We're nearing the halfway point of this year's major tennis tournament season with an international field of top-ranked players. For the men the top five are Novak Djokovic (Serbia), Rafael Nadal (Spain), Roger Federer (Switzerland), Andy Murray (Great Britain), and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (France). On the ladies' side the best of the best are Victoria Azarenka (Belarus), Maria Sharapova (Russia), Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland), Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic), and Serena Williams (USA).
Currently in progress is the French Open (May 28-June 10). Other tournaments making up the prestigious Grand Slam are the Australian Open (January), Wimbledon (June 25-July 8), and the U.S. Open (August 26-September 9).
The Australian Open was first held in 1905. After being held in cities throughout Australia, it's permanent home has been in Melbourne since 1988. The courts in Melbourne Park are a hard surface called Plexicushion, a cushioned acrylic surface designed to increase shock absorption. In the finals in January of this year Novak Djokovic won his 5th Grand Slam tournmanet, defeating Rafael Nadal. Victoria Azarenka won over Maria Sharapova for the women's title.
Also known as Roland Garros, the French Open in Paris is renowned as the world's premier clay court event. Named for famed WWI French aviator Roland Garros, the stadium has been home to the French Open since 1928. The tournment will conclude on June 10. Last year's champions, Rafael Nadal and Na Li, each won $1.7 million in prize money.
Wimbledon is the oldest and perhaps the most prestigious tournament in the world. It was first organized in 1877 by the All England Lawn, Tennis, and Croquet Club (who are still the organizers and proprietors of the courts today). It is steeped in tradition, including grass courts, strawberries and cream, and a dress code that states that players must dress "predominately in white." The Central Court is used only once a year - during the tournament. The 2011 defending champions are Novak Djokovic and Petra Kvitova. The Wimbledon courst will also host the tennis competition at the Olympic Games later in the summer.
The final tournament of the Grand Slam is the U.S. Open, played since 1978 at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, New York. The facility boasts the largest center court in the world, the Arthur Ashe Stadium, which opened in 1997 and seats 23,000. The court surfaces are DecoTurf, a tennis hardcourt comprised of layers of acrylic, rubber, silica, and other materials on top of an asphalt or concrete base. Defending champions are Novak Djokovic and Samantha Stosur.
Winning all four Grand Slam titles in a career is a major accomplishment for tennis players, but winning the four tournaments in the same year is a rare feat. The only men to have accomplished this are Donald Budge (1938) and Rod Laver (1962 as an amateur and 1969 as a pro). The women who have achieved this milestone are Maureen Connolly (1953), Margaret Smith Court (1970), and Steffi Graff (1988). Graff's feat is actually considered a Golden Grand Slam by many since that same year she also won an Olympic Gold Medal in tennis.
Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played by L. Jon Wertheim (796.34209 W499S, 2009). "In the 2008 Wimbledon men's final Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal played an epic match. Wertheim deconstructs this defining moment in sport, which he calls a four-hour, forty-eight-minute infomercial for everything that is right about tennis."
A Terrible Splendor: Three Extraordinary Men, a World Poised for War, and the Greatest Tennis Match Ever Played by Marshall Fisher (796.342 F535T, 2009). "The greatest tennis match ever played pitted the dominant Don Budge against handsome Baron Gottfried von Cramm. This deciding 1937 Davis Cup match, played at Wimbledon, was a battle of titans, the world's number one player against the number two; America against Germany; democracy against fascism. For five superhuman sets, the duo's brilliant shotmaking kept the Centre Court crowd - and the world - spellbound."
CONGRATULATIONS to the Westlake High School spring sports teams for an outstanding finish to their seasons. Among the most notable achievements:
Baseball - State Runner-Up - Division 1 (their first trip ever to the state championship game). Best wishes to Coach Jeff Short, who is retiring from coaching after 20+ years in the game.
Softball - District Runner-Up
Track - State Meet: Alex Cusick placed 8th in the 110 Meter Hurdles and Carl Laux took 9th in the Shot Put.
Tennis - Coltin Buffington - STATE CHAMPION - (Undefeated, 30-0 for the season).
Coming up in June:
The Belmont - another chance for a Triple Crown winner.
The U.S. Open (golf), June 14-17, defending champion - Rory McElroy.
NBA and NHL finals.