Dusan Vemic

St. Louis Aces win WTT Western Conference title, to face Washington Kastles in WTT finals

The St. Louis Aces are headed to the World TeamTennis Finals for the first time in 15 years after narrowly defeating the Sacramento Capitals 20-19 to win the WTT Western Conference title on Saturday evening at the Family Circle Tennis Center in Charleston, S.C.   The Aces advance to Sunday’s WTT Finals presented by GEICO to face the Eastern Conference Champion Washington Kastles for the King Trophy at 5 p.m. ET.

The last time Sacramento and St. Louis played each other on July 13, it took a Supertiebreaker to decide the match.  Once again, these Western Conference rivals kept it close throughout Saturday’s Western Conference Championship match, splitting the first two sets of singles.

Dusan Vemic gave Sacramento an early lead with a 5-3 singles victory over St. Louis’ Roman Borvanov.  St. Louis took over the lead when Tamira Paszek ran past Vania King of Sacramento in women’s singles 5-1.

The Capitals men’s doubles team was only ranked No. 8 during the regular season but they turned up the heat as Mark Knowles and Vemic beat the Aces’ Borvanov and 2011 Male Rookie of the Year Jean-Julien Rojer, 5-3, to even the score at 11-11 at half.

King and Yasmin Schnack upset 2011 WTT Female MVP Liezel Huber and Paszek in women’s doubles in a tight 5-4 set, giving the Capitals a one point lead, 16-15, heading into the final set of mixed doubles.

Huber and Rojer got the only service break of the final set and wrapped up a 5-3 victory over Knowles and King when King’s shot sailed wide on match point.

“Every point, every game counts (in WTT),” said Huber.  “I wanted to win so bad for my team and St. Louis tonight.”  Huber said not to count out the Aces in the Finals against the Kastles, who have yet to lose a match this season.  “They are a great team but we start from scratch tomorrow,” she said.  “We have nothing to lose.”

The Aces will face the undefeated Washington Kastles in the WTT Finals on Sunday, July 24 at 5 p.m. ET.  With a victory, the Kastles would become the first team in WTT history to complete a perfect season.  The Aces are vying for their first WTT title since they won their only Championship in 1996.  The Finals will be televised live on Tennis Channel and live streamed on http://video.wtt.com.

FINAL RESULTS FROM THE WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH:

(Home teams in capital letters)

ST LOUIS ACES def. Sacramento Capitals 20-19

Men’s Singles – Dusan Vemic (Capitals) def. Roman Borvanov (Aces) 5-3

Women’s Singles – Tamira Paszek (Aces) def. Vania King (Capitals) 5-1

Men’s Doubles – Mark Knowles\Dusan Vemic (Capitals) def. Roman Borvanov\Jean-Julien Rojer (Aces) 5-3

Women’s Doubles – Yasmin Schnack\Vania King (Capitals) def. Liezel Huber\Tamira Paszek (Aces) 5-4

Mixed Doubles – Jean-Julien Rojer\Liezel Huber (Aces) def. Vania King\Mark Knowles (Capitals) 5-3

Next Match: 7/24/2011

WTT Finals presented by GEICO:  St. Louis Aces vs. WASHINGTON KASTLES, 5:00 PM (ET)

For live scoring and complete player / match statistics, please visit www.WTT.com

AROUND THE CORNER: ANDY MURRAY MAKES RETURN TO TENNIS COURTS

Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships

With Venus Williams successfully defending her title this past week, the pressure will now be on Novak Djokovic to accomplish the same feat as the men take to the hard-courts in Dubai. Djokovic is seeded second, but is the top ranked player in the draw, as Roger Federer has withdrawn with a lung infection. This year’s edition has a slightly tougher field than a year ago, so Djokovic will have to be on top of his game in order to repeat as champion.

In the top-half of the draw is Andy Murray who is playing in his first tournament since losing the Australian Open final to Federer almost a month ago. Murray will likely advance to face rising star Marin Cilic in the semi-finals.

The bottom-half is where we can find both Djokovic and Nikolay Davydenko who will also be entered in the doubles draw. Djokovic is paired with fellow-Serb Dusan Vemic while Davydenko is teamed with compatriot Igor Kunitsyn. This is a rare treat for fans in Dubai, as these two players do not usually partake in the doubles competition Also in this section of the draw is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who will threaten for the title.

One first round match to note is between eighth seeded Gilles Simon and Marcos “please keep your shirt on” Baghdatis. The winner will likely face Davydenko in the third round.

Absent from Dubai for a second year in a row is American Andy Roddick who withdrew a year ago due to the treatment of Israel’s Shahar Peer. This year scheduling has placed Roddick at back-to-back tournaments in the United States and he likely needs some rest to his shoulder before the Masters Series event in Indian Wells in two weeks time.

Also missing is Israeli doubles specialist Andy Ram, who a year ago was allowed into the United Arab Emirates to compete a week after the Peer incident.

Delray Beach International Tennis Championship:

With only a third of the prize money being offered compared to Dubai, the tournament in Delray Beach has a lower-ranked clientele yet there are still many familiar names floating in the draw this year. Good luck picking a winner from this group, as there are many players who are capable and several who have won this very event in years past.

Leading the group of former Delray Beach champions is number one seed, Tommy Haas. The German veteran has not had any note-worthy results thus far in 2010 so expectations are low. Haas won this event in 2006 but is 3-3 on the year and has failed to advance beyond the third round of any tournament he has entered.

Mardy Fish is the defending champion from 2009 and opens against Christophe Rochus. Despite being unseeded, Fish has a nice section of the draw and could get on a good roll.

Other former champions here include Xavier Malisse (’05, ’07) who opens against fourth seeded Jeremy Chardy, and Kei Nishikori (’08) who is making his return to the ATP Tour after season-ending elbow surgery a year ago. Nishikori opens against third seed Benjamin Becker.

Other names to keep an eye on include seventh seed James Blake who starts the tournament against fellow-American Taylor Dent. Finally an early round match where Blake should be considered the favorite, although Dent’s old-school serve and volley style is capable of giving anyone fits. Big-serving Ivo Karlovic is the tournament’s number two seed and should be counted on to win a few rounds as well.

Abierto Mexicano Telcel:

This week’s clay court stop on the tour is in sunny Acapulco, Mexico, where Nicolas Almagro is the two-time defending champion. Almagro will be looking for his third title in Acapulco in a row, while Tomas Muster has the all-time record of four consecutive wins from 1993 to 1996.

While the draw has not yet been released from the tournament, Fernando Verdasco is listed as the top ranked entry, with Fernando Gonzalez and David Ferrer also in the draw.

Nostalgic Streams of Consciousness

Mark Keil, tennis teaching pro out of Massachusetts enlightens tennis people about some tournaments around the globe.  The Canadian Open, which alternates each year between Toronto and Montreal , is a cool glass of ice tea on the road to the US Open.  The men’s event this year in Toronto is played outside of the city a bit, on a college campus.  I played one year with Gary Muller of South Africa and we played against Kelly Jones and Chris Woodruff of the United States. “The Mull” was a long-haired guy by way of Beverly Hills, where he used to live with the actress Ann Turkel and the late Richard Harris. He was the symbol of Hollywood on the tour, organizing great parties at most of the Slams. He would have a great one in Australia and the tour authorities finally had to put a crack down on them. He showed up with Juliette Binoche at Wimbledon. “Bones” Jones (due to his great tennis bedside manner) was a former All American out of Pepperdine and two-time NCAA doubles champion with two different partners. He eventually became No. 1 in the world, and married another former player Tami Whitlinger. Chris “Country” Woodruff is a good ol boy out of Knoxville and NCAA singles champion for the University of Tennessee. He was a firerce competitor, and would try and fool you with his naivete. We lost 6-7, 6-7. In ’93 in Montreal, I played with Stefan Kruger of South African. He played on a NCAA runner-up team under the tutelage of Dennis Ralston at SMU. He either played unbelievable or horrendous. We lost to England’s Jeremy Bates and Chris Wilkinson very handily. I do not remember that match ever happening. I do remember Martin Laurendeau always throwing a bi-annual function at one of the fine strip establishments in the city. All the players would go.

The tour stop in San Marino is a hot and humid adventure on the east coast of Italy. I lost first round with the South African by way of Dallas Bryon Talbot. The current player Dusan Vemic and Tomas Cibulec beat us in three sets.  In ’94, I played with Libor Pimek, the angular Czech who would do the splits in the eye formation parallel to the net and knock off the return. If things were getting tight, he would tell his partner before serving, “I just try to get it in the box.”  He was a former top 25 singles player, and played every week. We defeated the muscular Karim Alami of Morocco and Diego Nargiso (ITA) in the first round. Narg was a dead ringer for a Nicolas Cage look a like. We went down to the Olympic silver singles medalist for Spain Jordi Arrese and Renzo Furlan, who was born in Conegliano Venetia (Italia.)

The event in Posnan is a short train ride away from Warsaw .I was seeded No. 1 one year with Cibulec, a quiet lad. We lost to the wild card team of Dabrowski and Gawlowski, not related. I did a lot of two on one training to get ready for the US Open due to our early exit.

Have a great week and hit the courts!

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Date-Krumm Makes Inspirational Comeback in Gifu

Last week on the challenger circuit, a former top 5 player and the only college graduate mother on tour recorded impressive results, while two players on the men’s side broke into the top 100 for the first time this week with their tournament wins.

Twelve years after competing in her last professional singles event, Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan returned to the tour this week at the $50,000 challenger event in Gifu, Japan. The 37-year-old, who reached a career high ranking of No. 4 in the world, accepted wild cards into the qualifying draw of the singles event and main draw of the doubles event. Date surprised everybody by coming through qualifying and storming through to the finals of the singles draw. In Sunday’s championship match against Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand, she was up a set and 4-2 before Tanasugarn prevailed 4-6, 7-5, 6-2. However, Date won the doubles event with fellow Japanese player Kurumi Nara. Date will also play in the singles and doubles draws of the $50,000 event in Fukuoka, Japan next week.

At the $100,000 challenger in Cagnes Sur Mer France, Viktoria Kutuzova of Ukraine finally lived up the expectations placed on her as a can’t miss junior prodigy, winning the biggest event of her career with a 6-1, 7-5 victory over Maret Ani of Estonia. The win also places Kutuzova back in the top 150.of the rankings. Despite the loss, Ani has been riding a hot streak as of late, having reached the semifinals of the WTA event in Estoril, Portugal last week.

At the $50,000 event in Charlottesville, Virginia, Alexis Gordon of the United States won the first title of her career with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Olga Puchkova of Russia. The 25-year-old Gordon is currently in her debut year on the tour, having finished college at the Univ. of Florida in May of last year. She also took time off in college to give birth to her daughter, Imani, who’s now three years old. Gordon moves up to No. 374 in the rankings this week and she says that her goal is to make the cut-off for the qualifying at the Australian Open next year.

In other challenger results on the women’s side, Stephanie Vogt of Liechtenstein won the $50,000 event in Makarska, Croatia and Noppawan Lertcheewakarn of Thailand won the $25,000 event in Balikpapan, Indonesia. Jarmila Gajdosova of Slovakia won the $25,000 event in Gimcheon, Korea, and Augustina Lepore of Argentina won the $25,000 tournament in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico.

On the men’s side, Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil won the biggest title of her career at the $125,000 challenger in Tunis, Tunisia, beating Dusan Vemic of Serbia 6-4, 6-4 in the final. This is Bellucci’s third challenger title of the year and propelled him into the world’s top 100 for the first time in his career.

At the $75,000 event in Prague, Czech Republic, Jan Hernych of the Czech Republic beat fellow countryman Lukas Dlouhy 4-6 6-2 6-4 in the final. This was the first all-Czech final in the tournament’s history.

Stephane Bohli of Switzerland won the title at the $50,000 event in Lanzarote, Spain with a 6-3, 6-4 over Yen-Hsun Lu of Taipei. This is the first challenger title for Bohli, having lost in all four of his previous finals. Lu has been a strong competitor on the challenger circuit this year, reaching the finals of a challenger in Busan, Korea last month and winning the title in Waikoloa, Hawaii last January.

At the $35,000 event in Rome, Italy, Eduardo Schwank of Argentina won his second challenger title in the tow with a 6-3, 6-7, 7-6 win over Eric Prodon of France. The win also moves Schwank into the top 100 for the first time in his career.

Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden leads the way next week as the top seed at the $75,000 event in Zagreb, Croatia. Lourdes Dominguez-Lino is the top seed at the $50,000 challenger in Jounieh, Lebanon, and Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium takes top billing at the $50,000 event in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida. Challenger events will also be contested next week in Bucharest, Romania, Fukuoka, Japan, Antalya, Turkey, Florence, Italy, Changwon, Korea and Irapuato, Mexico.

On the men’s side, Donald Young is the top seed at the $50,000 challenger in Tunica, Mississippi. Michael Berrer of Germany is the top seed at the $42,500 event in Dresden, Germany, Sergio Roitman of Argentina takes top billing at the $42,500 challenger in Ostrava, Czech Republic, and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez leads the way at the $42,500 challenger in Rabat, Morocco. Challenger events will also be contested next week in Rijeka, Croatia and Telde, Spain.