Sports Outside the Beltway

Venus Williams wins her 5th Wimbledon title

She defeated her sister Serena for her seventh career grand slam title.

WIMBLEDON, England – Venus Williams beat sister Serena 7-5, 6-4 Saturday for her fifth Wimbledon title and seventh Grand Slam championship.

This was Venus’ first victory over her younger sibling in a Grand Slam final since the 2001 U.S. Open, and it evened their career record at 8-8.

“I can’t believe that it’s five,” Venus said. “But when you’re in the final against Serena Williams, five seems too far away. … She played so awesome, it was really a task to beat her.”

Venus came from 3-1 down in the first set to turn around the match, breaking Serena four times while dropping serve twice in a final that produced breathtaking tennis despite swirling wind.

This was more than a matchup between siblings; it was a contest between two of the hardest-hitting, most athletic players in the world at the top of their game.

Venus broke to finish the match in 1 hour, 51 minutes, with Serena hitting a backhand wide on the second match point. The sisters embraced at the net, and Venus kept her celebrations in check as she twirled and waved to the Centre Court crowd.

Venus accepted the winner’s trophy — a sterling silver salver aptly named the Venus Rosewater dish — from the Duke of Kent.

I rarely watch tennis, but tuned in for most of today’s final. It was a good match, but probably won’t lead to my watching the men’s final tomorrow. See the wife and I go to mass on Sunday morning, therefore I won’t be home for most of the broadcast.

The last time I watched a men’s final in tennis was one of the Borg-McEnroe battles of the late 70′s or early 80′s.


Greg Norman Wedding Chris Evert

Greg Norman and Chris Evert are getting married.

Chris Evert and Greg Norman Wedding Photo Golfing legend Greg Norman(R) and former tennis star Chris Evert(L), seen here in April 2008, will marry this weekend in the Bahamas, the Australian Associated Press reported Thursday. (AFP/File/Mark Ralston)

Golfing legend Greg Norman and former tennis star Chris Evert will marry this weekend in the Bahamas, the Australian Associated Press reported Thursday.

The couple, both 53, are to wed Saturday at sunset on a beach in Paradise Island, the AAP said, citing various media reports. The pair announced their engagement last December.

Guests are believed to include former US presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush senior, American actor Chevy Chase, tennis great Martina Navratilova and singers Gwen Stefani and Kenny Loggins.

Norman, who has won two British Open titles among scores of other tournaments, and Evert, who won 18 Grand Slam titles, arrived in Paradise Island on Thursday.

Both are well past their heyday but they were indeed legendary figures in their games. Evert was America’s sweetheart for years, although overlapping careers with Billy Jean King and Martina Navratilova, who were arguably more dominant players. She was much more telegenic, however. Norman was one of the great golfers of the 1980s and early 1990s, although he’s probably best remembered for an epic collapse at the Masters.

Norman, Evert to marry in Bahamas (AFP)


Rafael Nadal wins 1st grass-court title

Rafa is a four-time French Open champ. From AP-

LONDON – Rafael Nadal claimed his first career grass-court title Sunday, defeating Novak Djokovic 7-6 (5), 7-5 in the Queen’s Club final to become the first Spaniard to win on grass in 36 years.

It was the French Open champion’s third win in the last three tournaments over the second-seeded Djokovic, following semifinal victories in Hamburg and at Roland Garros. Andres Gimeno was the last Spaniard to win on grass, at Eastbourne in 1972.

“This week was amazing for me,” Nadal said.

The win should give Nadal a confidence boost ahead of Wimbledon, particularly after his resounding straight-sets win over No. 1 Roger Federer in the French Open final.

That a top ranked tennis player(#2) had never won on a grass court comes as big surprise to me. Maybe that tells you how little I follow pro tennis. I did know many players, notably Americans, don’t like to play on clay courts like those used at The French Open. Remembering Michael Chang’s 1989 win at Roland Garros being the first such triumph by an American in a long-time. Thirty five years according to wikipedia. Seems logical that if there are some players who can’t win on clay, that there would others who have the same trouble with grass.

Note- I remembered Michael Chang’s win without looking it up. Took place when I was on my honeymoon. The Tianamen square protests were happening then too. You’d think a man new to matrimony would have other things on his mind…………


Czech player says he was asked to lose tennis match

Jan Hernych says this happened last year.

PRAGUE, Czech Republic – Czech tennis player Jan Hernych says he was approached in Russia last year and asked to lose first-round matches at ATP tournaments in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

“Someone called me from the (hotel’s) reception to my room, asking whether I wanted to sell a match, if I wanted to lose,” Hernych was quoted as saying in Friday’s editions of the Czech Republic’s biggest daily, Mlada Fronta Dnes.

“I rejected. I think that anyone who would accept it is absolutely mad,” said Hernych, currently ranked 165th.

The matches allegedly involved were against Italy’s Filippo Volandri at the Kremlin Cup, which Hernych won 6-1, 6-4, and against Russia’s Evgeny Korolev at the St. Petersburg Open, which the Czech player won 6-7 (5), 6-4, 7-6 (7).

Hernych said he was not offered a specific sum of money.

“They wanted to know whether I was willing to negotiate with them,” he said.

In the wake of at least one other questionable match, pro tennis officials need to conduct a serious and very transparent investigation. Right now the integrity of the sport is being called into serious question.


Martina Hingis denies cocaine charges, retires

She was the number #1 women’s tennis player in the world when only age 16. From AP-

ZURICH, Switzerland – Martina Hingis said Thursday she has been accused of testing positive for cocaine at Wimbledon, and then announced her retirement from professional tennis. Hingis, a five-time Grand Slam champion and former Wimbledon winner, denied using cocaine.

“I find this accusation so horrendous, so monstrous that I’ve decided to confront it head on by talking to the press,” she said. “I am frustrated and angry. I believe that I am absolutely 100 percent innocent.”

Her voice broke as she fought back tears in reading the statement. At the end, she took no questions and left the news conference.

The 27-year-old Swiss player lost in the third round at Wimbledon to Laura Granville, 6-4, 6-2.

Hingis said the positive test, which could lead to a doping suspension of up to two years, led to her retirement because she doesn’t want to spend years fighting the case.

Mario Widmer, Hingis’ manager, said he did not know why she waited until now to make the announcement.

Hingis returned to the sport two years ago after a four-year absence because of injuries.

She won three straight Australian Open titles from 1997-99, and Wimbledon and the U.S. Open championships in 1997. She came within one match of winning the Grand Slam in 1997, losing only in the French Open final.

On March 31, 1997, Hingis became the youngest female player ever to lead the world rankings. She was 16 years, 6 months and 1 day at the time. She is currently ranked No. 19.

It is said Hingis career has to end the way it did. If she thinks retiring will make the cocaine use charge go away, it won’t. Sports fans have heard so many athletes deny drug use and then either confess later on or have the use definitively proved, that we automatically believe the allegations. I don’t follow tennis well enough to render a verdict but I do wish Martina well in retirement.


ATP fines Nikolay Davydenko for lack of effort

This comes as the #4 men’s tennis player in the world is being investigated for another questionable match.

ST PETERSBURG (Reuters) – World number four Nikolay Davydenko has been fined $2,000 (976 pounds) for not trying hard enough during his shock defeat by Croatian qualifier Marin Cilic at the St Petersburg Open on Thursday.

“Nikolay Davydenko was fined $2,000 for lack of best effort in his second-round match against Marin Cilic,” the governing body for men’s tennis, ATP, said in a statement on Friday.

The top seed played near-flawless tennis in the first set against the 102nd-ranked Cilic but then started making numerous errors and committed 10 double faults in the last two sets.

He was warned by Belgian umpire Jean-Philippe Dercq in the final set for not trying hard enough.

“I double-faulted to lose a game in the third set and he gave me a warning saying I was trying to lose on purpose,” Davydenko told reporters after the match.

“I was simply shocked to hear him say that. This is just outrageous. How does he know what I was trying to do? I was so upset with the whole thing I started crying.”

The Russian is being investigated by the ATP after his first-round match against Argentine Martin Vassallo Arguello in Poland in August attracted irregular betting patterns.

I rarely follow tennis, so I won’t pass judgment on whether anything irregular happened during these matches. However for the integrity of professional tennis, I hope the ATP is taking these allegations seriousl. A sport can suffer incredible damage if the integrity of its events, matches or games look to be questionable to its fans. Even if the charges are said to be unsubstaniated for lack of proof, harm can be done. OJ Simpson was found not guilty of murder, but how many people today think really think he didn’t kill his wife in 1994?Simpson is out of sports, but even if Davydenko is cleared, that doesn’t mean the rumors won’t go away.

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Venus Williams beats Maria Kirilenko to win Korean Open

Venus Williiams won her second tennis tournament of 2007 last weekend.

SEOUL, South Korea – Top-seeded Venus Williams beat Maria Kirilenko 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 in the championship of the Korean Open on Sunday.

“Sometimes in the match I was a little disappointed with the errors I was making, and it made it a lot tougher for me,” said Williams, who won her third title of the season. “But at the end, I guess in the last few games, I started to play much better.”

Williams hadn’t lost a set in the tournament heading into the final, but she had to work to improve to 3-0 in her career against Kirilenko, who had a nine-match winning streak.

Williams had five double-faults and was broken three times in the second set. She finished with 11 double-faults for the match. But Williams broke Kirilenko twice in the third to secure the win.

While none of the top players were playing in Korea, I do believe Venus plus her sister Serena are firmly back as top ten tennis players in the World. They have both won Grand Slam events in 2007. I may put Serena in the top five.

I don’t think Venus looks good in a hangbok but Robert Koehler says the tennis player looks better in one than Britney Spears. Robert is probably right, as he resides in the ROK.

The only women I’ve ever seen wearing these dresses, came on a brief visit of mine to South Korea in 1989. The Lotte hotel had young women stand by the hotel elevators and smile at people as they went upstairs. What an inefficient use of hotel resources. My late father owned and ran two on Long Island and never employed such women. Then neither hotel had an elevator!


Lindsay Davenport wins the Bali Open

Why is this special? The former #1 player in women’s tennis gave birth to her first child barely three months ago.

NUSA DUA, Indonesia – Lindsay Davenport won her first singles title after almost a year’s absence from the tour, defeating Daniela Hantuchova 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 Sunday to capture the Bali Open.

Davenport was playing her first singles tournament since having a baby in June. And the 31-year-old Californian eliminated some strong opponents en route to this title: second-seeded Hantuchova, top-seeded Jelena Jankovic and fifth-seeded Eleni Daniilidou.

“I’m a little bit in shock,” said Davenport, who won this event in 2005. “It’s just overwhelming and exciting. I swear this is probably the first tournament I’ve played in four years where I didn’t have anything wrong with my lower extremities.”

Davenport, ranked No. 1 in 1998, has won three Grand Slams in addition to a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics. Her previous title came in Zurich, Switzerland, nearly two years ago.

She had not competed on the WTA Tour since reaching the Beijing quarterfinals in September 2006, when she lost to Amelie Mauresmo. She gave birth to her first child — a son, Jagger — with husband and former tennis player Jon Leach.

Tiger Woods, who became a father this year, got twenty times the attention Ms. Davenport got. It isn’t really fair either. Any father out there knows, the mother carries the greater load when it comes to parenting before and after birth. Pro athletes who can succeed at both have my admiration.(Trivia time- Name the last two LPGA Hall of Fame inductees that are also mothers?)

Congrats to Lindsay on proving she can still win at pro tennis.


Officials probe irregular betting in Polish tennis tournament

There is a controversy brewing involving a match Nikolay Davydenko quit last Thursday.

WARSAW, Poland – Nikolay Davydenko “has nothing whatsoever to do” with the suspicious betting patterns on his second-round match at the Prokom Open, the player’s agent said.

ATP Tour officials are investigating the fourth-ranked Davydenko’s loss Thursday to the 87th-ranked Martin Vassallo Arguello of Argentina in which the Russian retired because of injury in the deciding set.

In an unprecedented move Friday, British online gambling company Betfair voided all bets placed on the match, saying the market wasn’t fair.

Betfair said it received about $7 million in bets on the match — 10 times the usual amount — and most of the money was on Arguello to win, even after Davydenko won the first set 6-2.

Eckhard Oehms, Davydenko’s agent, denied the 26-year-old player had any connection to the betting.

“We’ve got nothing whatsoever to do with that,” Oehms told The Associated Press by telephone Saturday. “Neither Nikolay nor his coach nor me nor anybody out of our entourage has been involved in this.

Tennis officials are already reacting.

Underlining the importance of protecting tennis’ “appeal and integrity,” the head of the men’s professional tour promised Saturday to use “all means available” for an investigation into suspicious betting on a match involving No. 4-ranked Nikolay Davydenko.

Etienne de Villiers, the ATP’s executive chairman, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press that “independent, external resources” would be used to look into why a British online gambling company received about $7 million in wagers on the match, 10 times the usual amount.


“It is important that we not jump to conclusions, especially when players’ reputations could be unfairly tainted,” de Villiers said. “What we must do is carry out a comprehensive and immediate investigation, and that is what we are doing.”

Villiers promises are vague but to preserve his sport’s reputaion, he has to take this news seriously. Fans and sponsorship money could be lost if a player was implicated in fixing matches.

Tennis hasn’t been without recent controveries including gambling.

In 2003, bookmakers reportedly suspended betting six hours before Russian player Yevgeny Kafelnikov’s match in Lyon, France, against Fernando Vicente after a big wager was place on the Spaniard. Vicente, who had been winless for several months, won in straight sets. There was no suggestion either player was involved in wrongdoing, and no investigation was made by the ATP.

Several Russian tennis players were photographed a few years ago with Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, a suspected mobster from the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan who was accused of fixing the pairs and ice dancing events at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

Photographs of Tokhtakhounov with Kafelnikov, Safin and Andrei Medvedev were taken off Medvedev’s Web site in 2002 after the man’s arrest. Tokhtakhounov spent nearly a year in a Venice, Italy, prison but escaped extradition to the United States in 2003 on the Olympic rigging charges.

The same article did note irregular betting at the 2006 Wimbledon Championships.

It is too early to draw conclusions, but I’ll make one small point. If a match was fixed, it would be pretty darn foolish to place bets in the manner that happened while Davydenko and Arguello were playing, in addition to the large amount being placed through betfair. It would seem wiser to bet large amounts spread between multiple betting outlets. That to my untrained eye(I watch little pro tennis, rarely gamble and don’t work in law enforcement or as investigator), would look too damning for a criminal if there was cheating. Like those old television detective dramas, if the case against a suspect looks too good, maybe its time to look elsewhere.


Red Panties at Wimbledon?

Obviously this is the case.

Tatiana Golovin had the Wimbledon referee reaching for his rule book when she sought to appear on court for Thursday wearing red underwear.

Was Golovin violating the “predominantly white” dress code laid down by the tournament that is such a stickler for sartorial etiquette?

The fashion guardians of good taste at the world’s most genteel tennis tournament gave France’s Golovin the go-ahead after much discussion about hemlines and where they stopped and started.

AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

Explaining the decision, a Wimbledon spokesman said on Thursday: “They were cleared with the referee in advance by the player. On the basis that they are underwear, they do not have to conform to the predominantly white rule.

“If they are above the hemline they are deemed to be underwear and not shorts.”

I do not follow tennis all that close but when I saw this headline on ESPN I immediately clicked on it. I had no idea that Wimbledon was so tight on there clothing restrictions.

Obviously though Tatiana Golovin did this for the attention, and I wonder what will be next? Maybe Sharapova in a thong?


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