AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships

Australian Open Recollections

By James A. Crabtree

The Aussie Open is over and this means constant therapy and prescription pills until the French Open.

Regardless, here are some pointless observations, rumours, thoughts and complete randomness that needs to be shared.

1. Fred Stolle said, adamantly, a few days before the tournament that “Djokovic will win it all unless he breaks his leg.” Not only was he right but I do hate it when old people get it so so right.

2. During the qualifying rounds I got to know a guy I simply referred to as Security Guard Joe. Our conversations were like those you expect to share whilst drinking  a brew with an old guy at a bar.

“Got any good bets?” he asked.

Monica Puig, I’d say she will reach round 3, at least.” I responded boldly.

“Good. I’ll put some money down.”

I was wrong, need to avoid Security Guard Joe.

3. Bernie Tomic was the only non-seeded player to list Monaco as his residence, so somebody good is doing his accounts! According to rumour the young Australian was given 32 different racquets by Yonex to trial. He chose the 31st and is happy with it. Lets hope he is not as picky with shoes.

4. Djokovic should be featured in the next video by PSY, of Gangnam Style fame. He really should be, the guy just cant stop doing the dance.

5. Ever wondered why so many players look so clean cut? Wonder no more as the Australian Open featured a “Player Beauty Bar.”

6. Sloane Stephens had roughly 17,000 twitter followers before her match with Serena Williams. One little win later and she had 35,000. She now has over 60,000.

7. Spoke to an old Czech reporter who has been coming to the Open since 1991. He had some great tales, including the legend that Marcelo Rios spent $300,000 in the casino in 1998, the year he reached the final as the number one seed. Wow.

8. The media received a very cool media pack, sunscreen, that included a little towel, pen, mini fan, media guide and a USB stick that is not compatible with my computer….ARGHH.

Also, some journalists partook in a special Cardio Tennis session run by Tennis Australia. All athletes (I use that word very loosely) took themselves far too seriously, and all were panting like poodles on a hot summers day after only five minutes action. One journalist by the name of Crabtree was awesome and won a towel but we shall go into no further detail of these incredible exploits. 😉

9. Bumped into Security Guard Joe. Luckily for me he didn’t put a bet on Monica Puig because he couldn’t remember her name.

“My shift is over soon mate, got any other good bets?” he asked.

Del Potro is probably due a good run,” I suggested.

“Del Potro? “

“Yeah, the Argentinian. He should go deep, I’d put a dollar on him.” I said.

Security Guard Joe left quickly like I was Old Biff with a sports Almanac from Back to the Future 2. Del Potro lost later that day in the third round to Jeremy Chardy. I am not Old Biff, and really need to avoid Security Guard Joe for the rest of the tournament.

10. Stan vs Novak, for many this was the match of the tournament – can’t stop thinking about this one and a possible alternate reality where Stan got it then cruised through the rest of the tournament. Stan was amazing, up 1 set and 5-2 in the second. Imagine if he had capitalised and become the other Swiss with a slam.

11. The Media restaurant never once skimmed on portions. Thanks guys, but more dessert options next time, please.

12. Beneath Rod Laver Arena I passed a guy I thought I recognised, some small time Aussie player I thought. I said “Hey mate,” and he responded with a “Hey Mate” of his own. I stopped for a second, hang on, that wasn’t the Aussie I thought it was and this guy is wearing Nike’s with a hint of pink. That was bloody Roger Federer.

13. Popped in to see the stringers and one old time doubles player had a tension of 33lbs. What the!

14. The old Czech reporter told of how he once hit with Andre Agassi, whilst the eight-time grand slam champion was waiting around for Brad Gilbert on a practice court. I am insanely jealous.

15. Where’s Wally. Captain Australia. A bloke with a giant phone. A guy with a giant head. The Heard stole the show at matches featuring Aussie players. This crew should be a perquisite at every grand slam.

Like many of you I am having Aussie Open withdrawals. Hope this offers you some solace. Roll on Roland Garros.

Mondays With Bob Greene: Doubles is like Marriage

STARS

Jelena Jankovic beat Nadia Petrova 6-4 6-3 to win the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany

Tomas Berdych won the AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships men’s singles, defeating Juan Martin del Potro 6-1 6-4 in Tokyo, Japan

Caroline Wozniacki beat Kala Kanepi 6-2 3-6 6-1 to win the women’s singles at the AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships in Tokyo, Japan

Sorana Cirstea defeated Sabine Lisicki 2-6 6-4 7-6 (4) to capture the Tashkent Open in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Dmitry Tursunov beat Paul-Henri Mathieu 7-6 (6) 1-6 6-4 to win the Open de Moselle in Metz, France

Teimuraz Gabashvili won the Ethias Trophy by beating Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-4 6-4 in Mons, Belgium

Richard Krajicek beat Goran Ivanisevic 7-6 7-5 to win the AFAS Tennis Classics in Eindhoven, Netherlands

SAYINGS

“There are some days you wake up and you know it’s not going to be your day.” – Nadia Petrova, after losing to Jelena Jankovic in the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix final.

“Doubles is like marriage. It has to be good from the first day.” – Mischa Zverev, who teamed with Mikhail Youzhny to win the doubles at the AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships in Tokyo.

“She is having a great year and I knew it would be hard to beat her. But the game went according to plan.” – Venus Williams, after beating Dinara Safina 6-4 6-2.

“It feels great to be back at number one, but my goal is to finish the year as number one. I’m playing better and better, I am improving. I don’t feel any extra pressure.” – Jelena Jankovic, on her return to the top spot in the WTA Tour rankings.

“I feel fortunate to be healthy again, but I want to remain at the top of the game for many more years to come and go after the number one ranking again.” – Roger Federer, after pulling out of the Stockholm Open.

“I need to take a break now to get it back to 100 percent, which is why I have to regretfully take this decision and withdraw. I have played a lot this year and my body needs to recover.” – Serena Williams, after withdrawing from the Kremlin Cup with an ankle injury.

“After I lost the first set I checked the clock and saw it was only 20 minutes, so I told myself I had to make it at least an hour. Of course I’m very happy about my win today, and for both of my wins over the Williams sisters this year.” – Li Na, after beating Serena William 0-6 6-1 6-4 and knocking the US Open champion out of the number one ranking.

“I think I have to come to Germany more often.” – Victoria Azarenka, who has reached the semifinals in both tournaments she has played in Germany this year.

“People want to see me because I was once the number one in the world and won Grand Slam titles. People want to see the guys who they idolized. Now, as we get older, we’re really thankful that people want to see us. It’s really wonderful, and we’re going to try to give our best back.” – Yevgeny Kafelnikov, playing his first competitive tennis match in five years, the BlackRock Tour of Champions event in Eindhoven, Netherlands.

“I have played one match with her here and I have won. Not bad.” – Goran Ivanisevic, saying his 5-year-old daughter Amber, who was watching her father play for the first time, is his lucky charm.

“I still cannot fully realize that I’ve won. In the middle of the match I thought my chances of winning were about 40 percent.” – Ksenia Palkina, a teenager from Kyrgystan ranked 203rd in the world, after she upset second-seeded Olga Govortsova in the first round of the Tashkent Open.

“Our success in these junior team events against the world’s best competition is a good indication of where our players stand amongst their peers at this state. Of course there is a lot of work to be done for these kids to become world-class professionals. But, if these results are any indication, the future is very promising.” – Patrick McEnroe, on the United States sweep of the Junior Fed Cup and Junior Davis Cup competitions.

STEPPING UP

In the game of musical chairs that is called the WTA Tour rankings, Jelena Jankovic is once again in the top spot. The Serb moved up to number one when Serena Williams was upset by China’s Li Na. Jankovic held the top ranking for one week in August. Since Justine Henin retired in May, four players have been number one: Williams, Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic and Maria Sharapova. Williams held the top spot for four weeks after defeating Jankovic in the US Open final. Overall, Jankovic has won more matches than any other player on tour this year.

SURPRISE SEMIFINALIST

Adrian Mannarino had a ball in Metz, France. Ranked 181st in the world, the French qualifier didn’t lose a set in his run to the semifinals at the Open de Moselle. Then he ran into Paul-Henri Matheu, who barely escaped Mannarino 7-6 (8) 7-6 (1). The 20-year-old Mannarino had not won an ATP-level match before he upset sixth-seeded Andreas Seppi in the opening round at Metz.

STUMBLING BLOCKS

China’s top two players are making a lot of noise on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour this year. At Wimbledon, Zheng Jie became the first Chinese player to beat a reigning world number one when she shocked Ana Ivanovic on her way to the semifinals. At the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany, last week, Li Na matched that feat, knocking Serena Williams out of the tournament and the number one ranking, 0-6 6-1 6-4. It was Li’s 11th career win over a top 10 player but first over a number one.

SELA GROUNDED

An El Al plane carrying Israeli tennis star Dudi Sela had to make an emergency landing in Beijing when a bird flew into one of its engines. Sela was returning to Israel after losing in a tournament in Tokyo. While the plane was heading back to Beijing, Sela called his brother Ofer in Israel to let him know what was happening. El Al sent a replacement jet to fly the 150 passengers to Israel.

SERENA HURT

An ankle injury has forced Serena Williams to withdraw from the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. The American withdrew two days after being upset by China’s Li Na in Stuttgart, Germany. The winner of four tournaments this year, Williams said her left ankle has been bothering her since the US Open last month, which she won.

SO DELIGHTED

Yevgeny Kafelnikov admits he is delighted to be back playing competitively after a five-year layoff. “It was quite exciting,” the Russian said after losing to Michael Chang in a BlackRock Tour of Champions match at Eindhoven, Netherlands. “I haven’t had this feeling in a long time.” Once he decided to play again, Kafelnikov worked hard to lose the weight he had gained after retiring. Then he asked to play in the AFAS Classics tournament in Eindhoven. He came away winless in his return, losing also to Paul Haarhuis and Goran Ivanisevic.

SUPER WIN

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga became only the eighth player in the last 20 yeas to win his first ATP title by defeating a top-five opponent in the final, knocking off third-ranked Novak Djokovic to capture the Thailand Open in Bangkok. Greg Sharko, senior editor of ATPTennis.com, says Tsonga is the first to accomplish the feat since fellow Frenchman Michael Llorda did it four years ago when he beat Guillermo Coria, who was number three in the world at the time. In 1988, Mikael Pernfors won his first title in Los Angeles, beating fourth-ranked Andre Agassi. Jim Courier’s first title, in 1989 in Basel, Switzerland, came when he beat third-ranked Stefan Edberg. Others who beat top five players to capture their first tournament titles were Omar Camporese in 1991, Alberta Costa and Filip Dewulf in 1995, and Hyung-Taik Lee in 2003.

SET FOR KOOYONG

Two Swiss players – US Open champion Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka – will warm up for the 2009 Australian Open by playing at the invitational Kooyong Classic. Weakened by mononucleosis, Federer missed the tournament in 2008. Also scheduled to play in the event are Marat Safin, Fernando Gonzalez, Marcos Baghdatis, James Blake and Ernests Gulbis. The eighth spot for the tournament, which guarantees each player three matches on the same surface as that used at the Australian Open, will be named later.

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SKIPPING STOCKHOLM

Saying he needs a break, Roger Federer will not play in the upcoming Stockholm Open. Federer has not played since winning his fifth consecutive US Open last month. “(This) has been a tough year for me as I was always playing catch-up after being diagnosed with mononucleosis at the beginning of the year,” said Federer, who lost his number one ranking to Rafael Nadal in August after holding it for a record 237 consecutive weeks.

SWITCHING SPORTS?

Paradorn Srichaphan is thinking about switching sports, perhaps becoming a race car driver. Beset by injury for almost two years, Thailand’s best player has been busy promoting motorsports in his country. “I’ve been really bored and it would be huge challenge to move from one sport to the next,” Srichaphan said. “I’m involved in a racing team and my sponsors are interested in having me racing for them, but only when I retire from tennis. I still plan to return to the tour.”

SLIPPERY COURT

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has penalized Croatia for playing Davis Cup matches against Brazil on a court that was considered too fast. As part of the Davis Cup Committee’s ruling, Croatia will lose 2,000 points and pay an undisclosed fine. Marina Mihelic, head of the Croatian Tennis Federation, said she was “surprised and annoyed” by the decision. The ITF said Croatia violated the federation’s “court pace rating rule,” which assesses the speed of surfaces other than grass and clay. It’s the first such case involving the rule, which was implemented this year. The ITF rejected Brazil’s appeal to have Croatia disqualified, the victory awarded to Brazil and financial compensation paid to Brazil.

SWEEP

The United States Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup teams captured the 2008 World Finals without dropping a single match. The international team competition for players age 16 and under held in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, continued the American domination of junior events. The American boys’ and girls’ squads won the World Junior Tennis Championships for 14-and-under in August in Prostejoy, Czech Republic. It is the first time the same country has won all four titles in the same year. The American Junior Fed Cup team beat Colombia, Chinese Taipei, Serbia, Hungary and Great Britain. The American Junior Davis Cup squad beat Latvia, Chinese Taipei, Sweden, India and Argentina.

STENNING LAUDED

Mark L. Stenning has been awarded the prestigious Chairman’s Award by the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island. The Chairman’s Award recognizes outstanding service by a Hall of Fame board member. Stenning joined the ITHOF in 1980 and currently holds the position of chief executive officer. He also currently serves on the Davis Cup and Fed Cup Committees of the United States Tennis Association.

SPONSOR

TENNIS.com is the new title sponsor of the Zurich Open, a stop on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. The Tennis Company, headquartered in Santa Monica, California, calls itself the world’s leading website for tennis fans. Aside from TENNIS.com, the company publishes Tennis Magazine and Smash Magazine. The Tennis Company is also a managing partner in the Indian Springs, California, tournament. Among others, The Tennis Company’s partners include Chris Evert, Billie Jean King and Pete Sampras.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Stuttgart: Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Patty Schnyder beat Kveta Peschke and Rennae Stubbs 6-2 6-4

Tokyo (men): Mikhail Youzhny and Mischa Zverev beat Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes 6-3 6-4

Tokyo (women): Jill Craybus and Marina Erakovic beat Ayumi Morita and Aiko Nakamura 4-6 7-5 10-6 (match tiebreak)

Tashkent: Ioana Raluca Olaru and Olga Savchuk beat Nina Bratchikova and Kathrin Woerle 5-7 7-5 10-7 (match tiebreak)

Metz: Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra beat Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski 5-7 6-3 10-8 (match tiebreak)

Mons: Michal Mertinak and Lovro Zovko beat Yves Allegro and Horia Tecau 7-5 6-3

SITES TO SURF

Vienna: www.ba-ca-tennistrophy.at

Stockholm: www.stockholmopen.se

Moscow: www.kremlincup.ru

Madrid: www.mutuamad-mastersmadrid.com

Zurich: www.zurichopen.net

Ortisei: www.itfvalgardena.com

Budapest: www.tennisclassics.hu/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$1,000,000 ATP Kremlin Cup, Moscow, Russia, carpet

$800,000 IF Stockholm Open, Stockholm, Sweden, hard

$755,000 Bank Austria TennisTrophy, Vienna, Austria, hard

WTA TOUR

$1,340,000 Kremlin Cup, Moscow, Russia, carpet

SENIORS

BlackRock Tour of Champions, Budapest, Hungary, carpet

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$2,450,000 Mutua Madrilena Masters Madrid, Madrid, Spain, hard

$125,000 Tashkent, Uzbekistan

WTA TOUR

$600,000 Zurich Open, Zurich, Switzerland

$100,000 Internazionali Tennis Val Gardena, Ortisei, Italy, carpet

Tomas Berdych Takes Home AIG Japan Open Crown

In the final of AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships in Tokyo, Tomas Berdych defeated Juan Martin del Potro 6-1 6-4. Del Potro was trying to be the first player since Sjeng Schalken who won first five finals on ATP circuit. The young Argentinian who has been playing impressive tennis since Wimbledon (won 29 out of the last 30 matches before the Tokyo’s final) had some stomach problems and was close of being destroyed by Berdych. After losing the first set Del Potro saved triple break point at 1:3 in the second set. Berdych managed to hold the only service break in the second set, won his first title in Asia and first title on a hardcourt outdoors. The 23 year-old Czech has won 4 titles so far and each of them in the different conditions (Palermo 2004 – clay; Paris 2005 – indoor hardcourt; Halle 2007 – grass; Tokyo 2008 – outdoor hardcourt).

Dmitry Tursunov captured 5th title in career after beating 7-6(6) 1-6 6-4 the crowd-favourite Paul-Henri Mathieu in Metz. The Frenchman was leading 6:3 in the first set tie-break (after saving set point on Tursunov’s serve in the 12th game) but The Russian saved triple setpoint in a good style (2nd serve service winner, ace, forehand winner) and took the first set on his second chance. Mathieu leveled up to one set apiece thanks to 3 breaks of serve but lost his own serve at 2:2 in the final set. It was a crucial break.  Tursunov wasted admittedly  double match point in the 9th game but in the following game he quickly obtained another three match points and finished the match with 2nd serve service winner. It’s the first European title for Tursunov.

Mondays With Bob Greene: I shocked myself with some of the winners I played, was near perfect tennis

STARS

Dinara Safina beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-1 6-3 to win the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, Japan

Vera Zvonareva won the TOE Life Ceramics Guangzhou International Women’s Open in Guangzhou, China, by defeating Shuai Peng 6-7 (4) 6-0 6-2

Florent Serra beat Albert Montanes 6-4 6-3 to win the Pekao Open in Szczecin, Poland

Nuria Llagostera Vives beat Tsvetana Pironkova 6-2 6-3, winning the ITF women’s event in Sofia, Bulgaria

Stefan Edberg won the Trophee Jean-Luc Lagardere in Paris, France, by beating Sergi Bruguera 3-6 7-5 10-5 (match tiebreak)

SAYINGS

“Today I play an almost perfect match and it is very, very exciting. Today I played very well. I shocked myself with some of the winners I played, was near perfect tennis.” – Rafael Nadal, after beating Andy Roddick 6-4 6-0 64 and giving Spain an unbeatable 3-1 lead over the United States in the Davis Cup semifinals.

“God knows how far I can get! I’ve played the best tennis I’ve ever played this week.” – Dinara Safina, after winning the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, her fourth title this year.

“I had the confidence to do this, and as we say in Russia, ‘If you don’t take risks, you don’t drink champagne.'” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, after upsetting Jelena Jankovic.

“I played well at the US Open and it is challenging to keep the intensity up after such a big event.” – Jelena Jankovic, after losing to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Pacific Open quarterfinals.

“One of my goals has always been to get as close as possible to the top and to make it to the Sony Ericsson Championships. Making it to Doha just shows me that I’ve been doing a few things right this season, so I am just very happy about my qualification.” – Elena Dementieva, after becoming the fifth player to qualify for the eight-player, season-ending Championships.

“It was an annoying call for me and I just asked him to change them, that’s all I did. Who knows, maybe I overreacted, but I was so irritated by the call because for me it was such an obvious call.” – Roger Federer, asking that the line judges be removed during his Davis Cup match against Belgium’s Kristof Vliegen.

“If Roger himself is complaining about the people, with the umpire and the line umpires … that is a really good sign to me that I was not the only one.” – Kristof Vliegen.

“That point was crucial. I hit a nice shot (on the replayed point), I felt different in the tiebreak, and I could turn it around.” – David Nalbandian, who got a break on a controversial call and went on to defeat Igor Andreev in the opening match of Argentina-Russia Davis Cup semifinal.

“It’s not only we who have the pressure. The chair umpire has the pressure of the crowd as well, and sometimes they make the wrong decision, but he is an experience umpire. I have to call it bad luck for me, but it did change the game.” – Russia’s Igor Andreev, who lost to Argentina’s David Nalbandian after a controversial call in the first-set tiebreak changed the momentum of their Davis Cup match.

“We’re looking for other partners. It’s a shame because we worked hard to try to make it work. It just didn’t quite click.” – Jamie Murray, on the breakup of his doubles partnership with Max Mirnyi.

“Everything you learn can also help you on faster courts and help you change strategies mid-match. I am looking forward to developing Australian youngsters into top tennis players.” – Spain’s Felix Mantilla, who has been hired to teach clay-court tennis to young Australian players.

“The only sport I do follow is tennis. Tennis is much more civilized, and civilization is something I search for in everything, every day.” – singer Tony Bennett.

STREAKING RUSSIANS

Dinara Safina won her fourth Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title of the year by beating fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-1 6-3 in the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, Japan. Since beginning the season with an 11-10 record, Safina has posted a 41-5 mark, reaching seven finals in nine events. With the win she becomes only the fifth Russian to crack the top three in the rankings, joining Anatasia Myskina, Maria Sharapova, Kuznetsova and Nadia Petrova. It also was the fifth all-Russian WTA Tour final of the year.

SHADOW FROM THE PAST

Kimiko Date-Krumm, who has returned to tennis after a 12-year hiatus, will compete in the AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships later this month. Once ranked as high as number four in the world, Date-Krumm turns 38 on the eve of the tournament. She has been playing on the ITF women’s circuit in Japanese tournaments only and her ranking has risen to 264th in the world.

SHOOTING DARTS

Ivo Karlovic had 39 aces and 70 winners in his 7-6 (5) 6-4 6-7 (6) 7-6 (4) win over Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci, a victory that returned Croatia to the World Group for 2009. Roko Karanusic earned his first Davis Cup victory in his fourth attempt, beating Brazil’s Thiago Alves 7-6 (4) 4-6 7-6 (5).

SWISS TIFF

In a rare show of frustration, Roger Federer asked that the line judges be changed after he felt he received a bad call in a Davis Cup match, leading to his losing serve and falling behind Belgium’s Kristof Vliegen 2-0 in the second set. The team of nine officials stayed on court until the next changeover, and they were booed by the partisan Swiss crowd as they left. After the new line judges were brought on, Federer won the next five games to take the set en route to his 7-6 (1) 6-4 6-2 first-day victory.

SHARP SWING

A controversial line call in another Davis Cup semifinal helped Argentina’s David Nalbandian defeat Russia’s Igor Andreev 7-6 (5) 6-2 6-4 in the opening match of the tie. Andreev was leading 4-2 in the first-set tiebreak when Nalbandian’s forehand hit the net cord and was called out. Andreev walked up to the mark in the clay and ringed it, but umpire Carlos Bernardes came down from his chair, inspected the mark and agreed with the line call. Instead of Andreev leading 5-2 with two minibreaks, they replayed the point, which Nalbandian won. The Argentine went on to win four of the next five points and the opening set.

SALUTE

Gigi Fernandez and Wendy White Prausa are among the four newest members of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Women’s Hall of Fame. Also inducted were Alice Luthy Tym, the former head coach at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and Janice Metcalf Cromer. Tym started the women’s team and served as its captain while an undergraduate at the University of Florida before playing internationally. Fernandez won 17 Grand Slam tournament doubles titles and two Olympic gold medals, while Prausa is the only women’s tennis player to turn pro during college and still graduate on time. Cromer was the first woman to play on the men’s team at the University of Redlands, helping lead the team to NAIA national championships in 1973 and ’74.

SLIPS AGAIN

Jelena Jankovic keeps missing that top rung of the WTA Tour rankings. The Serb was ranked number one in the world for the first time in her career on August 11, but stayed there for only one week. She had another chance at the US Open, but lost the final to Serena Williams, who took over the top spot. The second-ranked Jankovic would have replaced Williams if she won the Pacific Open in Tokyo. But she lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova 2-6 7-5 7-5 in the quarterfinals.

SPOT IN DOHA

Elena Dementieva is the latest player to qualify for the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha, Qatar. Others who have qualified for the November 4-9 event are Jelena Jankovic, Serena Williams, Dinara Safina and Ana Ivanovic. The top eight singles players and top four doubles team will compete for the Championships title. Dementieva, the Olympic singles gold medalist, was a semifinalist at the US Open and is currently ranked number five in the world.

SQUEAKER

Alexander Peya defeated Britain’s Alex Bogdanovic 2-6 6-4 6-4 6-2 in the decisive fifth match to return Austria to the World Group for the sixth straight year. The tie was played at Wimbledon and it was Pey’s first Davis Cup win on grass in four attempts. Andy Murray had leveled the tie for Great Britain when he began the final day with a 6-4 5-7 6-4 6-1 win over Austria’s Jurgen Melzer.

SURVIVES

Thiemo De Bakker lifted the Netherlands back into the World Group for the first time since 2006 by beating South Korea’s Woong-Sun Jun 6-2 6-1 6-3 in the decisive fifth rubber. Korean veteran Hyung-Taik Lee had leveled the tie 2-2 in the first reverse singles by stopping Jesse Huta Galung 1-6 6-1 7-6 (5) 6-2.

SPLITSVILLE

The doubles partnership of Jamie Murray and Max Mirnyi has ended after winning just one ATP title, that coming at Delray Beach, Florida, in February when they beat brothers Mike and Bob Bryan. The team of Murray and Mirnyi had a 15-17 record for the year, including first-round losses at three of the four Grand Slam tournaments.

SPANISH TINGE

The country that produced Rod Laver and Margaret Court among many tennis stars in the past is turning to Spain for its future. Tennis Australia has hired Felix Mantilla of Spain as a clay-court coach to work with its young players. The governing body also will add a clay-court facility in Barcelona, Spain, to its training bases in Canberra and London. Lleyton Hewitt and Chris Guccione are the only Australian men currently ranked in the top 100, while number 48 Casey Dellacqua and number 73 Samantha Stosur are the country’s top women.

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SPONSOR I

The United States government’s takeover of American International Group Inc. won’t affect the sponsorship of the AIG Japan Open tennis tournament in Tokyo. AIG is the title sponsor of the men’s and women’s event that offers nearly USD $1 million in prize money. The US government received 80 percent of AIG’s shares in the USD $85 billion deal to rescue America’s largest insurer by assets.

SPONSOR II

The International Tennis Federation and Wilson Racquet Sports have extended their sponsorship agreement to include Wilson as the Official Ball of Davis Cup, Fed Cup and other ITF initiatives in a multi-year deal. Wilson has been involved in Davis Cup since 2002. Under this expanded agreement, Wilson will be the official ball for Davis Cup, Fed Cup and the ITF’s junior team competitions at the under-14 and under-16 level. In addition, Wilson will be the exclusive supplier of tennis rackets, shoes, clothing and accessories to the ITF Development Coaching Team.

SPONSOR III

The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) is breathing much easier now that AEGON has signed on to sponsor the sport over the next five years. The Scottish pensions and life assurance company has acquired the naming rights to tournaments in London, Eastbourne and Edgbaston. Beginning next June, the combined men’s and women’s event at Eastbourne will be renamed the AEGON International. Queens Club, formerly the Stella Artois, will be renamed the AEGON Championships, while the AEGON Classic will be played at Edgbaston.

SUCCESSFUL PAIR

Romanians Irina-Camelia Begu and Laura-Iona Andrei are doubles partners and opponents. And they’re successful at both. The 18-year-old Begu beat the top-seeded Andrei 7-5 6-1 to win the singles title at a recent USD $10,000 ITF tournament in Budapest, then teamed with Begu to win the doubles. Begu successfully defended her singles title and joined with Andrei to win the doubles at another ITF women’s event the week before in Brasov, Romania. In fact, Begu has won the doubles in her last five tournaments, teaming with Andrei at Budapest, Brasov and Bucharest, Romania; pairing with Elora Dabija at Hunedoara, Romania, and playing with Ioana Gaspar in another Bucharest tournament. All have been USD $10,000 clay-court events.

STUPID

Three fans have been charged with riotous behavior and assaulting police at the Australian Open in January. According to police, the three men became aggressive when police attempted to remove one of them for shouting obscenities at Chile’s Fernando Gonzales during his match against Konstantinos Economidis of Greece. One of the men, a 24-year-old from a Melbourne, Australia, suburb, was also charged with resisting arrest and discharging a missile. The confrontation in the stands caused the match to be suspended for 10 minutes.

SHARAPOVA SCHOLARSHIPS

The Maria Sharapova Foundation Scholarship for Youth from the Chernobyl-Affected Areas of Belarus will award five-year scholarships to 12 students so they can study at two leading universities in Belarus. The program is a joint initiative of the tennis star’s foundation and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), where she serves as Goodwill Ambassador. Sharapova’s foundation has already contributed USD $100,000 to youth-oriented projects in the regions of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine that were affected by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident. Three incoming students will be awarded scholarships each year over an initial four-year period. The first scholarship recipients will begin their studies in September 2009.

SELLING RACQUETS

Known for its shoes and clothing, Adidas is getting ready to include racquets in their line of tennis goodies. The first of the three racquets, the Adidas Barricade, will go on sale in February. The other two are called Response and Feather, as all three are named for the company’s tennis shoes. The three racquets will provide a racquet for every player level: tour player, club player and recreational player.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Tokyo: Vania King and Nadia Petrova beat Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur 6-1 6-4

Guangzhou: Mariya Koryttseva and Tatiana Poutchek beat Sun Tiantian and Yan Zi 6-3 4-6 10-8 (match tiebreak)

Sofia: Maret Ani and Renata Voracova beat Lourdes Dominguez-Lino and Arantxa Parra-Santonja 7-6 (4) 7-6 (9)

Szczecin: David Marrero and Dawid Olejniczak beat Lukasz Kubot and Oliver Marach 7-6 (4) 6-3

SITES TO SURF

Beijing: www.chinaopen.com.cn

Bangkok: www.thailandopen.com

Paris: www.tropheejeanluclagardere.com

Luxembourg: www.covadis.be/viviumchallenge

Charlotte: http://championsseriestennis.com/charlotte2008/

Tokyo: www.jta-tennis.or.jp/aigopen/e/

Stuttgart: www.porsche-tennis.de

Tashkent: www.tashkentopen.uz

Eindhoven: www.afastennisclassics.nl

Mons: http://www.ethiastrophy.be

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$576,000 Thailand Open, Bangkok, Thailand, hard

$524,000 China Open, Beijing, China, hard

$120,000 ATP Challenger Trophy, Trnava, Slovakia

WTA TOUR

$600,000 China Open, Beijing, China, hard

$145,000 Hansol Korea Open, Seoul, Korea, hard

SENIORS

The Citadel Group Championships at the Palisades, Outback Champions, Charlotte, North Carolina, hard

Viviam Victory Challenge, Black Rock Tournament of Champions, Luxembourg, Luxembourg, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$832,000 AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships, Tokyo, Japan, hard

$416,000 Open de Moselle, Metz, France, hard

$125,000 Ethias Trophy, Mons, Belgium, hard

WTA TOUR

$650,000 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, Stuttgart, Germany, hard

$175,000 AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships, Tokyo, Japan, hard

$145,000 Tashkent Open, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, hard

SENIORS

AFAS Tennis Classics, BlackRock Tournament of Champions, Eindhoven, Netherlands, carpet