Swiss Indoors Basel

Kvitova Inspires Czechs to Fed Cup, Djokovic £1m Better Off and Federer Triumphs in Basel

Kvitova Inspires Czechs to Fed Cup:

Petra Kvitova’s incredible 2011 culminated in another major prize as she led the Czech Republic to a tense 3-2 Fed Cup Final win over Russia that went down to the final rubber. Lucie Hradecka and Kveta Peschke defeated Maria Kirilenko and Elena Vesnina in the doubles to clinch the Czechs’ first title as an independent nation since splitting from Slovakia in 1993. Kvitova won her two singles rubbers against Svetlana Kuznetsova and Kirilenko but Kuznetsova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova’s wins over Lucie Safarova had pushed the tie all the way. “Petra won two points, but we needed one more,” said Czech captain Petr Pala. “I’m glad we’ve managed to [get] the third one. We all won it because victory is made of small pieces you have to put together. It’s team work.” Kvitova’s incredible 2011 saw her lift her first Grand Slam at Wimbledon, finish the year as world No.2 and now comes international success with her native Czech Republic.

Djokovic £1m Richer for Just Turning Up:

World number one Novak Djokovic cruised past Croatia’s Ivan Dodig in the second round of the Paris Masters on Wednesday and collected a cool $1.6m (£1m) for his troubles. The bonus relates to appearing in seven of this year’s ATP Masters Series events and he would have received it even if his shoulder injury that threatened his participation flared up and he had crashed out. He missed the Masters event in Shanghai with the problem and it flared up again during his Basel semi-final defeat to Kei Nishikori last week. “It was really funny to see how people are coming up with this story,” he said of pre-match media reports. “I even heard that I would get on court and just play one game to get this money – I mean,

this is ridiculous. We are all athletes, this is our job and we are all playing to get paid. I don’t see what is unusual about that. On the other hand,” the 24-year-old continued, “I came here to compete and because I want to play a tournament. If I know I am physically in good enough condition to compete I will compete. If I don’t, I will not compete. It is as simple as that. There is nothing else that can affect my decision.” However, Rafael Nadal will not be competing in Paris as he has taken time out to prepare “properly” for the ATP Finals in London and the upcoming Davis Cup final between Spain and Argentina in Seville, starting November 28.

Federer Lifts Second Title of 2011:

Roger Federer triumphed once more at his home Basel Open last weekend to secure only his second tournament win of 2011. The 30-year-old overpowered Kei Nishikori, who had shocked Novak Djokovic in the semis, 6-1, 6-3, and it bodes well with his intentions to finish the year strongly. “It’s great to win at home again,” he said. “Kei put up a good fight. I knew when I hit with him as a teenager that he could have a good future. It was a perfect match for me. Now I have big hopes for Paris and London [the ATP Tour Finals]. It’s been a long time since I felt so good physically.” Federer also spoke this week about his early plans for 2012, saying: “I’ve already said yes for Qatar (early January) and Rotterdam (mid-February). I’m talking with Dubai to see whether I’m going to play there as well, and then there will be Davis Cup (against the U.S. in Switzerland from February 10-12). Davis Cup will be announced as soon as I will make a decision for Dubai.” Meanwhile, in Valencia, the Bryan brothers claimed their 75th title together by defeating Eric Butorac and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-4, 7-6(9) in the final. It was their eighth title of the year.

Ivanovic can Bali Believe It:

Ana Ivanovic claimed her second consecutive Bali title by defeating Spain’s Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3, 6-0 on her 24th birthday. The $600,000 winner’s cheque will also be a welcome present. She hadn’t won one of the International tournaments used to qualify during 2011 but was given a wildcard as the reigning champion. “I felt like I didn’t do much wrong. It was a great match for me,” Ivanovic said in her on-court interview. “Anabel and I practiced together all week, so it was nice we got a chance to play each other on the last day of the tournament. Thank you so much to the tournament for giving me a wildcard this year.” Speaking of Ivanovic’s hopes of reaching No.1 in the world again, Garrigues said: “It will be difficult, but she has the technique, physique and mentality. Why not?”

Tsonga Closes on Finals:

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain 6-3, 6-4 for his 50th win of the season, the second time he has reached this feat during his career. It also sees him close in on his first ATP World Finals spot since 2008. A win over Andreas Seppi in the next round will guarantee his place in London. Seppi’s victim in round two, Nicolas Almagro, has seen his outside hopes of a London berth quashed by the defeat. Janko Tipsarevic and Gilles Simon are also still in with a chance but as eighth-ranked Mardy Fish has made it past the first round they will have to beat his final posting by going a couple of rounds further. Frenchman Gael Monfils has seen his hopes dashed with an early exit at the hands of Feliciano Lopez on Wednesday, much to the disappointment of the local crowd.

Spanish Flavour Heading for Auckland:

Spanish pair David Ferrer and Fernando Verdasco have signed up to play the pre-Australian Open event at Auckland. Ferrer is a two-time winner there, while Verdasco will be making his first appearance at the event, which will run from January 9-14 2012. “The Spaniards seem to like coming to Auckland, and it is great to finally get Fernando to play in the Heineken Open,” said tournament director Richard Palmer. “Not only is he a fresh face but he is also a very accomplished player as his record testifies. Over the years, many people have asked if it was possible to get him here.”

Del Potro Gains Rankings Respite:

His withdrawal from the Paris Masters may have ended his hopes of sneaking in to the ATP World Tour Finals in London later this month but Juan Martin del Potro may take some solace from his re-entry in to the Top 10 of the South African Airways ATP World Rankings this week at the expense of Janko Tipsarevic. Stanislas Wawrinka climbs four back in to the Top 20 at No.17. Spaniard Marcel Granollers’ win at Valencia sees him jump 28 places to No.26 in the world, while Nikolay Davydenko jumps 14 to re-enter the Top 50 at No.39. Juan Carlos Ferrero and Marcos Baghdatis also re-enter the Top 50. Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin jumps 21 places to No.85 in the world, while Sam Querrey is up 18 to No.93 and Karol Beck jumps 10 to No.99. Caroline Wozniacki closed out the year as the world No.1 in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings as had already been confirmed, and she was just one-week shy of holding that position for the entire calendar year. Kim Clijsters’ one week at the summit back in February put paid to that feat. The entire Top 10 finished as we were with Petra Kvitova (No.2), Victoria Azarenka (No.3) and Li Na, (No.5) all posting their career-best year-end rankings. Germany’s Sabine Lisicki finishes the year by climbing three to No.15 in the world, while Ana Ivanovic’s Bali win sees her finish at No.22. Ayumi Morita of Japan jumps from No.54 to finish the year in to Top 50 at No.47, and Britain’s Anne Keothavong is up 10 to No.73. Iryna Bremond (No.95), Patricia Mayr-Achleitner (No.99) and Kimiko Date-Krumm (No.100) all make last-minute jumps to finish the year inside the Top 100.

Federer Makes More GOAT Race Points at Season’s Close:

Roger Federer’s win in Basel last week sees him add 200 points to his GOAT Race total for 2011, while he also gains another 10 points for entering the Paris Masters this week. Rafael Nadal’s decision to skip Paris with his eyes on upcoming commitments means he again remains point-less for the week.

Roger: 1320, Rafa: 1930

Kvitova Wins WTA Finals, Tipsarevic Could Now Miss London and Azarenka Believes Top Girls can Dominate

Kvitova Takes Year-End Finals:

Rising Czech star Petra Kvitova defeated Victoria Azarenka 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in the final of the WTA Championships in Istanbul. The 21-year-old now finds herself at No.2 in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings and with a chance to overhaul Caroline Wozniacki as the world’s top player going in to the 2012 Australian Open in January should she have a better warm up to the year’s first slam than the Danish star. She also adds a cool £1.1m to her bank balance after securing a clean sweep in the round robin stages, without dropping a set, and then beating off both Sam Stosur and Azarenka in the knock-out rounds to get her hands on the trophy. “It was unbelievable tennis,” said Kvitova of the final. “We were both really fighting. Every game and every set was very close. Maybe I played better on the important points in the match.” She was also understandably delighted with her season, in which she also lifted her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon. “When I started this season we didn’t have a goal,” she added. “We just wanted to improve my game and now I am no.2 and Wimbledon champion. It is just a dream.” She has also weighed in to the great grunt debate surrounding the WTA Tour at the moment by claiming that she needs her post-point-winning shriek as it is a mandatory part of her game. “Sometimes I need it because I have to say something at [an] important point, and otherwise when I’m mentally a little bit down I have to be fighting again, and it’s important for me,” she said.

Tipsarevic’s London Hopes Take Swiss Hit:

Serbian star Janko Tipsarevic’s outside chances of making the ATP World Finals took a massive hit in Basel this week after he suffered a left hamstring injury and had to retire at 1-5 in the first set against Germany’s Florian Meyer. If he is to make up the ground on world No.8 Mardy Fish he will have to at least reach the final of next week’s BNP Paribas Masters in Paris. He currently sits 570 points behind the American in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings. Fish himself went out in the first round to the same injury against his compatriot James Blake. Another hopeful, Tomas Berdych, is also out after a first-round loss to Kei Nishikori. Elsewhere, Roger Federer was named Basel’s greatest ever competitor as his countrymen gave him 78.5% of the 40,000 votes cast. He beat the likes of Novak Djokovic, Mats Wilander, Yannick Noah and Stefan Edberg to the crown. “Obviously everyone knows how much the tournament here in Basel means to me,” said the four-time winner. “There’s a big voting going on here in Switzerland for this award. I haven’t seen so many people vote for a sporting award in a very long time. I’m happy so many people took part in it.” Djokovic suffered a first round scare against Xavier Malisse before finally triumphing 6-2, 4-6, 7-5. He took to the courts in a Halloween mask, stating: “Every year for the last five years it’s a tradition at Halloween, which usually is during Paris-Bercy, that I go out with some crazy mask,” explained Djokovic. “This year it happened one week earlier, so I hope that people don’t mind. It was just tradition and a little bit of fun.”

Azarenka: “We Can Dominate”:

Victoria Azarenka believes that Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki and herself, the world’s top three players, can dominate tennis for years to come. Ranging in age from 20-23, the Belarusian believes they possess the consistency to challenge for all the major titles. “Three, five years, it’s such a long time. My God, I don’t know,” she said of their chances. “But I think Petra, me, Caroline, we have been pretty consistent and showed some great results this year. [We] really stepped it up, especially Petra who won a Grand Slam, really made it to the elite, I would say. I think the way the game is today, it’s unpredictable, but definitely with the consistency with the game we have, we have a chance to dominate the game.” But former world No.1 Mats Wilander has countered that judgement by questioning world No.1 Wozniacki’s mental makeup. “The thing is, we know she can win small tournaments, what we don’t know is if mentally she can win the big ones,” Wilander told Reuters. “We know Wozniacki has the head to be consistent but we don’t know if she’s got the head to wrap her thoughts around winning a Grand Slam. Her game is not there just yet. The ranking is the result of not necessarily being the best player in the world, it’s the result of being the most consistent player in the world,” he continued. “That’s what it reflects. She’s certainly not the best player in the world at her best, but at her worst she’s probably the best player in the world compared to the others.”

Huber Year-End Doubles Number One:

American doubles specialist Liezel Huber will end the year as the top-ranked WTA doubles player for the fourth time in her career. She will now extend her total of weeks at the top to 164 in to January, taking her above her former partner Cara Black to second in the all-time list behind Martina Navratilova (237). Huber has 48 doubles titles to her name, including five Grand Slams.

No Swiss Foray for Murray:

Andy Murray has pulled out of the Swiss Indoors in Basel because of a right gluteal muscle strain. The 24-year-old is unbeaten in 15 matches thanks to three-straight titles in Asia this autumn and he was due to face Dutchman Robin Haase in the first round. “I was struggling to walk,” said the world No.3. “I trained twice on Monday and felt fine after that. It was a bit better on Tuesday morning and I went to a pool for some exercises and had a light hit. But this morning [Wednesday] I knew it was still not good enough. I don’t know how I did it or what it came from. I’ve never had anything like this before.” Home-grown talent Marco Chiudinelli replaces him in the draw. The injury shouldn’t affect his participation at the ATP World Finals in London later this month.

Stosur Up for Home Challenge:

New world No.6 Sam Stosur says she can handle the home pressure despite never making the Aussie Open quarter-finals in 11 attempts. After winning the US Open, her maiden Slam, and reaching the semis of the WTA Finals she now believes she is equipped to go far at the event. “I don’t know if there’s anything I necessarily have to change; I was quite happy with the way I handled it all last year and came up against a player [Petra Kvitova, in the third round] who was playing very well and obviously has had a great year as well, so I don’t think that was anything really to be ashamed of,” she said. “But as each year goes by there are more things I have to experience and go through, and I don’t think there’s any greater experience than the U.S. Open, so hopefully that is going to put me into a good spot to handle all that going into the Aussie Open. I know it’s going to be different in Melbourne than what it was in New York, but I’m looking forward to it.”

Federer Wants Strong Finish:

Roger Federer says he is focussed on a strong finish to the season after slipping to No.4 in the world, his lowest position since 2003. “I don’t even know what it takes [to regain the No. 3 position],” admitted the 30-year-old, who has finished in the Top Two for a record eight years. “My goal is trying to win when I’m playing the next few weeks. The focus right now is trying to play well here in Basel. The next round is my priority, but clearly after winning here, semis in Paris with match points and winning London [all in 2010], I know I can do extremely well. And if I’m three or four at the end of the year, we’ll see, but if I’m going to make a move I need to win tournaments and that’s what it’s going to take.”

Safin can “Become Russian President”:

Former world No.1 Pete Sampras believes that former Russian star Marat Safin can eventually become Russian President as he enters politics. The two-time Grand Slam winner is running for a seat in Russia’s Duma (parliament) in September and Sampras said: “Marat is very intelligent, articulate and well-spoken so I think it’s great that he’s getting involved in government in his homeland. I think he’ll do a great job – he’s good with people and people like him, and that’s half the battle with being a politician. He’s very young and it’s nice to see that he’s got this passion in him…In 20 years Marat will be the President of Russia! Trust me, this guy is going to go a long way. The guy is an international star and the future President.”

Ranking Points Mean Prizes as Finals Edge Closer:

France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga climbed above Mardy Fish to No.7 in the world in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings this week after his Vienna final win over fellow hopeful Juan Martin del Potro last weekend. With the tournaments underway in Basel and Valencia and the Paris Masters taking place next week these are the final chances to get ranking points on the board. Below Fish; Nicolas Almagro, Janko Tipsarevic, Del Potro and Gilles Simon are all hopeful of gate-crashing the party.  The Argentine Del Potro is up two to No.11. Marin Cilic is up three to No.19 in the world, while Julien Benneteau is in to the Top 50 at No.49. Petra Kvitova has climbed to No.2 in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings on the back of her confident WTA Finals victory, her highest ever position, with Victoria Azarenka up to No.3. Russia’s Maria Sharapova drops down to No.4. Sam Stosur climbs above Vera Zvonareva to No.6. Britain’s Elena Baltacha enters the Top 50 for the first time in her career, while the Czech Andrea Hlavackova is in to the Top 100 at No.98.

Federer Earns GOAT Race Points in Basel:

Roger Federer’s entry in to the Basel Indoors this week adds ten points to his Greatest of All Time Race total for the calendar year as the final tournaments of the year begin. The Paris Masters next week and the ATP Finals present the final chances of the year to register points.

Roger: 1110, Rafa: 1930