hotseat

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Wozniacki year-end No. 1, Courier new US Davis Cup Captain, Cash backing Rafter

Caroline Wozniacki

*Caroline Wozniacki has capped a fantastic 2010 by ending the year as the world’s No. 1 star after she defeated Franchesca Schiavone to qualify for the semifinals in Doha. Her 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory ensures she will stay ahead of Vera Zvonareva in the rankings no matter what happens from hereon in. She will be disappointed not to have broken her major duck and the old debate about “worthy” number ones has re-arisen, but she can’t have too much to complain about from this calendar year. She becomes the 10th woman to finish the year as No. 1 since the rankings began in 1975 and is the fourth youngest, behind Martina Hingis, Steffi Graf and Monica Seles, to do so. She had some words for her “worthy” doubters too: “It’s something I’ve dreamed about since I was a little girl and I’m really happy and really proud about what I’ve achieved this year,” she said. “To be honest, there will be always sceptics. There are always people saying you’ll never reach the top 10, never reach the top five and you’ll never win a big tournament. If you win a Grand Slam, people will say it was a lucky shot or an easy draw. For me, the most important thing is that I know I had a great season.” Zvonereva has also become the fifth Russian, after Anastasia Myskina, Maria Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Dinara Safina, to crack the Top 2.

*Jim Courier has been named the new US Davis Cup captain. The 2005 Hall of Fame inductee follows Patrick McEnroe who stepped down in September after ten years in the hotseat. “I definitely thought that being the captain would be something that I’d enjoy and now I get to see if I will,” said the two-time winner as a player. He also lifted both the French and Australian Opens twice. “There’s been a great camaraderie amongst the guys playing for Patrick over the past decade, and if we can keep that same spirit, I think we’ll have a great chance to win,” he continued. “There’s a lot of diversity in the squad. You’ve got veteran players, with Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish, the Bryans, and hopefully James Blake can get back in the conversation.”

*1987 Wimbledon winner Pat Cash has given his full backing to the appointment of Pat Rafter as the Aussie Davis Cup captain in his bid to lead Australia back to the World Group. “It came as a surprise to me because I didn’t even know Fitzy was moving on,” Cash told the AAP in an interview from China. “It’s always been Fitzy’s job, but I’m sure Pat will do a great job. I’m sure he’ll get the best out of his players. He played a lot of great Davis Cup matches and put his heart and soul into it and it’s always been a great Australian tradition to have great Davis Cup players as captains.” For the full interview, including his views on Australia’s reliance on Lleyton Hewitt, visit The Sydney Morning Herald website. Rafter also gives his views on the challenges facing him at Tennis.com.

*Roger Federer is now tied with Pete Sampras at fourth in the all-time ATP titles list after beating Germany’s Florian Meyer to lift the Stockholm Open. The world No. 2 said: “It’s amazing that I’m there where Pete’s ended his career.” He still has some way to go to be the best ever though. Jimmy Connors holds the record with 109 titles ahead of Ivan Lendl (94) and John McEnroe (77). That was also his 50th win of the year, making him the fifth man since the Open Era began in 1968 to achieve this feat in at least nine straight years. “Early on, I think that feeling of wanting to prove yourself to the world and all the doubters is a very strong one,” the Swiss continued. “So you’re very aggressive in your ways of winning and not enjoying them. Today it’s much more of the enjoyment part because I don’t need to prove myself to anyone anymore, except to myself.”

*Britain’s top doubles pair, Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski, have announced they are splitting to “freshen things up” following a disappointing end to 2010. They entered the world’s Top 50 earlier in the year after reaching the final at Eastbourne but things have not gone so well since. However they have not ruled out playing doubles for Great Britain in Davis Cup. Fleming said: “We’ll always be friends but it will be best for both of us to freshen things up. We came through Futures and then Challengers to win two ATP titles, play all four Grand Slams and represent Great Britain in Davis Cup.” Skupski added: “Colin and I decided it was best if we got a fresh start with someone new in 2011. We have had a lot of success over our time together and we really have enjoyed it. Things have been tough for us over the past few months and we thought it was the best move for both our careers.” For reaction to the news check out the Lawn Tennis Association website.

*Juan Martin del Potro, Tommy Haas and James Blake have added their names to the list of confirmed stars for the 2011 SAP Open in Northern California. World No. 7 Fernando Verdasco, No. 15 Gael Monfils and current US sweetheart Mardy Fish are already confirmed as are Aussie pantomime villain Lleyton Hewitt, Sam Querrey and Japanese No. 1 Kei Nishikori. It has also been confirmed that two-time SAP Open winner Pete Sampras will return to play a special one-off singles exhibition against Monfils. “We are thrilled to welcome James Blake, Tommy Haas, Juan Martin del Potro and Pete Sampras back to the 2011 SAP Open,” said Tournament Director Bill Rapp. “Each of these players has had a tremendous amount of success here in San Jose and we look forward to having them back in the Bay Area.”

*Russian pinup Maria Sharapova and Sasha Vujacic of the LA Lakers have announced their engagement. It was confirmed by Sharapova’s agent; Max Eisenbud.

*Strange injury alert. Andy Murray has strained a tendon in his hand playing Playstation, according to the Daily Express. “I just lost 1 match to dani [Vallerdu] at the new pro evolution and I think I broke my hand!” Murray wrote on his Twitter account. “Icing the hand… over playstation [-] time to grow up andy!” Murray was at home in Dunblane where he was acting as best man at older brother Jamie’s wedding to his fiancée, Alejandra Gutierrez.

*Roger Federer has revamped and re-launched his official website with clearer images and a more user-friendly interface. www.rogerfederer.com is hugely popular with over 310,000 registered members and almost 3.5m visitors so far during 2010. “It is fantastic to have such a great fan following in the ‘real’ world as well as on the web,” said Federer. “It is because of this that I decided that it would be important for me to give my loyal fans something new and exciting,”

*Austrian former world No. 1 Thomas Muster’s return to the ATP Tour after 11 years was short, but certainly not very sweet. The 43-year-old French Open winner (1995) went down 2-6, 6-7(5) to by the world No. 157 and party pooper Andreas Haider-Maurer. “I don’t want to define my goals,” he said afterwards. “There is no pressure of getting into the top 10. It’s about enjoying tennis. In ’99, I hated tennis, now I love it.” He seemed to struggle at times on the hard court having achieved most of his success on clay but he added: “There was more in it if I could have played more aggressively in the first set. In the second, I managed to dictate the pace of the game sometimes.”

*Readers of AskMen.com have voted Rafa Nadal the second most influential athlete in the world. More than 16 million readers visit the website monthly and Nadal was voted 15th in their Top 49 Most Influential Men poll for 2010. Only New Orleans’ Superbowl-winning Quaterback Drew Brees (6th) was higher. Nadal finished above actors George Clooney (18th) and Leonardo DiCaprio (43rd) as well as even the US President Barack Obama (21st). The complete roster and nominee profiles can be found at www.askmen.com.

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