larry ellison

David Ferrer’s shining moment; Trouble in tennis paradise at Indian Wells — The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Crowning Achievement

David Ferrer had the dubious distinction of being the player with the most Master Series match wins without a title, but that is the case no more. The Spaniard finally clinched one of the coveted Masters shields when he defeated surprise finalist Jerzy Janowicz of Poland in straight sets. While acknowledging that Ferrer was certainly helped by the withdrawals of Federer and Nadal and the early exits of Djokovic and Murray, it doesn’t diminish the significance of his win. Ferrer is too talented of a player not to have walked away with at least one of premiere titles before he retired, and as it’s the seventh title he’s won in 2012, it’s a testament to just how well he’s playing this season. It’s a great achievement for Spain’s No. 2, and now that he’s gotten that mini-monkey off of his back, perhaps he’ll face the Big Four with a little more self-belief come 2013.

Forgotten Champion

It was a thrilling end to the year for Russian Nadia Petrova. She and compatriot Maria Kirilenko won the WTA Championships Doubles event in Istanbul, and she followed that up with a run to the singles title in the Tournament of Champions in Sofia by absolutely drubbing No. 1 seed Caroline Wozniacki. Petrova has always had a beautiful game. She possesses one of the best serves on tour as well as great hands that have garnered her so much success in the doubles arena. The biggest hurdle throughout her professional career, however, has been her mental toughness, and her victory in Sofia doesn’t necessarily mean she’s greatly improved in that area. The field at the Tournament of Champions is essentially the JV squad of the WTA’s top crop of talent, which is why that tournament doesn’t generate nearly the amount of headlines as Istanbul. It’s that lack of a spotlight that helps a player like Petrova. So props to her for a tremendous 2012 finale, but I wouldn’t yet bank on that translating into more consistent results or frequent upsets of the sport’s best come 2013.

Czech Them Out

For the second straight year, the Czechs are Fed Cup champions, becoming the third consecutive team to successfully defend a Fed Cup title. They defeated Serbia 3-1, with the former Yugoslavian nation’s only point coming courtesy of Ana Ivanovic. Kvitova, who recovered from bronchitis just in time to help her squad defend their 2011 crown, went 1-1 over the weekend, but it was her teammate, Lucie Safarova, who defeated both Ivanovic and Jankovic to give her team the unassailable lead. Kvitova, and to a slightly lesser extent Safarova, have always exhibited plenty of talent with flashes of brilliance, but both have also struggled to produce it consistently on the biggest stages. Here’s to hoping that unlike this past season, they’re able to draw upon their experience in winning the 2012 Fed Cup to produce their best tennis when it counts next year.

Still the One

Roger Federer may have come into the ATP World Tour Finals knowing that he would finish behind Novak Djokovic in the rankings, but not surprisingly, the Swiss remains number one in the hearts of many a fan. This was proven earlier this week when Federer was presented with the ATPWorldTour.com Fan’s Favorite Award for a record tenth consecutive year. With his smooth style and grace, it’s easy to see why fans from all over the world continue to enjoy what the Maestro can do with a tennis racquet. In addition to the love from the fans, Federer also received love from his fellow ATP pros. They voted him the recipient of the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award for the second straight year and eighth time overall. Not a bad haul for a guy that many were writing off a little over a year ago.

Say What?!

Yes, in case you were wondering if you read the headlines correctly, the ATP Tour Board of Directors passed on an $800,000 prize money increase at Indian Wells. The increase was to have been primarily distributed to winners in the first three rounds. Thus far, the official reason given by the ATP for declining the offered increase is that the proposed distribution is not in line with the ATP rules that both players and tournaments have agreed to and to which every other tournament on tour follows. One suspects the latter part of that explanation is the real reason behind the decision to decline the generous offer. Earlier this year, Indian Wells already upped the prize purse by one million dollars, and it didn’t follow the normal ATP distribution rules either. Larry Ellison has done a lot to upgrade the status of Indian Wells, and has broached the idea of looking into adding mixed doubles. This may have some tournament organizers nervous that he’s looking to try and take away any arguments of eventually upgrading the event to Grand Slam status (which is somewhat hard to imagine given how much it would upset the historic status quo). It may also have them nervous that players will expect them to cough up more dough at their own events. Whatever the reasons, the fact that sources claim it was the three tournament representatives who voted against the increase, while the player representatives were in favor, means this topic of discussion isn’t likely to go away any time soon. Stay tuned.

FEDERER CALLS AGASSI-SAMPRAS FEUD “AWKWARD, UNFORTUNATE”

Roger Federer has finally talked about the awkward situation from Friday’s “Hit for Haiti” charity match between Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras calling it an “awkward moment” and “a bit unfortunate”.

The row between rivals Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras happened during the Friday night fund-raiser in Indian Wells at the BNP Paribas Open where Sampras took exception to Agassi’s suggestion he was a poor tipper.

Each of the players competing wore a microphone so the crowd and television viewers could hear the banter and Agassi repeated the allegation he had made about his fellow American in his autobiography ‘Open’ last year.

“There was definitely an awkward moment, a bit of a heated moment,” Federer said in his press conference following his win Sunday over Romania’s Victor Hanescu. “It’s a bit unfortunate, but that stuff kind of happens. It’s a pity if that’s what grabs the limelight and not the event itself, you know.”

Federer and Sampras overcame Agassi and Rafael Nadal 8-6 in the match to raise money for victims of the Haiti earthquake.

The evening was organized by venue owner Larry Ellison, who got the idea from a similar match Federer organized during the Australian Open in January.

The Agassi-Sampras feud has gained significant publicity, being featured on ESPN’s SportsCenter and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program among many others.