Sports Outside the Beltway

2002 Australian Tennis Open Champ Thomas Johansson announces his retirement

His playing had been beset by injuries of late. From AP-

Former Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson is quitting professional tennis after more than 15 years on the ATP tour.

The 34-year-old Swede won nine singles titles and reached a top ranking of No. 7 in 2002. Injuries forced him to take long breaks from the game in recent years.

“After a lot of thinking, I have now decided to step off the train and end my professional tennis career,” he said in a statement Friday. “During the fall I had to go through yet another operation after a foot injury and a month ago I became a dad for the second time.”

Johansson, who made his ATP debut in Bolzano, Italy, in 1993, said the biggest moments of his career were winning the 2002 Australian Open title and reaching the Wimbledon semifinals in 2005. He was also part of Sweden’s Davis Cup-winning team in 1998 and won an Olympic silver medal in doubles in Beijing last year with Simon Aspelin.

In March, Johansson was knocked out in qualifying for the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Fla. Earlier that month, he beat Harel Levy, but lost to Dudi Sela as Sweden was defeated 3-2 by Israel in a Davis Cup quarterfinal.

All athletes come to a point in their career when they must decide if they are no longer competitive and should therefore retire. Some have trouble recognizing their skills aren’t what they used to be, and the late stages of their career become almost joke like. Johnansson looks like he is getting out at the right time. I wish him well in retirement.


Slammed- Roger Federer wins the French Open

He also acheived a career tennis grand slam. From AP-

Roger Federer beat Robin Soderling, tied Pete Sampras and won the French Open at last.

Undeterred by an on-court intruder, Federer defeated surprise finalist Soderling 6-1, 7-6 (1), 6-4 on Sunday to complete a career Grand Slam and win his 14th major title, matching Sampras’ record.

“It’s maybe my greatest victory, or certainly the one that removes the most pressure off my shoulders,” Federer said. “I think that now and until the end of my career, I can really play with my mind at peace, and no longer hear that I’ve never won Roland Garros.”

On his fourth try in Paris, Federer became the sixth man to win all four Grand Slam championships.

Even without a French Open win, Federer had already proved himself to be one of Tennis’ greatest players. Today’s win just closes the deal.

Why were the clay courts of Roland Garros such a mystery to Federer? He isn’t from the United States after all. Only three Americans men(Michael Chang, Jim Courier, and Andre Agassi) have won the French Open since 1956. With Federer, in light of how he lost three consecutive years in the finals, it may have been a case of wanting something too much.


Australia forfeits Davis Cup match

Team Australia cited security reasons for their refusal to play a match in India. From Reuters-

Australia will not send its Davis Cup team to India for next month’s tie because of security concerns, Tennis Australia (TA) said on Saturday, leaving the country facing a year-long ban and a substantial fine.

The ITF, in a statement on the Davis Cup Web site, declared India the winner by forfeit and said it regretted TA’s decision. India advances to the next round of the World Group playoffs, in September.

“The Davis Cup Committee in due course will decide any sanctions to be assessed against Australia according to the regulations of the 2009 competition,” the statement said.

Under Davis Cup rules, TA now could be banned from the competition for 12 months and face a substantial fine.

Any future sanctions or ban inflicted on Australia has been earned. If a country wants to compete in these world-wide competitions, they can’t be the ones to determine who, how, and where the matches are to be played.

In light of this controversy, and the recent Sweden-Israel match that was closed to the public it might be time to play the Davis Cup matches on a less regular basis. Do they really need to be played every year? The Olympic Games are held every four, the Ryder Cup every two years. Every other year seems sufficient to me for the Davis Cup.


Davis Cup fines Sweden $25,000

This was a result of the country not allowing fans to attend a recent match held in the country. From AP-

The Swedish tennis federation was fined $25,000 on Thursday and the city of Malmo banned from hosting Davis Cup matches for five years because of the decision to play Israel behind closed doors.

The Davis Cup Committee also said Sweden will lose its choice of venue if a similar situation happens again, and the country will be required to guarantee that future matches will be open to the public.

Sweden hosted Israel last month in the first round of the Davis Cup, losing 3-2. The best-of-five series was played behind closed doors because city officials said they couldn’t guarantee security at the venue. Critics, including the Israeli team, said Malmo was caving in to threats of violence from anti-Israel groups.

“The committee strongly condemned the decision by the city government of Malmo to refuse to allow spectators to attend the matches and the resultant fact that the Swedish Tennis Association played the tie behind closed doors,” the committee said in a statement.

If Sweden don’t have the courage to stand up to thugs, they shouldn’t be hosting these matches. By keeping fans out, the event’s organizers capitulated and Tennis was the loser from this.


The return of Maria Sharapova

During her layoff, Sharapova has dropped from 1st to 23rd in the World rankings. From AP-

Maria Sharapova is returning to the WTA Tour this week, ending her injury absence of more than seven months by playing doubles at an event in Indian Wells, Calif.

Sharapova, who missed the last two Grand Slam tournaments with a right shoulder injury, will compete in doubles for the first time in nearly four years, teaming with Elena Vesnina.

What the three-time major champion isn’t yet ready to do is play singles, according to her Web site.

“I am excited to be playing competitive tennis again,” Sharapova said in a posting on her site. “The healing process takes time, and requires things to move more slowly than I would like, but I am taking things one step at a time.”

Sharapova has not played competitively since pulling out of a tournament in Montreal in late July after winning a nearly three-hour match in which she double-faulted 17 times. The right-hander was examined by a trainer midway through the three-set victory, and she withdrew from the tournament before her next match.

Medical tests later found a torn rotator cuff tendon in the Russian’s shoulder.

In addition to missing last year’s U.S. Open and this year’s Australian Open, Sharapova also pulled out of an indoor event in Paris and a hard-court tournament in Dubai last month.

The joint ATP-WTA tournament in Indian Wells begins Wednesday.

The Sun-Sentinel reports Sharapova will play in the upcoming Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne Florida. It’s good to see her back, and I’m sure alot of male tennis fans wills second what I say.(I hardly follow tennis myself)


Israeli Andy Ram allow to play in Dubai

Less than a week after denying Shahar Peer a visa, the UAE reverses course for one of her countrymen.

Israeli tennis player Andy Ram will be allowed to play in a premier Dubai tennis tournament after the Arab country said it would permit the No. 7-ranked doubles player to enter the country.

The Persian Gulf country banned Israeli women’s tennis star Shahar Peer earlier this week from entering the UAE to participate in the lucrative Dubai Tennis Championships. Organizers said they feared fan anger over Israel’s recent military offensive in the Gaza Strip would spill into riots in the Arab country if Peer were to play.

After Peer was barred, the tennis world harshly criticized the UAE for its ban of Israelis, and top past and present women players also came to Peer’s defense, including Billie Jean King.

Tennis governing officials warned that future tennis events in Dubai could be in doubt if the Emirates, which does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, continued to ban Israelis. And the ATP, which runs the men’s tournament, gave the Emirates a Friday evening deadline to decide whether to grant Ram a visa.

ATP president Adam Helfant described the Emirates’ decision at the “right” one.

Do I proofread for ESPN by any chance? I make typos like ‘at the right one’ rather than ‘as the right one’ and nobody is paying me to right this stuff.

Back to tennis. The UAE made the right decision for Ram, but it doesn’t let them off the hook so far as what they did to Peer. It’s too late to correct it, because the women’s tennis event is underway as I write this. There should be some form of punishment for what was done, but I’m still skeptical anything will happen worse than a wrist slap.


Davis Cup match to be played in empty arena

If no fans are allowed, who’s to say it really happened? From AP-

Sweden and Israel will play their first-round Davis Cup match in an empty arena next month because of security concerns.

Several anti-Israeli demonstrations are planned during the best-of-five series, which will be played March 6-8 at the 4,000-seat Baltic Hall.

Malmo officials announced the decision afterg a vote on the issue in the city’s recreational committee. The Swedish Social Democratic Party and the Left Party won the vote 5-4 after a long debate.

The committee said it could not guarantee security for the fans.

“It’s a high-risk match,” committee chairman Bengt Forsberg was quoted as saying by Swedish news agency TT.

High risk from what? Hysteria? This website claims Sweden has stricter gun laws than the US and a lower homicide rate.

Only officials, some sponsors and journalists will be allowed to enter the arena.

Journalists can be trusted never to be violent…..Oops.


This will be the second time a Davis Cup match will be played in an empty arena in Sweden. In 1975, two years after a military coup led by Augusto Pinochet against the elected Chilean government of Salvador Allende, Sweden played Chile in Bastad and no spectators were allowed.

History always repeats itself. I have written three Tennis posts in less than a week. What’s next? Another post about figure skating?

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Dubai tennis cites security fear in barring Israeli tennis player

This all started on Saturday when Shahar Peer who was supposed to begin play on Monday in the United Arab Emirates, was denied a visa. From ESPN-

Organizers of a women’s tennis tournament said Tuesday that security fears were behind the decision to bar an Israeli player


The snub brought swift denunciations from the Women’s Tennis Association and warnings that it could consider scratching the Barclays Dubai tournament from its calendar.


Tuesday’s statement by the Barclays Dubai organizers — citing fan anger at Israel’s recent incursions into the Gaza Strip — was the first detailed explanation of the visa denial for Peer, who qualified as the 48th-ranked player in the world. Monday’s WTA rankings listed her 45th.


A statement from the tournament organizer, Dubai Duty Free, said Peer’s “presence would have antagonized our fans” because of the attacks in Gaza, which left about 1,300 Palestinians dead, at least half of them civilians, according to Gaza health officials.

There’s been unrest between Arabs and Israelis in the Middle East for 60 years. As I see it Dubai is going to have to make a choice. Placate the rabble, and they are never going to be satisfied, or give Peer a visa.

Fallout from the visa denial has already taking place.

The Tennis Channel announced it would not televise the tournament this week in protest of the United Arab Emirates’ last-minute visa denial for Israeli player Shahar Peer.

“This is an easy decision to come by, based on what is right and wrong,” Tennis Channel chairman and CEO Ken Solomon told The New York Times. “Sports are about merit, absent of background, class, race, creed, color or religion. They are simply about talent. This is a classic case, not about what country did what to another country. If the state of Israel were barring a citizen of an Arab nation, we would have made the same decision.”

I applaud the Tennis channel’s decision. Sports are about merit not politics. The Dubai organizers are going to have to make a choice.

Another decision looms just over the horizon for Dubai officials.

But the United Arab Emirates, which is trying to become a showcase for world-class sports, faces increasing pressure with the men’s field, as Israeli doubles specialist Andy Ram hopes to be in the draw on Sunday.

Ram’s lawyer, Amit Naor, told The Associated Press that the player is currently in Marseilles, France, and awaiting word if he will be allowed into Dubai. Ram is ranked No. 7 in the world in doubles.

“Andy wants to play, he’s not interested in all the other stuff,” Naor said. “He’s not looking for trouble, he’s looking to play … we thought politics was already out of sports.”

Ben Nichols, a marketing official for the men’s and women’s tennis tournaments in Dubai, said organizers were not aware of Ram’s visa status.

I make a bet they do now. If Ram is denied entry also, the WTA should cancel all further events in the country. Qatar allowed Peer to play in a tournament there, The UAE should follow course.

The choice that the Dubai organizers face could be compared to the one Albanian chess team faced at the 1972 Chess Olympiad. They were supposed to play Israel and didn’t show up for the games and were therefore forfeited. Albania protested, claiming their car broke down on the way to the match. Instead of getting a full 4 pts, Israel was awarded three. Three rounds later Albania’s true colors were discovered when they announced their withdrawal from the Olympiad rather than face the team from Greece.

I don’t know how anyone could have been surprised at Albania’s conduct in 1972. At the 1970 match they refused to play a team from South Africa. Like Albania, Dubai tournament organizers and officials are going to another stand with Andy Ram. If the WTC is about tennis not politics, they should make it clear there will be no more tournaments in the country if Ram is denied a visa also.

In all fairness there have been some idiots protesters at another tennis event Peer played in. The AP article on Sunday made note of that happening in New Zealand recently. Back in 1969, misguided morons people protested Gary Player when he tried to play in the PGA Championship. That in spite of Player’s strong anti-apartheid views. Player invited Lee Elder to come play an exhibition match in South Africa. There are always going to be assholes persons who can’t separate sports and politics.


Dubai denies visa for Israeli tennis player

Shahar Peer is the 48th ranked player in the world. From AP-

The top official in women’s tennis reprimanded the United Arab Emirates on Sunday for blocking an Israeli player from a premier Dubai tournament, calling the decision to deny her a visa “regrettable.”

But the absence of Shahar Peer could extend beyond the matches under way. The WTA Tour is planning to review its future in Dubai, and the UAE — which does not have diplomatic relations with Israel — could face a possible blow to its ambitions of becoming an international hub for big-ticket sports.

“Ms. Peer has earned the right to play in the tournament and it’s regrettable that the UAE is denying her this right,” WTA Tour CEO Larry Scott said in a statement issued after the UAE’s last-minute decision.

The visa denial could result in Dubai no longer hosting a WTA event. I think it should, if a country can’t separate sports and politics, they shouldn’t be hosting international competitions. I doubt the WTA will take any action. Dubai based sporting events are some of the richest in the world.

The UAE has no diplomatic relations with Israel, but Israelis with dual citizenship have entered the country for international sporting and business events using second-country passports. On some occasions, Israeli passport holders have been allowed entry for meetings held by the United Nations or other international agencies.

It was not clear whether Peer was traveling on an Israeli passport.

Peer’s brother and spokesman, Shlomi Peer, said the 21-year-old player applied for a visa months in advance and was assured by tournament organizers that she would be allowed entry.

Tournament officials can promise anything they want but aren’t the ones who grant or deny a visa.

If Peer only has a Israeli passport, the visa denial was consistent with Dubai law and policy. That law and policy stinks.

Peer broke barriers last year in Qatar when she was the first Israeli to play in a WTA Tour tournament in the Persian Gulf. But the UAE — locked in a rivalry with Qatar to host major sports events — could face setbacks if the WTA and other federations grow skittish of planning events with the prospect of Israeli athletes being blocked.

Last month, Peer was the focus of protests in New Zealand over Israel’s recent three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip against Hamas militants. She was provided extra security at the ASB Class tournament there.

In fairness to Dubai and the UAE, they aren’t the only Muslim country to discriminate against Israeli tennis players. In 2006 the Indonesian Tennis Association refused to play a match in Israel.

Sports shouldn’t be about politics. I’m realistic enough to know some won’t ever be able to separate the two.

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Serena Williams wins the Australian Open

It was Serena’s third triumph down under since 2003. From AP-

Serena Williams routed Dinara Safina 6-0, 6-3 Saturday to win the Australian Open for her 10th Grand Slam title and a return to the No. 1 ranking.

It was total domination for the second-seeded Williams, who looked at ease in winning back-to-back majors — she won the U.S. Open championship in September — and was moving fluidly on the court.

“I absolutely, clearly, love playing here,” the 27-year-old Williams said. “You guys root for me so much. I don’t get that everywhere. So thank you so much.”

Williams’ near-perfect performance was in sharp contrast to No. 3 Safina, who was tight from the start. Later apologizing to the crowd for her performance, Safina said Williams was just too good, leaving her feeling like a ballboy.

I remember people beginning to write off Serena and her sister Venus before the 2007 Australian Open. (Yours truly gave them and their father a Knucklehead award for off the court problems) They were wrong. Anyone want to predict how many more Grand Slam titles will win in her career? I’m going to say two.


Visitors Since Feb. 4, 2003

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