By Bob Greene
Mondays with Bob Greene
Simona Halep beat Petra Kvitova 6-2 6-2 to win the New Haven Open at Yale inNew Haven,Connecticut,USA
Jürgen Melzer beat Gael Monfils 6-3 2-1 retired to win the Winston-Salem Open atWakeForestinWinston-Salem,North Carolina,USA
“I want to be in this tournament. I want to live the dream. This isn’t about money or politics. It’s about tennis.” – Adel Borghei, an Iranian tennis referee who is not being allowed to officiate at the US Open because of US sanctions againstIran.
“I played very beautiful tennis today. I was enjoying every moment.” –Simona Halep, after beating defending champion Petra Kvitova to win the New Haven Open.
“It was the first time for me to defend a title and be in the final, so that’s actually a good sign for me. I’m just going to take the positives from this because I had some really great matches here.” – Petra Kvitova, who lost in the New Haven Open final.
“Nobody wants to win a final like that. You want to be out there competing, but at the end of the day you take the title.” – Jürgen Melzer, who won the Wake Forest Open when Gael Monfils retired with an injury.
“We didn’t start the tournament too well, winning a couple of what you might call ugly matches. But we kept getting better with each match. It was great to play our best match in the final.” – Sania Mirza, who teamed with Zheng Jie to win the doubles inNew Haven.
“I’m definitely really excited. Every time I lose, I get so pumped afterwards. I just feel that way. I just feel like now I’m ready; now I’m prepared. I almost needed that to take my game to a new level.” – Serena Williams, when asked how losing to Victoria Azarenka in Cincinnati would motivate her at the US Open.
“It gives you great confidence, of course, but I always think the new week is the new story. You can always take the best out of what happened last week and even six months ago, and I will definitely take that into consideration, but US Open, Serena, number one player in the world, defending champion here – we all kind of start from zero. What’s important is to build from match to match and just improve.” – Victoria Azarenka, on how much her win over Serena has added to her confidence going into the US Open.
“It’s the second year coming back to the site of where I had my best tennis moment. So no matter what lead-up you’ve had, however you feel, you can walk in here and think, ‘This is pretty cool,’ and relive all those great memories and hopefully make them all happen again.” – Samantha Stosur, on returning to the site of her US Open victory in 2011.
SUCCESS ANY WHICH WAY
Jürgen Melzer will take a title anyway he can get one. His latest came when Gael Monfils retired with a painful left hip. However, Melzer was leading 6-3 2-1 when the Frenchman called it quits. “He’s such a great player, so I was trying to focus on my things that I’ve been doing well this week,” Melzer said. “I was trying to be aggressive and go to the net as much as I could. The game before he retired he was serving really slowly and I missed a lot of returns because I knew if I broke him it could be the end, and you get a little tight.” Ranked as high as seventh in the world in July 2011, Monfils has had an up-and-down career because of injuries. He has raised his ranking this year from 119th in the world to 39. He received medical treatment for a strained left abdomen during his semifinal. “After about 50 minutes, I tried to serve at full speed, and that was it,” Monfils said. “I felt like something snapped a little bit and it was really painful. It was tough to continue.” It was Melzer’s fifth career ATP title and first since the 32-year-old won atMemphis,Tennessee,USA, last year.
Simona Halep could be a dark-horse entry in this year’s US Open. The 21-year-old Romanian dominated Petra Kvitova to win the New Haven Open in preparation for the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. Halep has now won four career titles – all in the last three months. Counting qualifying, she is now 31-5 in her last 36 matches. “I’m just enjoying every match,” Halep said in an understatement. “I try my best and I’m more aggressive now. I hit the ball stronger than before. I just take pleasure and I’m relaxed on court.” Not so her opponent. Kvitova was the defendingNew HavenOpen champion and 2011Wimbledonwinner. She had a chance early in the match when was up 2-1, 15-40 on Halep’s serve. Halep won the next three points to hold serve. In the next game, Halep broke her opponent to begin her dash to the title. “She played just really good shots in that moment,” Kvitova said. “That was the turning the match around, I think.” It didn’t hurt that Halep committed just five unforced errors in the match – four coming in the first set – and converted four of her five break points. The Romanian will also move into the top 20 in the world rankings for the first time.
First Lady Michelle Obama talked tennis during Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day at the US Open. There to promote her “Let’s Move” campaign, Mrs. Obama said she urged her daughters to take up the sport so they won’t struggle at the game the way she does as an adult. The first lady applauded a USTA initiative to install 5,000 new kid-sized tennis courts across the country and train 15,000 new coaches, trainers and teachers over a three-year period, beginning in 2014. Leading a national campaign to get children more active and eating healthy meals, Mrs. Obama told fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium that tennis, which has created new kid-friendly courts, racquets and balls to make the game more accessible to young players, is a great way for children to say active. The first lady was introduced by Serena Williams. Mrs. Obama also paid tribute to Billie Jean King, who was in attendance, saying the former player is “a living legend who has meant so much to me, so much to women, so much to young people and young athletes all over this country.”
Novak Djokovic proved to be a winner at anotherNew York Cityinstitution. The world’s top-ranked male player took time away from his US Open preparations to speak at the United Nations, where he encouraged youngsters to follow in his path. The 26-year-old Serb told the UN General Assembly that he was inspired to play tennis by watching American great Pete Sampras. “I dreamt of being just like him, the number one tennis player in the world,” Djokovic said. “It took me 13 years to achieve my goal. I hope this international day will motivate each of us to invest in every way additional efforts in cultivating the intrinsic sporting values such as fair play, teamwork and respect for the opponent. Sport can help direct general attention to the most at risk and vulnerable in our community, especially disadvantaged children. When we encourage kids to dream big and work hard, we can make a tangible difference in their lives.”
Saying she wants to finally cure inflammation in her right shoulder, Maria Sharapova pulled out of the US Open. “I have done everything I could sinceWimbledonto get myself ready, but it just wasn’t enough time,” Sharapova said in statement on her Facebook page. “I have done many tests, received several opinions and it all comes down to taking the proper amount of time to heal my shoulder injury properly. It’s certainly not an easy decision to make ahead of one of my favorite tournaments, but I know it’s the right one that will get me back on the courts soon. I plan on taking the next few weeks off, receiving proper treatment and rehabilitation.” The 26-year-old Russian won the US Open in 2006 and said withdrawing from the year’s final Grand Slam tournament was “a really tough decision to make.” She was the tournament’s number three seed, a spot now taken byPoland’s Agnieszka Radwanska, with everyone behind her in the seedings moving up one place.
It was the old guys who came out on top in theWinston-SalemOpen. Playing together for just the second time in their long careers, Daniel Nestor and Leander Paes won their first ATP World Tour team title by besting Treat Huey and Dominic Inglot in the title match. Both Nestor and Paes are 40 years old. Their debut as a team came 19 years ago at The Queen’s Club, where they lost in the first round. Two of the most successful doubles players of all time, Nestor has won 81 tour-level titles and Paes 52. The elderly pair lost just one set all week, and when they beat Paul Hanley and John Peers in the quarterfinals, it meant Nestor had become the first doubles player to reach 900 wins. He now has a 902-358 career match record. It was the first title in 2013 for either player. “There are two things that really stand out for me this week,” Paes said. “One was to get Danny to his 900th win. That’s a phenomenal career that he’s had. It was a real honor to be on the court with him, getting him to that spot. … Through the whole week, we played some really tough opponents and getting to win the tournament with someone who’s a legend is really something special.”
The hottest player on the ATP World Tour is Rafael Nadal. A victory at this year’sUSOpen would put him in third place on the men’s list for most Grand Slam tournament titles and could boost him into the number one spot in the world rankings. Nadal enters the year’s final major event with a perfect 15-0 hard court record, including Masters 1000 titles in Indian Wells,MontrealandCincinnati. By winning in Montreal and Cincinnati, the Spaniard won the Emirates Airline US Open Series. “To be here winning two previous Masters 1000 is something great,” Nadal said. “Last year I watched this event on the TV. This year I have the chance to be here. That’s great. All of that is fantastic for me. Now I have a chance to be ready, to compete with the right attitude, you know, try my best in every moment. I can lose, I can win, but only thing that is sure is I am practicing with the best I have, and I am going to compete with all I have.” Currently ranked second in the world, Nadal could moved past Novak Djokovic if he reaches the final and Djokovic falls before the quarterfinals, or if Nadal wins the title and Djokovic loses in the semifinals or earlier. “If I am not number one, it still will be an amazing season for me,” Nadal said. “This tournament is going make a big difference.”
It was injuries that brought Sania Mirza and Zheng Jie together. It was their play that made them the New Haven Open champions. “I was playing with Bethanie (Mattek-Sands) this year. She was playing with Nuria (Llagostera Vives),” Mirza said, explaining how the two got together. “Nuria got hurt. Bethanie got hurt. I was looking. We had played together in Brusselsearlier this year and made the semis. We knew we could play well together.” Their first title came in their fourth event as a team. Now they are looking forward to teaming up at the US Open. “I think this is a good start and gives us big confidence for the US Open,” Zheng said. “We are looking forward to playing together as long as possible.” The two have been successful before pairing up. New Havenwas Mirza’s 17th WTA doubles title and third this year. Zheng has won 15 WTA doubles titles, and each player had wonNew Haven previously, Mirza with Mara Santangelo in 2007 and Zheng with Yan Zi in 2006.
SET FOR ISTANBUL
Victoria Azarenka has qualified for the season-ending TEBBNPParibas WTA Championships, which will be held inIstanbul,Turkey, in October. The top eight singles players and top four doubles team will compete inIstanbulfor a record USD $6 million and the most prestigious title on the WTA calendar after the Grand Slam tournaments. Azarenka has won three titles this year, including her second straight Australian Open crown, and has posted a 36-4 record going into the US Open. Ranked second in the world behind Serena Williams, Azarenka has qualified for the season finale for the fifth time. She reached the final in 2011, falling to Petra Kvitova, and the semifinals last year, where she lost to Maria Sharapova.
An accelerated heartbeat has forced Mardy Fish to withdraw from this year’s US Open. The 31-year-old has played only eight matches on the ATP World Tour this year and had to quit midway through the third set against Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen at a warm-up tournament in Winston-Salem,North Carolina,USA, because of heat stroke. “Friends, unfortunately my health won’t allow me to compete this year at the US Open. Thank you for all your support,” the former top-10 player Tweeted. Last year Fish reached the fourth round at the US Open before handing Roger Federer a walkover, saying he had to withdraw for “precautionary measures” on doctor’s orders. He was sidelined for six months before returning to the tour at Indian Wells,California, in March.
Japan’s Ayumi Morita withdrew from the women’s singles draw with a lower back injury. Her spot in the draw was taken by “lucky loser” Olivia Rogowska ofAustralia.
The chief executive of Tennis Australiais stepping down after eight years on the job. Steve Wood will be replaced by Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley. Under Wood’s tutelage, Australian tennis has been put on firm financial footing and the Australian Open has been strengthened. “It has been an incredible time,” Wood said in a news release. “We have achieved so much. I think the platform has been established and it is now time for an intensified push to reinvigorate every element of Australian tennis.” Wood said the reason he is stepping down is he wants to take a break.
The New Haven Open at Yale tournament, a WTA event, began as a men’s event in 1990, but now faces an uncertain future. Its five biggest sponsors are in the final year of their three-year deals. Despite declining attendance, the tournament director, Anne Worcester, says ticket revenue actually increased over last year, and she is optimistic sponsorship deals will be finalized to keep the event in New Haven.
Just as the players were preparing for the start of the quarterfinals at the New Haven Open, a fire alarm forced a brief evacuation of theConnecticutTennisCenter. Tournament spokesman Matt Van Tuinen said the alarm was triggered by smoke from some cooking being done in the players’ lounge shortly beforenoon. The evacuation lasted less than 15 minutes and affected mostly players, staff and media. There were few fans in the building at the time because of a steady rain.
STOPPED BY POLITICS
You could say politics has officially been introduced into this year’s US Open. But more accurately it should be said politics has intruded into the officiating at the US Open. Adel Borgehei traveled to theUnited Statesto work as an official at the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. But he’s fromIran, and United Stateslaw will not allow Iranians to work in this country. The New York Times reported that Borghei received an approval letter in May, obtained a visa and made travel plans. He was to have worked the US Open qualifying matches. But Borghei was informed by an e-mail sent on behalf of US Tennis Association director of officials Rich Kaufman that US law prevented them from retaining the services of a resident ofIran, a note that included an apology and a hope that he might be able to work at a future Open. The 32-year-old Borghei has worked seven Wimbledon tournaments and an Australian Open final among referee or umpire duties in more than 30 nations. He could appeal and potentially receive permission to work at the tournament before the event concludes on September 9 with the men’s final. “This should not be about politics,” Borghei said. “That’s what I have a problem here with. I don’t want to talk about politics. But they are mixing up politics and sports.”
STAMPED FOR GREATNESS
The first African American to win a Grand Slam tournament title is on aUnited Statespostage stamp. Althea Gibson is on a commemorative US Postal Service stamp in its Black Heritage series. Gibson broke tennis’ color barrier in the 1950s as the first black entrant. She won Roland Garros in 1956 and bothWimbledonand the US Championships – now the US Open – in 1957 and 1958. She was voted Female Athlete of the Year by The Associated Press in both 1957 and 1958. In all she won 11 Grand Slam tournament titles, including six doubles, and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. She died of cancer in 2003 at the age of 76. In the early 1960s she also became the first black player to compete on the women’s professional golf tour. Gibson is the first female athlete with a stamp in the Postal Service’s Black Heritage series.
In December, Rafael Nadal will have a new racket – playing poker. According to Czech media, Nadal will participate in his first live poker tournament after devoting himself to the game when a knee injury last summer knocked him off the tennis court for several months. Nadal is expected to participate in the European Poker Tour inPraguefrom December 8-18, according to Dnes newspaper, which quoted online gambling company Pokerstars. It is the first time the Spanish star will have played “offline” in a tournament, but not his first connection with poker. Nadal appears in advertising for Pokerstars and has previously participated in online events for the company.
Two young Florida residents – Jessica Korda and Morgan Pressel – helped represent the United Statesat the 2013 Solheim Cup golf tournament. Both have tennis connections. Korda is the daughter of former Australian Open champion Petr Korda, while Pressel is the niece of American baseliner Aaron Krickstein.
The US Open mixed doubles will have an odd pairing. Yasmin Schnack and Eric Roberson won the 2013 US Open National Playoffs – Mixed Doubles Championship to earn a wild card into this year’s final Grand Slam tournament. Schnack and Roberson are acquainted with some of today’s top players. Schnack was ranked 140th in the world in doubles in 2012 after winning six USTA Pro Circuit and ITF Circuit doubles titles. She also played World TeamTennis for the Sacramento Capitals and teamed with Vania King in doubles atWimbledon last year. This year she has spent more time with her family, but plays the USTA Pro Circuit events occasionally. Roberson defeated John Isner en route to the doubles final of the USTA Boys’ 16s National Championships in 2001.
New Haven: Sania Mirza and Zheng Jie beat Anabel Medina Garrigues and Katarina Srebotnik 6-3 6-4
Winston-Salem: Daniel Nestor and Leander Paes beat Treat Huey and Dominic Inglot 7-6 (10) 7-5
US Open: www.usopen.org
ATP World Tour: www.atpworldtour.com/
International Tennis Federation: www.itftennis.com
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
MEN & WOMEN
US Open,New York,New York,USA, hard (first week)
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
US Open,New York,New York,USA, hard (second week)
$113,721 AON Open Challenger,Genova,Italy, clay
US Open,New York,New York,USA, hard (second week)