brilliant Spaniard having swept aside Argentina's Gaston Gaudio, the reigning French Open champion 6-3, 6-0 in an equally impressive display. But on this occasion there was no doubting that Gasquet deserved the limelight, having inflicted only the second defeat on Federer this year - the other being Russia's Marat Safin in the semi-finals of the Australian Open - and only his second loss in 53 matches stretching back to last year's Olympic Games. Afterwards, Federer said, "I feel like I've been playing history not just my opponents."

Having won the Masters titles in Indian Wells and Key Biscayne over a period of four exhausting weeks in March and early April, including an epic five-set final win over Nadal, Federer could be forgiven for being fatigued. He look jaded from the start, struggling in the opening set, making numerous errors and losing his serve twice. Yet having won the tie-break 7-1 it appeared he had weathered the storm.

Undismayed Gasquet attacked with a vengeance, notably on the backhand which is a wonderfully uninhibited shot, and levelled. Federer continued to make mistakes in the third set, although even then, when Gasquet missed his first match point with an overly ambitious drive volley at 5-3, it seemed the world No1 might save the match. The Frenchman had another chance to win at 5-4, but it was Federer who failed to convert three match points in the second tie-break.

For Pete Sampras, the winner of a record 14 grand slam titles, the transition from hard court to clay was enough to bring him out in a rash. In contrast Federer, who was nurtured on the surface, has less trouble making the adjustment.

Since winning Wimbledon for the second time last year for his fourth slam title, Federer has been spoken of as the player who could beat the American's record, sometimes as if it were a mere peccadillo. When, and if, the Swiss gets into double figures for slam victories, then that will be the time for realistic speculation. Until then the main point of discussion will be whether, unlike Sampras, Federer can become French champion.

Only five players, Don Budge and Andre Agassi of the US, Roy Emerson and Rod Laver of Australia, and Britain's Fred Perry, have won all four slams. Federer stands a better chance than Sampras did of joining that quintet, but as Gasquet proved yesterday there is a wealth of clay court talent looking to gun him down.

In tomorrow's other semi-final Juan Carlos Ferrero, twice a winner of this title, will play the reigning champion Guillermo Coria of Argentina. Ferrero beat Italy's Filippo Volandri 6-2, 6-3, while Coria, last year's French Open runner-up, defeated David Ferrer of Spain 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.

04-19-2005, 08:04 PM
April 17, 2005, 1:55AM

Agassi gets better with age
Seasoned singles star undergoes a transformation from a carefree youth to a widely respected role model for the sport


In the spring of 1987, 16-year-old Andre Agassi played for the first time in Houston at River Oaks Country Club.

"I lost first round — three and three," Agassi recalls without a moment's hesitation. "To Peter Lundgren."

The same Peter Lundgren who, many years later, coached Roger Federer to the top and who currently tutors the only player, Marat Safin, to defeat Federer in the last three Grand Slam tournaments. Perhaps there's some symmetry there, or maybe it's just an oddity or a small-world coincidence.

But what does it say about Agassi, who turns 35 less than a week after what's almost assuredly his last U.S. Clay Court Championships in Houston, that he would remember such an utterly inconsequential match so long ago?

Perhaps Agassi was paying closer attention than we thought.

The wispy teenager with the mullet had spectacularly precocious tennis skills but seemingly little else to offer, at least outwardly. The son of a floor boss in a Las Vegas casino and, briefly, the brother-in-law of Pancho Gonzalez, who was old enough to be his grandfather, he barely made it out of middle school before turning his life's focus to whacking tennis balls.

But on the court, he was hardly driven to succeed. When things went badly, he often just gave up.

Canon commercials
Even when he reached No. 3 in the world at 18, it was hard to take him seriously in the important tournaments. Everything about young Andre screamed superficiality or artificiality, from his flowing highlighted locks to his Day-Glo outfits to his fear of Wimbledon's grass to the spectacularly ill-advised "Image is Everything" marketing campaign for Canon that reinforced suspicions that he lacked character and substance.

One sports columnist in New York used to award "Andres" at year's end. They usually went to chokers and charlatans.

That's the grand irony among the multiple ironies of Agassi's career. Because today, after winning a career Grand Slam, eight majors total, 59 tournaments and 838 matches, he has evolved into the role model for all role models. He is, to a T, what we wish every athlete would be.

He cares about his sport and the world around him. He's bright, thoughtful, articulate and most generous to good causes that he believes in, particularly education. In his down time, he's a model husband and father.

Game plans differ
Agassi the tennis player possesses a simple game, largely devoid of nuance. His game plan always has been to trump his opponent's serves with better returns, end of story. Agassi the man, however, is remarkably complex, a bowlegged bundle of disparate passions. And, as for his once-questionable resolve, he's now the consummate battler, conceding nothing to nobody — Federer included — whatever the surface. He's also the most enduring and resilient of athletes, having long since left his peers behind.

Jim Courier, who thwarted him in the 1991 French Open final and with whom he'll play doubles Monday night at Westside Tennis Club, has been retired since the end of 1999. Agassi's rival, Pete Sampras, slipped away in 2002, and Michael Chang walked away from the Tour in 2003. But, if the end is in sight, Agassi chooses not to acknowledge it.

He soldiers onward despite a chronic nerve ailment in his back and, most recently, an excruciatingly sore and swollen left big toe. The condition kept him from the answering the bell at the Pacific Life Open a month ago.

"Wear and tear, that's all," he says of the injuries, which haven't prevented him from reaching at least the quarterfinals of all five tournaments he has entered in his 20th season. "The nerve was causing the pain in my hip (which cost him the middle part of the 2004 season, including Wimbledon), but injections — legal injections, I promise — have helped a lot. And the toe's a lot better. It's only 10 percent bigger than it's supposed to be, down from 30 percent."

If Agassi is embarking upon his last Houston appearance, and if the 2005 ATP season amounts to a farewell tour, so be it. But he insists doesn't know yet. The guy his pal Barbra Streisand once called a "Zen master," eliciting twitters, is indeed exactly that, staying calmly in the moment from tournament to tournament.

"I'm coming to play this tournament, to do everything I can to win it," he said. "I'm not thinking about where I want to be in a month, or at the end of the year. I've never thought that way.

"My approach hasn't changed, only my body — the years have definitely taken a toll. But this sport has given me so much that my hope would be to give back as much as I can for as long as I can. How long I consider it to be something of a useful effort is hard for me to say.

"I would hope to believe that when I'm playing my best tennis, I can win any match that I'm playing. When I'm convinced that I just can't quite play to (my) standard or do it in a way that I'm proud of, in a way that I've been so used to over the years, then that would be (the end). But I do have a lot of fun out there occasionally."

A good year for clay
Two Aprils ago, Agassi re-ascended to No. 1 in the rankings — nearly eight years after his first arrival — because of his Clay Courts performance, making him the oldest player by a long shot to reach the summit. And, to prove that wasn't just a computer glitch, he dethroned Andy Roddick, the young twice-champion who was bound for No. 1 that year, in three sets.

While he comes in this week without a 2005 tournament victory and a ranking of 10th, note that three of his five defeats have been administered by Federer. When Federer defeated him 6-4, 6-3 in the Nasdaq-100 Open semifinals April 1, the score was deemed deceptive. Observers assessed the level of play both ways as borderline brilliant.

But Agassi, in defeat, offered only a disgruntled shrug.

"Wrong person to ask," he replied.

His last of 20 losses to Sampras, whom he would beat 14 times, was the historic four-setter in the 2002 U.S. Open that gave Sampras a record 14 Grand Slams and completed his career. It, too, elicited a similar response. For Andre to give himself high marks in any match, he needs to have won.

Most pundits assumed Agassi would bypass the grueling clay-court circuit to save his legs and focus on Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, the Slams that offer, he concedes, "my best chances."

Instead, surprisingly, he came to Houston to toughen himself up on the dirt, having branded his decision a year ago to lie low before the French Open "a terrible call."

He also came to honor Westside owners Jim and Linda McIngvale, who have given significant sums to the charter school he has built in Las Vegas for disadvantaged kids.

"I'm very grateful to Jim and Linda," Agassi said. "I want to support them any way I can after all they've done to support me."

Houston connection
He met the McIngvales when he participated in a celebrity fund-raiser at the club a number of years ago, the event that inspired them to lure the ATP Tour back to Houston. When Agassi reached the semis at Westside in 2002, ultimately losing to Sampras in his first real Houston competition in 15 years, it brought him full circle.

Agassi's place in the history of the game was comfortably secured. He'd won seven of his majors and the career Slam he'd completed at Roland Garros in 1999 put him in august company as one of just five men to accomplish the feat.

If not the greatest player ever, he's arguably the most interesting.

"Andre picks just a few events a year now," Federer said, paying homage before their Nasdaq semifinal. "So you always know you're going to play him when he's at his best."

04-19-2005, 08:12 PM
Posted on Mon, Apr. 18, 2005

U.S. players defend turf



The U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships have evolved into a regular stop for top American players since the event arrived in Houston five years ago.

This year, seven of the eight players from the United States who are ranked among the top 100 in the world will play in the tournament, which begins today and ends with the finals at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Andy Roddick, ranked No. 3 in the world, will make his fifth consecutive appearance at the tournament. After a one-year hiatus, Andre Agassi returns to Westside Tennis Center, where he won the title in 2003.

Vincent Spadea, ranked 33rd, is the only American ranked in the top 100 who is not playing in the tournament.

The tournament boasted few big names when it came to Houston in 2002. Then, there were only seven American players in the tournament, which was skipped by top players such as Agassi and Pete Sampras. Roddick entered the tournament that year as a wild-card entry and went on to win the title.


Andre Agassi

Most tennis players streamline their schedule as they get older.

Andre Agassi has never been like most players.

Unlike last year, when he played in few tournaments leading up to the French Open, Agassi is tackling a busier clay court season this year, beginning with the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships, which start today at Westside Tennis Center in Houston.

Agassi has played at the Houston tournament three of the past four years.

Last year, he skipped almost all of the clay court tournaments before the French Open, including the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships. He played in his first clay court tournament a week before the start of the Grand Slam tournament and lost in the first round.

"It was a terrible call I made," Agassi said. "I mean, I was beside myself. I'm not the kind of person that does well without matches. I can do well without practice. I can't do well without matches. I need to get relaxed out there and remind myself how hard I work to make it seem easy at times. It's not easy for me to remember that when I've been away for six weeks."

He went on to lose in the first round of the French Open.

Agassi, who has won eight Grand Slam tournaments, including the French Open in 1999, has played in five tournaments leading up to the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships and has reached at least the quarterfinals in all of them.

But the 10th-ranked player in the world is still looking to play in his first final of the year. Top-ranked Roger Federer ousted Agassi three times, and second-ranked Lleyton Hewitt ended another run.

Agassi doesn't have to worry about those players. The only player in the tournament ranked ahead of him is third-ranked Andy Roddick, whom Agassi beat in the finals two years ago.

And as of now, Agassi has no health concerns either, an obstacle that forced him to skip Wimbledon last year.

"I'm able to lunge, I'm able to sprint to balls and recover and force myself to play to the standard," Agassi said. "That's a good sign. So I'm not worried about my legs. I'll be more worried about what I need mentally right now just to feel prepared."


3 Players ranked in the top 16 in the world entered in the tournament

4 Consecutive finals for Andy Roddick at the U.S. Clay Court Championships

5 Years the tournament has been in Houston

79.8 Average predicted high temperature for the seven days of the tournament

$7,500 Cost for a private, air-conditioned hospitality tent for the finals, which includes an appearance by a player in the tournament


Tommy Haas, Germany

After an injury-plagued 2003 during which he did not play in a tournament, Haas returned to the ATP Tour last year. He showed he still can compete with the top players in the world at last year's U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships, beating Andy Roddick in straight sets in the final. Haas has won nine of 15 matches this year, reaching the semifinals twice, and has climbed to No. 16 in the rankings.

Andre Agassi, United States

Agassi is nearly 35, but he remains one of the top players in the game and is ranked 10th in the world. The eight-time Grand Slam champion is 16-5 this year, with three of the losses coming against Roger Federer, the top player in the world. Agassi played in the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships two years ago and beat Andy Roddick in three sets in the final.

Andy Roddick, United States

Roddick has won the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships twice and has been to the final all four years he has played in the tournament. There's no reason to expect anything different this season. Roddick, who holds the record for fastest serve, has an 18-4 record this season and has reached the semifinals in his first four tournaments, including winning the SAP Open in San Jose, Calif.

Taylor Dent,

United States

The hard-serving American has played some of his most consistent tennis of his career, which has helped him achieve a ranking of No. 27 in the world. He has reached at least the third round in six of the eight tournaments he has played, including the final of the Next Generation Hardcourts, his first tournament of the year. Overall, he is 15-8 this year and has victories against top-10 players Lleyton Hewitt, Marat Safin, David Nalbandian and Guillermo Coria.

Donald Young,

United States

Young has yet to win an ATP Tour match, but give him time -- he is only 15. Young turned professional at 14, and the lefty is viewed as the best young player in the United States, someone who could one day join Andy Roddick as a force on the ATP Tour. Young has played four tournaments this year, most recently in the NASDAQ-100 Open in Florida, where he lost 6-4, 7-5 to Jean-Rene Lisnard, who is ranked 95th in the world.

04-23-2005, 06:15 PM
My tennis lesson with master Tim

Her heart raced, her forearm turned to jelly - and all Tim Henman had done was take off his shirt. Nina Davies relives her dream day on court at Wimbledon

Apr 22, 2005, 13:59

It's not every day you get to walk on court at Wimbledon and play tennis with Britain's number one - so when I was invited to go head-to-head with Henman I jumped at the chance.

It wasn't until I arrived at SW19 and started to walk round the world-famous All England Club that the immensity of the occasion hit me. How could I possibly try and take on Tiger Tim?

One week earlier, I had frantically phoned my father, something of a tennis veteran, asking whether he was free for a game: "Yes. Why? What's brought this on?" came the response. "Er well, I'm playing Tim Henman next week," I said.

And so, having not picked up a racket for two years, I was on the baseline and trying to get back into the swing of a sport I played at club-level as a teenager. Surely it couldn't be that difficult?

On the basis of my two hour-long training sessions I started to worry. While my forehand was reasonable my backhand was devastatingly bad and my serve more than a little shaky.

But before I knew where I was, the day - organised by sponsors Robinsons - had dawned and after a sleepless night I was on my way to Wimbledon. I was unable to resist telling the cabbie what I was about to do, only to be met with a stunned silence followed by lots of laughter.

Having had some coaching a few years ago I kept trying to remember all those top tips I had been given by my former coach: "Keep your eye on the ball" and "bring your racket back".

Once inside the gates my heart began to race. Not only was I about to face one of the greatest tennis aces Britain has ever produced, I was getting ready in the ladies' changing rooms used by the best players in the world.

Was I hanging my jacket on the same peg used by Serena or Venus Williams or putting my stuff in Capriati's chosen lucky locker?

I had to pinch myself as I emerged to be taken to the practice court where I was met by the man himself. He greeted me with a smile and a hell of a handshake - gripping my hand like it was his racket.

This was it. I was about to make my Wimbledon debut and the friendly face at the other side of the net was a world-class champion who stripped off before putting on a new shirt and striding on to court.

I was already starting to break into a cold sweat before I had even hit a ball and not least of all because Tim had taken his top off.

But he could not have been more reassuring: "Don't be nervous, we'll just have a bit of a knock about and see how you get on."

I felt like I was in Wimbledon The Movie as I moved out of my matchside seat - yes, those green ones, which have served some of the best-known bottoms on the circuit.

The names ran through my head, Graf, Sampras, Agassi - wow. My so-called tactics were out of the window: "Please God, let me get it over the net," was all I could think about.

Starting just short of the service box he played the first ball. Everything went into slow motion as it left his racket and came towards me and, whack, I saw it sail back over the net.

We were off. A few more rallies and he told me to take my racket back even further and I surprised myself as the ball went back at twice the speed and straight down the line.

That wasn't too bad, was it? Praise for Nina from gentleman Tim
"Right," smiled Tim. "I think we'll move back a bit," and we began battling it out on the baseline, although I am sure he was not even trying and barely moved, while I scampered around the court like a rabbit.

Praising every shot, and giving tips as we went along, he could not have been more encouraging and I was soon getting pace on the ball only for him to say: "OK, the harder you hit them, the harder they will come back" - and they did.

The speed of the ball was breathtaking (and he was taking it easy).

I thought I was getting the hang of it and I held my breath as I realised I was going to have to play a dreaded backhander. Although I hit it, it went straight into the net.

Having given me some instructions on how to stand and turn, he played more and more to the left side of the court forcing me to keep testing the stroke and slowly his magic method paid off.

We carried on until until Tim said "OK, let's finish with a 20-shot rally". The pressure was on. This was my moment to shine and show him and everyone watching what I was made of.

But my nerves got the better of me as the first ball died as it left my racket and rolled back towards me, but second time round we got to 25 before HE put it into net - I had scored a point against Tim!

He looked up and laughed as he said: "I can't believe I've just done that," although I am sure it was just a bit of sports showmanship designed to make me feel good but it worked and I left court on a high.

Shaking his hand at the net, I thanked him for his help and was struck by his sincerity and professionalism.

"You played well," he said. "You should definitely start playing again."

The master has spoken and I am already looking into lessons although no other coach will be able to compete with my ten-minutes of Tim during which I learned a lot.

So anyone for Tennis?

04-23-2005, 06:19 PM

If it's spring it must be clay court tennis

Rohit Brijnath

Clay asks for a different mindset. It is a challenge to body and intellect

In the seasons of tennis, spring has its own allure, its particular smells, its distinct colours. You can almost visualise ladies in yellow Chanel suits sipping coffee by the blue of the Mediterranean as players on russet-coloured courts perform their unique sliding ballet. White socks turn the colour of wine, sweat flies from heads like a soft rain and the whirr of topspin is accompanied by an opera of grunting.

Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Munich, Rome, Hamburg, and then, finally, heavenly Paris, it is that season of clay court tennis. French, German, Spanish are not the only foreign languages to be negotiated here; for many, the tennis itself is an idiom they cannot fathom. Degrees in tennis elsewhere are not always recognised in this European university of clay.

There is the best tennis player in the world, and then there is the best clay court player in the world. Infrequently are they one and the same. The vocabulary of tennis alters here and not just in the quaint call of quinze-zero (15-love) by the umpire. If in winter, Hewitt, Safin, Roddick slipped easily off the tongue, now we say Coria, Nadal, Ferrero, Canas. On this surface, Gods and mortals exchange places.

Already a tired Federer, the exception to all rules tennis, has had his streak snapped by the 18-year-old prodigy Richard Gasquet in Monte Carlo; already the buccaneering Nadal, 18 himself, has won Monte Carlo and been anointed by Coria as "the best player on clay."

Different ball game

Clay asks for different shoes, occasionally looser strings, extra socks and an altered mindset. It is a challenge to body and intellect. Pete Sampras once said: "I play my best tennis on instinct, but on clay, I tend to over-think it — do I want to come in? Do I not want to come in?"

This week Federer added: "The serve doesn't get that many free points as maybe on other surfaces and also you just have to be more patient mentally and physically."

Wilander-style productions of moonballing tour te tediums have ceased, and shots are now fired furiously from the baseline, yet muscle, which works on hard court, is itself not enough on this gritty surface. So chess must be played, and as V. Anand might approve, rapidly. Points must be plotted and top-spinning conspiracies forged, openings crafted and chinks in armour patiently widened. Here respite is not a familiar word.

Spaniards and Argentines will lick their lips as their inquisitions commence. For others, these weeks will be only about adjust, adapt, acclimatise. Some will slug from 10-12 feet behind the baseline with their antenna alert for drop shots, others will attempt to own the baseline and with Herculean effort hit a succession of heavy shoulder-high balls.

A specialist's domain

Much is revealed merely through footwork and a familiarity with the dance step particular to clay. Experts like Ferrero will slide, sometimes 10 feet, into a shot, meet the ball perfectly and turn adroitly; novices like James Blake will do, as he once said, "the American slide — slide, hit the ball, slide a little more and then almost lose my balance." Spectators will just swoon.

Nadal delivered an exhibition in this art last week as his heavily spun shots hovered like angry bees, then landed and stung venomously. Always he was altering pace, exploring angles, galloping around his backhand to maximise his strength on the forehand, somehow staying patient and aggressive all at once.

He showed courage unusual to some clay-courters by deliberately getting within hand-shaking distance of the net. Sometimes, though, his volleys were answered with lobs and he would scamper back to the baseline to restart the rally. As Federer said, on clay the bizarre occurs, for "sometimes you have to win a point not only once, but twice or three times."

Spectators are delivered endless pleasure but players mostly are only guaranteed pain. Bananas are consumed by the bunch, cramp is as common as croissants, and wonderfully underhand methods like under-arm serves (remember Michael Chang) are not completely unknown. Only on clay, too, will umpires scamper down to the court to check a mark, though if protestations go on too long there is always the Connors method, the American once jogging to his opponent's side of the net, erasing a mark with his foot and jogging back.

Serve and volleyers will do well to remember the words of Gordon Forbes, who once wrote that "on the way to the net, one automatically had visions of the valley of death." Indeed, passing shots here seem to be hit with a yawn and a half-closed eye. Still, last year Tim Henman reached the French semifinals, and on clay, too, like elsewhere, there is always hope. After all, at the completion of most sets, the court is swept and all start with a clean slate.


04-26-2005, 10:44 PM
Raging Bull of Majorca is tennis' new sensation

By Christopher Clarey
April 26, 2005

It would have been entirely logical if Rafael Nadal had grown up to be a precocious soccer star. As a child, he was a promising striker and his uncle, Miguel Angel Nadal, a fine defender, was a fixture in the Spanish national team.

But at 12, Rafael Nadal chose a different game, and tennis will never be the same because of it.

He has yet to match the early work of prodigies such as Bjorn Borg, Boris Becker, Michael Chang or Pete Sampras, who all won grand slam singles titles as teenagers.

But at 18, Nadal is already making a habit of winning tournaments and when the French Open begins on May 23, he will be on the very short list of favourites.

Nadal beat Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-1, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 in Barcelona on Sunday to follow up on his Monte Carlo victory the week before. He will enter the world top 10 for the first time as No. 7 in this week's ATP rankings.

Watching the Raging Bull of Majorca is one of the better spectacles in sport. The red clay best suits his slashing topspin forehand and great footwork. But clay is not the only surface that suits him.

AdvertisementOn hardcourts, he pushed Lleyton Hewitt of Australia to five sets in the fourth round of the Australian Open in January, then was two points away from beating Roger Federer in a dramatic five-set final in Miami last month. He also has won critical Davis Cup matches for Spain on quick indoor surfaces.

Although his serve remains a work in progress, such versatility was part of the plan when another of Nadal's uncles, Toni, taught him the game in Majorca.

He insisted that Rafael polish his all-court skills in junior tournaments by rushing the net, even though he could have beaten the opposition more handily by camping on the baseline.

Toni, who remains his coach, is one of the reasons Rafael picked tennis over soccer. "When he was four and five, he would come two days a week to the club to play, but he always preferred soccer," Toni said. "Until he was 12, he played more soccer than tennis."

By then, he had won Spanish and European tennis titles in his age group, Toni said, adding: "It was clear that he had great talent, but it was still a difficult choice. His father said he needed to make a commitment to his studies and to either soccer or tennis."

Carlos Moya, also a Majorcan, had proved it was possible to make it big, winning the French Open in 1998. Moya left Majorca as a teenager to train in Barcelona, the hub of Spanish tennis. Nadal was 14 when the Spanish tennis federation suggested he make the same move.

But his parents baulked, partly because they wanted to stay involved in his education. Remaining in Majorca meant that Nadal received less financial support from the federation, but his father, a successful businessman, was prepared to pay for his training.

"We had problems at times with the training, finding the same level of players as Rafael," said Toni. "But with hard work, we managed it."

The only storm clouds have been injuries. The most serious was a stress fracture in his left ankle last year that forced him to miss the French Open.

"Of course that's been hard for me because I had high hopes of doing well there," Nadal said. "Those are tough moments, but you have to keep working and staying positive, so when your time does come, you're prepared."

It would be wise to prepare for something special in Paris, too.

- New York Times

04-30-2005, 07:33 PM
Pilot Pen in danger of being manhandled

By: Sherman Cain, Journal Inquirer April 26, 2005

Tennis tournaments are like boxing cards - everybody thinks they can promote one.

When Butch Buchholz became the Pilot Pen men's tournament chairman in 1997, he was certain he knew how to make the New Haven event a success. He figured a couple of marquee names who had never played in New Haven before would be enough to create a surge in attendance. That, in turn, might help make the event profitable for once.

So, for the 1998 tournament, Buchholz convinced Pete Sampras and Patrick Rafter to come to New Haven. It was big news at the time. Sampras was the world's best player and Rafter seemed destined for stardom.
Sampras made a quicker exit from New Haven than Rick Majerus did from coaching USC men's basketball. At least Majerus was the coach for one day before changing his mind. Sampras played a couple of hours of tennis, lost in the first round to a doubles specialist named Leander Paes and has likely not set foot in Connecticut since. Rafter didn't make it to championship weekend either.

Even though attendance went up, the tournament still lost a million bucks - just as it had in 1997. Buchholz, who had success running the Lipton Tournament in Florida, was disappointed, but gave every indication in August 1998 that the tournament would continue in New Haven. It didn't. The tournament was sold. Anybody who wanted to see Sampras or Rafter play would have to go to the U.S. Open in New York.

Now that the TD Waterhouse Cup has flopped its way out of Commack, N.Y., the ATP Tour is trying to pawn it off. Anne Worcester, the president and CEO of the Pilot Pen women's tournament in New Haven, has indicated that perhaps New Haven could be the home for this men's event. Other cities are bidding for the tourney, but Worcester is an aggressive go-getter with an impressive track record. She'll make a convincing case to the ATP. But will it be worth the trouble?

The plan would be to run the men's tournament simultaneously with the women's event Aug. 22-28 in New Haven. The men's event would feature 32 players. This would be more manageable than the 56-player field that the men's event had in 1998. Another good thing about simultaneous tournaments is that all the courts at the Connecticut Tennis Center would be active daily throughout the week. It's fun for spectators to be able to walk around the grounds, peer into a grandstand court and watch one match, than go to Stadium Court and watch another.

Still, Worcester needs to think long and hard about taking on another tournament.

The women's event has been a success. Top players have shown up and it's done reasonably well at the gate. If you've got a good thing going, why mess with it?

Worcester also has to realize that the media coverage may not be what she hopes. The 2005 Buick Championship - the GHO for those golf fans who just can't accept the tournament's new name - is again the same week as the women's Pilot Pen. Golf rules in Connecticut during the week of the Buick Championship. Why have two tennis events that will be overshadowed by the Buick Championship? Isn't it enough that one tennis tournament is playing second fiddle?

The Pilot Pen and Buick Championship may not always butt heads, but there are other issues to consider when it comes to staging two tournaments simultaneously in New Haven. No matter what, those Monday afternoon matches are going to draw barely enough people to fit into a phone booth. Unless you get Serena Williams to put on a fashion show that models some of her latest clothing designs, weekday afternoon matches will draw poorly.

Then there's that little mater of losing money. Does Pilot Pen really want to risk losing $1 million year after year? The men's tournament was a money-burner seven years ago. What's changed since then? The guess is that even if you can bring in the likes of Roger Federer and Andy Roddick, the tourney will again bleed red ink.

The Pilot Pen women's tournament is a well-run event that draws the best players. Pilot Pen has a good thing going with the women's event.
If Pilot Pen tries to run a men's event at the same time, they'll likely just be buying themselves double trouble.

Sherman Cain is a Journal Inquirer staff writer.

04-30-2005, 07:39 PM
April 28, 2005

Betting tennis can prove profitable
Stephen Nover

There’s good news and bad news when it comes to wagering on tennis. The good news is you can definitely beat it with proper handicapping, which we’ll discuss shortly.

The bad news is many books only take action on the four grand slam events and don’t put up matches until the quarterfinals. Tennis also involves betting via a moneyline rather than pointspread.

There are some British and other European Internet books, however, that deal various tournaments besides Wimbledon, the French Open, U.S. Open and Australian Open. Good luck, though, trying to find odds on non-major tournaments in Nevada. The hotels don’t write much business on tennis, even on Wimbledon, so they’re not real interested in booking it. Some don’t even bother with the Australian Open.

Tennis wagering is far more popular in the United Kingdom, ranking behind soccer and horse racing. It’s hard to make money on tennis betting futures, especially on the women’s side. Only a few women are capable of winning a major and their odds are almost always very low.

It’s more wide open with the men, although Roger Federer has replaced retired Pete Sampras as the dominant force. Federer has won the past two Wimbledon titles. Sampras captured seven Wimbledon titles in eight years from 1993-2000.

The way to make money betting tennis is on matches. Sometimes you can find a bad line on a championship match. I still remember taking a huge price with Andres Gomez in the finals of the 1990 French Open against Andre Agassi and collecting. The match should have been closer to pick’em because Gomez was a clay court specialist.

Surface is the No. 1 handicapping factor in tennis. Few players are at their best on all types of surfaces. Wimbledon, for instance, is a grass surface that favors serve-and-volley players with big serves.

Roland Garros, site of the French Open, is a clay surface. This gives an advantage to baseline players, slowing up big serves. It’s not a shock Sampras never won a French Open title during his brilliant career. Europeans and South Americans, who are exposed more to clay courts, usually capture the men’s French Open title.

The past four men’s French Open winners are Gaston Gaudio, Juan Carlos Ferrera, Albert Costa and Gustavo Kuerten. Not exactly house-hold names in the U.S. Americans are better-suited for the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadow, N.Y., which is a hard-court surface found in most courts in the U.S.

Either Serena Williams, Venus Williams or Lindsay Davenport – all Americans – won the women’s U.S. Open singles title each year from 1998-2002.

Current form obviously is important handicapping tennis. You need to be up not only on how a player has been performing lately, but his or her mental state. The mental aspect is huge in tennis. A textbook example is Martina Hingis in the finals of the ’99 French Open. Hingis won the first set against Steffi Graf, but then unraveled after the supposedly neutral French crowed booed her while openly pulling for Graf. Psyched out, Hingis ended up losing the second and third sets.

Be alert for letdowns following a major upset or extremely satisfying victory. Just look at this past year’s women’s Wimbledon finals when two-time defending champion Serena Williams fell to Maria Sharapova in a stunning upset. Williams, returning from an eight-month layoff for an injured knee, had knocked off long-time rival Jennifer Capriati in the quarterfinals and then beat Amelie Mauresmo in a grueling three-set semifinal final coming back from 3-1 in the second set after losing the first set. So the situation laid out well for Sharapova.

Injuries, fatigue (both physical and mental) and styles all are major handicapping components. Sampras was arguably the greatest ever at Wimbledon in his prime, but on clay he was vulnerable and often overpriced by linesmakers at the French Open catering to an American betting public.

It helps to have sources that really know and follow tennis closely. I have two excellent sources. One is a local tennis pro in Las Vegas. He knows all the player’s strengths and weaknesses. He can tell when there’s value on a future book line, and if the price on a match is right or not.

The other source is a gambler who specializes in tennis wagering. His contacts are so good he can come up with legitimate inside information such as so-and-so is breaking in a new racquet or so-and-so is having relationship problems and hasn’t been paying much attention to tennis. These kinds of tips can prove valuable because often they’re not reported by the mainstream media and thus out of information reach for the bookmaker.

These are the edges that make tennis wagering profitable. So its good bookmakers, who deal mainly to North American bettors, don’t care much about it. Except for Wimbledon, it’s a betting sport that remains under the radar screen. That’s just fine for those making money on it each year. No need to call attention to a sport where you can have a nice edge.

Stephen Nover is a handicapper with Covers Experts.

05-03-2005, 10:51 PM

Great Britain captain Jeremy Bates insists his Davis Cup side will be relishing the opportunity to face world number one Roger Federer after being paired with Switzerland in today's draw.

The rivals meet on the weekend of September 23-25 for a place in the world group of next year's competition with the all-conquering Federer expected to feature in the Swiss team.

His presence presents a major obstacle to Britain's Davis Cup ambitions but Bates is thrilled by the draw - and even hinted that Greg Rusedski could clinch a shock victory against the reigning Wimbledon champion.

"It's an exciting challenge. The opportunity to play against the world number one is something everyone should look forward to. It's a massive test because Federer is an awesome player," he said.

"I played in the Pete Sampras era and he was incredible. Some people think Federer has a little more in terms of shots but whether that's true or not, he's certainly one of the greatest to have played the sport.

"He didn't figure in Switzerland's last match against Holland but I'm working on the basis he will be playing against us. We'll certainly have to focus our attention on the second singles player and second doubles player.

"But we still have a chance of pulling off an upset - Greg has faced Federer a few times already this year and although Federer has looked awesome, Greg has been in with a shout."

US Open boys' champion Andrew Murray could meet Federer for the first time and Bates declared the gifted 18-year-old should not be intimidated by the prospect of facing one of the all-time greats.

He said: "Team selection is wide open at the moment and I will pick it on form leading up to the tie. But Andy made a fantastic debut in Tel Aviv and I'm sure he will be one of the names coming to the fore.

"I don't think it would be daunting for Andy to play Federer - it's exciting more than anything. If you're a professional sportsman you want to play when the heat is on.

"If he faces the world number one he has nothing to lose. I would say that's an awesome opportunity."

Bates is confident Britain can overcome Switzerland and take their place in the world group but admits they must be firing on all cylinders to do so.

"The Swiss are not just about Federer as they have a strong team - and of course they will be playing at home, which is like having a fifth man. It can be intimidating playing away from home," he said.

"The Swiss are very fair and knowledgeable about their sport. They have the world champion in their team and will be fully behind him, but I expect them to be compassionate as well.

"I think we have a great chance of going through. We must be sharp, prepared, determined and show all the character we did in Israel. We're travelling to Switzerland to win so we must make sure we get the preparation right."

05-07-2005, 08:39 PM
Nadal the man to beat in Paris, says Becker

LONDON: Boris Becker knows a thing or two about winning grand slams as a teenager and he is convinced Spain’s Rafael Nadal is the player to beat at the French Open.
World number one Roger Federer will seek to complete his grand slam collection in Paris but the Swiss has a relatively poor record on the slow clay of Roland Garros and 18-year-old Nadal is on fire. “At the moment Nadal is a big favourite,” Becker told Reuters. “Yes, you have (Argentine Gaston) Gaudio, the defending champion, you have (Argentine Guillermo) Coria, you have (Spain’s Juan Carlos) Ferrero and you have Federer. “Federer on clay is also a big threat so you shouldn`t overlook him. But the top player right now is Rafael Nadal.” Twenty years ago Becker took tennis by storm when he won the Queen’s Club tournament and the first of three Wimbledon titles at the age of 17.

The now-retired former world number one sees more than a hint of `Boom-Boom Boris’ Nadal, the Mallorcan who has won four tournaments this year including back-to-back clay titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona to break into the top 10 for the first time. “He is better on clay than I was,” laughed Becker, who never won a claycourt tournament despite accumulating 49 titles during his career. “He is the up-and-coming new star of the tennis world and it is wonderful to see such a young kid with so much firepower and so much will to win. In a way he reminds me little bit of a young teenager in Germany 20 years ago or more. “I am often in Spain, in Mallorca. I saw him playing four or five years ago and he had the same attitude and the same energy that he brings to his tennis right now.” One of Nadal’s biggest advantages, Becker said, was that he possessed the fearlessness of youth.

“It helps to be younger and just be very much in the zone, in the moment, just thinking about the next tennis balls,” said Becker at the London launch of Nobok, a company that offers fans the chance to meet sporting greats face-to-face. “But more importantly, I think that is his attitude, his personality anyway. You cannot really switch in and out of it. He doesn’t have any fear. “He goes out and plays in front of his home crowd and wins tournaments that’s something that will follow him through his whole career.” Becker said Federer must acquire the virtue of patience in order to better his quarter-final appearance at Roland Garros in 2001.

Achilles heel: Otherwise the Swiss risks joining a clutch of greats like Becker, Pete Sampras and Stefan Edberg who won all the other grand slams but failed to master the exacting Paris clay. “I guess we all have our Achilles heel. Mine was the French Open and Federer certainly hasn’t won the French Open yet, though I think he has the talent. I will be very surprised once he finishes his career to read that he hasn’t won the French Open.

“He’s got a great ground-stroke game, he’s got good legs, so I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t win the French Open. “(He needs) patience. Claycourt tennis is more about not making many mistakes but Federer has the game.” As one of Nobok’s `ambassadors’, Becker will provide items of memorabilia to be auctioned online and he is promising some very special items will go under the hammer. “After playing in tennis for over 20 years I have lots of interesting memorabilia,” he said. “The original Wimbledon racket that I won the championship with, the racket I won many important titles with. “The whole look, the shoes, the dirty shorts, all the bits and pieces you need when you are playing out there. I have plenty of stuff that I’m sure people would love to see.” reuters

05-07-2005, 08:45 PM
Rafter admits off-court fracas
11:56 AEST Mon May 2 2005

Pat Rafter admits he once waited in the locker room for American Jeff Tarango to arrive so the pair could have a fist-fight after an angry on-court exchange earlier that day.

Former Australian of the Year Rafter has also come clean on which players he didn't get along with on the tennis tour, including Pete Sampras.

In an interview to be screened on ABC TV's Enough Rope with Andrew Denton on Monday night, the laid-back Rafter talks about the day he met Pope John Paul II and made a bit of a mess of things.

And Rafter, 32, says he is planning to move his family to France, but not for a few years.

Former two-time US Open champion Rafter and his wife, ex-model Lara Feltham, have a son Joshua, two.

"And we have another baby coming shortly too, so for the next sort of three or four years I want to be there for the babies and my family," Rafter told Denton.

Rafter said he had mixed memories of meeting the Pope about five years ago.

Mobbed and hugged by the faithful, the Pope was very much in demand.

"I thought well, I'm not going to hold up the rest of the crew behind me. It was a hot day," Rafter said.

"The man's not really looking at me, he was sort of down.

"But instead of asking for blessings for the rest of the family or whatever I just said 'um oh bless you'.

"I've walked out to see Pete, my brother, and I've gone 'oh Pete, I think I've just messed up'.

"I don't know if he heard me. And Pete goes, you're supposed to call him Your Holiness; I called him Your Honour.

"And I said, well, I just blessed the Pope.

"We then went and ran out of there for the State of Origin match. We found the Ned Kelly bar in a side street near the Vatican, and we had gone in at 10 o'clock in the morning.

"The game was on so we turned on, and Gorden Tallis got sent off in that match by Bill Harrigan.

"My goodness, I had to go back and repent again, after that. So everything came out. It was a good day."

Rafter says he was overcome by nerves in losing the 2000 Wimbledon final in four sets to Sampras after taking the first in a tie-break and leading 4-1 with two serves to come in the second set tie-break.

Rafter said it was all over very quickly, but the following year's Wimbledon final loss to his mate, Croatian Goran Ivanisevic, was much more painful.

"I choked (against Sampras), but that's OK. And then after the second Wimbledon when I lost to Goran, and I came away bitterly, bitterly disappointed. Just shattered," Rafter said.

Rafter said he was once challenged to a fight by Tarango, who according to the Queenslander had set out to become "the next John McEnroe".

"Once he said let's go for a fight after the match," Rafter said.

"And I thought well, this'd be a new one ... Anyway, so he wasn't there," said Rafter, who won the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award in 1997, 1999 and 2000.

Rafter would sometimes receive phone calls at his hotel from Australian journalists.

"So I decided I would go under a different name altogether, and there was a guy called Ben Harper the musician who I was very fond of and I went under the name Mr Benny," he said.

Rafter said Chile's Marcelo Rios was not one of the most amiable players on the tour, and he also had strained relationships at times with Austrian Thomas Muster, Sampras and Tarango.

"He (Rios) was one guy you'd sort of be in an elevator of all places and say good day to and he'd just look at you. He was a strange cat," Rafter said.

"Sampras and I had our run-ins but we'd always talk."

Rafter said he also had some rows with Mark Philippoussis because the Victorian didn't work hard enough at Davis Cup training sessions.

©AAP 2005

05-12-2005, 07:42 PM
The Surbiton Trophy
30 May - 5 June 2005

Former Wimbledon finalist Mark Philippoussis faces an anxious wait to find out whether he can play in The Surbiton Trophy after the official entry list revealed one of its strongest ever draws.

Philippoussis, who lost to Roger Federer in the 2003 Wimbledon final, was not ranked high enough to gain entry into the main draw of the Men’s €50,000 Challenger at Surbiton, and will have to hope that players ranked above him drop out.

Ivo Karlovic – the 6’10” Croatian who knocked defending Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt out at the All England Club in 2003, three-time Wimbledon doubles champion Jonas Bjorkman, and former World No.11 Sjeng Schalken will form part of the draw.

The Surbiton Trophy traditionally marks the beginning of the UK grass court season, preparing some of the best grass court tennis players in the world for battle at Wimbledon.

George Bastl – the last man to play, and beat, Pete Sampras at SW19 in 2002, is another who will take part in the event, as will the exciting young Cypriot Marcos Bagdahtis.

Bagdahtis, 19, was a World No.1 junior player, and proved that he had the potential to transform his junior results into senior success when he took a set off World No.1 Federer at the US Open last year. With his long pony-tail, colourful clothes and vibrant personality, Bagdahtis will doubtless prove a big hit in Surbiton.

The ‘tallest match’ in tennis history might well take place this year in Surbiton. That will happen if the 6’10” Karlovic meets the 6’8” Dick Norman.
Norman made his name in 1995, beating Stefan Edberg at Wimbledon.

Karlovic has fond memories of British grass court Challenger tournaments. He was competing in a similar event when his compatriot Goran Ivanisevic triumphed at Wimbledon in 2001.

“The year he won at Wimbledon I was also in England playing a Challenger in Bristol,” said Karlovic.

“All the players there were wishing that Goran finally wins Wimbledon and were cheering for him.”

As well as Philippoussis, the popular American James Blake is ranked just outside the cut-off for direct entry, as is Britian’s Alex Bogdanovic.

The 2000 Wimbledon quarterfinalist Jan-Michael Gambill and big-serving South African Wesley Moodie – the Surbiton champion in 2003 and a finalist last year – are all ranked higher than Blake and Bogdanovic, and gain automatic entry into the singles main draw.

Moodie defeated Bogdanovic in the 2003 final, but went down to Karol Beck of the Slovak Republic in last year’s final.

05-12-2005, 07:45 PM
Posted 5/12/2005

Beach tennis set for U.S. start
By Jared S. Hopkins, USA TODAY

If Pete Sampras decides to make a comeback, he could leave his sneakers at home. Beach tennis — a sport combining tennis, badminton and beach volleyball — makes its official American debut Saturday at the Charleston Maritime Festival in Charleston, S.C., as part of the Beach Tennis USA tour.

An American promoter is taking beach tennis from the sands of Aruba to the U.S.
By Beach Tennis USA

It is played on a regulation-size beach volleyball court, and players use tennis rackets and balls and follow tennis rules. They have one chance to hit the ball back and forth without letting it hit the sand.

The tour makes four more stops along the East Coast, and each daylong exhibition features one court for professional tennis players and three for the public to learn to play.

Marc Altheim, a real estate developer, first saw beach tennis in Aruba in 2003 while on vacation. Seeing its potential in America, he went to his uncle, Fred Finklestein, who owns an advertising firm in New York City and once directed advertising for ABC Sports, and founded the company.

"It was really like one of those light bulbs went off in my head," Altheim says. "I'm a racket guy and just fell in love with playing tennis on the beach."

The two are working to line up corporate sponsors, but for now Altheim and Finklestein are the main investors and already have put in several hundred thousand dollars.

Tennis players from the Netherlands saw beach tennis in Brazil four years ago and brought it to Aruba, a vacation hot spot for the Dutch. Sjoerd de Vries, a tennis pro in Aruba and founder of the Aruba Beach Tennis Foundation, organizes tournaments there. The last had 300 people.

De Vries says the game is for both skilled and unskilled competitors.

"They say, 'Which side of the racket do I use?' " he says. "But you can also play it at the high level."

Ultimately, the plan is to establish beach tennis competition in the USA. A West Coast tour is planned for next summer, and Altheim says he wants beach tennis to eventually be aired on television. As for the long term, Finklestein says beach tennis is "absolutely" here for good.

"We're in a position to show people that this is a well-funded fun game with potential to grow," Altheim says, echoing his partner.

De Vries, however, concedes that part of beach tennis' success in Aruba comes from the year-round warm weather. He says it should be treated as a summer sport.

"We can do bowling here and it will be nice," he says.

The tour travels to Virginia Beach on June 12, Jones Beach, N.Y., on July 3, and New York on July 13. The champions from each stop will compete for a $10,000 prize in the championship in Long Beach, N.Y., on Sept. 12.

05-17-2005, 10:29 PM
Tennis: Federer in top form for his French challenge

May 16 2005

ROGER FEDERER of Switzerland defeated French qualifier Richard Gasquet 6-3 7-5 7-6 (7-4) to extend his record ATP title streak to 19 consecutive finals at the Masters Series Hamburg yesterday.

The title on the red clay of Hamburg was the third in the last four years for Federer, who last lost in a final to Jiri Novak in Gstaad in July 2003.

Improving his 2005 record to 41-2, Federer captured his sixth title of the year, the most by any player heading into the French Open since 1994 when Pete Sampras came into Paris with seven.

At Roland Garros, Federer will attempt to become just the sixth man in history to win all four Grand Slam titles.

Despite adding to his impressive resume, Federer also exacted an amount of revenge against the 18-year-old Gasquet, who snapped his 25-match winning streak in the quarter-finals of a Masters Series event in Monte Carlo last month.

Unlike Monte Carlo, Federer swiftly captured the first set after winning the opening three games.

In the second, Gasquet battled back to take a 5-4 lead, but Federer went on to win the next three games.

Gasquet threatened again in the third, moving ahead 6-5, but Federer held before taking the tie-breaker.

The loss denied Gasquet, who was attempting to become just the third qualifier to win here since 1996, his first career title.

AFTER a trio of setbacks, Amelie Mauresmo has learned to master the red clay.

The second-seeded Mauresmo captured her second consecutive title at the Italia Masters Roma with a 2-6 6-3 6-4 victory over number eight seed Patty Schnyder of Switzerland yesterday.

A three-time runner-up in this event starting in 2000, the Frenchwoman broke through here last year with a three-set victory over American Jennifer Capriati. In this one, Mauresmo once again had to rally from a set down.

05-17-2005, 10:36 PM
Model pro Federer a worthy winner

By Jonathan Overend
BBC Five Live tennis correspondent

When I asked Roger Federer in Houston last year why he spends so much time speaking to the media, his first response was: "You guys make me laugh."

That was, of course, followed by a careful appreciation of his responsibility (as world number one) to promote the sport.

This was illustrated earlier this season in Melbourne when he was recording an interview for Sportsweek.

He offered to walk the length of a corridor and back again so the studio could check for the best mobile phone reception.

In Hamburg recently my radio chat with him was restricted to three questions.

Not ideal but Roger, being Roger, offered three thoughtful responses lasting just under three minutes. Perfect.

In my football interviewing days, you could ask 10 questions and still not get three minutes.

It would normally be "each-game-as-it-comes" nonsense from a gum-chewing player with half an eye on the bar or half a foot on the bus.

He fully deserves the award not just for his outstanding efforts on the tennis court but also his exemplary attitude off it

But Federer provides a magnificent relief. Here is a champion who is genuinely interested in those who show an interest in him.

He may get bored of the "can you win the French?" question or - even worse - the inconsequential enquiry "would you beat Sampras?" But he never shows it.

The news conference is a peculiar ritual, but Federer is the model professional.

Like the other players, he's contractually obliged to speak after every match but, for this multi-lingual clever clogs, that means in English, French and Swiss-German.

Chuck him a poser in ancient Greek and he'll probably surprise you with a lucid response.

I mention all this because he's just won Sportsman of the Year at the Laureus Awards.

He fully deserves it not just for his outstanding efforts on the tennis court, but also his exemplary attitude off it.

At a time when some tennis officials appear to be taking coverage of their sport for granted, Federer realises his duty to keep it at the forefront of the public conscience - worldwide.

And what a story he is becoming.

Twenty seven titles at the age of 23, four of them Grand Slam events, he's already won six this year and, most amazingly of all, he's won the last 19 finals he's played.

That sequence dates back to October 2003.

Those feet which dance so fluently around the tennis court remain, in metaphorical terms, firmly on the ground

The last final he lost was at Gstaad in Switzerland in July 2003, the tournament immediately after his debut Wimbledon victory (yes, Juliette the cow and all that).

Jiri Novak doesn't have too many claims to fame but, the way things are going, he'll be regaling friends and family for years about the day he beat Federer in that final.

If he now wins Roland Garros, to complete the set of all four majors, columnists will need to grab for even more super-superlatives and the record books will be re-written.

Federer's trophy cabinet is getting severely clogged by oddly shaped glassware, and his earnings are getting silly.

But those feet which dance so fluently around the tennis court remain, in metaphorical terms, firmly on the ground.

That's the most joyful thing about this most deserving winner of the Sportsman of the Year accolade.

05-17-2005, 10:43 PM
Sights on Wimbledon?

Federer may be looking past French Open
Posted: Monday May 16, 2005

ESTORIL, Portugal (Ticker) - If Roger Federer is looking past the French Open, he is doing so with a loving look in his eye.

The newly crowned Hamburg Masters champion appears to have his sights set on Wimbledon - his favorite Grand Slam - rather than the French Open - the only one that has eluded him.

"I've cried there [Wimbledon] more than any other tournament," he said. "I'm just very sentimental about that tournament more than any of the others."

The two-time defending Wimbledon champion, Federer made it 41 victories in his last 43 matches by overcoming Richard Gasquet in Sunday's final in Germany. After a brief overnight stop here for the World Laureus Sports Awards on Monday, he will travel to France.

However, the 23-year-old clearly has his sights firmly set on the season's third Grand Slam that starts at the end of June in London.

"If I win in Paris, it would mean I have won all of the Grand Slams, which would be great," Federer said. "But I guess Wimbledon will always remain No. 1 in my heart. It was where I won my first Grand Slam, and all my heroes have played there.

"When I beat Pete Sampras there (in 2001) it was a huge milestone in my career. That's when it all started for me. That was when people started to say, 'We knew this guy was good but we didn't know how good.'"

Federer won three of the four major events in a dominant 2004. Although the Swiss star tumbled out in the semifinals of the Australian Open earlier this year, he feels he is in excellent form.

"I've got six titles already this year, and last year was remarkable and surprising for me," he said. "I definitely want to do well in the French Open, and then at Wimbledon. I am the top seed in the world, and I want to hang on to it."

05-26-2005, 09:25 PM
The United States' Agassi and Roddick have a huge task on hand at the Roland Garros

OUR STATISTICIAN | Wednesday, May 25, 2005

For over the last decade-and-a-half, the all-American smile was a trademark on the finals' day at the Grand Slams as Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and Michael Chang won one major title after another.

From 1989 onwards, the celebrated quartet chalked up 27 titles between them and ensured hat the US won at least one Slam a season, except that tradition was broken in last year. When Andy Roddick captured the 2003 US Open crown it appeared that the changing of the ground has taken place as scripted. However, then came the reversal of 2004 as the Americans went empty-handed from all Grand Slam tournaments. After failing to break the barren run in this year's Australian Open in January, Agassi and Roddick have a huge task on hand at the Roland Garros to break the five-slam US drought. It's going to be an uphill battle for the duo even though they occupy positions in the first six seeded players. Although they will, undoubtedly, run through the first week at Paris, the second week will throw the real battle of attrition on the slow clay courts which the Americans generally gate to play. Under this background and with players from Argentina, Spain and Switzerland raring to go, it looks like the US drought will be carried forward till the next tournament at Wimbledon.

Details of Grand Slam championships winners from the United States since 1989:
Year Champions
1989 Michael Chang (French Open)
1990 Pete Sampras (US Open)
1991 Jim Courier (French Open)
1992 Jim Courier (Australian Open & French Open), Andre Agassi (Wimbledon)
1993 Jim Courier (Australian Open), Pete Sampras (Wimbledon & US Open)
1994 Pete Sampras (Australian Open & Wimbledon), Andre Agassi (US Open)
1995 Andre Agass (Australian Open), Pete Sampras (Wimbledon & US Open)
1996 Pete Sampras (US Open)
1997 Pete Sampras (Australian Open & Wimbledon)
1998 Pete Sampras Wimbledon)
1999 Andre Agassi (French Open & US Open), Pete Sampras (Wimbledon)
2000 Andre Agassi (Australian Open), Pete Sampras (Wimbledon)
2001 Andre Agassi (Australian Open)
2002 Pete Sampras (US Open)
2003 Andre Agassi (Australian Open), Andy Roddick (US Open)

05-28-2005, 07:37 PM
Feet on clay

AFP SUNDAY, MAY 22, 2005

John McEnroe and Pete Sampras probably wished they had never set foot on it; Kim Clijsters would rather have the season disappear. Their mutual problem? Clay-court tennis which poses another supreme examination again over the next two weeks when the French Open takes place.

Unlike grass, hardcourt or indoor surfaces, clay is slow, unforgiving and has been the graveyard of many a reputation down the years, putting the body under enormous strain in the process. It's where guile, stamina and fitness take precedence over the big serve or the dying art of serve-and-volley.

Just ask Sampras. The American won a record 14 Grand Slams in his career but the closest he got to a Roland Garros final was making to the semis in 1996. McEnroe collected seven Grand Slams and could have cracked the French Open in 1984 when he let a two-sets lead over Ivan Lendl in the final slip away.

Sampras's last appearance here was 2002 when he was knocked out in the first round. “It's very difficult, a pretty empty feeling,” said Sampras after a defeat against Italy's Andrea Gaudenzi, his Parisian swansong.

Andy Roddick has never got beyond the third round here and in 2004, he lost in the second round to France's Olivier Mutis. “It sucks. It's extremely disappointing,” he admitted.

Despite being no admirer of reputations, Roland Garros opens its arms to those prepared to battle through the time and pain barrier. Last year, France's Fabrice Santoro and compatriot Arnaud Clement set a world record for the longest tennis match ever played - a whopping six hours and 33 minutes for Santoro to clinch a 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 3-6, 16-14 win.

It surpassed the previous mark, a Davis Cup tie between American John McEnroe and Swede Mats Wilander in 1982, which lasted six hours and 22 minutes.

Elsewhere, the strains are beginning to tell. Spanish teenager Rafael Nadal, who has blitzed his way to five clay court titles in 2005, had to skip the Hamburg Masters because of a blistered hand caused by his five-set marathon win over Guillermo Coria in the Rome Masters.

Even world number one Roger Federer is not immune. He has suffered from tendinitis in both feet and missed the Rome Masters. The Swiss star plays with his feet strapped.

It's the same injury which has sidelined Morocco's Younes El-Aynaoui and leading sports doctors insist it's a problem related to the sapping demands of the tour.

Former world number one Clijsters has said she will not risk long-term damage to her injured knee by rushing to take part in the French Open.

The 21-year-old Belgian damaged her right knee in Berlin two weeks ago and her chances of playing at Roland Garros, where she was runner-up in 2001 and 2003, are still slim with her knee heavily bandaged.

“We will gradually intensify training,” said Clijsters. “As soon as I experience some pain in my knee I quit. Should I be able to make it, I'll start the tournament, but without taking any unneccesary risks.”

Clijsters had only been back on the tour for two months after the best part of a year on the sidelines with a career-threatening wrist injury.

05-28-2005, 07:40 PM
Federer seeks career Grand Slam at French Open 2005-05-23

BEIJING, May 23 -- Year after bedeviling year, the thick red clay at the French Open buried the career Grand Slam aspirations of Pete Sampras. Is that to be the fate, too, of his heir as king of the game, Roger Federer?

Federer doesn't think so.

After six early exits at Roland Garros, Federer now has reason to believe he can master the grueling surface and join Andre Agassi as the only active men to win all four majors. Standing most prominently in Federer's way are two precocious 18-year-olds, Spain's Rafael Nadal and France's Richard Gasquet, defending champion Gaston Gaudio of Argentina and the countryman Gaudio beat last year in the final, Guillermo Coria.

Along with his No. 1 seeding, the 23-year-old Federer comes into the French with his confidence high following his title on similar red clay courts in Hamburg last week, where he beat Gasquet 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (4) in the final. Low key by nature, a realist from experience, Federer does not suffer from low expectations.

"Honestly, I don't see it being such an unbelievably tough draw,'' he said Saturday. "I'm not worried playing anybody.

"I'm confident I can do it. If I won't ever do it, this will only show at the end of the career. You have to be a little patient.''

A career Grand Slam, especially in this era of deep fields, is a testament not only to extraordinary tennis talent but extreme versatility -- winning on grass, hard courts and clay. Each surface requires different skills: power, quickness, creativity and net play on grass; all-court offensive and defensive abilities on hard courts; patience, durability, grace and finesse on clay.

Only five players have accomplished the feat: Agassi on all three of those surfaces; Fred Perry, Don Budge, Rod Laver, and Roy Emerson in the days when the Australian, Wimbledon and U.S. Nationals were on grass and the French was the lone major on clay.

Sampras, Arthur Ashe, Boris Becker, Jimmy Connors and Stefan Edberg all won three of the majors but failed to take the French. Of those, the only real surprise was Connors, who played well on clay elsewhere and had a baseline game well suited to Roland Garros. Sampras, Ashe, Becker and Edberg never quite adjusted their serve-and-volley styles to the baseline demands of the red clay.

Federer, who won the Australian, Wimbledon and U.S. Open last year and Wimbledon the year before that, has lost in the first round of the French three times -- 1999, 2002 and 2003. He reached the fourth round in 2000, the quarters the next year and the third round last year.

05-28-2005, 07:43 PM
Posted on Wed, May. 25, 2005

Agassi pained by hip, future uncertainty


Washington Post

PARIS - On a day he made tennis history, Andre Agassi was confronted by the reality that no athlete can escape. It's that time keeps score, as well.

At 35, Agassi's time among the world's best tennis players is coming to an end.

The message came in a sharp pain that started at his right hip and shot down to his ankle. It came without warning, on the red clay of center court at Roland Garros, where in 1999 Agassi raised a French Open trophy.

On this day, Finnish qualifier Jarkko Nieminen pounced for a 7-5, 4-6, 6-7 (8-6), 6-1, 6-0 victory -- surely his biggest. For Agassi, it marked the second straight French Open he was ushered out by a virtual unknown in the first round.

Agassi had slugged tennis balls for nearly two hours to take a 2-1 lead in sets, only to suddenly find it excruciating to move, to stand -- even to sit. He knew a trainer couldn't help, having battled this inflamed sciatic nerve before. So at the changeover, Agassi slipped a few Advil between his lips and put his face in his towel.

He considered conceding after the third set, saving a set point in the process. "It was getting worse and worse for sure," he said, "and I knew it."

But he couldn't make himself walk off the court.

"Just didn't want to leave that way," he said.

Nieminen didn't realize until the fourth set that something was wrong.

"It wasn't easy to finish the match," he said. "It was 5-0, but mentally, it's tough to beat Agassi. I respect every player, but Agassi and what (Pete) Sampras used to be ... they are different."

Agassi wasn't fixated on the outcome.

He was grappling with a more painful truth: The body he has counted on for so long cannot be relied upon. And that his tennis career will be dictated by cortisone injections, gentler playing surfaces and warmer weather.

"Something tells me I'm at a stage of my career where I'm going to be living with these injections because this is unplayable when it feels like this," Agassi said in a voice dulled by pain and disappointment.

For two seasons, Agassi has been bothered by the recurring pain. It forced him to pull out of Wimbledon last year. But he had no inkling of trouble when he arrived in Paris. He had his first cortisone injection in February and got such relief that he threw himself into the European clay-court season.

With Wimbledon next month, Agassi said it was time for another injection. He has been told he can have as many as three in a year.

Agassi, like his former rival Sampras, is clearly weary of discussing retirement, though.

"It's what I do," Agassi said. "It's what I do until I don't do it anymore. I'll assess the necessary components at the end of the year. ... You know, some things you have to question. Other things, you have to not question."

When Agassi stepped onto the court Tuesday, he set a men's record for the Open era by playing in his 58th major. That won't be why this French Open will stick in his memory.

05-31-2005, 08:50 PM
ATP has perfect job for Newcombe
Published May 29, 2005

PARIS · Within four weeks the ATP is expected to announce not only its replacement for retiring CEO Mark Miles but a powerful new chairman of the board as well, and there is a surprise new name is in the mix of contenders -- John Newcombe, the former Australian great.

Based on conversations I've had at the French Open with knowledgeable people, here's my prediction:

Newcombe will be named chairman of the six-man board with responsibilities to map the future for the men's tennis tour. He'll have the deciding board vote in case of ties.

Horst Klosterkemper, the 56-year-old German businessman, will be given a two-year contract to replace Miles as CEO.

Brad Drewett, the former Aussie player and mover and shaker who was instrumental in putting together the multi-million dollar ATP deal to move the tour's end-of-the-year championships to Shanghai, will be named head of European operations. He'll then be groomed to replace Klosterkemper after two years.

Klosterkemper and Drewett's names have been out there for months, but Newcombe is the surprise, and he would appear to be a great fit. He has impeccable credentials as a player, but he also has the sort of vision the tour needs.

Stale balls?

After 11 years of chasing his dream of winning Wimbledon, Tim Henman seems finally to have gone over the edge.

Last week he claimed officials at the All England Club have been opening and thus decompressing the Slazenger balls a week before the tournament begins in order to make them softer and thus facilitate longer and more interesting rallies.

On its face, this was preposterous. If Wimbledon wanted softer balls or balls with less compression, they had only to telephone Slazenger and ask them to produce a ball to those specifications.

And, in fact, a couple days ago, following Henman's charges, officials said that while the ball cans are indeed opened when they are brought to court, the vacuum seal is broken only shortly before the start of a match.

For years, since Pete Sampras once praised a much younger Henman as a man sure to win Wimbledon one day, the British No. 1 (is there a No. 2?) has handled the intense national pressure to try to become the first man from his country to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936.

He has been to the semifinals four times, and always, it seemed, Sampras was in his path. Now, with Sampras retired, he hasn't gotten past the quarters the past two years.

"I always felt like it was getting slower and slower at Wimbledon. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I'd spoken to them about the courts. They've gone to their rye grass and I asked Slazenger about the balls," said Henman last week.

"Slazenger came back to me and said, `All the balls for Wimbledon are delivered not in a pressurized can.' And so I was like, `So, they just sit there not in a can? Are you sure?'"

It can't be much longer before Oliver Stone gets wind of this conspiracy and turns it into a movie. The difficulty with Henman's curious allegations is, it doesn't make any sense.

It's in Wimbledon's financial interest to have Henman in the tournament right through the 14th and final day because its major source of income is a BBC contract. Why would they want to inhibit Henman's chances?

As far as the rye grass, this is another absurd tale. When Lleyton Hewitt and David Nalbandian, a couple of backcourters, reached the Wimbledon final in 2002, it wasn't because some new grass mixture slowed down the courts. It hadn't rained all during May, and the ground underneath the turf was rock hard, creating the higher bounce that worked against Henman.

Stuck in clay

There's no sense wringing your hands about not having an American man in the third round of the French Open for the second year in a row. That's just the way it is. We're not born to clay, just as the Argentines and Spaniards are not born to grass or hardcourts.

Please note. The last Spaniard to win Wimbledon was Manuel Santana 39 years ago. The last Argentine to win the U.S. Open was Guillermo Vilas 28 years ago. You don't hear the Spaniards and Argentines whining that they "just can't play well on grass," do you?

On balance, it was just a hard-luck year. Andy Roddick is a much better clay player today than he was a year ago, but he was taken down in five by a player with a much better backhand.

James Blake cramped, then got sick to his stomach on a salt pill. Vince Spadea played beautifully in beating former French Open winner Albert Costa, but he badly wrenched a stomach muscle on the final point and quit his second-round match with Tommy Haas.

And who knew, other than the Andre Agassi camp, that Agassi's tennis fortunes are now tied to cortisone shots, the latest of which had worn off a couple weeks ago?

Second serves

Another coup for SFX, the agency that beat IMG to Roddick years ago. The company, based in Miami and Washington, has signed Justine Henin-Hardenne, who seems to be on her way back to No. 1, and SFX's major goal is to get Henin-Hardenne more noticed in the United States. ...

After 24 years, Spadea has dumped his old Prince graphite racket and is using one of Prince's newer models. One other Spadea note: When he gets back, and it might be six weeks, he could be in the company of former Nalbandian coach Gabriel Markus. ...

The most disappointing thing about the Rafael Nadal-Richard Gasquet showdown Friday was Gasquet's poor physical conditioning. The temperature was in the 90s and there was high humidity, but they'd only been on court and hour and a half when Gasquet had faded. ...

Mike Bryan thinks he has found the solution to the shoulder injury that has been nagging him since Monte Carlo. He was using half-and-half (gut and the very stiff Luxilon synthetic) strings and has gone to 100 percent gut. He and twin brother Bob are the U.S. Davis Cup doubles team. ...

Candid admission from Kim Clijsters: "I'm not saying I feel great out there, like I did at Indian Wells and Key Biscayne. But I'm working my way into my matches and I'm winning them, so I'm not complaining." ...

There were some shocked looks when Venus Williams lost to 15-year-old Sesil Karatantcheva on Friday. In fact, it was surprising, but hardly shocking. Williams has not been one of the elite players on the WTA Tour in more than a year. She's still top 20 and a very good player, but hardly elite. To watch her bang 52 unforced errors, and far too many off her best (backhand) side told you she no longer can compete at the highest levels. She still hits at one speed, full out, as she did when she was 18 years old. And Karatantcheva loved the pace.

Charles Bricker's tennis column appears Sundays. He can be reached at

06-02-2005, 08:19 PM
Myskina, Federer singled out for honours

Paris, June 02: In the elegant surroundings of the Pavillon d'Armenonville, the International Tennis Federation honoured Roger Federer and Russian Anastasia Myskina among the 2004 world champions on Tuesday (May 31) in Paris.

Already rated the most gifted player of his generation, Roger Federer is just two matches away from proving he is one of the most versatile of all time.

The 23 year-old said why 2004 was so special to him: "I will probably pick up my Wimbledon title defence. That was great. The final was a real battle between me and Andy (Roddick). I turned it around. There was a rain delay and of course the Masters Cup in Houston it was also fantastic because that was the end of the year tournament. It was the best eight and I came back from injury there. That was great so, these two are my highlights."

The elegant Swiss has a career Grand Slam in mind having reached the semi-finals of the French Open - the only one of the four major tournaments he is yet to win.

Only five players have won all four - Andre Agassi, Fred Perry, Don Budge, Rod Laver, and Roy Emerson.

And only Agassi achieved it on the three different surfaces the events are now played on -- grass, hardcourt and clay.

Were Federer to beat 18-year-old Rafael Nadal in Friday's hugely anticipated semi-final and then triumph in Sunday's final it would attest that his extraordinary talent is coupled with extreme versatility.

"Well, we hope so. If it really happens or not, it doesn't really matter the time. You are too focused with your own career and all but it's definitely nice to be back, specially as world number one. I am still in the tournament here at the French Open, so that's fantastic."

Back-to-back Wimbledon titles are testament to his grasscourt prowess, U.S. Open and Australian Open crowns to his hardcourt skills.

It has taken Federer longer to understand claycourt tennis, one quarter-final appearance being the sum of his previous six visits to Roland Garros.

This year he has sailed into the semi-finals without losing a set and rarely has a top seed worn his status so well

Not since Bjorn Borg streaked through the 1980 French Open without losing a set has a player achieved that feat.

Federer would be a worthy successor to the Swede. Similarly thoughtful on court with the same intensity of competitive spirit, Federer would outstrip the achievements of the Swede who won five Wimbledon titles and six French Opens but never triumphed in New York or Melbourne.

Pete Sampras, Federer's favourite player, amassed 14 grand slam titles in a record-breaking career but never triumphed in Paris.

Many parallels have been drawn between Federer and Sampras and the Swiss is confident he will not fall foul of the same Roland Garros curse that plagued the American.

Anastasia Myskina received the women's singles award after leading the Russian team to the Fed Cup title playing in front of her home crowd. The 23 year-old Russian was defending her 2004 French Open title but was surprisingly eliminated in the first round by Spaniard Maria Sanchez Lorenzo.

"It was a very special year for me -- Roland Garros and the Fed Cup. It is a very significant year for the whole of Russian tennis."

The ITF also present Tony Trabert weith its highest accolade, the Philippe Chatrier award. Trabert, of the United States, won Wimbledon, the French and the United States championships, all in 1995. He is one of the most recognised television commentators in the world, covering tennis for CBS in the US and Channel 9 in Australia.

"Phillipe Chartier is one of my best friends. I met him first time in 1950 and got to know him and family very well and we were very, very close. Unfortunately, we lost him five years ago but with his name on the award it is really special to me. It is also vey special for me to go to Roland Garros and see his name on the Centre Court, I think it is wonderful."

Other award winners included doubles champions Bob and Mike Bryan of the United States, women's doubles champions Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain and Argentina's Paola Suarez, junior champions Gael Monfils of France, Netherlands' Michaella Krajicek and wheelchair champions David Hall of Australia and Netherlands' Esther Vergeer.

06-02-2005, 08:30 PM
Federer and Nadal Matchup for Semis

AP Sports Writer

June 2, 2005

PARIS -- At the equivalent of a weigh-in for a heavyweight title fight, No. 1 Roger Federer carried himself like a champion with an exalted sense of dominion over the game while surging Spanish teen Rafael Nadal looked uncomfortable amid all the fuss.

Federer beamed, Nadal fidgeted. Federer wrapped his arm around Nadal's shoulder in posed camaraderie for the cameras. Nadal reluctantly responded by barely touching Federer's back with his fingertips.

The photo session the day before their French Open semifinal Friday -- the match of the tournament and the year -- revealed Federer's ease and Nadal's unease with the attention they're getting and the stakes involved. The other semifinal between No. 12 Russian Nikolay Davydenko and unseeded Argentine Mariano Puerta seems an afterthought, virtually everyone assuming either Federer or Nadal will prevail in Sunday's final.

Federer is a changed man this year. The humility he showed throughout last year, when he won the Australian Open, his second Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, has given way to a kingly bearing.

He speaks of fearing no man but respecting all players. He dismissed the difficulty of his draw from the start, and has no reason to doubt himself now, with a 46-2 record, six titles so far this year and not a set lost in 11 straight matches going back to the tuneup in Hamburg, Germany. He has, further, the sweet memory of coming back from two sets down against Nadal on a hardcourt at Key Biscayne, Fla., two months ago, and winning.

The 23-year-old Swiss knows, too, that he is playing for a lofty place in history. A victory on Friday would put him one win from becoming the youngest man to complete a career Grand Slam since Don Budge won all four majors at 22 in 1938.

It would, in addition, put Federer into the ranks of Rod Laver, Fred Perry, Roy Emerson and Andre Agassi, who completed his career Grand Slam here in 1999, and separate him from Pete Sampras, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and other champions who never won the French.

Federer knows his serve is superior to Nadal's, both in speed and variety. Federer also has a greater balance between a baseline game and a net attack, giving him the ability to mix tactics and change them completely, as the situation demands.

"I don't have any trouble sleeping because I'm used to this," Federer said. "Maybe he will."

Maybe, though Nadal hasn't looked too worried all week.

All of Federer's seeming advantages, all the show of bravado aside, do not necessarily mean he will have an easy time against Nadal -- or that Federer will even win.

Nadal, who celebrates his 19th birthday Friday, is a rare talent, possessed of an inner fire that fuels his performance and lights up his eyes. If he is sometimes shy off court, as he was at the photo session when he quietly scooped an ice cream like a kid while waiting for Federer to make his appearance, Nadal transforms himself into a dynamo on the court. He bounces and pounces. He doesn't let his opponents breathe. He pumps up the crowds with his killer shots and his uppercut punches in the air. His timidity disappears and he winks at the TV cameras and the fans with a showman's flair.

Nadal has sculpted biceps and triceps, which he shows off with his sleeveless shirt. But it is his intensity that distinguishes him, along with a precocious sense of how to play the whole court and how to unleash a variety of shots unusual in someone so young. Crushing groundstrokes one moment, a feathery drop shot the next. A quick scamper to chase down a shot to his right, an equally quick race to reach one on his left. He darts from the baseline to the net in an instant. He can flick a half-volley or whack an overhead into the stands.

Nadal, for all his modesty at photo shoots and news conferences, is surely not lacking in confidence. He has learned, wisely, from his mentor and uncle, former Spanish soccer star Miguel Angel Nadal, and from his other uncle and coach, Toni, that no one wins points just by bragging or acting cocky. The young man knows his place -- this is his first French Open, his first serious bid for a major championship -- but he also knows that no one has beaten him in 22 straight matches, all on clay. He has won five titles so far this year, hardly a fluke.

"This is a match where I'd like to have fun," Nadal said with typical understatement. "I think I might be able to win. At least that's what I'm going to go for. He has been playing very well. He hasn't lost a single set, has he? Well, we'll go for him."

06-06-2005, 10:24 PM
Is this Henman's final chance?

6 June 2005

The 'oohs' and 'aahs' hissed around Centre Court like the air escaping from a punctured beach ball.

It was the sound of a nation's deflation.

The reason? Tim Henman had just lost last year's quarter-final match against Mario Ancic at Wimbledon in three tame, uninspiring sets and all the expectation was being packed away for another season.

This year you suspect, for the first time in a decade, many British tennis fans might leave their hope-filled hampers at home. Henman is no longer the fresh, vibrant star of British tennis.

He is nearing his 31st birthday. He is the father of two children, the owner of a dodgy back and shoulder. He has retired from Britain's Davis Cup team.

Everything about Henman says time has run out in his bid to become the first British man to win the men's singles trophy since Fred Perry back in 1936.

And yet if Henman is fully fit, the sun shines, the courts are hard and the balls fast the fact is that there is still no-one in the draw, other than reigning champion Roger Federer, who the British number one need fear.

Henman is certainly not looking on this summer as his last chance. He still retains the dream he had as a child on the tennis courts in the back garden of his family's Oxfordshire home when his mother Jane took him at the age of six to SW19 for the first time to see Bjorn Borg.

"The reality is I don't have an endless number of years for chances," admits Henman.

"It's a question I ask myself a lot and it's obviously a big talking point given the nature of the tournament being in the UK and me really being the only player right now.

"I've never hidden behind the fact that this is the tournament I'd love to win the most, but there are a number of years ahead as long as I stay fit and healthy.

"You've either got self-belief or you haven't. Why I believe in myself I don't know. But I believe I'm pretty good at this game. I'm going to keep working hard, keep trying to do the right things."

There is no doubt he has been doing that under coach Paul Annacone, who has done much to instil composure and a more ruthless edge in his game.

The problem is that each year Wimbledon tends to get slower as officials tamper with grass and balls to try to make the action more viewer-friendly and that tends to negate Henman's main weapons.

Henman does not possess a huge serve like Andy Roddick. He does not have the rapier backhand of Federer or the tenacity of Lleyton Hewitt.

But he is still one of the world's best movers on grass and still among the most athletically-gifted at the net where his volley remains the most natural in tennis.

The problem is that, on top of the obvious dangers such as Federer, Roddick and Hewitt, other young guns such as Ancic are bursting forth from all corners of the game, young men with big serves and huge power and burgeoning talent who believe they can win on any surface.

Teenagers such as France's Richard Gasquet and Spain's Rafael Nadal, slightly more experienced men such as Argentina's David Nalbandian and Guillermo Coria and proven, if cavalier forces, such as Marat Safin.

Critics might complain about the lack of personality in the men's game but there is no lack of depth and the Wimbledon draw these days simply bristles with talent.

No-one, however, has a more consistent record at the championships than Henman. In the past nine years he has reached the semi-finals four times, having had the misfortune to come up against the legendary Pete Sampras on two occasions, while also being denied only by the rain in his 2001 tussle against Goran Ivanisevic.

He has also reached the quarter-finals four times and in that period his fourth-round exit in 2000 remains his most disappointing year.

That is some record and the reason why Britain should salute the Henman years and not view them as ones of perennial failure. Imagine where British tennis would have been in the past decade without Henman and the reality is in the hands of a bunch of Challenger tour nobodies and a left-handed Canadian.

One thing is certain, win or lose Henman does not surrender, even if sometimes, as against Ancic last year, it looks that way.

And even at 30 the fires of ambition still burn.

"I've got to keep working, got to keep trying to progress," he says.

"People are entitled to their opinions and my career will be judged on whether I win Wimbledon or not. Can I control that? Do I agree with that? No to both questions but that's life. Plenty of things in life ain't fair."

06-06-2005, 10:27 PM
Federer Express is unstoppable

6 June 2005

It will come as little consolation to those on the receiving end, but Roger Federer sometimes surprises even himself

Look here too!

"I spend my whole time being amazed," admitted the world number one ahead of the defence of his Wimbledon title. "It's always a surprise to me.

"Sometimes I watch a replay of my matches and I think 'jeez how did I pull that shot out' or 'how lucky did I get with that rally' but that's how tennis is.

"It's played on instinct, it's natural and it's all about reaction and making the right decision when you have only a fraction of a second to think about it."

Except of course Federer always seems to have just that fraction of a second longer than everyone else to make his decisions, a combination of his superb movement around the court and reading of the game.

It is just one of the aspects which has made the likeable 23-year-old the dominant figure in men's tennis for the last two years, and has his rivals searching for unusual ways to halt the "Federer Express."

"If you take Roddick's serve and Andre Agassi's returns and my volleys and Hewitt's speed and tenacity, then you've probably got a good chance against Federer," suggested British number one Tim Henman.

"That's a lot of people involved in trying to beat one player. I think he's got every chance to go down as one of the best ever."

Such sentiments are commonplace whenever Federer's name is mentioned, and it is not hard to see why after the Swiss star's phenomenal run of success.

After winning his first title at Wimbledon in 2003, Federer won a further three Grand Slams in 2004, defending his title at the All England Club in between victories in the Australian and US Open.

He remained undefeated in all 11 finals he contested throughout the year, and his 6-0 7-6 6-0 destruction of Lleyton Hewitt at Flushing Meadows will go down as one of the greatest displays in history.

His 26-match unbeaten run finally came to an end in an epic Australian Open semi-final loss to eventual winner Marat Safin earlier this year, and he suffered a surprise defeat at the hands of French teenager Richard Gasquet in the quarter-finals in Monaco recently.

But before the end of April, Federer had still won five of the seven tournaments he entered, holding match point in both of his defeats, and bounced straight back to gain revenge over Gasquet in the final of the Hamburg Masters series event on clay.

"He could be one of the greatest players of all time without question," acknowledges nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova. "Federer would still be a magician if you put a wooden racket in his hands.

"At his best he measures up against everybody else at their best and that's the true measure. Every generation has its maestro and he makes it all look easy - to me that's always a sign of a genius, to make everything seem effortless."

That may be the case on the court, but Federer admits it is not so easy to maintain his incredible run of results, and all the subsequent demands on his time.

"I find it hard to stay professional all the time and I'd love to have more time for my friends, my family, my girlfriend, for vacations," admits Federer, who sometimes conducts interviews in three different languages.

"But I know that my career won't last 50 years so I might as well do it properly for 10 and then I can say I've had enough and take it easy.

"I try to enjoy it though because I've always dreamed of winning Wimbledon, of being number one in the world, of leading the rankings and I have to enjoy these moments. You should never forget how thankful you should be to the sport."

Barring accidents, Federer will be an overwhelming favourite to claim a third Wimbledon title on July 3 and would love to emulate Pete Sampras' record of four in a row and Bjorn Borg's five consecutive wins.

But he is quick to stress his aim is not to simply be compared to the great names of the past.

"I think it's the wrong approach for people to think I have the chance to break this record or that record. I want to be remembered as Roger Federer, for what he's done."

06-09-2005, 09:35 PM
wimbledon preview

Timbledon: Will Henman ever climb his own hill?
Coach Annacone: Expectations are not 'objective'

By Sandra Harwitt, Special to

If it's the time of the year for Wimbledon then common sense dictates that it is "Timbledon" time again.

Explanation: If anyone is located anyplace near the SW19 address of the All England Lawn & Croquet Club, a.k.a. Wimbledon, during the first weeks of summer when the Championships are being played, then their world will revolve around the trials and tribulations of Tim Henman.

Further explanation: Any location within the confines of the United Kingdom can meet the criteria of being located anyplace near SW19, such is the entire country's obsession with the 30-year-old Henman and how he fairs at Wimbledon each year.

Be assured, that this hysteria for Henman to become the first British man since Fred Perry captured his third consecutive Wimbledon trophy in 1936 is not of Henman's own personal making. [FYI: Britons rarely bother to mention that Perry traded in his British passport for US citizenship in 1938 and served in the US Air Force during World War II].

Anyone who knows Henman, who will play in his 12th consecutive Wimbledon, knows that he has spent his years in the game dealing with the attention in a professional way. Nevertheless, his more reserved nature would suggest he'd prefer to slip through the cracks when it comes to the publicity aspect of being a famous athlete, unless it's to push such important matters as the Tim Henman Charitable Foundation.

Nevertheless, he has handled his pressure situation with grace, and even admits that there is something pretty heady about having an expansive grassy knoll out the back of the All England Club, where spectators without Centre Court seats can sit and watch the proceedings on a giant screen, reverentially dubbed "Henman Hill."

"It's pretty cool," said Henman, of his hill, which admittedly does not quite meet the grandeur of a Mount Everest. "I played so many matches there, and had so many great experiences to understand the significance, the history and the tradition of the place. And then to have that area named after me, and it seems like it will be pretty permanent, it's amazing."

For Henman, his living legend status at home comes with a hefty price tag. When he pays attention to it, his life is a roller coaster: hero, one day; disappointment, the next day. This is primarily a function of the British media, who plaster positive Henman headlines across their papers while he's winning, then totally switch gears to criticize him for failing to take the title.

"It's part of our culture and there's nothing you can do, it's out of my control," said Henman. "I try to worry about the things I can control, and the press and what they write, I don't pay much attention to it. It's probably is unfair. But I'm not going to change it. That's, unfortunately, whether it's right or wrong, that is pretty consistent with our media. And it's not just me, it's all sports and different individuals, we do have a syndrome that we do like to build people up to cut them down."

Coach Annacone: Expectations are not 'objective'

His coach, Paul Annacone, who has been with him since December 2003, admires Henman's ability to handle the weight of what he deems not very "objective" expectations.

"He's dealt with really well," said Annacone, who describes Henman as a bit of a prankster. "I don't know that there's anybody other than Roger [Federer] or Pete [Sampras] that have a better record than him at Wimbledon the last six years, seven years. He's done really well there, and unfortunately, unless he wins it, it will be construed, as a failure, which I think, is a shame. Can he win that tournament? Absolutely. Will he? I have absolutely no idea."

Starting around the '04 US Open, Henman's previously rosy relationship with the contingent of British sportswriters who travel the globe reporting his every move became tenuous. Since he came on tour, a large majority of every British article written about tennis would be about Henman and he almost always complied to every interview request. But, at Flushing Meadows, he pulled the plug and on top of that, he announced that he would quit Davis Cup, preferring to selfishly do what he believes was best for his advancement.

"I was just exhausted," Henman explained. "I've played almost all the Slams since '96 and I've always been requested for press conference, three TV's, four radios and a couple of private print interviews. Looking from the other side of the fence, they were taking it for granted. Then, all of a sudden, I said, 'You know what I'm just going to do what I'm obligated to do. And for the first time in 8 or 9 years I'm only going to do press conferences' and all of a sudden they started complaining. I was like, 'Sorry, it's not my problem that you're taking it for granted. You're going to have to go out there and find someone else to write about.' "

The problem for the stunned British media was that they had editors back home who didn't want articles on any other player and they needed an explanation for why he was suddenly unavailable. The favored theory was that Annacone advised him to curtail his friendliness to the media. It's not hard to understand that deduction, given that Annacone was a long time coach of seven-time Wimbledon champ Sampras, who never had a spectacular track record of going overboard with the media.
Henman denies any truth to the contention. "It was all rubbish. I was tired and I didn't have the capacity to keep doing it. I just needed a break. I started doing it again and now they're all happy again."

Annacone said he did not make the decision for Henman to pull back, but was not opposed to the choice if it diluted the tremendous pressure on him. "I'll support anything that makes it easier for him to play, and I'll take the blame for it," Annacone said. "I like the British media. But I also think because of the fishbowl Tim lives in, the simpler his life is the better. But I'm not sitting and pounding my fist and saying, 'Don't talk to the media. Don't play Davis Cup.' "

Despite the obvious disappointment of not reeling in a Wimbledon title as of yet – despite four semifinal showings – last year Henman added two more Slam semifinal finishes to his resume at Roland Garros and at the US Open. Henman sees his career as a major success story.


Thus far, Henman has turned in a very good but not great pro career, winning 11 career titles and being ranked in the Top 20 in the year-end rankings since 1997.

But, at the All England Club, his results have just not been up to snuff for much of the populace. He's lost to variety of standout players deep in second week (Michael Stich, Sampras, Lleyton Hewitt) but has also lost to players who he was arguably better than on grass (Todd Martin, Mark Philippoussis, Sebastian Grosjean, Mario Ancic).

Interestingly, when asked if he has a favorite memory from his six Slam semis, he mentioned a loss rather than a win. It was the most dramatic of his defeats that he recalled: his 7-5, 6-7, 0-6, 7-6, 6-3 three-day semifinal battle, marred by rain, to Goran Ivanisevic in 2001, who eventually went on to win his lone Wimbledon title after three previous showings in the final. "The most disappointing would be Ivanisevic," Henman said. "I'd never played a match like that and, hopefully, never will again. The three days, it was such an important match and it was pretty difficult. To end up losing it, it was pretty tough to deal with."

But as Henman has learned, life goes on. He and his wife, Lucy, have two daughters, Rose Elizabeth and Olivia, which has led him to gladly taking on the dual role of player and family man. And a new aspect of his life away from tennis is in renovating properties and then putting them on the market for sale.

'Order of the Backhand Error'

Henman Hill is not the only honor extended to Briton's current greatest player. In a 2004 ceremony at Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth II bestowed the title of OBE to Henman.

When asked about it, Henman asked a reporter if she knew what OBE stood for. She answered, "Order of the British Empire."

"Oh really, what would that be?" inquired Henman of the OBE, one eyebrow raised in curiosity. "I've heard it could stand for Order of the Backhand Error."

Henman has learned not to build himself up too much, or face staring himself in the mirror and cutting himself down. He has enough people doing that for him. For Henman, life and Timbledon need to be approached with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

06-09-2005, 09:39 PM
I'm no one-Slam wonder, says Roddick

Paul Weaver

LONDON: With an expression of wistful patience Andy Roddick gazed up from the dining area of Queen's Club towards an elongated TV monitor where Rafael Nadal and Mariano Puerta were knocking up for the French Open final at Roland Garros.

Roddick had come to England for the start of the grass-court season a little early after his second-round defeat by the Argentinean Jose Acasuso in Paris where, with four wins in five visits since 2001, he truly has feet of clay. "It's not my best surface, for sure, and I don't know whether I'll ever win there, though I enjoy the challenge."

At Wimbledon, which starts on June 20, it is a little different. He remains one of the favourites. Roddick was runner-up last year and his record serve has been timed at 155mph — the cut-off speed for a number of performance cars. His serve, measured at a record 153 at Queen's a year ago and extended a few months later, is brutal, a real monster — perhaps it should be roaming Grimpen Mire along with the Hound of the Baskervilles instead of creating havoc on these manicured lawns. He is also the owner of a devastating forehand. But is it enough?

A has been?

No one would want his race to be run when he is only 22 but there are some who feel that Roddick might struggle to win another slam after his US title two years ago. Where will the next one come from? He will never be Nadal's equal on clay and on grass Roger Federer appears to enjoy a nonchalant superiority. Then there is Lleyton Hewitt, and Marat Safin, the winner of the Australian Open at the start of the year, is another huge if inconsistent talent.

Federer, though, remains the main man. When Bettina Bunge was asked what she had learned from a number of quick defeats by Martina Navratilova she replied "How to shake hands" and most of Federer's opponents, Roddick included, have felt the same way in the past year or two.

"There are no second acts in American lives," F. Scott Fitzgerald once observed, and there are some who think Roddick might already have had his strut on centre stage. The sense that he might already be glancing in life's rear-view mirror must have entered his intelligent mind but he is not letting on. "I find that talk humorous," he said, almost convincingly.

"People can't call me a one-slam wonder because I've been pretty consistent and finished No. 2 last year. It's not as if I've tumbled to 20. I can't remember a time when you've had four young guys who have all been No. 1 and all won slams. Then you throw in Nadal and Guillermo Coria and, wow, the top 10 is looking really deep right now.

Federer the favourite

"Roger has to be a clear-cut favourite for Wimbledon because he hasn't lost on grass for two years. He's the best player I've ever seen, though I didn't play Pete [Sampras] when he was at his peak. What Roger has done in tennis is very similar to what Tiger Woods has done in golf. Tiger was dominant but Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson all became better players. There's a direct correlation. We're all pushing each other to get better." He revealed something of his concerns when he added: "My goal is to win at least another slam." Only one? The Fed could well win three or four more titles at Wimbledon alone.

It is the thought of winning at the All England Club that consumes Roddick these days. "I'm hitting the ball better than I did last year. And I'm more professional with my fitness and preparation these days. But I have to do better on the return to put pressure on the server.

"I badly wanted to win the US because I had been going there since I was a kid and it was my home Grand Slam. But if I had to choose one tournament to win now it would be Wimbledon.

"It can be won from the back of the court and Lleyton and Andre have given us two recent examples. And the courts are slower than they were. Apart from the top seeds I think that Tim Henman and Sébastien Grosjean could be dangerous. But this is the one I really want. I love the tradition of the place, the way it's been around forever. And the coverage it gets in England is great. In the States it comes in sixth or seventh as far as sport goes."

Being obsessive about winning Wimbledon, however, is not enough. It was not enough for the stylish and dapper Ken Rosewall, the ironically nicknamed `Muscles', whose four final defeats here were spread over 20 years.

Lendl's Waterloo

Nor did it bring triumph for the robotic Ivan Lendl, a man who so craved a more human persona that it was once alleged he underwent surgery to remove the bolts from his neck; Lendl was beaten five times in the semifinals and twice in the final.

Roddick has no special plans for Federer, who also beat him in the 2003 semifinals. "Last year I won the first set and was a break up in the third. It will be more of the same if we meet again. He's not going to go away. I will have to take the game to him."

The pressure on Roddick has been immense. As Sampras and Andre Agassi faded from the scene he emerged as the new champion of American tennis and there has been little in the way of support.

In Paris the United States did not have a single male player in the last 32 for the second successive year, equalling their worst showing in a Grand Slam in the Open era.

06-11-2005, 08:05 PM
A fascinating fortnight on clay
Serve & Volley

Naresh Kumar

It was sad to see Mary’s great effort end in a cloudburst of tears
The testing red clay at Roland Garros scripted a fascinating fortnight at the French Open. The fall of Roger Fererer and the birth of a new star, 19-year-old left-handed Spaniard Rafael Nadal, created a stir in the tennis world. Nadal, the new champion, brought a delightful freshness to the championships.

Bursting with youthful energy in his colourful sleeveless shirt, calf length shorts and a white bandanna keeping his long hair in place, he played his matches with a halogen intensity. His speed of foot, enthusiasm and fighting spirit was beyond belief. On the slow clay courts nothing seemed to be beyond his reach. This omnipotence forced his opponents into error as they went for more on their shots.

When Nadal leapt in the air with a ‘scissors jump’ after an impossible set, it seemed to be more full of joy than triumph. In today’s world of rock hard professionals, where giving a centimetre is unheard of, Nadal corrected two bad calls and gave the points to Puerta in the final. How refreshing.

Nadal employs an extreme western grip and imparts a prodigious amount of topspin on his forehand. A deep shot pushes the receiver further back from the baseline, forcing him to play his ground shots awkwardly at shoulder level. For the volleyer the excess spin makes it difficult to control the volley and read the trajectory of Nadal’s shots.

All things put together, Nadal has an impregnable game on clay, as Federer found to his dismay. Till the semi-finals, Federer was like a flag-ship in full sail, effortlessly gliding past the rowboat talents of the earlier rounds. He seemed unprepared for the turbulent impact of Nadal’s gale force onslaught and fell without any semblance of a fight.

Nadal now hold a two matches-to-one edge over Federer. Fererer’s invincible image has been badly shaken. Even in earlier tournaments he has been under pressure, winning by slim tie-breaker margins and the pack is now hot on his heels.

There were other facets of the Open which put it in a special category. Two of the four finalists in the men’s and women’s singles fell one match short of fairytale endings.

Unseeded Mariano Puerta’s performance became a symbol of hope for those struggling in the lower echelons of the game. Branded a drug cheat for taking clenbuterol, a medication for asthma which also promotes muscle growth, and suspended for nine months he came back from a ranking of 400 to the final of a Grand Slam! He fought and fought and fought through his matches and came through against what seemed to be insurmountable odds.

Against Nadal in the final, despite an injured thigh strapped by a trainer in the fifth game of the first set, he just refused to give in. Three set points in the fourth set which Puerta could not clinch would have taken Nadal to the brink and forced him into a final set. It was a heroic performance deserving the highest praise.

Mary Pierce, a 30-year-old six feet statuesque blonde, born in Canada, based in the US and playing under the French flag, won the French open in 2000. Her unbelievable comeback was only one step short of the 2005 title. Her emotional frailty reasserted itself in the final and it was sad to see Mary’s great effort end in a cloudburst of tears. The crowd chanted ‘Allez Mary’ ‘Allez Mary’, but she had nothing more to give.

Yet another fairytale, but with a happier ending was the comeback of Justine Henin-Hardenne. “Impossible is nothing” is reported to be her mantra. Confined to bed with a virus for 10 months last year and then hit by knee and back problems with a dicey sciatic nerve thrown in for good measure, she triumphs in spectacular fashion.

Now 23 years of age her great heart and determination is reflected in her statement when talking about her late mother who died of cancer about 11 years ago. “The really hard times in my life made me stronger. Losing my mother so early changed my personality, but made me a more determined person.”

Henin-Hardenne maybe small in height and built looking frail as compared to the Amazons in the women’s game, but her mental strength, fighting heart and focus are equalled by none. She is as tough as nails. All the shots are there, spearheaded by a peerless single-handed backhand down the line. She is fearless, and goes for her shots even when she is under great pressure. If she can totally get over the effects of the virus, many more Grand Slam titles are in store for her.

The women’s game is in a shambles. Serena Williams is injured, sister Venus lost to 15-year-old Bulgarian Sesil Karatantcheva, last year’s champion Anastasia Myskina of Russia has lost form due to her mother’s serious illness, Kim Clijsters is patched up and back but has been advised to be careful about her repaired knee ligaments and Lindsay Davenport folded like an accordion against Mary Pierce, and the most spectacular thing third-seeded Amelie Mauresmo did was ride to Roland Garros on her Harley Davidson motorcycle. She lost to 17-year-old Ana Ivanovic from Belgrade in the round of 16.

The Russians faded out and the women’s semi-finals were poor, one-sided matches. The final was a 6-1, 6-1 washout in record time as Henin-Hardenne ‘slammed the door’ on Mary Pierce.

In sharp contrast, the men’s matches were of an amazing standard, bitterly contested with many breathtaking rallies.

The game on clay is now dominated by Spain, Argentina and the Russians with a lone interloper. The US are nowhere in the picture and no exciting talent was spotted in the tournament. Roddick seeded No. 2, like the illustrious Pete Sampras, is just not used to long, teasing, testing rallies of more than three to four shots. The American psyche demands instant shootouts, while on clay courts rallies are long and the points have to be patiently constructed.

For Andre Agassi, now 35 years of age, who can play well on any surface, the parole is over and Father Time has him in custody.

We live in an age of specialisation. The levels of skill are sky high. Different surfaces require a different variety of shots, different techniques and different attitudes. It is most unlikely that we will ever again see a champion who can win all four Grand Slams.

Nadal, with his extreme western grip, will find it difficult to tackle the low bounce on Wimbledon’s grass, and the fast court will make it impossible to retrieve shots which he would on slow clay. Also, it will be difficult to hit passing. But, with practically no serve and volleyers around, he may be able to adjust if he does not lose early.

Looking beyond the forehands and backhands and the do-or-die attitude of the competitors one comes across the most attractive of sporting qualities. The fightback from the depths of despair with a never-say-die attitude. This tournament had an abundance of bravehearts with great fighting spirit. Henin-Hardenne put it beautifully when she said “Impossible is nothing”. This is the magic mantra of success and life.

06-11-2005, 08:08 PM

''Beach tennis'' joins the sand competition this weekend
By JASON SKOG, The Virginian-Pilot
© June 11, 2005

VIRGINIA BEACH — The very name seems to defy logic, an oxymoron on the order of ice fishing or water polo.

But the arrival of beach tennis here this weekend puts Virginia Beach at the vanguard of a game that only officially arrived in the United States last month, in Charleston, S.C.

Though beach tennis players will account for only a small portion of the competitors at this weekend’s North American Sand Soccer Championships, the nation’s newest summer sport could draw some of the most curious spectators.

After all, how do you play tennis in the sand?

For starters, there are no Pete Sampras serves or Venus Williams volleys. The game is more a hybrid of badminton and beach volleyball .

The playing area is the same as a standard beach volleyball court. The net is about 6 feet high, and the equipment is a traditional tennis racquet and ball that is not pressurized, making it a bit less lively.

Scoring is the same as tennis, but there’s no deuce point. Matches last about 30 minutes. The winner is the first to take eight games, instead of the normal six.

Serves are overhand, smashes at the net are frequent, and the ball is dead as soon as it hits the ground, as in badminton. But the soft sand invites all sorts of diving and rolling that the hard-court variety discourages.

“That’s the thing I love,” said Erik Oberhammer, a 40-year-old tennis pro from Myrtle Beach , S.C. “When I’m playing beach tennis, I feel like I’m 19.”

Oberhammer is so smitten with the sport, which he discovered just a few months ago, that he recently got married on a beach tennis court in Myrtle Beach . At the end of the ceremony, fellow players created an archway of racquets above the departing newlyweds.

He’s making the eight-hour drive to Virginia Beach this weekend to play just one day of the two-day event.

“The game is just a blast,” Oberhammer said. “I believe in the sport a whole lot and I want to help the sport grow.”

Phil Whitesell, 34, and Chris Henderson, 33, both of Charleston, won last weekend’s tournament in Myrtle Beach.

“It’s a hacker’s game,” Whitesell said. “People who may not be very good tennis players can pick this game up very well.”

Whitesell, a college tennis coach, played beach tennis once before entering the tournament.

His tennis career at Southern Cal and a brief stint on the pro tennis tour served him well. On the beach, he was immediately drawn to the action and the athleticism.

“It’s got a little of everything,” Whitesell said. “It’s got your touch, it’s got power, and talk about a great workout.”

Tracing the precise lineage of beach tennis is tricky, but it has origins in South America, Holland and Italy . Marc Altheim, Beach Tennis USA’s commissioner and founder, discovered the sport in 2003 while vacationing in Aruba. He was so fond of it, he brought the sport to the United States and founded a governing body, the National Beach Tennis Association.

The inaugural Beach Tennis USA tour kicked off in Charleston last month and is now making its way up the coast, culminating in a championship tournament in August in Long Beach, N.Y.

The beach tennis tournament is free and open to the public. There will be open play from 11 a.m. to 6p.m. today. Tournament play begins Sunday with noon registration and a 1 p.m. start.

06-13-2005, 10:08 PM
Stella Artois championship

Roddick blasts to victory in battle of the big hitters

Explosive American in confident mood for championship

Stephen Bierley at Queen's
Monday June 13, 2005
The Guardian

It was a tall story and one that most at the Stella Artois championship final, or any other final for that matter, will not want repeating in a hurry. Ivo Karlovic, 6ft 10in and 16 aces, lost to Andy Roddick, 6ft 2in and 10 aces, by two tie-breaks to none in 1hr 20min of something masquerading as lawn tennis. Forlorn tennis, more like.
The mind went back to the 1994 Wimbledon final, the most arid in the Open era, when Pete Sampras beat another Croatian, Goran Ivanisevic, 7-6, 7-6, 6-0 and the rally was pronounced dead and buried.

Over the last decade the tennis authorities have done much to put a brake on the game and there are those, Tim Henman notably, who believe Wimbledon has become too slow. But there is not much anybody can do when two huge servers like Roddick and Karlovic collide in the tennis universe, leaving the spectators in a black hole.

"It's probably going to be a bit boring to watch," said Roddick after defeating the Czech Radek Stepanek on Saturday. He was not wrong. Neither man could be blamed; it was simply that the lack of contrast and the lack of rallies constricted the interest to the ratta-tat-tat of the tie-breaks. At one changeover Roddick overheard a couple of photographers muttering about the lack of rallies. "I'm trying, you know," the American intervened.

On the positive side this 7-6, 7-6 victory was Roddick's third successive Queen's title, equalling Lleyton Hewitt hat-trick (2000-02), and with every prospect next year of tying the four consecutive titles of John McEnroe (1978-81). Not that his three Stella Artois titles will really mean much more than an ace to Roddick unless he, too, can become the Wimbledon champion, having been runner-up to Roger Federer last year. Across the water yesterday Federer was winning his third consecutive title at Halle against Russia's Marat Safin and that may prove to be the more significant result.

Roddick injured his wrist at the Masters Series event at Key Biscayne in March and during the couple of weeks of enforced absence worked immensely hard on his physical fitness. He has bulked up considerably and although he again had a disappointing European clay-court season he will now go through the All England gates with his confidence high.

For a set and half, until the rain delay, he had rocked Federer back on his heels in last year's Wimbledon final. There is a feeling in the Roddick camp that the Swiss world No1, who has lost semi-finals in the Australian and French Opens this year, may be a little vulnerable. Mind you, they used to say the same of Pete Sampras.

Karlovic had arrived in Britain on the back of eight consecutive first-round defeats, cheering himself up a little with a small clutch of victories at Surbiton. If ever a player was made for the grass-court season it is this huge Croat beside whom Roddick appeared positively short. "There were a couple of times that I guessed the right way on his serve and still missed the ball by a few feet," said Roddick.

Such is his height that Karlovic, ranked outside the world's top 50, can make the ball rear up above the receiver's head. Two years ago, on Wimbledon's Centre Court, he took Hewitt, the reigning champion, completely by surprise in the first round and beat him again here this week. No one will want to meet this most dangerous of floaters in the first week. He is unlikely to ever win the title but he can ruin the chances of many others.

Not that he is all crash and bash. At the net, where his reach is telescopic, Karlovic can play with the most delicate of touches, although missed volleys in his first service game gave Roddick three break points, the only ones of the entire final, for a 2-0 lead. All went begging and thereafter Roddick was left chasing scraps until 6-6.

Roddick's backhand has improved even though it remains an awkward-looking shot and it gave him the early edge as he opened up a 4-1 lead in the tie-break. Unusually a forehand error enabled Karlovic to eventually level at 6-6 until another volleying error saw the American world No4 edge back into the lead, one that this time he did not relinquish.

The second set followed the inevitable path and pounding rhythm, broken momentarily when an awkward Karlovic shot caught Roddick somewhere close to a tender area. When asked if he was OK, Roddick replied "fine" in a very high-pitched voice.

With sombre clouds rolling in from the west the second tie-break began with Roddick pinging home a backhand cross-court winner, followed by two aces for a 3-0 lead. And that, mercifully, was pretty much the end of matters.

"I've had a good look at a lot of different styles of play this week and had some good preparation going into Wimbledon," said Roddick, although nothing may prepare him sufficiently for Federer at his best.


06-13-2005, 10:11 PM
On grass, Federer has it cut and dried
By Richard Hinds in London
June 14, 2005

There had been much talk after Rafael Nadal's French Open victory about the ascendance of some of the game's great new talents, and even about the supposed vulnerability of the world No.1, Roger Federer, who had failed to win either of the year's first two grand slam titles.

However, less than a week before Wimbledon, things are extremely familiar - Federer almost impossible to beat, Andy Roddick the best chance to cause an upset.

Both completed their competitive build-ups at the weekend with tournament hat-tricks. Federer beat his Australian Open conqueror, Marat Safin, 6-4, 6-7 (6-8), 6-4, in the Gerry Weber Open final in Halle, Germany. Roddick survived the battle of the sluggers, beating giant Croatian Ivo Karlovic 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (7-4), at the Stella Artois Championships.

Despite dropping a set in the final, there was little during Federer's run to a third consecutive Halle title to suggest he will be any more vulnerable at Wimbledon than he has in the past two years. "This is definitely how you want to feel just before Wimbledon," said Federer. "It's good, I'm happy that I'm already on such a good level so early. I'm surprised about myself again, because I came here to Halle and after a few matches I'm already feeling great."

The Swiss has won his past 29 matches on grass and his past 20 finals on all surfaces - seven this year alone - a run that stretches back to July 2003 when he was beaten by Jiri Novak in the final of the Swiss Open at Gstaad.

If those figures are daunting, Roddick has also put together some sweet numbers. He is, after John McEnroe and Lleyton Hewitt, the third man in the modern era to win the Stella Artois Championships three times in a row.

Roddick finished the job with a predictably crash-bang victory against the power-serving Karlovic. "I'm happy - and I'm even happier that I got some good preparation before Wimbledon," said Roddick, whose only two defeats on grass in the past two years have been to Federer at Wimbledon.

Despite his stranglehold on grass - and an 8-1 lifetime record against the American - Federer still rates Roddick his toughest threat. "I would say so, perhaps together with Hewitt," he said. "But you've got to take care because there are some other dangerous, hard-serving players around. I think the seeds are happy that it's [played] over five sets sometimes."

While two grand slam defeats this year for Federer, both in the semi-finals, might raise the hopes of those in the pursuing pack, three-times Wimbledon champion McEnroe did little to boost their confidence.

"I could see [Federer] not playing his best and winning," he says. "That's how much better he is on this surface … I thought Andy played the best match I ever saw him play last year in the final, and Roger didn't play his best, and Roger still won. So that just shows you how good he is."

McEnroe says Federer's opponents should take note of the way Nadal beat Federer in their French Open semi-final. "The way to beat a great player is - and I don't think I could match him, his game - but you just play with as much intensity as possible," he said. "If a guy feels that you really want it really badly, I think that at least levels the playing field a little bit.

"That's why Nadal is so tough right now, because he plays every point hard and he seems completely fearless and he looks like he really loves the competition. It's the beauty of being young - he doesn't know better yet. So that would be my best bet, just trying to sort of impose your will, because his game is awesome."

McEnroe compares beating Federer on grass to trying to topple Pete Sampras. He had predicted Federer will win at least five Wimbledon titles - Sampras won seven - and might even threaten the American's record 14 grand slam singles titles.

06-13-2005, 10:14 PM
Last chance for Tim Henman?
By CNN's Candy Reid
Monday, June 13, 2005

(CNN) -- Not many are backing Tim Henman for the men's Wimbledon crown this year but will the Briton spring a surprise and become the first British male to win at the All England Club for 69 years?

Well this could be his last realistic chance -- at 30, Henman is no spring chicken in the tennis world.

But he has a pretty impressive record at the grass-court Grand-Slam, having reached the semi-finals four times, and of course he'll have the majority of the crowd on his side as "Henmania" hits SW19!

Greg Rusedski and Andrew Murray will also be flying the British flag -- however neither is expected to reach the second week, so the pressure falls squarely on Henman's shoulders once again, and perhaps that's why he hasn't lifted the trophy yet.

However, the British number one should be used to the expectation by now and maybe; just maybe, it will spur him on to fulfill a dream ambition.

In order to go all the way, Henman will want to avoid Roger Federer and Andy Roddick, who both won Wimbledon warm-up tournaments on Sunday.

Federer captured the Halle title for the third straight time -- an ominous warning for the rest of Wimbledon field as every time the Swiss has won in Germany, he's gone on to win at the All England Club.

Roddick, meanwhile, claimed the Queen's club title in London for the third successive time with a tough straight sets victory over Croatian Ivo Karlovic; and is in the kind of form that could see him go one step further than last year at SW19, when he lost to Federer in the final.

Unseeded Karlovic will be what is called a "dangerous floater."

The 6' 10" Croat has an enormous serve and a great first volley to back it up with; and is capable of reaching the second week.

He certainly has Lleyton Hewitt's number after beating the world number two for the second time in London last week. His first win over Hewitt came in the opening round of the 2003 Wimbledon Championship when the Aussie was attempting to defend his crown.

Could Karlovic follow in Goran Ivanisevic's footsteps and win all 7 matches; will Henman finally achieve what many consider to be his destiny; can Roddick finally grab hold of the Wimbledon trophy after several near misses; or will Federer move closer to Pete Sampras's All England record?

We'll know on July 3 -- enjoy the Championships!

06-14-2005, 10:35 PM
Federer looks to close in on Sampras and Borg
By Scott Riley, Tennis Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - When Wimbledon 2005 commences next week, all eyes will be on the great Roger Federer, who's looking to become the first three-peat champion on the storied grass since the legendary Pete Sampras.

The amazing Federer will head to the All England Club sporting a seemingly- unstoppable 29-match grass-court winning streak. He's fresh off his third straight Halle championship and hasn't dropped a match at Wimbledon since getting stunned by Mario Ancic in the first round there in 2002.

Federer's won his last 14 matches at the Big W, where he's 18-4 since making his first appearance in 1999.

By titling at last week's Gerry Weber Open, Federer moved his incredible finals winning streak to 20, as he held off Marat Safin in three sets to avenge his loss against the big Russian in the Australian Open semis back in January.

The world No. 1 Federer (an awesome 51-3 this year) leads the 2005 ATP Race and also owns a tour-best seven titles this season.

The last three-peat winner at Wimbledon was Sampras, who nailed down four straight championships from 1997-2000 and secured three straight crowns from 1993-95. Big Dutchman Richard Krajicek won the sport's most prestigious event in 1996, otherwise Pistol Pete may very well have run off eight in a row.

As it turns out, the iconic Bjorn Borg still holds the Open Era record with his five straight titles from 1976-80, while William Renshaw holds the all- time mark of six in a row, from 1881-86.

Is Federer on his way to that kind of run?

"I feel confident, but there can always be a tough draw, there can always be a shock loss in the first round," the reigning U.S. Open and two-time Wimbledon champion Federer said. "I don't really think about it, that's what I was more concerned about last year defending my first time Wimbledon title. Now it's easier for me to deal with the situation than last year."

Can anyone beat the sweet-swingin' Swiss at Wimbledon over the next few weeks?

I doubt it.

Several men can play well on the fast grass surface, but only a handful figure to seriously challenge the sublime Swiss at SW19.

Former champion Lleyton Hewitt, last year's runner-up to Federer Andy Roddick and Safin could pose a threat to the Swiss. Hewitt captured the event in 2002, Roddick pushed Federer in last year's finale, and appeared to even have the edge before a rain delay, and Safin gave the elegant star everything he could handle on the grass in Halle last week, falling in a tough three-setter.

The two-time Grand Slam titlist and former No. 1 Hewitt has played very little tennis over the past couple months, but the fiery Aussie is a contender in any tournament he enters, as long as he doesn't have to face Ivo Karlovic. The 6- foot-10 Croat shocked Hewitt in the opening round at Wimbledon 2003 when the Aussie was the defending champion and stunned the speedy star again in a quarterfinal bout in London last week.

Does Hewitt have an answer for Federer? Forget that. Does Hewitt have an answer for Karlovic?

The world No. 2 Hewitt was this year's Aussie Open runner-up to Safin and last year's U.S. Open runner-up to Federer.

The former U.S. Open champion and former world No. 1 Roddick is fresh off his third straight Stella Artois championship, having beaten the giant Karlovic in last week's finale at The Queen's Club.

Roddick on grass with a 150-something-mph serve? He's definitely in the mix.

The hard-hitting American, however, is a laughable 1-8 lifetime against Federer, including last year's loss in the Wimby final and a semifinal setback at the AEC in 2003.

The Aussie Open titlist Safin has struggled for a majority of 2005, but the mercurial star is 10-1 at the Slams this year and looked good on the grass at Gerry Weber Stadium last week.

French Open champion Rafael Nadal is an impressive 2-1 lifetime against Federer, but the aggressive Spaniard is all but allergic to grass-court tennis. He topped Federer in the semis at Roland Garros two weeks ago, but followed up his title-winning performance in Paris with a first-round loss against German doubles specialist Alexander Waske in Halle last week. In all fairness to Nadal, he headed to Halle nursing injuries and was exhausted after playing a ton of clay-court tennis over the past few months.

The Spanish sensation erased Argentina's Mariano Puerta in the all-lefty Roland Garros final two weeks ago.

Can favorite son Tim Henman give the home fans their first male Wimby champion since Fred Perry way back in 1936? Of course not! "Our Tim" has reached four Wimbledon semifinals, but his last one came in 2002, and this guy just can't win seven straight matches at a major.

Expect more disappointment out on "Henman Hill."

Andre Agassi will not be on hand, as he announced his withdrawal for a second straight year due to injury. The American superstar was slowed by a hip problem at the French Open a few weeks ago and promptly bowed out against Finn Jarkko Nieminen in the opening round in Paris.

Agassi captured the first of his eight Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon back in 1992 and was the AEC runner-up to his long-time rival Sampras in 1999.

Who are the darkhorses in the men's draw you say? How about big-serving Croats like Karlovic, Ivan Ljubicic and Ancic and always-dangerous Frenchman Sebastien Grosjean. Ljubicic has been solid when the surface isn't clay this year, while Ancic reached the Wimbledon semis a year ago and Grosjean has appeared in the last two final fours at the AEC.

Massive-serving Swede Joachim Johansson and 2002 runner-up David Nalbandian could also surprise.

FYI, Federer and rising Russian Nikolay Davydenko are the only men to reach the quarterfinals at this year's first two majors. Davydenko is 9-2 in his Grand Slam activity this year, but don't expect much from the Russian at the Big W, where he's failed to win a match in three trips.

Davydenko is currently third in the ATP Race, behind only Federer and the 19- year-old Nadal.

Following the withdrawal of Agassi, there will be only two former champions in the men's field -- Federer and Hewitt.

On the women's side, the field is deeper than ever and several women appear to have a chance, led by defending champ Maria Sharapova, Lindsay Davenport and red-hot French Open winner Justine Henin-Hardenne.

Sharapova is 17-0 on grass over the last two years, including her big upset victory over Serena Williams in last year's Wimbledon final. The Russian teen is also fresh off her second straight title in Birmingham after beating promising Serb Jelena Jankovic in last week's finale at the DFS Classic.

Davenport is still ranked No. 1 in the world, but she lost to Serena in January's Aussie Open final and gave way to a resurgent Mary Pierce in the French Open quarters two weeks ago.

Davenport is a three-time Grand Slam champ, but hasn't secured a piece of major singles hardware since the 2000 Aussie Open. She nailed down a Wimbledon title in 1999 and was the 2000 runner-up to Venus Williams.

The former world No. 1 Henin-Hardenne has her eyes set on the top-ranking once again. The four-time major champion is currently riding a 24-match winning streak, all on clay, and reached the Wimbledon final in 2001. The 2004 Olympic gold medalist needs Wimby to complete a career Golden Slam.

Henin-Hardenne is a sizzling 27-1 overall this year, with her only loss coming at the hands of Sharapova in Miami.

Hein-Hardenne's fellow former world No. 1 Belgian Kim Clijsters should also figure into the '05 Wimbledon equation, as the athletic star can perform on any surface and is a four-time Grand Slam runner-up.

Serena and Amelie Mauresmo will also be among the favorites to go deep into the second week at the AEC, as Serena has competed in the last three finals there, including wins over her big sister Venus in the 2002 and 2003 title matches. Sharapova stunned Serena in straight sets in last year's popular final.

Serena, however, will head into her beloved Wimbledon having played very little tennis over the last two months. The American superstar has been slowed by an ankle injury and hasn't captured an event of any kind since besting Davenport in January's all-American final in Melbourne.

Since the Aussie Open five months ago, Serena has played in a mere five tournaments, going 8-4, without reaching a final.

Mauresmo is always a threat to win something, but who's kidding who, if she can find a way to choke in the big match, she'll do just that (third-round loss against Ana Ivanovic at Roland Garros?).

Venus is a four-time major champion, including a pair of back-to-back Wimbledon crowns in 2000 and 2001, but it would appear as though her best tennis is in the rear-view mirror. She failed to get past the fourth round at the year's first two Slams, including a lackluster third-round loss against 15-year-old Bulgarian Sesil Karatantcheva at the recently-concluded French.

Are there any darkhorses among the women?

Kind of.

U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and U.S. Open runner-up Elena Dementieva certainly are capable sluggers, as are the Roland Garros runner-up Pierce and big-serving Aussie Alicia Molik, who also boasts a big-time forehand. Molik, however, has been slowed by an inner-ear infection in recent weeks and has played sparingly heading into Wimby.

Five former Wimbledon champs will be on hand among the ladies -- Sharapova, Serena, Venus, Davenport and Conchita Martinez (1994).

Obviously I like Federer among the men, and I like Sharapova to repeat on the ladies' side.

Is Federer the best to ever play the game? Another Wimbledon title would surely fire up that kind of talk again. And don't forget he's still only 23 years old and already owns four major titles and a pair of coveted Masters Cups.

Federer won three of the four majors a year ago, but is still seeking his first Grand Slam win (not to mention trip to a major final) of 2005.

06-14-2005, 10:43 PM
Q&A: John McEnroe on Wimbledon

Tennis legend John McEnroe was on hand to answer your questions about Wimbledon.
The three-time Wimbledon winner took time out from the Delta Tour of Champions to chat to BBC Sport.

The American, who now excels as a commentator on BBC television, is one of the star attractions on the Delta Tour of Champions, which culminates in The Masters at London's Royal Albert Hall (November 29 - December 4).

Thanks for all your questions - John answered a selection below.

John McEnroe answers more of your questions

What is the atmosphere like playing and then winning at Wimbledon's centre court?
Liam, UK

There's a quiet there that's incomparable. There's a beauty to the court and a tradition that you sense, a 'feel' that you learn more about every year. You hear about it from other players but you also sense it when you're out there.

The way that the tournament is presented on that surface means that every shot matters more than it does on a clay court where it's a different mentality. The precision of playing at Wimbledon is something that I have always liked.

You feel that the crowd is just the right size, and they know the game. In the earlier days they had the standing-room only sections where you felt that people had waited a week just to get in there, so there was an 'energy'.

That combination of factors made it feel like you were at the 'place to be' - the hallowed ground of the sport.

I don't think anyone in the history of tennis could have beaten you on the day you destroyed Jimmy Connors in straight sets in the 1984 Wimbledon final. Do you agree?
Shahid Nazir, England

You are obviously a very smart person!

I would love to have played the best guys that day because the ball seemed three times as big as it normally did, and everything was just right. You don't have many days like that, so when you do, you make the most of it.

Jimmy was one of the great players and I passed that test with flying colours, but the ultimate grass court players like Sampras and Becker were the players I would have liked to match up against to see how I would have done.

I think it would have been very difficult and that I wouldn't have won a lot of the matches, but I would have been in there.

I would have had a chance to beat them - maybe I would have got under Pete's skin a little and played with the emotion that Boris played with. It would have been quite exciting!

John, if you and Federer faced each other at your respective peaks who would win?
Matthew Wegner, London

It would have been very difficult to play against Federer but at the same time I would have kept coming at him.

I think that way I could have been able to compete at some times. I mean these guys are a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger, they hit the ball a bit harder than I did, so that's automatically a strike or two against me, but I feel I played with more fire than either Federer or Sampras, and that would have won me some matches, but I would have had a hard time winning even half of them!

Are you surprised at how Tim Henman is viewed by so many people in Britain - ie as a loser? Do you think he will be appreciated more when he retires?
Simon, UK

I think that he's in a difficult position because he's a guy that understands his place and realises that he's not at the same level as some of these other players.

He also appreciates the expectations at Wimbledon and what it would mean to win, so he has that on his shoulders. His natural game is also suited to Wimbledon so there's an expectation from him, those around him and everyone else.

I think he's done about as well as he could have hoped for - if he'd got a little luckier against Ivanisevic he could have won that match - he was only a couple of points away, and he's had to contend with Pete Sampras.

Sampras on grass is probably the all-time great player, so Henman's got nothing to be ashamed of. I think the view that he hasn't done well is not fair, but at the same time he's not a player that feels comfortable using the crowd, so no-one's sure how to approach it.

Everyone at Wimbledon is on pins-and-needles when he plays. It's become a scenario where it's hard for anyone to enjoy it, including him, which is too bad.

As a player you told us how you disliked the fact that at Wimbledon the officials were afforded greater respect than the players. Do you think that that the English establishment has now embraced change for the benefit of the Championships?
Ian S, Britain

Umpires seem to be awake more than they used to be when I was playing - they used to take a nap during the matches.

What's changed for the better is that the people running Wimbledon have become more aware of the players' needs and want it to be a players' tournament rather than their tournament that the players play in.

That's why they have gone to such lengths to listen to the players' concerns, make changes and improve things. There¿s never going to be a situation where the officiating at Wimbledon is great, and I hate to defend umpires, but things happen so fast with such speed that it's impossible to get it right every time.

Generally I think people think it's being run at a level that the players are much more comfortable with.

What is the most memorable match you have ever watched as a spectator?
Heidi, England

The most memorable match for me was watching the Ivanisevic v Rafter match at Wimbledon.

The way the crowd was, and the circumstances surrounding it - Henman had been so close, and there was the question about how the crowd was going to react after that, Ivanisevic hadn't won one, and Rafter hadn't won Wimbledon and was realising that it was his last chance at a big major.

People in Australia have always loved tennis and then you combine that with the fanaticisms of a new country like Croatia and all that combined with the fact that it was played on a day that it wasn't supposed to be played - it brought a different energy to the occasion because people who wouldn't normally be watching at Wimbledon were there.

The energy levels that day were higher than any other that I'd ever been a part of.

It had atmosphere like they have in soccer games in England - I see that and wish we had that more in tennis. I was proud to just be part of that match, to watch and commentate on it.

06-14-2005, 10:45 PM
Mixed feelings for Krajicek
From correspondents in London
June 14, 2005

FORMER Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek is to play at this year's championships but only in the mixed doubles with his 16-year-old sister Michaella.

The big Dutchman easily won the 1996 title and the predictions were for him to rival Pete Sampras on the All-England grasscourts in the years to some.

But troublesome shoulder and elbow injuries got in the way and he eventually retired from the sport in 2003.

The 34-year-old Krajicek said he still had pains in his arm but he agreed to a wish of his father Petr to play at Wimbledon with his sister.

"This is not a comeback. I can still serve of course, but after a couple of sets you feel the arm," he said.

"It's an honour of course," said Michaella, who was one of the top juniors in the world last year and who is currently ranked 99th on the WTA circuit.

"There are some difficult couples in there. But in any case, it's a dream come true."

06-14-2005, 10:47 PM
Agassi out for a second year

Stephen Bierley
Wednesday June 15, 2005
The Guardian

Andre Agassi, for the second successive year, pulled out of Wimbledon yesterday because of injury. It now seems likely that the 35-year-old American, who won the title for the only time in 1992, will not play at the All England club again.

Agassi was beaten by Jarkko Nieminen of Finland in the first round of this year's French Open, where he suffered the recurrence of a long-term injury. It was believed to be a hip complaint, but at Roland Garros Agassi revealed that the problem was inflammation of the sciatic nerve.

He had a cortisone injection in February that relieved the pain, but it gradually returned. After his defeat in Paris Agassi said that he had "every intention" of playing at Wimbledon.

The chances are that he will try to get himself fit for the US Open in August, with a real possibility that he will retire afterwards. The French Open was Agassi's 58th grand slam appearance, a record. In 1999, by winning the French Open, he joined Britain's Fred Perry, his fellow countryman Don Budge, and the Australian pair of Rod Laver and Roy Emerson as the only players to have won all four grand slam titles.

In the 1992 Wimbledon final he beat Goran Ivanisevic, spreadeagling himself on the grass he had initially so loathed. The crowd loved it, little considering it would be Agassi's one and only triumph at the All England club.

Apart from 1997 and last year, Agassi has played every Wimbledon since, but reached only one more final. In 1999 Pete Sampras crushed him 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 for the sixth of his seven Wimbledon titles - arguably his most inspired display on grass against his oldest and most dangerous of rivals.

06-14-2005, 10:51 PM
Australian influence is spread very thin
By Richard Hinds in London
June 15, 2005

There was a time when the Australian contingent at Wimbledon was so large that a healthy provision of Vegemite and Foster's in the players' lounge was compulsory. Now, so greatly has the Australian presence at the All England Club declined, a sachet of the breakfast spread and a six-pack could cater for the lot of them.

To date only three Australian men - Lleyton Hewitt, Wayne Arthurs and wildcard Mark Philippoussis - are confirmed starters for next week's championships. Scott Draper is the first alternate and will get a start in the event another player pulls out before Thursday's draw. Chris Guccione was the only one of three Australian men to survive the first round of qualifying and must win two more matches to make the tournament proper.

Of course, the declining number of Australians in mainstream events on the tour has been no great secret. Only Hewitt (2) and Arthurs (86) are ranked inside the top 100 in the world. And, in the absence of Hewitt and Philippoussis, just three Australian men played singles at the French Open.

The women's contingent at Wimbledon this year is no greater. Only four, Alicia Molik, Samantha Stosur, Nicole Pratt and Evie Dominikovic, are in the main draw and there were no other Australian women ranked high enough to enter the qualifying tournament.

It is a far cry from the days when Australian (and American) players would dominate the entry list at Wimbledon. Go back to the mid-1970s, even as Australia's so-called glory days of tennis were waning, and 20 or more Australian stars and journeymen would line up on the first two days at Wimbledon, revelling in familiar grasscourt conditions. Even a decade ago, Australia could muster a dozen or so players capable of making their way into the main draw.

Compared with the more competitive conditions that exist now, those numbers are slightly misleading. In bygone days, many of the European and South American players who held a ranking that would have qualified them for a start at Wimbledon sidestepped the tournament - adding to their annual withdrawals the customary comments about how grass was good only for cows.

These days not only are there more claycourters in the upper reaches of the game, more of them are taking their chances on grass - partly because they are being compelled to do so by more stringent regulations, partly because of slower conditions manufactured on the lawns, and partly because a lack of serve-volley players gives them a greater chance of success.

It has been argued by some, including former Australian tour player Terry Rocavert, that it is not necessarily the ability of young Australian players but the dearth of second-tier competition at home that is making it difficult for young Australian players to build their rankings and thus gain entry to tournaments.

But while measures are being taken to address the problem, Australia's paltry representation at Wimbledon remains a concern. Except for confused caterers no longer being pestered for a jar of Vegemite.


1968 Rod Laver beats Tony Roche in the first open final. Six Australians - Laver, Roche, John Newcombe, Ken Rosewall, Roy Emerson and Fred Stolle - make the last 16. Australians in main draw: 22.

1978 Bjorn Borg wins. Three Australians - John Alexander, Geoff Masters and John Newcombe - make the fourth round. Australians in main draw: 26.

1987 Pat Cash wins. Peter Doohan beats top seed Boris Becker in second round and makes last 16. Australians in main draw: 11.

1997 Pete Sampras wins. Todd Woodbridge reaches semi-finals. Pat Rafter and Mark Woodforde make the fourth round. Australians in main draw: 12.

06-14-2005, 10:58 PM

An enduring affection

Years ago as the excitable young girl skittered across the court towards her blond-haired God named Borg, the English television commentator was appalled, by both intrusion and attire. "This is sacrilege", he exclaimed, "she's wearing high heels".

At the All England Club, this was heresy. This is not any tennis event, this is The Championships. Disrobing spectators like in Australia are met with a cocked eyebrow of faint disapproval. Booing on centre court is like spitting in St. Paul's Cathedral. Sponsors like Slazenger remain from 1902 but their presence is wonderfully discreet.

This is a chaste tournament. So wear white, please. And, of course, in a traditional style. When Anne White once wore a rather fetching all-white bodysuit, she was politely asked to correct this wardrobe malfunction.

An enduring affection for Wimbledon remains precisely because of its image of quaint snobbishness, a sense that to be amidst those ivy-covered walls is to walk through history. In a time of endless gimmickry and crassness (starlets in spaghetti straps do cricket commentary) Wimbledon stands as some timeless guardian of an ancient sport and its fading values. Of course, tradition is not merely protected it is peddled, for this is Wimbledon's uniqueness, its selling point.

Wimbledon is a reminder of times gone by, but it is not always behind the times. Change is embraced, but only they will determine the pace. Now even bowing to royalty is deemed unnecessary. Of course, women's players are jarringly referred to as Miss and only they, and the French, retain the outdated idea of unequal prize money for the sexes.

Antiquated surface

But the one constant, and Wimbledon's most precious calling card, is its antiquated surface. Once three of four slams (the French excluded) were played on grass, and Wimbledon's exclusivity is both its allure and its challenge.

But even the All England Club cannot control the game's direction, and while grass still lives, its art is dying. In the powerful universities of baseline play, the volley is almost an unnecessary ornament; in the stylistic universe of the two-handed backhand, the sliced approach is almost extinct; in a time of lateral philosophies, forward movement is an idea mostly abandoned. Nowhere are we more cruelly reminded of the dismantling of the elegant ballet of serve and volley than here.

It is a tragedy of sorts for serve-volley has a dramatic tension to it, the volleyer poised like some alert athletic sentry, then exploding into creative action. Of course, baseliners, some having amputated their back swings, artfully defied convention to succeed on grass, like Borg, and Agassi, providing a contrast of styles that elevates sport as an artistic form.

Now the serve and volleyer has become the exception, most baseliners have Ph.d's in needlework and can thread passing shots through keyholes in a gale, and the reportedly slower grass has allowed the back court boys to treat the net with disdain. Sampras-Ivanisevic may have reduced tennis to monosyllaballic exchanges, but it was clearly more entertaining than the baseline bore Hewitt-Nalbandian produced in the 2002 final.

Hope flares

But hope still flares. Federer with his all-court grace has been Wimbledon's saviour, Roddick is known to approach the net without trembling, Hewitt can volley if in the mood, Henman has a sweet touch and Mark Philippoussis can be a menacing forecourt presence when his body isn't in rebellion.

In a way, of course, it does not matter, we will still watch, for this is Wimbledon. It's just that if the man at the end holding tennis' most celebrated trophy has played a volley or 40 on his journey, there will be a sweeter taste to it all.

06-16-2005, 10:20 PM
Henman: I'm a believer
By Mark Lawford, Metro
16 June 2005

Four semi-final defeats and four quarter-final defeats have not dimmed Tim Henman's desire to win Wimbledon. But the 30-year-old British No.1 now appreciates his days are numbered as a genuine challenger for the crown that has eluded him over the years.

Fully fit, he is still capable of beating the best but he admitted: 'The reality is I don't have an endless number of years for chances.

'It's a question I ask myself a lot and it's obviously a big talking point given the nature of the tournament being in the UK and me really being the only player right now.

'I've never hidden behind the fact this is the tournament I'd love to win the most but there are a number of years ahead as long as I stay fit and healthy. You've either got self-belief or you haven't.

'Why I believe in myself I don't know. But I do believe I'm pretty good at this game. I'm going to keep working hard, keep trying to do the right things.'

One of Henman's biggest gripes over the years has been the fact the courts are too slow for him, a fact that should change this year because Wimbledon officials have finally agreed to open new cans of balls on court - as opposed to up to ten days in advance - to keep them bouncy.

It's the first victory he hopes will put him on the road to becoming the first Briton to win the men's title since Fred Perry in 1936. And the fires of ambition burn brightly. 'I've got to keep working, got to keep trying to progress,' he said.

'People are entitled to their opinions and my career will be judged on whether I win Wimbledon or not.

'Can I control that? Do I agree with that? No to both questions but that's life. Plenty of things in life ain't fair.'

Only once in the past nine years - in 2000 when he exited in the fourth round - has Henman failed to make at least the last eight at the All England Club.

Had he not faced legendary American Pete Sampras in two of those semifinals and Lleyton Hewitt when he was at his peak in another, he would surely have reached at least one final.

And were it not for the rain in 2001 when he was blowing Goran Ivanisevic away in the last four, he would probably have his name engraved on the trophy already.

Now he just has to find a way past Roger Federer and Andy Roddick as well as French Open champion Rafael Nadal. As Henman said: 'Life ain't fair.'

06-16-2005, 10:21 PM
Federer takes aim at Sampras Wimbledon record

Wednesday, 15 June , 2005

London: Roger Federer, having endured another French Open heartbreaker, returns to more friendly Grand Slam surroundings next week bidding to take another step closer to smashing Pete Sampras's record of seven Wimbledon titles.

The world number one, the double defending champion at the All England Club, will start as overwhelming favourite to make it three-in-a-row with Sampras himself tipping the Swiss superstar.

"Roger is head and shoulders above the rest," said Sampras who won 14 Grand Slam titles before he quit three years ago.

The 23-year-old Federer has already claimed two Wimbledon titles as well as the Australian Open and US Open.

But he was denied a career Grand Slam by a shattering semi-final defeat at the French Open two weeks ago where Spanish teenager Rafael Nadal eased past him on his way to the title.

Federer is a lot more at home on grass and his third successive title at Halle at the weekend, where he defeated Marat Safin, gave him his 29th win-in-a-row on the surface, a run which has only served to boost his confidence even further as he chases a 30th career crown.

"I'm happy about the title in Halle, it's a kind of relief. Having dealt with the defeat in Paris so well, this was surprising for me," said Federer.

"I feel confident about Wimbledon, but there can always be a tough draw, there can always be a shock loss in the first round. I don't really think about it, that's what I was more concerned about last year defending my first time Wimbledon title.

"Now it's easier for me to deal with the situation."

Twelve months ago, Federer overcame a first set loss to see off Andy Roddick in the Wimbledon final but the American also warmed-up for the third Grand Slam of the season in style clinching a third successive Queen's Club title.

"I think I've learned, it's not every day you play your first Wimbledon final," said Roddick reflecting on the 2004 final.

"I hope I get back and get the opportunity to get another one. I think once you experience something, it takes away the fear of the unknown which is always there."

Safin, who inherited Federer's Australian Open title in January knocking the Swiss out in the semi-finals, has made no secret of his dislike for grass but he was a quarter-finalist here in 2001.

But the former world number one, and US Open winner, remains cautious about his chances especially after a first round loss to compatriot Dmitry Tursunov in 2004.

"I hope I have enough confidence going into Wimbledon in order to be able to continue on a high-level," said Russian.

"But it's always tough for a tall guy like me to move on grass. Most of the game now is played from the baseline, and that makes it so hard for tall players, because you have to move faster than on other surfaces."

Australia's Lleyton Hewitt, the champion in 2002, would normally be considered a threat but the former world number one has only just returned to the tour following a three-month absence due, first, to toe surgery and then broken ribs after a fall at home.

That ruled him out of the French Open which was won in memorable style by Nadal.

But the 19-year-old Spaniard, who made the third round on his only other Wimbledon visit in 2003, insists he will not be a threat.

"On grass, I can't challenge for the title but I will try and improve for Wimbledon," said Nadal.

That lack of confidence was illustrated by a first round exit at Halle.

As always, British nearly man Tim Henman, four-times a semi-finalist, will find his lone crusade to become the first home winner since Fred Perry in 1936, dominating hearts and minds.

Even approaching his 31st birthday, Henman refuses to accept his best chances are behind him.

"I will never get fed up about Wimbledon because it is the pinnacle of our game," said the Briton.

"The semis has been my best. I have got to try and improve on that, and that is the aim."

One man who will not be worrying Henman is 1992 champion Andre Agassi after the 35-year-old American joined claycourt specialists, and fellow former French Open winners, Carlos Moya, Albert Costa and Gaston Gaudio on the injured list.

06-16-2005, 10:24 PM

Former champion John McEnroe believes Roger Federer is virtually unbeatable as he prepares to defend his Wimbledon crown.

Federer is aiming for a hat-trick of titles at the All England Club when the third Grand Slam of the year gets under way on Monday.

And McEnroe, who also won three singles titles in SW19, believes even a sub-par Federer will be too good for the opposition.

"If he plays well, there's no way he's going to lose," McEnroe said of the world number one, whose unbeaten run on grass stretches to an incredible 29 matches.

"I could see him not playing his best and winning. That's how much better he is on this surface.

"When it gets to like hard courts, then you can throw other guys in the mix, like Marat Safin if he's hot, Rafael Nadal has come into the mix, and hopefully Andy Roddick is going to get back on the right track.

"But I thought Andy played the best match I ever saw him play last year in the final, and Roger didn't play his best, and Roger still won. That just shows you how good he is.

"It's like beating Pete Sampras. It's the same type of situation. It's really, really difficult if he's on his game. And last year he found a way even when he wasn't playing his best."

Sampras won Wimbledon seven times in the space of eight years, his one defeat in that period coming at the hands of eventual winner Richard Krajicek in 1996.

And McEnroe can see Federer enjoying a similar period of dominance, perhaps even equalling Sampras' record of 14 Grand Slam titles.

"When I saw him win the first one, I thought he'd win at least five," McEnroe added. "There's no reason for me to think otherwise at the moment.

"Even for Roger it's going to be difficult to reach 14 (he has four at present). But would it be possible? If there was a guy that could do it, it would be him. Let's put it that way."

There appears to be little hope for the pretenders to the throne but McEnroe feels a player like Nadal could eventually bridge the gap between himself and the top seed.

"I don't think I could match his game, but you just play with as much intensity as possible," he added.

"I mean, if a guy feels that you want it really badly, I think that at least levels the playing field a little bit.

"That's why Nadal is so tough right now, because he plays every point hard.

"He seems completely fearless and he looks like he really loves the competition.

"That's the beauty of being young. He doesn't know better yet.

"That's an incredible weapon and that would be my best bet, just trying to impose a will on the match, because Federer's game is awesome."

06-18-2005, 05:30 PM
Countdown to Wimbledon

Federer is king but the court is restless

Rising pressure and fatigue are main dangers for champion

Stephen Bierley
Friday June 17, 2005
The Guardian

John McEnroe was his usual blunt self. "If Roger Federer plays well then there is no way he's going to lose, and I could see him not playing his best tennis and still winning." So on Monday the Swiss world No1 will step out on to Centre Court - the cathedral of tennis - twice blessed in the past two years and the overwhelming favourite to win his third successive Wimbledon title.
On grass, more so than any other surface, everything comes totally naturally to Federer. He has not lost on it since he was beaten by Croatia's Mario Ancic in the first round of Wimbledon in 2002, a run of 29 consecutive victories at the All England Club and Halle. There seems no obvious reason why he should suddenly lose his pre-eminence this year.

Indeed Federer, who opens against the young Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu, appears to have a relatively trouble-free run to the quarter-finals, and may meet Lleyton Hewitt, the 2002 champion, in the last four.

But sport is not about perfection. It is about confidence, a quality that is slowly built and can be destroyed in minutes. And being the world No1 brings heavy responsibilities, both in terms of pressure and time.

"There are so many media requests, so many sponsor appearances, so many tournaments," Federer said yesterday at the All England Club. "Before I would arrive here on a Thurs day or Friday, now I arrive on a Tuesday. These all take days away from you being at home and doing other things, so I cherish every moment when I win a tournament because I know how much effort I put into it. You never know when it's your last."

Last autumn, after he had won the US Open for his third slam title in the calendar year, he was immediately hailed as one of the all-time greats, a player who might one day overtake Pete Sampras's record of 14 majors.

Federer, a modest man, demurred, preferring to talk about the relative strengths of his current rivals and the attributes of those who had been multiple grand slam champions of the past. He might also have said that Sampras was a quite different animal, one who restricted his outside commitments to a minimum, never doing a huge amount, apart from his brilliance on the court, to sell the game.

Recently dominance in men's tennis has been the exception rather than the rule. Since 1998, when Sampras ended his run of six successive years at No1, there have been 26 slams with 14 different winners, and 11 different men have captured the last 14 majors.

Small wonder that when Federer won four of the six slams between Wimbledon 2003 and last year's US Open he was anointed by some, perhaps prematurely, as one of the greatest who have played the game. It was perfectly understandable, for the Swiss player's amalgam of skill and power, coupled with that timeless one-handed backhand, was a throwback to the golden days.

Now, after two semi-final slam defeats this year, the first against Russia's Marat Safin in Australia and the second against the Spanish teenager Rafael Nadal at the French Open, the doubts have started to creep in. Could it be that he is beginning to find the pressure of being top of the tree too much to bear?

"The way to beat a great player if you cannot match his game is to play with as much intensity as possible. If Federer feels you want it really badly, then that levels the playing field a bit," said McEnroe.

Certainly Safin, with Federer's former coach Peter Lundgren at his shoulder, played out of his skin in Melbourne, and Nadal, who has risen from outside the top 50 to world No3 this year, has played with a fervour on clay that has been immensely intimidating.

The nearest Sampras, seven times Wimbledon champion, ever came to reaching the final of the French Open was in 1996, and that same year he lost in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon against the Dutchman Richard Krajicek, the champion that year. The physical and mental energy he expended at Roland Garros had taken its toll, and some will wonder if Federer's first semi-final in Paris will have a similar effect. He himself has no such qualms. "I think the way I came back straight after Roland Garros and won the title in Halle proved the point."

McEnroe concurs. "Last year I thought Andy Roddick played his best match ever in the final. Federer did not play his best and yet he still won. When I saw Roger win his first Wimbledon title I thought he'd go on to win at least five times and there is no reason for me to think otherwise at the moment."

Federer smiles. "You always have to believe that it's possible to break records, but I'm not thinking about not to be beaten in five years. I'm just trying not to be beaten this year. That's already tough enough."

06-18-2005, 05:34 PM
Wimbledon: U.S. men fade from the scene

By Charles Bricker
Staff Writer
Posted June 18 2005

WIMBLEDON, England · For a long time, American men represented the dominant nationality at this most famous of Grand Slams, once fielding 31 players in 1974, or nearly one of every four competitors.

But when the qualifying tournament ended Friday, there was a record low nine U.S. men in the main draw, and it hit nine only because Justin Gimelstob and Paul Goldstein got in as lucky losers out of the qualifying, gaining spots in the main draw with the withdrawals of Andre Agassi and Guillermo Canas.

This is no isolated bad year. Nine is the same number as last year, which was down from 11 in 2003. There's a trend here, and there are few if any young prospects on the horizon, suggesting things are soon going to change.

The United States still will have one of the handful of players capable of winning Wimbledon in Andy Roddick, who was runner-up to Roger Federer in 2004.

But with Agassi home contemplating retirement, with Mardy Fish recovering from wrist surgery and only one of 12 Americans, Jeff Morrison, winning his way through the qualifying tournament, the depth in U.S. men's tennis has never been worse.

Three years ago, when seven-time Wimbledon winner Pete Sampras retired, there was optimism for the future of U.S. men's tennis.

Roddick was skyrocketing toward the top 10 and four other young talents looked as if they had top-20 potential -- Fish, Taylor Dent, James Blake and Robby Ginepri.

But Fish has had only sporadic success and hasn't found the consistency to back up a big win with more big wins. This was supposed to be a critical year for Ginepri, but he is 9-11 and was embarrassed in the first round at the French Open in a 6-0, 6-0, 6-3 loss to unknown Serbian Novak Djokovic.

Dent has performed well, when he's been able to play, using his big serve, excellent volleying and strong forehand to reach No. 30. He'll be a dangerous player at Wimbledon. But he is injured often. When he took the court at Queens Club in London last week, it was his first tournament since Key Biscayne, where he badly sprained an ankle.

And Blake, who once again looks capable of great things after his year of injury and vision problems, needed a wild card to get into Wimbledon after his ranking blew well into the 100s. He is now No. 102.

By the end of 2005, it's not unreasonable to believe that Roddick and Blake will be the United States' best one-two punch. But after them, what is there?

Vince Spadea, of Boca Raton, will be 31 on July 19, and he's now begun picking up a succession of injuries.

Kevin Kim, 27 in July, is playing his best tennis. But he doesn't have that one major weapon that will boost him much past No. 50. He's currently No. 71.

Goldstein is 28 and No. 100.

Morrison is a former University of Florida star with a pretty big game. He's at No. 107, 26 spots below his career best ranking. Few expect him to reach the top 50.

Jan-Michael Gambill, 28 and once a top-20 player, no longer can play more than two or three weeks in a row because of ongoing shin problems.

The two best American junior prospects to turn pro in the past two years are Brendan Evans of Key Biscayne and Brian Baker of Nashville, and neither is putting any serious moves on the top 100.

Meanwhile, the country's stature in men's tennis now seems to rest almost completely with Roddick. If Agassi retires, as many expect, after the U.S. Open, the U.S. Davis Cup team could lose its qualifying match in Belgium, on clay, in September and wind up out of the World Group for 2006.

Charles Bricker can be reached at

06-18-2005, 05:37 PM
By Frank Malley, PA Chief Sports Writer

The Wimbledon hill will once more groan under the weight of expectation for Tim Henman.

Almost as if he enjoys tantalising them with what might have been, Britain's best tennis player for almost 70 years will take his loyal fans through a range of emotions.

But in a fortnight's time don't expect too much to have changed where Wimbledon tennis is concerned.

Henman will appear to bloom before fading at around the quarter-final mark when the really big names of tennis come out to play.

The rest of the British challenge will struggle to reach the first Wednesday, as these days Greg Rusedski is no more than a dangerous floater for the first couple of rounds.

True, teenager Andrew Murray just might give us a headline if his fitness and stamina can hold out but he is one for the future and British tennis should do everything to assist his development.

And then, as sure as night follows day, Roger Federer will progress serenely through to another Wimbledon final.

Which is not to suggest that the men's version of the sport is predictable, just that on grass Federer, like Pete Sampras before him, has no peer.

We had better get used to the sight of the Swiss star shedding a tear on Centre Court before picking up the famous gold men's singles trophy because it is a sight which could be around for another decade.

Twelve months ago the Wimbledon final saw Andy Roddick produce one of the most fearsome big-hitting performances ever witnessed on Centre Court to take the first set, only to see Federer glide past him to what turned out to be a routine 4-6 7-5 7-6 6-4 victory.

"I threw the kitchen sink at him but he went to the bathroom and got his tub," was how Roddick described what it felt like to be on the opposite side of the net to the world number one.

The sinister thought for the rest of tennis was that Federer triumphed in that final without coming close to top form.

This year the incentive to make it three in a row could not be greater.

Federer's defeat against Marat Safin in the semi-finals of the Australian Open in January could be put down to a genuinely inspired Russian performance.

His exit from the French Open at the hands of Rafael Nadal was down to a teenager who has rapidly become the world's greatest clay-courter.

So he goes into Wimbledon without a Grand Slam title to his name in 2005. Wimbledon, however, is Federer's territory. Grass is the surface which best suits his all-round talent.

There is no more athletic mover, no-one with his range of punishing groundstrokes and if Henman might rival his volley and court coverage at the net then that is the only characteristic he shares with the world number one.

Henman cannot complain this year. The Wimbledon organisers have done him a favour by seeding him sixth, largely on past performance.

At 30, he is troubled with back and shoulder problems more frequently, his performance at the French Open, when he lost in the second round to Luis Horna, was disappointing and the desire to 'guts' out matches does not seem as sharp.

He comes into Wimbledon on the back of a straight-sets loss to Sweden's Thomas Johansson at Queen's which was about as embarrassing as they come. No rhythm, no spark, no fight.

He has not always shone at Queen's, but rarely has he shown such a lack of form, although his first-round opponent at Wimbledon, Finland's erratic Jarkko Nieminen, should provide few problems.

However, in a tournament at which he has reached the semi-finals four times, there are so many potential pitfalls to get by.

Men like Nadal, whose grass-court pedigree has still to be examined but whose talent is not in doubt. Others such as the perennially feisty Lleyton Hewitt and Roddick, the man with the biggest serve in tennis and who proved in winning Queen's that he will be tough to beat again this year.

Even with so many clay-courters playing down their chances the high and true bounce of Wimbledon's slower courts just extends the strength in depth of the men's game.

That's why we should not hold our breath for some Henman miracle this year, even if he continues to talk a good game.

"Over the years my record at Wimbledon has been pretty good but I think I can improve on it and that'll certainly be the aim next week," says Henman.

"The good news is, from a physical point of view, I'm in pretty good shape. My back gets a little stiff occasionally but by and large it's so much better than it was last year and my shoulder is holding up well."

As for the women it will be intriguing to see how Maria Sharapova responds to the challenge of defending her title after a year in which the Russians have struggled for consistency.

The Williams sisters, who could clash as early as the fourth round, present an ever-present danger even if they are not as physically sound or as mentally focused as they once were.

But watch out for the Belgians. Kim Clijsters is back after a nightmare toll of injuries and could go close.

My tip for the title in a fortnight's time, however, is French Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne, the 2001 finalist who possesses the most magical groundstrokes in the women's game and the most penetrative backhand by a distance.

She should be dancing with Federer come the Wimbledon celebrations in a fortnight's time.

06-18-2005, 05:39 PM

Last Chance Saloon


Saturday, 18 June, 2005

At Wimbledon, there are many certainties. Strawberries and cream, overnight queues filled with tennis fans eager to witness marathon matches and, of course, rain delays. But one thing that can never be guaranteed at the start of the tournament: who will win the prestigious event - and be back next year?

In particular, question marks hang over players seemingly at the end of their careers, be it through age, injury or rumours of retirement. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it can spur players to great feats. Pete Sampras, for example, called on his formidable inner strength to take the US Open title in 2002, before walking away from the game.

Last year Todd Martin, Marcelo Rios, and Yevgeny Kafelnikov were among those to hang up their rackets. Sadly, for a number of well-known players, the 2005 Championships could be their last.

Some didn't even make it to the starting gate. Until last week, 1992 Wimbledon champion Andre Agassi was due to compete. However, the popular American was forced to withdraw from the Gentlemen's Singles due to injury. Speculation mounts as to whether he will ever return.

In 2004 Agassi, at the age of 34, became the oldest player to finish the year in the top 10 since Jimmy Connors in 1988. But ever since October 2001, when his first child was born, commentators have been asking him whether he is ready to retire.

At the time, Agassi said his dream was for his little boy to "watch me so he's got something to remember". Nearly four years later he is still keeping the dream alive. In 2004 he claimed his 17th ATP Masters Series shield in Cincinnati and this year reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open before being defeated by Roger Federer.

But this latest Wimbledon setback does not bode well for the future. Last year Agassi was forced to pull out of The Championships due to a hip injury. This year's withdrawal reinforces the inescapable truth that age and injury go hand in hand. How much longer can the hugely popular Agassi continue on the circuit?

The end could be in sight for Greg Rusedski, too, as he plays his 10th Championships representing Britain. Rusedski has long been prone to injury, which has left him with an erratic Wimbledon record. In 1998 he was forced to retire from Wimbledon against a qualifier due to problems with an ankle injured at Queen's. Only the year before he had raised the hopes of the nation by reaching the quarter-finals.

This is a feat he has failed to repeat. Having been knocked out in the second round at Wimbledon the past two years, Rusedski will have his work cut out if he is to compete with the likes of Federer and Roddick and take the title that surely would mean most to him.

Meanwhile, the women's game could see the last of Lindsay Davenport. Rumours about the American's departure from the game began to circulate a couple of years ago but improved form - she ended 2004 No.1 in the WTA singles rankings - seemed to prompt a fresh outlook. In January she reached her sixth career Grand Slam final, losing to Serena Williams at the Australian Open, and during 2005 she has also picked off titles at Dubai and Amelia Island.

So what of Davenport's chances at Wimbledon? Not bad, if you look at her past efforts. She won the title in 1999 by defeating Jana Novotna, the defending champion, in the quarters, and seven-time champion Steffi Graf in the final. The following year she was busy on the second Saturday again, this time facing fellow compatriot Venus Williams, to whom she lost in straight sets. Last year, eventual champion Maria Sharapova put an end to Davenport's Wimbledon run in the semi-finals.

The American's form in recent months means she is again a serious contender for the title. The idea of going out while she is still on top seems to appeal to Davenport. It would come as no surprise if she were to win the tournament, and then say goodbye.

06-18-2005, 05:50 PM
Wimbledon what does it mean to you?

From unforgettable matches to the cosy atmosphere, the lawns of SW19 conjure special memories for all those who love tennis

Interviews by John Roberts
18 June 2005

The men's player: Tim Henman

Great Britain, No 6 Seed

First Wimbledon memory as a child? My first visit during the tournament was when I was five or six and I went with my mum and saw Borg play a first-round match on Centre Court. That made a lasting impression, partly because of Borg, but also because of the whole scene: the grass, the tradition, the atmosphere, the Royal Box - everything that went with it. From that time on I knew there weren't many career decisions to make.

First Wimbledon memory as a player? In the juniors, and I didn't get off to the best of starts. I played my last year of juniors when I was about to turn 18 and I was playing a guy from Mexico on one of the back courts. I was pretty nervous warming up. I broke serve to go up 2-1, and I remember walking from the baseline to the chair, thinking, "I've arrived, this is it." And about 30 minutes later I was down 6-2, 5-0. My first match at Wimbledon was a short one, and one that I tried to forget.

Greatest match you've been involved in at Wimbledon? It's difficult to narrow it down to one, because I've been lucky enough to play a few of those special types of matches. I played my first match on Centre Court against [Yevgeny] Kafelnikov when he was the French Open champion. I was up two sets to love and saved one match point in the fifth set and won, 7-5. That was the big turning point in my career. I played on the Middle Sunday in 1997 - only the second time ever they played on the Middle Sunday - and the atmosphere was fantastic. I saved a match point to beat Paul Haarhuis, 14-12, in the fifth. And I have to mention the [Goran] Ivanisevic semi-final over three days, even though it ended in an anticlimax for me after only four games on the Sunday.

And the greatest match you've ever seen at Wimbledon? Everyone talks about Borg-McEnroe in 1980, and that was incredible in terms of their rivalry and the fourth-set tie-break. But if you look at the standard of the tennis, there was some pretty dodgy tennis going on. I was always a big [Stefan] Edberg fan, and I enjoyed watching him win in 1988 against [Boris] Becker. If I'm going to choose one, some of the best tennis was when [Pete] Sampras beat [Andre] Agassi in the final in 1999.

Best thing about Wimbledon? Henman Hill - no, Centre Court. Playing my matches on Centre Court. The atmosphere is unique. With so few British players in the biggest tournament in the world, the support I've had there has been amazing.

And the worst thing about Wimbledon? I could be looking at one of them. The press can be difficult at times, but it's one of those things that is out of my control. I've had a few difficult moments, but in the context of my career I'd like to think it's been a pretty good relationship. I think [the worst thing] is the overall scrutiny at Wimbledon. It was great when I played well in Paris last year, because all of a sudden I had something to compare it with. It was amazing how relaxed and straightforward it was away from Wimbledon.

The thing about Wimbledon which nobody realises is ... The facilities they have in terms of other surfaces. When I go abroad to play a clay-court tournament and say I've been practising at Wimbledon and the clay courts are great, people look at me as if to say, "Where the hell are they?" During The Championships they're all underneath the hospitality tents, so nobody gets to see them.

Winner of the men's singles championship this year? Apart from me? I think [Roger] Federer is the favourite. I don't think that's going to surprise too many people. He's won the past two years and he's definitely going to be the player to beat.

Best long shot? [Mark] Philippoussis.

Winner of the women's singles championship this year? Kim Clijsters. And she's such a great girl, I'd like to see her do it.

Best long shot? Some Russian that I don't know will probably come along and beat them all.

[B]The women's player: Kim Clijsters

Belgium, No 15 Seed

First Wimbledon memory as a child? It [The Championships] was always on during our school holidays, and like all the other kids I was playing tennis on the street. My sister and I were always watching Wimbledon [on television]. Watching Steffi [Graf] was probably my highlight.

First Wimbledon memory in person? Making my junior final in 1998. I lost it [to Katerina Srebotnik, of Slovenia], but it was my first final in a Grand Slam and I really enjoyed playing there, and then going to the champions' dinner afterwards as well.

Greatest match you've been involved in at Wimbledon? No one match in particular. One of the best was beating Jelena Dokic in the junior semi-finals in 1998. Another was in 1999, when I qualified and played Steffi Graf in the fourth round. I lost the match, but it was a great experience.

And the greatest match you've ever seen at Wimbledon? Patrick Rafter against Goran Ivanisevic [in 2001].

Best thing about Wimbledon? It's very hard to pick just one as there are so many little details that make such a big difference. There's a very cosy atmosphere. We get to know the locker-room attendants. It's a lot more personal. I stay in a house [in Wimbledon], and you feel a bit more at home. I really enjoy it.

And the worst? Probably the rain, but that's part of sports. I definitely spend a lot of days playing cards waiting for my match.

The thing about Wimbledon which nobody realises is... All the things I said about the cosy atmosphere, because on television you cannot really tell what's it's like to be walking around the courts, or what it's like to be sitting there on Centre Court. I always tell my family and friends that if they would like to come to a tournament, or to a Grand Slam, that is the one they should try to come to.

Winner of the men's singles championship this year? I keep my fingers crossed for Roger [Federer]. I've known him for a long time. I played with him in juniors. Roger is very down to earth, and I just love how much he's stayed himself after his success and how much he's involved in charity work. I think he's the best thing that could have happened to men's tennis.

Best long shot? Ivo Karlovic, the Croatian who made the finals at Queen's [Club] last week, or Mark Philippoussis. Any really big server is going to be tough on grass for the men.

Winner of the women's singles championship this year? It's going to be very interesting. Jennifer [Capriati] is not going to be there, but apart from her everybody else is going to be there, and it hasn't been like that for a long time. It's very hard to pick just one player. Maria [Sharapova] is going to be very hungry to try and defend her title. Justine [Henin-Hardenne] is playing with a lot of confidence. Lindsay [Davenport] has a big serve and powerful ground-strokes. And you never count Venus and Serena out. I'm very happy to be a part of it all.

Best long shot? There are a few young girls who don't have anything to lose, who can cause upsets - such as Anna Chakvetadze, who almost beat Svetlana Kuznetsova at Eastbourne.

The official: Alan Mills

Wimbledon Referee, 1983-2005

First Wimbledon memory as a child? Listening to The Championships on the radio.

First Wimbledon memory in person? In 1955. I lost in straight sets to Jack Arkinstall, from Australia, whose nickname was "The Sergeant Major". I was so nervous. And in those days British players didn't get any facilities - no cars, no lunches. I remember getting on the bus, then on the train, then getting on the bus, carrying my rackets, and getting to the gates far too early. And they wouldn't let you in in those days. I had to go round to Bathgate Road and sit on a chair.

Greatest match you've been involved in at Wimbledon? The greatest display of continual tennis was when [John] McEnroe beat [Jimmy] Connors, 6-1, 6-1, 6-2, in the final in 1984. I say in my book [Lifting the Covers] that when I went on court after the match - obviously I go to the runner-up first to try and offer a bit of consolation and say what a good tournament they've had - I couldn't get through to Connors at all. He just buried his head in a towel. I told McEnroe that by my reckoning he had only made four unforced [errors] in the whole of the match. He gave me a quizzical look, and said: "I think you're about right - but I make it two unforced errors and two bad bounces."

And the greatest you've ever seen at Wimbledon? I would say the Borg-McEnroe final in 1980, with the big tie-break.

Best thing about Wimbledon? The prestige and the aura. Whatever anybody likes to think, deep down Wimbledon isthe tournament. When I played, I thought it was the greatest tournament on earth, and when I changed over to the organisational side I realised why - because you dot the I's and cross the T's everywhere.

And the worst thing? A few years ago, the worst thing about Wimbledon was that when it really rained there were very few places for spectators to go and hide. And that's why you nearly always saw them still staying in Centre Court, huddled under an umbrella.

The thing about Wimbledon which nobody realises is ... The organisation behind it. A lot of people think that at 12 o'clock on the first Monday, you're all ready to go and that's it. An awful lot of water's gone under the bridge before that happens.

Winner of the men's singles championship this year? You can't look any further than the holder for the past two years. Even if Federer's playing badly, he still manages to get out of tight matches.

Best long shot? Marat Safin. He certainly has the game to play on grass.

Winner of the women's singles championship this year? Serena Williams. Maria Sharapova would have to play exceptionally well to repeat last year's success.

Best long shot? Kim Clijsters. They way she's come back is great for the women's game, and the same can be said for Justine Henin-Hardenne.

The commentator: John Barrett

BBC Commentator, 1971-2005

First Wimbledon memory as a child? Visiting Wimbledon at 14 or 15 with a school friend with Centre Court seat tickets supplied to the school by the LTA and seeing the wonderful stripes on that lush green carpet of a court - a bit better than our back lawn at home.

First Wimbledon memory in person? Playing on the shale courts for the school in the Youll Cup, the inter-schools doubles trophy. Just walking through those gates and knowing that I was actually going to play on the courts at Wimbledon was wow!

Greatest match you've been involved in at Wimbledon? Everybody says it, but it was the 1980 final - the Borg-McEnroe match - which was incredible in every respect. I think the most remarkable thing, apart from the sensational 18-16 tie-break in the fourth set, was Borg's serving in the final set. After losing two points in his first game, he lost only one more service point in the match.

And the greatest match you've ever seen at Wimbledon? The 1980 Borg-McEnroe final.

Best thing about Wimbledon? The grass courts. They've been forsaken elsewhere. Luckily the [All England Lawn Tennis] Club can afford to maintain them. It is, after all, the original surface of the game, and it is still to me the greatest test, because the courts are never the same two days running and they change their nature during the course of The Championships. And because things happen so quickly there's no second-guessing.

And the worst thing? Getting a ticket! And getting through the crowds on the outside courts on the south end of the grounds - Courts Two to 14 - but the Club are doing something about that.

The thing about Wimbledon which nobody realises is ... That it takes 50 weeks to organise. The moment it has ended - rather like the Forth Bridge being painted, by repute - Wimbledon is organised meticulously by a series of sub-committees.

Winner of the men's singles championship this year? You cannot suggest anybody but Federer, unless you're very brave.

Best long shot? Either Mario Ancic or Joachim Johansson.

Winner of the women's singles championship this year? I would like to think Serena Williams is back to her best, but somehow I think the distractions are probably going to prevent here. So I'll for a repeat by Sharapova.

Best long shot? Tatiana Golovin.

The ball-girl: Laura Saker

Wimbledon Ball-Girl Coach

First Wimbledon memory as a child? Playing tennis in the garden after the games.

First Wimbledon memory in person? How nicely decorated it was.

What is the greatest Wimbledon match with which you have been involved? GB wheelchair match [Saker was a ball girl in 2003 and 2004].

What is the greatest Wimbledon match you have seen (either in person or on TV)? Rafter v Ivanisevic.

Best thing about Wimbledon? The crowds.

Worst thing? It ends.

The thing about Wimbledon which nobody realises is ... How much organisation goes into it.

What is the one thing you would do to improve Wimbledon? Get a British champion.

Winner of the men's singles championship this year? Roger Federer.

Best long shot? Nadal.

Winner of the women's singles championship this year? Maria Sharapova.

Best long shot? Kim Clijsters.
18 June 2005 15:44

06-18-2005, 05:53 PM
True to red, white and blue

Sat, Jun 18, 2005

Local tennis fans hopeful U.S. players can win in big events


The Brunswick News

A quick look at the top seeds for Wimbledon, which begins next week, might give one the impression that American tennis is alive and well.

Lindsay Davenport is the first seed in the women's draw, while Andy Roddick is the second seed in the men's tournament, providing the United States with a realistic chance to sweep the Grand Slam titles in England.

But if someone were to look deeper down the seedings list, it could be concluded that the U.S. might not be dominant on Wimbledon's famed grass courts — at least not in the men's tournament, anyway.

After Roddick, the U.S. has only one other player, No. 24 seed Taylor Dent, seeded among the top 32. This year's tournament marks the first time that the U.S. has only one player seeded among the top 16.

"With (Andre) Agassi looking like he's possibly on his way out, there is a little bit of a lull in American men's tennis right now," said Dickie Anderson, a teaching professional for Sea Island.

Agassi, 35, was forced to withdraw from Wimbledon a second straight year due to injury. And though the eight-time Grand Slam champion is still ranked sixth in the world, there are reasons to believe his best days are behind him, leaving the 22-year-old Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open winner and last year's Wimbledon runner-up who many believe has underachieved to this point in his career, to carry the torch for the U.S. for the immediate future.

Meantime, other countries appear to be thriving, including Argentina, which has seven players ranked among the world's top 50, and Spain, which has six in the top 50, including 19-year-old Rafael Nadal, who won this year's French Open in his first-ever Roland Garros appearance.

America does have four players ranked in the top 50, however.

"We're still producing good athletes in tennis, but the competition is just so much tougher, which is maybe the case with a lot of other sports around the world today," said Zan Guerry, a Sea Island member who has won several national championships and has competed in three of the four Grand Slam tournaments.

"Australia used to dominate, then America became a bigger power. But the sport is truly global now, and a lot of that has to do with the money being bigger. Now, in places like South America, which used to have good tennis, it's maybe one of their top sports."

Still, while the U.S. might not have the numbers on its side at the top of men's tennis at present, that could soon change, according to Anderson, who said America has several potential big-time players in the making who could provide a boost for the U.S.

"These things go in cycles," Anderson said. "It was like this in the late 1980s after (John) McEnroe wasn't as dominant anymore. Then, (Pete) Sampras won the U.S. Open in 1990, and all of a sudden we had several guys up there with Sampras, Agassi, Jim Courier and Michael Chang.

"So, this is nothing to get panicked about. The Americans will be back."

The U.S. has much more star power at the top of the women's game, however, starting with top-ranked Davenport, who owns three Grand Slam titles, including a win at Wimbledon in 1999.

She is followed in the rankings by fourth-ranked Serena Williams; No. 16 Venus Williams, seeded 14th for Wimbledon; No. 27 Jennifer Capriati, who is currently sidelined while recovering from shoulder surgery; and No. 31 Amy Frazier, who is seeded 28th for Wimbledon, giving the U.S. four players among the top 32 in the draw.

"It looks like the Russians are going to take over, but the three or four players we have at the top have been there for a long time," said Wendy Armstrong, a longtime tennis player from St. Simons Island. "I still think we're good to go. We just need to have some young guns coming up."

Armstrong is right about the Russians, who currently have a strong presence in women's tennis. Eight Russians are ranked among the top 20, including five in the top 10.

Leading the list for the Russian contingent is Maria Sharapova, who won the 2003 Cloister Cup on Sea Island before making a quick rise to the top of the game, winning Wimbledon last summer for her first major title. Sharapova, who resides in Bradenton, Fla., is currently second in the women's rankings.

"She is Russian through and through, but a lot of her tennis is American made," Anderson pointed out, alluding to her training at Nick Bollettieri's Tennis Academy in Bradenton, where Sharapova has trained since she was 9.

Sharapova plays a power game that Americans became accustomed to seeing from the Williams sisters as they made their rise to the top of the tennis world.

Between them, the Williams have won 10 Grand Slam titles since 1997 — Serena owns six and Venus has four. But Venus, who turned 25 on Friday, hasn't won a Grand Slam event since the 2001 U.S. Open.

Serena, 23, won five of the eight possible Grand Slam titles in 2002-2003, and after not winning one last year, she won this year's Australian Open.

"Women's tennis is still very strong in America, but the Williams sisters have been more interested in Hollywood and other things recently," said Jeremy Spencer, a tennis enthusiast from Kingsland. "Although they have still been very good, if they concentrated more on tennis again, they'd start beating everybody again."

While both sisters have battled injuries in the recent past, they also have been heavily involved in several extra-curricular activities that have taken their attention away from tennis. Just recently, they agreed to do a six-part reality show that will focus as much on their lives away from the court as it does on tennis.

Still, Venus and Serena are among the heavyweights in the game.

"The two of them, along with Davenport, are threats to win almost any tournament," Anderson said. "They still have plenty left to give if they choose to do so."

06-21-2005, 10:20 PM
Shooting the Breeze

by Jason McGill
staff writer
published: June 21, 2005 6:00 am
Wimbledon began yesterday.

Did you notice? Did you care?

It feels like tennis has been on a downward turn since Pete Sampras hung up his racket. At least men’s tennis has. There have been several apparent saving graces — guys like Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt — who were supposed to galvanize the sport and turn around ratings with sweeping victories. But really, the sport is more shrouded in secrecy than ever. And it’s a bad sign when tennis’ media darling, Andre Agassi, is on the verge of retirement with half the skill he used to have.

It’s akin to the years when everyone surrounding the NBA, covering the NBA and fans of the NBA held on to the Michael Jordan era for as long as possible while someone, anyone (i.e. LeBron James), stepped up to save the sport.

Except, men’s tennis is still looking.

06-21-2005, 10:22 PM
What lies ahead and here now for pro tennis?
By Cassidy Juneau
Published: Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Long gone are the days of watching Pete Sampras slide gracefully across the courts of Wimbledon. Today's tennis world is known for its beautiful girls, international flare, and Anna Kournikova. American tennis is known for...wait, there are American tennis players?

Ever since Pete Sampras retired, the big names in American tennis have been the women. Venus and Serena Williams are almost known as much for their dress as for their play on the court. Many people have heard the miraculous comeback story of Jennifer Capriati. Lindsay Davenport has been a mainstay in the top 10 of the WTA tour for many years. It does not seem like any of these trends will end.

On the mens' side, Andy Roddick is easily one of the two most recognizable names with the other being Andre Agassi. It is a hotly contested topic as to whether Roddick will ever be the next great American male tennis player, following in the footsteps of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. He currently sports a 253-81 career record, including 15 singles titles. Two of those have been Grand Slam wins at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. He definitely has a long way to go to catch Sampras, who won 14 Grand Slam titles and only lost four times in Grand Slam finals. As for other American men faring well lately, Agassi and Taylor Dent are both in the top 12 on the ATP tour after the Australian Open.

The future seems to be very bright on the women's side in American tennis. Serena Williams is making a comeback, now holding the no. 2 ranking in women's tennis on the WTA tour. She also just won the Australian Open, her seventh career Grand Slam title. Lindsay Davenport, Serena Williams, and Jennifer Capriati also currently stand high in the rankings on the tour, making the U.S. one of the top countries in women's tennis.

It seems as though lately, there has been a surge in the popularity of tennis. The USTA and WTA are both making efforts to introduce the sport to people of all ages, boasting about the physical, mental, and possible social benefits of playing tennis. Also, the rise of young stars such as Roddick and Dent has proven that American men can now compete internationally after always being overshadowed by the outstanding American women.

It will be interesting to see how the next few months go. Many people expect this to be a breakout year for Roddick, a year in which he will break the curse of always losing to his nemesis, Roger Federer, who finished 2004 as no. 1. Some are dubbing them as the next great rivalry, but even Roddick admits that it cannot be a rivalry until he learns how to beat Federer on a normal basis. So stay tuned to catch the best that tennis has to offer in 2005.

06-21-2005, 10:29 PM
Posted on Tue, Jun. 21, 2005

U.S. men missing that edge in tennis


New York Daily News

WIMBLEDON, England - Taylor Dent required five sets on Monday on a distant side court to defeat a journeyman Belgian qualifier in a meandering, three-hour, 22-minute, first-round match.

And this is what passes for good news these days at Wimbledon for American men.

"Everybody out here is so good and it's such a fine line between being 30 in the world and 40 in the world, where most of the Americans normally are," Dent said after his 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 6-7 (9-7), 6-1 victory over Dick Norman, a 34-year-old giant. "The reality is, it's ridiculously hard out here. Each one of us is working our butts off to be No. 1. But, unfortunately, not everybody can be."

No. 40 won't cut it in the United States, a country whose male players have captured 28 Grand Slam singles events since Michael Chang won the French Open in 1989.

Dent, 24, is also seeded No. 24. He is the only other American, besides No. 2 Andy Roddick, to be seeded here in what has become a very unpromising tournament for our red-white-and-unglued men's tennis nation. There were only nine U.S. men here at the start of the men's draw, a record low. Two of them were lucky losers and one a qualifier. Only Roddick has a chance to do any damage.

Andre Agassi pulled out with his sciatic problems. Mardy Fish is also injured. Robby Ginepri is down to a No. 74 ranking, while James Blake is mired at No. 102. The glory days of Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Chang are long gone. You ask Dent or the others, though, they are still in heavy denial.

"Right now, they're not the world beaters, not the top five or 10 in the world," Lleyton Hewitt of Australia said after beating Christophe Rochus of Belgium in a first-round match, 6-3, 6-3, 6-1. "But they're playing tournaments week in and week out on the tour. Australia doesn't even have that at the moment. You get a little spoiled, I think."

The few American men who are here provided mixed results on Monday. Kevin Kim and Justin Gimelstob advanced to the second round, while Blake and Jeff Morrison were knocked out.

Dent nearly didn't survive his match, after dumping a forehand passing volley into the net cord on match point in the fourth set. But the 6-8 Norman nearly vanished in the fifth set. Even Dent couldn't figure it out.

"Whatever the reason, he came out there and just was playing loose tennis all of a sudden," Dent said. "I can't explain it, but I'm thankful it happened that way."

Dent has decided to go it alone after dumping his coach, Francisco Montana. He says he was tired of hearing advice that made no sense to him.

"If I don't see eye-to-eye with somebody, there's no sense in butting heads," said Dent, who is far from fit after sitting out for two months with an ankle injury. "If they're going to say, `Oh, jump off the Empire State Building, you'll be fine,' I'll say, `But gravity is going to happen and it's a hard floor down there, what about that?' And if they say, `No, no, you'll be fine,' forgive me if I don't jump."

In more conventional terms, Dent doesn't think he should practice groundstrokes when his game is serve-and-volley.

In other notable matches on Monday, No. 1 Roger Federer coasted to a 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 win over Paul-Henri Mathieu of France; Lindsay Davenport, the No. 1 seed, advanced easily with a 6-0, 6-2 win over Alina Jidkova of Russia; and Anastasia Myskina of Russia, the No. 9 seed, survived a tough three-set battle on graveyard Court 2 with Czech qualifier Katerina Bohmova, 5-7, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4.

Marat Safin, the No. 5 seed from Russia, beat Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand, 6-2, 6-4, 6-4, and said it has been six months since he played such good tennis. He next meets Mark Philippoussis, danger man in the draw.

"Why not try?" said Safin, who is no great fan of grass courts. "I try to be serious. I'm not young anymore."

06-21-2005, 10:34 PM
Valley players are major part of Wimbledon history

The Desert Sun
June 21, 2005

Wimbledon stands above all other tennis tournaments because it is unrelenting in maintaining its traditions and has long been the stage where players become legends.

In the Coachella Valley, seven players contributed to the Wimbledon legacy. Four of them - Rosie Casals, Mark Woodforde, Pete Sampras and Peggy Michel - have combined to win 22 titles at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. Raymond Moore never won a title at Wimbledon, but he reached the quarterfinals of the first Open tournament there in 1968 and is part of the "Last Eight" tradition. Any player who reaches the quarterfinals or better has a lifetime pass to Wimbledon.

Charlie Pasarell is entrenched in the Wimbledon record books, having set the record for the longest match when he lost to Pancho Gonzalez. Pasarell also was the first player to defeat a defending champion and No. 1 seed in the first round when he beat Manolo Santana in 1967.

Sally Huss, who owns and runs the Sally Huss Gallery in Old Town La Quinta, got as far as the semifinals in 1959 before losing to eventual champion Maria Bueno. The year before, Huss, formerly Sally Moore, won the Wimbledon junior title.

Woodforde echoed what many of the Coachella Valley players thought about Wimbledon.

"If you are involved in tennis in Australia, you are taught that Wimbledon was the event," said Woodforde, who won six men's doubles titles and a mixed doubles title there. "That's where champions are made, or you become a champion by winning Wimbledon.

"It's everything you are told as a kid - that it is special, it has that mystery, that electricity, that it makes you into a tennis player. You learn a lot about yourself if you win the title, because it takes a huge effort to get through the fortnight. There's a lot of pressure on you. The focus is on Wimbledon for those two weeks."

Colorful partners

Casals is one of Wimbledon's greatest doubles players with seven total titles. Casals established herself with the help of the two most colorful personalities in the 60s and 70s in Billie Jean King and Ilie Nastase.

"I don't know why I played well with those that were up and down," Casals said. "I was pretty much even keel. I was sane out there and I maintained some saneness on both sides when I was out there when I played with Billie Jean and Ilie."

King was an intense competitor who wore her emotions on her sleeves on the court. Off the court, King always spoke her mind. When she led the women's breakaway group to form their own tour, King, along with Casals ruffled some feathers.

Ruffling feathers was a specialty for Nastase, who was nicknamed Nasty for his antics that sometimes turned ugly and contentious.

"Mr. Nasty. He was a piece of work. He still is," Casals said. "In the locker room, they came close to just killing them. He got people hot under the collar."

Nastase would be demeaning to opponents or officials, often mimicking them on the court. He would throw rackets, trash the benches, throw water toward chair umpires and always threaten to quit a match if he wasn't getting his way. Sometimes, the chair umpire would threaten to default Nastase because of his antics.

"It was very colorful and an exciting thing as to what would happen, if we were going to finish or not," Casals said. "For whatever reason, he listened to me when he should listen to me and we got along great. We got along wonderfully."

However, Casals arguably may have created the biggest stir at Wimbledon.

Fashion victim

One of the long traditions that has endured at Wimbledon is the dress code of wearing tennis whites.
Over the years, women have made a stir with their fashion, but none were bigger than when Casals wore her Ted Tinling dress in 1973.

Casals said the dress was predominately white, and fit under the dress code. She wore a similar dress earlier in the tournament, but the one she decided to wear on Centre Court had purple in it, which highlighted the VS on the dress.

"Apparently, someone said to them that VS stood for Virginia Slim," Casals said. "Then they said you're not allowed to advertise. I told them the product wasn't sold in Great Britain at all. It's not advertising because it means nothing. He said you have to go back and change.

"Consequently I did. They said from that point on, you have to come to the referee and be inspected so we can approve of what you wear.

"I'm sure they had other issues."

Casals suspected it had to do with her and King forming their own tour, the Virginia Slims.

"First of all, things were changing at that time, when the women were coming into their own and they were fighting the establishment and they felt I pushed that envelope," Casals said. "I think they wanted to set an example.

They were polite about it, but they said you better not wear any of that stuff again, which funny enough, I did. It was in a different shade that was not as bright as the purple.

"That proved my point that it meant nothing to them, unless you went on Centre Court, they wanted to control everything," she said.

The stir helped get the dress into the Hall of Fame, several years before Casals herself was inducted in 1996.

"Why it became a big deal, they made it a big deal, the press made it a big deal, 'Rosie gets thrown out of Centre Court,' and I had to have a referee approve a tennis dress," Casals said. "That is typical of the British media. It's great to read the paper and stuff; they make it a big thing. ... I didn't think it was a big deal."

Looking back, Casals laughs at the fuss and jokes, "Maybe it made a bigger statement than I did."

Swinging London

Moore, known as the Hippie during his playing days because of his hair, was your typical child of the '60s. He had an affinity for the music of the day, as well as the lifestyle, which sometimes clashed with being a tennis player.

"That was the trick and I'm not sure I balanced it correctly," Moore said. "We're talking about the late 60s and London was known as Swinging London at the time. You had the advent of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, the Who, you had Twiggy as a model and all the movies coming out of there.

"It was an exciting time to be in London. It was a lot of fun. Maybe it was too much fun. Now that I look back, I had too much fun and I didn't pay attention to my tennis career as much as I should have."

In order to juggle the two, Moore did things that players today might not consider.

"You end up doing all kinds of crazy things at that time," Moore said. "And Wimbledon, in those days, the first matches were at 2 in the afternoon, so you could afford some late nights because you could still get your eight hours of sleep."

Moore is half owner of the Pacific Life Open, and does much of the behind-the-scenes work to help grow the tournament. He is currently working to keep the event in Indian Wells.

It is a contrast to his days as a player. Going through his clips, Moore laughs at some of his quotes, which soundslike dialogue from an Austin Powers movie. Moore was quoted talking about hanging out with "Birds" and his desire to be part of a psychedelic pop band.

"I had a good time, and I met all kinds of famous people and it was a lot of fun," Moore said. "Music was a big part of my life and just to be there and have access to seeing all these major music acts perform live was quite a treat. I think I saw everybody in London, every single group that played at one point or another."

Although Moore had a good time, he does not condone much of his behavior during that time, which he feels sidetracked his tennis career.

However, Moore made his mark in 1968, when he defeated No. 3 seed Andres Gimeno in the third round. Moore reached the quarterfinal before losing to Clark Graebner.

By reaching the quarterfinal, Moore qualified for the Last Eight club at Wimbledon, where he will have two free passes to the tournament for the rest of his life. Moore shared his experiences with his older daughter, Amanda, and he intends to some day take his youngest, Kayla.

"There is an aura around Wimbledon when you get there," Moore said. "It's almost like hallowed ground. It's like a pilgrimage to hallowed places when you go to Wimbledon."

Bittersweet memories

After every match Michel played at Wimbledon, she had a tradition of going to the same phone booth to call her parents and let them know how she did.
Over the years, Michel said it was her fondest memory of winning the 1974 doubles title - being able to share her triumph with her parents. And when Michel wasn't competing, they would watch the tournament as a family.

In 1997, Michel's father, Walter, passed away. In November, her mother, Margaret, died. This year's tournament will be the first she won't share with her parents.

Michel is in the process of selling the family home in Pacific Palisades, and she has found memorabilia her parents saved.

At times, Michel said she gets "sentimental and choked up."

"That's what made it wonderful was to see how proud they were," Michel said. "It's not sad. I remember how great tennis was for our family.

"On the practical side, life goes on and you have to move forward and go on."

While going through the house, Michel found the dress she wore at her first Wimbledon, and a patch of grass her sister bought.

"I'm still looking for my baseball cards. I still don't know where they are," Michel said. "I know I have a Mickey Mantle card somewhere."

Michel said she's still looking for the dress she wore when she won her doubles title in 1974. Although Michel also has won two Australian Open doubles titles, her victory at Wimbledon was the pinnacle of her career.

"When I was a little girl growing up, I set goals for myself and my ultimate goal was to win Wimbledon," Michel said. "When I won Wimbledon, I fulfilled all my goals."

The Woodies

To Woodforde, Wimbledon always meant something special. Growing up in Adelaide, Woodforde's father would tell him about the great Australian champions who won Wimbledon.

Because the tournament occurs during winter in Australia, Woodforde would stay up in his pajamas, sitting by the fire and watching until as late as midnight.

"Wimbledon is everything you make it out to be. It doesn't let you down in any way. I think you can say that if you won a title," Woodforde said. "It's everything you are told as a kid, that it is special, it has that mystery, that electricity, that it makes you into a tennis player.

"Certainly, not just every avid tennis fan stops and watches Wimbledon for two weeks. There are a lot of other interested sporting people who know what Wimbledon is about. To get through to that last match, and if you get to survive it, you know it's not just tennis fans who have watched you win that title, or know about you winning that title."

When Woodforde announced in 2000 that he would retire at the end of the year, he wanted to accomplish one more thing - win another Wimbledon title.

Woodforde and Woodbridge had won an unprecedented five in a row from 1993-97 to establish their legacy at the All England Club.

However, people began to write off the Woodies. At Wimbledon in particular, where they had their greatest success, Woodforde and Woodbridge lost in the finals in 1998 and lost in the quarterfinals in 1999.

Coming into Wimbledon in 2000, the Woodies had won the French Open to complete the career Grand Slam and had re-established themselves as the No. 1 team.

At Wimbledon, they reclaimed their magic and claimed their sixth title in eight years. For Woodforde, it was his seventh title in eight years with his mixed doubles title with Martina Navratilova in 1993

"You want to win the ones that mean the most to you, the ones that are dear to your heart, and Wimbledon, without a doubt, is the dearest of all," Woodforde said. "The Woodies had won five in a row. We had created history, we had broken a lot of records at Wimbledon and we wanted to go out on a winning note.

"Now, to look back and think I succeeded at Wimbledon, having won seven times. I just shake my head."

06-21-2005, 10:37 PM
Henman groomed to spoil wedding party
By Mark Hodgkinson
(Filed: 21/06/2005)

If Tim Henman has some concerns about his mindset this afternoon, worrying about whether he has the right tactics for grass, at least he does not have the same level of distractions as his first-round opponent, Jarkko Nieminen, who has hurried from the church to Centre Court, having married only a week ago.

The Finnish player said he arrived at the All England Club for his first practice session just a couple of days after his wedding, and conceded that there were "probably better ways to spend your honeymoon than playing Henman on Centre Court". So Nieminen's mood might be slightly unpredictable today - perhaps a little elated, perhaps a little flat, perhaps a little disorientated. Or a mixture of all three.

"I only got married a week ago, but I haven't really had a chance to enjoy it yet as I arrived here to practise. Playing Henman on Centre Court is no place to have your honeymoon. But I have nothing to lose and Henman has everything to lose. I am feeling comfortable on the grass and will try to be aggressive," said Nieminen, whose wife is Finland's leading female badminton player.

Nieminen, the world No 70, was also centre stage on the red clay of the French Open last month, defeating Andre Agassi in the first round, though his victory may have had more to do with the American's inflamed sciatic nerve than his own shot-making. He also had a decent run at the Australian Open this year, reaching the third round where he lost to the eventual champion, Roger Federer.

Henman, the sixth seed, has said that he will not underestimate the left-handed Nieminen, who "has some weapons" and "can be very dangerous". But the Finn has not always looked that comfortable on grass, with his best result at Wimbledon a third-round finish two years ago, and Henman will be expected to win their first meeting.

Henman admitted at Queen's Club, where he was defeated in the quarter-finals, that he had been suffering with a "foggy mind" and had not applied himself properly on the grass courts. He prepared himself for playing against Nieminen by practising yesterday lunchtime with British player Martin Lee, another left-hander.

Andrew Murray, 18, who makes his first appearance in a grand slam event today, indicated that he had made almost a full recovery from the injury to his ankle, which he twisted in a spectacular fall at Queen's Club this month. The Scot said his ankle was "pretty much perfect now" and he would wear a brace and strapping during the match.

Murray plays an opponent with some history at the tournament, Swiss qualifier George Bastl, a former top 100 player. It was Bastl, then almost unknown in the wider tennis world, who defeated Pete Sampras in the second round three years ago. It would become the final appearance at the All England Club for the American, who won a record seven Wimbledon titles.

Murray, who was given a wild card, said: "He's obviously a pretty decent grass-court player if he beat Sampras, but he's not that great that he's going to serve me off the court and blow me away."

Rafael Nadal, the 19-year-old French Open champion, will play Vince Spadea, an experienced and powerful American, in the first round. Spadea reached the fourth round at Wimbledon last year, and won his only previous meeting with Nadal on a hard court last autumn.

06-21-2005, 10:52 PM
Henman plots a route through the madness

Home favourite reflects on the hype, past struggles and his greatest rivals before his annual battle to live up to a nation's expectations

Donald McRae
Monday June 20, 2005
The Guardian

"I sometimes think," Tim Henman says, "here we go again. Another year, another Wimbledon..." A tight flicker of a smile crosses his polite and angular face, disappearing almost as quickly as it emerges. "I obviously know what to expect and so I understand how important it is for me to cut out all the sensationalism. My coach Paul Annacone once used this phrase that I now remember this time every year: 'You've got to insulate yourself from the madness.'"
It is as if, with a weary sigh, an increasingly battered 30-year-old has already begun to steel himself against the absurd expectations foisted on him each Wimbledon by the Union Flag-waving hordes on Henman Hill.

Yet he is quick to stress that, preparing for his 12th championships, he is even more equipped to ignore the sneering and sniggering of those either perched in the press box or slumped in front of their television sets as they reap what Henman describes as a "very British" pleasure in predicting his continuing failure to fulfil a seemingly impossible dream - of finally winning Wimbledon and so ending the dismal pattern stretching back to that sepia-tinted moment when Fred Perry lifted this country's last men's singles title in 1936.

"Of course I've got to use some of the more positive emotion - especially in terms of the crowd support on court. I just block out the rest of it. You've got to be pretty strong mentally to do that when the attention is so intense. But I think I've shown that. I've done a good job at Wimbledon, whatever anyone else expects or thinks."

Having appeared in eight quarter-finals over the last nine years, and four semis, Henman's record on the grass of SW19 has been remarkably consistent. Yet the fevered question as to whether he might actually win Wimbledon - on a suitably mythic "one day" - is now asked much more coolly.

His previous two championships have ended in the quarters - losing to players ranked below him in Sébastien Grosjean and Mario Ancic - and Henman has endured a frustrating 2005. In contrast to his startling success before Wimbledon last year, when he reached the semi-finals of the French Open, Henman's now fitful form has continued in recent weeks. He suffered an early defeat in Paris and then lost against Thomas Johansson at Queen's.

While he is smart enough to concede that "winning is the best preparation for anything", the fantasy still lingers - even if Henman sounds wistful as he peddles his diminishing hopes at Wimbledon. "I believe I can win any tournament I enter, so my approach is not going to change this year. Of course you have to see who you end up playing and you need to analyse your main rivals but my experience of Wimbledon and grass-court tennis is now so great that I still believe in my chances. Why not?"

As to the stronger hopes of those ranked above him, Henman, seeded sixth, selects a contrasting trio of players. "Roger Federer, Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick are the three guys you'd pick out as definitely my toughest opponents. But I've got to get into a position where I'm playing those kind of players at Wimbledon. You want to be up against the very best in the world at crunch time. Those matches are not fun - they're incredibly tough - but that's where you have to be. That's when I can let it all hang out and really go for it."

Henman has always looked mildly uncomfortable when he has tried to "let it all hang out" in the past but he has abandoned much of the forced fist-pumping routine and claims that his pair of grand slam semi-finals last year in Paris and New York have instilled a more deep-rooted confidence in his ability.

"It was good to do it outside the bubble of Wimbledon and, even if this year has been up and down, I can draw on those positive experiences. It proved that I am a genuine grand slam contender. I'd already done that but sometimes the weather spoiled things or I simply faced some great players in the semis at Wimbledon."

Henman is haunted most by his rain-affected defeat over three days by Goran Ivanisevic in 2001 - when he was within a few games of reaching the final. He was also unlucky to face the masterly Pete Sampras in successive semi-finals in 1998 and 1999. "That was real grass-court tennis," Henman says nostalgically. "But Wimbledon has changed so much since then. The surface really doesn't help me as much. It's so much slower and the ball bounces higher."

Aware that his own prospects have become even more remote under such conditions, Henman shakes his head. "It's bizarre they've allowed this to happen at Wimbledon and I think it's a real issue for the game. You don't want everyone playing the same way because variety is obviously important for the future of tennis."

Rafael Nadal, the teenage sensation who defeated Federer en route to the French Open title this month, will certainly expect to prosper more on grass now than he might have done during Sampras's heyday.

Henman, however, insists that Federer is the clear favourite for this year's championship. "On the old grass courts I guess you could say Sampras was the best player there's ever been at Wimbledon but, if you compare their all-round games, then there's no doubt. Federer, for me, is the greatest-ever player."

Henman lets slip one of his happier crooked grins when he tries to explain the anomaly that "my record against Federer is still 6-3. He wasn't quite the same player in those early matches. His game has improved enormously and his confidence just rocketed.

"I also know that, if you give him time to use his full repertoire of shots, then he's going to run you ragged. But when I'm on top of my game, playing aggressively and coming forward, then he feels more pressure than usual to hit his passing shots. The only hope you've got against Federer is to force him into reacting to your style rather than allowing his sheer talent to dominate."

He might have beaten Federer six times but Henman has lost all eight of his matches against the less gifted but relentlessly pugnacious Hewitt. "I know it seems strange but my game really matches up well against Federer. It's just not the same against Hewitt."

The defiant Australian has just returned from injury, while Federer beat Marat Safin in an absorbing final on the grass of Halle in Germany earlier this month. Yet Henman hesitates when asked which player he would most like to beat in his imaginary perfect final - an all-time great in Federer or his personal nemesis in Hewitt?

"That's a good question," he eventually laughs. "Federer or Hewitt? Hewitt or Federer?"

And then, as if even the shimmering fantasy of stepping out on court for his first Wimbledon final on July 3 is too much to contemplate, Henman shrugs again with disarming honesty.

He might be a multi-millionaire but the dream of Wimbledon, perhaps even to Henman himself, is finally looking worn and threadbare. "What the hell. Either one will do. Beggars can't be choosers."

06-24-2005, 09:04 PM
Henman's campaign comes to an end

Nirmal Shekar

There is no dream quite like the impossible dream. In the world of sport, there is no dream quite like the Henmaniacs' dream at the Wimbledon tennis championships.

Why dream at all when you know that realisation lies beyond the boundaries of the possible? Good question.

The answer is simple. Like unrequited love, unrealised dreams are so much dearer to our hearts than the ones that readily come true. The longing, the agony, the lingering hope, the melancholy of it is stuff of Shakespearean drama.

Ask the ones that pack the show courts here during The Fortnight. Check with the thousands that braved the scalding summer sun on the Henman Hill on Thursday, and the millions that anxiously sneak up from behind the sofa in their drawing room once in a while to check the scores of the Henman match on TV, unable to continuously bear the agony — actually a potent mix of agony and ecstasy.

As the ageing hero took yet another painful blow that has temporarily halted the longest unsuccessful march in the history of organised sport — Tim Henman, seeded six, was beaten 3-6, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 8-6 by the unheralded Russian Dmitry Tursunov in the second round on the centre court today — it was once again time to marvel at the enduring tragi-comic love affair between English tennis fans and a 30-year old who will almost certainly leave the game without having his name inscribed on the most coveted trophy in the sport.

A new low

On an afternoon when the teenaged French Open champion and fourth seed, Rafael Nadal of Spain, was bundled out by the little known Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, Henman touched a new low. This is the first time in 10 years that he has failed to get past the second round at Wimbledon.

But then, a dozen years after his debut here, after four quarterfinal and four semifinal appearances, and three months short of his 31st birthday, Henman — and his army of supporters — came in here believing that he is still a serious challenger for the title. It is this unshakeable belief in his own destiny that drives the man, that has seen him endure all the frustration and grief to mount yet another campaign.

Henman is a good man, a decent bloke, although he did use bad language on court today in frustration — something that was caught on microphone and for which the BBC actually apologised to its viewers. But that was a rare aberration and even in the old country they don't come like him anymore. At his best, he is one of the finest grass court players of his generation, one of the toughest, granite-willed competitors seen in these parts. Perhaps the best volleyer since Stefan Edberg packed his bags for the last time, Henman could have won Wimbledon with a spot of luck.

Make that a lot of luck, if you wish. Actually, each summer, as yet another edition of the Henman saga plays itself out, your correspondent thinks of the John Lennon classic `Imagine'.

"Imagine there is no heaven, it is easy if you try. No hell below us....'' Well, imagine there was no Pete Sampras. Imagine there was no Goran Ivanisevic. Imagine there is no Roger Federer, no Marat Safin, no Andy Roddick.

Well, this one is not easy; however hard you tried — unless you belonged to a unique breed of tennis fans (Henmaniacs) who dream with undying optimism.

The four times that Henman made the semifinals here, he was beaten by the man who went on to win the title. In 1998 and 1999, that man was Sampras. In 2001 it was Ivanisevic and the following year it was Lleyton Hewitt.

The point is, given his obvious limitations, Henman is one level below men who might be expected to win Grand Slam titles. Yet, he could have done it here. Several of his tribe have been crowned champions. But too many different things have to fall in place for that to happen. It is like some giant jig saw puzzle that can only be solved by accident.

Can that sort of accident ever happen here? Don't bet on it, although you will get lucrative odds if you did.

Henman's legs are not what they used to be. He doesn't blanket the net like he used to in the past. His serve has never been a major weapon. And he simply keeps himself going, these days, on pure adrenaline, on the surge triggered by flag waving supporters who he works like an old ring master.

But, alas, the greasepaint is melting. In Britain itself, young men such as Andrew Murray appear set to steal his thunder. And it would take a great sporting miracle to carry him to a tryst with his perceived destiny.

Yet, the dream lives on. His fans know that they will never get what they want. But they keep wanting, keep hoping. It is a seemingly endless game where the fascination lies in merely wanting, hoping. Realisation is the end of the game. Who wants this soap opera to end?

Today, against Tursunov, who beat Marat Safin in the first round here last year, Henman started well, breaking serve in the opening game of the match and taking the first set. But, predictably, he faltered soon enough and the roller coaster ride saw him being outplayed in the second set. In the third, the sixth seed found the crucial break in the eighth game but Tursunov hit back to draw level in the fourth, breaking Henman's serve in the fourth game.

Tursunov, who came into the event with a protected ranking following a long injury layoff because of a recurring back problem — he did not play any tournaments after the 2004 U.S. Open until Indian Wells this March — was right on top in the decider. He broke to 5-4 but let go of two matchpoints and lost serve when serving for the match the first time. But the 22-year old Russian made no mistake the second time. After breaking to 7-6, he served out the match, closing it out on his fourth matchpoint.

"It won't sit comfortably with me for a period of time but you have to move on from it,'' said a disappointed Henman, adding that he was planning to be back here next here and had no reason to quit.

Even if Henman does come back here next summer, it is quite likely that the best British hope in 2006 would be a Scotsman. Andrew Murray, 18, underlined his growing stature with superb 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 defeat of the 14th seeded Czech Radek Stepanek later in the evening.

The torch has already passed. The Impossible Dream is on life support.

06-24-2005, 09:13 PM
Wimbledon-Safin turns anger on Davis Cup organisers
Fri Jun 24, 2005
By Pritha Sarkar

LONDON, June 24 (Reuters) - Not satisfied with berating umpires, Marat Safin turned his anger on Friday towards organisers of the Davis Cup and the men's tour.

The Russian, who questioned numerous line calls during his defeat by Feliciano Lopez on Friday, will be leading the Russian Davis Cup challenge against France in their July 15-17 quarter-final in Moscow.

He felt officials needed to examine the scheduling of the men's team competition, which is spread over four separate weeks during the year.

Asked if he thought the grasscourt season should be extended to more than two weeks before Wimbledon, Safin replied: "We have much more important things to take care of actually, which is the Davis Cup.

"Davis Cup weeks are terrible," the Russian said.

The Russian's main bone of contention is that players may have suddenly to switch surfaces to play for their country and that schedules get too crowded.

The hardcourt season usually kicks off soon after Wimbledon but with Russia opting to take on France on clay, Safin will have to get used to the slow surface again for that one weekend of Davis Cup action.

"For example, we play Wimbledon, okay? So then it's one week of a tournaments, then the Davis Cup," he said.

"Basically for me I'm not going to go play on clay again (at ATP events). I will try to go to the hard courts.

"For me, it would be perfect to play Wimbledon, get through one week of practice with the team, then play the Davis Cup."

Safin is not the first player to question the scheduling of the team competition.

Pete Sampras turned his back on the U.S. cause during the latter stages of his career for the same reason.

His fellow American Agassi also cut it from his calendar for several years before making a losing comeback in the first round against Croatia in March.

This year, Roger Federer opted out of first-round action, saying it interferred with his individual career.

"People have to use more brain to see when to place the Davis Cup. This is more important," Safin said.

Despite his anger, the Australian Open champion was quick to dismiss suggestions that he would skip the quarter-final tussle.

"I will be there. I know the French people, they are hoping for the best. But there is no chance. You have to deal with me," he laughed.

06-29-2005, 09:21 PM
Hewitt sends Dent packing

Nirmal Shekar

London: Lleyton Hewitt has walked the tightrope all his life. What was a stroll in the park for a Pete Sampras in another era and is a joyful concert to orchestrate for a Roger Federer now, is a tough, often dangerous and almost always exhausting business for the man from Adelaide.

But, then, that is the only walk that Hewitt knows, the only path he'd tread. He doesn't look down at the abyss; he looks straight, looks the opponent in his eyes. The possibility of a fatal fall doesn't even cross the Australian's mind.

That's Hewitt's style, one that has brought him more success than his game — independent of his character — is due. He is a lightweight boxer earning his millions in the heavyweight class, a David among Goliaths. He simply skips the weigh-in!

As it turned out in the 119th Wimbledon championships, on Monday, Hewitt's opponent, Taylor Dent of the United States, weighed in rather impressively. In sheer physical terms he was, at 6ft 3in and 88kg, a good four inches taller and 12 kilos heavier; but it was his explosive serve-and-volley game that was expected to pose a serious challenge to the 2002 champion.

It did, but only sporadically. Hewitt, for his part, went through his patented Go-ahead-make-my-day Dirty Harry stare-down-the-opponent routine. And, give or take a few minutes, Dent, son of the former Australian Davis Cupper Phil Dent, did make Hewitt's day.

The third seeded Australian let go of two matchpoints in the third set tiebreak but quickly made amends to win the fourth round contest 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(7), 6-3 in a minute over three hours.

The last Australian standing in the men's event, Hewitt may have been a touch peeved on being denied the seeding that his world ranking warranted: No. 2. The All England Club's seedings committee decided to promote last year's finalist Andy Roddick and Hewitt found himself in Federer's half of the draw.

Serious challenger

But the street-fighter in tennis shorts dealt with that hurt manfully and has turned himself into a serious challenger not long after joining the circuit following a three-month break.

Quite apart from the question of rustiness, it was also believed that new-found happiness and contentment in his personal life — he will marry girlfriend Bec Cartwright, the Home and Away actress on July 21 — might have eroded his combative instincts.

Then again, however happy Hewitt is in his private life, it is never going to change the way he deals with his professional life.

Tenacity is the man's calling card and he does not have a single meek bone in his body. Give him $500m and settle him in the best property on the French Riviera and Hewitt will still love a brawl.

Hewitt doesn't fight to win or to bank millions; he fights to assert his personality, to establish his identity. He fights for the same reason that Sean Penn acts, the same reason that Armstrong pedals his way up steep mountains in the Tour de France.

To be sure, Hewitt's game is still some way from where he'd want it to be. But the hustler has played very little tennis since losing to Marat Safin in the Australian Open final and every match he wins here will turn him into an ever-more-formidable competitor.

After all, Hewitt is the resident David at every Grand Slam event, waiting for the big boys with his sling and five stones. As of now, here, he still hasn't had to use even one.

The Australian opened up a 4-0 lead in the first set as Dent took a while to wake up and then pumped his fist as if he was intent of drilling a hole a mile deep into the centre court turf on going up a set. Hewitt found an early break in the second but the third was tougher. But, then, the Australian was up 6-4 in the tiebreak before Dent decided to leave some sort of impression on his opponent.

Hewitt traded breaks early in the fourth set before forcing a volleying error out of Dent for a break in the eighth game and then serving the match out.

Ancic disappoints

Hewitt will play Feliciano Lopez in the quarterfinals. The left-handed Spaniard, who ousted Marat Safin last week, didn't put a foot wrong as he outplayed Mario Ancic of Croatia, the 10th seed, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 in an hour and 40 minutes.

Much has been expected of Ancic since he beat Roger Federer in the first round here three years ago but, today, the tall Croatian was short on confidence and his serves let him down badly. With 15 doubles faults and a first serve success rate of 45 per cent, Ancic simply had no hope against Lopez, who his playing the best attacking tennis of his life here this fortnight.

Ancic failed to read the Spaniard's left-handed serves for the most part and won a meagre 22 per cent points when receiving but it was, really, his own poor serving that saw him struggle to mount any sort of challenge.

Leander Paes and Nenad Zimonjic, seeded five, overcame a shaky start to get past Rick Leach and Travis Parrot of the United States 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 to make the pre-quarterfinals of the men's doubles event.

Meanwhile, in the junior boys singles, India's Vivek Shokeen beat Robin Roshardt of Switzerland 3-6, 6-0, 6-3 in the first round.

06-29-2005, 09:23 PM
Federer looks the part

By Anand Philar
Monday, 27 June , 2005,

Watching the Wimbledon matches, the famous words of Ivan Lendl repeatedly come to mind. When repeatedly asked about his reluctance to participate in the prestigious Grand Slam event, Lendl quipped: "Grass is for cows!" It is another matter that he eventually gave Wimbledon a try, but could never win it.

The same was the case with Agassi who initially refused to travel to London and it was partly because of his anti-establishment attitude besides rejection of "tradition". Yes, all of us when we were that age (early to mid-20s), had little time for "fuddy duddies" and their "old fashioned" ideas. Agassi too finally made it to Wimbledon and unlike Lendl, won the coveted title.

Now into its second week, Wimbledon continues to radiate an aura of mysticism and romanticism that few players, past and present, have been immune to. Forget all the strawberries and cream stuff, the point is that it is the only tournament in the World that is simply referred to as "The Championships" and where men are referred to as "gentlemen" (McEnroe, please excuse!) and the women, "ladies". The ladies’ names are prefixed to indicate their marital status.

Of course, most of you are aware of these little snippets of information, but that in no way diminishes the profile of Wimbledon championships. It remains the most coveted title for any tennis player worth his salt and am sure, that the clay-loving Spaniards, too, given sufficient incentive, wouldn’t mind having a shot at the championships.

From purely Indian point of view, the first week of the fortnight has been all about Sania Mirza who promised much but could not deliver in the second round despite coming within a whisker of pulling off a great win over Kuznetkova. Overall, the most noticeable aspect of the first week has been the absence of classical "serve-and-volley" style of play with Federer and a couple of others being the exceptions.

Quite typically, it has been all about huge serves, heavy topspin, rallying from backcourt and power-packed groundstrokes. One cannot help but be awestruck by the power these youngsters generate these days. No doubt, much of it is due to the technological development of the racquets, but even the women players are not that far behind. The traditionalists among us might wince at this slug-fest, but then, it is a new wave of tennis kids who are have little time for subtle play. Rather, it is far more straightforward style (I can hit harder than you).

Thus, amidst these beefy players, somebody like Federer stands out with his lovely touch play, though when the situation warrants, he has shown his ability to generate power to overwhelm his opponents who simply cling to the backline.

There is about this Swiss star that reminds one of several old timers like McEnroe who had so much variety and elegance about their game. Against Keifer, for instance, Federer pulled off several glorious volleys and passing shots that accentuated more of his skill than just power.

The manner in which he took apart the German in the fourth set when down 3-5 was simply breathtaking. Almost unnoticed, Federer upped his game several notches as only true champions can and decimated Keifer who had often troubled him in their previous encounters. Federer’s courage to make frequent trips to the net and stay there marks him out from the rest of the field. | Catch all the Wimbledon action on Sify Max |

The knowledgeable will tell you that the best way to win Wimbledon is to camp at the net, though somebody like Borg proved all such theories wrong by winning five consecutive titles by staying on the backline, just like he did at Roland Garros while winning his six French Open crowns.

In contrast, Borg’s successors like McEnroe, Becker, Pat Cash and Sampras, excelled at netplay with well-angled volleys after following their serves. The beauty of such play is unmatched on grass. However, increasingly these days, the muscular, double-fisted kids prefer to hit it out from the backcourt that demands more power.

Serve and volley is an art that is given to the few who are willing to make the adaptation from clay and hardcourt surfaces. It would mean more intelligent serves to pull the opponent out off court and also a good approach shot that pushes the rival deeper thus opening out the court. Federer, like Sampras before him, has shown great technique to master this tactic and has deservedly won the rewards. This year too, he is looking to achieve a hat-trick of titles and frankly, discerning will not be surprised if he succeeds.

So, on to the second week then and hopefully, the rains will stay away to offer us more tennis feast.

06-29-2005, 09:28 PM
Wimbledon-Free and easy Roddick warms to the task
Wed Jun 29, 2005

By Martyn Herman

LONDON, June 29 (Reuters) - A relieved Andy Roddick said reaching his third consecutive Wimbledon semi-final had taken a hefty weight off his shoulders.

It is nearly two years since the 22-year-old American won the U.S. Open -- a triumph that many thought would spark a rush of grand slam titles.

So far, the man saddled with the expectations of a nation used to the dominance of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi has not quite delivered despite consistent results.

At times during his 3-6 6-2 6-1 3-6 6-3 defeat of Frenchman Sebastien Grosjean on Wednesday, Roddick played the kind of intimidating power tennis that shot him to the top of the world rankings in 2003.

"I feel freer, a lot freer," said Roddick, who has been left in the shade by world number one Roger Federer and Spanish claycourt king Rafael Nadal this year.

"There was a lot of heat on me coming into this tournament. I wanted to prove that I'm still a pretty good tennis player, you know. I'm not gone, I'm 22-years-old.

"I'm still up in the world, competing for slams basically, three out of the four of them throughout the year. I felt like I still deserved a little bit of respect."

Roddick's past record on grass prompted the Wimbledon seedings committee to push him up one place above his world ranking of three.

It has added to the pressure to succeed here, and helps to explain his spikey mood when he was taken to five sets by Italian lucky loser Daniele Bracciali in the second round.

"I needed a big result," he added. "The last thing I wanted to do was struggle through the claycourt season, then when it is time to play well on a surface that I'm confident on, blow it."

Having reached the business end of the tournament, Roddick can set up a possible repeat of last year's final against Federer if he gets by Swede Thomas Johansson on Friday.

"My mind will not wander," he said. "You don't get to the last four of Wimbledon and start overlooking people, thinking you're already there.

"Obviously, you have a daydream every now and then. But then you come back to reality and realise you're so close, but so far."

Roddick needed to be at his best to fend off some spirited resistance from the wily Grosjean, a player he had beaten on their previous six meetings.

His serve, as expected, ventually helped him dominate, although Roddick believes that other aspects of his game could land him the title, particularly his once-suspect volleying.

"It gives me another option," he said. "It came up huge in my second round match. It just gives me a Plan B.

"I don't feel like it's forced now. I used to go to the net, hit a shot and hope something good might happen."

Before he can even contemplate using his new weapons on Federer, or Lleyton Hewitt, he knows that another awkward hurdle stands in his way, former Australian Open champion Johansson.

"When he starts playing well he plays really well," said Roddick. "He's tough, but I feel good about the way I'm playing right now."

06-29-2005, 09:31 PM
Another tired youth falls prey to Nalbandian
By Martin Johnson
(Filed: 28/06/2005)

There's no evidence of royalty in the list of people David Nalbandian most admires - Pete Sampras, Boris Becker, Diego Maradona - but the way the Argentine keeps on ruthlessly dispatching male babies, it's a surprise to find that King Herod doesn't get a mention.

On Saturday it was 18-year-old Andy Murray, and yesterday it was the just turned 19-year-old French prodigy, Richard Gasquet. At the age of 23, Nalbandian must feel like Methuselah out there, and if - like Murray - he likes to videotape his opponents, he probably expected to be sitting through more footage of Gasquet on the bouncy castle than his backhand.

Nalbandian's 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), 6-0 victory was similar to the one over Murray in the way that his younger opponent completely ran out of gas. Evolution is being turned on its head. Once upon a time it was the old codgers, like Andre Agassi, who were supposed to expire in a flurry of gasps and wheezes, but all the evidence here suggests that the offspring of the Playstation generation (and Gasquet was sporting an advertisement for them on his shirt) will be unable to cross the road without the lollipop lady giving them a piggyback.

Most people expected Nalbandian to be feeling the effects of his five-setter against Murray, but instead it was Richard who blew a Gasquet in the 24-minute third set whitewash, and owned up afterwards to complete physical collapse. "I was too tired to play any more."

Until he began impersonating a goldfish removed from its bowl, Gasquet more than did enough to show that he's a young man with a big future, especially with his sublime single-handed backhand. However, he also has a teenager's attention span, and the way he kept brilliantly carving out positions, only to blow them with something horribly careless, was like watching Ryan Giggs perform his customary trick of beating five defenders before rattling a shot against the corner flag.

The second set was tight enough for Nalbandian to get shirty over a line call, and he spent a good half-minute protesting to the umpire. Quite why players bother doing this is a bit of a mystery, and will remain so until one of these exchanges ends with the official intoning into his microphone: "Upon reflection, Mr Nalbandian, you're quite right. I'll give you the point instead."

Nalbandian reached the final on his debut here in 2002, when he was obliterated by Lleyton Hewitt, despite having even more of an aversion to serve and volley than the Australian. In terms of Nalbandian going to the net, it puts you in mind of one of those AA warnings when there's a blizzard sweeping the country. "Stay at home unless your journey is absolutely necessary."

What Nalbandian does he does very well, working his opponent round the court before creating the angle for a winner, but his only concession to variety is the drop shot. Which is probably why someone as fast as Hewitt wiped him off court. His opponent gets so much advance notice that there's a drop shot on the way, he's half inclined to treat it like a Parcelforce delivery and sign for it.

Gasquet's problem, though, was that he looked like a little boy lost out there on Court No 2. Not a single point went by without him looking across to his father, as though he needed some help with his homework.

How much confidence Gasquet would have received from his father/coach is a moot point. In any event, coaching isn't allowed from the spectator seats, and the old man was confined to the occasional "allez". Gasquet had one other supporter in the crowd, a chap with a Union Jack fez who constantly implored him to "come on Richard" with slightly less emotion than the speaking clock.

However, this is as far as it goes for Nalbandian. Tomorrow he meets a Swede with one foot in the grave, the 30-year-old Thomas Johansson, who will simply wait for the younger man to collapse 6-7, 6-7, 7-5, 6-0, 6-0 and be wheeled off court attached to a ventilating machine.

06-29-2005, 09:38 PM
Match Reports

Federer Too Hot for Chilean

©EPA/ F. Coffrini

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Roger Federer leapt in the air, threw his sweat bands and bandana into the crowd and marched out of No.1 Court at Wimbledon today with his dream of a successive hat-trick of titles still alive.

The 23-year-old top seed dismantled the Chilean, Fernando Gonzales, 7-5, 6-2, 7-6 (7-2) in clinical fashion. It took him a mere one hour and 50 minutes

Gonzalez came into Wimbledon with a reputation for blowing hot and cold. But he stepped out against Federer having been the model of consistency throughout the tournament. He was the only quarter-finalist not to drop a set. Gonzalez has also spent the least amount of time on court in disposing of his previous four opponents (six hours and 59 minutes). Not bad going for a player who claimed the other day that there were no grass courts in his homeland.

But when you face a player of Federer's calibre, something has to give. First off, it was the first set. Gonzalez had hauled himself back from 4-1, forcing Federer to capitulate his serve after gaining two break points with a forehand service return clocked at 87mph.

The 21st seed grunted each time he powered his ground strokes from the back of the court, while Federer stayed silent as he figured out how to swing the momentum back into his favour.

It did not take too long. Gonzalez helped him with a series of unforced errors but it was largely Federer's skill and athleticism that enabled him to take the opening set.

Gonzalez, serving, put Federer's nose in front with his 10th error but the Swiss, on the back foot, produced two remarkable shots to seal it. The first was almost like a squash shot. He raced from the back of the court, bent down low and scooped an angled half-volley with delicate dexterity beyond Gonzalez to gain a set point. Then he put so much spin on a defensive return on set point that Gonzalez slammed a forehand into the net.

Gonzalez continued to make errors as Federer tightened his grip. The world No.1 has won 29 titles, with seven gained this year. Add this record to his determination to win his 34th successive victory on grass and it was clear the odds were stacking up against Gonzalez.

An 18th unforced error by the Chilean presented Federer with a two-sets-to-love lead. But it was not just Gonzalez's mistakes that were a factor. Even in the sultry heat, Federer appeared the epitomy of cool as he quietly took control. He has the ability to step up the pace at any given moment. One service break of an opponent is usually enough unless another chance presents itself, a gift seven-time Wimbledon Champion Pete Sampras used to possess.

That is what occurred in the second set as Gonzalez's game slowly disintegrated.

Gonzalez was the first Chilean to have reached the last eight at Wimbledon since Ricardo Acuna 20 years ago. His ace record for the tournament, at 69, was the best of all the quarter-finalists but today his booming ground strokes looked a more powerful weapon.

Gonzalez did not want to go down without a fight and adopted an all or nothing approach. His tactic forced the third set into a tie-break and even Federer's mask of calm was broken as he raged at a line judge: "It is out, man!"

But order was soon restored as an ace on the first of four match points ensured the Federer Express remained on track towards title number three.

Written by Mike Donovan

06-29-2005, 09:47 PM
Posted on Wed, Jun. 29, 2005

Williams authored downfall with poor choices


WIMBLEDON, England - What's wrong with Serena Williams?

Nothing that more time on the practice courts, and I mean a lot more time, won't cure.

It's hard to believe she hasn't learned during the last two years that she can't just throw her racket on the court and watch the various Russians and Belgians cringe. Or maybe she does know and no longer cares.

She no longer intimidates opponents. She doesn't intimidate Francesca Schiavone, who beat her in Rome. She doesn't intimidate Alina Jidkova, who beat her last October in Linz. And she didn't intimidate Jill Craybas, No. 85 in the world, who beat her in straight sets on Saturday in the third round at Wimbledon.

There are those who think Williams has too many outside interests, particularly with the Los Angeles entertainment industry. But Maria Sharapova's life is jammed with outside interests as well, and none of it has interrupted her tennis future.

The difference is that Sharapova commits heavily to tennis and it's been some time since Serena committed the time she needs to stay on top.

Serena Williams is a better athlete than Sharapova. She's faster and more powerful in a game where speed and force is about 90 percent of the game.

But it doesn't matter how much talent you have if you don't put in the time off the court. There are too many outstanding players in women's tennis today and, while Williams has more talent than any of them, she no longer has the consistency that comes with hard daily training.

Williams deserved to be embarrassed at the slop she hit against Craybas, a tour veteran who has been out in the first round of 17 of the 24 Grand Slam events.

There are signs she's getting it. Between sniffles at her post-Craybas press conference, she said: "I definitely think it's important for me to practice harder than what I have been. I've never been big on practicing. I've kind of just been all about playing."

And there was this: "I worked pretty hard the last week or so, but I guess you've got to work more than a week."

It's fine to say the right things. It's another thing do it.

In a sense, the Williams sisters created the monsters now beating them, and it's not unlike the Jim Courier phenomena of the early to mid 1990s.

Courier wasn't as gifted as his contemporaries, but he outworked everyone and that, combined with his considerable talent, took him to the top, until others began to copy, or try to copy, his work ethic.

The work Courier put in off the court had a profound influence on other players, including Pete Sampras, and once Pete began to work as hard as Courier, or nearly as hard, he reached No. 1 in 1993.

No woman with the approximate talent of the Williams sisters worked as hard as they did from the mid-1990s to their early dominating years of 2000-01.

But from 2001, you could see the storm of harder working players coming, especially from Russia, and the Belgians Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne, who knew they would never have the overall skills of the sisters and that the only way they would be able to compete against them was to take the Courier route to the top.

They did and you now see the result.

Tennis, like life, is about choices. If Williams wants to get back to the top of the game, she needs to re-examine her choices. Talent alone isn't enough any longer on the women's tour.

07-05-2005, 09:10 PM
Boris Becker

July 05, 2005

Sampras and Borg are his only true rivals now
By Boris Becker

I SAW some footage during Wimbledon of Roger Federer when he was a boy, maybe 8 or 9, and what struck me immediately was that his walk hasn’t changed. It is a very casual walk, it is the same pace if he has won a point or lost a point; cool and comfortable. It is not the walk of a tennis player.
Even when there are crucial moments in a match, he plays at his pace, in his comfort zone. Most players accelerate, they take balls quickly, they are anxious to get on with things, they make mistakes. Federer stays within himself.

I see him as a combination of Bjorn Borg and Pete Sampras and he is rightly in their company as winners of Wimbledon three times in a row. It is fitting that they are the real rivals to Federer now, not those who may challenge him on the court. Federer is able to put everything in perspective and that makes him really dangerous. He is not the remotest bit in awe of his greatness — everything in his stride, that swaggering stride.

The reason he reminds me of Borg and Sampras is that he is able to keep a lid on his emotions until the job is done. He is ice-cold, he does not show how he is feeling and yet he wins the title and he falls down, and is crying like a little boy. I remember Borg falling to his knees and losing it emotionally. These two sides to the character are fascinating to me. All I had was huge joy and a smile on my face. These people are different. And also very humble. Home and country matters so much to them.

What also characterises the difference is that Federer is continually looking for ways to improve, whereas others seem to be too happy with where they are. There is no such thing as perfection, but he is getting damned close to it. Far too many players look at what they achieved the previous year and just want to go one better this time around, but for Federer, improvement in himself, in every area of the game, is essential.

He is well on his way to getting up there with Borg and Sampras. We venerate him and rightly so. They are his rivals but he is not there yet. Borg won it five times, Sampras seven times in eight years, so Federer is still No 3. I would point out that Borg won his last Wimbledon final against John McEnroe and Sampras won his last two against Pat Rafter and Andre Agassi. The depth in great players was more then, in my opinion. Federer, I know, is at the moment more concerned about Rafael Nadal than Andy Roddick.

I spoke to Roger in Halle and he was really upset about what happened to him in the semi-finals of the French Open, when he lost to Nadal, because he has given the Spaniard a belief that he is comfortable against Federer. It is not a question in Nadal’s mind any more, “can I beat Federer?”, because he has done it. He has had tight matches with Nadal, which is more than Lleyton Hewitt and Roddick have achieved against him in years.

Sue Barker was right to point out that a player’s performance is measured by how good the opposition is. Roddick was completely out of his comfort zone in the final. He kept coming in to the net, which is not something he would do on his perfect Sunday afternoon and he was caught too often in no man’s land. Federer knows Roddick is not comfortable there and it was an open invitation for Federer to hone his passes.

Finally, it was terrific to have the opportunity to work with Jimmy Connors for the BBC for the first time. He brought so much more to the table. There is much more to enjoy talking to someone whom I have the utmost respect for, who has actually done the business on the court. We get along, Jimmy, McEnroe and I, purely because we’ve done the same things in different eras, not because we particularly like each other. But I always got along better with Jimmy because, as players, we had the same training habits, our attitude to tennis was the same and there was something about him as a champion that, I believe, also lived inside of me.

07-05-2005, 09:13 PM
Don't lose heart, Boris tells Hewitt


BORIS Becker has urged Lleyton Hewitt not to lose heart in his pursuit of Roger Federer.

Becker faced a similar assignment when confronted with Pete Sampras, also a slightly younger foe who emerged to dominate Wimbledon.

The parallels between Becker and Sampras and Hewitt and Federer run to statistical similarities and pronounced win-loss trends.

Becker finished with a 7-12 harvest against Sampras after shading the American early.

Hewitt trails Federer 7-10 after previously leading 7-2.

Becker, like Hewitt, was a prodigy before he was overwhelmed by the multi-faceted skills of Sampras, who advanced to a record 14 majors.

As successful as Becker was - six majors, the world No. 1 ranking and Davis Cup glory - there came a time when he simply had to face an unpalatable truth.

"After a while, I knew that even when I played my best and Pete Sampras played his best, his best was too good for my best," Becker said.

Becker does not believe Hewitt has to worry about devising tactics to beat Federer. "There is no game plan to beat Roger Federer - such a thing doesn't exist," Becker said.

"All Lleyton Hewitt can do is have a plan for himself, for the way he wants to play, a clear and decisive approach and the desire to match it."

07-05-2005, 09:27 PM
Swiss star becomes a legend in his own lifetime Jul 4 2005

By Mark Staniforth, Daily Post

ROGER FEDERER became only the eighth man in history to claim three consecutive Wimbledon titles with his straight-sets victory over Andy Roddick yesterday.

The Daily Post takes a look at the other members of the illustrious club which the Swiss superstar now joins:

PETE SAMPRAS (1993, 1994, 1995; 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000)
Only a surprise defeat to Richard Krajicek in the 1996 quarter-finals stopped Sampras claiming an extraordinary eight consecutive Wimbledon titles. Yet the record 14-times Grand Slam winner is the only man ever to enjoy two runs of triple success.

BJORN BORG (1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980)
Swedish prodigy Borg ruled Wimbledon for five tumultuous years. Arguably its greatest ever champion, Borg retired in 1982 aged just 26.

FRED PERRY (1933, 1934, 1935)
The greatest player in British history, Perry was the first man ever to claim all four of the major titles. Still regarded as a true legend of SW19.

ANTHONY WILDING (1910, 1911, 1912, 1913)
Wilding was a charismatic New Zealander who was educated at Cambridge and swiftly took over from the Doherty brothers as Wimbledon's latest idol.

LAURIE DOHERTY (1902, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906)
Laurie went one better than his older brother Reggie by claiming five singles titles. An English gentleman who was idolised on both sides of the Atlantic.

REGGIE DOHERTY (1897, 1898, 1899, 1900)
Local boy Doherty was a master of precise ground-strokes to claim four in a row.

Famed for his great sportsmanship, Doherty claimed he never felt well for a whole day and died aged 38.

WILLIAM RENSHAW (1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885, 1886)
The first and only man to win six consecutive Wimbledon titles, Renshaw transformed the game with his aggressive serving and volleying techniques and is considered the founding father of the modern game.

07-05-2005, 09:35 PM
July 4, 2005, 1:18AM

Doubles about to get kick in the pants
ATP's changes called foul by Aussie Woodbridge
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND - A doubles era ended when Todd Woodbridge called it a career at Wimbledon this week, coincidentally doing so near the ATP's announcement that it was going to overhaul the doubles game.

Woodbridge, who is in his 17th tour season, has been the best doubles player of his generation, but his 83 titles — nine of them at Wimbledon — haven't made him a celebrity.

Although doubles once commanded practically as much respect from Centre Court crowds as singles, it's a dying art form that's pursued seriously only by players who have little hope of making real money in singles.

And that's what the ATP is attempting to change. It wants higher-profile singles players in the doubles draws, not guys like Woodbridge.

This fall, sets will be shortened to a first-to-five-games format — with tiebreakers at 4-all — and no-add scoring will be instituted.

Woodbridge gives the plan two thumbs — and both big toes — down.

"I'm very disappointed with (the ATP's board of directors), so much so that I think they should all resign," he said. "They've made changes without even asking what the rest of the tennis world thinks. They've made a scoring system that doesn't even exist. Even the top singles players are scratching their heads."

The ATP says players, tournament organizers and fans endorse the moves to tighten up matches.

"All groups clearly acknowledge that doubles is an important part of tennis but that some enhancements were necessary," said Horst Klosterkemper, the ATP's player relations director. "Singles players said they would consider playing doubles on a more consistent basis if changes were made, citing the length of matches, which average more than 90 minutes, and scheduling difficulties as reasons for a the lack of participation."

John McEnroe took doubles seriously in the 1980s, winning seven fewer titles (69) in doubles than he did in singles (76).

"It kept me sharp," he said. "You've got to practice anyway."

He suggests "doubles is in danger of completely fading away." He blames Bjorn Borg for starting the decline.

"Borg won so many titles without playing doubles, and then Pete Sampras won all those Grand Slams without playing doubles, so people thought, 'Why bother?' " McEnroe said.

Woodbridge, 34, from Sydney, isn't quitting because of the changes.

"My reasons are completely personal. I haven't won a tournament since January," he said. "I didn't come here planning to retire. I wanted to come here and go for 10 titles, and I'd planned to play the whole year out."

Woodbridge and Mahesh Bhupati were upset in the second round by Stephen Huss and Wesley Moodie, who had only one minor title to their name when they arrived.

At least the unheralded pair went on to win the Wimbledon championship at the expense of the American twins, Bob and Mike Bryan. That had to make Woodbridge feel a little better about his final bow, if not what's happening to his sport.

07-05-2005, 09:49 PM
Depth may put Sampras record beyond Federer
By John McEnroe
(Filed: 03/07/2005)

This may not be the right time to say it, with Roger Federer on the verge of claiming his third Wimbledon title, but I think as time goes by we will see what a remarkable achievement it was by Pete Sampras to win here seven times. I don't think the Swiss, maybe even a better player than Sampras when compared on all surfaces, will surpass his record.

I'm not saying it's impossible and I do believe that he will win, maybe, as many as five Wimbledon titles, I just think that there is more depth in the game today than there was in Sampras's era, guys who could step up on the grass, like Rafael Nadal and Marat Safin. The big Russian threatened to do so this time, but in the end, as usual, left the Championships prematurely. When Federer gets to five then we can start talking about his chances of overhauling Pete, but not before.

Power and physical strength will always be the greatest threat to Federer because he has just about everything else in his game and, of course, no little power himself. It's why Andy Roddick has a chance in today's final. A puncher will always have a chance. Power can be paralysing as I found to my cost towards the end of my career. It can shut you down.

It would have been tough for me to beat Federer in my prime because while I had an all-round game like him it wasn't quite as good as his. I would have come at him, but I would have posed him less of a threat than someone like Sampras or Boris Becker. These guys had serious power. I remember playing Becker in an exhibition match in Atlanta in 1985 when he had just turned 18 and thinking, "How does a guy serve this big at this age?" He had the biggest serve in the history of tennis.

He would have played his game against Federer and come at him. I would love to have seen it. I know Sampras lost to Federer here in 2001 but he was a little past his best. He had, of course, a better serve than Federer - second serve particularly - and he would hit the lines with it, too. Even if you got the ball back it was not as if the point was won, you then probably had to deal with his volley. I know Boris shares the view with me that Sampras would still have had the edge over Federer on grass.

In my position nowadays as a commentator it can be difficult to comprehend how physically strong today's players are or how difficult conditions are when you're cocooned away in that air-conditioned booth. It's one of the reasons why I like to get out and feel things, walk the courts and have a hit with players. I had a hit with Safin before his third-round match against Feliciano Lopez. I was looking forward to seeing if I could return the ball when he rifled one at me. I wanted to fully understand what facing his kind of power was like.

Unfortunately, he seemed to hold back a bit - perhaps he took pity on the old man. If you'd asked me afterwards I'd have said he wasn't ready to play which, as it turned out, was probably right. Yet I feel we were given a glimpse this summer of the kind of challenge he can offer Federer on grass. We know what threat he poses to him on hard-courts from his semi-final victory over Federer in the Australian Open, but I think his narrow three-set defeat to Federer in the Gerry Weber Open in Halle told us he can be a danger on grass, too.

Safin has real power. We saw it against Mark Philippoussis and in the first round against Paradorn Srichaphan. Roddick has comparable power in his serve and forehand and he has to believe it will be enough to carry him through today. It was very nearly enough in last year's final when he played the best I have seen him play. I would advocate him trying to blast Federer off the court again, but if it doesn't work he may have to come in occasionally behind his serve, if only to unbalance Federer.

One of the things that Roddick has in his favour is that Federer cannot prepare to face the kind of power which the Texan can lay on the line. It's not like he can turn to Tony Roche, his coach, and say, "Get me a guy who can serve at 140-150 mph to hit with." Judging by chats I've had with Roddick in the locker room recently it would seem that last year he was more confident but was not as fit as he would have liked to have been. This year he's fitter but less confident, which is understandable after some of the losses he's had to endure against Joachim Johansson (US Open), Nadal (Davis Cup final), Lleyton Hewitt (Australian Open) and Ivan Ljubicic (Davis Cup), not to mention a tough time on the European clay courts.

Roddick isn't a natural serve and volleyer. He's working on being more comfortable at it. It's knowing when to do it that's the key, which is a problem Tim Henman has had on grass in recent years. Federer turned last year's final around after the rain delays by coming to the net more when he noticed Roddick tire a little. Changing strategy during the course of a match is one of the champion's strengths.

He has spoken about wanting to volley more in order to make life a little easier for himself and when you look at his game you wonder why he doesn't do it more often because he has a big serve and he can certainly volley. I think he enjoys floating around on he baseline and while he can dominate matches from back there he sees no reason to come in, although I think it would be smart as it would add another string to his bow.

Finally, while still on the subject of defending titles, young Maria Sharapova found out how difficult it is to do it when you're expected to, but she's got many more years to discover the knack of how to do it. Serena Williams, on the other hand, thought she could regain her's by working hard for one week. I'm sorry, Serena, as talented as you are, one week's hard practice isn't quite going to cut it.

07-07-2005, 08:48 PM
Commentary: Boca's Roddick blesses his curse
By Greg Stoda

Palm Beach Post Columnist

Monday, July 04, 2005

WIMBLEDON, England — It is a curse, which Andy Roddick is somehow convincing himself to view as a blessing.

Roddick is 22 years old and one of the best tennis players in the world.

Roger Federer is 23 years old and without doubt the very best tennis player in the world.

Federer won his third consecutive Wimbledon championship Sunday afternoon at the All England Club and did so for the second successive year at the expense of Roddick in the title match. Federer's 6-2, 7-6 (2), 6-4 victory was at least as convincing as the score looks.

So, too, is Federer a convincingly superior talent to Roddick.

The mathematical proof lies in Federer's 9-1 record in head-to-head matches and his five Grand Slam titles to Roddick's one.

They likely remain in the early stages of parallel careers, which means Roddick might well be doomed to existence in Federer's shadow if it grows, as expected, across the history of the game.

How maddening must the specter of that kind of long-term frustration be for Roddick?

"I'm not going to sit here and complain about it. It's OK," he said in very low voice.

So, he'll do what he can... do what he must, if he is to cope for whatever remains of his career: Roddick will measure himself against Federer and use the challenge as motivation.

But so completely beaten was Roddick on Centre Court on Sunday that he said, "It's not like I have a lot of questions."

Which means he doesn't have the answers, either.

"You just kind of have to tip your hat," Roddick said. "Every once in a while — it's tough for us athletes — but you have to say, 'You were better than I was.' It's tough knowing you're a better player than you were two years ago (without) having a lot to show for it."

Roddick won the U.S. Open title those two years ago.

Federer has won four — an Australian Open, two Wimbledons and a U.S. Open — of the seven Grand Slam events contested since that Roddick victory.

"Well, be nice to him," Federer said with genuine feeling and not a hint of condescension. "He's a great player himself, too, and I respect him very much."

Federer and Roddick, in fact, happen to like each other. Federer finds Roddick a delightful and "funny" personality off court, and Roddick has a deep appreciation for Federer as a person away from tennis.

"I have loads of respect for him," Roddick said. "I've told him before, 'I'd love to hate you, but you're really nice."

That's one less source of inspiration for Roddick to use in trying to climb to Federer's level, or past him.

It might be easier for Roddick if he could work up a healthy dislike for the guy, but he can't. And doesn't want to.

Roddick understands the situation only too well. He knows it's not too soon, despite his rival's age, to mark this period as the emerging stage of a Federer Era in the wake of a Pete Sampras Era.

Consider the comparisons.

Sampras won the third of his three-in-a-row Wimbledons a month short of his 24th birthday, which is exactly what Federer just did. Sampras had six Grand Slam event titles at the time, or one more than Federer does now. Sampras' record at the All England Club was 27-4 after the third triumph; Federer's is 25-4. Fittingly, Federer defeated Sampras in 2001 at Wimbledon, ending Sampras' 31-match winning streak at Wimbledon.

Sampras won seven Wimbledon crowns by later stringing four championships in succession, and he finished his career with a record 14 titles in Grand Slam tournaments.

There is talk these days of Federer having the potential to be of that ilk.

And it's Roddick caught in the mix.

"I don't know if I'd change it," Roddick said. "If you can't compete against the best and beat the best, then you don't deserve to win. That's what I'm faced with right now. I'm not going to sit here and beat myself up about getting to the final and losing to a guy everybody is debating whether he's the best of all time.

"Listen, I want another crack at him. I want another crack at him 'til my record is 1-31. I'd love to keep playing him."

Not that he has much choice.

Other than to see a blessing where there might be a curse.

07-09-2005, 07:34 PM

SPORTS > Johnston

Chronicling Courier's Journey To Hall Of Fame
Published: Jul 9, 2005

Wimbledon 1989. John McEnroe, down two sets and nearly bounced from the tournament, was charging back. Centre Court was rocking. Truly, it was special to witness.
At least that's what people told me later.

I was somewhere in the basement of the All England Club, in a private interview cubicle, waiting for 18-year-old Jim Courier. Another one-person news conference. Nobody else needed to ask about his five-set loss in the first round.

He walked slowly, eyes red, face grim, after absorbing the gut- wrenching defeat to Robert Seguso. Courier couldn't resist a smirk when seeing a familiar face. ``Man, we've got to stop meeting like this.''

We met a lot in those days, whether it was Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, after a workout at Saddlebrook, down at the old Bollettieri Academy, in his hometown of Dade City.

He was the promising young American player. Me? Pete Sampras once jokingly called me the ``Jim Courier stalker,'' but it wasn't that bad.

Well, maybe it was.

Somewhere in the dutiful chronicling of a local athlete's accomplishments, history took over. In the blink of an eye, really.

We already know the ending. Today, the final chapter of Courier's distinguished career will be celebrated with his induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

But where did it all begin?

The Worker

Courier won the French Open - twice. He captured two more Grand Slam tournaments. He was ranked No. 1 in the world. He became a Davis Cup hero. At the U.S. Open, in consecutive years, he effectively ended the major-tournament careers of Jimmy Connors and McEnroe.

Those are the obvious highlights.

That's the Jim Courier everyone knows.

I'd like to think his drive began a lot earlier.

Everyone filled a role in the new generation of American tennis. Andre Agassi was the star. Pete Sampras was the natural. Jim Courier was the worker.

Man, did Courier work.

His game was perfect for red clay because he could crank for hours, bludgeoning opponents with those inside-out forehands. His attention to nutrition was impeccable. He fought and fought. He could wear you out, physically and mentally.

That was true, almost instantly.

The Road To Fame

U.S. Open 1988. Courier's first appearance in a Grand Slam main draw, an opening-round match against Horst Skoff of Austria.

I sat with a couple of New York fans, along a fence on the outside court. They offered analysis.

``Courier looks a little like Phil Simms, doesn't he?''

``Yeah, but Phil Simms doesn't have a forehand like that.''

Boom! Boom! From a distance, Courier's match couldn't be seen. But it could be heard. A few dozen more fans drifted over, checking out the young American.

Afterward, Courier was beaming. He felt the crowd support. Somebody asked him if he could imagine winning a Grand Slam tournament one day.

``Let's go ... I'm ready,'' he said.

He couldn't be ready for everything that happened, though. The one-person news conferences were soon gone. Part of him belonged to the world.

The kid who liked eating at George & Gladys' Bar-B-Que was heading home on the Concorde, chatting up Henry Kissinger. The guy who once stood in line with his family to play at one of the four tennis courts in Dade City was sitting across the desk from Johnny Carson. The plain dirty white cap, a symbol of his tennis Everyman status, suddenly was adorned with a swoosh, part of a $24 million Nike endorsement contract.

Courier didn't especially like some demands of fame. And not everyone appreciated his methodical approach (memorable British tabloid headline, when Courier faced Sampras in the 1993 Wimbledon final: ``Bored On The Fourth Of July'').

Eventually, he escaped from the globetrotting world of professional tennis, which can be a pretty weird place. To reach No. 1, putting your outside life on hold is a necessity. Courier not only survived, he thrived.

Typical of a man who reached his potential, he milked every experience. He learned other languages. He explored cities. He visited museums.

Maybe he never offered the cachet of Sampras and Agassi. But Courier made a significant impact on tennis, and he's deserving of today's honor. It's a time to remember the great moments.

Following him around, during much simpler times, made for some unforgettable memories, too. Truly, it was special to witness.

07-09-2005, 07:41 PM
Article Published: Sunday, June 26, 2005

Serena questions herself

By Howard Fendrich, Associated Press

WIMBLEDON, England - Between sniffles and tears after her earliest Grand Slam loss in more than six years, Serena Williams appeared to have a moment of clarity.

Just a couple of days earlier, after a second straight escape at Wimbledon, Williams was stone-faced as she talked about still being the favorite and having a mental edge over everyone else.

Was she trying to convince others or herself?

Now, that stoic veneer gone after a 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) defeat against 85th-ranked Jill Craybas in the third round, Williams acknowledged for the first time that perhaps she couldn't get by on talent and reputation alone.

Perhaps she needed to rededicate herself to tennis.

Perhaps she needed to get in better shape.

Perhaps gasp! she needed to actually get out there and work on her game.

"I definitely think it's important for me to practice harder than what I have been,' Williams said Saturday night, a pink visor pulled low above her reddened eyes. "I've never been big on practicing. I've kind of just been all about playing.'

When action resumes today at the All England Club after the middle Sunday's traditional day of rest, it will be Craybas facing Venus Williams for a spot in the quarterfinals, instead of another Williams vs. Williams meeting at a major.

The other women's round-of-16 matchups include No. 1 Lindsay Davenport vs. four-time major finalist Kim Clijsters, defending champion Maria Sharapova vs. No. 16 Nathalie Dechy, and No. 6 Elena Dementieva vs. No. 9 Anastasia Myskina in a rematch of the 2004 French Open final.

Much attention has been paid to the elder Williams' decline in recent seasons, all the way down to 16th in the rankings after four full years without a major championship. But this time it is little sis who looks far removed from the days of being No. 1 and winning seven Grand Slam titles, including four in a row in 2002-03.

Although she wouldn't use it as an excuse, Williams was hampered by a left ankle injury, one that had limited her to one match in more than two months before arriving in England. More telling was the way she gasped for air after lengthy points even early in the match against Craybas, much as she did while being extended to three sets by 104th-ranked Angela Haynes in the first round and 124th-ranked Mara Santangelo in the second.

Since winning the Australian Open at the start of the season, Williams is without a title and has just 10 victories none against a top 10 player and five losses.

Other players have gotten stronger and fitter and aren't as intimidated against Williams. Injuries and time away from tennis spent on acting and clothing design haven't helped her cause.

Consider this: Craybas won seven games in their previous two meetings combined.

Plus, as Fred Haynes put it after his up-and-coming daughter pushed around the established Williams in the first round: "You're not going to run 15 miles a day when you have $30 million in the bank. The intensity level is just not going to be there.'

Williams vowed that will change.

She managed to stay around until the second week at 18 consecutive Slams, dating to a third-round departure from the 1999 French Open. How did she deal with the disappointment back then? Her next major was the U.S. Open, and Williams won it.

It should surprise no one if that happens again this September.

"I definitely feel by the U.S. Open I'll be in hopefully a lot better shape. Obviously, I'll be practicing until then. I definitely think I'll be ready for that,' she said. "As soon as tomorrow comes, I think I should be on the court. Not just on the court, but just working out in general.'

As good as top-ranked Roger Federer is, his streak of reaching the second week at tennis' four biggest tournaments extends only to last year's French Open. But on grass, and at Wimbledon, he looks and feels rather invincible.

He has won 32 matches in a row on the surface, 17 at the All England Club. Asked whether anything less than a third straight Wimbledon title, something accomplished only by Bjorn Borg and Pete Sampras in the past 60 years, would be OK with him, Federer's answer was direct:

"No, probably not. I wouldn't be satisfied,' he said. "For me, only the win would be satisfying this year, the way I've been playing.'

He will face past French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero today. Other fourth-round matchups include No. 2 Andy Roddick vs. 2004 French Open runner-up Guillermo Coria, and 2002 Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt vs. No. 24 Taylor Dent.

Roddick, who lost to Federer in the Wimbledon final last year and the semifinals in 2003, sounded more thrilled than his rival did about making it to Week 2.

"It's definitely always a big relief to kind of get through the first couple of rounds, be alive come the second week. That's where the big matches start happening. You know, a lot of it is about survival,' Roddick said.

"Mission accomplished for the first week. Now it's time to get down to business."

07-11-2005, 10:00 PM
Federer, sunny side up
Published July 10, 2005

I loved Pete Sampras' guts and pure confidence on the court and am still not convinced that Roger Federer could beat him if both were at the top of their games at Wimbledon.

In fact, there wasn't much I didn't like about Pete, though there was one thing: He was an interview recluse, a man who was talkative enough in his postmatch news conferences but who wasn't available to reporters in a one-on-one situation unless you carried credentials from ESPN or Sports Illustrated.

Even if you knew more about tennis and could talk tennis more intelligently than anyone who worked for those two high-profile media giants, there was no entree to Sampras. He was, as his agent liked to tell reporters, unavailable.

But now Federer ... vive la difference. He's not going to cut short a beachfront vacation to take your call, but he is so natural, so genuine and so down to earth that it is impossible not to admire him in ways you couldn't admire Sampras.

A few days before the Wimbledon final, I ventured into the players' cafeteria, where Federer was at the salad bar, picking at strands of lettuce and plucking tomatoes into his bowl.

There ensued a short conversation about grazing. "I love salad. Any kind of salads," he said. I explained to him that in the United States, when we have salads, it's called grazing, as cows do in pastures. "Grazing," he repeated, amused. "OK." He filed that away in his list of American idioms, which might come in handy in the coming weeks, when he arrives in the United States to work up to the U.S. Open.

And then, the day after he won his third straight Wimbledon, Federer invited reporters to his rented home in Wimbledon for breakfast, and to sit and chat, about anything, much the same as he did the day after he won the 2004 U.S. Open. That never happened with Sampras. In fact, the idea of Sampras asking reporters to his rented home would have been laughable.

You come away from one of these tête-à-têtes with Federer not really thinking so much about his tennis, which we all know is fabulous, but the way he fits in so easily with ordinary people.

That's why he's a greater champion than Pete.

Roger and out

Chances are Federer won't reappear on court until the Canadian Open in Montreal, Aug. 8-14. That's where he won his eighth title of 2004. He won his eighth title this year at Wimbledon.

From there, he'll play Cincinnati, which also is a Masters Series event, take the week off before the U.S. Open, then arrive in New York to defend his crown.

He'll go through the Open without coach Tony Roche, who at 60 doesn't like traveling the world.

That's fine. Federer won without a coach last year. He'll be favored to repeat for his sixth Grand Slam title.

Double trouble

The most underplayed story at Wimbledon was the announcement of the new ATP doubles rules, which go into effect right after the Open: No-ad scoring, no time delays on changeover (just grab a drink and get back out there) and tiebreaks at 4-4.

There is going to be a growing controversy over these rules throughout the U.S. Open Series, which begins Monday in Indianapolis, though the top players don't really care.

The idea behind the new rules is to get top players on the doubles court, and save the game from extinction, but even Mark Miles, the CEO of the men's tour, is skeptical that Federer or Andy Roddick or Marat Safin or Lleyton Hewitt are going to start playing doubles.

The theory is that if you can guarantee the top players they won't have to be on court for more than an hour and a half, and usually no more than an hour or an hour and 10 minutes, they'll play and expand the crowds.

I'm skeptical, but we'll see.

Top doubles player Jonas Bjorkman reiterated a complaint I've heard many times. "They're doing a lousy job of promoting doubles. That's the problem," Bjorkman said of the ATP.

But you don't see doubles players banding together and presenting their own plan for promoting doubles. As far as I know, they don't have a program.They have no unity at a time when they need it badly. They should have a delegation that includes Bjorkman and the Bryan twins sitting across a desk from new ATP chairman of the board Etienne deVilliers.

Second serves

No surprise that Lindsay Davenport is hurt again, this time with the back injury that cropped up in the Wimbledon final vs. Venus Williams. No word yet on how this will set back her preparation for the U.S. Open. ...

The Bryan twins have reached the final of all three Grand Slam doubles this year and lost each time. That's not a good sign going into the September Davis Cup tie vs. Belgium, which will be on clay.

Charles Bricker can be reached at

Copyright © 2005

07-11-2005, 10:22 PM
July 10, 2005 : Sports : Tennis Single

It's Tennis' Best-Kept Secret
The ability to draw top names has enabled World TeamTennis to find a unique niche.

By Lisa Dillman, Times Staff Writer

Martina Navratilova? Check.

Martina Hingis? Check.

Boris Becker? Check.

Patrick Rafter? Check.

Billie Jean King has done an admirable job this year, whittling down her shopping list — or you could call it a wish list — for the entity occupying a special place in her heart, World TeamTennis.

In one fell swoop, signing the publicity-shy Steffi Graf to play one match this summer in Houston, the list was essentially down to one.

So, who is left? Name the most prominent player never to take part in the funky, no-ad world of TeamTennis.

"The only one probably is Sampras," said King, the league's co-founder.

That would be Pete Sampras, winner of a record 14 Grand Slam singles titles, and resolutely retired. "But we haven't given up on him yet," added Ilana Kloss, the chief executive and commissioner of WTT.

King initially grumbled at the question, noting the league's long list of marquee players, saying, "We've got 17 good ones…." But his non-participation probably says more about Sampras' famous reluctance than a commentary on the league.

Kloss considered the litany of Hall of Famers who've played in the league an impressive alumni group.

"We are planning to do a 30-year reunion at the U.S. Open and as we were going down the list of everybody that played, it really is pretty much everybody who is anyone in the sport," she said.

"From Rod Laver to Evonne Goolagong, to Jimmy [Connors] to Chris [Evert] to Ilie [Nastase]. In the past few years, it would have been [only] Pete [not playing] and hopefully we can get him."

The days of Laver, Evert and Connors were the league's pinnacle in the '70s. Back then, King and her team inspired the lyrics of singer Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom."

Things are different now. It's hard to imagine Radiohead or Green Day writing a song about the St. Louis Aces or the Boston Lobsters. Niches aren't easy to find in the crowded sports landscape. But you can find WTT tucked into a small window of the packed summer tennis calendar, nestling in the period after Wimbledon and preceding the heart of the North American hard-court professional season leading into the U.S. Open.

The three-week regular-season schedule started July 4 and runs through July 24. Teams are Boston, Delaware, Hartford, Houston, Kansas City, New York Buzz, New York Sportimes, Newport Beach, Philadelphia, Sacramento, St. Louis, and Springfield.

One sign of progress is the increase in franchise fees. In the '80s, franchise fees were $35,000. They have increased to $100,000, according to league officials. And the league will feature eight hours of programming on ESPN2, plus the addition of instant replay. That will allow the challenge of line calls in certain matches.

"A lot of us are very excited to see John McEnroe take on Hawk-Eye," Kloss said. " … I've said this for a long time, but I think WTT is the best think tank that the sport of tennis could ever have. [Tennis] has been slow to adapt some of the things that have worked in TeamTennis."

Teams consist of two men, two women and a coach. There are men's and women's singles, men's and women's doubles and mixed doubles. Matches consist of five sets, plus overtime. But sets in WTT aren't like the ones at conventional tennis tournaments. Sets are won by the first team to reach five games, not six, and the scoring is no-ad. If the set is tied, 4-4, then a nine-point tiebreaker is played.

Team rosters are fluid. Players can vary dramatically from match to match.

Maria Sharapova will be playing in one match on July 23 for the Newport Beach Breakers, who play at the Palisades Tennis Club in Newport Beach. Navratilova, who lost to Hingis on Thursday night, 5-0, is appearing in six of Boston's 14 matches.

"What we really believe in is the three generations playing," King said. "If you look at the rosters, you'll see young people, current players in their 20s, and you'll see the twilighters, like the Beckers, the Navratilovas and McEnroes…. That way, three generations can relate to these three generations, as far as names and ages."

Graf spans several eras, having played against Navratilova, Anna Kournikova and Hingis on the tour.

Her "season" will consist of one match Tuesday in Houston. The Houston Wranglers will be playing host to the Sacramento Capitals and Kournikova. But Graf vs. Kournikova is not a certainty because Kournikova did not play singles the other night against the Breakers, only doubles and mixed doubles.

Kournikova has not played on the WTA Tour since 2003, and Graf retired in 1999. Graf has played exhibitions in rare circumstances since then. Her participation was one of the reasons that owners Jim and Linda McIngvale, who also run an ATP Tour clay-court in Houston, acquired a WTT franchise in Houston.

Graf earned their admiration when she was in Houston for a WTA event in the mid-'90s, according to Perry Rogers, the agent for Graf and her husband Andre Agassi. They had arranged for a promotional event at an area school and Graf showed up, looking sharp in a dress and high heels.

The problem was that a net was up and lines were painted. Children were ready to play tennis.

"She kicked off her shoes and said, 'Let's go,' " Rogers said. "The McIngvales said [of Graf], 'These are the kind of people we want to be around.' "

The WTT budget makes it more affordable for potential owners than running a WTA or ATP event.

Director Bob Kramer of the Mercedes-Benz Cup at UCLA said his player payout was about $1 million, a combination of appearance fees and tournament prize money.

Nitty Singh, who owns the New York Buzz franchise in Schenectady, ran well regarded men's and women's lower-level events for years and said her budget in the last year was about $1.1 million for the combined tournaments as opposed to $350,000 for World TeamTennis.

Singh said the most she has paid for a player commitment was $50,000. Contracts with individual players are negotiated by the league. The range for roster players is usually $1,500 to $15,000 a week, officials said, with marquee players — such as Sharapova, Graf and Lindsay Davenport — being paid per night, at a significantly higher rate. The total in salaries, including bonus money, is $2 million this summer, said a WTT representative.

07-13-2005, 11:25 PM
Federer's not invincible, says Roche
July 13, 2005 - 5:09PM

Tony Roche, the sought-after Australian coach of Roger Federer, says Lleyton Hewitt need not despair in his ongoing quest to knock the world No.1 off his perch.

Such is the chasm between the game's top two players, Hewitt has lost his last eight matches against Federer, with the Swiss master ending the Australian's challenge at four of his past six grand slam events.

Two weeks ago, in their most recent meeting, Federer clinically dismantled Hewitt in straight sets in the Wimbledon semi-finals before going on to claim his third straight title at the All England Club.

But despite watching his charge romp to a 58-3 win-loss record in 2005 - and a staggering 74-3 since last year's Olympics - Roche doesn't believe Federer to be invincible.

"Everybody's beatable, but I think the way he played at Wimbledon, especially the final, was at another level," Roche said.

"When he gets on the grass, he just feels right at home and, having won three Wimbledons, he's obviously feeling very confident on that particular surface.

"And actually the pressure was on Roger at Wimbledon because people were saying he hadn't had a very good year, but he'd still been in both (previous grand slam) semi-finals.

"In a lot of players' eyes, that's a pretty good year.

"You've got to realise that the great Rod Laver and the Pete Sampras's and these players all do lose. You just can't keep continuing to win."

Asked if he thought Hewitt could ever conquer Federer again, after the South Australian beat his former doubles partner in seven of their first nine clashes, Roche said: "Oh yeah. When you're the No.2 player in the world you've got a chance to beat anybody."

Hewitt won 22 of the 27 points when he ventured to the net against Federer at Wimbledon and Roche said attacking tennis may be the key for his former Davis Cup pupil.

"Lleyton's been No.1, he's won grand slams, he's won Davis Cups. I mean, obviously he's doing a lot of things right," he said.

"So I think he's just trying to build his game to be a little bit more aggressive, maybe so he can finish the points a little quicker rather than being out there for a long time.

"That sort of catches up with you a little bit when you play grand slams when you've got to win seven matches.

"I'm sure Lleyton's aware of that and I think his comeback was pretty good. He hadn't played a lot of tournaments this year and got to the semis at Wimbledon. (That) was a great effort."

Roche, though, also had a chilling warning for pretenders to Federer's throne.

"Roger feels he can improve more. He's got a lot of work to do on certain parts of his game and that's what he's looking for," Roche said.

"He wants to win the French (Open) some day and he's got to improve a little bit there."

© 2005 AAP

07-13-2005, 11:27 PM
Nation's top juniors on display in local event
July 13, 2005
Girls No. 1 player says demise of sport exaggerated.

By Russell Hedges

Before Wimbledon this summer, media reports painted a pretty bleak picture of the future of American tennis.

Andy Roddick was the only American male seeded in the top 16 at Wimbledon. Experts said no teen phenoms are on the horizon to take the place of such female superstars as Venus and Serena Williams and Lindsay Davenport.

Kirsten Flower of Columbus, Ohio, ranked No. 1 in the nation in the girls 16-and-under divison, doesn't think it's that grim, however.

"People may say they don't see anybody coming up, but we've got so much talent somebody's going to break through," she said. "It's just a matter of time."

Flower, 16 is one of more than 140 of the nation's top juniors playing in the USTA Boys and Girls 16s Intersectional Team Championships at Pierremont Oaks Tennis Club this week.

She and some of the other players at Pierremont Oaks could the future of American tennis.

The tournament, a sectional team competition, features five of the top 10 boys 16s players in the nation, including No. 1 Dennis Nevolo of Gurnee, Ill., and three of the top 10 girls.

Nevolo and Flower play for the United States Tennis Association's Midwest section. On Tuesday afternoon, they teamed up for a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Joseph Cadogan and Brittany Delaney of Florida.

Florida, though, advanced to today's semifinals with a 5-4 victory thanks in part to Cadogan's upset victory over Nevolo in the morning singles. Team's compete in singles, doubles and mixed doubles with a point awarded for each match victory.

Also advancing to the semifinals were the Southern California, Southern and Texas sections. Southern Cal faces Southern at 9:45 a.m. today and defending champion Florida meets Texas at 11:30.

While matches are used to compute national rankings, there is less pressure on the players than in other national competitions because of the team nature of the event. That also makes it more fun.

"I think it's really good for everybody," Nevolo said. "We can compare sections. I think it's a good atmosphere."

Said Flower: "I like this kind of format because year round you're competing against the players from your section. I like it when you can kind of band together and go out against other sections. It's a team atmosphere. That's what college tennis is all about and I'm looking forward to that."

Cincinnati's Rusty Schubert, who coaches the Midwest, said players look forward to the Intersectional tournament more than any event on the national schedule.

"They love the team competition," he said. "They like the camaraderie. They're used to beating up on each all year long. Now they finally get to play as a team. When these guys look back on their junior years this will definitely be one of their highlights, and certainly Shreveport puts on one heckuva spread for us."

Schubert, the tennis director at the Cincinnati Tennis Club, is obviously aware of the criticism of American tennis, some of which he says is valid. But he agreed with Flower that the sport is hardly dying in this country.

"There's too much individualism out there and not enough of the team concept," he said. "The top Americans need to get together as a team and work together instead of all these separate pockets of different programs and things like that."

Flower said too much is being made of the demise of the sport.

"If you remember back in the time when we weren't sure where American tennis was going and all of a sudden Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi came up," she said.

"I think American tennis is the best in the world. I don't care how we do in Davis Cup or Fed Cup. But if you look at the quality of American tennis in junior national tournaments, it's insane."

07-16-2005, 08:03 PM
FAC novice tourney in full swing
BY DAVID SHOWERS Northwest Arkansas Times

Posted on Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Fayetteville Athletic Club made a strong push toward becoming Northwest Arkansas’ tennis capitol during the first day of play of the Junior Novice Tennis Tournament, a gathering of more than 70 junior players ages 10-18 who hope to accrue points in the United States Tennis Association point rankings.

The club’s new director of tennis, Bill Maxwell, formerly of the Fort Smith Athletic Club, said the junior tennis players hope to shed the label of novice for the more esteemed title of open player. "This tournament allows the players to accumulate points in the novice division," Maxwell said. "Once their rankings get high enough in the novice division, they can become open players. An open player is someone with years of tournament experience. Novice players hope to become open players."

The players are competing on a more forgiving surface than the typical hard court. Maxwell said the buoyant surface favors baseline players. The canvas the players are competing on is a plexi-cushioned surface, consisting of three layers of rubber. "This surface favors the allcourt player or the baseliner," Maxwell said. "It doesn’t help the serve-and-volley player. The surface slows the ball down, so it won’t skid as much. The ball sticks on the court a split second longer."

Maxwell said the game has evolved from featuring primarily serve-and-volley players. Now the professional game has more players that operate from the baseline. "During the 80s and early 90s, there were a lot of great serve-and-volley players like [John] McEnroe, Pete Sampras and Patrick Rafter," Maxwell said. "The good players today like Andy Roddick and the Williams sisters are primarily baseliners or all-court players."

Leah Hill, a rising junior at Greenwood High who was a member of Greenwood’s Class AAAA state championship team last year, said she prefers to play behind the baseline because of her ability to groove stinging ground strokes.

She relied on ground strokes to beat her opponent in straight sets Friday during the first leg of round-robin play.

Hill is a 16-year-old competing in the 18-year-old division, because there weren’t enough girls to fashion a 16-year-old division.

All the divisions will use the round-robin format. The players will play all the players in their division. Points will be apportioned according to how many matches the competitors win in their age group.

Matches comprise three sets, with the last set being a 10-point tie breaker.

07-18-2005, 10:07 PM
Posted 7/17/2005 9:18 PM Updated 7/18/2005 12:10 AM

USTA chief: TV key to growing tennis in USA
By Douglas Robson, Special for USA TODAY

As chief executive of professional tennis for the USTA, Arlen Kantarian is the main force behind the US Open Series. The concept, in its second year, attempts to bundle the North American summer hardcourt season into one comprehensive package delivered regularly on TV and culminating with the U.S. Open. Players earn points during several lead-up tournaments in a quasi-playoff race, which allows them to earn up to double the prize money at the Open. Now in his fifth year at the helm, the 52-year-old Kantarian spoke last week with USA TODAY contributor Douglas Robson about the series and the state of tennis in America.

Why is the US Open Series concept a winner?

Television. Tennis now has the same platform as the other major U.S. sports, which is a regular season culminating in a major championship all broadcast live at consistent times every weekend. In addition, it's a terrific example of what can happen when the players, three governing bodies, four networks and tournament owners come together.

How hard was it to get tennis' notorious factions on the same page?

It's a bit like a herd of elephants. It takes a little while longer to come together, but when they do, you can hear them coming from a mile away.

Can you compare this model to other sports?

It's been proven that once you launch a regular season that is linked to a championship game — in our case the U.S. Open — you've built a context, you've been able to tell a season-long story. This is the USTA's attempt to build interest and a higher profile for the sport by offering up the leverage of the U.S. Open, just as other sports have done with the Super Bowl or World Series.

The USTA is charged with growing tennis in the USA. How will the US Open Series help do this?

More television viewers mean more fans, which means more interest, which means more press coverage, which we feel converts to more kids playing tennis. You put tennis on television every weekend, and you'll have kids hopefully going to sleep dreaming about being like Andy Roddick or Venus Williams or Roger Federer.

Is the US Open Series a model that could be repeated, say, heading into the French Open on clay or Wimbledon on grass?

This could certainly provide a template whereby tennis could be considered to have four Super Bowls or four World Series — each of the Grand Slams. In a different context, this has already been done in Australia. Whether it is done in other parts of the world is yet to be seen. Granted, we had two U.S. women in the singles final at Wimbledon, but the ranks coming up look pretty thin.

What's going on with player development in the USA right now?

Years ago we had the Grafs, the Beckers, the Borgs, who were as popular as our American stars. Now we've got the Federers, the Safins, the Sharapovas, the Clijsters up and coming. That plays to the advantage of the sport.

It sounds like you're arguing that the popularity of the sport doesn't depend on U.S. players and that one has to take a more global perspective.

Not necessarily. It is a global sport, and we need to promote our international stars more. But before we lose too much sleep, everybody talked years ago that there might be a dearth of players after the Connors-McEnroe-Borg era, and then a few years later along came names like Sampras, Courier, Agassi and Chang. I think everything is cyclical, and we're confident that'll be the case in women's tennis.

It seems tennis is losing ground to other sports in terms of stature in the USA. Can you explain why?

I'm not sure I agree with your premise. If you look back over the last 10 years, on average, television ratings for sports has been in decline as a whole. We've got a number of activities that compete with sports. The industry as a whole has to fight harder to gain attention. We are holding our own. Over the course of the last three to four years, TV ratings for tennis have held steady or they are up.

Is participation on a grass-roots level up or down?

We have 23 million-plus playing tennis. We've been gaining 5 million a year and losing 5 million a year. What we are working on is the way to retain our players.

That isn't approaching 1970s levels, is it?

No. That was a phenomenon in the '70s. You have 500 different choices for a 6- to 8-year-old kid today, which is very different than the '70s.

What is the status of installing a roof on Arthur Ashe stadium?

At this point, the addition of an $80 million roof does not make financial sense given our history of only eight canceled sessions in the last 10 years. That's $10 million per canceled session. With that kind of money, we can put new rackets in the hands of millions of kids.

How would you describe the state of tennis today?

In the early stages of a resurgence. For the first time in the United States, we have a compelling TV package. We have international stars making a lot of noise in the sport. We have new rivalries. We have the kind of sport that plays into the athleticism, celebrity and fashion aspect of today's world. The product is there.

What are the biggest challenges facing the sport in 2005?

One, we have a better opportunity to bring the leadership of the sport closer together. Second, we can more creatively and aggressively market the players.

07-20-2005, 11:28 PM
Posted on Wed, Jul. 20, 2005

Serena a no-show at Stanford


Tennis roundup

Serena Williams withdrew from the Bank of the West Classic on Tuesday, marking the second time in three years the former top-ranked tennis player has pulled out of the Stanford tournament because of an injury.

A bad ankle was cited this time.

"I took some time off after Wimbledon to try to get healthy again, which is what my doctors advised me to do," Williams said in a release. "But that has not allowed me sufficient time to train and be fully prepared to compete at a high level next week."

Williams, ranked sixth in the world, suffered the injury in early April and has been a shell of the player who won this year's Australia Open.

She was criticized for being out of shape last month at Wimbledon and failed to prove otherwise, losing a third-round match in straight sets to Jill Craybas, then ranked 85th.

In her only other tournament since the injury, in Rome in May, Williams was ousted after one match.

She said Tuesday that she hopes to be back soon.

"I am going to work hard the next several days to get ready for the remainder of the summer hard-court season and ultimately the U.S. Open," she said.

Gus Sampras, the Bank of the West's tournament director, called Williams' decision "frustrating." But, he added, "You just want her to get back and healthy. It doesn't make sense for any of these girls to come back early if they're just going to re-injure themselves. Maybe Wimbledon was too soon for her to come back."

Williams was to make her Bank of the West debut in 2003 but withdrew on the eve of the tournament because of a knee injury. She did not play in the event last year.

Elena Bovina, ranked 17th, also has withdrawn because of a shoulder injury.

Mashona Washington, ranked 59th, and Maria Vento-Kabchi, ranked 71st, have been added to the 28-player field, which includes Williams' older sister, Venus, and defending champion Lindsay Davenport.

Venus Williams beat Davenport 4-6, 7-6 (4), 9-7 on July 2 in the longest women's Wimbledon final in history.

Davenport has been bothered by a sore back since that match but said Monday she hopes to play at Stanford.

"It's one of my favorite tournaments, and I still have about nine or 10 days until I would actually have to play a match," she said.

Sampras said he expects Davenport to play.

"I've been speaking to her agent, and things are moving along pretty good," Sampras said. "She's more discouraged about losing Wimbledon than how she's feeling. So I think that will be OK."

-- Knight Ridder

• Top-seeded Andy Roddick began pursuit of his third straight RCA Championships title, playing three tiebreakers to beat Dmitry Tursunov in Indianapolis. Roddick closed the second-round match with his 17th ace for a 7-6 (6), 6-7 (7), 7-6 (5) win. Tursunov, ranked No. 90, had 18 aces among his 51 winners. Also, Jan-Michael Gambill beat Donald Young 7-6 (10), 6-2, ending the 15-year-old's bid for his first pro win. Young is 0-6 on the ATP Tour.

-- Associated Press

• Top-seeded Patty Schnyder reached the second round of the Cincinnati Women's Open with a 6-3, 6-0 victory over Caroline Wozniacki in Mason, Ohio. Wozniacki, 15, was making her pro debut.

-- Associated Press

• American qualifier Hugo Armando beat Gustavo Kuerten 6-4, 6-1 in the first round of the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart, Germany.

-- Associated Press

• Top-seeded Silvia Farina Elia retired with a shoulder injury during her first-round match at the Palermo (Italy) International. Farina Elia was trailing Tszvetana Pironkova 7-6 (3), 2-0 when she was forced to quit.

-- Associated Press

• Third-seeded Nicolas Massu beat Nicolas Thomann 6-4, 6-2 in the first round of the Priority Telecom Open in Amersfoort, Netherlands.

-- Associated Press

• Anastasia Myskina can't stop a photographer from distributing topless pictures taken of her during a 2002 magazine photo session, a federal judge ruled. Myskina was 20 years old when the photographs were taken by Mark Seliger, according to a written decision by U.S. District Judge Michael Mukasey in Manhattan (N.Y.). Mukasey wrote the Russian star's rights weren't violated when topless photographs were published with an article weeks after she won the 2004 French Open, despite her insistence she didn't understand a photo release form with her signature on it and wasn't fluent in English at the time.

-- Associated Press

07-20-2005, 11:33 PM
Old man still hanging on: Spadea turns 31
Notes: Davenport, Hewitt, Young, Sugi, player development

By Matthew Cronin,

Vince Spadea had his 31st birthday this weekand let's give a big round of applause to Grandmaster Vinny, who, since the retirement of three of the Fab 4 (Jim Courier, Michael Chang and Pete Sampras), has ably stepped into the No. 3 spot on US tennis, behind Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi.

While speaking to Vince yesterday from Indy for a column I did for, I was impressed by how much perspective he has on the sport, his role in it, and its future. He also had a solid take on US sports culture, saying that our fan base is too obsessed with phenoms and prodigies. That's certainly the case with Donald Young, who lost his seventh out of seven matches on Tuesday in Indy to J-M Gambill.

Spadea also thinks that media culture often attempts to downplay the role of the 30-somethings and how long they can stay in the game. In his 13th year on tour, Vince is still in the Top 50. Not too many players can say that, especially men who can belt out a rap before a service toss hits the racket strings.

Spadea is pretty unimpressed with Andy Roddick's band of brothers (Mardy Fish, Taylor Dent, Robby Ginepri and James Blake), as am I these days.

The USTA has done a great job promoting its US Open Series, which should receive tremendous attendance and TV viewership this summer. However, there's little the USTA can do in the next eight weeks about the slow pace of player development. Nor can it do anything about the fact that it's two main stars, Andre Agassi and Serena Williams, pulled out of Indianpolis and Stanford, respectively. Not can it do anything about the fact that Agassi is no better than 50-50 for LA next week and that Davenport is no better than 60-40 for Stanford, as she's still wincing from the back injury she sustained in the Wimby final.

The 29-year-old Davenport – who won the US Open Series last year – will keep pressing on, but she's still thinking about her titanic loss to Venus at the AELTC and to Serena at the AO.

"It was a enormous amount of frustration, some of the most disappointing probably in my whole career," she said. "But then it gives me motivation. I've been in a lot of the last four or five Slams, had some great chances, a couple finals."

Lleyton Hewitt was on a conference call with Davenport on Monday promoting the US Open Series and reflected back on his disastrous Davis Cup weekend. Here's what he told the LA Times' Lisa Dillman is a response to a question as to why he's always getting into snits with the Argentines.

"It was a weird situation on the weekend. I didn't feel like I actually did anything wrong at all throughout the match. I felt like their captain, Alberto Mancini, was definitely trying to put [Guillermo] Coria in that kind of frame of mind right from the start, him questioning and going to the referee the whole time instead of just using the chair umpire. I think definitely the chair umpire could have been a lot firmer. There was no need for the referee to come out every second game on the court.

Obviously, the crowd is going to get a lot more involved when that kind of stuff happens as well. You know, spitting involved again. There were a lot of incidents I think that just added up to it not quite being a tennis match. … Obviously, there are a couple of guys that I definitely wouldn't go and have a beer with, that's for sure. That's just the way I see it.

You know, they're obviously very fortunate that there's a lot of Argentineans on the tour as well and in the locker rooms that they can hang around with, a lot of their close mates out there. At the moment, the only English-speaking guys are Andy Roddick, James Blake, a couple American guys, Tim Henman and myself. That's about it. We're outweighed in the actual speaking department in the locker room."

Considering that neither Roddick or Blake like Hewitt, maybe it would do Hewitt some good to learn some Spanish. Argentines David Nalbandian and Guillermo Cañas can both converse in English. Won't one native English male speaker step up to the plate make a move in that direction? Venus and Serena have.

Back to U.S. Player Development: There are a ton of US men and women playing in Indy and Cincy respectively. Of the 10 American men who had competed in Indy as of 5 p.m. PST on Tuesday, four won: Rajeev Ram, Gambill, Paul Goldstein and Kevin Kim. Only Ram is under the age of 25. But at least the U.S. has some veterans and youngsters hacking it out in regular tour events. Australia and the UK are in much worse shape.

In Cincy, former world No. 6 Chanda Rubin won her first match of the year, defeating fellow American Laura Granville 6-3, 6-4. She's still struggling to recover from a left knee injury that required surgery in 2004. "It's been a long time since I've felt this good," Rubin said. "My game is still in the building process. I'm still not 100 percent yet, but I'm getting there." Rubin will face Daniela Hantuchova.

Rubin was the only American women to win in a strong Tier III field, with Lilia Osterloh, Abigail Spears and Jessica Kirkland going down. The draw also includes Vera Zvonareva, Jelena Jankovic and Ai Sugiyama, who you would have to think is going to regain her Top-10 form, someday – at least in doubles. … Bad news of the Alicia Molik and Jennifer Capriati's fronts; neither are expected back until the US Open at the earliest. Both may be done for the year.

We received a note from Emily Warburg, Sam's sister, after we wrote up her brother's struggles in WTT. We'll print it in Feedback later this week. Since Emily stuck up for Sam, the Stanford grad has posted two impressive singles wins over JP Fruttero and Bob Bryan while playing the Sacto Capitals. Speaking of WTT: Have you see Pat Rafter's horrid results (a shutout loss to Robert Kendrick)? Have you seen Carly Gullikson's solid ones over the last week?

A note from the editor: Beginning on July 25, we will be blogging live every day from US Open Series tournaments. This will come in addition to our regular reporting and commentaries.

07-20-2005, 11:35 PM
Roddick struggles to beat unknown Russian
Web posted at: 7/21/2005 1:31:54
Source ::: Agencies

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana: American top seed Andy Roddick barely scraped past Dmitri Tursunov, escaping with a 7-6 (8/6), 6-7 (7/9), 7-6 (7/5) victory Tuesday at the $600,000 ATP RCA Championships.

Roddick reached the third round at the expense of the 119th-ranked Tursunov, a California-based Russian who knocked Tim Henman out in the second round of Wimbledon.

Roddick showed more than a little rust in his first time back on the court since losing to Roger Federer at Wimbledon two weeks ago.

He received a bye through the first round here.

Roddick, whose lone major title came at the 2003 US Open, is chasing his fourth trophy this season and has never lost a match at Indy since his first appearance in 2003.

But his third three-set opening challenge in as many years here gave him quite a scare.

“Tonight he played really well,” said a relieved Roddick. “He came out either hitting winners or missing. He controlled the tempo, that was his game plan.

“I was lucky to get out. I didn’t get a lot of looks at second serves. This match felt the way it looked.

“The crowd stuck with me and never gave up. In the third set, I think they were cheering for both players.”

The 22-year-old world number four improved to 38-8 for the season as he dropped Tursunov to 5-5.

Roddick is looking to become the first three-time winner on the Indianapolis cement since Pete Sampras in 1991, 1992 and 1996.

The American missed a chance to close it out in straight sets when Tursunov uncorked a down-the-line winner during a set in which he struck a dozen aces – two-thirds of his total for the match.

Roddick ended it on his fourth match point with a 17th ace in a contest in which he struck one less than his losing opponent.

Greg Rusedski, the only other seed in action on Tuesday and also playing in the second round after a bye, needed three tiebreaks to overcome South African Wesley Moodie 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (9/7), 7-6 (7/2).

Rusedski’s 21 aces totalled only three more than Moodie in the battle of big serves which lasted two hours and 24 minutes. The Canadian-born Brit was joined as a winner by teenaged compatriot Andy Murray, who came off a challenger title at the weekend in California to defeat Jesse Witten, a 23-year-old playing in his first ATP match, 6-4, 6-2.

Swede Jonas Bjorkman and Swiss George Bastl struck winning blows for the over-30 crowd with easy victories to move into the second round.

Schnyder in easy win

In raleigh, North Carolina, top seed Patty Schnyder enjoyed a routine first round victory at the Cincinnati Open, easing past Danish wild card Caroline Wozniack 6-3, 6-0 in Ohio yesterday. The Swiss world number 12 will face Japan’s Akio Nakamura in the second round on Wednesday. Nakamura advanced on Monday, defeating American Abigail Spears 6-7, 6-0, 6-3 in an opening round match.

In a day of few upsets, Schnyder was joined in the next round by the tournament’s three other top seeds.

Second seed Vera Zvonareva of Russia also eased to a straight sets victory, defeating American Meghann Shaughnessy 6-3 6-3.

Third-seeded Jelena Jankovic of Serbia dropped the first set before advancing past qualifier Maria Emilia Salerni of Argentina 4-6 6-3 6-0, while the fourth ranked Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia cruised past American Lilia Osterloh 6-1 6-2.

Two seeds were defeated, however, with number five Marion Bartoli of France beaten 1-6 6-4 7-6 by America’s Bethanie Mattek, while German seventh seed Anna-Lena Groenefeld fell to rising Indian player Sania Mirza, 6-4 6-3.

07-27-2005, 11:16 PM

Tuesday July 26, 2005

Ginepri clinches second title

INDIANAPOLIS: Robby Ginepri won his second career title after fellow American Taylor Dent quit with heat exhaustion in the third set of the RCA Championship final on Sunday.

Ginepri triumphed 4-6, 6-0, 3-0 in the first all-American final here since Pete Sampras defeated Jim Courier 13 years ago.

The unseeded Ginepri won the last 10 games of a match played in 47 Celsius temperatures, an exhausted Dent winning just 10 points during that stretch.

“It's a shame to win it like this, especially against a good friend,” said Ginepri, whose world ranking is expected to rise from 98th to 64th.

“I've done a lot of hard work in the past week in Miami with my coach and physical trainer and it's good to see that it has paid off. I have had a great week.”

Fourth seed Dent called for his trainer after losing the second set and revived after taking a dose of ammonia salts. However, after returning to the court, he was forced to retire after playing three more games.

“I felt tired during my morning warm-up and then ran out of gas,” said Dent, who added he had not regained full fitness following an ankle injury earlier this year.

“I'm just sorry I wasn't able to put on a better show for the crowd. I gave everything in the first set, then there was nothing left.

“It was getting worse and worse for me as it went on. I was thinking from midway through the second (set) when to pull the plug. There was nothing left in the tank.”

Ginepri won his first ATP Tour title in Newport in 2003.

CINCINNATI (Ohio): Swiss top seed Patty Schynder defeated Japan's Akiko Morigami 6-4, 6-0 in the final to capture her first WTA event on US soil, winning a US$170,000 hardcourt tournament here on Sunday.

Schnyder claimed her 10th career singles title but her first in a decade of trying to capture titles in North America.

It was the second title of the year for Schnyder, who also won at Gold Coast in Australia in January. She also took home the US$27,000 top prize. – Agencies

07-27-2005, 11:18 PM
Posted on Wed, Jul. 27, 2005

Clijsters erasing doubts in return from injury

By Darren Sabedra

Mercury News

Kim Clijsters was away from tennis for much of last year and the first six weeks this year. At first, it wasn't so bad. Sidelined because of a severe wrist injury, the former top-ranked player had a rare opportunity to spend time with family and friends at home in Belgium.

``I was enjoying it,'' she said. ``I never really had a chance to do that.''

But after a while, Clijsters started getting the itch to play. It wasn't that simple, though. Medical specialists questioned whether her left wrist would hold up under the strain of competitive tennis. Clijsters wondered, too.

``There were so many questions throughout the year,'' she said. ``Am I going to be able to come back? I don't want to just hold down like the No. 50 spot and travel and win a few matches here and there. If I play, I want to do it as good as I can and play the way I did before the injury.''

If Clijsters, 22, isn't all the way back, she is pretty close. She comes to the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford this week having won two of the biggest tournaments this year outside of the Grand Slam events: the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells and the NASDAQ 100 Open in Miami. She also won a Wimbledon tuneup in June.

Her ranking has soared from 133rd in March to 14th this week.

``She is getting to the point where she will be in contention to win some of these majors,'' said Gus Sampras, the Bank of the West's tournament director. ``She obviously is in contention to possibly winning this event here.''

Clijsters, who plays Ai Sugiyama on Thursday, showed she was on her way back when she outlasted Lindsay Davenport in the Pacific Life final in March. Two weeks later, she beat then-defending Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova in the final in Miami.

Davenport, the Bank of the West's top seed, eliminated Clijsters from the French Open and Wimbledon in the round of 16, but each match went three sets.

Now Clijsters is back at an event she won in 2001 and 2003.

``I feel good here, and hopefully I can keep it going,'' said Clijsters, the fourth seed. ``Being out for so long was definitely a question. When I was injured, I saw Maria come up. You watch TV, and the level on TV just looks like they're hitting the ball so hard. You worry a little bit. You wonder what it's going to be like.''

Another player trying to come back from injury, Alexandra Stevenson, hasn't had such an easy time of it. Now ranked 945th, the former Wimbledon semifinalist lost to Daniela Hantuchova 6-2, 6-1 in just 51 minutes Tuesday night.

``Second tournament, and I got through the whole match, so that was good,'' said Stevenson, who missed 10 months after major shoulder surgery and was given a wild-card entry into the Bank of the West. ``Daniela is a tough player, and she's been playing all year. I'm about 85 percent. My serve's still not where I want it to be, but it was better than last week. So I have to take that as a positive.''

Earlier in the day, Sania Mirza of India, who made the main draw when Chanda Rubin withdrew, defeated Eleni Daniilidou 7-6 (7-4), 2-6, 6-3. She will play No. 2 seed Venus Williams tonight.

``I'm really, really excited,'' Mirza said. ``I played her sister in Australia, and now I'm playing her. These are the opportunities you look for. No one is unbeatable. I just want to give my best.''

Meghann Shaughnessy notched the day's biggest upset, beating fifth-seeded and 15th-ranked Vera Zvonareva 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (8-6).

07-27-2005, 11:22 PM
Mercedes-Benz Cup Notebook: Champion toughs it out

Mercedes-Benz Cup champion Tommy Haas is recovering from a badly sprained right ankle, but he didn't want to pass up a chance to defend his title and see his name "up in lights" alongside the list of the tournament's other great champions.

"Having my name up there with the rest of the champions (like Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras) is special to me,'' he said. "I told my doctor I wanted to play in Los Angeles if I could. It was a big thing for me to be here.''

The fourth-seeded Haas won his first-round match over big-serving and just plain big Ivo Karlovic (he's 6-foot-10) in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4. He will face Belgium's Xavier Malisse tonight in the day's featured match.

"Tomorrow will probably be a little more test of my ankle,'' Haas said, "but the doctor said I can't hurt it any worse, unless I step on a ball or something dumb like that.''

In an attempt to jazz up the marketing of the U.S. Open Series, nicknames have been given to the two tours' top names. Agassi's is The Legend, for example. Venus Williams is The Goddess. Haas, who wears his long hair slicked back, is The Stud.

"I am OK with that,'' Haas said, smiling.

No. 3 seed Kiefer 'retires'

James Blake got a pass into the second round and the Mercedes-Benz Cup lost one of last year's finalists early when third-seeded Nicolas Kiefer of Germany retired in the first set due to a bronchial ailment.

Blake, a wild-card entry who is recovered from a series of injuries and health problems, was ahead 3-2 when the end came unexpectedly. He good-naturedly tried to put a good spin on the win.

"Maybe I can convince myself I had something to do with it,'' Blake said with a smile. "I need a full match, but since it is a win I get to play a full match then.''

Blake, who was ranked as high as No. 22 in 2003, suffered a fractured vertebrae in his neck at a practice session in May 2004. After missing two months, he fell ill during the summer with shingles, which caused temporary paralysis of his face. He ended up playing just three more tournaments in 2004.

Blake is 13-14 this year.

"After what's happened to me, I hate to see anybody struggle with their health,'' said Blake, who next faces Robby Ginepri on Thursday.

Other matches

Second-seeded Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia defeated fellow Slovakian Karol Beck, 6-4, 6-1, in one of the day's featured matches.

Ginepri, unseeded even though he's coming off a victory at the RCA Championships in Indianapolis that puts him atop the second annual U.S. Open Series Bonus Challenge, put away Australia's Wayne Arthurs in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.

In other day matches, qualifier Zack Fleishman upset eighth-seeded Vincent Spadea, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4; Israel's Amir Hadad defefated Cecil Mamiit, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3; Gilles Muller of Luxembourg beat France's Sebastien De Chaunac, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (6); and Jan Hernych downed qualifier Jan Bjorkman, 6-4, 6-4.

Total withdrawal

The final match of the day was supposed to be between Americans Mardy Fish and Taylor Dent. At the last moment, however, both men withdrew -- Fish due to a lingering wrist injury and Dent due to the affects of heat exhaustion from Sunday's title match at Indianapolis.

They were replaced by two lucky-loser qualifiers, Noam Okun of Israel and Russia's Dmitry Tursunov.

07-30-2005, 06:56 PM
Article created: 07/29/2005

Colossal collapse: 1998 Pilot Pen lost star power quickly
Part 6 of a six-part series: Poisoned Pen

NEW HAVEN — Butch Buchholz had finally landed his dream field. First there was Australian Open champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov. Next came French Open champ Petr Korda. Third was defending U.S. Open champion Patrick Rafter. Last but not least came the cream of the crop, Wimbledon winner Pete Sampras, Buchholz's crowning achievement, Yes, Pete Sampras.
He was the most dominant player in the men's game and had been ranked No. 1 in the world for four years running. He had won five Wimbledon titles, four U.S. Open crowns and had a total of 11 Grand Slam victories in his racquet bag. For the first time, he was coming to New Haven and the Pilot Pen tournament.

For Buchholz, it was a major coup.

It turned out to be a major disappointment.

Sampras' stay at the 1998 Pilot Pen tournament was short and very sour. Not only did Sampras lose his second match to Leander Paes, who was ranked 100th in the world and had to qualify just to make the main draw, it appeared to many that he was just going through the motions.

In other words, he seemed to tank it.

"That was terrible," tournament chairman Mike Davies said. "We had invested an awful lot of time and money in that. I'd never seen Sampras ... of all the times I'd seen him, he'd been so good, and for whatever reason, he was not interested in being there. The whole tournament crumbled after that."

No kidding. Less than 30 minutes after Sampras' loss on the Stadium Court, Rafter, the No. 2 seed and the world's third-ranked player, lost to an unknown named Guillaume Raoux. And that evening, Korda, the tournament's No. 3 seed (and No. 4 in the world), fell to another unknown, Bohdan Ulihrach, in straight sets.

The Connecticut Post headline the next day read: "Poison Pen."

For Buchholz, the tournament director, it was Black Thursday. Losing your three top seeds

07-30-2005, 06:59 PM
Agassi Gives Washington Another Try
Five-Time Champ Returns for 16th Consecutive Year

By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 30, 2005;

Washington tennis fans have seen Andre Agassi evolve from a long-haired teen to a neatly shorn father of two, from baggy denim shorts to classic whites, from image-obsessed rebel to the sport's senior statesman. Next week, they may be seeing Agassi in their city for the last time.

Every August since 1990, as surely as Washingtonians will swelter in the heat and the Redskins head to training camp amid high hopes, Agassi has lugged his racket bags to town for the Legg Mason Classic. This year's appearance marks his 16th consecutive and 17th overall.

Tennis insiders can't recall a streak like it outside of Grand Slam events. It's a testament to Agassi's loyalty, as well as cause for wondering who will fill his role as the top draw at Washington's hard-court classic after the 35-year-old champion retires.

"I don't know if there has ever been anyone that has had the pull at the gate and on television in tennis as Agassi has had," said U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe, who is also a commentator for ESPN. "He has moved the needle in terms of TV ratings more than anyone, and I would include [Pete] Sampras in that."

Agassi's not talking about retirement just yet. He intends to keep playing, he has said repeatedly, until he can't compete effectively anymore.

Images of his last major tournament appearance were painful to watch, as Agassi limped through the final two sets of his first-round loss at the French Open in May, hobbled by an inflamed sciatic nerve in his lower back. Still, he rolls into Washington for next week's Legg Mason on the heels of an impressive showing in Los Angeles, where he has advanced to the semifinals of the Mercedes-Benz Cup after a two-month hiatus to recover from his flare-up in Paris.

"I hear a lot of commentators who don't follow tennis that closely saying, 'Agassi is washed up and is done,' " McEnroe said. "The reality is he's still sixth in the world [despite] playing a relatively limited schedule. The last time I checked, the rankings don't lie."

Agassi headlines one of the Legg Mason's stronger fields in memory. With five Legg Mason titles to his credit (his last coming in 1999), he is joined by past champions Andy Roddick (2001), Tim Henman (2003) and James Blake (2002).

Roddick, 22, will be playing in his second tournament since Wimbledon, where he lost in the final to Roger Federer for a second consecutive year. He took a few weeks off to unwind on his boat then wore out the paparazzi's flashbulbs by squiring around Russian sensation Maria Sharapova at the ESPY Awards earlier this month. Roddick's return to tennis at Indianapolis was less sensational, ending with a loss to American Robby Ginepri. Citing a sore right knee, he withdrew from his next tournament, in Los Angeles.

Others in the Legg Mason draw: 1998 U.S. Open finalist Mark Philippoussis, granted a wild card, and Rockville's Paul Goldstein, who is surging up the rankings. This year's tournament also includes a USTA Pro Series women's event, featuring rising players seeking a place on the top women's tour.

Agassi has cycled through so many triumphs, setbacks and comebacks in a 19-year pro career it's hard to keep track. But his latest injury lingered longer than he'd hoped and required a cortisone injection (he limits himself to three or four a year). When he's pain-free and hitting without constraint, no one strikes the ball more cleanly.

"It's phenomenal that a human being can time it that well, to be so precise and hit a small ball so hard, so far away, and have it hit a line so often," gushes Steve Bellamy, president of the Tennis Channel, which will cover the last three days of the tournament. "I don't think there are five people in the history of sports that have been so precise with their athleticism."

Agassi's gift for striking the ball and his drive to claw back to the top after plummeting to a career-low 141st ranking in 1997 have placed him in rare company. He's one of just five players to have won all four Grand Slam titles.

While age has exacted a toll on his speed and power, Agassi is a more shrewd player than ever. And, by all accounts, he is a more mature man, driven by his charitable work on behalf of at-risk children in his hometown of Las Vegas and a desire to do what he can to help tennis become a stronger, more popular sport.

He has consistently done his part in Washington, says Legg Mason tournament chairman and co-founder Donald Dell.

"Andre came here in 1987 as a young, long-haired teenager who was kind of a 'walk-on-the-wild-side,' " Dell recalls. "He had a great flair for the game and was very popular. One year we had Agassi and Sampras in our tournament together, and the calls coming in for tickets asking about who was scheduled to play when were honestly about 10-to-1 in favor of Agassi over Sampras. It was staggering to us."

Adds tournament director Jeff Newman: "When Andre plays, it's a different night out there, for sure. He just has that aura about him -- the personality, the ability to really get fans to be more on the edge of their seats than other players."

That said, Newman is confident Washington tennis fans will continue to support the tournament long after Agassi retires. "Roddick has been someone that we're hoping could take the reins and be here for many years to come," Newman added. "But no one player really makes this tournament."

07-30-2005, 07:02 PM
Tennis investors: Make first move
Tourney must be refinanced, USTA on board, group says

Leighton Ginn
The Desert Sun
July 29, 2005

Magazine publishing magnate George Mackin, one of the partners in a investor syndicate formed to financially help keep the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, wants to emphasize his group's participation is not a slam dunk.
And neither is the participation of the United States Tennis Association.

In his first extensive interview about the Pacific Life Open, Mackin, a media business veteran and co-owner of Tennis magazine with Spin and Vibe magazine owner Bob Miller, said there is a series of events that need to come together for the deal to happen.

Mackin said it is crucial the city of Indian Wells and locally based PM Sports, which owns 50 percent of the international tennis tournament, come to an agreement soon on refinancing of the $39 million mortgage on the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Because of the $3.9 million debt service the tournament pays annually on the mortgage, the Pacific Life Open has lost money since the 2002 event.

PM Sports wants to refinance the loan from an 8 percent interest rate to 6 percent or lower. In order to refinance, the tournament needs the help of Indian Wells.

Once the refinancing is in place, PM Sports will need to get the board of the USTA to agree on helping in the financing the $24 million buyout of business partners International Management Group, which owns the other half of the tournament.

Mackin and Miller's group, The Tennis Company, will finance a large part of the buyout.

IMG wanted to accept an offer to move to China since March, but have agreed to let PM Sports put together a syndicate for a buyout.

Deal hinges on USTA

Mackin made it clear: Without the USTA, his syndicate will pull out of the deal.
And right now, Mackin said chances of the USTA getting involved is 50-50.

"It's all contingent on Indian Wells," Mackin said. "If Indian Wells can work out their pending deal with (PM Sports owners Raymond Moore and Charlie Pasarell), that is just a first step of keeping the event in the desert."

The council will meet on Thursday, but Moore said he doubts any decision would be made by then.

Tournament organizers have estimated that the Pacific Life Open has a $140 million impact on the Coachella Valley tourism industry each March.

City Councilman Rob Bernheimer said the next council meeting after that is on Sept. 15.

However, Bernheimer said the council would hold a special meeting if needed. Bernheimer wouldn't hazard to guess when a deal would be completed.

Bernheimer also emphasized Indian Wells is not holding up anything.

"I don't know if we can set a timetable of how long it will take," Bernheimer said. "It's their timetable, not our timetable. We've done everything we've been asked to meet their needs.

"The timetable is in their court. The city is doing nothing to delay a timetable."

Bernheimer said the urgency is coming from Cleveland-based sports and lifestyle marketing giant IMG, which has been anxious to get out of its partnership with PM Sports.

"They can do it quickly if they do it at the right price," Bernheimer said. "If (IMG) wants to get out quickly, they have to consider the price they set. That's sort of basic business."

Over the weekend at the USTA meetings in Charleston, S.C., the board of the White Plains, N.Y.-based tennis organization was presented with the idea of using some of its $150-million portfolio to invest in the tournament, the fifth largest in the world in terms of attendance.

Mackin wanted to emphasize it's too early to tell.

"This part I want to be crystal clear about. It was a little overstated about the (USTA)'s eagerness to invest," Mackin said. "They asked us, 'Would you do this without us?' I emphatically said 'No.' If the USTA doesn't come in, we won't, and the USTA board is not close.

"This is an uphill battle to get the board to endorse the investment. We're fighting the fight . If that happens, we come in with our investment."

City must make first move

The USTA, which is working on its U.S. Open Series of tournaments leading up to the U.S. Open on Aug. 29-Sept. 11, will not make any decisions on financing until its board meeting in October in San Antonio, Texas. Mackin said he hopes the city of Indian Wells will not wait that long.
"I think it's important Indian Wells understands this isn't even close and it will go nowhere without them," Mackin said. "If Indian Wells steps up and supports this at the level we need them to, not only will the tournament have a chance to get the USTA, but a chance to get a media company and a considerable list of strategic investor.

"We get the green light to go to the next step once Indian Wells steps on board. I think they have to do it sooner than later. It they wait until October, it becomes problematic. If it's resolved right away, we can go to the next step."

Moore said Indian Wells' next meeting is Thursday, but doubts they will get an answer by then. The next meeting will be Sept. 15.

"I don't think we will get a feeling one way or the other until September," Moore said.

However, Moore reiterated he is happy with the cooperation he's gotten from Indian Wells.

Mackin and Miller are co-owners of Tennis magazine, which has tennis great Chris Evert as the publisher and Pete Sampras as an investor.

Tennis magazine has been a sponsor of the Pacific Life Open the past three years.

Earlier this year, Mackin and Miller formed The Tennis Company.

"The vision of The Tennis Company is to make investments in tennis businesses that we felt we could add value to through our media assets," Mackin said.

Mackin also owns Custom Marketing Group, a custom marketing and publishing company serving tourism and travel.

Miller is an owner and CEO of Miller Publishing, which owns Vibe and Spin magazines.

"They bring expertise in media marketing and they own the largest tennis magazine in the world. That's a great partner to have," Moore said. "This still is a PM Sports management buyout.

"We're busy handling the parts. We hope finality comes sooner than later, and it will be a good result for the valley. That's what we're looking for."

08-03-2005, 09:56 PM
Sampras Is Father Again

August 3, 2005 3:00 p.m. EST

Christina Ficara - All Headline News Staff Reporter

Los Angeles, CA (AHN) - Former tennis star, Pete Sampras, and his wife, actress Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, have had another child.

People magazine reports the birth of Ryan Nikolaos Sampras.

Their second son, born Friday, weighed in at 6 pounds, 4 ounces.

Sampras, 33, is a 14 Grand Slam title winner. Wilson-Sampras, 32, is known for her appearances in "The Wedding Planner" and "Billy Madison."

The two were married in 2000 and also have a 2-year-old son named Christian.

08-08-2005, 10:50 PM
Men's Game Has A Long Rally Ahead

By Michael Wilbon

Monday, August 8, 2005;

Don't get me wrong, an Andy Roddick vs. James Blake final was perfect for the Legg Mason Tennis Classic. If a vote had been taken on the eve of the tournament, the mandate would have been for Roddick vs. Andre Agassi. But Blake turned out to be far more than a suitable stand-in with the absence of Agassi. The very sophisticated tennis public here is intimately familiar with Blake's attempts to overcome injury and illness to climb the long road back to elite status in his sport. And Roddick is not only the best America has to offer in men's tennis right now and a top-five player, but something of a crossover celebrity, a star who is fancied by starlets and is a nice young man to boot.

Also, the tennis was about what people hoped for. Blake played with the optimism and assertiveness of a man who can sense he is in position to get his career back on track, and Roddick played with the businesslike attitude of someone tuning up for something big, which would be the U.S. Open. Blake was the first player to break Roddick's serve all week. But Roddick stayed in a controlled mode and grabbed the critical points.

So, yes, William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center offered pretty much what fans were looking for yesterday, especially those enjoying the first all-American final here since 1990.

But this is where we come to the "however" part.

As understandably proud as folks were to see two Americans, friends no less, reach the final, it would seem we've got to get past our own xenophobia, particularly when it comes to men's tennis. What, the final would have been unappealing had Spaniard Rafael Nadal, Mr. Capri Pants, been opposite Roddick yesterday afternoon?

Every conversation about the drop in popularity of men's tennis over the years seems to center on what the American players are doing, or not doing.

For the record, Americans Roddick, Agassi and Robby Ginepri have won in successive weeks. But that's beside the larger point. For years, particularly during the tennis boom of the 1970s and '80s, foreign-born players weren't just accepted, they were treated as an indispensable part of the theater. Did it help interest here if Jimmy Connors or John McEnroe was involved? Yes, of course. But Americans looked forward to seeing Bjorn Borg, Guillermo Vilas, Ivan Lendl and Ilie Nastase playing, even if it was against each other.

Davis Cup Captain Patrick McEnroe, as involved in media as he is in tennis at this point in his life, is uniquely qualified to speak to what in the world has happened. "It's the media's fault," he said. "It's our fault."

Yesterday, McEnroe was wearing his media hat and analyzing the action for ESPN2, which televised the final from 16th Street NW. Last week, while hosting the Jim Rome talk show all week, McEnroe thought he might slip in a little bit of tennis conversation. "But you know how this goes: 'Let's have more in a minute on T.O. [Terrell Owens].' I get it," McEnroe said. "I'm a sports fan. But let's not blame it on 'no personalities.' That's a false premise. Roger Federer is a personality by force of his talent. He has the most effortless magic I've ever seen.

"Lleyton Hewitt has a Jimmy Connors-like combativeness. He's married to an actress, hates the press, the whole thing. He's T.O. with an [Australian] accent. Marat Safin is a self-tortured genius. He's off the wall with tremendous physical talent. And Nadal -- talk about personality and game. He's like the fighter who throws a hundred punches in a row."

McEnroe isn't the only one making this argument persuasively. Two weeks ago, when I was stupidly critical of men's tennis players' personalities and artistry, Roddick phoned me to say what McEnroe says.

"We don't know the international players like we used to, so we're critical of them and it's just not accurate," Roddick said. "Roger brings incredible artistry. I know. I was on the other side of it at Wimbledon [in the men's final]. But Roger is here, what, four or five times a year maybe, while Yao Ming is here six, seven months a year. No, Roger's not going to moon a cameraman just to get headlines or ratings. Roger is like Pete Sampras, just from another country."

The basketball analogy is interesting because after several false starts, American basketball fans have certainly embraced foreign-born players. Yao is the most obvious. Tony Parker (France) and Manu Ginobili (Argentina) have certainly had more success. So why don't we take to Federer and Hewitt the same way?

"Remember," McEnroe said, "Parker and Ginobili are still representing San Antonio. Pedro Martinez was representing Boston, so there's a different relationship. They play for the local team."

But most of all, the sports/entertainment landscape is crowded. Other sports have marketed themselves so much more effectively than tennis. The NFL, now with its own channel, is 365 days a year. "It's harder for [tennis] to find its niche," McEnroe said.

Tennis had its niche in America and gave it up. There's no problem with the popularity of tennis in Australia or Europe. There is a problem here. To that end, the USTA came up with this U.S. Open Series. It only involves the six weeks leading up to the U.S. Open, but it's a good start -- except for the dopey "reality series" concept and these nicknames (Serena "The Diva" Williams, Andy "Rocket Man" Roddick, Lindsay "Top Gun" Davenport) that make Roddick roll his eyes and the rest of us want to throw up.

But one element is smart and long overdue (and I'm not talking about the blue court, which also is smart because it makes the matches easier to watch). The U.S. Open Series puts a tournament final on ESPN2 every Sunday at 3 p.m. This might not sound like programming genius, but it's a revelation to tennis. Perhaps the biggest problem for tennis is that you don't know when it's going to be played, don't know where to find it, and don't know who'll be there. NASCAR exploded when folks knew they could find it on Fox or NBC every single Sunday.

Now, NASCAR goes a step further and guarantees every driver will be in virtually every event. You still don't know who will open a tennis tournament. Agassi, at the last minute, canceled on the Legg Mason. There were six late withdrawals in Los Angeles. NASCAR never has to sell a ticket not knowing whether Dale Earnhardt Jr. will show up. So tennis has its challenges. But taking a page from the NFL and setting the programming should help immensely. Sports viewing is more habitual than ever.

"I think the big value," Roddick said, "is getting everything under one tent. Okay, these nicknames are a little stupid, though maybe they'll get people talking one way or the other. But there has to be some consistency, and once you have that, people here can get to know and more appreciate some of the non-American players. But I think you'd have to agree you saw some artistry today, right?"

08-13-2005, 07:28 PM
Agassi proves that old warhorses can still kick


Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Globe and Mail Update

Montreal — The stage belongs mostly to the young lions now, which is fine by Andre Agassi.

After all, every sport needs to reinvigorate itself from time to time and almost two decades ago, Agassi and Pete Sampras put a new and interesting face on men's tennis in the aftermath of the John McEnroe-Jimmy Connors eras.

But for one day anyway, a pair of old warhorses engaged in a stirring battle on centre court in the Rogers Cup Masters Series at Stade Uniprix.

In the end, the 35-year-old Agassi squeezed out a narrow 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 win over a game 33-year-old Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden in a match that brought back memories of the many things that made Agassi so good in the first place — the booming serve, the excellent return of service, and the uncanny capacity for striking winners.

Bjorkman is mostly a doubles player these days — he and Max Mirnyi of Belarus are the top seeds here — but he came through the qualifying tournament to win a place in the main draw and then won his opening-round match over American Vince Spadea.

Although Bjorkman was blown off the court in the first set, he made a contest of it in the second and even gave Agassi a few anxious moments in the deciding set. After Agassi broke service in the fourth game and took a 4-2 lead, Bjorkman worked him to deuce in the seventh game, before Agassi put it away with a pair of aces.

Afterwards, Agassi noted how, "there's a lot to enjoy about playing against somebody that you've known and competed against for so long. I mean, there's a lot of mutual respect … and there's so many faces you sort of don't recognize anymore that to play against somebody you know makes you even that much more comfortable."

As the No. 4 seed, Agassi is now favored to come out of the bottom half of the draw and advance to Sunday's final. He will next play Germany's Nicolas Kiefer, a 6-4, 6-4 winner over American Taylor Dent, and isn't scheduled to face another seeded player until the fourth round when Gaston Gaudio of Argentina, a three-set winner over Denmark's Kenneth Carlsen, looms in his path.

Agassi predicted the match against Kiefer would be difficult because the windy conditions and speedy hard court play to his strengths.

"He uses the pace really well, moves the ball around, moves exceptionally well and counterpunches really well too," said Agassi. "I'm going to have my hands full. I'm going to have to be hitting my shots and not hesitating."

Nowadays, a greater concern for Agassi isn't necessarily the name of his next opponent, but the state of his health. After winning a tournament in Los Angeles 10 days ago, he skipped the tour stop in Washington to receive a cortisone shot that he hopes will settle down his problematic sciatic nerve through the U.S. Open.

Accordingly, there is no certainty when he walks on the court to play a match that Agassi will be physically sound enough to finish it. Against Bjorkman, he found the necessary high gear in the third set, polishing it off with a forehand winner on match point and causing a stampede of fans down to courtside, seeking autographs from the popular former champion.

"It's getting harder," said Agassi, answering a question about his longevity on the tour. "The pace of the ball, the violence of the movement, the wear and tear on the body, it all builds up on you. It's no wonder careers don't last as long as you would see in other sports. We're changing surfaces week-to-week from continent to continent and playing a lot just to stay on top of our profession — and that's not easy."

Earlier in the day, Montreal-born Greg Rusedski also struck a blow for the plus-30something crowd. In the scorching mid-day heat, the 31-year-old Rusedski won a close three-setter over Max Mirnyi of Belarus, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (2).

Rusedski is in the third round of a Canadian Open for the first time since 1992. A decade ago, or soon after Rusedski opted to play Davis Cup for Great Britain, he would face a chilly reception in his hometown.

Time, it would appear, heals all wounds. It wasn't as if the crowd was completely and irrevocably in Rusedski's corner — Mirnyi had his followers too - but he did receive a nice ovation after he won the match.

"I was really pleased," said Rusedski, of the crowd's response. "I've had ups and downs in my career. The older you get, time passes on. People forgive and move on. It was really nice. I enjoyed the reception I got and the support from the public. It was great."

Rusedski was saying the other day that he'd had a lot of bad luck in draws this year — by his estimation, he lost to 10 players in the world's top 10 already — but his luck appears to be changing here.

Every seeded player in his quarter of the draw was eliminated in the opening round (Lleyton Hewitt, Guillermo Coria, Tim Henman and Fernando Gonzalez) so that instead of facing Hewitt now, he'll get unseeded Croatian Mario Ancic instead.

Ancic struggled to eliminate qualifier Florent Serra 6-3, 3-6, 7-5. If Rusedski gets through that test, he'll face a clay-court specialist in the quarter-finals, with perhaps a semi-final meeting with Agassi in the offing if he keeps winning.

Rusedski was looking no further ahead than to his match with Ancic, whom he described as "a great player. He's been to the semis of Wimbledon. Last time I played him, I lost in a very close match …. Everybody who's in the third round is a very good player. Mario is one for the future who is doing very well. It's going to be another tough match like today."

Soon after Agassi finished, play was suspended on centre court as a result of a thunderstorm with 15th-seeded Richard Gasquet leading fellow Frenchman Sebastien Grosjean 5-3 in the first set.

After a three-hour and 20-minute rain delay, Grosjean rallied for a straight sets victory, 7-6 (5), 6-3.

In second-round matches completed before the rain delay, fifth-seeded Russian Nikolay Davydenko rallied from a set down to defeat the Czech Republic's Tomas Berdych 5-7, 6-1, 6-3. Belgium's Olivier Rochus was leading 6-2, 6-7 (2), 5-2 when Sweden's Robin Soderling retired with an injury.

Rusedski took control of his match in the third set tie-breaker by winning two points off Mirnyi's serve to go up 3-0 early. Mirnyi didn't miss either shot by much — he chipped a backhand wide and then a volley just out — but in a match that close, it made all the difference.

"The key was getting that first mini-break at 1-0," said Rusedski. "He really went after his returns but didn't connect on any and I mixed it up. So that was very important for me — to get ahead five-love and then closing it out pretty smoothly.

"I'm just really pleased about that."

Top-seeded Rafael Nadal, who struggled to get past countryman Carlos Moya in the opening round, had little difficulty last night, making short work of Brazilian Ricardo Mello 6-1, 6-2.

In another late match, Spaniard Tommy Robredo won in straight sets over Moroccan Younes El Aynaoui 7-6 (4), 7-6 (6).

Canada's Daniel Nestor, who was scheduled to play the final match on centre count with doubles partner Mark Knowles of the Bahamas, saw his match put over until Thursday because of the rain delay.

08-13-2005, 07:30 PM
Rusedski revitalised by serve confidence
Published: 13 August 2005

Greg Rusedski insists his aggressive approach to serving is a clear indicator of his increased confidence in his own game.

The British number two booked a last-eight meeting against Slovakian Dominik Hrbaty in the Rogers Cup in Montreal by beating Croatia's Mario Ancic 6-2 3-6 6-2.

The 1997 US Open finalist overcame a casual drop-volley which ultimately cost him the second set to see off Ancic, who knocked Tim Henman out of Wimbledon in 2004, and put it down to renewed self-belief in his biggest weapon.

"That's when I play my best tennis - when I have the confidence to hit my first and second serve and not worry about the consequence of hitting a few double-faults," he told Sky Sports.

"If you look at the great players like Pete Sampras they went after their first and second serve as hard as they could and when I am confident and playing well that's what I do, and I am just sticking to it no matter how it goes out there.

"I have never beaten Mario before and Mario is an up-and-coming player so I was really, really pleased I managed to get through that," Rusedski added.

"I had one bad shot that could have cost me the match but I played a really solid third set."

Rusedski cruised through the first set in just 39 minutes. Combining powerful serving with a deft touch at the net, he gained the edge over Ancic.

The warning signs were there for Ancic from the off as he lost his opening service game.

The Croatian threatened a comeback by holding four break points in the fourth game but Rusedski simply upped the tempo on each occasion despite some fine returns from his opponent.

The big-serving left-hander managed to hold for a 3-1 lead and then all but clinched the set with a second break.

Ancic had a further opportunity in the sixth game but was unable to convert.

The second set continued in a similar vein with Rusedski looking in charge before a moment of complacency altered the complexion of the match.

Holding game point to make it two-all, Rusedski had the entire court in which to place a simple forehand volley. But even though Ancic had given up, turning his back on proceedings, the British number two tried to be too clever and dumped his drop volley into the net.

Two fine returns quickly handed Ancic a break point which was converted when Rusedski double-faulted.

Rusedski was shell-shocked and he failed to pick up a point on the Ancic serve in the second set as the Croat levelled the match.

On the missed opportunity, Rusedski said: "I kind of took my eye off it and played a little too casually and paid the price for it by losing my serve.

"But I managed to put that behind me and then really came out strong for the third set and that was the key."

The first break came in the fourth game as Ancic hit a smash wide and Rusedski clinched the match with another to clinch his place in the next round.

Greg Rusedski insists his aggressive approach to serving is a clear indicator of his increased confidence in his own game.

The British number two booked a last-eight meeting against Slovakian Dominik Hrbaty in the Rogers Cup in Montreal by beating Croatia's Mario Ancic 6-2 3-6 6-2.

The 1997 US Open finalist overcame a casual drop-volley which ultimately cost him the second set to see off Ancic, who knocked Tim Henman out of Wimbledon in 2004, and put it down to renewed self-belief in his biggest weapon.

"That's when I play my best tennis - when I have the confidence to hit my first and second serve and not worry about the consequence of hitting a few double-faults," he told Sky Sports.

"If you look at the great players like Pete Sampras they went after their first and second serve as hard as they could and when I am confident and playing well that's what I do, and I am just sticking to it no matter how it goes out there.

"I have never beaten Mario before and Mario is an up-and-coming player so I was really, really pleased I managed to get through that," Rusedski added.

"I had one bad shot that could have cost me the match but I played a really solid third set."

Rusedski cruised through the first set in just 39 minutes. Combining powerful serving with a deft touch at the net, he gained the edge over Ancic.

The warning signs were there for Ancic from the off as he lost his opening service game.
The Croatian threatened a comeback by holding four break points in the fourth game but Rusedski simply upped the tempo on each occasion despite some fine returns from his opponent.

The big-serving left-hander managed to hold for a 3-1 lead and then all but clinched the set with a second break.

Ancic had a further opportunity in the sixth game but was unable to convert.

The second set continued in a similar vein with Rusedski looking in charge before a moment of complacency altered the complexion of the match.

Holding game point to make it two-all, Rusedski had the entire court in which to place a simple forehand volley. But even though Ancic had given up, turning his back on proceedings, the British number two tried to be too clever and dumped his drop volley into the net.

Two fine returns quickly handed Ancic a break point which was converted when Rusedski double-faulted.

Rusedski was shell-shocked and he failed to pick up a point on the Ancic serve in the second set as the Croat levelled the match.

On the missed opportunity, Rusedski said: "I kind of took my eye off it and played a little too casually and paid the price for it by losing my serve.

"But I managed to put that behind me and then really came out strong for the third set and that was the key."

The first break came in the fourth game as Ancic hit a smash wide and Rusedski clinched the match with another to clinch his place in the next round.

08-13-2005, 07:33 PM
Saturday, August 13, 2005
Sport's top 5 make tourney a must-see

By Dustin Dow
Enquirer staff writer

MASON - Not since June have the ATP's most elite players gathered in a single tournament.

Barring any withdrawals, each of the top five players is expected to play in the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters when the main draw begins Monday. It will be the first time the top 5 has played in a tournament since Wimbledon, which began June 20. The only other time the five played together was at the Australian Open in February.

The presence of Nos. 1-5 - Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Lleyton Hewitt, Marat Safin and Andy Roddick - carries more significance than simply increasing the competition at the W&S Masters. It also ensures the sport's long-term popularity, including the ability of men's tennis to market its best players, all under the age of 25.

The dominance of the top 5 this season has separated them from the rest of the players on tour.

Three of the top five players have accounted for all eight of the major titles so far, and in the three Grand Slams, the top five players have taken nine of the 12 semifinal spots.

"I think it's perfect for the Tour to be honest," said U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe. "Not only are there five that good, that young, but you've got five unique personalities. If the ATP can't market this, they've got a problem. ...It's a very good time for tennis."

It's also a critical time for the sport. Andre Agassi is still the biggest draw. But at 35, there's no telling how much longer he'll play.

"We've relied on guys like (Pete) Sampras and (Andre) Agassi for so many years now," said Hewitt, 24. "Obviously, Pete retiring, and Andre not playing as many tournaments and going to retire in the next few years at some stage. We need those next guys to step up in that next generation."

When Nadal, 19, won his first Grand Slam at the French Open in June, he turned what was a foursome into the top 5 - all of them under 25 and all with Grand Slam titles.

"It's a weird time in tennis, and I don't remember anything like it," said Roddick, 22. "It's exciting. I don't think it gets enough attention. Each one of us has a completely different personality."

Roddick might be the most explosive of the bunch. Last year after losing to Agassi in a dramatic three-set semifinal here, Roddick demonstrated his passionate side.

After leaving Center Court, Roddick ran out of the locker room, through the players' lounge and the parking lot, and onto the golf course adjacent to the facility. There, he stomped around a putting green, letting out his frustration unbeknownst to media waiting for him in the interview room.

"When I was in the locker room, I didn't want people coming up to me saying it was 'OK,' " Roddick said. "I wanted to be alone so I took a jog in the dark. I've done it a couple times. I don't really have an explanation for it; I just wasn't ready to talk yet."

But talk he must, Roddick said, and so must the other four to enhance the sport's media presence. So it's no surprise Roddick is one of the biggest supporters of the U.S. Open Series and its campaign that aims to connect fans with players through marketing and television.

"With the top five players, it comes down to the effort that players want to put into making themselves visible," Roddick said. "We don't have a marketing machine so it's up to the players. How much do they want to put into going out and signing autographs, conducting interviews, just little things like that?"

Although the group has combined to win every major event this season, Federer is still considered a class above with his 58-3 record and solid No. 1 ranking.

Nadal said the title of best in the world still belongs to Federer but that the five of them collectively can spark greater fan interest if they are playing in the same tournament.

"It can make things really interesting," Nadal said. "To me however, the most important thing is to have people enjoying what they see whether it is the top 5 players or top 50 players."

08-13-2005, 07:36 PM
Rusedski's long day of tennis


Saturday, August 13, 2005
Globe and Mail Update

Montreal — The long day of tennis began for Montreal-born Greg Ruseski just after 12 noon here at the Rogers Cup men's tennis tournament.

After waiting in hope all day Friday to play his quarter-final against Slovakia's Dominik Hrbaty, Rusedski needed to win two matches Saturday — one in the afternoon, one in the evening — to qualify for Sunday's final in the $2.45 million (U.S.) Masters Series event.

Rusedski did his bit in the first match, defeating Hrbaty easily in straight sets 6-3, 6-4 in just a little over an hour to set up a meeting with the winner of the Andre Agassi-Gaston Gaudio quarter-final, the other match suspended Friday by the intermittent rains that fell off and on for more than nine hours yesterday.

Agassi and Gaudio followed the Rusedski-Hrbaty match on the court to complete their rain-delayed match after the 35-year-old American legend won the first set 6-3.

In a post-season game interview, Rusedski said he was "very confident" in the match against Hrbaty because it was the first time all week that they didn't have a big server attacking him.

"I wanted to get the match done quickly," said Rusedski, of having to play a second match later tonight. "That was the key for me, to win in an hour. Now, I have enough rest for tonight's match. I'm feeling confident."

Rusedski is on an impressive roll since losing in the second round to Joachin Johansson in four close sets at Wimbledon, posting a 13-2 run.

"That hard work I put in in November and December is starting to pay off," he said. "It's just confidence and winning matches. Everything's coming together."

If Rusedski meets Agassi tonight, what does he expect?

"Andre, obviously, I think I've beaten him three times, he's beaten me five or six, so it's going to be a great match," said Rusedski.

"It's going to be a serve and volleyer against a baseliner, so that's always a great contrasting style. Obviously, serving [will the key], making him come up with the passing shots. It's putting the pressure on him and making him come up with the goods."

Top-seeded Rafael Nadal of Spain was set to play unseeded Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu in Saturday night's first of two semi-finals, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time.

Of the players remaining in the tournament, Mathieu was the biggest underdog. He went into the Rogers' Cup known mostly for two thing:

First, he was the last player to defeat the legendary Pete Sampras in an ATP-sanctioned event (2002, in the second round at Long Island); and secondly, he was also the last player directly accepted into the main draw for this Masters series event, without playing in the qualifying round.

Something else that could get Mathieu a little attention would be if he found a way to defeat top-seeded Rafael Nadal during one of Saturday's semi-finals.

Mathieu, who eliminated third-seeded Andy Roddick in the opening round, continued his unexpected march through the tournament, crushing Slovakia's Karol Beck 6-1, 6-2 in a match. Nadal made equally short work of his opponent, defeating eighth-seeded Mariano Puerta of Argentina 6-3, 6-1 in a lopsided rematch of this past year's French Open final.

Puerta looked completely disheartened by Nadal's ability to run down virtually every shot. Even Nadal's misses counted among the highlights of the day, including the time he ran down a Puerta drop shot in the doubles alley, popped it back over the net and then almost caught up to Puerta's put-away shot in the open court.

Nadal looks as if he's getting better and better every day and it probably helped that he had a difficult draw, beginning in the opening round with a match against countryman Carlos Moya, a former world No. 1. Moya pushed Nadal to three sets and ever since then, he's cruised to three easy straight-set victories.

What makes the new generation of young players on the men's circuit so attractive is that they are, as a group, utterly charming, in addition to possessing oodles of talent. Example: It was noticed that Nadal signed autographs for his legion of fans right-handed, even though he is a lefty on the court. Nadal's explanation was that he did everything right-handed — eat, throw, write — everything, that is, except play tennis.

How did that happen, he was asked?

"When I was much too young, I play with two hands, the backhand and the forehand," he said, demonstrating the strokes for reporters. "One day, I need to choose and I play with the left, I don't know why. In football, I play with the left (this time Nadal demonstrated by mimicking a left-footed kick), so I decided to play with the left."


But if Nadal throws right-handed, wouldn't it be easier to serve right-handed?

"Yes, sometimes I think that," he said. "But I don't know."

And then, in Spanish, he added: "That may be the reason my serve is not the greatest."

Technically, Nadal's serve may be the weakest part of his game, only because it doesn't overpower an opponent, but he mixes it up with spins and slices and thus far, has won all 42 of his service games in the tournament, a career best.

It is not clear if Mathieu has enough game to prevent Nadal from reaching the final, but the 23-year-old from Strasbourg is clearly having one of the best weeks of his career. This represents his first trip ever to an ATP Masters series semi-final and he is just the third Frenchman to reach the semi-finals in Canada since the open era began (after Fabrice Santoro in 2001 and Patrick Proisy in 1972).

"I've seen him quite often on TV," said Mathieu, of Nadal. "I've watched many of his matches. He's a very good player. He's No. 2 and maybe he will become No. 1. He played well on clay, but he's showing us that he is playing well on hard (courts) also.

"When you play a player like him, you have to be strong mentally. You must show him that you are as present on the court as he is, as intense as he is, that you are on the court to win also."

Mathieu spent four of his formative years training at the Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton, Fla. before returning to France at age 18 to work with former touring pro Thierry Champion. He was named the tour's newcomer of the year in 2002 after winning two events as a rookie, but missed four months that same season because of an abdominal injury.

"Then, when I was playing good again, I got injured in my wrist and I stopped for seven months," said Mathieu. "It's exactly one year since I start to play again … and you have to do everything from zero. You have to play the small tournaments again, play the qualifiers. It is not easy."

By defeating Roddick, Mathieu posted his first victory of the season over a top-10 player, after going 0-8 previously.

"It's true that I had not won many matches and that I was just coming out from a difficult period," said Mathieu, "but to say that I would be in the semi-finals, I never expected that. But today, I will profit from this and I hope to continue. I did not expect this at all."

Soon after Nadal left the court, play was suspended because of rain, just as the doubles match between Canada's Daniel Nestor and his partner Mark Knowles and the Israeli pair of Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram was about to get underway. That match was scheduled to go on court right after the Agassi-Gaudio contest ends.

08-15-2005, 11:17 PM

Federer Extends Reign at No. 1 to 81 Weeks

By Associated Press

August 15, 2005, 11:33

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Roger Federer extended his time as the top-ranked tennis player to 81 weeks Monday, lifting him to seventh on the men's career list.

Federer became No. 1 on Feb. 2, 2004 after winning the Australian Open. He's surpassed the 80 weeks that Australia's Lleyton Hewitt spent in the top spot for all but two weeks between November 2001 and June 2003.

Federer won his third consecutive Wimbledon title in July. He also won last year's U.S Open.

Ahead of Federer on the list for the longest time spent at No. 1 is Andre Agassi (101 weeks), Bjorn Borg (109 weeks), John McEnroe (170 weeks), Jimmy Connors (268 weeks) and Ivan Lendl (270 weeks). Pete Sampras holds the record for the longest time at No. 1 with 286 weeks.

Federer's lead in the rankings has been cut to 73 points after French Open champion Rafael Nadal won a Masters Series event in Montreal on Sunday.

If Federer holds No. 1 through the U.S. Open, he will notch 85 consecutive weeks at No. 1, the fourth longest unbroken reign. Connors has the record of 160 weeks, set in July 1974, followed by Lendl (157 weeks), Sampras (102 weeks).

Federer is followed in the top 10 in the rankings by Rafael Nadal, Lleyton Hewitt, Marat Safin, Andy Roddick, Andre Agassi, Nikolay Davydenko, Gaston Gaudio, Mariano Puerta and Guillermo Coria.

08-15-2005, 11:19 PM
Roddick Advances at Cincinnati Masters
By JOE KAY, AP Sports Writer

Monday, August 15, 2005

Andy Roddick had one minor concern — an erratic serve — as he advanced in the $2.45 million Cincinnati Masters. Andre Agassi dropped out with a lot more on his mind.

Roddick struggled with his serve on Monday, but was solid in every other aspect of a rejuvenating 6-3, 6-4 win over Jurgen Melzer. A week earlier, Roddick was out of sorts during a first-round loss in Montreal, complaining about the brand of ball used for Masters events.

The same brand of ball is used in Cincinnati, where Roddick was comfortable with everything but his first serve — only 56 percent went in.

"It was kind of a weird match for me," he said. "I was putting a lot of returns in play. Once I was in the point, I felt like I was getting the better of it. But I didn't serve well, so it was kind of a backward match for me. But I think that's a good thing. I'm pretty confident my serve will come around."

Agassi, 35, hopes that his back will come around after two weeks away from competitive tennis, leaving him healthy for the U.S. Open. An irritated nerve forced him to drop out of the Cincinnati tournament that he won last year.

Agassi was considering another cortisone shot to calm the nerve and get him ready for the Open.

"Unfortunately, I know this process all too well," said Agassi, bothered by back problems in recent years. "I know exactly what it needs."

Two seeded players lost in the first round Monday — No. 14 Ivan Ljubicic and No. 15 Radek Stepanek. Top-seeded Roger Federer, who hadn't played in a tournament since he won at Wimbledon, was scheduled for an evening match against James Blake.

Agassi's win at Cincinnati last year was a career highlight and a major step in his revival. The back flared up during a first-round loss at the French Open this year, forcing him to get treatment and miss Wimbledon for the second year in a row.

Agassi returned and won the Mercedes-Benz Cup, his first ATP title in nearly a year. He made it to the final at Montreal on Sunday, losing a three-set match to Rafael Nadal. The back bothered him afterward, and he feared that playing in Cincinnati would make it worse.

"Ten weeks ago, I didn't know where things were going to go," Agassi said. "I was home during the biggest tournaments of the year. So to be on the court healthy, being able to challenge myself with my game, feels great.

"Now my hopes are for the U.S. Open. I'm in a much better place right now than I was a few weeks ago."

Agassi has special feelings for the Open, which he won in 1994 and 1999. Three years ago, he lost to Pete Sampras in a four-set title match that is part of tennis lore. Sampras' record 14th Grand Slam title wound up as his last match before retirement.

Agassi has no desire to duplicate Sampras' dramatic send-off — he hopes to play for a couple more years.

"It would be great to win, but I have no interest in putting a nice little bow around my career and handing it over to anybody," Agassi said. "I'm going to keep giving everything I've got to the sport. It's been so good to me. I couldn't hope or even expect for it to give me any more.

"So I go to the Open with the intention of hopefully bringing some inspiration to those who take a few hours out of their day to come watch me. That's what I look forward to."

08-15-2005, 11:21 PM
UPDATE 1-Agassi pulls out of Cincinnati Masters
Mon Aug 15, 2005

By Simon Cambers

CINCINNATI, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Defending champion Andre Agassi has pulled out of this week's Cincinnati Masters to protect his troublesome back.

The 35-year-old American made the decision after he was beaten by Rafael Nadal in the final of the Montreal Masters on Sunday, his second tournament in three weeks.

"I can't start anything any more that I can't be sure I'll finish," Agassi said.

"Ten weeks ago I made a commitment to myself that I would only play when I can (give it everything).

"I'm not 100 percent, that's something I just have to cope with, and it's obviously really disappointing but I have to take care of my body."

Agassi missed Wimbledon because of the injury and, though he has been taking cortisone injections, he wants to avoid further injury with the U.S. Open just two weeks away.

The American, three times a winner in Cincinnati, flew to the city on Monday to explain his decision to tournament organisers.

Agassi said he had not ruled out further cortisone injections in the two weeks before the U.S. Open, but said he was excited about the year's final grand slam event.

"Ten weeks ago, I didn't know where things were going to go," he said. "I'm just so glad to be healthy, and to be chasing down balls I know I can't get, let alone ones I know I can."

At 35, Agassi is the elder statesmen of the tour, but he repeated his vow to continue playing as long as he can compete at the top level.

He even hinted that if he won the U.S. Open, he would not follow in the footsteps of Pete Sampras, who quit after his emotional victory, over Agassi, in 2002.

"I don't know how long it's going to be (that I keep playing) but I have no interest in tying a nice little ribbon around my career. I'm not ready to let anyone take over yet."

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.

08-24-2005, 10:19 PM
The big one
Players secretly admit U.S. Open is the title to win

Posted: Wednesday August 24, 2005

A few questions before the Big Show. Check back Thursday for U.S. Open men's and women's seed reports. ...

Does the U.S. Open crown the best champions? There are virtually no "one-Slam wonders" among the Open winners of the past 20 years or so. The few one-time champions (such as Andy Roddick) still are relatively early in their careers. You can't say the same about the Australian Open (whose recent champions include Thomas Johansson and Petr Korda), Roland Garros (Iva Majoli and Albert Costa), or Wimbledon (Goran Ivanisevic and Jana Novotna).
-- Jason Englisbe, Greenville, S.C.

Players complain about the bustle and the traffic and the chaos and the hamburger fumes of the U.S. Open. But in secret, most will confess it is the most meaningful title to win. The courts are sufficiently fast so the attackers can attack; they're sufficiently slow so the baseliners can play their game. It's the most democratic major and the winners bear that out. Not many Cinderella champs here. In the past decade, only one player not among the top 10 seeds has taken the title. And that was the men's winner in 2002, a fellow named Pete Sampras.

This question assumes seeding at U.S. Open will be based on this week's rankings: With Kim Clijsters moving into the fourth spot, none of the top four seeds (barring withdrawals) at the Open will be a holding Grand Slam champion. I can't think of any time in the past that that's happened. Is this a first?
-- Petr Pronsati, New York City

I'm told the answer is yes, it's a first. Great stat, Petr. Here's another tidbit: Since Melbourne, every men's Slam and Masters Series event has been won by either Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal.

I still haven't gotten past your comments about Federer being soft. Isn't it time to wax poetically about Federer's 22-0 record in finals dating back to 2003? And time to marvel at what it says about him as a player and competitor? Indulge me, please!
-- Amy Clark, Chicago

I think you misunderstood. By "soft" I meant ruthless. No, seriously, it's probably time I did my penance for that. Once upon a time, the book on Federer was that he was a fragile genius, a meta-perfectionist who a) liked to rely on gifts but was uncomfortable "grinding" and b) grew frustrated with himself when he was playing sub-par tennis and could collapse when he had an off-day. If you hung in there and made life tough for him, eventually he'd cave.

Sadly for the rest of the field, this scouting report -- and any suggestions of mental mushiness -- needs to be updated. As if his abundant gifts weren't enough, Federer has become a mental colossus. I saw Federer last week in Cincy and while he was decidedly "off" (it was his first event back after five-week hiatus) he was brilliant on big points and "gutted out" tight matches. If I'm a colleague, this is more demoralizing than his run at Wimbledon, where he simply played peerlessly brilliant tennis. Knowing that the guy still wins when he's playing poorly is crushing.

As for the streak in finals, it speaks for itself. When Sampras-philes anoint their man as they best ever, one factor they cite is his record in finals: 64-24. When the trophy was on the line, he came home with the goods roughly three out of four times. Likewise he never lost a Wimbledon final. Federer is now 31-8 in finals.

Any chance that Roddick and other players will engage in locker-room strategy sessions to compare notes on how to beat Federer? Or have such strategy sessions already occurred?
-- Ed Lilly, Lawrenceville, N.J.

Interesting point. Remember the Survivor-style pact Martina Hingis and Lindsay Davenport once made against the Williams sisters? Maybe it's time the men did likewise with Federer.

I've written this before but I think a component -- a small component, but a component nonetheless -- of Federer's dominance is his disposition. He's such a nice guy that it's really hard for anyone to muster hatred for him on the court. I don't think he's being disingenuous. I don't think it's a tactic. But it's really effective. You wonder why boxers, for instance, don't take a page out of Federer's book. Instead of antagonizing and talking trash, you act congenially and, thus, don't inflame the passion of the opposition as much.

I noticed that Lleyton Hewitt no is longer a Nike athlete. Was this Nike's decision or Hewitt's? Perhaps his Davis Cup antics were the last straw and Nike opted to not renew his contract in July? Do you think a $4 million to $5 million hit to earnings will cause Mr. Hewitt to clean up his act? Alternatively, do you think this represents a diminution of Nike's commitment to tennis? (It also ended its long-term pact with Andre Agassi.)
-- Evan Raine, New York City

Nike wants the Next Big Thing, that teenager who might earn the company multiples on its investment over the course of a career. You see the same thing in other sports. (Certainly basketball, anyway.) It's why LeBron James is making double what Kobe Bryant (pre-Colorado) was making. A lot of you write in wondering "Why doesn't Mary Pierce have a shoe deal?" or "How could Venus be wearing Reeboks for nothing?" but take a look at a teenagers like Maria Sharapova or Nadal -- or even Gael Monfils or a Nicole Vaidisova -- and you see where the investment in tennis is being made.

As for Hewitt, I hear his folks overplayed their hand with Nike. But when you're negotiating a seven-figure deal to represent a company's product, it surely doesn't help when the athlete in question has a singular talent for alienating the public.

I find your idea of an ATP All-Star weekend interesting. What would that all entail? A fastest-serve derby? A sudden-death tiebreaker for the top eight players in a tournament?
-- Ben Bittner, Oshkosh, Wisc.

What if you held this before the U.S. Open -- players are in town anyway, so you'd have easy television leverage -- and included:

a) a fast-serve contest on a standard gun, not the USTA Davis Cup gun.

b) An NHL-style skills contest. Place, say an agent's BlackBerry in the corner of a service box and see how many times out of 10 a player can hit it on the fly.

c) A 40-yard dash.

d) A trick contest, a la the Slam Dunk contest. Anyone who's seen Mansour Bahrami play knows how creative this could get.

e) A quick-hands contest. Have one player stand at the service line -- not the baseline -- and serve at a player at the net. See how many volleys the netman can pick off. If you guys have more ideas, fire away. ...

I have to say that I don't really buy the "people want to watch the game they play" argument for doubles. People play softball, but they want to watch baseball. They play two-hand touch football, but want to watch tackles. I sympathize with the pro doubles players and think they are also spectacular athletes, but when the empirical data indicates that people play doubles but want to watch singles, maybe that's just how it is. Not that I think these funny rule changes are the answer, but at some point the ATP does have to capitulate to the laws of supply and demand, doesn't it?
-- Jason Singer, Phoenix

I'm not sure your comparison quite works. Softball players might prefer baseball, but if there were simultaneously softball games held at the baseball game (easily accessible, at no extra charge), surely they would swing by.

Look, no one contends that the economics of doubles were unsustainable, that something needed to be done. But, in keeping with your analogy, it would have been nice if the ATP had sought to trigger demand, not cut supply. And instead of coming up with zany five-game sets, what if the ATP has decided to use the doubles matches as lab rats and experiment with all the suggestions that get bandied about -- on-court coaching, no-lets and so forth?

Again, I think this could really come back to haunt the tour. Federer, Nadal and Roddick may not immediately be impacted by these changes. But it has to trouble them that the ATP -- ostensibly their players' union -- has sold them down the Yarra in favor of administrators and promoters.

Is anybody else tired of hearing Patrick McEnroe label Marat Safin "inconsistent?" He never uses that adjective for his David Cup star Roddick.
-- Gloria Sens, Platteville, Wisc.

A dig at Roddick from someone in Platteville? That's like inaugurating a chapter of the Lleyton Hewitt Fan Club in Buenos Aires. McEnroe's Roddick-philia can get extreme at times. But I'm not sure the best example is his referring to Safin, and not Roddick, as "inconsistent." First, Safin is to stable what Olivier Rochus is to tall. Never mind Safin's trend of winning Slams and then losing a string of first rounders. Name me another top-five player who could lose a set 6-1 to Andrew Murray. (Read all about the maddening, mercurial Marat in the current issue of GQ.) Second, if I'm compiling a list of Roddick's shortcomings, inconsistency doesn't really rate high. Take clay out of the equation and I would submit he performs pretty evenly. He doesn't win every match, but doesn't look like a world-beater one set and a hack the next.

Please give some information on Clijsters' new boyfriend, Brian Lynch. We have a large group of fans of Kim's here and are eager to keep abreast of what is happening with her socially.
-- Jean Black, Santa Barbara, Calif.

Good player. Great shooter. Clijsters would dust him in a footrace. Villanova basketball has yet to recover from his graduation.

Take it easy on fellow Indianian Rajeev Ram! When you consider he lost a tight match to Murray in the finals of the last challenger he played and won two rounds in Indianapolis, beating Brian Vahaly isn't such a big upset.
-- Dave Milne, Indianapolis

We'll never pass up a chance to plug Ram, the best player to come out of Indiana since Todd Witsken. (Though look out for K.J. Stewart.)

A quick tip to those who are unhappy with the price of U.S. Open tickets: Check out the U.S. Open qualifying tournament! At last look it was still free, the matches are still great and there are a number of young prospects and older once-higher ranked players who are worth watching. If that's not enough, consider the fact that attending qualies lets you beat the main draw crowds. I've attended the USO for the last three years, and this year I'm passing on the main draw altogether. Last year the qualies allowed me the chance to catch Marcos Baghdatis, Sesil Karatantcheva and Vaidsova, just to name a few -- for free!
-- Rebecca, Toronto

Excellent point, thanks. Matches started yesterday at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y., so get out there!

My friend and I saw Dominik Hrbaty clinically take apart Juan Carlos Ferrero, who wasn't far from his best, in Montreal. Watching the Dominator on a side court at such close quarters made us wonder why he isn't one of the elite five players in the game today. His maddeningly efficient game has no tangible weaknesses, he is supremely fit and often gave us the impression that we were watching the second coming of Ivan Lendl. In addition, I was surprised to see that Hrbaty has winning records against Federer, Nadal and Safin. What really befuddled me was that Hrbaty somehow contrived to lose to Greg Rusedski the next day. How can this possibly happen?
-- Anandam Mamidipudi, Chelmsford, Mass.

I have no answer. But here's my testimonial: I watched Hrbaty play Patrick Rafter at a night match in Australia a few years. The guy played one of the high-quality sets of tennis I've ever seen, blocking out the crowd and passing the Australian. Rafter then won the third set, but again, the tennis was terrific. I went to get dinner, steeling myself for a classic. I returned to watch Rafter serve out the fourth set 6-0 to win the match. Hrbaty just totally disappeared.

What happens if a player, during a trophy presentation, accidently drops the Waterford crystal?
-- Munira, Dearborn, Mich.

They turn into Mark Philippoussis.

A few more from the "memorable points " thread:

First worst shot, immediately followed by second worst shot!

Two of Pierce's match points a few weeks back in the finals against Ai Sugiyama. First she misses the easy put-away with Sugiyama completely off the court. Then she flubs an overhead like I haven't seen in a while. Thankfully, Pierce (and her brother) had the decency laugh to at the overhead.
-- Ken Schneck, Bronxville, N.Y.

And, we should point out, Pierce did win the match.

One of the greatest points of all time was during the quarterfinals of the 1991 U.S. Open when, down a set and late in a tight second set, Jimmy Connors fought off not one, but four Paul Haarhuis overheads. I believe Connors then drilled a tough approach that Haarhuis got a racket on. Then, at full charge, Connors ripped a running two-hander down the line that totally jacked the crowd and turned the tide of the match. Connors was looking old and tired but that point was the definition of the year's Open as well as all Connors stood for as a player. I swear the crowd's roar tipped the seismograph somewhere in California. Even you were not a tennis fan, the point would have made you one that night.
-- Brian Dooley, Wauwatosa, Wisc.

Have you noticed the striking resemblance between Murray, the British tennis star, and the horror mask in the Scream trilogy of films? Perhaps they are related?
-- Peter, London

08-24-2005, 10:24 PM
Don't count out Agassi at U.S. Open

Matthew Cronin /
Posted: 5 hours ago

The eternally optimistic Andre Agassi is competing in the 2005 U.S. Open and says he's hoping to play the next.

You have to believe that's what he desires, because he said much the same last year and made good on his vow.

But the 35-year-old's body is one year older and certainly more war torn. He's had three cortisone shots in his bad back already this year and hasn't been able to play for two weeks running since May.

Since a swollen sciatic nerve in his back struck him down at the French Open, he's played all of two events: Los Angeles in late July and at Montreal two weeks ago.

He put on a standout performances in both of them, winning L.A. over a relatively weak yet ambitious field and then taking down a strong set of contenders in Montreal (including Gaston Gaudio and Greg Rusedski) before falling in three sets in the final to Spanish wunderkind Rafael Nadal.

Agassi then decided to rest another two weeks before the Open, because few athletes pay closer attention to their bodies than Agassi does, and he has promised his wife, the legendary Steffi Graf, as well as his coach, Darren Cahill, and his trainer, Gil Reyes, that he won't compete unless he's 100 percent.

Because, even at full strength, Agassi's not racking up the titles anymore. (He's won two in the past two years.) If he's going to even hope to make a dent in New York, he had better be feeling as fit as he has all year, because in the past two years, he hasn't proven that his body can take the amount of pounding necessary to go all the way in New York.

"Eight weeks ago, I wasn't sure if I was playing tennis again," he said. "So to be out here feeling healthy and being able to move and hit my shots, that part alone feels great to me, let alone actually playing well. So now all of a sudden I'm faced with the reality that I can actually go enjoy the Open this year because I'm doing a few things right, which is nice to feel. I like where I am right now."

As well he should , because Agassi has a puncher's chance of winning the tournament, given things break very, very well for him. That means no marathon matches early, no incredibly tough draws and no rainouts that force him to play on back-to-back days. Because although he can still ball with 98 percent of the tour, he has not shown in the past two and a half years (which dates back to when the nerve in his back first started killing him) that he can sustain his level in three-out-of-five-set matches over a two-week period in seven matches straight.

The two-time U.S. Open champion has been a tremendous competitor in New York during the past three years, but in every loss he took (to Sampras in the 2002 final, to Juan Carlos Ferrero in the '03 semis and to Roger Federer last year), he looked a little spent.

Last year, he played Federer tougher than any other player in the tournament, and had it not been for a gale of a wind pushing chairs around the court in the last two sets of the Swiss' five-set victory, Agassi may have won that match. However, there was no guarantee that Agassi would have beaten Tim Henman in the semis and certainly not Lleyton Hewitt in the final.

But if a few of the big stars get upset, the 2005 Open is dry and he gets on an early roll, it would be hard to argue against Agassi's experience.

"You always get excited more when you feel like you have more of a chance.," he said. "Paris doesn't excite me at all anymore because I just associate it with pain, meaning physical. So you're sort of glad to be a part of it, but you're limited to how much you can really enjoy the experience when you're surviving. But the U.S. Open is different. I feel like there's just a lot of matches I can play on my terms, and certainly the home crowd. Every one is so unique to itself. I do look forward to the Open's personality. It's a great place to play."

Unfortunately, Agassi can't apply his terms to everyone. Men's tennis has a clear big five right now: Federer, Nadal, Hewitt, Andy Roddick and Marat Safin. Four of those are former U.S. Open champs and Nadal — a 19-year-old Spaniard with a vicious lefty forehand and blinding speed — just kicked Agassi's butt in the third set of the Montreal final. Without question, Agassi certainly is a more proven pressure player in N.Y. than the relative greenhorn Nadal, but he's not a better player and if he couldn't knock out the tireless teen in a two-out-of-three-set match, what chance does he have in three-out-of-five?

"I laughed at the prospect of playing Nadal when I was 19, just his strength and his speed and all that stuff," Agassi said. "You watch how the game continues to improve. I've prided myself on my continual efforts to rise to those challenges and to get better. But, yes, the game's going to get better with or without me, so I'd rather it be with me."

Grant Agassi his improvement in the areas of court stewardship, consistency and with his serve. But he's not as fast as he once was and doesn't whack his groundstrokes like he used to. Moreover, what chance does he really have to stop the remarkable Federer, who has beaten him seven times in a row, just won his 22nd final in a row in Cincinnati and dearly wants to bag his second Slam in a year in New York?

Not a big one, but Agassi wants to keep coming back for more. Unless his back completely seizes up and his doctors tell him that he'll have to undergo surgery, he won't be pulling a Sampras — walking away full of ambiguity, retiring a year later and not looking back without apparent regret.

Or at least that's what Agassi says now. But should he win the title in the style that his old rival Sampras did in 2002, don't dismiss the possibility out of hand, even if Agassi himself does at the moment.

"It would be great to win, but I have no interest in putting a nice little bow around my career and handing it over to anybody," Agassi said. "I'm going to keep giving everything I've got to this sport. It's been so good to me. I couldn't hope or even expect for it to give me any more.

"So I go to the Open with the intention of hopefully bringing some inspiration to those who take a few hours out of their day to come watch me. That's what I look forward to."

08-24-2005, 11:07 PM
An almost perfect 10: Schorsch plays well beyond his years


Five years ago, young Jeffrey Schorsch sat in the living room of his Perrysburg home with his family, glued to the TV as Pete Sampras battled to win the 2000 Wimbledon championship. For Sampras, it was a career highlight, winning his record 13th grand slam title on his favorite court. For Jeffrey, it was all the inspiration he needed.

"I just thought the trophy looked really cool, and I wanted to try it out," Jeffrey said. "So I picked up a racket and went outside and started hitting a ball against the garage."

For the average 5-year-old, that impulse would turn into little more than another outdoor hobby. But Jeffrey parlayed it into his passion and without knowing it, took the first steps toward becoming one of the sport's best young athletes.

According to the United States Tennis Association, Jeffrey is the No. 1-ranked 12-and-under player in northwest Ohio. In the Midwest, he's ranked No. 11. In the entire country, he's ranked No. 184.

By the way, Jeffrey recently turned 10, and he constantly plays against boys who are much older. Still, he has steadily climbed the rankings since he began tournament play.

"There was something that we saw almost right away," said his father, Jeff Schorsch. "He wasn't just out there whacking away at the ball, he seemed to see it and hit it properly, so we encouraged him to keep it up."

Part of that encouragement came in signing Jeffrey up for lessons at Laurel Hill Swim and Tennis Club, where he was placed in a class with other 4-to-7-year-olds to learn the basics. But Kim Pacella, one of the pros at Laurel Hill, soon realized the 5-year-old was special.

"Kim came to us one day pretty early on and said she was kicking Jeffrey up to the 8-to-13-year-old class," said Jeffrey's mother, Diane Schorsch. "He had
hand-eye coordination unlike any of the other kids and an ability to get the racket on the ball at the right spot every time. She said there was really nothing more to teach him at that level."

Jeffrey continued to progress quickly and wow instructors and members alike at Laurel Hill.

"My game just came to me," Jeffrey said. "For some reason, it's always just felt natural."

Eventually, Jeffrey's talents caught the eye of Todd Dominiak, another pro/instructor at Laurel Hill. Dominiak, a star player at the University of Toledo in the 1980s and eight-time Toledo city singles champion, said Jeffrey had the physical and mental gifts to be a solid player.

"I always tell people I see a lot of young kids who think they're good because they can smack the ball around hard," he said. "But I like to watch a kid and see him thinking about what the other guy's doing and analyzing it. Jeffrey had the mind of an adult, constantly finding out what the other guy's going to do."

Dominiak, who has been his coach for the past three years, helped to improve Jeffrey's game immediately. When he played in his first 10-and-under tournament at the age of 7, Jeffrey, after a tough first-round loss, fought back and won the back draw.

After that first tournament, Jeffrey showed an uncanny desire to keep winning and worked harder as a result. Because he is home-schooled, he has better access to court time than other young players. Dominiak would coach him a few days during the week, and Jeff would act as coach the rest of the time. Jeff, who played basketball and football at Central Catholic, was never a tennis player before his son became interested. Diane doesn't have a tennis background either, having played volleyball in high school.

"Todd teaches me the technique and the physical part of the game, and my dad helps me with the mental part of it," Jeffrey said. "He coaches me on and off the court."

"I've never seen a dad and son have as good a relationship as these two," Dominiak said.

Jeffrey's success eventually carried him to the Little Mo/Smrikva Bowl Championships, a tournament that pits the top four boys and girls 10-and-under players in North America against the best from Europe. Jeffrey breezed through the sectional and regional tournaments without losing a set and went on to play in the nationals last October, where he was seeded No. 3. He eventually reached the finals and beat the No. 1 seed 6-1, 6-1 to become the Little Mo national champion, a title won by current pro Andy Roddick in 1992.

"It was very exciting," Jeffrey said. "I felt like I was competing against the whole country."

This past July, Jeffrey joined the three other top players from the Little Mo and traveled to Pula, Croatia, to compete against Europe's best in the fourth annual Smrikva Bowl. He was chosen as the No. 1 seed and his team's captain. Although they played well, Jeffrey and the others struggled on the red-clay courts, a surface normally not preferred by American players and coaches.

"Jeffrey is like a left-handed Sampras," Jeff said. "He pushes you around the court, bullies you and wins points. Clay, though, is a very slow surface, so that slowed his game down. If you haven't grown up playing on it, you're at a disadvantage."

Still, the loss in Croatia seemed to light a fire under Jeffrey upon his return to the States. After winning at the USTA Zone Team Championships at Penn State in July, he entered the Midwest Open Championships in Cincinnati, a 128-player tournament featuring some of the best 12-and-under players in the country. Jeffrey was unseeded, but won seven straight matches to take home the title. A week later, he competed in the Ann Arbor Jr. Open, a tournament very similar to the Midwest Open, and again won it all, cruising through six straight matches while only losing six games.

Overall, he is 21-4 in USTA-sanctioned matches in 2005. As an analogy for a 10-year old dominating this way, Dominiak compared it to an eighth-grader having the highest score on the SAT.

"Him winning like this is really surreal," Diane said. "His ability to learn from his mistakes and come back to win is amazing. He doesn't just shut down and lose a match out of frustration like a lot of other kids would."

Jeffrey got a taste of competing against adults over the weekend at Ottawa Park. Playing with Jim Kaser, he won the open doubles division of the Howard Haynes tournament. In the men's open singles, he advanced to the semifinals, where he lost 10-8 to the eventual champion in a third-set tiebreaker.

So what's the secret to Jeffrey's ever-growing success?

"The key for us has been to keep challenging him here, but also making sure he always has fun in the process," Dominiak said. "He will push the ceiling as high as it can go, as long as it always stays fun. The minute this feels like a job to him is when he'll start to lose interest."

Part of that comes from keeping Jeffrey grounded and not pushing for him to be a pro as early as possible.

"We talk about being cautiously optimistic," Dominiak said. "We don't want him thinking about the pros right now. If we keep him out there being challenged and having fun, he'll want that himself."

Jeffrey has seemed to take the advice of his coach and parents in stride. He has already won this year's Little Mo Regionals, and has his eyes set on going back to Croatia and winning.

"I always try to play like there's nothing to lose," Jeffrey said. "I think, 'If I lose, I'll just have a better chance of beating them next time.'●"

08-27-2005, 08:52 PM
Paul Lewis: Slams are grand for serving up shocks


A friend once managed to procure Wimbledon tickets and treated me to the full-works Wimbledon - seats on centre court and passes to the Pavilion, where we hobbed with the nobs and indulged in the famed strawberries and cream and bottles of champagne.

The score read something like champagne 40-strawberries 15 and I'd have to say the service game was terrific. Just hold your hand up and more champagne arrived. And the second serve was just as good as the first.

But after all that champagne remedial action was required and I found myself in the gents loo, standing next to a man who either was, or was dressed as, a clergyman. Who must have been a Star Wars fan as he was indulging in a pastime best described as Han Solo. Who was ever so pleased that I'd noticed.

Quite why he chose to do this standing at a urinal and why detection was desirable remains a mystery, thankfully. And if he was a vicar, oh, never mind... let's leave him there, working on his backhand.

I mention this as a roundabout method of describing the sheer unpredictability of Grand Slam tennis. Wimbledon is always a tournament for the unexpected and the epic - both inside and outside the Pavilion.

The stunning upset, the champion of whom no one had heard (Boris Becker), the classic finals (Borg vs McEnroe, 1980), Wimbledon abounds in such drama. So, too, the US Open, which kicks off tomorrow.

Remember 10 years ago, when Pete Sampras dethroned defending champion Andre Agassi in a match which signalled a firm shift in the power rankings of world tennis? Sampras, as a 19-year-old, won his first US Open beating Agassi in 1990 but it was his win five years later that really took him to the top of the tennis tree.

Agassi had the last laugh, of course, because he somehow maintained a magnificent career which is expected to end after this US Open, and then only because his back has worsened to a state where he cannot continue without the needle.

That day in 1995 saw the first - and I think the only - time that four men ranked as world No 1 during the year played off in the US Open semifinals: Sampras vs Agassi, Jim Courier vs Becker.

But not this year, I fear. There's only one bloke who's ranked as No 1 this year and for every year foreseeable, barring injury or kidnapping by aliens. Roger Federer so dominates men's tennis that spending time looking for someone who can beat him is about as fruitful as dressing up as a vicar and, well, you get the picture.

Maybe young Spaniard Rafael Nadal will be his nemesis, although perhaps not yet. And those who reckon big-hitting Andy Roddick could power-play his way to a win would have reached nervously for their betting slip when Federer - after six weeks' break from tennis - beat Roddick in a warm-up tournament. Federer looked like he was doing nothing more taxing than milking the cow he was given by a grateful Swiss nation (and which he promptly named Juliette because, it's said, of a former girlfriend with whom he'd broken up).

It's in the women's event that the real drama might unfold. Lindsay Davenport, the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, and Amelie Mauresmo will do battle with the Belgians, Justin Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters, and a ruckus of Russians, headed by world No 1 and latest dreamboat Maria Sharapova but also including Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anastasia Myskina.

Any one of the above could win this title and the women's clash is aided and abetted by the increasing bitchiness apparent in women's tennis since Sharapova's recent ascent to top spot. Her fellow Russians have sniffed that Sharapova, a long-time resident of Florida, is more American than Russian. Sharapova-ites say they are just jealous because they haven't secured the same financial success as the gorgeous Sharapova even when they won Grand Slam events. Serena Williams, who beat her to to win the Australian Open this year, witheringly said of Sharapova: "There are people with a better game."

This has happened before, of course, with Anna Kournikova - the eye-candy who made it big in endorsements by waggling her tush but who achieved little on court. She is best remembered (how quickly they burn out these days) for a computer virus named after her and her hissing dismissal of a would-be suitor: "You couldn't afford me."

It's wondrous to reflect how the land of Stalin has thrown up these rapacious little capitalists. All this ponytail tossing and character assassination adds an edge to the on-court struggles. It's kind of like Desperate Housewives with racquets and black people.

Sharapova, with her bullet serve and blazing backhand, might be favourite but Serena - especially if she has her mind on tennis and not ridiculous underwear - might be the one to beat.

And a dark horse? The Belgian, Clijsters, who overran an admittedly tired Henin-Hardenne to win a warm-up tournament and who is closing on her best after injury.


08-30-2005, 10:24 PM
Federer breezes through

Associated Press

NEW YORK, Aug. 30. — Roger Federer needed a little over an hour to advance to the second round of the US Open today, beating Ivo Minar 6-1, 6-1, 6-1.

Federer said he has purged himself of guilt he used to feel for beating an opponent as easily as he did Minar. “I had the feeling the guy deserves it more than I do. That’s a horrible feeling to have inside. No, that feeling is definitely gone. That’s good,” Federer said after needing only 61 minutes to beat the 21-year-old Czech making his US Open debut.

Federer has been invincible for the last two seasons, the best run since Pete Sampras reigned. He’s been No. 1 since 2 February, 2004, and has won four of the last seven Grand Slam titles, including his third straight Wimbledon crown this year.

If he defends his title here, he would be the first man in the Open era to win both Wimbledon and the US Open in consecutive years.
He led 5-0 in the first set, before Minar won his first game. He had 12 aces, his fastest serve reaching 208 kph (129 mph).

He had 34 winners to Minar’s 12, and had only 10 unforced errors.
Federer had played Minar twice before this season, including a second-round match at Wimbledon, but the familiarity didn’t help the Czech. Federer is unbeaten on hard court since losing to Marat Safin in the semi-finals at the Australian Open.

Whenever Minar was able to get his racket on the ball, his lunging stab sent it spinning out of bounds. On one point, Minar broke out every shot he had, moving Federer around with backhands, forehands and a nice drop shot. But Federer finally had enough, unleashing a laser-like shot that Minar could only watch.

Minar’s best hope came from the dark clouds that thickened the sky during the match. Rain began falling before the second set, and the chair umpire came out twice to check the playing surface in the third set.

Amelie Mauresmo made easy work of Roberta Vinci, 6-3,6-2, while Alexa Glatch, a 15-year-old wild card from the USA, beat Ukrainian Yuliana Fedak 6-4, 6-3. Justine Henin Hardenne also reached the second round beating Zuzana Ondraskova of the Czeche Republic 6-3,6-0.

Tim Henman was the day’s first upset, losing 6-4,6-4, 6-2 to Fernando Verdasco of Spain. Henman hasn’t been able to build on his success from last season, when he reached the semi-finals at the Open and French, and made the quarter-finals at Wimbledon. He lost in the second round at both the French and Wimbledon this year. On Tuesday, he was slowed by a recurring back injury.

Meanwhile, American James Blake followed up last weekend’s victory in nearby New Haven, Connecticut, with a 7-5, 7-6, 6-3 win over Britain’s Greg Rusedski, seeded 28th.

08-30-2005, 10:26 PM
Posted on Sat, Aug. 27, 2005

Tiring Agassi trying to save his best for U.S. Open


Miami Herald

MIAMI - Andre Agassi crashed the tennis establishment two decades ago, a bratty, 16-year-old from Las Vegas who shunned country-club whites for denim shorts, neon spandex biking shorts and a bleached-blond mullet that was better suited for a Bon Jovi concert than the hallowed courts of Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows.

``Image is everything,'' he declared in Canon camera commercials. Nike anointed him the coolest thing in tennis. Never mind that he had poor work habits, a potty mouth and irritated opponents with his histrionics.

Tennis purists complained he was more style than substance, a fad that surely would pass. ``A haircut and a forehand,'' in the words of then-No. 1 Ivan Lendl.

Twenty U.S. Opens, four U.S. presidents, and a few reincarnations later, Agassi is perhaps tennis' most beloved legend, the consummate gentleman and among the most generous philanthropists in all of sport, raising more than $24 million for disadvantaged youth.

He is 35 and bald now, married to fellow legend Steffi Graf, and the doting father of two children. With the help of cortisone shots to ease his ailing back, he is still in the mix heading into the 2005 U.S. Open, which begins Monday.

His wife and his peers - Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and Michael Chang - are well into retirement. Agassi is still out there with his pigeon-toed shuffle, lethal forehand and lightning reflexes, grinding down opponents, giving no hint this could be his last Open.

``I've said for a long time that I'm going to play this sport as long and as hard as I can,'' he said at a news conference two weeks ago. ``I don't know how long that's going to be, but I'm going to give back every bit it's given to me, or at least retire knowing I couldn't do more. It would be great to win the Open, but I have no interest in putting a nice little bow around my career and handing it over to anybody.''

He dresses conservatively these days, has transformed into a fitness freak, is fastidious about everything from his diet to his string tension and ends every match with respectful bows and heartfelt kisses for his fans. This is the same guy who once forgot to bow to the Dutchess of Kent on Wimbledon's Centre Court.

His faithful followers have been along for the ride as Agassi went from No. 1 to No. 141 to irrelevant and back to No. 1. They've been there for all the haircuts, his unlikely friendship with Barbra Streisand, his marriage to Brooke Shields and subsequent divorce, his sweet romance with Graf and the birth of their children.

``Andre did something so many professional athletes never do,'' TV commentator Mary Carillo said. ``He grew up. He became a grown-up. It's been fun to watch, because we all saw him as the young guy, dripping with talent and earrings, and then through his slump and the love affairs. This is his 20th Open, and he is still the biggest draw without question.''


Patrick McEnroe, who played against Agassi and is now a CBS commentator, added: ``When you look at Andre now, the respected player and person he has become, it's hard to believe he's the same kid who used to brag about eating McDonald's, the guy who tanked matches, just relied on his talent and didn't get it. I don't know that anyone in sports has had such a turnaround as an athlete and a person. It's a great story.''

In 1997, Agassi married Shields, fell out of shape and slid to No. 141. He was written off at age 27. A year later he clawed back into the top 10, one of the greatest comebacks in tennis history. He won the French and U.S. Opens in 1999 and reached the final at Wimbledon.

``Andre had an epiphany in '97, and it changed everything for him,'' McEnroe said. ``I remember he lost to Gustavo Kuerten in Cincinnati in 42 minutes, and Brad Gilbert, who was his coach then, basically told him, `Either you recommit, or you're just cheating yourself.' ''

Andre took the advice and has never taken his talent for granted again.

Agassi's style of play has undergone a complete makeover from those denim days. Blessed with the ability to strike the ball and return serve better than just about anyone in the game, Agassi as a young man was known to bang from the baseline and hope for the best. He made errors, but that didn't seem to bother him.

Now he plays a wiser game and goes for the high-percentage shots.

``He has become the ultimate percentage player,'' McEnroe said. ``He is so consistent and plays so smart. He left so many things to chance early in his career, and now he leaves nothing to chance. Everything is calculated. Maybe his old style was a little more fun to watch, but when he's healthy he's still playing top 5 or 6 tennis.

``You take away Federer, who nobody can beat right now, and Andre is right there. You tell me he's going up against Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick, Marat Safin or Rafael Nadal, and I'd say he's got almost a 50-50 shot.''

And as long as that's the case, Agassi says he'll keep playing.

He has won eight Grand Slam events, $30 million in prize money and is one of only five men to complete the career Grand Slam - winning Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, French Open and Australian Open.

But he insists the sport never gets old, that he still finds inspiration every time he steps on the court.

``It's never old when people are taking a day of their lives to come watch you,'' he said.

He will quit only if he can't be at his best. And that has been an issue this season. Agassi suffers from a sciatic-nerve condition that forced him to limp through a first-round loss at the French Open and withdraw from Wimbledon. He came back to win in Los Angeles and reach the final in Montreal, where he gave young gun Nadal a tough match.

``As much as I want to get out there and do the best I can, you will not see me on the court anymore if I'm not 100 percent,'' Agassi said. ``If I have a little pain in my life; that's fine. I just don't want it on the tennis court, because I work too hard to get out there and feel helpless.''

Carillo said: ``Image used to be everything for Andre, now fitness is everything.''


Agassi hopes he can make it through another U.S. Open, where he tends to play some of his best tennis.

In his past six appearances he has won it once (in 1999), finished runner-up once (to Sampras in 2002), reached the semifinals once and the quarterfinals twice, most recently last year when he stretched eventual champion Roger Federer to five sets.

Agassi admits his body is tiring. He chooses his tournaments carefully and skips others, even if it means hefty fines. He is just trying to buy time.

``It's hard, and it's getting harder,'' he said. ``I mean, the standard of tennis is picking up. The pace of the ball, the violence of the movement, the wear and tear on the body, it's all - it all builds up on you. It's no wonder why careers don't last as long as you would see in other sports.''

And that is what makes him the most compelling story at the Open this year.

``If Andre is still around the second week, what a great thing that will be to watch,'' Carillo said.

08-30-2005, 10:29 PM
Baker strikes blow for U.S., topples No. 9 Gaudio

By Jerry Magee
August 30, 2005

NEW YORK – An American male not named Andy Roddick or Andre Agassi did something positive yesterday at the U.S. Open. For a change, it can be noted.

The new guy is Brian Baker of Nashville, Tenn., who has been playing in the ATP Tour's Challenger series. Think Sally League. Ranked No. 195, Baker removed No. 9 seed Gaston Gaudio of Argentina 7-6 (11-9), 6-2, 6-4 in the tournament's opening round.

Other than Roddick and Agassi, Americans have not exactly been cutting a swath in their country's national championship. To make this point, other than those two, the only homebreds to have gained the Open's semifinals since 1995 are Jim Courier, Todd Martin, Michael Chang and Pete Sampras, all now retired.

Baker's advance, then, had to be welcomed by the U.S. Tennis Association, whose youth development program has been stuck in neutral. Baker, 20, would seem to be a comer. In 2002, he demonstrated his potential by capturing the Orange Bowl championship against the world's leading juniors, and returning to tennis yesterday after being idled for 4½ months by knee and wrist injuries, he was able to get past Gaudio, a clay-court whiz who won the French Open a year ago.

Only three of the eight ranking men's seeds were visible yesterday and last night on a schedule that placed women in more compelling circumstances. Rafael Nadal of Spain, seeded No. 2, put the muscle on American Bobby Reynolds 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 and No. 8 seed Guillermo Coria stopped Felix Mantilla of Spain 7-6 (7-5), 6-1, 6-3 in the afternoon.

In the closing match on last night's program in Arthur Ashe Stadium, Agassi, seeded No. 7, delivered a 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 triumph over Razvan Sabau of Romania.

Baker must be serious about tennis. Even though he is from Nashville, he said he has no interest in country music. When he was closing in on eliminating Gaudio, he developed what he termed "anxiety cramps," but he weathered them as well as his opponent.

"Obviously, he is a lot better on clay," Baker said, "so I just tried to pressure him a little bit on the forehand and tried to make most of the points on my terms instead of his.

"And most of the time, I was able to do that."

"He was serving pretty good," Gaudio said. "I thought I could take advantage of him from the baseline, but I couldn't do it. Like he was playing pretty good from the baseline, too. I didn't get any opportunities to break his serve or anything."

"I think I've always had it in me," Baker said of beating a top-20 player, "I just haven't been able to put it together for a whole match. I felt today like I played really well."

Baker has been touring tennis' periphery with such other young Americans as Amer Delic, Reynolds and Rajeev Ram, playing Challenger events in places such as Tunica, Miss. "I feel like we have the game, but we haven't put it together at the right time," he said. "I was very fortunate today; I played good in a big-time match."

His next opponent: Xavier Malisse of Belgium, a 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 winner over Jan Hernych of the Czech Republic. "He was a great player and still is," Baker said of Malisse.

"I'm going to have to play just as well again to win."

08-30-2005, 10:35 PM
BBC Sport Tennis

Resurgent Rusedski
By Simon Austin

When news emerged that Greg Rusedski had tested positive for nandrolone in January 2004, it appeared his eventful career could be at an end.

And some could barely conceal their delight.

Pat Cash, who worked briefly with the Briton before an acrimonious split, was the most vocal and venomous of Rusedski's critics.

"Don't ask me to shed any tears for Greg. In tennis, as in life, you get what you deserve," the Australian wrote.

Yet Rusedski confounded his critics by clearing his name and returning to the court seven months later.

The Briton set about the slow and painful process of rebuilding his career until now, two years later, he goes into the US Open as the 28th seed following an excellent hard-court campaign.

"A lot of people in my situation would have decided they'd had enough," Rusedski told BBC Sport.

"I've been through a lot, physically and emotionally, over the last few years."

The 31-year-old says he emerged from the ordeal a different person.

Previously, his intensity and insularity had been notorious on the tour.

His former coach, Tony Pickard, described him as "the most intensely focused player I've seen", while Pete Sampras was slightly less charitable, remarking, "Even his issues have issues".

The left-hander says he is now a more relaxed character.

"I'm nearly 32, and the older you get, the more comfortable you become with yourself," he said.

"I want to enjoy my time on the tour for at least another few years.

"I have to go out there and enjoy my tennis. I've always put a lot of pressure on myself, but if you get a lot of pleasure from playing, then you're going to play better."

And playing in the Davis Cup is something that has given him particular pleasure in the last year.

"I love playing in the Davis Cup," he said.

"My highlight of the last year was definitely that win over Israel (in March)."

"The best thing for me was seeing two of the youngsters - Andy Murray and David Sherwood - win the doubles."

Rusedski has been acting as something of a mentor to teenager Murray this year - which might surprise those who have thought of him as a loner in the past.

"I'm always happy to pass my knowledge on to the others on the team and if Andy wants any help, I'll be there," he said.

"I watched some of Andy's qualifying matches at the US Open and we've spoken about the upcoming match against Switzerland.

"We're both very excited about it."

The tie against Switzerland, who boast world number one Roger Federer in their ranks, will require Britain to step up a level from the Israel match.

But Rusedski is confident they can do just that.

"It's going to be much tougher against Switzerland and Federer, but our team has matured," Rusedski said.

"The key for Andy and I will be each beating (Stanislas) Wawrinka. I've beaten him twice this year, in Washington and Montreal, which is obviously very important for us."

And there have been some big developments away from the court for Rusedski as well.

His wife Lucy is expecting their first child in February.

"We're very, very excited about it, but we're just taking it one day at a time at the moment," Rusedski says.

Little wonder he says, "I'm just looking forward to the future".

It's something you wouldn't have anticipated him saying two years ago.

09-03-2005, 07:41 PM
Look out New York, Williams sisters play the Open
September 02. 2005 10:49PM

NEW YORK (AP) - Broadway has ``Wicked'' and ``The Lion King,'' and the Museum of Modern Art has Cezanne. Coldplay is coming to Madison Square Garden, and the Yankees are back next week.

And the U.S. Open? It has the biggest blockbuster of them all.

``Are you guys ready for the Williams sisters?'' Venus Williams asked Open fans Friday night, laughing at the crowd's roar of approval. ``Yeah. We'll see you on Sunday.''

Venus Williams and little sis Serena both won their third-round matches Friday to set up the meeting everyone has been waiting to see since the draw came out 10 days ago. Everyone but the sisters, that is. If they have to play each other, they'd prefer a little bigger buildup.

Six of their previous eight Grand Slam meetings have been in finals, with Serena winning the last five. But lower-than-usual seedings put them on course for an early matchup here. Serena, hobbled much of the year by ankle and knee injuries, is seeded eighth. Venus won Wimbledon, but is No. 10 after the flu knocked her out of two recent tournaments.

This is the earliest they've met at a major since the second round of the 1998 Australian Open, which Venus won in straight sets.

``It's obviously extremely disappointing to have to play my sister in the next round,'' Serena Williams said. ``We'll just have to go from there.''

The Williams sisters aren't the only show at the Open. Fabrice Santoro, once dubbed ``The Magician'' by Pete Sampras, wowed the late night crowd with some of his patented trick shots, including one flick of the wrist while he was completely turned around.

But it takes more than magic to beat No. 1 Roger Federer, who advanced 7-5, 7-5, 7-6 (2).

Venus vs. Serena isn't always the best tennis, but you can't beat its drama. Only 15 months apart, the two are closer than most sisters, and everything they say or do before their matchups is dissected for even the slightest hint of tension.

No matter how many times they play, it can never be just another match.

``I think it's a different kind of match in the fact that I'm playing another top player,'' Venus Williams said. ``If Serena was No. 60 in the world, not a huge threat, it would be completely different, and the same for me. The fact that she's very good, great, fantastic, a legend - these are factors and I take the match quite seriously. That's how I see the match.

``It's definitely different because she is my sister.''

Though the 25-year-old Venus has been the first to do virtually everything - turn pro, win a title, reach No. 1 - Serena has the edge when it comes to the Grand Slams. She won her first major title at the 1999 U.S. Open, nine months before Venus got hers at Wimbledon. She's won all four of the Slams while Venus has yet to win at the Australian or French opens. She has seven Slams to Venus' five, and she joked earlier this week that she didn't want her older sister catching up with her.

But Venus is playing the better tennis these days. Her victory at Wimbledon was her first Grand Slam title in four years, and she's 35-9 this season. In her 6-3, 6-3 victory over No. 20 Daniela Hantuchova on Friday night, Venus displayed impressive power and precision. One of her backhand returns was so strong, Hantuchova stood rooted on the baseline, watching it go by like an ace.

Serena rated her fitness at less than 50 percent earlier this week, but she gets closer with every match she plays. Her 6-3, 6-4 victory over 25th-seeded Francesca Schiavone a couple of hours before Venus took the court looked more like the Serena of old. She had better command with her shots, and moved far more quickly and easily than she had in either of her first two matches.

``I think I'm playing OK. I'm definitely playing better than my first match,'' she said before going out to the stands to watch Venus. ``(But Venus) is playing unbelievable. I'm just going to have to pick it up.''

Even if her sister isn't at her best, though, Venus knows it won't be an easy match.

``At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how Serena is playing, because her competitive spirit is so high,'' Venus said. ``You have to go to the ends of the earth to beat her.''

09-03-2005, 07:54 PM
September 02, 2005
Keeping the US in US Open

In this era of tennis that does not see American men or women dominate the sport, the United States Open has struggled to maintain its appeal to American sports fans. The casual observer, whose fandom has made the US Open's popularity soar, has paid attention n the past because Americans have been winning. They don't appreciate the genius of Roger Federer or the deceiving power of Justine Henin-Hardenne. No longer can the USTA rely on the likes of the now-retired Pete Sampras and the aging Andre Agassi to make a run at the Open title each year to keep these fans attached.

The American media have long hyped Andy Roddick as the next American star, but his game lacks the dominance of Sampras or the precision of Agassi. His first-round exit at this year's tournament and inability to win the big match against the best players show how much work American tennis's one-time golden boy needs. Donald Young, the 16-year old sensation from Chicago, also lost in the first round, and it will not be long before he takes over the spotlight.

Yes, James Blake, Andre Agassi and the Williams sisters are through to the third round. But which one of them will reach even the semifinals? For tennis fans, the US Open is still a great event. But for the American sports fans, something may be missing.

Posted by Tom Boorstein in Sports

what is this jingoistic tirade? the american men suck monkey dong. Agassi is the best among them and he's already a senior citizen in tennis years. James blake has never done anything noteworthy and Roddick is just a teen beat marketing gimmick that squandered all his talent on mandy moore. and the williams sisters are just hulked up "women" who play against waifs. The williams sisters have a ugly terrible game where they just dominate with power a la monica seles. Actually venus used to be pretty graf like in the beginning when she played against hingis but she abandoned that and now both williams sisters just hit the ball harder than any of the other women with their 28 inch biceps. Tennis is too fast now. It's all aces and serve and return. that's why i'm amazed at someone like federer who actually has a very complete and complex game. America had the golden years, now you appreciate what agassia and sampras did even more.

Posted by: jenna terrocon at September 2, 2005 09:20 AM

I think its pretty sad how Americans can only appreciate a sport if there's an American athlete who is a condender.

Posted by: sp at September 2, 2005 09:56 AM

just would like to say that this american does appreciate the genius and deceptive power of justine henin-hardenne, and have been a fan since before she improved her game and started winning grand slams. and wholeheartedly agree with above comments about appreciation/american athletes.

Posted by: jh2 fan at September 2, 2005

As an American (born and raised) tennis FANATIC, I was SO pleased to see something posted ANYWHERE about tennis that did not blithely spew crap about how Roddick is (still?) the new superstar savior of the sport. The kid isn't. He can serve hard. That's it. Let's move on, people. It's done. He's not a Smasher and he never will be. Got lucky one time. Even McEnroe knows this. Becker, too. Safin alone scares the pants off this crying, whining, devious brat. And poor Safin's mercurial temperament takes him off court more often than not.

Anyway, anyone who watches tennis now, and is unable to admit that foreigners have it ALL over Americans is a very stupid person, indeed. And, I mean, I have to ask this: who CARES??? Why is it so AWFUL for people to acknowledge this truth? Because of all the $$$ the sport loses when there are no Americans winning? I mean, evidently, this sport doesn't rake in so much to begin with so WHY? Is it pride? The American pride thing? Is it because there's no tennis stars to do Letterman appearances in the States? I mean, wtf?

The South American athletes and, my favorites, the Euro athletes are the actual STARS of tennis, and that won't change anytime soon. And, people? Deal with it. Stop trying to turn a mediocre crybaby into the new American sports hero and recognize the reality of this sport. And, like, ENJOY watching Federer and friends demonstrate the balletic and poetic beauty they serve with power mixed in. Sit back in awe. Instead of bitching. The American sports networks who IGNORE the sport, to begin with, will all survive without tennis dollars, believe me.

Posted by: RogerFederersWifetoBe at September 2, 2005

Don't forget about Lindsay Davenport! She plays a great game, she appears to be nice and down to earth in her interviews, she bitch-slapped Gimelstob when he spoke ill of the women's tour, she's currently ranked #1 (although she's seeded #2 at the Open), and yes, she is an American.

Posted by: d at September 2, 2005

yeah, davenport is probably the best example of great overlooked tennis. Unlike the williams sisters when she loses she loses gracefully. No "i was injured" so it didn't count. The williams sisters biggest talent is intimidation. They look like they will **** the other women players on the court.

Posted by: jenna terrorcon at September 2, 2005

Sad fact, but the majority of americans seem to only pay attention to american athletes (or at least networks think so).

Same goes for soccer.

What the hell can be done about it? Sad fact.

Posted by: rockinsocks at September 2, 2005

Sad fact, but the majority of americans seem to only pay attention to american athletes (or at least networks think so).

Same goes for soccer.

What the hell can be done about it? Sad fact.

Posted by: detectivecooper at September 2, 2005

Oh my gosh. Wait. Do you mean American women play tennis? Professionally? Wow, I didn't even notice that.

Posted by: KimClistersBestFriendtoBe at September 2, 2005 11:22 AM

You can watch the US Open in Madison Sq Park, they are setting up a jumbotron and stadium seating...

09-07-2005, 11:29 PM
SPORTS Sep 8, 2005

Blake joins select company in quarterfinals
Thursday September 8 2005 00:00 IST

NEW YORK: Rodney Harmon had no idea he was doing something special and neither did James Blake when he became the only third Black-American male to each the quarterfinals of the US Open.

“It was kind of like a whirlwind,'' Harmon has said of his fourth-round victory over Eliot Teltscher in 1982”.

“I didn't realise there was any significance. It just happened.'' Harmon won a fifth-set tiebreak to edge Teltscher in the fourth round before running into eventual champion Jimmy Connors in the quarters and going out in straight sets.

“I didn't even look at the draws,'' said Harmon, now the director of men's tennis for the US Tennis Association's high performance program.

“My coaches told me who I was going to play and how to play. I never got caught up in the hoopla.'' Before Harmon, the only Black American male to go into the quarters of the US Open was Arthur Ashe, the 1968 champion.

Ashe had lost to Bjorn Borg in the third round in 1973. ``I hope that he goes further than just the quarters,'' Harmon said of Blake, then quickly added, ``obviously I'm a big Andre Agassi fan, as most of us are.

“But I've known James since he was in the juniors. He conducts himself as a gentleman, a tremendous role model. ``I hope one day he wins the US open. If not this year, then soon.''

Mac's take

On one side there's Andre Agassi, the ageless athlete still in the chase for the best prizes, tennis has to offer.

On the other there's James Blake, who has triumphed over a series of personal tragedies.

“Andre is a true great. When you think about it, he's one of the greatest players that ever lived. He's our best ambassador playing,'' John McEnroe, a seven-time Grand Slam champion now working as a TV analyst at the Open said.

“And then we have this story of someone, who the expectations were high but he hadn't lived up to them. Then all of a sudden he's gone through what we all know and he's coming through the other side”.

While McEnroe said he could see advantages for both players, he thinks Agassi had a tougher road through four rounds and put odds for the match at 50-50.

“The physicality of the match is going to be a big thing,'' McEnroe said. ``Is Andre going to be fresh enough? And the mental part of it is for James.

Is it going to be too overwhelming for him since because he's playing a guy he looks up to and respects and a lot of times that is like being down a break?"

Winning majors gets harder with age, and McEnroe said the schedule works against Agassi.

The semifinal and final are played on consecutive days, and the 35-year-old Agassi has been plagued by back problems this year.

Nevertheless, McEnroe wasn't ready to dismiss Agassi's ability to find the strength to win a ninth major before retirement, whenever that is.

Labouring long

Through Monday, five men's singles matches at the US Open have lasted more than four hours, led by Guillermo Coria's victory over Nicolas Massu of Chile.

It took the Argentine 4 hours, 32 minutes to beat Massu, three minutes longer than Italy's Davide Sanguinetti needed to outlast Thailand's Paradorn Srichaphan.

In other four-hour-plus matches, American Scoville Jenkins downed Switzerland's George Bastl; Spain's David Ferrer bested Argentina's Agustin Calleri; and Frenchman Arnaud Clement defeated Britain's Andy Murray all in five sets.

Still, none of the matches even came close to the US Open record of the marathon 5 hr 26 mins it took Stefan Edberg to beat Michael Chang 6-7 (3), 7-5, 7-6 (3), 5-7, 6-4 in a semifinal on Sept 12, 1992.

American heroes

When James Blake and Robby Ginepri play, on Wednesday, it will be the first time in 15 years that two American men make quarterfinal debuts at the Open.

David Wheaton and Pete Sampras did it in 1990 after which Wheaton had lost to John McEnroe, while Sampras went on to win the first of his five Open titles.

Double duty

Venus Williams is one of eight women in the Open era to have won both the Wimbledon and Open titles in the same year, and one of only three to achieve the feat more than once.

Steffi Graf won both championships five different years, while Martina Navratilova did it on four separate occasions.

09-10-2005, 08:40 PM
One more final for Agassi?
Bruce Jenkins, Chronicle Staff Writer

Saturday, September 10, 2005

New York -- Andre Agassi spent a good part of his life chasing Pete Sampras at the U.S. Open, and in a way, the chase continues. Agassi will never catch his rival in the record books, but it's conceivable that he could match Sampras' storybook farewell to the game.

People have been asking the 35-year-old Agassi about his retirement all year, particularly at the French Open, where his sciatic-nerve condition became so severe, he hobbled through a 6-0 final set in a loss to Jarkko Nieminen. At the time, both Agassi and his trainer, Gil Reyes, acknowledged the end could be near.

"My body plays by different rules now," Agassi said this week. "I have to listen to it. But I have absolutely no idea how long I'll keep playing the game. The question just leaves me blank."

Now it's Super Saturday at the Open, with Agassi playing Robby Ginepri in today's semifinals prior to the Roger Federer-Lleyton Hewitt match and the women's final between Mary Pierce and Kim Clijsters. Agassi's run took on fairy-tale dimensions Wednesday night, when he engaged James Blake in one of the most enthralling Open matches ever.

The spectacle called up memories of the Agassi-Sampras rivalry, one that never went Agassi's way at the National Tennis Center. He was 0-4 against Sampras here, including three losses in the final. The last of those, in 2002, gave Sampras the opportunity to retire with his 14th Grand Slam title -- and he did exactly that, 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.

Everyone in tennis looked admiringly upon Sampras' farewell, particularly Agassi, the onetime tennis rebel who has developed a keen sense of history. The retirement issue remains secondary to winning this tournament, a feat that undoubtedly will require a triumph over Federer in Sunday's final. Were Agassi to pull that off, it would be his ninth major title, moving him out of a tie (at eight) with Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Fred Perry and Ken Rosewall.

A look at the other semifinalists:

-- Robby Ginepri: Always a superb all-around athlete, Ginepri took up tennis because "it's all on you. When I was younger, in team sports, I'd get mad at people if they screwed up. I sort of had to take matters into my own hands, and tennis was the way to do it."

Ginepri's first-ever run to a major semifinal is no surprise to his followers, well aware of his punishing groundstrokes and all-court command. "The difference is in my head," he said. "I'm working a lot harder, not getting down on myself, keeping my focus."

-- Lleyton Hewitt: For a change, Hewitt has played a tournament free of acrimony, and he's likely to be particularly humble against Federer, who has won their last eight meetings. "I wish I had some secret formula, but there's no such thing against Roger," Hewitt said.

-- Roger Federer: Defending champion, one set lost in the tournament, 22 straight victories in finals, 33 straight wins on hard courts (Sampras has the record at 34). Asked if he felt Hewitt might attempt a significant change in strategy, Federer answered, "He could, you know. But then again, he could run into the knife more brutally."

Everyone laughed, save Hewitt.

Briefly: Former Stanford stars Bob and Mike Bryan, beaten finalists in the first three majors, broke through with a U.S. Open doubles title, 6-1, 6-4 over Jonas Bjorkman and Max Mirnyi. "We almost completed the anti-Slam," joked Bob Bryan. ... Given that CBS likes to create a buildup to the biggest matches, many were surprised that the Agassi-Ginepri match will be first on court today. Sources indicated that Agassi, seeking the most possible time to prepare for a Sunday final, used his considerable influence to sway the decision. ... San Francisco's Elizabeth Plotkin lost her quarterfinal of the Girls Singles, 7-5, 7-5 to Germany's Nina Henkel.

09-10-2005, 08:43 PM
The artful Roger
September 11, 2005

THE signs were ominous for Australian Lleyton Hewitt at the US Open.

The third seed fiddled his way to a five-set quarter-final win over Finn Jarkko Nieminen.

Then, Roger Federer made 11th seed David Nalbandian look like a park player yesterday (Singapore time).

Defending champion Federer thrashed the Argentine - who once held a 5-0 win-loss record over him - 6-2, 6-4, 6-1 in his most impressive display of the tournament so far.

'I played great, that's exactly how it should be at this stage of the tournament,' said the Swiss top seed after setting up a semi-final date with Hewitt in a mere 100 minutes.

The match, played out at the scene of Andre Agassi's dramatic five-set win over James Blake the previous evening, had the air of a practice match by comparison, despite Nalbandian going a break up in both the first two sets.

Federer admitted he had foregone an early night in order to watch Agassi's staggering comeback from two sets and a break down to win against Blake.

'I was up myself until 1.30. Maybe it wasn't the best preparation but I enjoyed it,' said Federer, who has now won 33 consecutive hardcourt matches, one short of Pete Sampras's professional era record.

He has also won an astonishing 69 of his last 72 matches and in a tournament fat with five-set encounters, a single set. - Reuters.

09-12-2005, 10:08 PM
Federer stands alone among peers and chases history

By Steve Wilstein

September 12, 2005

NEW YORK – Golfer Bobby Jones once said famously of the young Jack Nicklaus: "He plays a game with which I am not familiar."
Andre Agassi echoed that sentiment about Roger Federer at the U.S. Open: "He plays the game in a very special way that I haven't seen before."

Just as Nicklaus went on to shatter all the major records in golf, so Federer might do the same in tennis.

Yet, for all Federer's many-splendored talents and all Agassi's lavish praise of him as the best player he's ever faced, the 24-year-old Swiss still has far to go to surpass Pete Sampras as the career leader in Grand Slam titles – the gold standard of dominance in the sport.

With his sixth major title – back-to-back U.S. Opens, three straight Wimbledons, one Australian Open – Federer already has put himself among the elite in tennis history. He's tied his boyhood idols, Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg, among Open-era players, is one behind John McEnroe and Mats Wilander, two behind Agassi, Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl, and five behind Bjorn Borg.

Just to match Sampras' record of 14 majors, though, Federer would have to average two more a year for the next four years through age 28 – or keep winning beyond an age when few players have been successful capturing Grand Slam events in the past 15 years. Sampras, who collected seven major titles by age 24, won only one after age 28 – his last U.S. Open at 31.

"I think he's the best I've played against," Agassi said of Federer. "But I also think the accomplishment of winning that many Slams requires a number of things, including a little bit of luck to make sure you're healthy, nothing goes wrong."

If Federer stays healthy and committed to playing in the single-minded way Sampras did during his reign, he surely would be the favorite to add more Wimbledon titles to the three straight he's won. But will he match Borg's five straight, or Sampras' seven overall?

The Australian and U.S. Opens, both on hard courts, are perfectly suited to Federer's beautifully balanced game. But there are no guarantees that he'll blaze through all of those in the coming years. He ran into a sharp Marat Safin at this year's Australian semifinals and could be taken down in the future by the likes of Rafael Nadal, just coming into his own at 19.

The clay courts of the French Open will always be Federer's greatest challenge. He has the potential to win there with a style, range and temperament that suits that slow surface much more than Sampras' did. But Nadal is the king of clay at the moment and could keep his crown for years.

Federer is certainly not lacking in confidence, but he wasn't about to proclaim himself the best ever.

"The best player of this generation, yes," he said. "But nowhere close to ever. Just look at the records that some guys have. I'm a little cookie."

He's more than a little cookie to everyone else playing right now. The No. 1 ranking, by itself, doesn't do justice to the difference between him and his nearest rivals. Look, rather, at his tournament entry rankings points – 6,975 – compared to No. 2 Nadal's 4,360, No. 3 Safin's 3,255, No. 4 Andy Roddick's 3,125 and No. 5 Lleyton Hewitt's 3,085.

Or look at the similarly huge lead he has in the ATP Champions Race for the year-end ranking title: 1,210 points compared with Nadal's 853, Roddick's 548, Hewitt's 490 and Agassi's 455.

Federer could take a Caribbean vacation the rest of the year and still probably finish No. 1.

The women's rankings is much closer. Kim Clijsters' first Grand Slam title at the Open on Saturday lifted her to No. 3, within striking distance by year's end of No. 1 Maria Sharapova and Lindsay Davenport.

Clijsters, all of 22 years old, keeps talking about retiring in a couple of years because of the wear and tear on her body and the grind of the tour. Davenport, 29, reconsidered retirement last year, and is clearly closer to the end of her career than the beginning. Sharapova, 18 and the Wimbledon winner last year, is the most likely of the young players to dominate in the future.

And what of Agassi's future? Will he keep playing? Is there a ninth major title to be won after coming so close before losing to Federer in four sets on Sunday?

Agassi, 35, said he will decide at year's end whether to play on, taking into consideration his fragile back, the sciatic pain he's dealt with, and the toll traveling takes on his family life with wife Steffi Graf, their son and daughter.

"If I felt it was compromising my family too much, that would be a factor," he said. "If I felt like, physically, I just couldn't come out here with the hope of making the best play the best, that would be a factor."

Agassi's trainer and good friend, Gil Reyes, knows that Agassi will have to find ways to keep playing other than taking more cortisone shots in the spine. He had four this year, one more than is usually advised by doctors. His last shot was just before the U.S. Open. Surgery or some less invasive procedure is a possibility to repair the herniated disc or correct a condition called stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column. Former football player Joe Montana had such surgery and returned to the field within months.

"We can't depend on the cortisone shots," Reyes said. "There was something transitional about that period that cortisone was appropriate. We had to pull him off a career ending state of mind. It's too fragile an option and certainly a risky option."

Reyes said Agassi considered ending his career when the sciatica flared up in the first round of the French Open.

"Yes, it sure seemed that way," Reyes said. "The sad fact of the matter is that, at 35, we don't really have the luxury of healing time."

09-12-2005, 10:11 PM
Sports of The Times
Here's Hoping Agassi Keeps Defying His Age

Published: September 12, 2005

IN pigtails and pedal pushers, Jaz Agassi ran full tilt down the carpeted hallway of Arthur Ashe Stadium, her feet trying to catch up to her momentum, her direction set on her daddy's weary legs as he walked off the court.

Roger Federer celebrating his second consecutive Open title. More Photos >
A moment earlier, Andre Agassi had been standing at a trophy ceremony, leaning slightly to his left in an ode to his finicky back, as Roger Federer held the United States Open cup.

Jaz was just happy that her daddy's work was done. It was everyone else who was so dispirited, so unsure if they'd seen the last of Agassi, hopeful that his tennis mortality has yet another ounce of elasticity.

Why not? If Agassi's health is intact, there is no reason that last night had to be a sunset. Instead, think of it as extended daylight.

Agassi can play on because he isn't Pete Sampras. At the end of his career - one underscored with his memorable 2002 United States Open title - Sampras was in search of the right exit sign. He was always looking, wondering when to say when.

True to his serve-and-volley form, Sampras liked the game quick and easy. One, two, three, point. Sampras was a marvelous champion and has a sacred place in history, but he wasn't into the labor and patience, as his French Open experiences revealed. And Sampras was not a fan of the process, as his abbreviated practices sometimes displayed.

Agassi craves the process and digs the labor. He is inspired by the results he sees from running up the mountains high above the Las Vegas Strip. He is pushed to disprove the myths of aging by running youth ragged on the court.

Agassi doesn't deny age. He just tries to defy it. All the cortisone shots in the world can't numb him to the high of competition and the pain he still feels from losing.

"Right now, the fact that this hurts so bad will be encouraging," said Gil Reyes, Agassi's longtime friend and training guru. "I think it will light the fire.

"No one forced Willie Mays," Reyes continued on the subject of retirement. "No one forced Joe Namath. I want to make sure that we're not forcing Andre to do what he probably shouldn't do."

Agassi seemed to feel exactly the same way after finishing off his 20th consecutive year at the United States Open with a journey one part mesmerizing, one part uplifting, and one part unfathomable for a 35-year-old.

"As of now, my intention is to keep working and keep doing what it is I do," he said. "You know, the only thing better than the last 20 years will be the last 21 years."

So it was very appropriate that the man in the gray stubble, the one with the two kids and sciatica, employed a strategy of longevity in a very special effort to outlast Federer's perfection before falling, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (1), 6-1.

"He's the best I've ever played against," said Agassi, adding: "Pete was great, no question. But there was a place to get to with Pete. You knew what you had to do. If you do it, it could be on your terms. There's no such place like that with Roger."

How do you nudge Picasso's elbow in mid-brushstroke? Agassi extended the match and Federer with a savvy selection of drop shots and dastardly angles, with Ben-Gay groans as he reached for gets, with winners concocted from years of experience. For a while, Federer's beautiful mind was confused by Agassi's math.

Then, with Agassi ahead, 4-2, in the third set, Federer regained his liquid moves and unflappable demeanor and began methodically dismantling the rowdy vibe of a crowd that was practically linked together in a séance, trying to mentally and spiritually lift Agassi.

"Well, over the last 20 years, I've come full circle," Agassi said. "It's been an amazing journey and discovery of each other as I've grown up out here."

The fans stood in appreciation of a living time capsule. One look at Agassi and out spills two decades of memories. There were the rebellious years filled with rock-star locks, neon shorts, a resistance to authority and a drive-through diet.

There was the Zen period with Barbara Streisand, and his marriage to Brooke Shields and 1997, the season he plunged to No. 141 and was forced to play in a satellite event.

He exited the bottom with enough perspective to start building a school for the disadvantaged and the energy to renew his vows to tennis. Soon, everyone would discover Agassi's true love, Steffi Graf.

Somehow, despite his wealth and fame and celebrity, Agassi was the everyman.

Hadn't everyone been a rebellious kid? Hadn't everyone been into Day-Glo shorts? Hadn't everyone misstepped with love once or twice?

Last night, Agassi was the crowd, and the crowd was Agassi. Who would want to see that relationship end? To let go of Agassi would be for the fans to release a little of themselves.

If Jaz Agassi was latched on to her Daddy after the match, so was everyone else.

It seems only natural for everyone to ask Jaz, "Can your daddy play a little longer?"

Maybe, just maybe, he'll say, "Yes." After all, Agassi is not Sampras. He is not looking for the right way to leave. He keeps working on ways to stay.


09-12-2005, 10:30 PM
Fuente: © US Open (Tennis)

US OPEN: Final: A post-match interview with Roger Federer

/ THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Congratulations.

ROGER FEDERER: Thank you (smiling).

Q. Out on the court, if I heard you correctly, you said it was the most pleasurable Grand Slam final in your career. If you could elaborate a bit on that and sort of your emotions after the win.

ROGER FEDERER: Well, what I meant with it is maybe the most well, I think depending on how you look at it, but the most special one for me, you know, to play Andre in the final of the US Open. Still maybe one of the only living legends in tennis we still have, you know, next to Martina Navratilova on the women's side, and him.
To play him, you know, in this situation, you know, him being towards the end of his career, me being on the top of my game, and getting the chance to play him on such an occasion, that's what I meant with it being really special today. I mean, I couldn't speak too much yesterday, you know, looking into it, because, you know, I still had to focus on the match.
But I knew that this was going to be very special.

Q. That living legend just said you were the best tennis player he ever played and reiterated it at least two times in his press conference. How does that make you feel?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, nice. He's given me many nice compliments over the years, so I really appreciate that.
Yeah, I'm amazed I could hang with him throughout the last few years with him. You know, he got me a few times early in my career where he made me look like a little schoolboy. Now that I could turn it around, it's for me fantastic. So sort of we can have an even battle, you know. It's really nice.
I look up to him, you know, because he's been around for so long, and for his results. So a lot of respect from my side.

Q. Talking about legends, in 2003 you beat Pete Sampras in Wimbledon. He was an icon at that time.


Q. 2001, okay. He was kind of untouchable there. Now you beat another icon. How do you rate these two matches? Does it mean the same for you?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, I was much more nervous going into the Sampras match, obviously. Not only was that the first time I ever played Sampras, it was the only time as well, but also my first time on Centre Court at Wimbledon. Obviously, that is very special.
So it's very different, you know, Wimbledon, US Open, finals, you know, fourth round. So it's hard to compare those two.
But for me, I've always looked much more up to Sampras than to Agassi. Didn't pay that much attention to Agassi, but thank God he was around longer so I got to know him better for his results, for him as a person. Now I enjoy playing as much against him like when I did against Pete.

Q. You've got six Grand Slam titles now, so you join with Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker. They're your idols.

ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, they're my idols.

Q. How do you feel?

ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, that's fantastic. When I heard that today, that was for me something very special because, yeah, tying your idols, isn't that great? You know, I think it's every little boy's dream. I made it come true today in a memorable final for me, and I still got something left I think in my career.
So hopefully I can beat those records. That will be even better (smiling).

Q. It seems like you are always unbeatable. What do you think it takes to beat you besides luck?

ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, well, the three matches I lost, and two of them I had matchpoint, you know, so they got a little lucky.
But, no, I don't know really. I amaze myself that I can back it up one tournament after another, keep on playing so well, and especially on hard court and grass court. Clay obviously is a little bit of a different story. But still also there I gave myself a chance to win the French.
But, yeah, I wonder why I always play so well, and especially on the big occasions, like I said on center court. It just seems to click for me. It's really through, I think when I was down 4 2 in the third, I really started to feel like my serve's coming back, you know. That's the first time I felt that throughout the whole tournament. That it happened then, I was quite pleased about that.

Q. It seems like you didn't go to the net as much as you usually do. At the end of the second set, you didn't have one point at the net.
ROGER FEDERER: Did I win it?

Q. No, no, you didn't have any the second set.

ROGER FEDERER: Not any, okay, okay.

Q. Was Andre forcing you to do that?

ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, obviously it's hard to attack on his shots because it's so flat and deep. So obviously that's not a shot where you can approach on.
He's very good on defense. You know, he plays the angles very well, so it makes it hard to come to the net. I wasn't in the mood to serve and volley too much, so I wanted to stick with him from the baseline and try to come through this way.
In the end, it's the result in the end that matters. So I'm very pleased. Obviously, I wish I could be serve and volleying, too, but right now I don't think I would.

Q. You talked about how some of the players you faced and beaten are your idols. Andre is in that category. Was there any point today when you looked across the net and thought, "Maybe I should just let the old man have one"?

ROGER FEDERER: No (smiling). No, that really only happened this one time when I played Sampras. I was warming up and, you know, I looked across the net and I couldn't believe it was Sampras, you know. That's the only time it really happened.
I had some when the draw came out in Basel back in '99, you know, I couldn't believe I was going to play Agassi. I thought, "Okay," he was on his way back, but still he was a superstar. For me to play him then, that was very special.
Once you play more than I don't know how many times, it's still special. But it's not you don't fear anybody anymore. You still have the respect, but it's a match like another one as well. Circumstances are very different. 24,000 people are behind him. It's the finals, you know. So, no, I didn't have that feeling.

Q. I am from Russia and I think that Marat Safin is the single rival for you. Is that correct?

ROGER FEDERER: (Smiling). I wish I could say yes for you, but... (laughter).
I feel like there's a whole group of guys chasing me right now. He's one of them, let's put it that way.

Q. We love you in Russia.

I didn't understand, but all right (laughter).

Q. We love you in Russia.

ROGER FEDERER: Oh, is that what it is? All right. Thank you (smiling).

Q. Could you just take a moment and talk about the one or two qualities you most respected in Pete and the one or two qualities that you most respect in Andre.

ROGER FEDERER: Well, I can only go as far as players, you know. I don't know them good enough personally, so that would be something strange for me to do, you know, to tell them how they are, their character is. I can only tell you how they are on the court.
They both seem very respectful, you know, to the game and to their opponents. Obviously, they have a very different game. I think we see both games, they're very dominant in what they do: Agassi from the baseline, and Pete at the net and with his serve, you know. So they have totally different qualities, but they had similar careers.
For me, Sampras' career is quite extraordinary, you know. So it's hard to compare, you know, one to the other. I think that would be also wrong to do, but I think it's great they had such a fantastic rivalry throughout the years, you know.
Obviously, as soon as Andre goes for me, also it's a pity that he goes because I wish I could play more of him.

Q. Did you learn anything about yourself these past two weeks, and did you learn anything about your game during this tournament?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, I was playing to win, basically, so it wasn't how should I say? I wasn't trying out things, you know. I'm saying it's just too important to actually change up your game. In the beginning of the tournament I wish I could play a little bit more aggressive, but that somehow didn't really work for me, so I had to really be careful. I played a few tricky matches, you know, with Santoro and Rochus and Kiefer. I lost maybe my game a little bit throughout those matches.
But bounced back well with Nalbandian. It was a tough one against Hewitt.
So I really played to win. I'm happy that worked out. Especially today, I really started to feel like I can play more aggressive return, play a more defensive return. Today is really the first time I felt like I can actually use all my shots, and that wasn't the case up until this match today.

Q. How are you going to celebrate this title? Will you go back to Switzerland? What are your plans?

ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, well, that's the plan, you know. I've got Davis Cup back in Geneva coming in a little bit, ten days' time or so.
Yeah, I'm not making any detour. I'm going straight to Switzerland from here.

Q. New Yorkers are usually a generous crowd. Today did Andre's fan club bother you?

ROGER FEDERER: They were very generous for him, yeah (smiling).

Q. That's what I mean. Did it bother you?

ROGER FEDERER: No, it was all right. It was little bit more than I expected on his side, but, you know, that's I guess how it is.
But no problems. I still enjoyed every second.

Q. Do you feel yourself as the best player in the world?


Q. Do you feel like the best player in the world?

ROGER FEDERER: Right now, yeah (smiling). But the best player of this generation, yes. But not nowhere close to ever, because, yeah, just look at the records that some guys have. I'm a little kooky (smiling).

Q. Twenty three wins in the final. Breaking the record of Borg and McEnroe. You are the best player ever.

ROGER FEDERER: Well, in this in this particular stats, yes. Also maybe final appearances and final wins, you know, the winning percentage, in Grand Slam finals. There's records I'm proud of. I'm happy I have some records because it makes it more fun for me, you know, not only to play against the other guys, sometimes to play against history occasionally.
I still cannot believe how well I've been playing over the last few years and that it just keeps on going, you know. It's incredible because last year was fantastic with the three Grand Slams and the Masters Cup and all the other titles. Now to back it up with an almost same fantastic season, you know, even have chance to maybe improve it.
But after the two first semifinals, you know, in Grand Slams this year, to come back and win the next two, it's for me quite a surprise no matter what.

Q. Are you going back to Thailand to play the Thailand Open?


Q. What do you expect for this?

ROGER FEDERER: Oh, it was a great tournament they had last year. I really enjoyed it. It was a tough field. We had a great semifinals with Paradorn and Marat and Andy in the semis, and myself.
I think I really like Thai people, you know, so I guess that's also one of the reasons why I'm going back there.

Q. A lot of people, when they first look at your game, just say, "Fantastic, this guy is the ultimate shot maker," and just put you way at the top. Now you're winning title after title, the weeks at No. 1, three Wimbledons, back to back, etc. and now Andre comes in and says you're the best he's ever played. At what point will you just say, "Okay, I'm the best"?

ROGER FEDERER: Hmm... well, he just played me, you know, so I don't know. If it changes if you ask him in five years' time, you know.
Him saying that I'm, let's say, better than Sampras, you know, I'm little surprised, you know. But, you know, he says what he thinks is right, you know. I don't think he would be lying in here. Yeah, I appreciate it very much. It's fantastic to be compared to all the players he's played, you know, throughout his career. We're talking about the best, you know, some are the best in the world or of all time. To be compared to those is great, you know. And it's still going, so I still have chances to get there and to improve.

Q. Was there ever a point where you didn't want to play tennis, or you had other interests in life and now when you reflect back on that are you glad that you stuck with it?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, there's always times I think in a player's career where he just wants to do something else or walk away from the game because too many losses, too much traveling, whatever, you know.
So I was joking around quite serious at one stage I thought, you know, just hang up my racquet and go away and just not be so frustrated. That was back in maybe '99, when I almost cracked the Top 100 and was stuck at 120 in the world for about six months and was just not good enough, basically, to make the next step. That was for me very hard. I really thought I tried to work extra hard on it. The work didn't pay off straight away.
But then, you know, when the wins come back and also the pleasure obviously comes. Everything is much easier.
So for me then to have cracked the Top 10 and win Wimbledon, that really gave me a boost. Now I look back and go, "What the hell did I do before? Why didn't I enjoy tennis before?" It's crazy that it needs a Wimbledon championships sometimes for me to realize that.

Q. Which of the younger players do you foresee can give you trouble in the near future, if any?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, we have quite a few around. I think the two guys who beat me this year, Gasquet and Nadal.

Q. The fact that this hasn't been asked 9/11, playing on the 11th of September, playing against an American legend, I mean, you could feel quite a bit of palpable patriotism out on the court today. Any special reflections?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, the date, obviously, is hard. Not only for Americans, I think for the whole world to see that.
But I think, you know, people came to see tennis, you know, and for me, I saw the greater matchup with Andre in the US Open finals more than the date. That is left for those who are very sad, you know.
I didn't lose any close friends, so for me it's different. But everybody was shocked, you know, obviously. I think once we were out there, it was a normal sort of thing, you know, just that they were backing him up like crazy, which I totally understand, because they wanted him to win so badly. That's the usual thing that happens.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports...

09-16-2005, 09:16 PM
Agassi born at wrong time
(Original publication: September 12, 2005)

NEW YORK — Steffi Graf was about to step into a waiting black Escalade, into a ride away from the unforgiving reality that had crashed around her husband, when she stopped to reach into a place neither she nor Roger Federer could touch. Andre Agassi still had the U.S. Open zipped inside his bag. He still had New York in a way his wife and her 22 major titles never could.

"It was amazing to see him get this far," Graf said. She was talking about her husband's bad back, and the cortisone shots he needed to set up one of the greatest 30-something runs of all time. "It was amazing to watch him show the courage he showed," Graf said.

Alone at an Arthur Ashe Stadium gate, under the gathering darkness, the most distant champion of them all struggled to find the words to capture what will likely be her husband's last Grand Slam Sunday. Finally, before beating her Garbo retreat and joining her children behind the tinted black windows, Graf said: "To see the crowd react to Andre like that, it must have been an incredible feeling to be on that court."

It was incredible for two forever weeks, at least until Federer started smacking him all over Queens, leaving Agassi with the first-rate memories and the second-place check. The fourth and final set, a 6-1 Federer feast, made it official: Andre Agassi was born at the wrong time.

Agassi didn't just have to face the Tiger Woods of his sport in Federer, but he had to deal with the Jack Nicklaus of his sport in Pete Sampras, too. Like Tiger's 10 major championships to Jack's 18, Federer's sixth title put him eight behind Sampras.

Agassi wasn't waiting to dismiss Sampras as yesterday's news.

Of Federer, Agassi said: "He's the best I've ever played against. There's nowhere to go. There's nothing to do except hit fairways, hit greens and make putts."

The more a dazed Agassi went on last night, the more he sounded like Nicklaus talking about Woods the way Bobby Jones had talked about Nicklaus: Federer, Agassi decreed, plays a game with which I am not familiar.

"I haven't seen it before," said Andre the failed giant killer.

Nobody has. Federer just broke Sampras' record by winning his 35th straight hard-court match. He just extended his DiMaggio-like streak of finals victories to a positively absurd 23, nearly double the previous Open-era record of a dozen set by a couple of bums named McEnroe and Borg.

Federer managed this by mercilessly pounding the Open's best storyline since Jimmy Connors turned 39 in 1991. Agassi had a shot up 4-2 and 30-love in the third set, but he spent most of the two hours and 20 minutes looking like a guy hanging from a cliff by his fingernails, like a guy knowing someone was about to stamp on those fingernails any second.

Federer was young, long and athletic. Agassi was old, stubby and bald. Federer might carry himself as a gentleman in a top hat, but make no mistake: In the heat of competition, he's the Iceman Cometh, as forbidding and efficient a presence as the Soviets' old Big Red hockey machine.

No Lake Placid for Agassi and a stadium full of dreamers hoping to relive their youth through a 35-year-old American who had lost seven straight matches to Federer and hadn't taken a set from him in the previous three. Physically overwhelmed, Agassi somehow took the second set, 6-2, and dragged his 24-year-old opponent into a third-set tiebreaker, where it was Federer 7-1, Roger and out.

"Pete was great," Agassi said of Sampras. "But there was a place to get to with Pete. ... There's no such place like that with Roger."

And so Agassi took the kind of beating Jim Courier gave Connors in the '91 semis. Nineteen aces to six. Sixty-nine winners to thirty-four. Blessed with a return game for the ages, Agassi saw six break-point opportunities the entire day.

The procession of five-set matches here didn't catch up to Agassi. Age didn't catch up to Agassi. The bad back didn't catch up to Agassi.

Roger Federer, humanoid, caught up to Agassi.

"I've always looked much more up to Sampras than to Agassi," Federer said. "Didn't pay that much attention to Agassi. ... Now I enjoy playing as much against him like when I did against Pete."

Federer would call this moment — beating a living American legend for the Open title — the sweetest of his career. In the end, Federer jumped off the court and defiantly swung his racket toward his player's box. He had the trophy, and the loser still had the crowd. Agassi had come a long way in his 20 U.S. Opens, a long way from the time Ivan Lendl called him "a haircut and a forehand."

Before yesterday's final, Lendl called Agassi "a great role model for kids." The people chanted Andre's name and spent two weeks thanking him for saving the Open from Andy Roddick's flameout, and for delivering an epic in the company of James Blake.

"An amazing journey," Agassi called it, sounding content in defeat. He knew he'd lost to a guy who might win more majors than his wife.

09-21-2005, 09:47 PM

Double shot at making a fist of things


Posted online: Wednesday, September 21, 2005

KOLKATA, SEPTEMBER 20: Arantxa Parra Santonja isn’t a familiar name even to tennis enthusiasts but there was one aspect of the tall Spaniard’s play that caught the eye during her 4-6, 6-1, 4-6 first-round loss to eighth-seeded Japanese Rika Fujiwara today. The World No. 112 is one of the rare breed of players who plays double-fisted off both flanks.

Arantxa (22) got into the habit of using the double-fisted grip on both flanks when she took to the game at 10 simply because she was too frail to hit the forehand one-handed. It has stayed that ever since and she is regretting it now.

‘‘It doesn’t pay at the end of the day’’, she said today. ‘‘You are at the receiving end the moment your opponent decides to go wide on your forehand. I’ve tried the single-handed forehand in desperate situations, but it doesn’t work. I guess it’s the same with players who employ this style.’’

And changing her style is not an option. ‘‘I am still too thin to change, though I have thought about doing so many a times. Even in today’s match, there were many balls I couldn’t reach because of the way I play. Maybe, I get more power for using the double-fisted forehand, but I lose out on a lot more,” she said.

The drawbacks keep many from emplying this style. Arantxa’s compatriot Maria Sanchez Lorenzo and Japanese Akiko Morigami are a couple of known names who employ the same style. While Morigami’s ranking is hovering around the 50 mark, Sanchez Lorenzo is at 82.

American Jan-Michael Gambill is probably the only player to have progressed far with this style of play when he reached No. 14 in the world rankings in 2001.

Arantxa has only just resumed tennis following personal and health-related problems. She was ranked a career-high 52 the week following the US Open last year, but this year has seen a steady drop in rankings. She began to turn things around in the middle of this year when she took out Elena Camerin in the first round at Birmingham and followed that with a three-set upset ofDaniela Hantuchova.

‘People know me for losing to Sania’

KOLKATA: “People only remember the winner. No one remembers the runner-up’’, is Pete Sampras’s famous comment after losing a Grand Slam final. Shades of that sentiment came through from Italian Maria Elena Camerin on Tuesday.

She scored the biggest win of her career over then world No 2 Anastasia Myskina in the second round at Bali last year, then staged another upset beating then No 35 Gisela Dulko in the quarters. But she says its her second-round loss to Sania Mirza at the US Open this year which everyone remembers the Italian for. ‘‘Yeah, I think people remember me more because of that’’, she said. ‘‘But that match was very tough. We were both nervous during that three-setter. However, here I can only play her in the final.’’


09-21-2005, 09:50 PM
The Sunday Times - Sport

September 18, 2005

Points of genius

I was wrong about Roger Federer. He can be the best tennis player of all and I believe he will win the Grand Slam next year, writes Pat Cash

Everybody is allowed to change his mind, and after watching Roger Federer magnificently retain the US Open title, strengthening his case to be regarded as the most complete male player in the history of tennis, the time is right for me to exercise that prerogative.

I have voiced some doubts about Federer in the past. I was concerned at the beginning of last year when I felt his dumping of coach Peter Lundgren so soon after winning his first Wimbledon title was a bad move. He responded by winning three of the year’s four grand slam events. More recently, when asked to compile my all-time top 10, I named Federer 11th, in the belief that he still had something to prove. Well, I believe he has answered my questions.

I stand by the belief that nobody can really be called the greatest player of all time because tennis, its technology and even rules have evolved more than, say, football, rugby or cricket over the decades. Judging today’s players against legends of a bygone age such as Fred Perry, Don Budge, Rod Laver or even Bjorn Borg is not a true comparison because the speed of the game has changed.

However, there is a widely held belief that the players with the best credentials to be viewed as the greatest ever are Pete Sampras and our current world No 1, and I’m more than happy to contribute to that debate.

Last week, as he was inducted into the US Open’s Court of Champions, my old foe Ivan Lendl insisted that the very top players are more complete now than they were in our days of the late 1980s or perhaps even as recently as 10 years ago, but he said to truly assess the relative merits of Sampras and Federer, you would have to play them in the most competitive situation, such as the final of a grand slam event. Lendl has the advantage over me in that he played Sampras eight times, winning on three occasions, although their most advanced meeting in a grand slam event was the 1990 US Open quarter-final. Neither of us experienced the misfortune of confronting Federer, but we both played against somebody who has, and must therefore respect the views of Andre Agassi.

The natural question for Andre after losing last Sunday’s final was: who is the greatest, Pete or Roger? He responded perceptively, choosing Federer, maintaining that against Sampras you had a chance if you played your best game, whereas against the 24-year-old Swiss that isn’t necessarily the case.

“Playing against Federer, you set yourself the very best standard,” he said. “Then you have to exceed yourself all the time and play the perfect match. There’s a sense of urgency on every single point, on every shot, and it’s an incredible challenge.

“You’re talking about him repeatedly walking out to play the best guy left in the tournament, who is still full of confidence, on a winning roll. Yet every time he executes. There are periods you can have him on the fence, but his options then are better than most. I had his back against the wall to some degree at one set all, 4-2, 30-0 serving, but he just figured that was a cue for him to do something else. You play a bad match against Pete, you lose 6-4 7-5. You play a good match against Pete, you lose 6-4 7-5. You play a good match against Federer, you lose 6-4 7-5. You play a bad match against Federer, you lose 6-1 6-1.”

Showing that even he can get it horrendously wrong, Agassi recalled: “I once saw Pete hitting balls when he was 17 years old and he was missing everything. I remember actually telling somebody how bad I felt for certain players who will never have a chance. The first time I played Roger was in Switzerland, and the nice things I said about his game had a lot to do with the fact that I was playing another Swiss guy in the next round. So to watch him evolve has been amazing, and you never underestimate a champion’s heart or their abilities. He’s grown into his game in a way that’s great to watch.”

Federer has won 23 successive finals, which is an amazing achievement. I am not alone in believing that the one factor that puts him above the rest, Sampras included, is that he has so many options, such a huge variety to his game. If he decides it is right to play attacking tennis and employ serve and volley, he is better equipped than anybody on the scene to do so. Yet if he wants to stay back, adopting an attritional approach from the baseline, he can do that, too. Plus he can change tactics in the middle of a point as if he is flicking a switch.

Sampras’s serve was a superior weapon to Federer’s, but there is no comparison when you view their returns. At the tail end of Pete’s career that was one of his big problems, as he struggled with his timing and many of his sets went to tie-breaks. Nobody knew this better than Agassi: that great US Open quarter-final they played in 2001, with Sampras winning 6-7 7-6 7-6 7-6, was the perfect example.

Without wishing to deride Agassi’s achievement, the fact that a 35-year-old provided Federer’s most stern challenge at Flushing Meadows suggests the competition is not quite as strong as some of the ATP’s spin doctors would have us believe. Andy Roddick’s first-round defeat shows he has issues to address; Lleyton Hewitt tries hard but, ultimately, is probably just not strong enough; Rafael Nadal’s inexperience told, as did a most strenuous year; and Marat Safin, who I still believe if fully fit and properly focused would be Federer’s biggest threat, did not even play.

Don’t delude yourself that Federer had the perfect tournament. He admitted himself that a couple of his matches were below the standard he expects of himself. But it is the mark of a great sportsman that he can still win when he is not playing well.

So I will throw caution to the wind and make a sweeping prediction. Until now, I had believed that it was impossible for a male player to complete the Grand Slam and win all four majors in one year. Nobody has done it since Laver way back in 1969, and in those days three of the four tournaments were played on grass. The French clay of Roland Garros has always posed the greatest problems for Federer, and in eight months’ time the defending champion, Nadal, will be infinitely more experienced and probably a little stronger.

But I believe Federer will do the Slam, and that would leave him with 10 major titles to his credit, with his 26th birthday still 11 months distant. Age would be on his side in the attempt to better the Sampras all-time best collection of 14 grand slam titles, and that would indisputably distinguish him as the greatest of all time . . . numerically, at least.

09-24-2005, 07:41 PM

Mind over net
Thursday September 22 2005 18:28 IST

K N Anand

Roger Federer, up a set, slams down a wickedly angled serve. His intention is clear: ace Andre Agassi wide on his forehand. The riposte from the guy seemingly on ancient legs is spectacular.

Those radar eyes have somehow tracked the whizzing fuzzy little yellow thing. Feet off the ground, arm fully extended, Agassi cracks a winner that finds Federer's backhand corner and hits the backstop with a solid thwack. It sets the tone and tenor of set two, which Agassi takes with ease.

Now, in the middle of set three, Federer glides to mid-court and, with a wristy flick of his diabolical backhand, looks for a drop-shot winner. Agassi, momentarily rooted at the back, scoots like a water bug, two-fisted on the backhand, and scoops the ball for a placement of his own to seal the point.

Those two shots in the U S Open final remain in the mind’s eye — one vintage Agassi, the other epitomising the Agassi spirit. That Federer would take the tiebreak was a foregone conclusion — he seldom plays a loose service game, and here, at that stage, he had no double faults to Agassi’s four.

The Swiss phenom strolled through that stalemate, and in the fourth set, he appeared to jump onto Lance Armstrong’s bike and speed away with the match and the trophy. Agassi was physically there, mentally not quite. But make no mistake. Agassi is not yet ready to ride into the Nevada sunset, and the season-ending Slam was a reminder of that.

Who would ever have thought that Agassi, and not Andy Roddick, would be in the final? Knocked out in the first round of the French Open in May, laid low by a herniated disc that sent pain shooting down his right leg, returning to the tour in tentative fashion in July — hardly the tune-up to make a fair fist of the come-all Open. But then, tennis is not about staying supremely fit at age 35, or about getting the ball over the net one more time than the opponent. It’s about getting the mind over the net.

Agassi was two sets down against Jonathan Blake, a marvelously uninhibited shotmaker, in the quarterfinals. He neutralised that with a touch of bravura; in the tiebreak in the decider, he was in a spot of bother, and pulled through. In the semis, against Robby Ginepri, a would-be Tarzan in tennis shorts, the ageing, ageless Agassi needed five sets to quell the teenager. And now, waiting for him in Federer, was the man Rod Laver called the ‘‘complete package’’ and John McEnroe hailed as the ‘‘ultimate shotmaker’’. But Agassi wasn’t fazed one whit, as he showed us over three enthralling sets.

Wind the clock 20 years back. Jimmy Connors and McEnroe had left the scene, and just as the Americans were wondering where and when the next champion would emerge, up popped a four — Agassi, Jim Courier, Michael Chang and Pete Sampras. All would go on to be ranked World No.1 at one time or the other. Agassi with his oodles of talent, Courier, whose work ethic rivalled Ivan Lendl’s, Chang a perennial plugger with legs that could run forever, and Sampras, whose brilliance was understated — men’s tennis never had it so good, and those four were quickly dubbed the ‘‘future of tennis’’.

Agassi started off as a brash, bumptious kid with a touch of braggadocio. Weird clothes of every pastel shade imaginable, loony hairdo kept in place with startling headbands, and an earring or two, plus the cockiness you’d expect from a kid from Las Vegas. He certainly looked like he had thumbed a ride into the main draw of major tournaments, only to come up short when it counted. ‘‘Look, Andre,’’ an exasperated Nick Bollettieri had to tell his protege, ‘‘there are 20 guys out there with half your talent but who work twice as hard as you. Clean up your act or get off the tour.’’

Blessed with the ability to reinvent himself, Agassi was soon on his way up. Just as Bradman’s career can’t be weighed without Bodyline, Agassi’s has to be juxtaposed with Sampras’ rise. But it would be an exaggeration to call it a rivalry — perhaps a long-running feud, yes. Sampras won an unprecedented 14 Slams, finished No.1 six years on the trot, and spent a record 286 weeks atop and alone. He was a leviathan on the lawns of Wimbledon, stringing seven titles over eight summers. He and Agassi brought out the best in each other, but Agassi beat him just once in a Slam final — at the 1995 Australian Open.

In 20 years on the Tour, Agassi has had more ups and downs than an Otis elevator, and normally it would be tough to zero in on one singular achievement, but in his case, it’s fairly easy. It’s not 1999, when he solved the riddle of Roland Garros that had defied all-comers from the United States since Tony Trabert won in 1955. Agassi, in my book, touched his apotheosis in the very first Slam title he won — Wimbledon 1992.

The conditions were in his favour, but only just. Wimbledon grass is lush green, slick with lightning-low bounce, and sometimes no bounce, in the first week. In the second week, though, thanks to the terrible pounding the turf has received, the grass firms up and plays virtually like fast clay. Thus Agassi’s main weapon, the return of serve, was lent a new dimension altogether.

Agassi was on a roll on the way to the final, having beaten three-time champs Boris Becker and McEnroe. Now, standing between him and the trophy that matters in world tennis, was a 6ft 4inch Croat. Goran Ivanisevic was as benign as a bazooka when he was serving. His penchant for aces was widely known. Irresistible force met the immovable object, and Ivanisevic, it soon became clear, was bent on pinning Agassi to the turf with his primary weapon.

Remember, barely 150 milliseconds is all you get to respond when a guy is unleashing thunderbolts at you. Your central nervous system must, in that time frame, process data about the flight of the ball, anticipate where it will go, and select a reply from memory and run it off your racquet. Then there are a number of variables — hand-eye coordination, visual motor skills, court-sense, concentration. Now twist the knife a little bit more: Ivanisevic is a leftie. So what Agassi faced was the stuff of a prime-time nightmare.

And yet the Croat came unstuck. Laser-sharp returns, many of them threatening the shoelaces of Ivanisevic, forced him to attempt his first volley without a clue. The most demoralising part was that many of his murderous serves were getting replies by the dozen. Agassi, over five tantalising sets, had tamed the tempest.

That’s the Agassi etched in memory, for on that breathless evening on the holiest turf in tennis, the little big man showed us that the return-of-serve is equipollent to the serve. Ivanisevic realised that even his monster serve was only as good as his first volley, which was by no means in the Sampras class, and worse, was made to look lousy by Agassi, who worked every angle on the green rectangle.

09-24-2005, 07:45 PM
Animal on court

Friday, September 16, 2005 Onochie Anibeze

I had a ball Sunday night.

It was a night I reached out for a beer. I had not taken one for long. But what I was seeing was so exciting that it intoxicated. The beer helped my feelings. It was an unforgettable night, so entertaining, so exciting and compelling some feelings of nostalgia. I saw a great game, one of the greatest games I ever watched. It made me remember one French Open match between Pete Sampras and the legend Jimmy Connors. I remember the then Editor of Vanguard, Frank Aighbogun coming to the sports desk to reward me with some money for our coverage of the match. I recalled that Sampras was still wearing pampers when Connors won his first Grand Slam. But there, he was, tormenting Sampras with some unbelievable strokes that attracted standing ovation from the crowd each time he hit a winner.

Connors, then in the twilight of his career implored all his wits to the astonishment of the young Sampras who had established himself as the best player and number one at the time. His game lacked the power of Sampras’s but full of strokes that Sampras appeared not to have an answer to. And Connors was on his way to winning until he pulled muscle and was even limping in the last set as Sampras cashed on his misfortune to win but still bowed to the retiring legend of his time. A similar scene played out Sunday when Andre Agassi, 35 took on Roger Federer, 11 years younger, in the final of the US Open at the great Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The only difference was that unlike Connors who suffered injury, Agassi probably gave in to mental fatigue especially in the third set that ended in a tie break Federer won at love. For a player who had led 4-2 in a set to eventually lose that set in a tie break without any point could destabilize such a player especially if age is not on his side. Agassi must have been in a terrible state of mind that in the fourth set Federer coasted to a 6-1 victory and won the Open back to back.

But before then, the world was treated to what Ruud Gullit would have described as sexy tennis. He described great entertaining football matches that way. Many had come, praising Agassi for even getting to the final but thinking that the animal in Federer would easily overwhelm him. It didn’t happen that way. Agassi was at his best. After Federer took the first set at 6-2, Agassi sent the crowd on the edges of their seats, responding with a 6-2 win and electrifying the atmosphere. And when he led 4-2 in the third set, the world of tennis stood still for the legend. The crowd cheered and the world longed for a record. Agassi’s placements of the balls were incredible.

He proved that he remains the best returner of his era. Federer served so well, getting in more than 70 per cent of his first serves. And for Agassi to have hung in the way he did spoke volumes of what Agassi did off the returns that resulted into rallies. But for Agassi to still lose in spite of the great tennis and form he showed gave out Federer as an animal. Never had a I seen a player fight for all balls that he even reached some reversed cross court shots and amazingly passed them. Federer is one player who could race from one end of the court to the other to reach a passing shot and still pass it in return. He did it against Agassi. You just couldn’t but admire this Swiss even if you are on the side of his opponent. He serves incredibly well, returns well, rallies well and never gives up on a shot until it is won or lost. Against Agassi on Sunday, he was simply inhuman and Agassi admitted that much even as Federer praised to high heavens the master player in the legend.

I felt good watching this match. It was some tonic. The match was so enthrailling that when it ended Federer was not the only winner but also all fans who watched live and on television. I was one. I recommend for all our players to playback repeatedly and learn if not the strokes the spirit of winners. That should be the spirit of the game. I’m looking forward to the boys that could bring us the thrills of the Odizor and Tony Momoh era. The David Imonitie’s and Sadiq Abdullahis. The Remi Oshos, Godwin Emehs, Godwin Kienkas, the Rotimi and Segun Akinloyes.

The on and off the court fighting and troubles of Romanus Nwazu, the jokes and screaming of Kyrian Nwokedi. The Vero Oyibokia, Nosa Imafidons, Rolake Olagbegis, Esther Isebors. Before this era were the great Thompson Onibokuns, Lawrence Awepegbas, the Yemisi Alans etc. As I dreamed of good things for our tennis, Godwin Kienka now pulling all strings to help revive the game assured me that in another five years time Nigeria could have a player playing in the Grand Slam. I did not comment for I know the state of our tennis. Good Kienka ended it that way. He would have been the joker of our time if he said that "in five years time we would have somebody playing like Federer or Agassi.".

09-28-2005, 11:32 PM
Kamal Sharma holds unique tennis picture exhibition

New Delhi, Sept. 29 (PTI): Well-known sports photographer Kamal Sharma, organised a photo exhibition during the recent Davis Cup tie between India and Sweden at the RK Khanna Tennis Stadium here last week.

Sharma has shot pictures of more than 40 top players of the world, including Martina Navratilova, Pete Sampras, Pat Rafter, Marta Safin, Lleyton Hewitt as well as India's Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, apart from Sania Mirza, and then done a digital painting of them in black and white.

This is the first time an exhibition of this sort has been held in India. Some of the top players who came for the exhibition have spoken highly of the work done by Kamal Sharma.

"I have not seen such an exhibition in black and white even at the Grand Slams. Your work is great and unique" commented Mahesh Bhupathi.

The Indian Davis Cup team captain, Leander Paes was equally impressed, and said, "you have done a wonderful job. Good luck for your future ventures in tennis".

The rest of the Indian team of Harsh Mankad, Rohan Bopanna and Prakash Amritraj were also happy to see the work.

The country's latest tennis sensation, Sania Mirza was so happy to see her portrait that she took it with herself.

Leander and Mahesh were so impressed that they have carried their pictures back to be kept in their drawing rooms.

"Nice job, very different", said the captain of the Swedish Davis Cup team, Mats Wilander, a former World No.1 and sevent-time Grand Slam singles champion.

Kamal Sharma has in the past also held exhibitions of cricket photographs at Test match venues in India and is well known for his portrait shots.

He happened to be in New York for covering cricket, golf and tennis events when the 'September 11' happened at the World Trade Centre. He shot those photos as well, and has made numerous exhibition of the same with the title, "Shun terrorism, embrace sports" .

Some of the leading sportsmen of the world like, Sachin Tendulkar, Kapil Dev, Sourav Ganguly, Steve Waugh, Wasim Akram, Maravan Atapattu, Lt. Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Shane Warne, Stephen Fleming, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Muthiah Muralidharan, Shoaib Akhtar, Waqar Younis, Brett Lee and Ricky Ponting have all come for the exhibitions of Kamal Sharma in the past and appreciated his work.

Reebok sponsored the exhibition.

10-01-2005, 06:03 PM
Posted on: Friday, September 30, 2005
Busy weekend for tennis buffs

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

Tennis has evolved into a game of long baseline rallies. Hawai'i's Tennis Weekend remains a burst of quick volleys.

The 19th annual Tennis Weekend is Oct. 15 and 16 at Ala Moana. This year's production of tennis overload includes the usual slammed schedule of on-court clinics, major names in the game, exhibits and the annual banquet Saturday night.

It also features a tribute to the 25th anniversary of USA League Tennis, the most popular tennis program in the world, and the inaugural Hawai'i Tennis Hall of Fame induction.

The late Shigeto "Shigesh" Wakida, Maui's beloved tennis teacher, and Jim Osborne, the finest player to come out of Hawai'i, are the first inductees. The hall will initially be in the U.S. Tennis Association/Hawai'i Pacific Section office. Ultimately the plan is to move it to the University of Hawai'i tennis complex clubhouse, which has yet to be built.

Kahiau, formerly the Hawai'i Tennis Patrons Association, will underwrite the cost and make the selections. There will be two inductees annually, one a player with "outstanding competitive achievements with considerations to sportsmanship and character," and the other a "non-player" from among volunteers, officials, coaches, media and others who have "made outstanding contributions to tennis."

Those are ideal descriptions of Osborne and Wakida.

Osborne, the 1962 and '63 state high school singles champion for Punahou, went on to play for the victorious U.S. Davis Cup team in 1968, and won an exhibition bronze medal at the Olympics the same year.

"Oz" played on the professional tour from 1968 to '72 and was ranked in the top 10. He had wins over Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith, John Newcombe, Roy Emerson, Rod Laver, Ilie Nastase and Jimmy Connors. Later, he was the top-ranked player nationally in 35-and-older singles and doubles. He also won a national 50-older Grass Court Doubles Championship.

Osborne is a 1969 graduate of the University of Utah, where he was a three-time All-American and earned a place in the Athletic Hall of Fame. He retired as Brigham Young's men's tennis coach in 2003, after 15 years. He coached four All-Americans at BYU, and led the Cougars to a conference championship in 2001. During his tenure, 14 Cougars were named Academic All-American and nearly 100 percent graduated.

Wakida, the "Tennis Samurai of Lahaina," died in 2001 at the age of 85. He held court for thousands of children on the public courts that now bear his name and helped many move beyond Lahaina to successful academic and professional careers.

"Ten years after high school," Wakida used to say, "is when you see what success really is."

His athletic career started early. His team won the 120-pound Barefoot Football League on Maui in 1937 and he started in tennis a decade later, in the midst of a 40-plus year career at Pioneer Mill. He first played with the ends of an orange crate.

Wakida was self-taught and is remembered most for hitting balls to kids for hours on end from a shopping cart. Wife Sumie, a nurse at Maui Memorial, was known as a "live ball hopper" for her willingness to fill that basket for nearly 50 years.

Any child old enough to hold a racquet could join in. The cost was $30 a year, for those who could afford it. Wakida also taught tourists and used the money to pay travel costs for his juniors.

Two of his success stories are Jean Okada, who played in the 1997 U.S. Open and was ranked as high as 25th in college, and Ryan Ideta, who reached No. 36 while playing for LSU and went on to play on tour and win six Kailua Racquet Club Men's Night Doubles championships.

The celebration of the 25th anniversary of league tennis is also a glimpse at the tremendous growth of the USTA. There were 13,000 participants in the inaugural year (1980). It grew to 50,000, from all 17 USTA sections, in 1993. It is now at 572,000, with several different recreational levels and seniors.

All those players are required to be USTA members. They account for nearly 60 percent of the USTA's adult membership.

This year's clinicians and speakers are:

Stan Smith: An All-American for USC, he graduated with a finance degree and went on to help the U.S. to seven Davis Cup victories in 11 years, compiling a 22-2 record. Three of those wins came against Romania in the wild 1972 final in Bucharest. Smith won 39 singles and 61 doubles titles in his pro career and was ranked No. 1 in 1971 and '72 after winning the U.S. Open and Wimbledon. He was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 1987. He served as director of coaching for the USTA Player Development Program from 1988 to 1995 and was coach of the 2000 Olympic men's tennis team.

Jose Higueras: Represented Spain in the Davis Cup and won 15 pro tournaments to attain a top 10 ranking before going into coaching. Helped develop Michael Chang and Jim Courier and also worked with Pete Sampras, Carlos Moya, Sergi Bruguera, Todd Martin, Jennifer Capriati, and Chanda Ruben. Higueras, special advisor to USTA Player Development, has been part of the USTA staff since 1988. His primary responsibility is coaching players through the USTA Touring Pro Program. He won the ATP Tour Sportsmanship Award in 1984

Joe Dinoffer: Has conducted clinics and exhibitions in more than 50 countries, logging over 30,000 hours of instruction in English, Spanish, and German. He is a Master Professional in both the Professional Tennis Registry and the U.S. Professional Tennis Association, a distinction awarded to only a handful. Dinoffer is author and editor of 16 books, 29 videotapes and more than 70 digital audiocassettes, and has 15 shows airing on the Tennis Channel, with 11 more due. He is founder and president of Oncourt Offcourt, Inc., a company exclusively serving the needs of tennis, fitness, and physical education coaches with innovative training aids and educational tools.

Dan Santorum: CEO and Executive Director of Professional Tennis Registry. Represents the organization at industry conventions, trade shows, tennis teacher conferences and tennis teacher workshops. Santorum has conducted 340 PTR workshops on six continents in 43 countries and 163 cities. Under his tenure, PTR has more than quadrupled in size, from 2,500 members in 68 countries to more than 11,500 members in 123 countries.

Reach Ann Miller at

10-01-2005, 06:05 PM

Cantor Carries on Tennis Tradition

by Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Steven Walfish’s life is ruled by the three Ts: tallit, tefillin and tennis.To illustrate this point, when his son Sam was in first grade, he asked his dad to drop by the school and join other fathers in talking about their professions.

So the elder Walfish appeared in full regalia and talked about what it means to be a cantor in a synagogue.

Then he stripped off his robe, displaying the tennis shorts and shirt underneath, and discussed the job of managing three municipal tennis centers.

Walfish credits one of his professions to his father, the other to his mother.

His Polish-born father and Holocaust survivor, Heshel Walfish, has been the legendary cantor at Beth Israel for 50 years, and at 85 he shows no sign of slowing down.

Located at Beverly and Crescent Heights boulevards, Beth Israel was founded in 1899 as the first Orthodox congregation in Los Angeles, and was also known as the Olive Street Shul.

When Steven was 5 years old, Cantor Walfish put his son next to him on the bimah on Shabbat, and the boy starting belting out prayers at the Orthodox service.

By the time of his bar mitzvah, Steven had learned his dad’s craft and would pinchhit for him when he was out of town.

At the same time, the boy’s American-born mother, Betty, took over the physical education of the only male heir among her four children.

She took Steven bowling, fishing, and, most importantly, instilled in him a lifelong love of tennis.

Now, at 74, Betty Walfish still plays against her 48-year old son, who describes her as “a really sharp player.”

By stages, Steven Walfish became a full-service cantor the old-fashioned way, by learning from his father rather than through ordination.

For the past nine years, he has conducted one of the High Holiday services at Stephen S. Wise Temple, a Reform congregation, and tutors bar and bat mitzvah students.

(Full disclosure: Walfish tutored and officiated recently at one of my granddaughters’ bat mitzvah, so this report may be biased.)

When The Journal interviewed Walfish last week outside Starbucks on Beverly Glen Circle, a parade of trim-looking women stopped by for cheery hellos.

“All mothers of my b’nai mitzvah kids,” he explained.

On a parallel track, Walfish’s tennis fervor kept growing. “I am an ardent fan,” he said. “If Tom Cruise came by now and sat down at our table, it wouldn’t mean a thing to me. But if it was Pete Sampras or John McEnroe, I’d die.”

In 1994, Walfish got a chance to combine pleasure and business. With partner Lee Ziff, he formed the Beverly Hills Tennis management company, and soon entered into a contract with the City of Beverly Hills to manage its 26 courts at Roxbury Park, La Cienega Park and Beverly Hills High School.

“We supervise all the lessons, leagues, competitions, facilities and special events,” he said. “We have 30 pros, so I can always find somebody to play with.”

Recently, Walfish had the opportunity to fuse his two favorite occupations by conducting a bar mitzvah on a private Beverly Hills tennis court.

In preparing Jewish youngsters for the rite of passage, Walfish takes a special interest in the sons and daughters of Russian immigrants and in children with learning disabilities.

“The Russian kids have practically no Jewish background but they have an intense thirst for Jewish identity,” he said.

Walfish, a divorced father of a girl and two boys, has developed a personal understanding for children with special needs through his 14-year old daughter Emily.

Emily was born with Rett syndrome, a neurological disorder that prevents her from walking or communicating in any way.

“She is a beautiful girl, she laughs and cries, and living with her — we would never put her in an institution — has made her two younger brothers much more sensitive and empathetic boys,” Walfish said.

A big man, who erupts frequently into hearty laughter, Walfish puts in pretty long days as cantor, manager of tennis facilities, and “full-time dad.” In addition, he “dabbles” in real estate, and hopes to rejuvenate his father’s Beth Israel congregation, which now consists largely of Holocaust survivors.

As a religious person, Walfish says he is somewhat conflicted. “My father is from a Chasidic background and I was educated in Orthodox schools, but I have worked mainly at Conservative and Reform synagogues,” he mused. “I guess theologically I look at life from a Reform perspective, but my heart and soul are still Orthodox.”

10-01-2005, 06:07 PM
Back home (Tennis)
Todd Martin returns to NU
by Ben Larrison

September 30, 2005

The glory days of tennis are coming home for the weekend.

This Friday Todd Martin returns to Northwestern.

The ex-Wildcat and former world top-five player will participate in the Tim and Tom Gullikson Foundation Great Lakes Smash, a charity event to benefit the families of brain-tumor patients.

It will be Martin’s first visit to campus since 2002, when he joined in the dedication of the Combe Indoor Tennis Center.

“It’s always fun to get back to Evanston,” said Martin, who helped lead the Cats to a Big Ten Championship in 1990. But this trip will be particularly special for Martin and his teammates, as it will be the first time they are together as a group since a team reunion in 2000.

“I’ve been fortunate, as I’ve traveled as much as I have, I’ve ended up in shouting distance of my friends through the years,” Martin said.

“(But) there’s no substitution for getting everyone together and telling old stories and seeing how much has been embellished in the 15 years since we were there.”

Martin, an eight-time singles champion and two-time Grand Slam finalist, created a major stir at NU when he decided to turn pro after the 1990 season, with just two years of college experience.

“We had two wonderful years together,” NU tennis coach Paul Torricelli said, “His decision to turn pro … was specifically his, and it was a huge blow to our program, but we knew it was coming.”

Martin remains the most accomplished NU tennis player ever to set foot on a court. The 1990 Big Ten singles champion and Player of the Year went 79-9 in his two-year career.

His .898 winning percentage is the highest in school history. His 51-3 singles record in 1990 remains 17 games ahead of the next-best single-season NU mark. He also helped lead the team to the NCAA Sweet 16 — another school best.

“A great athlete, in this case a great tennis player, has an understanding of where they belong. And he was one of the few who has left college and proven that, and it’s to his credit,” said Torricelli, who remains good friends with Martin.

After leaving NU, it wasn’t long before Martin’s professional career took off. He reached the Round of 16 at the French Open in 1991, cracked the top 100 in 1992 and notched his first ATP singles title while breaking into the top 15 in 1993.

“Retrospectively, I think it was the right decision,” Martin said on his move to leave school early. “There were certainly times throughout my career, especially early on, when I had significant doubts about my decision, but fortunately hindsight has shown I made the right decision.”

His college coach agreed.

“For a significant stretch of his professional career, for a long, long time, he was the highest ranked player in the world to ever attend college at all,” Torricelli said. “He was in the top five twice. But it’s a remarkable record, and he’s a real credit … to Northwestern and a very loyal Wildcat.”

Martin’s roots in the Gullikson Foundation are deep. Tim Gullikson, who passed away after suffering from brain cancer in 1996, and whose battle inspired the Foundation’s birth, knew Martin from the circuit. His twin brother Tom, who coached Pete Sampras, coached Martin on the Davis Cup team. When the Foundation asked him to join the Board of Directors, Martin was more than happy to comply.

With all these ties and Martin’s Wildcat heritage, NU became a natural venue for a Gullikson Foundation event.

“It’s a really neat thing to have here,” Torricelli said. “There are a lot of kids on our campus who play tennis and they’ll have a chance to meet Todd, and … it’s a very worthy cause and it’s an exciting opportunity to get Todd back on campus.”

Friday night kicks off the Smash with a junior clinic at 5 p.m., followed by the NU men’s tennis reunion. While eager to reunite with his former teammates and coach, Martin isn’t quite as eager to step onto the court with his college buddies.

“I’m not looking forward to playing anybody, because I don’t know who I’m going to be able to beat,” said Martin, who retired from the ATP tour in August of 2004. “But a couple of my old teammates … the two old captains, Jim Cushing and Gary Cohen, are going to do a battle with one another.

“The whole weekend is going to be fun, and that’s going to be hilarious.”

Reach Ben Larrison at
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10-01-2005, 06:09 PM
Clearwater man gains many life lessons on court
Published September 29, 2005

Franz Henikl compares tennis to life, and he constantly strives to improve in both areas.

Though Henikl had some experience on the court in his homeland of Austria, he lacked the time to continue until he came to Florida.

Henikl retired from his work in Austria and arrived here in 1991. Three years later, he picked up a racquet after watching tennis great Pete Sampras and Masters Circuit players such as Boris Becker .

"I participated in a lot of different sports in Austria, like soccer, skiing and handball," said Henikl, 56. "By far, tennis is my favorite.

"Tennis involves your mind, your body, everything," he said. "How you play and react compares so much to life experiences."

When Henikl tried the game in Clearwater, he immediately was hooked and started playing practically every day.

A great believer in proper training, Henikl took lessons from various area teaching professionals to develop a strong foundation.

"My advice to anyone starting out, especially at the age I was, is to take lessons from a pro," Henikl said. "Have someone professional get you started on the right foot so you don't develop bad habits."

Less than two years after Henikl started, he entered his first tournament, at Cheval Golf and Country Club in Lutz. A win added to his enthusiastic attitude.

In 2000 and '02, Henikl was a member of men's teams that won state championships and qualified for national competition. In 2002, he competed in singles and doubles at the World Championships.

"A few years ago, I had a No.3 ranking in 4.0 singles in the state and was about No.12 in the 50 age division," Henikl said. "Then, I kind of stopped competing in tournaments. I just played flex leagues at McMullen and league tennis around the area."

Henikl is competing in tournaments again. Next month, he will play in his third USTA National 50-and-over Clay Court Championships in Sarasota.

"I plan to really start preparing next week when I go to Bollettieri's for a few days," Henikl said. "I've gone there about every year since I started playing. It's tough, but it's like a vacation to me."

Henikl is an offensive baseliner who likes to hit with power from both sides, he said. He continues to work on improving his style and how he deals with court situations.

Henikl said the sport has made him a better person.
"Tennis has taught me so many things and is like therapy for me. It's important to learn to respect a player and his game, to learn how to lose and move on and deal with line calls - good or bad," he said. "You can relate all of this to life. In all cases, you've got to step back and start over.

"I'm so thankful for all the people that have played with me and the fine city facility we have in Clearwater," Henikl said. "Tennis is my life, and I'm a happy person through tennis."

NET SHOTS: Westin Innisbrook Resort had its monthly Junior Grand Prix Tournament on Saturday.

Jenny Healy captured the 16-and-under crown, and Danica Rodriquez was second. Matt Strahn took first in the 14 competition and was followed by Chris Ryan . Ann Marie Mooney topped the 12 field, and Samantha Page was the runner-up.

Innisbrook's next junior event is Oct.22. For information, call 942-5241.

Collecting singles titles in this month's East Lake Woodlands Fall NTRP were Karen Killen (4.0 division), Rena Khawam (3,5), Rachel Mayhew (3.0), Rick Workman (men's 5.0) and Kenneth Emery (3.5).

Posting consolation wins were Barbara Linares (3.0) and Wayne Adams (4.0).

Mayhew and Pam Collins won the women's 3.5 doubles. Other champs were David King and Will Rhame (men's 4.0) and Ed Malanik and Stephen Mutschler (3.5).

Among the winners in the Clearwater Fall Championship were Macey Cook (14 division), Kaylen Mandry (10) and Jorge Guerra (boys 16).

Finalists included Amy Lowther (girls 12) and Shaunte Southern (14).

Winners in this month's SPTC Adult Classic Championships were Juan Segovia (35-and-over division), Marc Mazo (55), Don Mathias (65) and William Gatlin (75). Bill Christensen was second in the 55 class.

Collecting consolation victories were Todd Stuart (35), Noi Saypharath (45), Henikl (55) and Chip Gamble (65). Mathias and William Herring were second in 65 doubles.

LEAGUE NEWS: Next weekend, local senior mixed doubles team champions Bardmoor Golf and Tennis Club 7.0, Shipwatch Tennis Club 8.0 and PGTA at Safety Harbor Spa 9.0 will challenge for bragging rights at the USA Tennis Florida State Championships in Daytona Beach.

Countryside Country Club won its second straight match in the Senior Men's 6.5 Combo League to take first place in the five-team division.

Winning for Countryside were Phil Kallaugher and Dennis Bianco in the No.1 position and Chris Likly and Art Esterbrook at No.3.

DID YOU KNOW? If you are in doubles and realize you're serving out of order, you should correct the order immediately while keeping any points scored.

According to the USTA Handbook of Rules , if the game were completed before the error was discovered, all points are kept as scored and the order of service continues as altered.

THIS WEEK: Activities for the 12th annual Humane Society Charity Tournament begin tonight at Royal Racquet Club in Clearwater with the Sports Media Tennis Challenge, which combines media personnel with local teaching professionals in a team format.

Friday, youths 4-18 are invited to participate in a tennis carnival from 6-8:30 p.m.

During the weekend competition are raffle drawings and a silent auction for spectators and players. For information, call 799-3200.

MARK THE DATE: Advantage Yours Tennis plans to celebrate its 20 years of business from 10 a.m.-noon on Nov.5 at McMullen Tennis Complex.

For information, call 442-7923.

COMING UP: Seminole Lake Tennis Center has its Halloween Bowl for junior singles players Oct.8-9. For information, call 394-1733. ... Treasure Island Tennis and Yacht Club offers the Fall Rookie Tournament for juniors Oct.15-16. Call 367-5479.

--News for this column may be faxed to Nancy Morgan, 796-5559; e-mailed to or sent to 710 Court St., Clearwater, FL 33756. Please include phone number.

10-04-2005, 10:10 PM

Andy Murray gatecrashed the top 100 in style this week and moved closer to joining one of the most exclusive clubs in world tennis.

The list of names who have claimed top-level ATP Tour victories while still in their teens reads like a veritable who's who of the game's latest and greatest stars.

And 18-year-old Murray certainly has time on his side after reaching the final of the Thailand Open in Bangkok last week a full 19 months before his 20th birthday.

Murray is part of a thrusting group of teenage stars who have translated junior prowess into early success on the senior circuit.

Rafael Nadal leads the way having cemented the world number two position and claimed the French Open title at the age of 19.

Frenchmen Richard Gasquet and Gael Monfils both have titles and top 50 rankings to show for their early efforts while Serbian 18-year-old Novak Djokovic - a potential Davis Cup foe for Murray next year - joins them in the world's top 50.

But teenage prowess is nothing new in the men's game, and is most emphatically illustrated by Boris Becker, who arrived in London for the 1985 grass-court season as an unknown 17-year-old.

Four weeks later Becker had left a trail of the world's best players battered and broken behind him, claiming the Stella Artois title followed by an audacious assault on Wimbledon which saw him crowned its youngest champion ever.

Michael Chang also started young, the battling American claiming his first tour title at the age of 16 then, just three months after his 17th birthday, fashioning an epic five-set win over Stefan Edberg to claim the French Open crown.

Lleyton Hewitt emulated Chang in 1998 when he also claimed his first tour title at the tender age of 16, for good measure picking up the milestone in his home city of Adelaide. Hewitt had been just 15 when he made his Grand Slam debut.

Bjorn Borg, Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Pete Sampras are just some more of the illustrious names who did not wait to leave their teens before breaking their main tour title duck.

So Murray will be in very good company indeed if and when he has fortune to find himself in a final without the seemingly invincible Roger Federer on the other side of the net.

Murray, who has stormed up to the world number 72 as a result of his heroics in Thailand, is now the fourth highest-ranked teenager in the world behind only Nadal, Gasquet and Monfils.

And few would now dare to bet against him emulating those illustrious teen prodigies of the past and going on to grace the senior game in style for many years to come.

10-04-2005, 10:12 PM
SPORTS Oct 5, 2005

Davenport gets better with age
Wednesday October 5 2005 00:00 IST

FILDERATSTADT: US Open champion Kim Clijsters says she is likely to retire in 2007 at the age of 23, but Lindsay Davenport, at 29, has no intention of hanging up her rackets just yet.

“Especially the last two years I feel I've done a remarkable job with my career and when you feel like you're still playing well and have a chance to win lots of tournaments it's tough to walk away,'' the American said.

Davenport won her fourth tournament of the year in Bali last month and although she was forced to withdraw from the China Open with a back problem 24 hours later, she is on court again this week in Germany defending the Filderstadt title she won last year.

Davenport, runner-up this year at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, reflected: “I started playing tournaments at 15 and I'm 29 now. It definitely gets a lot tougher as you get older and older.''

But since tennis has been her entire life, she knows that turning her back on it could be the most difficult thing she ever has to do.

“I'm very scared at some points to retire,'' she confessed. “Tennis is all that I've done and it's something that I've very much enjoyed. It's a huge part of my life.

“Will anything make me as happy as playing tennis, or will I find something else I enjoy as much or will I be happy without it? That's a big question mark.''

She added: “Tennis has been a part of my life since I was five, so for 90 percent of my whole life tennis is what I've been about.''


“It's been a huge identity for me, it's been something that I love to do, so to give up such a huge part of your life is a scary proposition.''

Would she do what Pete Sampras did and retire after claiming another Grand Slam title? Unlikely, she says. She just doesn't know when the best time “You think about it sometimes, but it would be hard for me to walk away if I'd just won a major title,'' she said. “I'd just feel I could do better and better.''

“Or you don't want to leave the sport if you've been losing all the time and feel like you can't beat anybody anymore.''

“You don't want to leave injured. I don't know what the answer is. I'll just see what happens in the next few years or months.''

But while she has no retirement plans, she supports Clijsters in her decision.

“If that's her plan I hope she sticks to it. I do agree with her that the sport is getting tougher and tougher to play for a very long period of time.

“I was really lucky when I first came up in '92 and we only had to play 12 tournaments a year.

“I think now it's up to 18 and over the course of every year that starts to wear on your body and I think you see players having more serious injuries at a younger age. So when she says that I think she's speaking from the heart.''

Clijsters's victory in Luxembourg on Sunday has taken her to the brink of reclaiming the world number one ranking after missing much of 2004 with injury.

Davenport said: “It's phenomenal how well she's been able to come back. She's a great player and I was really happy for her to win the U.S. Open.'' would be to give up the competition.

10-11-2005, 10:06 PM
Ben realises his Wimbledon dream

BEN BLACKWELL will follow in the footsteps of tennis legends Roger Federer, Pete Sampras and Bjorn Borg when he steps out at Wimbledon on Saturday October 15.
The 11 year old, who is a member of Compton's Tennis Club in Lower Beeding, will compete in the doubles of the Save the Children National Tennis Tournament.
"It's every child's dream to play at Wimbledon," said Ben's mum, Michelle.
"The whole family will be going."

ella andry
10-24-2005, 01:00 PM
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
SECOND SERVE: Pete Sampras

by JAMES MARTIN Oct 01 '05

A year ago, Pete Sampras couldn't even contemplate picking up a tennis racquet. The years at the top of the game had taken their toll, and he was burned out.

Funny how time changes things. When we caught up with him recently, the 34-year-old Sampras, who'd just moved into a new house in Beverly Hills, Calif., said that he was contemplating getting back into the game. Not that he'll have a ton of time on his hands: He has a 2-year-old son, Christian, and a newborn, Ryan Nikolaos, with his wife, Bridgette Wilson.

Are you going to play the senior tour?
"I'm reasonably open to it. I'm not practicing, not really training, but I think at some point I do see myself playing senior events in the States. It's taken me awhile to get to the point where I can even entertain the idea, but now I see playing as a way to keep me busy and focused."

There's a lot of new blood on the senior tour-players who take it more seriously. Is that part of the reason you'd like to compete again?
"Actually, no. I don't want to get into a situation where I'm grinding out matches. I just want to do it for fun. To grind out matches against someone like Jim Courier, who's a rival-and we've had competitive matches in the past-that's out of me. Those days are over. I don't have the competitive juices like some of the guys on the senior tour. But it'd be fun to see everyone again, though I wouldn't go to play to win."

So what have you been doing with your time?
"I'm playing a lot of golf and I've gotten into the poker craze. It's taken me a couple of years to get to the point where I think I've played enough golf and poker. Now it's time to find other things that are more fulfilling, like tennis. [Golf and poker] are fun for a while, but you come to a point where they get a little thin. I'm not going to get a job. But most professional tennis players, after they retire, eventually go back to tennis-it's what they do, it's who they are. That's the road I'm heading down."

What's your golf handicap?
"Six. I'm basically an athlete playing golf, not a golfer.
I don't have all the nuances of my stroke fine-tuned. I play for fun, sometimes I have a little bit of a gamble. But I'm not like Mark McGwire, who has a hitting coach. I thought about getting really serious about golf, but it didn't seem fulfilling enough."

What's your poker game?
"Texas Hold'em. I used to see poker on ESPN years ago and I'd ask, 'What is this doing on TV?' But I started to get interested and learned the game, and now I play a house game once a week."

Would you be interested in doing some commentating on TV?
"Potentially. I'd want to be good at it. I'd have to work at it. I'd like to do Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. I do miss Wimbledon. But I'm not ready to do a lot of traveling, going over to Europe-that's one trip I don't miss. But I will go back to Wimbledon."

Do you follow the pro game?
"I watch the majors. I'm up to date, but not on a week-to-week basis."

What are your thoughts on Roger Federer?
"He's head and shoulders above everyone else. He's got a great game, great attitude. He's all about winning and letting his racquet do the talking."

Can anyone touch him?
"I don't see anyone challenging him. Safin-he's got the game. When he's on, he can hold his own against Federer, but mentally he's years behind. Hewitt, Roddick-they're not good enough."

Copyright (c) 2005 by Miller Sports Group LLC.

11-01-2005, 06:17 PM
Tennis icons hope USTA helps out Pac Life

Powered by
Leighton Ginn
The Desert Sun
October 21, 2005

Some prominent tennis figures in Southern California believe the USTA needs to invest in the Pacific Life Open because the event is vital to promoting the sport on the West Coast.
This weekend, the 15-member USTA board will vote whether to invest in the tournament and help buy out IMG, which currently owns 50 percent of the tournament. IMG expressed interest in selling the event to China before agreeing to a $24 million buyout.

"This is very much a strong U.S. tournament. It clearly is the be all and end all of major events of the West Coast," said Vijay Amritraj, a former president of the players' council of the ATP Tour. "It seems to generate an incredible amount of interest in the Los Angeles market, no question. I know tons of people who make the trip down to the desert for the tournament."

Many of the legendary names of tennis - Billie Jean King, Jack Kramer, Pete Sampras, Lindsay Davenport, Michael Chang, Tracy Austin - have roots in Southern California.

It has long been a hotbed for talent.

Kramer, the 1947 Wimbledon champion and tennis pioneer, said he has one reservation - that the USTA would set a precedent to bail out every U.S. tournament that has financial problems.

Currently, the USTA owns three tournaments and a portion of the women's tournament in Carson.

However, in the case of the Pacific Life Open, Kramer is in favor of the USTA stepping in.

"I hope the USTA does it," said Kramer, who owns a home in La Quinta. "It might start a run on the bank, but that's what the USTA is for, to help tennis in the U.S. What better way to do that than to keep majors in the U.S.?

"It's obvious everyone involved in this whole thing that (PM Sports owners Charlie Pasarell and Raymond Moore) have done a swell job in getting it as far as it's gone."
Palm Desert resident Rosie Casals, also a tennis Hall of Famer, thinks the USTA investing is a good idea. However, she has her reservations, too.

Casals, who helped form the WTA Tour, feels the professional tours should have been given an opportunity to purchase the tournament to give them some ownership. When Casals helped form the WTA, the tours had ownership, which they don't now.

"I don't know if they could afford it, or want to do it. I don't know why they were not approached to raise the money," Casals said. "We shared in the events, and that was way back when. Unfortunately, the way the associations are formed, they don't own tournaments, but that doesn't mean they can't have an arm that can own tournaments.

"There are a couple of events they should own. It takes money, but if someone could come up with money for prize money, then certainly they can come up with money to own the rights of owning tournament. The tours say they are not in the business of owning tournaments. I would reconsider that."

Bob Kramer, who is the tournament director for the Mercedes-Benz, said the Pacific Life Open is one of his favorite events to attend.

"It's so impressive to see how it's grown and still have that friendly touch, even though its gotten larger, adding women and having night sessions," Bob Kramer said. "It's an amazing venue and an exciting tennis site."

As impressed as Bob Kramer is with the Pacific Life Open, he also sees the growth potential. Although the Pacific Life Open attracted more than 280,000 to this year's tournament, it has not sold out every session. And Kramer points out that there isn't much development around the site yet.

Irvine developer Sanderson J. Ray bought 64 acres next to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, and there have been talks about a hotel and restaurant/entertainment development similar to the River in Rancho Mirage.

"After all the reorganization and refinancing, there's still a lot of work to be done, but the opportunity is there and they should get a second chance," Bob Kramer said. "I think there's a lot more growth there. There are a lot more developments around the venue, a lot more enhancement around the area. As they get more development, there will be more diversity and more activities fans can participate in."

Kramer also said, while he doesn't know the exact figures, the $6 million that has been proposed is likely a smaller figure than what the USTA has spent to invest in the four other tournaments it owns outside the U.S. Open.

If the USTA does not come through, the Pacific Life Open could be moved to Shanghai, where an investment group has offered an estimated $35 million-$70 million to purchase the tournament.

Rancho Mirage resident Mark Woodforde, who has won 67 doubles titles in his career and is currently the co-tournament director of an event in Adelaide, Australia, said he always has been dazzled at the progress Shanghai has made.

In November, Shanghai will host the year-end Tennis Masters Cup, featuring the ATP's top eight players. They will play in a new $250-million tennis facility.

"I absolutely loved it when I went through Shanghai. It was amazing," Woodforde said. "It's amazing how in 12 months, the skyline changed so dramatically it took your breath away. I would be eager to go back and see. You could see how eager they were to move forward as an economy and they achieved it. To have that stadium they have and that roof being so dramatic, wow."

However, Woodforde thinks Shanghai would be better off getting a new event, than trying to bring in an already established event.

And being a desert resident, he doesn't want to see the Pacific Life Open leave.

"Gosh, I think it would be really tragic (if the Pacific Life Open moved)," Woodforde said. "There's been so much history with that event and to lose that to another area outside Southern California, it's very unnecessary, and I don't think it will happen. I think they will work on a solution and the tournament won't move. To build a $77-million stadium and move would not make sense."

11-05-2005, 07:59 PM
The season's too long, says Roddick
Wed Nov 2, 2005 8:57 PM GMT

By Patrick Vignal

PARIS, Nov 2 (Reuters) - Andy Roddick, the only top-six player on a Paris Masters bill hit by absenteeism, said on Wednesday he felt the tennis season was too long.

"We're in the eleventh month of the season," world number three Roddick said after beating fellow American Taylor Dent in his opening match in the event.

"This might be taken the wrong way, a lot of people saying we're spoiled but, you know, it's too long."

The self-proclaimed biggest indoor tournament in the world has witnessed great feats from the likes of Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi over the years.

This year, however, many of the big names have pulled out, most of them because of injuries. The top two players in the world, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, are absent, and so are Lleyton Hewitt and Agassi.

The injury list also features the last two winners, Marat Safin and Tim Henman, and French number one Richard Gasquet.


"I know a lot of people work really hard all year round but we're in a business where we beat up our bodies on a daily basis," Roddick said.

"Everybody here is acting surprised that the guys who play the most amount of matches are injured.

"It's not rocket science to figure out why. It's an obvious problem. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be an obvious solution."

Before losing to Russian Nikolay Davydenko on Tuesday, Briton Greg Rusedski had also addressed the problem.

"Tennis nowadays is so much more physical and so much harder every match you have to play that you're going to get a lot more injuries," Rusedski said.

"But, you know, I think they've already shortened the season quite a bit. It's kind of hard to figure out a way to shorten it again, to be honest with you."

Tournament co-chairman Cedric Pioline, however, was not as philosophical as the Briton.

"Something has to be changed," Pioline said. "We're waiting for a sign from the ATP. The top tournaments like the Masters Series events need to be highlighted and protected."

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.

11-05-2005, 08:00 PM
UPDATE 2-Ljubicic sets up Paris final against Berdych
Sat Nov 5, 2005 5:51 PM GMT

By Patrick Vignal

PARIS, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Ivan Ljubicic extended his brilliant indoor run by outgunning top seed Andy Roddick 6-3 7-5 with an impressive display to reach the Paris Masters final on Saturday.

The towering Croatian, who has won 20 of his last 22 matches, will meet the unfancied Tomas Berdych in Sunday's showpiece.

World number 50 Berdych, who had upset three seeded players on his way to the last four, advanced with a 6-1 3-6 6-3 victory over fellow Czech Radek Stepanek, the eighth seed and a losing finalist as a qualifier here last year.

Sixth seed Ljubicic will play his second successive Masters Series final after Madrid last month, where he took Rafael Nadal to five sets.

World number three Roddick, who was never really in contention against his confident opponent, complained about a sore back and said he was not sure whether he would be able to enter the Masters Cup.

"I don't know," Roddick said when asked whether the injury might force him to pull out of the eight-man season finale from Nov. 13 in Shanghai.

"I hope not but, obviously, I'm not as optimistic as I was two days ago. I'll go back, we'll treat it and if I feel like I can go, I'll go. If not, then I won't."

The American, making many unforced errors, trailed his opponent 3-0 in the opening set. Ljubicic, relying on his strong serve and playing close to perfection, wrapped up the set with an ace after 25 minutes.


The second set was tighter until Ljubicic broke his opponent with a superb forehand winner to lead 6-5 and serve for the match.

The 26-year-old Ljubicic, who fired 15 aces to Roddick's 10, sealed victory with a cross-court winner on his first match point after 64 minutes.

"I played a great match," he said proudly. "I was really confident and relaxed on all shots.

"I did feel he had a little back problem but I had problems with my knee.

"It was a strange match, both of us knowing the other guy was not fully fit."

The other semi-final was surprisingly one-sided at first, the 20-year-old Berdych winning five games in a row to take the opening set in 20 minutes.

Stepanek recovered to win the second set but the combative Berdych was back on top in the decisive set.

He broke his opponent in the fourth game and clinched the match in 82 minutes after firing a service winner on his second match point.

Berdych, who won his lone title on clay in Palermo last year and reached the final in Bastad earlier this year, had never progressed so far in a major tournament.

"It will be tough against Ljubicic," he said.

"Thinking about tricks to beat him wouldn't help. I have to worry about my own game. I'll do my best and we'll see what happens."

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.

11-05-2005, 08:02 PM
Roddick unsure about Masters Cup because of back pain
Sat Nov 5, 2005 4:55 PM GMT

By Patrick Vignal

PARIS, Nov 5 (Reuters) - World number three Andy Roddick fears he could miss the year-end Masters Cup because of back pain.

Roddick was hampered by a sore back during his 6-3 7-5 defeat by Croatian Ivan Ljubicic in the semi-finals of the Paris Masters.

The American, who received treatment twice during the match, had also suffered in his quarter-final win over Spaniard David Ferrer on Friday.

"I don't know," Roddick said on Saturday when asked whether the injury might force him to pull out of the eight-strong season finale from Nov. 13 in Shanghai.

"I hope not but, obviously, I'm not as optimistic as I was two days ago. I'll go back, we'll treat it and if I feel like I can go, I'll go. If not, then I won't."

Roddick had said after beating Ferrer that he might not play Saturday's semi-final. He did but the pain soon returned.

"It felt okay walking around earlier in the day but as soon as I started moving, it just really stiffened up and made it tough to move and hit my shots," he said.

"It's low back, it's just tight. The doctor used a bunch of medical terms I'm not intelligent enough to understand. We're going to evaluate it again here and when I get home."

The former world number one, who has won five tournaments this year, said he would love to go to Shanghai.

"Most of all it's an honour to qualify (for the Masters Cup)," he said.

"It's very prestigious. The fact that you only have a handful of guys that are allowed to play makes it really special.

"Obviously, I don't think it's on par with Davis Cup or with a grand slam but it's very important. It's almost like a celebration for the year."

Ljubicic grabbed the last ticket to the Masters Cup by qualifying for the semi-finals in Paris on Friday.

The Croatian joined Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi, Guillermo Coria and Nikolay Davydenko in the Shanghai field.

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.