open titles

Nadal Expects to play London, Federer and Murray Call for Longer Winter Break, Wozniacki on Player Council

*World No. 1 Rafa Nadal expects to be fit for the ATP Tour Finals in London despite pulling out of the Paris Masters this week with injury. “I am not worried at all about London,” said the Spaniard. “It was not an easy decision [to pull out of Paris] because Paris is a special city for me. But I have played all the season’s Masters and Grand Slams. I will be back to practice soon, before next Sunday.” Nadal had an awful experience at the o2 Arena last year, being eliminated at the Group Stage without taking a single set. “I’m going to do all in my hands to play well there,” said the man who has won this season’s French Open, Wimbledon and US Open titles.

“It’s my goal to improve the image of last year in London.” The full interview, in which he discusses his latest injury, can be seen at the BBC Tennis site.

*Roger Federer is calling for the current four-week ATP Tour winter break to be increased to six to protect players from possible burnout. This debate has been going on for years as more and more tournaments crop up on the circuit and there have even been mentions of a possible fifth Grand Slam in Asia to dip in to the Eastern market. “I think it’s time we shifted back a bit and we get a proper off-season,” said the 29-year-old before he went in to battle at Paris this week. “Four weeks is just not enough. I think six is much better as you can take two weeks off… practise three, four weeks which is a lot for us in our world.” Federer has also this week firmly denied he has had any part to play in the IMG betting scandal surrounding many sports currently. IMG executive Ted Forstmann is accused of betting millions on sporting events including the 2007 French Open final with Federer lost to Rafa Nadal. “I reached out to him and told him I want to know everything about it, how this came about,” Federer told the New York Times. “And he’s been, you know, nice enough obviously to tell me from his side and has been very open in the press already. So that’s OK.”

*Andy Murray is another calling for a longer break. He believes the current length of the tour will curtail many players’ careers before their time. “There’s no time for you to take a break to get rid of an injury,” The British No. 1 told The Sun newspaper. “Instead players end up playing through it and that actually shortens careers. There should be fewer mandatory tournaments because you get punished so much for being injured and I don’t think that’s fair.” Recent examples of Murray’s points are 2009 US Open winner Juan Martin Del Potro and Serena Williams.

*World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki will replace the outgoing Patty Schnyder on the WTA Players’ Council. She joins the Williams sisters, Franchesca Schiavone, Akgul Amanmuradova and Bethanie Mattek-Sands as the players’ representatives.

*American Taylor Dent has become the latest star to announce their retirement from professional tennis. The Newport Beach native staged an amazing comeback in 2009 from a debilitating back injury for which he was nominated for the 2009 Comeback Of The Year award after climbing nearly 800 ranking slots to finish the year at No. 76 in the world. “I had the privilege to compete at the highest level for 12 years, see places in the world I would have never been able to see without tennis, and meet people along the way that have become lifelong friends,” said 29-year-old Dent.

“I am looking forward to spending more time with my family, especially with my wife Jenny [Hopkins, former tennis pro] and our son Declan. I want to continue to stay active in the tennis industry and I am excited to explore opportunities in the world of tennis that my full tournament schedule never allowed me to do.” 38-year-old doubles specialist Martin Damm has also announced his retirement from the sport due to poor results coupled with his age. He will now coach American starlet Ryan Harrison.

*World No. 4 Andy Murray has said it is “a possibility” that he may play on without a full-time coach if he feels happy with his current form and set-up. The British No. 1 has not had a full-time coach since parting ways with Miles McLagan in July but has been working closely with former world No. 2 Alex Corretja in that time. “I just have to decide to see what to do next year,” said the 23-year-old. “If I like the way things are going and I feel like I’m improving, then I’m not scared of playing some tournaments on my own, trying out being on my own for a little bit. But I need to make sure I’m improving. If I’m not improving, then I’m not going to keep just trying to make it work without a coach.” You can read, or watch, the full interview including Murray’s views on his recent form at the ATP website.

*Italy became the sixth nation to win three or more Fed Cup titles with their victory over the USA in San Diego. Understandably, Flavia Pennetta was on cloud nine. “It’s amazing to win a match like this,” Pennetta said of her victory over Coco Vandeweghe in their singles rubber. “I was feeling really good on the court and I think all of the team is very happy now. It’s amazing to be here. This will be with me all my life so it’s really nice and really exciting.”

*The Bryan brothers clinched the year-end No. 1 ranking in doubles with a 6-3, 3-6, 10-3 victory over long-time rivals Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic at the Swiss Indoors Basel on Sunday. It was title number eleven for 2010 and they now have a 11-0 record in finals this year. They have achieved this feat once before (2007) and have the chance in either Paris or London to take a career-record twelfth title of the season.

*Pat Rafter has outlined Plan A in bringing Davis Cup success to Australia: healing the very public rift between Lleyton Hewitt and Bernard Tomic. It began at Wimbledon 2009 when Tomic and his father and coach, John, snubbed requests by Hewitt to be his hitting partner. It then exploded last summer when Hewitt questioned whether Tomic was ready for Davis Cup play. With many seeing Tomic, 18 last month, as the future of Aussie tennis, Rafter is keen to heal the damage. “I think after the Australian Open would be a nice time for us all to sit down. Both boys have to agree,” Rafter told the HeraldSun. “I spoke to Bernard recently and we had a really good conversation with both him and his father. That’s been a great thing. Obviously he is really important to us. He’s a great player, a great talent and he’s got a good opportunity of making it. He’s someone, with me being Davis Cup captain, who will definitely come into the fray.” For a great interview including Rafter’s views on Aussie tennis and how kids should have “more mongrel” on the tour, as he puts it, check out the Herald/Sun website.

*Former world No. 20 Katarina Srebotnik has announced her retirement from singles tennis to focus fully on the WTA doubles tour. The 29-year-old Slovenian suffered badly with injuries throughout 2009 and so has decided to focus on her more prosperous doubles exploits. In January 2008 she reached No. 3 in the world in doubles and she hopes to recapture some of that form in her twilight years. “I practiced very hard in the off-season in 2009 to prepare to play my best in singles and doubles in 2010. My career goal was always to do well in both,” Srebotnik said. “Because I was still doing very well in doubles, I used my special ranking in singles at bigger events, so I could play doubles there too.” Speaking about the end of her singles career she said: “I was in a situation. I was No. 228 and couldn’t even make the qualies of the US Open. Everything was pointing to a new direction.” You can read the full interview at the WTA website.

*The Paris surface has received a thumbs up from many of the top stars this week. Check out their views at Tennis.com.

AUSOPEN PREVIEW: THE LADIES

When was the last time the women’s game had this much depth? I’m not knocking the WTA Tour, which in fact has had more depth in recent years than the men’s Federer vs. Nadal show. When I look at the Australian Open draw though, I’m just floored with the amount of talent out there. This is a fantastic way to kick-off the 2010 Grand Slam calendar.

The Favorites:

Number one ranked Serena Williams has a pretty sweet ride to the quarter-finals from the looks of it. I don’t expect her to drop a set for the first week that’s for sure. There’s simply nobody in her section of the draw that can keep up with her power, experience and winning-attitude. If she truly did tweak something against Elena Dementieva in Sydney, this draw gives her some time before she has to bring out her ‘A’ game. Williams will be the favorite to add to her existing collection of four Aussie Open titles, the most recent being a year ago.

A nice third round match-up in the top-half could include Vera Zvonareva against Ana Ivanovic. Either one of these players could use a good Grand Slam showing to correct their career progress after a disappointing 2009. Zvonareva started strong in 2009 with a semi-final showing in Australia, but after missing two months in the middle of the year with injury she never returned to top form. Ivanovic’s season was a total disaster and it was hard to believe she was ever the number one ranked player in the world. One of these two should still be able to push through to the quarters.

U.S. Open finalist Caroline Wozniacki has a great path to perhaps a semi-final berth in Australia. Only Daniela Hantuchova may cause her some trouble before the quarters, although Hantuchova has not had a big win in quite some time.

Wozniacki may meet the winner of an intriguing fourth round match between Americans Venus Williams and Melanie Oudin. A Williams/Oudin match would give tennis fans a nice glimpse of the past, present and future of American tennis and perhaps that future is now. Oudin has some winnable matches early on while Venus has looked mediocre since Wimbledon and as she approaches thirty, is only a huge threat on grass.

In the bottom-half don’t get your hopes up for second-seeded Dinara Safina. The mentally fragile Russian attained the number one ranking for a period of time in 2009, but will most be remembered for tanking in two Slam finals in Australia and Paris, along with a brutal defeat in the semi’s at Wimbledon. A back injury hampered the last portion of her season and was acting up again at the start of 2010 to keep her out of Brisbane. Safina does not have enough match-play under her belt to be considered a major threat here in Australia nor is her mental game ready to compete in this first Slam of the season.

There are plenty of other top-level players ready to contend for the title in the bottom section of the draw however, and the Belgians are leading the charge.

Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin and Yanina Wickmayer are all in the same quarter of the draw, which is unfortunate because they could all have easily advanced quite far given their play of late. Clijsters has the most favorable path and should get past Svetlana Kuznetsova to make the quarter-finals. A second-consecutive Slam is a distinct possibility for her.

Henin, entered as a wild card, is not going to enjoy the same Grand Slam return that Clijsters had at the U.S. Open. After a first round match with up and coming Sorana Cirstea, Henin will most definitely face fifth seeded Elena Dementieva – the same Dementieva who just won in Sydney defeating Serena in the finals. Henin leads their head-to-head battles 9-2, but will have to fight hard to beat the in-form Russian. I think Henin can beat Dementieva, but expecting her to have a similar Cinderella-run like Clijsters did in Flushing Meadows is unlikely.

The third Belgian, and the future of tennis in that country, Yanina Wickmayer, has already fought through three qualifying matches in order to secure entry into the tournament. Wickmayer was not allowed to take the 16th seeded spot that she is due because of the timing of her return from a mishandled doping violation. She may face Italian Flavia Pennetta in the second round and either Henin or Dementieva in the fourth round. Regardless of how she fares here in Australia, the twenty year old has a bright future ahead of her.

In the very last quarter of the draw we’ve got the unpredictable Jelena Jankovic. Fairing no better than the fourth round of any Slam in 2009, Jankovic has much to prove this year. She has a nice section of the draw and should stay untroubled until the quarter-finals. Don’t expect her to move much farther than that however, as the Serbian is not the huge threat she used to be.

Do keep an eye on Maria Sharapova to have a big Aussie Open. The talented Russian has come back admirably from shoulder surgery last year and has the power game to defeat anyone on tour. If she can keep her serve consistent and free of double-digit double faults, then she is more than capable of winning this tourney. If she does come up against Safina in the round of sixteen, I see Sharapova advancing with ease. There are more Grand Slam titles within her and this could be the next one on her list.

Anticipated First-Round Matches:

Kimiko Date-Krumm vs Yaroslava Shvedova: The 39 year old veteran Date-Krumm has been very impressive since returning to the tour in 2008 and has worked herself back into being a dangerous player to face. Her return is even more impressive given the fact she was away from the sport for six years. She’ll face a difficult player in Shvedova, who impressed in the late stages of 2009 with victories over Daniela Hantuchova in Toronto and Jelena Jankovic at the U.S. Open.

Caroline Wozniacki vs Aleksandra Wozniak: It amazes me how often these two near-identical names get paired together in so many tournaments. Unfortunately for the Canadian Wozniak, it rarely ends up in her favor. The fourth seeded Wozniacki has won five of their six meetings although the pair have usually produced closely contested matches. Wozniak is ranked 34th in the world right now, so this is a fairly strong first rounder.

Jelena Dokic vs Alisa Kleybanova: While it was nice to watch Dokic have her fairy-tale run to the quarter-finals in last year’s edition, the same fate will be difficult to duplicate. Dokic faces hard-hitting Russian Kleybanova whom she defeated here in the fourth round last year by a tight score of 7-5, 5-7, 8-6. Kleybanova’s court movement is limited due to her stature, but she can really hit the ball and was able to defeat Venus Williams, Vera Zvonareva and Jelena Jankovic (twice) in 2009.

Oudin Mastering Russian at US Open

NEW YORK – Yes, it’s the US Open, but Melanie Oudin has used her exciting run to the quarterfinals to master Russian.

The 17-year-old from Marietta, Georgia, played – and beat – four Russians to become the youngest American to reach the women’s singles quarterfinals at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center since Serena Williams in 1999. Williams went on to win her first of three US Open titles that year.

Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki cut off Oudin’s Russian lessons by reaching her first quarterfinal Monday night when she eliminated sixth-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia 2-6 7-6 (5) 7-6 (3).

Oudin completed her Russian sweep with a 1-6 7-6 (2) 6-3 upset of 13th-seeded Nadia Petrova. She had advanced to the fourth round with victories over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva and Maria Sharapova, the 2006 US Open champion who was seeded 29th this year.

At number nine, Wozniacki is the lone seeded player left in the top half of the draw.

Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium will take on Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine in the other top-half quarterfinal, Wickmayer advanced by whitewashing Argentina’s Gisela Dulko 6-0 6-0 and Wickmayer outlasting Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic 4-6 6-4 7-5.

“I don’t think they had weaknesses,” Oudin said of her Russian opponents. “I believe all the matches I’ve played have been really close, and it’s just been – I’ve just been able to pull them out.

“Every single match has been so competitive and so close, and I’ve been able to pull it out in the end.”

Using her quickness to run down the ball and her powerful ground strokes to hit winners or force her opponents into mistakes, Oudin once again dropped the opening set before rallying for victory. So far this year Oudin is 17-4 in matches where she has lost the first set.

“Going into the tournament I did believe that I could compete with these girls, but it was just figuring out a way to win in these tough matches and these pressure situations actually coming through and winning,” she said. “So now, even if I get a set down, I like believe in myself and my game. I know that if I fight as hard as I can, do the best I can, hopefully I can do it.”

The women’s quarterfinals will begin Tuesday when Williams, seeded second this year, takes on No. 10 Flavia Pennetta of Italy and Belgium’s Kim Clijsters, the 2005 champion, continues her comeback when she faces No. 18 Li Na of China.

Oudin made her US Open debut a year ago, losing to Australia’s Jessica Moore – in three sets, naturally. She suffered a first-round loss at the Australian Open in January, then made Wimbledon her coming-out party, shocking Jelena Jankovic on her way to the fourth round on the grass on SW 19.

Prior to her Wimbledon run, Oudin won consecutive USD $50,000 tournaments on the USTA Pro Circuit. She entered the US Open ranked number 70 in the world, making her the third highest ranked American behind sisters Serena and Venus Williams.

Her run on the hard courts in Flushing Meadows has boosted her already high confidence.

“I know that I can compete with the best in the world now, and I will know that forever,” she said.

“I think it’s just mentally I’m staying in there with them the whole time, and I’m not giving up at all. So if they’re going to beat me, they’re going to beat me, because I’m not going to go anywhere.”

For the first time in the Open Era no American will reach the men’s singles quarterfinals. The last American standing, John Isner, was eliminated by 10th-seeded Fernando Verdasco of Spain 4-6 6-4 6-4 6-4.

“I’m a little bit disappointed,” Isner said. “You know, I wanted to go further. But I played pretty well. Maybe I could have played a little bit better, but I just got outplayed today.”

The big-serving Isner eliminated America’s top player, fifth-seeded Andy Roddick, in the third round.

“We got a lot of people to the round of 32,” Isner said of the American contingent. “Then obviously I played Andy, so that assured one of them was going to move on and one was going to stay back. … It’s just unfortunate we couldn’t get that many past that.”
Besides Verdasco, other fourth-round winners in the men’s singles during the day were top-seeded Roger Federer and No. 12 Robin Soderling.

Tennis Channel Buys Ads Criticizing Cablevision: This Week In Tennis Business

From Tennis Channel buying ads criticizing Cablevision for not carrying the network to the USTA announcing that Cincinnati will get an upgrade at its tournament site to Monica Seles returning to Canada to play an exhibition match, these stories caught the attention of tennis fans and insiders this week.

  • Tennis Channel, who has exclusive rights to several of the US Open matches throughout the two week tournament, has purchased between $500,000-$1 million worth of print ads in the New York City area. These ads were created out of dissatisfaction with Cablevision, who tried to place the station on a sports tier. As a result, the Tennis Channel ads encourage customers to purchase DirecTV, Verizon and Dish Network, all of whom will televise the matches.

  • On Thursday, the USTA and Cincinnati-based Tennis for Charity, Inc., announced a $10 million upgrade towards the Lindner Family Tennis Center that hosts the annual Western & Southern Financial Group Masters and Women’s Open in August. The groundbreaking begins 72 hours after the completion of the this week’s ATP tournament and will include the addition of 750 seats and six luxury suites and upgrades to the players locker room, players lounge and press box.

  • Monica Seles, the only player in the open era to win four straight Canadian Open titles, returned to Canada on Monday to take participate in an exhibition to mark the start of the WTA Rogers Cup in Toronto. Seles teamed with Canadian player Aleksandra Wozniak, losing 6-3 in to Serena Williams and Martina Navratilova.

  • Laurent Delanney has been named ATP CEO, Europe.

  • David Shoemaker has been appointed WTA President, as former President Stacey Allastar will assume the role as WTA CEO.

  • 200,077 tickets were sold at the recently completed ATP Rogers Cup in Montreal, breaking the previous ATP record that they accomplished in 2007 by selling more than 185,000 tickets.

  • 11,976 packed the ground of the ATP Rogers Cup final in Montreal between Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro to watch the match on a big screen TV on the Banque Nationale grandstand court.

  • Davis Cup dates for 2010 are as follows:
    World Group First Round: March 5-7
    World Group Quarterfinals: July 9-11
    World Group Semifinals and World Group Playoffs: September 17-19
    World Group Finals: December 3-5

  • On August 30 the Grand Slam Tennis Winners exhibition will take place in East Hampton, N.Y. Participants in the event, which will honor Andre Agassi, will include Nick Bollettieri, Murphy Jensen, actor Alec Baldwin, ladies from The Real Housewives of New York City and a grand slam champion to be named later.

  • Following the Cincinnati tournament this week, Novak Djokovic will begin working with Todd Martin. Djokovic will continue working with his full-time coach Marian Vajda.

  • In a New York Times article from 40 years ago, the then US Open tournament director, Owen Williams, says that the tournament lost $80,000 due to rain.

  • Babolat announced that its Pure Storm racquet line will be improved by adding GT Technology. HEAD announced the renewal of its racquet and bag sponsorship contract with Professional Tennis Registry (PTR), which marks 30 years of partnership.

  • World No. 7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat Roger Federer last week in Montreal, has begun playing with the Wilson (K)obra racquet instead of the (K)Blade Tour.