Ken Rosewall Arena

Mondays With Bob Greene: Andy Murray Fancies His Chances At The AusOpen

STARS

Andy Murray beat Rafael Nadal 6-4 5-7 6-3 to win an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi. Murray beat Roger Federer in the semifinals of the eight-player event.

Emirates Abu Dhabi Capitala Tennis

SAYING

“That’s what I’m aiming for. I worked really hard in November, December to give myself the best chance.” – Andy Murray, talking about his chances to win the Australian Open.

“I’m just not ready to play against the top-class competition in Hong Kong, although I remain hopeful for Australia where I’m the defending champion.” – Maria Sharapova, after withdrawing from a Hong Kong exhibition tournament because she is still recovering from a shoulder injury.

“Ken Rosewall is one of Australia’s sporting legends and without question one of the greatest tennis players of all time.” — Tennis New South Wales president Stephen Healy, on naming the Sydney Olympics stadium the Ken Rosewall Arena.

“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.” – Albert Costa, after being named to the helm of Spain’s Davis Cup squad.

“We have chosen two professionals with a lot of experience and long careers in tennis. The AAT based its decision on the technical and leadership qualities of the two coaches.” — Enrique Morea, president of the AAT, after Modesto Vazquez was picked as Argentina’s new Davis Cup captain and Ricardo Rivera was selected as his assistant.

STERLING START

It hasn’t taken long for Andy Murray to show he should be considered one of the favorites for this month’s Australian Open. Although it was just an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi, the Brit walked away with the USD $250,000 first-place prize after defeating Rafael Nadal 6-4 5-7 6-3 in the final. Murray also beat Roger Federer in the semifinals and James Blake in his opening match. It was Murray’s second straight win over Nadal and the fifth time he has beaten Federer.

SPOT TAKEN

Former Wimbledon semifinalist Jelena Dokic will be playing in this year’s Australian Open after winning a wild card spot in the draw. The 25-year-old Dokic was ranked as high as number four in the world in 2002. But a series of injuries and personal problems, many of them involving her father Damir, saw her ranking drop to 617 in 2006. Last year she won three ITF tournaments and improved her ranking to 179, her highest in four years.

SUPER MOM

Expecting her second child, Lindsay Davenport has taken herself off the WTA Tour indefinitely. The three-time Grand Slam winner learned she was pregnant just a week after agreeing to play in this month’s Australian Open. After returning to the tour following the birth of her first child, Jagger, Davenport won four of her 55 career singles titles. She also has won 37 doubles titles, including Roland Garros in 1996 with Mary Joe Fernandez, the US Open in 1997 with Jana Novotna and Wimbledon in 1999 with Corina Morariu. Her Grand Slam singles titles came at the US Open in 1998, Wimbledon in 1999 and the Australian Open in 2000.

SYDNEY STADIUM

Sydney’s 2000 Olympics tennis stadium has been named in honor of eight-time Grand Slam champion Ken Rosewall. The 10,000-seat stadium at Sydney Olympic Park will now be known as the Ken Rosewall Arena. Rosewall played in four Wimbledon finals during his career, with a 20-year gap between the first in 1954 and the last in 1974. He won four Australian titles, two French titles and two US titles. He turned 74 last month.

SPANISH LEADER

Albert Costa is Spain’s new Davis Cup captain. The 33-year-old replaces Emilio Sanchez Vicario, who stepped down after leading the Spaniards to their third Davis Cup title with a 3-1 win over Argentina. Costa, the 2002 French Open winner, played on Spain’s first Davis Cup winning team in 2000. He will make his debut as captain in a first-round World Group match against Serbia on March 6-8.

STEPPING UP

Little-known Modesto Vazquez is the new captain for Argentina’s Davis Cup team. The 59-year-old Vazquez replaces Alberto Mancini, who led Argentina to the finals in both 2006 and 2008, only to lose both times. Currently the development director for the Argentina Tennis Association (AAT), Vazquez played two Davis Cup ties for Argentina in 1968 and 1970. The AAT also selected Ricardo Rivera to be Vazquez’s assistant.

SET FOR AUSTRALIA

Two Americans have won wild-card spots for the Australian Open. Christina McHale will be making her first main-draw appearance at a Grand Slam tournament, while John Isner played in all four Grand Slam tournaments in 2008, losing to Fabrice Santoro in the first round of the Australian Open. The US Tennis Association and Tennis Australia have a reciprocal agreement to exchange wild-card berths for the US and Australian Opens.

SHARAPOVA HURTING

A shoulder injury is still bothering Maria Sharapova, who will be defending her Australian Open singles crown later this month. The injury forced Sharapova to withdraw from an exhibition event in Hong Kong, where she will be replaced by fellow Russian Anna Chakvetadze. Sharapova has not played competitively since pulling out of a tournament in Montreal, Canada, in July following a match in which she double-faulted 17 times. Medical tests found a torn rotator cuff tendon in her right shoulder.

SITE CHANGE?

Upset that a first-round Davis Cup tie was relocated because of security fears, Pakistani tennis officials are demanding USD $60,000 from the International Tennis Federation (ITF). Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) president Dilawar Abbas said the ITF last month gave his country the option of playing its Group II tie against Oman scheduled for March 6-8 in either Oman or Malaysia. Abbas, denying there are security issues in his country, said the switch will incur losses to Pakistan and the ITF should pay compensation. “If the ITF still wants to switch the tie, we demand it to be played on a neutral venue, either in Singapore or Malaysia and not in Oman,” Abbas said.

SERVING

China’s Peng Shuai has a new coach. She began training with Tarik Benhabiles last month in Florida and will continue to work together fulltime throughout 2009. The 22-year-old Peng had split with former coach Zhang Depei. Benhabiles, who reached a career-high ranking of 22nd in the world and represented France in Davis Cup, ended his playing career in 1992 and coached a young Andy Roddick. He has worked with other players, including Benjamin Becker, Ivo Karlovic and Gael Monfils.

STEFFI THE TARGET

Andre Agassi’s former agent and longtime friend has filed a lawsuit against the tennis star’s wife, Steffi Graf. In the lawsuit, sports agent Perry Rogers charges Graf, herself an inductee into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, owes USD $50,000 to Rogers and his Alliance Sports Management Co. for services outlined in a 2002 agreement. Graf declined to comment. Her husband released a statement saying he was “saddened and disappointed” by the lawsuit. When Agassi and Rogers split last October, both described the parting as friendly.

STAYING PUT

The International Tennis Federation has decided to allow Nigeria to remain in the Euro/Africa Group 3 Davis Cup competition. The ITF initially dropped the African nation to Group 4 when the Nigerian team failed to show up in Bulgaria last March for their tie. But the ITF reversed its decision when it learned that the Bulgarian Embassy in Lagos, Nigeria, refused to give visas to the Nigerian team.

STEPPING DOWN

Oded Yaakov has stepped down as captain of Israel’s Fed Cup team, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family. However, Yaakov has not ruled out the possibility of coaching the national team again in the future. “When you have the soul of a coach, you’re wired with an element of competitiveness and adrenaline,” Yaakov said. “These are traits that stay with you, and you can’t get rid of them. I’m sure I’ll feel them again, and that’s why I’m not ruling out returning to the [Fed Cup] team sometime in the future.”

SAD NEWS

Former USA Davis Cup captain George MacCall is dead at the age of 90. MacCall directed the American Davis Cup teams in 1965-67 that featured Arthur Ashe, Dennis Ralston and Marty Riessen. He is credited with pushing through a rule that allowed the players to be paid USD $28 a day for expenses. MacCall, who won USA senior titles as a player, organized the National Tennis League in 1967 and signed Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Pancho Gonzalez, Fred Stolle among others. He also signed women players, including Billie Jean King, Rosie Casals, Ann Jones and Francoise Durr, helping force tennis into the Open Era.

SITES TO SURF

Doha: www.qatartennis.org

Brisbane: www.brisbaneinternational.com.au/

Chennai: www.chennaiopen.org/

Auckland: www.asbclassic.co.nz

Sao Paulo: www.abertosp.com.br/

Sydney: www.Medibankinternational.com.au

Hobart: www.hobartinternational.com.au

Australian Open: www.australianopen.com/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

ATP

$1,110,250 Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Doha, Qatar, hard

$484,750 Brisbane International, Brisbane, Australia, hard

$450,000 Chennai Open, Chennai, India, hard

$100,000 Prime Aberto de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil, hard

WTA TOUR

$220,000 Brisbane International, Brisbane, Australia, hard

$220,000 ASB Classic, Auckland, New Zealand, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT 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