Aleksandra Wozniak

Tennis Canada nominates olympic representatives for London

By Melissa Boyd

Tennis Canada has announced the four players nominated for selection to the Canadian Olympic Team for the London 2012 Olympic Games. Daniel Nestor, Vasek Pospisil, Milos Raonic, and Aleksandra Wozniak will represent Canada in London. Raonic and Wozniak will play singles while Nestor and Pospisil will team up for doubles.

In singles, the Top 56 players in the world as of the June 11 rankings deadline receive direct entry into the tennis event provided they meet all other requirements set out for qualification. Raonic sits at No. 21 in the world while Wozniak’s third round appearance at the French Open lifted her to the exact cut-off point of No. 56. It will be the first Olympic Games for both.

“It’s something I’ve been dreaming since I’m a little girl, and my dream came true today,” Wozniak said. “It’s definitely a different atmosphere than playing in the Grand Slams and on the WTA Tour, something where you’ll be with the best athletes around the world in all different sports”.

For the doubles event, each of the Top 10 players receives direct entry with a compatriot of their choice. As the No. 1 doubles player in the world, Nestor has elected to play with first-time Olympic hopeful Pospisil. The duo holds a 2-0 Davis Cup record, including a pivotal win against Grand Slam champions Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram during Canada’s World Group play-off versus Israel last September.

London will represent the fifth consecutive time Nestor has represented Canada at the Olympic Games. At the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, he won gold with partner Sebastien Lareau marking the first, and only, tennis medal in Canadian history.

“I’m very proud to be in a position where I can represent my country and hopefully bring back another medal,” said Nestor. “It was quite a special feat winning Olympic gold in Sydney in 2000 and with the growth of tennis in our country, we all can have a chance to make Canada proud.”

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) will announce the full official list of entries on June 28 which will include the ITF places in singles and doubles. Additional nominations for players who did not make the rankings cut-off can be submitted to the ITF to be considered for ITF places.

“Congratulations to these four tennis players on joining the 2012 Canadian Olympic Team,” said 2012 Team Chef de Mission Mark Tewksbury. “I know you will give your everything to make Canadian fans proud in London.”

WTA Strasbourg day 2 roundup and photos

By Romana Cvitkovic

Tennis Grandstand photographer Rick Gleijm is in Strasbourg, France covering the WTA Internationaux de Strasbourg tournament live all week. Main draw action continued today and saw several more seeds fall including Maria Kirilenko, Mona Barthel and Marina Erakovic, while number two seed Francesca Schiavone eased through.

2010 Roland Garros champion Francesca Schiavone may not have had her best serving day, but she converted enough break points to give her a solid win over Romanian Alexandra Cadantu, 6-1, 6-2, and was the only seed to survive the day. Number three seed Maria Kirilenko retired with an ankle injury giving American Sloane Stephens a pass to the next round after splitting the first two sets, 6-3, 5-7. Number five seed and newest WTA Tour breakout player, Germany’s Mona Barthel went down to Russian qualifier Alexandra Panova 3-6, 6-7(7). Barthel double faulted ten times, struggled to hold her second serve and faced 18 break points, while only converting on three. Shahar Peer refueled in the second set against Canada’s Aleksandra Wozniak, handing her a bagel to seal the win, 7-5, 6-0. Japan’s Ayumi Morita sent the day’s last seed, number six Marina Erakovic, home in commanding form, 6-1, 6-3.

Other notable wins include Mirjana Lucic’s handling of Anne Keothavong. After easily winning the first set, Keothavong served for the match at 5-3, before Lucic fought back to win the next four games and force a third set which she won with a final score of 2-6, 7-5, 6-4. Johanna Larsson of Sweden sent American qualifier Lauren Davis home in three hotly contested sets that lasted just under three hours, 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(5). Timea Babos, a former junior doubles champion at Wimbledon, Roland Garros and the U.S. Open, moved onto the next round when Anastasija Sevastova retired just three games into the match. 2009 Strasbourg runner up, Lucie Hradecka moved on as did French wildcards Alize Cornet and Virginie Razzano.

Check back each day to catch all new action direct from the courts by our photographer Rick Gleijm! Scroll down for the full gallery below.

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Rejuvenated Wozniak is Dreaming Olympic Big

Following a tumultuous two seasons that were mired by injuries and coaching uncertainty, former world no.21 Aleksandra Wozniak has shown Top 25 form this season and is making her way back up the rankings with a renewed passion for her sport.

Wozniak became the first Canadian in 20 years to win a WTA singles title when she was crowned champion at Stanford in 2008 and appeared to destined to contend for titles for many years to come. Now 24 years old and with her hardships a thing of the past, the Wozniak hitting the court is definitely the 2.0 version. After finishing the 2011 season ranked outside the Top 100, she came into the off-season  100 percent healthy for the first time in a while. Wozniak took up boxing to improve her strength and agility. Her hard work is paying dividends so far in 2012.

Wozniak has also brought her father, Antoni back in the fold as her full-time coach. He introduced her to tennis when she was three years old and is the master technician behind her smooth strokes. Wozniak appreciates having her recently retired Dad around every day to work on the little things.

“ I am able to take my Dad on the road with me which is tremendous and makes a big difference because he can always keep improving my game,” Wozniak said. “He sees things right away and those little details make a big difference in my game. I think I’m pretty close to where I was, but I think I am coming back differently and stronger than before.”

Wozniak has improved her ranking by more than 50 places since the start of the season and finds herself ranked firmly inside the Top 60 again. Perhaps most impressive though is the kind of matches she is winning, the long, exhausting type. Matches she would have never been able to win earlier in her career. Wozniak has also played the top players very tough, losing 7-5 in the third to Agnieszka Radwanska in Dubai and dropping a third set tiebreak to Venus Williams in Miami after holding a match point.

She is battling and fighting harder than ever with one lifelong dream motivating her every move, representing Canada at this summer’s Olympic Games in London. At no. 56 on the world rankings and with few points to defend until Roland-Garros, Wozniak has put herself in a good position to earn an Olympic berth.

“As an athlete, to know you made it to the Olympics, I can’t even describe it,” Wozniak added. “For me it’s very important to represent my country the best that I can. It’s a big privilege to represent Canada at the  greatest sporting event in the world. For any athlete it is very special and it would be really exciting.”

Not only is Wozniak a transformed player, but she’s also a different person. Physically, she looks better than  ever and her renewed confidence is evident in the way she carries herself. Her likeable, radiant personality makes it easy to root for the talent Canadian and  It will be fun to watch her rise back to the upper echelon of the women’s game. Wozniak is certainly not a name any player will want to see opposite their own in the draw, especially on Wozniak’s favourite surface during the clay court season.

Wozniak Shows Winning Attitude in Loss to Venus at Miami

Aleksandra Wozniak played Venus Williams tough in Miami

Aleksandra Wozniak was a forehand away from scoring one of the biggest wins of her career in the third round of the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Florida. The 24-year-old Canadian held match point against seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams, but couldn’t close the deal, falling 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(5)in a two-hour, 53 minute match that had more ups and downs than a roller coaster.

Wozniak showed flashes of her Top 20 form from two years ago against the inspirational Williams who is playing her first tournament since being diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome at last year’s U.S. Open. After getting through her first two matches, Williams appeared sluggish and Wozniak took full advantage, playing deep, penetrating shots to keep her opponent on her heels.

Still, every time it looked like Wozniak was going to knock out the tournament sentimental favourite, either nerves or Williams’ champion’s mentality got her in the way. Serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set, Wozniak survived two wild double faults to earn a match point which she wasted by putting a sitting forehand into the net. The Canadian didn’t go away though as she rebounded to force a third set tiebreak which, like the rest of the match, went back and forth until Williams converted her second match point with a service winner. Despite the pain of the circumstances, Wozniak showed a lot of class staying to sign autographs on court after shaking hands and chose to focus on the positives in her post-match comments.

“It would have been a big victory for me. It hurts and it is disappointing, but the important thing is that I’m healthy and progressing,” Wozniak said. “One thing is for sure, I am going to keep fighting.”

Wozniak is no stranger to coming up short in tight matches against top players. In 2010 she lost a pair of matches 6-4 in the third to Elena Dementieva at Roland-Garros and Jelena Jankovic at Wimbledon. A few weeks ago in Dubai she lost 7-5 in the third to Agnieszka Radwanska. While all of the attention has been about the Williams comeback, Wozniak is also climbing the ranks again following a series of personal and physical setbacks that kept her off the court for significant chunks of time over the past two seasons. She won her maiden WTA title four years ago at Stanford, defeating Samantha Stosur, Serena Williams and Marion Bartoli en route. Wozniak reached a career-high ranking of no. 21 in June of 2009 and Williams was the first to acknowledge that a formidable player was across the net from her on Centre Court in Key Biscayne.

“It was tough out there. It was made even tougher because she played well, Williams said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen her play as well as she did. She was close to the Top 20, so she has that tennis in her. I have to give her a lot of credit.”

With her third round performance in Miami, Wozniak will move close to Top 60 on the WTA rankings after a fruitful March that also saw her win the Nassau Challenger in the Bahamas. She is once again the top-ranked Canadian and is making a strong push towards her season goal of representing Canada at the Olympics in London. With her free-flowing all around game and genuine personality, Wozniak will come through in her fair share matches in 2012, and win over a lot of new fans in the process.

Hopes are High for Canadians Down Under

Four Canadians will be part of the main draw of the Australian Open in Melbourne. Not only are they competing in the first Grand Slam of the new tennis season, but they also have aspirations of winning a few rounds and ultimately getting a shot at a spot in the second week Down Under.

After reaching the Round of 16 at the Australian Open last year, his best Grand Slam result, world no. 25 Milos Raonic is being labelled a dark horse by the experts for the title in 2012. Fresh off his second ATP World Tour title in Chennai two weeks ago, a run which included two Top 10 wins over Nicolas Almagro and Janko Tipsarevic, Raonic is poised to make another splash in Melbourne. His draw did him no favours however, as he finds himself on a potential collision course with Andy Roddick in the third round and defending champion Novak Djokovic in the fourth round. Raonic will begin his Australian Open campaign on Tuesday against crafty lefty Filippo Volandri. It will be the first meeting between the two players.

On the ladies side, one year removed from a heartbreaking loss in the second round to Francesca Schiavone that finished 9-7 in the third set, Rebecca Marino returns to Melbourne a different player and ready to overcome that second round hurdle this time around. The 21-year-old will start on Tuesday against Hungarian Greta Arn. Should Marino get through that match, she would face a tough test going up against either seventeenth seed Dominika Cibulkova or Magdalena Rybarikova, who defeated her in the final at Memphis last March.

Stéphanie Dubois is back after a stress fracture in her foot put a premature end to her 2011 season. She is appearing in her fourth consecutive Australian Open main draw and is hoping to pick up her first victory when she meets Russia’s Elena Vesnina in the opening round on Tuesday. Aleksandra Wozniak rounds out the Canadian singles contingent Down Under. 2012 is a big year for Wozniak as she tries to regain her 2009 form when she reached a career-high of no. 21 on the WTA rankings. She earned a spot in the main draw following the withdrawal of Timea Bacsinszky and surprisingly, is still winless in main draw matches in Melbourne. Just getting over a bout with bronchitis, Wozniak will open on Tuesday against Shuai Zhang of China.

Australia has not been very kind to Canadians in recent years in terms of tennis results, but be on the lookout for some Canadian flags on the scoreboard during the later rounds, they certainly won’t be there by chance.

Milos Raonic beats Pete Sampras in the Face-Off in Toronto

The prodigy beat his hero on Thursday night in Toronto as Canada’s top player Milos Raonic defeated Pete Sampras 7-6, 6-1 in an exhibition match in front of his hometown fans at the Air Canada Centre.

The Canadian rising star and the American legend were greeted with a standing ovation as they arrived on court sporting Toronto Maple Leafs jerseys embroidered with their name and the last two numbers of their date of birth.

The much anticipated ‘Face-off’ between Missile Milos and Pistol Pete featured blistering serves, impressive net play, deft touch and a lot of smiles on both sides of the net. Raonic was philosophical when describing what it meant to have the opportunity to play his childhood idol.

“It’s a moment that’s going to be tattooed in my mind,” Raonic said. “It’s never going to leave. There is a lot that comes with this moment. For myself to learn and grow, but also for Canadian tennis to promote the sport and that’s what the end goal is.”

Sampras, who met Raonic for the first time earlier this year at the SAP Open in San Jose, a tournament which Raonic won to capture his first ATP title, had some high praise for the 20-year-old Canadian.

“Milos is a great kid,” Sampras said. “He seems really driven and has a great future ahead of him. When I look at young players, I look at a weapon. And he has a big one with his serve.”

The evening’s main event was preceded by a set of women’s tennis between Wimbledon junior doubles champion Eugenie Bouchard and former world no. 21 Aleksandra Wozniak. Both ladies hit their fair share of winners in a 6-4 victory for Wozniak over her compatriot.

The festivities kicked off with some celebrity doubles as the four players took to the court with actor Hayden Christensen, former NHL player Brad May as well as Toronto television personalities Rick Campanelli and Gord Stellick. Christensen, famous for playing the role of Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars movies, played junior tennis and acquitted himself well against the pros.

This was the first time tennis has been played at the Air Canada Centre, a venue that seats 19,000 for Maple Leafs hockey games.

The event was a special treat for Canadian tennis fans, who not only watched one of the game’s all-time greats, but also saw Milos Raonic’s first match in his home country since the summer of 2010, an encounter he won’t soon forget.

Emergence of Canadian Tennis: Raonic, Marino, Pospisil

For years, Canada’s tennis accomplishments could be found in one man’s trophy case, that of doubles legend Daniel Nestor. The country’s tennis community has been starving for its first bona fide singles player since the days of Carling Bassett-Seguso, Helen Kelesi and Canadian turned Brit Greg Rusedski.

Over the past few seasons, Canadian tennis has turned over a new leaf. The proverbial ball started rolling in 2008 when Aleksandra Wozniak became the first Canadian in 20 years to win a WTA title and reached a career-high ranking of no. 21 in June of 2009. Fast forward two years and the emergence of a trio of 20-year-olds with big serves, Milos Raonic, Rebecca Marino and Vasek Pospisil will arguably make 2011 the greatest single season in Canadian tennis history.

An unexpected run to the fourth round of the Australian Open put Raonic on the tennis map, and in a big way. He proved his performance was no fluke, backing it up with his maiden ATP title in San Jose and a finals appearance in Memphis where he lost a dramatic championship match to Andy Roddick. His breakthrough season has allowed Raonic to become the highest ranked Canadian man in history and also earned him nomination for the ATP’s Newcomer of the Year award. In the process, Raonic has become Canada’s tennis ambassador, and a very good one at that. After recovering from hip surgery this summer, the sky is the limit for Raonic in 2012.

With Raonic watching on the sidelines, Vasek Pospisil single-handedly propelled Canada into the Davis Cup World Group for the first time since 2005, winning all three of his matches against Israel including the decisive fifth rubber. Pospisil also posted the first two Top 50 wins of his career in 2011 over Juan Igancio Chela at the Rogers Cup presented by National Bank and over John Isner at the Valencia Open.

A second round showing at the Australian Open, an appearance in the final at Memphis and a run to the third round of the French Open allowed Rebecca Marino to crack the Top 40 on the WTA rankings, overtaking Wozniak as the top Canadian in the women’s game.

At the junior level, Eugenie Bouchard won the Wimbledon doubles title this season and is the no. 5 ranked junior player in the world. At no. 20, Françoise Abanda is the top ranked 14-year-old on the planet.

The establishment of three National Training Centres in Montreal, Toronto and just last week in Vancouver, as well as talent id programs, is further proof that Canada is serious about developing tennis champions and intend on starting at an early age.

For the first time in a long time, the tennis world is sitting up and taking notice of Canada as one of the fastest growing tennis nations in the world. Perhaps what is most encouraging is the fact that success is coming by committee and not just the result of one player’s exploits.

Murray Intends To Win Major Title in 2010: Tennis in the Commonwealth

By Leigh Sanders

Great Britain’s top star Andy Murray has reiterated his intention to break his Grand Slam duck in 2010. Speaking to BBC Scotland, he said that he feels he improved throughout 2009 and firmly believes next year will be his best yet. “I always said I’d play my best tennis between 23 and 27 and I’m 23 next year,” said Murray. “I had three tough losses in the Grand Slams. Hopefully, I can turn that round next year and draw on the experience.”

*The ATP has announced its top five matches of 2009 and three of the selections were held at Commonwealth-based tournaments. Unsurprisingly, the nail biting Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick takes the No. 1 slot. Rafael Nadal’s semifinal victory over compatriot Fernando Verdasco at the Australian Open ranks third while Nikolay Davydenko’s triumph over Roger Federer in the ATP World Finals semifinal at London, England’s o2 Arena placed fifth. Meanwhile, British No. 1 Andy Murray’s shock defeat to the Croatian Marin Cilic in the US Open fourth round ranked third in the top five upsets of the year but Murray still made the ATP’s list of the year’s top players.

*The news of former world No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo’s retirement has led to praise for the two-time Grand Slam champion from many quarters. Canada’s Aleksandra Wozniak is one who will be sad to see her leave the world’s tennis arenas and with particular reason; it was Aleksandra who defeated Amelie in her last match at this year’s US Open. “She was a lot of fun to watch because not only did she do everything well, but she did it with flair at the same time,” said Wozniak. “It was an honour for me to play her in her last match, especially since we played on Arthur Ashe stadium court at the US Open – it was one of the biggest wins of my career and a very special moment for me.”

*Some of Australia’s biggest tennis names are missing from the first round of playoffs competing for wildcard berths at the 2010 Australian Open. Chris Guccione, Carsten Ball and Sam Groth are all suffering from injuries and will miss the December 14-20 event.

*The Medibank International Sydney championships in Australia have announced their strongest lineup to date with nine of the world’s top ten players in the women’s field taking to the courts. Joining the likes of Serena Williams, Dinara Safina and Caroline Wozniacki will be home favourite Samantha Stosur. The home fans can also cheer on Lleyton Hewitt in the men’s event but he will have to overcome players of the calibre of Gael Monfils, Tomas Berdych and Stanislas Wawrinka if he is to emerge victorious.

*Great Britain’s Anne Keothavong saw the third greatest decline in ranking spots on the WTA tour during 2009. She started the year at No. 60, rising to No. 54 by July but a knee injury then finished her season and she ended the year at No. 98. It is, though, her second-best year-end finish in 11 years on the tour. The biggest climber was Germany’s Andrea Petkovic (No. 379 – No. 56, 323 places) and the greatest recession was suffered by Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova (No. 44 – No. 99, 55 places).

*Australian tennis is again celebrating with the news that Russian-born Anastasia Rodionova has been granted citizenship. The current world No. 96 becomes the third-highest ranked Aussie player behind Samantha Stosur and Jelena Dokic. Jarmila Groth was also granted citizenship last month and this continues the strengthening of the sport Down Under.

*Former world No. 1 Alicia Molik of Australia continued her impressive return from retirement by taking another title, this time at the Pro Tour Event in Bendigo, Australia. Her compatriot Matt Ebden took the men’s trophy.

*Former Tennis Canada board of directors chair Harold P. Milavsky was inducted in to the Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame during a ceremony held at the Glencoe Club, Calgary, attended by much of the Alberta tennis and business worlds.

*Third seed Heather Watson of Great Britain is through to the second round of the Orange Dunlop Bowl tournament in Florida. The 17-year-old emphatically beat American Krista Hardebeck 6-2, 6-2. Watson is currently ranked No. 4 in the world for juniors and reached the last 16 in her last run out at the Eddie Herr International Junior Championships.

*Aussie serve-and-volley specialist Pat Rafter triumphed over the Swede Stefan Edberg in the final of the ATP Champions Tour Event in London, England last week.

London Showcase Set For Kick-Off: Tennis in the Commonwealth

By Leigh Sanders

The final line-up for the ATP World Finals Championship in London, England, next week has been confirmed following the conclusion of the Paris Masters. Nikolay Davydenko and Fernando Verdasco secured the last two berths following their performances on the hard courts of Paris. Eight players went in to the week’s play knowing a victory there could secure a place at the prestigious event but after the twists and turns had unfurled Davydenko and Verdasco won through after Robin Soderling and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga failed to advance past the quarterfinals.

However, with Andy Roddick having missed five weeks with a knee problem he has announced that he is unable to participate, allowing Soderling the opportunity to take his place in the event for the first time.

“I have not fully recovered from my knee injury and I won’t be able to compete,” said Roddick. “One of my goals in 2010 will be to qualify for this event again.”

The round-robin stage of the tournament has been drawn (seeds in brackets) and Group A sees career Grand Slam winner Roger Federer (1), Britain’s Andy Murray (4), US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro (5) and Fernando Verdasco (7) vying for qualification. Group B consists of 2009 Australian Open Champion Raphael Nadal (2), the 2008 winner Novak Djokovic (3), Nikolay Davydenko (6) and Robin Soderling (8).

In the doubles at Paris, Polish duo Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski took the final berth at the tournament with an emphatic win over the Bryan brothers in Paris. That victory prevents South African Wesley Moodie and his partner Dick Norman taking part. The round robin groups have also been drawn. Group A sees world No. 1 and No. 2 Daniel Nestor of Canada/Nenad Zimonjic (1), India’s Mahesh Bhupathi/Mark Knowles (3), Frantisek Cermak/Michal Mertinak (5) and Max Mirnyi/Andy Ram (7). Group B will consist of the Bryan brothers (2), Lukas Dlouhy/Leander Paes of India (4), Lukasz Kubot/Oliver Marach (6) and Mariusz Fyrstenberg/Marcin Matkowski (8).

*Great Britain’s Murray crashed back down to earth in Paris following his victory at the Valencia Open last time out. He failed to progress past the third round in Paris, sluggishly going down 6-1, 3-6, 4-6 to Radek Stepanek just sixteen hours after he had seen off James Blake in the previous round in a match that went on till the early hours of last Thursday.

* Daniel Nestor of Canada clinched his ninth doubles title of 2009 with partner Nenad Zimonjic after the pair beat the Spaniards Marcelo Granollers and Tommy Robredo 6-3, 6-4 in the final of the Paris Masters. The world No. 1 and No. 2 have now stretched their rankings lead over the Bryan brothers to 830 points. It follows on from their recent win in the Davidoff Swiss Indoors Basel. Aussie Jordan Kerr reached the third round with American Travis Parrott before they eventually went down 6-2, 6-4 to the in-form Czech-Slovak partnership of Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak. In the previous round, Kerr/Parrott had halted doubles specialist and fourth seed Leander Paes of India and partner Lukas Dlouhy. The exit of South African Wesley Moodie and Belgian Dick Norman in round two to the eventual finalists Granollers/Robredo means they miss out on a place at the ATP World Tour Finals. Another Aussie, Paul Hanley, and his Swedish partner Simon Aspelin also fell foul of the Spaniards in round three after they had beaten India’s Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles, seeded No. 3, in round two. South Africa’s Jeff Coetzee lost with his partner Marcelo Melo of Brazil in the opening round to the ever-impressive French duo Julien Benneteau and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

*In this week’s ATP World Tour Rankings for singles (16/11) there was no movement for any Commonwealth tennis star ranked in the Top 100 in the world. India’s Somdev Devvarman climbs two to 122 and Canada’s Frank Dancevic is down nine to 132. Australians Carsten Ball and Chris Guccione also saw falls this week, five and 12 respectively.

*In the doubles rankings (16/11) Canada’s Daniel Nestor extends his lead as the world’s No. 1 but there are no other changes for the other Commonwealth players ranked in to Top 10. Australia’s Paul Hanley is down a place to 28 while his compatriot Jordan Kerr climbs one to 30. Fellow Aussie Ashley Fisher is down two to 43. Despite falling in the singles rankings Carsten Ball is up one to 57 and Chris Guccione drops to 66. Following their recent leaps and bounds up the rankings Britain’s Ken Skupski (3) and Colin Fleming (4) see falls in their rankings. Countryman Jonathan Marray drops one to 92. Pakistan’s Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi sees a jump of six and is now ranked at 60. Jeff Coetzee of South Africa sees the biggest fall of all as he drops 12 to 68 while Rohan Bopanna of India climbs five to 90.

*The final WTA rankings for 2009 have been decided following the closing tournaments in Bali and Doha for the top players of the year. There were no Commonwealth players in the Top 10, Australia’s Samantha Stosur the highest ranked at 13. Canada’s Aleksandra Wozniak (35) is the only other player in the Top 50. Next up is another Australian, Jelena Dokic, at 57 while Sania Mirza of India is below her in 58. It’s been a bad year for British tennis but Katie O’Brien will be delighted to end the year as British No. 1 as her end of season form sees her end up in 88, one ahead of Elena Baltacha in 89. Anne Keothavong’s long injury sees her drop to 98 in the end-of-season rankings.

*The final doubles rankings or 2009 have also been decided. Australians Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs finish the year joint No. 7 and Sania Mirza of India is the third-highest ranked Commonwealth star at 37. Canada’s Marie-eve Pelletier ends the year ranked 66 while her compatriot Sharon Fichman is 96. British No. 1 Sarah Borwell is at 76. Natalie Grandin of South Africa, ranked No. 78, makes it only seven Commonwealth players in the Top 100 at the end of 2009.

*In a review of the British sporting “crown jewels” which decides which sporting events are to be aired on free-to-air television, it has been decided that Wimbledon should be kept on the list beyond 2017. The review, carried out by the Independent Advisory Panel for Listed Events, always causes arguments between satellite broadcasters and sports authorities but it is no question that the British public will be delighted that the prestigious tennis tournament is kept where everybody can view it without subscribing to satellite providers. The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) has already expressed concern at the decision as they believe it hampers investment in tennis. It seems money truly does talk in all sports.

*Australian tennis fans are celebrating the news that former Australian Open finalist and crowd favourite Marcos Baghdatis will return to play the Medibank International Sydney in 2010 alongside Aussie Lleyton Hewitt, Gael Monfils, Tomas Berdych and Stanislas Wawrinka. While at the Brisbane International, Frenchman Gilles Simon has announced he’ll begin his 2010 season by making his tournament debut. Both provide warm ups to the Australian Open.

*Former world No. 8 Alicia Molik of Australia won on her return to court in the first round of the Cliffs Esperance International. After a shaky start she saw of compatriot Monika Wejnert 3-6, 6-1, 6-1.

*The All England Tennis Club and the LTA have announced that the 2009 Wimbledon Championships raised a total of £29.2 million which will be invested in to British tennis. The aim this year is to improve tennis facilities throughout the country so that all communities have access to quality coaching and future players coming through the youth ranks will be of a higher calibre. It would also mean that top players like Andy Murray wouldn’t have to seek the level of coaching they require abroad.

*British tennis starlet Heather Watson has qualified for the Tevlin Challenger $50k event in Toronto, Canada, despite losing in the final of the Qualifying Tournament to American Macall Harkins. Two competitors from the main event have withdrawn allowing Watson to progress as a lucky loser.

*British No. 7 Jade Curtis reached the semifinals of the $10k AEGON Pro-Series Women’s singles event in Jersey before going down 4-6, 1-6 to No. 6 seed Matea Mezak of Croatia.

Tennis In The Commonwealth – Stosur on Verge of Top 10

By Leigh Sanders

Britain’s Andy Murray has offered his support to Andre Agassi after the former star’s revelations about crystal methamphetamine use in his autobiography. While other top players, such as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, have voiced disappointment at the news, Murray claims it has not ruined his views on his boyhood hero.

“I judge him as a tennis player; he was great, one of the best of all time,” said Murray. “I loved Andre, met him numerous times. I guess it’s something he has to deal with himself. He’s entitled to say whatever he wants and I wish him the best.”

Meanwhile, Murray tasted victory on his return to the court at the Valencia Open after he defeated Spanish qualifier Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-3, 6-1 in his first match in six weeks. It was Murray’s first appearance on court since Great Britain’s embarrassing Davis Cup defeat to Poland in September.

*A dozen WTA stars who have excelled on the international tournament level this season have gathered in Bali for the inaugural Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions. The draw on Monday split the stars in to four round-robin groups of three with Australia’s Samantha Stosur drawn in Group B alongside Maria Jose Martina Sanchez and Agnes Szavay. After the three competitors in each group play each other the group winner will advance to the semifinal on Saturday with the final held on Sunday. Depending on results this week, Stosur could realise her dream of entering the World’s Top 10 with victory in Bali.

*In this week’s ATP singles rankings (02/11) there was little movement for Commonwealth tennis players. Australian Peter Luczak continued his climb up the top 100 with a three place jump to 80 while his compatriot Chris Guccione jumped one place to 103. Somdev Devarrman of India climbed five to 116 while South African Kevin Andersen is up to 120.

*The ATP doubles rankings for November 2 see a little more movement for Commonwealth players. Daniel Nestor (Canada, 1), Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes (India, 7 and 8) and Wesley Moodie (South Africa, 9) all remain unmoved in their top 10 berths. Australians Paul Hanley and Jordan Kerr remain in 26 and 29 respectively while Ashley Fisher drops to 40 and Stephen Huss climbs to 45. South African Rik De Voest is behind him in 46 and Briton Ross Hutchins is 47. Fellow Britons Ken Skupski (16) and Colin Fleming (14) saw massive climbs to 50 and 53 respectively following their victory in St. Petersburg (see below). South Africa’s Jeff Coetzee dropped 21 places to 56. Jonathan Marray of Great Britain climbs one place to enter the Top 100.

*This week’s Sony Ericsson WTA Singles Rankings (02/11) see Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada fall from 30 to 34 while Australia’s Jelena Dokic has jumped from 64 to 57. British No. 1 Anne Keothavong now finds herself ranked 84 as she continues to fall during her period of injury while her compatriot Elena Baltacha also dropped one spot to 87. British No. 3 Katie O’Brien also dropped a place to 91 but there are now only a few ranking spots and only 63 ranking points between the No. 1 and No. 3 ranked players from the British Isles.

*In the doubles (02/11) The Australian duo Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs dropped from No. 5 to No. 7 this week while Sania Mirza of India climbed a place to 37. Canada’s Marie-eve Pelletier fell a place to 67 and British No. 1 Sarah Borwell was up three to 75. Another Canadian, Sharon Fichman, climbed to 97.

*The race for the final two ATP World Tour Finals places in London, England, later this month heated up this week. At the Valencia Open, Gilles Simon, Jo Wilfried-Tsonga and Gael Monfils led the French charge in to round two as they looked to make the Championships while the Spaniards Tommy Robredo and Fernando Verdasco also progressed as they look to secure a place. The Russian Nikolay Davydenko is also looking for one of those two slots and he is through in Valencia too, beating Alejandro Falla of Columbia 6-2, 6-1.

*In the doubles at Valencia, British-Australian pair Ross Hutchins and Jordan Kerr were knocked out in the first round by the in-form third seeds Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak on Monday. The match was closely fought and they eventually went down 4-6, 6-4, 10-6. The Czech-Slovak duo are one team with a chance of claiming a berth at the ATP World Tour Finals in London, England, later this month. In the quarterfinals they will face South African-Australian pair Jeff Coetzee and Stephen Huss who overcame Spanish wild cards Marc Lopez and Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo.

*British doubles pair Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski picked up their second ATP World Tour title when they beat the French pairing of Richard Gasquet and Jeremy Chardy in the final of the St. Petersburg Open. The win capped a memorable year for the pair who won their first title at Metz in September and followed that up by winning the ATP Challenger event in Orleans, France last week. They are expected to represent GB against Lithuania in their forthcoming Davis Cup tie.

*Aussie Paul Hanley has lost in the first round of the Davidoff Swiss Indoors Basel doubles with Swedish partner Simon Aspelin. The fourth seeds were upset by the South American pairing of Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa 5-7, 3-6. Canadian world No. 1 Daniel Nestor and his partner Nenad Zimonjic survived a scare against South Americans Lucas Arnold Ker and Fernando Gonzalez as they came from a set down to win 4-3, 6-3, 10-5 in the same competition. Nestor has triumphed twice here in 2003 and 2006 with long-time partner Mark Knowles. Wildcard home favourites Roger Federer and Marco Chiudinelli were also defeated in the first round. They fell to Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan and American James Cerretani.

*Another Aussie to taste an early defeat was Peter Luczak in the singles at the Davidoff Swiss Indoors Basel. The qualifier was downed by the Czech Jan Hernych who saved six break points to win through 6-3, 6-4 in 76 minutes.

*Jelena Dokic of Australia continued to show her fine form as she won her second ITF title in two weeks in Poitiers, France. She beat the Swede Sofia Arvidsson in the final. Despite a few setbacks this year including a back injury and a debilitating virus she has climbed from 198 to 64 in the rankings this year. “I’m very happy with the way things have played out these last three tournaments,” said Dokic. “It shows that my consistency is at a very high level and the fact that I can win so many matches in a row.”

*Britain was mightily close to more glory this week at the $15K AEGON Pro-Series Event in Cardiff, Wales. Marcus Willis and Dan Evans both reached the semifinals of the singles before losing to Yannick Mertens (BEL) and Henri Kontinen (FIN) respectively. In the doubles, Brits Alexander Slabinsky and Tim Bradshaw lost in the final to the Irish pair of James McGee and Barry King.

*Sarah Borwell of Great Britain partnered American Raquel Kops-Jones to the semifinals of the $100k Doubles Event in Ortisei, Italy. The No. 2 seeds went down 6-7(3), 3-6 to Tathiana Garbin (ITA) and Timea Bacsinszky (SUI), who went on to win the tournament.

*Christopher Simpson won the AEGON British Tour in Taunton after winning 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 against Artiom Kolpakov (LTU). He had beaten fellow Briton David Brewer in the semi final. In the women’s event, Jessica Ren triumphed over another British girl, Alexandra Walker 6-3, 6-3 in the final. She had beaten her sister and No. 1 seed, Jen Ren, in the semifinal.

*Marinko Matosevic of Australia was knocked out of the quarter finals of the Samsung Securities Cup in Seoul, Korea by The Dutch third seed Thiemo De Bakker. His compatriot Greg Jones fell at the same stage to Lester Cook of the USA. Moving on to the Flea Market Cup in Chuncheon, Korea, Matosevic has reached the same stage with victory over the German Matthias Bachinger. Fellow Aussies Greg Jones and Sadik Kadir fell in the round of 32.

*Hot Canadian prospect Vasek Pospisil clinched his third straight tournament win in Mexico over the weekend. The 19-year-old won the $10K event in Obregon to add to his two wins in September in Italy. In the doubles, he partnered Australian Nima Roshan to the Championship, beating Adrien Bossel and Julien Dubail 6-7(5), 6-3, 11-9 in the final.

*Young Australian tennis starlets Olivia Rogowska and Bernard Tomic have been nominated for the 2009 Sports Performer of the Year awards. Rogowska came perilously close to upsetting Dinara Safina in the first round of the US Open while Tomic is the most anticipated Australian prospect since Lleyton Hewitt.