Mondays with Bob Greene
Steve Johnson beat Thomas Bellucci 6-4 4-6 7-6 (5) to win the Fayez Sarofim & Co. US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas, USA
Borna Coric beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 5-7 7-6 (3) 7-5 to win the Grand Prix Hassan II in Marrakech, Morocco
Francesca Schiavone beat Lara Arruabarrena 6-4 7-5 to win the Claro Open Colsanitas in Bogota, Colombia
Marketa Vondrousova beat Anett Kontaveit 6-4 7-6 (6) to win the Ladies Open Biel Bienne in Biel, Switzerland
“I’m not thinking about retirement. I’m enjoying tennis.” – Francesca Schiavone, after winning the Claro Open Colsanitas in what she has said is her last year on the WTA tour.
“At first I asked for a qualifying wild card because I wasn’t sure if I could get in without one. Once I got into the qualies, I almost lost my first match. But I got better and better from there. I played so great the last few matches, so I’m really happy.” – Marketa Vondrousova, a 17-year-old qualifier who went on to win the Ladies Open Biel Bienne.
“I can think things through even when times are tough. I knew I just had to take a few deep breaths and just get enough going in my body to last another 5 to 10 minutes out there.” – Steve Johnson, who conquered cramps and Thomaz Bellucci to win the US Men’s Clay Court Championships.
“I wasn’t cramping, but I was so tired that I couldn’t think to win the match. He was a little bit worse than me (physically), but he was playing unbelievably.” – Thomaz Bellucci.
“It was a fun match because both don’t just hit straight across, but also slice and lob. They do a lot at the net, so it was a fun match to play.” – Hsieh Su-Wei, after teaming with Monica Niculescu to beat Martina Hingis and Timea Bacsinszky in the Ladies Open Biel Bienne doubles final.
STEVE JOHNSON A WINNER
Steve Johnson had just enough left in the tank to capture the Fayez Sarofim & Co. US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas, USA. The fourth-seeded American had played in the Miami Open before traveling to Australia for a Davis Cup tie, then back to the United States for the clay court tournament. “To win on US soil and win when you’re not feeling great is a testament to my willpower and competitiveness,” Johnson said after outlasting Thomaz Bellucci. “My body has just physically run out of gas after this week.” Johnson’s second ATP World Tour singles title came after he fought off cramps in the final set. “Coming in from Australia kind of put me behind the eight ball, and then the nerves of trying to close out the final, a lot of factors go into cramping,” he said. “I was very fortunate to get out of that.” The American double-faulted twice in a row to drop his opening service game in the final set. Then he began cramping to trail 2-4. Johnson responded by increasing the velocity on his forehand to shorten the points and eventually send the final set to a tiebreak. Johnson went in front 4-2 and increased his margin to 6-3. Bellucci responded with two winners to close to 6-5 before a forehand winner gave Johnson the victory.
In a battle of first-time finalists, a 17-year-old qualifier came away with the title at the Ladies Open Biel Bienne. Playing in only her second WTA main draw, Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic claimed the crown by stopping Anett Kontaveit in the final. “It’s the biggest win of my career because I’d mostly played smaller tournaments, 25Ks and 60Ks,” Vondrousova said, referring to USD $25,000 and USD $60,000 events. “This was one of my first big tournaments.” Vondrousova reached the title match after upsetting Annika Beck, Kristyna Pliskova and top-seeded Barbora Strycova. She continued her sparkling performance against Kontaveit, striking 28 winners to 26 unforced errors. “I was down 4-6 in the tiebreak,” Vondrousova said. “I got a bit lucky when she hit the net then, but it helped remind me to play my game, and it worked out from there. Thank God.”
Francesca Schiavone had not won a main-draw match this year before the Claro Open Colsanitas tournament. Playing in her final season, the veteran Italian now has her eighth career WTA title. “I’m very happy and emotional,” said Schiavone, who won the French Open in 2010. “I think she pulled a muscle and couldn’t run as well that she could, but I thank God that I could win the last three games.” Despite it ending in two sets, it was a tight battle. “There wasn’t a big difference between us. It was very close,” Schiavone said. By capturing the title, Schiavone notched her 600th career match victory. “It was a very good tournament for me here in Bogota,” the Italian said. “I felt very excited to be playing my game.”
SAVES 5 MATCH POINTS
Borna Coric is finally a champion. Playing in the Grand Pix Hassan II final for the second straight year, Coric survived five match points to win his first ATP World Tour title by edging Philipp Kohlschreiber in three sets. In his previous final appearances, Coric lost to Federico Delbonis in last year’s Grand Prix Hassan II and to Stan Wawrinka at the Chennai Open three months earlier. Kohlschreiber won the opening set and had five match points as Coric served to stay in the match. After forcing a third set, the 20-year-old Croatian fell behind again, only to win five of the last six games to seal the victory. “I would say that’s my biggest comeback, I’ve never saved five match points, especially in such an important match,” Coric said. “It’s an awesome feeling.”
SEES THE FUTURE
Agnieszka Radwanska is looking behind her on the WTA tour. The former world number two player says there’s a very good group of younger players who are ready to challenge the veterans. “Now I know what my opponents must have felt like back then,” she said of her entry into the professional tennis ranks. “I have to say the younger players on tour right now are dangerous. We talk about it among ourselves. ‘The kids are coming.’” Although ranked in the Top 10, Radwanska is finding it difficult to win this season. She was ousted in the second round at the Australian Open and didn’t advance further than the third round at Doha, Dubai, Indian Wells and Miami. “I think the new generation of players are just better than earlier in my career,” she said. “They really play smart. From a young age they’re already pushing to play tournaments and matches. They’re sacrificing a lot, but that means they’re very good when they’re 16 or 17.”
Preparing to return to the women’s tour after a 15-month ban, Maria Sharapova believes the International Tennis Federation (ITF) should have done more to inform her of changes in the banned drug list. The five-time Grand Slam tournament champion claims the ITF knew she was using the drug meldonium when she competed for Russia at the Fed Cup in November 2015. Meldonium became a banned substance on Jan. 1, 2016, and Sharapova was banned for testing positive at the Australian Open later that month. “Why didn’t someone come up to me and have a private conversation, just an official to an athlete, which would have taken care of the confidentiality problem they talked about later,” the 29-year-old Russian asked before admitting: “Ultimately the fault was mine. I had been getting clearance on everything I was taking for seven years and I became complacent.” The ITF says they did not know she was using the banned drug. Sharapova is scheduled to return to competition at the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany, next week.
Stepping down to an International Tennis Federation tournament didn’t change Eugenie Bouchard’s recent results. Once ranked as high as fifth in the world, the Canadian was dominated by Victoria Duval 6-0 6-3 in a quarterfinal match in a USD $80,000 tournament in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida, USA. “This is my first tournament after a year off,” said Duval, who was sidelined in 2014 when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. That was the year Bouchard reached the semifinals of both the Australian and French Opens. Duval’s run at the 12th annual Revolution Technologies Pro Tennis Classic ended in the semifinals when she lost to 15-year-old Amanda Anisimova. Veteran Olga Govortsova of Belarus won the title, outlasting the young American 6-3 4-6 6-3.
SWITCH IN SITES
The Memphis Open has moved to New York. Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment (BSE) announced it has bought the ATP World Tour event and will stage the tournament in Nassau Coliseum next February. The Memphis Open was one of the longest-running events on the tour and was the only indoor men’s tournament played in the United States. BSE also owns the Brooklyn Nets of the National Basketball Association.
Biel: Hsieh Su-Wei and Monica Niculescu beat Timea Bacsinszky and Martina Hingis 5-7 6-3 10-7 (match tiebreak)
Bogota: Beatriz Haddad Maia and Nadia Podoroska beat Veronica Cepede Royg and Magda Linette 6-3 7-6 (4)
Houston: Julio Peralta and Horacio Zeballos beat Dustin Brown and Frances Tiafoe 4-6 7-5 10-6 (match tiebreak)
Marrakech: Dominic Inglot and Mate Pavic beat Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez 6-4 2-6 11-9 (match tiebreak)
Monte Carlo: www.montecarlotennismasters.com/
Fed Cup: www.fedcup.com/en/
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
$4,935,940 Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, Monte Carlo, Monaco, clay
$125,000 2017 Santaizi Challenger, Taipei, Taiwan, carpet
$125,000 International Challenger China 2017 Qingdao, Qingdao, China, clay
$100,000 2017 Elizabeth Moore Sarasota Open, Sarasota, Florida, USA, clay
$115,000 Biyuan Cup Zhengzhou Women’s Tennis Open, Zhengzhou, China, hard
World Group Semifinals
United States vs. Czech Republic at Wesley Chapel, Florida, USA, clay
Belarus vs. Switzerland at Minsk, Belarus, hard
World Group Playoffs
France vs. Spain at Roanne, France, clay; Russia vs. Belgium at Moscow, Russia, clay; Germany vs. Ukraine at Stuttgart, Germany, clay; Slovakia vs. Netherlands at Bratislava, Slovakia, clay
World Group II Playoffs
Italy vs. Chinese Taipei at Barletta, Italy, clay; Romania vs. Great Britain at Constanta, Romania, clay; Serbia vs. Australia at Zrenjanin, Serbia, hard; Canada vs. Kazakhstan at Montreal, Quebec, Canada, hard
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$2,762,920 Barcelona Open Banco Sabadell, Barcelona, Spain, clay
$573,209 Gazprom Hungarian Open, Budapest, Hungary, clay
$150,000 Kunming Challenger, Anning, China, clay
$710,900 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, Stuttgart, Germany, clay
$226,750, TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Cup, Istanbul, Turkey, clay
$100,000 Hotspring Peninsula ITF, Anning, China, clay