Mondays with Bob Greene
Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal 4-6 6-3 6-3 to win the Internazionali BNL d’Italia men’s singles in Rome, Italy
Serena Williams beat Sara Errani 6-3 6-0 to win the Internazionali BNL d’Italia women’s singles in Rome, Italy
Julien Benneteau beat Steve Johnson 6-3 6-2 to win the BNP Paribas Primrose in Bordeaux, France
Heather Watson beat Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 7-6 (5) 6-0 to win the Sparta Prague Open in Prague, Czech Republic
“Beating Rafa on clay is definitely a confidence booster. Let’s hope it’s something I can take into Roland Garros.” – Novak Djokovic, following his victory over Rafael Nadal in the final in Rome.
“Rome now is the past for me.” Rafael Nadal.
“I’m like a fine wine, I guess – at least my tennis is. My game gets better with age.” – Serena Williams, who at age 32 won her third Italian Open title.
“I’m sorry. You were unbelievable all week. I tried to do my best and stayed on the court only for you.” – Sara Errani, speaking to the crowd after she played the entire final after injuring her left thigh music in the opening set.
“I think this week is important for me. ,,, I was able to play in another final here. I was able to compete well against one of the best players of the moment. I arrive to Roland Garros now more encouraged than how I felt a few weeks ago.” – Rafael Nadal.
“It’s always nice to go back-to-back. I think the way we have been winning, we have shown a lot of resilience and we have dealt with situations that arise in matches. I think it is good going into a Grand Slam and if we keep that up at Roland Garros – because nothing is easy – and are mentally tough as we are now, we will give ourselves a chance to win.” – Daniel Nestor, after teaming with Nenad Zimonjic to win the Italian Open men’s doubles.
“We were down in both sets and played some great games to get back in the match. The whole week was completely different to Madrid, where we started really well and did not lose a set. We had a tough draw this week, with really good opponents, but found a way to win. We saved a match point in the first match and match point in the semifinals. It was very, very difficult.” – Nenad Zimonjic.
“It was a special day, but it was also a very difficult day for me. I tried my best but I couldn’t do anything more with the injury, so it ended up being a sad day for me in the end.” – Sara Errani, who suffered a thigh injury and lost the title matches in both singles and doubles.
STOPPING THE KING
Novak Djokovic left the King of Clay chocking in his red dust in Rome in the last major stop before tennis heads to Roland Garros and the year’s second Grand Slam tournament. The Serb defeated Rafael Nadal for the fourth straight time, but only for the fourth on clay in their 41 career matches. And Djokovic has won eight of the last nine sets the world’s top two ranked players have contested. “Let’s hope it’s something I can take into Roland Garros,” Djokovic said of his victory in Rome. “It’s been a great week considering where I was a few weeks ago with the wrist injury.” Djokovic injured himself at the Monte Carlo Masters last month and missed the Madrid Masters. Against Nadal, the Serb dropped serve twice as he lost the opening set. After that he was dominant. “I tried to be aggressive from the beginning to the end,” Djokovic said. “It didn’t work at the start but I didn’t change the game plan and I found the right rhythm and everything started going in.” Nadal was seeking his eighth title in Rome; instead Djokovic won his third and 44th of his career. It was Nadal’s third clay-court loss of the season – the first time that’s happened in a decade – and raised questions about his chances at Roland Garros where he has been almost unbeatable. “I have to start thinking about Roland Garros next week, and if my chance of playing well in Paris wasn’t very high a few weeks ago, now I think that I have a better chance,” Nadal said.
Serena Williams captured the Italian Open women’s singles title for the second straight year and the third time in her career. Her victim was local favorite Sara Errani, who reached the title match of her country’s biggest tournament for the first time, becoming the first Italian to play in the final since Raffaella Reggi in 1985 – before Errani was born. Unfortunately Errani pulled a muscle in her left thigh in the eighth game of the first set and never won a game after that. “Sara played really well in the first set,” Williams noted. “She was doing everything right and I could tell she had obviously improved since our last meeting in Paris last year. It was unfortunate she got injured in the last game of the set, but overall I thought she was playing really well out there.” Of course, Williams played better – much better. She is 53-2 on clay since the start of the 2012 clay season, losing only in the first round of the 2012 French Open and the first round at Charleston this year. Serena has won 60 titles in her career, just seven shy of sixth-place Billie Jean King on the all-time list. The five highest on the all-time list for most WTA titles are Martina Navratilova, who won 167 titles; Chris Evert, 154; Steffi Graf, 107; Margaret Court, 92, and Evonne Goolagong, 68.
SUPPORT FOR SERBIA
Torrential rain and catastrophic flooding in his native Serbia has been on Novak Djokovic’s mind while he went on to win the Italian Open. After he beat Canada’s Milos Raonic in the semifinals, Djokovic and countryman Nenad Zimonjic invited fans to meet him in the stands to take a group photo with a banner that read: “Support Serbia and Bosnia.” The two players also wore stickers during their respective matches bearing the same message. In what is being called the worst flooding in more than a century in Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina, the death toll has risen to more than 20. Thousands have also been evacuated from towns under threat of rising flood waters. “I’m following it as much as I can,” Djokovic said. “I am on the phone, following the news online. A flood like this hasn’t been seen in the history of my country. It’s a total catastrophe of biblical proportion. Half of the country is in danger, not having electricity, mobilization, and we are talking about cities not small villages.” Djokovic won the singles title while Zimonjic teamed with Canadian Daniel Nestor to capture the doubles crown.
After he beat Rafael Nadal to win the singles title, Djokovic drew a heart on the red clay with his racquet. “This heart on the court is for you,” Djokovic, speaking in Italian, told the fans during the victory celebration. “It’s also a special dedication to my country, which is suffering a lot right now. My heart is with them.”
Victoria Azarenka is still suffering from her left foot injury and will miss the French Open. “Unfortunately I will not be able to compete in Roland Garros this year. Working hard on my recovery & getting back on the court,” the former top-ranked player said on Twitter. Azarenka hasn’t played a tour match since Indian Wells, California, USA, on March 7. The Belarus star has won the Australian Open twice and been runner-up at the US Open twice.
Britain’s Heather Watson will enter the French Open qualifying with a new title under her belt. Watson beat Anna Schmiedlova in the final to capture the Prague Open and move back to the world’s top 100 rankings. Watson won the ITF tournament – a tier below the WTA tour – 7-6 (5) 6-0. It was a busy final day for Watson, who also beat Hungary’s Timea Babos 7-6 (3) 6-3 in a semifinal match. Rain had delayed play on Saturday.
SET FOR NEWPORT
Three Hall of Famers and a recently retired one will play an exhibition doubles match on Sunday, July 13, before the final of the International Tennis Hall of Championships is held. Participating in the grass-court exhibition match will be Monica Seles, Tracy Austin, Gigi Fernandez and Jill Craybas. The exhibition will be the first women’s tennis event played in Newport in many years and will be held the day after the Class of 2014 enshrines are inducted into the tennis shrine. The enshrines are former world number one Lindsay Davenport, wheelchair tennis champion Chantal Vandierendonck, coach Nick Bollettieri, tennis industry leader Jane Brown Grimes and tennis broadcaster and historian John Barrett.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum in Newport, Rhode Island, USA, has broken ground on the first project of a USD 15.7 million capital campaign and improvement project. “This is the largest, most exciting project the International Tennis Hall of Fame has ever taken on,” said International Tennis Hall of Fame chairman Christopher Clouser. “The Hall of Fame welcomes thousands of tennis fans from all over the world each year. Our goal within this project is to make the Hall of Fame a must-see international destination for all tennis fans, and to ensure that the facility is an asset to our local community.”
Bordeaux: Marc Gicquel and Sergiy Stakhovsky beat Ryan Harrison and Alex Kuznetsov, walkover
Prague: Lucie Hradecka and Michaella Krajicek beat Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Safarova 6-3 6-2
Rome (men): Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic beat Robin Haase and Feliciano Lopez 6-4 7-6 (2)
Rome (women): Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik beat Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci 4-0 retired
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$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
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
MEN & WOMEN
Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay (first week)