Sony Ericsson Open at Miami, Florida, USA
Venus Williams beat third-seeded Petra Kvitova 6-4 4-6 6-0
Grigor Dimitrov beat seventh-seeded Tomas Berdych 6-3 2-6 6-4
Garbine Muguruza Blanco beat ninth-seeded Vera Zvonareva 6-4 6-3
Carlos Moya beat Stefan Edberg 3-6 7-5 10-8 (match tiebreak) to win the BNP Paribas Zurich Open in Zurich, Switzerland
“I have come a long way physically. I know a lot better how to recover now. I have to cut out a lot of extracurricular activities. I’m not going to be the one having fun dinners – I’m going to be the one stuck in the room. But the price to pay is worth it.” – Venus Williams, returning to the game after missing several months because of Sjögren’s Syndrome.
“I have some good memories playing Venus, but I don’t know if I still have them now. It was a long time ago when we played last time, and we have both changed a little bit. Today was different, where I was the favorite. I think we had a good match today, but with a bad ending for me.” – Petra Kvitova, after losing to Venus Williams.
“It was a special win for me today because she was one of my idols growing up.” – Yanina Wickmayer, after beating fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters.
“For everyone else it’s just the first round, but for me it was very emotional. I’ll always remember it. It will always be the first match of my comeback.” – Alisa Kleybanova, following her 2-6 6-3 6-2 win over Johanna Larsson in her first match back following her bout with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“Highlight of my day yesterday was seeing Alisa Kleybanova being on the tennis court back winning! So happy for her!” – Victoria Azarenka, in a Twitter message about Kleybanova’s first match back.
Remember the name Garbiñe Muguruza Blanco. The WTA Tour is quickly finding out about the 18-year-old Spaniard who is playing in the first WTA main draw of her career. She began the Sony Ericsson Open with a three-set win over Japan’s Ayumi Morita, who retired while trailing 6-3 2-6 3-0. It appeared the youngster’s stay would be brief when ninth-seeded Vera Zvonareva ripped off the first four games of their second-round battle. Hold on. Not so fast. Muguruza Blanco won the next eight games and knocked off her Russian opponent 6-4 6-3. “I was nervous at the start, but as the match went on I felt more comfortable,” Muguruza Blanco said. “I felt like by the end I was playing much better. I was able to play all my tennis. It is really a great result for me.” Next up was Italian Flavia Pennetta, a former world number 10 who was seeded 24th in the Miami tournament. Pennetta followed Zvonareva and Morita to the sidelines as Muguruza Blanco won 6-2 1-6 7-6 (6). Pennetta rallied from a 3-5 deficit to send the final set into a tiebreak. The Italian staved off three match points before Muguruza Blanco closed it out 8-6.
STRUCK BY INJURY AGAIN
For the second straight year, Milos Raonic has been halted by injury. The 21-year-old Canadian rolled an ankle during training and was unable to take the court at the Sony Ericsson Open for a third-round match against fourth-seeded Andy Murray. “I was just moving back and I rolled over my ankle and ended up spraining it,” said Raonic, who consulted his doctor in Spain and will now spend a few days at home in Canada. He said he expects to be ready for his next event in Monte Carlo in April. Raonic and his partner Kevin Anderson quit their doubles match after three games a day earlier when the Canadian could not continue. Last year, Raonic withdrew from Wimbledon in the second round after injuring his hip in a match against Gilles Muller. Except for one Davis Cup match, Raonic was sidelined until October. So far this year Raonic has won titles in Chennai, India, and San Jose, California, while reaching the final in Memphis, Tennessee, USA.
SIXTH STRAIGHT TITLE
Carlos Moya is having a ball on the ATP Champions Tour. Last year’s number one player on the senior circuit, Moya won a record sixth successive title when he captured the BNP Paribas Zurich Open by outlasting Stefan Edberg 3-6 7-5 10-8 (match tiebreak) in Zurich, Switzerland. “It was such an honor for me to play against Stefan today,” Moya said. “He was my idol for all my childhood. Everyone who knows me knows that, even though our games couldn’t be more different. Playing him is my best memory from the Champions Tour so far.” Mark Philippoussis beat Marat Safin 6-3 6-3 to take third place, while Kyle Edmund captured the junior tournament that runs alongside the senior event./ Edmund then teamed up with his compatriot Tim Henman to win the doubles.
It’s now official – in a sort of way. Roger Federer has been named the greatest player of all time by America’s Tennis Channel. The Swiss star edged Rod Laver for the top spot in the rankings, which were determined by an international panel. Steffi Graf finished third, followed in order by Martina Navratilova, Pete Sampras, Rafael Nadal, Bjorn Borg, Margaret Court, Chris Evert and Billie Jean King.
SET FOR COURT
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) will hear the cases of Belgian players Yanina Wickmayer and Xavier Malisse, both of whom have been accused of breaking anti-doping rules. CAS said it will hear on May 30 the appeals involving the players, the World Anti-Doping Agency, the Flemish Tennis Federation and the Flemish Doping Tribunal. Wickmayer and Malisse challenged the one-year bans imposed in 2009 after the tribunal ruled they had failed to give details of their whereabouts for drug testing. A second Belgian court granted injunctions allowing the two to keep playing. The 22-year-old Wickmayer is ranked 33rd on the WTA Tour, while the 31-year-old Malisse is number 75 in the ATP World Tour rankings.
Daniel Koellerer of Austria has lost his appeal against a lifetime ban for attempted match-fixing. The 28-year-old was found guilty last April by the Tennis Integrity Unit of violating the anti-corruption program between October 2009 and July 2010. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld the ban, although it did set aside a USD $100,000 fine that had been imposed on Koellerer. CAS heard that Koellerer had made invitations to other players to fix matches on five occasions between October 24, 2009, and July 3, 2010. The 28-year-old had been ranked as high as 55th in the world.
Playing in the final game of his career, Fernando Gonzalez didn’t want to stop. The former Australian Open finalist from Chile lost his Sony Ericsson Open finale to Nicolas Mahut 7-5 4-6 7-6 (3). Gonzalez had said the Key Biscayne, Florida, USA, tournament would be his last on the ATP World Tour. He underwent surgery on his right hip in October 2010 and was able to play only four tournaments last year, reaching the third round at Wimbledon. Gonzalez reached the Australian Open title match in 2007, losing to Roger Federer. He won 11 career singles titles, the 2004 Olympic gold medal in doubles and bronze medal in singles, along with a silver in singles in the 2008 Beijing Games. Gonzales said he would like to be remembered as someone who gave “100 percent every single time when he went to the court. And, of course, I think is much better to be remembered as a person than as a tennis player.”
Daniela Hantuchova of the Slovak Republic is the first winner the 2012 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Heart Award in the World Group and World Group II first round. Zone Group I winners are Catalina Castano of Colombia, Li Na of China and Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden. The four Heart Award winners were decided by a public vote on FedCup.com and FedCup.com/es as more than 10,000 ballots were cast. All the winners receive a silver Baccarat bracelet and a check to be donated to a charity. The Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Heart Award is a joint initiative between the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and BNP Paribas to recognize players who have represented their country with distinction, shown exceptional courage on court and demonstrated outstanding commitment to their team.
Sorana Cirstea was leading 5-0 in the third set of her first-round match at the Sony Ericsson Open. Her opponent, Heather Watson, hadn’t won a main draw match this year. Forty minutes later, Watson had captured a spot in the second round of the Key Biscayne, Florida, USA, tournament. The 19-year-old British player saved two match points and completed a remarkable comeback by posting a 6-3 3-6 7-6 (4) victory. Watson’s victory over the 48th-ranked Cirstea equaled her best Top 50 win. In 2010, Watson beat 48th-ranked Aleksandra Wozniak. “She played so well to get 5-0 up,” Watson said of her Romanian foe. “I just wanted to keep going for it, keep fighting every single point. She had a few match points there, and especially on the second match point she really had me on the ropes, but I tried to stay calm and it worked out in my favor. I had people supporting me everywhere, from my coach and my dad, my mother all the way at the top of the bleachers. Judy out there, too … They were all scattered everywhere and they helped me find the strength to push through.”
SIGNED FOR DAVIS CUP
Juan Martin del Potro has agreed to play for Argentina in its Davis Cup quarterfinal tie at home to Croatia in April. Del Potro will play singles along with David Nalbandian. Argentina Davis Cup captain Martin Jaite also named Juan Monaco, Juan Ignacio Chela and doubles specialist Eduardo Schwank to the team. Del Potro last played in the 2011 final when Argentina lost to Spain last December. He missed the first-round victory in Germany last month because of ATP World Tour commitments, but his coach stood up for him. “I was informed with plenty of notice that he wouldn’t be there against Germany, as I had asked him, and as soon as Indian Wells finished he told me he was available for Croatia,” Jaite said. Argentina has played Croatia twice in Davis Cup, winning both ties.
Not only was Alisa Kleybanova back on a tennis court, she was back in the winner’s circle. The Russian won the first match she played since being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma last May. Receiving a wild card entry into the Sony Ericsson Open, the 22-year-old Kleybanova defeated Johanna Larsson of Sweden 2-6 6-3 6-2. It was her first match in 10 months. She underwent chemotherapy treatment until December in Rome, Italy, where her boyfriend, Italian professional volleyball player Giacomo Rigoni, lives. “I don’t want to think about rankings, I just want to be on the court and feel good. I just want to be myself,” Kleybanova said. “I have a huge motivation to just live at 100 percent every day of my life.” While delighted to return to tennis, she put the game in focus. “I know there will be some stress and nerves ahead of matches, but it’s not the most important thing in my life anymore,” she said. “I’m just going to have fun out there and try to enjoy every day that I am on court. I am sure that will help me to get me back to my condition and hopefully even better again.”
SO IS VENUS
Playing in her first WTA tournament since the US Open, Venus Williams has already found the winning touch. Ranked 134th in the world because of inaction, Williams was given a wild card entry into the Sony Ericsson Open, an event she has won three times, in 1998, 1999 and 2001. But she hadn’t played since last year’s final Grand Slam tournament as she recovered from Sjögren’s Syndrome. After performing well in a Fed Cup doubles match in February, the elder Williams sister crushed another veteran, Kimiko Date-Krumm, in a first-round match at Key Biscayne, Florida. Venus then stunned third-seeded Petra Kvitova, the reigning Wimbledon champion, in the second round. “She looks very ready, very fit. She’s back,” Kvitova said of her conqueror. Williams then outlasted Canadian Aleksandra Wozniack 4-6 6-4 7-6 (5), staving off a match point and capping the victory with her biggest serve of the match. The win over Kvitova was also the 600th match win of Williams’ career.
SHOOTING IN NEWPORT
One woman was killed and another injured in a shooting at an antiques store in a building owned by the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum in Newport, Rhode Island, USA. About eight Tennis Hall of Fame employees work on the first and second floors of the building. Hall of Fame CEO Mark Stenning said the employees heard at least one gunshot and saw police surround the building. In contact with Stenning by cell phone, the employees moved to the building’s interior and locked themselves in until there was an all-clear by police more than an hour later, according to Stenning. Police Lieutenant William Fitzgerald said the shooting was not a random act and it appears the women knew each other.
SAFIN THE POLITICIAN
Marat Safin, who played an ATP Champions Tour event in Zurich, Switzerland, says he has devoted himself to politics since being elected to the Russian parliament last December. “A new life has started for me,” Safin told the ATP Champions Tour website, www.atpchampionstour.com. “The next five years I’m going to be sitting in parliament, so it’s a huge step and a huge change in my life and I think it’s a really positive one. I’m really happy with the decision that I made. … “In some ways it is similar to being a tennis player. You have to be professional, you have to dedicate yourself, you have to sacrifice some things. It’s 24-7, like with tennis. You have to always be talking about it, thinking about it, preparing meetings, running the office. The sense of routine is the same. Every morning you wake up and go to the office and to parliament like before every morning I would wake up and go to the court. Then I worked in shorts, now I work in suits. Apart from that it’s pretty similar. Instead of a racquet I have an iPad.”
Tennis Channel viewers are going to see more of Mary Carillo. Beginning with the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Florida, USA, Carillo is adding Wimbledon and select North American tournaments to her network repertoire. The former player joined Tennis Channel for the French Open and US Open telecasts last year. She has won numerous honors, including a Sports Emmy Award in 2006, two George Foster Peabody Awards in 1999 and 2006, and the Dick Schaap Award for Outstanding Journalism in 2010. Carillo has also been named “Best TV Commentator” by Tennis magazine and “Broadcaster of the year” by the WTA.
Ronnie Leitgeb, who once coached Thomas Muster, is the new president of the Austrian tennis federation. Leitgeb succeeds Ernst Wolner, who stepped down after 15 years as president. Leitgeb coached Muster when the left-hander won the French Open singles in 1995, and was Austria’s Davis Cup captain from 1994 to 1997. Even with his new post, Leitgeb will remain manager of Austria’s highest-ranked players, Jurgen Melzer and Tamira Paszek, as well as Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko and Austrian swimmer Marcus Rogan.
Change in British tax law could help persuade top tennis players to compete in other British tournaments other than Wimbledon. Athletes are taxed on a portion of their annual worldwide endorsement earnings along with the prize money and appearance fees earned in Britain. The rule was amended to include training days, meaning a smaller proportion of endorsement earnings are now taxable. Roger Draper, chief executive of Britain’s Lawn Tennis Association, said the previous situation has posed a “serious risk to the status and growth of our major sporting events.” Rafael Nadal and other athletes had complained that they could lose money by playing at events such as the Wimbledon warm-up tournament at Queen’s.
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$3,973,050 Sony Ericsson Open, Miami, Florida, USA, hard (second week)
$100,000 Orange Open Guadeloupe Challenger, Le Gosier, Guadeloupe, hard
$4,828,050 Sony Ericsson Open, Miami, Florida, USA, hard (second week)
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$740,000 Family Circle Cup, Charleston, South Carolina, USA, clay
Spain vs. Austria at Castellon, Spain, clay
France vs. United States at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France, clay
Czech Republic vs. Serbia at Prague, Czech Republic, clay
Argentina vs. Croatia at Buenos Aires, Argentina, clay
Americas: Uruguay vs. Chile at Montevideo, Uruguay, clay; Brazil vs. Colombia at São José do Rio Preto, Brazil, clay
Asia/Oceania: Uzbekistan vs. India at Namangan, Uzbekistan, clay; Australia vs. Korea at Brisbane, Australia, hard
Europe/Africa: Israel vs. Portugal at Ramat HaSharon, Israel, hard; Great Britain vs. Belgium at Glasgow, Great Britain, hard; Netherlands vs. Romania at Amsterdam, Netherlands, hard; South Africa vs. Slovenia at Johannesburg, South Africa, hard
Americas: Mexico vs. Barbados at Mexico City, Mexico, clay
Asia/Oceania: Philippines vs. Pakistan at Manila, Philippines, clay; Indonesia vs. Thailand at Jakarta, Indonesia, hard
Europe/Africa: Ukraine vs. Cyprus at Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, hard; Hungary vs. Latvia at Nyíregyháza, Hungary, carpet; Belarus vs. Bosnia/Herzegovina at Minsk, Belarus; Poland vs. Estonia at Inowroclaw, Poland, carpet