By Bob Greene
Agnieszka Radwanska beat Simona Halep 7-5, 6-0 to win the Brussels Open in Brussels, Belgium
Nicolas Almagro beat Brian Baker 6-3 6-2 to win the Open de Nice Côte d’Azur in Nice, France
Francesca Schiavone beat Alizé Cornet 6-4 6-4 to win the Internaionaux de Strasbourg in Strasbourg, France
Serbia beat the Czech Republic 3-0 to win the Power Horse World Team Cup in Düesseldorf, Germany
Rafael Nadal beat Novak Djokovic 7-5 6-3 to win the Internazionali BNL d’Italia men’s singles in Rome, Italy
“Today was one of those matches you want to keep in your mind for the rest of the season, because I couldn’t have played much better. Today was amazing. I am happy with my form, my tennis and my team. We will aim to keep working hard, so I play, in future, as I did today.” – Nicolas Almagro, after winning in Nice, France.
“It was a great week. Every time you go onto court you want to win. I am a competitor, I hate losing. But it has been an unbelievable week. I hoped to qualify at the start of the week and win a match or two before going to Roland Garros. Obviously I did much better than that.” – Brian Baker, a qualifier who lost in the Nice final.
“It’s a great feeling and I want to keep going this way. I’m happy again. I’m feeling the sensation of fighting and feeling the pain, and enjoying my game again.” – Francesca Schiavone, who won in Strasbourg, France.
“In principle, I will stop after the US Open. That’s the tournament where I have had my greatest triumphs and it is therefore very special to me. The (Arthur Ashe) stadium is about 45 minutes from our house in the United States and so my in-laws can be there.” –Kim Clijsters, announcing her pending retirement from tennis.
“We both played very solid. I was a bit lucky at the end of both sets. In the second set, his string broke on a very important point, but I felt I deserved to win. I was the better player today in the crucial moments of the match.” – Janko Tipsarevic, after helping Serbia capture the World Team Cup.
“I knew he was a bit more tired than me. I was using that and at the end I played good. I also want to thank Janko. He won all of his matches and he helped me a lot today with the pressure. I also want to thank Nenad and Miki. It was great.” – Viktor Troicki, a member of Serbia’s World Team Cup champions.
“It’s a huge accomplishment just to be here. The biggest challenge was to learn how to live with it and that the key is to be here and to try my best right now.” – Venus Williams, who was off the WTA Tour from the US Open until Miami, Florida, in March after being diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome.
“It’s the second title with (my daughter) Micaela now. Her birth put the tour and my career into perspective. I’m playing for my family now. It’s not more pressure, but it’s more fun. I’m happy to be traveling the world with the two people I love, Michelle and Micaela. I’m happy to make memories with them.” – Bob Bryan, who teamed with brother Mike to win the doubles in Nice.
“You can’t fake it out here. I move horrendously out here. My first step is just so bad on this stuff. I feel like I’m always shuffling or hopping or not stopping or something. My footwork on this stuff is really bad.” – Andy Roddick, after losing his first-round French Open match to Nicolas Mahut.
“I think its harder getting back than actually getting there in the first place. I had to work really hard. I feel like myself again and I’m enjoying competition. I’m just enjoying being out there and challenging top players and to be challenged as well. I think that’s what it’s all about.” – Ana Ivanovic, explaining her rollercoaster career since winning the 2008 French Open.
“When I walk on the court I don’t think whether I am young or old. The only thing I try to do is play well.” – Juan Carlos Ferrero, the 2003 Roland Garros winner who won his first-round French Open victory over Jonathan Dasnieres De Veigy.
“I went to practice today and mistakenly took Venus’s racquet bag. Thank goodness we use the same amazing racquet! Thanks Vee.” – Serena Williams.
“It’s a great feeling, just very nice. I love this tournament. Even before I won I always enjoyed coming here. It’s special atmosphere here, I’m really enjoying it.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova “ – Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2009 French Open women’s champion.
“I have nothing to lose. I have no points to lose. Last time I lost in the third round. If I was to lose in the first round, I would lose 90 points, so that’s peanuts. It’s not my favorite surface at the moment. Trust me, I’ll have more pressure at Wimbledon.” – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, following his first-round French Open victory.
“The first year they had it, there were only a few matches and it didn’t feel like the tournament had really started, it didn’t feel like it was happening with fewer players around. But now with a full schedule, it really feels like the first day of the event.” – Samantha Stosur, on beginning the French Open on a Sunday.
“It’s nice to be on a real clay court again and actually feel like you can play more clay court tennis. I think one of the things that’s probably annoyed a lot of people is that you’re on a clay court but you can’t play real clay court tennis.” – Samantha Stosur, the latest player to criticize the blue clay court used in the Madrid, Spain, tournament.
It has been a while since Francesca Schiavone has held the winner’s trophy. When the Italian beat Alizé Cornet in the final of the Internationaux de Strasbourg, it was her first title since she captured Roland Garros in 2010. In fact, it was the first time she has been in a final since the French Open a year ago, when she lost to Li Na. At Strasbourg, Schiavone didn’t drop a set en route to her fifth career WTA title, all but one coming on clay. “In this tournament, in the most important moments, I was there,” Schiavone said. “It has been a long time since I’ve felt that.” Cornet was playing in her first final since she won her only career title at Budapest in 2008.
SEES THE END
The US Open has been the high point of the career of Kim Clijsters. It will also be her farewell. Belgian news agency Belga reported that the 28-year-old Clijsters has confirmed that she will retire at the end of this year’s US Open. Clijsters retired the first time for more than two years, during which she was married and gave birth to a daughter. When she returned to the WTA tour, she captured America’s premiere tournament and became the first wild card entry to win a Grand Slam women’s singles title. She repeated at New York’s Flushing Meadow in 2010 – her third US Open crown – and added the Australian Open in 2011. Throughout her career she has been hampered by injuries, and had to pull out of the current French Open, a tournament she has never won although twice reaching the final. She plans on playing Wimbledon next month and the London Olympics – the tennis competition will be played on the Wimbledon grass courts. “The Olympic fever is starting to build,” Clijsters said.
SIXTH ROME TITLE
It took an extra day, but Rafael Nadal won the BNL Internazionali in Rom for the sixth time. The men’s final was delayed a day by rain, and when he finally took the court, the Spanish star knocked off top-ranked Novak Djokovic 7-5 6-3. The win was Nadal’s second in a row over Djokovic after suffering a seven-match losing streak to Serb, all coming in finals. Even though Nadal won, both players said the match would not impact on their French Open fortunes. “The match today was quite close, even if he won in straight sets,” Djokovic said. “I made unforced errors and I don’t think he played extremely well. I will go to Paris with confidence.” Nadal agreed. “I didn’t consider myself that good. I can do better,” he said. “You cannot expect to be perfect and your opponent is not going to be perfect all the time. When you are losing finals like I did last year, and one this year, you have to keep control of your emotions.”
For the second time in four years Serbia has come out on top at the Power Horse World Team Cup in Düesseldorf, Germany. Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki, who were part of the 2009 title-winning team, helped Serbia blank the Czech Republic 3-0 in the final. Tipsarevic beat Tomas Berdych 7-5 7-6 (8) before Troicki rallied to stop Radek Stepanek 2-6 6-4 6-3 to clinch the team title. Tipsarevic then teamed with Nenad Zimonjic to complete the clean sweep for Serbia.
SIGHT ON OLYMPICS
Venus Williams is keeping her eye on the London Olympics. After sitting on the sidelines from the US Open until Miami, Florida, USA, two months ago, the 34-year-old American is trying to be in a position to win a fourth and possible fifth Olympic gold medal. She won the singles in Sydney, Australia, in 2000 and captured the doubles gold medal with her sister Serena in Sydney and the 2008 Games in Beijing, China. Because of her illness, her ranking slipped to 134th in the world. Each nation can have a maximum of four tennis players at the Games, but none with a ranking over 56th in the world. After quarterfinal finishes in Miami, Charleston and Rome, Venus is currently ranked 53rd – the third highest-ranked American behind Serena and Christine McHale. Ranking places at the end of Roland Garros, where Williams didn’t play last year and therefore has no points to defend, will decide the Olympics lineup. “My main goal is the Olympics. If I reach that then I will be home free – you might not see me again,” Venus said. In Paris, Venus won her first-round match, coming from behind to beat Paula Ormaechea of Argentina 4-6 6-1 6-3.
Nicolas Almagro successfully defending his Nice Open title by beating American qualifier Brian Baker 6-3 6-2 in the final. It was Almagro’s second tournament win of the year and the 12th of his career. The 27-year-old Baker played in his first ATP final after missing almost six years and undergoing five surgeries, including three hip operations and one on his elbow. He returned to tennis last July, playing Futures events. “Baker lost the final today, but he is back, he is playing very good,” Almagro said of his opponent. “I think if he plays as he did this week, then he will win many, many tournaments.”
Brother Bob and Mike Bryan continued their winning ways at the Open de Nice Côte d’Azur, beating Olivier Marach and Filip Polasek. It was the third ATP World Tour title of the season for the American twins and their 78th career tour-level title. “We’re obviously very happy we came,” Mike Bryan said. “We’ve been playing well on the French Riviera the last few years. Our level improved with every match and we feel confident going into Roland Garros. We were up and down in the first set. We were down a break, so it was nice to fight back. I think we served well the whole week, especially today.”
SO CLOSE, SO FAR AWAY
Forgive Simona Halep if she feels she got trampled on the way to a title. The Romanian led 5-4, up a break and serving for the opening set in the final of the Belgian Open. That’s when Agnieszka Radwanska shifted into another gear. Radwanska ripped off the next nine games, including the final 10 points, to earn her third victory of the season, adding Brussels to the titles she earned in Dubai and Miami. Ranked third in the world, Radwanska now has 36 match wins this year, most on the WTA Tour. Halep has yet to win a title and is now 0-3 in WTA finals.
Spectators will get a rare chance to see Rafael Nadal being absolutely still. Actually, it’s not the Spanish tennis star, who is known for his mobility around the court, but a life-size statute of him that was unveiled at Madame Tussauds was museum in London. The wax figure shows Nadal preparing to carve a backhand slice. It took a team of 20 stylists, sculptors and artists working together for four months to complete the figure.
ATP World Tour statistics guru Greg Sharko notes that Rafael Nadal was perfect this year in winning three clay court tournaments before Roland Garros. Nadal won all 30 sets while capturing titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome. That’s the best the Spaniard has ever done, although last year he was 20-0 in clay court match play entering the French Open. But he won just two clay court events last year prior to Paris.
Novak Djokovic has ended his contract with Italian clothing company Sergio Tacchini International. The top-ranked Serb will now don Uniqlo clothing on and off the court after signing a five-year deal with the Japanese firm. Owned by Asia’s biggest clothing retailer, Fast Retailing Co., Uniqlo also sponsors Japan’s top male player, Kei Nishikori. According to the company, Djokovic will have design input into his own outfits.
Brussels: Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Sania Mirza beat Alicja Rosolska and Zheng Jie 6-3 6-2
Nice: Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan beat Olivier Marach and Filip Polasek 7-6 (5) 6-3
Strasbourg: Olga Govortsova and Klaudia Jans-Ignacik beat Natalie Grandin and Vladimira Uhlirova 6-7 (4) 6-3 10-3 (match tiebreak)
International Tennis Federation: www.itftennis.com
ATP World Tour: www.atpworldtour.com
WTA Tour: www.wtatennis.com
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
MEN and WOMEN
Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay (first week)
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay (second week)
$113,614 UniCredit Czech Open, Prostejov, Czech Republic, clay
Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay (second week)