By Bob Greene
Rafael Nadal beat Nicolas Almagro 6-4 6-3 to win the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell in Barcelona, Spain
Maria Sharapova beat Li Na 6-4 6-3 to win the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany
Lukas Rosol beat Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-3 6-2 to win the BRD Nastase Tiriac Trophy in Bucharest, Romania
Francesca Schiavone beat Lourdes Domínguez Lino 6-1 6-3 to win the Grand Prix De SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Marrakech, Morocco
“I feel very happy to lift the trophy once again here in Barcelona. It means a lot especially after the difficult year I’ve had. The conditions were very difficult today, especially in the first six games as it was raining a lot.” – Rafael Nadal, after winning the Barcelona title for the eighth time in nine years.
“With the rain, the ball got heavier and it wasn’t the same for me anymore. The speed went down and he was able to stay more in the point. I fought all week to be able to be in the final and I reached my goal. Once there, you want to win, so yes I feel a bit disappointed about it, but I need to look at it positively and it’s been a great week for me overall.” – Nicolas Almagro.
“We have faced each other so many times so there are really no secrets between us in our games. It’s not really about one thing we do well or don’t do well, you have to do a lot of things well on a consistent basis. It’s really about who goes out and executes best on the day.” – Maria Sharapova, after beating Li Na to win the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.
“Of course it’s sad when you lose in the final, but looking back at the whole week, it was the first clay court tournament of the year for me, so I’m happy to have reached the final here.” – Li Na.
“I will remember this week. It was very emotional for me and is something special. I found a way to beat some good players and succeed.” – Lukas Rosol, who won the BRD Nastase Tiriac Trophy.
“Today, I couldn’t play my game. I didn’t have enough power anymore. At the end, he was playing better than me.” – Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, following his loss to Lukas Rosol in the Bucharest final.
“It wasn’t Ferrer’s best match. He didn’t play his best tennis. He had the advantage over me because he’s been playing on clay. But I played very quickly and I didn’t make it easy for him.” – Dmitry Tursunov, after upsetting David Ferrer 7-5 3-6 6-1 in the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell.
“We dreamed about playing here together. We had a scare the last couple weeks with Horia being injured, so it could not have turned out better. We had unbelievable support from the crowd and Horia produced the best tennis for us to come through in this match. I’ve never been part of a doubles match with this kind of support.” – Max Mirnyi, who teamed with Horia Tecau to win the doubles in Bucharest, Romania.
“This title means a lot to me. It’s very special and you cannot compare it to any other title. Playing at home is always special and the atmosphere was great this week.” – Horia Tecau, after winning the BRD Nastase Tiriac Trophy doubles.
“Every week you win a tournament, it’s something special. We lost in the first round in our last two tournaments and we got through a tough first round here. We started to play better and better. Today was just a very good day.” – Alexander Peya, who won the doubles in Barcelona with Bruno Soares.
“It was a great week. It was very strange and different. We played in a lot of sun the first two matches and then had to wait three days to play in the semifinals. Today, we played two unbelievable matches. In the final, they played really well and fought hard. But we stayed positive and played our best at the end.” – Bruno Soares.
SAME OLD RAFA
The same old Rafael Nadal – the winning one – is back, and with a vengeance. After being sidelined with a left knee injury for seven months, the Spaniard has reached the final in all six events he has played and won four of them, most of anybody this season on the ATP World Tour. By beating fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro in the final, Nadal won the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell for the eighth time in nine years. “I’m very happy,” Nadal said. “It has been an important week for all the Spanish players here and especially for me. It is an enormous honor for me to win here again.” And again and again and again. The final didn’t start the way Nadal wanted as he lost his serve twice to fall behind 3-0. Almagro was able to win only one more game that set. The left-hander broke again early in the second set and steadily pulled away to beat Almagro for the 10th straight time and post his 39th consecutive win in Barcelona. So dominant is Nadal at Barcelona that he has won 80 of the 82 sets he has played in the tournament. “Rafa has shown once again why he is the best player in history on this surface,” Almagro said. “He is one of the greats on the tennis circuit and as Spaniards we are all very proud of him.”
She may have struggled to get to the title match in Stuttgart, Germany, but Maria Sharapova was dominating in the final as she blasted her way past Li Na in a battle of the last two French Open champions. “She was the second seed and someone who I had lost to the last time we played … so I knew it would be the toughest match of the tournament,” Sharapova said. “I really tried to do the right things from the beginning to the end and not have a letdown like I did in the other matches.” In all three of her previous matches, the top-seeded Sharapova was pushed to three sets. Li never stood a chance as the Russian right-hander burst out to a 4-1 double-break lead in the first set, then won the last four games of the match. “I think I really played my best tennis of the week today,” Sharapova said. Li agreed. “You never know what will happen when we play, it’s always 50-50, but today she was the better one,” Li said. Sharapova collected her 29th WTA title and extended her clay court streak to 16 consecutive matches, including Rome and Roland Garros last year. And while Li may have lost this time, the two finalists have some of the best records on the WTA tour. Sharapova is now 22-3 on the season, Li 20-4.
Lukas Rosol’s father died just 10 days before the final of the BRD Nastase Tiriac Trophy in Bucharest, Romania. When Rosol beat Guillermo Garcia-Lopez to win his first career ATP title, he dedicated the victory to his father. “I wanted to dedicate this trophy to someone, so I found the energy,” Rosol said. “I felt somebody was helping me from up top. It’s not just about me. My family has always supported me and my tennis.” Beating three seeded players on his way to the final, Rosol made quick work of his Spanish opponent, taking only 67 minutes to post the win. Among his victims during the week was three-time Bucharest champion Gilles Simon of France. Rosol saved all eight break points he faced to end Simon’s 16-match winning streak in the Romanian capital. “I felt match after match my dream was coming true,” the champion said.
Security was listed as the reason a series of Davis Cup matches scheduled to be held in Yangon, Myanmar, have been canceled. Ties in the Davis Cup’s Asia/Oceania Zone Group III and IV were to be held this week involving players from Muslim nations such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Iraq. However, anti-Muslim riots in Myanmar last month left at least 43 people dead and there was more religious violence last week. Lay Naing, the Myanmar Tennis Federation’s secretary, confirmed the International Tennis Federation (ITF) had voiced security concerns and said: “The other participating countries have also questioned our security.” The ITF website said a new date and venue for the round-robin international competition had not been determined. Countries competing in Group III include Cambodia, Hong Kong-China, Iran, Malaysia, Oman, Pacific Oceania, United Arab Emirates and Vietnam. Group IV nations include Bahrain, Bangladesh, Iraq, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Turkmenistan.
A Davis Cup Zone Group II tie between Pakistan and New Zealand held in Myanmar was halted and New Zealand was declared the winner because the referee said it was an unplayable court. Pakistan has disputed the referee’s decision and the ITF’s announcement is expected in early May.
STRAIGHT TO THE BANK
Prize money at Wimbledon will increase a record 40 percent this year, giving each of the singles champions a payday of USD $2.4 million. Last year’s winners – Roger Federer and Serena Williams – received USD $1.75 million each. Calling it the largest single increase and biggest total prize payout pot in tennis history, the All England Club said it will pay out USD $34.4 million, an increase of USD $9.9 million from last year. The prize money increase will also go to players who lose in the early rounds or in qualifying for the grass-court championships. A first-round loser will earn USD $35,800, up from USD $22,100 a year ago. The purse for qualifying will increase by 41 percent, while doubles players will receive a 22 percent increase.
STREET NAMED MULLOY
Four times Gardnar Mulloy won the men’s doubles at the US Nationals – now the US Open. And when he teamed with Budge Patty to capture the doubles title at Wimbledon 1957 at the age of 43, he became one of the oldest players ever to take a championship on the fabled lawns. Now 99 years old, Mulloy has had a street in Miami, Florida, USA, named for him. “I think it’s fantastic,” Mulloy said. “How many people have had a street named for them?” In 1952 he was America’s top-ranked player and singles runner-up in the US National Championships. He was a member of the United States Davis Cup team in 1946, 1948-50, 1952-53 and 1957.
Playing in their third final as a team, Max Mirnyi and Horia Tecau finally took home the champion’s trophy. It couldn’t have come at a better place for Tecau – the BRD Nastase Tiriac Trophy in Bucharest, Romania. “This title means a lot to me,” said Tecau, who was born in Brasov, Romania. “It’s very special.” The winning team was presented its trophy by Olympic icon and Romanian gymnastics hero Nadia Comaneci. And while it may have been the first title for the Mirnyi-Tecau team, it was not Tecau’s first win at home. He teamed with Robert Lindstedt of Sweden to capture the Bucharest doubles last year. In the final, Tecau and Mirnyi beat Lukas Dlouhy and Oliver Marach, who were making their team debut.
STRING OF ERRORS
Playing in his first clay-court tournament of the year, Dmitry Tursunov upset David Ferrer in a second-round match at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, 7-5 3-6 6-1. “It wasn’t Ferrer’s best match,” Tursunov said in an understatement. “He didn’t play his best tennis.” Like Tursunov, it was Ferrer’s first clay-court match of the season. He sustained a thigh injury in Miami, Florida, USA, where he lost a third-set tiebreaker to Andy Murray in the Sony Open final. It was the Russian’s 11th win over a Top 10 player in his career. “He had the advantage over me because he’s been playing on clay,” Tursunov said of Ferrer. “But I played very quickly and I didn’t make it easy for him. Ferrer was the favorite based on surface and ranking.”
It took nearly a year, but Italy’s Francesca Schiavone has finally won another tournament. The former French Open champion captured the Grand Prix De SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Marrakech, Morocco, beating Lourdes Domínguez Lino in the final. The last time Schiavone took home the biggest singles trophy was at the Strasbourg Open last May. “This was a great week for me after a long, very difficult period,” said Schiavone, who now has won six career titles. “I think my two toughest matches of the week were my first match against (Petra) Martic, a very talented young player, and of course today against Lourdes. I played a really complete game today. It’s never easy to play her.” Schiavone made it look easy, however. The sixth seed never faced a break point in the opening set. And, after dropping serve in the fourth game of the second set to trail 3-1, Schiavone broke her opponent’s next two service games to gain control. “To win here is a great start to the clay court season for me and inspires me to keep working hard,” Schiavone said. “I’m just enjoying playing for these crowds and giving the fans the best that I can give.”
To celebrate Billie Jean King’s straight-set victory over Bobby Riggs 40 years ago, the first and only viewing of the actual event telecast will be screened on July 14 at the Casino Theatre at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, USA. The historic telecast has been donated to the Hall of Fame for the one-time showing. King will introduce the broadcast footage, and then discuss her memories of key moments in the match, what the match meant to her personally and reflect on its lasting impact. More than 30,000 fans packed the Houston Astrodome and millions more tuned in from home to see the dramatic “Battles of the Sexes,” which King won 6-4 6-3 6-3. The screening will be the final event of the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s annual Enshrinement Weekend, when the Hall of Fame Class of 2013 will be inducted.
A stomach illness has forced Juan Martin Del Potro to pull out of this week’s Portugal Open, where he is the defending champion. “It’s a shame not to have the chance to defend the title,” Del Potro said in a statement. “I had a great time when I went to Estoril, the tournament staff are the friendliest on the circuit and make you feel at home. However, I must prioritize my health and listen to the doctor’s advice.” He is expected to be recovered enough to the Madrid Masters next week.
SET FOR EDGBASTON
Britain’s top two women players, Laura Robson and Heather Watson, have signed up to play the Aegon Classic at the Edgbaston Priory Club in Birmingham, Great Britain, in June. “I always enjoy the grass court season and I am excited to … play in front of a home crowd,” said Robson. “It’s fantastic preparation ahead of Wimbledon. Watson has been sidelined since being diagnosed with glandular fever after the Sony Open in Miami, Florida, USA, where she complained of burnout after losing in the first round. She hopes to return to action in time for the French Open, which begins its two-week run in late May, and then the grass court season.
Wimbledon will put a retractable roof on its Number One Court. The grass-court Grand Slam tournament installed a roof on Centre Court in 2009 so play can continue when rain halts matches on the outer courts. Philip Brook, chairman of the All England Club, said the design process for the Number One Court roof will begin shortly and the roof installed by 2019. Brook said that despite having roofs over two courts, Wimbledon is not planning to play late night sessions. “We are not trying to turn Wimbledon into an event for night time play,” Brook said. “Roofs over our stadia will continue to be used primarily in the event of wet weather.”
Citing personal reasons, Mardy Fish has withdrawn from next week’s Tallahassee Challenger tournament. The 31-year-old right-hander has been contending with heart trouble as well as anxiety issues. Fish played at Indian Wells, California, USA, his first event in six months. He then withdrew from the Sony Open in Miami, Florida, USA. He entered a couple minor-league USTA Pro Circuit events in an attempt to gain clay court experience. As the top seed, he lost his first-round match at Savannah, Georgia, USA, to Ruben Ramirez Hildalgo. Fish is currently ranked 42nd in the world, but he doesn’t have any points to defend until Wimbledon, where he reached the fourth round last year.
SERVING UP PORSCHES
Maybe it’s because 88 percent of people who buy Porsche cars are men. Whatever the reason, the first global endorser for Porsche will be a woman – Maria Sharapova. “This says a lot about her longevity and her brand power,” said her agent, Max Eisenbud. “To have a company like Porsche that is so high-end and so meticulous to allow her to stand next to their car says a lot.” Of course it doesn’t hurt that she has won the last two Porsches given to the winner of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany. “Maria is the perfect choice,” said Porsche CEO Matthias Mueller. “Her profile and charisma are an ideal fit for Porsche.” Ranked second in the world behind Serena Williams, Sharapova makes about USD $20 million a year in endorsements, more money than any other female athlete. She also has deals with Nike, Cole Haan, Evian, Tag Heuer and Samsung.
Barcelona: Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares beat Robert Lindstedt and Daniel Nestor 5-7 7-6 (7) 10-4 (match tiebreak)
Bucharest: Max Mirnyi and Horia Tecau beat Lukas Dlouhy and Oliver Marach 4-6 6-4 10-6 (match tiebreak)
Marrakech: Timea Babos and Mandy Minella beat Petra Martic and Kristina Mladenovic 6-3 6-1
Stuttgart: Mona Barthel and Sabine Lisicki beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Sania Mirza 6-4 7-5
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$537,109 Portugal Open, Oeiras, Portugal, clay
$537,109 BMW Open, Munich, Germany, clay
$125,000 Tunis Open, Tunis, Tunisia, clay
$111,351 Prosperita Open 2013, Ostrava, Czech Republic, clay
$100,000 Soweto Open, Johannesburg, South Africa, hard
$235,000 Portugal Open, Oeiras, Portugal, clay
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$4,404,383 Mutua Madrid Open, Madrid, Spain, clay
$125,000 Kunming Challenger, Kunming, China, hard
$5,273,930 Mutua Madrid Open, clay
$100,000 Open de Cagnes-Sur-Mer Alpes-Maritimes, Cagnes-Sur-Mer, France, clay