Annacone

Excerpt from Roger Federer: Back On Top due out Oct. 31,2012.

Roger Federer went through a few coaches for a bunch of different reasons, before locating Paul Annacone, including Peter Carter, Darren Cahill, Jose Higueras and Tony Roche.

But perhaps it was out of necessity – or a bit of desperation – that Federer and Annacone attempted a relationship.

Of course, people might define “desperation” differently. At the time Annacone was hired in a “test period,” as Federer said, Federer had won Wimbledon six times, the US Open five times, the French Open once and four Australian titles.

But in 2010, he lost at Wimbledon in the quarterfinals to Tomas Berdych and to Robin Soderling in the French quarters, dropping Federer to – gasp – No. 3 in the world. It was his lowest ranking in seven years.

And so on came Annacone, 47 at the time as Annacone worked out the remainder of his contract as men’s head coach at the Lawn Tennis Association in Great Britain.

Annacone was no stranger to coaching. He was the former coach to Pete Sampras and British great, Tim Henman. In the days that followed Annacone’s hiring, let’s just say Annacone seemed more excited about the opportunity.

“I’ve been looking to add someone to my team and I’ve decided to spend some days with Paul Annacone,” Federer told his website.

Annacone, meanwhile, told the New York Times, “Sometimes, I wake up and go ‘Wow’, and I do feel kind of blessed to have had this opportunity. But I think part of my good fortune, I hope, is because of my work ethic and personality and the perspective that I view the game with and the history I have soaked up as a bit of a sponge in the last 25 years.”

Annacone was ranked as high as No. 12 in the world during his playing days and was subsequently put in charge of player development for both the United States Tennis Association and the British Lawn Tennis Association. Big jobs.

Yet Annacone’s hiring on the Federer team was historic. It made him the deli meat in the sandwich of two of the most significant eras of tennis in the history of the game. He got to work with Sampras and Federer, after all, who won Grand Slam events like the Yankees win the World Series.

Annacone was a net-rushing player before a herniated disk in his back cut short his career. One of the characteristics in both Sampras‘ game and Henman‘s game was the ability to move forward, thereby giving him an appeal to Federer at the time. Clearly, Federer wanted to end points sooner as he pushed past 30. That was never more evident than at Wimbledon this year and especially in the final against Murray.

“It’s important to question yourself, and that’s what I’ve always been doing since I got to world No. 1 in 2004,” Federer said after losing in the French Open in 2010.

It was nothing new to Annacone to prove himself. He took over as Sampras’s coach on an interim basis in March 1995, when Sampras’ coach Tim Gullickson became ill. Sampras was already No. 1, but with Annacone’s support won eight more Grand Slam titles.

Annacone told the author that Federer and Sampras have more in common than not. He called both, “immense talents and objective evaluators of winning and losing.”

So far, so good for the relationship.

Will Annacone be his most influential coach? Maybe. He will have to go far to outdo Carter, originally from Australia. Carter coached Federer in his formative tenn years and worked with him on his serve volley and slice. He also served as Swiss Davis Cup coach before dying much too young in 2002 at 37 in a car crash. his loss had an enormous impact on Federer.

Martina Hingis, Michael Stich, Helena Sukova among Nominees for 2013 Induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame

NEWPORT, R.I., USA, September 6, 2012 – Martina Hingis, a former world No. 1 and the winner of five Grand Slam tournament singles titles, the 1991 Wimbledon champion and former world No. 2 Michael Stich, and the great Czech doubles player Helena Sukova, winner of 14 Grand Slam titles in doubles and mixed doubles have all been nominated to receive the highest honor available in the sport of tennis, induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. All three are nominated for the induction Class of 2013 in the Recent Player Category. In the Master Player Category, Thelma Coyne Long of Australia, who captured 19 Grand Slam titles between the 1930s and 1950s, has been nominated. Additionally, three individuals have been nominated in the Contributor Category for their work toward the growth of tennis- ESPN’s longtime tennis broadcaster Cliff Drysdale, tennis promoter and industry leader Charlie Pasarell, and Ion Tiriac, the Romanian tennis player turned influential player manager and tournament promoter.

 

The announcement of the 2013 nominees was made on the air durng the ESPN2 telecast of the US Open, where Drysdale was applauded by his colleagues, Hall of Famers Pam Shriver and John McEnroe, along with Patrick McEnroe and Chris Evert, Mary Joe Fernandez, and Darren Cahill.

 

“Martina Hingis, Michael Stich, and Helena Sukova worked hard to achieve the ultimate prizes in tennis- top world rankings, Grand Slam titles, Fed Cup and Davis Cup success, and Olympic medals. For their dedication to our sport and extraordinary achievements, I’m very pleased to announce that they have been nominated to receive our sport’s highest honor, induction to the International Tennis Hall of Fame,” said Stan Smith, who was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1987 and now serves as the International Tennis Hall of Fame President and Chair of the Enshrinee Nominating Committee.

 

 
Smith added, “We are also pleased to honor Australia’s Thelma Coyne Long for her extraordinary success on the court. And of course, from a commitment to effective tennis news coverage to building up some of the world’s best tournaments, Cliff, Charlie, and Ion have all changed the tennis landscape for the better, and it is thanks to their efforts that we are able to enjoy tennis on such a grand, global scale today. I extend my congratulations to the nominees and our gratitude for their many contributions to the sport of tennis.”

 

Voting for the 2013 ballot will take place over the next several months, culminating with an announcement early next year to reveal the Class of 2013 Inductees. The International Media Panel, which is comprised of tennis journalists and authors, will vote on the Recent Player nominee. The International Masters Panel, which consists of Hall of Fame inductees and individuals who are highly knowledgeable of the sport and its history, will vote on the Master Player and Contributor nominees. To be inducted in any of the categories, an affirmative vote of 75% is required.

 

The Class of 2013 Induction Ceremony will be held on Saturday, July 13, 2013 at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island. The Ceremony will be held in conjunction with the annual Hall of Fame Tennis Championships, an ATP World Tour event.

 

Tickets for the tournament and Induction Ceremony will go on sale later this year with a pre-sale for International Tennis Hall of Fame Members, followed by the General Public ticket sale. Individuals interested in becoming a Hall of Fame Member or purchasing tickets should call 401-849-6053 and/or visit www.tennisfame.com.

 

Since 1955, the International Tennis Hall of Fame has inducted 225 people representing 19 countries. Located in Newport, Rhode Island, the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the history and heritage of tennis. The Hall of Fame offers an extensive museum that chronicles the history of the sport and honors the game’s greatest legends. Surrounding the museum are 13 historic grass tennis courts that date back to 1880 and are open to the public, which play host to the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships, an ATP World Tour tournament, and the annual Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in July. The facility hosts numerous additional public events year-round.

 

From winning the biggest titles in tennis to creating some of the sport’s most exciting tournaments, the nominees for induction to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2013 have all been integral in shaping the history of tennis. Following are detailed biographies of the nominees, grouped by category.

 

Recent Player: Martina Hingis, Michael Stich, Helena Sukova

Eligibility criteria for the Recent Player Category is as follows: active as competitors in the sport within the last 20 years prior to consideration; not a significant factor on the ATP or WTA Tour within five years prior to induction; a distinguished record of competitive achievement at the highest international level, with consideration given to integrity, sportsmanship and character.

 

Martina Hingis, 32, of Switzerland, was the world No. 1 singles player for 209 non-consecutive weeks and the No. 1 doubles player for 35 non-consecutive weeks. She is in the elite company of Martina Navratilova, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Lindsay Davenport, and Kim Clijsters as one of just five players in history to have held both the singles and doubles No. 1 WTA ranking simultaneously. Hingis won three consecutive Australian Open titles (1997, 1998, 1999), as well as the Wimbledon and US Open titles in 1997. In addition to her five Grand Slam singles titles, she also captured nine major doubles titles (three w/ Jana Novotna, two w/ Anna Kournikova, and one each w/Helena Sukova, Natasha Zvereva, Mirjana Lucic, and Mary Pierce) and one mixed doubles title (w/ Mahesh Bhupathi). In 1998, she achieved a Doubles Grand Slam.

 

Hingis won a total of 43 singles titles and 37 doubles titles over the course of her career, and had records of 548-133 in singles and 286-54 in doubles. In 1998, she led the Swiss Fed Cup team to its only Fed Cup final (lost 3-2 to Spain). She captured two WTA Tour Championships in singles (1998 and 2000) and two in doubles (1999 and 2000).

 

In 1997, Hingis was the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year, the WTA Tour Player of the Year, and the ITF Player of the Year.

 

Born into a successful tennis family, Hingis first picked up a racquet at just two years old and entered her first tournament at age four. At 12 years old, she won the French Open junior title, becoming the youngest player ever to win a Grand Slam junior title. She turned pro at age 14 and her career quickly took off, with Hingis setting a number of youngest-ever records along the way, including becoming the youngest ever world No. 1, a feat she achieved on March 31, 1997 at 16 years, 6 months, and 1 day. Hingis’ success was not based on powerful shots, instead she was known for her impeccable technical skill and ability to produce a wide array of shots. In particular, she was a talented net player and was able to place accurate drop shots just when she needed it most.

 

Hingis first retired from tennis in 2003, at the age of 22, due to injury. She made a comeback in 2006, winning two titles that year and closing the season at world No. 7. As a result, she was named the 2006 WTA Tour Comeback Player of the Year. She won her final title in 2007, before officially retiring. Since retirement, she has been active in World TeamTennis, and in 2011, she partnered with Lindsay Davenport to win the Roland Garros Legends title.

 

Michael Stich, 44, of Germany,was the 1991 Wimbledon champion, and in 1992, he partnered with John McEnroe to win the Wimbledon doubles title. In addition to his success at Wimbledon, he was a finalist at both the US Open (1994) and the French Open (1996). At the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, he partnered with Boris Becker to win the Gold Medal in doubles. In 1993, he defeated Pete Sampras to win the year-end ATP World Tour Championships.

 

Stich achieved a career-high ranking of world No. 2, and he was in the year-end top-20 every year from 1991-1996. He won 18 singles titles, and 10 doubles titles. He holds a career singles record of 385-176 and a doubles record of 165-111.

 

Stich was a member of the Germany’s championship Davis Cup team in 1993, and he was a dedicated Davis Cup team member from 1990 – 1996. He compiled a winning record of 21-9 in singles and 14-2 in doubles.

 

A skilled player at both the baseline and the net, Stich was successful on all surfaces throughout his career, and in 1991 and 1993, he won professional tournaments on all four surfaces.

 

Since retirement, Stich has devoted most of his time the Michael Stich Foundation, which he established in 1994 to provide support for children infected with HIV/AIDS. Additionally, he stays involved with tennis by sponsoring tennis camps for junior players in his hometown of Hamburg and by serving as a commentator for Eurosport and for the BBC TV and Radio.

 

Helena Sukova, 47, of the Czech Republic, won an impressive 14 Grand Slam tournament titles in women’s doubles and mixed doubles over the course of her career. She was also a two-time singles finalist at both the Australian Open and the US Open. She held the world No. 1 doubles ranking for 68 weeks and achieved a career high singles ranking of world No. 4.

 

Sukova captured a remarkable 69 doubles titles during the course of her career, and she compiled a doubles record of 752-220. She achieved a career Grand Slam in women’s doubles, winning four titles at Wimbledon, two at the US Open, one at the Australian Open and one at the French Open. In addition, she won two Silver Medals at the Olympic Games, partnered with Jana Novotna. In 1992, she won the doubles title at the WTA Championships with partner Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario. She was a doubles finalist at the event four times.

 

In singles competition, she had a winning record of 614-307 and she won 10 singles titles. One of her most memorable singles victories was when she defeated Martina Navratilova in the semifinal round of the 1984 Australian Open, ending Navratilova’s historic 74-match winning streak. In 1985, she as a singles finalist at the WTA Championships.

 

Sukova was an integral part of the Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic Fed Cup teams for 13 years, and she was a playing member of four championship teams (1983, 1984, 1985, 1988). She holds several team records, including Most Total Wins – 57.

 

Sukova is a member of a prominent Czech tennis family. Her mother, Vera Puzejova Sukova was a women’s singles finalist at Wimbledon in 1962, and her father, Cyril Suk II, was president of the Czechoslovakian Tennis Federation. Her brother, Cyril Suk III, is a former professional player as well. The siblings teamed up to win three Grand Slam mixed doubles titles, at the French Open in 1991 and at Wimbledon in 1996 and 1997.

 

Sukova retired in 1998, and in 1999, she helped re-establish the International Lawn Tennis Club of the Czech Republic and became its president. From 2001 until 2008, she served on the executive committee of the Council of the International Clubs. She remains active in tennis, and is a co-founder of the Kids and Junior Tennis Advancement Organization in the Czech Republic. From February 2001 through November 2008 she served on the Presidium of the Czech Olympians’ Club and in June 2007 she was appointed by the Czech Olympic Committee to the Presidium of the Czech Fair Play Club. Additionally, she is a member of the Champions for Peace Club, a group of famous elite athletes committed to serving peace in the world through sport, created by Peace and Sport Organization.

 

Sukova earned a doctoral degree as a psychologist at Palacky University and since February 2011, she has served as vice president of the Association of Sport Psychologists.

 

Master Player Category: Thelma Coyne Long

Eligibility criteria for the Master Player Category is as follows: Competitors in the sport who have been retired for at least 20 years prior to consideration; a distinguished record of competitive achievement at the highest international level, with consideration given to integrity, sportsmanship and character.

 

Thelma Coyne Long, 94, of Sydney, Australia, had a remarkable career of more than 20 years (1935 – 1958), in which she captured a total of 19 Grand Slam tournament titles, including championships in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. In 1952, she achieved a career-best ranking of No. 7. That same year, she completed an Australian triple by sweeping the singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles at the Australian Championships.

 

In May 1941, during World War II, Long joined the Red Cross as a transport driver and worked in Melbourne, Australia. In February 1942, she joined the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS) and rose to the rank of captain in April 1944. In recognition of her efforts throughout World War II, she was awarded both the Australian War Medal and Australian Service Medal for 1939 – 1945.

 

Upon her retirement, Long began coaching junior players in New South Wales. Long was inducted into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame in 2002.

 

Contributor Category: Cliff Drysdale, Charlie Pasarell, Ion Tiriac

Eligibility criteria for the Contributor Category is as follows: Exceptional contributions that have furthered the growth, reputation and character of the sport, in categories such as administration, media, coaching and officiating. Contributor candidates do not need to be retired from their activities related to the sport to be considered.

 

After a successful playing career in the 1960s and 1970s and a leadership role in the launch of the ATP, Cliff Drysdale turned his attention to tennis broadcasting, and for more than thirty years, he has been one of the most respected and appreciated voices of the sport. Drysdale, 71, has been on the air with ESPN since the network’s very first tennis telecast- a Davis Cup match between the United States and Argentina on September 14, 1979, just one week after ESPN’s debut. In the thirty-plus years since, Drysdale has called all four Grand Slam tournaments and countless important moments in tennis history. Known for his insightful analysis and engaging delivery, Drysdale was named “Best Tennis Announcer” by the readers of Tennis magazine four times. In addition to his television coverage, Drysdale has been regular contributor to Tennis magazine for more than 15 years. He has played an integral role in sharing the greatest stories of tennis, and has been an influential ambassador for the sport.

 

Drysdale was a member of the original “Handsome Eight” of World Championship Tennis, the tour that laid the groundwork for a viable men’s professional tennis tour, and he was one of the world’s top players at the dawn of the Open Era. With his contemporaries, he was a co-founder of the ATP, which was developed to give players a unified voice and in structuring the professional game for the Open Era. Drysdale served as the organization’s first president, in 1972 – 1973.

 

Originally from South Africa, but now a United States citizen, Drysdale was ranked in the year-end world top-10 six times and achieved a career high ranking of world No. 4. Drysdale was a finalist at the U.S. Nationals in 1965, and he won the US Open doubles title in 1975 with Roger Taylor. He won 35 singles titles and 24 doubles titles, and during his career he notched wins against some of the greatest champions of the sport including Rod Laver, Stan Smith, Arthur Ashe, and Ilie Nastase. He was a member of the South African Davis Cup team for eight years.

 

Today, in addition to his media work, Drysdale continues to take an active role in working to grow interest in the sport. Through his tennis management company, Cliff Drysdale Management, he works with tennis clubs and resorts on tennis programming development, operations, and tennis education programs.

 

Charlie Pasarell, 68, is most recently best known as the past tournament director, managing partner, and former owner of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., but his contributions as a tennis industry leader have spanned all levels of the sport and have been a driving force in the growth of the tennis for more than forty years. Before assuming the leadership role of the Indian Wells event in 1981, Pasarell had already launched the National Junior Tennis League, which is dedicated to offering tennis programming to underprivileged children, and with fellow nominee Cliff Drysdale, he was a co-founder of the ATP.

 

Pasarell’s leadership activities were preceded by a successful playing career in which he achieved the No. 1 ranking in the United States in 1967. He was a member of the United States Davis Cup team for five years, including the championship team in 1968. Pasarell won 18 singles titles, including the U.S. National Indoor Championships in 1966 and 1967. Also in 1966, he was the NCAA Singles and Doubles champion, playing for UCLA. Originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Pasarell has been a longtime resident of California.

 

A focus of Pasarell’s tennis career has always been finding ways to utilize the game to give back to the community. At the height of his playing career, in 1969, Pasarell partnered with Arthur Ashe and Sheriden Snyder to launch the National Junior Tennis League. The goal of the organization was to have a positive impact on at-risk children by introducing them to tennis to keep them off the streets and to encourage them to stay in school. Today, the program continues to be the largest grassroots tennis program in the United Sates, with more than 950 chapters. Many NJTL students have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, teachers, business leaders, and even a few professional tennis players.

 

In 1971, as tennis was in the pivotal transition to the Open Era, Pasarell and a group of his fellow players founded the ATP, with the goal of giving players a voice in the structuring the new professional game. Over the years, Pasarell has remained highly active in the leadership of the organization and the development of men’s pro tennis. He served as an active board member in the critical early years, from 1971 – 1978. When the Men’s International Professional Tennis Circuit became the ruling body of men’s tennis from 1986 – 1990, Pasarell served as a tournament representative on the board. When the new ATP World Tour replaced that organization in 1990, Pasarell was once again elected by the tournaments to serve as their representative, and he was re-elected to the position every year for 20 consecutive years, until he retired in 2010.

 

In 1981, Pasarell took over as tournament director of the ATP World Tour event in the Coachella Valley of California. At the time, the event was struggling and in danger of being removed from the region. Over the past 30 years, under Pasarell’s leadership, the event has grown to be the largest two-week combined ATP and WTA tennis tournament in the world and the most well-attended tennis event after the four Grand Slam events. The tournament has grown from 30,000 fans to attracting more than 370,000 fans, and it has gone from a television broadcast reaching 25 million homes to more than one billion homes worldwide. The growth has necessitated new, state-of-the-art tennis facilities, taking the venue from a 7,500-seat stadium court to a 24-court, 54-acre complex including a 16,100-seat main stadium, seven smaller stadiums, and 44 luxury suites.

 

After more than 30 years working on the event, Pasarell announced his departure from the BNP Paribas Open earlier this year, following another outstanding event that welcomed more than 370,000 fans and broke attendance records for the sixth year in a row.

 

A successful doubles player turned tennis power broker, Ion Tiriac, 73, has been an influential tennis leader in roles ranging from coach to player manager to tournament promoter. Raised in communist Romania, Tiriac explored an array of sports before discovering his greatest potential and opportunity in tennis. Today, he is the promoter of two successful ATP World Tour events and is ranked among the top-1,000 wealthiest people in the world by Forbes magazine.

 

In the 1970s, Tiriac and fellow Romanian Ilie Nastase partnered to form a successful doubles team. Tiriac took on a mentor type role in the partnership, and parlayed that experience into a successful career in tennis administration. Tiriac took a sharp, business-like approach to tennis and he worked tirelessly to promote the players, grow the tournaments, build up television broadcasts, and to grow the sport overall.

 

He went on to manage the careers of top players including Guillermo Vilas, Mary Joe Fernandez, Goran Ivanisevic, and most notably, Boris Becker, who won five Grand Slam titles while working with Tiriac.

 

In addition, Tiriac was a promoter and tournament director for numerous events including the ATP World Tour’s season-ending Masters Grand Prix, and two of the largest Masters 1000 events, the Italian Open and the Madrid Masters. He is still an active leader on the Madrid Masters, and under his leadership the tournament has grown immensely, and is one of the most well attended annual events in Spain. In addition, he continues to promote tennis in his home country of Romania and is the owner/promoter of the BRD Nastase Tiriac Trophy, an ATP World Tour 250 event held annually in Bucharest.

 

As a player, Tiriac was an instrumental part of Romania’s Davis Cup team, competing for 15 years, and helping the team advance to the finals three times. In 1970, he partnered with Nastase to win the French Open doubles title.

 

Known for his no-nonsense demeanor, beneath Tiriac’s tough shell lies the heart of a philanthropist and the vision and ability to make positive changes. In addition to his tennis work, since the fall of the communist government in Romania in 1989, he has worked to rebuild the country’s economic and social infrastructure, developing business in banking, real estate, and other ventures. In his hometown of Brasov, he built four orphanages. When the orphanages became obsolete years later, he turned them into retirement communities for the elderly. In addition, he has developed numerous scholarship opportunities for young people.

 

Tiriac is an Honorary President of the Romanian National Olympic Committee and a Honorary President of the Romanian Tennis Federation.

 

For additional information about the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, please visit tennisfame.com

 

 

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About the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum

Established in 1954, the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum is a non-profit institution dedicated to preserving the history of tennis, inspiring and encouraging junior tennis development, providing a landmark for tennis enthusiasts worldwide, and enshrining tennis heroes and heroines with the highest honor in the sport of tennis- induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.  In 1986, the International Tennis Federation, the governing body of tennis, officially recognized the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum as the sport’s official Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame is located in Newport, Rhode Island, USA, on a six-acre property that features an extensive Museum chronicling the history of the sport and honoring the 225 Hall of Famers; 13 grass tennis courts and an indoor tennis facility that are open to the public and to a club membership; a rare Court Tennis facility; and an historic 297-seat theatre. Annually in July, the venue hosts the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships for the Van Alen Cup, an ATP World Tour event. The buildings and grounds, which were constructed in 1880 by McKim, Mead & White to serve as a social club for Newport’s summer residents, are renowned for their incredible architecture and preservation. The facility was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987. The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum is supported by Official Partners including BNP Paribas, Campbell Soup Company, Chubb Personal Insurance, Kia Motors and Rolex Watch USA. For information on the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum and its programs, call 401-849-3990 or visit us online at www.tennisfame.com.

PART-TIME VEGAS RESIDENT CIRSTEA TO FACE LEPCHENKO FOR LEXUS OF LAS VEGAS OPEN TITLE ON SUNDAY

LAS VEGAS, Nev., (Oct. 2, 2010) – Sorana Cirstea has played on the grandest stages in tennis, including the All-England Club at Wimbledon and Roland Garros at the French Open. But the 20-year-old Romanian told the Lexus of Las Vegas Open tennis fans there was no place she would have rather been on Saturday than Las Vegas.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s Roland Garros or wherever, it’s just a pleasure to play before all these wonderful people,” said the No. 3 seeded Cristea, after her 6-3, 6-4 win over her countrywoman and top-seeded Edina Gallovits in the semifinals of the USTA $50,000 Pro Circuit event being held at the Red Rock Country Club in Summerlin.

Cirstea, who lives in Las Vegas a quarter of the year training with the Adidas group led by Darren Cahill and Gil Reyes, will meet American Varvara Lepchenko in today’s final. Lepchenko, the No. 2 seed, beat No. 4 Mirjana Lucic in similar fashion, 6-3, 6-4, in the first semifinal on Saturday.

Cirstea controlled the match opening up a 5-1 second set lead with her popping first serve and consistent groundstrokes. “She is tough to play because she is such a good friend,” Cirstea said of the 25-year-old Gallovits, who she now holds a 3-0 career head-to-head against, including a straight-set win over her in the first round at the 2009 Wimbledon Championships.

Cirstea has dropped just one set in the tournament, which came in the first round against American Irina Falconi. “After I survived that first round I started feeling more confidence,” she said.

The lefty Lepchenko got her revenge against Lucic, who beat her last week in the semifinals at the Albuquerque, N.M., Pro Circuit event. In that match, Lepchenko was actually up a set and a break before letting Lucic back in the match which Lucic ultimately won, 1-6, 7-5, 6-1. “I did start to remember about last week when I was up 3-0 and 4-1 in the second set,” Lepchenko said. “I just had to keep reminding myself to stay aggressive.”

A native of Uzbekistan, Lepchenko currently resides in Allentown, Pa. She has lived in the United States since 2001 after receiving political asylum and became a U.S. citizen in 2007.

In the doubles final on Sunday at 11 a.m., wild cards Falconi and Maria Sanchez will face No. 4 seeds Lindsay Lee-Waters and Megan Moulton-Levy.

Saturday’s Semifinal Singles Results

wc: wild card

Varvara Lepchenko, U.S. (2), def. Mirjana Lucic, Croatia (4), 6-3, 6-4

Sorana Cirstea, Romania (3), def. Edina Gallovits, Romania (1), 6-3, 6-4

Sunday’s Finals Order of Play

Stadium Court Starting at 11 a.m.

Irina Falconi, U.S. / Maria Sanchez, U.S. (wc), vs. Lindsay Lee-Waters, U.S. / Megan Moulton-Levy, U.S. (4)

Followed by Varvara Lepchenko, U.S. (2), vs. Sorana Cirstea, Romania (3)

The tournament title sponsor is Lexus of Las Vegas with the presenting sponsor Hand Surgery Specialists of Nevada. Thank you to all the members who sponsored the tournament, including Dan Jackson with Raymond James, Kate Lowe of State Farm. Dwain Frazier of All State, Rob Weisbord of CW Las Vegas, Keith Brille of Women’s Specialty Care and Dr. Jeffrey Ng, .MD, among many others.

For additional event and ticket information, please visit www.lexuslvopen.com.

LAS VEGAS PAST CHAMPIONS

Singles

Year                Winner                                                Runner-up

2009                Regina Kulikova (RUS)                      Aniko Kapros (HUN)

2008                Camille Pin (FRA)                               Asia Muhammad (U.S.)

2007                Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)                 Akiko Morigami (JPN)

1999                Erika de Lone (U.S.)                           Hila Rosen (ISR)

Doubles

Year                Winner

2009                Aniko Kapros (HUN) – Agustina Lepore (ARG)

2008                Melinda Czink (HUN) – Renata Voracova (CZE)

2007                Victoria Azarenka (BLR) – Tatiana Poutchek (BLR)

1999                Erika de Lone (U.S.) – Annabel Ellwood (AUS)

PRIZE MONEY

SINGLES: Prize Money               Points

Winner                         $7,315                         70

Runner-up                   $3,990                         50

Semifinalist                 $2,185                         32

Quarterfinalist             $1,235                         18

Round of 16                $760                            10

Round of 32                $475                            1

DOUBLES:                   Prize Money (per team)

Winner                         $2,660

Runner-up                     $1,425

Semifinalist                 $760

Quarterfinalist             $380

Round of 16                $285

USTA Pro Circuit

With 94 tournaments throughout the country and prize money ranging from $10,000 to $100,000, the USTA Pro Circuit is the pathway to the US Open and tour-level competition for aspiring tennis players and a frequent battleground for established professionals. Last year, more than 1,000 men and women from more than 70 countries competed on the USTA Pro Circuit for approximately $3.2 million in prize money and valuable ATP and WTA Tour ranking points. Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick, James Blake, Lindsay Davenport, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Jelena Jankovic are among the top stars who began their careers on the USTA Pro Circuit. The USTA Pro Circuit is world-class tennis administered on the local level and played on local tennis courts as part of the fabric of communities nationwide — an opportunity for current and new fans to experience the excitement and intensity of the professional game in their neighborhood.

HENDERSON’S MUHAMMAD FALLS IN HOMETOWN EVENT TO ALBANESE, WHO FACES CIRSTEA NEXT ON 21st BIRTHDAY

LAS VEGAS, Nev., (Sept. 30, 2010) – Lauren Albanese had a miserable 20th birthday one year ago, losing to Asia Muhammad in both singles and doubles at the Lexus of Las Vegas Open.

A day before her 21st birthday on Thursday, Albanese got some satisfying revenge, beating the hometown hero from Henderson in the same round as last year, 6-4, 7-5.

It was a boisterous Red Rock Country Club crowd cheering all the way for Muhammad who lost in last year’s quarterfinals one round after beating Albanese. “I can understand it; you would expect it with her being from here,” Albanese said of the fans. “Maybe I can get them on my side tomorrow. I’ll need it. It’s no fun losing on your birthday.”

Muhammad let a 5-1 lead slip away in the second set as Albanese survived two sets points down 5-4 in the most intense game of the match. Muhammad was disappointed she couldn’t force a third set. “I just love this tournament and I’m encouraged with how well I played this week,“ Muhammad said. “Lauren played the best I’ve seen her play.”

Albanese, ranked No. 238 in the world and from Jacksonville, Fla., will have her hands full Friday as she goes up against No. 3 seeded Sorana Cirstea in the quarterfinals. “I’m excited to play a former Top 100 player and to see how I’ll do,” Albanese said of Cirstea, the 2009 French Open quarterfinalist.

Cirstea is guaranteed to have several fans on hand as she trains part time with the Adidas group in Vegas with Andre Agassi’s former coach Darren Cahill, who was on hand to watch on Thursday while Gil Reyes and Sargis Sargsian were on hand for her first-round match on Wednesday.

Unseeded 29-year-old American Abigail Spears beat wild-card Chelsey Gullickson to also move into the quarterfinals. The 2010 NCAA singles champion from Georgia Gullickson lost the first set at 6-0 for the second straight match. But unlike her last match where she came back to beat Julia Cohen, Gullickson couldn’t hold off Spears. 6-0, 5-7, 6-4.

“I just came out and didn’t miss,” said Spears, who said she was unaware of Gullickson’s slow starting issues. Spears, who was born and raised in San Diego, currently resides in Pueblo, Colo.

She will meet Mirjana Lucic, the No. 4 seed from Croatia, in the first match on Stadium Court at 10 a.m. Friday.

Thursday’s Second-Round Singles Scores

q: qualifier; wc: wild card

Mirjana Lucic, Croatia (4), def. Heidi El Tabakh, Canada, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3

Sorana Cirstea, Romania (3), def. Julie Ditty, U.S. (q), 6-2, 6-3

Edina Gallovits, Romania (1), def. Alexandra Mueller, U.S. (wc), 6-3, 6-4

Valerie Tetreault (Canada) (8), def. Kimberly Couts, U.S., 0-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2

Abigail Spears, U.S., def. Chelsey Gullickson, U.S. (wc), 6-0, 5-7, 6-4

Varvara Lepchenko, U.S. (2), def. Lindsay Lee-Waters, U.S., 7-6 (8), 6-3

Anna Tatishvili, Georgia (6), def. Alexa Glatch, U.S. (wc), 3-6, 6-3, 7-5

Lauren Albanese, U.S., def. Asia Muhammad, U.S., 6-4, 7-5

Second-Round Doubles Scores

Alexandra Mueller, U.S. / Ahsha Rolle, U.S., def. Kimberly Couts, U.S. / Anna Tatishvili, Georgia (3), 6-2, 6-3

Lindsay Lee-Waters, U.S. / Megan Moulton-Levy, U.S. (4), def. Christina Fusano, U.S. / Courtney Nagle, U.S., 6-2, 6-3

Irina Falconi, U.S. / Maria Sanchez, U.S., def. Madison Brengle, U.S. / def. Amra Sadikovic, Switzerland, 6-4, 6-3

Abigail Spears, U.S. (2) / Mashona Washington, U.S., def. Stephanie Foretz Gacon, France / Alexa Glatch, U.S., 7-6 (3), 7-5

Friday’s Order of Play

Stadium Court Starting at 10 a.m.

Abigail Spears, U.S. vs. Mirjana Lucic, Croatia (4)

Followed by Sorana Cirstea, Romania (3), vs. Lauren Albanese, U.S.,

Followed by Lindsay Lee-Waters, U.S. / Megan Moulton-Levy, U.S. (4), vs. Abigail Spears, U.S. (2) / Mashona Washington, U.S.

Court 2 Starting at 10 a.m.

Varvara Lepchenko, U.S. (2), vs. Anna Tatishvili, Georgia (6)

Followed by Valerie Tetreault, Canada (8), vs. Edina Gallovits, Romania (1)

Followed by Irina Falconi, U.S. / Maria Sanchez, U.S., vs. Alexandra Mueller, U.S. / Ahsha Rolle, U.S.

The following is a tentative schedule of events supplementing the tournament:

COMMUNITY EVENTS

  • Friday, Oct. 1 – Volkl/Becker Racquet Day, 6-8 p.m.

USTA Members Day ($10 off admission for all current USTA members)

  • Saturday, Oct. 2 – Super Semifinal Saturday; USTA Ladies League Luncheon.

For additional event and ticket information, please visit www.lexuslvopen.com

LAS VEGAS PAST CHAMPIONS

Singles

Year                Winner                                                Runner-up

2009                Regina Kulikova (RUS)                      Aniko Kapros (HUN)

2008                Camille Pin (FRA)                               Asia Muhammad (U.S.)

2007                Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)                 Akiko Morigami (JPN)

1999                Erika de Lone (U.S.)                           Hila Rosen (ISR)

Doubles

Year                Winner

2009                Aniko Kapros (HUN) – Agustina Lepore (ARG)

2008                Melinda Czink (HUN) – Renata Voracova (CZE)

2007                Victoria Azarenka (BLR) – Tatiana Poutchek (BLR)

1999                Erika de Lone (U.S.) – Annabel Ellwood (AUS)

PRIZE MONEY

SINGLES:                  Prize Money              Points

Winner                         $7,315                         70

Runner-up                   $3,990                         50

Semifinalist                 $2,185                         32

Quarterfinalist             $1,235                         18

Round of 16                $760                            10

Round of 32                $475                            1

DOUBLES:                Prize Money (per team)

Winner                         $2,660

Runner-up                   $1,425

Semifinalist                 $760

Quarterfinalist             $380

Round of 16                $285

USTA Pro Circuit

With 94 tournaments throughout the country and prize money ranging from $10,000 to $100,000, the USTA Pro Circuit is the pathway to the US Open and tour-level competition for aspiring tennis players and a frequent battleground for established professionals. Last year, more than 1,000 men and women from more than 70 countries competed on the USTA Pro Circuit for approximately $3.2 million in prize money and valuable ATP and WTA Tour ranking points. Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick, James Blake, Lindsay Davenport, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Jelena Jankovic are among the top stars who began their careers on the USTA Pro Circuit. The USTA Pro Circuit is world-class tennis administered on the local level and played on local tennis courts as part of the fabric of communities nationwide — an opportunity for current and new fans to experience the excitement and intensity of the professional game in their neighborhood.

Tennis360 Debuts And Is A Huge Success

The “Tennis360″ radio show comes to you LIVE from the Lexus of Las Vegas Open, a $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit event featuring some of the best female tennis players in the world.

Listen in as Andres Borowiak interviews renowned coach and ESPN analyst Darren Cahill about his current training program with adidas, his past coaching experience with Andre Agassi and Lleyton Hewitt, and his thoughts on the Lexus of Las Vegas Open.

Also joining on this show are Tournament Directors Tyler Weekes and Jordan Butler who discuss their second annual event, as well as USTA Nevada Executive Director Ryan Wolfington and defending NCAA Champion Chelsey Gullickson.

Don’t miss any of these guests as “Tennis360″ debuts on TennisLedger.com!

Del Potro Beats Up A Beaten Up Nadal

There will be no Federer-Nadal final. Thanks to a virtuoso performance by Argentina’s Juan Martin Del Potro, that will have to wait at least another year at the U.S. Open.

“I’m sorry,” del Potro told a chuckling crowd which he earlier thanked for their support at his favorite event while speaking with ESPN’s Darren Cahill. “But tomorrow, I’ll fight until the final point for you, for everyone, to show good tennis.”

“It’s part of my dream, you know. I’m very close to do it, but this moment is so nice, and I always dreamed of this moment.

I’m very happy to beat Rafa in straight sets, play unbelievable match. Of course it’s great for me and for my future being in finals.”

The 20 year-old Del Potro had other ideas playing remarkable tennis to dominate one of the game’s best, crushing Rafael Nadal in the first men’s semifinal 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 before a stunned Ashe Stadium in Flushing this afternoon.

Maybe the wear and tear finally caught up to the six-time grand slam winner who was playing a day after dismantling Fernando Gonzalez with a heavily wrapped stomach due to an abdominal strain he’d nursed throughout the final slam of the season. Even if the gutsy 23 year-old Spaniard wasn’t at his peak, a lot of that had to do with his opponent who played a perfect match to make his first ever slam final where he’ll await the winner between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic taking place later.

“I think this is the best moment of my life,” the excited del Potro said after becoming the first Argentine to reach the men’s final since Guillermo Vilas in 1977 to a nice reception.

“Just have to congratulate him,” said Nadal who had nothing to be ashamed of.

In his first Open semi, a locked in Del Potro just had too much in his arsenal turning the match into a rout. The six games he permitted was the worst beating Nadal had ever taken in a slam match with only Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga faring worse when he dropped seven games in a 2008 Australian Open semifinal.

Unlike his come from behind four set quarter win over Marin Cilic, Del Potro came out sharp firing on all cylinders. Early on, both players had some scintillating rallies making the first few games very long. That included a fun point that had Nadal scrambling even pulling a crowd pleasing tweener which Del Potro volleyed back that a stumbling Rafa couldn’t finish off.

Nadal had his chances including an early opportunity to break but with his bread and butter forehand setup, he missed just wide blowing it which allowed Del Potro to crawl out of the third game. That would be a common theme with the younger Argentinian serving out of trouble by fighting off all five break chances while he remained aggressive, converting six of 16 on Nadal’s serve.

The first break came in the next game. After Nadal couldn’t put it away, a hustling Del Potro forced a backhand volley long that gave him an early 3-1 lead. A frustrated Rafa tapped his leg perhaps realizing how crucial that moment was.

Nadal tried to come back but Del Potro served well all day with the sun peering out following the dreary weather that caused so many scheduling gliches. When he needed a big serve, the lanky 6-6 fifth year pro took advantage of his big frame to find the angles forcing errant replies. He only had six aces but it felt like more due to the velocity and placement which gave Nadal trouble. For the match, Del Potro won 79 percent on his first serve (44 of 56) compared to 57 percent (40 of 70) for his more accomplished foe.

“I played a great match. I was so focused with my serve, with every breakpoints, playing serve, you know, trying to put the ball into the court and trying to be aggressive,” explained del Potro of why it went so well.

Still down a break at 2-5, Nadal tried to hold serve and stay in the set but ultimately, he was outhit by Del Potro who mixed in a lethal backhand which drew miscues off the normally solid Rafa forehand. The firepower he came with was too much closing the set with a forehand winner.

Undeterred, Nadal continued to throw everything at Del Potro and had a slight opening in the first game of the second set. But once again, the sixth seed used his serve to get out of trouble with a couple of service winners flustering Nadal. The combination of his bigger serve along with penetrating groundstrokes gave him a decided edge finishing with 14 more winners (33-19).

If not for Rafa’s speed and competitiveness, it could’ve been a lot more. Instead, Del Potro who stepped inside the baseline to control rallies earned more unforced errors off Nadal’s racket. A rarity. He committed 27 to Del Potro’s 28. Not bad but given how big the player who beat him in Montreal last month was hitting, it was easy to see why the French Open semifinalist had entered winning 16 of his last 17 since Wimbledon.

It didn’t take long for Del Potro to break earning another on a double fault for a 3-1 lead. With the crowd trying to rally the struggling Nadal, Rafa continued to put in a maximum effort running down every ball. However, Del Potro just wouldn’t miss.

Even when there was a slight opening, it was closed quickly. Up 5-2, Del Potro didn’t slow down breaking Nadal a fourth time to go up two sets. Despite only dropping four games at that point, he still needed an average of 50.5 minutes to win the sets giving an indication of how hard Rafa tried even when it wasn’t his day.

“The first two sets was 6 2, but I have a lot of chances, I think. A lot of chance to keep the score more tight. If it’s like this, you never know what happened. But nothing to do today,” Nadal pointed out.

By the third set, the outcome looked certain. Nadal continued to compete but a streaking Del Potro didn’t take his foot off the gas pedal accelerating with more tremendous hitting that featured some wicked winners including an inside out forehand and a backhand cross that was Agassi-like.

So dominant was he from the ground that he pinned Nadal behind the baseline even finishing off points at the net where he did well converting 71 percent (17 of 24).

“I saw Rafa in the baseline, but too far away on the baseline. That’s important for me to come to the net and to do a short point.”

Del Potro also punished Rafa’s second serve taking 14 of 20 points. While he struggled himself in that department dropping 17 of 29, they weren’t frequent enough and never came at critical moments.

Already leading by a break 5-2, he went for the kill easily breaking Nadal a sixth time when the 2009 Australian Open champion sent a forehand way long for the biggest win of his career.

An overjoyed Del Potro pumped his fists in almost disbelief before receiving congrats from a wounded Nadal, who made no excuses in a brief postmatch interview with ESPN’s Pam Shriver.

“Here, it was disappointing, I had a little bit of a (bad) break,” Nadal said while giving Del Potro his due. “The right abdominal. To compete with these players was difficult.”

“I did a good result, very positive result for me after coming back. Semifinals. Today he played better than me. He beat me, and right now I just try to recover. Is not very important injury, so that’s really important for me, too.”

Most players after such a defeat would’ve dodged the questions and walked off the court. But not Nadal who even was nice enough to sign autographs for fans winning even more.

A night before, we saw the worst in a player who lost her mind handling a tough situation very poorly typifying what’s wrong with today’s athletes. Today, even in defeat, we saw what’s very right and why Rafa Nadal is so easy to respect and root for.

It just wasn’t his day. Today was about a rising star who should move up to No.5 in the world no matter what happens in tomorrow’s Monday final to be seen on CBS at 1 PM.

“I think so,” del Potro assessed on if it was his best win. “It was so focused every moment because Rafa’s a great player. He can run for 5, 6 hours. I’m not very strong but I do my best, and I’m in the final.”

“I don’t remember, but I think was I saw the stadium too big, and I say, This will be my favorite tournament.”

Now he’s one match away from winning it.

“I hope to be quiet for tomorrow to enjoy the moment, but could be difficult for me, because I never play a Grand Slam final.

“But I have the game to win tomorrow. I just want to be focused with my tennis and try to beat Roger or Novak.”

Federer Hangs Tough Over Soderling

For two sets, it wasn’t a contest. Roger Federer was making quick work of Robin Soderling, looking like a lock for a grand slam record 22nd straight semifinal.

Perhaps it came too easy because his U.S. Open quarterfinal match against the No.12 seeded Soderling completely changed, suddenly becoming a whole lot more interesting with the underdog trying to pull off the impossible. Comeback from two sets behind against Federer at a slam, who brought a perfect 147-0 record under such circumstances.

Despite a valiant effort from a player he beat in Paris to complete the career grand slam and eliminated in a close three sets on his way to winning a record 15th major at Wimbledon, the five-time reigning Open champ earned No.22- hanging tough for a four set win over Soderling, 6-0, 6-3, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (6) before a pumped up Ashe Stadium in Flushing.

“It was so close towards the end. It’s a great relief to come through, because Robin started playing better and better as the match went on,” a relieved Federer told ESPN’s Darren Cahill after escaping. “I knew he’d be tough, but the beginning was way too easy. He found his way into the match.”

Somehow after looking completely out of it, Soderling had fought back even earning set point to level the match. But the determined champion found his way out of trouble, winning the final three points to setup a semi rematch from last year versus a familiar foe Novak Djokovic, who got out of trouble earlier in the day prevailing in four sets over Fernando Verdasco.

“Yeah, I mean, look, we’ll see how it goes against Djokovic, I guess,” Federer said while discussing the style differences between his next opponent and Soderling. “It was good that I had maybe a bit of a test, but it’s not something I’m really looking for. The hoped I could close him out in three. I should have.”

“In the end, I’m lucky to be through in four.”

Following Caroline Wozniacki ending Melanie Oudin’s run, Federer was all business against what he termed a ‘dangerous opponent‘ in a press conference yesterday. In the opening pair of sets, that wasn’t the case with the Swiss world No.1 coming out of the gate so sharp that he even bageled Soderling.

Things didn’t get much better for the 25 year-old French Open runner-up as he couldn’t find an answer for Federer’s bread and butter forehand which produced plenty of a match best 64 winners. If only it were that simple. There’s also his movement which during sets one and two made it seem like he was out for a walk in the park.

Remarkably, Soderling was making better than 70 percent first serves but still found himself in a huge hole with an opportunistic Federer breaking him four times. He took full advantage of a weak second serve, taking firm control to jump out to a commanding two set lead.

Could anything stop him?

“For sure, I feel like I have a chance every time I play against him, even though it’s pretty small,” Soderling said after falling to 0-12 career versus Federer. “He always plays well, it feels like.”

The first game of the third set looked like it would be a similar script with Federer winning the first three points on Soderling’s serve but instead of going away, the Swede hung tough saving every single one with large serves and even bigger hitting which helped turn the match.

“You see how quickly tennis can change around if you don’t take those. I think he did well to hang in there, because it wasn’t easy after what he had to go through in the first two sets,” Federer duly noted.

“So I have to give him a lot of credit for hanging there and playing so well in the end.”

Suddenly, the switch went on. New York fans started to see why the gifted player is having a breakout year on the cusp of the top 10. Playing the same style that dethroned Rafael Nadal in Roland Garros, Soderling traded shot for shot with the game’s best making for much more compelling action. He even started getting the better of the rallies unleashing a lethal forehand which scored a good chunk of his 36 winners.

When he wasn’t hitting a flat out winner, it was mostly due to the speed of his world class opponent who did plenty of scrambling to stay in points, even having to fight off break chances to keep the third set on serve.

As the set wore on, a determined Soderling kept holding as if to say,’I’m not going away,’ gaining plenty of support from a boisterous New York crowd that wanted more tennis. If the ladies’ quarter disappointed with Oudin running out of steam against a focused Wozniacki who made her first slam semifinal, they sure got their money’s worth.

Fittingly, the well played set needed a tiebreak. At that point, ESPN commentator Patrick McEnroe wondered if Soderling’s serve would suddenly go off. Early on, he looked prophetic with the Swede committing a couple of bad miscues to fall behind 0-4 making it feel over. But to his credit, he never quit stealing the next point on Federer’s serve to get a mini-break back.

Amazingly, against one of the best tiebreaker players ever, Soderling got back even at five apiece thanks to some enormous shots including a wicked forehand up the line. After a big serve, he had set point. However, Federer saved it in remarkable fashion playing great defense before running down a drop volley to come up with a slice forehand pass yelling, “Come on.

Soderling didn’t let it slip taking the next point before forcing a long Federer miss to claim the set, giving cheering fans another set.

“It’s tough to play worse than I did in the first two sets. It could only get better,” Soderling pointed out. “I think I was putting a lot of pressure on him from the start of the third set.”

The fourth set would be even better. With Federer serving first, he figured to have an edge because he could then put all the pressure on Soderling, who had to know one slip up and the comeback bid would be all for naught.

After digging out of a Love-30 game early to hold, the Swiss Maestro turned up the heat, ratcheting up his serve increasing the ace count. He took a page from the 50 he needed to edge Andy Roddick at Wimbledon. In the set, whenever he needed one, he got it cracking at least eight of 28 to keep holding.

“For me, it’s very tough to read his serve, and I was very impressed about the way he served during the circumstances,” praised Soderling. “It was very, very windy.”

For his part, Soderling remained undeterred doing his best to emulate Federer. In one game late in the chess match, he served three consecutive aces going as big as possible even catching the edge out wide to win a challenge.

When he didn’t hit them, he was outslugging Federer with tremendous power from both sides of the racket striking lines. For as hopeless as it looked early with the first two sets taking less than an hour, suddenly Soderling was in the zone giving the crowd plenty of hope for a fifth set. At one point, a fan screamed:

Come on Robin. We want a fifth set.

He sure tried. As each guy stepped up and held, there was no doubt where the fourth was headed. And a Soderling service winner gave them another breaker.

Unlike the first one, neither player budged. Though Soderling got a couple of great looks at Federer second serves. But his go for broke return forehands sailed just wide. Had one connected, who knows? They might still be playing.

When Soderling kept his cool for 6-5, it was suddenly set point with a chance to actually send it the distance. Over an hour before, who ever would’ve believed it? Unfortunately, a more desperate Federer wasn’t so willing saving it with a big serve and then getting a little help from Soderling, who misfired a backhand when he had it lined up.

Just like that, it was match point. With the crowd hoping for more tennis, it was Soderling who finally gave in missing a forehand wide to which an excited Federer pumped his fist and let out a scream of relief.

He had avoided the upset. It sure got dicey. But when push came to shove, the great champion again showed why he is moving a step closer to matching Bill Tilden’s once thought unbreakable Open record of six straight titles back in the 1920’s.

Federer already owns one ridiculous record making 22 straight semi appearances at the slams.

“Not what I aimed for, that’s for sure,” the clever champ responded. “Probably one of the greatest records for me, personally, in my career. Glad it keeps going.”

They don’t call him the King of Queens for nothing.

After Win, Djokovic Challenges Johnny Mac

It’s not often a player gets more of a challenge from the broadcast booth. But that was precisely the case for Novak Djokovic, who had an easy go of it in a straight sets 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 Round of 16 triumph over No.15 veteran Radek Stepanek.

The same pair met a couple of years ago giving the crowd a lot more drama with Djokovic overcoming cramps to pull out a final set tiebreak en route to the final. But tonight was nothing like that match with the overlooked No.4 Serb having too much for an unsteady Stepanek.

In the lone competitive set, a perfect forehand topspin lob gave Nole a break of serve for 4-3. He managed to save one break point in the next game. Following a Stepanek hold that featured some nifty volleying skills, Djokovic crawled out of Love-30 taking the next four points to advance to a quarterfinal versus 10th seeded Fernando Verdasco, who bounced back from a set down to oust American John Isner in four 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

Isner’s departure was historic because it marked the first time in U.S. Open history that no American male had made the quarterfinals. Pretty sad considering it’s been around since 1881.

At the conclusion of Djokovic’s win, he entertained the same audience he irked last year in a quarter win over Andy Roddick. This time, the chatty Serb while talking to ESPN’s Darren Cahill challenged John McEnroe to come down and hit with him. The hilarious confrontation which included Djokovic impersonating Johnny Mac’s serve and his infamous “You cannot be serious” quote at umpires will surely go down as one of the most classic things to happen at the Open.

Eventually, McEnroe who took off the tie made it down to courtside and did a funny imitation of his own pretending to serve like Djokovic bouncing the ball which got plenty of chuckles. They played three points with the popular four-time winner earning two points with what else but his crafty net skills which still looked pretty good.

If the moment is right, it comes spontaneously,” Djokovic later said after shaking hands with the idol. “I thought the moment was right. The crowd loved it, and that was the most important thing.

As for the real stuff, at least the Ashe Stadium capacity crowd got to see one superb match with No.9 Caroline Wozniacki coming back to edge former 2004 champ Svetlana Kuznetsova (6) 2-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3). Playing against the two-time slam winner including this year’s French, the 19 year-old from Denmark showed tremendous poise after getting outplayed in the first set.

Kuznetsova worked her from side to side slugging plenty of winners from all angles. The 24 year-old Russian was the aggressor throughout which might better explain how she wound up with over triple the winners (Kuznetsova-59, Wozniacki-16). But as often is the case when you go for more, the unforced errors can pile up and that’s exactly what happened in the second and third sets where she committed a large part of a match high 63 to her younger opponent’s 25.

Wozniacki’s consistency helped her stay in the match. When asked what turned it around by ESPN’s Brad Gilbert, the Dane indicated that she was more aggressive which didn’t allow Kuznetsova to dictate as much.

After taking the second breaker to level the match, she dropped serve falling behind 0-2 in the final set. But Kuznetsova’s level dropped allowing Wozniacki to claim the next three games. She was firmly in control after breaking for 5-3 but as often happens with an inexperienced player in such a big spot, the lanky teenager couldn’t close out Kuznetsova allowing her to get back on serve.

With the veteran serving to stay in the match, a running winner that finished off a scintillating point gave her match point. However, Kuznetsova showed why she’s won coming up with a deadly backhand winner down the line to erase it before holding. The former hitting pair in Eastbourne this past summer exchanged holds with Kuznetsova saving another match point with an ace to force a deciding breaker.

In it, a Kuznetsova double along with an unforced error handed Wozniacki a 3-0 double mini-break lead. But before you could blink, it was three all thanks to some great points by the Russian who found the angles.

Just when momentum seemed back on her side, she dropped the next point to go down 3-4. This time, Wozniacki won her two service points by playing steady while Kuznetsova misfired setting up three more match points.

With her first quarter berth on the line, she cashed in thanks to some great hustle running down a backhand in the corner to draw a Kuznetsova miss at the net. Pumped up, a smiling Wozniacki threw her hands in the air and tossed the racket before running up to get congrats.

She’s [Melanie Oudin] had an amazing run. Hopefully someone from the crowd will cheer for me,” cracked Wozniacki of her next opponent to cheers and laughter from Ashe spectators.

Whoever wins their quarter will be favored to make their first ever final with Kateryna Bondarenko and Yanina Wickmayer vying for the other spot in a top half that’s seen higher seeds go by the wayside with Oudin responsible for three Russians (No.4 Elena Dementieva, No.29 Maria Sharapova & No.13 Nadia Petrova).

With her win tonight, Wozniacki eliminated the last remaining Russian in either men’s or women’s draws meaning that for the first time in quite a while, not one player from Russia made the quarters. In fact, every single win by the 17 year-old from Atlanta, Georgia has come at the expense of Russia with her posting her first Open win back in Round One over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

“She’s on a roll. And she has nothing to lose,” pointed out Petrova after letting it slip away. “She goes, enjoys it, crowd is behind her. She’s just having a blast out there.”

“This,” Oudin said, “is what I’ve wanted forever.”