Kremlin Cup

Andy Murray is three for three, Novak Djokovic is influential – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Three

That’s the number of titles that Andy Murray has won in as many weeks. It’s also his new ranking, as by completing the Asian hat trick with the prestigious Masters 1000 title in Shanghai, Murray was able to leapfrog Roger Federer in the rankings. With Federer having to defend his ATP Finals title, Murray is in a prime position to end the year as No. 3, which has been one of his goals. All in all, it was a positive week for the Scot, but in watching the final, there was also a glaring problem. The amount of negativity displayed by Murray throughout the final was unacceptable. Even though he had never lost to Ferrer on a hard court, had drubbed the Spaniard the previous week in Tokyo, and his finals record – particularly in the Masters 1000 events – is far superior to that of Ferrer’s, Ferrer is still the number five player in the world. It wasn’t all that inconceivable that he might have beaten Murray. So there was no excuse for the excessive negativity, especially when he was up a break in the second. Until Andy learns to control his emotions and accept that playing a complete match beginning to end is going to include some errors on his part and superior play from his opponent, he’s going to continue to be his own worst enemy when it matters most – at the majors.

Double Duty

Don’t ever question the drive of Marion Bartoli. In order to keep alive her hopes of claiming the final berth in Istanbul, she was faced with the prospect of having to win two matches on Sunday at the rain-soaked Japan Open. But she rose to the occasion in stunning fashion, defeating US Open semifinalist Angelique Kerber 6-1, 7-6(5) before wiping the court with reigning US Open Champion Sam Stosur 6-3 and 6-1. With Radwanska losing her opening match to Safarova at the Kremlin Cup on Wednesday, Bartoli is in control of her own destiny. It’s a big ask to win back-to-back titles, but the Frenchwoman has proven her mettle on more than one occasion. And even if she ultimately falls short, there’s always the chance she’ll serve as an alternate during WTA Championships if there is a pullout. Either way, she will present a danger to the rest of the field if she makes it to Istanbul.

Nick of Time

Petra Kvitova’s win in Linz couldn’t have come at a better time. For her personally, it marks her first title since her stunning victory at Wimbledon back in July. If her run in Linz does in fact signal her return to form, she’ll be one of the favorites next week in Istanbul. And as far as the WTA is concerned, they need Kvitova to rediscover her game and establish herself at the top. Her win at Wimbledon made her the first of the next generation to have a major breakthrough, and with so many of the game’s stars closer to the end of their careers than the beginning, the WTA is desperately seeking fresh faces. Plus, as an added bonus, there are many fans who would greatly appreciate having a top contender they can watch on television without having to hit the mute button.

Change on the Horizon

Earlier this week, Jim Curley announced that the USTA was considering a handful of options for potential changes to the current US Open schedule, including officially moving the men’s final to Monday. Understanding that there are a number of factors to consider with any change, to decide on a Monday final would be a real travesty unless they can find a better time slot for it. Granted, a number of patrons who have complained in previous years about having to try and sell tickets they could no longer use for the unexpected Monday final due to having travel plans could now plan to extend their stay to that third Monday. But based on previous years, it’s difficult to imagine them working out a television deal that would be more satisfactory than wrapping up the tournament on a weekend. And since the US Open contains the same seven rounds and match format as the other three majors, it’s difficult to understand why they can’t follow the same schedule as the Aussie Open or Wimbledon, or even Roland Garros with its Sunday start. It’s also a little disheartening to hear Jim Curley state that any change is likely to equate to millions of dollars in lost revenue, which the USTA is already throwing up as a reason that they are unlikely to look into getting a roof any time soon. But at least the USTA is finally realizing a change is in order, though there are a number of parties who will be holding a collective breath to see if the right choices are made.

Under the Influence

According to Askmen.com, Serb Novak Djokovic may be influencing many people all over the globe, as he ranked number 19 on their annual list of the Top 49 Most Influential Men of 2011. He may have been behind the likes of No. 1 Steve Jobs, Lionel Messi and Cadel Evans, but he did rank higher than President Barack Obama, Mark Cuban, and Rory McIlroy. Not a bad honor for a guy who has put together a season for the ages. Let’s just hope that he’s influencing a lot of people, especially youngsters, to pick up a racquet and hit the courts.

Federer After Strong End to Year, Azarenka in for Doha and Rafter to Captain Aussies for Davis Cup Play

*Roger Federer insists he is ready for a strong end to 2010 despite a decidedly off-day at the office when he lost to Andy Murray in the final at the Shanghai Masters. “I’m certainly not yearning for the year to be over,” said the 16-time Grand Slam winner. “I’m very positive for the rest of the season. I had a bit of an off day in the Shanghai final. It’s a pity, but Murray pushed me to that. Mentally I have a lot left for the end of the year.” He added: “I’ve played pretty well since Wimbledon. I hope to go deep into this event and hold up the trophy at the end of the week.” Federer is preparing to play at the Stockholm Open for the first time in a decade and he told BBC Sport how he was looking forward to the occasion.

*According to tennis critics a lot of players have gained from Serena Williams’ injury absence in the latter half of the year and this is true in the case of Viktoria Azarenka who will replace the stricken US star in the WTA Finals in Doha next week. The Belarusian confirmed her place by beating Andrea Petkovic in the first round at the Kremlin Cup.

*Following John Fitzgerald’s retirement after a decade in the role it is Pat Rafter who will take up the reigns as Australian Davis Cup Captain. The two-time US Open winner receives the blessing of “Fitzy” himself and a host of Australian tennis greats coming in to the post. “I am really looking forward to working with the team and helping lift Australian men’s tennis on the world stage,” said Rafter. “We’ve got a lot of young players that have a great opportunity to play for Australia. My standards and expectations are extremely high. This is a great opportunity to be part of something that means a lot to me.” Another Aussie legend, Tony Roche, joins him as coach. For full reaction to the announcement check the ITF website.

*Last week’s HP Open in Osaka was one for the history books. Kimiko Date Krumm (40) shocked the likes of Sam Stosur and Shahar Peer on her way to meeting Tamarine Tanasugarn (33) in what was the final between the oldest competitors ever, with a combined age of 73. By beating Stosur, Krumm also became the first 40-something to ever beat a Top 10 player. Krumm was trying to break the record for the oldest title winner, Billie Jean King having won at Birmingham aged 39 in 1983, but it was Tanasugarn’s day. “I just tried my best and fought as hard as I could,” Date Krumm said. “Nobody wants to lose, so I tried everything. Now I’ll play some ITF events followed by the Asian Games – so I’ll be continuing to play tennis the rest of the year.” Tanasugarn was happy with her performance: “I tried to be more aggressive in the third set and I finally made it,” she said. “Osaka is a great city. This is a great feeling and hopefully I can continue to play like this and get a good start to 2011.”

*Andy Murray says that his win over Roger Federer at Shanghai has once again given him belief that he can lift a Grand Slam. Asked after his shock defeat to Federer’s friend and compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka at the US Open whether he could achieve the feat Murray simply replied: “I’m not sure.” Now things are different. “I need to win tournaments like this,” said Murray. “Beating guys like Roger, beating guys like Rafa (Nadal) gives you confidence that when you do play them in the big tournaments you will beat them. I need to play like I did this week for a whole tournament in the Slams, but it’s pretty simple. I don’t think my game needs to improve so much. I think I have the ability to win them. I’ve been close a few times.” The full interview can be seen at the BBC Sport Tennis website.

*Polish star Agnieszka Radwanska will miss the rest of the season and the 2011 Australian Open after undergoing surgery on a stress fracture in her foot, reports the Polish Times. She is expected to return in February or March.

*Betty Blake, mother of American star James Blake, is releasing her own book on how to be a “tennis mom.” ‘Mix It Up, Make It Nice: Secrets Of A Tennis Mom’ will give insight in how to train and prepare a future tennis star and focuses more on education and family values rather than athletic and tennis training.

*Former world No. 1 Thomas Muster will return to tour-level action as a wildcard at next week’s Bank Austria Tennis Trophy in Vienna. He turned 43-years-old this month but is still hungry to add to the 44 tour-level titles he has already lofted before his retirement following the 1999 French Open, the site of his sole Slam triumph in 1995. “I’m looking forward to it enormously,” Muster told Austria’s Krone. “I want to inspire the crowd with my fitness and fighting spirit. I’m fighting like in the good old times and I will give everything in front of the fans in Vienna.” Muster will now become the oldest player to compete on the tour since Jimmy Connors competed at the same age in Atlanta in 1996.

Mondays With Bob Greene: We might even choose to boycott the new tour

STARS

ATP

Igor Kunitsyn beat Marat Safin 7-6 (6) 6-7 (4) 6-3 to win the ATP Kremlin Cup in Moscow, Russia

David Nalbandian beat Robin Soderling 6-2 5-7 6-3 to win the Stockholm Open in Stockholm, Sweden

Philipp Petzschner upset Gael Monfils 6-4 6-4 to win the Bank Austria Tennis Trophy in Vienna, Austria

WTA TOUR

Jelena Jankovic won her third straight title, the Kremlin Cup, by beating Vera Zvonareva 6-2 6-4 in Moscow, Russia

SENIORS

Goran Ivanisevic beat Henri Leconte 7-6 (0) 6-3 to win the BlackRock Tour of Champions event in Budapest, Hungary

SAYINGS

“This is a perfect ending for me to win the doubles title in Stockholm in my last match in Sweden, with my family and friends, old coaches, watching me. The only person who was missing today was my son, Max, who is back in Monte Carlo at school.” – Jonas Bjorkman, who is retiring this year.

“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.” – Igor Kunitsyn, who won the ATP Kremlin Cup by upsetting Marat Safin in the final.

“It’s amazing to have beaten my first Top 10 player (Stanislas Wawrinka), my first semifinal straight away, my first final, my first title, and also playing in the doubles final. There were so many new and amazing things that happened to me this week.” – Philipp Petzschner, after winning the Bank Austria Tennis Trophy, a tournament in which he originally planned to play only doubles.

“I’ve worked really hard in the last three weeks, winning three titles in a row. It’s not easy.” – Jelena Jankovic, after winning the Kremlin Cup.

“It seems she had an answer for everything I tried.” – Vera Zvonareva, after losing to Jelena Jankovic in the Kremlin Cup final.

“I played great all week, almost perfect every match here. I lost a set today but that’s part of the game.” – David Nalbandian, after winning the Stockholm Open.

“I’m at a good moment in my career. I think this is the best I have played in three years. I’m excited about the indoor season because I don’t have any points to defend and I think I can do very well in the next three tournaments I play: Madrid, Lyon and Paris.” – Robin Soderling, who lost the Stockholm Open final.

“If they (WTA) don’t listen to what we have to say we might even choose to boycott the new tour.” Dinara Safina, about the new rules for the women’s tour.

“It would be great to have another duel with Federer. If I play him it means I will be number one at the end of the year because I will have reached the final. I can only meet him there.” – Rafael Nadal, about playing Roger Federer at the Madrid Masters.

“I totally came here because I love winning. I have never won this title, but I just had a day where I could not control my game. She played well.” – Venus Williams, after her first-round loss to Flavia Pennetta at the Kremlin Cup.

“Sydney is a happy hunting ground for me. Some good hard matches in Sydney will certainly help me in my preparation for the 2009 Australian Open.” – Leyton Hewitt, who has been recuperating from a hip operation, saying he will return to tennis at the Sydney tournament.

“I am looking forward to renewing some great rivalries, particularly with Jim Courier, and getting my competitive juices flowing again at The Stanford Championships.” – Boris Becker, who will compete in a senior tournament in Dallas, Texas, this month.

STEAMED

Dina Safina says the top players could boycott next year’s WTA Tour if their questions about the changes to the schedule are left unanswered. Under the new rules, the top players will have to play designated tournaments while lower-ranked players will be able to play any tournament they choose. Under the so-called Road Map 2010, there will be 20 Premiere tournaments with players committed to play in at least 10. Any player qualifying for the top four tournaments – Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Beijing – must play that event. The top-ranked players must also play in at least four of five other events – Canada, Dubai, Rome, Cincinnati and Tokyo. The WTA has committed to having at least seven of the world’s top 10 players at each of those events.

SURPRISE

When Germany’s Philipp Petzschner arrived in Vienna, he was planning on playing only in doubles. But he qualified for the main singles draw, then kept winning until he came away with the Bank Austria Tennis Trophy title. Petzschner, who have never made it past the quarterfinals in an ATP tournament before Vienna, beat top-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka, former world number one Carlos Moya and 2004 Bank Austria champion Feliciano Lopez before upsetting fourth-seeded Gael Monfils 6-4 6-4 in the title match.

SITE SWITCH?

Politicians in Sydney want to build a multi-million dollar tennis facility and take the Australian Open away from Melbourne. The Victorian capital has the rights to stage the year’s first Grand Slam tournament until 2016. According to news reports, the New South Wales state government, however, wants to build a tennis complex in Glebe, which is close to the Sydney city center, and try to get the Australian Open to move after its contract with Melbourne expires.

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STEADY WINNER

She’s number one in the world and continuing her winning ways. Since reaching her first Grand Slam tournament final at the US Open, Jelena Jankovic has won three straight titles in as many weeks. It wasn’t easy, as Jankovic was down a set and a break before beating Vera Dushevina, then rallied from 3-1 down in both sets to beat Flavia Pennetta. In the semifinals, she lost the first set at love to defending champion Elena Dementieva before winning 0-6 6-1 6-0. She easily beat Vera Zvonareva in the final, 6-2 6-4. It has been three years since a woman has won three tournaments in three weeks, the last to achieve the feat being Nicole Vaidisova.

SWEDE ENDING

Sweden’s Jonas Bjorkman played the final singles match of his career at the Stockholm Open, losing to “lucky loser” Juan Monaco in the opening round. At Wimbledon in June, Bjorkman announced his retirement plans, saying “I feel it is time to begin the next chapter of my life.” Making his 16th appearance in Stockholm, where he has won the singles twice, Bjorkman went away a champion. He teamed with Kevin Ullyett to win the doubles, beating fellow Swedes Johan Brunstrom and Michael Ryderstedt 6-1 6-3. His victory in his 1,002nd career doubles match was his 700th match win and 53rd doubles title. He reached a career high singles ranking of number four in 1997, and in 2006 reached the semifinals at Wimbledon, losing to eventual champion Roger Federer.

SIDELINED

Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina pulled out of his second-round match at the Vienna tournament with a toe injury. Del Potro, who won his first four ATP titles in a row in July and August, has been struggling with a broken nail on his right foot since the US Open.

SACRE SUCRE

The singles winners at the Australian Open in January will receive about USD $1.15 million each, based on current exchange rates. Tournament officials announced the prize money for the 2009 tournament winners will be increased 18 percent from this year’s event. The year’s first Grand Slam tournament, the Australian Open will offer total prize money of USD $15.6 million. The upcoming tournament will feature the prospect of Roger Federer winning his 14th major title to equal the record of Pete Sampras. Federer lost in the semifinals at Melbourne in 2008 to eventual winner Novak Djokovic. Federer then lost to Rafael Nadal in the finals of both Roland Garros and Wimbledon before winning the US Open. Maria Sharapova is the defending Australian Open women’s champion.

SEEKING COURT REDRESS

The German Tennis Federation is planning to return to court and appeal the ATP downgrading of the men’s tournament in Hamburg. In August, a jury in Wilmington, Delaware, sided with the ATP’s planned tournament restructuring, a move that moved the Hamburg clay court event from May to July and eliminated it as a key tune-up for Roland Garros. The German federation said on its web site that it aims to maintain the Hamburg tournament’s status and ask for unspecified damages. The federation did not specify which court would hear the appeal or when it would be filed.

STEAMED

David Nalbandian is upset that the Davis Cup final will be played in Mar del Plata, Argentina, instead of his hometown of Cordoba. The Argentine Tennis Association wanted to play the final against Spain next month on a fast indoor court in Cordoba. But that site was not approved by the International Tennis Federation., which selected instead Mar del Plata. Both venues are smaller than the 12,000-seat capacity the ITF has said it wanted. But the ITF said its selection was made because there were “many factors to consider,” including the ability to expand seating at Mar del Plata. “It’s a very strange decision,” Nalbandian said. “The players and captain and the federation want to play in Cordoba. I don’t know why they chose the other place.”

SIGNED UP

Three of the world’s top women – Jelena Jankovic, Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams – have agreed to play a new World Team Challenge in Hong Kong next year as a warm-up event for the Australian Open. The tournament will feature four teams representing Europe, Russia, the Americas and Asia-Pacific. Each team will consist of three players competing in singles and doubles. Jankovic will lead Team Europe, Williams the Americas, Sharapova Team Russia and Sania Mirza of India the Asia-Pacific squad.

SYDNEY DATE

Leyton Hewitt will make the Sydney International tournament in January his first tournament since undergoing hip surgery. Hewitt underwent the operation after the Beijing Olympics and says his recovery is going well. Once ranked number one in the world, Hewitt has won the Sydney title four times, most recently in 2005.

SENIOR BORIS

Three-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker will make his Outback Champions Series debut at The Stanford Championships, to be played this month in Dallas, Texas. It will be the German’s first tournament in the United States since he competed in the Lipton Championships in Key Biscayne, Florida, in 1999. Others scheduled to play in the seniors event will be Jim Courier, Wayne Ferreira, Mikael Pernfors, Mark Philippoussis, Todd Martin, Aaron Krickstein and Jimmy Arias.

SET FOR THE BAR

Max Mirnyi is now ready for another court. The former world number one doubles player has received his diploma from Belarus State University, majoring in International Law with an emphasis on the international protection of children’s rights. The 31-year-old native of Minsk has been a UNICEF Goodwill ambassador and has taken part in the various national and international children’s programs in the framework of the ATP. He had been working on his law degree for the past five years.

SONY ERICSSON CHAMPIONS

Cara Black and Liezel Huber have clinched the top spot for 2008 in the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Doubles Rankings. The pair won eight doubles titles this year, including the US Open, the duo’s fourth career Grand Slam tournament title. It is the second straight season that Black and Huber will finish as the joint top-ranked players in doubles. The two are only the second doubles team to finish a season as joint top-ranked players, and only the fourth doubles pair to jointly hold the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour number one doubles ranking since its inception in 1984. Black is a native of Zimbabwe, while Huber was born in South Africa but has become a naturalized American citizen.

SAFIN CONFUSED

When Marat Safin won his 400th career match, he didn’t know it. Safin broke Noam Okum in the 10th game of the final set, earning a 7-6 (5) 3-6 6-4 first-round victory at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. The ATP website, however, said Safin mistakenly thought it was 6-5 and went to his chair to towel off during what he thought was a changeover. Chair umpire Carlos Bernardes leaned over and informed Safin the match was over. Safin ran his career match win total to 402 before losing in the final to Igor Kunitsyn 7-6 (6) 6-7 (4) 6-3.

STOPPED AT THE GATE

The ATP is out to stop 15 professional gamblers from attending tournaments. Gerard Tsobanian, tournament director of the Madrid Masters, said the men’s tennis tour sent the tournament a list of names and credit card numbers of 15 bettors who they want excluded. The 15 were apparently found placing bets on site to exploit a 20-second delay in scores being received by bookmakers. Tsobanian said it was “a very international list” and that some of the gamblers had tried to get into tournaments by posing as journalists.

SPECIAL DOUBLES

Anna Kournikova will compete in special mixed doubles matches at The Stanford Championships in Dallas, Texas, later this month. The former top ten player who still appears on magazine covers, will join members of the 2008 Outback Champions Series tennis circuit on the campus of Southern Methodist University for the tournament. Two of the players from the men’s tournament along with another female player will play compete in the mixed doubles.

SAD DAY

Hank Jungle, who coached Tim Gullikson and Johan Kriek, among others, has died at his Fort Myers, Florida, home. Jungle, who retired after serving 20 years in the military, met Gullikson when he was in the Air Force and living in Dayton, Ohio. A native of New Orleans, Jungle played tennis at Tulane University. He had been tennis director at Cypress Lake Country Club in recent years and had given lessons the day before he died.

SENIOR SURPRISE

Swedes Anders Jarryd and Mikael Pernfors complete the eight-player field who will compete in the Cancer Treatment Centers of America Championships in Surprise, Arizona, next month. Others in the field include feisty fan favorite John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Jimmy Arias, Wayne Ferreira, Todd Martin and Mark Philippoussis. Surprise has signed a three-year agreement with the Outback Champions Series.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Moscow (women): Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Nadia Petrova and Katarina Srebotnik 6-4 6-4

Moscow (men): Sergiy Stakhovsky and Potito Starace beat Stephen Huss and Ross Hutchins 7-6 (4) 2-6 10-6 (match tiebreak)

Stockholm: Jonas Bjorkman and Kevin Ullyet beat Johan Brunstrom and Michael Ryderstedt 6-1 6-3

Vienna: Max Mirnyi and Andy Ram beat Philipp Petzschner and Alexander Peya 6-1 7-5

SITES TO SURF

Madrid: www.mutuamad-mastersmadrid.com

Zurich: www.zurichopen.net

Ortisei: www.itfvalgardena.com

Budapest: www.tennisclassics.hu/

Linz: www.generali-ladies.at

Luxembourg: www.fortis-championships.lu

Seoul: www.kortennis.co.kr

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$2,450,000 Mutua Madrilena Masters Madrid, Madrid, Spain, hard

$125,000 Tashkent, Uzbekistan

WTA TOUR

$600,000 Zurich Open, Zurich, Switzerland

$100,000 Internazionali Tennis Val Gardena, Ortisei, Italy, carpet

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$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

WTA TOUR

$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

SENIORS

Stanford Championships, Outback Champions, Dallas, Texas

Surprising Win For Igor Kunitsyn At Kremlin Cup

MOSCOW

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.

STOCKHOLM

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.

VIENNA

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

Tennis As Usual: Who is Philipp Petzschner

Unless you are a true die-hard tennis fan, you have not been pondering the aforementioned question until today. Little-known German Philipp Petzschner is in the final of both the singles and doubles tournaments at the Bank Austria Tennis Trophy in Vienna. On Saturday he stunned Feliciano Lopez 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals, and hours later he delighted the crowd by teaming with Austrian favorite Alexander Peya to overcome Lopez and fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in a super-tiebreaker for the third set.

Petzschner will now face Max Mirnyi and Andy Ram in the doubles final, and Gael Monfils in the singles title match. The temporary team of Mirnyi and Ram ousted Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles 2-6, 6-3, 10-8 (super-tiebreaker). Monfils outlasted Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(2) in the semifinals after blowing three match points at 6-5, 40-0 in the final set. It took Monfils two hours and 51 minutes to get the job done.

No such suspense took place at the IF Stockholm Open on Saturday. Not long into the second semifinal of the afternoon, the question was not who would win, but whether or not Robin Soderling would finish even faster than David Nalbandian had just one hour earlier. Nalbandian crushed Jarkko Nieminen 6-2, 6-1 in only one hour and four minutes, but he was one-upped by Soderling, who destroyed Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-0 in a mere 44 minutes.

The Swedish fans will be treated to an intriguing final Sunday. Before their man Soderling takes on Nalbandian, veteran Swede Jonas Bjorkman-along with partner Kevin Ullyett-will battle countrymen Johan Brunstrom and Michael Ryderstedt.

The Russian crowd also could not ask more much more on the penultimate day in Moscow. Russians Marat Safin and Igor Kunitsyn will clash for the Kremlin Cup title. Safin got a free pass into the final when Mischa Zverev pulled out due to illness, while Kunitsyn eased past soon-to-be retired Fabrice Santoro 6-4, 6-3.

Regardless of the outcome, the men’s final should be more fun for the fans than Saturday’s women’s title match. Russian Elena Dementieva steamrolled Jelena Jankovic 6-0 in the first set, but the Serb stormed back to win the final two sets 6-1, 6-0.

Marat Safin Reaches Finals With a Walk Over

MOSCOW

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.

STOCKHOLM

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.”

VIENNA

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)

Fashion Focus: Cibulkova’s Lacoste outfit has us seeing spots

Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova adds to her strong year (two finals — Amelia Island and Toronto) by dispatching world No. 5 and reigning French Open champ Ana Ivanovic 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 in the second round of the Kremlin Cup. She showed up the Serb (sorry, Ana) by wearing a simple white Lacoste tennis dress trimmed with slate.

And in her loss to Beijing bronze medalist Vera Zvonareva in the following round, she traded her dress for the Interlock Skirt and a Dot-Printed polo.

Buy: Lacoste V-neck Dot Print dress, $145, lacoste.com.

Tennis As Usual: Hey Marat, You Won the Match

Marat Safin stole the show in Moscow, where most of the tennis action is taking place this week since both men and women are competing at the Kremlin Cup. As usual, Safin made headlines for something other than his play. After securing a break with opponent Noam Okun serving to stay in the match at 4-5 in the third set, Safin walked over to his chair thinking it was time for just another changeover. Little did Safin know that the match was over. Umpire Carlos Bernardes kindly informed the Russian that he had won and Safin finally walked up to the net to exchange both a handshake and a laugh with Okun.

Also advancing in Moscow on Tuesday were No. 1 seed Nikolay Davydenko, Robby Ginepri, and Serbs Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki.

Flavia Pennetta made the most noise on the women’s side with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 upset of Venus Williams. The crowd, however, had to be more enthusiastic about a host of Russians making it to the second round. Russian winners included Svetlana Kuznetsova, Vera Zvonareva, and Daniela Hantuchova.

Seeds also tumbled at the Bank Austria Tennis Trophy in Vienna, where No. 1 seed Stanislas Wawrinka fell to Philipp Petzschner in a third-set tiebreaker and No. 7 Gilles Simon bowed out to Eduardo Schwank, also in three sets. Fellow Masters Cup hopeful Fernando Gonzalez, on the other hand, survived Simone Bolelli after dropping the first set.

On the ATP Tour, however, the day really belonged to long-lost Joachim Johansson. The big-serving Swede, who had not played competitively in exactly one year, came out of retirement this week to take part in the Stockholm Open and he thrilled the crowd by winning his first match on Tuesday night over Nicolas Mahut. “Pim-Pim” fired 20 aces in just two sets en route to a 7-5, 7-6(5) victory.

In round two Johansson will face top-seeded David Nalbandian, a 6-1, 6-1 winner over Bobby Reynolds. Other seeded players who safely moved through were No. 2 Mario Ancic, No. 5 Rainer Schuettler, and No. 6 Jose Acasuso. Jonas Bjorkman, who is retiring at the end of 2008, was not as fortunate as his countryman Johansson. The veteran lost his first-round match to Juan Monaco in straight sets.

Mondays With Bob Greene: Doubles is like Marriage

STARS

Jelena Jankovic beat Nadia Petrova 6-4 6-3 to win the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany

Tomas Berdych won the AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships men’s singles, defeating Juan Martin del Potro 6-1 6-4 in Tokyo, Japan

Caroline Wozniacki beat Kala Kanepi 6-2 3-6 6-1 to win the women’s singles at the AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships in Tokyo, Japan

Sorana Cirstea defeated Sabine Lisicki 2-6 6-4 7-6 (4) to capture the Tashkent Open in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Dmitry Tursunov beat Paul-Henri Mathieu 7-6 (6) 1-6 6-4 to win the Open de Moselle in Metz, France

Teimuraz Gabashvili won the Ethias Trophy by beating Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-4 6-4 in Mons, Belgium

Richard Krajicek beat Goran Ivanisevic 7-6 7-5 to win the AFAS Tennis Classics in Eindhoven, Netherlands

SAYINGS

“There are some days you wake up and you know it’s not going to be your day.” – Nadia Petrova, after losing to Jelena Jankovic in the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix final.

“Doubles is like marriage. It has to be good from the first day.” – Mischa Zverev, who teamed with Mikhail Youzhny to win the doubles at the AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships in Tokyo.

“She is having a great year and I knew it would be hard to beat her. But the game went according to plan.” – Venus Williams, after beating Dinara Safina 6-4 6-2.

“It feels great to be back at number one, but my goal is to finish the year as number one. I’m playing better and better, I am improving. I don’t feel any extra pressure.” – Jelena Jankovic, on her return to the top spot in the WTA Tour rankings.

“I feel fortunate to be healthy again, but I want to remain at the top of the game for many more years to come and go after the number one ranking again.” – Roger Federer, after pulling out of the Stockholm Open.

“I need to take a break now to get it back to 100 percent, which is why I have to regretfully take this decision and withdraw. I have played a lot this year and my body needs to recover.” – Serena Williams, after withdrawing from the Kremlin Cup with an ankle injury.

“After I lost the first set I checked the clock and saw it was only 20 minutes, so I told myself I had to make it at least an hour. Of course I’m very happy about my win today, and for both of my wins over the Williams sisters this year.” – Li Na, after beating Serena William 0-6 6-1 6-4 and knocking the US Open champion out of the number one ranking.

“I think I have to come to Germany more often.” – Victoria Azarenka, who has reached the semifinals in both tournaments she has played in Germany this year.

“People want to see me because I was once the number one in the world and won Grand Slam titles. People want to see the guys who they idolized. Now, as we get older, we’re really thankful that people want to see us. It’s really wonderful, and we’re going to try to give our best back.” – Yevgeny Kafelnikov, playing his first competitive tennis match in five years, the BlackRock Tour of Champions event in Eindhoven, Netherlands.

“I have played one match with her here and I have won. Not bad.” – Goran Ivanisevic, saying his 5-year-old daughter Amber, who was watching her father play for the first time, is his lucky charm.

“I still cannot fully realize that I’ve won. In the middle of the match I thought my chances of winning were about 40 percent.” – Ksenia Palkina, a teenager from Kyrgystan ranked 203rd in the world, after she upset second-seeded Olga Govortsova in the first round of the Tashkent Open.

“Our success in these junior team events against the world’s best competition is a good indication of where our players stand amongst their peers at this state. Of course there is a lot of work to be done for these kids to become world-class professionals. But, if these results are any indication, the future is very promising.” – Patrick McEnroe, on the United States sweep of the Junior Fed Cup and Junior Davis Cup competitions.

STEPPING UP

In the game of musical chairs that is called the WTA Tour rankings, Jelena Jankovic is once again in the top spot. The Serb moved up to number one when Serena Williams was upset by China’s Li Na. Jankovic held the top ranking for one week in August. Since Justine Henin retired in May, four players have been number one: Williams, Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic and Maria Sharapova. Williams held the top spot for four weeks after defeating Jankovic in the US Open final. Overall, Jankovic has won more matches than any other player on tour this year.

SURPRISE SEMIFINALIST

Adrian Mannarino had a ball in Metz, France. Ranked 181st in the world, the French qualifier didn’t lose a set in his run to the semifinals at the Open de Moselle. Then he ran into Paul-Henri Matheu, who barely escaped Mannarino 7-6 (8) 7-6 (1). The 20-year-old Mannarino had not won an ATP-level match before he upset sixth-seeded Andreas Seppi in the opening round at Metz.

STUMBLING BLOCKS

China’s top two players are making a lot of noise on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour this year. At Wimbledon, Zheng Jie became the first Chinese player to beat a reigning world number one when she shocked Ana Ivanovic on her way to the semifinals. At the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany, last week, Li Na matched that feat, knocking Serena Williams out of the tournament and the number one ranking, 0-6 6-1 6-4. It was Li’s 11th career win over a top 10 player but first over a number one.

SELA GROUNDED

An El Al plane carrying Israeli tennis star Dudi Sela had to make an emergency landing in Beijing when a bird flew into one of its engines. Sela was returning to Israel after losing in a tournament in Tokyo. While the plane was heading back to Beijing, Sela called his brother Ofer in Israel to let him know what was happening. El Al sent a replacement jet to fly the 150 passengers to Israel.

SERENA HURT

An ankle injury has forced Serena Williams to withdraw from the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. The American withdrew two days after being upset by China’s Li Na in Stuttgart, Germany. The winner of four tournaments this year, Williams said her left ankle has been bothering her since the US Open last month, which she won.

SO DELIGHTED

Yevgeny Kafelnikov admits he is delighted to be back playing competitively after a five-year layoff. “It was quite exciting,” the Russian said after losing to Michael Chang in a BlackRock Tour of Champions match at Eindhoven, Netherlands. “I haven’t had this feeling in a long time.” Once he decided to play again, Kafelnikov worked hard to lose the weight he had gained after retiring. Then he asked to play in the AFAS Classics tournament in Eindhoven. He came away winless in his return, losing also to Paul Haarhuis and Goran Ivanisevic.

SUPER WIN

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga became only the eighth player in the last 20 yeas to win his first ATP title by defeating a top-five opponent in the final, knocking off third-ranked Novak Djokovic to capture the Thailand Open in Bangkok. Greg Sharko, senior editor of ATPTennis.com, says Tsonga is the first to accomplish the feat since fellow Frenchman Michael Llorda did it four years ago when he beat Guillermo Coria, who was number three in the world at the time. In 1988, Mikael Pernfors won his first title in Los Angeles, beating fourth-ranked Andre Agassi. Jim Courier’s first title, in 1989 in Basel, Switzerland, came when he beat third-ranked Stefan Edberg. Others who beat top five players to capture their first tournament titles were Omar Camporese in 1991, Alberta Costa and Filip Dewulf in 1995, and Hyung-Taik Lee in 2003.

SET FOR KOOYONG

Two Swiss players – US Open champion Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka – will warm up for the 2009 Australian Open by playing at the invitational Kooyong Classic. Weakened by mononucleosis, Federer missed the tournament in 2008. Also scheduled to play in the event are Marat Safin, Fernando Gonzalez, Marcos Baghdatis, James Blake and Ernests Gulbis. The eighth spot for the tournament, which guarantees each player three matches on the same surface as that used at the Australian Open, will be named later.

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SKIPPING STOCKHOLM

Saying he needs a break, Roger Federer will not play in the upcoming Stockholm Open. Federer has not played since winning his fifth consecutive US Open last month. “(This) has been a tough year for me as I was always playing catch-up after being diagnosed with mononucleosis at the beginning of the year,” said Federer, who lost his number one ranking to Rafael Nadal in August after holding it for a record 237 consecutive weeks.

SWITCHING SPORTS?

Paradorn Srichaphan is thinking about switching sports, perhaps becoming a race car driver. Beset by injury for almost two years, Thailand’s best player has been busy promoting motorsports in his country. “I’ve been really bored and it would be huge challenge to move from one sport to the next,” Srichaphan said. “I’m involved in a racing team and my sponsors are interested in having me racing for them, but only when I retire from tennis. I still plan to return to the tour.”

SLIPPERY COURT

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has penalized Croatia for playing Davis Cup matches against Brazil on a court that was considered too fast. As part of the Davis Cup Committee’s ruling, Croatia will lose 2,000 points and pay an undisclosed fine. Marina Mihelic, head of the Croatian Tennis Federation, said she was “surprised and annoyed” by the decision. The ITF said Croatia violated the federation’s “court pace rating rule,” which assesses the speed of surfaces other than grass and clay. It’s the first such case involving the rule, which was implemented this year. The ITF rejected Brazil’s appeal to have Croatia disqualified, the victory awarded to Brazil and financial compensation paid to Brazil.

SWEEP

The United States Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup teams captured the 2008 World Finals without dropping a single match. The international team competition for players age 16 and under held in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, continued the American domination of junior events. The American boys’ and girls’ squads won the World Junior Tennis Championships for 14-and-under in August in Prostejoy, Czech Republic. It is the first time the same country has won all four titles in the same year. The American Junior Fed Cup team beat Colombia, Chinese Taipei, Serbia, Hungary and Great Britain. The American Junior Davis Cup squad beat Latvia, Chinese Taipei, Sweden, India and Argentina.

STENNING LAUDED

Mark L. Stenning has been awarded the prestigious Chairman’s Award by the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island. The Chairman’s Award recognizes outstanding service by a Hall of Fame board member. Stenning joined the ITHOF in 1980 and currently holds the position of chief executive officer. He also currently serves on the Davis Cup and Fed Cup Committees of the United States Tennis Association.

SPONSOR

TENNIS.com is the new title sponsor of the Zurich Open, a stop on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. The Tennis Company, headquartered in Santa Monica, California, calls itself the world’s leading website for tennis fans. Aside from TENNIS.com, the company publishes Tennis Magazine and Smash Magazine. The Tennis Company is also a managing partner in the Indian Springs, California, tournament. Among others, The Tennis Company’s partners include Chris Evert, Billie Jean King and Pete Sampras.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Stuttgart: Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Patty Schnyder beat Kveta Peschke and Rennae Stubbs 6-2 6-4

Tokyo (men): Mikhail Youzhny and Mischa Zverev beat Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes 6-3 6-4

Tokyo (women): Jill Craybus and Marina Erakovic beat Ayumi Morita and Aiko Nakamura 4-6 7-5 10-6 (match tiebreak)

Tashkent: Ioana Raluca Olaru and Olga Savchuk beat Nina Bratchikova and Kathrin Woerle 5-7 7-5 10-7 (match tiebreak)

Metz: Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra beat Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski 5-7 6-3 10-8 (match tiebreak)

Mons: Michal Mertinak and Lovro Zovko beat Yves Allegro and Horia Tecau 7-5 6-3

SITES TO SURF

Vienna: www.ba-ca-tennistrophy.at

Stockholm: www.stockholmopen.se

Moscow: www.kremlincup.ru

Madrid: www.mutuamad-mastersmadrid.com

Zurich: www.zurichopen.net

Ortisei: www.itfvalgardena.com

Budapest: www.tennisclassics.hu/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$1,000,000 ATP Kremlin Cup, Moscow, Russia, carpet

$800,000 IF Stockholm Open, Stockholm, Sweden, hard

$755,000 Bank Austria TennisTrophy, Vienna, Austria, hard

WTA TOUR

$1,340,000 Kremlin Cup, Moscow, Russia, carpet

SENIORS

BlackRock Tour of Champions, Budapest, Hungary, carpet

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$2,450,000 Mutua Madrilena Masters Madrid, Madrid, Spain, hard

$125,000 Tashkent, Uzbekistan

WTA TOUR

$600,000 Zurich Open, Zurich, Switzerland

$100,000 Internazionali Tennis Val Gardena, Ortisei, Italy, carpet