Mondays with Bob Greene
26 May 2014
“I remember saying I wanted to win a WTA this year, so I’m going to have to find another goal now.” – Monica Puig, after winning the title in Strasbourg, France.
“This is kind of like a stepping stone for me. Winning a WTA title is, of course, a goal I’ve had, and I’m so happy to accomplish it, but I still want to achieve more – more titles, bigger titles.” – Eugenie Bouchard, who won the Nürnberg Versicherungscup, her first WTA title.
“I am really happy to win here. My next goal is to be Top 10, even Top 8. I think if I play well in the Grand Slams, I have a good chance. It’s tough to kick out somebody from the top as there are a lot of good players, but I am working on it.” – Ernests Gulbis, following his victory in Nice, France.
“It was great that I could handle the pressure as top seed. I had some tough and tricky opponents this week, so I am very happy to have won. I gained a lot of confidence. I play some of my best tennis in Germany, where I have great support. The crowd gave me extra motivation and helped me when I got nervous.” – Philipp Kohlschreiber, who beat Ivo Karlovic to win the Düsseldorf Open.
“It was a good week. I didn’t expect five matches here, so I am very happy to have reached the final.” – Ivo Karlovic, after losing the Düsseldorf title match.
“It’s been a great experience to play with him. He is a great player overall and he returns really, really well. We both played very good all week – and especially today. We both served well the entire match. It’s been a wonderful week here in Nice.” – Philipp Oswald, after teaming with Martin Klizan to win the doubles in Nice, France.
“It’ll be whenever it’s right, basically. For me, it’s not about rushing into something. It’s about getting it right, getting the right person. Until that’s the case, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing with the guys I’m working with.” – Andy Murray, saying he is close to getting a new coach to replace Ivan Lendl.
“There is no right way to end a relationship that has been so important to two people. The problem is mine. The wedding invitations issued at the weekend made me realize that I wasn’t ready for all that marriage entails.” – Rory McIlroy, calling off ending his engagement to Caroline Wozniacki just days after sending out wedding invitations.
Monica Puig had never won a WTA tournament before the Strasbourg, France, clay-court warm-up event for Roland Garros. Now the Puerto Rican goes into the French Open as a champion after beating Spanish qualifier Silvia Soler-Espinosa. The 20-year-old Puig, who had never been beyond the quarterfinals in a WTA event before Strasbourg, joins Garbiñe Muguruza, Tsvetana Pironkova, Kurumi Nara, Caroline Garcia, Donna Vekic, Carla Suarez Navarro and Eugenie Bouchard as first-time WTA titlists this year. “I woke up this morning and I felt it,” Puig said. “I felt I was going to do something amazing. It was one of those feelings where you just know it’s going to happen, and I played some of the greatest tennis I’ve ever played.” Puig not only held all nine of her service games, she was never even pushed past 30 in any of them. She surrendered a total of just nine points on her serve, and two of those were on double faults. In contrast, she was able to break Soler-Espinosa’s serve three times in the match, including the opening game and the final game of the day. “I was very focused and very poised on the court, and I’m very happy how things went,” Puig said. “I just went on the court and felt it was my moment. I just had to go there and take it.”
STUMBLING, BUT SUCCESSFUL
Ok, so it wasn’t perfect. But it was a win for Eugenie Bouchard, who overcame some second-set hiccups to win the Nürnberg Cup. “I love clay now,” the 20-year-old Canadian joked after winning her first WTA tournament. Prior to Nürnberg, Bouchard had lost her last three matches on clay. She led Karolina Pliskova 6-2 4-2 when things stopped going right. Bouchard lost four straight games and the second set as she had problems with her serve toss. But Bouchard regrouped and closed out the victory 6-3. “Today it was important to just keep at it,” she said. “She’s a great player and she can be very dangerous at times, so I’m really glad I stayed with it and kept fighting for it during the third set.” It was the first pro title for a Canadian woman in the last 26 years: Aleksandra Wozniak was victorious in Stanford, California, USA, in 2008. The only other Canadians to win WTA titles in the Open era were Patricia Hy-Boulais, Carling Bassett, Helen Kelesi and Jill Hetherington.
SUCCESS ON CLAY
Ernests Gulbis kept alive his streak by winning the Open de Nice Côte d’Azur title – and this time it was on clay. In his career, Gulbis has played in six finals, and has won each time. But when he knocked off Federico Delbonis it was the Latvian’s first clay-court crown. “I really like the South of France,” Gulbis said, “I’ve repeated it many times, I think I will be coming here on vacation and I think you are going to see me a lot around this area.” Gulbis dropped just three points on his first serve – and none in the first set – and finished with nine aces. “He played well, I didn’t start the best way and he broke me twice,” Delbonis said. “In the second set I gave my best, it was more equal. I had my chances but couldn’t take them because he served well.” Gulbis defeated defending champion Albert Montanez in the semifinals and improved to 12-4 on clay courts this year. He also won in nearby Marseille, France, in February.
Philipp Kohlschreiber proved his seeding was right on target as the top seed captured the Düsseldorf Open, stopping Ivo Karlovic in the final. “It’s simply great,” Kohlschreiber said. “It’s one of the nicest feelings in tennis to win a tournament. You don’t get the chance that often.” But the 30-year-old German was playing at home. Four of his five titles have been on German soil, and his last before Düsseldorf was in Munich in 2012. “At the beginning he played unbelievably well,” the huge-serving Karlovic said. “I was struggling a little bit with a back problem, so I couldn’t hit as hard as I normally do.” Karlovic opened the match by winning the first game. But Kohlschreiber captured the next five games, losing just five points on his serve in the 28-minute opener. In the second-set tiebreaker, Kohlschreiber grabbed a 6-2 lead before hanging on for the victory. Seven of the nine sets the pair has played have been decided with a tiebreak.
Serbian tennis players opened up their wallets to help their flooded homeland. After defeating Rafael Nadal in the Italian Open, Novak Djokovic dedicated his victory to Serbia, then donated his entire check from the tournament – worth USD $749,934 – to relief efforts. “I’m trying to contribute in my own way,” Djokovic said. “These are very critical times for our country and our people. But we’re being united and this win and this trophy is dedicated to them.” Djokovic wasn’t alone. Jovana Jaksic organized a collection point at the Serbian Tennis Federation in Belgrade and spent a day collecting food, water and clothes for those in Serbia and Bosnia affected by the disaster. “I really wanted to do something to help my country after this terrible disaster,” Jaksic said. “There are so many people in need of basic supplies so it was really important to me that I tried to do something for them. We had so many people come with donations, too. It was a long but very special day.” Also providing help with the tragedy were Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic. While floodwaters began to recede in Serbia and Bosnia, the damage caused by the historic floods could cost billions to repair.
Martin Klizan and Philipp Oswald can’t agree on the time it took to sign up for the doubles in Nice, France. But they know exactly how long it took for them to win the final and capture the title. “We entered the doubles 10 minutes before the deadline,” Klizan said when the tournament ended. Oswald said, “Martin and I literally agreed to play 15 minutes before the deadline.” The two broke serve five times to earn their first ATP World Team doubles title by beating the top-seeded pair of Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi. “I think we’ll play together in tournaments in the future,” Klizan said.
When Santiago Gonzalez and Scott Lipsky win a semifinal, the tournament trophy is just a victory away. The two improved to 7-0 in finals as a team when they captured the Düsseldorf Open by defeating Martin Emmrich and Christopher Kas. “It was a really close match,” Lipsky said. “There were a lot of break points both ways. Each of us won a set and we played a very good 10-point (match) tiebreak, getting out to a big lead and that helped us. We won the tournament, so it’s a very good week for us going into Roland Garros.” Gonzalez and Lipsky also won the Portugal Open three weeks earlier. Gonzalez is 9-2 overall in finals, while Lipsky is 12-5 in title matches.
After sending out wedding invitations, Rory McIlroy ended his relationship with Caroline Wozniacki, saying he “wasn’t ready for all that marriage entails.” The golfer issued a statement confirming his intentions and wished his ex-fiancée well. “I wish Caroline all the happiness she deserves and thank her for the great times we’ve had. I will not be saying anything more about our relationship in any setting,” he wrote. The two athletes had been dating for more than two years. Their engagement was originally announced at the end of last year.
SEARCH ALMOST OVER
Andy Murray says he is close to having a new coach. The reigning Wimbledon champion has been searching for a replacement for Ivan Lendl after the two ended their two-year partnership. During his time with Lendl, Murray captured the men’s Olympic singles gold medal, the US Open and Wimbledon. Murray said he has talked to the person who he wants as his new coach, although no deal has been made. “There’s always a few complications, but as long as the desire from both people is to work together, then hopefully it can happen soon,” Murray told the BBC. The announcement of the new coach is expected to come prior to the pre-Wimbledon tournament at Queen’s Club. “I wouldn’t expect anything over the next few days, obviously,” Murray said just before the start of Roland Garros. “I’m not in a panic to get someone, but it’s a lot closer than it was.”
The “Woodies” – the legendary Australian doubles pair of Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde – will receive the highest accolade the International Tennis Federation gives – the Philippe Chatrier Award – at the ITF World Champions Dinner in June. The award, named after the former ITF president, was introduced in 1996 and is awarded each year for outstanding contributions to the game of tennis. Woodbridge and Woodforde become the first doubles team to receive the award. Between 1990 and 2000, the Woodies won 11 Grand Slam tournament men’s doubles titles and a total of 61 tournaments. They are the only men’s team to win five straight Wimbledon titles, from 1993-1997, and hold the Open era record of six championships. The won the Olympic gold medal at Atlanta in 1996 and a silver at Sydney four years later. They compiled a Davis Cup record of 14-2 together. Both have been inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Others who have received the Philippe Chatrier Award include Rod Laver, Margaret Court, Neale Fraser, Billie Jean King, John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova.
It was an extremely rough beginning for the top seeded players at the Strasbourg International. Five of the top six players failed to get past the opening round. Top-seeded Sloane Stephens was eliminated by Julia Goerges 6-3 6-2 the same day Camila Giorgi outlasted second-seed and defending champion Alize Cornet 6-4 1-6 6-3, and sixth-seeded Bojana Jovanovski was stunned by qualifier Mirjana Lucic-Baroni 6-4 6-0. Those upsets came the day after third-seeded Kirsten Flipkens fell to Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan 6-2 6-7 (3) 6-3 and fifth-seeded Elena Vesnina was ousted by Casey Dellacqua 7-5 3-6 6-3. The highest seeded player to reach the second round was fourth-seeded Andrea Petkovic of Germany, who bested French wild-card entry Pauline Parmentier 6-3 6-4.
Anabel Medina Garrigues will be play her final singles match at Roland Garros. After 15 years on the WTA tour, the 31-year-old Spaniard will play only doubles after her stay in Paris. In singles, she has been ranked as high as 16th in the world. Medina will be playing in her 13th French Open, where in 2007 she made it to the second week before losing to Ana Ivanovic. “I really wanted to come to Paris, even if I had to go through the qualifiers, because it’s a very special tournament for me,” Medina said. “I’ve also decided that it will be my last singles tournament as I’m going to concentrate on doubles from now on.” Medina teamed with Virginia Ruano Pascual to win the women’s doubles at Roland Garros in both 2008 and 2009. Medina has won 10 of her 11 singles titles on clay and is tied with Serena Williams for most clay-court titles among active players.
SET FOR NEWPORT
Nicolas Mahut will be returning to Newport, Rhode Island, USA, to defend his title at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships. Joining Mahut in the field will be Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus and Nick Kyrgios of Australia, both of whom received wild-card entries into the ATP World Tour event. Last year, inclement weather forced Mahut to play four matches in 24 hours as he captured both the singles and doubles titles. Already in the tournament are top-ranked American John Isner and Australian great Lleyton Hewitt. The tournament, which is held immediately after Wimbledon, is the only grass-court event in either North or South America.
SIGNED FOR QUEEN’S CLUB
Britain’s top three players will be in the field for the Aegon Championships, which will be played at The Queen’s Club. Dan Evans, Britain’s second-ranked player, and third-ranked James Ward were given wild cards into the June 9-15 grass-court tournament. The country’s top player, Andy Murray, will be back to defend the title he won last year. Also receiving a wild card was Marcos Baghdatis, who has had success on grass in the past and has been ranked as high as eighth in the world. The field also includes sixth-ranked Tomas Berdych, 2011 runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 12th-ranked Grigor Dimitrov and four-time winner Lleyton Hewitt.
On the Aegon Championships’ final day, Andy Murray will participate in a mixed doubles match as part of Rally For Bally, with British tennis coming together in memory of Elena Baltacha, who recently died of liver cancer. Mixed doubles matches will also take place on June 15 at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham and the Aegon International in Eastbourne. The proceeds will be split between the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis and the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.
The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Men’s Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame has seven new members. The Class of 2014 includes players Matt Anger (University of South California), Juan Farrow (Southern Illinois-Edwardsville) and Alex Kim (Stanford; coaches Billy Chadwick (Mississippi), Timon Corwin (Kalamazoo) and James Wadley (Oklahoma State), and contributor Doug Conant. Before his college career, Anger was the world’s top-ranked junior player and won the Wimbledon junior boys in 1981. He currently is the head men’s tennis coach at the University of Washington. A three-time national collegiate singles champion, Farrow was ranked number one in juniors in both 1971 and 1973. Conant was a four-year letterman at Northwestern. As president and CEO of Campbell Soup Company, he was instrumental in helping orchestrate Campbell’s title sponsorship of the ITA College Tennis Rankings program and the ITA College Tennis Player of the Year award.
Düsseldorf: Santiago Gonzalez and Scott Lipsky beat Martin Emmrich and Christopher Kas 7-5 4-6 10-3 (match tiebreak)
Nice: Martin Klizan and Philipp Oswald beat Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi 6-2 6-0
Nürnberg: Karolina Pliskova and Michaella Krajicek beat Raluca Olanu and Shahar Peer 6-0 4-6 10-8 (match tiebreak)
Strasbourg: Ashleigh Barty and Case Dellacqua beat Tatiana Bua and Daniela Seguel 4-6 7-5 10-4 (match tiebreak)
International Tennis Federation: www.ITF
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
MEN & WOMEN
Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay (first week)
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay (second week)
$145,242 UniCredit Czech Open, Prostejov, Czech Republic, clay
Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay (second week)
$100,000 Open Féminin de Marseille, Marseille, France, clay