WTA Tour Finals

Kvitova Dominates WTA Awards, ATP Finals Draw Made and Federer Back Hitting Milestones

Kvitova Scoops Top WTA Player Prize:

In probably the least surprising revelation of the year, Petra Kvitova dominated the WTA awards by scooping four prizes, including player of the year. The 21-year-old lifted her first Grand Slam at Wimbledon, climbed to victory at the WTA Finals in Istanbul and then led her Czech Republic side to Fed Cup victory in the final against Russia. Starting the year as the world’s No.34, she finished just behind Caroline Wozniacki as the world No.2. “This season has been simply a dream,” Kvitova said. “It is an incredible honour to win the player of the year award and join the ranks of some of the best players that have ever played the sport, especially Martina Navratilova. I will always cherish the 2011 season and look forward to building on it.” Kvitova also walked away with the gongs for the most improved player of the year, the fan’s favourite breakthrough of the year and the Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship Award awarded for professionalism, attitude and sense of fair play. Germany’s Sabine Lisicki won comeback player of the year for her titles at Dallas and Birmingham and for reaching the Wimbledon semis where she lost to Maria Sharapova. Kvitova’s fellow Czech Kveta Peschke and her Slovenian partner Katarina Srebotnik won doubles team of the year, and Romania’s Irina-Camelia Begu won newcomer of the year after rising from No.214 to No.38 in the world during 2011. Agnieszka Radwanska picked up the award for the fans’ singles player of the year, while Victoria Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko were voted their doubles pairing of the year. Finally, Italian star Francesca Schiavone was given the Player Service Award for being the player who did the most to help her fellow pros through the WTA Players’ Council.

Djokovic-Murray and Rafa-Roger in London:

The draw for the ATP World Finals was made on Tuesday with two sets of great friends and rivals set to do battle. World number one Novak Djokovic was placed in Group A alongside good friend Andy Murray, David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych. 2010 finalists Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will do battle in Group B alongside Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Mardy Fish. Djokovic beat Murray for his first Grand Slam of the year in Australia back in January although Murray won their last encounter in the Cincinnati final. Nole was, however, forced to pull out halfway through with a shoulder injury. Federer won the final between him and Nadal last year, while Tsonga will not relish facing him again so soon after his disappointing Paris final defeat last weekend. That game will come up first on Sunday afternoon, before Nadal and Fish do battle in the evening session. Murray will go in to the fight against Ferrer on Monday afternoon, before Djokovic faces Berdych in the evening. In the doubles, the Bryan brothers were paired with Mahesh Bhupathi/Leander Paes, Robert Lindstedt/Horia Tecau and Jurgen Melzer/Philipp Petzschner in Group A, while Michael Llodra/Nenad Zimonjic will do battle with Daniel Nestor/Max Mirnyi, Rohan Bopanna/Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and Mariusz Fyrstenberg/Marcin Matkowski in Group B.

More Milestones for Federer:

It was a good time all round for Roger Federer in Paris last week. He finally broke his second Paris hoodoo, having at last secured the French Open title in 2009, by defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1, 7-6(3) in the final of the Paris Masters. Just being in the final made him the first man to ever reach that stage of all the ATP Masters 1000 events, and by winning the title he is now one behind Rafael Nadal’s record of 19 Masters titles on the all-time list. It means he goes in to this weekend’s ATP Tour Finals on a 12-match winning streak and that he won’t finish a season without a Grand Slam or a Masters title for the first time since 2001. His victory over Juan Monaco in the quarter-finals was also the 800th of his career. “I’m amazed by how well I played,” Federer said of his time in the French capital. “I’m really ecstatic to have played so well this week from the first ball to the end. I had many attempts to win Paris-Bercy and for some reasons I had not been able to win it earlier, so it’s a special victory.”

Costa Praying for Nadal and Ferrer:

Spanish Davis Cup captain Alberto Costa has revealed he isn’t worried about Rafa Nadal and David Ferrer having to make the quick transition from the ATP Finals hard courts to clay for their upcoming Davis Cup final with Argentina, but he is concerned that one of them might pick up an injury during their time in London. Speaking of the Argentines, he also admitted he wasn’t sure who they would be using. “They will come with five players,” Costa said. “Del Potro and Nalbandian are the strong base, but do not rule out that Nalbandian may not play the first day [in singles]. And the doubles may be [Juan] Monaco, [Juan Ignacio] Chela, or [Eduardo] Schwank. Del Potro is getting his level back [to where it was] before his wrist injury, and next year will be back on top,” he continued. “And Nalbandian has been injured, but we know that he’ll be ready for Seville. He’s a super talent who has not won a regular basis because of physical problems. But in a particular week he can play great. They are very dangerous, balanced and tough.”

Roddick Criticises ATP Structure:

Andy Roddick is really starting to show his age by becoming increasingly more grumpy with the world. This time, he has taken a swipe at the ATP leadership structure, stating that the current set-up doesn’t favour the CEO, which is why that seat seems to be constantly changing. Currently, the seven-man board consists of three player representatives, three tournament representatives and the CEO to give a deciding vote should he need to. Roddick feels that unfair pressure has seen his career span three men in that position. Current incumbent Adam Helfant will leave the role on December 31, with Roddick hoping something can be done to make the next one stick around more long-term. “I think at a certain point you have to look at the system as being flawed as opposed to continually looking for the scapegoat,” he said. “You don’t go into negotiation and have someone represent both sides. It just doesn’t happen in any business transaction or negotiation. I don’t think it’s the CEO’s fault. It’s an impossible situation. I think the system is suspect. Hopefully someone can get in there and win the battle of rhetoric one of these times and get someone to approve some changes. But under the present system, he really can’t. Some of the good ol’ boys club have it figured out pretty good. It’s not an easy position. It’s not as if we haven’t had smart people.”

Paes Denies Bhupathi Split:

Leander Paes has denied reports that he and Mahesh Bhupathi are about to end their doubles partnership with the latter eyeing a pairing with Rohan Bopanna, one eye on next summer’s Olympics in London. “As things currently stand, Mahesh and me have not yet decided to part ways as such,” Paes told MiD DAY. “We have the all-important ATP World Tour Finals that begin on Sunday and after that tournament we will sit down together to have a discussion to decide about our respective futures. When Mahesh and me got together (after nine years) we had clearly announced that we would take the partnership ahead one month at a time and see how things pan out. It was never a long-term thing. But having said that, we have not yet decided to part ways as such.’”

Moya Back at No.1:

Spaniard Carlos Moya completed a perfect debut season on the ATP Champions Tour by winning his fourth-straight title 6-3, 6-4 over Mariano Zabaleta in the Royal Guard Champions final in Santiago, Chile. In turn he secured the year-end No.1 ranking. “For the first year to finish at No.1 is all I could hope for, it’s great,” said Moya. “After I lost to Thomas [Enqvvist] this week I knew I had to try to beat Mark [Philippoussis] in straight sets, not just for a final place but to get those extra rankings points as well. And I was on my way to doing that and then suddenly I got a bit tired, he started to play a bit better and I had to save match point to get the victory. Then I had to wait for [Agustin] Calleri to beat Enqvist before I knew my fate so it has been very up and down this week with the rankings. I was lucky in some ways but now I am very relieved that I am sure to be No. 1 at the end of the year.”

Forget About the Davis Cup:

L’Equipe is reporting that Guy Forget is about to step down as the French Davis Cup captain to take over the tournament director’s job at the Paris-Bercy Masters. Henri Leconte, Arnaud Clement, Sebastien Grosjean and Amelie Mauresmo are names they are touting as possible successors.

Williams Goes Green:

Venus Williams has revealed at a sports conference in Qatar that she has added a lot more vegetables to her diet after discovering that she was suffering from Sjogren’s syndrome earlier this year. The 31-year-old added that she hoped the changes would help her play a full schedule next year. “I changed my diet completely, so lots of vegetables,” she said. “I (altered) my mind frame completely because I was the person who always ate their steak first and their salad second.  My goal next year is to play a full schedule. It will take some work to get there, but I’m no stranger to hard work. I love the game. The racket feels right in my hand and I’m planning on going right back to where I was at the top of the rankings in the singles and doubles sometime within the next 12 months.”

Rankings Almost Finalised for 2011:

With most players’ seasons now over for 2011 the South African Airways ATP World Rankings almost have a finished look. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga climbs above Tomas Berdych going in to the ATP Finals in London, while Janko Tipsarevic climbs two to No.9 to finish his year in the Top 10. American John Isner climbs six and he will finish the year in the Top 20 at No.18. Philipp Kohlschreiber is up eight to No.43 in the world, while Tommy Robredo drops out of the Top 50. Carlos Berlocq (No.65) and Nicolas Mahut (No.78) climb 10, while Tobias Kamke leaps 16 places to No.92 in the world, and Jeremy Chardy is up seven to No.97.

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