Russia rules the WTA roost
Yes, it might be true that Maria Sharapova, currently on the tennis disabled list, was the only Russian woman to land a Grand Slam title this year when she went the distance in Australia. But while the remaining top prizes were picked up by others -- Ana Ivanovic (French Open), Venus Williams (Wimbledon) and Serena Williams (U.S. Open) -- tennis fans should not be fooled: Russia still holds the reins of the women's game.
This week's tour results -- Dinara Safina beating compatriot Svetlana Kuznetsova in Tokyo and Vera Zvonareva's success in Guangzhou, China -- are just further indication of Russia's prolific tendencies. The country also dominates the Fed Cup, having won its fourth title in five years by upending host country Spain in the final two weeks ago.
Five of the top 10 players in the world are Russian: No. 3 Safina, No. 5 Elena Dementieva, No. 6 Sharapova, No. 7 Kuznetsova and No. 9 Zvonareva.
Of the 48 tournaments already played on the 2008 Sony Ericsson WTA Tour calendar, 15 have been won by Russian players -- that's nearly one-third of all the events. Safina has won four titles, reached her first Grand Slam final at the French and won the Olympic silver medal. Other Russians who have won multiple titles include Sharapova (3), Dementieva (2), Zvonareva (2) and Maria Kirilenko (2).
Russia's closest rival for title supremacy this year is the United States, and the country lags far behind with seven titles -- four for Serena Williams, two for Lindsay Davenport and one for Venus Williams.
Quest for the best
Two key tennis governing bodies -- the United States Tennis Association and Tennis Australia -- made recent moves to aid their quest to grow future champions.
AP Photo/Armando Franca
Jose Higueras will end his working relationship with Roger Federer and assume the role of director of coaching for the USTA Elite Player Development.
Last week the USTA made an impressive hire in bringing Jose Higueras into their fold as Director of Coaching for USTA Elite Player Development, backing up his new boss Patrick McEnroe, General Manager of the operation.
Higueras, 55, has acted as either full-time or part-time guru for a number of standout players through the years, including Jim Courier, Pete Sampras, Carlos Moya, Todd Martin, Michael Chang and Jennifer Capriati. Recently, he's been sitting courtside for Roger Federer and Robby Ginepri.
McEnroe told ESPN's Bonnie Ford during the Davis Cup last week in Spain that Higueras' contract precludes him from working with individual players -- including world No. 2 Roger Federer, who hired Higueras to refine his clay-court technique earlier this season and employed him again as a "consultant'' during the U.S. Open.
Higueras is still committed to one 10-day stint with Federer, but when he fulfills that promise he will be exclusively working for the USTA at one of three locales -- his own facility in Palm Springs, Calif. or at the USTA centers in Florida and California.
"Jose is one of the greatest minds in coaching today," McEnroe said. "His understanding of the sport is unrivaled, and his familiarity with American tennis makes him an invaluable asset."
Tennis Australia is making a concerted effort to improve their player's abilities on clay by hiring Spaniard Felix Mantilla, who will open a training facility in Barcelona, Spain where he can impart the skills that made him a top 10 ranked success during his career.
Swede still has game
Former world No. 1 Stefan Edberg proved he hadn't lost his touch when his maiden voyage to the senior BlackRock Tour of Champions ended with the title in a victory over Spaniard Sergi Bruguera this past weekend. The elegant serve-and-volleying Swede, who won six Grand Slam titles in 11 major final appearances, has kept a very low profile since retiring from the tour in 1996.
Next on Edberg's agenda is a stop at the BlackRock Masters Tennis in London later this fall, where he'll stay in the apartment he's kept in the city throughout his career.
Will Edberg's appetite to compete be heightened enough to keep him as a frequent face in the senior game? A stay-at-home-with-his-family kind of guy, Edberg offered hope, but no guarantees: "If I can make some kind of arrangement with my family so that we can travel a bit together, then there's a good chance I'll be back in Paris next year as the defending champion."
Lending a hand
As the leaves begin to change colors and autumn comes, the tennis circuit is readying itself for its brief offseason. Each year that signifies a number of annual charity events involving tennis celebrities are gearing up to raise money for worthy causes.
Chris Evert's 19th annual Chris Evert Pro-Celebrity Tennis Classic will be held in Delray Beach and Boca Raton, Fla. from Oct. 31-Nov. 2. The event has a heavy tennis theme but also features a golf outing and luncheon with Evert's new husband, famed golfer Greg Norman. Evert teams with the Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida to help the needy.
Andy Roddick is set to host the eighth annual Andy Roddick Foundation weekend, Dec. 6-7, also in Boca Raton. Roddick, whose efforts raise money for a variety of children's causes, will be joined by good friends Bob and Mike Bryan.
The 10th annual Swingtime -- A Pro-Celebrity Pro-Am Tennis & Golf Tournament is set for Nov. 22-23, in Naples, Fla., an event designed as a yearly remembrance of Tim Gullikson, a former player and coach of Pete Sampras. Gullikson died of brain cancer at age 44 in 1996. The event benefits the Tim & Tom Gullikson Foundation.
Mardy Fish hosts Mardy's Tennis & Jake's Music Fest from Dec. 12-13 for the third consecutive year in his hometown of Vero Beach, Fla. The event, which benefits the Mardy Fish Foundation, is tennis-oriented and also features Fish's boyhood friend country music artist Jake Owen in concert.
Sandra Harwitt is a freelance tennis writer for ESPN.com.
-- Bonnie D. Ford
-- Bonnie D. Ford
Oh say can you ole
-- Bonnie D. Ford
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