By Bob Greene
Olympics (First Week)
Julia Goerges beat second-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska 7-5 6-7 (5) 6-4
Carla Suarez Navarro beat fifth-seeded Samantha Stosur 3-6 7-5 10-8
Steve Darcis beat sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych 6-4 6-4
Daniela Hantuchova beat 10th-seeded Li Na 6-2 3-6 6-3
Sam Querrey beat Ricardas Berankis 6-0 6-2 to win the Farmers Classic in Los Angeles, California, USA
Robin Haase beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-7 (2) 6-3 6-2 to win the bet-at-home Cup Kitzbühel in Kitzbühel, Austria
Bojana Jovanovski beat Julia Cohen 6-3 6-1 to win the Baku Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan
Evgeny Donskoy beat Marsel Ilhan 6-3 6-4 to win the President’s Cup in Astana, Kazakhstan
Maria Joao Koehler beat Marta Sirotkina 7-5 6-2 to win the ITF Women’s $100,000 tournament in Astana, Kazakhstan
Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor beat Alexandra Cadantu 6-2 6-3 to win the ITS Cup in Olomouc, Czech Republic
“It’s pretty cool being an Olympian. Being a tennis player is my dream, but being an Olympian is really something I never dreamed of. You see people like Michael Johnson and Dominique Dawes who do so great at the Olympics, and tennis isn’t the premier Olympic sport, so it’s cool to be a part of such great athletes.” – Serena Williams.
“It was amazing. When you are young, you watch the Wimbledon final, you watch all the brilliant matches here, and you say, ‘Maybe it will be my turn one day.’ It was amazing to step on the court, to see all the crowd. Of course it was different. It was the Olympics. You play tennis to play those matches, to play on those courts. Today was one of the best moments in my life.” – Steve Darcis, after upsetting sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych in first-round Olympic play.
“The biggest mistake I’ve made in a long time was entering the cafeteria. I didn’t walk out eating any food; I barely got an orange juice. It was quite funny. I didn’t sign any autographs; it was just pictures. I felt like a little statue. Everyone was coming up and asking for a picture politely. I have so many events I go to and people ask for pictures, but I’ve never been so happy to take pictures.” – Maria Sharapova, playing in her first Olympics.
“I played pretty aggressive and served well. I know if I play well it’s dangerous for anyone, and it was today, a lucky day.” – Julia Goerges, following her upset win over Agnieszka Radwanska.
“I was disappointed with the way I played in Beijing. I didn’t understand what the Olympics meant to me. I know how much that loss hurt me and I wanted to come here as well prepared as I could be. Today was a good start.” – Andy Murray, who lost to Taiwan’s Lu Yen-Hsun at Beijing, following his first-round victory at the London Games.
“I went into today’s final with nothing to lose. I was so positive. I was just trying to fight for every point and not thinking about winning or losing, just trying to play the best I can. It feels great to win my first title. I’m so glad I did it.” – Bojana Jovanovski, after winning the Baku Cup.
“I started a bit nervously, before calming down and winning. I’m happy I won here again. I don’t think many players have won here twice. It doesn’t happen too often nowadays. I’m very proud of that.” – Robin Haase, after successfully defending his title at Kitzbühel, Austria.
“When she was six weeks old she came to a Challenger, which we won, too. Maybe she could come with me more often.” – Julian Knowle, commenting on her one-year-old daughter Alicia watching him win the doubles in Kitzbühel.
Stanislas Wawrinka teamed with Roger Federer to win Olympic gold in the men’s doubles at the Beijing Games four years ago. Federer gave Wawrinka the honor of carrying Switzerland’s flag in the opening ceremonies at the London Games. Federer had carried the Swiss flag in Athens and Beijing. “I felt it was important to give someone else a chance,” Federer said. “I told Switzerland they should choose someone else, and they then chose my partner Stand, and I think it’s a great honor for him because I couldn’t have won Olympic gold without him, and everybody knows that. That’s why I think they chose the right guy.”
Wawrinka was one of eight tennis players who carried their country’s flag at the London 2012 opening ceremony. Others were Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, Novak Djokovic of Serbia, Max Mirnyi of Belarus, Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, Maria Sharapova of Russia, Horia Tecau of Romania and Stephanie Vogt of Liechtenstein.
Before London, only three women tennis players had been given the honor of carrying their nation’s flag in opening Olympic ceremonies: Anne Kremer of Luxembourg and Dally Randriantefy of Madagascar, both in Atlanta in 1996, and Claudine Schaul of Luxembourg at the 2004 Athens Games.
Steffi Graf is the only person to win a “Golden Slam” – all four Grand Slam tournaments and an Olympic singles gold medal in a calendar year, 1988. But Serena Williams and Roger Federer can achieve a landmark at this year’s London Olympics that no other tennis player in the Open Era has reached. If either Serena or Federer win the singles on the grass courts of Wimbledon, they would be the first player to win all four Grand Slam singles titles in a career along with both gold in singles and doubles at the Olympics. Graf’s husband, Andre Agassi, also has won all four major tournaments in his career along with an Olympic singles gold, that coming in Atlanta in 1996. Serena’s sister Venus has won Olympic gold in both singles and doubles, but has never won the Australian Open or the French Open. Serena and Venus are 10-0 as an Olympic duo, collecting gold medals at Sydney, Australia, in 2000 and Beijing, China, in 2008. Federer teamed with Stanislas Wawrinka to win the doubles gold four years at Beijing.
SEES “HIS DAY”
Steve Darcis pulled out his best tennis for the sport’s biggest stage, Wimbledon’s famed Centre Court. “It was the first time I had played on this amazing court,” the 28-year-old Belgian said. “When you’re young you watch Pete Sampras playing there and you think, ‘Maybe one day.’ Today, it was my day.” It was, indeed, as Darcis upset sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic 6-4 6-4 on the opening day of the London Olympic tennis competition. A Wimbledon finalist two years ago when he lost to Rafael Nadal, Berdych suffered his second straight upset loss on the grass court. Last month the Czech was ousted in a first-round Wimbledon match by Ernests Gulbis.
The grass courts at Wimbledon have become a nightmare for Agnieszka Radwanska. Ranked second in the world, the Polish star lost in the Wimbledon final three weeks ago to Serena Williams. When she returned for the London Olympics, the result was the same. This time, Radwanska fell to Germany’s Julia Goerges 7-5 6-7 (5) 6-4. Because of hail and heavy rain, the match was played under the roof on Centre Court, making it the first time Olympic tennis has been played indoors since the Stockholm, Sweden, Games of 1912. Goerges served 20 aces and hit 56 winners to shock Radwanska.
SECOND TIME’S A CHARM
Robin Haase might be from the Netherlands, but he’s feeling right at home in Kitzbühel, Austria. Ranked 42nd in the world, Haase has reached only two finals in his career. Both have come at Kitzbühel, and Haase has been successful both times. He defended his title this year by besting top-seeded Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-7 (2) 6-3 6-2. The Dutchman took control of the match following an hour-long rain delay with the two knotted at 1-1 in the second set. Kohlschreiber hurt his own cause when he double-faulted at set point down. Despite the loss, Kohlschreiber will move into the top 20 in the world in this week’s ATP rankings.
Don’t be surprised if they start calling the event Sam’s Club. For the third time in four years Sam Querrey has won the Farmers Classic in Los Angeles, California, USA, this time crushing Ricardas Berankis 6-0 6-2 in the title match. Querrey has now won 13 consecutive matches in the event, which is held on the UCLA campus. He won the tournament in 2009 and 2010 before missing last year’s event because of a right elbow injury. “I feel like I’ve always played well here and it all came together this week and especially today,” said Querrey, a California native. “I was just trying to focus on my game, my serve and forehand, and see if he could beat that.” The final was the shortest on the ATP Tour this year, lasting just 51 minutes and 14 games. Querrey broke the tournament record for fewest games lost, set by Jimmy Connors in 1982 when he dropped three games while beating Mel Purcell. A qualifier ranked 141st in the world, Berankis is the first player from Lithuania to reach an ATP World Tour final.
SPECTATING FIRST LADY
Michelle Obama could be the lucky charm for the Williams sisters. The American First Lady and her daughters, Sasha and Malia, were on hard in Washington, DC, USA, to watch Venus Williams help the Washington Kastles win both the mixed doubles and women’s doubles in its World Team Tennis match against the Boston Lobsters. After they left the venue, Venus lost her singles match to Boston’s Irina Falconi. But Michele Obama was in the player’s box at Wimbledon when younger sister Serena Williams captured her opening-round Olympic singles match by besting former world number one Jelena Jankovic of Serbia 6-3 6-1. “They asked me if I minded if she sat in my box, and I was like, ‘Of course not. Please. It would be my honor,” Serena said of the request by the First Lady. “I mean, I love Michelle. She’s so cool. I’ve met her several, several times. Seeing her there made me feel better and made me want to play better. After the match I gave her a thumbs up, just to acknowledge I knew she was there. Obviously it’s impossible not to see her.”
The First Lady wasn’t the only star personality sitting in the player’s box for Serena Williams’ first-round match. Michelle Obama was joined by a former Olympian gymnast Dominique Dawes, who was a member of the gold-medal winning “Magnificent Seven” at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
Irina Buryachok and Valeria Solovieva weren’t sure they wanted to travel to Baku, Azerbaijan, to compete in the Baku Cup. “Before the tournament we didn’t know if we even wanted to play,” Solovieva said. “But we had a lot of fun and didn’t really think about winning. We were just enjoying playing together.” It turned out they had a great time – and they wound up winning their first WTA title of any kind, beating the third-seeded team of Eva Birnerova and Alberta Brianti in the title match, 6-3 6-2. “We have good communication, we support each other great, and we have a great attitude.” Solovieva said. “Everything worked out and it has been a great week for both of us. We’re really excited to win the Baku Cup.”
The Olympic tennis at Wimbledon is one of the hottest tickets in London. Yet, television shows half-empty stands at the famed venue. That’s caused a government minister to say an urgent inquiry has been launched to identify just who is failing to show up for the tennis – and why. “It’s infuriating to see so many empty seats on TV. Surely it can’t be beyond the organizers to allow real sports fans to fill them up on a first-come first-served basis?” asked Ed Shorthose, a Londoner who has been trying for months to get tickets to the Olympics. An Olympics official told news agency Reuters it was unclear whether the empty seats at several events – including Wimbledon, swimming, gymnastics and basketball – had been allocated to sponsors, international federations and athletes’ families. “We are trying to find out who these tickets belonged to,” the unidentified official said. British Olympic Association chairman Colin Moynihan said one solution might be a 30-minute rule whereby fans would be allowed to take the vacant seats if spectators were late or did not arrive.
Astana (men): Konstantin Kvavchak and Denys Molchanov beat Karol Beck and Kamil Capkovic 6-4 6-3
Astana (women): Oksana Kalashnikova and Marta Sirotkina beat Lyudmyla Kichenok and Nadiya Kichenok 3-6 6-4 10-2 (match tiebreak)
Baku: Irina Buryachok and Valeria Solovieva beat Eva Birnerova and Alberta Brianti 6-3 6-2.
Kitzbühel: Frantisek Cermak and Julian Knowle beat Dustin Brown and Paul Hanley 7-6 (4) 3-6 12-10 (match tiebreak)
Los Angeles: Xavier Malisse and Ruben Bemelmans beat Jamie Delgado and Ken Skupski 7-6 (5) 4-6 10-7 (match tiebreak)
Olomouc: Inez Ferrer-Suarez and Richel Hogenkamp beat Yuliya Beygelzimer and Renata Voracova 6-2 7-6 (4)
Olympic Games: www.london2012.com/tennis/
San Marino: www.atpsanmarino.com/
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
Olympic Games, Wimbledon, Great Britain, grass
$1,049,760 Citi Open, Washington, DC, USA, hard
$100,000 Odlum Brown Van Open, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, hard
Olympic Games, Wimbledon, Great Britain, grass
$220,000 Citi Open, Washington, DC, USA, hard
$100,000 Odlum Brown Van Open, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, hard
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$2,648,700 Rogers Cup, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, hard
$104,694 San Marino Cepu Open, San Marino, clay
$100,000 Cal Open Tennis Championships, Aptos, California, USA, hard
$2,168,400 Rogers Cup, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, hard