Leigh Sanders

Leigh Sanders is the Co-Managing Editor & Sports Editor of the independent, online newspaper The Fresh Outlook (www.thefreshoutlook.com); a publication looking to give the world an objective account of the events and rights it might not be aware of. He has also written sports and entertainment columns for various print and online mediums since 2006. You can contact him on leigh.sanders87@yahoo.co.uk. Or, alternatively, on Twitter @Leigh_Sanders.
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Federer is Back, Nadal Lacks Passion and Li Na finds Life has Changed

Federer Secures Sixth ATP World Tour Finals:

For the third successive Sunday Roger Federer took to the courts to face Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and for the third straight match he tasted success as he edged ahead as the record holder for the most ATP Finals triumphs. He described his sixth title as “one of [my] greatest accomplishments” in the form of a 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-3 win over Tsonga. It was also an incredible 70th tournament win from 100 finals. He is unbeaten since the US Open and will take a 17-match unbeaten run in to 2012. “Right now I’m happy the season is over,” said the Swiss. “It has been long and it has been gruelling, but I’m happy I’m still strong and healthy. I’m really excited for next year – I’m upbeat about what’s to come. The relief was amazing,” he added of winning the title. “Jo played well. Could I have won it easier? I guess; I had it in my hands. I had to go through the third set but eventually I made it, which probably felt even better. The joy was great.” He even talked about possibly making the final a five-set encounter, saying: “I remember sitting in a room in Shanghai where the players were asked, ‘Would you like the year-end final to be five sets or three. Everyone said best-of-three sets. I was the only guy that said five. I do care actually. I think it makes for a great year-end. Sure, you can see why maybe it’s healthier to play best-of-three but I believe the final could be a best-of-five set match.” He also whet the fans’ appetites with his summation of 2011 and brief preview of what next year might have in stall for us. “Novak was the player of the year, which goes without saying,” reflected Federer. “A guy who can win 40 matches in a row from the start of the season completely deserves it till the very end of it. I thought Andy Murray played a very good season this year. I think he’s going to be very tough to beat next year. And Rafa with his class, he’s always going to be a threat for the throne, to win all the big tournaments. I think the prospects are good,” he added. “We also saw Nos. 5 to 8 are extremely close as well. Behind that, anything is possible, too. I think right now we have great quality within the Top 10, even within the Top 20, 25 actually. I’m looking forward to a tough season next year.”

Nadal wants to be Perfect for Next Year:

Rafael Nadal has said that he wants to be in “perfect” condition for 2012 because he “probably had a bit less passion for the game” towards the end of 2011. The Spaniard, who will lead his country in to this weekend’s Davis Cup Final against Argentina, started the season well and captured his sixth French Open crown in June. But a barnstorming Novak Djokovic overtook him in the ATP World Rankings and the spotlight as the Serb mopped up the latter half of the year, including beating Nadal in the US Open Final. “We can find excuses, we can find problems, but it’s not the moment to say that – it’s the moment to keep fighting,” said the 25-year-old. “It’s the moment to analyse what I did good, what I did bad, and know what I have to work on for the next month. The end of the year wasn’t easy for me; that’s hard to accept,” he added of his loss to Djokovic as well as the Tokyo final to Andy Murray and a poor showing at the ATP Finals. “But it gives me more of a goal for the beginning of 2012. I dream about arriving in 2012 with very good conditions. The only way to change the situation is to work more, think more about tennis, do everything in the right shape, do everything good inside the court, everything good outside the court,” he added. “I have to work hard – working hard every day, morning, afternoon – if I’m going to have my chance to be competitive to win the big tournaments.

Li Na admits Life Has Changed:

Chinese ace Li Na has admitted that her life has changed a lot since she became the first Asian player to win a Grand Slam at the French Open this year. Life has changed a lot. I knew after the French Open when I went back to China the fans would be crazy,” she said. “I came back home and a lady (on the street) said, ‘Li Na, I know who you are, I need a photograph with you, an autograph’. She spoke so loud and everyone heard it. More people were coming so me and my friend were full-power running to the car.” She also paid tribute to her former coach, Thomas Hogstedt, who has since turned his attentions to helping Maria Sharapova return to the top. “Thomas, he was very different to Chinese coaches,” she added. “He always gave me confidence. First time he was saying ‘You can be in the top 20’. I said ‘Are you joking?’ because I didn’t believe it—I never had a coach say I can be top 20.”

Hewitt Hanging Around:

Despite recent hip and foot surgeries Aussie star Lleyton Hewitt has been speaking about life as a father, and how he isn’t ready to retire yet. “When you are 16 on the tour, and that’s the only thing you’ve ever dreamt of doing, your mind thinks one way,” he told The Telegraph. “Marriage and children has changed my perspective. Even now with travelling to play, jetlag goes out the window. You work around your kids. When you lose a tough five-setter at Wimbledon and your kid runs up to you, it hits home that is just a tennis match.”

Ferrer to Defend Auckland Title:

World No.5 David Ferrer will defend his Heineken Open title in Auckland when the ATP Tour resumes in 2012. He will be the top seed, with his countryman Nicolas Almagro the second-highest ranked player in attendance. Fernando Verdasco and Donald Young will be new faces at the event, while the field also contains strong competitors such as Fernando Gonzalez, Juan Monaco, Juan Ignacio Chela, Kevin Anderson and Thomaz Bellucci. “With two in the top 10 and some great depth we will again have a fantastic main draw. We are really looking forward to kicking off the new year with another high energy Heineken Open,” said tournament director Richard Palmer.

Isner Plans Trip to the Beach:

American star John Isner has joined Andy Roddick in signing up for the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships in February. The world No.18 is best known for his record-setting antics with Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon last year and he will hope to start the year well in order to form an assault on the Top 10. Michael Chang has also signed up for the ATP Champions Tour event at the same venue simultaneously. He joins Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander, Pat Cash, Johan Kriek, Mikael Pernfors and Aaron Krickstein in the field. “The addition of fan-favourite John Isner and perennial top 10 Michael Chang gives us strong fields already,” said Mark Baron, tournament director of the ITC. “Our ATP Champions Tour field is set, and we are expecting our ATP World Tour event to be the best in our history by the time our final draw is announced.”

Berdych Feeling the Draft:

Tomas Berdych went underneath the razor in his private locker room following his ATP Finals defeat to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to honour a bet made with his coach Tomas Krupa at Wimbledon. If Berdych won a title, obtained 50 wins over the year and took part at London’s O2 Arena then he would have to shave his head. He fulfilled all three stipulations and so carried out his promise after the Tsonga defeat. “Bet is a bet,” Berdych commented on his official Facebook page. “We have made one in Wimbledon that if I take part in the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, win at least one title and 50 matches in this season, my hair is going down.”

Americans Hoping for Aussie Chance:

USTA Player Development has announced the eight men and eight women who are to contest the 2012 Australian Open Wildcard Play-Off next month. The winners will receive main-draw singles wild cards into the men’s and women’s draws. Melanie Oudin headlines the women, while her Fed Cup team-mate Coco Vandeweghe is also involved. Youngsters Grace Min, Taylor Townsend, Madison Keys, Gail Brodsky, Jaime Hampton and Alison Riske are the others invited. Robby Ginepri is joined by Jack Sock, Steve Johnson, Bobby Reynolds, Denis Kudla, Daniel Kosakowski, Rhyne Williams and Jesse Levine.

Djokovic Aces GQ List:

World No.1 Novak Djokovic has been labelled GQ Magazine’s Ace of the Year. He is joined in the honours list by the likes of Jay-Z who received King of the Year, Michael Fassbender (Breakout of the Year), Gary Oldman (Icon of the Year) and South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius (Superhuman of the Year).

Final Rankings of the Year:

So with the ATP World Tour finals over the final rankings for 2011 for the men are complete. Roger Federer’s excellent end to the year sees him climb back above Andy Murray to No.3 in the world going in to 2012, while the only other movement in the Top 50 sees Nikolay Davydenko climb above Bernard Tomic to No.41. This leaves us with a Top 10 of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Federer, Murray, David Ferrer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych, Mardy Fish, Janko Tipsarevic and Nicolas Almagro. There was a final push from Germany in to the Top 100 where Matthias Bachinger leapt 15 places to finish 2011 as the world No.94, and Michael Berrer climbed five to No.100.

Final 2011 GOAT Race Standings:

The 2011 ATP calendar has come to a close, so with it goes the Tennis People Greatest Of All Time Race. We have seen two monumental swings over the course of the past 11 months that do much to rubbish the talk of Roger Federer’s demise. With Rafael Nadal’s injury-ravaged and formless start to the year R-Fed sped out in to the lead, only to be pegged back and overhauled by the Spaniard after the French Open as both struggled to cope with the explosive form of Novak Djokovic. Yet Federer made a late surge, perhaps a little too late, to breathe life in to his challenge and eventually fell just short of his great rival’s total. It probably told us little we didn’t know already. The two can both play at the levels we have come to expect of them and there is still very little to split them when they are both fit and raring to go. But they are both susceptible to injury these days and neither seem to last a full calendar anymore. It will now be very interesting to see whether they can keep themselves going over a full season in 2012, and whether Djokovic can keep his form up. It will also be interesting to see whether Andy Murray really pushes on to challenge the big boys. With Nadal’s limp exit at the group stage in London, Federer was allowed a run at the title which he took with glee, giving him a sum of 200 points to make the final totals:

Roger: 1740, Rafa: 1950

A Fond Farewell:

It has been a little over two years since this column started in its original guise as ‘Commonwealth Tennis’ and over 25 months it has seen two major content changes and countless re-thinks, writers’ block breakouts and tantrums. It has also seen some great discoveries of tennis player trivia, a recital of stats that I can now produce in public at the blink of an eye and a strange loving of players somewhat unknown based on a bizarre interview quote I stumbled upon somewhere. I have thoroughly enjoyed contributing weekly to Tennis Grandstand, but due to changes in the outside world I can no longer dedicate the time to the column that a website such as this deserves. I thank everyone involved from readers to fellow writers for their guidance and time. I am not saying goodbye completely as I hope to work together with the website on future projects. But Tennis People in this format is coming to a close, one week prematurely in fact, as work commitments mean I cannot produce a Davis Cup-themed final entry next week. I hope you have enjoyed following, and I will hopefully see you all soon. If not here, then in this vast electronic world that helps us keep up to date with all things tennis.

Leigh Gruffydd Sanders

Noah Drug Comments Cause Spanish Uproar, Djokovic Honoured for Incredible Year and Murray Withdraws from ATP Finals

Noah Infuriates Spain with Drug Cheat Comments:

1983 French Open winner Yannick Noah and Spanish ten-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal have clashed over claims the former made about performance enhancing drug use mainly being behind Spain’s recent dominance of world sport. Both Nadal and David Ferrer have made this year’s ATP World Tour Finals, Spain’s football team are European and World Champions and their basketball team is currently dominating the European and world game as well as picking up a silver medal in Beijing. Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador has also won three of the last five Tour De France titles. “Today, if you don’t have the magic potion, it’s hard to win. How can a nation dominate sport virtually overnight like this?” asked Noah. “When I still milled around on the courts with my racket, we weren’t ridiculous, far from it, against our Spanish friends. It was the same on the soccer fields, the basketball halls or on the roads of the Tour de France,” he continued. “Today they are running faster than us, are much more stronger and only leave us the bread crumbs. We look like dwarves. Did we miss something? Did they discover some avant-garde techniques or training facilities that nobody before them had imagined?” But Nadal reacted angrily to Noah’s claims, stating that stringent doping policies make them invalid. “He knows better than anybody that to say that today is a totally stupid thing because you know how many anti-doping controls we have during the season, year by year,” he fumed. “So in my opinion, the article that he wrote was from a kid and when one kid says something it’s not painful for us.” The French Tennis Federation immediately distanced themselves from Noah’s comments, and French star Michael Llodra immediately apologised for the comments made by Noah, saying: “He’s stupid and maybe he was…” and then making a gesture tipping his hand toward his mouth to indicate that Noah might have been drinking. “I felt a profound disappointment,” added former Top 10 star Emilio Sanchez-Vicario, who is the President of the Athletes’ Association of Spain. “You have hurt the Spaniards, the athletes and me; I don’t think it’s fair to discredit the triumphs of Spanish athletes by treating them all as cheaters. You, who always defended sportsmanship! Is this a sportsman’s behaviour? I don’t think we deserved it.”

Djokovic Receives No.1 Award:

In a special on-court ceremony on Tuesday at the ATP World Tour Finals Novak Djokovic was honoured for his incredible record-breaking year by receiving the award for finishing as the year-end No.1 in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings. ATP Executive President and Chairman Adam Helfant presented the award to the Serbian who looked back on his year with great pride. “It feels fantastic, making history obviously is a big privilege,” said Djokovic, who has recorded a 70-4 match record so far in 2011. “It’s something I always dreamed about, becoming the best in the world, and finishing the year as No. 1 in the world and it’s come true. This year has been the best of my life, the best of my career. All my dreams have been realised and I’m just trying to enjoy every single moment of it and this trophy. I was fortunate enough to have a group of people really believing in me, in my qualities, believing that I could be the best one day. It all came down to myself, if I was really able to bring it or not. Especially in the era of Nadal and Federer, who have been so dominant, it makes my success even bigger.”

Murray Withdraws from ATP Finals:

World number three Andy Murray has been forced to withdraw from the ATP World Tour Finals in London because of a recurrence of the muscle strain he suffered in training on November 14. He suffered a re-strain during his disappointing opening loss to David Ferrer on Monday and has decided to withdraw from the tournament altogether. He was due to practice for an hour with Tomas Berdych on Tuesday but failed to materialise, and a press conference was hastily arranged so the 24-year-old could make his announcement. Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic benefitted by being called in to replace the Scot. He faced Berdych instead of Murray on Wednesday and lost a thrilling three-set encounter. “I was told to take a week to 10 days completely off – I just didn’t have enough time to recover,” said a disappointed Murray. “I was probably going to do myself more damage playing than not.  When I came off the court [on Monday], I was very disappointed and upset,” he continued. “I said we’d see how I feel when I woke today up but I was never going to feel great. You hope things are going to get better, but in reality that wasn’t ever going to happen.” Meanwhile, Murray has announced that he will kick off his 2012 season at the Brisbane International before aiming to get to his third-straight Australian Open final.

Laver Fancies R-Fed’s Slam Chances:

Aussie legend Rod Laver believes that Roger Federer won’t have to wait much longer to end his two-year wait for a 17th Grand Slam. He believes that the Swiss ace’s recent form shows that he is getting back to the level that saw him dominate the sport for so long. “Federer has a chance to come back and, if anywhere, the Australian Open is a good place for him,” Laver said. “It seems to me he’s serving a whole lot better, he’s getting to the net a lot more and he’s got a drop shot that works pretty effectively.”

Massu Robbed at Challenger Event:

The Chilean press are reporting that Olympic gold medallist Nicolas Massu was robbed at gunpoint at the recent Guayaquil Challenger event. His father is quoted in one report saying that a knife was pulled on his son by a taxi driver who took his mobile phone and his wallet. His tennis equipment was not taken as it was in his hotel room.

ATP Finals the Last Chance for GOAT Race Points in 2011:

After lifting the Paris Masters title in Paris-Bercy Roger Federer added another 200 points to his 2011 Greatest Of All Time race total, tracking the fortunes of the two great rivals Federer and Rafael Nadal. Now we enter the final event of the year, the prestigious ATP World Tour Finals. As it is an elite event which only the top eight qualify for, points totals will be doubled as with the Grand Slams. So, both players receive 20 points for entering. As there is no quarter-final stage the points that would usually be given for that achievement are now valid for the semis. Therefore, players will receive 50 points for a semi-final berth, 100 for a final appearance and 200 for bringing home the big prize. While Federer cannot win the race for this year, he could make it a much tighter finish than it looked just a couple of months ago.

Roger: 1540, Rafa: 1950

Kvitova Dominates WTA Awards, ATP Finals Draw Made and Federer Back Hitting Milestones

Kvitova Scoops Top WTA Player Prize:

In probably the least surprising revelation of the year, Petra Kvitova dominated the WTA awards by scooping four prizes, including player of the year. The 21-year-old lifted her first Grand Slam at Wimbledon, climbed to victory at the WTA Finals in Istanbul and then led her Czech Republic side to Fed Cup victory in the final against Russia. Starting the year as the world’s No.34, she finished just behind Caroline Wozniacki as the world No.2. “This season has been simply a dream,” Kvitova said. “It is an incredible honour to win the player of the year award and join the ranks of some of the best players that have ever played the sport, especially Martina Navratilova. I will always cherish the 2011 season and look forward to building on it.” Kvitova also walked away with the gongs for the most improved player of the year, the fan’s favourite breakthrough of the year and the Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship Award awarded for professionalism, attitude and sense of fair play. Germany’s Sabine Lisicki won comeback player of the year for her titles at Dallas and Birmingham and for reaching the Wimbledon semis where she lost to Maria Sharapova. Kvitova’s fellow Czech Kveta Peschke and her Slovenian partner Katarina Srebotnik won doubles team of the year, and Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu won newcomer of the year after rising from No.214 to No.38 in the world during 2011. Agnieszka Radwanska picked up the award for the fans’ singles player of the year, while Victoria Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko were voted their doubles pairing of the year. Finally, Italian star Francesca Schiavone was given the Player Service Award for being the player who did the most to help her fellow pros through the WTA Players’ Council.

Djokovic-Murray and Rafa-Roger in London:

The draw for the ATP World Finals was made on Tuesday with two sets of great friends and rivals set to do battle. World number one Novak Djokovic was placed in Group A alongside good friend Andy Murray, David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych. 2010 finalists Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will do battle in Group B alongside Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Mardy Fish. Djokovic beat Murray for his first Grand Slam of the year in Australia back in January although Murray won their last encounter in the Cincinnati final. Nole was, however, forced to pull out halfway through with a shoulder injury. Federer won the final between him and Nadal last year, while Tsonga will not relish facing him again so soon after his disappointing Paris final defeat last weekend. That game will come up first on Sunday afternoon, before Nadal and Fish do battle in the evening session. Murray will go in to the fight against Ferrer on Monday afternoon, before Djokovic faces Berdych in the evening. In the doubles, the Bryan brothers were paired with Mahesh Bhupathi/Leander Paes, Robert Lindstedt/Horia Tecau and Jurgen Melzer/Philipp Petzschner in Group A, while Michael Llodra/Nenad Zimonjic will do battle with Daniel Nestor/Max Mirnyi, Rohan Bopanna/Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and Mariusz Fyrstenberg/Marcin Matkowski in Group B.

More Milestones for Federer:

It was a good time all round for Roger Federer in Paris last week. He finally broke his second Paris hoodoo, having at last secured the French Open title in 2009, by defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1, 7-6(3) in the final of the Paris Masters. Just being in the final made him the first man to ever reach that stage of all the ATP Masters 1000 events, and by winning the title he is now one behind Rafael Nadal’s record of 19 Masters titles on the all-time list. It means he goes in to this weekend’s ATP Tour Finals on a 12-match winning streak and that he won’t finish a season without a Grand Slam or a Masters title for the first time since 2001. His victory over Juan Monaco in the quarter-finals was also the 800th of his career. “I’m amazed by how well I played,” Federer said of his time in the French capital. “I’m really ecstatic to have played so well this week from the first ball to the end. I had many attempts to win Paris-Bercy and for some reasons I had not been able to win it earlier, so it’s a special victory.”

Costa Praying for Nadal and Ferrer:

Spanish Davis Cup captain Alberto Costa has revealed he isn’t worried about Rafa Nadal and David Ferrer having to make the quick transition from the ATP Finals hard courts to clay for their upcoming Davis Cup final with Argentina, but he is concerned that one of them might pick up an injury during their time in London. Speaking of the Argentines, he also admitted he wasn’t sure who they would be using. “They will come with five players,” Costa said. “Del Potro and Nalbandian are the strong base, but do not rule out that Nalbandian may not play the first day [in singles]. And the doubles may be [Juan] Monaco, [Juan Ignacio] Chela, or [Eduardo] Schwank. Del Potro is getting his level back [to where it was] before his wrist injury, and next year will be back on top,” he continued. “And Nalbandian has been injured, but we know that he’ll be ready for Seville. He’s a super talent who has not won a regular basis because of physical problems. But in a particular week he can play great. They are very dangerous, balanced and tough.”

Roddick Criticises ATP Structure:

Andy Roddick is really starting to show his age by becoming increasingly more grumpy with the world. This time, he has taken a swipe at the ATP leadership structure, stating that the current set-up doesn’t favour the CEO, which is why that seat seems to be constantly changing. Currently, the seven-man board consists of three player representatives, three tournament representatives and the CEO to give a deciding vote should he need to. Roddick feels that unfair pressure has seen his career span three men in that position. Current incumbent Adam Helfant will leave the role on December 31, with Roddick hoping something can be done to make the next one stick around more long-term. “I think at a certain point you have to look at the system as being flawed as opposed to continually looking for the scapegoat,” he said. “You don’t go into negotiation and have someone represent both sides. It just doesn’t happen in any business transaction or negotiation. I don’t think it’s the CEO’s fault. It’s an impossible situation. I think the system is suspect. Hopefully someone can get in there and win the battle of rhetoric one of these times and get someone to approve some changes. But under the present system, he really can’t. Some of the good ol’ boys club have it figured out pretty good. It’s not an easy position. It’s not as if we haven’t had smart people.”

Paes Denies Bhupathi Split:

Leander Paes has denied reports that he and Mahesh Bhupathi are about to end their doubles partnership with the latter eyeing a pairing with Rohan Bopanna, one eye on next summer’s Olympics in London. “As things currently stand, Mahesh and me have not yet decided to part ways as such,” Paes told MiD DAY. “We have the all-important ATP World Tour Finals that begin on Sunday and after that tournament we will sit down together to have a discussion to decide about our respective futures. When Mahesh and me got together (after nine years) we had clearly announced that we would take the partnership ahead one month at a time and see how things pan out. It was never a long-term thing. But having said that, we have not yet decided to part ways as such.’”

Moya Back at No.1:

Spaniard Carlos Moya completed a perfect debut season on the ATP Champions Tour by winning his fourth-straight title 6-3, 6-4 over Mariano Zabaleta in the Royal Guard Champions final in Santiago, Chile. In turn he secured the year-end No.1 ranking. “For the first year to finish at No.1 is all I could hope for, it’s great,” said Moya. “After I lost to Thomas [Enqvvist] this week I knew I had to try to beat Mark [Philippoussis] in straight sets, not just for a final place but to get those extra rankings points as well. And I was on my way to doing that and then suddenly I got a bit tired, he started to play a bit better and I had to save match point to get the victory. Then I had to wait for [Agustin] Calleri to beat Enqvist before I knew my fate so it has been very up and down this week with the rankings. I was lucky in some ways but now I am very relieved that I am sure to be No. 1 at the end of the year.”

Forget About the Davis Cup:

L’Equipe is reporting that Guy Forget is about to step down as the French Davis Cup captain to take over the tournament director’s job at the Paris-Bercy Masters. Henri Leconte, Arnaud Clement, Sebastien Grosjean and Amelie Mauresmo are names they are touting as possible successors.

Williams Goes Green:

Venus Williams has revealed at a sports conference in Qatar that she has added a lot more vegetables to her diet after discovering that she was suffering from Sjogren’s syndrome earlier this year. The 31-year-old added that she hoped the changes would help her play a full schedule next year. “I changed my diet completely, so lots of vegetables,” she said. “I (altered) my mind frame completely because I was the person who always ate their steak first and their salad second.  My goal next year is to play a full schedule. It will take some work to get there, but I’m no stranger to hard work. I love the game. The racket feels right in my hand and I’m planning on going right back to where I was at the top of the rankings in the singles and doubles sometime within the next 12 months.”

Rankings Almost Finalised for 2011:

With most players’ seasons now over for 2011 the South African Airways ATP World Rankings almost have a finished look. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga climbs above Tomas Berdych going in to the ATP Finals in London, while Janko Tipsarevic climbs two to No.9 to finish his year in the Top 10. American John Isner climbs six and he will finish the year in the Top 20 at No.18. Philipp Kohlschreiber is up eight to No.43 in the world, while Tommy Robredo drops out of the Top 50. Carlos Berlocq (No.65) and Nicolas Mahut (No.78) climb 10, while Tobias Kamke leaps 16 places to No.92 in the world, and Jeremy Chardy is up seven to No.97.

Kvitova Inspires Czechs to Fed Cup, Djokovic £1m Better Off and Federer Triumphs in Basel

Kvitova Inspires Czechs to Fed Cup:

Petra Kvitova’s incredible 2011 culminated in another major prize as she led the Czech Republic to a tense 3-2 Fed Cup Final win over Russia that went down to the final rubber. Lucie Hradecka and Kveta Peschke defeated Maria Kirilenko and Elena Vesnina in the doubles to clinch the Czechs’ first title as an independent nation since splitting from Slovakia in 1993. Kvitova won her two singles rubbers against Svetlana Kuznetsova and Kirilenko but Kuznetsova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova’s wins over Lucie Safarova had pushed the tie all the way. “Petra won two points, but we needed one more,” said Czech captain Petr Pala. “I’m glad we’ve managed to [get] the third one. We all won it because victory is made of small pieces you have to put together. It’s team work.” Kvitova’s incredible 2011 saw her lift her first Grand Slam at Wimbledon, finish the year as world No.2 and now comes international success with her native Czech Republic.

Djokovic £1m Richer for Just Turning Up:

World number one Novak Djokovic cruised past Croatia’s Ivan Dodig in the second round of the Paris Masters on Wednesday and collected a cool $1.6m (£1m) for his troubles. The bonus relates to appearing in seven of this year’s ATP Masters Series events and he would have received it even if his shoulder injury that threatened his participation flared up and he had crashed out. He missed the Masters event in Shanghai with the problem and it flared up again during his Basel semi-final defeat to Kei Nishikori last week. “It was really funny to see how people are coming up with this story,” he said of pre-match media reports. “I even heard that I would get on court and just play one game to get this money – I mean,

this is ridiculous. We are all athletes, this is our job and we are all playing to get paid. I don’t see what is unusual about that. On the other hand,” the 24-year-old continued, “I came here to compete and because I want to play a tournament. If I know I am physically in good enough condition to compete I will compete. If I don’t, I will not compete. It is as simple as that. There is nothing else that can affect my decision.” However, Rafael Nadal will not be competing in Paris as he has taken time out to prepare “properly” for the ATP Finals in London and the upcoming Davis Cup final between Spain and Argentina in Seville, starting November 28.

Federer Lifts Second Title of 2011:

Roger Federer triumphed once more at his home Basel Open last weekend to secure only his second tournament win of 2011. The 30-year-old overpowered Kei Nishikori, who had shocked Novak Djokovic in the semis, 6-1, 6-3, and it bodes well with his intentions to finish the year strongly. “It’s great to win at home again,” he said. “Kei put up a good fight. I knew when I hit with him as a teenager that he could have a good future. It was a perfect match for me. Now I have big hopes for Paris and London [the ATP Tour Finals]. It’s been a long time since I felt so good physically.” Federer also spoke this week about his early plans for 2012, saying: “I’ve already said yes for Qatar (early January) and Rotterdam (mid-February). I’m talking with Dubai to see whether I’m going to play there as well, and then there will be Davis Cup (against the U.S. in Switzerland from February 10-12). Davis Cup will be announced as soon as I will make a decision for Dubai.” Meanwhile, in Valencia, the Bryan brothers claimed their 75th title together by defeating Eric Butorac and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-4, 7-6(9) in the final. It was their eighth title of the year.

Ivanovic can Bali Believe It:

Ana Ivanovic claimed her second consecutive Bali title by defeating Spain’s Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3, 6-0 on her 24th birthday. The $600,000 winner’s cheque will also be a welcome present. She hadn’t won one of the International tournaments used to qualify during 2011 but was given a wildcard as the reigning champion. “I felt like I didn’t do much wrong. It was a great match for me,” Ivanovic said in her on-court interview. “Anabel and I practiced together all week, so it was nice we got a chance to play each other on the last day of the tournament. Thank you so much to the tournament for giving me a wildcard this year.” Speaking of Ivanovic’s hopes of reaching No.1 in the world again, Garrigues said: “It will be difficult, but she has the technique, physique and mentality. Why not?”

Tsonga Closes on Finals:

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain 6-3, 6-4 for his 50th win of the season, the second time he has reached this feat during his career. It also sees him close in on his first ATP World Finals spot since 2008. A win over Andreas Seppi in the next round will guarantee his place in London. Seppi’s victim in round two, Nicolas Almagro, has seen his outside hopes of a London berth quashed by the defeat. Janko Tipsarevic and Gilles Simon are also still in with a chance but as eighth-ranked Mardy Fish has made it past the first round they will have to beat his final posting by going a couple of rounds further. Frenchman Gael Monfils has seen his hopes dashed with an early exit at the hands of Feliciano Lopez on Wednesday, much to the disappointment of the local crowd.

Spanish Flavour Heading for Auckland:

Spanish pair David Ferrer and Fernando Verdasco have signed up to play the pre-Australian Open event at Auckland. Ferrer is a two-time winner there, while Verdasco will be making his first appearance at the event, which will run from January 9-14 2012. “The Spaniards seem to like coming to Auckland, and it is great to finally get Fernando to play in the Heineken Open,” said tournament director Richard Palmer. “Not only is he a fresh face but he is also a very accomplished player as his record testifies. Over the years, many people have asked if it was possible to get him here.”

Del Potro Gains Rankings Respite:

His withdrawal from the Paris Masters may have ended his hopes of sneaking in to the ATP World Tour Finals in London later this month but Juan Martin del Potro may take some solace from his re-entry in to the Top 10 of the South African Airways ATP World Rankings this week at the expense of Janko Tipsarevic. Stanislas Wawrinka climbs four back in to the Top 20 at No.17. Spaniard Marcel Granollers’ win at Valencia sees him jump 28 places to No.26 in the world, while Nikolay Davydenko jumps 14 to re-enter the Top 50 at No.39. Juan Carlos Ferrero and Marcos Baghdatis also re-enter the Top 50. Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin jumps 21 places to No.85 in the world, while Sam Querrey is up 18 to No.93 and Karol Beck jumps 10 to No.99. Caroline Wozniacki closed out the year as the world No.1 in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings as had already been confirmed, and she was just one-week shy of holding that position for the entire calendar year. Kim Clijsters’ one week at the summit back in February put paid to that feat. The entire Top 10 finished as we were with Petra Kvitova (No.2), Victoria Azarenka (No.3) and Li Na, (No.5) all posting their career-best year-end rankings. Germany’s Sabine Lisicki finishes the year by climbing three to No.15 in the world, while Ana Ivanovic’s Bali win sees her finish at No.22. Ayumi Morita of Japan jumps from No.54 to finish the year in to Top 50 at No.47, and Britain’s Anne Keothavong is up 10 to No.73. Iryna Bremond (No.95), Patricia Mayr-Achleitner (No.99) and Kimiko Date-Krumm (No.100) all make last-minute jumps to finish the year inside the Top 100.

Federer Makes More GOAT Race Points at Season’s Close:

Roger Federer’s win in Basel last week sees him add 200 points to his GOAT Race total for 2011, while he also gains another 10 points for entering the Paris Masters this week. Rafael Nadal’s decision to skip Paris with his eyes on upcoming commitments means he again remains point-less for the week.

Roger: 1320, Rafa: 1930

Kvitova Wins WTA Finals, Tipsarevic Could Now Miss London and Azarenka Believes Top Girls can Dominate

Kvitova Takes Year-End Finals:

Rising Czech star Petra Kvitova defeated Victoria Azarenka 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in the final of the WTA Championships in Istanbul. The 21-year-old now finds herself at No.2 in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings and with a chance to overhaul Caroline Wozniacki as the world’s top player going in to the 2012 Australian Open in January should she have a better warm up to the year’s first slam than the Danish star. She also adds a cool £1.1m to her bank balance after securing a clean sweep in the round robin stages, without dropping a set, and then beating off both Sam Stosur and Azarenka in the knock-out rounds to get her hands on the trophy. “It was unbelievable tennis,” said Kvitova of the final. “We were both really fighting. Every game and every set was very close. Maybe I played better on the important points in the match.” She was also understandably delighted with her season, in which she also lifted her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon. “When I started this season we didn’t have a goal,” she added. “We just wanted to improve my game and now I am no.2 and Wimbledon champion. It is just a dream.” She has also weighed in to the great grunt debate surrounding the WTA Tour at the moment by claiming that she needs her post-point-winning shriek as it is a mandatory part of her game. “Sometimes I need it because I have to say something at [an] important point, and otherwise when I’m mentally a little bit down I have to be fighting again, and it’s important for me,” she said.

Tipsarevic’s London Hopes Take Swiss Hit:

Serbian star Janko Tipsarevic’s outside chances of making the ATP World Finals took a massive hit in Basel this week after he suffered a left hamstring injury and had to retire at 1-5 in the first set against Germany’s Florian Meyer. If he is to make up the ground on world No.8 Mardy Fish he will have to at least reach the final of next week’s BNP Paribas Masters in Paris. He currently sits 570 points behind the American in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings. Fish himself went out in the first round to the same injury against his compatriot James Blake. Another hopeful, Tomas Berdych, is also out after a first-round loss to Kei Nishikori. Elsewhere, Roger Federer was named Basel’s greatest ever competitor as his countrymen gave him 78.5% of the 40,000 votes cast. He beat the likes of Novak Djokovic, Mats Wilander, Yannick Noah and Stefan Edberg to the crown. “Obviously everyone knows how much the tournament here in Basel means to me,” said the four-time winner. “There’s a big voting going on here in Switzerland for this award. I haven’t seen so many people vote for a sporting award in a very long time. I’m happy so many people took part in it.” Djokovic suffered a first round scare against Xavier Malisse before finally triumphing 6-2, 4-6, 7-5. He took to the courts in a Halloween mask, stating: “Every year for the last five years it’s a tradition at Halloween, which usually is during Paris-Bercy, that I go out with some crazy mask,” explained Djokovic. “This year it happened one week earlier, so I hope that people don’t mind. It was just tradition and a little bit of fun.”

Azarenka: “We Can Dominate”:

Victoria Azarenka believes that Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki and herself, the world’s top three players, can dominate tennis for years to come. Ranging in age from 20-23, the Belarusian believes they possess the consistency to challenge for all the major titles. “Three, five years, it’s such a long time. My God, I don’t know,” she said of their chances. “But I think Petra, me, Caroline, we have been pretty consistent and showed some great results this year. [We] really stepped it up, especially Petra who won a Grand Slam, really made it to the elite, I would say. I think the way the game is today, it’s unpredictable, but definitely with the consistency with the game we have, we have a chance to dominate the game.” But former world No.1 Mats Wilander has countered that judgement by questioning world No.1 Wozniacki’s mental makeup. “The thing is, we know she can win small tournaments, what we don’t know is if mentally she can win the big ones,” Wilander told Reuters. “We know Wozniacki has the head to be consistent but we don’t know if she’s got the head to wrap her thoughts around winning a Grand Slam. Her game is not there just yet. The ranking is the result of not necessarily being the best player in the world, it’s the result of being the most consistent player in the world,” he continued. “That’s what it reflects. She’s certainly not the best player in the world at her best, but at her worst she’s probably the best player in the world compared to the others.”

Huber Year-End Doubles Number One:

American doubles specialist Liezel Huber will end the year as the top-ranked WTA doubles player for the fourth time in her career. She will now extend her total of weeks at the top to 164 in to January, taking her above her former partner Cara Black to second in the all-time list behind Martina Navratilova (237). Huber has 48 doubles titles to her name, including five Grand Slams.

No Swiss Foray for Murray:

Andy Murray has pulled out of the Swiss Indoors in Basel because of a right gluteal muscle strain. The 24-year-old is unbeaten in 15 matches thanks to three-straight titles in Asia this autumn and he was due to face Dutchman Robin Haase in the first round. “I was struggling to walk,” said the world No.3. “I trained twice on Monday and felt fine after that. It was a bit better on Tuesday morning and I went to a pool for some exercises and had a light hit. But this morning [Wednesday] I knew it was still not good enough. I don’t know how I did it or what it came from. I’ve never had anything like this before.” Home-grown talent Marco Chiudinelli replaces him in the draw. The injury shouldn’t affect his participation at the ATP World Finals in London later this month.

Stosur Up for Home Challenge:

New world No.6 Sam Stosur says she can handle the home pressure despite never making the Aussie Open quarter-finals in 11 attempts. After winning the US Open, her maiden Slam, and reaching the semis of the WTA Finals she now believes she is equipped to go far at the event. “I don’t know if there’s anything I necessarily have to change; I was quite happy with the way I handled it all last year and came up against a player [Petra Kvitova, in the third round] who was playing very well and obviously has had a great year as well, so I don’t think that was anything really to be ashamed of,” she said. “But as each year goes by there are more things I have to experience and go through, and I don’t think there’s any greater experience than the U.S. Open, so hopefully that is going to put me into a good spot to handle all that going into the Aussie Open. I know it’s going to be different in Melbourne than what it was in New York, but I’m looking forward to it.”

Federer Wants Strong Finish:

Roger Federer says he is focussed on a strong finish to the season after slipping to No.4 in the world, his lowest position since 2003. “I don’t even know what it takes [to regain the No. 3 position],” admitted the 30-year-old, who has finished in the Top Two for a record eight years. “My goal is trying to win when I’m playing the next few weeks. The focus right now is trying to play well here in Basel. The next round is my priority, but clearly after winning here, semis in Paris with match points and winning London [all in 2010], I know I can do extremely well. And if I’m three or four at the end of the year, we’ll see, but if I’m going to make a move I need to win tournaments and that’s what it’s going to take.”

Safin can “Become Russian President”:

Former world No.1 Pete Sampras believes that former Russian star Marat Safin can eventually become Russian President as he enters politics. The two-time Grand Slam winner is running for a seat in Russia’s Duma (parliament) in September and Sampras said: “Marat is very intelligent, articulate and well-spoken so I think it’s great that he’s getting involved in government in his homeland. I think he’ll do a great job – he’s good with people and people like him, and that’s half the battle with being a politician. He’s very young and it’s nice to see that he’s got this passion in him…In 20 years Marat will be the President of Russia! Trust me, this guy is going to go a long way. The guy is an international star and the future President.”

Ranking Points Mean Prizes as Finals Edge Closer:

France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga climbed above Mardy Fish to No.7 in the world in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings this week after his Vienna final win over fellow hopeful Juan Martin del Potro last weekend. With the tournaments underway in Basel and Valencia and the Paris Masters taking place next week these are the final chances to get ranking points on the board. Below Fish; Nicolas Almagro, Janko Tipsarevic, Del Potro and Gilles Simon are all hopeful of gate-crashing the party.  The Argentine Del Potro is up two to No.11. Marin Cilic is up three to No.19 in the world, while Julien Benneteau is in to the Top 50 at No.49. Petra Kvitova has climbed to No.2 in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings on the back of her confident WTA Finals victory, her highest ever position, with Victoria Azarenka up to No.3. Russia’s Maria Sharapova drops down to No.4. Sam Stosur climbs above Vera Zvonareva to No.6. Britain’s Elena Baltacha enters the Top 50 for the first time in her career, while the Czech Andrea Hlavackova is in to the Top 100 at No.98.

Federer Earns GOAT Race Points in Basel:

Roger Federer’s entry in to the Basel Indoors this week adds ten points to his Greatest of All Time Race total for the calendar year as the final tournaments of the year begin. The Paris Masters next week and the ATP Finals present the final chances of the year to register points.

Roger: 1110, Rafa: 1930

Wozniacki Will End Year as No.1, she Slams On-Court Grunters and Bali Line-Up Finalised

Sharapova’s Ankle Hands Wozniacki Year-End No.1:

After losing to both Sam Stosur and Li Na at the year-ending WTA Finals in Istanbul, Maria Sharapova has withdrawn with an ankle complaint. She first suffered the injury in the Tokyo quarter-finals against Petra Kvitova and her withdrawal means that Caroline Wozniacki is now guaranteed to finish as the No.1 player in the world for the second consecutive year. “Maybe I could have done quicker type of healing things or anti-inflammatory shots, but I’m not really that type of girl,” Sharapova told reporters after her 6-7, 4-6 loss to Li. Further complaints at the tournament have surrounded the playing surface. Both Wozniacki and Agnieszka Radwanska have complained about the courts which are temporarily built on top of a basketball court. “It’s pretty slow. It’s weird bounces, and surface very sticky so it’s hard to run, as well,” moaned Polish star Radwanska. “It’s slow and doesn’t bounce very high. It’s sticky and you feel it in the legs. It’s a little bit uneven too. But for me I like it. You just need to be prepared for longer matches,” added Wozniacki.

Wozniacki Slams On-Court Grunters:

World No.1 Caroline Wozniacki has taken a swipe at those players who grunt loudly on court, claiming they have an unfair advantage by drowning out the noise of their racquets connecting with the ball. “I think there are some players who do it on purpose,” she told reporters. “They don’t do it in practice and then they come into the match and they grunt. I think they [officials] could definitely cut it. If you grunt really loudly your opponent cannot hear how you hit the ball. Because the grunt is so loud, you think the ball is coming fast and suddenly the ball just goes slowly. In tight moments, maybe the grunt helps them with getting less nervous.” Interestingly, one of the worst offenders is Wozniacki’s close friend Victoria Azarenka. She gave reporters a short and sharp retort to the accusations, saying: “I can’t stop, and I won’t”, and telling them to mind their own business. WTA CEO Stacey Allaster said that they intended to address the problem at grass roots level going forward. “The guys are grunting as well, it’s not unique to women’s tennis,” she said. “But our female DNA transmits it in a different way. I’m very focused on the fans and I have seen a slight increase in the fan comments that we’re receiving. So I do think on that basis that we should look at it. And if we’re going to make any changes, it needs to [start] with the junior players…It just comes down to education. They have to determine how they want their brand to be.”

Bali Line-up Finalised:

The field for next week’s Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions in Bali has been finalised following the WTA Finals kicking off in Istanbul. Those who have won one of the WTA International tournaments over the year but have not qualified for the WTA Finals qualify automatically and the remaining places are given to wildcards. Marion Bartoli, Sabine Lisicki, Roberta Vinci, Daniela Hantuchova, Anabel Medina Garrigues and Nadia Petrova are those who qualified automatically, while 2010 winner Ana Ivanovic and Chinese star Peng Shuai are those who had already received wildcards. “We are delighted to have such a strong player field in what will be the final year of operating the Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions in Bali,” said Kevin Livesey, the Tournament Director. “We look forward to welcoming them and I know that everyone in Bali is looking forward to an exciting event.”

Del Potro A “Little Far” From ATP Finals Berth:

Argentinean ace Juan Martin del Potro is just 740 points away from a place at the 2011 South African Airways ATP World Finals despite being ranked as low as No.485 in the world on January 31. The 2009 US Open winner has had a very strong comeback year after missing almost all of the 2010 campaign with a wrist injury and if he posts strong results in Vienna this week, the upcoming Valencia Open 500 and the Paris Masters he could catch up the No.8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and steal a place in the year-ending tournament. But the modest world No.15 is playing his chances down. “It would be nice to finish the year in the Top 10, but I am a little far. It has been a very good year and I am getting better day-by-day,” he said. “Hopefully, with rest and good training, I will be able to start next season strongly. It would be good to have a nice seeding at the Australian Open.” Elsewhere, world No.10 Gael Monfils also gave himself a renewed outside chance of making the finals after he defeated Jarkko Nieminen in the final of the If Stockholm Open last weekend. The Indo-Pak express of Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi also boosted their qualification chances in the doubles by lifting the Stockholm doubles title.

Azarenka Admits Financial Incentive:

Belarusian Victoria Azarenka has confirmed that money is a massive motivator on the tennis tour, with the outright winner of the WTA Tour Finals able to pocket a cool $1.75m. “It’s a good motivation and I’d be lying if I said that we just play for the love of the game and the points,” she told reporters. “You know when you’re down you think that it could be a bit more money and it might pump you up a bit.”

Cibulkova Breaks Duck in Moscow:

Dominika Cibulkova won her maiden WTA title at last week’s Kremlin Cup in Moscow after a 3-6, 7-6(1), 7-5 win over Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi in the final. Despite being unseeded, Kanepi had already downed Svetlana Kuznetsova and Francesca Schiavone through the week and gave Cibulkova, the No.8 seed, a real battle for two hours and 36 minutes. “I wasn’t thinking about break point or anything, I was just trying to get the ball back,” Cibulkova said of Kanepi’s missed overhead while holding a break point at 5-5 in the third set. “It was good for me she missed that shot. She was hitting high balls to my backhand to get me out of my rhythm and I was playing too defensive in the beginning, but later in the second set I started to really go for my forehand again. I had nothing to lose.” Cibulkova’s win means that China’s Peng Shuai is now the only player in the Top 20 without a tour-level WTA title to her name.

Stosur Relives Awkward Serena Outburst:

Sam Stosur has been speaking this week about how she struggled to keep her cool during Serena Williams’ outburst at umpire Eva Asderaki during the US Open final that gave her a first Grand Slam title in September. Facing a break point at the start of the second set Serena was penalised for screaming “come on” after hitting what she thought was a winner before Stosur had had a chance to return the ball. Asderaki awarded the point to Stosur and Williams lost her cool, calling the umpire a “hater” and claiming she was “just unattractive inside”, among other things. “I tried to stay cool but it’s not easy when 20,000 people are staring down at the court,” Stosur said. “And when the two other people you’re sharing that court with are involved in such a tense exchange it becomes difficult.” Asked whether she heard Serena’s untimely outcry she said: “Absolutely. I was just trying to get the ball back; but Serena did something you can’t do…Well, I know it was not directed at me. The umpire got all of it—which probably makes me feel better…You don’t expect anyone to say that to an umpire. I certainly wouldn’t want to be on the other end of it. It definitely wasn’t nice.”

Muster Bows Out Again:

Former French Open champion Thomas Muster has retired from professional tennis for a second time at the age of 44. It comes after losing in the first round of the Austrian Open in Vienna to 18-year-old compatriot Dominic Thiem. The 1995 Roland Garros winner received a ten-minute standing ovation as he left the court and was visibly moved by the appreciation. In front of 7,500 fans an emotional Muster, who dominated the clay in the early 90s and lost only one Davis Cup match on the surface, reflected on his comeback during his on-court interview after the match. “I loved it because it was great to see myself every week playing better, playing Challengers and winning a few matches, but also practicing with the guys and getting out there every morning and doing my job,” he said.

Marino Going Solo:

Young Canadian star Rebecca Marino has split with her coach of two years Simon Larose after struggling over the spring and summer months. “We decided we should mutually stop. It was going quite well, we had two good years together, and he’s a really good coach, but sometimes things come to an end,” she told the Montreal Gazette. “We got to that stage in our relationship where we thought we didn’t want to drag things out and not make things work, so we decided to stop while we were having a good go.”

Rankings Watch:

Spaniard Feliciano Lopez climbs one place to enter the Top 20 of the South African Airways ATP World Rankings this week as he replaces Germany’s Florian Mayer. Xavier Malisse climbs back in to the Top 50. Jarkko Nieminen’s final appearance in Stockholm sees him climb 11 to No.62 in the world, while German player Michael Berrer is up 13 to No.85. Tobias Kamke and Edouard Roger-Vasselin are in to the Top 100. Petra Kvitova entered her maiden WTA Tour Finals at a career-high No.3 in the world in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings this week. Li Na is back up to No.5 in the world, while Lucie Hradecka and Simona Halep enter the Top 50. Anastasija Sevastova re-enters the Top 100 at No.96, while Alexandra Cadantu is at a career-high No.98 in the world after climbing from No.104.

Murray Relishing Run, Djokovic’s Influence Grows and Peng Shuai set for Bali

Murray Relishing Run:

New world No.3 Andy Murray is enjoying a magnificent autumn run that has seen him pick up three titles on the trot and replace Roger Federer in the world’s Top 3. It is the first time Federer has been ranked fourth or lower since before he earned his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2003. “My goal for the last three-four months after the US Open was to try to finish as high as possible and win as many matches as I could,” said the Scot. “It’s obviously been a great start. But I’m still not guaranteed to finish at No. 3. I’m still going to have to win some more matches. But if you finish in front of Federer in a year, then there’s not many people the last five, six, seven years that have been able to say that. So that’s obviously a nice thing if I can do it.” It makes for a great piece of symmetry; Murray the world No.3 after three titles in three weeks.

Djokovic’s Amazing Year Increases Influence:

World No.1 Novak Djokovic hasn’t just seen his ranking and bank balance increase significantly this year, he has also seen his global influence widen according to the latest poll by AskMen.com. In their sixth annual Top 49 most influential men poll readers voted Djokovic the third most influential athlete, and the 19thmost influential man overall. “Just when it looked like Rafael Nadal was set to begin his long reign atop the men’s ATP rankings, the notoriously hot-headed Djokovic quieted all the outside noise, put all his tools together and reminded us why, right now, men’s tennis is the most exciting sport on the planet, after defeating Nadal at the 2011 Wimbledon Championships and the 2011 US Open,” read the Serbian’s bio on the website. Barcelona and Argentinean football star Lionel Messi was the top-ranked athlete at No.10 in the poll, while Dutch cyclist Cadel Evans was ranked No.11. Former Barca star and current manager Pep Guardiola was one place above Djokovic at No.18. Recently deceased former Apple CEO Steve Jobs was voted in at No.1. SEAL Team Six, who were presented to the world as the men to finally kill Osama Bin Laden were voted second, while Google co-founder Larry Page was third.

Peng set for Bali:

China’s Peng Shuai has become the second player after Ana Ivanovic to be handed a wildcard entry in to the Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions in Bali in two weeks. She has had a career-best season in which she began the year at No.72 in the world, going on to become only the third player behind Li Na and Zheng Jie to crack the Top 15 in the WTA World Rankings. The rest of the line-up is still undecided as the tour enters its final tournaments. “Peng Shuai is not only one of the most talented and exciting players in Asia, but she [has] made her mark across the world in both singles and doubles,” said tournament director Kevin Livesey. “She is no stranger to Bali after she claimed the doubles title in 2008, and we are confident that she will once again be a fan favourite as she returns to Bali for the Commonwealth Bank Tournament Of Champions.”

Soderling to Miss Season’s End:

France’s Tennis Magazine is reporting that Robin Soderling will miss the Stockholm Open and the Paris Masters as he continues his battle with mononucleosis. The world No.6 has not played since he won Bastad in July. “I’m extremely disappointed and sad right now,” he said on his official Facebook page. “Playing in Stockholm is very special for me and it’s a title I still miss and dream about. I made an attempt to train, but my body just could not do it. I felt worse after practice and so had to make a tough decision to not play in Stockholm. I have to think long term and plan to play tennis for years to come. I believe the best days are in front of me. I will do everything I can to get through this difficult time and come back stronger and more motivated than ever.”

Nestor Enjoys Record-Breaking Week:

Canadian doubles star Daniel Nestor is used to winning things. But when he and Max Mirnyi lifted last week’s doubles title at the Shanghai Masters, despite facing match points against Michael Llodra and his former partner Nenad Zimonjic, it added an unprecedented record to his achievements roll. He is now the only player to have won all four major titles, every ATP Masters 1000 event, a season-ending ATP Finals and an Olympic gold medal. That record added to the one he clinched earlier in the year by becoming the first doubles player to reach 800 wins. His achievements have also been recognised by his native Canada this year. As well as receiving the Order of Canada back in January he was also inducted in to the Canada Hall of Fame with his own star before he flew out to Shanghai.

Date-Krumm Joins Exclusive Circle:

41-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm joined illustrious company when she lifted the doubles title at Osaka with Zang Shuai. She became the oldest player other than Martina Navratilova to win a doubles title. Navratilova was 49 years and nine months when she won in Montreal in 2006 and she also has another eleven titles to her name at an older age than the Japanese star. Billie Jean King is the next oldest player to win a title behind Date-Krumm as she lifted the 1984 Chicago doubles title at the age of 40 years and two months. Date-Krumm also spoke out against the playing styles of many of today’s performers, stating that they were too “uniform”. She said: “Martina Navratilova had the serve and volley and the touch for net play but now when you look at the young players, their styles are all the same. It’s only power, big serve, and then bam, bam, bam – no tactics.” Speaking to Tennis World, she continued: “Before it was mainly defensive styles. Martina had her leftie serve and volley game; Steffi Graf had a superb backhand slice and big forehand; Gabriela Sabatini had more spin; Arantxa Sanchez did also, she ran very fast and was mentally tough. Martina Hingis had a lot of talent. She’s not a big player, not a lot of muscle and her tennis was all about touch. For Asian players today, she’s a good model. She didn’t have the power but she was very smart. Back then most players had a good serve but they were still very different. Now they are all almost identical.” (Excerpts taken from Tennis World USA)

Venus to Play Aussie Open:

Current world No.101 Venus Williams, who has only played four tournaments this year, has posted on Twitter that she is: “absolutely planning on being in Australia” to compete at the year’s first Grand Slam in January. Given that she has no rankings points to defend from this year, if she decides to enter she will go directly in to the main draw.

No More Fishing:

Australian doubles specialist Ashley Fisher has retired from professional tennis at the age of 36 following a first-round exit at the Beijing Open. He missed the latter part of 2009 and all of 2010 with a knee injury and after a slow start to 2011 he found success at the French Open where he and Stephen Huss upset third seeds Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes on their way to the third round. He got his ranking back inside the Top 100 but has now decided to call it a day. “My knee issues were a big part in the decision,” he said. “Earlier in the year playing on clay and grass I was able to practise and play pain-free, but after Wimbledon the hard courts begun to take a toll on my knees. I was becoming too reliant on [anti-inflammatory] Advil and felt like I was doing serious long term damage to my body. I also felt like I was unable to play at a similar level to 2009 when I had my best year and it was frustrating.”

Bogomolov Jr. Considers Russian Davis Cup Career:

Russian-born but American-registered 28-year-old Alex Bogomolov Jr. has said that he would consider playing Davis Cup tennis for Russia, the homeland of his father Alexander. Alex Sr. is a well-known tennis coach and moved back to Russia in 2003 after he grew tired of the lack of work ethic of the American youths he taught in Florida. “I didn’t think about it before but in case I receive a concrete proposal to play for Russia I will seriously think about it,” said the world No.37. “I will also have to consult with my family and my team on the case before taking the decision.”

New McEnroe Enjoying Champions Circuit:

Former world No.1 John McEnroe says that he is enjoying the Champions Circuit he continually flaunts his talent on and that the wiser, more mature McEnroe appreciates the wider aspects of tennis more than the wise-cracking youth who played professionally in the late 1970’s and early 80’s. “Ironically, I find myself enjoying the working-out part more than I ever did. I feel like I benefit mentally, not just physically,” McEnroe said. “I go the gym three days a week and play three days a week. I’m lucky in that I don’t have a job where I have to work 10 hours a day. But part of my job is to keep myself in condition and close to the game so I can interpret what I’m watching when I’m commentating. I’m much more appreciative. I’ve been able to get some perspective and it’s a lot better than when I was in the midst of trying to be the best player in the world. I feel like I’m in a pretty good place now.”

Meyerson Passes On:

Andy Roddick’s long-time agent Ken Meyerson has passed away aged 47 on Wednesday night after suffering a heart attack in his sleep. Meyerson rose quickly as an agent, signing Roddick as well as Justine Henin, Chris Evert, Gael Monfils, Fernando Gonzalez and the Radwanska sisters. Tributes have been flooding in from fellow agents who knew him, but most poignant was Roddick’s message in his honour on Twitter, which read: “I love you and miss you. I will be forever grateful for your faith & loyalty, You will forever be my brother. As always ‘thanks Meyerson.’” Gonzalez also tweeted in Meyerson’s honour, saying: “We [going to really miss] Ken like he use to say ‘wuuoooh love you baby.’”

Murray Above Federer in This Week’s Rankings Watch:

British No.1 Andy Murray has climbed above Roger Federer in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings to No.3 in the world for the first time since February 2010. Mardy Fish crucially climbs in to the Top 8 at the expense of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga with the ATP World Finals just around the corner. Germany’s Florian Mayer climbs three to enter the Top 20. Kei Nishikori’s good form sees him climb 17 in to the Top 30, while Marcos Baghdatis and Philipp Kohlschreiber climb in to the Top 50. Australia’s Matthew Ebden jumps a mammoth 44 places to No.80 in the world, while Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer climbs one place to No.100. Marion Bartoli has thrown herself in to strong contention for the WTA Finals in Istanbul by climbing from No.11 to No.9 in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings and can qualify for the event should she win the Kremlin Cup in Moscow this week. Dominika Cibulkova is in to the Top 20 this week, while Zheng Jie and Petra Martic climb in to the Top 50. Russia’s Evgeniya Rodina, Austria’s Patricia Mayr-Achleitner and Iryna Bremond of France are in to the Top 100.

Djokovic King of the World, Shanghai Boss wants “Summit Talks” and Nadal Doesn’t Think Tour has Improved

Djokovic King of the World:

Rafael Nadal’s third-round exit at the Shanghai Rolex Masters this week has ensured that Novak Djokovic will end the year as the number one player in the world for the first time. He becomes the 16th star to have that honour and the first Serbian to achieve the feat. He is also the first player other than Nadal or Roger Federer to end the year number one since Andy Roddick in 2003. It caps an almost perfect year for Djokovic in which he became world No.1 for the first time after his maiden win at Wimbledon in July.

Shanghai Boss Calls for “Summit Talks”:

Michael Luevano, tournament boss at the Shanghai Masters, has added his weight to the recent debate on making changes to the ATP Calendar. Andy Murray, Andy Roddick and Rafa Nadal, among others, have recently voiced concerns over the length of the calendar and the detrimental effect that it can have on the form and career-length of the top stars. Andy Murray even caused something of a stair when he suggested players would be willing to strike if their concerns weren’t noted. “They need a summit with the Grand Slam present, the ITF present, the WTA present and of course the ATP,” said Luevano in an interview with BBC Sport. “Lock them in a room and throw away the key until they come out.” Speaking of the fact both Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are missing this year’s event through injury, he said: “Especially with someone like Roger, we want him in the game for five more years. If he’s not comfortable with how his body is feeling, and we just happen to be the tournament he can’t make, then so be it.” Talks had been mooted to take place at the event but are yet to happen.

Nadal Denies Tour Improvement:

World No.2 Rafael Nadal denies Andy Murray’s claims that the ATP Tour has gone up a notch in quality this year, claiming it was his own and Roger Federer’s lapse in form that contributed to Novak Djokovic’s exemplary year. The Spaniard admits that he has failed to live up to his 2010 form and that work has to be done to once again achieve the level which saw him take the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. “I believe Rafa 2010 had something more special than Rafa 2011, especially in tough situations,” he admitted. “Winning or losing depends on very, very, very small things. And probably these very, very small things I did a little bit better in 2010 than 2011. It is hard to win big matches. I lost a lot of finals this year. This year I lost 7 out of 10.” He continued: “Djokovic this year already won a lot of tournaments, three Grand Slams, he didn’t lose matches. I don’t believe that he changed his game unbelievably. He did a few small things better than a few years ago and that’s why his big success [was] this year. That’s what I am going to try.”

Nishikori to Break Japanese Record:

Reaching the semi-final of the Shanghai Rolex Masters this week means that Japan’s Kei Nishikori is sure to become his country’s highest-ranked player ever. The world No.47 will play second seed Andy Murray in the semis and his performances will surely see him surpass the previous record of No.46 set by Shuzo Matsuoka in 1992. “Shuzo Matsuoka has been a great mentor and teacher for me,” said Nishikori. “It is an honour to be able to break his record and become the number one tennis player in Japan.”

Safina Not Done Yet:

Former world No.1 Dinara Safina has refuted claims by her older brother, former French and Australian Open champion Marat Safin, that she had been forced to retire because of her continuing problems with a back injury. Safin had claimed that Safina was set to call it a day, but she has refuted this, saying: “I didn’t make any official announcement. Give me please some time and I’ll let you know,” on her Twitter account. She later added: “Right now I want to take care of my back. On Tuesday I am having treatment. Once I decide something you’ll be the first to know I promise.” The 25-year-old has not won a tournament since Rome, Madrid and Portoroz in 2009 and hasn’t been seen since the Malaysian Open in February this year.

Nadal Wants London Tax Break:

Rafael Nadal warns British tennis that the high tax rate enforced by the government could lose London the ATP Finals. The five-year contract the arena signed to host the event is up for renewal in 2013 and the 25-year-old, 10-time Grand Slam winner believes that if the high tax rate placed on athletes currently by the British government continues than London could lose out to another country. At the moment foreign athletes face a 50% tax on appearance fees and winnings as well as having to hand over a proportion of the money earned in worldwide endorsements. The rate also stands for both male and female players even if they are just here for training. Nadal also hinted that he chose to play at the Halle event in Germany next year rather than his usual pre-Wimbledon warm-up stop at Queen’s Club because of the issue. “It is really tough what is happening today in the UK with the tax. There are a lot of things that are really positive. This [tax] thing is probably really negative,” said Nadal. “The tax regime [in the] UK is complicating a lot of things because to go and play at Queen’s, the problem is not to win. The problem is I can lose money because I go there. I play for one week, and they take out money from my sponsors. That’s a lot. I’m going [to] play at Wimbledon,” said the two-time winner. I’m going to play in the World Tour Finals. So that is a lot of weeks, a lot of tax. It is becoming more and more complicated to play in the UK at the moment.”

Sydney Taking Shape:

The 2012 Apia International Sydney is taking shape both on and off the court. The damage caused by the flooding earlier this year led to the organisers taking the opportunity to renovate facilities, while two-time Grand Slam winner Lleyton Hewitt has been made tournament ambassador. As well as Hewitt competing next year, US Open Champion Sam Stosur has confirmed she will compete, as will record-breaking Chinese star Li Na and former tournament winner Marcos Baghdatis. “I won the event two years ago so I am just excited to go back there and feel the heat, get in some good matches and have some fun with the crowd,” Baghdatis said. “Sydney is definitely one of my favourite cities in the world and the fans there just love the sport and they are so relaxed and respectful. They always give me a lot of positive energy.”

Zimonjic Celebrates 500th Win:

Nenad Zimonjic celebrated his 500th ATP Tour Level doubles win on Wednesday when he partnered Michael Llodra to a 5-7, 6-3, 10-6 victory over the Italian duo Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini. The Serb star has won 42 doubles titles and boasts an almost 2:1 winning ratio during his career. “It’s a really nice achievement,” he said in an interview with the ATP website. “You appreciate every win in any competition, so to get to 500 match wins is amazing. I have to thank all my partners over the years.”

American Double Act:

American stars Andy Roddick and Serena Williams have announced that they will play mixed doubles together at the 2012 Australian Open, while Williams junior has also announced she will warm up for the Open at Brisbane, alongside Kim Clijsters and Maria Sharapova.

Koellerer Gets Court Date:

Daniel Koellerer has been given a date by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to appeal against his lifetime ban for match fixing; November 28th-29th. Back in May the 28-year-old became the first ever tennis player to receive such a ban for fixing offences.

Wawrinka in Hospital:

Swiss star Stanislas Wawrinka took time out of his training at the Shanghai Rolex Masters this week to visit the Shanghai United Hospital where he met and spoke to staff and patients alike. “It is important for us to be able to give back to the community,” he said. “We get to travel all around the world and stay in nice hotels, eat well and play tennis in front of thousands of people. So taking a bit of time out of our schedules to visit the kids is a nice thing to do.”

Roddick Moves in to ATP Finals Contention in Rankings Watch:

Andy Roddick and Alexandr Dolgopolov have made themselves outside contenders to make the ATP World Tour Finals in London. Good performances in Shanghai alongside a raft of upsets this week will see them climb high in next week’s South African Airways ATP World Rankings. Spain’s David Ferrer has already clinched his place with his third-round win against compatriot, close friend and business partner Juan Carlos Ferrero. Those to lose ground and put their place in jeopardy included Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon, who suffered early exits. Czech star Berdych had climbed three to No.7 in the world this week and will be hoping he can hold on to a top-eight spot come November. Austria’s Jurgen Melzer climbed back in to the Top 20, while Santiago Giraldo and Bernard Tomic are in to the Top 50 at No.48 and No.49 respectively. Ivo Karlovic and Juan Carlos Ferrero both climb 15 to No.61 and No.69 respectively, while Israel’s Dudi Sela and Chile’s Paul Capdeville are in to the Top 100. Petra Kvitova’s amazing year continues as just a week after setting a new personal best of No.5 in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings and qualifying for the WTA Finals for the first time, she has now moved up to No.4 in the world. Victoria Azarenka is back up to No.3 and Sam Stosur is up to No.6. Agnieszka Radwanska is benefitting from her recent title spree as she has equalled her career-best No.8 in the world, while her conquest in the Beijing final, Andrea Petkovic, climbed two slots to a career-high No.9. Flavia Penetta and Svetlana Kuznetsova are in to the Top 20, while Tamira Paszek and Carla Suarez Navarro are in to the Top 50. France’s Virginie Razzano jumps from No.110 to No.86, and Vesna Dolonts climbs one in to the Top 100.

Rafa Adds Ten More Points:

With Roger Federer’s injury keeping him out of Shanghai this week Rafael Nadal had another opportunity to extend his lead over the Swiss in the 2011 GOAT race. But his early exit to Florian Mayer means he only adds 10 points to his total, making the scores:

Roger: 1100 Rafa: 1930

Safina has “No Return”, Li Na Continues Year of Firsts and Tipsarevic Joins Winner’s Circle

Safin says Safina is Done:

Marat Safin says that his little sister Dinara Safina is finished on the tennis circuit. The former world No.1 has not been seen since May and has struggled tremendously over the past two years with a back injury that has seriously limited her playing time. She has dropped as low as No.129 in the world. “Dinara was injured two years ago, in Beijing, remember?” Safin told Eurosport.  “She left, but never recovered completely. She tried to return, but only aggravated the crisis. Now she needs to keep her back to be able to walk normally and live a normal life. [Her back] will continue to be treated, but she will play no more…She will make an official statement herself, but as her brother, I believe that there is no chance of return.”

Firsts Continue for Li Na:

Li Na’s record-breaking year continues as she becomes the first Chinese player to qualify to play singles at the year-ending WTA Finals. She joins Caroline Wozniacki, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka in guaranteeing her place in Istanbul. $5m will be shared out among the players as the tournament switches from a two-year stint in Doha and Li will be hoping for a large slice of the spoils. “This year has been the most successful of my career so far and I’m very happy to have qualified for the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships,” Li said. “I’m proud to be the first Chinese woman to qualify in singles for this event and I look forward to some tough matches against the best players of the season.” In January she became the first Asian player to reach a Grand Slam final at the Australian Open and she bettered that in June by becoming Asia’s first winner at the French Open. She has also become Asia’s highest-ranked player this year, peaking at No.4 on the WTA World Rankings.

Tipsarevic Nets Maiden Title:

Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic has finally rid himself of the unwanted mantra of being the only player in the ATP Top 20 not to win a title. He defeated Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis in the Malaysian Open final 6-4, 7-5 to win an ATP Tour final at the fifth time of asking. “It feels great. I think I deserved it,” said the 27-year-old. “I’m so happy that it came in a good place, at a tournament that is really, really nice, and against a good player. Marcos Baghdatis has played in 11 finals and was a former Top 10 player, a Grand Slam finalist. So I feel happy that I won against a great player in a final that I hope kept the fans on the edge of their seats until the very end. I could not be happier.” Over in Bangkok, world No.4 Andy Murray was way too strong for American Donald Young as he annihilated the man who had embarrassed him in the first round at Indian Wells 6-2, 6-0. “In terms of the way I’m playing it’s very good to get off to a start like that on this stretch and hopefully I can continue that through Shanghai,” said the Scot. “It’s a very good start. Roger [Federer] always plays very well on the European indoor courts, so I’m sure I’m going to have to win a lot more matches if I want to finish No.3 [in the world this year]. That’s the goal and I’ll keep working hard to give myself a shot at doing that.”

Djokovic Makes Rafa “Nervous”:

Toni Nadal thinks that his nephew Rafa may be getting nervous when he faces Novak Djokovic after he watched him fall at the Serb’s feet six times this year. “It is clear that there have been too many losses and it is true that Rafael has become nervous [during] their recent matches and so far, there is the reality that Djokovic is playing superior to the rest….I hope it does not last forever,” he said. “Rafael’s type of game has worked well against Djokovic and has been very spirited. We must return to make a change, not [in] his game, but of mentality and try to win again.”

Federer Second Biggest Sporting Brand:

Forbes have named Roger Federer the second biggest sporting brand in the world, behind one of the other three ‘Gillette Champions’ Tiger Woods. “Federer holds the most impressive endorsement portfolio in all of sports with 10 major deals, including a Nike sponsorship that is the most lucrative in all of tennis,” said Forbes. “He is also the only one of Gillette’s original three ‘Champions’ to have his deal renewed this year as the brand dropped Tiger Woods and Thierry Henry.” Earlier this year, Forbes listed Federer 25th in its annual list of the world’s 100 most influential celebrities.

Ivanovic Returning to Bali:

Ana Ivanovic will return to the Bali setting of her Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions win in November after receiving the first wild card in to the tournament courtesy of the organisers. The event brings together the eight best performers over the year’s International series of WTA tournaments and the 24-year-old will be given the chance to defend her title. “It almost goes without saying Bali is one of the most beautiful places on the tennis circuit – probably the best, in fact,” Ivanovic said. “I had a wonderful time there last year. Off the court I was able to relax on the beach, but on the court I played some of my best tennis and was so happy to win the title.”

Savic Banned for Match Fixing:

Serbian tennis player David Savic has been banned for life from professional tennis after being found guilty of match fixing. The 26-year-old world No.659 was also fined $100,000 after being found guilty of three violations. He is only the second player to be found guilty of such charges after Germany’s Daniel Koellerer was also banned in May. Savic reached a career-high No.369 in the world in 2009 but has never played above the Challenger circuit. Savic, though, claims he was set up by an unnamed top player, and that the allegations against him are an “absolute lie”.

Azarenka Out of Beijing:

Victoria Azarenka has pulled out of the China Open with a right foot injury, giving Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova a walkover win.

GB Win Junior Davis Cup:

Great Britain have won the Junior Davis Cup for the first time after defeating Italy in the final, in Mexico’s San Luis Potosi. With former world No.4 Greg Rusedski coaching them, Evan Hoyt, Kyle Edmund and Luke Bambridge justified their top seeding by bringing home the spoils. Hoyt and Edmund won the two singles rubbers, meaning the doubles was not needed to be played. “I’m very proud of our team,” said Rusedski. “It feels great to be the first British team ever to win the Junior Davis Cup.”

Stars Pay Tribute to Japan while Competing in Tokyo:

Some of the world’s biggest names have been paying tribute and pledging their support to the Japanese people following the year the country has endured. Still recovering from natural and nuclear disasters it is a small miracle that these events are taking place at all. “It has been a really hard year for all the Japanese people,” said world No.2 Rafael Nadal. “For people like me, who was here in the past, can make some sense about what happened. The reason why I am here is that I believe Japan is a fantastic country and a safe country. The people are very, very nice and I always send all my support to the people and the country.” Rising star Milos Raonic revealed that he had been following proceedings with a vested interest. “My dad is a nuclear engineer and kept following what has been going on. He kept me up-to-date with the news. I know it has been a really tough time, but I am happy people are getting back to their homes. There is still a lot of work to be done. But I wish all the best to the Japanese people and to the country. It is a very respectful and well mannered country. They treat us so well.” World No. 4 Andy Murray added: “I hadn’t played here for five or six years, but the people look after us really well here. They put on a nice tournament for the players, there are many practice courts and the hotel is very close and convenient. I think that is why they get strong fields and hopefully I will be back a few more times.”

Race for Finals On in Rankings Watch:

With few opportunities remaining to garner rankings points for the upcoming ATP and WTA finals in London and Istanbul, America’s Mardy Fish currently sits in eighth on the South African Airways ATP World Rankings, but Gael Monfils and Tomas Berdych are not far behind him. With Monfils missing both Beijing and Shanghai through injury qualification doesn’t look overly optimistic for him. Nicolas Almagro and Gilles Simon, in 11th and 12th respectively, will not be happy with early exits in Beijing this week as they try to make up ground on those above them. Donald Young enters the Top 50 for the first time this week after reaching the final at Bangkok, while Japan’s Kei Nishikori is in to the Top 50 at No.47, one below his career-best No.46 in May. Germany’s Matthias Bachinger climbs ten to No.88, while Federico Gil, Joao Souza and Tobias Kamke are in to the Top 100. Vera Zvonareva climbs back up to No.3 in the world in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings this week while Petra Kvitova is in to the Top 5 for the first time. Kim Clijsters climbs back in to the Top 8 with Istanbul around the corner, which Francesca Schiavone the unlucky star who falls out of the qualification berths. Ana Ivanovic is back in to the Top 20 at No.18. Iveta Benesova and Christina McHale are in to the Top 50 and Stephanie Dubois and Romina Oprandi are in to the Top 100.

Nadal Back in Action for GOAT Race Points:

With Roger Federer again sidelined by injury Rafael Nadal has earned himself a little more room in the GOAT race as he trundles towards a long-ago evident victory. By entering Tokyo Nadal earns an extra ten points, which makes the scores:

Roger: 1100 Rafa: 1920

Injuries Strike Top Stars, Murray now Plays Down Strike Talk and Plenty of Coaches Seeking New Work

Late Summer Injuries:

Roger Federer has pulled out of next month’s Shanghai Masters, citing a need to “rest and recuperate” some “niggling injuries” following a long summer. He hasn’t been seen since Switzerland’s impressive win over Australia to return to the World Group of Davis Cup play and his next scheduled tournament after he ruled himself out of the Asian event is his home show; the Swiss Indoors, Basel, starting October 31. “After consultation with my team, I’ve unfortunately decided to pull out of the Shanghai Masters in order to take some necessary time to rest and recuperate after a long summer,” said the 16-time Grand Slam winner. “I have very fond memories of Shanghai so I will miss this amazing tournament and all my loyal Chinese fans, but I look forward to returning to China next fall.” World number one Novak Djokovic has also announced he will not be participating in the China Open, one of the warm-up tournaments leading up to the Shanghai Masters. The current Australian Open, US Open and Wimbledon champion pulled out of Serbia’s recent Davis Cup defeat to Argentina to relinquish their grip on the trophy, and hasn’t recovered sufficiently.

Murray Plays Down Strike Talk:

Following the talk last week of a potential  player strike should the ATP fail to listen to player’s complaints about an overcrowded season, world No.4 Andy Murray has again played down the rumours of an upcoming strike, insisting it will only be a last resort. “We’re only proposing small chances, a few less mandatory events and some more rest periods,” he told reporters at the Kuala Lumpur Open. “Tennis is in a great place right now and no one is yet talking about a strike. There are just a few minor things we’d like to see changed and we hope to sit with the ATP and other officials and discuss them. Two or three more weeks off a season is what we are thinking of. There is no rush. I never said anyone wanted to strike, we hope it doesn’t come to that. But we do want some small changes. I don’t think we’re talking about anything major. We’d like to talk and see what can be done. It would be good to see changes made sooner rather than later.”

Clijsters back to Square One:

Belgian ace Kim Clijsters has confirmed she has split with her coach Wim Fissette in order to return to working with Carl Maes. “Wim does not feel entirely in place in his current role in Kim’s coaching team and wants to go his own way,” a statement read. Elsewhere, Jelena Dokic has confirmed she is again working with her previously estranged father, Damir, and that he has “changed greatly”. In an official statement, she said: “My partner Tin Bikic and I have visited my father at his home to finally put an end to our disagreement. I initiated the meeting as I want to reunite my family and allow us all to get on with our lives and be happy. This has gone on too long. I am in a very positive and confident frame of mind in my life and I really wanted to do this because I believe it is the right thing to do both for me and for all of my family. My father was very receptive and I believe he has changed greatly. He understands that I am my own person who makes my own decisions.” Young American Melanie Oudin has also returned to USTA coach Tom Gullikson after splitting with Brian DeVilliers.

Mayer Joins Winner’s Circle:

Germany’s Florian Mayer lifted his first ATP Tour title at the BRD Nastase Tiriac Trophy last week, becoming the first German to win there. Having lost all four of his previous finals he made light work of Spain’s Pablo Andujar, racking up a 6-3, 6-1 win in just 72 minutes. “The beginning was not perfect, I was so nervous today,” said Mayer. “I wanted to win so badly. My legs were heavy. I was lucky at the beginning, he was 3-1, 40/15 up in the first set. Today he made some untypical mistakes and once I got a break in the second set I relaxed and played better.” Andujar seemed disappointed when he said: “There was a point at 3-1, 40/15 when I hit a double fault and it completely changed the match. Maybe he got more confident and I lost some of my confidence.”

Scheepers another Maiden Winner:

South African Chanelle Scheepers was celebrating her maiden debut title too last week after defeating Magdalena Rybarikova in straight sets to take the WANLIMA Guangzhou International Women’s Open 6-2, 6-2. She became the first woman from her country to win a WTA title since Amanda Coetzer won at Acapulco in 2003. “All of my other matches were tough, but today was the day it all clicked,” said the 27-year-old. “I thought I was hitting my groundstrokes well. I was really consistent and tried to move her around. I didn’t give her a lot of mistakes. I don’t remember much about the match point. I was so in the moment. I know it was a long point, but it seemed so long ago. I was fighting every match [in the tournament] – all of them were difficult in their own way.”

Bryans Take Tennis to San Quentin:

In the full knowledge that the prison ran a strict “no hostage” policy, the Bryan brothers went in to the infamous San Quentin last week to give tennis clinics to some of the inmates. Donning their Wimbledon whites, and only able to take their racquets and photo Ids with them, they went behind bars to take on inmates of one of the USA’s most hostile prisons. Despite admitting early nerves, they soon got in to the swing of things with their new company. “When Mike and I stepped on the court, everyone stopped what they were doing and gathered around. My hands were shaking as I hit the first few balls but as the time went by and we got to talk to the guys, I loosened up,” said Bob in an online column for the ATP. “I was blown away by the genuine enthusiasm these guys had for our sport. They would cheer, clap, and heckle their fellow inmates as they tried to take us on in doubles. I had a laugh when I heard a few of them had lost packs of “smokes” because of our first round US Open loss. Oops!”

Chakvetadze to Turn to Politics?:

World No.157 Anna Chakvetadze has announced that she is set to run for parliament in her native Russia. The 24-year-old is one of three parliamentary candidates put forward by the Right Cause Party; a pro-business group with public support. Without a title since the Slovenia Open last year, she has missed most of 2011 with a mystery illness and appears to be looking at other lines of work. Whether she will be able to continue her tennis career if she is successful is unknown.

Baghdatis Hits Double Century:

Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis’ win over the American Alex Bogomolov Jr at the Kuala Lumpur Open in Malaysia was the 200th win of his professional career.

Nadal and Tipsarevic Bare All:

World No.2 Rafael Nadal and Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic have both stripped bare for underwear modelling campaigns. Nadal has followed up his summer work with Armani by modelling their new undies range, while Tipsarevic is making his first foray in to the world of modelling with his new shoot for Extreme Intimo. “I lead a very active and dynamic lifestyle and that can be quite arduous sometimes,” said Tipsarevic. “I like feeling good in my own skin, which is to be expected because it is only through comfort, quality and safety that I can overcome all the obstacles and achieve my goals.”

Tsonga on the Rise:

Following on from his title win at Metz last week France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has risen three places to No.7 in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings this week. The race for the ATP Tour finals is now hotting up and he appears to be making his move at the right time. His countryman Gael Monfils is the unlucky man to drop out of the qualification spots. Italy’s Andreas Seppi is in to the Top 50 at No.49 while Argentina’s Maximo Gonzalez jumps 19 to enter the Top 100 at No.91, Allejandro Falla jumps 21 to No.93 and Italy’s Flavio Cipolla is up six to No.96. Chanelle Scheepers celebrated her maiden WTA Tour title by jumping from No.73 to No.41 in the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Rankings to cap a memorable week for the South African. Croatia’s Petra Martic is at a career-high No.47 this week while Magdalena Rybarikova re-enters the Top 50 after her Guangzhou final defeat to Scheepers. Urszula Radwanska (No.88) and Stephanie Foretz Gacon (No.98) are back in to the Top 100.

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