ASB Classic

Page 1 of 11

Running Commentary In A Moment In Time At The ASB Classic In Auckland

Venus Williams

By Thaddeus McCarthy

By Dear Fans,

As I am sitting right now in the media box at the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, I thought that now would be a good time to do some running commentary. Now obviously this article will come out after these matches have been completed, so this is out-of-date technically. But I feel that right at this moment this is a useful conversation to have.

As I write this, the match-up between Ana Ivanovic and Kurumi Nara, the world no. 16 vs no. 81, has just ended. Ana Ivanovic has taken the match 6-2, 6-3. The crowd seated, of which there is about 1,300, got to enjoy some wonderful rallies at the end of the match. A favourite of mine was one where Nara finished the point with a backhand drop volley. The match currently under way is between Lauren Davis and Jamie Hampton. Hampton would have to be the favoured one of these two, as she is about 40 ranks above her. Hampton has just broken Davis’s serve for the 2nd time, and the match stands at 5-1. The next match coming up is Garbine Muguruza vs. Venus Williams. No doubt who the crowd favourite will be in this one.

I think it is the common consensus with fans is that they do want to see a Williams/Ivanovic final, as these are the tournaments two biggest drawcards. There are many players who will be doing their best to stop that happening, Muguruza will be no exception. The top seed, Roberta Vinci was knocked out in the opening round by a largely unheard of player, Ana Konjuh. Seeing the form that Ana displayed in the last match I would highly expect her to reach the final stage. In the Hampton match currently into the second set, and with Hampton the superior player at this stage, I will assume that she comes out on top here. She will move on from this to face Venus in the semi-finals. Venus will find it tough going against Hampton, and I think we can look forward to a very good match tomorrow. In the other semi-final we will see Ivanovic face off against Kirsten Flipkens. My expectation for this match is that Ivanovic will come out ahead, watching the Flipkens quarter-final I noticed that she does not have a top spin backhand shot. I would think that this weakness could leave her open. Time will tell.

In the doubles, we are seeing a similar pattern emerging, although somewhat more pronounced. The top seeds, Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Safarova were knocked out in the quarter-finals. The only one’s of the top four seeds remaining are the fourth seeds, Mona Barthel and Megan Moulton-Levy. Again, time will tell whether the top seeds can make it through to the final and become champions. Although I think that is good to have diversity when it comes to tournament winners on the ATP and WTA, I think it is also good to have a strong bunch of players at the top. Much of the hype around the men’s game currently has been to do with having the ‘Big Four’ rivalry. The problem with the women’s game worldwide currently has been that there is not really a strong group of players at the top. Lets hope that the womens game in 2014 will see a very strong bunch of players emerging at the top.

It is my hope that the ASB Classic will set the tone for a great year of women’s tennis in 2014!

ASB Classic Semifinal Showdown with Pennetta, Kuznetsova, Kerber and Zheng

Svetlana Kuznetsova

by Stephanie Neppl, Special for Tennis Grandstand

What a week we’ve had at the 2012 ASB Classic! One of the best fields in tournament history has been narrowed down to just four players: a German (but not the top seed Sabine Lisicki as expected), an Italian, a Chinese (but not the #2 seed Peng Shuai)  and a Russian.

To get us to this stage of the tournament, we’ve survived numerous rain delays which have done their best to complicate life for the players and organisers. One entire day of qualifying was moved inside, only one night session began on time and many matches had to change courts to accommodate the rain delays.

All that is a blur now as there are just two days to go. Today Lisicki injured herself during warm-up and battled hard against fellow German Angelique Kerber but she was forced to withdraw during the second set. It was not the ending she wanted, but the smiley Lisicki was hopeful the injury won’t affect her play at the Australian Open coming up later this month.

“I hope it’s nothing too bad,” she said. “I hope I’ll recover quickly and that a couple of days off will  be enough. I’m just hoping for the best.”

The highest seed remaining is Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova. The two-time grand slam winner has the goods but has lacked consistency for most of her career. She’s looked good in Auckland and hasn’t dropped a set in her run to the semifinals.

After her win over Christina McHale in the second round, Kuznetsova was asked if she thought she could improve on her career high #2 ranking. “I think I can do better. It’s definitely in my potential.” She will now face surprise semifinalist Zheng Jie of China who has won her past two rounds with ease.

The other semifinal is a repeat of a US Open quarterfinal match between Flavia Pennetta and Angelique Kerber. The Italian made the final in her last visit to the ASB Classic and will be keen to redeem herself after the German won that grand slam match to reach the semifinals.

Stay updated and catch all the great action at the ASB Classic!

(All photos © www.photosport.co.nz)

Stephanie Neppl is the Social Media Manager for Tennis Auckland covering the ASB Classic and Heineken Open. She is the author of the website I Have a Tennis Addiction and you can follow her on twitter @StephInNZ for further updates.

ASB Classic Preview: Lisicki, Goerges, Kuznetsova In Action

ASB Classic, Meet the seeds portrait session, 31 December 2011

by Stephanie Neppl, Special for Tennis Grandstand

The 2012 ASB Classic is underway and it’s lining up to be a memorable tournament with stellar fields in both singles and doubles.

Despite the withdrawal of drawcard Venus Williams, the singles draw is full of big names and big talent. We’ve got our previous two champions in 2011 winner Greta Arn and 2010 champ Yanina Wickmayer as well as former runners up Flavia Pennetta (2010) and Elena Vesnina (2009) all in the main draw.

Sabine Lisicki, who was forced to play qualifing in Auckland in 2011 thanks to an injury that saw her ranking plummet, is the top seed. Lisicki made noise through 2011 with two tournament wins and a semifinal run as a Wimbledon wildcard. The smiley blonde has raised the interest of many tennis fans who relish the chance to see her big serve in action.

The field also includes Chinese #2 Peng Shuai, who lost a heartbreaker to Wickmayer in the semifinals here last year; two-time slam champ Svetlana Kuznetsova and German Julia Goerges. Goerges made the semis in 2011 and had some big results, including two wins over WTA #1 Caroline Wozniacki. It will be interesting to see how she fares this year with as the 5th seed and a lot more expectation than a year ago.

 

Pennetta, the #4 seed, made the final in 2010 but didn’t return in 2011. She had some inconsistent results in singles last year but had some big wins in the second half of the year – Maria Sharapova at the US Open and Caroline Wozniacki in Beijing.

New faces to Auckland this year include Italian Roberta Vinci (seeded #6), young American Christina McHale and two-time grand slam semifinalist Zheng Jie.

The doubles draw includes reigning Wimbledon champs Katarina Srebotnik and Kveta Peschke and  reigning French Open champs Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka. Pennetta, who won the 2011 Aussie Open doubles title with Gisela Dulko, will partner Goerges in the doubles draw. Also competing are Elena Vesnina and Sania Mirza, who made the French Open final in 2011, and Lisicki and Peng are partnering up.

Follow the 2012 ASB Classic on www.asbclassic.co.nz, http://www.facebook.com/ASBClassic  and  http://twitter.com/#!/ASBClassicAuckl

(All photos © www.photosport.co.nz)

Stephanie Neppl is the Social Media Manager for Tennis Auckland covering the ASB Classic and Heineken Open. She is the author of the website I Have a Tennis Addiction and you can follow her on twitter @StephInNZ for further updates.

Mondays With Bob Greene: I am one of the top guys

STARS

Andy Murray won the Qatar Open, beating Andy Roddick 6-4 6-2 in Doha, Qatar.

Elena Dementieva beat Elena Vesnina 6-4 6-1 to win the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand.

Victoria Azarenka won the Brisbane International, her first WTA Tour title, by beating Marion Bartoli 6-3 6-1 in Brisbane, Australia.

Marin Cilic beat Somdev Devvarman 6-4 7-6 (3) to win the Chennai Open in Chennai, India.

Radek Stepanek beat Fernando Verdasco 3-6 6-3 6-4 to win the Brisbane International men’s singles.

Venus Williams beat Vera Zvonareva 6-2 6-2 to lead Team Americas to victory in the World Team Challenge in Hong Kong.

Dominika Cibulkova and Dominik Hrbaty won their singles matches as Slovakia beat Russia in the Hopman Cup final in Perth, Australia

SAYINGS

“I love my job. I love hitting balls, running and jumping, chasing after that ball. I love what I do, so I think that’s what keeps me motivated.” – Venus Williams, saying she has no plans to retire from tennis.

“Everybody says the third time is the charm, but for me it’s the fifth. I’m just glad I finally got it!” – Victoria Azarenka, after winning her first WTA Tour title in her fifth final.

“I am one of the top guys, but I don’t know if I am the favorite at the Australian Open. There is Roger, Rafa and Novak, who won last year.” – Andy Murray, after beating Roger Federer in the semifinals and Andy Roddick in the final to win the Qatar Open.

“He’s in top form right now. I think he is capable of winning the big ones.” – Andy Roddick, on Andy Murray’s chances of winning the Australian Open.

“My shoulder is doing great but I just started training a few weeks ago and I am just not near the level I need to be to compete at the highest levels.” – Maria Sharapova, announcing she will not be defending her Australian Open women’s singles title.

“I had an almost perfect start to the match and I played well on most points. I didn’t allow him to settle down.” – Gael Monfils, after upsetting top-ranked Rafael Nadal 6-4 6-4 at the Qatar Open.

“Today wasn’t my day. .. I knew it won’t be easy at the start of the season, but I am happy with my game.” – Rafael Nadal, after losing to Gael Monfils.

“I need more time to adjust, to get my rhythm and feel the court, feel the ball. You could see, I was very, very slow out there. My reactions were quite slow.” – Jelena Jankovic, after losing to Venus Williams in Hong Kong.

“I’m having acute pain in my left heel that flared up last week … I now need to fix this before playing any more tournaments. It’s obviously serious since I’ll even miss the Australian Open.” – Nikolay Davydenko, after pulling out of the Chennai Open and the Australian Open because of an injured left heel.

“It is probably one of my best wins, but best game I don’t think so. I have had some beautiful losses.” – Ernests Gulbis, after upsetting Novak Djokovic in the opening round at Brisbane, Australia.

“I have nothing to do with this. I’m Shahar Peer. I came here to play tennis. I know I’m from Israel and I’m proud of my country and that playing tennis is what I’m going to do tomorrow.” – Shahar Peer, rejecting calls for her to withdraw from the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, because of Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

“I’m sure it was a tough day for her because of the situation in her country. I just know she can play better tennis next week.” – Elena Dementieva, saying protests by peace activists probably affected the play of Israel’s Shahar Peer, who lost 6-3 6-1 to the top-seeded Russian.

“Our only previous encounter was in the US Open, where I lost a very tight match to him after leading by two sets. I was confident from the beginning and knew that I could beat him.” – Flavio Cipolla, after upsetting second-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka in the opening round of the Chennai Open.

“I got in trouble in Moscow … I wasn’t in the right place at the right time, put it this way. I won the fight. I’m good, I’m OK.” – Marat Safin, explaining his condition after media in Perth, Australia, reported that Safin’s left eye was black and he had what appeared to be a cut near his right eye.

“I kind of took it for granted, you know the tournaments and everything. Then once you stop traveling you have to face a reality that I can’t do this any more. I was lucky that I was so young.” – Sesil Karatantcheva, who at 19 has returned to the WTA Tour following a two-year ban for testing positive for steroids.

“I sent a message to him that I just wasn’t going to go away.” – Somdev Devvarman, who upset Carlos Moya in the second round at the Chennai Open, 4-6 7-5 6-4.

“It’s a long time. I was thinking about it when I came off the court. It’s showing I’m still there.” – Amelie Mauresmo, after beating top-seeded Ana Ivanovic 6-3 6-2 in the Brisbane International for her first victory over a top 10 player in two years.

SHARAPOVA SITS

Maria Sharapova won’t be defending her Australian Open women’s singles title. The Russian right-hander withdrew from this month’s Grand Slam tournament, saying she took longer than expected to recover from a shoulder injury. She said she didn’t begin training until a few weeks ago and is unable to compete right now. The 21-year-old Sharapova won her first 18 matches in 2008 and rose briefly to the number one ranking before she hurt her shoulder. She also withdrew from the Beijing Olympics and the US Open.

SERBIAN SICK

Jelena Jankovic pulled out of her only warm-up event before the Australian Open, citing the flu. Ranked number one in the world, Jankovic lost in straight sets to Venus Williams in her opening singles, then struggled visibly through a doubles match before pulling out of the event in Hong Kong. “I have been trying my best to get on the court, but I feel slow, I have no reactions and it has been a struggle for me,” Jankovic said.

SKIPPING MELBOURNE

An injury will cause Nikolay Davydenko to skip the year’s first Grand Slam tournament. Ranked fifth in the world, Davydenko withdrew from the Chennai Open, where he was the top seed, because of acute pain in his left heel. He said the injury also bothered him last season, but it became acute the week before Chennai. “I need to check my heel, and that’s why I’m going home to see what’s happening and what’s wrong,” Davydenko said. “The problem started last year, but I thought I could still continue playing. It was (painful) even when I played the Shanghai Masters in November.”

SUCCESS, FINALLY

It was the fifth time she had played in a final, but Victoria Azarenka came away with her first WTA Tour title, beating Marion Bartoli 6-3 6-1 at the Brisbane International. The Belarusian completely dominated the third-seeded Bartoli, breaking serve six times and needing only 71 minutes to wrap up the crown. “The way I was thinking on court was very different from before. I wasn’t thinking about the fact that I was playing in a final,” said Azarenka, who was seeded second. “I was thinking it was a regular match, regular points.”

SUCH SUCRE

Because of the global financial crisis, the singles finalists at this year’s Australian Open will find a bonus in their paychecks. Tournament officials said they are increasing total prize money for the event to $23.4 million Australian (USD $15.7), with the bulk of the increase going to the singles finalists. Both men and women champions will receive $2 million Australian, while the runners-up with earn $1 million Australian. Organizers had announced in October that they were increasing the first prize from $1.37 million Australian to $1.62 million, but decided to raise it again to counter the drop in exchange rates.

STAYING PUT

Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer refused to withdraw from the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, because of Israel’s invasion of Gaza. A New Zealand protest group, Peace and Justice Auckland, wrote to Peer asking her to withdraw from the WTA Tour event. But Peer said that while she is proud of her country, she takes no responsibility for her nation’s military action. She said this was the first time she had been the focus of protests and noted that she was the first Israeli to play in the Muslim country of Qatar, where she was warmly received. Yet she noted that the protesters had the right to express their view. “It’s their choice and they are choosing what they want to do,” she said. Peer eventually lost to top-seeded Elena Dementieva 6-3 6-1.

SEEKING THE TOP

Instead of considering retirement, Venus Williams says she wants to regain the top spot in women’s tennis. Currently ranked sixth in the world, Williams has won seven Grand Slam singles titles, including five Wimbledon crowns. “This year I feel I’m in a great position to move forward to number one, but of course I’ve got to do it, and that will be the fun part,” she said. “I will try to get there.” Dismissing thoughts of retirement, Venus said she plans on playing at least until the 2012 London Olympics. And she said she and her sister, Serena, will play doubles this year in all four Grand Slam tournaments. “We love winning those titles and I think if we could play more often we could just keep getting them,” Venus said.

SIGNED

Jelena Dokic has been named to Australia’s Fed Cup team, which has been called one of the strongest squads in recent years. Dokic last played for Australia in April 2000 against Russia in Moscow. Then, after her father Damir moved his family back to Belgrade in 2001, she played for Serbia-Montenegro in 2004 in the Europe-Africa zone. Also selected to represent Australia in the February 4-7 Group II round-robin competition at Perth are Sam Stosur, the country’s highest-ranked woman, Casey Dellacqua and Rennae Stubbs. Besides Australia, other nations participating will be Taiwan, India, Indonesia, Korea, New Zealand, Thailand and Uzbekistan.

SHIKHA GONE

Shikha Uberoi, who has played 21 matches for India’s Fed Cup team, won’t be allowed to compete this year. The reason? She’s a citizen of the United States, and new rules by the Indian government bar non citizens from competing. Uberoi says she’s “eating too many chocolates out of depression from not being allowed to play for India.”

SESIL’S BACK

At the age of 19, Sesil Karatantcheva says she feels like a grandmother. The Bulgarian has returned to the WTA Tour after serving a two-year ban for testing positive for steroids. Then 16, she tried to blame the positive test on being pregnant. Karatantcheva says it was her own stupidity that helped her make it through the suspension. “In my case, I had nothing else to do, so I just kept practicing. It takes to be kind of stupid,” she said. While she reached a career-high ranking of 35 in the world, Karatantcheva has never played many of the women now on the tour. “As much as I feel like a rookie, I feel like a grandmother on tour – you know, seeing all these 14- and 15- year-olds coming. I remember when I was 14, 15. They probably think I’m slow and old. But I still have some time left.”

STRAIGHT IN

Eight players have won wild card spots in the main draw of the Australian Open, including Yuan Meng of China, Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan and Adrian Mannarino and Kristina Mladenovic of France. Earlier, Americans John Isner and 16-year-old Christina McHale won wild-card berths into the year’s first Grand Slam tournament. The wild cards were granted under exchange agreements with tennis federations from the United States, France and Asia. Colin Ebelthite and former Wimbledon semifinalist Jelena Dokic won the Australian wild-car tournament. Istomin, who will be playing in his third Australian Open, is hoping for a better draw. He lost to Roger Federer in his debut in 2006, then to Lleyton Hewitt in a second-round match last year. Yuan qualified for last year’s Australian Open before losing to Serena Williams in the second round. Also awarded wild cards were Australian teenagers Brydan Klein and Isabella Holland.

SCHUETTLER HURT

Citing a wrist injury, Rainer Schuettler withdrew from his semifinal match against Somdev Devvarman at the Chennai Open. “During yesterday’s doubles match, I started feeling pain in my left wrist,” the German said. “As I warmed up for the semifinal, I wasn’t able to hit a double-handed backhand. I felt a strong pain. I would only be able to slice and I am also afraid that the injury would get worse.” A semifinalist at Wimbledon last year, Schuettler also withdrew from the Medibank International this week in Sydney, Australia.

SELECTED

Racquet Sports Industry magazine has selected Dave Haggerty as “Person of the Year” in its January issue. Haggerty is chief executive officer of Head USA, president of Penn Racquet Sports and just beginning a two-year term as vice president of the United States Tennis Association (USTA). Haggerty led off the magazine’s eighth annual “Champions of Tennis Awards,” which honors people and organizations dedicated to improving the sport and business of tennis.

SORELY MISSED

The father of former world number one Kim Clijsters is dead. Lei Clijsters was 52 when he died after a year-long battle with lung cancer, according to Derniere Heure newspaper. Clijsters played 40 matches for Belgium’s national soccer team, participating in the 1986 and 1990 World Cups. In 1986, Belgium reached the semifinals. He captained FC Mechelen when it won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1988. After retiring from soccer in 1993, Clijsters managed his daughter’s tennis career until she retired in 2007. Kim Clijsters won the US Open in 2005.

Sidney Wood, who in 1931 became the only uncontested winner of a Wimbledon final, has died in Palm Beach, Florida. He was 95. Wood won Wimbledon when he opponent, US Davis Cup teammate Frank Shields, was unable to play the final because of an ankle injury. Wood, who made history four years earlier when at age 15 he became the youngest male to ever play Wimbledon, losing in straight sets to French great Rene Lacoste, was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1964. He had been the oldest living Hall of Famer.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Auckland: Nathalie Dechy and Mara Santangelo beat Nuria Llagostera Vives and Arantxa Parra Santonja 4-6 7-6 (3) 12-10 (match tiebreak)

Doha: Marc Lopez and Rafael Nadal beat Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic 4-6 6-4 10-8 (match tiebreak)

Brisbane (women): Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Vania King beat Klaudia Jans and Alicja Rosolska 3-6 7-5 10-5 (match tiebreak)

Brisbane (men): Marc Gicquel and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Fernando Verdasco and Mischa Zverev 6-4 6-3

Chennai: Eric Butorac and Rajeev Ram beat Jean-Claude Sherrer and Stanislas Wawrinka 6-3 6-4

SITES TO SURF

Sydney: www.Medibankinternational.com.au

Hobart: www.hobartinternational.com.au

Auckland: www.heinekenopen.co.nz/1/home

Melbourne: www.australianopen.com/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

ATP

$484,750 Medibank International, Sydney, Australia, hard

$480,750 Heineken Open, Auckland, New Zealand, hard

WTA TOUR

$600,000 Medibank International, Sydney, Australia, hard

$220,000 Moorilla Hobart International, Hobart, Australia, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP and WTA TOUR

Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, hard

Mondays With Bob Greene: Lindsay Davenport Pregnant Again

Stars

Jelena Jankovic and Rafael Nadal have been named Player of the Year 2008 by the International Tennis Federation (ITF). Nadal becomes the first Spanish man to be named Men’s World Champion.

Nadal had a dream season in 2008 winning his 4th successive Roland Garros and a first win at Wimbledon in an epic final versus Roger Federer.

Jankovic becomes the first Serbian woman to win the Singles World Champion after she managed to keep top spot in a magnificent year. Jankovic reached her first Grand Slam final at the US Open and won more matches than any other player. She managed to capture 4 titles in respectively Rome, Beijing, Stuttgart and Moscow.

Sponsorships

Volvo Car India has announced that they will be partnering up with the Chennai Open 2009. Volvo will showcase a luxurious Volvo S80 Sedan in a unique fashion. The car will be on the courts of the Chennai Open 2009.

A New Successor

Albert Costa has been named Davis Cup captain for Spain last Thursday. Spain recently won the Davis Cup last month beating Argentina in the finals.

Costa, 33, is the successor for Emilio Sanchez , who stepped down after he led Spain succesfully to its’ third Davis Cup title beating Argentina 3-1.

Albert Costa was part of the team that won the Davis Cup with Spain as a player back in 2000. He has won 12 ATP singles titles including the French Open. Costa agreed to stay on for one year.

“I accomplished a lot of my dreams as a player, winning at Roland Garros and now I’ve managed another one, becoming captain of our Davis Cup team,” said Costa.

Lindsay Davenport is expecting her second child

She intended to play the Australian Open of 2009 but fate decided otherwise. Lindsay Davenport is pregnant with her second child. Davenport gave birth to baby boy Jagger back in 2007 and is said that she and her husband Jon Leach are elated with the news of the second child.

“I am thrilled that Jon, Jagger and I will be welcoming a new addition to our family this coming year,” said Davenport. “Of course this unexpected but exciting surprise now means I will be putting tennis on hold for the foreseeable future.”

Meningitis strikes Nadia Petrova

Nadia Petrova has been forced to pull out of the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand. Brenda Perry, tournament director for the ASB Classic, said that it was a shame that Petrova was unable to compete.

“I know she was looking forward to playing the ASB Classic, but in this situation she is obviously in need of medical care and our thoughts go out to her.”

The roof is on fire…again

Wimbledon will hold a small tennis event in May to test the new retractable roof over Centre Court.

“We need to get a capacity crowd of 15,000 people in there to recreate the conditions we encounter during the championships,” Johnny Perkins, a spokesman for the London club.

Former British No.1 Tim Henman is currently helping the club with preparations. An actual lineup of players for the event will be announced later.

The retractable roof took three years to build.

Sites to surf:

ATP Tour: http://www.atptennis.com/

WTA Tour: http://www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/1/

Women’s Tennis Blog: http://www.womenstennisblog.com/

On the Baseline: http://www.onthebaseline.com/

Page 1 of 11