Thailand Open

Safina has “No Return”, Li Na Continues Year of Firsts and Tipsarevic Joins Winner’s Circle

Safin says Safina is Done:

Marat Safin says that his little sister Dinara Safina is finished on the tennis circuit. The former world No.1 has not been seen since May and has struggled tremendously over the past two years with a back injury that has seriously limited her playing time. She has dropped as low as No.129 in the world. “Dinara was injured two years ago, in Beijing, remember?” Safin told Eurosport.  “She left, but never recovered completely. She tried to return, but only aggravated the crisis. Now she needs to keep her back to be able to walk normally and live a normal life. [Her back] will continue to be treated, but she will play no more…She will make an official statement herself, but as her brother, I believe that there is no chance of return.”

Firsts Continue for Li Na:

Li Na’s record-breaking year continues as she becomes the first Chinese player to qualify to play singles at the year-ending WTA Finals. She joins Caroline Wozniacki, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka in guaranteeing her place in Istanbul. $5m will be shared out among the players as the tournament switches from a two-year stint in Doha and Li will be hoping for a large slice of the spoils. “This year has been the most successful of my career so far and I’m very happy to have qualified for the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships,” Li said. “I’m proud to be the first Chinese woman to qualify in singles for this event and I look forward to some tough matches against the best players of the season.” In January she became the first Asian player to reach a Grand Slam final at the Australian Open and she bettered that in June by becoming Asia’s first winner at the French Open. She has also become Asia’s highest-ranked player this year, peaking at No.4 on the WTA World Rankings.

Tipsarevic Nets Maiden Title:

Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic has finally rid himself of the unwanted mantra of being the only player in the ATP Top 20 not to win a title. He defeated Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis in the Malaysian Open final 6-4, 7-5 to win an ATP Tour final at the fifth time of asking. “It feels great. I think I deserved it,” said the 27-year-old. “I’m so happy that it came in a good place, at a tournament that is really, really nice, and against a good player. Marcos Baghdatis has played in 11 finals and was a former Top 10 player, a Grand Slam finalist. So I feel happy that I won against a great player in a final that I hope kept the fans on the edge of their seats until the very end. I could not be happier.” Over in Bangkok, world No.4 Andy Murray was way too strong for American Donald Young as he annihilated the man who had embarrassed him in the first round at Indian Wells 6-2, 6-0. “In terms of the way I’m playing it’s very good to get off to a start like that on this stretch and hopefully I can continue that through Shanghai,” said the Scot. “It’s a very good start. Roger [Federer] always plays very well on the European indoor courts, so I’m sure I’m going to have to win a lot more matches if I want to finish No.3 [in the world this year]. That’s the goal and I’ll keep working hard to give myself a shot at doing that.”

Djokovic Makes Rafa “Nervous”:

Toni Nadal thinks that his nephew Rafa may be getting nervous when he faces Novak Djokovic after he watched him fall at the Serb’s feet six times this year. “It is clear that there have been too many losses and it is true that Rafael has become nervous [during] their recent matches and so far, there is the reality that Djokovic is playing superior to the rest….I hope it does not last forever,” he said. “Rafael’s type of game has worked well against Djokovic and has been very spirited. We must return to make a change, not [in] his game, but of mentality and try to win again.”

Federer Second Biggest Sporting Brand:

Forbes have named Roger Federer the second biggest sporting brand in the world, behind one of the other three ‘Gillette Champions’ Tiger Woods. “Federer holds the most impressive endorsement portfolio in all of sports with 10 major deals, including a Nike sponsorship that is the most lucrative in all of tennis,” said Forbes. “He is also the only one of Gillette’s original three ‘Champions’ to have his deal renewed this year as the brand dropped Tiger Woods and Thierry Henry.” Earlier this year, Forbes listed Federer 25th in its annual list of the world’s 100 most influential celebrities.

Ivanovic Returning to Bali:

Ana Ivanovic will return to the Bali setting of her Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions win in November after receiving the first wild card in to the tournament courtesy of the organisers. The event brings together the eight best performers over the year’s International series of WTA tournaments and the 24-year-old will be given the chance to defend her title. “It almost goes without saying Bali is one of the most beautiful places on the tennis circuit – probably the best, in fact,” Ivanovic said. “I had a wonderful time there last year. Off the court I was able to relax on the beach, but on the court I played some of my best tennis and was so happy to win the title.”

Savic Banned for Match Fixing:

Serbian tennis player David Savic has been banned for life from professional tennis after being found guilty of match fixing. The 26-year-old world No.659 was also fined $100,000 after being found guilty of three violations. He is only the second player to be found guilty of such charges after Germany’s Daniel Koellerer was also banned in May. Savic reached a career-high No.369 in the world in 2009 but has never played above the Challenger circuit. Savic, though, claims he was set up by an unnamed top player, and that the allegations against him are an “absolute lie”.

Azarenka Out of Beijing:

Victoria Azarenka has pulled out of the China Open with a right foot injury, giving Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova a walkover win.

GB Win Junior Davis Cup:

Great Britain have won the Junior Davis Cup for the first time after defeating Italy in the final, in Mexico’s San Luis Potosi. With former world No.4 Greg Rusedski coaching them, Evan Hoyt, Kyle Edmund and Luke Bambridge justified their top seeding by bringing home the spoils. Hoyt and Edmund won the two singles rubbers, meaning the doubles was not needed to be played. “I’m very proud of our team,” said Rusedski. “It feels great to be the first British team ever to win the Junior Davis Cup.”

Stars Pay Tribute to Japan while Competing in Tokyo:

Some of the world’s biggest names have been paying tribute and pledging their support to the Japanese people following the year the country has endured. Still recovering from natural and nuclear disasters it is a small miracle that these events are taking place at all. “It has been a really hard year for all the Japanese people,” said world No.2 Rafael Nadal. “For people like me, who was here in the past, can make some sense about what happened. The reason why I am here is that I believe Japan is a fantastic country and a safe country. The people are very, very nice and I always send all my support to the people and the country.” Rising star Milos Raonic revealed that he had been following proceedings with a vested interest. “My dad is a nuclear engineer and kept following what has been going on. He kept me up-to-date with the news. I know it has been a really tough time, but I am happy people are getting back to their homes. There is still a lot of work to be done. But I wish all the best to the Japanese people and to the country. It is a very respectful and well mannered country. They treat us so well.” World No. 4 Andy Murray added: “I hadn’t played here for five or six years, but the people look after us really well here. They put on a nice tournament for the players, there are many practice courts and the hotel is very close and convenient. I think that is why they get strong fields and hopefully I will be back a few more times.”

Race for Finals On in Rankings Watch:

With few opportunities remaining to garner rankings points for the upcoming ATP and WTA finals in London and Istanbul, America’s Mardy Fish currently sits in eighth on the South African Airways ATP World Rankings, but Gael Monfils and Tomas Berdych are not far behind him. With Monfils missing both Beijing and Shanghai through injury qualification doesn’t look overly optimistic for him. Nicolas Almagro and Gilles Simon, in 11th and 12th respectively, will not be happy with early exits in Beijing this week as they try to make up ground on those above them. Donald Young enters the Top 50 for the first time this week after reaching the final at Bangkok, while Japan’s Kei Nishikori is in to the Top 50 at No.47, one below his career-best No.46 in May. Germany’s Matthias Bachinger climbs ten to No.88, while Federico Gil, Joao Souza and Tobias Kamke are in to the Top 100. Vera Zvonareva climbs back up to No.3 in the world in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings this week while Petra Kvitova is in to the Top 5 for the first time. Kim Clijsters climbs back in to the Top 8 with Istanbul around the corner, which Francesca Schiavone the unlucky star who falls out of the qualification berths. Ana Ivanovic is back in to the Top 20 at No.18. Iveta Benesova and Christina McHale are in to the Top 50 and Stephanie Dubois and Romina Oprandi are in to the Top 100.

Nadal Back in Action for GOAT Race Points:

With Roger Federer again sidelined by injury Rafael Nadal has earned himself a little more room in the GOAT race as he trundles towards a long-ago evident victory. By entering Tokyo Nadal earns an extra ten points, which makes the scores:

Roger: 1100 Rafa: 1920

Roger Federer: Setting Records Around The World

Tennis fans have been very amused at the new NetJets television advertisement featured Roger Federer pulled a luggage rack full of all of his Grand Slam tournament trophies to his private jet. Federer indeed leads a jet-set lifestyle that really began to take shape in 2004 – the first year that he won the US Open. The following chapter from the Federer biography THE ROGER FEDERER STORY: QUEST FOR PERFECTION by Rene Stauffer ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com) – entitled “Setting Records Around The World” – documents a bit of the high-life of Federer and the tail end of his 2004 season.

Following his triumph at the US Open, Roger Federer and his girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec experienced four very exciting and diverse weeks. Arthur Cohn, an Academy Award-winning producer and, like Federer, a native of Basel, invited his friend to celebrate his US Open victory with him in Los Angeles. Roger and Mirka got their first introduction to Hollywood’s glamorous world. They took up residence in a luxury suite in Beverly Hills, went shopping on Rodeo Drive, visited attractions such as the Walk of Fame and met film greats such as Kirk Douglas and Danny de Vito. In between it all, Federer treated his body to hours of relaxation in the spa. Another highlight of this trip was an excur­sion in a private jet to Las Vegas to take in magician David Copperfield’s show at the Hotel Bellagio. Following the show, Federer met with Copperfield—a meeting of two magicians, one could say.

The jet-set life continued smoothly. Federer then jetted across the Pacific Ocean and the International Date Line and made a stop-over in Hong Kong, where he conducted a media day for the Asian press. The next stop was Bangkok and the Thailand Open. Traveling in a minivan from the tour­nament facilities to his hotel through the humid, rain-soaked metropolis, Federer explained that he enjoyed moving about in the world of the beautiful, the rich and the famous. “I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t want to,” he said. “I find getting to know show business exciting. I used to have trouble with the world of red carpets and formal dinners but now I’m having fun. It’s also not difficult for me to talk to other people. There’s always something to say.”

He particularly enjoyed Asia’s hospitality and the enthusiasm of the peo­ple—he was also enamored with Asian cuisine. In contrast to the other players at the event, Federer stayed at the Oriental Hotel on the Chao Phraya River, a traditional, colonial-styled structure and the best hotel in the city. Federer, in the meantime, made the conscious decision to avoid the official tournament hotels. He noticed that he could settle down quicker and relax better when he stayed away from the tournament crowd. Hotel rooms were havens where he could recuperate and escape—and he was willing to pay extra dollar for this extra luxury, but as the king of the tennis world, he was still often offered special rates to stay in the best suites in the best hotels. In Paris, it may have been the noble Hotel du Crillon, or the seven star Burj al Arab in Dubai, or the Peninsula in New York.

Federer’s trip to Bangkok ended in success—he won the Thailand Open with a 6-4, 6-0 win over Andy Roddick in a sold-out final in front of 10,000-plus spectators. It was his 12th consecutive victory in a tournament final, tying the all-time record set by Björn Borg and John McEnroe. He received the “Trophy of the King” at the award ceremony from Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya and expressed his gratitude in the country’s customary way, mak­ing a slight bow with hands folded over his chest. “I was surprised at how attractive the Princess was. She looked 35,” he said later after a long walk through many hallways accompanied by five bodyguards while retiring to his plain and windowless single dressing room. “She’s supposed to be 55!”

His “jet-set” world tour was now in its sixth week but he did not return di­rectly home after Bangkok. For the third time during the 2004 calendar year, Federer went to Dubai. What nobody knew was that the Australian coach Tony Roche was also in Dubai, on assignment to spend a few days of training with Federer in the initial stages of what later became their fascinating player-coach relationship.

By early October, Federer already won ten titles in the 2004 season. His match record stood at 69-6 and there were still four tournaments remaining on his schedule. Two more important ATP records were within reach—most victories in a season (86) and most tournament titles in a season (12), both set in 1995 by the left-handed Austrian clay courter Thomas Muster. But then, the unexpected happened. Federer withdrew from the event in Madrid because he didn’t feel sufficiently rested after his world tour. He preferred to concentrate his energies on winning the event that was as high on his wish-list as the French Open—the Swiss Indoors. At the tournament’s Monday opening presentation in Basel’s town hall, Federer was in a fine mood, upbeat and told all the assembled media how well prepared he was for the week. However, just a few hours later, he was overtaken during a practice session by what must have been the curse of Basel—he suddenly felt an unusual pain in his left thigh. The pain persisted during his practice session on Tuesday. He hastily underwent a magnetic resonance imaging examination, which re­vealed a muscle fiber rupture—an injury common for tennis players.

Instead of his long-desired triumph in his hometown, the Swiss Indoors brought him some of the bitterest hours of his career. He showed up at the St. Jakobshalle Tuesday evening—when he was scheduled to make his tourna­ment start—wearing street clothes. He withdrew from the tournament and explained to the media and the public what happened. “I never imagined that it would turn out like this,” he said. “I had made perfect preparations and had a good chance at winning the tournament.”

Federer recovered just in time to travel to Houston in his attempt to de­fend his title at the Tennis Masters Cup. However, the second year at the Westside Tennis Club was completely different than the previous year. Jim McIngvale—“Mattress Mack”—took last year’s criticisms by Federer and his fellow players to heart and significantly improved the conditions of the tour­nament. Each of the eight participants now had their own dressing room. The differences between Federer and McIngvale were resolved and the tourna­ment promoter and his wife warmly welcomed the world’s No. 1 player and congratulated him graciously for his impressive 2004 season. Federer finally felt welcome and appreciated in Texas. McIngvale even facilitated for Federer a lunch with former American President George Bush Sr., a self-confessed tennis fan, and his wife Barbara, both residents of Houston. However, there was something that McIngvale could not facilitate with his influence and his deep pocketbook—good weather. Most of the week featured rainy and windy weather, spreading gloom among fans, players and officials and causing long and persistent match delays.

At least Federer was fully recovered from his thigh injury. Six weeks went by since his last tournament competition in Bangkok, but surprisingly, he had little trouble immediately finding his rhythm. Federer negotiated round-robin wins over Gaston Gaudio, Lleyton Hewitt and Carlos Moya to reach the semifinals, where he faced Marat Safin, who was now tutored by Federer’s old coach Peter Lundgren.

The Federer-Safin semifinal was highlighted by the second-set tie-break that lasted 27 minutes and ended 20-18 in Federer’s favor. The 38 points matched the record for the longest tie-break in tennis history—equaling the amount of points Björn Borg and Premjit Lall played at Wimbledon in 1973 and that Goran Ivanisevic and Daniel Nestor played at the 1993 US Open. “Too bad we didn’t break the record,” Federer joked. “We should have made an arrangement to do this.” Federer was in a good mood because even though he blew seven match points, he also fought off six set points and won the match 6-3, 7-6 (18). Interestingly enough, television replays showed that Federer actually won the match on his third match point when leading 10-9, when the TV replay showed Federer was the victim of a bad line call. “I even saw the mark Safin’s shot made and it was out,” he stated. Almost any other player would have frantically protested such an injustice, especially at such a critical point in the match. Federer, however, reacted as if nothing had hap­pened, even though he would have won the match on Safin’s mistake. He remained entrenched in the dog fight and said he intentionally convinced himself that Safin’s stroke probably landed in. “I would have gone nuts oth­erwise,” he said.

In the other semifinal, Roddick’s game buckled against Hewitt as the American lost the last 20 points of the match, losing 6-3, 6-2. Some cynics actually offered that Roddick may have welcomed defeat to avoid a fourth final-round loss to Federer for the year. Instead, it was now Federer against Hewitt for the sixth time on the season, and for the sixth time, Federer emerged the winner. The 6-3, 6-2 win gave Federer his 13th consecutive vic­tory in a tournament final, breaking the record he previously shared with McEnroe and Borg for most consecutive victories in tournament finals.

As Federer toasted with Champagne in the player’s lounge after his post-match interview with the press, he seemed like anybody who had just ended a normal work week. But on this day, a dream year came to a close. Federer won 11 titles, three Grand Slam tournaments as well as the Tennis Masters Cup. His won-loss record for the year stood at 74-6, marking the best winning per­centage since John McEnroe went 82-3 in 1984. His reward was lavish. Just in this week—like the year before in Houston—he set a personal record in prize money winning $1.52 million and raised his season earnings to $6,357,547.

Since his devastating loss to Berdych at the Olympic Games, Federer went undefeated for the remainder of the year. He was now the champion of four Grand Slam tournaments and finished the year as the No. 1 player in the world. Federer still had one more wish before he and Mirka jetted off to the Maldive Islands for some rest and relaxation—“I would like to make time stand still and just enjoy this moment.” But nobody, of course, could fulfill this wish.

Mondays With Bob Greene: I played unbelievable tennis against Novak

STARS

Andy Roddick won the China Open by beating Dudi Sela 6-4 6-7 (6) 6-3 in Beijing, China

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Novak Djokovic 7-6 (4) 6-4 to win the Thailand Open in Bangkok, Thailand

Jelena Jankovic beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3 6-2 to win the China open women’s singles in Beijing

Maria Kirilenko defeated Samantha Stosur to win the Hansol Korea Open in Seoul, South Korea, 2-6 6-1 6-4

Alberto Martin beat Julian Reister 6-2 6-0 to win the ATP Challenger Trophy 2008 in Trnava, Slovakia

John McEnroe won the Vivium Victory Challenge in Luxembourg, beating Henri Leconte 6-1 6-4

Jim Courier beat Todd Martin 6-2 3-6 10-5 (match tiebreak) to win the Citadel Group Championships at The Palisades in Charlotte, North Carolina

SAYINGS

“I’ve been dreaming about this, so I’m very happy. I played unbelievable tennis against Novak. It’s one of the great moments of my life.” – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, after beating Novak Djokovic to win the Thailand Open, his first ATP singles title.

“I lost to a great player. Bravo to Jo and his team for his first ATP title. I’m sure we’ll be seeing him again often in the future.” – Novak Djokovic.

“This feels really good. It’s been a lot of years since I’ve won one of these events, so many that I can’t even remember the last one I won.” – John McEnroe, after beating Henri Leconte to win the Vivium Victory Challenge.

“At first I couldn’t believe it. I thought that maybe they were joking or something. Me, playing with all these great players like Borg, McEnroe, Guillermo Vilas and Henri Leconte, is incredible. When I started to play tennis, Borg was my idol, so this is the most fantastic thing for me.” – Johny Goudenbour, who was given a wild card to play in a BlackRock Tour of Champions event in Luxembourg.

“If I was more consistent I think I would be ranked higher, maybe Top 10 or Top 15. But I have time to improve. I’m only 21 and I’ll get more experience in the time to come.” – Maria Kirilenko, after winning her third singles title of the year.

“Svetlana beat me two times this year. I was really motivated to get a win against her, and winning in two sets is very satisfying.” – Jelena Jankovic, after beating Svetlana Kuznetsova to win the China Open.

“I’m disappointed. I wasn’t moving the ball or doing the right things on the court. I love playing here, so it was disappointing to not play well in the final.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova.

“This was a good win for me. It was in China and in front of my home crowd. There were lots of fans supporting me, which gave me even more motivation.” – Zheng Jie, after upsetting Ana Ivanovic in the China Open.

“I was defending a lot. It was like running a marathon out there. She was really aggressive and was dominating a lot. I didn’t even realize how much I was running out there.” – Ana Ivanovic, after losing to Zheng Jie.

“I had a lot of pressure on me during those years and I was too young for it. … This time, win or lose, I’m just trying to enjoy it. I’m going to have more fun. And I think this will be good for Japanese tennis too.” – Kimiko Date-Krumm, on her returning to tennis after a 12-year hiatus following her retirement.

“I didn’t feel comfortable on court. Unfortunately, I didn’t win. The other guy was better than me.” – Marat Safin, after suffering a 6-4 7-6 first-round loss to Philipp Petzschner at the Thailand Open.

“Roger (Federer) has said he wants to put the Davis Cup into his calendar, but he wants to see all the details first. He will do anything possible to be there.” – Swiss Tennis spokeswoman Sandra Perez on whether Federer will play in a first-round Davis Cup tie against the United States.

“I will have to digest this one and make sure I go back on the right track for the next few tournaments.” – Amelie Mauresmo, a former world number one who has lost her last two first-round matches.

“People tend to think athletes have a glamorous life, traveling all the time to international destinations and staying at five-star hotels. But in reality it is not all that great. We do go through some difficult moments in our careers, with struggles, intrigues and fights, like in any other job.” – Fernando Meligeni, who has written a book about his 14-year career as a professional tennis player.

“As an American player it meant a lot to me to break the record. It’s nice to have the opportunity to play so many great pro circuit events in this country. I’ve played most of the pro circuit events held in the US and have met a lot of wonderful people, and have a lot of good memories from the different tournaments.” – Julie Ditty, after becoming the new record-holder of the most career USTA Pro Circuit titles.

SERVING WITH THE STARS

Johny Goudenbour’s day job is with the local tourist board in Luxembourg. But he lived a dream this past week at the Vivium Victory Challenge, a stop on the BlackRock Tour of Champions. Goudenbour was Luxembourg’s highest ranked tennis player for six consecutive years in the 1980s, and he reached a career high world ranking of 304. Now 45 years old, Goudenbour still plays inter-club level tennis in neighboring Germany, but his main job these days is putting together cultural films promoting his home town. He was surprised when he received a telephone call offering him a wild card into the seniors tournament being played in Luxembourg. Goudenbour upset both Carl-Uwe Steeb and Cedric Pioline before losing to Henri Leconte 6-2 7-5.

SECURITY CONCERNS

With tennis tournaments scheduled for the country in November, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has expressed its concern to Pakistan about security. A Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) offical said the ITF did not call for cancellation of the events, but asked for details on security arrangements in view of travel advisories issued by the United States, European and other countries. A record number of players from Great Britain, Australia, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Tanzania, Romania, Kazakistan, Iran, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Taiwan and India have entered the first tournament, which will be held in Islamabad.

SUING ATP?

His lawyer says Nikolay Davydenko is considering suing the ATP to get the men’s tennis organization to pay the Russian’s legal costs following a 13-month gambling inquiry that found no evidence that he did anything wrong. Attorney Frank Immenga said Davydenko wants the ATP to issue a more positive press statement and “maybe apologize,” according to the Bloomberg news agency. Davydenko also is considering taking action against Betfair Ltd., the British gambling site, for making public details of its probe into a Davydenko match.

STILL TOUGH

Andy Roddick says the game of tennis in the United States is in good health despite no American man winning a Grand Slam title in five years. Roddick was the last American man to win a major, the US Open in 2003. But the former world number one notes that the United States has three players in the top 25 and two in the top ten. Plus, he points out that the US won the Davis Cup in 2007 and the fact that the brothers Bob and Mike Bryan are the world’s top-ranked doubles team. “If you compare us with other countries, we’re very, very strong,” Roddick said.

SINO STAR

Zheng Jie is proving her Wimbledon showing was no surprise. The right-hander upset second-seeded Ana Ivanovic 7-6 (4) 2-6 6-4 at the China Open in a quarterfinal baseline slugfest that lasted six minutes short of three hours. It was Zheng’s second straight win over her Serbian opponent in as many 2008 meetings. She beat Ivanovic at Wimbledon to become the first Chinese player to topple a reigning world number one. It also was her first Top 10 win. In the Beijing tournament, she also beat Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, giving Zheng her second and third career wins over players ranked in the Top 10.

SPORTS HALL INDUCTEE

Billie Jean King is in yet another hall of fame. The tennis great is one of four athletes elected to the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame (BASHOF). Others included in the 2009 class are baseball pitcher Gaylord Perry, football tight end Dave Casper and quarterback Craig Morton. The four will be inducted at a banquet March 9 in San Francisco.

SELECTED

Two-time Grand Slam champion Rod Laver has been elected a Life Trustee of the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum in Newport, Rhode Island. Nine new members have been elected to the Hall’s board of directors: Douglas Fonte, Lucy Garvin, Elizabeth Jeffett, Ted Leonsis , Andrew McElwee Jr., David Westin, Allen Brill, David Tyree and Nancy von Auersperg. Returning to the board are Robert Downey, Steve Lessing and Sue Ann Weinberg.

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SKIPPING OUT

Simone Bolelli has been banned by the Italian Tennis Federation from national team events for skipping the country’s Davis Cup matches with Latvia. Bolelli, ranked 45th in the world, chose instead to play tour events in Bangkok, Thailand, and in Tokyo, Japan. Bolelli said he told Italian Davis Cup captain Corrado Barrazzutti well in advance of the international team competition that he preferred to work on his fast-court game in Asia.

SWISS START

For the second time in nine years, the United States could face a Roger Federer-led Switzerland team when the two countries meet in a first-round Davis Cup match next year. The last time they faced each other, Federer won three points to lead Switzerland to victory in 2001. Spain and Argentina, this year’s finalists, will begin next year’s play at home, Argentina facing the Netherlands and Spain playing host to Serbia. In other World Group first-round matches, France will be at the Czech Republic, Chile at Croatia, Israel travels to Sweden and Austria goes to Germany.

SHRIVER CHARITY CLASSIC

US Open champion Serena Williams and Olympic gold medalist Elena Dementieva will face each other at the 23rd annual Pam Shriver Charity Tennis Classic in November. Williams is ranked number one in the world, while Dementieva is ranked number four. They will meet in a “Battle of Olympic Gold Medal Champions.” Williams teamed with her sister Venus to win the doubles gold medal at the Beijing Olympics. Net proceeds from the Tennis Classic are distributed to children’s charities under the guidance of the Baltimore Community Foundation.

SAYING IT ALL

Former ATP star Fernando Meligeni has turned author. His book – “Aqui Tem! Vitórias e Memórias de Fernando Meligeni com Andre Kfouri” – was released last week in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The book was written by Meligeni and Andre Kfouri, a well-known sports journalist in Brazil who currently is working for ESPN. Ranked as high as 25th in the world, Meligeni was a French Open semifinalist in 1999. He said he wrote the book to unveil some funny and stressful behind-the-scenes moments of his 14-year career on the tour.

SETS RECORD

Julie Ditty is the new record-holder for most career USTA Pro Circuit championships. The 29-year-old swept the singles and doubles titles at a recent ITF Women’s Circuit event in Albuquerque, New Mexico, earning her 31st and 32nd career USTA Pro Circuit titles, the most of any player, man or woman. On the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, the 29-year-old Ditty’s best result came last November when she reached the semifinals of an event and broke into the Top 100 for the first time. The previous record of 30 titles was held jointly by Paul Goldstein and Nana Smith.

SIXTH SENSE ACADEMY

Justine Henin and Carlos Rodrigez have opened a tennis academy in Florida. The superstar player, who was ranked number one in the world when she retired from the sport earlier this year, and her coach opened their second 6th Sense Tennis Academy, this one in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida, located 30 miles northwest of Orlando. Their first academy was opened in Belgium almost a year ago.

SUCCESSFUL PAIR

When Stephen Huss and Ross Hutchins won the doubles at China Open, it was their first title as a team. The 32-year-old Huss had won two other doubles crowns, including Wimbledon in 2005 with Wesley Moodie. Hutchins, nine years younger than his partner, won his first title in just his second ATP final. But Hutchins has done well in Beijing, having reached the semifinals last year when he was teamed with Eric Butorac. Huss and Hutchins became partners in Valencia, Spain, in April where they lost in the first round. Prior to winning in Beijing, their best result had been reaching the third round at Roland Garros.

SHARAPOVA OUT FOR YEAR

Because of her lingering shoulder injury, Maria Sharapova has decided to stop playing tournaments until next year. She is currently in Arizona where she is rehabilitating her shoulder. The injury has kept her from practicing the past several weeks, but she hopes to return to practice soon. She has decided to skip tournaments in Asia, Europe and the season-ending Championships. Sharapova won the Australian Open in January along with two other singles titles and has been ranked number one in the world this year.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Beijing: Anabel Medina Garrigues and Caroline Wozniacki beat Han Xinyun and Xu Yi-Fan 6-1 6-3

Bangkok: Chuang Chia-Jung and Hsieh Su-Wei beat Vera Dushevina and Maria Kirilenko 6-3 6-0

Beijing: Stephen Huss and Ross Hutchins beat Ashley Fisher and Bobby Reynolds 7-5 6-4

Bangkok: Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes beat Scott Lipsky and David Martin 6-4 7-6 (4)

Trnava: David Zkoch and Igor Zelenay beat Daniel Koellerer and Michael Mertinak 6-3 6-1

SITES TO SURF

Tokyo: www.jta-tennis.or.jp/aigopen/e/

Stuttgart: www.porsche-tennis.de

Tashkent: www.tashkentopen.uz

Eindhoven: www.afastennisclassics.nl

Mons: http://www.ethiastrophy.be

Vienna: www.ba-ca-tennistrophy.at

Stockholm: www.stockholmopen.se

Moscow: www.kremlincup.ru

Henin: www.6senstennisacademie.com.

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$832,000 AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships, Tokyo, Japan, hard

$416,000 Open de Moselle, Metz, France, hard

$125,000 Ethias Trophy, Mons, Belgium, hard

WTA TOUR

$650,000 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, Stuttgart, Germany, hard

$175,000 AIG Japan Open Tennis Championships, Tokyo, Japan, hard

$145,000 Tashkent Open, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, hard

SENIORS

AFAS Tennis Classics, BlackRock Tournament of Champions, Eindhoven, Netherlands, carpet

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$1,000,000 ATP Kremlin Cup, Moscow, Russia, carpet

$800,000 IF Stockholm Open, Stockholm, Sweden, hard

$755,000 Bank Austria TennisTrophy, Vienna, Austria, hard

WTA TOUR

$1,340,000 Kremlin Cup, Moscow, Russia, carpet

SENIORS

BlackRock Tour of Champions, Budapest, Hungary, carpet