open victory

Wozniacki to be No. 1? Keothavong Faces Racism and Paes on a Mission

*Danish star Caroline Wozniacki is only one win away from taking the No. 1 slot in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings following her opening win over Sara Errani at the China Open. Victory over Petra Kvitova in the quaterfinals will see her climb above Serena Williams. If she does she will be the 20th player ever to do so since the rankings began.

*British No. 3 Anne Keothavong has had her preparations for the AEGON GB Pro-Series Open tournament in Barnstaple, England, hampered after suffering racial abuse outside her hotel on the weekend. Police have said: “Three men aged 20, 23, 25 have been arrested for this offence and for a separate shoplifting incident. They remain in police custody waiting to be interviewed. Police investigations continue.” Keothavong wrote on her Twitter account: “I was on my own and completely outnumbered. Gave a statement to the police, hoping CCTV will get them.” She won the tournament in 2008.

*Leander Paes has accepted an offer from the Cambodian Tennis Association to become the spokesperson for their “Killing Fields to Tennis Courts” campaign which aims to clear many of the minefields planted by the former Khmer Rouge regime and make large areas safer for children. These areas will be used for modified tennis courts enabling those disabled by the mines to play. “What attracted me to this foundation is that I can help bring landmine awareness to the tennis industry,” said Paes. “Though the genocide in Cambodia has been over for many years, the results of millions of landmines planted by the Khmer Rouge continue to be an everyday danger for the Cambodian people. And for those victims of landmines, it is now my mission to share this great sport of tennis with them. Through tennis, I can hopefully inspire children and coaches to dare to dream and that hard work and persistence you can overcome many of life’s obstacles.” For the full interview check out the ATP website.

*Former Thai tennis star Paradorn Srichapan was honoured in a special retirement ceremony at the end of his hometown tournament, the PTT Thailand Open, in Bangkok on Sunday. He reached the semifinals there three times and got to No. 9 in the world before playing his final match last year in his hometown. “I’d like to thank all the ATP staff,” said Srichaphan at the ceremony. “From the very first time I entered the ATP, it was like a second home to me. It meant that every year when I was travelling on the Tour for eight or nine months I was able to not miss home too much. Thank you for everything.” Since hanging up his racquet Paradorn has been starring in Thai movies.

*Svetlana Kuznetsova has called time on her 2010 season by pulling out of next week’s tournament in Moscow. Writing on her Twitter account she said: “my health issues won’t al[low] me to play in my home country tournament in Moscow! I have to end this difficult season now and recover.” She has also attributed her early exit from this week’s Beijing meeting to illness which prevented her from preparing. “I got sick,” she told the WTA website. “From Sunday to Saturday, one week, I wasn’t home, I didn’t go out, I didn’t do any fitness, I was in bed. I didn’t have time, but that’s how it is.”

*Russian Nikolay Davydenko overcame Marin Cilic 7-5, 7-5 at the China Open to record the 400th ATP win of his career. He is the eighth active player on the tour to do so. “It was a very good match for me,” said Davydenko. “[My] baseline [play] was good control and I played fast.”

*Venus Williams today (October 6) released a statement saying that she would not be competing for the remainder of 2010 due to a recurrence of her troublesome knee problems that have dogged a large chunk of her season. She will miss the WTA Finals in Doha as well as the USA’s Fed Cup Final matchup with Italy. The statement, released to the Associated Press, said: “ [I am] very disappointed to announce that I will be unable to play in the WTA Tour Championships at the end of October, and the Fed Cup final between the United States and Italy at San Diego in November. I have been getting treatment and therapy on my knee and have been making progress, but unfortunately must continue to keep weight off my knee for the short term and won’t be ready to return to competition in 2010. I am looking forward to returning to full health in time for the start of 2011 season and hopefully having the opportunity to play in both the Fed Cup and WTA Championships next year.”

*Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska has also ended her season due to a stress fracture in her foot and says she is also a doubt for next year’s Australian Open. “I’m done for this year with a very serious injury, a stress fracture,” said Radwanska. It’s a complicated injury and there’s some chance it won’t be healed in time for Australia. I just realized how serious the injury was just before I came to Asia to play in Tokyo and Beijing.”

*Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters have joined both Caroline Wozniacki and Vera Zvonareva in qualifying for the season-ending WTA Championships in Doha. This leaves only four qualifying berths for the remaining hopefuls to fight over.

*Malaysian tennis fans are in for an extra special treat as the Showdown of Champions 2010 rolls in to Kuala Lumpur this week. Former tennis superstars Ivan Lendl and Goran Ivanisevic will commence battle against Pat Cash, Mats Wilander and Martina Hingis in the Asian paradise. Lendl has eight Grand Slams to his name while Ivanisevic will be most fondly remembered as being the only male wildcard to lift the Wimbledon Championships. Tickets are still available from www.fatdeal.com.my for an event which really cannot be missed.

*Following his title win last week Mikhail Youzhny is the new world No. 8 in this week’s South African Airways ATP World Rankings. His current form should see him make a late push for the ATP Finals in London next month. He climbs above Spain’s Fernando Verdasco. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez leaps 14 places to No. 39 while Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen sees a return for his recent form by climbing twelve to No. 48. Russia’s Igor Andreev is back in the world’s Top 100 at No. 85.

*There are changes too in the Sony Ericsson WTA world rankings where Italy’s Francesca Schiavone is the new world No. 6, giving the French Open winner pole position to qualify for Doha. The Belarusian Viktoria Azarenka is also putting her US Open horror behind her and she is back in to the world’s Top 10. Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska drops out. Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer climbs a place to enter the Top 20 while Maria Sharapova drops from No. 15 to No. 21. Olga Govortsova continues her recent rise by entering the Top 50 at No. 48 and there are no fewer than six climbers in to the Top 100.

*Juan Martin del Potro certainly isn’t panicking despite a so-far winless return from a long injury layoff. “I need time, I need to work on a few things to get back to my best level,” he said. “If work in a good way, I will be in good shape in a month or so.”

*Great news for the Shanghai Masters set to begin next week; every player within the world’s Top 20 is set to compete.

*Belgian Christophe Rochus has said he will retire at the end of the season following tournaments in Mons (Belgium) and Valencia. “I don’t have the capacity to aim for a place in the top 100,” he said. “To play to be 200th in the world rankings doesn’t interest me.”

*To finish off this week, how about something a little different? Head over to YouTube to see Jelena Jankovic, Flavia Penetta and Gisela Dulko take part in a Ninja demonstration at the Players Party for the Toray Pan Pacific Open. It’s certainly not like anything you’d usually associate the three with, but perhaps they might want to stick to the tennis.

Cahill Turns Down Murray, Lendl To Return And Bryan Bros. Make History

*The Aussie former coach of Andre Agassi and Lleyton Hewitt, Darren Cahill, has ruled himself out of the running to become Andy Murray’s latest coach. The Scot had hoped to land the former US Open semifinalist following his recent split with Miles Maclagen but Cahill has intimated he would rather concentrate on his work with Adidas and ESPN. Todd Martin, Sven Groeneveld, Larry Stefanki and Tony Roche are other names linked with the position. “I think the world of Andy and I think he’s a major winner in the waiting,” said the Las Vegas-based Cahill. “But if I was going to go back to full-time coaching, I’d probably would have hung in there with Roger, seeing whether Roger offered me the job.”

*Ivan Lendl has confirmed that he intends to join the ATP Champions Tour having rarely picked up a racquet since his retirement in 1994. Paris is the chosen destination for his return, the site of his famous French Open victory of 1984 where he came from two sets down to beat American John McEnroe in the final. This gives McEnroe a shot at revenge. “Oh boy, l’m looking forward to it,” he said. “We had some great matches together but it’s been a long time and he hasn’t played for more than 15 years so I think we need to discuss a few things, both on and off the court. I know he’s been working most of the last year to get back into the type of shape he needs to be in, because it doesn’t get any easier as you get older. But we’ll be giving it our all, that’s for sure.” Yannick Noah will also make his return to the tour after a seven-year absence and Mats Wilander will also be present. The other two contestants of the October event are yet to be announced.

*They’ve done it, the Bryan brothers have finally become the most successful doubles team of all time following last week’s Farmers Classic in Los Angeles. Title number 62 came courtesy of a 6-7 (6), 6-2, 10-7 triumph over Eric Butorac and Jean-Julien Rojer. It was their 100th final together and was their sixth title in LA. “It’s sweet, feels awesome, hanging out with family and friends after the match,” said Mike. “It’s a cool feeling.” “Sixty two brings a smile to our face,” added Bob. “It’s been an emotional ride, talking about it every day for the past couple of months. To finally do it is incredible. There were definitely nerves out there and those guys were playing great. It was a very hard fought match. Our legs felt like jelly, arms spaghetti… It was a flood of emotion. I never thought we’d be this consistent, this healthy our whole career. We’ve never given up on each other.”

*Following on from that record-breaking win many of the world’s top doubles players have been paying homage to the feats of America’s doubles specialists. Arch rivals over recent years have been the Canadian Daniel Nestor and his long-time Serbian partner Nenad Zimonjic. Nestor was beaming with praise at the achievement: “They are the face of doubles. They’ve pretty much been the No. 1 team for 10 years. When people think of doubles they think of the Bryans. They are fun to watch. I don’t think any team in history has been as consistent as they have been. They rarely have bad losses and they’ve won a lot. 62 titles is an amazing achievement and they’ve got a lot of time to go. They could reach 80 or 90 titles easily.” To see what Zimonjic, Mark Knowles and James Blake, among others, also had to say visit the ATP website.

*The first signings for the 2011 Hopman Cup have been anounced. John Isner and Serena Williams have signed up to play for the United States. Justine Henin and Steve Darcis will play for Belgium while Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic will partner up for Serbia. Lleyton Hewitt has agreed to return for Australia and Gael Monfils will play for France alongside Kristina Mladenovic. Tournament director Paul McNamee said: “It’s a spectacular line-up. There is potential for some really great match-ups for both the men and the women, not to mention the mixed.” We are now just waiting on the name of Hewitt’s female partner.

*Tennis’ long-running ‘anti-grunt’ campaign has received fresh backing from French star Marion Bartoli who was shrieked off court by Victoria Azarenka on Vika’s route to lifting the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford last week. “It’s difficult to play against those kinds of players,” Bartoli said. “I think it’s fine to grunt sometimes when you make an effort, but sometimes it’s just so loud. It’s hard to focus on the other side of the net. But it’s not something I can get bothered by, because otherwise I would lose my concentration so much. I just need to forget about it, but it’s hard.” There were other grumbles too from the elder Bartoli. To see these and Azarenka’s defence, visit TennisReporter.net.

*Another grumbling tennis queen this week is teenage American sensation Melanie Oudin. The 18-year-old has, at times, struggled to hit the form which saw her dazzle the courts of New York in that incredible giant killing run of 2009. Pressure seems to be mounting, and she seems to increasingly lose her temper on-court. “It’s kind of annoying sometimes when people are like ‘Pull it together Melanie,’ and they yell at me kind of,” she said after her 6-1 6-3 defeat to Victoria Azarenka in the second round at Stanford last week. “Really, like you get down here and play. I know they mean it in a good way, like to say ‘C’mon’ Melanie,’ but you don’t have to say ‘Pull it together,’ like ‘Get your energy up’ That’s what some lady was telling me.” The full interview can also be seen at TennisReporter.net.

*Following the conflicting reports about Juan Martin Del Potro’s proposed injury return in last week’s column the reigning US Open champ has posted pics of his long-awaited return to the practice courts on his Twitter page. Serena Williams posted an interesting one this week. She claimed that she was charged $100 to watch the likes of Andy Murray at the Farmers Classic in LA despite the publicity work she had done for the event plus the fact that she is one of the greatest women’s players of all time. “Oh my God, the Farmers Classic tournament in LA is charging me $100 a ticket after I did publicity for them. (Laughs out loud) I’ll send them a bill for my publicity. Anyway, don’t go if you’re in LA. I would have paid $1,000 if I had not done publicity for them.”

*Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova’s win in Istanbul last week has seen her climb to a career high No. 24 in this week’s Sony Ericsson WTA rankings. In the doubles, Liezel Huber has regained the number 1 doubles ranking slot from the Williams sisters following her win in Stanford with returning mum Lindsay Davenport.

*Reuters have been reporting that Victoria Azarenka has pulled out of San Diego having won at Stanford.

*Spanish newspaper El Mundo has held its annual poll of the country’s favourite celebrity with Rafa Nadal coming out on top. He defeated Spanish footballer and World Cup winning hero Iker Casillas who came second.

MURRAY GIVEN TOUGH ROAD TO TITLE DEFENSE

By Melina Harris

The heat will certainly be on Britain’s Andy Murray as he attempts to defend his AEGON Championships title at The Queen’s Club this week. I am gladly returning to the club I trained at as a Middlesex County Junior with a press pass for days one and two of the tournament and will be updating you with all the news, quotes and gossip as it happens.

Murray has been given an extremely tough draw as he might need to overcome the world No.12 Marin Cilic, the top seed Rafael Nadal and the second seed Novak Djokovic if he is to successfully defend his title.

Murray, who last year became the first British player since Henry ‘Bunny’ Austin in 1938 to win the title at The Queen’s Club, received a bye in the first round and will face either Austrian Daniel Koellerer or Ivan Navarro in the second round. The talented American Mardy Fish could be his round three opponent, with Cilic in the quarters, Nadal in the semi’s and Djokovic in the final.

Nadal, fresh from his French Open victory, who won the title in 2008, also enjoys a first round bye, with Marcos Daniel of Brazil or Slovenian Blaz Kavcic waiting in round two. The Spaniard is seeded to face his good friend and eighth seed Feliciano Lopez in the quarterfinals.

The man who Nadal beat in the final two years ago, Novak Djokovic, opens up against Spain’s Pere Riba or Paolo Lorenzi of Italy after a bye in the first round, and could meet big-serving American Sam Querrey in the quarterfinals.

Grass court aficionado, Andy Roddick, who is aiming for a record fifth title at the AEGON Championships this year, meets either Igor Kunitsyn of Russia or Ukraine’s Ilya Marchenko in the second round, with  Frenchman Gael Monfils a potential quarterfinal opponent. Roddick is seeded to face Djokovic in the semifinals.

The British No.2 Alex Bogdanovic made an impressive comeback from a set down to defeat Ilija Bozoljac, 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 and qualify for the main draw of the AEGON Championships.

On the first day of the tournament I will see a number of British players in action, with wild cards Jamie Baker and James Ward attempting to claim notable victories against 16th seed Dennis Istomin and American Robby Ginepri respectively on Centre Court.  After those matches, Kei Nishikori takes on Richard Gasquet on the Centre Court, followed by Bogdanovic against Dimitrov.

Last but not least, I will then get the rare pleasure of seeing the Murray brothers, Andy and Jamie against Scott Lipsky and Sam Querrey in doubles action. I can’t wait for the tournament to begin!

Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter.   She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.

RUTHLESS NADAL IS TOUGH OUT AT FRENCH OPEN: THE FRIDAY FIVE

By Maud Watson

Defending Champ Out – It’s approximately three months down the road, but Juan Martin del Potro has already ruled out his chances of attempting to defend his US Open title. The Argentine, who recently underwent wrist surgery, stated that if all went according to plan, he should be able to play during the fall season. I sympathize with del Potro but greatly admire his realistic grasp of the situation. He noted that the US Open would always be a special place for him over the course of his career, but that he didn’t want to rush his comeback. He obviously has a good head on his shoulders and recognizes the advantage of his painful decision to skip the last major of the year as a decision that could, and should, pay dividends later. My fingers are crossed we see him make steady progress at the end of 2010 and in full flight come 2011.

King of Clay – Lest there be any doubt, Rafael Nadal added yet another tournament to his already impressive tally of titles, and he did so in ruthless fashion, including a relatively routine straight-sets victory over Roger Federer in the Madrid final. I tip my hat to Nadal for his composure in taking the title in Madrid, because it wasn’t just any ordinary title. His win in Madrid not only saw him become the first player to complete the Masters 1000 clay court hat trick in a single season, but it also saw him surpass Andre Agassi as the all-time Masters 1000 title leader with 18. While I’m not as sold as some on the idea of it not being matter of “if” Nadal will win Roland Garros but “how easily” he’ll win the title, there’s no doubt that it’s going to take something extra special from someone in the field to knock Nadal off course for his fifth French Open victory.

Raising French Hopes – Last week I noted that Justine Henin had suffered a shock early exit in Madrid. Her exit was courtesy of a one Aravane Rezai, and it included a bagel in the third.  After seeing the way Rezai played Venus Williams in the final of Madrid to claim the biggest title of her career, however, I suddenly understand that victory over Henin a little better. Rezai proved she’s got game, she’s developed some composure, and she has been knocking on the door. There’s clearly a difference between a player going on a hot streak as opposed to being the real deal, but Rezai is starting to look more and more like she could be a contender.  And for the nation of France, her potential arrival couldn’t come at a better time.

Head Scratcher – The verdict is out on the case of Wayne Odesnik, and he was given a two-year suspension for being in possession of Human Growth Hormone (HGH). That suspension wasn’t a shock, but what ultimately led to it was. In a statement, Odesnik made in response to the ITF’s verdict, Odesnik said, “The sole reason I was in possession of this banned substance was under doctor’s advice for treatment of a recurring shoulder injury. I was unaware at the time that this would be considered an anti-doping violation.” Odesnik claims that he was planning to apply for a therapeutic use exemption, and that may very well have been the case. But given the controversy surrounding HGH in the world of sports, as well as the number of suspensions the ITF has meted out over the last couple of years, it’s puzzling that Odesnik wouldn’t have done a better job of staying on top of applying for the exemption, particularly since there’s no guarantee it would have been granted.

Royal Presence – As if there wouldn’t already be enough pressure on the one lone Brit capable of making a run to the title on the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon, Andy Murray now has extra incentive to find a way out of his slump. Queen Elizabeth II, who last attended Wimbledon when Virginia Wade won the title in 1977, will once again be attending The Championships.  Nationalistic politics and pride aside,  Murray might draw some inspiration from the current reigning monarch who might very well be making her own return to Wimbledon because she sees in Murray a strong possibility of ending the British drought.

Federer Finally Wins French Open

Roger Federer defeated surprise finalist Robin Soderling 6-2, 7-6(1), 6-4 for his first French Open victory on Sunday and in the process cemented his place as the greatest tennis player of all time. Apart from it being his first win on the red clay of Paris, it gave Federer a career Grand Slam – a win at each of the four marquee events on tour and also tied him for the most Grand Slam tournaments of all time, a mark he now shares with Pete Sampras at fourteen apiece.

Previously defeated in three French Open finals against his great rival Rafael Nadal, everything went Federer’s way this time around as the world number two dominated his younger and less experienced opponent. He cruised in the opening set by breaking Soderling’s serve three times. Despite the fact that the second set produced no breaks, Federer dominated when it mattered by delivering four aces in the tiebreaker alone. An early break in the third set and it was all over in less than two hours.

Federer’s serve was lethal in the final, winning 85% of his first serve points, and 66% of his second serve points along with 16 aces. He also produced many unreachable balls with a drop-shot we have rarely seen him use as effectively in the past. Despite the weight of history on his shoulders, he only appeared nervous during the second set when a deranged fan managed to run onto the court and momentarily disrupt Federer’s path to victory. On this day it was Soderling who appeared quite uneasy in his first Grand Slam final. The Swede only delivered brief glimpses of the dangerous forehand he successfully used earlier in the week against the defending champion Nadal and a host of other dangerous clay court players. It was still a incredible week for Soderling who will rise to a career high ranking of 12 in the world.

After the match, an elated Federer fittingly received the winner’s trophy from former tennis great Andre Agassi – the last man to accomplish the career Grand Slam. Shedding tears of joy as they played the Swiss national anthem, it was apparent to all in attendance and to those watching at home just how much this moment meant for Federer. In a post-match interview with John McEnroe, Federer revealed that along with his initial Grand Slam win at Wimbledon in 2003, this win was the most satisfying.

After dealing with the momentous pressure to win that was left in the wake of Nadal’s fourth round departure, barely making it past Tommy Haas and Juan Martin Del Potro in tough five set matches, and playing his best tennis when it mattered against Soderling, his victory was just as satisfying for all who had the pleasure to watch.
Felicitations Roger!