Max Mirnyi

Doubles is double the fun at Barclay’s ATP World Tour Championships

By Jane Voigt, owner of DownTheTee.com 

November 7, 2012 — You’ve heard this before, “Why don’t they show more doubles?”

Why indeed.

But ask any producer and you’ll hear the expected rap, “It doesn’t sell ad space.”

The response is enough to shove dreams of American realism – the rags to riches story – in a deep hole. Their reasoning diverts to money, not entertainment, not consumer desires, not the absolutely awesome nature of the game of doubles.

Have they ever really watched it? Followed it? Way more interesting than singles.

First, four players are on court. That mathematically equals twice the entertainment and ticket value, twice the tennis, and twice what you would expect as added coverage. That means more jobs! Think about that you international politicians. You want an uptick in popularity, promise to televise doubles. It’s a slick ticket made in re-election heaven.

The political benefits aside, doubles fanatics, which we all know are more numerous than singles fanatics, can get their fill this week by tuning in to The Barclay’s World Tour Finals from London. Not only are the top eight teams from the year on hand to delight the packed O2 Arena, they are first up each session. You could conclude they are the premier matches of the week.

Here are more reasons doubles are twice the fun.

Two people play to win a point, game, set and match. Two means a relationship; they are partners. This logically suggests the introduction of complicated human interactions, which is lost in singles competition. Unless, of course, you construe the rantings of a player toward a support box as interaction.

Teams converse between points. Do knuckle bumps, high fives, signal tactics to their partner before a toss, and if the Bryan brothers are battling … chest bumps. Can’t see that in any other sport. Soccer players may leap into each others arms, but so can the brothers. They won’t skid across a tennis court on their knees though, for obvious and injurious reasons. Well, maybe on grass.

Let’s face it, doubles is way more interesting to watch. Teams serve and volley, change sides, yell ‘out’ so their partners don’t do something stupid like give away a point, and find every lucky angle and spot on a court.

They hit deep ground strokes, short under-spins, half-volleys, and magnificent overhead smashes that crack like a whip.

With four players at the net, the rata-tat-tat of volley exchanges builds audience energy to a fevered pitch. It’s a wonder the men don’t hear it.

It’s wild. It’s exciting.

Doubles is a complicated game, too, because of its nature. In singles every ball is for you. Not so in doubles. There is order to returns and movement, although scrambling to cover an open spot may look like mayhem.

The Teams

Bob and Mike Bryan are the best at movement. As twins, they intuitively know what the other will do. Their expectations are in sync, which puts them at a mighty high level of performance in sports. One person can enter the zone, yes, but two acting as a team … not so easy. They are the number one seeds this week.

Throughout their career they have clinched 82 ATP titles — the most of any doubles team. They will end 2013 at number one for the eighth time, and the fourth consecutive. At the U. S. Open they won their 12th slam, an Open-era record. To top off their season, they won a gold medal at the London Olympics.

Daniel Nestor and Max Mirnyi are the defending champions. So far they are 1-1 in round robin play. They seem to be in the ‘harder’ group, along with Wimbledon doubles champions, Jonathan Marray and Frederik Nielson. They are 2-0 and the most unlikely team on hand.

Marray is the first native-born Briton to play in this tournament; and Nielsen teamed with Marray seconds before the deadline to enter Wimbledon this summer. Nielsen’s record has been about singles and after this week he will return to that discipline, leaving Marray to search for a partner. If they continue to mesmerize win, he won’t be left out in the cold for long. But, then again, partners are not just a matter of availability.

Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek were the last team to qualify. It’s Stepanek’s inaugural World Tour Championship.

Scoring

With all the fun available for fans, the choice of no-ad scoring has been hard to understand. And, any promotion that dares to intimate this is a ‘fifth grand slam’ should have their funding cut. No major tournament would allow no-add scoring.

The lovely dynamics of doubles is negated in this format. At 40-all, the serving team picks the side from where they’d like to serve. This point ends the game. Ordinarily, these top-flight teams groove to a different rhythm. Teetering between ad-in and ad-out is familiar. They are trained for this. It gives them chances to come back, use their strengths – both mental and tactical. The better team can hold with more consistency, which is the pinnacle of skill in tennis.

The no-ad scoring in London, though, throws randomness at the competition. It doesn’t serve the tournament, players, or 15,000 fans that pack the house every session.

As a result the outcomes of the matches have an odd undercurrent. If you look at the match stats, the losing teams have won more points than the winning teams. Not by much, but it’s lopsided. This means they’ve won more service and return points.

In their loss to Mirnyi and Nestor on Monday, Robert Lindstedt and Horacio Tecau won 83% of their second service points, an incredibly high percentage. Their opponents won 43%. Lindstedt/Tecau converted all their break point changes, too. Mirnyi/Nestor went 0 for 2.

Five of the six matches have been decided by 10-point champions tiebreaks. First to ten by two. This is the only remnants of normalcy in London. They are used throughout the season. And every world tour player knows that tiebreaks should be avoided. Without regular scoring, though, the outcomes this week will not reflect the depth that these men can achieve in the sets that precede the tiebreaks. The scoring robbed them of a type of play that demonstrates their excellence. They literally cannot play their games, which is a shame for the deserved prestige assigned them.

Jane Voigt lives, breathes and writes tennis. She wrote about John Isner’s ground-breaking wildcard run at the formerly named Legg Mason Tennis Classic in 2007 for Tennis.com. She has written tennis commentary for the late, great Tennis Week print publication and online version. Hundreds of articles from Jane have been seen on TennisServer.com, too. She now maintains her own website at DownTheTee.com, and has traveled throughout the U. S. and Canada to cover tournaments. Ask her to play tennis, and she’ll prefer singles to doubles.

Federer Finishes on High Note, Davis Cup Clash in Spain – The Friday Five

by Maud Watson

Another Title, Another Record

Last Sunday, Roger Federer became the first male player to win six season-ending championships, surpassing the previous record of five held jointly by Sampras and Lendl.  It also marked his 70th tournament win in 100 finals.  It was a great effort by Federer that showcased his fitness and resiliency.  When others were tired and running on fumes, he stood tall.  And rather than crumbling after a disappointing summer that included two devastating losses in the semis of both Wimbledon and the US Open, the man from Switzerland went a perfect 17-0 to collect three titles and regain the No. 3 ranking to close out 2011.  The ATP World Tour Finals may have also marked a psychological turning point for Federer.  He candidly admitted to being mentally fragile at some key moments earlier in the season, and after finding a way to close out Tsonga in a match that looked like it might yet again prove to be a dramatic comeback from the Frenchman, Federer may finally be putting some of those demons to rest.  This win by no means that he is a guaranteed major winner in 2012 – he finished 2010 with the title in London, too.  But it is a strong reminder that Federer still has more than enough game and motivation to add to his Slam tally before he calls it a career.

Overlooked Achievement

Often overshadowed by singles, there was some spectacular doubles on hand in London, and the team that took the cake was that of Daniel Nestor and Max Mirnyi.  It takes two to lift the title, and Mirnyi certainly did his part, but what an achievement for Daniel Nestor.  At age 39, he’s still one of the greatest doubles players in the game.  As a testament to just how good he is, he’s won the calendar year Grand Slam, Olympic gold, and has now won the season-ending championships four times with three different partners.  Unless he just decides he’s tired of the grind, there’s no reason why Nestor can’t continue to add to his doubles legacy.  Pencil him in as a future Hall of Famer.

Title Favorites

The final hurrah of 2011 gets underway today, as Spain plays host to Argentina in the Davis Cup final.  Both sides have played down their chances, with Argentina calling Spain the favorites, especially since they have Nadal – albeit a Nadal who is suffering from fatigue – playing at home on clay.  Spain meanwhile has said that Argentina is fielding a dangerous team that will be feeling extra motivation, having not won the title in three tries, the most recent final loss coming at the hands of Spain in Argentina in 2008.  One Spaniard who isn’t afraid to proclaim Spain’s status as the favorite, however, is Manolo Santan, who stated that the Spanish team could beat the Argentines on roller skates.  This sentiment was perhaps a bit too cocky (and unwise to give the Argentines extra incentive to make him eat his words), but he is correct in that Spain is undoubtedly the team to beat in this one.  But it should hopefully prove an entertaining matchup, and an upset that would see Argentina win its first Davis Cup title could happen.  Sit back and enjoy!

Changing It Up

The man just named 2011’s Most Improved Player, Alex Bogomolov, Jr., has been granted his wish.  He will now represent Russia instead of the United States.  While it’s understandable that some in the USTA were unhappy with the move given the time and money that has been invested in Bogomolov, it’s not like he’s the first player to benefit from American money and play for another nation (albeit those others did not benefit from USTA-funding).  This move also provides a great opportunity to Bogomolov, who was born in Moscow, as he will be able to represent Russia in the upcoming Davis Cup tie as their currently top-ranked player.  If still representing the United States, he would only be the fourth highest ranked American.  Here’s to hoping he finds the switch of allegiance well worth it.  The second more puzzling changeup concerns Donald Young.  According to TENNIS.com, Donald Young has gone back to being coached by his mother.  Under the guidance of the USTA’s coaching staff, Young enjoyed the most successful period of his professional career, starting at the end of the summer and through the Asian swing.  At the time of writing, few details are known regarding the switch, but a source has told TENNIS that Young was asked to train and practice at one of their facilities during the off season and Young refused.  Hopefully this will not prove another step backwards, but if TENNIS.com’s source is reliable, a frustrating history may be about to be repeated.

Still Plugging Away

Despite multiple surgeries, a major dip in the rankings, and an extended absence from the tour, Lleyton Hewitt insists that he has no retirement plans.  In some ways, he seems up there in age, but in reality, he’s less than a year older than Federer.  Unfortunately for the Aussie, he doesn’t possess Federer’s game, but it’s great to hear that he’s planning to stick around.  He’ll never get near the upper most echelons of the game again, but a healthy Hewitt has the tenacity, smarts, and experience to cause some upsets and maybe add the occasional piece of hardware to his own collection.  You’d be hard pressed to find many players that have more of a fighting spirit than the man from Adelaide, and thanks to being awarded a wildcard into the Australian Open, his legion of fans will be keen to see him hopefully get his 2012 campaign off with a flier.

Moya Retires, Soderling Takes Paris and ATP Finals Take Shape

*Former French Open Champion Carlos Moya has become the latest star to announce their retirement, this time due to persistent foot injuries. “It’s not how I dreamt of ending,” said the former world No. 1 and Australian Open finalist. He also helped Spain win the Davis Cup in 2004 but recently things haven’t been so rosy. “I wanted to say goodbye at one of the big tournaments, the Grand Slams, but that dream wasn’t to be. I am still young for life but for sport, I am already knocking on a bit.”

*Sweden’s Robin Soderling is understandably beaming after picking up his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Paris last week but he was also praising of the man whose dream ended one step too short in the final for the second year running. Home favourite Gael Monfils tasted finals defeat for the second year running having lost to Novak Djokovic in 2009. “I know it’s difficult to lose two finals in a row in this city but Monfils played incredible tennis this week,” said the 26-year-old Soderling. “Of course, winning matches against a lot of good players this week gives me a lot of confidence. Playing in any Masters, when you play the top players of the world, every match can be a Grand Slam final. I think you need to believe in yourself and I think that can make a big change. I’m feeling really good right now.” Soderling is now at a career-high No. 4 in the world.

*The groups have been decided for the ATP World Tour Finals in London starting this weekend. Group A in the singles sees world No. 1 Rafa Nadal paired with Novak Djokovic, Tomas Berdych and Andy Roddick. Roger Federer, Robin Soderling, Andy Murray and David Ferrer will contest Group B. In the doubles, the defending Champions the Bryan brothers contest Group A with Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes, Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski and Jurgen Melzer and Philipp Petzschner. Group B consists of Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic, Lukasz Kubot and Oliver Marach, Mahesh Bhupathi and Max Mirnyi and Wesley Moodie and Dick Norman.

*Pakistan’s Prime Minister has announced that Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi has been appointed as United Nations Development Project (UNDP) National Goodwill Ambassador. His first task is to help obtain global funds to go towards the victims of the devastating floods across the country which affected twenty million people. “I am honoured to become a Goodwill Ambassador for UNDP in Pakistan,” says Qureshi. “I have been very fortunate in life to pursue my passion for tennis. It is important for me to help people who lost everything because of the floods to get back on their feet.” Full reaction can be seen at the ATP website.

*Roger Federer has targeted a strong finish to the year with victory at the ATP Tour Finals, a competition he has an enviable record of 29-7 at. Federer faced questions about the current state of his mind after squandering five match points during his semi final defeat to Gael Monfils in Paris but the world No. 2 is confident of his chances in London. “I think I have good chances maybe in London for winning,” declared the sixteen-time Grand Slam winner. “I feel good physically. In a way it is a relief that I was able to finish the tournament [in Paris-Bercy] in good physical health. I’m fresh mentally, too. This is the most important thing. Victories are important, but when you’re not fit and when you’re injured, it’s bad.  So I think I’m going to recover quite fast after that loss. I feel good. I’m playing well. It was not a bad match [against Monfils]. I’m happy with my performance. Clearly with a victory I would have had big chances of winning the tournament. This is not the case, so now I have to look at the future. I’m going to prepare for London.” The full interview can be seen at the ATP site.

*Czech star Tomas Berdych has said that it was the increased burden of expectation following his Wimbledon finals appearance this year which contributed to his average results over the past few months. “In the past, I entered many matches in the position of a mere challenger, but after Wimbledon, everything changed,” he told the Prague Post. “My opponents became the challengers and were keen on taking the scalp of a top-10 player. Every game was much more difficult for me… [in London] I’ll try to pick up my game and to prove that I did not qualify by accident.”

*The Bryan brothers have announced that they will return to Houston in 2011 to defend their back to back US Men’s Clay Court Championships doubles titles.

*Li Na has taken Gold for China at the Asia Games, defeating Taiwan’s Chan Yung Jan 6-2, 6-1 in the final.

*Venus Williams has said she hopes to be fit in time for the Australian Open. The 30-year-old has been nursing yet another knee injury since her US Open defeat to Kim Clijsters but told AOL Fanbase: “I’m gearing up for Australia. Playing professional tennis is very intense. You have to be as close to 100 percent as possible. So I’m aiming to be 100 percent by January.”

*In the South African Airways ATP World Rankings Robin Soderling has benefitted from his Paris Masters victory by becoming the new world No. 4 at the expense of Andy Murray. Jurgen Melzer, Gael Monfils, Marin Cilic, Nicolas Almagro, Mardy Fish, Sam Querrey and Marcos Baghdatis all climb within the Top 20. Russian Nikolay Davydenko drops 11 places to No. 22 while Michael Llodra jumps 11 to No. 23. The Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov enters the Top 50 and Slovakia’s Lukas Lacko, Germany’s Dustin Brown and Brazil’s Marcos Daniel enter the Top 100.

*The Bondarenko sisters have announced that they will immediately cease representing Ukraine in Fed Cup play. Kateryna has described the move as a “mutual decision” between themselves and Ukrainian tennis authorities. The door has been left open for a future return.

*Tennis Hall of Famer Dennis Ralston has been talking to The Desert Sun about his life since the amputation of his foot back in June due to infection. It’s a touching story, which can be read on their website. “The situation was bleak, not knowing if I would work again,” Ralston said. “I still don’t know, but I hope I still can.”

*After her engagement to lawyer Andreas Bieri broke down back in April, Martina Hingis has announced that she is “…not single anymore.” She is said to be dating fellow horse-riding enthusiast Thibault Hutin.

Kim Clijsters On the Mend – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Parting Ways – The Globe and Mail reported earlier this week that the doubles pairing of Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic will be calling it a day on their partnership at the end of this year. Though Zimonjic initiated the change, Nestor admitted he had been contemplating of doing the same, so the two will be parting amicably. They’ve also lined up some stellar partners for 2011. Zimonjic will be playing with Llodra, the tricky Frenchman with a great set of hands who has also seen a rise in his singles play due to his prowess in the forecourt. Nestor will be joining forces with “The Beast,” Max Mirnyi, who with his height and big frame always poses a challenging proposition. Both new duos should shake up the doubles arena next season.

On the Mend – It’s music to the ears of all WTA officials and the Doha tournament director. Kim Clijsters posted on her Twitter account that she is no longer feeling pain in her foot, though there is still a small cut. This is of course no guarantee that the Belgian will be competing in the season-ending championships, but her encouraging news that she might be able to make the final event of the year is welcome news indeed. With nearly half of the WTA’s top 20 players either officially out or assumed out for the remainder of the year, the WTA is in desperate need of another top star to find a way to cross the finish line. And with the field becoming more and more diluted with each passing week, if Clijsters is able to compete in the final event of the year, it could be easy pickings, providing her a strong platform from which to spring into next year.

Fitness Race – Much like last year, Andy Roddick finds himself in a race against the clock to try and finish the year on a high instead of on the sidelines. Having straineed his groin last week in Japan, the American tried to give it a go in Shanghai, only to aggravate the injury further. His retirement from injury all happened a year to the day that Roddick suffered a season-ending injury at the same tournament in 2009. Things look more optimistic for Roddick this time around, however, who feels he has a decent chance of competing in Basel and perhaps still earning a spot in the elite ATP World Tour Championships. Those pulling for American tennis success will particularly be hoping for a speedy recovery, as Roddick needs the points to attempt to finish in the top 10 for the ninth consecutive year (he currently stands at 11).

Bigger than Sport – Their partnership has been well-documented, and it is continuing to pay dividends. The Indian-Pakistani partnership of Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi won the Peace and Sport Image of the Year Award in one of the feel-good stories of the week. Their courage and willingness to set aside their differences is admirable, and it is great to see it transcending the sport. Hopefully their actions, and the actions of other players, (such as Serb Novak Djokovic and Croat Ivan Ljubicic exchanging shirts at the end of a match) will teach others to put aside their prejudices.

Dropping like Flies – One of the biggest stories of the week has been the number of top WTA players who have already called it a season in order to prep for 2011. Granted, some have been freak injuries, but it has to leave some scratching their heads. After working out a “roadmap” to shorten the season, it seems the number of dropouts is an even bigger problem than in years past. No doubt the shortened season is a much-needed improvement, but the number of injuries and early exits would seem to also suggest that it’s time to start taking a look at what other factors are contributing to the WTA woes. Advancements in equipment and the predominant style of play, this “big babe tennis” as Mary Carillo has dubbed it, may be more of a culprit than some realize, and the situation needs to be rectified. After all, the WTA Championships should be won by the best of the best, not simply the last woman left standing.

Nadal & Djokovic To Play Doubles: Are You Kidding Me?

The song ‘Rain Drops Keep Fallin’ On My Head’ was unfortunately the most over-played tune from Sunday in Toronto as the Rogers Cup was forced to deal with plenty of precipitation as the qualifying tournament approached its end.

The first match of the day on Centre Court between Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan and Marius Copil of Romania began shortly after 10am local time and finally ended just after 3pm with Lu prevailing 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-3. Rain halted progress for a lengthy period of time at the start of the second set and forced competitors and fans alike to play the waiting game at the Rexall Centre.

I took the time to test my serve at one of the popular interactive fan attractions on the grounds and walked away humbled by my 136 kilometre per hour attempt. Gonna do a few bicep curls and come back stronger for tomorrow.

The second match on the main stadium was between Canadian hopeful Philip Bester and veteran American Michael Russell. Bester – who looks strikingly similar to Max Mirnyi – was unable to perform like the beast he had hoped to and was beaten by the 32 year-old Russell 6-2, 6-2 in front of his home fans. Bester made good on his promise to, “go out guns blazing,” as he was the more aggressive of the two players. Unfortunately his shots were often off the mark which sent his unforced errors tally spiralling out of control. As the sun finally broke through the persistent cloud coverage it became clear that Bester was not going to get the reprieve he so-badly needed.

Of the six Canadians admitted into the qualifying draw, none have advanced to the main tournament that begins Monday. Don’t worry Canadian tennis fans, we still have four of our own represented this week so you’ll have plenty to cheer for.

Youngster Milos Raonic gets first dibs on Monday’s schedule and will face 53rd ranked Victor Hanescu on the Grandstand court at 11am. Despite giving up about ten years in age, the 19 year-old Raonic has a decent shot against a player mostly known for his clay-court prowess. One stat that may buoy Raonic’s hopes is the three straight first-round losses that Hanescu has accumulated this summer.

In the evening session top-ranked Canuck Peter Polansky gets the unenviable task of taking on Jurgen Melzer who has had the best results of his career in 2010. The Austrian made the semi-finals at Roland Garros and followed that up with a fourth round showing at Wimbledon. Not bad for an eleven year vet who had never previously advanced past the third round of a Grand Slam.

The doubles draw also offers some Canadian content as Frank Dancevic and partner Adil Shamasdin will face the duo of Simon Aspelin and Paul Hanley on the more intimate court 1.

There are tons of great singles matches set for day one at the Rogers Cup but the real show-piece no doubt will feature Raonic and partner Vasek Pospisil against the ‘are-you-kidding-me’ tandem of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. That match will close-out the evening session on Centre Court with some fireworks that will truly impress.

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

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.

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

Mondays With Bob Greene: Thank God the hard court season is over

STARS

Sony Ericsson Open

Andy Murray won the Sony Ericsson Open men’s singles, defeating Novak Djokovic 6-2 7-5 in Miami, Florida, USA

Victoria Azarenka beat Serena Williams 6-3 6-1 to win the women’s singles at the Sony Ericsson Open

Pablo Cuevas defeated Victor Crivoi 6-1 6-3 to win the Tennis Napoli Cup in Napoli, Italy

SAYING

“The majority of players now play so well from the baseline and both sides, that if you can use some slice and drop shots, some high balls and stuff, it just takes them out of their comfort zone. It’s my way of dictating how the match is getting played. A lot of people might not necessarily think my game looks the most aggressive or offensive, but very few times will I not have the points played how I like them to be played.” – Andy Murray, who beat Novak Djokovic to win the Sony Ericsson Open men’s singles.

“You have to say, ‘Well done.’” – Novak Djokovic.

“That’s the goal. That’s the whole reason I’m playing. I think everybody’s goal is to try to be number one. I’m not going to say, ‘I’m going to be there,’ but I’ll try to do my best.” – Victoria Azarenka, after winning the Sony Ericsson Open.

“It was a little difficult moving to the left and a little bit to the right. A little forward was also difficult.” – Serena Williams, whose movement was hampered in her loss to Victoria Azarenka in the final.

“It’s so important to any country, but particularly to such a small country like Belarus, because it’s certainly going to make the headline of general news tomorrow. It makes me proud. It makes me want to give back to the country that gave me so much. It’s just great. I think Victoria is an incredible story. It’s been a while since we had a female player that’s played at such a high level.” – Max Mirnyi, who won the men’s doubles, helping give Belarus two champions at the Sony Ericsson Open.

“Thank God the hard court season is over. It’s the end of the hard court season. I don’t care anymore. I’m moving over to clay, a new chapter.” – Roger Federer, who is turning his back on his favorite surface after he failed to win a hard court tournament this year.

“Wonderful for the crowd. Terrible for me.” – Rafael Nadal, after losing to Juan Martin del Potro in the Sony Ericsson Open.

“I beat him with my mind and with my game. When we played long points, I was dominating every time.” – Juan Martin del Potro, after upsetting Rafael Nadal.

“I believe we are the best in the world. I enjoy playing Serena because we challenge each other the most.” – Venus Williams, talking about her sister Serena.

“Playing her, it’s like I have to automatically be on a different level, because she’s already playing on a different level. Her balls are harder and her serve is way bigger. And it’s super fun to hit these serves that are like 120 mph. It’s frustrating but at the same time fun.” – Serena Williams, talking about her sister Venus.

“It’s easier if I would have just played terrible the whole time.” – Andy Roddick, after losing to Roger Federer in a tough three-set match.

”I don’t care whether I’m under the radar or on top of the radar. Whatever. I’m just living my life and I enjoy it.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova.

“When you are more behind (the baseline), the courts look smaller and the opponent has more time to think. When you play more inside, you have more chances to have the winner, the court is bigger. So, the sport is really easy. You don’t need to study a lot to know about the tennis.” – Rafael Nadal.

SIXTH TEENAGE CHAMPION

Victoria Azarenka joined a select group when she beat defending champion and top-ranked Serena Williams to win the Sony Ericsson Open women’s singles title. At the age of 19 years, eight months, Azarenka is only the sixth teenager to win the title in the tournament’s history. Other winners were Monica Seles (16 years, four months in 1990), Martina Hingis (16 years, six months in 1997), Steffi Graf (17 years, eight months in 1987), Venus Williams (17 years, nine months in 1998) and Gabriela Sabatini (18 years, 10 months in 1989). By winning, the Belarusian moved to a career-high number eight in the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Rankings. Azarenka lost just one set in her six matches. Williams was seeking a record sixth women’s singles title at the Sony Ericsson Open; she currently shares the record of five titles with Steffi Graf. By reaching the final, Serena Williams remained in the top spot in the WTA Tour rankings.

STRANGE ENDING

Rafael Nadal has a way of running away with matches once he gets ahead. That wasn’t true at the Sony Ericsson Open. The top-ranked Spaniard was up two breaks in the final set at 3-0 before Juan Martin del Potro won 12 of the next 14 points. “I played really bad all the time,” Nadal said. “When I have it 3-love in the third, I played worse. It was amazing disaster.” In the tiebreak, Nadal hit a ball that skipped along the net cord before landing in the court for a winner, giving the Spaniard a 3-2 lead. Nadal never won another point.

STOIC NO MORE

Normally Roger Federer has been the stoic Swiss. These days, nothing is normal for the superstar from Switzerland. He has yet to win a tournament in 2009, and in a three-set loss to Novak Djokovic at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Federer lost his cool. Playing in blustery conditions, Federer had what appeared to be an easy midcourt forehand. He slammed the ball into the net, followed by slamming his racquet onto the court. The shocked audience at first jeered Federer, but soon turned to cheers. “It must’ve been here against Rafa,” Nadal said of the last time he broke a racquet in anger. He was referring to the 2005 Sony Ericsson final when he trailed Nadal two sets to none before coming back to win. “There’s so much wind today, and once you start feeling bad it’s tough to regroup,” Federer said, then added: “But it’s the same for both players.”

SWEDE FINE

Because city officials decided to play a Davis Cup competition behind closed doors, the Swedish tennis federation has been fined USD $25,000 and the city of Malmo has been handed a five-year ban from hosting another Davis Cup tie. The International Tennis Federation’s Davis Cup committee also said Sweden would have to pay an additional $15,000, which it would have received in gate receipts had the March 6-8 match been open to spectators. Malmo officials said they decided to keep the public from the first-round competition to ensure the safety of the Israeli team. Malmo has a large Muslim community. Sweden is planning to appeal the decision because of the security threat that existed around the tie, which Israel won 3-2 to reach the quarterfinals. “The fact that over 1,000 police officers from the entire country had been commanded to Malmo and that equipment and cars had been borrowed from Denmark speaks for itself,” said Henrik Kallen, general secretary of the Swedish federation. “The Swedish federation still considers it irresponsible and unacceptable that individual local politicians have used Malmo’s situation for their own causes.” Other conditions were also placed on Sweden by the committee, including a written guarantee that future ties would be open to the public. The ITF said Sweden would also lose the right to choose the venue if a similar situation occurs in the future.

SEATS FOR SALE

If you want Centre Court seats at Wimbledon for the next five years, you’ll just have to cough up USD $40,700. For one seat, of course. The All England Club is selling up to 2,500 Centre Court seats in five-year blocks. Wimbledon officials say the right to one reserved seat on Centre Court for every day of the tournament between the years 2011 and 2015 will raise about USD $87.3 million. This year’s Wimbledon, which will feature the new sliding roof on the Centre Court, will be held June 22 to July 5.

SWISS-BASED COURT RULES

The Court of Arbitration for Sport has ended Filippo Volandri’s three-month ban for using an asthma drug. The Switzerland-based court also ruled that Volandri should be restored the ATP points and earnings that he lost. The only punishment remaining will be the loss of Volandri’s points and earnings at a tournament a year ago in Indian Wells, California, where he failed a doping test after suffering a first-round loss. Volandri claimed he had a severe asthma attack the night before his match in Indian Wells and was forced to take more of the drug, salbutamol, than the allowed amount. Volandri was suspended by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) on the eve of the Australian Open in January. The ban was due to expire on April 14. “The nightmare is over … Finally I can start playing again,” he said. “I didn’t skip one day of training.”

SPEAKING UP

John McEnroe will be an analyst when ESPN makes its debut televising the US Open beginning in late August. The Hall of Famer will sometimes be paired with his younger brother Patrick, a former player who has been an ESPN analyst since 1995. John will be a busy man at this year’s final Grand Slam tournament. He also will appear on Sports Center, ESPNEWS and ESPN Radio. Plus he will also continue working as an analyst for CBS during the US Open. During his playing career, McEnroe won 77 singles titles, highlighted by seven Grand Slam tournament singles titles, including four US Open championships. He also won 10 more major championships in doubles or mixed doubles. An avid Davis Cup participant, he led the United States to five championships. He also won the NCAA title while attending Stanford.

SPEAKING TO THE STATE

Andre Agassi wants Nevada to take advantage of what he called “a ripe opportunity” to make education system changes in a state that ranks near the bottom nationally in kindergarten-to-12th grade per-pupil spending and graduation rates. Speaking to the Senate and Assembly education committees, Agassi said he understands there is a difficult combination of a revenue shortfall coupled with the challenge of meeting student learning needs. But, he said, the state must help children to succeed. Agassi gave lawmakers a progress report on his Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, a public charter school the former tennis star opened in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2001 to serve at-risk students. The school will graduate its first senior class in June.

SIGNING FOR $$$$

With her surprising run to the Australian Open quarterfinals in January, Jelena Dokic is now reaping the financial awards. Dokic recently signed an endorsement contract with French sportswear company Lacoste believed to be potentially worth close to USD $4.4 million over three years. Represented by IMG, Dokic has also entered into a lucrative agreement with Australian budget airline Jetstar. Her racquet deal with Wilson is soon due for renegotiation. Before this year, Dokic had not won a Grand Slam tournament match since 2003.

SINGED

Upset with a magazine article, Lleyton Hewitt and his wife Bec say their marriage is stronger than ever. New Idea magazine in Australia claimed there was a “new man” in Bec’s life, and they published a picture of Hewitt’s wife with a man identified as “Minder Mark” and the Hewitts’s two young children. Lleyton and Bec identified “Minder Mark” as Bec’s brother, Shaun Cartwright. “Our marriage has never been stronger,” the Hewitts said. Bec Hewitt is demanding the magazine issue an apology and print a correction. The couple reportedly have started legal proceedings against the magazine. Describing the article as a “calculated deception” of the Australian public, the Hewitts said the magazine set out to increase sales by creating a non-existent love interest for Bec Hewitt. “This is not the first time that New Idea has fabricated articles concerning the Hewitt family,” they said.

SHARAPOVA INC.

Although she has played only one doubles match since last summer, Maria Sharapova is riding a way of commercial explosion unprecedented in women’s sports. Perhaps surprisingly, none of her sponsors are seemingly worried about her lack of playing time because of a shoulder injury. She just signed a USD $2.5 million-a-year deal with a shampoo maker and reportedly earns up to USD $30 million annually, most of it coming from endorsements. Since turning pro in 2002, Sharapova’s on-court winnings have totaled USD $10.2 million. Four of her sponsors are Tag Heuer, Cole Haan, Sony Ericsson and Canon cameras.

SAD NEWS

Sixteen-year-old Aaron Marion collapsed and died while practicing for his high school tennis team in Brooklyn, New York. “This was his first lesson, first practice,” said Clarice Sylvester, the youngster’s stepmother. After Marion collapsed, the tennis coach began CPR until medics arrived six minutes later. But neither they nor the doctors could save the teenager, who was known to have had seizures for the past year. The stepmother told reporters that Marion had been given clearance to play tennis by both the family doctor and a neurologist.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Miami (men): Max Mirnyi and Andy Ram beat Ashley Fisher and Stephen Huss 6-7 (4) 6-2 10-7 (match tiebreak)

Miami (women): Svetlana Kuznetsova and Amelie Mauresmo beat Kveta Peschke and Lisa Raymond 4-6 6-3 10-3 (match tiebreak)

Napoli: Pablo Cuevas and David Marrero beat Frank Moser and Lukas Rosol 6-4 6-3

SITES TO SURF

Casablanca: www.frmtennis.com

Houston: www.mensclaycourt.com/

Ponte Vedra Beach: http://mpsgroupchamps.net

Marbella, Spain: www.andaluciatennis.com

Torhout: www.koddaertladiesopen.be/

Monte Carlo: http://montecarlo.masters-series.com/1/en/home/default.asp

Charleston: www.familycirclecup.com

Barcelona: www.bcnwta.com

Davis Cup: www.daviscup.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$550,000 Grand Prix Hassan II, Casablanca, Morocco, clay

$500,000 US Men’s Clay Court Championships, Houston, Texas, USA, clay

$114,000 Status Athens Open, Athens, Greece, clay

WTA

$220,000 MPS Group Championships, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, USA,. Clay

$220,000 Andalucia Tennis Experience, Marbella, Spain, clay

$100,000 Koddaert Ladies Open, Torhout, Belgium, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$600,000 Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, Monte Carlo, Monaco, clay

$100,000 Soweto Men’s Open, Johannesburg, South Africa, hard

WTA

$1,000,000 Family Circle Cup, Charleston, South Carolina, USA, clay

$220,000 Barcelona Ladies Open, Barcelona, Spain, clay

Mondays With Bob Greene: We might even choose to boycott the new tour

STARS

ATP

Igor Kunitsyn beat Marat Safin 7-6 (6) 6-7 (4) 6-3 to win the ATP Kremlin Cup in Moscow, Russia

David Nalbandian beat Robin Soderling 6-2 5-7 6-3 to win the Stockholm Open in Stockholm, Sweden

Philipp Petzschner upset Gael Monfils 6-4 6-4 to win the Bank Austria Tennis Trophy in Vienna, Austria

WTA TOUR

Jelena Jankovic won her third straight title, the Kremlin Cup, by beating Vera Zvonareva 6-2 6-4 in Moscow, Russia

SENIORS

Goran Ivanisevic beat Henri Leconte 7-6 (0) 6-3 to win the BlackRock Tour of Champions event in Budapest, Hungary

SAYINGS

“This is a perfect ending for me to win the doubles title in Stockholm in my last match in Sweden, with my family and friends, old coaches, watching me. The only person who was missing today was my son, Max, who is back in Monte Carlo at school.” – Jonas Bjorkman, who is retiring this year.

“I was hoping to win a couple of games and that’s it. I still don’t know how I was able to outplay Marat, but I guess it happens. I still don’t understand how I won.” – Igor Kunitsyn, who won the ATP Kremlin Cup by upsetting Marat Safin in the final.

“It’s amazing to have beaten my first Top 10 player (Stanislas Wawrinka), my first semifinal straight away, my first final, my first title, and also playing in the doubles final. There were so many new and amazing things that happened to me this week.” – Philipp Petzschner, after winning the Bank Austria Tennis Trophy, a tournament in which he originally planned to play only doubles.

“I’ve worked really hard in the last three weeks, winning three titles in a row. It’s not easy.” – Jelena Jankovic, after winning the Kremlin Cup.

“It seems she had an answer for everything I tried.” – Vera Zvonareva, after losing to Jelena Jankovic in the Kremlin Cup final.

“I played great all week, almost perfect every match here. I lost a set today but that’s part of the game.” – David Nalbandian, after winning the Stockholm Open.

“I’m at a good moment in my career. I think this is the best I have played in three years. I’m excited about the indoor season because I don’t have any points to defend and I think I can do very well in the next three tournaments I play: Madrid, Lyon and Paris.” – Robin Soderling, who lost the Stockholm Open final.

“If they (WTA) don’t listen to what we have to say we might even choose to boycott the new tour.” Dinara Safina, about the new rules for the women’s tour.

“It would be great to have another duel with Federer. If I play him it means I will be number one at the end of the year because I will have reached the final. I can only meet him there.” – Rafael Nadal, about playing Roger Federer at the Madrid Masters.

“I totally came here because I love winning. I have never won this title, but I just had a day where I could not control my game. She played well.” – Venus Williams, after her first-round loss to Flavia Pennetta at the Kremlin Cup.

“Sydney is a happy hunting ground for me. Some good hard matches in Sydney will certainly help me in my preparation for the 2009 Australian Open.” – Leyton Hewitt, who has been recuperating from a hip operation, saying he will return to tennis at the Sydney tournament.

“I am looking forward to renewing some great rivalries, particularly with Jim Courier, and getting my competitive juices flowing again at The Stanford Championships.” – Boris Becker, who will compete in a senior tournament in Dallas, Texas, this month.

STEAMED

Dina Safina says the top players could boycott next year’s WTA Tour if their questions about the changes to the schedule are left unanswered. Under the new rules, the top players will have to play designated tournaments while lower-ranked players will be able to play any tournament they choose. Under the so-called Road Map 2010, there will be 20 Premiere tournaments with players committed to play in at least 10. Any player qualifying for the top four tournaments – Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Beijing – must play that event. The top-ranked players must also play in at least four of five other events – Canada, Dubai, Rome, Cincinnati and Tokyo. The WTA has committed to having at least seven of the world’s top 10 players at each of those events.

SURPRISE

When Germany’s Philipp Petzschner arrived in Vienna, he was planning on playing only in doubles. But he qualified for the main singles draw, then kept winning until he came away with the Bank Austria Tennis Trophy title. Petzschner, who have never made it past the quarterfinals in an ATP tournament before Vienna, beat top-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka, former world number one Carlos Moya and 2004 Bank Austria champion Feliciano Lopez before upsetting fourth-seeded Gael Monfils 6-4 6-4 in the title match.

SITE SWITCH?

Politicians in Sydney want to build a multi-million dollar tennis facility and take the Australian Open away from Melbourne. The Victorian capital has the rights to stage the year’s first Grand Slam tournament until 2016. According to news reports, the New South Wales state government, however, wants to build a tennis complex in Glebe, which is close to the Sydney city center, and try to get the Australian Open to move after its contract with Melbourne expires.

STEADY WINNER

She’s number one in the world and continuing her winning ways. Since reaching her first Grand Slam tournament final at the US Open, Jelena Jankovic has won three straight titles in as many weeks. It wasn’t easy, as Jankovic was down a set and a break before beating Vera Dushevina, then rallied from 3-1 down in both sets to beat Flavia Pennetta. In the semifinals, she lost the first set at love to defending champion Elena Dementieva before winning 0-6 6-1 6-0. She easily beat Vera Zvonareva in the final, 6-2 6-4. It has been three years since a woman has won three tournaments in three weeks, the last to achieve the feat being Nicole Vaidisova.

SWEDE ENDING

Sweden’s Jonas Bjorkman played the final singles match of his career at the Stockholm Open, losing to “lucky loser” Juan Monaco in the opening round. At Wimbledon in June, Bjorkman announced his retirement plans, saying “I feel it is time to begin the next chapter of my life.” Making his 16th appearance in Stockholm, where he has won the singles twice, Bjorkman went away a champion. He teamed with Kevin Ullyett to win the doubles, beating fellow Swedes Johan Brunstrom and Michael Ryderstedt 6-1 6-3. His victory in his 1,002nd career doubles match was his 700th match win and 53rd doubles title. He reached a career high singles ranking of number four in 1997, and in 2006 reached the semifinals at Wimbledon, losing to eventual champion Roger Federer.

SIDELINED

Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina pulled out of his second-round match at the Vienna tournament with a toe injury. Del Potro, who won his first four ATP titles in a row in July and August, has been struggling with a broken nail on his right foot since the US Open.

SACRE SUCRE

The singles winners at the Australian Open in January will receive about USD $1.15 million each, based on current exchange rates. Tournament officials announced the prize money for the 2009 tournament winners will be increased 18 percent from this year’s event. The year’s first Grand Slam tournament, the Australian Open will offer total prize money of USD $15.6 million. The upcoming tournament will feature the prospect of Roger Federer winning his 14th major title to equal the record of Pete Sampras. Federer lost in the semifinals at Melbourne in 2008 to eventual winner Novak Djokovic. Federer then lost to Rafael Nadal in the finals of both Roland Garros and Wimbledon before winning the US Open. Maria Sharapova is the defending Australian Open women’s champion.

SEEKING COURT REDRESS

The German Tennis Federation is planning to return to court and appeal the ATP downgrading of the men’s tournament in Hamburg. In August, a jury in Wilmington, Delaware, sided with the ATP’s planned tournament restructuring, a move that moved the Hamburg clay court event from May to July and eliminated it as a key tune-up for Roland Garros. The German federation said on its web site that it aims to maintain the Hamburg tournament’s status and ask for unspecified damages. The federation did not specify which court would hear the appeal or when it would be filed.

STEAMED

David Nalbandian is upset that the Davis Cup final will be played in Mar del Plata, Argentina, instead of his hometown of Cordoba. The Argentine Tennis Association wanted to play the final against Spain next month on a fast indoor court in Cordoba. But that site was not approved by the International Tennis Federation., which selected instead Mar del Plata. Both venues are smaller than the 12,000-seat capacity the ITF has said it wanted. But the ITF said its selection was made because there were “many factors to consider,” including the ability to expand seating at Mar del Plata. “It’s a very strange decision,” Nalbandian said. “The players and captain and the federation want to play in Cordoba. I don’t know why they chose the other place.”

SIGNED UP

Three of the world’s top women – Jelena Jankovic, Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams – have agreed to play a new World Team Challenge in Hong Kong next year as a warm-up event for the Australian Open. The tournament will feature four teams representing Europe, Russia, the Americas and Asia-Pacific. Each team will consist of three players competing in singles and doubles. Jankovic will lead Team Europe, Williams the Americas, Sharapova Team Russia and Sania Mirza of India the Asia-Pacific squad.

SYDNEY DATE

Leyton Hewitt will make the Sydney International tournament in January his first tournament since undergoing hip surgery. Hewitt underwent the operation after the Beijing Olympics and says his recovery is going well. Once ranked number one in the world, Hewitt has won the Sydney title four times, most recently in 2005.

SENIOR BORIS

Three-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker will make his Outback Champions Series debut at The Stanford Championships, to be played this month in Dallas, Texas. It will be the German’s first tournament in the United States since he competed in the Lipton Championships in Key Biscayne, Florida, in 1999. Others scheduled to play in the seniors event will be Jim Courier, Wayne Ferreira, Mikael Pernfors, Mark Philippoussis, Todd Martin, Aaron Krickstein and Jimmy Arias.

SET FOR THE BAR

Max Mirnyi is now ready for another court. The former world number one doubles player has received his diploma from Belarus State University, majoring in International Law with an emphasis on the international protection of children’s rights. The 31-year-old native of Minsk has been a UNICEF Goodwill ambassador and has taken part in the various national and international children’s programs in the framework of the ATP. He had been working on his law degree for the past five years.

SONY ERICSSON CHAMPIONS

Cara Black and Liezel Huber have clinched the top spot for 2008 in the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Doubles Rankings. The pair won eight doubles titles this year, including the US Open, the duo’s fourth career Grand Slam tournament title. It is the second straight season that Black and Huber will finish as the joint top-ranked players in doubles. The two are only the second doubles team to finish a season as joint top-ranked players, and only the fourth doubles pair to jointly hold the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour number one doubles ranking since its inception in 1984. Black is a native of Zimbabwe, while Huber was born in South Africa but has become a naturalized American citizen.

SAFIN CONFUSED

When Marat Safin won his 400th career match, he didn’t know it. Safin broke Noam Okum in the 10th game of the final set, earning a 7-6 (5) 3-6 6-4 first-round victory at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. The ATP website, however, said Safin mistakenly thought it was 6-5 and went to his chair to towel off during what he thought was a changeover. Chair umpire Carlos Bernardes leaned over and informed Safin the match was over. Safin ran his career match win total to 402 before losing in the final to Igor Kunitsyn 7-6 (6) 6-7 (4) 6-3.

STOPPED AT THE GATE

The ATP is out to stop 15 professional gamblers from attending tournaments. Gerard Tsobanian, tournament director of the Madrid Masters, said the men’s tennis tour sent the tournament a list of names and credit card numbers of 15 bettors who they want excluded. The 15 were apparently found placing bets on site to exploit a 20-second delay in scores being received by bookmakers. Tsobanian said it was “a very international list” and that some of the gamblers had tried to get into tournaments by posing as journalists.

SPECIAL DOUBLES

Anna Kournikova will compete in special mixed doubles matches at The Stanford Championships in Dallas, Texas, later this month. The former top ten player who still appears on magazine covers, will join members of the 2008 Outback Champions Series tennis circuit on the campus of Southern Methodist University for the tournament. Two of the players from the men’s tournament along with another female player will play compete in the mixed doubles.

SAD DAY

Hank Jungle, who coached Tim Gullikson and Johan Kriek, among others, has died at his Fort Myers, Florida, home. Jungle, who retired after serving 20 years in the military, met Gullikson when he was in the Air Force and living in Dayton, Ohio. A native of New Orleans, Jungle played tennis at Tulane University. He had been tennis director at Cypress Lake Country Club in recent years and had given lessons the day before he died.

SENIOR SURPRISE

Swedes Anders Jarryd and Mikael Pernfors complete the eight-player field who will compete in the Cancer Treatment Centers of America Championships in Surprise, Arizona, next month. Others in the field include feisty fan favorite John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Jimmy Arias, Wayne Ferreira, Todd Martin and Mark Philippoussis. Surprise has signed a three-year agreement with the Outback Champions Series.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Moscow (women): Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Nadia Petrova and Katarina Srebotnik 6-4 6-4

Moscow (men): Sergiy Stakhovsky and Potito Starace beat Stephen Huss and Ross Hutchins 7-6 (4) 2-6 10-6 (match tiebreak)

Stockholm: Jonas Bjorkman and Kevin Ullyet beat Johan Brunstrom and Michael Ryderstedt 6-1 6-3

Vienna: Max Mirnyi and Andy Ram beat Philipp Petzschner and Alexander Peya 6-1 7-5

SITES TO SURF

Madrid: www.mutuamad-mastersmadrid.com

Zurich: www.zurichopen.net

Ortisei: www.itfvalgardena.com

Budapest: www.tennisclassics.hu/

Linz: www.generali-ladies.at

Luxembourg: www.fortis-championships.lu

Seoul: www.kortennis.co.kr

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$2,450,000 Mutua Madrilena Masters Madrid, Madrid, Spain, hard

$125,000 Tashkent, Uzbekistan

WTA TOUR

$600,000 Zurich Open, Zurich, Switzerland

$100,000 Internazionali Tennis Val Gardena, Ortisei, Italy, carpet

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$1,000,000 Davidoff Swiss Indoors, Basel, Switzerland, carpet

$1,000,000 St. Petersburg Open, St. Petersburg, Russia, hard

$800,000 Grand Prix de Tennis De Lyon, Lyon, France, carpet

$125,000 Samsung Securities Cup Challenger, Seoul, Korea, hard

WTA TOUR

$600,000 Generali Ladies Linz, Linz, Austria, hard

$225,000 FORTIS Championships Luxembourg

$100,000 Internationaux Feminins de la Vienne, Poitiers, France, hard

$100,000 2008 OEC Taipei Ladies Open, Taipei, Taiwan, carpet

SENIORS

Stanford Championships, Outback Champions, Dallas, Texas

Tennis As Usual: Who is Philipp Petzschner

Unless you are a true die-hard tennis fan, you have not been pondering the aforementioned question until today. Little-known German Philipp Petzschner is in the final of both the singles and doubles tournaments at the Bank Austria Tennis Trophy in Vienna. On Saturday he stunned Feliciano Lopez 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals, and hours later he delighted the crowd by teaming with Austrian favorite Alexander Peya to overcome Lopez and fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in a super-tiebreaker for the third set.

Petzschner will now face Max Mirnyi and Andy Ram in the doubles final, and Gael Monfils in the singles title match. The temporary team of Mirnyi and Ram ousted Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles 2-6, 6-3, 10-8 (super-tiebreaker). Monfils outlasted Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(2) in the semifinals after blowing three match points at 6-5, 40-0 in the final set. It took Monfils two hours and 51 minutes to get the job done.

No such suspense took place at the IF Stockholm Open on Saturday. Not long into the second semifinal of the afternoon, the question was not who would win, but whether or not Robin Soderling would finish even faster than David Nalbandian had just one hour earlier. Nalbandian crushed Jarkko Nieminen 6-2, 6-1 in only one hour and four minutes, but he was one-upped by Soderling, who destroyed Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-0 in a mere 44 minutes.

The Swedish fans will be treated to an intriguing final Sunday. Before their man Soderling takes on Nalbandian, veteran Swede Jonas Bjorkman-along with partner Kevin Ullyett-will battle countrymen Johan Brunstrom and Michael Ryderstedt.

The Russian crowd also could not ask more much more on the penultimate day in Moscow. Russians Marat Safin and Igor Kunitsyn will clash for the Kremlin Cup title. Safin got a free pass into the final when Mischa Zverev pulled out due to illness, while Kunitsyn eased past soon-to-be retired Fabrice Santoro 6-4, 6-3.

Regardless of the outcome, the men’s final should be more fun for the fans than Saturday’s women’s title match. Russian Elena Dementieva steamrolled Jelena Jankovic 6-0 in the first set, but the Serb stormed back to win the final two sets 6-1, 6-0.