Our daily preview series continues with six matches from each Tour.
Haase vs. Murray (Rod Laver Arena): When they met at the 2011 US Open, the underdog nearly stunned the Scot by building a two-set lead. Haase then won just six games over the last three sets as he continued a bizarre career trend of disappearing in matches that he started with a lead. This match marks Murray’s first as a major champion, and one wonders whether the tension that he so often has displayed on these stages will abate in proportion to the pressure. Although he won Brisbane, he looked imperfect in doing so and alluded to some emotional turmoil hovering around him.
Tomic vs. Mayer (RLA): Shortly after he reached the Brisbane final, Grigor Dimitrov experience a rude awakening when he became the first man to crash out of the Australian Open. Sydney champion Tomic must guard against the concern of having peaked too soon after winning his first career title, amidst chatter about his upcoming clash with Federer. But Leonardo Mayer should lack the consistency to pose any sustained challenge, while Tomic has excelled on home soil and reached the second week here last year with victories over much superior opponents.
Tsonga vs. Llodra (Hisense): A battle of two flamboyant Frenchmen rarely fails to entertain, no matter the scoreline. Formerly a finalist and semifinalist here, Tsonga embarks on his first season with coach Roger Rasheed, attempting to rebound from a paradoxical 2012 season in which he stayed in the top eight without conquering anyone in it. Across the net stands a compatriot who shares his fondness for hurtling towards the net and finishing points with sharply slashed volleys. Expect plenty of explosive, staccato tennis from a rollicking match filled with ebbs and flows.
Matosevic vs. Cilic (Margaret Court Arena): Like Haase and Murray, their meeting follows in the wake of some notable US Open history. Extending the Croat to a fifth set there last year, Matosevic built upon the best year of his career that saw him reach the top 50 and become the top Aussie man until Tomic surpassed him in Sydney (both on the court and in the rankings). Cilic has stabilized at a mezzanine level of the ATP since his initial breakthrough in 2008-09, when he looked likely to emulate Del Potro’s accomplishments. Of a similar stature and playing style to the former US Open champion, he appears to lack the competitive will necessary to take the next step forward.
Monfils vs. Dolgopolov (MCA): The first week of a major offers an ideal opportunity to check out unusual shot-makers who usually fall before the tournament’s marquee rounds. Recognizing this potential, the Melbourne schedulers have featured on a show court this fascinating pas de deux between two men who can produce—or at least attempt—any shot in the book. Their match should remind viewers of the imaginative quality to tennis, often lost in this era of fitness and raw power. Both men focus more on the journey than the destination, and style than substance: not a recipe for major titles but certainly a recipe for entertainment.
Haas vs. Nieminen (Court 3): Most had abandoned hope in the German when he started last year outside the top 200. Bursting back into relevance over the spring and summer, the 34-year-old Haas should inspire other men near the twilight of their careers. Among them is Nieminen, a veteran Finnish lefty without much polish but perhaps with enough wrinkles in his game to frustrate the easily ruffled Haas.
Wozniacki vs. Lisicki (Hisense): The world #1 at this tournament last year, Wozniacki has plummeted to the edge of the top 10 while losing four of her last six matches at majors. Despite a hopeful fall, the Danish counterpuncher started this year in deflating fashion with early losses at Brisbane and Sydney, still mired in doubt and anxiety. Lisicki has won two of their three previous meetings behind a booming serve that allowed her to seize and retain control of the points before Wozniacki could settle into neutral mode. Outside the grass season, she struggled even more than her opponent did last year, and a surface that seems very slow may dilute her greatest weapon. In theory, though, her huge game could unnerve Wozniacki again by denying her the rhythm that she prefers.
Suarez Navarro vs. Errani (MCA): A pair of clay specialists meet on a slow, high-bouncing hard court that should not feel too foreign to them. Suarez Navarro has become a credible dark horse in Melbourne, defeating Venus in the second round a few years ago and extending the then-formidable Kvitova to a third set in the same round last year. Meanwhile, Errani reached the quarterfinals at last year’s Australian Open, the first significant result that signaled her breakthrough and thus the first key bundle of points that she must defend.
Schiavone vs. Kvitova (MCA): This match could get gruesome quickly if both of them play as they did earlier in January. At the Hopman Cup, the aging Schiavone struggled to find the service box or her groundstroke timing, while Kvitova struggled to find any part of the court in Brisbane and Sydney. Those efforts prolonged a span in which the former Wimbledon champion has lost seven of her last ten matches, suggesting that she will bring little of the confidence necessary to execute her high-risk game. Schiavone nearly ended Kvitova’s title defense at the All England Club last year, suggesting that this match may contain as much upset potential as Wozniacki-Lisicki.
Oudin vs. Robson (Court 3): Phenoms past and present collide in this meeting of careers headed in opposite directions. While Oudin did resurface last summer with her first career title, she has extracted little from her counterpunching game since the US Open quarterfinal that vaulted her to fame perhaps too early. A highly awaited presence as soon as she won junior Wimbledon, Robson progressed significantly last season in both power and consistency, ultimately reaching the second week of the US Open. Will both of their trends continue, or will Oudin blunt the British lefty’s attack?
Petrova vs. Date-Krumm (Court 6): Surely not much longer on display, the age-defying Date-Krumm merits a trip to the outer courts for her sharply angled groundstrokes and the joy with which she competes. As if one needed any further reason to watch this match, Petrova produces ample entertainment with her percussive serves and crisp volleys, not to mention her bursts of classically Russian angst.
Putintseva vs. McHale (Court 7): As she recovers from the mono that sidelined her last year, the young American might have preferred a less intense opponent than the yowling, perpetually emoting bundle of energy that is Putintseva. The junior exudes with talent as well as aggression, so the quiet McHale cannot take her opponent in this stark clash of personalities too lightly.
During the Sony Ericsson Open, I sat down with Dutch ATP player and current world #53, Robin Haase to chat memorable moments, the perks of being a tennis player, the players he would most want to party with and Novak Djokovic as the toughest opponent he has ever faced.
Even though he was running late to the interview, he was apologetic and friendly, showcasing his signature curls and inviting smile. I made sure to take full advantage of his good attitude after defeating Australian Marinko Matosevic earlier in the day, 6-3, 6-4. He will next face 22nd-seed Jurgen Melzer in the second round.
What is your most memorable moment on-court?
It’s a tough one. It’s always tough to say that because you are always in a different time of your career – and you have many moments. I can go back to when I was 12, the most important thing was to win the national championships. Of course, that’s not my most memorable moment, but it’s always tough to say what is. I had a great experience almost beating Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon [in 2010] — took him to five sets, on center court. He was defending champion and #1 in the world, and of course, to play on the nicest court of the tennis world was a great experience. Also, last year I won my first ATP event and I think that’s, of course, a memorable moment.
What’s the best part of being a tennis player?
The best part is that I made tennis, which is my hobby, as my job. I think that not a lot of people can say that they do what they love to do, every day, day in and day out. But it’s not as easy as people think. It’s not just as glamorous a life as people think. It’s also a hard life but I enjoy it every day.
What’s the toughest part?
The toughest part is the many weeks of travelling, playing a lot of tournaments, having to go to almost all the continents. That’s not easy. You lose almost every week, so every week you have to recover from disappointment. That’s hard.
Do you have any superstitions on court?
No, not really. I think there’s also a big difference between superstition and rituals, so I have the same kind of warm up to prepare for the match. But it’s not like Nadal with the bottles, or stepping on lines. I don’t have that. Sometimes I take the same ball and sometimes I don’t.
If you’re hosting a party, what three tennis players do you invite?
I think I would pick the ones I am closest friends to. With friends you go to parties and dinners. One of the guys would be Jarkko Nieminen. I think almost everyone would invite him, he’s a great guy. I know Marin Cilic from juniors too. I get along with, for example, from the States, Michael Russell. There are a lot of guys, of course, but there are some guys you kind of practice more with, have dinner with. So I think these guys are it.
Who’s the toughest opponent you have ever faced on-court?
Of course, it’s the top 3 or 4 players. It’s always tough to play them. I wouldn’t say Nadal is the toughest for me to play because I took him to five sets. For me, it’s Djokoivc. I played him twice and didn’t even have a chance to get close to winning a set. So that’s probably the toughest guy for me to play. But outside of that there is also Soderling, Berdych, Del Potro — these kinds of players are tough to beat.
What are two things you couldn’t live without?
(Long pause) Air? (laughs) I’m not really materialistic, I don’t care about a lot of “stuff.” But of course, friends and family, and health, that’s most important in life. Just recently in Indian Wells, a family member of mine died, so that’s most important, and all the other “stuff” are extra.
How did you handle the personal loss during Indian Wells on the emotional side?
That was fine. I knew it was going to happen. I decided to go and play, so for me was ok. I was almost happy that it happened because it was better that way [because of the suffering].
And to end on a fun note, what is your biggest indulgence?
I’m not really the gadget guy, don’t wear watches. So I can’t think of something.
A type of food, maybe?
You can always wake me up for good Japanese or Italian. I love to eat. Every day I go out to restaurants. As a tennis player, you get to see a lot of good restaurants so you get really picky. So certainly, that’s something I look forward to every day. You’re always practicing, so going out for dinner for one, two, or even three hours at a time, you can have fun and enjoy.
by Lisa-Marie Burrows
ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament, Rotterdam – All systems were go yesterday at the Rotterdam tournament. With “oohs” and “aahs” echoing around the large arena, the crowd were treated to four exciting quarterfinal matches, which saw Berdych, Del Potro, Federer and Davydenko all make it through to the semi final stages.
First up was the cool as ice Tomas Berdych who beat Italian Andreas Seppi in straight sets 6-3, 6-4. After playing only three games against an injured Marcos Baghdatis (who retired due to experiencing problems with his calf muscle in the previous round), the tall Czech looked as fresh as a cucumber and ready for action.
It was all plain sailing for the second seed who comfortably took the first set 6-3 and broke again early in the second set with roaring topspin backhands that pushed Seppi back off the baseline onto his back foot.
A slight lapse in concentration by Berdych allowed Seppi back into the set after breaking during the fourth game, but at 3-3 the T-Berd regained his composure and consequentially broke again, before taking the second set 6-4.
The second match involved world No.10 Juan Martín Del Potro who floored Serbian Viktor Troicki 6-0, 6-1 in his quarterfinal appearance. Throughout the first set, the Argentine hit very few unforced errors and did not allow Troicki into the set, bagelling him 6-0.
The second set served up much of the same as Troicki only managed to steal one game and had no answer to the power play of the third seed. Del Potro looked well adjusted to the slow speed and low bounces of the court and had adapted his game with prowess accordingly. Del Potro sailed through to the semis and has booked a mouth-watering contest with secondseed Tomas Berdych on Saturday.
Despite leading the head-to-head 2-1, Del Potro played down his chances against the Czech in his press conference:
“I think he could be the favourite. He has the better ranking.”
The opening evening match drew in full capacity crowds to watch world No.3 Roger Federer take centre stage against Jarkko Nieminen of Finland. There was very little between them as they traded powerful rallies and after two close sets, Federer booked his place into the semi finals with a tight 7-5, 7-6 (1) victory.
Nieminen demonstrated how comfortable he was to go toe to toe against the 16-time Grand Slam champion and did not succumb to Federer’s steely determination until the eleventh game of the match. The champion of the Apia International in Sydney found himself squandering a 40-0 game to being break point down after firing untimely unforced errors. The Finn hit a backhand long and Federer readily accepted the break before serving it out 7-5.
The second set remained equally close, as Nieminen did not appear disheartened after the disappointment of a close first set. The crowd watched in amazement after a Federer unforced error such as the expectation for the Swiss to weave his magic and win every point.
They did not have to wait long as the top seed spun his web and snatched the victory comfortably in the second set tiebreak after a flurry of perfectly executed cross court forehands proved to be unassailable for the 30 year old Finn. To the delight of the crowd, Federer rallied through to the semi finals 7-5, 7-6 (1).
During the press conference, Federer gave full credit to Nieminen for his aggressive performance:
“You have to give Jarkko credit too, he played aggressive on both the forehands and backhands. He took every second serve of mine on the rise.”
The final quarterfinal match of the day involved Russian Nikolay Davydenko who caused an upset by beating fifth seed Richard Gasquet in straight sets 7-5, 6-3.
The first set was all swings and roundabouts as it was the Frenchman who had the early break at the start, but fought back only to be broken again as Gasquet served to take the opening set 5-3. Astonishing groundstrokes from the Russian prevent the fifth seed from securing the set and surprisingly it was the unseeded Russian who took the first set 7-5.
Davydenko continued his surge during the second set and broke Gasquet a further two times before wrapping up proceedings 6-3. He will now face top seed Roger Federer in the semifinals on Saturday.
Quarterfinals day was also busy for another legend – Boris “I was quite a famous guy too” Becker. He arrived at the arena on Friday and greeted the centre court crowd after he held a jovial press conference with the media during his promotion of Mercedes Benz, a company he has been sponsored by for over 15 years. During the conference, the tennis legend joked about pop stars in tennis and discussed one of the greatest debates rattling the lockers: the schedule.
“Tournaments like Rotterdam they need the top guys like Federer, they need Del Potro. What’s the perfect calendar? There is never going to be the perfect calendar.”
In a modern Tour that is plagued with scheduling issues Becker believes that Roger Federer has remained a positive, dominant force:
“The question about Roger is ‘is he ever going to get back to world No.1?’ I don’t think that should be the main focus. I think we are all happy that we have him around. Whether he is No.2 or No.3 in the world, that doesn’t matter. “
But what we all know what really matters to Roger at this moment – winning this tournament and fulfilling what he came to do.
Lisa-Marie Burrows is in Rotterdam covering the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament as media. You can follow her on Twitter @TennisNewsViews
It was a thrilling day in Rotterdam as the top three seeds, including Roger Federer, Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin del Potro all claimed a spot in the second round of the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament, including a first ever win for del Potro at this event – but not without some drama.
Top seed Roger Federer picked up where he left off seven years ago, as the 2005 champion won 13 of the last 14 points with his win over Frenchman Nicolas Mahut, 6-4, 6-4. Federer’s expected second round opponent Mikhail Youzhny withdrew with a foot problem sending the Swiss straight into the quarterfinals on Friday against Jarkko Nieminen, who beat Lukasz Kubot earlier in the day.
“Any win is a good win,” stated Federer. “Frankly I’m glad to be in the quarterfinals. It’s always tough to make the change from clay but after losing my last two singles matches [for Davis Cup], a win is great.”
For more exclusive Roger Federer content on his top three grand slam wins, mental strength, his toughest opponent, and thoughts on retirement, go here.
Second seed Tomas Berdych also had a routine win over fellow Czech countryman Lukas Rosol, 6-4, 6-2. Berdych also didn’t shy away from admitting it was “a tough transition from Davis Cup. Our court was much faster with lower bounce. I didn’t really have much time to train, but I coped with it pretty well. I was able to find my rhythm quite fast and was able to play my game.”
Juan Martin del Potro struggled to close out the second set in a tiebreaker and was forced to win in three, against 2008 champion Michael Llodra, 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-4. “I was really nervous, especially in the last game, so it was nice”, Del Potro said durin his interview. He underlined that he was very pleased to be in Rotterdam and to see so many people coming out to support him.
Cheerful Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis (looking surprisingly great in Adidas’ lastest fireball orange and blue kits, below) defeated qualifier Matthias Bachinger, 7-6(2), 6-2.
Nikolay Davydenko was also take to three sets before overcoming the “comeback kid” Paul-Henri Mathieu who had received a wildcard into the qualifying. After two-and-a-half hours of play into the evening hours, Davydenko prevailed, 6-4, 6-7(7), 6-1.
But another qualifier, Karol Beck, made a commotion as he took out Philipp Petzschner, 7-6(3), 6-3.
Alex Bogomolov, Jr. won when Sergiy Stakhovsky was forced to retire.
In doubles action, top seed Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor were ousted by Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez, while the tandem of Richard Gasquet and Ivan Ljubicic were defeated, as was the duo of Viktor Troicki and Jarkko Nieminen.
Catch all the action this week and follow professional tennis photographer Rick Gleijm as he covers ATP Tour’s ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. The gallery below includes day three action, and the Davydenko-Mathieu match was shot with a 200mm f/2 lens Canon Nederland provided to our photographe Rick for the match. The photos are of the highest quality. Thank you, Canon!
(All photos © Rick Gleijm)
Catch all the action this week and follow professional tennis photographer Rick Gleijm as he covers ATP Tour’s ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. The gallery below includes day two action.
The biggest news of the day came when eighth-seed Marcel Granollers was ousted by Philipp Kohlschreiber and doubles fourth seed Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna were eliminated by Alex Bogomolov, Jr. and Dick Norman.
In other surprising (and possibly history-making) news, Mikhail Youzhny took the first set from Igor Kunitsyn in just under TWELVE minutes, 6-0, before winning in three sets. He could face top seed Roger Federer in the second round, should the Swiss defeat Nicolas Mahut on Wednesday.
Viktor Troicki made easy work of wildcard Thiemo De Bakker before stating that “We both had a tough start because we came here late, coming from Davis Cup. I think I handled it well. I got lucky in the first set I think. He played well, but he did not use his set points and I started playing better in the second set. I’m happy that I won through and am in the second round.”
Even though Roger Federer hasn’t played his first match of the tournament, his practice sessions this week have been a show of their own, and today was no exception. Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwfIyq6FIyE
Full Tuesday results and Wednesday schedule are below.
RESULTS – TUESDAY, 14 FEBRUARY, 2012
Singles – First Round
 V Troicki (SRB) d [WC] T de Bakker (NED) 76(6) 60
P Kohlschreiber (GER) d  M Granollers (ESP) 61 16 64
M Youzhny (RUS) d I Kunitsyn (RUS) 60 67(4) 60
J Nieminen (FIN) d [WC] I Sijsling (NED) 61 67(7) 75
N Davydenko (RUS) d R Haase (NED) 75 62
A Seppi (ITA) d [Q] R De Voest (RSA) 16 76(5) 62
Doubles – First Round
A Bogomolov Jr. (RUS) / D Norman (BEL) d  M Bhupathi (IND) / R Bopanna (IND) 64 36 10-6
J Del Potro (ARG) / P Petzschner (GER) d F Cermak (CZE) / F Polasek (SVK) 75 63
SCHEDULE – WEDNESDAY, 15 FEBRUARY, 2012
CENTRE COURT start 11:00 am
[Q] M Bachinger (GER) vs M Baghdatis (CYP)
L Rosol (CZE) vs  T Berdych (CZE)
Not Before 1:30 PM
M Llodra (FRA) vs  J Del Potro (ARG)
[WC] T de Bakker (NED) / R Haase (NED) vs M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL)
Not Before 7:30 PM
 R Federer (SUI) vs N Mahut (FRA)
[Q] P Mathieu (FRA) vs N Davydenko (RUS)
COURT 1 start 11:00 am
 R Lindstedt (SWE) / H Tecau (ROU) vs O Marach (AUT) / A Peya (AUT)
J Nieminen (FIN) vs L Kubot (POL)
Not Before 4:00 PM
R Gasquet (FRA) / I Ljubicic (CRO) vs A Qureshi (PAK) / J Rojer (AHO)
J Nieminen (FIN) / V Troicki (SRB) vs [WC] T Schoorel (NED) / I Sijsling (NED)
COURT 2 start 1:00 pm
A Bogomolov Jr. (RUS) vs S Stakhovsky (UKR)
[Q] K Beck (SVK) vs P Petzschner (GER)
Not Before 5:00 PM
 M Mirnyi (BLR) / D Nestor (CAN) vs M Granollers (ESP) / M Lopez (ESP)
(All photos © Rick Gleijm)
The chances that Jesse Levine gets his racquet back are looking slim.
After an inauspicious start in Brisbane, losing in the first round of qualifiers, Bobby Reynolds asked Levine for one of his racquets.
Since then, Reynolds has gone undefeated, winning five matches in a row at the Sydney International, including an upset over second seed John Isner. The victory was his first top-20 win in nearly seven years.
“Luckily [Levine] was nice enough to give me one of his racquets in Brisbane because the ones I brought down here didn’t fare so well and I didn’t really like it after I played a couple matches with them,” said Reynolds in an interview with the ATP. “He was nice enough to give me one racquet and that’s been getting me through the last five matches.”
The world No. 126 also joked that he may owe his friend Levine some money after his successful run in Sydney.
“He told me that I own him 20 percent,” said Reynolds with a laugh. “But I told him the more the tournament goes on the less likely he’ll get his racquet back or the 20 percent.”
With the win over Isner, Reynolds is in his first ATP quarterfinal since 2008. However, the victory also means that he will miss out on the Australian Open as he was set to play in the qualifiers that began this week.
“It was kind of a tough decision for me to play it out because I was in the qualies at the Australian Open,” said the 29-year-old Reynolds. “[But] I’m glad that I stuck with it here and gave it my all and I hope to build on this for the rest of the year.”
After progressing through the qualifying draw, Reynolds faces fellow qualifier Jarkko Nieminen on Thursday for an unexpected spot in the semifinals.
Regardless of the outcome, Reynolds may want to start stocking up on Levine’s racquets.
Today, January 6, 2009, provides us with another edition of “Tennis History Tuesday” where TennisGrandstand.com gives readers another exclusive excerpt from my book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY. (New Chapter Press, $19.95, www.tennishistorybook.com). With the ATP Tour in Doha and Chennai this week, it is interesting to remember Ivan Ljubicic winning “the golden falcon” and Rafael Nadal losing in not-so-memorable fashion.
1992 – Twenty-year-old Stefano Pescosolido of Italy is defaulted from his final round qualifying match at the New South Wales Open in Sydney, Australia, when, after being aced by his opponent, Johan Anderson of Australia, he slams his racquet to the ground in disgust and drop kicks the racquet into the stands, striking a 22-year-old woman in the face. The woman is taken to the hospital where she receives stitches over her right eye. Pescosolido is also fined $1,500.
2007 – Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia wins “the golden falcon” – the championship trophy of the Doha Open in Qatar – when he defeats Andy Murray of Scotland 6-4, 6-4 in the men’s singles final for his seventh career ATP tournament title Says Ljubicic, “This trophy is one of the most beautiful we have in tennis – the golden falcon. I wanted it so bad. Andy was a very good opponent. He fought hard and didn’t miss many balls, but I was patient. I knew I had to be aggressive but not too aggressive. Against someone like Andy you need to find the perfect balance, because if you go to the net too much, he will pass you. And if you stay at the baseline, he’s too solid. So the combination was the key today.”
2008 – World No. 2 Rafael Nadal has nothing left in the tank in a 57-minute, 6-0, 6-1 loss to Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny in the final of the Chennai Open in India. The previous night, Nadal defeats fellow Spaniard Carlos Moya 6-7 (3), 7-6 (8), 7-6 (1) in 3 hours, 54 minutes – saving four match points in the second-set tie-break – in the longest three-set match on the ATP Tour in 15 years.”Rafa was not Rafa,” says Youzhny of Nadal winning only one game against him in the final. “I did not win today, it was Rafa who lost. I did not expect it to be so easy. I was lucky as he just couldn’t move and couldn’t play.” Says a classy Nadal, “Maybe I was a bit tired after the long semifinal, but I lost the final because Mikhail played very well.”
2007 – Dinara Safina of Russia, the younger sister of U.S. and Australian Open champion Marat Safin, wins her fifth career WTA title, defeating Martina Hingis 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 in the final of the Australian women’s hard court championships on the Gold Coast. Says Hingis of Safina, “Today she was just too good and everyone should watch her because she’s gonna be maybe even better than her brother. Marat is such a genius. He can play unbelievable tennis. She (Safina) definitely doesn’t have as much touch but she has more will and desire.”
2008 – In the final edition of the Australian Hardcourt Championships at the famed Memorial Drive tennis courts in Adelaide, Australia, Michael Llodra of France defeats Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen 6-3, 6-4 to win his second career ATP singles title. Llodra was the last directly accepted player into the 32-player field and only received entry into the event when countryman Richard Gasquet pulls out of the tournament due to a knee injury. Memorial Drive had hosted the highest-level of professional tennis since 1922 when Wimbledon champion Gerald Patterson first won at the site in 1922 at the South Australian Championships. In 2007, Tennis Australia announces it is moving the event to Brisbane.
1992 – John McEnroe is selected to the U.S. Davis Cup team for a record 12th time as he, Rick Leach, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi are named to the U.S. team that will face Argentina in the first round in Hawaii. McEnroe is previously tied for the U.S. lead of team selections with Bill Tilden and Stan Smith.
2007 – Jelena Jankovic of Serbia wins the first WTA Tour singles title of the 2007 season, defeating Russia’s Vera Zvonareva 7-6 (11-9), 5-7, 6-3 in the final of the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand.
1936 – Hall of Famer member Darlene Hard, winner of 21 major titles including the French in 1960 and the U.S. Championships in 1960 and 1961, is born in Los Angeles. Hard, also a two-time Wimbledon finalist, was a member of victorious U.S. Fed Cup team in the inaugural year of the competition in 1963, teaming with Billie Jean King and Carole Graebner.
Ayumi Morita beat Ksenia Lykina 6-1 6-3 to win the 2008 Dunlop World Challenge women’s event in Toyota City, Japan
Martin Vassallo Arguello won the Lima Challenger 2008, beating Sergio Roitman 6-2 4-6 6-4 in Lima, Peru
Go Soeda beat Hyung-Taik Lee 6-2 7-6 (7) to win the Dunlop World Challenge men’s singles in Toyota City, Japan
Grega Zemlja beat Martin Alund 6-2 6-1 to win the Abierto Internacional Varonil Ciudad de Cancun in Cancun, Mexico
“This was our worst defeat. We had a sinister weekend.” – David Nalbandian, who earned Argentina’s lone point in Spain’s 3-1 Davis Cup victory.
“I think he’s my natural successor. He’s very close to this group of players who are integrated into the nucleus of the team and he’s demonstrated his qualities as a coach by leading Feliciano (Lopez), who has shown notable progression in the last while.” – Emilio Sanchez, on Albert Costa’s prospects for becoming Spain’s Davis Cup captain.
“I am like a machine, fit for every match, and I give my best for all my matches. I have a consistent style of play, which is my major strength and keeps me going. I am fine with the current ATP schedule and love playing tennis, which keeps me going.” – Nikolay Davydenko.
“It goes back to what my dad said: I peaked at 12 years old.” – Jimmy Arias, who in 1980 at the age of 16 became the youngest player to make the main draw of the US Open.
“She will have an opportunity but she will have to earn it.” – Craig Tiley, Australian Open tournament director on Jelena Dokic playing in a wild card playoff for a direct entry into the first Grand Slam tournament of 2009.
His business manager says Jimmy Connors is “extremely disappointed and embarrassed” about an incident that led to the tennis legend being charged with a misdemeanor. Karen Scott says a man tried to pick a fight with Connors and his son before a basketball game between the University of California Santa Barbara and the University of North Carolina. Police asked Connors to leave, but the eight-time Grand Slam tournament champion was arrested after he said he wanted to wait for his son to finish watching the game. Connors was charged with disrupting campus activities and refusing to leave a university facility.
The day after leading Spain to its third Davis Cup championship, Emilio Sanchez Vicario retired as captain of the victorious team. “I will not be there for the tie against Serbia,” said Sanchez, referring to Spain’s first-round tie in 2009. “I started something three years ago and the cycle is now complete with this reward for all the players, and I hope that whoever replaces me can share all the magical moments I have experienced.” The next Spanish captain is rumored to be Albert Costa, the 2002 Roland Garros champion.
SAME IN ARGENTINA
Alberto Mancini apparently is through as coach of Argentina’s Davis Cup squad. He announced his resignation just hours after Spain clinched its third Davis Cup title, defeating Argentina 3-1 in the best-of-five-matches tie. The fifth match was not played. According to reports, Mancini had planned to resign after the final regardless of the outcome.
As an incentive to play better, Chinese tennis players will be able to keep more of their winnings. China’s players will keep 70 percent of the money they win, twice the amount they have been able to put into the bank. But the country’s top players, including Li Na and Wimbledon semifinalist Zheng Jie, are eligible to keep even more if they do well at Grand Slams and other big tournaments. In China, the sports associations have paid for coaches, travel and other expenses for the players. In making the announcement, Sun Jinfang, head of the Chinese Tennis Association (CTA), didn’t say if the players would now have to pay for some of their own expenses.
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer could resume their rivalry in their opening 2009 tournament. The world’s top two players are scheduled to play the Qatar Open in Doha, Qatar, which begins January 5. According to Nasser al-Kholiafi, Qatar tennis federation president, the star-filled field will also include Andy Murray and Andy Roddick. The Qatar Open is one of three tournaments that will begin the 2009 ATP season, the others being the Brisbane International in Australia and the Chennai Open in India.
Kimiko Date-Krumm’s latest tournament ended quickly in the singles. Once ranked number five in the world, Date-Krumm lost her second-round match in the 2008 Dunlop World Challenge Tennis Tournament in Toyota, Japan, to Russian wild-card Ksenia Lykina 5-7 7-5 6-3. She did much better in the doubles, teaming with China’s Han Xinyun to reach the final, where they lost to Finland’s Emma Laine and Britain’s Melanie South 6-1 7-5.
Dutch tennis player Raemon Sluiter is returning to the ATP tour after a 10-month retirement. He reached his highest world ranking of number 46 in 2003. The right-hander from Rotterdam turned pro in 1996 and earned a little more than USD $1.6 million in his career. Sluiter began his Davis Cup career in 2001 by upsetting Juan Carlos Ferrero as the Netherlands beat Spain and Germany to reach the World Group semifinals before losing to France. He also has a Davis Cup victory over Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen.
SET TO EXPLODE
A live bomb from World War II was discovered when a court at a British tennis club underwent renovation. The bomb was thought to be a piece of old farm machinery and handed to Steve McLean, chairman of the Greenlaw Tennis Club in Berwickshire, who put it in a bin. Six weeks later, he realized it was a bomb and called police. Army bomb disposal experts took the bomb away so it could be detonated safely.
The first event in a closed tour for Asian players was canceled because of the lack of top players. The Asian Tennis Federation said it was planning a closed Asian Tennis Tour to help Asian players make more money. The first two events were to be held in India in December, a men’s tournament in Pune, followed by a women’s event in Indore. But some of the eight countries who had pledged their participation in the tour ended up nominated their third- or fourth-string players for the tournaments.
John McEnroe hasn’t been quiet about his chances at the BlackRock Masters Tennis championships at London’s Royal Albert Hall. The lefthander, who at the age of 49 is by far the oldest in the eight-man draw, sent a video message to his rivals warning them not to underestimate him. McEnroe’s recent victory in Luxembourg has convinced the American that he can still compete. McEnroe is in a group with American Pete Sampras, Frenchman Cedric Pioline and Britain’s Jeremy Bates. The other group consists of Sweden’s Stefan Edberg, Australian Pat Cash, Britain’s Greg Rusedski and France’s Guy Forget. Jamie Murray, Wimbledon mixed doubles champion in 2007 and the brother of Andy Murray, will play doubles, joining, among others, Peter Fleming, Henri Leconte, Mansour Bahrami, Mark Woodforde and Anders Jarryd. Goran Ivanisevic withdrew from the singles field because he will undergo knee surgery.
SITTING ON TOP
For the third consecutive year, France has more players in the year-ending ATP Top 100 than any other nation. This year, however, Spain has tied France with 14 players in the Top 100. With Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at number six and Gilles Simon at number seven, it is the first time since 1986 that two Frenchmen have been in the year-end Top Ten. Yannick Noah and Henri Leconte did it then. Twenty-nine countries are represented in the Top 100. After France and Spain, Argentina has nine players in the Top 100, followed by the United States with eight, Germany and Russia with seven each, Croatia with five, the Czech Republic and Italy with four each, and Serbia and Belgium with three apiece.
STARS FOR SALE
The Heineken Open has reportedly been forced to shell out record appearance fees in order to land a couple of top players for the tournament in Auckland, New Zealand, beginning January 12. The headliners will be world number eight Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina and former champion David Ferrer of Spain. Tournament director Richard Palmer would not reveal the exact amount of appearance fees he had to pay to get the two, but said it was considerably less than the sums some top 10 players were demanding.
Organizers of the US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, Texas, are smiling these days. Because of the changes in the ATP calendar for 2009, Lleyton Hewitt and the Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike, have committed to the US Clay Court. The Houston event now doesn’t bump up against Davis Cup competition or a popular clay-court tournament in Europe. And it directly follows the Masters 100 tournament in Miami, Florida. “This is a perfect example of how we’ve improved our prospects of getting some players we probably wouldn’t have had a shot at before,” said Van Barry, tennis director of River Oaks Country Club, site of the tournament.
The decrepit courts of the Milan Gale Muskatirovic Sports Centre in Belgrade, Serbia, will be restored in time to hold an ATP tournament in May. Tennis Masters Cup champion Novak Djokovic and his family are behind the changes, having acquired the ATP event only a few weeks ago. The Serbian government, city of Belgrade and municipality of Stari Grad will jointly pay more than USD $1 million for the venture. The courts also will be used by the Serbian Tennis Federation for Fed Cup and Davis Cup practice as well as university competition. When completed, the complex will have seven courts with seating for 5,000 at the Central Court. The restoration is scheduled to be completed by mid-April, two weeks before the tournament will begin.
The Medibank International Sydney 2009 tournament will feature a number of top players, including Serena Williams, Jelena Jankovic, David Nalbandian and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Officials say the competition will be Sydney’s international sporting event of the Australian summer. Also in the field will be Russian Elena Dementieva and Frenchman Richard Gasquet, while Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt will be gunning for his fifth title in the tournament.
STICKING WITH IT
Argentina’s David Nalbandian refuted rumors that he is considering quitting his country’s Davis Cup team because of its loss to Spain. “For me it’s really an honor to represent my country. I’m going to continue defending these colors in the best way possible. For me, playing Davis Cup is the best and I’m upset that people have doubted me.” Nalbandian won the opening singles in the three-day competition, beating David Ferrer. But he and Agustin Calleri lost their doubles match and his “reverse singles” match was never played because Spain had already wrapped up its victory. “We’ve played in two Davis Cup finals in the last three years and I still think we can win it,” Nalbandian said.
SET FOR CHENNAI
India’s two top-ranked singles players, Somdev Devvarman and Prakash Amritraj, have been given wild cards into the Chennai Open tournament scheduled to begin January 5. The third wild card into the main singles draw has been offered to Lukas Dlouhy of the Czech Republic, who will partner India’s Leander Paes in the doubles. India’s Mahesh Bhupathi and his partner, Mark Knowles of the Bahamas, have also entered the tournament. While Paes and Bhupathi are India’s best-known players, neither play singles that much any more.
Anne Pittman, who coached Arizona State’s women’s tennis program for 30 years, died in Tempe, Arizona, after suffering a stroke. She was 90 years old. Pittman guided ASU to a 338-71 record from 1954 through 1984 and led the Sun Devils to national championships in 1971, 1972 and 1974. In 1995, she was selected as one of the charter members and only coach into the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Women’s Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame. During her tenure, the women’s tennis coach was considered a volunteer position. Pittman refused to retire until funding was approved during the 1983-84 season to make the coach a paid, full-time position.
Toyota (women): Emma Laine and Melanie South beat Kimiko Date-Krumm and Han Xinyun 6-1 7-5
Lima: Luis Horna and Sebastian Prieto beat Ramon Delgado and Julio Silva 6-3 6-3
Toyota (men): Frederik Nielsen and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi beat Chen Ti and Gazegorz Panfil 7-5 6-3
Cancun: Lukasz Kubot and Oliver Marach beat Lee Hsin-Han and Yang Tsung-Hua 7-5 6-2
SITES TO SURF
Australian Open: www.australianopen.com/
WTA Tour: www.sonyericssonwtatour.com
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
BlackRock Masters Tennis, London, England, carpet
Roger Federer drew level with Ilie Nastase on 57 career titles after beating 6-3 6-4 David Nalbandian in the final between the Top two seeded players. Federer never faced a break point and won in Basel third straight year. “It feels great to win at home. Once you had it you want more of it and you want to do it over and over again.” said Federer who improved 10-8 against Nalbandian and 29-6 lifetime record in his hometown.
Robin Soderling has finally won his 3rd ATP tournament. The Swede has been waiting more than three years for another title, losing meanwhile 4 consecutive finals, three this year (Rotterdam, Memphis, Stockholm). Soderling is one of the biggest indoor specialist, he has played 9 finals in career, all of them indoor. On Sunday needed three sets to upset Julien Benneteau and his home-crowd 6-3 6-7(5) 6-1. Soderling broke the Frenchman’s serve in the 7th game of the second set but lost his own serve in the following game – it was the only game of the match with break points for Benneteau who lost his second ATP final. “As a player you always have the goal to reach the Top 100,” said Soderling who next week will be for the first time in career a Top 20 player. “Once you get there, you want to get to the Top 50. Reaching the Top 20 feels great. It has been my goal for two or three years already.” Thanks to this triumph Soderling creates theoretical chances to play in Masters Cup. He needs to win in Paris next week on the assumption that Gilles Simon and David Ferrer don’t make QF, and anyone else behind Simon and Ferrer doesn’t make the final.
The Russian-born but Kazhstan representative, Andrei Goloubev was able to win only two games in his first ATP final against defending champion Andy Murray. The British No. 1 converted five of 8 break points and saved two break points in the match which lasted just 58 minutes. It was the shortest final on the ATP circuit this year, and the second shortest final in terms of games (14) after Mikhail Youzhny defeated Rafael Nadal 6-0 6-1 in Chennai. Murray won 8th title in career (5th in European indoor) and became the first British player to win back-to-back titles since Mark Cox in March 1975. “I’m happy to defend my title in St Petersburg,” said Murray. “I like to play indoors. I reached my first ATP final indoors in Bangkok and then won my first ATP title in San Jose.”
Basel – Final
(1)Roger Federer (SUI) d. (2)David Nalbandian (ARG) 6-3 6-4
Lyon – Final
(7)Robin Soderling (SWE) d. Julien Benneteau (FRA) 6-3 6-7(5) 6-1
St. Petersburg – Final
(1)Andy Murray (GBR) d. (q)Andrei Goloubev (KAZ) 6-1 6-1
Roger Federer for the fifth time (third in a row) advanced to the final of his home-event in Basel after convincing 6-3 6-2 over in-form Feliciano Lopez. “It’s great to play back-to-back semifinals and reach the final,” said Federer. “I have some points to defend but that is not what my life is about anymore, I hope to win titles. My game has really come along this week and I’m serving well this week.”
In the second semifinal between two Argentinians, David Nalbandian outplayed Juan Martin del Potro 6-4 6-4. Nalbandian is also a Basel specialist. He has played three finals there, won one of them, six years ago, in his first attempt (beating Gonzalez in straight sets in the final).
Gilles Simon has finally lost a three-setter. He was beaten by the hands of the indoor specialist Robin Soderling. Simon was losing 4:5 (15-30) in the first set but won 10 points in a row and the first set 7-5. The next two sets Soderling won 6-3 and reached third indoor final this year (after Rotterdam and Memphis).
Julien Benneteau defeated Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6 7-5 despite 2:5 down in the first set. Benneteau later saved set point at 5:6 with subtle volley. In the similar style he won his first set point in the tie-break as well.
Andy Murray has won 17 of his last 18 matches. In the Satursday’s semifinal British No. 1 demolished Fernando Verdasco 6-0 6-3. Last year in the final Murray playing against Verdasco lost only two games more. “I played a solid match and he got off to a slow start, making some mistakes and I was able take advantage of that,” said Murray.
“I was very happy with my level of play today and it was a perfect match,” said Golubev, who won the final 10 games of his semifinal match against Victor Hanescu. “This will be my first ATP final and I will never forget this match and this tournament.”
Basel – Semifinals
(1)Roger Federer (SUI) d. Feliciano Lopez 6-3 6-2
(2)David Nalbandian (ARG) d. (3)Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) 6-4 6-4
Lyon – Semifinals
(7)Robin Soderling (SWE) d. (4)Gilles Simon 5-7 6-3 6-3
Julien Benneteau (FRA) d. (3)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6(5) 7-5
St. Petersburg – Semifinals
(1)Andy Murray (GBR) d. (3)Fernando Verdasco 6-0 6-3
(q)Andrei Goloubev (KAZ) d. Victor Hanescu 6-3 6-0