Marcelo Melo

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Bliss for the Bryans: Bryan Brothers Win Wimbledon and Make History

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(July 6, 2013) Coming into the Wimbledon final, Mike and Bob Bryan had won 23 consecutive matches. The last time the twins saw defeat was April 21, 2013 when they failed to capitalize on seven match points against Nenad Zimonjic and Julien Benneteau in the Monte Carlo Masters final.

Less than 15 minutes into today’s final, the Bryan’s opponents, Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Marcelo Melo of Brazil, were playing like the team that hadn’t lost a match in nearly three months. In Bob Bryan’s first service game, the overwhelming underdogs quickly created two break points and converted the second after Dodig nailed a marvelous return at Bob’s feet nd the 6’8 Brazilian put away the response with an overhead.

On their own serve, Dodig and Melo were serving huge facilitating many short points finished by simple volleys and overheads. In addition, Dodig and Melo were varying their formations and really did an effective job keeping the Bryan’s guesing especially with the I-formation. For those not familiar, the I-formation is when the server’s partner crouches down hovering over the center service line as the server moves near the center mark on the baseline. This formation is a difficult one to consistently execute but it keeps the returners guessing because they aren’t sure where the net player and the server will move. Thus, if you have a team like the Bryan’s who can drill cross court returns all day long, it helps to keep them honest and prevents them from entering a rhythm off the return.

Five games in and the Bryan’s were in paramount danger of losing a 6-0 set for the first time since the 2012 Australian Open as they fell behind 5-0. Amazingly enough, the Bryan’s have only ever lost five 6-0 sets during their professional career. The Bryan’s were able to escape from a 0-5, 15-30 hole, break their opponents, and hold once more before dropping the first 6-3 in 31 minutes.

Looking back, the three games the Bryan’s rallied off at the end of the first set were crucial. It was abundantly clear the Bryan’s had gained a sizeable amount of momentum despite losing the set.

This transition in momentum translated into a fast start to the second set. The Bryan’s broke serve after Dodig, who had been extremely potent on serve in the first set, gifted away the break with a double fault.

To make matters worse for Dodig and Melo, their cogency off the return completely vanished in the second set. Daren Cahill of ESPN astutely pointed out that the Bryan’s began to introduce the body serve with increased regularity in the second stanza of the match. This tactic seemed to jam Dodig and Melo both physically and mentally. Not only were the Bryan’s hitting more unreturnable serves, but they seemed to draw Dodig and Melo into a major state of confusion. The Brazilian and the Croatian, when given a chance to cleanly hit a return, continually kept going down the line at the net player. And almost every time they did this, the Bryan’s made sure to make them pay for their mistake and end the point then and there. Such a bizarre strategy, whether decided upon or forced by the powerful serves of the Bryan’s, is not bound to work considering how swift the Bryan’s hands are at net.

All the Bryan’s needed in the second set was one break, and behind 15/16 first serve points won, they closed out the set 6-3 without facing a break point.

As the third set commenced, one of the notes I wrote to myself was “Not seeing too many down the line returns from the Bryans.” Ultimately, one of the main factors in the Bryan’s success in the match was their ability to consistently strike dipping, cross-court returns. Dodig and Melo continually returning at the net player really made breaking serve nearly impossible.

In addition, on serve, Dodig and Melo seemed less willing to stray from standard formation as the Bryans started to dial in on their returns. The lack of formation variation extended to serve placement as Dodig and Melo hit almost all of their serves into the Bryan’s backhand. Serving into the Bryan’s backhand is definitely the smart play but if you do it over and over and over, it becomes far too predictable. The Bryan’s broke to go up 2-1 and were cracking the backhand returns that failed them earlier in the match. Needless to say, the twins had Dodig and Melo right where they wanted them.

The patterns I previously described held suit for the rest of the third set. The only inroad Dodig and Melo made in a service game was when the Bryan’s were serving at 3-2 30-30. Mike Bryan quickly eradicated any notions Dodig and Melo had of breaking nailing a body serve and then an ace to hold for 4-2.

Winning the third set 6-4, the result seemed inevitable. The fourth set was definitely duller than the other sets and was characterized by a series of quick holds. The Bryan’s eventually broke through at 4-4 and put the match in the hands of Bob Bryan’s reliable lefty serve. Bob hit a monstrous serve down the middle at 30-15 and ended the match just like Marion Bartoli did in the Women’s Singles Final– with an ace.

The Bryan’s celebrated the win with their trademark chest-bump. With the victory, the Bryan’s became the first doubles team in the open-era to hold all four majors at the same time. With a win at the U.S. Open in September, the Bryan’s would be the first team to complete the calendar year slam since Ken McGregor and Frank Sedgman did it 1951 and be only the second doubles team in tennis history to do so.

Wimbledon Rewind: Thoughts on Marion Bartoli’s Magical Fortnight, and More

The most surprising pair of major finalists in recent memory.

Six of the ten Wimbledon finalists took to Centre Court on Saturday, spearheaded by a first-time women’s champion in singles.

Stage fright:  Since the start of 2010, the WTA has produced several first-time major finalists.  Some have dazzled in their debuts, such as Francesca Schiavone at Roland Garros 2010, Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon 2011, and Victoria Azarenka at the Australian Open 2012.  Others have competed bravely despite falling short, such as Li Na at the Australian Open 2011 and Sara Errani at Roland Garros 2012.  Still others have crumbled under the stress of the moment, and here Sabine Lisicki recalled Vera Zvonareva’s two major finals in 2010 as well as Samantha Stosur’s ill-fated Roland Garros attempt that year.  In an embarrassingly one-sided final, Lisicki held her formidable serve only once until she trailed 1-5 in the second set.  One hardly recognized the woman who had looked so bulletproof at key moments against world No. 1 Serena Williams and world No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska.

Straight down the line:  Pause for a moment to think about this fact:  Marion Bartoli won the Wimbledon title without losing a set or playing a tiebreak in the tournament.  The wackiest major in recent memory found a fittingly wacky champion in one of the WTA’s most eccentric players.  Detractors will note that world No. 15 Bartoli did not face a single top-16 seed en route to the title, extremely rare at a major.  But she could defeat only the players placed in front of her, which she did with gusto.  Bartoli lost eight total games in the semifinal and final, assuring that the words “Wimbledon champion” will stand in front of her name forever.

Greatest since Seles:  Bartoli became the first French player of either gender to win a major title in singles since Amelie Mauresmo captured the Venus Rosewater Dish in 2006.  More intriguingly, she became the first woman with two-handed groundstrokes on both sides to win a major since Monica Seles in 1996.  One wonders whether more tennis parents and coaches will start to think seriously about encouraging young players to experiment with a double-fisted game.  That might not be a bad development from the viewpoint of fans.  Bartoli’s double-fisted lasers intrigue with their distinctive angles, despite their unaesthetic appearance.

Walter vindicated:  Earlier this spring, Bartoli served a deluge of double faults in a first-round loss to Coco Vandeweghe in Monterrey.  She had attempted to part ways from her equally eccentric father, Walter, only to find that she still needed his guidance.  Within a few short months of his return, Bartoli secured the defining achievement of her career.  One need not like the often overbearing Walter, or his methods, but his daughter is clearly a better player with him than without him.

Greatest since Graf:  Lisicki became the first German woman to reach a major final since Steffi Graf in 1999.  That fact might come as a surprise, considering the quantity of tennis talent that Germany has produced since then.  Andrea Petkovic and Angelique Kerber have reached the top ten, while Julia Goerges has scored some notable upsets.  Yet none of them has done what Lisicki has, a tribute to the finalist’s raw firepower and ability to overcome injury upon injury.  One wonders whether Petkovic in particular will take heart from seeing Lisicki in the Wimbledon final as she battles her own injury woes.

The grass is greener:  In her last four Wimbledon appearances, Lisicki has recorded a runner-up appearance, a semifinal, and two quarterfinals.  She has not reached the quarterfinals at any other major in her career.  While the grass suits her game more than any other surface, Lisicki has the talent to succeed elsewhere as well.  For example, the fast court at the US Open should suit her serve.  Will she remain a snake in the grass, or can she capitalize on this success to become a consistent threat?

Rankings collateral:  Into the top eight with her title, Bartoli will start receiving more favorable draws in the coming months.  If she avoids a post-breakthrough hangover, she will have plenty of chances to consolidate her ranking in North America, where she usually excels.

Holding all the cards:  Two other finals unfolded on Centre Court today, both more competitive than the marquee match.  In the first of those, Bob and Mike Bryan claimed the men’s doubles title as they rallied from losing the first set to Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo.  This victory not only brought the Bryans their third Wimbledon but made them the first doubles team ever to hold all of the four major titles and the Olympic gold medal simultaneously.  They stand within a US Open title of the first calendar Slam in the history of men’s doubles.

Tennis diplomacy:  In a women’s doubles draw almost as riddled with upsets as singles, eighth seeds Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai prevailed in straight sets over the Australian duo of Casey Dellacqua and the 17-year-old Ashleigh Barty.  The champions did not face a seeded opponent until the final, where the joint triumph of Chinese Taipei citizen Hsieh and People’s Republic citizen Peng illustrated how tennis can overcome rigid national boundaries.

Question of the day:  Where does Bartoli’s triumph rank among surprise title runs in the WTA?  I would rate it as more surprising than Samantha Stosur at the 2011 US Open but less surprising than Francesca Schiavone at Roland Garros 2010.

 

Wimbledon Rewind: Thoughts on the Semifinals in Women’s Singles and Men’s Doubles

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At the end of a chaotic fortnight, a Wimbledon women’s final has emerged that almost nobody expected.  Here is a look at how it took shape on Thursday, and some key facts about the matchup, plus a detour into men’s doubles.

A tale of two semifinals:  Notching her sixth consecutive straight-sets victory, Marion Bartoli surrendered just three games to Kirsten Flipkens en route to her second Wimbledon final. Far more drama awaited in the three-set sequel, which brought Wimbledon patrons their money’s worth.  Extending to 9-7 in the third set, the epic clash between Sabine Lisicki and Agnieszka Radwanska twisted through several ebbs and flows from both players.  Each woman let opportunities slip away, and each extricated herself from danger more than once before Lisicki slammed the door.

A tale of two routes to the final:  A rare opportunity awaits Bartoli to win a major without facing any top-16 seed, any major champion, or any former No. 1.  The highest-ranked opponent to meet the world No. 15 this fortnight was No. 17 Sloane Stephens, much less experienced on these stages.  For her part, No. 23 Lisicki has upset three top-15 opponents, including two members of the top four in Serena and Radwanska.  All three of those victories came in three sets, exposing her to much more pressure than Bartoli has felt so far.

Back from the brink, again:  For the second time this tournament, Lisicki won the first set from a top-four opponent, played a dismal second, and fell behind early in the third.  For the second time, she erased that 0-3 deficit in the decider, held serve under duress late in the set, and scored the crucial break before closing out the match at the first time of asking.  The key break came at 4-4 against Serena and at 7-7 against Radwanska, both of whom played well enough to win their final sets against most opponents.  But not against this woman at this tournament.

Still Slamless: This loss may sting Agnieszka Radwanska for some time, considering the magnitude of the opportunity before her.  Not many Slam semifinal lineups will feature her as the only woman in the top 10.  The world No. 4 stood two points from a second straight Wimbledon final with Lisicki serving at 5-6 in the third set.  Radwanska would have entered that final as the clear favorite on account of her 7-0 record against Bartoli.  For all of her consistency, and all of her titles at lesser tournaments, that one major breakthrough continues to elude the Polish counterpuncher.  Once again, she will watch from the sidelines as someone with a much less impressive resume does what she cannot.

No time like the first time:  First-time major finalists have achieved some stunning results on the women’s side over the last few years.  Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka shone on their first trips to the second Saturday, both against the more established Maria Sharapova, while few can forget what Francesca Schiavone achieved during a memorable fortnight in Paris.  On the other hand, others have not risen to the occasion as well as they might have hoped in their first major final:  Sara Errani, Samantha Stosur, and Li Na among them. (Stosur and Li would find redemption with their second chances, though.)  Only a slight underdog, if an underdog at all, Lisicki should embrace the moment with her relaxed demeanor and fearless ball-striking.  She might start slowly, but she probably will not go quietly.

The magic number 23:   Both of Bartoli’s finals at majors, Wimbledon in 2007 and in 2013, have come against the 23rd seed after she defeated a Belgian in the semifinals (Henin, Flipkens).  Last time, the legendary Venus Williams held that seed, so the then-No. 18 Bartoli reached the final as a heavy underdog notwithstanding her ranking.  The double-fister has plenty of reason to fear this No. 23 seed as well, however, having lost to Lisicki at Wimbledon two years ago.

Stat of the day:  Saturday will mark just the second Wimbledon final in the 45 years of the Open era when both women seek their first major title.  The adrenaline will flow, the nerves will jangle, and somebody will walk off with the Venus Rosewater Dish who never expected to hold it a few weeks ago.

Dream alive, barely:  Switching to doubles for a moment, Bob and Mike Bryan stayed on course for a calendar Slam by reaching the Wimbledon final after winning the first two majors of 2013.  The inseparable twins have profited from the instability besetting many other doubles teams.  Nevertheless, they have won Wimbledon only twice in their career and needed five sets to escape the 14th seeds, Rohan Bopanna and Edouard Roger-Vasselin.  Even if the Bryans do not win the US Open, they would hold all four of the major titles and the Olympic gold medal simultaneously with one more victory, for they won their home major last fall.

Flavor of the fortnight:  Pitted against the history-seeking twins are the 12th seeds Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo, who upset Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek in a five-setter of their own.  Wimbledon has featured plenty of surprise doubles champions in the last several years, such as Jonathan Marray and Frederik Nielsen, so one should not underestimate Dodig and Melo.  The latter also defeated the Bryans in Davis Cup, albeit with a different partner on a different surface.  And Dodig has enjoyed an outstanding Wimbledon fortnight, having reached the second week in singles as well.

 

 

Brazilians Melo/Soares stun the Bryans in day 2 Davis Cup action

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With an impeccable 22-2 record in Davis Cup doubles going into today’s match, most people had penned in a US victory for the Bryan brothers in yesterday’s doubles rubber against Brazil. But in tennis it’s never safe to count on the better team on paper. Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares have had success playing the Bryans in the past, having beaten the brothers twice, although on clay. This was a whole new ballgame, playing to keep their country alive in the tie, on foreign soil, against the best doubles team in the world. It was almost inconceivable that Brazil could pull off such a victory under the circumstances.

Team Brazil came out to play from the first point, as Bruno Soares put in it the post match press conference, “to beat these guys, you have to be 110%. Today we showed we were 110%, most important for five sets. We didn’t drop for one second.” He was correct. Even when the team went down three set points in the first set tiebreak, they kept calm and were able to go on to win the breaker and take the first set. Things got more heated at the end of the second set tie break, won by the Americans, when their was some controversy over an exclamation by Bob Bryan, seemingly towards Marcelo Melo. The crowd made more of a fuss about the exchange than either team did.

Both teams played down the incident in their post match interviews. Bob Bryan cited the charged environment, saying, “Davis Cup is an emotional atmosphere. They got passionate after they thought they won the set. I got passionate to them. There were some words said. You know, no hard feelings, no grudges.” The sentiment was similar from the Brazilians. Marcelo Melo seemed a bit confused about what happened, saying, “Bob never did this before. We have really good relationship. I have him as a friend. In that moment I got in shock. How Bob did this, is not normal.” He mentioned he would have to review the footage later to see what really happened, but he seemed fairly certain that Bob meant no harm to him directly. 

The overall atmosphere in the arena could not have been any more different from Day 1, where the crowd never seemed able to get into the singles matches. The crowd was firmly behind the home team, but there were a few Brazilian fans in the house which made for an even livelier air. The Americans on the Team USA bench were just as pumped up as the crowd, up on their feet as often as not. Ryan Harrison did a particularly good job getting the crowd cheering.

While Team USA would’ve been thrilled to capture the tie on Saturday, fans attending Sunday’s event somewhat benefit from Brazil’s doubles victory. What would’ve been dead rubbers will now be more exciting events. Sunday’s matches begin at 12PM EST and feature reverse singles John Isner v. Thomaz Bellucci followed directly by Sam Querrey v. Thiago Alves.

Up for the Cup! First-Round Davis Cup World Group Preview

Tomas prepares to defend his first Davis Cup title as plenty of intriguing ties await.

Eight first-round Davis Cup ties unfold around the world this weekend.  We discuss the key players and themes that might emerge from each of them.

Canada vs. Spain:  Without any of their top three men, Davis Cup Goliath Spain finds itself at a surprising disadvantage when it travels to the western coast of North America.  Had either Nadal or Ferrer participated in this tie against Canada, the visitors would remain heavy favorites even against a squad spearheaded by Milos Raonic and aging doubles star Daniel Nestor.  Instead, Canada now can rely on two victories from their singles #1 against the overmatched pair of Marcel Granollers and Albert Ramos, forcing Spain to sweep the remaining three matches.  Among those is a doubles rubber that pits Nestor against World Tour Finals champions Granollers and Marc Lopez, who lost three of their four Davis Cup doubles rubbers last year.  If the tie reaches a live fifth rubber, as seems plausible, Spanish champion Alex Corretja might consider substituting Guillermo Garcia-Lopez for Ramos against the net-rushing Frank Dancevic.  Buoyed by their home crowd, though, Canada should find a way to snatch one of the three non-Raonic rubbers and send Spain to the playoff round for the first time in recent memory.

Pick:  Canada

Italy vs. Croatia:  This tie should hinge on home-court advantage and the choice of ground that it entails.  On a fast hard court, the formidable serves of Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig would stifle the less imposing firepower of the Italians.  But Croatia faces Andreas Seppi and Fabio Fognini on the red clay of Turin, a slow surface where the superior consistency of the hosts should lead them to victory.  The visitors will face the intriguing choice of whether to substitute their singles stars on Saturday for a doubles pairing almost certainly doomed to defeat.  Three straight days of best-of-five matches for Cilic, Dodig, or both would leave them even more vulnerable to the Italian war of attrition, though.  At any rate, the contrast of styles between the fearless first strikes of the Croats and the patient baseline rallying of the Italians should provide entertaining viewing.

Pick:  Italy

Belgium vs. Serbia:  One might see Djokovic’s name on the schedule and automatically checking off the “Serbia” box, but a few flickers of doubt persist.  First, the Australian Open champion may have arrived physically and mentally drained from his recent exploits, and he has struggled against Friday opponent Olivier Rochus throughout his career.  Breaking from a long history of Davis Cup participation, Serbian #2 Janko Tipsarevic cannot step into the breach if Djokovic falters.  That duty lies in the suspect hands of Viktor Troicki, who endured a miserable 2012, and in the aging hands of Nenad Zimonjic, well past his prime despite his many accomplishments.  Serbia thus might find itself in real trouble if they played a team with a notable talent, like Canada.  With just the 32-year-old Rochus and the volatile but unreliable David Goffin barring their path, however, they should advance even if their stars underperform.

Pick:  Serbia

USA vs. Brazil:  Tennis Grandstand will feature more detailed coverage of this tie over the weekend.  For the moment, we will note that Team USA stands in promising position with two serving leviathans on an indoor hard court, complemented by the reigning Australian Open doubles champions.  While Isner did not win a match in January as he struggled with a knee injury, and Querrey did not impress in Melbourne, both should steamroll the harmless Brazilian #2 Thiago Alves.  In the best-case scenario for Brazil, which would feature two victories for their #1 Bellucci, their doubles duo of Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares still should fall short against the Bryans.  All of these Americans have played some of their best tennis on home soil and in Davis Cup, including on less friendly surfaces, whereas Brazil has accomplished little of note in this competition recently.

Pick:  USA

France vs. Israel:  Across from one team that often proves less than the sum of its talents in Davis Cup stands a team that typically overperforms expectations at the national level.  Whereas France will bring two members of the top 10 to this tie, Israel can claim no top-100 threat in singles.  The fast indoor hard court should allow the offensive might of Tsonga to overwhelm Dudi Sela and Amir Weintraub, although the latter has developed into a more credible threat over the last several months.  In a tantalizing doubles rubber, a battle of all-stars pits Jonathan Ehrlich and Andy Ram against Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra.  Underdogs in every singles rubber and arguably the doubles too, Israel can hope for an upset only if Gasquet crumbles under the pressure of playing for national pride on home soil as he has so infamously before.  Otherwise, the talent gap simply looms too large.

Pick:  France

Argentina vs. Germany:  Perhaps the most tightly contested tie, this battle on outdoor red clay will unfold in the absence of Del Potro, who would have given the home squad a clear edge.  While Argentina will field a squad of clay specialists, leading Germans Philipp Kohlschreiber and Florian Mayer have acquitted themselves well on the surafce and should not find themselves at a disadvantage parallel to Croatia in Italy.  Much rests on the shoulders of Juan Monaco, tasked with avoiding the daunting 0-2 deficit after Kohlschreiber likely opens the tie by dismissing Carlos Berlocq.  The top Argentine here enjoyed his best season to date last year but did not start 2013 especially well.  Lurking in the shadows, as he so often does, is long-time Argentine Davis Cup hero David Nalbandian.  Argentina will hope that Nalbandian’s contribution in doubles on Saturday will combine with two Monaco victories to give them the points that they need without reaching a live fifth rubber.  There, one would favor Mayer to overcome both Berlocq and the Argentine crowd.

Pick:  Er, Argentina?

Kazakhstan vs. Austria:  In a tie without a singles star of note, the opportunity beckons for someone to seize the spotlight in a way that he could not at a major.  The most likely candidate to do so would seem Austrian #1 Jurgen Melzer, the only top-100 singles player on either side.  His opponents can produce better tennis than their current rankings suggest, though, and Andrey Golubev already has started the tie in promising fashion with a straight-sets victory over Andreas Haider-Maurer.  The doubles edge probably belongs to Austria with the greater expertise of Alexander Peya and Julian Knowle, specialists who will allow the 31-year-old Melzer to rest for Sunday.  Excluded from the initial lineup is top-ranked Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin, whose absence will force #211 Evgeny Korolev to win a best-of-five match for the hosts to survive.

Pick:  Austria

Switzerland vs. Czech Republic:  While Tomas Berdych is the highest-ranked man in this clash between nearby nations, the most intriguing role goes to opposing #1 Stanislas Wawrinka.  After he came far closer than anyone to toppling Djokovic at the Australian Open, the latter may suffer a hangover in a competition where he has struggled lately.  Moreover, Switzerland leans on Wawrinka to win both of his singles matches and contribute to a doubles victory on the intervening day, an enormous challenge for the sternest of competitors when the last of those matches involves Berdych.  The Czech Republic will not enlist the services of Radek Stepanek, a rare absentee this weekend like Tipsarevic, but singles #2 Lukas Rosol intimidates much more than anyone that Switzerland can throw at him.  In the Federer/Wawrinka era, no Swiss team ever has presented the united front that the defending champions have behind Berdych.  The medium-slow hard court should not trouble the broad-shouldered world #6 unduly.

Pick:  Czech Republic

London Showcase Set For Kick-Off: Tennis in the Commonwealth

Andy Roddick

By Leigh Sanders

The final line-up for the ATP World Finals Championship in London, England, next week has been confirmed following the conclusion of the Paris Masters. Nikolay Davydenko and Fernando Verdasco secured the last two berths following their performances on the hard courts of Paris. Eight players went in to the week’s play knowing a victory there could secure a place at the prestigious event but after the twists and turns had unfurled Davydenko and Verdasco won through after Robin Soderling and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga failed to advance past the quarterfinals.

However, with Andy Roddick having missed five weeks with a knee problem he has announced that he is unable to participate, allowing Soderling the opportunity to take his place in the event for the first time.

“I have not fully recovered from my knee injury and I won’t be able to compete,” said Roddick. “One of my goals in 2010 will be to qualify for this event again.”

The round-robin stage of the tournament has been drawn (seeds in brackets) and Group A sees career Grand Slam winner Roger Federer (1), Britain’s Andy Murray (4), US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro (5) and Fernando Verdasco (7) vying for qualification. Group B consists of 2009 Australian Open Champion Raphael Nadal (2), the 2008 winner Novak Djokovic (3), Nikolay Davydenko (6) and Robin Soderling (8).

In the doubles at Paris, Polish duo Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski took the final berth at the tournament with an emphatic win over the Bryan brothers in Paris. That victory prevents South African Wesley Moodie and his partner Dick Norman taking part. The round robin groups have also been drawn. Group A sees world No. 1 and No. 2 Daniel Nestor of Canada/Nenad Zimonjic (1), India’s Mahesh Bhupathi/Mark Knowles (3), Frantisek Cermak/Michal Mertinak (5) and Max Mirnyi/Andy Ram (7). Group B will consist of the Bryan brothers (2), Lukas Dlouhy/Leander Paes of India (4), Lukasz Kubot/Oliver Marach (6) and Mariusz Fyrstenberg/Marcin Matkowski (8).

*Great Britain’s Murray crashed back down to earth in Paris following his victory at the Valencia Open last time out. He failed to progress past the third round in Paris, sluggishly going down 6-1, 3-6, 4-6 to Radek Stepanek just sixteen hours after he had seen off James Blake in the previous round in a match that went on till the early hours of last Thursday.

* Daniel Nestor of Canada clinched his ninth doubles title of 2009 with partner Nenad Zimonjic after the pair beat the Spaniards Marcelo Granollers and Tommy Robredo 6-3, 6-4 in the final of the Paris Masters. The world No. 1 and No. 2 have now stretched their rankings lead over the Bryan brothers to 830 points. It follows on from their recent win in the Davidoff Swiss Indoors Basel. Aussie Jordan Kerr reached the third round with American Travis Parrott before they eventually went down 6-2, 6-4 to the in-form Czech-Slovak partnership of Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak. In the previous round, Kerr/Parrott had halted doubles specialist and fourth seed Leander Paes of India and partner Lukas Dlouhy. The exit of South African Wesley Moodie and Belgian Dick Norman in round two to the eventual finalists Granollers/Robredo means they miss out on a place at the ATP World Tour Finals. Another Aussie, Paul Hanley, and his Swedish partner Simon Aspelin also fell foul of the Spaniards in round three after they had beaten India’s Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles, seeded No. 3, in round two. South Africa’s Jeff Coetzee lost with his partner Marcelo Melo of Brazil in the opening round to the ever-impressive French duo Julien Benneteau and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

*In this week’s ATP World Tour Rankings for singles (16/11) there was no movement for any Commonwealth tennis star ranked in the Top 100 in the world. India’s Somdev Devvarman climbs two to 122 and Canada’s Frank Dancevic is down nine to 132. Australians Carsten Ball and Chris Guccione also saw falls this week, five and 12 respectively.

*In the doubles rankings (16/11) Canada’s Daniel Nestor extends his lead as the world’s No. 1 but there are no other changes for the other Commonwealth players ranked in to Top 10. Australia’s Paul Hanley is down a place to 28 while his compatriot Jordan Kerr climbs one to 30. Fellow Aussie Ashley Fisher is down two to 43. Despite falling in the singles rankings Carsten Ball is up one to 57 and Chris Guccione drops to 66. Following their recent leaps and bounds up the rankings Britain’s Ken Skupski (3) and Colin Fleming (4) see falls in their rankings. Countryman Jonathan Marray drops one to 92. Pakistan’s Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi sees a jump of six and is now ranked at 60. Jeff Coetzee of South Africa sees the biggest fall of all as he drops 12 to 68 while Rohan Bopanna of India climbs five to 90.

*The final WTA rankings for 2009 have been decided following the closing tournaments in Bali and Doha for the top players of the year. There were no Commonwealth players in the Top 10, Australia’s Samantha Stosur the highest ranked at 13. Canada’s Aleksandra Wozniak (35) is the only other player in the Top 50. Next up is another Australian, Jelena Dokic, at 57 while Sania Mirza of India is below her in 58. It’s been a bad year for British tennis but Katie O’Brien will be delighted to end the year as British No. 1 as her end of season form sees her end up in 88, one ahead of Elena Baltacha in 89. Anne Keothavong’s long injury sees her drop to 98 in the end-of-season rankings.

*The final doubles rankings or 2009 have also been decided. Australians Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs finish the year joint No. 7 and Sania Mirza of India is the third-highest ranked Commonwealth star at 37. Canada’s Marie-eve Pelletier ends the year ranked 66 while her compatriot Sharon Fichman is 96. British No. 1 Sarah Borwell is at 76. Natalie Grandin of South Africa, ranked No. 78, makes it only seven Commonwealth players in the Top 100 at the end of 2009.

*In a review of the British sporting “crown jewels” which decides which sporting events are to be aired on free-to-air television, it has been decided that Wimbledon should be kept on the list beyond 2017. The review, carried out by the Independent Advisory Panel for Listed Events, always causes arguments between satellite broadcasters and sports authorities but it is no question that the British public will be delighted that the prestigious tennis tournament is kept where everybody can view it without subscribing to satellite providers. The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) has already expressed concern at the decision as they believe it hampers investment in tennis. It seems money truly does talk in all sports.

*Australian tennis fans are celebrating the news that former Australian Open finalist and crowd favourite Marcos Baghdatis will return to play the Medibank International Sydney in 2010 alongside Aussie Lleyton Hewitt, Gael Monfils, Tomas Berdych and Stanislas Wawrinka. While at the Brisbane International, Frenchman Gilles Simon has announced he’ll begin his 2010 season by making his tournament debut. Both provide warm ups to the Australian Open.

*Former world No. 8 Alicia Molik of Australia won on her return to court in the first round of the Cliffs Esperance International. After a shaky start she saw of compatriot Monika Wejnert 3-6, 6-1, 6-1.

*The All England Tennis Club and the LTA have announced that the 2009 Wimbledon Championships raised a total of £29.2 million which will be invested in to British tennis. The aim this year is to improve tennis facilities throughout the country so that all communities have access to quality coaching and future players coming through the youth ranks will be of a higher calibre. It would also mean that top players like Andy Murray wouldn’t have to seek the level of coaching they require abroad.

*British tennis starlet Heather Watson has qualified for the Tevlin Challenger $50k event in Toronto, Canada, despite losing in the final of the Qualifying Tournament to American Macall Harkins. Two competitors from the main event have withdrawn allowing Watson to progress as a lucky loser.

*British No. 7 Jade Curtis reached the semifinals of the $10k AEGON Pro-Series Women’s singles event in Jersey before going down 4-6, 1-6 to No. 6 seed Matea Mezak of Croatia.

Tennis in the Commonwealth – Katie O’Brien New British No. 1; Alicia Molik Ends Retirement

Andy Murray

By Leigh Sanders

* Andy Murray of Great Britain has picked up his sixth title in 2009 after he defeated Russian Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 6-2 in the final of the Valencia Open. The top seed was playing his first tournament for six weeks after recovering from a wrist injury and he will be delighted to have returned to the court in such style. Murray broke the Russian early on in the first set and never looked back, taking his fourteenth career title. It serves as perfect preparation for the upcoming ATP World Tour Finals in London, England, later this month. Along the way, he saw off local favorite Fernando Verdasco as well as seeing through a tricky encounter with the Argentine Leonardo Mayer.

*World No. 1 and 2 (doubles) players Daniel Nestor of Canada and Nenad Zimonjic ended their recent run of early round defeats to win the Davidoff Swiss Indoor doubles championship in Basel. It is the third time Nestor has won here, having done so with long-time partner Mark Knowles in 2003 and 2006. They ended the hopes of Pakistani Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and the American James Cerretani in round two and the final saw them comprehensively beat the formidable Bryan brothers 6-2, 6-3. Australian Paul Hanley was eliminated in the first round with his partner Simon Aspelin of Sweden.

*The doubles is also underway in Paris with huge interest for Commonwealth tennis fans. Canadian Daniel Nestor and his partner Nenad Zimonjic are set to face the French pair Arnaud Clement/Michael Llodra in round two after a first-round bye was given to all seeded teams. India’s Leander Paes and partner Lukas Dlouhy also had a first round bye and line up against Jordan Kerr of Australia and the American Travis Parrott after they defeated Martin Damm and Jonathan Erlich 6-3, 6-4 in round one. Fifth seeds Wesley Moodie (South Africa) and Dick Norman prepare for a second round encounter with Spanish duo Marcel Granollers and Tommy Robredo after they overcame US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro and Fernando Gonzalez 7-6(2), 6-2 in their first round match. Another Aussie, Paul Hanley, and his Swedish partner Simon Aspelin claimed a huge first-round scalp as they overcame the French pairing of Jeremy Chardy/Gilles Simon. They now face the third seeds Mahesh Bhupathi (India) and Mark Knowles (Bahamas) as they enter the action. The only Commonwealth player to taste defeat at the first hurdle was South Africa’s Jeff Coetzee who, with partner Marcelo Melo, went down 3-6, 4-6 to the home-grown pair of Julien Benneteau and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

*Australia’s Samantha Stosur failed to progress past the group stages of the Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions in Bali, Indonesia, after winning one and losing one of her Group B round robin matchups. She was narrowly edged out of her opening encounter 7-6(4), 7-5 by Spaniard Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez. Despite then beating Agnes Szavay, Martinez Sanchez’ victory over the same player condemned Stosur to elimination. The tournament was won by Aravane Rezai of France after Marion Bartoli retired through injury after one set in the final.

*There were Commonwealth representatives in the doubles too at Valencia but they unfortunately saw little success. Ross Hutchings of Great Britain and Australia’s Jordan Kerr fell at the first hurdle while South African Jeff Coetzee and another Australian, Stephen Huss, lost in round two to the eventual champions Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak.

*The race for the final two berths at the ATP World Tour Finals in London, England, hots up this week as seven contenders battle it out at the Paris Open to secure a place. Nikolay Davydenko is favorite for one slot and his first round 6-2, 6-1 thrashing of German Benjamin Becker means he’ll make it as long as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Robin Soderling or Fernando Verdasco don’t win the tournament. Tsonga looked set to miss the finals after retiring from his first match at Valencia last week with a wrist injury but he’s also through to the second round this week and will face compatriot Gilles Simon. Verdasco’s progress ends the slim qualification hopes of Radek Stepanek and Maran Cilic while Soderling faces Ivo Karlovic for the right to face Davydenko and end the hopes of one of his rivals.

*Lukasz Kubot and Oliver Marach have become the fifth team to qualify for the doubles at the ATP World Tour doubles Championship. The final three berths will also be decided at Paris this week.

*This week’s ATP World rankings (09/11) sees a two-place drop for Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt who now lies in No. 22. His compatriot Peter Luczak climbs a place to 79 while Canada’s Frank Dancevic (123) is now above India’s Somdev Devvarman (124) after the latter dropped eight places this week.

*The ATP doubles rankings sees no movement in the top 25 ranked players in the world this week (09/11). Below that, Paul Hanley of Australia drops a place to 27 and fellow Aussies Jordan Kerr (31), Ashley Fisher (41), Carsten Ball (58) and Chris Guccioni (62) also see dropped rankings. Rik De Voest (South Africa) drops a place to 47 and Great Britain now occupies 51-3 with Ross Hutchins, Ken Skupski and Colin Fleming while Jonathan Marray continues his climb in to the Top 100 with a nine-rank jump to 91. Pakistan’s Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi climbs five to 66 while India’s Rohan Bopanna drops one to 95.

*In this week’s WTA singles rankings (09/11) Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak has dropped a place to 35, seeing her as the highest place Commonwealth player to see a change in their ranking this week. Katie O’Brien now finds herself the new British No. after climbing from 90 to 88 and compatriot Elena Baltacha fell to 89. Anne Keothavong is now ranked 100 and faces dropping out of the top 100 in the World as she continues to recover from injury.

*In the WTA doubles rankings (09/11), Marie-eve Pelletier of Canada climbed a place to 66 while her compatriot Sharon Fichman narrowly hangs on to her top 100 status as she now finds herself ranked 99. Brit Sarah Borwell fell one to 76.

*British No. 5 Dan Evans is through to the second round of the Caversham International AEGON Pro-Series Event in Jersey with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Austrian Martin Fischer. Dan Cox fell at the sword of the top seeded German Florian Mayer in their first round match.

*Former world No. 8 Alicia Molik of Australia has cut short her retirement from tennis after only 12 months and has secured a wild card for the main draw of the 2010 Moorilla Hobart International. She has formerly won two Grand Slams in doubles (France and Australia) and represented Australia in both the Fed Cup and the Hopman Cup.

*Electrical goods giants Panasonic have signed a new three-year deal as the main sponsors of the Australian Open, the Medibank International Series and the Brisbane International which commences in January 2010.

*Former Australian Davis Cup legend Colin Long has sadly passed away aged 91.

Tennis In The Commonwealth – Stosur on Verge of Top 10

Andy Murray

By Leigh Sanders

Britain’s Andy Murray has offered his support to Andre Agassi after the former star’s revelations about crystal methamphetamine use in his autobiography. While other top players, such as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, have voiced disappointment at the news, Murray claims it has not ruined his views on his boyhood hero.

“I judge him as a tennis player; he was great, one of the best of all time,” said Murray. “I loved Andre, met him numerous times. I guess it’s something he has to deal with himself. He’s entitled to say whatever he wants and I wish him the best.”

Meanwhile, Murray tasted victory on his return to the court at the Valencia Open after he defeated Spanish qualifier Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-3, 6-1 in his first match in six weeks. It was Murray’s first appearance on court since Great Britain’s embarrassing Davis Cup defeat to Poland in September.

*A dozen WTA stars who have excelled on the international tournament level this season have gathered in Bali for the inaugural Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions. The draw on Monday split the stars in to four round-robin groups of three with Australia’s Samantha Stosur drawn in Group B alongside Maria Jose Martina Sanchez and Agnes Szavay. After the three competitors in each group play each other the group winner will advance to the semifinal on Saturday with the final held on Sunday. Depending on results this week, Stosur could realise her dream of entering the World’s Top 10 with victory in Bali.

*In this week’s ATP singles rankings (02/11) there was little movement for Commonwealth tennis players. Australian Peter Luczak continued his climb up the top 100 with a three place jump to 80 while his compatriot Chris Guccione jumped one place to 103. Somdev Devarrman of India climbed five to 116 while South African Kevin Andersen is up to 120.

*The ATP doubles rankings for November 2 see a little more movement for Commonwealth players. Daniel Nestor (Canada, 1), Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes (India, 7 and 8) and Wesley Moodie (South Africa, 9) all remain unmoved in their top 10 berths. Australians Paul Hanley and Jordan Kerr remain in 26 and 29 respectively while Ashley Fisher drops to 40 and Stephen Huss climbs to 45. South African Rik De Voest is behind him in 46 and Briton Ross Hutchins is 47. Fellow Britons Ken Skupski (16) and Colin Fleming (14) saw massive climbs to 50 and 53 respectively following their victory in St. Petersburg (see below). South Africa’s Jeff Coetzee dropped 21 places to 56. Jonathan Marray of Great Britain climbs one place to enter the Top 100.

*This week’s Sony Ericsson WTA Singles Rankings (02/11) see Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada fall from 30 to 34 while Australia’s Jelena Dokic has jumped from 64 to 57. British No. 1 Anne Keothavong now finds herself ranked 84 as she continues to fall during her period of injury while her compatriot Elena Baltacha also dropped one spot to 87. British No. 3 Katie O’Brien also dropped a place to 91 but there are now only a few ranking spots and only 63 ranking points between the No. 1 and No. 3 ranked players from the British Isles.

*In the doubles (02/11) The Australian duo Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs dropped from No. 5 to No. 7 this week while Sania Mirza of India climbed a place to 37. Canada’s Marie-eve Pelletier fell a place to 67 and British No. 1 Sarah Borwell was up three to 75. Another Canadian, Sharon Fichman, climbed to 97.

*The race for the final two ATP World Tour Finals places in London, England, later this month heated up this week. At the Valencia Open, Gilles Simon, Jo Wilfried-Tsonga and Gael Monfils led the French charge in to round two as they looked to make the Championships while the Spaniards Tommy Robredo and Fernando Verdasco also progressed as they look to secure a place. The Russian Nikolay Davydenko is also looking for one of those two slots and he is through in Valencia too, beating Alejandro Falla of Columbia 6-2, 6-1.

*In the doubles at Valencia, British-Australian pair Ross Hutchins and Jordan Kerr were knocked out in the first round by the in-form third seeds Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak on Monday. The match was closely fought and they eventually went down 4-6, 6-4, 10-6. The Czech-Slovak duo are one team with a chance of claiming a berth at the ATP World Tour Finals in London, England, later this month. In the quarterfinals they will face South African-Australian pair Jeff Coetzee and Stephen Huss who overcame Spanish wild cards Marc Lopez and Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo.

*British doubles pair Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski picked up their second ATP World Tour title when they beat the French pairing of Richard Gasquet and Jeremy Chardy in the final of the St. Petersburg Open. The win capped a memorable year for the pair who won their first title at Metz in September and followed that up by winning the ATP Challenger event in Orleans, France last week. They are expected to represent GB against Lithuania in their forthcoming Davis Cup tie.

*Aussie Paul Hanley has lost in the first round of the Davidoff Swiss Indoors Basel doubles with Swedish partner Simon Aspelin. The fourth seeds were upset by the South American pairing of Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa 5-7, 3-6. Canadian world No. 1 Daniel Nestor and his partner Nenad Zimonjic survived a scare against South Americans Lucas Arnold Ker and Fernando Gonzalez as they came from a set down to win 4-3, 6-3, 10-5 in the same competition. Nestor has triumphed twice here in 2003 and 2006 with long-time partner Mark Knowles. Wildcard home favourites Roger Federer and Marco Chiudinelli were also defeated in the first round. They fell to Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan and American James Cerretani.

*Another Aussie to taste an early defeat was Peter Luczak in the singles at the Davidoff Swiss Indoors Basel. The qualifier was downed by the Czech Jan Hernych who saved six break points to win through 6-3, 6-4 in 76 minutes.

*Jelena Dokic of Australia continued to show her fine form as she won her second ITF title in two weeks in Poitiers, France. She beat the Swede Sofia Arvidsson in the final. Despite a few setbacks this year including a back injury and a debilitating virus she has climbed from 198 to 64 in the rankings this year. “I’m very happy with the way things have played out these last three tournaments,” said Dokic. “It shows that my consistency is at a very high level and the fact that I can win so many matches in a row.”

*Britain was mightily close to more glory this week at the $15K AEGON Pro-Series Event in Cardiff, Wales. Marcus Willis and Dan Evans both reached the semifinals of the singles before losing to Yannick Mertens (BEL) and Henri Kontinen (FIN) respectively. In the doubles, Brits Alexander Slabinsky and Tim Bradshaw lost in the final to the Irish pair of James McGee and Barry King.

*Sarah Borwell of Great Britain partnered American Raquel Kops-Jones to the semifinals of the $100k Doubles Event in Ortisei, Italy. The No. 2 seeds went down 6-7(3), 3-6 to Tathiana Garbin (ITA) and Timea Bacsinszky (SUI), who went on to win the tournament.

*Christopher Simpson won the AEGON British Tour in Taunton after winning 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 against Artiom Kolpakov (LTU). He had beaten fellow Briton David Brewer in the semi final. In the women’s event, Jessica Ren triumphed over another British girl, Alexandra Walker 6-3, 6-3 in the final. She had beaten her sister and No. 1 seed, Jen Ren, in the semifinal.

*Marinko Matosevic of Australia was knocked out of the quarter finals of the Samsung Securities Cup in Seoul, Korea by The Dutch third seed Thiemo De Bakker. His compatriot Greg Jones fell at the same stage to Lester Cook of the USA. Moving on to the Flea Market Cup in Chuncheon, Korea, Matosevic has reached the same stage with victory over the German Matthias Bachinger. Fellow Aussies Greg Jones and Sadik Kadir fell in the round of 32.

*Hot Canadian prospect Vasek Pospisil clinched his third straight tournament win in Mexico over the weekend. The 19-year-old won the $10K event in Obregon to add to his two wins in September in Italy. In the doubles, he partnered Australian Nima Roshan to the Championship, beating Adrien Bossel and Julien Dubail 6-7(5), 6-3, 11-9 in the final.

*Young Australian tennis starlets Olivia Rogowska and Bernard Tomic have been nominated for the 2009 Sports Performer of the Year awards. Rogowska came perilously close to upsetting Dinara Safina in the first round of the US Open while Tomic is the most anticipated Australian prospect since Lleyton Hewitt.

Tennis In The Commonwealth: Stosur Wins, Birmingham Restored

Sam Stosur

By Leigh Sanders

The following is Leigh Sanders’ weekly look at tennis headlines in “The Commonwealth” or the traditional tennis powerhouses that were former members of the British Empire, most notably Australia, South Africa, India, Canada and, of course, Great Britain.

Revered British tennis centre, the Edgbaston Priory Club in Birmingham, has been handed a boost by the confirmation that the WTA Tour’s AEGON Classic will be returning in 2010. It was feared the tournament would be moved as part of the new British Tennis Series.

But the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) has agreed a contract for a further year with a view to extending that providing the centre makes substantial improvements to its facilities.

Discussions have now begun between the LTA, the club and Birmingham City Council to see how the site and future events can be improved.

A pre-Wimbledon event has been held here every summer since 1982 and past winners include Maria Sharapova, Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova.

Priory Club Chief Executive Robert Bray said: “We have a long tradition of hosting international tennis and we are delighted to have reached an agreement with the LTA.”

* Samantha Stosur of Australia picked up her maiden singles WTA title at the Japan Open on Sunday. She beat Francesca Schiavone 7-5, 6-1, Schiavone now losing 10 of her last 11 singles finals. Stosur dropped only one set throughout the tournament, in the semifinal to Caroline Wozniacki. She has previously won 22 doubles titles and has stated her intention to break in to the world top 10 singles following her first triumph.

* It was Wozniacki who had been the conqueror of new number two Brit Katie O’Brien in the second round. The Danish world No. 6 needed only 44 minutes to wrack up a 6-0, 6-1 victory over 94th ranked O’Brien.

* Britain’s Andy Murray dropped to 4th in this week’s ATP Rankings (10/19) following Novak Djokovic’s win in Beijing while Lleyton Hewitt of Australia climbed one place to 22nd. Fellow Aussie Peter Luczak dropped 19 places to 83rd and Chris Guccione also dropped 2 places to 109th.

* In the doubles rankings (10/19) Canada’s Daniel Nestor remains No. 1 despite his early exit from Shanghai (see below). Mahesh Bhupathi of India remains sixth after his semifinals berth at the same tournament. Aussie pair Jordan Kerr and Paul Hanley rose to 29th and 30th respectively while Jeff Coetzee of South Africa fell 9 places to 35th.

* In the WTA Rankings (10/19), Samantha Stosur’s win in Japan sees her climb two places to 13th in the singles while India’s Sania Mirza climbs to 58th after her semifinals berth at Osaka. Australia’s Jelena Dokic climbs from 69th to 62nd while Britain’s injured No. 1 Anne Keothavong continues to fall during her recovery, now down in 79th place. Katie O’Brien is now Britain’s number two after jumping above Elena Baltacha after her exploits in Japan.

* In the doubles rankings (10/19) Samantha Stosur dropped to 9th place after her singles exertions this week while India’s Sania Mirza climbed two places to 36th. Marie-eve Pelletier of Canada is up one to 66th and Britain’s Sarah Borwell is also up to 79th. Canada’s Sharon Fichman also climbs one place to 98th in the world.

* Andy Roddick has become the sixth player to secure his place at the ATP World Tour Finals to be held in London, England next month despite his withdrawal from Shanghai.

* Two Aussie women failed to follow the lead of Stosur this weekend by losing their respective ITF finals. Jelena Dokic went down to the Swede Sofia Arvidsson in the Joue-les-Tours event in France while Alicia Molik fell to Sacha Jones of New Zealand in the Port Pirie Tennis International, Port Pirie, Australia.

* French duo Julien Benneteau and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga picked up their first doubles title as a partnership in Shanghai this week having seen off the top seeds and world No. 1 and No. 2, Canada’s Daniel Nestor and partner Nenad Zimonjic in the second round and India’s Mahesh Bhupathi and his partner Mark Knowles, of the Bahamas, in the semifinals.

* Aussie tennis legend Evonne Goolagong Cawley received a strange tribute this week as the town of Barellan, where she spent most of her childhood, unveiled a giant statue of the wooden Dunlop racquet she used to win 7 Grand Slam singles titles. Seven-thousand people attended the launch that also saw the 58-year-old hosting tennis clinics and a crayfish-gathering activity known as ‘yabbying.’

* Philip Brook has been named as the new Vice Chairman of the All England Tennis Club, Wimbledon, England from December 2009. He has been a member at the club since 1989, serving on many sub-committees during that time. The decision follows the announcement by current Vice Chairman Tim Phillips indicating his intention to step down in December 2009 following ten years in the role.

* Mixed fortunes for Great Britain this week as Alex Bogdanovic won the 42.5k Euros Challenger event in Denmark while Jocelyn Rae prevailed in the £10k event in Mytilini, Greece, beating fellow Brit and doubles partner Jade Windley in the final. Not so much luck in the doubles as Jonathan Marray and his partner were beaten in the doubles final in Denmark while Rae and Windley were edged out of the doubles final in Mytilini. Colin Fleming/Ken Skupski and Jamie Murray/Jamie Delgado, have progressed though to the quarterfinals of the ATP Challenger Event in Orleans, France.

* Also at Orleans, Australia’s Carsten Ball fell in the R32 of singles to Frenchman Nicolas Mahut 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.

* Australian Peter Luczak has lost in the first round of the If Stockholm Open doubles paired with Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. They lost 7-5, 6-3 to Brazilian Bruno Soares and Zimbabwean Kevin Ullyett in 71 minutes. Fellow Aussie Jordan Kerr and American Travis Parrott are through though after victory over Brazilians Marcelo Melo/Andre Sa.

* Canadians on the march this week are Aleksandra Wozniak and Peter Polansky. Wozniak is through to the second round of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow after her first-round opponent, Sara Errani of Italy, retired after just 30 minutes. She’ll play the winner of Maria Kirilenko and Agnieszka Radwanska in the next round. At the Copa Petrobas Challenger in Santiago, Chile, Polansky is through to the second round of both singles and doubles. He beat Diego Alvarez of Argentina 6-1, 6-4 in the singles and with American Alex Bogomolov Jr. overcame Brazilian duo Ricardo Hocevar and Joao Souza in the doubles.

* Brit Dan Smethurst lost in the quarterfinals of the $15k ITF event in Dubrovnik, Croatia to Italy’s Simone Vagnozzi who was ranked 216 places above him in the rankings.

* The Canadian Junior Fed Cup team placed a respectable fifth at the recent Fed Cup finals held in Mexico. After narrowly missing out on the main draw they beat Croatia and China to top the bracket competing for fifth to eighth spot.

* Aussie Marinko Matosevic was beaten in the Round of 32 at the Royal Bank of Scotland Challenger in Tiburon, Calif., by America’s Vincent Spadea 2-6, 7-6(3), 6-0.

Mondays With Bob Greene: I think that Justine’s comeback is good news for women’s tennis

Kimiko Date - Krumm

STARS

Albert Montanes won the BCR Open Romania, beating Juan Monaco 7-6 (2) 7-6 (6) in Bucharest, Romania

Gael Monfils beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 7-6 (1) 3-6 6-2 to win the Open de Moselle in Metz, France

Kimiko Date Krumm beat Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3 6-3 to win the Hansol Korea Open in Seoul, Korea

Shahar Peer won the Tashkent Open, defeating Akgul Amanmuradova 6-3 6-4 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Arantxa Parra-Santonja beat Alexandra Dulgheru 6-4 6-3 to win the Open GDF Suez de Bretagne in Saint Malo, France

Thomas Enqvist beat Michael Chang 6-4 7-6 (5) to win the Trophee Jean-Luc Lagardere in Paris, France

Jim Courier beat Pete Sampras 2-6 6-4 10-8 (match tiebreak) to win the Breezeplay Championships in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

SAYING

“A flame I thought was extinguished forever suddenly lit up again.” – Justine Henin, announcing her return to tennis one year after she retired while being ranked number one in the world.

“Justine is that rare athlete who decided to step away from the game at the height of her powers and no doubt she will be a force to be reckoned with.” – Stacey Allaster, WTA Tour CEO, on Justin Henin ending her retirement.

“The match reminded me again that in tennis you really don’t know how anything will turn out before you actually play.” – Kimiko Date Krumm, at 38 years, 11 months, 30 days becoming the second oldest player in the Open Era to win a singles title on the WTA Tour.

“When I was on court, I didn’t feel like she was 38. She won five matches in a row this week, four in three sets, more than two and a half hours, and today she was running like it was the first day.” – Anabel Medina Garrigues, after losing to Kimiko Date Krumm in the final of the Hansol Korea Open.

“For a long time people spoke about my lost finals. But now the curse is over.” – Gael Monfils, who ended a four-year title drought with his victory at the Open de Moselle.

“I think that Justine’s comeback is good news for women’s tennis but even better news for Belgium in general. … For tennis it is brilliant that she’s back.” – Kim Clijsters, on the return of Justine Henin.

“When I saw the draw I thought I could beat her. But you never know what she’s going to bring.” – Lucie Safarova, after beating former world number one Ana Ivanovic in a first-round match in Tokyo.

“I’m a little bit disappointed, but sports is like this. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.” – Juan Monaco, after losing the BCR Open Romania to Albert Montanes.

“We’ve played our first two tournaments together in the last two weeks and won them both. It’s a great feeling.” – Tatiana Poutchek, who teamed with Olga Govortsova to win the doubles in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, a week after winning in Guangzhou, China.

“It was a fabulous and glorious end, but he got a bad call late in the fifth set. He didn’t argue it.” – Jack Kramer’s son Bob, talking at his father’s memorial service.

SHE’S BACK

After watching fellow Belgian countrywoman Kim Clijsters win the US Open, another former number one player, Justine Henin, has decided to end her retirement. “The past 15 months I have been able to recharge my physical batteries, mental batteries (and) emotional batteries,” Henin said. Winner of four French Opens, two US Opens and the Australian Open, Henin said she plans to return to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour in January in Australia. Henin was 25 years old when she retired in May 2008, saying she no longer had passion for tennis. She now says the passion is back. She will begin her comeback by playing exhibition tournaments in Dubai and Belgium in November and December. “Justine is one of the great champions in the history of women’s tennis and we, along with millions of her fans around the globe, are thrilled with her announcement today,” WTA Tour chief Stacey Allaster said in a statement.

STILL SORE

Rafael Nadal has pulled out of the Thailand Open because of an acute rupture of an abdominal muscle. Nadal admitted the injury contributed to his US Open semifinal loss to eventual champion Juan Martin del Potro. The Spaniard is expected to be sidelined for two to three weeks. Nadal will remain in Spain to receive treatment for the injury.

STAYING HOME

Citing exhaustion, Roger Federer withdrew from the Japan Open and Shanghai ATP Masters. “This will allow me a chance to give my body a chance to rest, rehabilitate and recover from a physically challenging year,” Federer said in a statement. The Swiss star reached the final of all four Grand Slam tournaments this year, winning the French Open for the first time and breaking Pete Sampras’ record by capturing his 15th major title at Wimbledon. He also earned two points in Switzerland’s 3-2 Davis Cup victory over Italy in September.

STAYING THE COURSE

The retirements of Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin were just like taking weekends off if you compare them to Kimiko Date Krumm. Once ranked as high as fourth in the world, Date Krumm was retired for 12 years before returning to the tennis tour. After eight consecutive first-round losses, Date Krumm won not only a match but a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour tournament when she defeated Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3 6-3 in the final of the Korea Open in Seoul. It was her first WTA Tour title since 1996 and, at age 38 years, 11 months and 30 days, the Japanese veteran becomes the second oldest player to win a Tour singles title, behind Billie Jean King. Date Krumm enjoyed success on the ITF women’s circuit before rejoining the WTA Tour. “For the past year I didn’t know if I could compete well on the Tour, but now it looks OK,” Date Krumm said.

SRICHAPHAN RETURNS

Paradorn Srichaphan never retired, he just stopped playing because of injuries. Now, the former ninth-ranked player will play doubles at the Thailand Open this week, his first action since March 2007. “I wanted to come back by using the Thailand Open as my tournament,” said the best player ever to come out of Thailand. “I’m not fit enough for the singles.” Srichaphan, who has won five career titles, underwent surgery on his wrist in Los Angeles in 2007 and again in Bangkok, Thailand, earlier this year. He and countryman Danai Udomchoke received a wild card entry into the Thailand Open.

SAD SENDOFF

Several hundred spectators paid tribute to Hall of Famer Jack Kramer as he was remembered at a memorial service at the Los Angeles Tennis Center. Kramer died on September 12 after a battle with cancer. The 88-year-old is survived by five children and eight grandchildren. US Open tournament director Jim Curley, calling Kramer a pioneer, said: “Every one of us who makes our living in professional tennis owes a debt of gratitude to Jack” Hall of Famer Pam Shriver and Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times served as hosts of the ceremony.

SWITZERLAND-SPAIN TIE

They’ve met in the finals of the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon. Now, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer could battle in the opening round of the 2010 Davis Cup. Spain and Switzerland could face each other in the first round of World Group play next year. The world’s top two players have never faced each other in Davis Cup action since neither played when the two nations met in a first-round tie in 2007, Spain winning 3-2. “I truly enjoy playing for my country but I’ll also have to see where I have my priorities for next season,” Federer said. “Of course, there are the Grand Slams, but there is also number one, which is a bit of a dilemma. Like in the other years, I will see after the Australian Open how I feel and if I play the first round.”

SET FOR HOPMAN

Teen-ager Melanie Oudin and big John Isner both made big splashes at the US Open where they recorded huge upsets. Now they’ll team up to lead the United States challenge at the 2010 Hopman Cup. Oudin is ranked 43rd in the world after her US Open run to the quarterfinals where she upset top 10 player Elena Dementieva and former world number one Maria Sharapova. The 6-foot-9 (2.06 m) Isner used his big serve to upset fellow American Andy Roddick before losing to Roger Federer in the fourth round. Others confirmed for the Hopman Cup, which runs from January 2-9, include Australians Lleyton Hewitt and Samantha Stosur, and Russians Igor Andreev and Dementieva.

STAYING HOME

Serena Williams won’t be playing in Tokyo this week because of injuries. The Australian and Wimbledon champion pulled out of the Pan Pacific Open with problems with her knee and toe. She has not played a singles match since her rant at a lineswoman in her semifinal loss to Kim Clijsters at the US Open. Serena will be the only member of the women’s top 10, including her older sister Venus, not competing in the USD $2 million event.

SPARKLING PLAY

The British duo of Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski finally have a title to go along with the scalps of top doubles teams they have collected. “This is our first (direct) acceptance at ATP World Tour level,” Skupski said, then noted that in the previous three ATP events they’re played they have beaten American twins Bob and Mike Bryan as well as the Brazilian duo of Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa. “So we always knew that we were capable of beating top guys,” he said. At Metz, France, Fleming and Skupski upset the top-seeded team of Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra 2-6 6-4 10-5 (match tiebreak) to win the Open de Moselle. En route to the final, they also knocked off the third-seeded team of Christopher Kas and Rogier Wassen.

SUCCESS FINALLY

When Jim Courier beat Pete Sampras for the first time since the opening round of the 1997 Italian Open, it gave him the title of the $150,000 Breezeplay Championships at The Palisades Country Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. It was Courier’s ninth career title on the Outback Champions Series, the global circuit for champion tennis players age 30 and over. Courier clinched the title when Sampras double-faulted on match point. “I was serving right into the sun on that one and it hurt a little bit,” Sampras said. During their ATP Tour careers, Sampras beat Courier 16 times in their 20 meetings, including the Wimbledon final in 1993.

SURPRISE TREAT

Andre Agassi, making his Outback Champions Series debut, and Mikael Pernfors will clash in the opening round of the 2009 Cancer Treatment Centers of America Tennis Championships to be held October 8-11 in Surprise, Arizona, USA. Agassi will be the eighth former world number one to compete in the Outback Champions Series, a global tennis circuit for champion players age 30 and over. Others competing this year include Mark Philippoussis, Wayne Ferreira, Jim Courier, Todd Martin, Aaron Krickstein and Jimmy Arias. Other former number one players who have competed on the Outback Champions Series include Pete Sampras, Courier, Pat Rafter, Stefan Edberg, Mats Wilander, Thomas Muster and John McEnroe.

STOPPING

Sergio Roitman says he will retire from professional tennis at the conclusion of the Copa Petrobas, an ATP World Tour Challenger tournament in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A native of Buenos Aires, Roitman announced his decision at the draw ceremony. “It is a strange moment for me, but the time has come for me to leave professional tennis,” said Roitman. “Physically, I cannot compete at the highest level anymore. I think this is the best place to retire, at a tournament that has given me a lot of pleasure and surrounded by people that have helped me and whom I love very much.” Currently ranked 124th in the world, the 30-year-old Roitman reached a career-high 62 in singles in October 2007. During his 14-year-old career he won two ATP World Tour doubles titles, and achieved high highest doubles ranking of 45th in the world in September 2008.

SERBIAN JAIL

Jelena Dokic’s father has had his 15-month prison sentence confirmed by a Serbian court. The retrial for Damir Dokic was held because the Australian ambassador to Serbia, Clair Birgin, did not testify in person during the original hearing in June. This time she was again represented by a lawyer. In June, Dokic was found guilty of “endangering the security” of Ambassador Birgin as well as unlawful possession of weapons, including a hand grenade. Dokic was arrested after reportedly saying he would blow up Birgin’s car if she didn’t stop negative articles about him from being published in Australia. Now 26 years old, Jelena Dokic was born in the former Yugoslavia and migrated with her family to Australia as a child and represented her adopted country at the 2000 Olympics. She renounced her Australian ties in 2001 and moved back to Serbia, only to return to Australia in 2006.

SERENA SPONSOR

Serena Williams is featured in a lighthearted campaign for Tampax. The Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble Co. said Williams will take on Tampax’s “Mother Nature” character in new magazine print advertising. Company officials said Williams represents the energy, independence and strength of women they want to celebrate. The campaign was in the works before Williams was fined $10,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct during the US Open when she harangued a lineswoman. P&G spokesman David Bernens said: “Clearly she admitted she made a mistake. She apologized. We support her apology.”

SENIOR SPONSOR

The Masters Tennis at Royal Albert Hall in London has a new sponsor. AEGON will become the title sponsor of the senior event that has featured an array of Wimbledon champions, including Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Pete Sampras. The tournament will be known as the AEGON Masters Tennis as the life assurance and pensions company’s involvement in the sport in Great Britain continues to grow. The new sponsorship means AEGON is involved in British tennis at every level, from grass roots development to the hugely popular senior event. Among those expected to compete this year will be Wimbledon champions Goran Ivanisevic and Stefan Edberg, along with two-time Wimbledon finalist Patrick Rafter.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Bucharest: Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak beat Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-2 6-4

Metz: Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski beat Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra 2-6 6-4 10-5 (match tiebreak)

Seoul: Chan Yung-Jan and Abigail Spears beat Carly Gullickson and Nicole Kriz 6-3 6-4

Tashkent: Olga Govortsova and Tatiana Poutchek beat Vitalia Diatchenko and Ekaterina Dzehalevich 6-2 6-7 (1) 10-8 (match tiebreak)

Saint Malo: Timea Bacsinszky and Tathiana Garbin beat Andreja Klepac and Aurelie Vedy 6-3 retired

SITES TO SURF

Bangkok: www.thailandopen.org

Kuala Lumpur: www.malasianopentennis.com/

Athens: www.vogueathensopen.com

Beijing: www.chinaopen.cn/

Tokyo: http://rakutenopen.rakuten.co.jp/en/index.html

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$947,750 Proton Malaysia Open, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, hard

$608,500 PTT Thailand Open, Bangkok, Thailand, hard

WTA

$2,000,000 Toray Pan Pacific Open, Tokyo, Japan, hard

$100,000 Vogue Athens Open, Athens, Greece, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$3,337,000 China Open, Beijing, China, hard

$1,226,500 Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships, Tokyo, Japan, hard

WTA

$4,500,000 China Open, Beijing, China, hard

$100,000 Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships, Tokyo, Japan, hard

SENIORS

$150,000 Cancer Treatment Centers of America Tennis Championships, Surprise, Arizona, USA

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