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Tennis People: US Open seedings announced, Del Potro and Serena out, Nalbandian very much in

*The seedings have been announced for the US Open next week and this is where the realisation the final Slam of the year is upon us really sets in. On the men’s side the top seeds are as you would expect. The top ten reads, in order: Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Murray, Soderling, Davydenko, Berdych, Verdasco, Roddick, Ferrer. Cypriot fans’ favourite Marcos Baghdatis finds himself seeded 16th and could be an outside bet on going far in the tournament. John Isner, Mardy Fish and Sam Querrey fly the home flag at 18, 19 and 20 while David Nalbandian (31) and Lleyton Hewitt (32) round off the seeds.

*The women’s side throws in a few more surprises as there are a few stars missing through injury. Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki will be celebrating her top seeding in Serena Williams’ absence and China’s Li Na (8) will have a few eyes on her following her heroics in Australia on the hard courts. 14th seed Maria Sharapova can never be overlooked in these events and emphatic Russian teenager Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova at 20 will be looking to cause some Melanie Oudin-sized shockwaves in 2010. Zheng Jie (21), Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez (22), Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic (26) and Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi (31) are also worthy outsiders.

*The Juan Martin Del Potro injury saga has reached a disappointing conclusion for his fans as he has announced that his persistent wrist injury will prevent him from defending his US Open title this year. The Argentine has been missing since the Aussie Open and underwent surgery in May. “I’m so sorry for my fans, sponsors and the people who care about me,” he said. “But I have only started practising in the last two weeks and unfortunately I cannot compete at the top level yet.” The news follows the pulling out of World No. 1 women’s player Serena Williams who has failed to recover from the foot injury she sustained stepping on broken glass in Munich in July. “It is with much frustration and deep sadness that I am having to pull out of the US Open. My doctors have advised against my playing,” she said. Serena has set next month’s Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, beginning September 26, as her likely return date.

*David Nalbandian has spoken of his delight at securing a seeding for the US Open next week. “I think expectations are good because the goal we set for this year was to finish in the top 30 and in a few tournaments I’ve pretty much done that,” he told ESPN Desportes. “After getting a seed at the U.S. Open, you aspire to more.”

*Ahead of the Davis Cup World Group relegation playoff between Ecuador and Romania in September, Ecuadorian coach Raul Viver has highlighted Nicolas Lapentti as the key man in the tie. Viver believes that victory over Romania could help to persuade Lapentti to postpone his retirement for a further year. “If we win against Romania I can see Nicolas Lapentti staying one more year,” said Viver. “For the team, it would be good to have him more years because I think the younger players can learn a lot from him. Nicolas is a great team player, a natural leader, and he increases the level of motivation for the rest of the players. In Davis Cup, he always plays his best level, physically and mentally. He demonstrated that last year against Brazil, winning both his singles matches and the doubles match.” For the full interview on Ecuador’s prospects visit the ITF website.

*Top South African player Kevin Anderson has announced he is ready to end his self-imposed two-year ban from Davis Cup play. With such an important match against Germany next month for a place in the World Group stage Anderson’s announcement is a well-timed boost for SA tennis fans. Speaking in a conference call last Thursday Anderson said: “I needed time to work on my game but I’m back in the top 100 now (in the ATP rankings) and I’ve grown a lot as a player over the last two years. I’m glad to be back in the team and I’m looking forward to the tie in Germany.” For full build up visit South African sporting website Sport24.co.za.

*Lleyton Hewitt and coach Nathan Healy have parted ways after this year’s tournament in Washington. Hewitt’s manager David Drysdale says it is down to Healy wishing to spend more time with his family and being unable to constantly travel.

*Slovakian Daniela Hantuchova has been reflecting on her career recently and giving thanks for the fact she has remained relatively injury-free. Recently passing the $7m mark for prize money she still harbours hopes of returning to the Top 10 despite a career-record 3-10 in tournament finals, and only one Grand Slam semifinal appearances in 38 attempts. “Knock on wood , I wonder when I will get to that stage but I remember when Ai Sugiyama and other players said you wait till you get to certain age…but I don’t feel that way yet,” she said of her good health. To read about her thoughts on recent results visit the TennisReporters website.

*Sam Querrey has spoken of his delight as his family went in to partnership with the City of Las Vegas to run the Darling Tennis Center. Querrey won his first professional tournament, the Tennis Channel Open, on the site in 2008 and spoke of his pride at what his family could bring to the people of LA. However, he has been quick to play down talk of him being a “white knight” or saviour to the site. “It’s an awesome place,” Querrey said. “I think there’s so much potential here, and I learned to play tennis as a kid (in Las Vegas), so I wanted to help.” For the full interview visit the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s website.

*James Blake’s 6-0, 6-1 victory over Pere Riba at New Haven on Monday in 35 minutes was the fastest completed match of 2010.

*Twitter is currently awash with tennis gossiping as players begin descending on New York for the US Open. Close friends Caroline Wozniacki and Viktoria Azarenka both seem pleased with their hotel choices while Azarenka is also delighted to have stumbled across £160 in a jacket pocket left there since Wimbledon. What is it with women and multiple jackets? Sabine Lisicki has been getting her sweat on in the gym while Brit teenage sensation Laura Robson is voicing her frustration at rain-delayed matches.

*This week’s South African Airways ATP World Rankings see Andy Roddick climb back in to the top 10 at No. 9 in good timing before the US Open begins. Juan Martin Del Potro is now ranked at No. 10 as his injury woes continue. Another American, Mardy Fish, leaps 15 places to No. 21 in the world while the Argentine Juan Ignacio Chela slips back in to the top 50. Taylor Dent leaps 13 places to No. 70 and Donald Young sees himself ranked at No. 100 in what is a great week for the USA ahead of their home slam.

*Two returning female stars have achieved their comeback’s highest rankings this week in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings. Kimiko Date Krum sees herself at No. 50, her highest placing since her retirement back in 1996 (she returned to the tour in 2008). The 39-year-old is the oldest player in the Top 50 since Billie Jean King in March 1982, aged 40. Kim Clijsters is the world No. 3, her highest slot since August 2006. Li Na is at a career-high No. 8 after becoming the first Chinese player to break the Top 10 back in February while Elena Dementieva slips from No. 8 to No. 13.

*Former world No. 8 John Alexander has been elected in to Australia’s parliament after winning the New South Wales seat of Bennelong. Alexander, 59, won 7 singles and 28 doubles titles during his career and has spent many years since his retirement commentating for Australian Channel Seven. “I think for the moment I’ll concentrate on this job, I won’t do anything that will detract from my efforts to represent the people of Bennelong. I’m 100 per cent committed,” he said.

ARE MURRAY AND ROBSON THE START OF A GOLDEN AGE FOR BRITISH TENNIS?

By Melina Harris

The start of the Millenium was not particularly memorable for the British public despairing on Henman Hill over Tim’s recent exit in the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2000; but unbeknown to us, a rather talented little gem, aged 6, had moved across to the UK from Australia with her parents Andrew, an oil executive and Kathy Robson, a sports coach and former professional basketball player.

Luckily, nature and nurture (great genes and financial backing) combined forces in the Noughties to produce Britain’s potential star of the future; Laura Robson, who entered a tennis academy aged 7, signed with management company, Octagon aged 10 and subsequently landed lucrative sponsorship deals with Wilson and Adidas aged 11. Winning the junior Wimbledon title in July 2008 crowned her as ‘the new darling of British tennis,’ catapulting her dramatically into the public eye with many tennis commentators hailing Robson as the one to watch.

Our lovely leftie, currently ranked No. 406 in the world aged 15 recently added to her growing army of admirers and fans, including Aussie legend and Wimbledon winner Pat Cash during her impressive performances with fellow Brit Andy Murray, in the Hyundai Hopman Cup in Australia earlier this month.

Although Murray claimed to be “rubbish” at mixed doubles, together, Murray and Robson were a formidable force, blowing opponents away in both their level of play (they were the first Great British pair to compete in the Hopman Cup final) and sheer entertainment value for the Aussie crowd. Despite their defeat in the final to Spain’s Tommy Robredo and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez through Murray’s loss in the singles, it was his behavior throughout the tournament and Robson’s charisma and potential that grabbed the headlines.

A couple of years ago Tim Henman labeled Murray as “a bit of a miserable sod,” however no comment could have been further off the mark as the tennis world witnessed a most astonishing event – Murray’s smile! I doubt I will ever forget the sight of his wide grin to coach Miles Maclagan and fitness trainer Jez Green during his devastating demolition of Andreev in the group stages of the tournament, which Pat Cash claimed was “as good as it could possibly be for any player.”

This sunny disposition continued throughout the tournament and especially during the pair’s mixed-doubles encounters. Significantly, Robson’s coach, Martijn Bok, noted of Murray in a post match interview, “in the first two mixed doubles matches, Andy did really well to keep Laura calm, had time to make a joke and give her confidence. Even here, we’ve seen other teams whose male player looks away when the woman makes a mistake, as if she does not belong out there.” Did we hear correctly: the words ‘joke’ and ‘Murray’ in the same sentence? According to his website and Team Murray, he loves nothing more than a bit of banter, but in the past this has rarely come across on court or in interviews.

In a rare moment of gracious humour,  Murray admitted in a post match interview, “the man is supposed to dominate in mixed doubles but every time I tried to take over the point we lost it, so I just let her do it all by herself.”

Indeed, the way that Murray looked out for his younger partner, joking and smiling throughout the tournament, allowing her to take centre stage, has definitely endeared him to the harshly critical British public and arguably improved his image worldwide. Perhaps he’d taken some advice from his older brother, Jamie – famous for winning the Wimbledon mixed doubles flirtatiously with Jelena Jankovic in 2007 or was it simply due to the infectious charm and charisma of his partner? Whatever the reason, his management company, 19 must be literally jumping for joy with the results gained from this new partnership. Please check them out on YouTube if you don’t believe me!

Never before have we seen this side to Andy Murray and Robson must be congratulated for drawing out this side to his personality, which has often been criticized in the past and even Pat Cash noted, in his recent Sunday Times article Why I’m mad about Laura Robson that “she can make Andy Murray smile, which is no mean feat.”

Murray has definitely started the new decade with the conscious or subconscious decision to show another side to his often surly demeanor. Robson’s mother even went so far as to say “Andy Murray is a good boy, a true gentleman and we all absolutely adore him.” The PR will no doubt help his marketability and maybe even his relationship status (he recently split with long term love, Kim Sears due to his excessive obsession with the computer game ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’ it was reported)- along with half of the male population, I must add.

Although Robson’s coach, Dutchman Martijn Bok admitted “Laura could not be described as a natural athlete…she will need more attention on the physical side of her game than the tennis side,” there is much hope for this precocious talent. If, once her growth spurt comes to an end, Laura can learn from Andy’s dedication to his physical development with his infamous and grueling 400m runs (just one aspect of the vigorous fitness regime set out by Jez Green) and Andy continues to be infected by Laura’s charm and charisma, what an exciting marketing prospect we have on our hands. I cannot help but be exhilarated by the thought of Andy and Laura competing together in the mixed doubles event staged at Wimbledon in the London Olympics in 2012 and the role models they will become for future generations of British talent.

Are the twenty teens indeed the start of a golden era for British tennis? As the Queen might say; one truly hopes so Philip!

Serena’s Slap On The Wrist: The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

A Slap for Serena – It didn’t come as a surprise when I read the ITF’s verdict on Serena Williams’ infamous US Open tirade. Nonetheless, I was sorely disappointed to read that she was merely fined $82,500 and will serve a two-year probation at the Grand Slams. If she commits another “major offense” at a Grand Slam event during her probation, the fine will double to $175,000 and she will be banned from the following US Open. For me, there are several things wrong with this ruling. First, be it $82,500 or even the $175,000, that’s pocket change to a player who made a little over $6.5 million in 2009 prize money alone. Secondly, if the second “major offense,” is what gets a player banned from a Slam, shouldn’t her US Open tirade have been that second offense? Why was she never punished for her comments at the 2009 Roland Garros Championships where she accused Spanish player Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez of cheating and remarked, “I’m going to get you in the locker room; you don’t know me.” Maybe it lacked the foul language she unleashed on the lineswoman at the US Open, but it was a clear threat that got swept under the rug. I also question what message the ITF’s verdict sends to the rest of the top players. If they feel ripped by a call, they should feel free to have a go at the officials?  They get one freebie, so why not? And what after those probationary two years are up? Clean slate and players get another freebie? My personal favorite is how the Australian officials are saying they now expect Serena to be on her best behavior. It’s nothing against the Australian officials who are just answering questions from the press, but shouldn’t this be expected of all competitors anyway? Most competitors know what’s expected of them, and they don’t need the threat of breaking probation hanging over their heads to act in a respectable manner. I firmly believe Serena got off easy because her name is Serena Williams, and I hope that if she commits another “major offense” in the next two years (or at any other time for that matter), the ITF has the backbone to do something about it.

The Silent Assassin – That’s the nickname the commentators were giving to Nikolay Davydenko, and it couldn’t have been more appropriate for the slightly built Russian who quietly made his way to the first big title of his career at the ATP World Tour Finals event in London. Davydenko took out all three of the 2009 Grand Slam winners en route to the title (including his first win over Roger Federer in 13 tries), and passed Roddick in the rankings as a result of his good form.  It’s been great to see him rise above the ugly betting scandal he endured earlier and become known for something positive.

Bryans Back on Top – The most famous set of twins in tennis are back at the top once again.  The Bryans had more recently been overshadowed by the likes of Nestor and Zimonjic, but with their 7-6(3), 6-3 win over Max Mirnyi and Andy Ram to claim their third season-ending championship title, the Bryan Brothers also reclaimed the No. 1 doubles ranking.

End of an Era – It appears that Indianapolis may lose its right to host a professional tournament. A victim of the recession, Tournament Director Kevin Martin explained the event’s nonprofit group had looked at a variety of options, but is now faced with selling its sanctioning rights to the ATP event. If the event does move, or get cancelled altogether, it will mark the end of nearly 80 years of great tennis in the Hoosier capital, which has hosted names such as McEnroe, Borg, Sampras, and Roddick.

Au Revoir, Amelie! – On Thursday, French tennis star Amelie Mauresmo called time on her career. The announcement was not a complete surprise given Mauresmo’s latest struggles with injury and lack of form, but it was sad to hear all the same. A former World No. 1, the winner of both the Australian Open and Wimbledon Championships in 2006, and owner of one of the best one-handed backhands in the sport, Amelie had one of the most complete games on the WTA Tour.  She will be missed, but we wish her all the best!

Mondays With Bob Greene: I was the number one player in the world

STARS

Andy Murray beat Juan Martin del Potro 6-7 (4) 7-6 (3) 6-1 to win the Rogers Cup in Montreal, Canada

Jelena Jankovic beat Dinara Safina 6-4 6-2 to win the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

Peter Luczak beat Olivier Rochus 6-3 3-6 6-1 to win the Zucchetti Kos Tennis Cup Internazionali del Friuli Venezia in Cordenons, Italy

Greg Rusedski beat Stefan Edberg 6-3 6-4 to win the Vale Do Lobo Grand Champions CGD in Algarve, Portugal

SAYING

“My smile is back and I’m having fun playing the matches. This is what I missed. I missed this for maybe seven months this year.” – Jelena Jankovic, after winning the Western & Southern tournament.

“The number two – maybe it’s because it’s something different – that means maybe a little bit more. But winning a tournament here is still great.” – Andy Murray, who moved ahead of Rafael Nadal and is now ranked number two in the world.

“I’m very happy to be in the final. I lost, but I’m happy. I don’t have to think in the past and now see the future.” – Juan Martin del Potro, who lost to Andy Murray in the final of the Montreal Masters.

“I would love to come back to number one, but the important thing is to play well. The thing that makes me happy is to be competitive (and) to win important tournaments.” – Rafael Nadal, who fell to number three in the world.

“I’m definitely pleased with the level I’ve had … in these four matches.” – Kim Clijsters, who in her first tournament after a two-year retirement reached the quarterfinals at Cincinnati.

“I’m realistic. I know I am not going to win (another title). There is no way. It’s getting tougher and tougher with each tournament. It really gets into you and it’s not easy to play. Every match is a battle. It’s tough not to choke in the important moments. But I want to finish up in a right note. I should enjoy it more. I just want to finish up nice.” – Marat Safin, following his first-round loss to Gael Monfils at the Montreal Masters.

“It happens in tennis, it’s never over until it’s over and it showed today. … I never should have allowed it but it did happen.” – Roger Federer, who led 5-1 in the third set before losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

“I haven’t seen her in two years. That’s the reason I didn’t start well. I was trying to figure out what she was doing instead of playing my game. By the time I figured out her tactics, I was down 0-4. It’s just a really bad draw, I guess.” – Marion Bartoli, who lost to Kim Clijsters in their first-round match.

“I look like I had a kid more than she does. She looks amazing.” – Serena Williams, on how fit Kim Clijsters looked in her return to the WTA Tour following her marriage and birth of a daughter.

“She is the same as she was before. She moves well. You can see she hasn’t been all the time on the tour but she was playing great.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, on Kim Clijsters.

“I was the number one player in the world, and I want to start winning big tournaments again. I just need to start finding my game and start playing better and better and better. But the more I play, the better I get.” – Jelena Jankovic, after winning her semifinal match.

“Definitely I want to get a grand slam, no doubt about it. It’s not that I’m number one and I want to stop. There is another goal. I want to win a Grand Slam. I will do my best to win at the US Open. If not, next year I will work even harder to get it.” – Dinara Safina.

“Just walking down to that stadium, the reception that I received, the signs, the pictures and the high-fives going to the matches … I said, ‘You know what? This feels like home. I made the right decision.’” – Monica Seles, recalling the reaction she received from Toronto fans when she returned to tennis following her stabbing.

“I was joking with my coach that now I should probably buy a flat here since it is my fifth title in Canada.” – Mahesh Bhupathi, who teamed up with Mark Knowles to win the doubles at the Montreal Masters.

SECOND IN LINE

Even before he won the Montreal Masters, Andy Murray had surpassed Rafael Nadal as the number two-ranked player in the world. The 22-year-old Scott became the first player to win 50 matches this season as he won his fifth tournament of the year, matching Nadal. Murray is the first British player to win the Rogers Cup, a tournament that once was called the Canadian Open, and becomes the first player other than top-ranked Roger Federer and Nadal to be ranked number two in the world since Lleyton Hewitt on July 18, 2005. The last Briton to reach the Canadian final was Roger Taylor, who lost in 1970 to Rod Laver. Both Federer and Nadal lost in the quarterfinals, while Murray finished the week by beating Argentine’s Juan Martin del Potro 6-7 (4) 7-6 (3) 6-1 in the title match.

STAYING THE COURSE

Form followed rank at the Montreal Masters. For the first time since the ATP rankings were introduced in 1973, a tour-level event wound up with the top eight ranked players in the quarterfinals. Once there, top-ranked Roger Federer, second-ranked Rafael Nadal and fourth-ranked Novak Djokovic all lost to lower seeded players. The other quarterfinalists were third-ranked Andy Murray, the eventual winner, fifth-ranked Andy Roddick, sixth-ranked Juan Martin del Potro, seventh-ranked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and eighth-ranked Nikolay Davydenko.

SHOWING THE WAY

Flavia Pennetta has made Italian tennis history. The 27-year-old right-hander is the first Italian woman to be ranked in the top ten in the world. Her rise up the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour rankings has come with some well-known victims added to her resume. Pennetta beat Maria Sharapova when she won the tournament in Los Angeles, then followed with a shocking upset of Venus Williams in the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open. After winning 11 matches in 13 days, a visibly tired Pennetta lost in the semifinals at Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, to top-ranked Dinara Safina.

SNAZZY COMEBACK

Marriage, a baby and two years away from the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour didn’t seem to slow down Kim Clijsters. The former world number one left some highly ranked players in her wake as she reached the quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open before finally losing. “I’ll just take each day at a time and try to be as professional as possible whenever I’m playing and we’ll see what happens,” Clijsters said after losing to top-ranked Dinara Safina. “Obviously so far it’s worked. I’ve had some really good results and I feel like my level here has risen.” Less than 18 months after giving birth to her first child, a daughter, Clijsters beat Marion Bartoli, Patty Schnyder and French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova before running into Safina. “There’s still a lot of things to work on,” said Clijsters, who owns 34 career singles titles. “I need to keep working on the good things as well.”

STRANGE STAT

Jelena Jankovic has been ranked number one in the world, a fact that had drawn some criticism, seeing that she has yet to win a Grand Slam tournament. But her victory over Dinara Safina in the final of the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, was the first time Jankovic had beaten a player ranked number one in the world. She dedicated her victory to her mother, who is at home recovering from surgery. “I dedicate this win to her,” Jankovic said. “I wanted to make her happy. It’s important.”

SELES RETURNS

When Monica Seles returned to tennis following a two-year hiatus caused when a fan stabbed her in the back, she chose the Canadian Open. Seles won the 1995 event, but she was more impressed by the warm reception she received from the fans. One of the newest members of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Seles will participate in an exhibition doubles match in Toronto during the women’s Rogers Cup event. She is being inducted into the tournament’s hall of fame as the only player in the modern era to win four straight Canadian titles, beginning with the 1995 victory. Violet Summerhayes won four straight Canadian titles from 1899 through 1904.

SOMEONE SPECIAL

It seems to make no difference as to who Mahesh Bhupathi teams with to win doubles championships. When Bhupathi and Mark Knowles won the Rogers Cup doubles in Montreal, it was the fifth time the Indian right-hander has captured the title – with four different partners. The 35-year-old won in1997 with Leander Paes, in 2003 with Max Mirnyi, in 2004 with Paes, and in 2007 with Pavel Vizner. Bhupathi and Knowles teamed up as a regular pair at the start of the 2008 season. This was the duo’s first title since last October in Basel, Switzerland, although they reached the finals at the Australian Open in January and Barcelona, Spain, in April. Bhupathi has now won at least one ATP World Tour doubles crown every year since 1997.

STRAIGHT IN

Chase Buchanan, an 18-year-old from New Albany, Ohio, and 17-year-old Christina McHale from Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, won the 2009 United States Tennis Association (USTA) National Boys’ and Girls’ 18s championships to earn wild cards into the main singles draws at the US Open. McHale also competed in the women’s main draw of this year’s Australian Open after winning the 2008 USTA Australian Open wild card playoff. Buchanan earned a wild card into the 2008 US Open men’s doubles draw by winning the USTA Junior Boys’ 18 doubles title last year.

SAYONARA

Tzipi Obziler is finally stepping down from Israel’s Fed Cup team. “This is the right time for me to retire,” she said. “I’m grateful for this wonderful and small country which gave me the opportunity to have a great career.” Obziler played 61 Fed Cup ties for Israel, equaling former teammate Anna Smashnova’s Fed Cup participation record. Obziler has played 90 matches, compiling a 51-39 win-loss record in her 16-year Fed Cup career. She was part of the Israeli team that reached the World Group in 2008 for the first time in the nation’s history. Obziler, however, didn’t completely close the door to her retirement. “If captain Lior Mor decides he wants me on the team and I see that I’m physically capable of playing, than of course I wouldn’t refuse,” she said.

SETS TARGET DATE

Recovering from a serious knee injury, Britain’s Anne Keothavong hopes to be back in action in February. The 25-year-old tore both the anterior cruciate ligament and the meniscus in her left knee when she ran into a fence while playing a doubles match at a tournament in California, USA. Keothavong, Britain’s top player on the WTA Tour, broke into the world’s top 50 for the first time earlier this year. “I hope to be back by February, which is ambitious, but achievable,” she said.

STAYING HOME

Former world number one Carlos Moya of Spain and Kei Nishikori of Japan have withdrawn from this year’s US Open because of injuries. Moya’s biggest victory came at the 1998 French Open. He has been sidelined for most of this season with a foot injury and his ranking has slipped out of the top 100. Nishikori was the top alternate and would have taken Moya’s spot in the draw, but he also withdrew because of an injury. That means Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador is directly in the main draw of the year’s final Grand Slam tournament.

STOP IT, I SAY

Lleyton Hewitt’s wife has gone to court over a magazine article. The actress wants to know the source of the story that ran last April that implied she was having an affair. New Idea magazine has twice published apologies over the article, titled “Bec’s Other Man,” which pictured Bec Hewitt with whom the magazine identified as a “hunky American fitness trainer” named Minder Mark. The man in the picture actually was Bec’s brother, Shaun Cartwright, who frequently accompanies the family on the tennis circuit.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Montreal: Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles beat Max Mirnyi and Andy Ram 6-4 6-3

Cincinnati: Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-3 0-6 10-2 (match tiebreak)

Cordenons: James Cerretani and Travis Rettenmaier beat Peter Luczak and Alessandro Motti 4-6 6-3 11-9 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Cincinnati: www.cincytennis.com/

Toronto: www3.rogerscup.com/404.html

Newport: www.championsseriestennis.com/newport2009/

New Haven: www.pilotpentennis.com/

Bronx: www.nyjtl.org/tournaments/ghiBronx/index.htm

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$3,000,000 Western & Southern Financial Group Masters, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, hard

WTA

$2,000,000 Rogers Cup, Toronto, Canada, hard

SENIORS

International Tennis Hall of Fame Champions Cup, Newport, Rhode Island, USA, grass

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$750,000 Pilot Pen Tennis, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, hard

WTA

$600,000 Pilot Pen Tennis Presented by Schick, New Haven, Connecticut, USA, hard

$100,000 EmblemHealth Bronx Open, Bronx, New York, USA, hard

Safina Survives Opening Round Scare In Cincinnati

Two points from defeat in the second set, World No. 1 Dinara Safina rallied to defeat Italian Roberta Vinci, 2-6, 7-5, 6-4, to advance to the third round on Tuesday afternoon at the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open in Cincinnati.

Jumping out to an early 2-0 lead, the Russian quickly faded, losing nine straight games to the more consistent Vinci.

“I started pretty good, actually. 2-0 up, and to lose nine games in a row, it didn’t happen for me for a while,” said Safina, a winner of 12 career singles titles.

Vinci, ranked No. 46, was steadier throughout the up and down match, but could not serve out the match at 5-4 in the second set, as Safina eventually won the set, 7-5.

The 23-year-old Russian, who hit 48 unforced errors compared to 28 by Vinci, fell behind 2-0 in the final set before finding her rhythm to sneak past the Italian for the third time in her career.

“Slowly I think she got tight, said Safina, who was a finalist earlier this year at the Australian Open and Roland Garros. “I don’t know what happened to her because I was completely off.

In the match that lasted just under two hours, both players broke serve on eight occasions, while Safina hit 10 doubles faults compared to eight by Vinci. Despite serving struggles throughout, both players won over 60 percent of first serve points.

Safina, who has been the top ranked player in the world for 17 consecutive weeks, will next face the winner of the second round match between Shuai Peng and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.

In other action, No. 6 seed and reigning Roland Garros champ Svetlana Kuznetsova was pushed to her limits, but survived to advance to the third round with a 6-2, 6-7(2), 7-6(4), win over Lucie Safarova. Kuznetosva, smashed 10 aces, won 78 percent of first serve points and broke serve on five of ten occasions en route to victory.

Defending champion and No. 10 seed Nadia Petrova of Russia and No. 15 seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia were not as fortunate as Safina and Kuznetsova to advance, both bowing out relatively easy.

Petrova, a winner of nine career singles titles, lost to Alona Bondarenko of Ukraine, 6-2, 6-3, in 53-minutes. The Belarusian, who turns 25-years-old on Thursday, won 22 of 25 first serve points, while breaking serve four times. For a place in the third round, Bondarenko will battle Daniela Hantuchova, who defeated Sara Errani, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.

Cibulkova, a semifinalist at Roland Garros in May, fell to world No. 40 Shuai Peng, 6-2, 6-1, in 70-minutes. Peng, who is playing in just her second tournament since Wimbledon, will play Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez on Wednesday afternoon.