slam duck

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HOPMAN CUP AND DAVIS CUP HAPPENINGS: TENNIS IN THE COMMONWEALTH

Andy Murray has ended weeks of speculation by confirming he has pulled out of Great Britain’s Davis Cup match against Lithuania in March as they begin life in the competition’s third tier. Murray claimed that he would prefer to concentrate on his efforts to lift more Masters Event trophies and break his Grand Slam duck.

Captain John Lloyd will now look to give his other players valuable experience and hopes that talents like Dan Evans and the doubles team of Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski will be enough to lift Britain back in to the Davis Cup’s second tier where Murray can then step back in alongside an improved crop of British talent.

It has now been over a decade since a British player other than Murray, Tim Henman, or Greg Rusedski won a live Davis Cup rubber.

“You’ve got to do what is right for your tennis. That period of the year just before Indian Wells and Miami is very important for me,” Murray said.

“I’ve got a lot of ranking points to defend. I think it’s the right decision.”

*Britain’s first match at the Hopman Cup since 1992 ended in a 2-1 victory over Kazakhstan after Andy Murray and Laura Robson combined to defeat Andrey Golubev and Yaroslava Shvedova despite the losers fighting to 10-12 in the final set. Murray had beaten Golubev 6-2, 6-2 in his singles rubber while Robson lost to Shvedova. They followed this up with an identical result against Germany. Murray won and Robson lost their respective singles rubbers before they combined to beat Philipp Kohlschreiber and Sabine Lisicki 6-3, 6-2. They face Russia tomorrow (Friday) in the final group match.

*Australia’s opening Hopman Cup Group A encounter didn’t go to plan. The top seeds were shocked by Romania as 19-year-old Sorana Cirstea overcame world No. 13 Samantha Stosur 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. Former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt defeated Victor Hanescu in their singles rubber but the Romanians triumphed in the mixed doubles.

*There was more Aussie disappointment at the Brisbane International where three top players suffered first round defeats. Jelena Dokic went down 5-7, 6-1, 3-6 to former world No.1 Ana Ivanovic while in the men’s draw 2009 Wimbledon finalist Andy Roddick won his first match since suffering the knee injury which kept him out of the ATP World Tour Finals last September. He defeated Aussie Peter Luczak 7-6(5), 6-2 before knocking out compatriot Carsten Ball in round two. Matt Ebden caused a stir by knocking out Jurgen Melzer before going down to Richard Gasquet of France and John Millman is also out. This means there are no Commonwealth players in the men’s quarterfinals. Kazakhstan’s Sesil Karatantcheva overcame upcoming Aussie star Casey Dellacqua in the women’s draw and her reward is a second round matchup with the returning Justine Henin. In her first Tour event since returning to tennis Alicia Molik notched a win, defeating Ekaterina Makarova of Russia before losing to 2009 US Open winner Kim Clijsters in round two. Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak also lost in round two to Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic.

*In the doubles at Brisbane, top seeded Leander Paes of India leads the Commonwealth charge after he and partner Lukas Dlouhy overcame Sam Querrey and Australia’s Carsten Ball in round one. A tremendous battle of the home-grown players saw Ashley Fisher/Stephen Huss defeat the wild cards Kaden Hensel/Bernard Tomic 4-6, 6-3, 10-6 while another Aussie pair, Peter Luczak and Joseph Sirianni, crashed out to Frenchman Michael Llodra and Andy Ram of Israel. Aussie doubles specialist Jordan Kerr and Britain’s Ross Hutchings as well as Aussie Paul Hanley and partner Thomaz Belluci (Brazil) are also out. The two Rodionovas, Anastasia of Australia and Russia’s Arina, are through to the semi finals of the women’s draw where they face Melinda Czink and Arantxa Parra Santonja.

*The Aircel Chennai Open, India, kicked off on Sunday evening with the hugely popular Kingfisher Fashion show which featured local stars Rohan Bopanna and Somdev Devvarman among others.

*On court at Chennai, Great Britain’s James Ward went down in the opening round to Spain’s Marcel Granollers while India’s Rohan Bopanna lost to Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka. Qualifier Prakash Amritraj, son of Indian legend Vijay Amritraj, lost to the USA’s Michael Russell while Somdev Devvarman upset Rainer Schuettler before losing to Janko Tipsarevic in round two.

*In the doubles at Chennai, Indian wild cards Somdev Devvarman and Sanam Singh are through to the second round of the doubles after overcoming Rik de Voest of South Africa and American Scott Lipsky 6-2, 7-5. Other victors included Brits Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski and South Africa’s Jeff Coetzee who overcame Pakistan’s Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and partner Igor Kunitsyn with the help of Rogier Wassen. India’s Yuki Bhambri is also through.

*Jeremy Chardy, David Ferrer and India’s Somdev Devvarman have all put their names in to the hat for the 2010 South African Open in Johannesburg.

*British No. 1 Elena Baltacha has qualified for the first round of the Auckland Classic after defeating Canada’s Stephanie Dubois 6-3, 6-1 in the final of the qualifying draw. Baltacha then lost in the opening round to Romania’s Ioana Raluca Olaru. India’s Sania Mirza and wild card New Zealander Marina Erakovic are also out ending Commonwealth interest in the singles draw. In the doubles, South Africa’s Natalie Grandin is the last Commonwealth woman standing as her and partner Laura Granville of the USA prepare to face Vladimira Uhlirova and Renata Voracova in the semi finals.

Murray Intends To Win Major Title in 2010: Tennis in the Commonwealth

By Leigh Sanders

Great Britain’s top star Andy Murray has reiterated his intention to break his Grand Slam duck in 2010. Speaking to BBC Scotland, he said that he feels he improved throughout 2009 and firmly believes next year will be his best yet. “I always said I’d play my best tennis between 23 and 27 and I’m 23 next year,” said Murray. “I had three tough losses in the Grand Slams. Hopefully, I can turn that round next year and draw on the experience.”

*The ATP has announced its top five matches of 2009 and three of the selections were held at Commonwealth-based tournaments. Unsurprisingly, the nail biting Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick takes the No. 1 slot. Rafael Nadal’s semifinal victory over compatriot Fernando Verdasco at the Australian Open ranks third while Nikolay Davydenko’s triumph over Roger Federer in the ATP World Finals semifinal at London, England’s o2 Arena placed fifth. Meanwhile, British No. 1 Andy Murray’s shock defeat to the Croatian Marin Cilic in the US Open fourth round ranked third in the top five upsets of the year but Murray still made the ATP’s list of the year’s top players.

*The news of former world No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo’s retirement has led to praise for the two-time Grand Slam champion from many quarters. Canada’s Aleksandra Wozniak is one who will be sad to see her leave the world’s tennis arenas and with particular reason; it was Aleksandra who defeated Amelie in her last match at this year’s US Open. “She was a lot of fun to watch because not only did she do everything well, but she did it with flair at the same time,” said Wozniak. “It was an honour for me to play her in her last match, especially since we played on Arthur Ashe stadium court at the US Open – it was one of the biggest wins of my career and a very special moment for me.”

*Some of Australia’s biggest tennis names are missing from the first round of playoffs competing for wildcard berths at the 2010 Australian Open. Chris Guccione, Carsten Ball and Sam Groth are all suffering from injuries and will miss the December 14-20 event.

*The Medibank International Sydney championships in Australia have announced their strongest lineup to date with nine of the world’s top ten players in the women’s field taking to the courts. Joining the likes of Serena Williams, Dinara Safina and Caroline Wozniacki will be home favourite Samantha Stosur. The home fans can also cheer on Lleyton Hewitt in the men’s event but he will have to overcome players of the calibre of Gael Monfils, Tomas Berdych and Stanislas Wawrinka if he is to emerge victorious.

*Great Britain’s Anne Keothavong saw the third greatest decline in ranking spots on the WTA tour during 2009. She started the year at No. 60, rising to No. 54 by July but a knee injury then finished her season and she ended the year at No. 98. It is, though, her second-best year-end finish in 11 years on the tour. The biggest climber was Germany’s Andrea Petkovic (No. 379 – No. 56, 323 places) and the greatest recession was suffered by Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova (No. 44 – No. 99, 55 places).

*Australian tennis is again celebrating with the news that Russian-born Anastasia Rodionova has been granted citizenship. The current world No. 96 becomes the third-highest ranked Aussie player behind Samantha Stosur and Jelena Dokic. Jarmila Groth was also granted citizenship last month and this continues the strengthening of the sport Down Under.

*Former world No. 1 Alicia Molik of Australia continued her impressive return from retirement by taking another title, this time at the Pro Tour Event in Bendigo, Australia. Her compatriot Matt Ebden took the men’s trophy.

*Former Tennis Canada board of directors chair Harold P. Milavsky was inducted in to the Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame during a ceremony held at the Glencoe Club, Calgary, attended by much of the Alberta tennis and business worlds.

*Third seed Heather Watson of Great Britain is through to the second round of the Orange Dunlop Bowl tournament in Florida. The 17-year-old emphatically beat American Krista Hardebeck 6-2, 6-2. Watson is currently ranked No. 4 in the world for juniors and reached the last 16 in her last run out at the Eddie Herr International Junior Championships.

*Aussie serve-and-volley specialist Pat Rafter triumphed over the Swede Stefan Edberg in the final of the ATP Champions Tour Event in London, England last week.

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