At the Net: This week in tennis

By The Sports NetworkMay 9, 2014 at 12:13 PM
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It was a week filled with plenty of news in the world of tennis ... and not too much of it good.

The week got off to an ominous start when former British player Elena Baltacha succumbed to liver cancer at the young age of 30 on Sunday.

"Bally," as she was known in tennis circles, was a former women's No. 1 in Britain who retired from the sport only in November of last year. She was diagnosed with cancer in January, just weeks after marrying her long-time coach, Nino Severino.

The Ukrainian-born Baltacha achieved her highest singles ranking of No. 49 in 2010 in a career that spanned 16 years. She never won a title on the WTA Tour, but captured 11 titles on the ITF circuit.

The tennis community honored Baltacha with a minute of silence at this week's combined men's and women's event in Madrid.

A previously announced "Rally For Bally" charity event will be held in her memory during the upcoming British grass-court season. Good friend Andy Murray, the legendary Martina Navratilova and Tim Henman are just a few of the current and former stars who will team up to play exhibition matches in London, Birmingham and Eastbourne.

And tragedy struck again when four people were found dead in a Tampa home owned by former ATP star James Blake, who was not living at the million-dollar property, but renting it out to another family.

As flames shot through the roof of the home, neighbors reported explosions, presumably hearing fireworks going off inside the house as it burned down with a family of four inside. One of the deceased, Colin Campbell, bought $650 of fireworks just days before the blaze and the fireworks were found throughout the five-bedroom home.

Authorities have called the fire arson and said they were investigating a possible murder-suicide. Campbell, his wife, Kimberly, and their two teenage children, Colin and Megan, all perished in the fire. A Hillsborough County (Florida) sheriff said an accelerant was used to start the blaze.

Two other victims suffered upper-body trauma in the horrible incident.

The former top-five star Blake bought the 6,000 square-foot home back in 2005 for $1.5 million. It was located in the Avila subdivision, which is known for its mansions, heavy security, country club and golf course. Many well-known athletes have called the community home over the years.

On a much-lighter note, Roger Federer and his wife, Mirka, welcomed their second set of twins into the world on Tuesday.

Already the parents of twin girls, 4-year-olds Charlene and Myla, Roger and Mirka now have a pair of boys, named Leo and Lenny, born the day Federer pulled out of the Madrid Masters event in order to be with Mirka for the births.

Could there be some future tennis stars in their ever expanding clan? Don't forget, Mirka, herself, is a former WTA pro.

Note: Another former No. 1, Novak Djokovic, also pulled out of the Madrid Open, citing a nagging right arm injury.

Also in Federer news, eight-time Grand Slam winner Andre Agassi came out and said that Rafael Nadal, not Federer, was the greatest tennis player of all time.

The former No. 1 Federer boasts a men's record 17 Grand Slam singles titles, with his last one coming at Wimbledon two years ago, while the current No. 1 Nadal owns 13 Grand Slam titles.

"I'd put Nadal number one and Federer number two," Agassi said to Singapore's Straits Times newspaper.

"Federer separated himself from the field for four years. He separated himself from Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt. Nadal had to deal with Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in the golden age of tennis. He has done what he has done and he's not done yet," Agassi said.

Rafa is also 23-10 lifetime versus the Fed and Agassi said Grand Slam titles shouldn't be the only thing that decides who is the greatest ever.

"He (Nadal) has won multiple majors, every single one more than once except the Australian Open -- and give him another year on that," Agassi said. "It's just remarkable to me what he has done, and he has done it all during Federer's prime."

Meanwhile, former top-10 American Mardy Fish has put his tennis career on hold (possibly for good) because of an ongoing heart problem. Earlier this week, he decided to try to qualify for the U.S. Open - not the tennis one, rather the golf one.

The 32-year-old Minnesota native (who happens to be a good friend of the aforementioned Blake) is a six-time ATP champion and 14-time runner-up who hasn't played an ATP match since July of last year.

Good luck, Mardy.

And Serena Williams appeared to be on course for a third straight Madrid Open title, but was forced to pull out of the lucrative event prior to her scheduled quarterfinal match against 2011 Madrid and Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova at the Magic Box, citing a thigh injury.

Until next week ...


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