Kveta Peschke

Will Huber and Raymond Notch a Season for the Ages?

It’s as if winning streaks are a prerequisite if you’re going to be at the top of the rankings. Novak Djokovic won dozens of matches in a row last year, and in 2012, Victoria Azarenka is unbeaten.

In  women’s doubles, the world’s number-one pair of Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond is racking up the victories. The Americans are in the semifinals at this week’s tournament in Indian Wells, Calif., bringing their winning streak in ’12 to 15.

And it doesn’t look like it’s going to end anytime soon.
Granted, the veterans’ start to the season didn’t give any indication of where they would be at now. They lost in the finals of their first tournament in Sydney to Katarina Srebotnik and Kveta Peschke. Then, Huber and Raymond went on to the year’s first Grand Slam, the Australian Open, and fell in the quarterfinals to Sania Mirza and Elena Vesnina in a controversial match.
Since that loss, though, Huber and Raymond have been on a tear: They won the Paris Indoors and the tournaments in Doha and Dubai. Between those three events, they were only pushed to a match tiebreak four times out of 12 matches.
But probably the most impressive result they had over those tournament wins was in the finals in Dubai: There, they won a rematch of sorts against Mirza and Vesnina, 6-2, 6-1.
If Mirza and Vesnina are among their chief rivals and they’re dismissing them so easily, what does that say about the year Huber and Raymond are capable of having in 2012?
Plenty.
After Indian Wells, it’s off to Miami for another tournament on hard courts, the pair’s best surface. Then, the clay-court season gets into full swing. There are teams that will definitely challenge the two with doubles on the dirt relying more on ball-striking than playing the classic serve-and-volley style displayed by Huber and Raymond.
However, neither one of them is strangers to having success on clay: Raymond’s a former French Open champion and Huber has made the finals of the season’s second Slam. Both of them have won numerous titles on the surface with different partners over the years.
Weather that storm then it’s off to the brief grass-court season, which includes what some consider the game’s biggest prize, Wimbledon. Not many players in the field will have the grass-court pedigree of the American pair as both of them have won at the All-England Club in the past, too.
This being an Olympic year, they would have to be considered among the favorites for a Gold medal—provided they’re selected to represent the U.S., which isn’t a given, despite what they’ve accomplished. But if they aren’t chosen for the team, then that gives them the chance to get an early start on the summer hard-court swing. It’s obvious the defending U.S. Open champions are at their best when on the concrete and have proven they can get through the unique challenges the last Major of the year provides.
The fall indoor season sees Huber and Raymond back playing in conditions similar to where their 2012 winning streak first started. And with the year-end championship only requiring two matches won to be named the victor, a title at the season finale would be a proper way to cap off 2012.
While the season is still early, the possibility is there for Huber and Raymond to find their names in the record books among some of the game’s all-time greats. Djokovic and Azarenka have made it look easy at times on the singles front, why can’t two players get it done?

ASB Classic Preview: Lisicki, Goerges, Kuznetsova In Action

by Stephanie Neppl, Special for Tennis Grandstand

The 2012 ASB Classic is underway and it’s lining up to be a memorable tournament with stellar fields in both singles and doubles.

Despite the withdrawal of drawcard Venus Williams, the singles draw is full of big names and big talent. We’ve got our previous two champions in 2011 winner Greta Arn and 2010 champ Yanina Wickmayer as well as former runners up Flavia Pennetta (2010) and Elena Vesnina (2009) all in the main draw.

Sabine Lisicki, who was forced to play qualifing in Auckland in 2011 thanks to an injury that saw her ranking plummet, is the top seed. Lisicki made noise through 2011 with two tournament wins and a semifinal run as a Wimbledon wildcard. The smiley blonde has raised the interest of many tennis fans who relish the chance to see her big serve in action.

The field also includes Chinese #2 Peng Shuai, who lost a heartbreaker to Wickmayer in the semifinals here last year; two-time slam champ Svetlana Kuznetsova and German Julia Goerges. Goerges made the semis in 2011 and had some big results, including two wins over WTA #1 Caroline Wozniacki. It will be interesting to see how she fares this year with as the 5th seed and a lot more expectation than a year ago.

 

Pennetta, the #4 seed, made the final in 2010 but didn’t return in 2011. She had some inconsistent results in singles last year but had some big wins in the second half of the year – Maria Sharapova at the US Open and Caroline Wozniacki in Beijing.

New faces to Auckland this year include Italian Roberta Vinci (seeded #6), young American Christina McHale and two-time grand slam semifinalist Zheng Jie.

The doubles draw includes reigning Wimbledon champs Katarina Srebotnik and Kveta Peschke and  reigning French Open champs Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka. Pennetta, who won the 2011 Aussie Open doubles title with Gisela Dulko, will partner Goerges in the doubles draw. Also competing are Elena Vesnina and Sania Mirza, who made the French Open final in 2011, and Lisicki and Peng are partnering up.

Follow the 2012 ASB Classic on www.asbclassic.co.nz, http://www.facebook.com/ASBClassic  and  http://twitter.com/#!/ASBClassicAuckl

(All photos © www.photosport.co.nz)

Stephanie Neppl is the Social Media Manager for Tennis Auckland covering the ASB Classic and Heineken Open. She is the author of the website I Have a Tennis Addiction and you can follow her on twitter @StephInNZ for further updates.

Novak Djokovic and Petra Kvitova: The Big Winners of 2011

Who could ever doubt that Novak Djokovic wasn’t going to be named ITF World Champion. With an almost perfect 2011 winning three Grand Slam titles and seven other titles Djokovic is the rightful winner by all standards. Next to the seven titles, Djokovic also bags $12.6 million in prize money. He won even more than Rafael Nadal did in 2010 and Roger Federer in 2007.  Djokovic amazing season  is one for the best sports books!

“Starting with victory in last year’s Davis Cup final, this has been an almost perfect 12 months for me,” Djokovic said. “I have always dreamed about becoming the best in the world, and to have won three Grand Slam titles and finished the year as No. 1 is very special.”

I have to say that I am equally impressed with best newcomer Petra Kvitova. She came, she saw and took Wimbledon right from under Maria Sharapova’s grasp. Well that is not true…Sharapova really never stood a chance in that Wimbledon final.

Kvitova has won Wimbledon, the prestigious year end championships in Istanbul and the Fed Cup for the Czech Republic. What better way to end the 2011 season with this prestigious award for a prestigious season.

“I will cherish this award, which is the cherry on top of a wonderful year,” said the 21-year-old Kvitova, who edged out top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki – last year’s champion – in the voting.

The ITF President, Francesco Ricci Bitti, praised the two for their achievements.

“Novak’s achievements this year are remarkable in such a strong era for men’s tennis, while Petra has made a major breakthrough on the women’s tour.”

Other awards were given out to Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic and Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia for their efforts in women’s doubles.

All of them will receive the award at the ITF Champions Award dinner in June 2012.

Tennis Stars’ New Year’s Resolutions

So like any good tennis fan I like to keep up with their offcourt activities as well. And when I found this video on YouTube, it just made my heart pound a little harder. Why, u ask?  Well it means that the tennis season 2011 is really underway and that we have our first Grand Slam tournament right around the corner.

The WTA description says it all:

We talked to our players to find out what their resolutions are for 2011, both on and off the court.

Players in the video: Victoria Azarenka, Vera Zvonareva, Flavia Pennetta, Gisela Dulko, Jelena Jankovic, Sam Stosur, Caroline Wozniacki, Kveta Peschke, Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, Vania King, Shahar Peer, Andrea Hlavackova, Lucie Hradecka, Li Na & Daniela Hantuchova.

Mondays With Bob Greene: I thought I took all the right decisions today

STARS

Roger Federer beat Rafael Nadal 6-4 6-4 to win the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open men’s singles in Madrid, Spain

Dinara Safina beat Caroline Wozniacki 6-2 6-4 in Madrid, Spain, to win the women’s singles at the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open.

Marc Gicquel beat Mathieu Montcourt 3-6 6-1 6-4 to win the BNP Paribas Primrose Bordeaux in Bordeaux, France

SAYING

“I thought I took all the right decisions today. In the end it was a perfect game for me. (You) stay positive and I did. I got the win I needed badly.” – Roger Federer, after beating Rafael Nadal.

“There are no positives, there is little to analyze. He broke and broke and I went home.” – Rafael Nadal, after losing to Roger Federer.

“I’m very disappointed I can play this well and still not win a match.” – Novak Djokovic, after losing to Rafael Nadal in the semifinals.

“Since I became No. 1 I’m playing better and better.” – Dinara Safina, after winning the Madrid Open women’s title.

“I don’t want anybody telling me all the time what to do. I want to do my own thing. I’m more relaxed, easy going. I’m not worried too much. If it goes my way, fine. If not, I’ll keep trying.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, who hired Larisa Savchenko as her new coach.

“After a few weeks of training I got the hunger back. I felt really good and wanted the challenge to see if I can still be up there (competing on the tour).” – Kim Clijsters, a former top-ranked player who will return to the WTA Tour in August.

“It’s going to be a challenge but she seems really determined. She has the talent and the tennis. I really think she can do it.” – Steffi Graf, on Kim Clijsters rejoining the WTA Tour.

“It is truly a page that has been turned. It was 20 years of my life. Now life is something different.” – Justine Henin, saying she will not follow Kim Clijsters in returning to the WTA Tour.

“Sometimes it’s hard to fully accept change in some respects. It’s an exciting change, it’s an asset for fans and for players.” – Andre Agassi, about the roof over Wimbledon’s famed Centre Court.

“That’s saying something when this is already the best and most famous court in the world, but I’m intrigued to see what level the atmosphere might go to. Given the right scenarios with the right match and players, it could be really something.” – Tim Henman, on the new roof covering Wimbledon’s famed Centre Court.

“The small amounts gambled (and) the absence of influence of the bets on the matches in question.” – The Court of Arbitration for Sport, announcing the reason that the suspension of Mathieu Montcourt for betting on matches has been reduced from eight to five weeks.

SUCCESS AT LAST

Roger Federer ended his five-match losing streak to his top rival when he shocked Rafael Nadal in the final of the Madrid Open. That stretch included the finals at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the Australian Open. Calling his first win over Nadal since the 2007 Masters Tennis Cup “very satisfying,” Federer now trails in their head-to-head meetings 7-13. It was the 16th time the two have played for a title, with Nadal winning 11 times. Only Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe have met in more finals among the men: 20. And it was only the second time that Federer has beaten Nadal on clay. The Swiss star is the only player ranked in the top 10 to have ever beaten Nadal on the surface.

SETTLING UP

Organizers of the Dubai Tennis Championships have agreed to pay a USD $300,000 fine assessed against the tournament when Israel’s Shahar Peer was not allowed to enter the country. The WTA Tour board rejected Dubai’s appeal of the record fine, which was more than twice as much as the previous highest. The United Arab Emirates refused to grant Peer a visa just before she was due to arrive at the Dubai tournament in February. The WTA Tour also demanded that any Israeli players who qualify for the 2010 tournament must receive visas at least eight weeks before the tournament. “I just say that it’s a shame that Shahar could not compete in the tournament because she has nothing to do with the politics – she’s a tennis player,” said top-ranked Dinara Safina.

STRAIGHT IN

Emilie Loit and five other Frenchwomen have been awarded wild cards for direct entry into the main draw at this year’s Roland Garros. The French Open begins on May 24 in Paris. Claire Feuerstein, Kinnie Laisne, Kristina Mladenovic, Irena Pavlovic and Olivia Sanchez will be joined by American Lauren Embree and Australian Olivia Rogowska in receiving wild cards from the French Tennis Federation. Given wild cards into the women’s qualifying draw were Chloe Babet, Simona Halep, Florence Haring, Violette Huck, Karla Mraz, Laura Thorpe, Aurelie Vedy and Stephanie Vongsouthi.

STYLISH RETURN

Kim Clijsters made a splash when she helped inaugurate the new roof over Wimbledon’s Centre Court. After Clijsters and Tim Henman teamed up to win a mixed doubles challenge against Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi, Clijsters beat Graf 6-4 and earned a standing ovation from the crowd for the quality of tennis. “I had started practicing again, but I was really out of shape and I didn’t want to embarrass myself,” said Clijsters, who has married and had a child since she retired from the sport. “About four weeks into training I felt I would like to compete again on tour. Since then I have been training really hard.”

SEX AND TENNIS

Anna Kournikova wants to get away from her sexy tennis star image – at least somewhat. The Russian, who works for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the Cartoon Network, says she is driven to get kids more involved in sports and exercise. Kournikova began her professional tennis career at the age of 14. And while many think of her as the sexy tennis player, she was ranked as high as eighth in the world in singles and won two Grand Slam tournament doubles titles, partnering with Martina Hingis. While she has not played on the WTA Tour since 2003, Kournikova participates in World Team Tennis and occasionally plays exhibitions. And she hasn’t abandoned modeling. “You’ve got to have some kind of income,” Kournikova said.

SPOT FOR GAUDIO

Gaston Gaudio of Argentina will be playing at Roland Garros again. Gaudio, who won the French Open in 2004, was granted a wild card for this year’s tournament. The 30-year-old right-hander last won a tournament at Kitzbuhel, Austria, in 2005. Once ranked fifth in the world, Gaudio has dropped to 395th in the world rankings.

SIDELINED

It was a doubleheader at the Madrid Open when both Philipp Kohlschreiber and Nikolay Davydenko pulled out of the tournament. Both players said they had injured their left leg and had to withdraw. Kohlschreiber was facing Rafael Nadal in his next match, while Davydenko was scheduled to face Andy Roddick. Both Nadal and Roddick moved into the quarterfinals with walkovers.

SEE, ME TOO

Roland Garros is playing follow the leader, with officials saying the French Open will have a new center court with a retractable roof in place by 2013 or 2014. Wimbledon will have a retractable roof on its Centre Court for the first time at this year’s tournament. The retractable roof-covered stadium in Paris was supposed to be ready for the 2012 Olympics, but it was delayed when France failed to get the Games. Jean Gachassin, president of the French Tennis Federation (FFT), said the future of Roland Garros depends on it getting the roof. “The goal is to have an outdoor stadium that can be covered, instead of an indoor stadium that can be uncovered,” said Marc Mimram, the head architect for the project. The Australian Open has two courts with roofs, while organizers of the US Open are considering building a roof over its main court, Arthur Ashe Stadium.

STOP IT

Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf say their names and trademarks are being used on Web sites without their permission. The two, who are married, have filed separate cyber squatting claims in federal court. Agassi claims that the domain names andre-agassi.com, andre-agassi.net and andre-agassi.info have been registered. Graf says steffigraf.com, steffigraf.net and steffigraf.info have been registered without her consent. Both Agassi and Graf are seeking ownership of the domain names.

SUSPENSION SHORTENED

When he finally serves his suspension for betting on matches, Mathieu Montcourt will only miss five weeks on the ATP tour instead of eight weeks. And he will be able to compete at both Wimbledon and the US Open this summer. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) noted the 24-year-old Montcourt bet a total of USD $192 on 36 different tennis events, but none on his own matches or at tournaments where he was playing. Citing “the small amounts gambled (and) the absence of influence of the bets on the matches in question,” the CAS reduced Montcourt ban to five weeks, starting July 6. The Frenchman was a finalist this past week at the BNP Paribas Primrose Bordeaux where he lost to Marc Gicquel 3-6 6-1 6-4 in Bordeaux, France.

STAYING RETIRED

Just because she has picked up a racquet and hit with longtime coach Carlos Rodriguez, Justine Henin says she has no plans to un-retire like fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters. “I hasten to add, just to improve my condition and stay healthy,” Henin said of the practice. A year after she surprised the world by retiring while ranked number one in the world, Henin says she still feels the pain of competitive tennis every day. “If it is not the knee, it is the shoulder,” she said. The seven-time Grand Slam tournament champion is now a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, earlier this year visiting eastern Congo, and is appearing on Belgian television in a show titled “12 works of Justine Henin.”

SCRAPPING TENNIS PROGRAMS

In cost-cutting moves, two American colleges have dropped their tennis programs. Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana, suspended indefinitely its tennis programs affected 12 student-athletes, seven men and five women, as well as coach Malik Tabet and assistant coach Martha Montoya. Athletic director Ron Prettyman said he had to cut USD $350,000 from his budget. The university says it will honor all scholarships for the 2009-2010 school year for tennis players who want to stay at ISU, while those who want to transfer will be able to play at other schools.

At Southeastern Louisiana in Hammond, Louisiana, the men’s tennis team was cut because of the budget. Officials said the move to drop the 10-player squad was because next year’s proposed state budget calls for chopping millions of dollars from public universities. Southeastern plans to retain men’s tennis coach Jason Hayes, who also oversees the women’s team, which for now will be spared.

The University of La Verne in Southern California won’t drop its women’s tennis team after all. Two weeks after announcing it was dropping the sport temporarily, the women’s program has been reinstated. The biggest problem at the La Verne, California, school – located 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles – was the lack of a facility since the school turned the courts into a parking lot in 2007. But the school worked out a deal to use the facilities at The Claremont Club during the spring, making it possible for the school to keep its program. The men’s tennis program, however, remains on hiatus with no definitive timetable for its return.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Madrid (men): Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic beat Simon Aspelin and Wesley Moodie 6-4 6-4

Madrid (women): Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Kveta Peschke and Lisa Raymond 4-6 6-3 10-6 (match tiebreak)

Bordeaux: Pablo Cuevas and Horacio Zeballos beat Xavier Pujo and Stephane Robert 4-6 6-4 10-4 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Dusseldorf: www.arag-world-team-cup.com/

Kitzbuhel: www.atpkitz.at

Warsaw: www.warsawopen.com.pl/

Strasbourg: www.internationaux-strasbourg.fr/

Paris: www.rolandgarros.com/index.html

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$490,000 Interwetten Austrian Open, Kitzbuhel, Austria, clay

$1,800,000 ARAG ATP World Team Championships, Dusseldorf, Germany, clay

WTA

$600,000 Warsaw Open, Warsaw, Poland, clay

$220,000 Internationaux de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France, clay

SENIORS

Grand Champions Brazil, Sao Paulo, Brazil, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP and WTA

Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay (first week)

Mondays With Bob Greene: I’m going to Shanghai really to represent France and all my family and my friends.

STARS

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat David Nalbandian 6-3 4-6 6-4 to win the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris, France

Nadia Petrova won the Bell Challenge, beating Bethanie Mattek 4-6 6-4 6-1 in Quebec City, Canada

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova won the Ritro Slovak Open in Bratislava, Slovak Republic, beating Michaella Krajicek 6-3 6-1

David Koellerer beat Pau Capdeville 6-4 6-3 to win the Bancolombia Open 2008 in Cali, Colombia

Ivo Minar beat Alex Bogomolov Jr. 6-1 2-0 retired to win the Flea Market Cup Busan Challenger in Busan, Korea

SAYINGS

“I’m going to go (to Shanghai) really to represent France and all my family and my friends. That’s it. I’m going to represent everyone and I’m going to give my best.” – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, after winning the Paris Masters and qualifying for the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai, China.

“I didn’t play bad, but I didn’t play like the other days.” – David Nalbandian, after losing to Tsonga in the final at Paris and a chance to qualify for the Tennis Masters Cup.

“If I feel like I want to continue to play, I will. If not, it will be over. For the moment, I just need to rest.” – Marat Safin, former world number one player on whether or not he will retire from tennis.

“Now I have a long journey ahead of me to Doha, but it’ll definitely be worth it. And then it’ll be really nice to put the racquets aside for a few weeks.” – Nadia Petrova, after winning the Bell Challenge.

“I saw him in the locker room five minutes before my match and he told me he had a pain in the back. I said, maybe we are both going to be going home tonight.” – Rafael Nadal, talking about Roger Federer after both withdrew from the Paris Masters with injuries.

“It wasn’t going to do me any good to play patty-cake back and forth with him. I’m not as quick as he is and I’m not as consistent as he is. It actually made for a pretty simple game plan.” – Andy Roddick, after his victory over Gilles Simon in Paris.

“I think with this calendar it’s very difficult to play a lot of years in a row. I think the ATP and everybody have to think about these things happening at the end of the season.” – Rafael Nadal, on the injuries to him and Federer.

“For him, it can’t all be serious. Off the court he is just a kid.” – Agent Tony Godsick, talking about his client, Roger Federer.

“We have now accomplished all that we set out to do at the USTA. The best time to move on is when the business is at an all-time high and a solid foundation has been built for the future.” – Arlen Kantarian, who is quitting at the end of the year as the USTA’s CEO for professional tennis.

SUSPENSEFUL

The world’s top two players turned up injured on the same day. First, second-ranked Roger Federer pulled out of his quarterfinal match at the BNP Paribas Masters with back pain. Then top-seeded Rafael Nadal dropped the first set before retiring from his match against Nikolay Davydenko with a knee injury. By his standards, Federer has had a down year, winning his fifth straight US Open title but losing in the final at both the French Open and Wimbledon, and also losing his world number one ranking. This is the first time since 2003 that Federer has gone the entire season without a Masters Series trophy, and his four titles this year are his fewest since 2002. Nadal, who had a trainer work on his right knee and thigh before he retired, said he had never had this kind of injury before.

SHANGHAI BOUND

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was instrumental in completing the field for the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai. Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina earned a spot in the elite field when Tsonga beat American James Blake in the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Masters. Then Tsonga clinched the final berth for himself when he beat David Nalbandian in the final in Paris. Earlier in the week, American Andy Roddick secured a spot in the Shanghai tournament by beating France’s Gilles Simon in a third-round match. Completing the singles field for the November 9-16 tournament are Spain’s Rafael Nadal, Swiss Roger Federer, Serb Novak Djokovic, Briton Andy Murray and Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko.

STRONG TEAMS

The final two teams to qualify for the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha, Qatar, are Kveta Peschke and Rennae Stubbs, along with Katherina Srebotnik and Ai Sugiyama. Previously qualified for the four-team field were Cara Black and Liezel Huber as well as Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual. The Peschke-Stubbs duo is making its second consecutive appearance as a team at the season finale.

[ad#adify-300×250]

STEPPING DOWN

Arlen Kantarian is leaving his post as the US Tennis Association’s chief executive officer for professional tennis. A former National Football League executive, Kantarian joined the USTA in March 2000 and is credited with turning the year’s final Grand Slam tournament into an entertainment spectacular. During his tenure, the US Open revenues jumped 80 percent as the tournament set annual records for attendance and revenue. He is credited with developing the instant replay and challenge format, moving the women’s final to Saturday night and securing television deals to boost the tournament’s profile and income.

STANDOUT

The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum will pay tribute to Jane Brown Grimes at a dinner in New York City in December. Grimes began a two-year stint as president of the United States Tennis Association in January 2007 and has been a member of the USTA Board for Directors for the past seven years. She represents the United States on the International Tennis Federation Fed Cup and Grand Slam Committees. She served as the Hall of Fame’s president and chief executive officer from 1991 until 2000, overseeing a major reconstruction of the historic buildings and grounds of the Hall of Fame’s headquarters in Newport, Rhode Island.

STOPPED SHORT

Aleksandra Wozniak’s bid to become the first Canadian to reach the final of the Bell Challenge women’s tournament ended when she fell to American Bethanie Mattek in the semifinals at Quebec City. A native of Blaineville, Quebec, the 21-year-old Wozniak won a tournament in Stanford, Connecticut, just before the US open, making her the first Canadian in 20 years to win a WTA title. Mattek fell in the title match to top-seeded Nadia Petrova.

SWISS STAR

When the United States plays Switzerland in the opening round of Davis Cup next year, the Americans will be facing Roger Federer again. The last time Federer played a first-round Davis Cup tie was in 2004, when he led the Swiss to victory over Romania. The United States and Switzerland have met only twice in Davis Cup play, with the countries splitting their two meetings. The Americans won the 1992 final at Fort Worth, Texas. The last time they played, Federer had a hand in all three points as the Swiss beat the United States in Basel, Switzerland, in a first-round match in 2001.

STEP IN STEP

Serena Williams and James Blake will team up for the Hopman Cup in January. Serena and Mardy Fish won the mixed teams title a year ago, the second time Williams has won the event. Blake also has won the Hopman Cup twice, joining with Serena in 2003 and with Lindsay Davenport in 2004. Tournament director Pal McNamee said the Americans will be the top-seeded team. Others who are scheduled to be in the field include Dinara Safina and her brother Marat Safin – if he decides to continue his career, Germans Sabine Lisicki and Nicolas Kiefer, and the Slovak duo of Dominika Cibulkova and Dominik Hrbaty.

SPOTLIGHTED

The season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships will be shown in the United States on the Tennis Channel and ESPN2. More than 30 live hours are planned from the prestigious women’s event being held this week in Doha, Qatar, almost all of which will be telecast in high definition. Combined with taped segments, the networks plan to televise close to 70 hours of high definition match coverage during the six-day tournament that features the world’s top eight singles players and top four doubles teams.

SINGLES HISTORY

History was made at a USD $10,000 International Tennis Federation women’s tournament in Vila Real De Santo Antonio, Portugal, when two Moroccan Fed Cup teammates met in the final. It was the first all-Moroccan singles final on the ITF Women’s Circuit. Nadia Lalami, playing in her first career singles final, won the tournament when Lamia Essaadi retired from the match while trailing 2-1 in the opening set. Lalami also teamed up with her regular Fed Cup doubles partner Fatima El Allami to win the doubles. Prior to 2008, Bahia Mouhtassine was the only Moroccan woman to win a singles title, and she finished her career with eleven singles titles. This year, however, has been a banner one for Moroccan women’s tennis as Essaadi won a tournament in July and El Allami won a title in August.

SAFIN THROUGH?

Marat Safin is not sure he wants to continue playing tennis. After the 28-year-old Russian suffered a first-round loss at the Paris Masters, he said: “I need to enjoy my life without tennis. I will see if I continue.” Safin won the US Open in 2000 and was ranked number one in the world. He also won the Australian Open in 2005, the last of his 15 titles. Many times he has self-destructed in matches, and his latest defeat was no exception. After losing the opening set, Safin began the second set with four double faults. His career has been hampered by his volatile temper and, more recently, injuries.

SERVING THE GAME

Harold Mitchell is one of four new directors on the Tennis Australia board. The others are former Fed Cup player Janet Young, Stephen Healy and Graeme Holloway. Mitchell is a media buyer. Tennis Australia president Geoff Pollard was re-elected to the job he has held since 1989.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Paris: Jonas Bjorkman and Kevin Ullyett beat Jeff Coetzee and Wesley Moodie 6-2 6-2

Quebec City: Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Vania King beat Jill Craybas and Tamarine Tanasugarn 7-6 (3) 6-4

Cali: Daniel Koellerer and Boris Pashanski beat Diego Junqueira and Peter Luczak 6-7 (4) 6-4 10-4 (match tiebreak)

Bratislava: Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka beat Akgul Amanmuradova and Monica Niculescu 7-6 (1) 6-1

Busan: Rik De Voest and Ashley Fisher beat Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-2 2-6 10-6 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Doha: www.Sonyericsson-championships.com

Sunrise: www.championsseriestennis.com/arizona2008/

Bratislava: www.stz.sk

Dnepropetrovsk: www.peoplenetcup.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

WTA TOUR

$4,450,000 Sony Ericsson Championships, Doha, Qatar, hard

$100,000 ITF women’s event, Krakow, Poland, hard

ATP

$106,500 Tatra Banka Open, Bratislava, Slovakia, hard

SENIORS

Cancer Treatment Centers of America Championships at Surprise, Surprise, Arizona

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$3,700,000 Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai, China, carpet

$125,000 PEOPLEnet Cup, Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, hard

WTT finalizes lineups at Roster Player Draft

Written by the WTT 

WTT April 1, 2008 (Miami) – World TeamTennis franchises finalized their lineups today at the WTT Roster Player Draft in Miami, Fla., completing the player selection process that began last month when marquee player protections were announced. First round roster player draft selections for the 11 teams in the WTT Pro League presented by Advanta included Lisa Raymond, Justin Gimelstob, Rennae Stubbs and American teenager Madison Brengle.

Dmitry Tursunov will be a featured roster player for the Sacramento Capitals this summer, playing one home match on July 11. Liezel Huber, the world’s top-ranked doubles player, is a roster exempt player for the Delaware Smash. Huber will play three matches for the Smash on July 8, 9, and 11.

During the WTT Player Draft, 46 roster players representing 17 countries were added to the 2008 lineup, joining previously announced marquee players including Venus Williams (Philadelphia Freedoms), Serena Williams (Washington Kastles), Anna Kournikova (St. Louis Aces), John McEnroe (New York Sportimes), Lindsay Davenport (Newport Beach Breakers), Andy Roddick (St. Louis Aces) and Mike and Bob Bryan (Kansas City Explorers) to fill out the player list for the 2008 season.

Raymond returns to the Philadelphia Freedoms while another doubles standout, Rennae Stubbs, will play in Kansas City along with her tour partner Kveta Peschke. Gimelstob makes his WTT debut this summer with the League’s newest franchise, the Washington Kastles. Brengle, a Dover, Del. native, will play in front of a friendly home crowd this summer for the Smash.

The League’s two West Coast teams are looking to their WTT veterans to lead their 2008 squads. Sacramento protected Caps stalwart Elena Likhovtseva in the first round while Newport Beach did the same for long-time fan favorite Ramon Delgado. Jasmin Woehr returns to the Aces while 2007 WTT Female MVP Tamarine Tanasugarn will be back for the Springfield Lasers.

The Boston Lobsters selected Jan-Michael Gambill with their first pick and League newcomer Yaroslava Shvedova will make her debut for the New York Buzz.

The schedule for the WTT Pro League presented by Advanta includes 77 matches in 11 markets beginning July 3 and running through July 23 with the season-ending WTT Championship Weekend, set for July 24-27, in Roseville, Calif., home of the Sacramento Capitals.

The 11-team League was co-founded by Billie Jean King in the early 1970s. Each team has two male and two female players who play singles, doubles and mixed doubles matches. For details on the complete draft results and the 2008 schedule, visit www.WTT.com.