Somdev Devvarman

Sony Open in Photos: Cirstea Knocks Out Kerber; Sharapova, Ferrer, Djokovic Thru

MIAMI, FL (March 24, 2013) – Sunday at the Sony Open saw Sorana Cirstea knock out No. 6 seed Angelique Kerber, Jelena Jankovic outplay her higher-ranked opponent Nadia Petrova, and Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova cruise losing only six games each.

Select Sunday Results:
ATP
(1) Novak Djokovic d. Somdev Devvarman 6-2, 6-4
(3) David Ferrer d. Fabio Fognini 6-1, 7-5

WTA
(28) Sorana Cirstea d. (6) Angelique Kerber 6-4, 6-0
(3) Maria Sharapova d. Elena Vesnina 6-4, 6-2
(22) Jelena Jankovic d. (11) Nadia Petrova 7-6(7), 6-4
(WC) Laura Robson/Lisa Raymond d. Tatjana Malek/Tamarine Tanasugarn 4-6, 6-1, 10-8

Below are Tennis Grandstand’s “Best Shots of the Day” by our photographer Christopher Levy that includes Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams (at practice), David Ferrer, Fabio Fognini, Maria Sharapova, Sorana Cirstea, Jelena Jankovic, Laura Robson, Elena Vesnina, Somdev Devvarman and Nadia Petrova.

Tennis Erupts in to Strike Row, WTA Sees Debutant Winners and Wawrinka Goes Solo

Tennis World Split over Strike Claims:

The main talking point in the tennis world this week has been the proposed player strike which world No.4 Andy Murray believes ATP professionals will not be scared to enforce should their concerns about the over-packed tennis calendar again be ignored. World Murray says that in conversations he has had with his fellow pros there seems to be a positive reaction to the proposals. “Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that but I’m sure the players will consider it,” said the 24-year-old Scot. “If we come up with a list of things we want changed – and everyone is in agreement but they don’t happen – then we need to have some say in what goes on in our sport. At the moment we don’t.” His calls for the shortening of the ATP calendar have also been reciprocated over recent times by the other top stars; Roger Federer, Raphael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. And a former great champion, 18-time Grand Slam singles winner Martina Navratilova, believes that Murray is right to stick up for himself and his fellow pros. “I don’t know why Andy Murray should be criticised for taking charge of his life,” said the 54-year-old. “If that’s the only way they can get to that point, then that’s what they have to do if they can unify themselves enough and that’s the last resort.” She continued: “Of course

all tennis players want to play. That’s what you train for. But I was complaining about the calendar being too long 25 years ago, saying we need to shorten it. We have shortened it on the women’s side. Women play about a month less than the guys. But now, especially with the Davis Cup and the top players being involved in the Davis Cup, for a Nadal or a Djokovic or a Federer, then that schedule is just untenable. We are talking about longevity.” But not everyone is in agreement with the British number one. German 1991 Wimbledon champion Michael Stich believes that players should stop worrying about such issues and get on with things as the sport provides them with a privileged career and income they should be happy with. “I don’t think it is a big issue. They are not playing more than we did 10 or 15 years ago and they have shorter seasons than we used to,” he said. “When people like Stefan Edberg played in singles and doubles at Grand Slams, they [just] did their job. Andy Murray doesn’t even play four rounds of Davis Cup each year.” India’s Somdev Devvarman has also waded in to the debate, telling India Today that players are underpaid: “What happened in the US Open [retirements] just stirred things up,” he said. “Also, we get only 12 percent of the revenue while it is we who generate the revenue. The players should have a good say in such matters. [A] lot of players like Rafa, [Andy] Roddick, Murray have spoken about it. Tennis is one major sport which has no players’ union but with the recent happening the game is about to see a change.”

Zahlavova Strycova and Pervak win Maiden Titles:

The Czech Republic’s Barbora Zahlavova Strycova and Ksenia Pervak of Russia were celebrating their maiden WTA titles last week after taking the crowns at Quebec and Tashkent respectively. “After the first set I changed my strategy. I could see she [Marina Erakovic] was very tired after the first set so I started putting more balls in the court and making her run,” Zahlavova Strycova said. “In the first set she was playing very good, but I could see she started to make more mistakes. It felt like she was breaking down. Once it got to the third set I was just in the zone. It felt like everything I hit was going in. I saw the ball so big. I just knew I was going to win the match.” Pervak was also understandably delighted with her showing. “I would like to give my best wishes to Eva [Birnerova, beaten finalist], who is also a very good friend of mine,” she commented. “She has had a wonderful week here and was a great competitor in the finals today. Both of us were nervous, but being the top seed was a little more pressure on me. This win is very special for me as it’s my first win on the WTA circuit. It was a pleasure to play here and get big support from the crowd. I’ll take a lot of positives from here. I know how to fight off pressure better.”

Wawrinka Splits with Lundgren:

Swiss star Stanislas Wawrinka has announced that his 13-month partnership with coach Peter Lundgren has ended. Roger Federer and Marat Safin can count Lundgren as a former mentor but the Swiss number two has decided to finish with the coach who helped him to the quarter finals of both the 2010 US Open and the 2011 Aussie Open. “I’ve had a great relationship with Peter over the past year and I want to thank him for his positive contribution to my career. We have had a lot of success and fun working together.”

Hewitt Named Sydney Ambassador:

Two-time Grand Slam winner Lleyton Hewitt has been named an ambassador for the Medibank International Sydney tournament beginning from next January. The 30-year-old will help to drum up support for the event and plans are already underway for a kids’ tennis clinic in November alongside an international charity event. “I’m really pleased to confirm my participation in next year’s Sydney International,” Hewitt said. “It is a really special tournament for me and I have great memories from my four titles there. The support I have received at Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre over the years has been fantastic and I can’t wait to kick start my 2012 season in front of a packed Ken Rosewall Arena crowd.”

Muster to Retire (Again):

44-year-old Austrian Thomas Muster has announced that he will once more retire from professional tennis after the Erste Bank Open in his native country next month. “You should not drag it along forever,” Muster said Wednesday. “I wanted to relive competitive tennis again and I’ve really enjoyed it.”

US Champs set for Kuala Lumpur:

New US Open doubles champions Jurgen Melzer and Philipp Petzschner have announced that their first return to the courts since that New York triumph will be at the Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur which begins this weekend. “We have often discussed the strength of the singles field for the Malaysian Open, Kuala Lumpur, but tennis fans will see that the doubles game is equally impressive and having the US Open Champions in our line-up, gives the tournament even more status,” Tournament Director Nick Freyer of organisers IMG said.

Moya to Coach Young Spaniards:

Former world No.1 Carlos Moya has announced that he is set to take over the SD Tennis Academy in Madrid with friend Roberto Carretero with the aim of making it the country’s best tennis school. The 1998 French Open winner retired from the tour at the end of 2010 and has announced this as his new project. “I am starting a wonderful project,” said Moya. “I am really hoping to be able to share my knowledge with the new talents looking to make a career in tennis, but also with the ones looking to play tennis for fun. I really look forward to trying to develop one of the best tennis schools in this magnificent complex of Santo Domingo Club Social.”

Fish Earns Chips in Rankings Watch:

American Mardy Fish has climbed back above Gael Monfils of France to No.7 in the world in this week’s South African Airways ATP World Rankings on the back of the US Open. Argentine Juan Martin del Potro climbs four to No.13 as the only other movement in the Top 20. Portugal’s Rui Machado jumps 19 to No.61 and David Nalbandian is up 11 to No.53, while Eric Prodon of France leaps 15 slots to enter the Top 100 at No.93. Barbora Zahlavova Strycova celebrates her win at Quebec City by jumping 26 spots to enter the Top 50 at No.49 in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings. Tashkent winner Ksenia Pervak does the same by jumping from No.52 to No.37. Silvia Soler-Espinoza, who Pervak defeated in Tashkent, goes from No.110 to a career-high No.90.

Rafa Charges on in GOAT Race:

After the US Open’s conclusion for 2011 Rafael Nadal has opened up his lead over 16-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer in the 2011 Tennis People Greatest Of All Time race. With points doubled for Grand Slam events Federer earns 100 points for falling to Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals while Nadal earns 200 for losing the final. This makes the scores:

Roger: 1100 Rafa: 1910

Murray and Sharapova Cruise Through

Having sat and watched Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal all progress over the first two days, world number four Andy Murray finally got his 2011 US Open underway with a straight sets win over world number 64 Somdev Devvarman.

The first set didn’t go swimmingly for the Scot and switched hands over its 70-minute duration. Trailing 2-4, his unforced error count was slowly rising towards its final tally of 44, but in the New York heat he began to find his feet and turn it around.

He took Devvarman to a tie-break, won it to five, and then overpowered the 26-year-old Indian throughout the remainder of his 7-6(5), 6-2, 6-3 win.

“He’s very solid,” Murray said of his opponent afterwards. “I’ve seen a little bit of him before. I watched a few videos of him the last couple of days just to see what his game was like.

“He doesn’t give you many free points, especially early on in the match. You have to get him to work hard before he starts making mistakes.”

2009 US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro continued his winning streak at the event in his first match back at Flushing Meadows since that famous victory over Federer as he missed last year through injury.

He strolled past Italy’s Filippo Volandri 6-3, 6-1, 6-1 to take his place in the second round while barely breaking a sweat. He dropped just 11 points on serve and hit 18 aces as he secured victory in just 88 minutes, the entire match taking just 18 minutes longer than the first set of the Murray-Devvarman encounter.

“I feel really glad,” said the Argentine afterwards. “[It] was a short match, but I served well. I was improving my game during the match. It’s my favourite tournament, so I’m really happy to take the opportunity to play here again. I’m feeling really glad to see the crowd again, to see the Argentinean fans come to see me specially play here [at] the US Open.”

Elsewhere, tenth seed Nicolas Almagro is out after losing his opening round match to French world number 97 Julien Benneteau.

It was the pair’s first meeting for three and a half years, and Almagro made 41 unforced errors and took just one of the 13 break points he earned as he crashed out 2-6, 4-6, 3-6 in one of the round’s biggest surprises.

Sixth seed Robin Soderling is also out of the Open, but due to illness. The incredible run of retirements at this year’s tournament continued as Soderling was replaced by lucky loser Rogerio Dutra Da Silva, who then progressed to round two as his opponent, world number 618 Louk Sorensen of Ireland, then retired during their match through injury whilst trailing 0-6, 6-3, 4-6, 0-1.

Americans had something to cheer on the day too as Andy Roddick progressed to round two, albeit via a messy 6-2, 6-4, 4-6 7-5 win over compatriot Michael Russell. John Isner had earlier overcome Greece’s Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus in four sets.

In the women’s draw, the 2011 US Open continued its seedings Russian roulette as another two potentials for the latter stages crashed out in round two, albeit for different reasons.

Number eight seed Marion Bartoli of France was ousted by 19-year-old American Christina McHale, despite leading the first set 5-3. McHale recovered, much to the delight of the New York crowd, and sealed a 7-6(2), 6-2 win that would have disappointed Bartoli with the way she let the second set pass her by without a fight.

McHale showed little sign of nerves, and the powerful ace she sent down on match point was a good vindication of her approach to the match.

“I couldn’t play any sloppy games. I had to compete really hard in the second set because I knew she was going to try even harder because she lost the first,” McHale, the youngest player in the Top 100, said afterwards. “When it went from 3-0 to 3-2 in the second set I was like, ‘C’mon Christina, don’t let it get back to 3-all.’ That game was a big game.”

But the day wasn’t as rosy for another American star. Venus Williams was forced to pull out of her second round match with Wimbledon semi-finalist Sabine Lisicki after being diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome.

The 2000 and 2001 winner is suffering with the illness that causes fatigue and joint pain and can affect the body’s ability to create tears and saliva, raising questions over an athlete’s ability to stay hydrated during exercise.

“I have been recently diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome,” she said. “It is an ongoing medical condition that affects my energy level and causes fatigue and joint pain.

“I am thankful I finally have a diagnosis and I am now focussed on getting better and returning to the court soon.”

The illness forced her to pull out of the warm-up events at Cincinnati and Toronto and it is unclear when she will be able to make a sustained return to the tour, having not been seen in action since Wimbledon before the US Open began.

Elsewhere, Maria Sharapova kept up her imperious record in US Open night matches as she powered past Belarusian Anastasiya Yakimova 6-1, 6-1 last night.

The third seed had struggled in her opening round victory  over Heather Watson on Monday but the cobwebs looked well and truly dusted off during this one.

“I played a pretty tricky opponent tonight who didn’t play the typical kind of tennis. [She] sliced a lot, [played] a lot of high balls. Maybe the first couple of games I was a little bit impatient,” Sharapova said. “Then I got really steady. I was aggressive. I still felt I could have moved in a little bit more, but overall I played solid.”

The win moves her to a career-record of 14-0 in night matches, and 13-0 in night matches on Arthur Ashe Court.

Her compatriot Vera Zvonareva is also through, but the number two seed was given a much more torrid time by Kateryna Bondarenko.

“It was a good test for me,” she said after a 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 win. “I don’t think I played my best tennis but I managed to get through this one, and now I have another chance to go out there again and try to do a little bit better.”

Other seeds to safely make it through to the third round include Sam Stosur, Peng Shuai, Julia Goerges, Maria Kirilenko and Lucie Safarova.

Baghdatis defeats Devvarman in a three-set “dog fight”

With a Thursday schedule that could rival any grand slam tournament’s, the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, D.C. began with an early session due to a washout Wednesday evening. The matches that were supposed to take place last night, instead took place today starting at noon, making it necessary for some players to play their second and third round matches within hours of each other. It’s a difficult task winning one grueling three-set match, not to mention having the energy and stamina to win two matches in a single day.

In the day session, Marcos Baghdatis defeated Somdev Devvarman, 6-2, 0-6, 7-5, after squandering several match points at 5-4 and 5-5. Baghdatis’ movement on court was lacking and his serving percentage plummeted as the match went on. After serving 83% in the first set, he served 36% and 38% in the second and third set, respectively. The hiccup set in the middle saw him winning only 1-of-8 first return points and going 0-for-3 in break points saved.

Baghdatis had this to say in his post-match interview: “Tough match for sure. [Devvarman] is a tricky player to play against and conditions were tough in the end and it was pretty hot out there. I wasn’t feel that great for a first match for me. The most important thing is that I found the solution to win and I’m pretty happy to win.”

But all credit to Devvarman who outplayed his opponent in the second set with a game outside of his own, approaching at key moments and forcing the pressure on Baghdatis by hugging the baseline and hitting some exceptional forehands. Baghdatis tried to pull Devvarman out to his backhand for most of the match, but Devvarman became more comfortable and responded with extra speed on his forehand when he had the chance. With only four total points distinguishing the winner from his opponent, it was a test of will power and perseverance.

Devvarmen is a University of Virginia stand-out alumnus and the stands reflected the home crowd feel. In a sea of orange, Devvarman was supremely confident and not lacking in mental strength. In his post-match interview, he hinted that they both played well, but that Baghdatis simply was too good in “the dog fight. It was really close at the end and could have gone either way.”

Baghdatis, a finalist here last year and currently ranked #26, is looking for his first title since Sydney in 2010. But he is optimistic with a new coach in tow, Miles Maclagan, the former coach of Scot Andy Murray. The two have been working together since last month. Other than reaching the quarterfinals in Brisbane and s-Hertogenbosch, Baghdatis’ results have been dismal, but he will get a chance this evening to take on Thomaz Bellucci as they battle for a spot in the quarterfinals.

After match point, discarding his typical “kiss of the court” on his hands and knees, he bent over and instead wrote something meaningful on the DecoTurf court.

Follow me on twitter as I cover the Legg Mason Tennis Classic all week! @TennisRomi

BNP Paribas Open preview: The round of 16

Tomorrow is a big day at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells because all sixteen men left in the singles draw will play for a spot in the quarterfinals. At this point, there are still some surprises left in the draw. Players like Somdev Devvarman and Ryan Harrison are having amazing tournaments. So, let’s take a look at each of today’s matchups.

Stadium 1

Sam Querrey v. Tommy Robredo

A year ago, there wouldn’t have been a question who would win this match. Sam Querrey seemed to be a rising star, destined to break through at a Masters event or a Grand Slam, while Tommy Robredo was a former Top 5 player who appeared to be declining rather rapidly. A lot has changed in a year though. Sam never got his breakthrough and Tommy has found his way back to form. Now, these two are just four spots apart in the rankings and fairly evenly matched in my mind. When I asked Tommy about his goals for 2011 after beating Donald Young, he responded that he would like to make it back to the Top 10. A good showing in Indian Wells would be a great confidence booster transitioning onto clay, Tommy’s favorite surface. When asked about his level of play, Robredo said, “I think that last year, I did the worst year of my life and now it was a turnover, no?” The interview took place before the result of the Querrey/Verdasco match was available so he was asked to comment on the prospect of playing either guy, to which he responded, “When you are in fourth round, you’re not going to play with somebody easy, no? So, if you want to win, you have to play your best and I’m in a good moment so I just hope to arrive to the match in great shape and to win.” Querrey may not have had the best start to the season, but he’s played great tennis so far this week, particularly against Verdasco. Sam recently switched the tension on his racket back to what he was using before his slump and that seems to have provided him a much needed boost. In my mind, both these guys have the capabilities to win this match and both feel confident this week which should make for a good show.

Novak Djokovic v. Viktor Troicki

Novak Djokovic is probably having about as good a start to the year as could be imagined. He’s undefeated so far this year and took home his second Slam in Australia. It’s tough to imagine that anyone could derail him from taking home this title, except maybe Federer or Nadal, and that’s a big maybe. There’s a lot to be said for confidence and Nole’s got tons of it this year. These two guys have grown up together, as Nole put it, “he’s one of my best friends on the tour, and off the tour as well.” In his press conference today, Djokovic was asked about playing such a good friend, and he said, “we are very competitive and professional, and you know, our job is to play well and try to win.” Even more interesting is the fact that Djokovic and Troicki are still alive in the doubles draw which means they will have to play as a team even after one of them has lost their singles encounter. Djokovic seemed enthused about the prospect of continuing their doubles campaign even if the singles clash may make it a bit awkward, saying, “Maybe in the same day it’s a little bit uncomfortable and you know kind of you know, if he wins he feels bad really talking about that with me or vice versa. I guess, but it passes, it is just one day, you know, we are still friends regardless of what happens on the court. It’s our job, but we are especially excited about the doubles, that’s what I have to say.” All in all, it would be tough to say Viktor can pull this off. Nole is in fine form. However, I should mention that his result against Gulbis may have been a little misleading. Djokovic played well yesterday, but no as well as he has been playing this week. Gulbis more self destructed. He had plenty of chances where he was up 0-30 on Djokovic’s serve or up 40-0 on his own serve where he would go on to lose the game. Regardless, I would be surprised if Djokovic didn’t come out on top of this encounter.

Andy Roddick v. Richard Gasquet

John Isner may not have played great tennis last night, but Andy Roddick appears to be in fine form. Just when journalists try to write him off, Roddick always comes back with a vengeance. He won his 30th title last month in Memphis, despite being quite ill, and certainly appears to be playing high quality tennis. Roddick had spectacular results at Indian Wells and Miami last season, so it’s really important for him to defend his points at this year’s tournaments. He was runner up at the BNP Paribas Open last year, so he will need to make it all the way to the final if he’s going to defend all of his points. To do so, Andy will have to make it past Richard Gasquet, who is a former Top 10 player trying to fight his way back up the rankings. When asked about Gasquet’s level of play in his post match press conference yesterday, Andy said, “I haven’t seen him actually play much recently, but we’ve been on tour together for a very long time. I think we know each other’s games pretty well. Certainly confidence is a big issue with him, he seems like he’s confident right now, he played well in Dubai, he’s played well here. So, I’m expecting the best of him.” Clearly you should never underestimate the opponent, but Andy Roddick should be able to get through this match.

Rafael Nadal v. Somdev Devvarman

Today’s night session is likely to be a short one. Rafael Nadal appears to be healthy and that is a fearsome thing. He is playing amazing tennis and I’m not sure how Somdev Devvarman will handle the pressure of playing the world No. 1. Devvarman hasn’t had very many good results on big stages so playing Rafa at night in Indian Wells will probably be one of his biggest matches. This is already a great result for him and I have a feeling he’ll be happy with his progress this week regardless of whether he wins or loses. I just think Rafa has the upper hand here.

Roger Federer v. Ryan Harrison

The young American, Ryan Harrison, had a great result yesterday, beating upstart Milos Raonic in a third set. Harrison moves on to face Roger Federer in the 4th round. He’s a confident guy, but I’m not sure how much confidence can do for you when you’re playing a guy like Roger. Yesterday afternoon, Federer demolished Juan Ignacio Chela and it’s hard to imagine that Harrison will not share Chela’s fate. Ryan is only 18 and has plenty of time to mature and grow his game. He’s still a little hot tempered and tends to lose focus. That will be an issue with Federer because he’s likely to fall behind at some point. His only chance is to hang in there and stay level headed and come up with a new game plan. I’m just not sure he’ll be able to do that quite yet.

 

Stadium 2

Juan Martin del Potro v. Philipp Kohlschreiber

Juan Martin del Potro is back and that is a beautiful thing. He looks like he’s in pretty good shape and definitely gaining back some of the confidence he lost being out for such a long time. Kohlschreiber is kind of a surprise 4th round opponent. He’s kind of spotty player who occasionally finds success, but generally comes across as fairly average (for a high quality player that is.) Based on their level of play and Delpo’s scorching forehands, I think del Potro should be able to pull this one off pretty easily.

Tomas Berdych v. Stanislas Wawrinka

This should be an interesting match. Tomas Berdych had the best year of his life last year making the semifinals at Roland Garros and the final at Wimbledon. It’s tough to follow a year like that and he’s been struggling ever since Wimbledon last year. He crashed out in the 1st round of the US Open and hasn’t managed a great result since. However, he seems to be clawing his way back to form. On the other hand, Wawrinka is playing some of his best tennis. He won a title at the beginning of this year and he’s very focused on his game these days. I think we might see the upset here with Stan getting the win.

Albert Montanes v. Ivo Karlovic

This is probably the most peculiar of the matchups. I doubt anyone had these two pegged in their draw. But, they are both extremely talented players. Montanes is actually ranked quite high, but because he’s from Spain, which has so many highly ranked players, he tends to be forgotten pretty often. Karlovic has proven himself to be a great player, but he’s only recently come back from injury and is still working to find his top form. He broke the service speed record in Davis Cup last week and he’s already dispatched David Ferrer and Gilles Simon from this tournament. With wins like that, it’s hard to bet against him. I think Karlovic will likely win this one.

Tennis Set to Dazzle the Commonwealth

Regular readers of TennisGrandstand will know that my first steps in this esteemed company were tracking the progress of players from the former Commonwealth countries as they did battle the world over in search of fame, success and prize money.

Now, starting October 4, all that changes for these players who bare the colours of their homelands and descend on Delhi as tennis makes its debut in the Commonwealth Games schedule.

The sailing certainly hasn’t been plain. The bad press and setbacks have almost derailed the games altogether and have led to accusations of outdated concepts and an existence as a poorer little brother to the Olympics.

There have been withdrawals, hissy fits and refusals to play but finally the pens and insults can be dropped and the racquets lifted in the search for Commonwealth gold.

There will be no Andy Murray. No Sam Stosur. No Marcos Baghdatis. No Lleyton Hewitt.

But the home stars have all stood firm and the likes of Sania Mirza, Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Somdev Devvarman will fly the Indian flag in to competition and they will be hoping that performances and medals silence the critics.

All singles and doubles matches will be the best of three tie-break sets, including the finals. The male and female singles draws will consist of 32 players while the men’s, women’s and mixed doubles competitions will see 16 teams fight for gold.

Each country can enter a maximum of four men and women (of which three can compete in singles play) and two teams in each of the doubles events. Players from the same country will be placed in separate quarters of the draw.

Despite all the high-profile withdrawals there is still plenty of talent to feast our tennis-hungry eyes upon. Australia’s Peter Luczak has troubled the higher echelons of the men’s game and Scotland’s Colin Fleming is one of Britain’s formidable ‘Flemski’ doubles partnership alongside Ken Skupski of England.

Mirza will be one to look out for in the women’s draw as will the recently christened Aussie Anastasia Rodionova.

Then we have Paes and Bhupathi in the doubles who have two French Opens (1999 and 2001) and a Wimbledon title (1999) won together under their belt. Devvarman will also link up with US Open finalist Rohan Bopanna to give India a fantastic chance of gold in the men’s doubles.

Then there’s also British doubles number one Sarah Borwell to look out for and former singles and doubles Top 50 player Marina Erakovic lining up for New Zealand.

Wales have two players in the draw – Josh Milton and Chris Lewis. Milton is in fact the eighth seed in the men’s singles. Lewis faces Fleming in the first round which will be a difficult encounter but I’m hoping for the best for both of them.

While there might not be enough top world talent to tempt the eyes of some peripheral tennis fans there is certainly enough to keep tennis fanatics occupied throughout the tournament.

We hope that the games run according to plan, like the football World Cup in South Africa, and that the critics are put firmly in their place. We hope there are no problems, no collapsing structures, and no serious injury.

It is time for the players to put all the hoo-hah behind them and focus fully on winning medals for their friends, family and countrymen. Good luck to them all.

AUSSIE OPEN MEN’S QUALIFYING 2010

The 2010 Australian Open officially begins on Monday but important matches have already begun in the qualifying draw.

The 128-player draw will work its way down to a fortunate group of 16 players who will advance to the main draw of the tournament.

Seeded first in the qualifying draw is Xavier Malisse of Belgium who advanced to the second round of the qualies with a 6-2, 7-6(5) win against Alex Kuznetsov of the United States. Malisse is a talented but under-achieving veteran who reached a career-high of 19 in the world in 2002, the same year he reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon. Currently ranked 92nd, Malisse does not necessarily have to win all of his qualifying matches to advance into the tournament. Should any player who is entered in the main draw withdraw from their opening match ahead of time, Malisse would become the first lucky-loser to fill-in due to his ranking.

Other names of interest in the qualifying draw include former American phenom Donald Young who won his first match 7-5, 6-0 against Marc Lopez of Spain. At only twenty years of age, the possibility of Young reaching his enormous potential still exists, although it seems his game is at a stand-still at the moment ranked 194th in the world.

Former NCAA champion Somdev Devvarman holds the 27th seed amongst qualifiers and won his first match easily 6-2, 6-1 against local Australian James Duckworth. Going to school at the University of Virginia, Devvarman won the NCAA title in back-to-back years in 2007 and 2008. He defeated current top-fifty ATP played John Isner in the 2007 final so the kid certainly has skill. Perhaps this is the year he finally breaks out on tour.

Canadian youngster Peter Polansky fell in the opening round 1-6, 2-6 to Marsel Ilhan of Turkey. The 21 year old is my home country’s best hope for a top-fifty player in the future and is currently ranked 186th in the world. It is a tough break for Polansky, as he made the main draw in Australia a year ago and even pushed Igor Andreev to a fifth set in the first round before falling. Polanksy actually qualified for three Grand Slam tournaments in 2009, losing in the first round of each in five sets.

The main draw will be announced this Friday.

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.

Tennis In The Commonwealth – Murray and Robson To Play For GB In Hopman Cup

By Leigh Sanders

Andy Murray and Laura Robson have confirmed they will represent Great Britain at the Hopman Cup, the official mixed team competition of the ITF, in Perth, Australia in January. Murray will use the event to prepare for the 2010 Australian Open. He is looking to improve his record at Melbourne Park and has decided to use the same tournament that Novak Djokovic (2008) and Marat Safin (2005) played on their way to victory Down Under. They will be the first British representatives at the tournament since Jeremy Bates and Jo Durie lost in the first round in 1992. Each match consists of a men’s and women’s singles and a doubles. The hosts will be represented by Lleyton Hewitt and Samantha Stosur. Melanie Oudin and John Isner have been confirmed as the American team while Russia will be represented by Elena Dementieva and Igor Andreev while Tommy Robredo and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez will compete for Spain.

Robin Soderling is a doubt for the ATP World Tour Finals in London, England, after the world No. 10 was forced to withdraw from his semifinal in Stockholm against Cyprus’ Marcos Bagdhatis with an elbow injury. The Swede would have made up points on the Spaniard Fernando Verdasco who currently holds the eighth and final qualification place for the Championships. Soderling has not yet pulled out of his scheduled tournaments in Valencia and Paris ahead of London hoping he will be fit to fight for his place in the end-of-season tournament.

The final line-up for the Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha was decided this week without one representative from the Commonwealth making the final cut. Jelena Jankovic sealed the eighth and final spot despite crashing out of the quarterfinals of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow and she joins Venus and Serena Williams, Elena Dementieva, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Dinara Safina, Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka in the battle to find the top player for 2009.

This weeks ATP singles world rankings (26/10) saw Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt climb two places to 20th while his compatriot Peter Luczak held on to his ranking of 83. Chris Guccione, also from Down under, climbed five places to 104th. Britain’s Andy Murray remained in 4th place and India’s Somdev Devvarman climbed three to 121st. In the doubles, Daniel Nestor of Canada remains No. 1 despite his early exit from Shanghai recently but Mahesh Bhupathi of India drops one place to 7th. Paul Hanley of Australia climbs four places to 26th after his finals appearance in Stockholm (see below) while South Africa’s Jeff Coetzee remains 35th after his semifinals berth at the same tournament. Australia’s Ashley Fisher is below him in 36th while Britain’s Ross Hutchins and Aussie Stephen Huss both fell this week to 49th and 50th respectively.

This week’s WTA rankings (26/10) saw Australia’s Samantha Stosur remain at 13 as she continued her climb towards the world top 10 while Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada climbed one place to 30. Another Aussie, Jelena Dokic, dropped to 64th and Britain’s Elena Baltacha jumped from 93 to 86 after her semifinal appearance at St. Raphael (see below). Her compatriot Katie O’Brien was also up one to 91st.

In the WTA doubles rankings (26/10) Australians Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs find themselves tied for 5th spot after Stosur jumped three places while Sania Mirza of India drops two places to 38th. Sarah Borwell, British No. 1 for doubles, jumps one place to 78th while South Africa’s Natalie Grandin is up two to 80th.

Daniel Nestor of Canada suffered his third straight first-round defeat with partner Nenad Zimonjic at the Bank Austria Tennis Trophy. The top two doubles players in the world fell to John Isner and Australian Jordan Kerr 4-6, 7-6(8), 10-6 in just over 90 minutes. It is the eighth first-round defeat the pair have suffered this year.

Jeff Coetzee of South Africa and Australia’s Stephen Huss reached the semifinals of the If Stockholm Open before going down to Kevin Ullyett and Bruno Soares. It was the 500th doubles victory for Ullyett making him only the 31st man in ATP history to reach that landmark. In the final they faced Australia’s Paul Hanley and Sweden’s Simon Aspelin. Soares and Ullyett won through 6-4, 7-6(4) to break the hearts of the Australian and the Swede.

In the doubles event at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow India’s Rohan Bopanna partnered Janko Tipsarevic to a semifinals berth where they were eventually defeated by Frantisek Cermak of the Czech Republic and Slovakia’s Mikal Mertinak. Metinak/Cermak went on to win the tournament and improve their chances of appearing in the doubles bracket at the ATP World Tour Finals in London, England next month.

Geoff Pollard has been re-elected as the President of Tennis Australia for another twelve months following this year’s Annual General Meeting held in Melbourne on Monday.

More doubles joy for Great Britain this week as Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski were victorious at the ATP Challenger Event in Orleans, France. They defeated the French pair of Sebastian Grosjean and Olivier Patience 6-1, 6-1 who had beaten another British pair, Jamie Murray and Jamie Delgado, in the semi finals to prevent an all-British final. In Glasgow, Scotland, Chris Eaton and Dominic Inglot picked up their third Doubles title of the month. They defeated fellow Brit Dan Cox and Uladzimir Ignatik of Belarus.

Peter Luczak of Australia was defeated in the round of 32 at the Bank Austria Tennis Trophy on the hard courts of Vienna by the Spaniard Nicolas Almagro. After taking the first set Luczak battled hard but it wasn’t quite enough and he went down 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-1.

Rising teenage star Bernard Tomic of Australia will warm up for the 2010 Australian Open by partnering Aussie tennis legend Pat Cash at the World Tennis Challenge in Adelaide next January. The novel tournament, which concludes just four days before the Open begins, sees a retired tennis star partner a modern-day pro in a team format. The 17-year-old Tomic will represent Australia with Cash, 27 years his senior. Representing America will be John McEnroe and Robby Ginepri, while Henri Leconte will represent Europe with an unconfirmed teammate. Finally, world No. 14 Radek Stepanek will head the Internationals team with an unconfirmed retired player.

Britain’s Elena Baltacha reached the semifinals of the $50k Event in St. Raphael, France before going down to the No. 3 seed Sandra Zahlavova of the Czech Republic. Meanwhile in Glasgow, Scotland, Melanie South was defeated in the final of the AEGON Pro-Series Event. 5th seed Johanna Larsson of Sweden was too much for the British No. 4, winning in three sets. But South made amends in the doubles, teaming with Emma Laine of Finland to defeat the Mayr sisters of Italy 6-3, 6-2 and bring home the Championship. Future tennis starlet Heather Watson crashed out of the first round of the singles, going down 6-2, 2-6, 7-6(2) to Tunisian veteran Selima Sfar.

Tennis Canada has announced that former Chairman Harold P. Milavsky will be inducted in to the Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame in the Builder category with a dinner in his honour on December 3rd at the Glencoe Club in Calgary.

From Slam Finals To First Round Losses…In Qualifying; Gaudio, Clement Crash Out

On a scorching Wednesday afternoon, 2004 Roland Garros champion Gaston Gaudio, and 2001 Australian Open finalist Arnaud Clement crumbled in the heat, falling to little-known players in uninspired first round losses.

In front of a standing room only crowd on Court 8, Gaudio struggled to find the timing on his shots, quickly going down 3-0 as the Argentine fells 6-1, 6-4 to Julian Reister of Germany. The No. 167 ranked German, seeking to qualify for his first ever Grand Slam, snapped a four match losing streak with today’s win. Gaudio was competing in his first match on hard courts since the 2007 Nasdaq-100 Open.

Meanwhile, on Court 7, Frenchman Arnaud Clement came within two points of winning both sets of his match against American wildcard Tim Smyczek. The Wisconsin native, a former junior Wimbledon semifinalist, managed to hang tough and grind out a 7-6 (6), 7-6 (3) victory. The loss marks the first time that Clement has failed to qualify for a Grand Slam since 1997.

In other men’s results, Juan Pablo Brzezicki of Argentina and American Donald Young also advanced into the 2nd round of qualifying with straight sets victories.

On the women’s side, 2008 junior Wimbledon champion Laura Robson won her first ever pro match at the Grand Slam level. The 15 year old Brit fought off an early first set deficit in defeating French veteran Stephanie Foretz 7-5, 6-1. Two former Grand Slam quarterfinalists also advanced in tough three set matches; Croatian Karolina Sprem defeated Nina Bratchikova of Russia 2-6, 6-1, 6-3, while Sesil Karantancheva of Kazhakstan lost the first seven games of her match before winning 12 straight games in defeating American Abigail Spears 0-6, 6-1, 6-0.

Thursday’s 2nd round matches will see 38 year old Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan, making her comeback to pro tennis after retiring in 1996, compete against fellow Japanese player Yurika Sema in the first match of the day on Court 7. Two players who have reached ATP finals in 2009, Somdev DevVarman and Carsten Ball, will be the first two featured matches on Court 13. The final feature match of the day on Court 11 will pit Donald Young against Guilermo Olaso of Spain.

All day sessions start at 11:00 a.m. Second round qualifying matches take place on Thursday, while final round qualifying matches start on Friday. For more information, please visit www.usopen.org