Kristina Barrois

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WTA Paris Photo Gallery with Safarova, Zakopalova, Mattek-Sands

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Follow professional tennis photographer Rick Gleijm as he covers the Open GDF SUEZ WTA Tour event in Paris this week. The gallery below includes day three qualifying matches as well as main draw doubles matches featuring Lucie Safarova, Klara Zakopalova, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Jill Craybas, Greta Arn and Varvara Lepchenko among others. For full qualification results, go here, and for full doubles results, go here.

Stay tuned all week for full coverage in Paris and catch Rick at the ATP Rotterdam tournament next week! And make sure to check out his feature “Paris Tennis Diary: From the Photo Pit.”

Estoril Open: Anabel Medina Garrigues takes home Estoril Open 2011 crown

TENNIS-WPA-POR-ESTORIL-OPEN

By Luís Santos

Saturday at the Estoril Open, the day for the women’s singles’ final.

The final Estoril Open match featured the more experienced Anabel Medina Garrigues, who was  looking to match Venus Williams´ record of most clay titles by an active player, and the German Kristina Barrois.

Barrois has been in good form all week and defeated top seed Alisa Kleybanova. Medina Garrigues ousted quite a few seeded players on her way to the Estoril Open finals as well. She took out eight seed Greta Arn and third seed Klara Zakopalova in straight sets.

But today, none of that mattered as Medina Garrigues set up one-sided match with her solid play. Barrois seemed to feel the moment and never really played her best tennis, missing routine groundstrokes and losing the bite on her usually great sliced backhand.

Despite suffering from a back injury, which required a medical timeout at 4-1 in the first set, the Spaniard never looked back and took the set 6-1.

In the second set, Barrois was down 3-0 right from the start. She fought her way back into the set and the match, coming back to 3-2. A disruption by rain forced a delay in the match but again Medina proved too strong for her opponent  taking the set, the match and winning the Estoril Open tournament. Final score was 6-1 6-2. It was her 10th career trophy but her first one since Fes 2009.

The champion’s first words on court were: “Oh my back. At 4-2 in the first set I did this change of direction and I felt it. I hurt my back. In the last two points of the match it was hurting a lot.”

On her win today and its meaning as the player with most clay tournaments together with Venus Williams: “I’m very happy for matching Venus’ record, she’s a great player. I’m also thrilled to be the best among my countrywomen.”

And finally on her Estoril choice: “I’m very happy to have come here. It’s almost like playing home because we’re almost the same country, so. I’m happy to have won because I had a tough last year and would like to thank my coach, because he’s been there through my highs and lows.”

Runner-up Barrois complimented her opponent and acknowledged her own shortcomings during the match: “It was a difficult match for me, I didn’t play well today but Anabel played very well, so well done! I hope to come back next year. Thanks for the organization; they did a very good job.”

 

Estoril Open: A ladies semifinals report

Anabel Medina Garrigues

By Luís Santos

Johanna Larsson and Kristina Barrois had an early morning start out on centre court. Larsson was quicker out of the blocks, jumping to a 2-0 lead. Barrois, however, broke  back immediately  and leveled proceedings at 2-2. After a lengthy sixth game, Larsson finally edged out to break for 4-2. The Swede fell to 15-40 on serve the following game and Barrois broke at the first opportunity. The remainder of the first set went with serve and culminated on a tiebreak. In the tiebreak Larsson’s groundstrokes went wild and Barrois won 7-6(2) with some clever dropshots.

The second set saw a fine start from Larsson as she broke the German’s serve right from the start. But like in the first set, Larsson couldn’t take the momentum to her side and dropped serve too. Barrois then stepped it up and raced to 5-2, holding double match point on the Swede’s serve. Larsson, however, brought some gritty tennis to claim the next four points and get the score at 5-3. Barrois couldn’t hold her own serve and all of a sudden Larsson was 4-5 and 40-0 up, just a point from 5-5. A netcord, a backhand volley winner and a smash error saw the game go to deuce. A double-fault from Larsson handed Barrois her third match point but a wide serve to the advantage court saw the game back on deuce. Barrois, however, stepped up one last time to take the set on her fourth match point with a smash winner.

On her on-court interview Barrois admitted: “It was a pretty tough match. I know Johanna very well, she’s a good player. I was happy to win in two sets. I kept fighting after every point after 5-2.” When asked about her tournament experience she pointed: “Yeah I’ve been here for four or five years in a row now, so I really like it here”.

At the press conference, Barrois was happy to be in her second career final: “Every match like this is special. I lost last year (To Sharapova in Strasbourg) but I’ll try to play my best tomorrow and hopefully win.”

On her goals for the coming months: “Next goal is top 50. It’s the goal for this year; I have some points to defend in upcoming weeks so maybe I’ll make it in a few months”.

When asked about her late blooming career-wise: “I mean, I started very late on tour. I was twenty-five? Because I did other way compared to other players. So I’m young like this. I’m playing my sixth year on tour so it’s not so much, so. I feel good at the moment, not injured or something like this so it’s good.”

Contesting the final with Kristina Barrois will be Spanish claycourter Anabel Medina Garrigues who dispatched Monica Niculescu 6-1 6-3. Barrois and Medina Garrigues have played once before back in Strasbourg 2009. Barrois won the first set 6-4 before the Spanish retired.

Medina Garrigues played solid tennis and the high-percentage game proved to be effective as Niculescu kept mishitting, losing the first set 6-1.

Despite jumping to a 2-0 lead in the second set, the Romanian seemed to be struggling with her strokes and quickly saw herself 4-2 down. At 5-3 on Niculescu’s serve, Medina Garrigues made the most of her opponents’ mistakes and concluded the win 6-1 6-3.

In the on-court interview, Garrigues, a doubles´ titlist at the Estoril last year, was happy to be in the singles’ final: “I’m happy. Last year wasn’t a very happy year for me so”. When asked about her choice of Estoril over home tournament Barcelona, the Spanish was quick to answer: “The truth is that I enjoyed myself a lot here last year. Also, the conditions here are very similar to Madrid and Roland Garros so this is better preparation than Barcelona. Barcelona is very rainy and the conditions become different”.

Asked if she was troubled by Niculescu’s game: “She does have a bothering game, she changes the ball height a lot. But it’s the same sort of game played in Spain and I’ve been playing against Spanish girls for years. It was bothering but I kept calm.”

This will be Medina’s sixteenth final, compared to Barrois’ second. Medina Garrigues has claimed nine titles in her career, seven of them being on red clay. She’s second for most clay titles, behind former number one and seven time grandslam champion Venus Williams.

On playing the final against Barrois: “It’s going to be difficult. Barrois is very talented; she has a good serve and a good backhand. If she’s in the final it’s because she’s playing well. She’s dangerous and it’s going to be a hard match.”

 

HENIN REACHES SEMIFINALS AT THE UNICEF OPEN PICTORIAL

Justine Henin has reached the semifinals of the UNICEF Open in the Netherlands.  Henin is preparing for the Wimbledon tournament which kicks off next  Monday.

Henin beat German Kristina Barrois in straight sets 6-3, 6-3 before moving to the next. Henin next faces Alexandra Dulgheru of Romania who beat her opponent in three sets: 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Ralf Reinecke was on the scene to capture magnicifent photographs of Henin and many others.

Mondays With Bob Greene: I’m Recharged

Caroline Wozniacki

STARS

Caroline Wozniacki beat Elena Vesnina 6-2 6-4 to win the women’s singles at the Pilot Pen in New Haven, Connecticut, USA

Fernando Verdasco beat Sam Querrey 6-4 7-6 (6) to win the Pilot Pen men’s singles in New Haven

Tatjana Malek won the EmblemHealth Bronx Open, beating Kristina Barrois 6-1 6-4 in The Bronx, New York, USA

SAYING

“Now it’s my time. It’s my turn to win some tournaments. I just feel I’ve had a great year. I’m so happy that it’s my name coming up a lot of times now.” – Caroline Wozniacki, after successfully defending her Pilot Pen Tennis women’s singles championship.

“I never got a chance to go back there to defend my title in 2006 because I was injured with my left wrist and then pregnant in 2007. So while this does feel like a new beginning, I am looking forward to walking through those gates again for the first time in four years.” – Kim Clijsters, who won the US Open in her last appearance at the year’s final Grand Slam tournament.

“I am number three in the world, and the number three in the world should have a chance to win, no?” – Rafael Nadal, on his chances to win the US Open.

“I have to take it as a positive that I will have more time to get ready for the Open. It’s been a really busy summer for me so I’ll just take advantage of these (early losses) and keep training and preparing for the Open.” – Venus Williams, talking about early exits from her last two tournaments.

“I’m recharged. I know I can play and move well and compete with the top players as good as I was, if not better. The US Open is my main goal.” – Jelena Jankovic.

“With every tournament I feel physically I’m getting better and getting a good sense of the court, but it’s still a work in progress. I’d like to forget I was gone for a long time but you have to put things in perspective.” – Maria Sharapova, noting her chances of winning the US Open this year are slim.

“This year I equaled my best result in Australia (last 16), did two rounds better than I ever did at the French (quarterfinals) and got further than I have done at Wimbledon (semifinals). So now the slam is the last thing I need to do. I believe that I can do it.” – Andy Murray, saying he’s one of the favorites to win the US Open.

“Andy’s not under the radar anymore and that’s probably a good thing. Now that the expectations are there I think he’s ready to handle it. He is definitely one of the six guys capable of winning.” – Brad Gilbert, speaking about Andy Roddick.

“One of the important things he has over everyone, and he has it more than any other player I’ve seen since (Jimmy) Connors, is his love for the sport. Real love. He loves to be out there, to be around tennis, everything about it.” – John McEnroe, talking about Roger Federer.

“I’ve never had a normal life, so I don’t know what a normal life means.” – Fabrice Santoro, who, playing in his 20th season on tour, will retire after the US Open.

“I just look to be prepared for the Open. This is my first important thing for me is to just get there and be prepared for a fight.” – Flavia Pennetta.

“I think I’ve learned, especially in the last year, that it’s a lot simpler than I realized, playing professional tennis. There are no secrets. You got to do what you do well and you have to bring that to the table every day.” – Rajeev Ram, who won his first ATP Tour title earlier this summer…

“I don’t think I am going to do anything special because it is my last Grand Slam. I am not planning it. But you never know what can happen. I know I am not going to win, there is no chance. So we will just see.” – Marat Safin, the 2000 US Open champion who will retire at the end of this year.

“For the next year or so I’m not going to put any pressure on myself. I just want to stay healthy and enjoy my tennis.” – Katarina Srebotnik, whose US Open appearance is her first tournament in 10 months because of injuries.

“She was just playing with me like a pussy cat, one corner to other corner. In the second set I started to be more aggressive and I started serving a lot better.” – Elena Vesnina, after her three-set semifinal win over Amelie Mauresmo in New Haven.

“I elected to go with disaster control and the high powder-puff. Everyone asks did you bounce it. I just threw it over the catcher.” – Andy Roddick, talking about throwing out the first pitch at a New York Yankees baseball game.

“I contemplated things like whether I would be able to accept myself for not being on the level that I was in my teens, twenties, and when I was 25; whether I would be able to accept losing, moreover be able to accept a losing streak. I did spend a lot of time contemplating about this. Yet, after I made my decision to be back on court again and challenge myself, I haven’t really thought about it.” – Kimiko Date Krumm, who returned to the WTA Tour after a 12-year retirement.

“It makes for something special. You sit in the players’ lounge and you wait. It doesn’t rain so often here so I don’t think they should change anything.” – Dinara Safina, saying she thinks something might be lost if a roof is installed over Arthur Ashe Stadium and there were no rain delays to sit though.

“I’ve peeked at the draw and seen where some of the qualifying spots are. I’d love to play a Federer or Nadal or a Roddick. We’ll see. I just want to play in there.” – Michael Yani, who at age 28 qualified for his first US Open, pointing at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

S’WONDERFUL

Twice Andre Agassi closed out the US Open by winning the men’s singles. This year, he is the headliner on opening day, being honored for “giving back.” In 1994, the year he won his first US Open title, Agassi established the Andre Agassi Foundation, which is dedicated to transforming public education in Las Vegas, Nevada. As part of the Opening Night celebration, the USTA is recognizing the 40th anniversary of the National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL), which was founded in 1969 by Arthur Ashe, Charlie Pasarell and Sheridan Snyder as a network of community tennis organizations seeking to develop the character of young people through tennis and education. Besides Agassi, others honored on opening night include Mia Hamm, David Robinson and Doug Flutie.

Andre Agassi’s autobiography, “Open,” will be published in November. The eight-time Grand Slam singles champion writes about his start in tennis, his relationship with his father and his failed marriage to actress Brooke Shields.

SAM THE MAN

There could be a USD one million dollar payday in Sam Querrey’s future. By winning the US Open Series, the American has a chance to earn a bonus of between USD $15,000 and $1 million, according to how he finishes in the US Open. Querrey reached the final of the Pilot Pen in New Haven, Connecticut, before falling to Spain’s Fernando Verdasco 6-4 7-6 (8).

SHHHHH!!

The US Open wants players and their entourages to be careful about what they post on the social networking site Twitter. Signs at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center warn that Twitter messages could violate the sport’s anti-corruption rules. The signs say tweeting is not allowed on court during matches and warns about using Twitter away from the court, saying information about players, weather, court conditions, status, outcome or any other aspect of an event could be determined as the passing of “inside information.” The warnings say they apply to players, coaches, agents, family members and tournament staff.

SEMFINAL SWITCH

Because of tropical storm Denney, the semifinals of the Pilot Pen tournament in New Haven, Connecticut, were moved indoors. After waiting in vain most of Friday for the steady rain to cease, the women’s semis were switched from a 13,000-seat stadium to an indoor college court where only 300 fans were able to be squeezed into the building and leaned over a balcony that overlooked the court or stood on adjacent courts. There, Caroline Wozniacki beat Flavia Pennetta and Elena Vesnina downed Amelie Mauresmo. The men’s semis followed suit Saturday morning, with Sam Querrey stopping Jose Acasuso and Fernando Verdasco defeating Igor Andreev. Both finals were played outdoors late Saturday as the storm finally subsided and the hard courts were dried.

SITTING IT OUT

Dominika Cibulkova won’t be able to match her French Open performance at this year’s final Grand Slam tournament. The semifinalist at Roland Garros pulled out of the US Open because of a rib injury. Her withdrawal allowed Alberta Brianti of Italy to move into the main draw, while Agnes Szavay becomes the number 32 seeded player.

SORE BUT THERE

Several players are nursing injuries as they begin their US Open run. Marion Bartoli retired from her match at the Pilot Pen in New Haven, Connecticut, because of a left thigh strain. A hand injury forced Agnieszka Radwanska to retire before the third set of her match in New Haven. And Nikolay Davydenko needed a doctor to look at his right wrist midway through his quarterfinal final loss to Sam Querrey in the Pilot Pen men’s singles. Davydenko said his wrist became sore from the force of Querrey’s serves hitting his racquet. Sabine Lisicki, who has been sidelined with a shoulder injury, will play in the US Open.

India’s Sania Mirza received acupuncture treatment on her right wrist before heading to New York and the US Open. The 22-year-old underwent wrist surgery in April 2008, but the problem flared up again at the Beijing Olympics, forcing her to miss the last year’s US Open. She had reached the semifinals of a challenger event in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, when she again felt pain in her right wrist. So she flew home to Hyderabad, India, to get treatment. “I’m much better now, but not absolutely pain-free,” she said.

STARTING OVER

Katarina Srebotnik is making her comeback at the US Open. She was ranked as high as number 20 in the world in singles and number four in doubles, and had posted victories over Serena Williams at Roland Garros and Svetlana Kuznetsova at the US Open a year ago. But pain in her Achilles tendon and a shoulder injury forced her off the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour for 10 months. It’s called the luck of the draw, and for Srebotnik it’s bad luck. Her first-round opponent will be 13th-seeded Nadia Petrova.

SUBSTANCE ABUSE?

Ivo Minar of the Czech Republic has denied deliberating taking a banned substance. The 25-year-old tested positive for a derivative of the banned stimulant pseudo ephedrine following a Davis Cup quarterfinal match against Argentina in July. “I have never consciously taken a banned substance,” said Minar, who is ranked 66th in the world. “This is why I rejected the accusation of doping in my reaction sent to the ITF.” Minar cited an injury when he withdrew from this year’s US Open.

SERENA, THE AUTHOR

Serena Williams says she is telling all in her autobiography, “Queen of the Court,” which is going on sale during the US Open. Serena says it was important for her to give an honest account of her life because she has not been as open as she should have been since the shooting death of her sister, Yetunde Price. She said that while she told the press injuries kept her from playing, she was also beset by depression because of a delayed reaction to Tunde’s death. Serena says three things got her out of her depression: seeing a therapist, going to Africa where she began a school, and winning the 2007 Australian Open over Maria Sharapova. “It opened up a lot of doors I left closed to the public and to myself,” Serena said of writing the book.

SENSITIVITY COURSE ALUMNI

Brydan Klein promises to be on his best behavior after completing a racial sensitivity course. The former Australian Open junior champion was banned for six months and fined USD $10,000 by the ATP after making a racial slur against a black South African player during a tournament in England in June. The 19-year-old Klein has a history of clashes with officials, having been suspended from the Australian Institute of Sport for repeated on-court misbehavior. Ranked 223rd in the world, Klein said he has apologized to fellow player Raven Klaasen for the slur. He also said he cannot afford to slip up again. “I’m definitely on my last warning,” he said. “This has been a step back for me and it hasn’t been a nice experience.”

STANDING TALL

John McEnroe has always been a big man in New York City, but this is ridiculous. A 100-foot high by 35-foot wide (30.48m by 15.24m) banner of McEnroe hangs on the side of Madison Square Garden promoting prostate cancer screening guidelines. McEnroe’s father was diagnosed with the illness in 2006 but is now doing well. Now 50 years old, the younger McEnroe says he knows many men his age are reluctant to get screened for cancer for the same reason they don’t like to ask for directions: they may view it as a sign of weakness.

SPOKESPEOPLE

Billie Jean King and actor Alec Baldwin will be the spokespeople for the expanded environmental initiatives at the National Tennis Center named in her honor. The two will join the United States Tennis Association (USTA) in encouraging US Open fans and others to help preserve the environment. Expanded 2009 initiatives will include a site-wide recycling effort placing more than 500 recycling receptacles across the 42 acres of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. There also will be on sale an exclusive organic t-shirt designed by two-time US Open champion Venus Williams.

STRONG VENUS

Venus Williams has been named to the first Power List of O, the Oprah Magazine. Selecting “20 remarkable visionaries who are flexing their muscles in business and finance, politics and justice, science and the arts,” the magazine picked Venus Williams as “The Power of Female Strength.” Noting her Grand Slam and Olympics medals as well as her voice in the lobbying effort to win equal prize money for female players, the magazine said: “Both on and off the court, Venus Williams embodies a perfect marriage of power and grace. In the singular artistry of her play, we see that beauty and brawn aren’t mutually exclusive.”

SUCCESS

The US Open logo – a flaming tennis ball – accounts for about 42 percent of all sales at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center during the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. Sarah Cummins, the USTA’s managing director for merchandising, told Bloomberg News that clothing, hats and other gear bearing the US Open logo brought in almost USD $14 million during the two-week tournament last year.

SPIRITED CLOTHES

When James Blake debuts his new Fila line of clothes at the US Open, he will be thinking about his father. The logo on Blake’s new clothing is “TR,” and the line is called Thomas Reynolds, the first and middle names of his late father, who died in 2004. Fila will help capture the lessons instilled in James by his father through print ads and through hang tags on the line. While Blake will be wearing the clothes on a tennis court, there are plans for the Thomas Reynolds brand to be on golf, fitness and leisurewear as well. “I wanted to be part of something that wouldn’t necessarily have to always be tied to me and be more about the spirit that father embodied,” Blake said.

STEPPING DOWN

Following her third hip surgery, Jamea Jackson is retiring from the women’s tour and will become assistant tennis coach at Oklahoma State University. The 22-year-old from Lafayette, Louisiana, USA, will also be a student at OSU. Jackson was a member of the United States Fed Cup team.

STANDING FOR OFFICE

John Alexander’s new game is politics. The former tennis player and commentator has joined the Liberal Party and is running for a seat in the Australian parliament. Alexander is an advocate for preventive health and believes the decline of public tennis courts and other facilities in Australia has contributed to childhood obesity and health problems. He said he joined the Liberal Party at the invitation of a friend, who told him he would be more effective in securing change by trying to be part of a government. Ranked as high as eighth in the world, Alexander was the youngest player to represent Australia in Davis Cup. He played Davis Cup from 1968 to 1980 and has been captain of Australia’s Fed Cup team.

STEADY SHOW

The US National Championships, known since 1968 as the US Open Tennis Championships, is the second oldest of the four Grand Slam tournaments and is the only one to have been played each year since its inception in 1881. This is the 129th version of America’s premier tennis event and has been played on three different surfaces: grass, clay and hard court. The tournament has been held on hard court at Flushing Meadows since moving from Forest Hills in 1978. The only major sporting event in the United States older than the US Open is the Kentucky Derby, which began in 1875.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

New Haven (men): Julian Knowle and Jurgen Melzer beat Bruno Soares and Kevin Ullyett 6-4 7-6 (3)

New Haven (women): Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez beat Iveta Benesova and Lucie Hradecka 6-2 7-5

The Bronx: Anna-Lena Groenfeld and Vania King beat Julie Coin and Marie-Eve Pelletier 6-0, 6-3

SITES TO SURF

US Open: www.usopen.org

Kim Clijsters: www.kimclijsters.be/

Roger Federer: www.rogerfederer.com/en/index.cfm

Rafael Nadal: www.rafaelnadal.com/nada/en/home

Serena Williams: www.serenawilliams.com/

Venus Williams: www.venuswilliams.com/

Andy Roddick: www.andyroddick.com

Andre Agassi Foundation: www.agassiopen.com/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP and WTA

US Open (first week), New York, New York, USA, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP and WTA

US Open (second week), New York, New York, USA, hard

ATP

$120,000 Genoa Open Challenger, Genoa, Italy, clay

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

STARS

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.

SAYINGS

“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.

STOPPING AT THE TOP

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’S IN

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.

SO IS NIKOLAY

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.

SPECIAL BRIT

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.

SUPER FRENCH

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.

SERBIAN STOP

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.

SURPRISE, NOT

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.

SPONSOR OUT

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.

SWITCHING COACHES

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.

STAYING PUT

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.

STARRING

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.

SPADEA A WINNER

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.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

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

SITES TO SURF

Budapest: www.tennisclassics.hu/

Linz: www.generali-ladies.at

Lyon: www.gptennis.com/

Basel: http://www.davidoffswissindoors.ch/

Luxembourg: www.fortis-championships.lu

Seoul: www.kortennis.co.kr

Paris: www.fft.fr/bnpparibasmasters//

Quebec: www.challengebell.com

Bratislava: www.stz.sk

Busan: www.busanopen.org/

Cali: www.tennissegurosbolivar.com/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

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

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$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

WTA TOUR

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

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

Starace Lives Up to Top Billing; Baltacha Breaks Through

The challengers circuit was graced with the presence of a top 50 player on the men’s side who hoped to get an early start to the clay court season, while several women followed up their victories on the challenger circuit last week with repeats this week.

The clay court season is about to get underway next week, but two players have already shown their intentions to leave a mark on it this season. At the $100,000 event in Napoli, Italy, Potito Starace won a nail-biting final in front of his local fans by beating Marcos Daniel of Brazil 6-4 4-6 7-6. Daniel was coming of a win at the $125,000 tournament in Bogota, Colombia last month, and came within two points of the biggest win of his career against the 36th ranked Starace. However, Starace fought back from 5-6 down in the final set and won the last three points of the tiebreak to win his first title of the year. Two other prominent players, French Open finalist Gullermo Coria and Olympic gold medalist Nicolas Massu, took part in the tournament, but failed to get past the first round.

At the $35,000 tournament in St. Brieuc, France, Christophe Rochus of Belgium took the title with a 6-2 4-6 6-1 over Marcel Granollers of Spain. Granollers has had a fine start on the clay this year by winning a challenger event in Morocco and reaching the quarterfinals at the ATP event in Acapulco, Mexico, but ran out of gas in the end against the experienced Belgian. Rochus is a long way from his career high ranking of #38, but winning his first title in three years is certainly a step back in the right direction.

There inevitably comes a time for any good player to graduate from the futures circuit, and it seems that Rui Machado of Portugal has more than worn out his welcome at this level. His win at the $15,000 event in Loja, Spain, is his fifth futures title of 2008.

On the women’s side, British tennis has been in dire straits for almost two decades now. The last woman to be in the top 100 was Samantha Smith in 1999. However, Elena Baltacha demonstrated this week that she might be ready to finally break through at the level. She won her second challenger title in a row, and the biggest of her career, at the $75,000 event in Torhout, Belgium, with a 6-7 6-1 6-4 over Iveta Benesova of the Czech Republic. Benesova has also been a hot streak as of late, having won the $50,000 event in Latina, Italy last week. Her characteristically fragile nerves got the better of her though as she was broken in the final set at 4-4, allowing Baltacha to serve out the win.

Magdalena Rybarikova also won her second title in a row at the $50,000 tournament in Patras, Greece, defeating Great Britain’s Anne Keothavong 6-3 7-5 in the final. The win puts her inside of the top 150 for the first time in her career, and with minimal points to defend until late this fall, she looks poised to break through into the top 100 by then.

After struggling with injuries and poor form through 2007, Kristina Barrois of Germany has finally turned her game around. She won her second title in a row at the $25,000 event in Hamburg, Germany, taking the title when Ana Vrljic of Croatia retired with a leg injury after losing the first set 6-2. The win puts Barrois back in the top 200 and guarantees her spot in the qualifying for Roland Garros this spring.

In other challenger news, Betima Jozami of Argentina won the $25,000 event in Civatechia, Italy, and Raquel Kops-Jones of the United States won the $25,000 event in Pelham, Alabama.

The spotlight turns over to the women at the $75,000 event in Monzon, Spain, where American Lilia Osterloh is the top seed. Martina Muller of Germany is the top seed at the $25,000 tournament in Biarritz, France, while Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada hopes to continue her strong form as the top seed at the $25,000 event in Jackson, Mississippi. On the men’s side, professional tennis finally returns to Puerto Rico with former Australian Open finalist Rainer Schuttler playing top seed at the $50,000 event in Humacao. Albert Montanes of Spain is also the top seed at the $35,000 event in Monza, Italy.

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