Gaels Monfils

Murray The Man To Beat, Despite Column To The Contrary

Well, its all happening here in the desert – first Rafael Nadal going out to Gael Monfils, then Andy Murray comfortably disposing of Roger Federer. I was reading some  column by a guy from a prominent tennis website who says Murray only has a 25% chance of winning the Oz Open, and he couldn’t understand what all the talk was about Murray!

He said all of Murray’s off season training was just hype, and whats more, he’d only ever made it to the semis of a major ( now, there’s some accurate journalism….PS The US Open was the last major that was played! How does this guy think we can take his comments seriously!!!) and couldn’t be seen as the guy to beat.

Well hear it from me…Murray is the guy to beat at The Australian Open, he’s beaten all the top boys plenty now, and has learned a lot from That US Open FINAL. I know his “team” well and the off-season training was brutal….the kid is in good shape, and bar any injury, will be able to go the distance with anyone!

It is good to see Andy Roddick back in the mix again and I especially enjoyed his exploits at the net!

Enjoy….I certainly have enjoyed this week. These guys really know how to put on an event !!


Voo’s Semi Final Round Up – Paris

David Nalbandian advanced to the second straight Paris final after 6-1 5-7 6-4 win over former-champion Nikolay Davydenko. Nalbandian started the match very well and after winning first set easily, had a break up at the beginning of the second set. Davydenko quickly took a ribreak and the set was going to the tie-break. In the 12th game the Russian broke Nalbandian’s serve second time in the match and levelled up at one set a piece. Davydenko had 3:2 in the decider but since then Nalbandian won 3 games in a row (converted the only break point in the set) and held his serve at 5:4.

“Maybe I didn’t play perfect like yesterday or the day before,” Nalbandian said. “In the second and third set he started serving better, and the rallies were very good. He hit a lot of lines.”

In the second semifinal Jo-Wilfried Tsonga played a superb match against James Blake who needed to win this match to secure his place in Masters Cup. Tsonga hit 12 aces and never faced a break point. The Frenchman is now one win from taking the last Masters spot – his final opponent Nalbanian is in the same situation, so the final will have double importance.

“I came onto the court like a tiger, I hit at everything that moved and that made the difference,” Tsonga said. “I had to keep going forward, be more aggressive and start better than I did against (Andy) Roddick.”

Paris – Semifinals

(8)David Nalbandian (ARG) d. (6)Nikolay Davydenko 6-1 5-7 6-4

(13)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) d. (11)James Blake (USA) 6-4 6-3

Voo’s Paris Quarterfinals Round Up

It was a nightmarish day for the Parisian crowd because the two best players in the world, weren’t able to play their quarterfinal matches.

Former No. 1 Roger Federer pulled out from a match against James Blake due to a stiff back. Federer gave a walkover for the first time in his 193rd ATP tournament. “I woke up this morning and it did not respond to the treatment I had last night. As a precaution and because I would be unable to play at 100% tonight” said Federer about the injury. Paris-Bercy is the the only Masters Series event where Federer hasn’t reached a final, moreover he hasn’t played there, even in the semifinals (three times quarterfinalist: 2002, 2003, 2008).
Current No. 1 Rafael Nadal was forced to retire in his match against Nikolay Davydenko after playing only 7 games due to injured right knee.

David Nalbanian has still a chance to qualify to Masters Cup in Shanghai after beating Andy Murray 7-6(3) 6-3. Nalbandian is 17-4 in tie-breaks this year – the best ratio from all players (80 %). Murray has lost first match after 14 consecutive wins (the best series in his career). “I’m obviously disappointed to lose, but I’m glad that I played against a guy as good as him,” Murray said. “He probably returned better than me and created a few more chances.

In the most exciting match of the day Jo-Wilfried Tsonga overcame Andy Roddick 5-7 6-4 7-6(5) after 2 hours 48 minutes. In the final tie-break Tsonga was leading 6:2 but lost his challenge and quickly another two match points. On fourth match point the Frenchman came to the net and finished the rally with a gentle forehand-volley to notice 8th three-setter win in a row. Tsonga was better in aces (15-14) too. In the semifinal he will meet Blake and the winner of this match will advance to the Masters Cup if Davydenko wins over Nalbandian in the first semifinal! “I definitely had more than enough chances tonight, so this one will probably stick with me,” Roddick said. “Credit to him, he came up with probably six or seven volleys that were pretty tough on break points.”

Paris – Quarterfinals

(6)Nikolay Davydenko d. (1)Rafael Nadal (ESP) 6-1 ret.

(8)David Nalbandian (ARG) d. (4)Andy Murray (GBR) 7-6(3) 6-3

(13)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) d. (7)Andy Roddick (USA) 5-7 6-4 7-6(5)

(11)James Blake (USA) d. (2)Roger Federer (SUI) w/o

Voo’s Third Round Paris Wrap Up

No. 1 in the world Rafael Nadal has overcome second Frenchman in a row – after dropping 6 games to Serra, Nadal lost only five games to Gael Monfils (6-3 6-2) but the scoreline would have indicated much more one-sided match. Until 3:1 in the second set, Monfils had break points in 4 Nadal’s service games (twice 40-0) but couldn’t break the Spaniard wasting 9 break points in all.

Nadal will meet Nikolay Davydenko who destroyed 6-1 6-1 Tomas Berdych in a match of two former champions of  Paris-Bercy (Berdych 2005, Davydenko 2006). Davydenko extends his ‘head to head’ against Berdych to 8-0.

In a match of two Masters Cup contenders Andy Roddick knocked out home-favorite Gilles Simon 6-3 7-5. Simon bravely saved 4 match points in the last game of the match, but hit forehand wide on 5th match point for Roddick. “It’s always an honor to qualify,” said the American who secured his place at Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai. “I think this is six straight years, so that’s a good accomplishment.” Simon has to wait for quarterfinals’ settlements of James Blake and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. If they both win quarterfinal matches, Simon won’t play in Shanghai because Tsonga and Blake are in the same section of the draw, therefore one of them will play in the final.

In the similar situation like Simon is Juan Martin del Potro – he surprsingly quickly lost to defending champion David Nalbandian 4-6 0-6. Nalbandian has to defend his title to play in Shanghai. In the quarterfinal he faces Andy Murray who has been in tremendous form since Cincinnati. Scottish player defeated Fernando Verdasco 6-3 7-6(6) without facing a break point. Murray has won 25 out of last 27 matches!

In the only three-setter of the day, Tsonga ousted Novak Djokovic 6-4 1-6 6-3. Tsonga had problems with left thigh in the second set but in the second game of the final set played two amazing passing-shots, broke Djokovic and hold his serve to the very end, finishing the match with an ace. Paris-Bercy is the only Masters Series tournament where Djokovic hasn’t reached “last eight”, Tsonga has had perfect record (7-0) in three-setters since US Open.

Paris – Third round

(1)Rafael Nadal (ESP) d. (16)Gael Monfils (FRA) 6-3 6-2

(6)Nikolay Davydenko (RUS) d. Tomas Berdych (CZE) 6-1 6-1

(4)Andy Murray (GBR) d. (15)Fernando Verdasco (ESP) 6-3 7-6(6)

(8)David Nalbandian (ARG) def. (9)Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) 6-4 6-0

(7)Andy Roddick (USA) d. (10)Gilles Simon (FRA) 6-3 7-5

(13)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) d. (3)Novak Djokovic (SRB) 6-4 1-6 6-3

(11)James Blake (USA) d. Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) 6-4 6-4

(2)Roger Federer (SUI) d. Marin Cilic (CRO) 6-3 6-4

Voo’s Paris Second Round Wrap Up

Before the tournament 10 players had their chances to take three remaining spots for Masters Cup. After the second round three players dropped out from this competition, among them last year’s Masters Cup finalist David Ferrer who has completely lost his form in the second half of the year. Ferrer was able to win only 5 games on Wednesday in his second round match against Philipp Kohlschreiber. The German hasn’t lost a service game in two rounds saving 14 break points (8 against Youzhny, 6 against Ferrer). Kohlschreiber next meets James Blake. The American (10th in Champions Race) wasted a couple set points in the first set tie-break against Simone Bolelli but won the match 6-7(10) 6-3 6-4 mainly thanks to good serving – 17 aces (3 in the last game).

Robin Soderling who had the least chance to qualify to Shanghai, lost 8th match in a row to Roger Federer – this time 4-6 6-7(7). The Swede had two set points in the tie-break, first on his own serve but made a forehand error. Second set point Federer saved with forehand winner after a good serve.

The revelation of the last two weeks, Gilles Simon defeated second time this month Igor Andreev. Simon won 6-3 7-5 (despite 1:3 down in the first set and 0:4 in the second) and almost secured himself a ticket to Shanghai. Simon’s compatriots Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won second round matches (Tsonga from break down in the final set) and they have still a chance to play in Shanghai but they both need to win the tournament.

Defending champion David Nalbandian needed two sets (first set lasted 82 minutes!) to win a match against Nicolas Kiefer, setting up a third match within three weeks with fellow Argentine Juan Martin del Potro. Del Potro demolished Mario Ancic 6-0 6-4 – Ancic has lost set to “love” for the first time in career indoor.

“This is going to be the third time in three weeks, so that is a little bit strange,” Nalbandian said of facing del Potro again. “It’s going to be a tough one, we both know each other very well.”

Second Round – Paris

(1)Rafael Nadal (ESP) d. (LL)Florent Serra (FRA) 6-2 6-4

(16)Gael Monfils (FRA) d. (q)Juan Monaco (ARG) 6-4 6-4

Tomas Berdych (CZE) d. (12)Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) 6-3 7-5

(6)Nikolay Davydenko (RUS) d. (q)Ivan Ljubicic (CRO) 7-6(5) 7-5

(4)Andy Murray (GBR) d. Samuel Querrey (USA) 6-2 6-4

(15)Fernando Verdasco (ESP) d. Tommy Robredo (ESP) 6-2 6-7(6) 6-2

(9)Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) d. Mario Ancic (CRO) 6-0 6-4

(8)David Nalbandian (ARG) d. Nicolas Kiefer (GER) 7-6(5) 6-3

(7)Andy Roddick (USA) d. Feliciano Lopez (ESP) 6-3 6-4

(10)Gilles Simon (FRA) d. Igor Andreev (RUS) 6-3 7-5

(13)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) d. Radek Stepanek (CZE) 3-6 6-4 6-4

(3)Novak Djokovic (SRB) d. Dmitry Tursunov (RUS) 6-2 4-3 ret.

Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) d. (5)David Ferrer (ESP) 6-3 6-2

(11)James Blake (USA) d. (q)Simone Bolelli 6-7(10) 6-3 6-4

Marin Cilic (CRO) d. (q)Marcel Granollers (ESP) 6-4 7-6(2)

(2)Roger Federer (SUI) d. Robin Soderling (SWE) 6-4 7-6(7

Mondays With Bob Greene: Roger generates pressure just by being in front of you


Andy Murray beat Gilles Simon 6-4 7-6 (6) to win the Mutua Madrilena Masters Madrid in Madrid, Spain

Venus William won the Zurich Open, beating Flavia Pennetta 7-6 (1) 6-2 in Zurich, Switzerland

Lu Yen-Hsun won the Tashkent Challenger by beating Mathieu Montcourt 6-3 6-2 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Mara Santiago won the Internazionali Tennis Val Gardena in Ortisei, Italy, when Kristina Barrois lost the first set 6-3, then retired.


“The serve is the reason I won the tournament because today Gilles was hitting the ball better than me from the back of the court. He was obviously more tired than me. I didn’t play my best, but I’m really happy I won.” – Andy Murray, after beating Gilles Simon to win the Madrid Masters.

“I was really tired today. I didn’t move like I usually do and Andy knew it. He just wanted to kill me, just wanted to make me run.” – Gilles Simon, after losing to Andy Murray.

“I love the pressure. I need it in my life.” – Venus Williams, after winning the Zurich Open.

“It is tough to play against someone who serves like she did today.” – Flavia Pennetta, after losing to Venus Williams, who won one game with four straight aces.

“I was a little unlucky today. I had some mistakes with the backhand, which didn’t help. But I’m not surprised. He’s playing very well and with great confidence.” – Rafael Nadal, after losing to Gilles Simon in the semifinals at Madrid.

“Roger generates pressure just by being in front of you.” – Juan Martin del Potro, who lost to Roger Federer at Madrid.

“I didn’t play tennis because of money, that was never my drive, but I have been very successful. I’ve had an incredible run in slams lately that racks up the money and also the Masters Cup. There is a lot of money involved there.” – Roger Federer, after becoming the ATP career leader in earnings.

“I had no gas left in the tank. I am not a robot and after winning three titles in different time zones and climates I felt mentally and physically tired.” – Jelena Jankovic, after her second-round loss to Flavia Pennetta 5-7 6-3 6-3 at the Zurich Open.

“I think maybe mentally she might have been tired from all the tennis she played recently, but I also served better in the second and third sets than she did.” – Flavia Pennetta, after upsetting top-seeded Jelena Jankovic.

“The mental ability that I have at the moment is one of my advantages. What divides top players from the rest is mental calmness and an ability to cope with pressure in certain moments. … If you are mentally able to play the right shots at the right time, then your place is at the top. That’s the key of this game.” – Novak Djokovic.

“I have to do my things, but in Davis Cup he is the leader and he is the one that counts above everyone else. We don’t compete to see who is the best from Argentina.” – Juan Martin del Potro, after beating compatriot and seventh-seeded David Nalbandian 6-4 6-2 at the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Masters.

“For the last two months, I’ve been very serious. It’s all changing for me.” – Gael Monfils, saying his new approach to his career is paying off with victories on the court.

“We are going to deliver on our contract at Melbourne. We’ve had a great run, massive growth in Melbourne. Australia is really behind the event as a Grand Slam. It’s a good event in Melbourne.” – Steve Wood, Tennis Australia chief executive, explaining that the Australian Open will not move from Melbourne to Sydney.

“In my career I’ve stood here on the final day like this nine times now. Not a lot of weeks go by where everything goes right like this.” – Vince Spadea, after winning a Challenger tournament in Calabasas, California, his ninth tournament title in his 15-year professional career, eight of them coming on the Challenger tour.


Rafael Nadal will finish the year as the number one player in the ATP rankings, ending Roger Federer’s four-year reign. The Spaniard was guaranteed to claim the top spot at the end of the year when Federer lost in the semifinals of the Mutua Madrilena Masters Madrid. Nadal becomes the first left-hander to finish the year at number one since John McEnroe in 1984 and only the third lefty in the 36-year history of the ATP Rankings. McEnroe was number one from 1981-84 and Jimmy Connors finished number one from 1974-78. The first Spaniard to finish the year as number one, Nadal has won an ATP-leading eight titles in 2008, including Roland Garros and Wimbledon.


Svetlana Kuznetsova has clinched a spot in the season-ending WTA Championships in Doha. The Russian is the sixth player to qualify for the eight-woman field, joining Jelena Jankovic, Serena Williams, Dinara Safina, Ana Ivanovic and Elena Dementieva. The tournament will be held November 4-9.



Nikolay Davydenko is the fifth player to qualify for the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai, China. The Russian joins Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in the elite eight-player field for the November 9-16 tournament. Also qualifying for the doubles competition at the Tennis Masters were Mahesh Bhupathi of India and Mark Knowles of the Bahamas, along with Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay and Luis Horna of Peru. Cuevas and Horna qualified by winning the title at Roland Garros.


When Andy Murray beat Gilles Simon 6-4 7-6 (6) to win the Madrid Masters, he gained a spot into a pretty select group. Murray is the first Briton to win four ATP titles in a season and will be the first from Great Britain since Fred Perry in 1936 to finish the year as the fourth-ranked man. Both Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski reached number four in the rankings, but neither finished the year there nor won four titles and played in a Grand Slam final in one season.


For the first time in ATP ranking history there are four Frenchmen in the top 20 in the world: Richard Gasquet, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils.


If Novak Djokovic has his way, an ATP tournament will be held in his home country of Serbia. The reigning Australian Open champion said his family has bought the license to the ABM Amro Open, which has been held in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Djokovic hopes to move the tournament to Belgrade next May.


Roger Federer has another title in his trophy case. The Swiss superstar has become the all-time leader in career prize money earnings in men’s tennis, surpassing Pete Sampras. Federer, who has won the U.S. Open five times, has earned more than USD $43.3 million. Sampras has won 14 Grand Slam tournament titles, one more than Federer. Andre Agassi is third in career earnings with USD $31.1 million, with Boris Becker in fourth place on the career money list.


The United States Davis Cup team is losing its main sponsor. The Associated Press reported that insurance giant American International Group Inc. (AIG) will not renew its contract when it expires at year’s end. One of the world’s largest insurance companies, AIG was on the brink of failure last month when the U.S. government offered it a USD $85 billion loan. On October 8, the Federal Reserve agreed to provide AIG with another loan of up to USD $37.8 billion.


A former player will be Svetlana Kuznetsova’s new coach. The Russian star, who has been ranked as high as number two in the world, has hired world-renowned coach Olga Morozova. Kuznetsova had been working with Stefan Ortega from the Sánchez-Casal Academy in Spain. As a player, Morozova was runner-up at both the French Open and Wimbledon in 1974. She has coached the Russian Fed Cup squad and a number of other Russian players, including Elena Dementieva.


The Australian Open is staying in Melbourne. Organizers of the year’s first Grand Slam tournament said they will spurn an offer to move the event to Sydney when the current contract with Melbourne expires in 2016. New South Wales recently announced it was building a world-class tennis facility in Sydney and would attempt to get the Australian Open moved there. Although the tournament has been played in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth and even New Zealand since it’s inception in 1905, it has been played continually at Melbourne Park since 1988.


The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour is the recipient of the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Billie Jean King Contribution Award for its 35-year history of supporting equal opportunity for women on the courts. The award honors an individual or organization that has made significant contributions to the development and advancement of women’s sports. When the WTA Tour secured equal prize money for players at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 2007, it fulfilled a 30-year goal of parity.


When veteran Vince Spadea won a USD $50,000 USTA Challenger tournament in Calabasas, California, he moon walked to the net following the final point. Spadea’s 7-6 (5) 6-4 win over Sam Warburg was his eighth career singles Challenger title. Spadea has won once on the ATP tour in his 15-year pro career.


Madrid: Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski beat Mahesh Bupathi and Mark Knowles 6-4 6-2

Zurich: Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Patty Schnyder 6-1 7-6 (3)

Tashkent: Flavio Cipolla and Pavel Snobel beat Michail Elgin and Alexandre Kudryavtsev 6-3 6-4

Ortisei: Mariya Koryttseva and Yaroslava Shvedova beat Maret Ani and Galina Voskoboeva 6-2 6-1














(All money in USD)


$1,000,000 Davidoff Swiss Indoors, Basel, Switzerland, carpet

$1,000,000 St. Petersburg Open, St. Petersburg, Russia, hard

$800,000 Grand Prix de Tennis De Lyon, Lyon, France, carpet

$125,000 Samsung Securities Cup Challenger, Seoul, Korea, hard


$600,000 Generali Ladies Linz, Linz, Austria, hard

$225,000 FORTIS Championships Luxembourg

$100,000 Internationaux Feminins de la Vienne, Poitiers, France, hard

$100,000 2008 OEC Taipei Ladies Open, Taipei, Taiwan, carpet


Stanford Championships, Outback Champions, Dallas, Texas



$2,450,000 BNP Paribas Masters, Paris, France, carpet

$125,000 Seguros Bolivar Open, Cali, Colombia, clay

$100,000 Busan Open Challenger, Busan, South Korea, hard


$175,000 Bell Challenge, Quebec City, Quebec, hard

$100,000 Ritro Slovak Open, Bratislava, Slovak Republic, hard

Surprising Win For Igor Kunitsyn At Kremlin Cup


Igor Kunitsyn won his first ATP tournament overcoming his compatriot Marat Safin 7-6(6) 6-7(4) 6-3. There were no breaks of serve in the first set. Safin was leading 3:0 in the tie-break but the next 4 points won Kunitsyn who had setpoint on his own serve at 6:5. Safin managed to save first set point after long rally but wasn’t able to save another one on his own serve albeit the umpire Carlos Bernardes had announced “7 all” before Kunitsyn took the challenge which overruled the umpire’s decision. In the second set Kunitsyn broke Safin’s serve to lead 3:2 but lost his own serve in the following game. The set went to another tie-break which was comfortable won by Safin. At the beginning of the deciding set Kunitsyn had cramps but after an intervention of a trainer broke Safin’s serve in the 6th game and held his serve to the very end finishing the tournament with an ace. Kunitsyn looked like a surprsining man after that and his statement after the final proves it:  “I was hoping to win a couple of games and that’s it. I still don’t know how I was able to outplay Marat, but I guess it happens. I still don’t understand how I won.” Safin hasn’t won a tournament since Australian Open 2005.


Robin Soderling didn’t lose a service game on route to final but Nalbandian broke him in the opening game of the final after controversial desicion of the umpire Pascal Maria. Soderling lost his confidence and the match was going to easy win for the Argentinian. Nalbandian was leading 6-2 3:1 (30-15) but Soderling who had been supporting by the local fans leveled up in the 8th game and won the second set at first set point with stunning forehand passing-shot. The Swede was leading 3:2 in the decider but Nalbandian since then won 4 consecutive games to capture 9th title in 17 career finals. Soderling  has lost three finals this year, all of them indoors. “It was great,” Nalbandian said. “The conditions are perfect to play indoors. It could be faster or slower. I adapt my game to play here and I really like it.” Nalbandian leads 5-1 against Soderling.


Playing 16th ATP tournament in career, Philipp Petzschner won maiden ATP title with convincing 6-4 6-4 over Gael Monfils. The German has been the 3rd qualifier this year (after Nishikori and Simon) who won an ATP title. Monfils has lost 5 finals in a row, three of them indoors.

Kunitsyn and Petzschner join to the body of 10 first-time title winners in 2008.

Moscow – Final

Igor Kunitsyn (RUS) d. (7)Marat Safin (RUS) 7-6(6) 6-7(4) 6-3

Stockholm – Final

(1)David Nalbandian (ARG) d. (4)Robin Soderling (SWE) 6-2 5-7 6-3

Vienna – Final

(q)Philipp Petzschner (GER) d. (8)Gael Monfils 6-4 6-4

Marat Safin Reaches Finals With a Walk Over


Marat Safin advanced to the final of Kremlin Cup without the entrance on the court. Mischa Zverve gave him a walkover due to illness.

Fellow Russian Igor Kunitsyn won a semifinal match in his 6th attempt beating 6-4 6-3 semi-retired Fabrice Santoro. Kunitsyn 3 out of 5 previous semifinalas played in Russia, two of them in Moscow (2005 and 2006).

A Russian champion at the ATP Kremlin Cup is guaranteed for the 13th time in the tournament’s 19-year history.


In Stockholm’s final will meet two favourites to the crown: David Nalbandian and Robin Soderling. Nalbandian extended leading in head to head against Jarkko Nieminen to 6-4 with easy 6-2 6-1 win.

Soderling needed just 44 minutes to destroy Kei Nishikori 6-1 6-0. It was one of the shortest matches this year. The Swede as in his the quarterfinal, served 13 aces.”I’ve played better and better in every match,” Soderling said. “I held my serves easily and always had chances when he served.”


Monfils and Kohlschreiber played very dramatic, almost 3-hour match in their first encounter against each other. Monfils broke Kohlschreiber’s serve in the 3rd game of the final set after 10 deuces on 7th break point chance. Three games later the German broke back and was two points away from the final at 5:4 (30-30). Monfils broke again to lead 6:5 and was 40-0 up in the following game. Kohlschreiber with attacking game managed to save triple match point and the match went to decisive tie-break. Monfils held his nerves and won the match 6-4 5-7 7-6(2) converting 5th match point with excellent backhand cross passing-shot.

In tomorrow’s final the Frenchman will meet the sensation of the tournament 24 year-old Philipp Petzschner of Germany. Petzschner beat Feliciano Lopez 4-6 6-4 6-3 to become 4th qualifier this year (after Kei Nishikori, Kevin Anderson and Gilles Simon) who reaches final of an ATP tournament.

Moscow – Semifinals

(7)Marat Safin (RUS) d. Michael Zverev (GER) w/o

Igor Kunitsyn (RUS) d. Fabrice Santoro (FRA) 6-4 6-3

Stockholm – Semifinals

(1)David Nalbandian (ARG) d. (3)Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) 6-2 6-1

(4)Robin Soderling (SWE) d. (WC)Kei Nishikori (JPN) 6-1 6-0

Vienna – Semifinals

(q)Philipp Petzschner (GER) d. Feliciano Lopez 4-6 6-3 6-3

(8)Gael Monfils (FRA) d. Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) 6-4 5-7 7-6(2)

Dokic and Massu Take First Steps to Former Glory

Last week on the challenger circuit, two former top 10 players struggling with injuries and motivation took their first real steps to reclaiming their former glory, while two players on the men’s side continued their hot streaks on the circuit.

Jelena Dokic of Australia has had more than her share of personal problems. The former world No. 4 has defected from her family, switched nationalities several times, and attempted multiple half-hearted comeback attempts. However, it looks like that Dokic is serious this time around after winning her first event in six years at the $25,000 event in Florence, Italy, dominating Lucie Hradecka of Czech Republic 6-1, 6-3 in the final. The win moves Dokic up to No. 325 in the rankings (after just four tournaments) and she has contacted the All England Club for a qualifying wild card into Wimbledon.

At the $75,000 event in Zagreb, Croatia, Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden won her first title of the year by beating former Wimbledon quarterfinalist Severine Bremond of France 7-6, 6-2. The 24-year-old Swede, who has recorded high-profile scalps over Anna Chakvetadze and Marion Bartoli this year, used her aggressive groundstrokes to wear Bremond down throughout the match. Despite the loss, Bremond has been on a hot streak as of late with a 10-4 record on the challenger circuit in her last four events.

At the $50,000 tournament in Jounieh, Lebanon, players had to endure the fighting that has plagued the country, confining them to their hotel rooms and the tennis courts for the week. Anne Keothavong of Great Britain weathered her surroundings and won the first clay court of her career, defeating Lourdes Dominguez-Lino of Spain 6-4, 6-1. The win moved Keothavong up to a career high ranking of No. 102 and allows her direct entry into Wimbledon this summer. The last British player to get direct entry into Wimbledon was Samantha Smith in 1999.

In other results on the women’s side, Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium won the $50,000 event in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida. Petra Cetkovska of Czech Republic prevailed at the $50,000 challenger in Bucharest, Romania, and Tomoko Yonemura of Japan won at the $50,000 challenger in Fukuoka, Japan. Ksenia Milevskaya of Belarus won at the $25,000 challenger in Antalya, Turkey, Yan Ze-Xie of China took home the winners trophy at the $25,000 event in Changwon, Korea, and Mariana Duque-Marino of Colombia prevailed at the $25,000 event in Irapuato, Mexico.

On the men’s side, it’s been a while since we heard from Nicolas Massu. The former top 10 player and reigning Olympic gold medalist has been struggling with injuries, but took a step in the right direction by winning the $30,000 event in Rijeka, Croatia. His 6-2, 6-2 win in the final over Christophe Rochus of Belgium gives the Chilean his first title in over two years.

Ivan Miranda of Peru is continuing to ride his hot streak on the challenger circuit with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Carsten Ball of Australia at the $50,000 challenger in Tunica, Mississippi. Miranda has now reached the championship round in three of the last four challengers he has played. His experience clearly was a factor against Ball, who was competing in the first challenger final of his career.

Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil is a name that has repeatedly come up in this column, but it’s only a matter of time before he moves to the ATP Tour on a full-time basis. He won his fourth challenger title of the year (and third in a row) at the $42,500 challenger in Rabat, Morocco, rolling over Martin Vasallo-Arguello of Argentina 6-2, 6-2. Expect Bellucci to potentially do some damage at Roland Garros in just a few weeks.

In other results on the men’s side, Andreas Beck won the $42,500 challenger in Dresden, Germany, while Teimuraz Gabashvili of Russia won the $30,000 event in Telde, Spain. Jiri Vanek also won the $42,500 event in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

Fabrice Santoro of France highlights the challenger circuit this week as the top seed at the $75,000 event in Bordeaux, France, while Gael Monfis of France leads the way at the $75,000 challenger in Marrakech, Morocco. Several $50,000 events will also be contested this week; Robert Kendrick of the United States is the top seed at the one in Bradenton, Florida, Yen-Hsun Lu of Taipei will lead the way in New Delhi, India, and Denis Gremelmayr of Germany takes top billing in Zagreb, Croatia. Oscar Hernandez of Spain is top seed at the $42,500 event in Aarhus, Denmark, while Santiago Ventura of Spain is the top seed at the $30,000 challenger in San Remo, Italy.

On the women’s side, Petra Cetkovska of Czech Republic is top seed at the $50,000 event in Saint Gaudens, France. Melanie South of Great Britain leads the way at the $50,000 challenger in Kurume, Japan, Tetiana Luzhanska of Ukraine is the top seed at the $25,000 challenger in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Jorgelina Cravero of Argentina takes top billing at the $25,000 event in Caserta, Italy. Finally, Renata Voracova of Czech Republic is top seed at the $25,000 event in Szczecin, Poland.

The Journeyman: Hamburg Memories

This week’s Masters Series tournament at the Tennis Club am Rothenbaum in Hamburg brings back some awfully good memories for me. I arrived there in May of 1994 from sunny Roma, ready to compete in the singles qualifying and the main draw of the doubles.

I signed in for the singles on a wet and rainy late Friday afternoon, and went back to the hotel, driven by a very pretty young German driver. Checking the draw out that evening, I found out that I had to play the tough and well-experienced former French Davis Cup player Thierry Champion. We played the qualies at a different club than the main site, and we played in the early afternoon, and I was dismantled rather easily in straight sets by the clay court specialist. (Incidentally, Champion is currently a well respected coach of the young upstart French player Gael Monfils.) To cool off my sorrows, I headed to a local tavern and had a bratwurst and a Heffeweisen beer.

What made Hamburg a tough tournament was the heavy and often wet conditions. At that time of year, Spring is in its very early stages in northern Germany and the weather can be horrendous. When the weather was nice, I always enjoyed my morning runs around the beautiful lake that is close to the tournament hotel.

During this memorable week, I had the pleasure of practicing with Boris Becker at one of the practice courts. We played a few baseline games to eleven, and I was very nervous throughout. I remember waiting for him to come to the courts, and when he arrived, it was like the Pope coming for a visit. He was very amiable, and it was a sheer pleasure.

In the doubles, I signed up with South Africa’s John-Laffnie De Jager. He was an experienced doubles player, and I felt our chances were good. He has gone on to become the South African Davis Cup coach and he runs some great charity events in his homeland. We drew the German team of Dirk Dier and Torben Theine in the first round. We played well, and won 6-2,6-2. Dirk was a funny German guy, who loved the Fantasiche Vier band. I would later play German club tennis with him for TC Mannheim a few years later.

In the next round, we battled against the South African David “Chewy” Adams. He was nicknamed this due to his resemblance to the Star Wars character Chewbacca. He would team up with the Russian Andrei
Olhovskiy, a very stern looking KGB agent-lookalike, who starred on the Russian Davis Cup team. We went down 6-2, 7-6 on one of the back courts at the club. Overall, it was a great week on the tour, and one that I will never forget.

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