Stephen Healy

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Mondays With Bob Greene: Andy Murray Fancies His Chances At The AusOpen

Emirates Abu Dhabi Capitala Tennis

STARS

Andy Murray beat Rafael Nadal 6-4 5-7 6-3 to win an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi. Murray beat Roger Federer in the semifinals of the eight-player event.

Emirates Abu Dhabi Capitala Tennis

SAYING

“That’s what I’m aiming for. I worked really hard in November, December to give myself the best chance.” – Andy Murray, talking about his chances to win the Australian Open.

“I’m just not ready to play against the top-class competition in Hong Kong, although I remain hopeful for Australia where I’m the defending champion.” – Maria Sharapova, after withdrawing from a Hong Kong exhibition tournament because she is still recovering from a shoulder injury.

“Ken Rosewall is one of Australia’s sporting legends and without question one of the greatest tennis players of all time.” — Tennis New South Wales president Stephen Healy, on naming the Sydney Olympics stadium the Ken Rosewall Arena.

“I accomplished a lot of my dreams as a player, winning at Roland Garros, and now I’ve managed another one, becoming captain of our Davis Cup team.” – Albert Costa, after being named to the helm of Spain’s Davis Cup squad.

“We have chosen two professionals with a lot of experience and long careers in tennis. The AAT based its decision on the technical and leadership qualities of the two coaches.” — Enrique Morea, president of the AAT, after Modesto Vazquez was picked as Argentina’s new Davis Cup captain and Ricardo Rivera was selected as his assistant.

STERLING START

It hasn’t taken long for Andy Murray to show he should be considered one of the favorites for this month’s Australian Open. Although it was just an exhibition tournament in Abu Dhabi, the Brit walked away with the USD $250,000 first-place prize after defeating Rafael Nadal 6-4 5-7 6-3 in the final. Murray also beat Roger Federer in the semifinals and James Blake in his opening match. It was Murray’s second straight win over Nadal and the fifth time he has beaten Federer.

SPOT TAKEN

Former Wimbledon semifinalist Jelena Dokic will be playing in this year’s Australian Open after winning a wild card spot in the draw. The 25-year-old Dokic was ranked as high as number four in the world in 2002. But a series of injuries and personal problems, many of them involving her father Damir, saw her ranking drop to 617 in 2006. Last year she won three ITF tournaments and improved her ranking to 179, her highest in four years.

SUPER MOM

Expecting her second child, Lindsay Davenport has taken herself off the WTA Tour indefinitely. The three-time Grand Slam winner learned she was pregnant just a week after agreeing to play in this month’s Australian Open. After returning to the tour following the birth of her first child, Jagger, Davenport won four of her 55 career singles titles. She also has won 37 doubles titles, including Roland Garros in 1996 with Mary Joe Fernandez, the US Open in 1997 with Jana Novotna and Wimbledon in 1999 with Corina Morariu. Her Grand Slam singles titles came at the US Open in 1998, Wimbledon in 1999 and the Australian Open in 2000.

SYDNEY STADIUM

Sydney’s 2000 Olympics tennis stadium has been named in honor of eight-time Grand Slam champion Ken Rosewall. The 10,000-seat stadium at Sydney Olympic Park will now be known as the Ken Rosewall Arena. Rosewall played in four Wimbledon finals during his career, with a 20-year gap between the first in 1954 and the last in 1974. He won four Australian titles, two French titles and two US titles. He turned 74 last month.

SPANISH LEADER

Albert Costa is Spain’s new Davis Cup captain. The 33-year-old replaces Emilio Sanchez Vicario, who stepped down after leading the Spaniards to their third Davis Cup title with a 3-1 win over Argentina. Costa, the 2002 French Open winner, played on Spain’s first Davis Cup winning team in 2000. He will make his debut as captain in a first-round World Group match against Serbia on March 6-8.

STEPPING UP

Little-known Modesto Vazquez is the new captain for Argentina’s Davis Cup team. The 59-year-old Vazquez replaces Alberto Mancini, who led Argentina to the finals in both 2006 and 2008, only to lose both times. Currently the development director for the Argentina Tennis Association (AAT), Vazquez played two Davis Cup ties for Argentina in 1968 and 1970. The AAT also selected Ricardo Rivera to be Vazquez’s assistant.

SET FOR AUSTRALIA

Two Americans have won wild-card spots for the Australian Open. Christina McHale will be making her first main-draw appearance at a Grand Slam tournament, while John Isner played in all four Grand Slam tournaments in 2008, losing to Fabrice Santoro in the first round of the Australian Open. The US Tennis Association and Tennis Australia have a reciprocal agreement to exchange wild-card berths for the US and Australian Opens.

SHARAPOVA HURTING

A shoulder injury is still bothering Maria Sharapova, who will be defending her Australian Open singles crown later this month. The injury forced Sharapova to withdraw from an exhibition event in Hong Kong, where she will be replaced by fellow Russian Anna Chakvetadze. Sharapova has not played competitively since pulling out of a tournament in Montreal, Canada, in July following a match in which she double-faulted 17 times. Medical tests found a torn rotator cuff tendon in her right shoulder.

SITE CHANGE?

Upset that a first-round Davis Cup tie was relocated because of security fears, Pakistani tennis officials are demanding USD $60,000 from the International Tennis Federation (ITF). Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) president Dilawar Abbas said the ITF last month gave his country the option of playing its Group II tie against Oman scheduled for March 6-8 in either Oman or Malaysia. Abbas, denying there are security issues in his country, said the switch will incur losses to Pakistan and the ITF should pay compensation. “If the ITF still wants to switch the tie, we demand it to be played on a neutral venue, either in Singapore or Malaysia and not in Oman,” Abbas said.

SERVING

China’s Peng Shuai has a new coach. She began training with Tarik Benhabiles last month in Florida and will continue to work together fulltime throughout 2009. The 22-year-old Peng had split with former coach Zhang Depei. Benhabiles, who reached a career-high ranking of 22nd in the world and represented France in Davis Cup, ended his playing career in 1992 and coached a young Andy Roddick. He has worked with other players, including Benjamin Becker, Ivo Karlovic and Gael Monfils.

STEFFI THE TARGET

Andre Agassi’s former agent and longtime friend has filed a lawsuit against the tennis star’s wife, Steffi Graf. In the lawsuit, sports agent Perry Rogers charges Graf, herself an inductee into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, owes USD $50,000 to Rogers and his Alliance Sports Management Co. for services outlined in a 2002 agreement. Graf declined to comment. Her husband released a statement saying he was “saddened and disappointed” by the lawsuit. When Agassi and Rogers split last October, both described the parting as friendly.

STAYING PUT

The International Tennis Federation has decided to allow Nigeria to remain in the Euro/Africa Group 3 Davis Cup competition. The ITF initially dropped the African nation to Group 4 when the Nigerian team failed to show up in Bulgaria last March for their tie. But the ITF reversed its decision when it learned that the Bulgarian Embassy in Lagos, Nigeria, refused to give visas to the Nigerian team.

STEPPING DOWN

Oded Yaakov has stepped down as captain of Israel’s Fed Cup team, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family. However, Yaakov has not ruled out the possibility of coaching the national team again in the future. “When you have the soul of a coach, you’re wired with an element of competitiveness and adrenaline,” Yaakov said. “These are traits that stay with you, and you can’t get rid of them. I’m sure I’ll feel them again, and that’s why I’m not ruling out returning to the [Fed Cup] team sometime in the future.”

SAD NEWS

Former USA Davis Cup captain George MacCall is dead at the age of 90. MacCall directed the American Davis Cup teams in 1965-67 that featured Arthur Ashe, Dennis Ralston and Marty Riessen. He is credited with pushing through a rule that allowed the players to be paid USD $28 a day for expenses. MacCall, who won USA senior titles as a player, organized the National Tennis League in 1967 and signed Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Pancho Gonzalez, Fred Stolle among others. He also signed women players, including Billie Jean King, Rosie Casals, Ann Jones and Francoise Durr, helping force tennis into the Open Era.

SITES TO SURF

Doha: www.qatartennis.org

Brisbane: www.brisbaneinternational.com.au/

Chennai: www.chennaiopen.org/

Auckland: www.asbclassic.co.nz

Sao Paulo: www.abertosp.com.br/

Sydney: www.Medibankinternational.com.au

Hobart: www.hobartinternational.com.au

Australian Open: www.australianopen.com/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

ATP

$1,110,250 Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Doha, Qatar, hard

$484,750 Brisbane International, Brisbane, Australia, hard

$450,000 Chennai Open, Chennai, India, hard

$100,000 Prime Aberto de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil, hard

WTA TOUR

$220,000 Brisbane International, Brisbane, Australia, hard

$220,000 ASB Classic, Auckland, New Zealand, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$484,750 Medibank International, Sydney, Australia, hard

$480,750 Heineken Open, Auckland, New Zealand, hard

WTA TOUR

$600,000 Medibank International, Sydney, Australia, hard

$220,000 Moorilla Hobart International, Hobart, Australia, hard

Mondays With Bob Greene: I’m going to Shanghai really to represent France and all my family and my friends.

STARS

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat David Nalbandian 6-3 4-6 6-4 to win the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris, France

Nadia Petrova won the Bell Challenge, beating Bethanie Mattek 4-6 6-4 6-1 in Quebec City, Canada

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova won the Ritro Slovak Open in Bratislava, Slovak Republic, beating Michaella Krajicek 6-3 6-1

David Koellerer beat Pau Capdeville 6-4 6-3 to win the Bancolombia Open 2008 in Cali, Colombia

Ivo Minar beat Alex Bogomolov Jr. 6-1 2-0 retired to win the Flea Market Cup Busan Challenger in Busan, Korea

SAYINGS

“I’m going to go (to Shanghai) really to represent France and all my family and my friends. That’s it. I’m going to represent everyone and I’m going to give my best.” – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, after winning the Paris Masters and qualifying for the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai, China.

“I didn’t play bad, but I didn’t play like the other days.” – David Nalbandian, after losing to Tsonga in the final at Paris and a chance to qualify for the Tennis Masters Cup.

“If I feel like I want to continue to play, I will. If not, it will be over. For the moment, I just need to rest.” – Marat Safin, former world number one player on whether or not he will retire from tennis.

“Now I have a long journey ahead of me to Doha, but it’ll definitely be worth it. And then it’ll be really nice to put the racquets aside for a few weeks.” – Nadia Petrova, after winning the Bell Challenge.

“I saw him in the locker room five minutes before my match and he told me he had a pain in the back. I said, maybe we are both going to be going home tonight.” – Rafael Nadal, talking about Roger Federer after both withdrew from the Paris Masters with injuries.

“It wasn’t going to do me any good to play patty-cake back and forth with him. I’m not as quick as he is and I’m not as consistent as he is. It actually made for a pretty simple game plan.” – Andy Roddick, after his victory over Gilles Simon in Paris.

“I think with this calendar it’s very difficult to play a lot of years in a row. I think the ATP and everybody have to think about these things happening at the end of the season.” – Rafael Nadal, on the injuries to him and Federer.

“For him, it can’t all be serious. Off the court he is just a kid.” – Agent Tony Godsick, talking about his client, Roger Federer.

“We have now accomplished all that we set out to do at the USTA. The best time to move on is when the business is at an all-time high and a solid foundation has been built for the future.” – Arlen Kantarian, who is quitting at the end of the year as the USTA’s CEO for professional tennis.

SUSPENSEFUL

The world’s top two players turned up injured on the same day. First, second-ranked Roger Federer pulled out of his quarterfinal match at the BNP Paribas Masters with back pain. Then top-seeded Rafael Nadal dropped the first set before retiring from his match against Nikolay Davydenko with a knee injury. By his standards, Federer has had a down year, winning his fifth straight US Open title but losing in the final at both the French Open and Wimbledon, and also losing his world number one ranking. This is the first time since 2003 that Federer has gone the entire season without a Masters Series trophy, and his four titles this year are his fewest since 2002. Nadal, who had a trainer work on his right knee and thigh before he retired, said he had never had this kind of injury before.

SHANGHAI BOUND

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was instrumental in completing the field for the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai. Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina earned a spot in the elite field when Tsonga beat American James Blake in the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Masters. Then Tsonga clinched the final berth for himself when he beat David Nalbandian in the final in Paris. Earlier in the week, American Andy Roddick secured a spot in the Shanghai tournament by beating France’s Gilles Simon in a third-round match. Completing the singles field for the November 9-16 tournament are Spain’s Rafael Nadal, Swiss Roger Federer, Serb Novak Djokovic, Briton Andy Murray and Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko.

STRONG TEAMS

The final two teams to qualify for the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha, Qatar, are Kveta Peschke and Rennae Stubbs, along with Katherina Srebotnik and Ai Sugiyama. Previously qualified for the four-team field were Cara Black and Liezel Huber as well as Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual. The Peschke-Stubbs duo is making its second consecutive appearance as a team at the season finale.

STEPPING DOWN

Arlen Kantarian is leaving his post as the US Tennis Association’s chief executive officer for professional tennis. A former National Football League executive, Kantarian joined the USTA in March 2000 and is credited with turning the year’s final Grand Slam tournament into an entertainment spectacular. During his tenure, the US Open revenues jumped 80 percent as the tournament set annual records for attendance and revenue. He is credited with developing the instant replay and challenge format, moving the women’s final to Saturday night and securing television deals to boost the tournament’s profile and income.

STANDOUT

The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum will pay tribute to Jane Brown Grimes at a dinner in New York City in December. Grimes began a two-year stint as president of the United States Tennis Association in January 2007 and has been a member of the USTA Board for Directors for the past seven years. She represents the United States on the International Tennis Federation Fed Cup and Grand Slam Committees. She served as the Hall of Fame’s president and chief executive officer from 1991 until 2000, overseeing a major reconstruction of the historic buildings and grounds of the Hall of Fame’s headquarters in Newport, Rhode Island.

STOPPED SHORT

Aleksandra Wozniak’s bid to become the first Canadian to reach the final of the Bell Challenge women’s tournament ended when she fell to American Bethanie Mattek in the semifinals at Quebec City. A native of Blaineville, Quebec, the 21-year-old Wozniak won a tournament in Stanford, Connecticut, just before the US open, making her the first Canadian in 20 years to win a WTA title. Mattek fell in the title match to top-seeded Nadia Petrova.

SWISS STAR

When the United States plays Switzerland in the opening round of Davis Cup next year, the Americans will be facing Roger Federer again. The last time Federer played a first-round Davis Cup tie was in 2004, when he led the Swiss to victory over Romania. The United States and Switzerland have met only twice in Davis Cup play, with the countries splitting their two meetings. The Americans won the 1992 final at Fort Worth, Texas. The last time they played, Federer had a hand in all three points as the Swiss beat the United States in Basel, Switzerland, in a first-round match in 2001.

STEP IN STEP

Serena Williams and James Blake will team up for the Hopman Cup in January. Serena and Mardy Fish won the mixed teams title a year ago, the second time Williams has won the event. Blake also has won the Hopman Cup twice, joining with Serena in 2003 and with Lindsay Davenport in 2004. Tournament director Pal McNamee said the Americans will be the top-seeded team. Others who are scheduled to be in the field include Dinara Safina and her brother Marat Safin – if he decides to continue his career, Germans Sabine Lisicki and Nicolas Kiefer, and the Slovak duo of Dominika Cibulkova and Dominik Hrbaty.

SPOTLIGHTED

The season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships will be shown in the United States on the Tennis Channel and ESPN2. More than 30 live hours are planned from the prestigious women’s event being held this week in Doha, Qatar, almost all of which will be telecast in high definition. Combined with taped segments, the networks plan to televise close to 70 hours of high definition match coverage during the six-day tournament that features the world’s top eight singles players and top four doubles teams.

SINGLES HISTORY

History was made at a USD $10,000 International Tennis Federation women’s tournament in Vila Real De Santo Antonio, Portugal, when two Moroccan Fed Cup teammates met in the final. It was the first all-Moroccan singles final on the ITF Women’s Circuit. Nadia Lalami, playing in her first career singles final, won the tournament when Lamia Essaadi retired from the match while trailing 2-1 in the opening set. Lalami also teamed up with her regular Fed Cup doubles partner Fatima El Allami to win the doubles. Prior to 2008, Bahia Mouhtassine was the only Moroccan woman to win a singles title, and she finished her career with eleven singles titles. This year, however, has been a banner one for Moroccan women’s tennis as Essaadi won a tournament in July and El Allami won a title in August.

SAFIN THROUGH?

Marat Safin is not sure he wants to continue playing tennis. After the 28-year-old Russian suffered a first-round loss at the Paris Masters, he said: “I need to enjoy my life without tennis. I will see if I continue.” Safin won the US Open in 2000 and was ranked number one in the world. He also won the Australian Open in 2005, the last of his 15 titles. Many times he has self-destructed in matches, and his latest defeat was no exception. After losing the opening set, Safin began the second set with four double faults. His career has been hampered by his volatile temper and, more recently, injuries.

SERVING THE GAME

Harold Mitchell is one of four new directors on the Tennis Australia board. The others are former Fed Cup player Janet Young, Stephen Healy and Graeme Holloway. Mitchell is a media buyer. Tennis Australia president Geoff Pollard was re-elected to the job he has held since 1989.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Paris: Jonas Bjorkman and Kevin Ullyett beat Jeff Coetzee and Wesley Moodie 6-2 6-2

Quebec City: Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Vania King beat Jill Craybas and Tamarine Tanasugarn 7-6 (3) 6-4

Cali: Daniel Koellerer and Boris Pashanski beat Diego Junqueira and Peter Luczak 6-7 (4) 6-4 10-4 (match tiebreak)

Bratislava: Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka beat Akgul Amanmuradova and Monica Niculescu 7-6 (1) 6-1

Busan: Rik De Voest and Ashley Fisher beat Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-2 2-6 10-6 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Doha: www.Sonyericsson-championships.com

Sunrise: www.championsseriestennis.com/arizona2008/

Bratislava: www.stz.sk

Dnepropetrovsk: www.peoplenetcup.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

WTA TOUR

$4,450,000 Sony Ericsson Championships, Doha, Qatar, hard

$100,000 ITF women’s event, Krakow, Poland, hard

ATP

$106,500 Tatra Banka Open, Bratislava, Slovakia, hard

SENIORS

Cancer Treatment Centers of America Championships at Surprise, Surprise, Arizona

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$3,700,000 Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai, China, carpet

$125,000 PEOPLEnet Cup, Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, hard

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