By Bob Greene
Serena Williams beat Li Na 2-6 6-3 6-0 to win the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships in Istanbul, Turkey
Mikhail Youzhny beat David Ferrer 6-3 7-5 to win the Valencia Open 500 in Valencia, Spain
Juan Martin del Potro beat Roger Federer 7-6 (3) 2-6 6-4 to win the Swiss Indoors in Basel, Switzerland
Aliaksandra Sasnovich beat Sofia Arvidsson 6-1 5-7 6-4 to win the Internationaux Féminins de la Vienne in Poitiers, France
Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 Second Round Playoff: Russia beat South Africa 5-0 at Moscow, Russia; Sweden beat Denmark 3-2 at Helsingborg, Sweden (Russia and Sweden remain in Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 in 2014; South Africa and Denmark are relegated to Group 2)
“I don’t know how I got through that one. I’ve just had a really long year, and I’m just really excited, honestly. I really didn’t expect to get through this match. Wow, thank God. I can’t believe I won. I was so tired. Honestly, did I really win? Because she played so well.” – Serena Williams, after defeating Li Na in three sets to win her second straight TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships.
“After a set and a half, I was feeling no more energy left. It’s a tough tournament because I played five days in a row. Every opponent (is in the) top eight, so you never have an easy match in this tournament.” – Li Na, following her three-set loss to Serena Williams.
“I waited for my break point chance, which I got in the first game. Then I tried to be solid on serve. The last two service games were my best of the whole tournament. It was good to see my serve was working very well.” – Juan Martin del Potro, after winning the Swiss Indoors.
“I could have maybe won the first set, but in the second set I was getting better and better. It is a pity that I couldn’t have been tougher in the third. … I was happy that after a lot of tough matches, I was able to withstand the challenge physically.” – Roger Federer, after losing to Juan Martin del Potro in Basel, Switzerland.
“I think Roger (Federer) is playing well. He played much better when he has the chance to play the top guys. His game improves automatically, and looking forward to Paris and London he will be a tough opponent. For me he has the perfect game … and he is a big inspiration. I am very proud to have a good relationship with him, as I have learned a lot as a person and a tennis player.” – Juan Martin del Potro, after beating Roger Federer in the Swiss Indoors final.
“I used a lot of energy yesterday. I was ready to fight again today, but unfortunately I didn’t have enough to beat her. She played really well. She did everything well today. I didn’t have many chances.” – Petra Kvitova, after losing to Li Na in the semifinals at Istanbul.
“I caught my goal – top three in the world. We made the goal at the beginning of the year. I don’t know – maybe it’s lucky that it was at the last tournament of the year. It’s a pretty good ending to 2013.” – Li Na, who became the first Asian-born player – male or female – to be ranked as high as third in the world.
“She’s the number one player in the world. She’s by far the best player. She deserves to be in this spot.” – Jelena Jankovic, on Serena Williams.
“She’s playing really well. She’s such a good player. She moves so well. Playing her you have to be physically, more than anything, ready to play. And I will be ready. I have to be. I have no choice.” – Serena Williams, commenting on Li Na before the two met in the WTA Championships final.
“I think it was a good year. Still top five, I’m very happy about that, especially as I really played consistent tennis pretty much the whole year. Of course I’ve had some tough losses, but altogether I will say it’s been a good year.” – Agnieszka Radwanska, who lost all three of her round-robin matches in Istanbul.
After racing through the round-robin portion of the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships, Serena Williams found the going difficult – but not impossible. The American beat Li NA 2-6 6-3 6- to become only the fourth player to win four or more WTA Championships titles, an elite event featuring the top eight players in the world. Chris Evert also won it four times, Steffi Graf five and Martina Navratilova eight times. After rifling a backhand winner on her second match point, Williams sank to her knees as she became only the eighth woman in the Open Era to win 11 or more titles in a year and the first since Martina Hingis won 12 in 1997. Williams also won the event in 2001, 2009 and 2012. Serena had no problems in her three round-robin matches, but complained of exhaustion after she struggled past Jelena Jankovic in the semifinals. “I felt good this morning, much better than I did yesterday,” Williams said after capturing the crown. “But then in practice I was like, ‘Oh, no.’ I was a little worried, but I just hung in there and just kept going and going.” Li won the opening set before Serena, at 32 years and 1 month, toppled the record she set last year as oldest champion at the event. And with Li being 31 years at 8 months, it was the first time two players over 30 played in the final in the tournament’s 43-year history. While Li was happy with her performance, she was disappointed that she didn’t win a game in the third set. “I have a little bit bad taste because it’s at love, but I still feel more positive things,” Li said.
Serena won 78 of 82 matches this year and finished up earning USD $12,385,572, the highest single season earnings in women’s tennis history and the third-highest single season earnings in tennis history. Novak Djokovic won USD $12,803,737 in 2012 and USD $12,619,803 in 2011.
By reaching the final, Li moves from fifth to third in the world, the highest ranking ever for an Asian player, male or female. A native of China, Li surpassed her previous career high of fourth in the world, where she had been tied with Japan’s Kimiko Date-Krumm as the highest-ranked Asian player.
SWISS CHAMPION AGAIN
For the second straight year Juan Martin del Potro journeyed into Roger Federer’s backyard and came away the Swiss Indoors Basel title by beating Federer himself. “It’s always a pleasure playing against you,” the Argentine told Federer during the trophy ceremony. “I know you are the hero here and for me a big inspiration, too.” A hero perhaps, but Federer has won just one title in the past 14 months. Del Potro, meanwhile, earned his fourth title this season. The 32-year-old Federer still holds a 13-5 career record against del Potro, but has lost the last three.” It was a pretty high level match overall,” Federer said. “Probably my best match of the tournament overall, but it is always difficult to judge when you lose.” Federer was playing his first final since winning the Wimbledon grass-court warm-up event in Halle, Germany, in June. He remains tied with John McEnroe with 77 career singles titles, third most in the Open Era behind Jimmy Connors, who won 109 titles, and Ivan Lendl’s 94.
Del Potro has already qualified for the season-ending, eight-player Barclays ATP World Tour Championships, which will be played in London, Great Britain. Federer is still in the running for a spot, but must beat either Kevin Anderson or Mikhail Youzhny in his second-round match at the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris, France, this week to qualify for a record-equaling 12th consecutive year, tying Ivan Lendl for most successive appearances at the season finale.
Ranked third in the world, David Ferrer was the defending champion, top seed and local favorite. But it was Mikhail Youzhny who won the Valencia Open, beating Ferrer 6-3 7-5. The 31-year-old Russian dominated Ferrer throughout the match, breaking the Spaniard four times. “It was a great week for me and a great tournament,” Youzhny said. “It was a great atmosphere. I felt nobody was against me. Of course they were for David, but when I played well they applauded me.” It was the second time Youzhny had reached the final in Valencia, losing to Andy Murray in 2009. Ferrer has now lost six straight finals. “The truth is that Youzhny played very good,” Ferrer said. “He sliced and served very well. He was more comfortable then me on court. I was missing touch.”
Two Grand Slam tournament champions – 2008 Roland Garros winner Ana Ivanovic and 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur – highlight the eight-player field competing in the Garanti Koza WTA Tournament of Champions this week in Sofia, the second straight year the tournament has been held in the Bulgarian capital. Ivanovic twice won the event when it was held in Bali. This year she was awarded a wildcard into the field. Stosur is among the six highest ranked winners of International Series tournaments eligible to compete in Sofia. The two are joined by Simona Halep of Romania; Russians Maria Kirilenko, Elena Vesnina and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and Alizé Cornet of France. For the second straight year Tsvetana Pironkova has been given a wildcard to compete in front of her home fans. Last year she reached the semifinals. The players will be split into two groups of four for round-robin competition, with each group’s top two players advancing to the semifinals.
Serena Williams definitely wasn’t at her best when she escaped the upset-minded Jelena Jankovic in the semifinals of the WTA Championships. Williams committed 40 unforced errors to go along with 40 winners, appeared to have problems with her movement and twice sat crying into her towel during changeovers. “Last night I was lying down and I hit a wall,” Williams said. “And since then I have had no energy. In the match I was struggling for energy to play at all. I have played a tremendous amount of matches and it isn’t easy.” After trailing 1-3 in the opening set, the American hit some stunning ground strokes to take the set 6-4. But she rarely served at full power and walked slowly back to the baseline after each point. “I was so tired, even when standing,” Serena said. “My legs wouldn’t move, my arm wouldn’t go fast. I think when you are doing something so much for so long during the year it takes a toll. I was just fighting to stay in there, to get my legs to get to the balls.” Jankovic leveled the match, winning the second set 6-2. Williams led 5-1 in the final set before her Serbian opponent came within a point of knotting the match. Serena wrapped up the win with three big strokes. “I’m just relieved and just glad to be in the final,” Williams said.
Novak Djokovic is flying sky-high these days. But it’s not the world’s second-ranked tennis player. Serbia’s new national airline, Air Serbia, began service with a plane named after their favorite player. The Airbus A319, emblazoned with a double-headed eagle and Serbia’s national red, blue and white colors, made its maiden flight from Belgrade, Serbia, to Abu Dhabi. Air Serbia said all of its future planes will be named after prominent Serb figures.
SET FOR LONDON
Tomas Berdych has become the latest player to qualify for the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. It will make be the fourth straight appearance at the elite eight-player tournament for the Czech. The 28-year-old Berdych joins Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, David Ferrer and Juan Martin del Potro in the elite eight-man field. Andy Murray also qualified, but underwent back surgery and was forced to withdraw from the tournament. Berdych reached the semifinals at the season finale in 2011, when he lost to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. “For me, it’s always one of my goals at the beginning of each season and it’s an honor to qualify,” Berdych said. “It’s just great to be a part of it. It really is the celebration of tennis, only for the top eight guys. It’s a huge show which I suppose tennis should be, and for us tennis players I would say it’s the best tournament.”
Defending champions Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez will be joined in the eight-team doubles competition by first-time qualifiers Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo. Dodig and Melo won their first team title at the Shanghai Rolex Masters and reached the Wimbledon final. Three singles and three doubles team berths remain up for grabs for the November 4-11 event.
For the second straight year Victoria Azarenka is the recipient of the Diamond ACES Award, which is presented to the WTA player who consistently goes above and beyond in promoting the sport of women’s tennis to fans, media and local communities by performing off-court promotional and charitable activities. This year marked the seventh consecutive season that a point-weighted system was used to award each of the off-court activities performed by players at WTA tournaments. Azarenka’s numerous contributions to promoting women’s tennis this season include helping Billie Jean King, WTA CEO Stacey Allaster and David Haggerty light up the Empire State Building in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the WTA; taking part in a major activation at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, where she hit with dozens of children on center court; and taking time out during the Sony Open in Miami, Florida, USA, to visit Baptist Children’s Hospital, spending time with the young children. The Diamond ACES Award was first introduced in 1995 in memory of former WTA CEO Jerry Diamond. Since then 13 players have won the award: Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Gabriela Sabatini, Amanda Coetzer, Lindsay Davenport, Martina Hingis, Anastasia Myskina, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic, Elena Dementieva, Samantha Stosur, Caroline Wozniacki, and Azarenka.
When Russia travels to Sardinia this weekend to take on Italy in the Fed Cup final, none of the visiting country’s top 11 players will be on the team. Elena Vesnina says if the Russian tennis federation had been more organized, it might have had a stronger team. The highest ranked player selected by Russian Fed Cup captain Shamil Tarpischev is 138th-ranked Alexandra Panova. Vesnina and two other top Russians, Maria Kirilenko and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, are playing the WTA Tournament of Champions in Sofia, Bulgaria, this week. “I can say one thing that our federation knew in advance that me, Kirilenko and Pavlyuchenkova knew we were going to play Sofia because we won tournaments in January and February,” Vesnina told TENNIS.com. “Me and Nastya told Tarpischev in the summer that we are thinking of playing Sofia. I told him that it’s going to be my choice, you have to find someone else just in case, and he didn’t do it. He started to do it during the Kremlin Cup (two weeks ago). That’s the mistake he did.” Both Makarova and veteran Nadia Petrova believe having the 11 top players all not show up for the final is coincidental. “It’s a strange situation because three girls qualified for Sofia and we got to the final of Fed Cup at the same time,” Makarova said. “I don’t know why that would happen in one year. Maybe with the calendar we should make a change. Move Fed Cup somewhere, maybe even earlier. It’s a really bad situation and we’re not feeling comfortable about this.”
It wasn’t the loss that caused Victoria Azarenka to cry during a round-robin match at the WTA Championships. Azarenka hurt her back while serving in the sixth game of the match she lost to Li Na 6-2 6-1. She was clearly in pain from then on, taking a medical timeout and receiving treatment during several changeovers. Yet she stayed on court despite being able to move properly. “I just wanted to try to do my best for the fans who came and watched our match, for respect for my opponent,” Azarenka said. “It was just about trying to do the most you can out there.” Despite what happened in Istanbul, Azarenka said she was pleased with her year. “I’m number two in the world. I had great results in the big tournaments and I had injuries,” she said. “So, it’s that balance of good and unfortunate. I think I can learn a lot from these little things to prevent maybe some of the injuries.”
SEVERE PENALTY REDUCED
Saying a nine-month ban for doping was “too severe,” the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled that Marin Cilic can return to the ATP World Tour this week at the Paris Masters. Cilic tested positive for nikethamide in Munich, Germany, in May, where he lost in the first round to fellow Croat Ivan Dodig. Claiming he had not intended to ingest it in a glucose tablet bought at a pharmacy, Cilic challenged his ban at CAS. In a statement, the court said: “The panel determined that the degree of fault committed by the athlete was inferior to that established in the (tribunal) decision. The panel also determined that the sanction imposed was too severe in view of the degree of fault and concluded that it should be reduced to four months.”
Roger Federer says a back injury early in the year is the reason for his poor season. “I played matches that I should never have played,” the 32-year-old Swiss master said. “I should have left in Indian Wells (last March, with back pain) before the quarterfinals against (Rafael Nadal). This summer, I should not have tried to play on clay in Hamburg and in Gstaad. But things always look better in hindsight. I wasn’t able to train as I wanted during my seven-week break following Indian Wells. I fell into a negative spiral.” Currently ranked sixth in the world, Federer says he has no plans on retiring any time soon. “As long as my body and mind is ready to go to travel, I’m happy to be doing what I’m doing.” Federer said. “I’m successful. I’ll be playing for some time. That hasn’t changed due to a tough six months.”
Piotr Wozniacki says he daughter Caroline will name a new coach this week. “The situation is such that it is my last tournament with Carolina,” Piotr told Championat.com during the WTA Championships in Istanbul, Turkey. “Who will be its next coach, I do not want to talk. I will tell it’s next week. We have an agreement. Now I’ll just be dad. My mission: to leave and let the tennis Carolina and her trainer to work.” Once ranked number one in the world, Wozniacki is currently 10th in the rankings and failed to qualify for the WTA Championships for the second straight year. She was in Istanbul as an alternate, but never saw action. Some Danish media have speculated that Maria Sharapova’s former coach, Sweden’s Thomas Hogstedt, who is a friend of Piotr, will take over as Wozniacki’s new coach.
When Juan Martin del Potro reached the semifinals of the Swiss Indoors – a tournament he eventually won – he became the sixth man from Argentina to win 300 career matches. “I played a good match,” del Potro said of his 6-4 6-4 win over Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu. “It’s a pleasure winning my 300th match on tour, doing it here in Basel, against Mathieu. I think I played really well. I don’t know if I deserved that, but it’s like a gift for all my efforts for many, many years of work.” By defeating Roger Federer and winning the Basel, Switzerland, tournament, for the second straight year, del Potro ended the week with 301 match wins, tying Martin Jaite. Other Argentines in the 300-wins club include Guillermo Vilas with 929, David Nalbandian (383), Joe-Luis Clerc (375), and Juan Ignacio Chela (326).
Twin brothers Bob and Mike Bryan have been honored as Team of the Year by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). The all-time winningest doubles team in tennis history and number one doubles team in the world, Bob and Mike Bryan won the doubles title at the 2013 Wimbledon Championships, becoming the first men’s doubles team in the Open Era to hold at the same time all four major titles – the US Open, Australian Open and Roland Garros — – including the 2012 US Open, 2013 Australian Open, 2013 French Open and 2013 Wimbledon Championship – along with the 2012 London Olympic gold medal.
John Patrick McEnroe Sr., the father of tennis great John McEnroe, was honored by the Irish Voice newspaper in its sixth annual Irish Legal 100 List. The 2013 class is the largest yet with more than 170 legal professionals being honored. McEnroe Sr., the only child of Irish immigrants, is a partner at the law firm of Paul, Weiss in New York and served as his son’s agent and top adviser.
Basel: Treat Huey and Dominic Inglot beat Julian Knowle and Oliver Marach 6-3 3-6 10-4 (match tiebreak)
Istanbul: Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai beat Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina 6-4 7-5
Poitiers: Lucie Hradecka and Michaella Krajicek beat Christina McHale and Monica Niculescu 7-6 (5) 6-2
Valencia: Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares beat Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan 7-6 (3) 6-7 (1) 13-11 (match tiebreak)
Fed Cup: www.fedcup.com
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$4,386,216 BNP Paribas Masters, Paris, France, hard
$750,000 Garanti Koza WTA Tournament of Champions, Sofia, Bulgaria, hard
$125,000 Nanjing Ladies Open, Nanjing, China, hard
Italy vs. Russia at Caliari, Sardinia, Italy, clay
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$6,000,000 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, London, Great Britain, hard
$125,000 Seguros Bolivar Open, Bogotá, Colombia, clay
$125,000 OEC Taipei WTA Ladies Open, Taipei, Chinese Taipei, hard