Best of Three: Top Americans defend titles, in praise of Federer
Serena Williams and John Isner defended their titles at Stanford and Newport
Kudos to Jennifer Capriati for her well-worthy induction to the Hall of Fame
More praise for Roger Federer, who stands alone with 287 weeks at No. 1
1. Top Americans step up: Though most top players laid low this week -- a soft spot in the schedule between Wimbledon and the U.S. Open -- there were a multitude of events held through the world. Bailing out a tournament that had been struggling for a respectable draw, Serena Williams took a wild card at Stanford and, as expected, defended her title, beating a game Coco Vandeweghe in the final. With the win, Serena matched big sister Venus' mark of 43 WTA singles titles, the most among active players.
At Newport, John Isner got back to his winning ways, playing his best tennis in months and beating Lleyton Hewitt in the final. It was Hewitt's first career loss in a grass court final (7-1) and was the first time Isner was able to string together consecutive match wins since reaching the final in Houston in early April. And don't discount the effect the grass-court title will have on Isner's mindset, especially crucial given the venue hosting the 2012 Olympics.
"I gained a lot of confidence from this week just as I did last year," Isner told reporters after the match. "I had a great, great summer last year. I hope to have much of the same this year."
Fresh off getting "gold-setted" at Wimbledon, top-seeded Sara Errani won her fourth title of 2012 in Palermo. In Umag, Croatia, Marin Cilic beat Marcel "The Cochlea Splitter" Granollers. Janko Tipsareric beat Juan Monaco to take the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart. In (Old Dirty) Bastad, David Ferrer won his fifth title of the year, beating countryman Nicolas Almagro 2 and 2 in just over an hour. The good news for Almagro: he reachd the final. The bad news: he is now 1-34 against the top six.
Doubles winners: Santiago Gonzalez and Scott Lipsky in Newport. Renata Voracova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in Palermo. Jeremy Chardy and Lukasz Kubot in Stuttgart. Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau in Bastad.
2. Welcome to the hall: Jennifer Capriati, Gustavo Kuerten, Manuel Orantes, Mike Davies and Randy Snow were inducted to International Tennis Hall of Fame this weekend in Newport, Rhode Island. Congratulations are due to all. And only the most hard-hearted couldn't help smile watching Capriati accept her honor. Her career arc was unique and, of course, took a few hairpin turns. But she ended up at the this rarefied spot. "I managed to overcome some adversity, win a gold medal, win some Grand Slams and stand at the podium at the Hall of Fame," said Capriati, now 36. "This is one milestone I thought I'd never achieve."
3. Another Federer feat: Because it wouldn't be a week in tennis if some plaudits weren't thrown Roger Federer's way.... According to Sports Illustrated's annual "Fortunate 20" list, Federer earned $51.4 million last year, tops among all athletes who don't play the majority of the games in the U.S. This week marks Fed's 287th week as No. 1, which separates him from Pete Sampras' 286.
Also, my colleague Chris Sesno dug up this tidbit I have seen nowhere else: Andre Agassi first claimed the No. 1 ranking on April 10, 1995, and last held it on Sept. 1, 2003, a span of eight years, four months and three weeks. Federer first took the top ranking on Feb. 2, 2004, and obviously holds the top spot today. By our reckoning, this marks a span of eight years, five months and two weeks. So add this to the encyclopedia that is Federer's list of records: While obviously not continuous, he has the longest interval between first achieving No.1 and last achieving No. 1.*
A Linda Richman topic for the audience: both Agassi and Federer needed to mount significant comebacks to "rescale the mountain," as Gil Reyes might put it. Two different men, different sets of obstacles, different circumstances. But whose comeback is more impressive? Discuss.
*Editor's note/correction: The above stat on length of time between first and last holding of No. 1, as gathered by Chris Sesno, is incorrect. Jimmy Connors holds the longest interval, first claiming No. 1 on July 29, 1974, and last holding it on June 20, 1983, for a span of eight years, 10 months and three weeks.