Mondays with Bob Greene
Johanna Konta beat Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4 6-2 to win the Apia International women’s singles in Sydney, Australia
Jack Sock beat Joao Sousa 6-3 5-7 6-3 to win the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand
Gilles Muller beat Daniel Evans 7-6 (5) 6-2 to win the Apia International men’s singles in Sydney, Australia
Elise Mertens beat Monic Niculescu 6-3 6-1 to win the Hobart International in Hobart, Australia
“Obviously how I have done here, I take it as a really positive thing, as a nice reward along the way for the hard work that myself and my team have put in every day. But it’s not a reflection of how next week will go, how the rest of the year will go.” – Johanna Konta, after winning the women’s title in Sydney, Australia.
“I was very scared and worried that I was going to be one of those players who never win a title. Now I have it, and it just feels great.” – Gilles Muller, following his victory in Sydney.
“Anytime you can take a title, it feels really good. I’ve had it once before. I’ve had chances. I’ve lost in a few finals. Winning the whole tournament is definitely a massive confidence booster.” – Jack Sock, after winning the ASB Classic.
“He was very confident and he serves very well, and I think that was the key of the match.” – Joao Sousa, who lost the ASB Classic final to Jack Sock.
“We fall and then we get back up and keep going. Then there comes a time, no matter what you do, say or feel, nothing is ever enough. Your body lets you know it’s had enough.” – Nadia Petrova, announcing her retirement from tennis.
“I think for a system that maybe everyone would say has not really worked for quite a long time, for change to happen, you need someone or a team in there that’s going to be in it for the long haul and not just a few years.” – Andy Murray, expressing displeasure of Michael Downey’s announcement to step down as Lawn Tennis Association chief after just three years in the job.
Playing aggressively but controlled tennis, Johanna Konta handed Agnieszka Radwanska a straight-set defeat to capture the Apia International Sydney women’s singles, her second career WTA title. Radwanska made only nine unforced errors, but she couldn’t keep up with Konta’s strong game. “She was just playing unbelievable tennis from the beginning till the end,” Radwanska said. “And normally you’re thinking that she can’t play like this whole match and it’s gonna be even game or two that, you know, you can go forward because she’s gonna have some worse couple of games. But she didn’t.” Konta pulled off the only break in the opening set. Then she ripped off the first four games in the second set before staving off Radwanska’s comeback bid. “She was just playing whole match so aggressive with pretty much everything in,” Radwanska said, “and I couldn’t do much.”
Fourth-seeded Jack Sock also won his second career crown, capturing the ASB Classic by beating Joao Sousa. After the two traded sets, Sousa taking the second to knot the match, the two traded service breaks early in the third set before Sock finally took control. Sock credited his off-season work with helping him survive the three-setter. “I was able to put in a lot of work in the off-season and I think it paid off,” Sock said. “I was able to make lots of gains and lots of strides forward. I think it really showed this week.” Sock was in the final for the second straight year. Last year, the American was forced to retire with an injury.
Playing in his 17th year as a professional, Gilles Muller finally won his first ATP World Tour title, beating Great Britain’s Dan Evans in the Apia International men’s final. The 33-year-old left-hander had lost all five of his previous tour finals. After converting his third championship point, Muller raised his arm high in triumph. “Wow, what a night,” he said. “I’ve waited a long time for this.” Then, fighting back tears, he said, I’m sorry. It just means so much to me to win the first time on the ATP in front of my boys and my wife.” Muller was always in control with his serve-and-volley game but a tiebreak to take the first set. The second set was more one-sided, and in the final game Evans grabbed a 40-0 lead, triple match point. His nerves caught up with him and he double-faulted his first championship point and went long on his second. He hit another fault on his third match point, but his angled second serve forced Evans to hit an error. “I was hoping it was going to be six losses in finals, but it wasn’t to be,” Evans said with a grin during the post-match ceremonies. Then it became even better. Muller received his trophy from legend Rod Laver. “I wasn’t expecting that,” Muller said. “It was a great honor. Just unbelievable. Everything that happened tonight was like in a movie. Rod Laver there, standing on center court with the trophy, my kinds in the stands. Can’t ask for more.”
STAYING PAYS OFF
Elise Mertens had a decision to make. She could withdraw from the Hobart International and head for Melbourne to try to qualify for the women’s singles main draw, or she could remain in the field at the Tasmanian state capital and continue play as a qualifier. Her decision to stay paid off. The 21-year-old Belgian beat Monica Niculescu in straight sets to win the Hobart tournament. The victory boosts Mertens in the 80s in the rankings, meaning she probably won’t have to qualify for the next Grand Slam tournament, the French Open. Mertens trained at the Kim Clijsters academy and says she took her inspiration from the fellow Belgian, who won Hobart in 2000. “She’s really a role model for me. What she achieved was amazing,” Mertens said of the former world number one. “I hope I can be a little bit like her … I still have some years to go, so I’ll see where it ends.” Mertens was playing in her first final in just her fourth WTA event.
It was “David vs. Goliath” at the Kooyong Classic, and David won again. David Goffin retained his Kooyong Classic title by beating Ivo Karlovic 7-2 in the tiebreak of a one-set shootout. The 5-foot-11 Goffin (1.80m) and 6-11 (2.11m) Karlovic battled to a 6-6 standoff in the final of the exhibition competition. After a brief negotiation, the two played the tiebreak, with the Belgian racing out to a 5-0 lead. Karlovic, who usually in dominant in tiebreaks because of his huge serve, won two of the next three points before the Belgian closed out the victory. Play had been curtailed by wet weather.
Several players have received suspensions or fines or both, according to the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU). Australian Calum Puttergill was suspended for six months and fined USD $10,000 for placing 291 bets on matches between May 2012 and November 2014. The TIU said none of Puttergill’s bets involved matches he was playing. The final three months of the suspension and USD $5,000 of the fine were suspended on the condition the 23-year-old does not commit any further offenses prior to July 11, 2017.
Alexandru-Daniel Carpen of Romania was banned for life after he admitted that in 2013 he had tried to get another player to be involved in match-fixing for payment. Carpen has not played professionally since a 2015 ITF Futures tournament in Romania.
The TIU handed Nick Lindahl of Australia a seven-year band for match fixing. Lindahl also was fined USD $35,000.
Two other Australians – Brandon Walkin and Isaac Frost – were implicated in the match-fixing incident with Lindahl, which took place in 2013 at a Futures tournament in Australia. Walkin was suspended for six months. Frost was found to have failed to cooperate with the TIU by refusing a request to supply his phone for analysis.
An annual report issued by the TIU showed an increase in the number of investigations and prosecutions last year.
Nadia Petrova, who was ranked as high as third in the world in both singles and doubles, has called it quits. “Tennis has given me so much,” the 34-year-old Russian said. “It’s given me a career, shaped me as a person, allowed me the opportunity to travel the world, make friends internationally and learn about many cultures. My opportunities have become endless, and for that I’m forever grateful.” Petrova won 13 WTA singles titles and 24 doubles championships.
Maria Sharapova will return to competitive tennis at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Germany. The former world number one has accepted a wildcard entry into the WTA tournament and won’t play her opening match until April 27, the day her suspension ends. It will be her first WTA event since she tested positive for a banned substance at the Australian Open last year. Sharapova has won the Stuttgart tournament three times. Although she no longer has a ranking, as a past Grand Slam singles champion and WTA Finals singles champion, Sharapova can receive an unlimited number of wildcard nominations.
Defending champion Roberto Bautista-Agut, citing a stomach virus, withdrew from the ASB Tennis Classic in Auckland, New Zealand. The top-seeded Spaniard had a first-round bye, but informed organizers before his second-round match that he was unable to play.
Switzerland’s top two players – Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka – are skipping the nation’s first-round Davis Cup tie against the United States next month. Instead, the Swiss will go with Marco Chiudinelli, who is ranked 128th in the world, Henri Laaaksonen (135), Adrien Bossel (489) and Antoine Bellier (611).
Auckland: Marci Matkowski and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi beat Jonathan Erlich and Scott Lipsky 1-6 6-2 10-3 (match tiebreak)
Hobart: Raluca Olaru and Olga Savchuk beat Gabriela Dabrowski and Yang Zhaoxuan 0-6 6-4 105 (match tiebreak)
Sydney (men): Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middelkoop beat Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares 6-3 7-5
Sydney (women): Timea Babos and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova beat Sania Mirza and Barbora Strycova 6-4 6-4
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
MEN and WOMEN
Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, hard (first week)
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, hard (second week)
$100,000 Open de Rennes, Rennes, France, hard
Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, hard (second week)