open winner

Federer After Strong End to Year, Azarenka in for Doha and Rafter to Captain Aussies for Davis Cup Play

*Roger Federer insists he is ready for a strong end to 2010 despite a decidedly off-day at the office when he lost to Andy Murray in the final at the Shanghai Masters. “I’m certainly not yearning for the year to be over,” said the 16-time Grand Slam winner. “I’m very positive for the rest of the season. I had a bit of an off day in the Shanghai final. It’s a pity, but Murray pushed me to that. Mentally I have a lot left for the end of the year.” He added: “I’ve played pretty well since Wimbledon. I hope to go deep into this event and hold up the trophy at the end of the week.” Federer is preparing to play at the Stockholm Open for the first time in a decade and he told BBC Sport how he was looking forward to the occasion.

*According to tennis critics a lot of players have gained from Serena Williams’ injury absence in the latter half of the year and this is true in the case of Viktoria Azarenka who will replace the stricken US star in the WTA Finals in Doha next week. The Belarusian confirmed her place by beating Andrea Petkovic in the first round at the Kremlin Cup.

*Following John Fitzgerald’s retirement after a decade in the role it is Pat Rafter who will take up the reigns as Australian Davis Cup Captain. The two-time US Open winner receives the blessing of “Fitzy” himself and a host of Australian tennis greats coming in to the post. “I am really looking forward to working with the team and helping lift Australian men’s tennis on the world stage,” said Rafter. “We’ve got a lot of young players that have a great opportunity to play for Australia. My standards and expectations are extremely high. This is a great opportunity to be part of something that means a lot to me.” Another Aussie legend, Tony Roche, joins him as coach. For full reaction to the announcement check the ITF website.

*Last week’s HP Open in Osaka was one for the history books. Kimiko Date Krumm (40) shocked the likes of Sam Stosur and Shahar Peer on her way to meeting Tamarine Tanasugarn (33) in what was the final between the oldest competitors ever, with a combined age of 73. By beating Stosur, Krumm also became the first 40-something to ever beat a Top 10 player. Krumm was trying to break the record for the oldest title winner, Billie Jean King having won at Birmingham aged 39 in 1983, but it was Tanasugarn’s day. “I just tried my best and fought as hard as I could,” Date Krumm said. “Nobody wants to lose, so I tried everything. Now I’ll play some ITF events followed by the Asian Games – so I’ll be continuing to play tennis the rest of the year.” Tanasugarn was happy with her performance: “I tried to be more aggressive in the third set and I finally made it,” she said. “Osaka is a great city. This is a great feeling and hopefully I can continue to play like this and get a good start to 2011.”

*Andy Murray says that his win over Roger Federer at Shanghai has once again given him belief that he can lift a Grand Slam. Asked after his shock defeat to Federer’s friend and compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka at the US Open whether he could achieve the feat Murray simply replied: “I’m not sure.” Now things are different. “I need to win tournaments like this,” said Murray. “Beating guys like Roger, beating guys like Rafa (Nadal) gives you confidence that when you do play them in the big tournaments you will beat them. I need to play like I did this week for a whole tournament in the Slams, but it’s pretty simple. I don’t think my game needs to improve so much. I think I have the ability to win them. I’ve been close a few times.” The full interview can be seen at the BBC Sport Tennis website.

*Polish star Agnieszka Radwanska will miss the rest of the season and the 2011 Australian Open after undergoing surgery on a stress fracture in her foot, reports the Polish Times. She is expected to return in February or March.

*Betty Blake, mother of American star James Blake, is releasing her own book on how to be a “tennis mom.” ‘Mix It Up, Make It Nice: Secrets Of A Tennis Mom’ will give insight in how to train and prepare a future tennis star and focuses more on education and family values rather than athletic and tennis training.

*Former world No. 1 Thomas Muster will return to tour-level action as a wildcard at next week’s Bank Austria Tennis Trophy in Vienna. He turned 43-years-old this month but is still hungry to add to the 44 tour-level titles he has already lofted before his retirement following the 1999 French Open, the site of his sole Slam triumph in 1995. “I’m looking forward to it enormously,” Muster told Austria’s Krone. “I want to inspire the crowd with my fitness and fighting spirit. I’m fighting like in the good old times and I will give everything in front of the fans in Vienna.” Muster will now become the oldest player to compete on the tour since Jimmy Connors competed at the same age in Atlanta in 1996.

Clijsters Sidelined, Baltacha out of Commonwealth Games but Mirza Boost for Organisers

*Current Queen of the US Open Kim Clijsters has been forced to pull out of next month’s China Open with an infected foot. The Belgian star recently had a mole removed from the base of the foot but the wound has become infected. “I’m very sorry to have to cancel,” said the 27-year-old. “The wound on my sole is healing really bad – playing tennis is not possible.” Serena Williams has already announced that her foot injury sustained when stepping on broken glass in Munich earlier this year will also keep her out of the competition. She hopes to return for Moscow.

*Scotland’s Elena Baltacha has pulled out of the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in Delhi with a chronic liver condition linked to her immune system. “After a lot of thought and discussion, I have taken the heartbreaking decision to withdraw from the Games,” the 27-year-old told BBC Sport. “Conditions in Delhi are such that going there would pose too high a risk to my health. I am incredibly disappointed because I was really excited about playing for Scotland but I will be cheering on Team Scotland with all my heart, in particular my fellow tennis players. I am very, very sad that I won’t get to play alongside them.”

*Under fire Commonwealth Games bosses will undoubtedly be buoyed by the news that top Indian star Sania Mirza will be staying at the much-maligned Players’ Village, contrary to recent rumours. Her father, Imran, told PTI News: “She will check in to the Village with the rest of the team.”

*Despite losing his first comeback match since his wrist surgery Juan Martin del Potro seemed very pleased with the condition he is in. He, perhaps surprisingly, lost to the Belgian Olivier Rochus in Bangkok on Tuesday but his wrist seemed to be near full strength according to the Argentine. “The most important thing for today is my wrist,” said the 2009 US Open winner, “and it’s perfect. I hope to play five or six more tournaments between now and the end of the season. It was a great moment for me being with the fans on centre court playing a match again. I felt very happy. I lost today but I have good things to take for the future.” For the full interview check out the ATP World Tour website.

*There is no movement this week within the Top 20 of the South African Airways ATP World Rankings released on Monday (September 27th). Argentina’s Juan Ignacio Chela leaps 14 places to No. 39 while Belgium’s Xavier Mallisse climbs five to No. 50. Spain’s Pablo Andujar jumps 28 places to No. 77 after losing the Bucharest final to Chela and Somdev Devvarman jumps 17 to enter the Top 100.

*This week’s Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings finally bring good news for troubled Russian star Dinara Safina who has climbed ten slots to No. 49 this week while Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic climbs two to No. 50. Another Russian, Alia Kudryavtseva, sees a massive rise from No. 82 to No. 57 and Elena Vesnina does likewise from No. 72 to No. 58.

*Gilles Simon’s title at Metz last week was his first since becoming a father during the US Open. “Thanks to my fiancée for being here,” he said. “She was worried that I would be distracted – I think I’ve given the best response today.”

*Spanish pinup Fernando Verdasco is known to be a fan of martial arts and has been learning some local specialties while playing at the PTT Thailand Open this week. He took part in some Muay Thai alongside 2008 Olympic Gold Medallist Somjit Jongjorhor on stage in Bangkok and former ATP pro Paradorn Srichapan also joined in. “I would love to learn more Thai boxing,” said Verdasco. “I’ve always loved martial arts so maybe when I stop playing tennis I can learn some more. It was a lot of fun to learn some of the moves today.”

*Top seed Rafa Nadal has also been experiencing local culture while competing at the PTT Thailand Open this week. He took part in Thailand’s ‘A Million Trees For The King’ project by planting a tree in honour of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Afterwards he partook in some local pastimes with friends. “I did a lot of things,” said the reigning Wimbledon, French and US Open Champion who took part in a religious ceremony with Buddhist monks on the beach over the weekend. “I was with friends. I was on the beach, very nice beach. We did water sports, we went to golf one time, we went [go-carting] another time. So we did a lot of things. We went there, having fun in Hua Hin and enjoying a lot.”

*Kazakhstan’s Evgeny Korolev is set to miss up to four months after undergoing elbow surgery today (September 30th). It is a problem which has dogged him since January and that has seen him drop from a career-high No. 46 to No. 97. Robby Ginepri will also be missing from the tour for the rest of the season after also undergoing elbow surgery on an injury suffered in a biking accident. Ginepri reached the fourth round at Roland Garros this year before falling to Novak Djokovic.

*29-year-old Frenchman Thierry Ascione has announced his retirement from professional tennis following the conclusion of play in Metz last week. “Right before and right after the match it was really emotional,” he said. “I had a beautiful career. I knew from the beginning I wasn’t going to be a champion. To be one, I think I would have needed a different personality but I don’t regret anything. I had the best times and through tennis I met my best friends.”

*London fashion week has just finished for 2010 and tennis got near the catwalks with Andy Murray and Serena Williams in attendance along with actress Sarah Jessica Parker and photographer Mario Testino to see Burberry unveil its latest collection. “I’m looking forward to seeing the clothes,” said British No. 1 Murray. “I like Burberry so it should be fun.” “This is my first fashion show in Europe,” added fashionista Serena. “I like Burberry, I always do the ones in New York so it was definitely something I wanted to come and do. I can’t believe I’m here I’m so excited.”

Rafael Nadal: Post-US Open Media Tour Videos and Photos

Newly crowned U.S. Open winner Rafael Nadal began his media tour the second he fell to the ground after defeating Novak Djokovic in the championship. All eyes were on him then and not much has changed in the past 48 hours.

Gone are the days of trying to decipher Rafael Nadal’s words in an English-speaking interview. With his heavy Mallorcan accent, he created sounds that the average American hardly knew what to do with. Add on top of that his unique facial expressions that further strained his enunciation of certain letters and it quickly turned into a frustrating venture, even for die-hards fans. Today, however, his English is starting to look like a legitimate second language next to his native Spanish. And it came just in time for his first win at the U.S. Open this year.

One theory I actually have about why Rafa didn’t win the Open earlier in his career, is that he needed to perfect his English for media and fan purposes first. Seems like a silly notion, but think about the times you have listened to athletes, political figures, and leaders express joy in a language you didn’t understand. If the language barrier is significant enough you may not have connected with them on an emotional level at all. Knowing the language of the country you are in strongly accelerates the fanbase you have there, the U.S. Open and Americans notwithstanding. So kudos to Rafa for improving not only his game during all these years, but also his dedication to improve his English. Without it, we may not have a new Career Grand Slam Champion.

We can also finally understand all the great interviews he gave us during his media tour following his win in Flushing Meadows — without having to pause and rewind after each sentence. Let’s get started!

If you missed the Men’s Trophy Ceremony on Monday night like U.S. viewers did when ESPN2 cut away just before Rafa hoisted the trophy, fear not. Now you can watch it in full here and giggle in his boyish charm:

Rafa made his way to the press conference room two hours after the last point was played and one of the journalists wasn’t afraid to ask him “What took so you so long?” Rafa said that he already had “control antidoping,” met with the “US Open staff,” the “President of the Spanish Federation” and his “family for a few minutes.” Then after in the locker room he had sponsor obligations before his presser. The man barely won and already a flood of responsibility! Catch his full press conference here (video and transcript): http://www.usopen.org/en_US/news/interviews/2010-09-13/201009141284439013666.html

Via @EsteAcostaRubio on twitter, the ATP’s Media & Marketing Manager for the Americas, we got a glimpse of Rafa still on-court later that evening giving an interview.

The champ finally earned his sleep, but only for a few hours before making the rounds at the early-morning talk shows in New York City. First up was the Today Show on NBC. Sporting a casual look in jeans and a navy Nike polo, Rafa talked about his goals.

Part two happened on the show Live with Regis and Kelly. Not only did Rafa meet Gossip Girl’s Blake Lively (who was also a guest star), but Regis had a total man-crush on Rafa. He couldn’t get enough of his smile and even asked if he had a girlfriend!

Next up was the traditional photoshoot in New York City’s Times Square. If you’ve never been, it’s already one of the most hectic intersections in all of the U.S. Add on top of that a handsome 6’1” Spaniard with striking looks, screaming fans and security galore and you have a scene straight out of a movie!

Rafa and Team Nadal

Watch the video on Yahoo!  http://news.yahoo.com/video/us-15749625/21899049

Rafa then joined John McEnroe for a Q&A session at Niketown New York honoring his historic victory.

Rafa really doesn’t like to let go of that trophy!

And one more interview with Candy Reid from CNN International as a send-off before the champ headed home.

If you thought the U.S. media was crazy so far, the Spanish media didn’t even let Rafa leave the Madrid-Barajas Airport without holding a press conference first! He was all-smiles of course and stuck around to sign autographs.

“As a tennis player, I took an important step forward with this [win] and these have been six unforgettable months,” Nadal said shortly after touching down in Madrid. “I can’t say that I’m the best Spanish sports person of all time because I have no idea. But it’s an honor to be considered.”

Eurosport commentator Miguel Seabra tweeted that Rafa also did a Spanish interview with El País journalist Juan José Mateo. If you’re comfortable with your Spanish, you can read the full interview here, but I did my best on translating a few key points below (http://www.elpais.com/articulo/deportes/he/terminado/historia/elpepidep/20100915elpepidep_2/Tes).

When asked about his emotions between winning Wimbledon and winning the U.S. Open, Rafa had an interesting insight. He said that at the U.S. Open, he “was much more calm [before the final], nervous obviously because it was a final of a Grand Slam, but more calm … I was more nervous before the final of Wimbledon and Roland Garros.”

Rafa was also asked about all the knee treatments and shots he’s had to endure in the past to stay healthy and ready. “It was painful the first time: the following times were not so painful because I asked to be sedated. I could not stand it … I almost fainted the first time. It was between Monte Carlo and Rome. A pain so great that I nearly fainted!” It looks like Rafa is human afterall.

The last tidbit that was entertaining was when Rafa was asked about whose serve he would steal from the tour. He answered that he “would take Karlovic’s serve, no doubt. With that serve it would be very difficult to lose.”

The last stop of Rafa’s media tour was fitting. As he is an avid soccer fan, his final appearance was at the start of the UEFA Champions League game between Real Madrid and Ajax at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid, Spain. A short clip was shown of his win and he acknowledged the crowd with his killer smile, one that hasn’t faded since he won. Amazing. Catch the action below:

I leave you with this great poster Nike made in commemoration of Rafa completing the Career Grand Slam.

Young Americans Shine At US Open

NEW YORK – Upsets come in all sizes at the US Open, especially in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday. And they came wrapped in the red, white and blue of the American flag.

First, little Melanie Oudin surprised former champion Maria Sharapova in a third-round women’s match 3-6 6-4 7-5.

“I learned once again, proved to myself that I can compete with these top girls,” said the 17-year-old from Marietta, Georgia. “And if I believe in myself and my game, that I can beat them.”

That match was immediately followed by another huge upset as giant John Isner bounced fifth-seeded Andy Roddick in an all-American battle 7-6 (3) 6-3 3-6 5-7 7-6 (5) to advance to the fourth round..

“It’s obviously, hands down, the biggest win of my career,” said Isner, a 6-foot-9 (206 m) right-hander from Greensboro, North Carolina. “Nothing even compares. To do it at the stage I did it on is pretty spectacular. Maybe it will sink in a little bit more tomorrow.

“But I know I can really do some damage here. So I’m not satisfied just yet.”

Oudin is the youngest American woman to reach the third round at the US Open since Serena
Williams did it in 1999. That was the year Serena won her first Grand Slam tournament title. And in Sharapova, Oudin was facing the 2006 US Open winner. But Sharapova is coming off shoulder surgery and was idled for 10 months before returning to the women’s tour earlier this summer.

The teen-ager controlled the action against Sharapova, keeping the ball in play until the Russian made an error or was out of position. And every time Oudin hit a winner or earned a point, the packed stadium would erupt in cheers.

“I think that’s expected, considering she’s an American, up-and-coming, obviously having a good win and winning two rounds,” Sharapova said. “So it’s totally expected for the crowd to be with her.”

But it wasn’t the crowd that carried Oudin into the fourth round at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

“Got to hand it to her,” Sharapova said. “She really stuck to her game plan. She played solid. She made me hit a lot of balls.”

In all, Sharapova committed 63 unforced errors, 19 more than Oudin. And the Russian had 21 double faults, several coming at key moments.

“I thought she played really well,” Sharapova said of her much smaller foe – there is an 8-inch difference in their height, Sharapova at 6-foot-2 (188 m), Oudin is 5-6 (158 m). “I thought she has many weapons. You know, she certainly held her ground.”

Saturday’s victory means Oudin matches her Wimbledon success, where as a qualifier she also reached the fourth round. Ranked 70th in the world, she earned a direct entry into America’s premier tennis event.

Sharapova was her second straight win over a highly seeded Russian. In the second round, Oudin upset fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva.

Her next opponent will be yet another Russian, 13th-seeded Nadia Petrova, who beat China’s Zheng Jie 6-4 6-1.

“I haven’t watched Petrova that much,” Oudin said. “She plays similar to a lot of the girls I played so far.”

If Oudin’s victory caused the crowd to cheer, the fans went absolutely bonkers in the next match, which pitted Isner against the heavily favored Roddick.

Roddick has the fastest serve in tennis. Isner’s booming serves come from out of the sky, much like thunderbolts.

“There’s a lot that’s out of your hands with the way he plays,” Roddick said. “I said it before: You can’t really teach 6-9, especially coming down on a serve. You try to fight it off as much as you can. Sometimes you can, and sometimes it’s completely out of your hands.”

Isner finished with 38 aces, but he made 32 more unforced errors than Roddick and won seven fewer points.

Roddick lost serve just once and broke Isner twice. But it came down to the tiebreaks, and the way Isner, a four-time All-American at the University of Georgia, played. He never went for too much, took pace off the ball and made Roddick hit just one more shot.

“I never panicked,” Isner said. “If I lose that match, I have nothing to hang my head about. Played well. Maybe a little bit more the pressure’s on him. He’s expected to do so well here. Nobody expected me to win.”

But he did, and now Isner is in the fourth round where he will next face Spain’s Fernando Verdasco, a 3-6 7-5 7-6 (8) 1-6 6-4 survivor over Germany’s Tommy Haas.

Other men’s singles winners in the day session included top-seeded Roger Federer, No. 4 Novak Djokovic, No. 8 Nikolay Davydenko, No.12 Robin Soderling and No. 15 Radek Stepanek.

Advancing in the women’s singles besides Oudin and Petrova were No. 6 Svetlana Kuznetsova, No. 9 Carolina Wozniacki, Gisela Dulko, Kateryna Bondarenko and Yanina Wickmayer.