Marino Crowned Champion At Saguenay National Bank Challenger

Saguenay, QC – Sunday September 26, 2010 – Rebecca Marino (Vancouver, BC) won the biggest title of her blossoming career on Sunday at the $50,000 Saguenay National Bank Challenger.

The top-seeded Canadian put forth an impressive performance against second-seeded American Alison Riske, ranked no. 157 in the world, in a hotly disputed and highly entertaining singles final between the tournament’s top two seeds at the Saguenay Indoor Tennis Club, coming away with a 6-4, 6-7(4), 7-6(5) victory to capture her first title of the season and second of her career.

Marino, who was playing in her second final of 2010, was almost invincible on serve in the opening set and made the most of a break in the tenth game to take the early lead. The 19-year-old seemed well on her way to a straight sets win in the second set as she held three match points on Riske’s serve at 15-40, but just as the American had done all week, she played her best in the big moments and hit three winners with her back against the wall to ultimately comeback to win the tiebreak.

Riske started the final set just as she had finished the second and secured herself a 3-1 advantage with a break. This time it was Marino’s turn to turn the tables as she quickly broke back and much to the delight of the partisan crowd, the home favourite sent the match into a decisive third set tiebreak. The two players went back and forth in the tiebreak until Marino delivered the final blow and converted on her first match point at 6-5 with Riske serving.

“I’m so happy to have come out the winner today because the match definitely could have gone either way,” Marino said. “We both brought our best game to the court today and I’m glad we were able to give the fans a good show. I love coming here (to Saguenay) it is a great tournament
and I am honoured to be the event’s champion.”

Riske, 20, announced her arrival on the professional tennis scene earlier this year when she reached the semifinals as a qualifier at the WTA Tour grass court Wimbledon tune up event in Birmingham. Sunday’s triumph was Marino’s third over her opponent in as many tries. She is the first Canadian to capture the Saguenay crown in the event’s five year history.

It was also announced during the trophy presentation that the Saguenay National Bank Challenger will be back for a sixth edition in 2011. For all of the latest news and results from the National Bank Circuit, please visit

Sacks Beats Britton to Take Home USTA Claremont Futures Title

CLAREMONT, Calif., (Sept. 19, 2010) – You can’t blame Gary Sacks for not feeling totally confident about his one-set, 5-0 lead against Devin Britton in the singles final of 15th Annual Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center USTA Pro Classic on Sunday at the Claremont Club.

All Sacks had to do was think back the last time he held a big lead against Britton back in February at the Brownsville, Texas, Futures event. “I was up a set and 5-2 and had match points,” said Sacks. “I let him back in and he won the match. So up a set and at 5-2 today I was thinking, ‘You better finish this.’ “

Finish it Sacks, 23, of Woodland Hills, Calif., did winning the $10,000 Pro Circuit event with an entertaining and highly competitive 7-6 (8), 6-2 win over the former NCAA singles champion Britton, 19, of Brandon, Miss.

Ironically, it was after that loss to Britton in Brownsville that the former USC Trojan Sacks decided to quick tennis. “I just needed some time off and it was after I lost that match I decided I was done with tennis,” said Sacks, who added a bad back was another reason he decided to stop playing. “I had to be away from it for awhile to really fully appreciate it. I started coaching tennis and learned a lot just teaching kids. I’ve rededicated myself and I’m a different player now.”

Tournament director Barry Friedman said it was the first time in the tournament’s history that a qualifier had gotten even as far as the semifinals, let alone win the entire tournament. Sacks pocketed $1,300 for his win while Britton takes home $900.

Britton said Sunday’s match and the one in Texas were like night and day. “This was 10 times better,” said Britton, who held three set points in the first set but could not convert on any of them. “Oh, man. In Texas there were 30 mile per hour winds and the balls were going everywhere. It was so ugly. Gary played really well today and I did too.

“He was just a little more aggressive on the big points. I just had no energy left in the second set.”

Britton is entered in both the Costa Mesa and Irvine $10,000 USTA Futures events while Sacks will take a week off and then play the Irvine tournament. “This feels great,” Sacks said. “I am so tired. To come through qualifying to win the tournament is really amazing.”

Sunday’s final singles results

Gary Sacks, South Africa (q), def. Devin Britton, U.S., 7-6 (8), 6-2

Recent Claremont Champions

Year      Singles Winner               Singles Runner-up              Doubles Champions

2010      Gary Sacks                    Devin Britton                      Taylor Fogleman-Chris Kearney

2009      Matej Bocko                   Bradley Klahn                    Brett Joelson-Ashwin Kumar

2008      Tigran Martirosyan          Adriano Biasello                 Marcus Fugate-Nima Roshan

2007      Carsten Ball                    Robert Yim                        Nikita Kryvonos-Michael McClune

2006      Dudi Sela                       Sascha Kloer                     Ryler DeHeart-Dennis Zivkovic

2005      Benedikt Dorsch             Tyler Cleveland                  K.C. Corkery-James Pade

2004      Bobby Reynolds            Huntley Montgomery          Nick Rainey-Brian Wilson

2003      Glenn Weiner                  Jimy Szymanski                 K.C. Corkery-James Pade

2002      Dmitry Tursunov             Raven Klaasen                   Chris Magyary-Mirko Pehar

Points, Prize Money for $10,000 Futures Tournaments

Singles                         Doubles

Points               Prize $              Points               Prize $

Winner                          17                     $1,300              17                     $630

Finalist                          9                         $900                9                    $330

Semifinalist                   5                         $480                5                    $260

Quarterfinalist                2                         $290                2                    $180

Round of 16                  1                         $200                1                    ——

Round of 32                  0                         $117.50            –                     ——

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.

Djokovic Wins Dogfight With Federer To Get To Finals

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Arthur Ashe Stadium was rocking in rumbling roars in anticipation of the first Roger vs. Rafa US Open final as Roger Federer stood one point away from the creating the most electrifying encounter in recent US Open history. Firing his forehand with ambition, Novak Djokovic stood up to the five-time champion and more than 20,000 screaming fans in pulling the plug on the Big Apple buzz with audacious shotmaking.

In a dramatic duel that saw tension escalate with each brilliant baseline exchange, Djokovic fought off two match points with successive scorching forehand winners in the 11th game of the final set then withstood a break point in the 12th game to subdue five-time champion Federer, 5-7, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 and advance to his first US Open final.

When Federer’s final forehand sailed wide, Djokovic stood wide-eyed on the court as if frozen in utter disbelief of completing his comeback and snapping Federer’s streak of six straight US Open finals. Thrusting his arms in triumph, Djokovic crossed himself, pressed his palms together as if in prayer then knelt down and kissed the court.

“It’s really hard to describe the feeling I have right now; 10 minutes ago I was a point from losing this match and now I managed to come back,” said Djokovic. “It’s one of those matches you will always remember in your career. I’m just so happy to be in the final.”

It is Djokovic’s second US Open final in the past four years, but he won’t have much time to celebrate. The 2007 runner-up will face World No. 1 Nadal in Sunday’s 4 p.m. final.

The top-seeded Spaniard stormed into his first Flushing Meadows final, overwhelming 12th-seeded Russian Mikhail Youzhny, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 in a two hour, 13-minute semifinal that started the day of play on Ashe Stadium.

Continuing his quest to complete the career Grand Slam and become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open in succession, Nadal may well be reveling in the fact he made quick work of Youzhny while Djokovic, who has been dogged by breathing issues, survived a physically-demanding five-setter with Federer.

“Having three sets match and two hours, or a little bit more, of the match always is great, no?  I gonna be in perfect conditions tomorrow, so that’s very positive,” Nadal said.  “We will see what happen.”

Given the fact Nadal has not surrendered a set so far, has only dropped serve twice in this tournament, owns a 14-7 career edge over Djokovic and Djokovic is coming off a a grueling semifinal with little turnaround time you might think the final could be as closely contested as an arm-wrestling match between the Incredible Hulk and Olivier Rochus.

The final is not a foregone conclusion though. Djokovic has won seven of 10 hard-court meetings with Nadal, including three in a row without dropping a set. Nadal’s last hard-court win over Djokovic was a 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 triumph in the semifinals of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

It might sound borderline blasphemous to even suggest it, but could Djokovic, whose two-handed backhand is a more effective hard-court shot than Federer’s one-handed backhand, actually be better equipped to challenge Nadal on the US Open Deco Turf than 16-time Grand Slam champion Federer?

“When he’s playing well, probably (he) is the player who can play at high level for moments, no?  Because he can have winners from every part of the court.  He serve, when he’s serving well, help him a lot, because he can have very good serves,” Nadal said of Djokovic. “He’s a very difficult opponent for me, especially I had a lot of loses against him in this kind of surface.  I have victories, too, but I have loses.”

Djokovic’s recent US Open have been littered with a littany of loss all at the hands of Federer.

Down 15-30, Federer pulled out the slice forehand for the first time all day and moved forward behind that shot, slicing a sharp-angled backhand crosscourt to draw even. A scrambling Djokovic dug out a difficult running forehand to elicit the error and it was deuce. Two points later, Federer fired his 10th ace to take a 2-1 lead in the fifth set.

Deadlocked at deuce at 3-all, Djokovic was in control of the point and hit a backhand that landed on the line. The shot was incorrectly called out, chair umpire Enric Moline overruled, the point was replayed and Federer hit a service winner. On the second deuce, Federer fied a backhand down the line to open the court followed by an inside-out forehand winner for ad.  Djokovic was beyond ball boy territory, nine feet off the court when he made a spectaculaar get. Federer netted an open-court forehand to face another deuce.

After a fourth deuce, Federer held when Djokovic netted a return for 4-3.

In the eighth game, Federer was racing off the doubles alley aiming for an open area down the line. If he connected on the shot it would have been a sure winner and given Federer double-break point, but he flattened a backhand into the net near the Mercedes symbol and Djokovic dug out a difficult hold for 4-all.

More than two hours into the match, Djokovic, a man whose past questionable conditioning, breathing issues and willingness to tap out in major matches has haunted him, showed resilience in his spirt and spring in his step.

Storming the net, Djokovic deflected a series of reflex volleys then leaped to snap off an overhead winner for break point. He broke for 2-1 and quickly consolidated for 3-1.

A distracted Federer sprayed a backhand long as Djokovic earned double break point at 15-40. Federer fought off the first two break points, but did not move his feet and laced a backhand into the net to hand Djokovic a third break point. Cutting quickly to his right, Djokovic drilled a forehand pass down the line that ricocheted off Federer’s Wilson racquet and he trotted to the side line raising a clenched fist toward his parents, who leaped out of their seats in support, holding a 4-1 fourth-set lead.

Despite serving just 48% in the fourth set, Djokovic permitted only five points on serve to seize the set in 31 minutes.

The fight for the final would go the distance.

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of

The Promise Is There for Harrison

FLUSHING MEADOWS – To quote another Harrison: “My Sweet Lord.”

And much like George, who were the least known of the Beatles, 18 year-old Ryan Harrison us definitely the least know of the American’s at the US Open.

A native of Shrevenport, LA, Harrison is playing in his first main draw at the US Open after winning a qualifier and his first round win over Australia’s Peter Luczak, 6-3 6-7(4) 6-3 6-4, but the young man on the map.

Today he almost became a star.

Unfortunately, though, these great stories don’t always work out and despite having three match points in the fifth set tiebreaker, Harrison couldn’t convert against the Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky, 6‑3, 5‑7, 3‑6, 6‑3, 7‑6.

“I mean, it was a great experience,” said the young Harrison.   “I mean, the whole last week and a half almost two weeks now has been incredible for me.  I mean, I’ve always believed in myself and I’ve always believed that I could come in here and compete at this level.

“But to go out there and actually execute and to win some of the matches I did, you know, I’m extremely happy about and extremely proud of.  But in all honesty, I could have lost second round quallies.  I mean, I was in full leg cramps down 3‑0 in the third set, and I fought through that and had a good match and then played one of the best matches I’ve ever played in my life.  Just got a little bit tight whenever I needed to come through.”

Now that he got his name on the map, it will be interesting to see what this young man does. Last year, everyone had Melanie Oudin as the next great thing and that hasn’t turned out as expected. And even great things were expected of John Isner, Sam Querrey, James Blake, and even Andy Roddick, but those varied expectations have been tempered.

And now we have Harrison, who seems to be having a nice time at the Open, but we don’t know if 2010 is a stepping stone or just a shooting star in sky.

Harrison, though, seems very grounded and has learned from some of the top Americans when he served a practice partner for them at the Davis Cup quarterfinals in 2009.

“That was incredible for me,” he said. “To go with the Davis Cup team ‑‑ Andy ‑‑ whenever I went, Andy had just finaled Wimbledon and lost 16‑14 in the fifth to Federer.  Now I feel about 1/10th the way he felt after that match.

“There was Mardy, James, and then the Bryan brothers.  Those guys were just ‑‑ you know, entire time I was there ‑‑ the first four days I was there, actually the other hitting partner Devin Britton was experiencing a shoulder problem.  I was on the court for probably like four, five hours a day every day, I mean, just working, going straight from practice to practice.  I was involved with every single practice.

“Those guys were extremely helpful, trying to teach me how to play.  You know, the stress and pressure of Davis Cup is one that I’m sure you don’t understand until you’ve actually been in that situation.  But watching those guys, and ‑‑ you know, I watched Mardy, I watched James, how they go about trying to execute during those times.  You know, of course I’ve tried to learn from them and pick up as much as possible.

All of that is great, but these players are also opponents, and not guys he leans on. Rather, Harrison looks towards someone else.

“I mean, my dad has been a great role model for me my entire life,” he said.  “He’s literally explained everything to me from the time I was a little kid.  You know, just this is what’s important in life; this is what you always have to do, you know, no matter what.

“The moment I got out of here, you know, on the day I beat Ljubicic, the entire conversation with him was staying humble and preparing for the next round.  I’ve had a great support system.  I have a little brother and little sister, and they both look up to me.  I just try to set a good example for them.

“You know, I’m just go out here and work as hard as I can, and hopefully be a steady player that’s a contender in these tournaments.”

But until he does, Harrison has this year’s Open and it was his greatest learning experience.

“You know, I’ve always not been one to say, like, top 10 and top 5, all that stuff,” he said.  “Because my general personality has always been, you know, if I’m top 10 in the world and I’m 10 in the world, there’s still nine guys ahead of me.  So I’ve always had the mentality where I’ve wanted to be the best and I’ve always wanted to, you know, be the top, to win Grand Slams.

“But with that being said, it’s a ways away.  You know, this was the breakout run of my career, and in the round of 64, you know.  So I’ve got to really keep working and hopefully try and improve.  And guess it’s just been a great experience.”

Ryan Harrison Loses Heartbeaker at Open

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Fans were hanging off the rafters high above the stadium like rowdy revelers crammed into every inch of Times Square anxiously waiting for the ball to drop on New Year’s Eve. And on the Grandstand Court below Ryan Harrison carried the crowd to the very edge of erupting in delirium, earning three match points in the fifth set tie break against Sergiy Stakhovsky. Then the 24-year-old Ukranian turned the tie break into heart break for Harrison.

Looking like the loneliest man in the building, Stakhovsky dug in and made a spirited stand.

The skinny Stakhovsky showed stubborn competitive backbone and a spirit as spiky as his Brillo-pad haircut in roaring back to win the final five points of the breaker to post a 6-3, 5-7, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(6) victory in a dramatic duel that was one of the most exciting encounters of the tournament.

Harrison, who had played with the poise and purpose far exceeding his 18 years, was down a break in the fifth set but battled back, put one foot inside the baseline and blasting a backhand pass down the line to break back for 4-all.

Playing the first five-setter of his career, Harrison continued to press the issue, but Stakhovsky, who carried a six-match winning streak onto the court, refused to yield before a crowd chanting “Let’s Go Ryan!” throughout periods of the fifth.

This was a throwback tennis with both men playing all-court tennis in propelling each other to explore virtually every corner of the court as 172 of the 343 points played were decided at net.

Trailing 2-3 in the breaker, Harrison sprinted rapidly to his right like a kid chasing a runaway rental car that had his racquets trapped in the trunk, caught up to the ball and rifled a running forehand pass down the line. By the time Harrison had skidded to a stop he was so close to the side wall he probably could have high-fived fans leaning over the railing.

Stakhovsky, who covered the line, went airborne in a full stretch dive as his body bounced off the blue court but his backhand clipped the net and died as Harrison evened the breaker at 3-all.

That stirring shot sequence brought the fans to their feet and Stakhovsky looked rattled by the resounding rorar as he scraped himself off the court and delivered a double fault to fall behind 4-3.

Two points later Harrison had triple match point at 6-3.

Stakhovsky, who won New Haven last weekend, saved the first two match points on his serve smacking an overhead winner on the first and a service winner on the second.

Serving on the third match point, Harrison, who had been effective hitting his kick serve to Stakhovsky’s one-handed backhand, dared to delve near the sideline, but missed his first serve. In the ensuing exchange, Harrison took a slight backward step and pushed a high backhand into net, for 6-all.

“I was trying to make sure I got the first serve in and trying to put pressure on him and missed that one barely,” Harrison said. “And then I wanted to play a long point and give myself an opportunity where I wanted to try to break him down and he didn’t miss. I ended up missing and then just kind of fell apart from there.”

Then the nerves constricted his right arm. Harrison sent a double fault beyond the service line, donating match point to Stakhovsky.

“It just wasn’t smart,” Harrison said of his eighth double fault. “I didn’t go about it the way I should have. I went for a big serve on the first serve at 6-all. Looking back, I probably should have just controlled that one in and looked for a forehand or for a first volley. But you know I can’t change it now.”

Attacking behind a stinging serve that pushed Harrison off the court, Stakhovsky blocked a high forehand volley crosscourt then crumpled to the court ending an enthralling encounter and turning magic into misery for Harrison.

As impressive as Harrison was competing on court, his sense of perspective following a gut-wrenching loss was equally as absorbing.

No tears, no excuses and no alibis. The son of a tennis coach who reads the game as comprehensively as a graduate student scouring a textbook, Harrison views the biggest match of his life as a learning experience in creating a career.

“Obviously, I’m not the happiest person in the world right now,” Harrison said. “But looking back on it, it was a great experience. My ranking is 220 in the world right now, and I’m trying to hopefully get to to the top 10. So I feel like one match doesn’t make or break that. It’s the experience of playing these type of matches that is really going to help me get there.”

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of


NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., July 22, 2010 – At age 51, American tennis icon John McEnroe can still hold a crowd. At age 51, he can also still hold his own on the tennis court.

McEnroe’s presence on behalf of the New York Sportimes helped to fill The Tennis Club Newport Beach with its largest crowd of the 2010 World TeamTennis Pro League presented by GEICO season. The 17-time Grand Slam champion, former World No. 1 and 1999 International Tennis Hall of Fame inductee also won both of his sets – in men’s doubles and mixed doubles – in tiebreakers over foes at least 20 years his junior to help send the Newport Beach Breakers to a 23-22 defeat in the teams’ regular season finale.

The Breakers displayed plenty of energy, fight and spirit in their most riveting, excruciatingly close match of the season. All five sets went to a tiebreaker. Breakers men’s singles player Lester Cook, the team’s standout player, waved his arms and encouraged the entire crowd to stand for the final tiebreaker, which Robert Kendrick won on the last possible point of the match, 5-4, after Cook lost three match points.

“That was one of the funnest matches all year. Wish it could have turned out a little different,” Cook said. “Nothing I’ll regret tomorrow. At 4-2 (in the tiebreak), I went for it and it just missed the line. The last point, it was just a big serve by him. I had a blast this year.”

Other Breakers highlights in their season finale, before a near 1,800-capacity crowd, included Marie-Eve Pelletier’s first set victory in women’s singles in five tries this season, defeating San Diego resident Abigail Spears 5-4 (5-3 in a tiebreaker), and Pelletier and Julie Ditty rallying from 4-1 down in women’s doubles to win a 5-4 set (5-3 tiebreak) over Spears and Ashley Harkleroad to even the match at 18-18 heading into the match’s final set, men’s singles.

“This is what TeamTennis is all about,” Breakers fourth-year coach Trevor Kronemann said. “It’s exciting for the fans. This is the first time in my 21 years of World TeamTennis that I’ve ever seen that (all five sets going to tiebreakers). It was definitely the best Marie-Eve played this year. The team chemistry was great. That was the No. 1 thing (this year). We just didn’t have the time off to rebound. We didn’t have a chance to work on our games.”

The Breakers finished (5-9) in WTT’s Western Conference after playing their sixth match in seven nights and 12th match in 14 nights. New York (9-5), a WTT finalist last year, won WTT’s Eastern Conference title outright with Thursday’s win and will host the Boston Lobsters in WTT’s Eastern Conference final Friday.

As is typically the case during McEnroe’s visits to Newport Beach the past few years, he entertained the Breakers crowd with his play and his playful banter. It only took four games into the match for him to unleash his first verbal blast, in jest, when he finally felt the umpire was on his side on a close call on the baseline – “It’s the first (call) I got in 30 years,” McEnroe quipped.

A few points later, before McEnroe let a serve fly, he retorted to a member of the crowd, “We got a genius over in Row C.” As it turned out, McEnroe rallied the Sportimes to a first-set victory in a tiebreaker on his racket. He erased two Breakers set points on his server and gave New York the edge in the tiebreaker, 5-4.

McEnroe also took the court with Harkleroad in mixed doubles, the match’s third set. When McEnroe wasn’t hitting his racket on the ground and muttering not so nice things under his breath, he unintentionally hit David Martin with a volley at the net in the fourth game. Martin’s partner, Julie Ditty, returned the favor and picked McEnroe off with her own volley, to the delight of Ditty and the crowd, in the next game. McEnroe and Harkleroad had the last laugh, though, winning another 5-4 set (5-2 in the tiebreak) before McEnroe bid adieu to the court.

“You play in a one-set format and he’s still one of the best in the world,” Kronemann said of McEnroe. “A living legend. Last year, I really became a McEnroe fan. I was always more of a (Bjorn) Borg fan. He’s unbelievable. He’s one of the best ever.”

Though McEnroe is World TeamTennis’ oldest active player, he has not lost his touch at the net, his knack for showmanship, a flame of his competitive fire or an ounce of pride in his game.

“This is why I like to play, because you get to be part of a team,” McEnroe said. “I got a great group of guys that I play with, and girls. But I’m excited about hopefully making a run, being part of a team that wins (the WTT title) finally. We usually end up getting in the playoffs and not winning the whole thing. But I think we’re the best team.

“When (WTT co-founder and Breakers co-owner Billie Jean King) is nice enough to say they still want me to do it, it’s a no‑brainer for me to try to play a few. This is my fifth (match) out of 14. That’s going to be pushing the limit for me. I don’t want to be a drag, certainly. I do believe the (WTT) concept should be a part of the sport in some way, shape or form. It would be great if it ever had, sort of, its own time. There would be a lot more of the top players. I think it would be something people would gravitate towards.”


Men’s Doubles – John McEnroe/Robert Kendrick (NY) def. David Martin/Lester Cook (NB), 5-4 (5-4 tiebreak)

Women’s Singles – Marie-Eve Pelletier (NB) def. Abigail Spears (NY), 5-4 (5-3 tiebreak)
Mixed Doubles – John McEnroe/Ashley Harkleroad (NY) def. David Martin/Julie Ditty (NB), 5-4 (5-2 tiebreak)

Women’s Doubles – Julie Ditty/Marie-Eve Pelletier (NB) def. Abigail Spears/Ashley Harkleroad (NY), 5-4 (5-3 tiebreak)

Men’s Singles – Robert Kendrick (NY) def. Lester Cook (NB), 5-4 (5-4 tiebreak)

Final: New York Sportimes 23, Newport Beach Breakers 22

About Newport Beach Breakers

The Newport Beach Breakers are one of 10 nationwide teams that make up the World TeamTennis (WTT) Pro League presented by GEICO and are co-owned by WTT founder Billie Jean King. In July 2010, the Breakers will play seven home matches and will be managed by Newport Beach-based Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian. Profits from the team’s operations for the season will go towards Hoag Hospital Foundation, the Breakers’ primary beneficiary. Hoag Hospital’s expert involvement with professional sports also extends to its organization of the PGA Champions Tour’s Toshiba Classic held annually in March. For tickets, sponsorship and more information, visit or call 714/352-6301.

About World TeamTennis (WTT) Pro League

The World Team Tennis (WTT) Pro League presented by GEICO showcases the best in professional team tennis with the innovative coed team format co-founded by Billie Jean King in the 1970s.  The WTT Pro League, which celebrates its 35th season in July 2010, is a showcase for three generations of tennis standouts, including legends, current tour players and future champions.  Since the League’s debut, virtually every major champion of the Open era has played World TeamTennis.  WTT is well known for showcasing and introducing innovative elements to tennis including instant replay, coed format, cumulative and no-ad scoring, on-court coaching, Overtime and Supertiebreakers, multi-colored courts and player names on the back of shirts.

Official WTT Pro League sponsors for the 2010 season include Acura, DecoTurf, GEICO, Novo Nordisk, Solfire and Wilson Racquet Sports. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) is a minority owner and promotional partner of World TeamTennis.   WTT and the USTA are teaming up on number of initiatives, including development of the youth market through junior team tennis programs.

For more information on the WTT Pro League, visit

Oudin May Need Some Time Off

Remember Melanie Oudin? America’s sweetheart, who charmed Flushing Meadows with her Russian killer attitude?

Well since Flushing, it’s been a struggle and she hasn’t won only one match since New York’s tiffany event.

Too many TV appearances, exhibitions and now a Met-like collapse in the first round of the Australian Open, where she dropped four match points in the second set to Alla Kudryavtseva, eventually losing, 6-2 5-7 5-7.

“I was down on myself,” she said. “I should have been done and getting a shower.”

How true and now that Oudin will have at least two weeks on her hands, she should re-evaluate where her career is going and maybe learn a new word in the ever agreeable 18 year-old’s vocabulary.


Oudin needs to stop trying to make others happy and maybe take care of No. 1. There’s no shame in turning down the occasional television appearance or exhibition (She played in six since Flushing). She gets on TV or goes to an event because of her success in September. If she keeps going out in the first or second round, the invites will dry up and television will cancel her faster than NBC canned the “Jay Leno Show.”

But under her wholesome appearance, there’s a smart girl in there, who already knows that she made a mistake.

“I was exhausted,” she said.

It’s now time for the Georgian to take a step back and maybe skip a couple of tournaments in order to concentrate on improving her game. For all her hype, Oudin’s serve isn’t that great and she relies upon her speed a little too much.

Too much work has slowed her down.

And that makes for a very poor post-US Open record. Yet, remember she’s only 18 and has plenty of time to get stronger and prove that a week in September was not a flash in the pan.

“I only did well in one tournament, and I’m still learning” she said. “Everyone expects me to play like that all the time and I’m trying to get better.”

With some time off, she probably will.

Safina Ousted Early In China

Dinara Safina’s struggles continued. A week following an early exit at The Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, the No.1 ranked Russian fell this time in the second round at The China Open to hometown wildcard Zhang Shuai 7-5, 7-6.

Last week, she fell in the second round after a bye in three tight sets to 132 ranked Kai-Chen Chang. At least the enigmatic younger sister of Marat Safin could take solace knowing Pan Pacific was marred by many upsets including Venus Williams, Elena Dementieva and Caroline Wozniacki, who got sick.

This time, Safina lost to No.226 in the world by committing 20 unforced errors and a dozen double faults which were her undoing. It probably spells the end of her reign as No.1 with second ranked American Serena Williams needing only a Round Two win over Ekaterina Makarova to take over the top spot. Perhaps the recent disappointments that also included a third round Open exit to Czech Petra Kvitova have finally taken their toll on the emotional Russian who was reduced to tears and cancelled her post match press conference.

“I’m just having some bad losses right now,” she said in a statement.

“So many matches that are very close, ones that I should win, having set points or match points every time. It’s very disappointing. I would like to take a break now, and I’m very upset with myself.”

Who could blame her? It’s been an emotional roller coaster that included her rise to No.1 getting to two grand slam finals before wilting, plus a Wimbledon semifinal appearance. Perhaps that’s what she needs.

“I wasn’t thinking about the result, I was just thinking about learning as much as I could from her,” a more pleased 20 year-old Zhang said. “She was not on her best form, she was impatient and made lots of mistakes.”

Staying with the upset theme, Venus was eliminated by Russian teen Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. Ironically, it was the second consecutive week Pavlyuchenkova sent the seven-time slam winner out of a tournament.

The prior week, the No.3 ranked player fell in two tightly played straights. However, this time she came out firing capturing the opening set.

“She started way aggressive today. She wanted to kill me, I guess,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “I had nothing to lose. I just tried to move her around as much as I could, just hit as hard as I could in the court and just enjoy the match.”

It was the younger Russian who controlled the final two sets by playing cleaner tennis while Venus went off. In particular, her serve unraveled with the 29 year-old American finishing with an uncharacteristic 14 doubles.

“She played really well, unfortunately sometimes I made errors too soon in the play,” Williams lamented.

For Pavlyuchenkova who’s highly thought of, it was another step in the right direction as she prepares for a big 2010.

“I want to win a Grand Slam really so much,” she expressed after advancing to a third round encounter against Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak, who bested Frenchwoman Alize Cornet 7-5, 6-4. “[Maria] Sharapova won it when she was 17, really quite young also. And others before. So, why not? I can do this.”

Another first round upset victim was Wozniacki, who fell in three sets to Spaniard Maria Jose Sanchez Martinez, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (2), 6-0. Perhaps the U.S. Open runner-up wasn’t fully recovered from her sickness that forced her to retire last week in a loss to Wozniak. Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer fared no better dropping a three set decision to Russian Alisa Kleybanova 5-7, 6-3, 6-3.

Daniela Hantuchova advanced to a second round meeting against Nadia Petrova by posting a straight sets win over Carla Suarez Navarro. Meanwhile, advancing to the third round were two-time slam champ Svetlana Kuznetsova and China’s Li Na as did Alona Bondarenko.

One player not participating is Ana Ivanovic, who’s had a forgetful season. She pulled out with an upper respiratory problem. It’s just as well.

Stepanek Wins Despite 78 Aces Against Him

Somehow, Radek Stepanek won. Despite a record 78 aces coming off the big racket of Ivo Karlovic, the 30 year-old Stepanek prevailed in five extraordinary sets 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (6), 6-7 (2), 16-14, giving the Czech Republic a 1-0 series lead over Croatia in the Davis Cup semifinal in Porec earlier today.

The match took five hours and 59 minutes to complete. Just a minute shy of reaching the six hour mark. Only three Davis Cup matches have ever gone that far. While Stepanek and Karlovic didn’t quite get there, they did match a record for most total games (82) since the tiebreak was introduced in 1989 to Davis Cup.

Ironically, it was earlier this year in a first round defeat to Lleyton Hewitt at Roland Garros that Karlovic shattered his own record with 55 aces. Apparently, the big Croat would be better off with less considering the heartbreaking end results which again held true with Stepanek saving five match points with three coming in the 10th game and another in the 24th game of the climatic final set.

“I am very happy that I was able to pull it through,” an ecstatic Stepanek expressed afterwards. “The match was going crazy; we were not able to break each other. I was the one who was using more fitness. He had four match points in the fifth set but I stayed mentally strong and it paid off at the end. You can’t live through bigger emotions than Davis Cup and this match just proved it.”

Amazingly, there were no breaks of serve until the 81st game (29th of 5th set) following a brief exhange in the first set which Stepanek dropped in one of four breakers.

“I have no words right now, it was like a lottery and I managed to seize my chances,” the winner added.

“It was a long and exhausting match but when you play for your country it’s worth it. It wouldn’t matter if it lasted for another few hours.”

“It was really close match, it was long and I had match points,” said a drained Karlovic who blew leads of 3-0 and 4-1 in the fourth set tiebreak before Stepanek stormed back to take it 8-6, forcing a deciding set. “I could also have won … I don’t know, that’s it.”

In the second match, Tomas Berdych held off U.S. Open quarterfinalist Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3 to put the Czech Republic a win away from the Davis Cup final. Spain leads the other semifinal 2-0 over Israel thanks to straight set wins from Juan Carlos Ferrero and David Ferrer.

“It was like was going to put you in front of a wall and shoot at you, it was feeling like that,” summed up Stepanek. “I knew he was going to serve incredibly well and I was expecting it but I said to be patient and wait for my chances.”