Lindstedt-Tecau and Matkowski-Fyrstenberg Wins Signal Shift in the Doubles Landscape

Former Grand Slam titlists should have the upper hand against doubles teams that have had to scrape and claw their way into qualifying for the World Tour Finals, right?

Well, no one told that to the duos of Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau seeded 6th, who beat the #4 seed Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes, or #8 seed Marcin Matkowski and Mariusz Fyrstenberg, who topped the #2 seed Michael Llodra and Nenad Zimonjic in opening round-robin matches.

Add to that the 5th seeded Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, aka the “Indo-Pak Express,” coming within points of beating this year’s French Open champs Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor seeded 3rd, and a major power shift could be on the way in doubles.

Among the top four teams competing at the O2 Arena in London this year, seven of the eight players have ranked number one at some point in their careers. And aside from the Bryans, the players on the three other squads have enjoyed success with others at the tournament: for example, Zimonjic and Nestor are actually the “defending champions,” beating none other than the tandem of Bhupathi and Mirnyi in the finals last year.

If there were an actual Hall of Fame for doubles, the players among the top four seeds currently would be first-ballot selections, no question.

Their challengers, on the other hand, have barely accomplished a quarter of what they have in terms of titles.

Still, though, that hasn’t seemed to instill any sense of deference among them.

Bopanna and Qureshi have actually beaten Mirnyi and Nestor twice this year, including last week on the way to the Paris Indoors crown, their first Masters 1000 victory. Lindstedt and Tecau showed no signs of nerves in their debut appearance at the year-end championships with the straight-sets win over the “Indian Express.” And Fyrstenberg and Matkowski snapped a three-match losing streak to Llodra and Zimonjic at a crucial time as every little point helps when it comes to getting out of round-robin play.

Fyrstenberg and Matkowski aren’t exactly strangers to the tour finals though, making their fifth appearance. But as long as the Poles have been playing together, they just made their big breakthrough at this year’s U.S. Open. There, they lost to Jurgen Melzer and Philipp Petzschner in the finals.

Also the winners of the Wimbledon title in 2010, Melzer and Petzschner are two of the only three players in the doubles draw who maintain top 100 singles rankings (Llodra being the other). It would be hard to argue against the impact of the workload: Petzschner made the final in Halle this year and Melzer reached his career-high singles ranking, eight, earlier this year.

The players at the top—together or with different partners—have won titles by the dozens, but the new crop appears ready to take over and start reaping its share of the prizes.

Tennis In The Commonwealth – Murray and Robson To Play For GB In Hopman Cup

By Leigh Sanders

Andy Murray and Laura Robson have confirmed they will represent Great Britain at the Hopman Cup, the official mixed team competition of the ITF, in Perth, Australia in January. Murray will use the event to prepare for the 2010 Australian Open. He is looking to improve his record at Melbourne Park and has decided to use the same tournament that Novak Djokovic (2008) and Marat Safin (2005) played on their way to victory Down Under. They will be the first British representatives at the tournament since Jeremy Bates and Jo Durie lost in the first round in 1992. Each match consists of a men’s and women’s singles and a doubles. The hosts will be represented by Lleyton Hewitt and Samantha Stosur. Melanie Oudin and John Isner have been confirmed as the American team while Russia will be represented by Elena Dementieva and Igor Andreev while Tommy Robredo and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez will compete for Spain.

Robin Soderling is a doubt for the ATP World Tour Finals in London, England, after the world No. 10 was forced to withdraw from his semifinal in Stockholm against Cyprus’ Marcos Bagdhatis with an elbow injury. The Swede would have made up points on the Spaniard Fernando Verdasco who currently holds the eighth and final qualification place for the Championships. Soderling has not yet pulled out of his scheduled tournaments in Valencia and Paris ahead of London hoping he will be fit to fight for his place in the end-of-season tournament.

The final line-up for the Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha was decided this week without one representative from the Commonwealth making the final cut. Jelena Jankovic sealed the eighth and final spot despite crashing out of the quarterfinals of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow and she joins Venus and Serena Williams, Elena Dementieva, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Dinara Safina, Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka in the battle to find the top player for 2009.

This weeks ATP singles world rankings (26/10) saw Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt climb two places to 20th while his compatriot Peter Luczak held on to his ranking of 83. Chris Guccione, also from Down under, climbed five places to 104th. Britain’s Andy Murray remained in 4th place and India’s Somdev Devvarman climbed three to 121st. In the doubles, Daniel Nestor of Canada remains No. 1 despite his early exit from Shanghai recently but Mahesh Bhupathi of India drops one place to 7th. Paul Hanley of Australia climbs four places to 26th after his finals appearance in Stockholm (see below) while South Africa’s Jeff Coetzee remains 35th after his semifinals berth at the same tournament. Australia’s Ashley Fisher is below him in 36th while Britain’s Ross Hutchins and Aussie Stephen Huss both fell this week to 49th and 50th respectively.

This week’s WTA rankings (26/10) saw Australia’s Samantha Stosur remain at 13 as she continued her climb towards the world top 10 while Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada climbed one place to 30. Another Aussie, Jelena Dokic, dropped to 64th and Britain’s Elena Baltacha jumped from 93 to 86 after her semifinal appearance at St. Raphael (see below). Her compatriot Katie O’Brien was also up one to 91st.

In the WTA doubles rankings (26/10) Australians Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs find themselves tied for 5th spot after Stosur jumped three places while Sania Mirza of India drops two places to 38th. Sarah Borwell, British No. 1 for doubles, jumps one place to 78th while South Africa’s Natalie Grandin is up two to 80th.

Daniel Nestor of Canada suffered his third straight first-round defeat with partner Nenad Zimonjic at the Bank Austria Tennis Trophy. The top two doubles players in the world fell to John Isner and Australian Jordan Kerr 4-6, 7-6(8), 10-6 in just over 90 minutes. It is the eighth first-round defeat the pair have suffered this year.

Jeff Coetzee of South Africa and Australia’s Stephen Huss reached the semifinals of the If Stockholm Open before going down to Kevin Ullyett and Bruno Soares. It was the 500th doubles victory for Ullyett making him only the 31st man in ATP history to reach that landmark. In the final they faced Australia’s Paul Hanley and Sweden’s Simon Aspelin. Soares and Ullyett won through 6-4, 7-6(4) to break the hearts of the Australian and the Swede.

In the doubles event at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow India’s Rohan Bopanna partnered Janko Tipsarevic to a semifinals berth where they were eventually defeated by Frantisek Cermak of the Czech Republic and Slovakia’s Mikal Mertinak. Metinak/Cermak went on to win the tournament and improve their chances of appearing in the doubles bracket at the ATP World Tour Finals in London, England next month.

Geoff Pollard has been re-elected as the President of Tennis Australia for another twelve months following this year’s Annual General Meeting held in Melbourne on Monday.

More doubles joy for Great Britain this week as Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski were victorious at the ATP Challenger Event in Orleans, France. They defeated the French pair of Sebastian Grosjean and Olivier Patience 6-1, 6-1 who had beaten another British pair, Jamie Murray and Jamie Delgado, in the semi finals to prevent an all-British final. In Glasgow, Scotland, Chris Eaton and Dominic Inglot picked up their third Doubles title of the month. They defeated fellow Brit Dan Cox and Uladzimir Ignatik of Belarus.

Peter Luczak of Australia was defeated in the round of 32 at the Bank Austria Tennis Trophy on the hard courts of Vienna by the Spaniard Nicolas Almagro. After taking the first set Luczak battled hard but it wasn’t quite enough and he went down 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-1.

Rising teenage star Bernard Tomic of Australia will warm up for the 2010 Australian Open by partnering Aussie tennis legend Pat Cash at the World Tennis Challenge in Adelaide next January. The novel tournament, which concludes just four days before the Open begins, sees a retired tennis star partner a modern-day pro in a team format. The 17-year-old Tomic will represent Australia with Cash, 27 years his senior. Representing America will be John McEnroe and Robby Ginepri, while Henri Leconte will represent Europe with an unconfirmed teammate. Finally, world No. 14 Radek Stepanek will head the Internationals team with an unconfirmed retired player.

Britain’s Elena Baltacha reached the semifinals of the $50k Event in St. Raphael, France before going down to the No. 3 seed Sandra Zahlavova of the Czech Republic. Meanwhile in Glasgow, Scotland, Melanie South was defeated in the final of the AEGON Pro-Series Event. 5th seed Johanna Larsson of Sweden was too much for the British No. 4, winning in three sets. But South made amends in the doubles, teaming with Emma Laine of Finland to defeat the Mayr sisters of Italy 6-3, 6-2 and bring home the Championship. Future tennis starlet Heather Watson crashed out of the first round of the singles, going down 6-2, 2-6, 7-6(2) to Tunisian veteran Selima Sfar.

Tennis Canada has announced that former Chairman Harold P. Milavsky will be inducted in to the Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame in the Builder category with a dinner in his honour on December 3rd at the Glencoe Club in Calgary.

Davis Cuppers refuse to play under Paes

Written by Prajwal Hegde

BANGALORE, February 23: In a letter that is bound to strike Indian tennis at its roots, three of the four players on the Davis Cup team have written to the All India Tennis Association stating in no uncertain manner that they will not play under the captaincy of Leander Paes.According to sources close to the team, the letter addressed to AITA secretary Anil Khanna was signed by Prakash Amritraj, Rohan Bopanna, Mahesh Bhupathi and Karan Rastogi, currently not in the team.

Things came to a head during the country’s Cup opener against Uzbekistan in New Delhi in February when Paes questioned the professionalism of his number one player Prakash Amritraj during the tie.

The letter concluded with the players saying, “We are not prepared to play Davis Cup if Leander is the captain. Sorry it had to come to this but up until now we did not have the courage to say anything and it only has gone from bad to worse.”

Confirming having sent the letter, Amritraj told TOI from Los Angeles, “Playing Davis Cup for India is our greatest joy. We live for these ties, and through the year we prepare ourselves so we can peak for these occasions. He (Paes) has basically killed that joy for us.”

It is believed that Amritraj along with Bopanna, India No. 2, decided amongst themselves before approaching the rest of the team to address the issue. In the letter against Paes, some of the factors mentioned are:

  1. No support or communication through the year even when Paes is playing the same tournaments as Amritraj or Bopanna.
  2. A lack of confidence in Paes’ decision-making powers, as in the case of his decision not to play Amritraj on day one of the tie vs Uzbekistan, saying that Amritraj had a stomach sickness, even though he had stated that he was fit and ready to play.
  3. Lack of comfort with Paes on the captain’s chair during singles matches, mainly because he was not in sync with the players’ thinking and strategy.
  4. Paes’ habit of repeatedly talking his teammates down to the media as in the case of Bhupathi during the Asian Games in Doha and Amritraj in Delhi.
  5. Paes’ lack of punctuality during Cup ties.