Mondays with Bob Greene
Rafael Nadal beat Kei Nishikori 2-6 6-4 3-0 retired to win the Mutua Madrid Open men’s singles in Madrid, Spain
Maria Sharapova beat Simona Halep 1-6 6-2 6-3 to win the Mutua Madrid Open women’s singles in Madrid, Spain
Sharon Fichman beat Timea Bacsinszky 6-2 6-2 to win the Open de Cagnes-Sur-Mer Alpes-Maritimes in Cagnes-Sur-Mer, France
“Winning at home is always more special than winning anywhere. Having the chance to play in front of your home crowd … is unforgettable for me. This city gives me a lot. This is a very important victory for me.” – Rafael Nadal, after winning the Madrid Open.
“It was very sad, especially as I was winning, playing almost the best tennis in my life. But there is some, you know, good side, too. There is a lot of confidence I get from this tournament.” – Kei Nishikori, who retired with an injury in the third set of the Madrid Open final.
“I was just fighting because if I had the chance I was going to be there to take it.” – Rafael Nadal, admitting Kei Nishikori dominated play through the first 15 games of their title match.
“I didn’t have a great first set today, but I knew it wasn’t over until the last point was played.” – Maria Sharapova, who rallied to win the Madrid Open women’s singles by defeating Simona Halep in three sets.
“I played really well all week and I beat top players and I had a very high level of my tennis. Maria is a great player and a great champion. She played really well, and I think she deserved to win this title. The difference I think is the experience. She has more experience than me.” – Simona Halep, after following her loss to Maria Sharapova.
“This is not the way I wanted this week to end.” – Serena Williams, after pulling out of the Madrid Open because of an injured left thigh.
“Now I’m hurting because I’ve lost a really tough match. … Tomorrow I’ll see it another way. I’ll be more positive. .. It hurts me not being able to be in the final tomorrow.” – David Ferrer, after losing his semifinal to Kei Nishikori.
“I was thinking ‘OK, I’m going to play until I’m 30 and then I’m going to quit.’ But then comes the moment when you’re 25 and you wake up one day and it’s like. ‘OK, I cannot go anymore. I cannot suffer.’” – Dinara Safina, announcing she has officially retired from the WTA tour.
SLIM WIN WITH HELP
Two games from victory, Kei Nishikori’s back injury resurfaced and Rafael Nadal ended up winning his second straight Mutua Madrid Open. After taking the first set 6-2, Nishikori was up a break in the second and serving at 4-3 when he pulled up clutching his back. Nadal broke Nishikori to pull even as the Japanese 10th seed failed to win another game. At 3-0 in the final set, Nishikori could barely walk to the net to shake hands with the Spanish champion. “It was my hip and actually everywhere after the second set, my legs were hurting too much, Nishikori said. Nadal took advantage of the injury, capturing his 63rd career title and 44th on clay, just two short of the all-time record of 46 held by Guillermo Vilas. The win also increased Nadal’s record to 27 Masters titles. Even Nadal admitted Nishikori was dominant through the first 15 games of the match. “There was some moments where, I don’t know, I couldn’t find myself,” Nadal said. “It wasn’t that I didn’t want to play or I was missing intensity, I was just mentally blocked. When you’re blocked, you just need a spark to go out there and compete again.” The spark came when Nishikori suffered the injury. “I’m very sorry for Nishikori,” Nadal said. “He’s an unbelievable player that will fight to be in London (at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals). I am sure of that. I really hope that the injury is not too bad and he will be able to compete in Roland Garros.” Nadal was presented with the winner’s trophy by Queen Sofía of Spain. “Even though I think that today I did a not so good first set, I think I did a great tournament,” Nadal said. “This is the reality of the situation.”
With his 63 career titles, Nadal is now sixth on the Open Era list, one behind Pete Sampras and Bjorn Borg.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori has put the tennis world on notice: Consider him a strong contender for a Grand Slam tournament title. While a back injury cost him the victory at the Madrid Open, the clay court tournament showed that Nishikori is ready to make the next step to the top of the rankings. By reaching his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final, Nishikori is the first Japanese man ever to rank in the Top 10 in the Emirates ATP Rankings and the first Asian male since Thailand’s Paradorn Srichaphan in March 2004. Nishikori secured the ranking with a marathon win over David Ferrer in the semifinals, needing just under three hours and 10 match points to edge his Spanish opponent 7-6 (5) 5-7 6-3. That was Nishikori’s 14th straight win, including a semifinal in Miami where he was forced to pull out prior to the match. The 24-year-old right-hander won his first ATP World Tour clay-court title two weeks ago at the Barcelona Open. The back injury that caused Nishikori to retire in the final also had troubled him in both his quarterfinal and semifinal matches. Still, he came away from the week feeling confident. “It’s going to be very exciting at (Roland Garros) because I’ve never felt like this on clay,” he said. “I’m very confident of whatever I hit going for winners. I can hit from either side – forehand or backhand – so it’s a very good feeling that I have on clay right now.”
Shaking off a slow start, Maria Sharapova overpowered Simona Halep to win the Madrid Open women’s singles. Sharapova has now posted a 47-3 record on clay since the 2011 French Open, with all three losses administered by Serena Williams. Sharapova held her serve just once in the opening set as she hit four double-faults. But the Russian’s ground strokes began finding the corners and lines, keeping her opponent running from side to side. Sharapova converted both of her break points in the second set to level the match, then was never really challenged in the decisive set. “I don’t know how I pulled it off,” Sharapova said of capturing her 32nd career title and second of 2014. “In the first set I wasn’t doing much to hurt her, and that’s the tennis she’s capable of playing. I knew I had to do some different things after the first set to win this match.” That, she did. Sharapova is a perfect 11-0 on clay courts this year and will rise to seventh in the world on the new WTA Rankings. “I don’t take these moments for granted because I know what it’s like to be out and injured and trying to find your way back just to play tennis,” said Sharapova, who has had her career disrupted several times by injury.
SWISS PAIR – AGAIN
Apparently having twins was a winning move for Roger Federer the first time. The Swiss master, who has won numerous titles more than once in his career, had twins again, this time two boys to go with the two girls his wife Mirka gave birth to four years ago. “Twins again … miracle, Federer wrote on his Facebook page when he announced the new additions to his family. Federer’s agent, Tony Godsick, confirmed to The Associated Press that the baby boys – named Leo and Lenny – were born in Zurich, Switzerland. Earlier in the week Federer withdrew from the Madrid Open in order to be with Mirka when she gave birth. Godsick said the 17-time Grand Slam tournament champion intends to enter the French Open, which begins May 25, and could possibly play this week’s ATP World Tour event in Rome, Italy. “Roger has plans to play the French Open, and he’ll take it step-by-step as to what he plays before that,” Godsick said.
STOPPING THE BRYANS
Brothers Bob and Mike Bryan ran into a familiar foe – and this time the foe won. Daniel Nester and Nenad Zimonjic beat the American twins to capture the Mutua Madrid Open doubles, their second title since reuniting at the start of the 2014 season. It was the winning pair’s 26th ATP World Tour team title and snapped the Bryans’ 24-match win streak. Nestor, a 41-year-old Canadian, has now won 84 tour-level titles, third best in the Open Era behind Mike Bryan, who has captured 100 titles, and Bob Bryan, who has 98. Zimonjic, a 37-year-old Serbian, won his 51st tour-level title.
Serena Williams halted her bid for a third straight Madrid Open title when she withdrew from the quarterfinals of the clay court tournament because of a left thigh injury. The American had her thigh heavily bandaged in her earlier matches. Williams was injured during her first-round victory over Belinda Bencic. And while she showed signs of improvement during her following two matches, she announced her withdrawal before she was to take on Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals. “I have a left thigh injury and, unfortunately, have to withdraw from this year’s Mutua Madrid Open,” Williams said. “It happened during my first round match. It started to get better, but most importantly right now, I just need some time to rest and recover. It’s beyond words. It’s so frustrating. We couldn’t ask for a better tournament and I love it here in Madrid. I love being a champion here.”
Serena continues to pile up the numbers in her career. When she beat Carla Suárez Navarro, Williams became the 11th player in WTA history to reach 650 career match wins – just one behind her older sister, Venus Williams. And Serena continued her brilliant history against Spaniards. She has won her last 29 matches against Spanish players and hasn’t lost since she retired with an arm injury in Berlin against Hall of Famer Arantxa Sánchez Vicario in 1999 – 15 years ago.
Two Spanish players parlayed their wild card entry into the Mutua Madrid Open into a run to the doubles final. That’s when they ran into an unstoppable Italian pair. Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci ended the surprising run of Garbiñe Muguruza and Carla Suárez Navarro 6-4 6-3 to take their third WTA doubles title of the year. “Tonight was a very tough match,” Vinci admitted. “Garbiñe and Carla are tough opponents and they had a great week. This is the second time we have won the title here in Madrid and are glad we could finish the week with another trophy.” The Italians now have 19 WTA doubles titles, including four Grand Slam tournament crowns. Muguruza and Suárez Navarro beat a slew of seeded teams to reach the final, including the top-seeded pair of Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai.
In the WTA’s new doubles rankings, Hsieh Su-Wei has joined her partner Peng Shuai as co-world number ones. Earlier this year Peng became the first player from China ever to hold a world number-one ranking in tennis, male or female, singles or doubles. Now Hsieh achieves the same feat for Chinese Taipei. “Reaching number one in the world is a great feeling,” Hsieh said. “We have been working really hard as a team. I was very proud of Peng reached number one earlier this year and now I am happy we can share it.” They are the 10th team ever to become co-world number ones in doubles in the WTA rankings.
Novak Djokovic says he’s ready to return to work. The Serbian right-hander said his right wrist has been pain-free for 10 days and he plans on playing in this week’s Italian Open. “Right now I feel much more confident at the state of my wrist and I know that I’m ready much more to play a match than I was one week ago,” Djokovic said while practicing in Rome with Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka. When Djokovic lost to Roger Federer in the Monte Carlo Masters semifinals last month, his wrist was heavily taped. “It’s a wiser decision if you try to heal it 100 percent than 50 percent and compromise the next weeks,” Djokovic said. “The second time that it comes back it becomes a chronic injury, which you definitely don’t want to have. From now on I will be extra careful about my wrist.”
It was not the best of days for Fabio Fognini. The Italian’s frustration boiled over after he blew a 4-2 lead in the first set of a three-set loss to Alexandr Dolgopolov in the opening round of the Madrid Open. When he was given a code violation for ball abuse after he slammed a ball out of the stadium, Fognini argued that he should have only received a warning because it was his first offense. But chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani said he gave the player a code violation because he hit the ball out of the stadium. That prompted Fognini to tell Lahyani, “You have to think (with) your mind sometimes. I know that’s difficult for you.” After losing the first set, Fognini smashed his racquet and called for the trainer for a hip injury. But the ATP trainer refused to treat the playing because it was a pre-existing injury. Fognini then turned his ire toward some fans and asked Lahyani to summon security. Later he expressed his displeasure when the umpire agreed with an out call. When the match ended, Fognini had words with Lahyani during the handshake.
Remember Dinara Safina? Well, once ranked number one in the world, Safina has officially announced her retirement from professional tennis. The Russian hasn’t played since nagging back injuries forced her away from the WTA tour three years ago. She won 12 WTA titles, but no Grand Slam tournaments, although she reached the title match at the 2008 French Open, the 2009 Australian Open and the 2009 French Open. Her biggest title came at the inaugural Mutua Madrid Open in 2009. Ironically, her last match was also in Madrid, when she lost in an early round in 2011. Dinara and her brother, Marat Safin, are the only brother-sister to both reach the number-one world ranking.
SET FOR PARIS
A former world number one junior, Taylor Townsend will make her Grand Slam tournament main draw debut at Roland Garros in May. The American won the Har-Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge when she reached the final of the USTA Pro Circuit event in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida, USA. Townsend, a four-time junior Grand Slam tournament champion, won the Florida tournament. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) and the French Tennis Federation have a reciprocal agreement in which wild cards into the 2014 French and US Opens are exchanged. Robby Ginepri, who last competed in the French Open in 2010, won the men’s wild card into the clay-court event.
Lleyton Hewitt, who won Wimbledon in 2002, Marin Cilic and Ernests Gulbis have signed to play at this year’s AEGON Championships, a Wimbledon warm-up event. They join reigning Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the strong field, which also includes Grigor Dimitrov and Alex Dolgopolov. Also entered in the The Queen’s Club tournament are 2010 champion Sam Querrey, 2007 runner-up Nicolas Mahut and Australian Bernard Tomic. Murray is seeking to join Andy Roddick, Hewitt, John McEnroe and Boris Becker as the only four-time winners of the grass-court event.
A man fatally shot his wife and two teenage children before setting their house and fire and then shooting himself, according to police in Tampa, Florida, USA. The house where the family lived was owned by former tennis star James Blake. The family was found dead in the burning home. Blake was not believed to be in Florida at the time. Authorities identified the dead as Darrin Campbell, his wife Kimberly Campbell and their teenage children, Megan and Colin. Hillsborough County sheriff’s Col. Donna Lusczynski said investigators don’t know Darrin Campbell’s motive. Blake starred at Harvard before breaking into professional tennis. Ranked as high as fourth in the world in November 2006, Blake retired from the ATP World Tour last year.
Caroline Wozniacki is hinting that she may soon retire from the WTA tour and begin to have children. Once ranked number one in the world, Wozniacki was quoted by a London magazine as saying she wants to start a family with fiancée Rory McIlroy, one of the world’s top golfers. “I want to be a relatively young mother, and I don’t see it as being too far in the future,” the Danish player was quoted as saying by Lime magazine. “Therefore I have no dream to make my mark. Instead, I enjoy economic freedom my hard work has given me.” The right-hander, who will turn 24 in July and is currently ranked 14th in the world, and McIlroy announced their engagement on January 1 this year.
Cagnes-Sur-Mer: Kiki Bertens and Johanna Larsson beat Tatiana Bua and Daniela Seguel 7-6 (4) 6-4
Madrid (men): Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic beat Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan 6-4 6-2
Madrid (women): Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci beat Garbiñe Muguruza and Carla Suárez Navarro 6-4 6-3
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$4,000,610 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Rome, Italy, clay
$117,882 BNP Paribas Primrose, Bordeaux, France, clay
$2,328,050 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Rome, Italy, clay
$100,000 Sparta Prague Open, Prague, Czech Republic, clay
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$668,279 Open de Nice Côte d’Azur, Nice, France, clay
$643,571 Düsseldorf Open, Düsseldorf, Germany, clay
$226,750 Nürnberger Vesicherungscup, Nürnberg, Germany, clay
$226,750 Internationaux de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France, clay