Yanina Wickmayer has become the latest player to be honored with a Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Heart Award. A public vote was held on FedCup.com and FedCup.com/es to decide the winner, and the Belgian edged out fellow nominees Daniela Hantuchova, Samantha Stosur and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez. All four players were shortlisted by the judging panel for their performances during the World Group play-offs or World Group II play-offs on April 24-25.
Wickmayer will receive a silver Baccarat bracelet and a check for $3,000 to be donated to a charity of her choice. She follows in the footsteps of past winners Melanie Oudin, Jelena Jankovic, Maria-Fernanda Alves, Kimiko Date-Krumm and Katarina Srebotnik.
Juan Martin Del Potro, already ruled out of both the French Open and Wimbledon as he recovers from a wrist operation, has now ruled out any chance of defending the U.S. Open title he won last September.
The Argentine, currently ranked no.5 in the world but inactive since the Australian Open, underwent surgery in Rochester, Minnesota at the beginning of May.
Del Potro, aged 21, delayed surgery and viewed it as a last resort but had been troubled by his wrist for most of the time since his memorable Flushing Meadows campaign which saw him beat both Rafael Nadal in the semi final and then Roger Federer in the final.
Immediately after the operation, Del Potro declared the recovery is a prolonged process and would depend of many factors. He has now announced: “If all goes well, I'd return after the U.S. Open. The tournament is and always will be very special for me, all my life but I don't want to rush things."
Obviously plans are very vague for the Tandil-resident at the current time but he has set the Paribas Open at Paris’ Bercy Stadium in early November as a potential comeback date.
Lagardère Unlimited announced that Justine Henin, former world number one singles player, will continue her relationship with Rolex watches for several more years. Henin, only one of the few players on the tour to wear a watch during match play, will continue to be an international spokeswoman for Rolex and a key figure in their global advertising campaign.
Sebastien Grosjean, the Frenchman who will turn 32 during the upcoming French Open and can look back on the peak of his career coming when he reached the world no.4 ranking back in 2002 has announced he will retire at the end of the season.
"It's not really my decision," said Grosjean, speaking to reporters at the Rueil-Malmaison exhibition. "It's my body that has made me take it."
The Marseille-born player who has made his home in Florida for the past decade, has been plagued by injuries in recent times and has seen his world ranking plummet to 546.
Four times a major semi-finalist - including twice at Wimbledon in 2003 and 2004 – he revealed his ailments had left him with little other option but to call time on his career.
"I am going to stop playing at the end of the season," he stated. "It is not really my decision, it is my body that has persuaded me it is time to do so."
Grosjean went on to reveal that he has not requested a wildcard entry for the forthcoming French Open because of fitness concerns, although he will compete in the doubles at Roland Garros with compatriot Richard Gasquet.
"I did not ask for a wild card for the singles tournament because I am not ready physically for a five-set match and I did not want to take the place of a young player," he added.
Grosjean won a total of four ATP titles, including Bercy in 2001 which secured him a place at the season-ending Masters Cup tournament in Sydney where he was defeated by Australian Lleyton Hewitt in the final.
Tennis Channel will carry 77 hours of live French Open coverage beginning the first week with seven hours of live match play will air each day, from 5 a.m. to noon ET, with coverage continuing through the men’s and women’s quarterfinals deep into the second week of play.
The network is working with ESPN2 again to bring viewers an almost round-the-clock tournament experience for the fourth consecutive year, with each channel cross-promoting the other’s schedule. As Tennis Channel’s daily match coverage concludes at noon ET, ESPN2 picks up the action without missing a beat, covering the tournament through 6:30 p.m. ET, when Tennis Channel’s French Open Tonight begins. Tennis Channel will produce all coverage for both channels, with each making use of its own on-air team.
Tennis Channel’s extensive French Open coverage has never been limited to television. The network will again offer free live and on-demand broadband streams, with close to 125 matches and 200 hours during the first 10 days of the tournament. Visitors to the network’s site, www.tennischannel.com, will be able to view any one of five courts for the first eight days of the event, followed by a single court on days nine and ten.
Date Time (ET) Event
Sunday, May 23 5 a.m.-Noon First-Round
Monday, May 24 5 a.m.-3 p.m. First-Round
Tuesday, May 25 5 a.m.-Noon First-Round
Wednesday, May 26 5 a.m.-Noon Second Round
Thursday, May 27 5 a.m.-Noon Second Round
John McEnroe has announced the formation of his own Tennis Academy, to be housed at the new $18 Million SPORTIME at Randall’s Island Tennis Center in New York City. SPORTIME, owner of 13 tennis and fitness clubs throughout New York State, will operate the club and will partner with McEnroe in the operation of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy. The academy will encourage its students to take advantage of the many educational, athletic and cultural opportunities that New York City has to offer.
"For many years the United States has struggled to develop its next class of elite players," said McEnroe. "I believe that I can inspire young players the way that my coaches inspired me. And I plan to create a system, like the one that I learned in, that supports building an all-around person, as opposed to a tennis machine.
"My academy will provide a balance of world-class tennis and fitness training, along with a New York experience, so maybe our kids will be a little more creative, a little more intense, and will be able to think on their feet a little better, like any New Yorker. Over time and with my guidance and that of our hand-picked coaches and pros, I think our students will see great success."
Rather than a tennis-only approach, the McEnroe Academy will support a balanced training experience for the developing elite player. All or virtually all students who are admitted to the academy will attend a conventional school during the day and will train after school hours and on weekends during the school year. The academy will offer tennis coaching, training and practice, coaching at on and off-site tournaments, a fitness component and an academic support team. The cost of the academy will be determined by each student’s personal plan, and partial and full scholarships will be available based on need and ability. McEnroe has selected former ATP, Olympic and Israeli Davis Cup player Gilad Bloom as the Academy’s Director of Tennis and he and McEnroe are assembling a top-tier staff of international instructors and coaches.
The French Open is about to start and Wimbledon’s Championships are still more than a month away but already tennis fans are gearing up for the calendar ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at London’s 02 Arena and more than 100,000 tickets were sold within the first 24 hours of them being available.
The event does not begin until November 21 and whoever qualifies for the eight man field is still very much a matter of conjecture although last year’s champion Nikolay Davydenko and runner-up Juan Martin Del Potro will find the going tough after missing a large chunk of the competitive year including the French Open because of long term wrist problems.
“Last year’s finals, and the atmosphere created at the 02, exceeded all out expectations and was one of the great successes of tennis in recent years,” said Adam Helfant, executive chairman of the ATP World Tour. “We have taken last year’s tournament, tried to fine a tune a few things, and hopefully it will be even better this time around.”
The event, almost a sell-out last year with 256,000 tickets sold for the 15 sessions across eight days, has an initial five year stay in London which could be extended. With the United Kingdom still gripped in the credit-crunch, finance has been noted and the cheapest entry is a very amenable £20 with half-price tickets available for those under 16 years of age.
Matches will also start earlier in an attempt to avoid the problems confronted by those traveling on the London Underground and faced with the prospect of missing the last tube train home.
Once again a doubles match will precede the singles main event during the initial round robin phase but the evening singles will start 45 minutes earlier at 8pm. “This is in line with other major sporting events in London such as Champions’ League soccer and should avert any of the problems for ticketholders last year,” said Helfant.
What was the most embarrassing and easily avoidable sight in tennis last year? Top of the list must be the farcical scenes at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals last year, when confusion reigned at the end of the final match in one of the four-man round-robin groups when Juan Martin del Potro and the sell-out crowd were kept waiting several minutes before it was announced that the Argentine, thanks to his victory over Roger Federer, had qualified for the semi-finals at the expense of Andy Murray.
Such was the utter confusion over the qualification system that Del Potro did not find out for certain that he was still in the competition for 25 minutes and spent some of his time indulging in a knock-up with supporter and friend, Argentina football star Carlos Tevez.
Murray, who was watching from elsewhere, posted on his Twitter page: "Anyone know what's going on?"
The humiliating and frustrating mathematical glitch which some feel was the responsibility of ATP’s Executive Vice President and Administrator of Regulations Gayle Bradshaw and others apportion to Senior Manager of Supervisors Tom Barnes, meant that most spectators even left without knowing the outcome.
Official explanations maintained occurred in such a tight mathematical situation, successful qualifiers had to be confirmed off-court by the ATP supervisor, who also had to be on court during play.
The Barclays ATP World Tour Finals managing director, Chris Kermode, does not expect a repeat when the tournament returns. “The information will be on screen now,” he explained.
“There was bit of a misconception that last year we didn't know who the player was that got through. Actually we did know but there was a process to follow. The structure of how that decision is made has been changed now.
“What that situation showed was that we need to tell our story better to the fans who are in the arena in terms of how the round robin system works and the relevance of each match, which we will do this year.”
By their very traditional nature, the All England Lawn Tennis Club refuses to announce something unless it is 100% confirmed to happen. Consequently outgoing Wimbledon chairman Tim Phillips has formally confirmed that Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, will attend the Championships this year following a 33-year absence.
After years of speculation centring on the phrase: ‘Will she? Won’t She?’ and heightened conjecture last year that Queen Elizabeth would be present for one of Andy Murray’s matches, an official directive has arrived at SW19 from Buckingham Palace informing the All England Club that she will be in attendance at Centre Court on the first Thursday, June 24.
The last time Queen Elizabeth attended the Championships was in her Silver Jubilee Year to watch Virginia Wade become the last British singles champion in 1977. “We are delighted and honored that the Queen has indicated that she will be attending the Championships this year and we very much look forward to welcoming Her Majesty back to Wimbledon,” said Phillips.
“Wimbledon has changed considerably since the Queen's previous visit in 1977, most notably with a transformation of the infrastructure bringing new and much improved facilities, including the Centre Court roof which was unveiled last year.
Phillips, who will stand down after a decade as chairman at the end of the year to be replaced by Phil Brooke, added: “What has not changed, though, is the essential character of Wimbledon, created by the passion of players and spectators alike who want to be part of one the world's most exhilarating sporting events. It will certainly be an exciting occasion for everyone here.”
Last year the Queen sent a letter of congratulations to Murray after he became the first British born player in 71 years to win the win the traditional Wimbledon warm up grass court event at Baron’s Court’s Queen’s Club; currently called the AEGON Championships.
Henry ‘Bunny’ Austin was the last Brit to prevail at Queen’s Club back in 1938. He was a member of Britain’s last team to win the Davis Cup and a contemporary of Fred Perry who by then at turned professional.
Rafael Nadal got down to work in Paris with a brand new $535,000 watch on his wrist, a burning desire to reclaim the French Open title in his heart and a careful coach sitting on the sidelines.
Nadal’s first port of call after his private jet from Majorca landed an hour late at Le Bourget airport was the opulent surroundings of the Hotel Continental, close to L’Opera, as he answered questions about the special edition Richard Mille timepiece that weighs only 20 grams including the strap and embraces materials used in aerospace technology.
The world no.2, very much a man of habit, will become one of the few contestants to actually wear a watch during his matches. And that is not the only new thing in the Nadal preparation to reclaim the title he has won four times previously.
For Toni Nadal, coach and uncle to the tournament favorite, the sight of his charge struggling with knee problems during and after last year’s defeat by Robin Soderling are still clear in the mind. Consequently there has been a reduction in Rafa’s playing commitments this year and the fiercely patriotic Spaniard even missed the Barcelona tournament a couple of weeks ago.
“We must take care with the calendar and maybe it is better to prepare with prudence, so we shall stop more,” said Toni. “We want to play a lot more years but we cannot play too hard all the years. When you see the Rafael of three, four years ago, he did a lot more running than he does now. His game is not as physical as it was before. This is what we have to accept.”
Nadal’s form has been exceptional throughout the clay court season as he has collected the Masters 1000 series titles of Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid. Uncle Toni could not have asked for any more but he maintained: “I don’t want to say the names but good players, who have been at the top, they have gone down.
“It is the same because every year there are better ones coming, new ones, like [Ernest] Gulbis, [Marin] Cilic. [Andy] Murray arrived two years before, [Novak] Djokovic three years before. Rafael came to the top very young, which was good for us, but at the same time it is a problem because he was very high at 19-20 and you must get better because when you don’t improve, the new ones will make you bad and I know he can do all the things better. We are in this process.”
Britain’s Lawn Tennis Association is set to have its first female president in three and a half years time following the news that Cathie Sabin has been nominated to serve a three year term as vice-president from December.
LTA tradition decrees that the vice-president ascends to the top post and Peter Bretherton, the current no.2, will succeed Derek Howarth at the annual general meeting set to take place at the National Training Centre in Roehampton at the end of this year.
If Sabin’s nomination is approved by the LTA council, and that is considered a formality as it was this body which elected her to the main board, she will serve three years as Bretherton’s assistant.
Sabin is a retired schoolteacher, and chairman of the AEGON Classic event, staged annually at Birmingham’s Edgaston Priory and will this year again feature Maria Sharapova as part of the entry.
A qualified referee, and president of Shropshire LTA, Sabin regards it as a great honor to be nominated. “I have spent a lifetime in tennis, and I am passionate about the sport in clubs, schools and counties,” she said. “There is so much good work going on across the sport, and I want to continue to support that work in this new role.”
Current PresidentHoworth, said of the nomination: “Cathie has so much experience at all levels of tennis, and to be able to bring all of that to the role of deputy president will be of real benefit to the LTA.”
The LTA has also appointed Richard Baker, non-executive chairman of Virgin Active, to the main board. The 47 year-old will replace Bob Phillis who died earlier this year and become the second independent non-executive member of the LTA Main Board, together with Val Gooding CBE, former chief executive of BUPA.
Baker was previously group chief executive of Alliance Boots plc, responsible for a company with 100,000 staff worldwide, and $24 billion in revenue. He is also chairman of the European Division of Groupe Aeroplan, which owns and runs the nectar loyalty program in the UK and is a non-executive director of Whitbread PLC.
Commenting on his new appointment, Baker said: “I’m really looking forward to joining the LTA and bringing the knowledge I have gained from leading some of Britain’s biggest companies to help in the development of British tennis.
“As a lifelong, passionate tennis player and fan, I am very excited to be getting involved in supporting the growth of the sport at all levels.”
LTA Chief Executive, Roger Draper, said: “To have someone of Richard’s business caliber and experience will be a huge asset to the LTA Main Board, as we continue to professionalize the running of our sport.”
Mr. Baker is 47 and married with two children.
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