By Bob Greene
Kaia Kanepi beat Peng Shuai 6-2 7-5 to win the Brussels Open in Brussels, Belgium
Albert Montanes beat Gael Monfils 6-0 7-6 (3) to win the Open de Nice Côte d’Azur in Nice, France
Juan Monaco beat Jarkko Nieminen 6-4 6-3 to win the Power Horse Cup in Düsseldorf, Germany
Alizé Cornet beat Lucie Hradecka 7-6 (4) 6-0 to win the Internationaux de Strasbourg in Strasbourg, France
“My first thought was ‘What bad luck!’ I wanted to win and move ahead in the tournament and improve my ranking, and playing against someone like Federer is going to make that difficult. But as I thought about it more … I tried to appreciate it.” – Pablo Carrenbo Busta, a qualifier who, making his Grand Slam tournament debut, lost to Roger Federer 6-2 6-2 6-3.
“It was a difficult second set where I had match point in many games but just couldn’t finish it. I was playing really well until 62- 5-2, but I’ve had problems like this before. I just kept trying to pump myself up and not get too negative about losing the situations I had earlier.” – Kaia Kanepi, who hung on to defeat Peng Shuai and win the Brussels Open.
“Kaia played really well – heavy shots and big serves. I tried my best but it was just really hard against her. I thought I could come back at 5-all but she broke me again and held serve. I’m happy I made it to the final again here though. It was a really good week for me.” – Peng Shuai.
“No doubt the fact that I came here with no pressure, just happy to play, taking it day-by-day and match-by-match, helped me win this week.” – Albert Montanes, who beat Gael Monfils to win in Nice.
“It’s very exciting. We’ve been playing together for six or seven months now and we’ve been seeing improvements all the time. Now that we’ve actually won our first title, all the emotions come out. I’m very pleased to win my first title and we’re definitely getting better as a team.” – Raven Klaasen, who teamed with Johan Brunstrom to win the doubles in Nice, France.
“It’s a final, so there was a little bit of tension. But we handled it well and actually came out playing some of our best tennis. We were extremely aggressive, got the early break and we kept the momentum for most of the match.” – Johan Brunstrom.
“It would have been nice to win the whole thing here, but I made a final on clay for the first time in 10 years. That’s pretty cool for me. My body feels good going into Paris.” – Jarkko Nieminen, who lost to Juan Monaco in the final in Düesseldorf, Germany.
“It’s my home town. I live 20 minutes from this club. It’s a very special moment for us, especially me. Winning a title like this in Germany is just awesome.” — Martin Emmrich, who team with fellow German Andre Begemann to win the doubles in Düesseldorf, Germany.
“I’m overwhelmed. I can’t describe my feelings right now, because it’s always special to play in front of my dad and all my family.” – Andre Begemann.
“It’s disappointing, but I obviously didn’t come here with massive expectations.” – Lleyton Hewitt, a former world number one, after losing to Gilles Simon in a five-set, first-round match at Roland Garros.
“Last year was an unbelievable tournament, the best tournament of my life. But I don’t want to think about that. I just want to come here and play another tournament. I try to concentrate on my tennis, not too much about last year. – Sara Errani, last year’s Roland Garros finalist after winning her opening match this year.
“It feels great to get a win. My other win was on this court, too, so that’s the only court I can win on here.” – Sam Querrey, following his first-round win, only his second main draw victory in seven trips to the clay courts of Roland Garros.
STOPPED IN PARIS
This time it was the older Williams sister who was ousted in the opening round of the French Open. In a hard-fought battle that last 3 hours, 19 minutes, Poland’s Urszula Radwanska outlasted Venus Williams 7-6 (5) 6-7 (4) 6-4 on the first day of the year’s second Grand Slam tournament. Last year, Serena Williams was upset in the first round at Roland Garros. A seven-time Grand Slam tournament winner, Venus Williams has now suffered two first-round losses in the last four major events. Her defeat at Wimbledon last June was the first time she had lost that early since falling in the first round of the Australian Open in 2006 and her first opening round defeat in Paris since 2001.
The younger sister of the tournament’s number four seed, Agnieszka, Radwanska broke Venus 11 times in her 17 service games. Last year, Venus lost in the second round at Paris to Agnieszka. “Yeah, of course I was talking with Aga about Venus,” Urszula said. “I was well-prepared for this match, and I knew she was a great fighter, so I should be focused the whole match.”
STRONG SERENA START
Serena Williams wasn’t going to lose in the opening round at Roland Garros two straight years. She made sure she wouldn’t repeat last year’s shocker when she clobbered Anna Tatishvili of Georgia 6-0 6-1 on the first day of play at the French Open. The world’s top woman won 30 of the first 37 points to begin the match and finished her romp by winning 56 of 78 points. The 31-year-old American also continued her use of foreign languages on her European tour. When she won the tournament in Madrid, she thanked the crowd in Spanish. She did the same in Italian when she won in Rome. Following her Roland Garros first-round success, the wowed the crowd by speaking French in her on-court interview. “I actually decided last year that I would speak French in the post-match interview on court – but it didn’t work out for me (last year),” Williams said. “I have been speaking French for years and years, but I don’t have a lot of confidence. I just had to jump in. Once I get warmed up, I know how to say things. But it’s way, way more nerve-wracking than playing tennis.”
When Roger Federer captured his first-round match at Roland Garros on Sunday, he moved closer to joining three members of the International Tennis Hall of Fame in number of matches won. Federer’s victory over Spanish qualifier Pablo Carreno Busta was the 897th of his career. The only players who have surpassed the 900 mark are Jimmy Connors, with 1,243 match wins; Ivan Lendl, 1071, and Guillermo Vilas, 924.
Federer’s 897th match win was a 6-2 6-2 6-3 bashing of Spanish qualifier Pablo Carreno Busta, who was playing in his first Grand Slam tournament. Federer lost only seven points on his first serve and was broken just once.
Alizé Cornet finally took home the big trophy and check at the Strasbourg International. Last year the French woman finished runner-up at the clay-court warm-up event for Roland Garros. This time she captured the title by defeating Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic 7-6 (4) 6-0. It wasn’t as easy as the second-set score indicated. “It was a very tight first set – we were both serving very well and we didn’t break each other much,” Cornet said. Hradecka broke Cornet in the 11th game and served for the set, only to have Cornet break right back. “In the tiebreak it came down to just one or two points, and then in the second set it went way faster because everything she had been putting on the lines in the beginning started to go out,” the winner said. “And I’m happy I was able to win the second set 6-0 because I was starting to get very nervous.” Hradecka said the key point in the tiebreak was when she double-faulted at 4-5. “Everything just turned around from there,” the Czech said.
Albert Montanes had planned on a week at home. Instead, he wound up capturing his sixth career title, this time at the Nice Open. “I was not supposed to play here in the first place,” the Spaniard said. “I was in my hometown, 200 kilometers from Barcelona, with friends when I found out I was entering the main draw last Saturday night. So it’s pretty incredible that I am here now with the Nice trophy.” Montanes defeated French wild-card entry Gael Monfils in the title match. Monfils was appearing in his second straight final since returning to the ATP World Tour following an injury layoff. “I knew I could defeat Gael and today I was very solid the entire match, hitting very deep and playing well in the crucial points,” said Montanes, who has beaten Monfils four times in their five career meetings. “I tried my best today, but I faced a better player than me and I want to congratulate him for his title,” Monfils said. “I tried different things, but it didn’t work. He was just better than me. I played a lot of matches in the past two weeks and I felt maybe a bit tired physically and mentally.”
Juan Monaco found his game just in time for the year’s second Grand Slam tournament. The Argentine beat Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen to win the inaugural Power Horse Cup in Düesseldorf, Germany, a clay-court warm-up for Roland Garros. Until Düesseldorf, Monaco had won consecutive matches at only three tournaments this year, but he did not drop a set in winning the eighth title of his career. Nieminen has never won an ATP World Tour clay-court tournament.
Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi survived a rocky end as she won her fourth career WTA tournament at the Brussels Open. The champion took a big lead, then had to put down a strong late-match challenge by China’s Peng Shuai, who has yet to win on the women’s major circuit in five career finals. “This win gives me confidence and I feel good going to Roland Garros,” the 27-year-old Kanepi said. The Estonian led 6-2 5-2 before Peng battled back, winning three straight games. Kanepi then broke her Chinese opponent again before serving out the victory. Because of an unusually cold and wet week, both players had to win semifinal matches earlier in the day. The eighth-seeded Peng defeated Romina Oprandi of Switzerland 6-4 2-6 6-4 and Kanepi downed American Jamie Hampton 7-6 (6) 6-4. The two were given a few hours rest before they played the final. Kanepi also had to win two matches the day before the final. “It has been a really tough week because wind and weather and cold,” she said.
Watch out! Serena and Venus Williams are playing doubles at the French Open for the first time in three years. The sisters received a doubles wild card, allowing them to play in the event they won in 1999 and in 2010. This will be on the fourth time the two will have played women’s doubles in Paris, as they lost in the third round in 2009. The Williams sisters have won 13 Grand Slam tournament doubles titles together, along with four mixed doubles titles – Venus one-half of the winning team at the Australian Open and Roland Garros, while Serena capturing Wimbledon and the US Open. Serena has won 15 Grand Slam tournament singles titles, while Venus has captured seven. Roland Garros will be only their second doubles event of the year. They lost in the Australian Open quarterfinals in January.
SITTING IT OUT
Two players ranked in the top seven in the world won’t be playing at this year’s French Open. Reigning US Open champion Andy Murray pulled out with a chronic back injury. So, too, did Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 US Open winner. He has a respiratory virus.
Also missing this year’s clay court Grand Slam tournament will be Americans Brian Baker and Mardy Fish and Australian wild-card entry John Millan. Baker is still recovering from a right knee operation and Fish has been sidelined with heart problems. Millan withdrew with a shoulder injury.
Roger Federer says he won’t be there when Switzerland meets Ecuador in the Davis Cup playoffs in September. The 31-year-old Federer was criticized for being unclear about his Davis Cup plans when he skipped a first-round loss against the Czech Republic in February. The Swiss star said he spoke with Swiss federation president Rene Stammbach earlier this month and again by telephone before making his decision. The Switzerland-Ecuador Davis Cup playoff tie will be held in Neuchâtel, Switzerland.
When they play the Statoil Masters Tennis at London’s Royal Albert Hall in December, taking the court will be Great Britain’s Tim Henman, who won the event in 2011. “There’s nowhere in the world quite like the Royal Albert Hall to play tennis, it’s a wonderful venue with a great atmosphere because we get fantastic crowds every year,” Henman said. “I can’t wait to play there again.”
The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum (ITHoF) has become the first sports hall of fame to receive accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the highest professional achievement in the museum industry. AAM Accreditation indicates that the accredited museum is operating at the highest level of museum professional standards and that it demonstrates a commitment to excellence in all that it does: governance, collections stewardship, public programs, financial stability, and continued institutional improvement. Of the nation’s estimated 17,500 museums, just over 1,000 are accredited. The ITHoF is the second sports museum (American Museum of Fly Fishing) and the second hall of fame (Country Music Hall of Fame) to achieve the distinction.
Andy Roddick will soon be on the other end of a microphone. The retired star has been hired to be co-host of Fox Sports Live, a three-hour news, opinion and highlight show that will air nightly. The show will debut when the network launches on August 17. Roddick will join Charissa Thompson, who will soon leave ESPN for Fox, Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole. The 30-year-old Roddick said he will appear on Fox Sports Live between Monday and Friday, working either four or five nights, depending on the week. Scott Ackerson, Fox Sports executive vice president of studio production, described Roddick’s role as being a part of “an intelligent discussion of athletes that can take any shape or form.” Roddick still plays tennis occasionally and has an equity stake in World Team Tennis where he will be playing for the Springfield, Missouri, USA, franchise in July.
SOME BIG CHANGES
Roland Garros will be undergoing some big changes. French Open officials say they are planning to build a retractable roof over center court and add night sessions to the clay-court Grand Slam tournament. Officials unveiled details of the USD $440 million project, which will also include a new 4,850-seat show court and redesigned outer courts. The federation plans to pay for all but USD $26 million of the costs, with the city covering the remainder. Building permits are to be filed in two months and construction could begin in 2015. The center court roof would be installed in 2018 as part of the final phase of construction.
SECURITY FOR NEW LEAGUE
A new tennis league in Asia will feature former and current players, including Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Li Na. Three-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker is joining doubles star Mahesh Bhupathi and former player Justin Gimelstob in founding the International Premier Tennis League, which will consist of mixed teams in various Asian cities. A player draft will be held in January 2014 in Melbourne, Australia, with play expected to start in December 2014. Others who have already signed up for the league include Pete Sampras, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki. Cities under consideration to run franchises include Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Jakarta, Manila, Bangalore, Calcutta, Doha and Dubai. “There is a couple of important criteria,” Bhupathi said. “The first is that they have to have an international airport, security, stadium size, so we have a mandate.”
A former high school tennis coach who was featured in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd,” is dead at the age of 80. Sue Clark led the Tucson, Arizona, USA, High School’s girl tennis team to 213 consecutive wins between 1958 and 1972. The Badgers didn’t lose a match for 14 seasons. She was teaching at Tucson High School in 1958 when principal Andy Tolson urged her to take over the girls’ tennis program on a temporary basis. Though Clark had no coaching experience, she proved an instant success. “My first year, we took state by one point,” she told the Arizona Star in 2011. “After that, they stopped looking. And I was there for 13 more years.” In 14 years, the Badgers won every divisional championship, 11 state crowns and one state co-championship. Clark was named the Arizona Daily Star’s coach of the year in 1967, becoming the first woman to win the award. She left Tucson High after the 1972 season, then spent one season coaching at Sabino High School, retiring as a teacher in 1989.
Brussels: Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Kveta Peschke beat Gabrela Dabrowski and Shahar Peer 6-0 6-3
Düsseldorf: Andre Begemann and Martin Emmrich beat Treat Huey and Dominic Inglot 7-5 6-2
Nice: Johan Brunstrom and Raven Klaasen beat Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah 6-3 6-2
Strasbourg: Kimiko Date-Krumm and Chanelle Scheepers beat Cara Black and Marina Erakovic 6-4 3-6 14-12 (match tiebreak)
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)
$137,725 UniCredit Czech Open, Prostejov, Czech Republic, clay
$110,000 Carta BCC Citta’ di Caltanissetta, Caltanissetta, Italy, clay
Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay (second week)
$100,000 Open Féminin de Marseille, Marseille, France, clay