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STARS

Elena Dementieva beat Serena Williams 6-3 6-2 to win the Medibank International women’s singles at Sydney, Australia

Marcos Baghdatis beat Richard Gasquet 6-4 7-6 (2) in Sydney, Australia, to win the Medibank International men’s singles

John Isner beat Arnaud Clement 6-3 5-7 7-6 (2) to win the Heineken Open in Auckland, New Zealand

Alona Bondarenko beat Shahar Peer 6-2 6-4 to win the Moorilla Hobart International in Hobart, Australia

SAYINGS

“It doesn’t make me angry, just disappointed a little bit. I think I deserved my place in the draw as the 16th seed and not as a qualifier, but I knew it was going to be this way. I tried to make the best of it, stayed positive and strong mentally. I’m really happy the way I handled everything.” – Yanina Wickmayer, who had to qualify for the Australian Open even though she is ranked 16th in the world.

“When I started in ’89 I remember my father said `OK, it’s good you’re professional, you play the big events and try to play for three, four, five years.’ This is my 22nd year, so never I thought I would be able to play that long at that level.” – Fabrice Santoro, who came out of retirement to play a Grand Slam tournament in a fourth decade.

“I have waited a couple of years for this title and I’m happy I won. I hope it’s not the last for this year.” – Alona Bondarenko, after winning the Moorilla Hobart International.

“This is completely unexpected … amazing. The biggest benefit will be the belief that I can play with these guys at this level. … Winning four matches at this level gives me a huge amount of confidence I can do it in singles as well.” – Marcus Daniell, after teaming with Horia Tecau to win the doubles title in Auckland, New Zealand.

“I was just happy to play in the tournament and have a chance.” – Horia Tecau, who with Marcus Daniell turned their wild-card entry into the Auckland tournament into a doubles title.

“I thought he retired? He asked me to play doubles with him in the US Open. Told me it was his last tournament. Now here he is, he’s unretired for the seventh time!” – John McEnroe, when told Fabrice Santoro was playing in the Australian Open.

“Anti-terrorism security is everywhere in the world, it’s not just in Mumbai because something happened there recently. It happens in Australia, New York, Madrid, London and Paris.” – Leander Paes, making a plea for Commonwealth countries to send teams to the upcoming Commonwealth Games in India.

“The last five, six years the dominance was obvious from (Roger) Federer, (Rafael) Nadal. They’ve been winning all the Grand Slams they’ve played. But now in last two years or so the things are changing a little bit. … You have (Juan Martin) del Potro, (Andy) Murray, (Andy) Roddick, (Nikolay) Davydenko. They’re all in great shape, great form.” – Novak Djokovic, the 2008 Australian Open champion noting there are a number of contenders for this year’s men’s singles title.

“I have seen the pictures on the news and it is just horrific. I want to send my condolences to everyone affected by the earthquake.” –Marcos Baghdatis.

“I don’t think we can fully comprehend the devastation of the earthquake over in Haiti and we just to do our part in helping everyone who is suffering during this difficult time.” – Daniel Nestor.

“It was something I felt I could easily do and I plan on doing it in Australia as well. It makes you realize how lucky you are.” – John Isner, after donating USD $5,000 of his winnings to the Haitian earthquake relief fund.

STARS FOR HAITI

On the eve of the Australian Open, some of the world’s top tennis players put on a fundraiser for earthquake victims in Haiti. The event, called “Hit for Haiti,” raised more than USD $185,000, a figure that is expected to grow. And that doesn’t include the money donated by the players themselves. Roger Federer teamed with Serena Williams, Lleyton Hewitt and Samantha Stosur to play a team composed of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick and Kim Clijsters. In the end, Federer’s Red Team beat the rival Blue Team 7-6 in their one-set match that featured mixed doubles with player substitution. The teams were named for the colors of Haiti’s flag. The fundraiser was Federer’s idea, and he also was master of ceremonies. “It was a fun afternoon for all of us,” the Swiss star told the crowd.” But most important is that we can help Haiti,”

Several players have reached into their pockets for contributions to the earthquake victims. Maria Sharapova, who won the Australian Open in 2008, gave USD $10,000, while American John Isner and Marcos Baghdatis of Cyrus each has donated USD $5,000.

SANTORO’S BACK

Fabrice Santoro made short work of his retirement. The Frenchman is playing in his 70th Grand Slam tournament as he extended his career into a fourth decade. He was 16 when he played in his first major, the 1989 French Open. He retired last year at Roland Garros. But the 37-year-old Santoro said the lure was too strong for one more appearance at the Australian Open, where he reached the quarterfinals in 2006. Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said Santoro has offered to donate his first-round prize money to charity.

SUPER QUALIFIER

After being forced to qualify, Yanina Wickmayer poses a problem for the top players at the Australian Open. Ranked 16th in the world, Wickmayer should have been seeded in the year’s first Grand Slam tournament. But she was ineligible to enter the main draw due to suspension, a ban which has since been lifted by a Danish court and the International Tennis Federation. Wickmayer easily won a main draw spot, crushing Spain’s Lourdes Dominguez Lino 6-0 6-0 in the final qualifying round. She could face her two Belgian compatriots in the tournament: Justine Henin in the fourth round and Kim Clijsters in the quarterfinals. “Coming here and starting the qualifiers wasn’t easy for me,” Wickmayer said. “I just tried to take it the positive way.”

Xavier Malisse of Belgium was banned at the same time as Wickmayer, and he, too, had his suspension lifted. And like his female compatriot, Malisse came through qualifying to gain a main draw spot at the Australian Open.

The qualifiers for the women’s singles included 19-year-old Han Xinyun of China, who is making her Australian Open debut.

SEND TEAMS

Tennis star Leander Paes has appealed to New Zealand and other governments to send teams to the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India. Paes is one of a number of Indian athletes charged with promoting the games. He said every possible step will be taken to ensure the safety of athletes as he appealed to the Commonwealth governments to trust the organizer’s security efforts. “There is terrorism all around the world, it’s not just something that we have in India,” Paes said. “There will be high security measures taken at the Commonwealth Games because it’s like an Olympics or Asian Games. I am sure the security will be fantastic.” New Zealand and Australia have both indicated they are satisfied with security arrangements for the games but have said they were constantly monitoring the security situation.

SWITCH IN RULES

No longer will a player be able to take a medical time-out solely for cramping. Under new rules instituted by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the men’s and women’s tours, a player can only stop play for a medical time-out if they have an injury. While a player can’t receive a medical time-out for muscle cramping, they can have medical treatment during two full changeovers or set breaks. If muscle cramping is caused by a spasm related to an injury, the new rule won’t be invoked. And heat illness is not covered by the cramping rule.

SHAFTED?

The men’s and women’s singles winners at this year’s Australian Open will each receive more than two million Australian dollars. When Margaret Court won the first of her 11 Australian singles titles in 1960 – before the Open Era began – she was given an umbrella. “Rod Laver, the men’s champion, got a beautiful silver tea service, and I thought, ‘That’s wrong – why do they get a beautiful silver tea service and I get a silly umbrella?”’ Court told a Melbourne newspaper. “I’ve never forgotten that. And I think the next year I got a cosmetics case and that was even worse.”

STEADY

Roger Federer is seeking his 16th Grand Slam singles title at this year’s Australian Open. He already is the men’s all-time leader with 15 singles crowns in the majors, having overtaken Pete Sampras’s mark of 14 at last year’s Wimbledon. But the Swiss star has another remarkable feat. He has reached the final in 17 of the last 18 Grand Slam tournaments – since Wimbledon in 2005. The only exception came at the Australian Open in 2008 when he lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Novak Djokovic. Federer has posted an 11-6 record in finals during the stretch, losing five times to Rafael Nadal, including last year’s Australian Open, and last year’s US Open to Juan Martin del Potro.

SWISS CHEESE?

There will be a big hole in Switzerland’s squad when it takes on Spain in the Davis Cup opener. Roger Federer will not take part in the tie to be held in a bullring in Logrono, Spain, on March 5-7. The 11,000-seat bullring has a retractable roof. The Swiss also might be missing their number two player, Stanislas Wawrinka, whose wife is expecting a baby about the same time. Spain won the 2009 Davis Cup title, beating the Czech Republic in the final.

SUSPENSION SENSELESS

John McEnroe says the suspension of Ekaterina Bychkova doesn’t make sense. The Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) fined Bychkova USD $5,000 and barred her from playing for 30 days because she allegedly failed to report that she was asked to provide inside information and throw matches. Officials said there is no evidence that the Russian accepted any compensation, but that she was penalized for not disclosing the offer until she was investigated by the TIU. McEnroe said that while match-fixing is “a huge concern” for tennis, he said Bychkova’s suspension might keep other players from being honest. He said the fact she said no should prevail. “At the end of the day we’re talking about someone who is winning a lot of money gambling, and it almost seems we’re more worried about the gamblers than the athletes. I don’t agree with that part of it,” McEnroe told the Australian Associated Press.

STRAYING?

Are the top men players skipping tour events to make even more money by playing lucrative exhibitions? That’s what’s concerning ATP tour officials. Justin Gimblestob, a former player and current ATP board member, said most of the top 20 men played exhibitions or took off instead of playing Australian Open warm-up tournaments in Auckland, New Zealand, and Sydney, Australia. Richard Palmer, director of the Auckland tournament, complained about the difficulty in attracting big-name players who apparently preferred to play rich exhibition events. In a bid to get the top players to enter tournaments, the four top seeds are being given first-round byes, which allows them to arrive later at ATP tournaments.

SKIPPING MELBOURNE

David Nalbandian pulled out of the Australian Open because of a strained abdominal muscle. Once ranked as high as number three in the world, Nalbandian pulled the muscle while warming up before the Auckland Open in New Zealand. The Argentinean has not played a tour match since May last year after being sidelined by a hip injury, followed by surgery. Nalbandian has reached the semifinals of all four Grand Slam tournaments, including the Wimbledon final in 2002, and won the Tennis Masters Cup in 2005 in Shanghai, China. He currently is ranked 63rd in the world.

SWINGING AWAY

Jelena Dokic has a problem staying away from problems. Police in Melbourne, Australia, have spoken to the coach and boyfriend of the tennis player after the two were involved in an altercation on an airplane flight. The coach, Borna Bikic, and his brother, Tin Bikic, argued with a female passenger who had complained about Tin. The argument escalated to include one of the cabin crew, and when the plane arrived in Melbourne police met the two men. “They were spoken to about their behavior and no further action will be taken,” police said in a statement. Dokic was not involved in the incident. She was playing in a final warm-up tournament in preparation for the Australian Open.

SEEKING COMPENSATION

The Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) is seeking compensation from the International Tennis Federation (ITF) since it has been barred from hosting Davis Cup matches due to security concerns. The Davis Cup committee will hear the appeal at a March 9 meeting in Munich, Germany. Pakistan last year lost the right to host the Philippines in a Davis Cup tie because of security fears in the wake of an attack on Sri Lanka’s cricket team in Lahore, Pakistan. The ITF also moved ties against Oman and Kong Hong out of Pakistan. “We have filed a claim for a total compensation of around USD $100,000 for the three Davis Cup ties … that have been moved from Pakistan since last year,” PTF president Dilawar Abbas said. “If the matter is not resolved by the ITF, it can also go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.”

SECURITY CONCERNS

Melbourne police say they will crack down on troublemakers at the Australian Open after ethnic violence marred recent tournaments. In 2007, Croat and Serb fans engaged in a wild brawl with bottles and flagpoles. In 2008, police used capsicum spray on a group of rowdy Greek supporters, while last year Bosnian and Serbian fans threw plastic chairs at each other. “While most patrons are well behaved, there is always the potential for a small minority of troublemakers to cause problems for the rest of the crowd,” police superintendent John Cooke said. “Unruly fans face arrest, ejection and on-the-spot fines as well as 24-hour bans from the venue.”

SAD NEWS

Alastair Martin, who helped move tennis into the Open Era, is dead. He was 94. Martin was vice president of the United States Tennis Association in 1967-68 and president in 1969-70 as the amateur era gave way and major tournaments opened to professionals. Martin and Robert Kelleher, who was USTA president in 1967-68, pushed for open tennis and the rules were changed in 1968. Martin, who was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1973, won 18 national titles in singles and doubles between 1933 and 1971. He is survived by a son, a daughter, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Sydney (men): Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic beat Ross Hutchins and Jordan Kerr 6-3 7-6 (5)

Sydney (women): Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Tathiana Garbin and Nadia Petrova 6-1 3-6 10-3 (match tiebreak)

Auckland: Marcus Daniell and Horia Tecau beat Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares 7-5 6-4

Hobart: Chuang Chia-Jung and Kveta Peschke beat Chan Yung-Jan and Monica Niculescu 3-6 6-3 10-7 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Australian Open: www.australianopen.com/

Heilbronn: www.heilbronn-open.de

ATP: www.atpworldtour.com/

WTA Tour: www.sonyericssonwtatour.com/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP and WTA

Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, hard (first week)

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, hard (second week)

$120,000 Heilbronn Open, Heilbronn, Germany, hard

WTA

Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, hard (second week)



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