By Bob Greene
Nadia Petrova beat Agnieszka Radwanska 6-0 1-6 6-3 to win the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, Japan
Juan Monaco beat Julien Benneteau 7-5 4-6 6-3 to win the Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Richard Gasquet beat Gilles Simon 6-2 6-1 to win the Thailand Open in Bangkok, Thailand
David Goffin beat Ruben Bemelmans 6-4 3-6 6-3 to win the Open Orléans in Orléans, France
“After running out of gas in the second set, I don’t know where I found the strength and willpower to fight in the third set, but I did and it feels amazing. This is the biggest tournament I’ve ever won. It’s a great accomplishment. … I’m so happy to be here right now.” – Nadia Petrova, after winning the Toray Pan Pacific Open.
“I’m disappointed. I wanted to win this title so much, and when you’re so close and feel you can make it, it’s always emotional if you don’t.” – Agnieszka Radwanska, after losing to Nadia Petrova in Tokyo, Japan.
“We were trying to contain ourselves after we won. We kind of wanted to dance. It’s not a Grand Slam, but for us it’s pretty close. We put in a lot of work this year and it’s our biggest win ever.” – Raquel Kops-Jones, who teamed with Abigail Spears to capture the doubles title in Tokyo.
“Right now my concern is to make sure I feel good on the court physically. The rest, I’m not too worried about it right now. I’m not thinking about pressure or confidence or whatever it is. I just try to focus on my physical condition to be good and go from there, because without that, there’s not much.” – Victoria Azarenka, after she pulled out of the Tokyo tournament because of dizziness.
“I was at my happiest moment during match point because I’ve always dreamed of holding a Thailand Open trophy in the 10 years I’ve played the tournament. I feel very proud of having done it today.” – Danai Udomchoke of Thailand, after winning the Thailand Open doubles title.
“’She played a very steady game and I had a few more unforced errors than I would have liked. It’s disappointing to lose but you have to take every disappointment and turn it into a positive. It’s really about thinking what I can do to improve for the next tournament.” – Maria Sharapova, after losing to Samantha Stosur in the quarterfinals in Tokyo.
“There are a few players who have won Grand Slams after 30, and I feel like I don’t want to walk away from tennis without accomplishing the same. … If it’s meant to happen, it will, but if it doesn’t, at the end of my career I’ll know I’ve done everything I could to achieve it.” – Nadia Petrova, concerning the recent surge in success of players in their 30s.
“You need to enjoy what you do. I’m a big believer that when you enjoy training and playing, you will always do better because you’re in a better state of mind. And practice always makes perfect. It’s not going to happen over a day. Like for me, the transition to become a top player wasn’t so quick. It just takes time. You have to be patient and put everything you can into it to succeed.” – Victoria Azarenka, on her advice to young players on how to become number one in the world.
“It’s unfortunate we had to play against each other in the first round. She’s a good friend of mine and we are playing doubles with each other, too.” – Jelena Jankovic, after beating Andrea Petkovic in the opening round of the China Open.
“I’m sitting in this position and thinking I still have so much passion for what I do. I love going out and competing and learning and trying to get better. This career only goes on for so many years. It would be stupid to not take advantage of the fact that you really enjoy doing something, and like waking up in the morning and getting better at it. I’ve done this from a very young age, and I don’t see my life without it. So there’s no reason to even think of retirement.” – Maria Sharapova, on how long she plans to play.
One week after a low back injury forced her to withdraw from a tournament, it was Nadia Petrova who was handing out the pain in Tokyo. The Russian defeated Agnieszka Radwanska to win her 12th and biggest WTA title, the Toray Pan Pacific Open. It wasn’t easy for the former world number two. In her run to the title, Petrova beat seventh-ranked Sara Errani, ninth-ranked Sam Stosur and the third-ranked Radwanska. It was the first time she has beaten three Top 10 players at the same tournament. Petrova raced through the opening set, winning 6-0, before losing the second 6-1. “I played great in the first set but may have used too much energy, and in the second set I felt flat,” the winner said. “It took me a while to recuperate and get back into the game.” Radwanska double-faulted twice and Petrova broke to take a 5-3 lead in the final set. She then served it out. “At the beginning of the tournament I definitely didn’t expect to win the title because of the back injury I’ve been struggling with. I’m so happy to be here right now.”
STILL SEEKING TITLE
It took more than three hours for Argentine Juan Monaco to defeat Frenchman Julien Benneteau and win the Malaysian Open, his fourth ATP title of the year. “I think we played a great match with a lot of ups and downs,” Monaco said. “I got a little nervous when I had chances, but I never gave up.” Ranked 11th in the world, Monaco kept alive his chances of qualifying for November’s season-ending World Tour Finals in London. In the third set, Monaco broke to take a 4-2 lead. Benneteau saved one match point at 2-5, but Monaco wrapped up his 37th match win of the year. “He surprised me a little bit with his comeback in the second set. In the final set, I knew I had to be more aggressive and I am happy the way I finished the match,” Monaco said. Benneteau, who lost his seventh career final, is still seeking his first ATP title.
They got into the Thailand Open with a wild card. Lu Yen-Hsun of Taiwan and Danai Udomchoke of Thailand finished up the week as champions. It was the first championship for Udomchoke, who was playing in his 10th Thailand Open. Lu improved to a 2-2 record in title matches, while the two won their first ATP World Tour doubles title together. “I’m very happy for Danai to win on his home ground,” Lu said. “I don’t know how I can explain how I feel. I’m just very happy and I appreciate playing with my friend. This is another experience we go through as friends and I’m happy.”
Serena Williams isn’t playing this week in the China Open. The reigning Wimbledon and US Open champion withdrew from the Beijing tournament with an illness. “Flu is no fun,” Williams said on her Twitter account. But she made no mention of the China Open. She also missed last year’s Beijing tournament with an injury.
In a battle of Frenchmen, Richard Gasquet crushed compatriot Gilles Simon to win his first ATP title in more than two years. Gasquet dominated Simon 6-2 6-1 to win the Thailand Open and improve his record over Simon to 6-0. “I played against a French player who is also my friend, so of course it’s a little bit strange, but for me it’s a title and I’ve had some tough matches this week so I’m very happy to win,” Gasquet said. It was Gasquet’s seventh career ATP World Tour title, but his first since May 2010. It was the second all-French ATP World Tour final of the year. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Gael Monfils in January at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha, Qatar. “I was playing some of the best tennis I ever played yesterday (in the semifinals against Janko Tipsarevic) and today I just couldn’t play at all,” Simon said.
Novak Djokovic wants back his old spot atop the men’s world rankings. “That’s one of the goals,” the Serbian star said during a promotional tour in Taipei, Taiwan. “Of course I want to be number one of the world again. It’s an ambition. It’s possible (by) the end of the year. I try to focus on each tournament individually and see how it goes. I need to play really well because there are so many great players in this moment.” Djokovic took over as number one in the world last year when he had a remarkable season, winning three of the four Grand Slam tournaments. But he was surpassed this year by Roger Federer. Djokovic won the Australian Open in January, and then lost to Rafael Nadal in the French Open final and to Federer in the semifinals at Wimbledon. He was beaten last month in the US Open final by Andy Murray.
Dizziness forced top-ranked Victoria Azarenka to withdraw from the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, Japan. Playing in her first tournament since losing to Serena Williams in the US Open final, Azarenka called for a trainer midway through the first set of a match against Italy’s Roberta Vinci. She had her blood pressure checked during the changeover. “I felt dizzy on court and my head was spinning between points,” said the Belarusian. “I was just trying to finish the points as quickly as possible.” Azarenka then won the next six games, taking the first set and a 4-0 lead in the second. But still looking flushed between points, she dropped the next two games before closing out the victory and advance to the quarterfinals. “I arrived a few days before the tournament and really struggled with my health,” Azarenka said. “I’ve been trying to save my energy for my matches. I don’t know what exactly it is. Hopefully I’ll know as soon as possible and get rid of it.” She withdrew before her quarterfinal match against Angelique Kerber, the German moving into the semifinals on a walkover.
Rafael Nadal will return to the tennis wars when his knee is good and ready, and not before. In an interview, Nadal told Reuters news agency that he is still feeling some pain in his left knee and will only begin playing again when that is no longer the case. “We’ll see how things develop in the next few weeks, but my priority is to recover well, not quickly but well,” he said. “I will return to the court when I feel that the knee no longer gives me any pain, whether that is in two weeks or in three or four.” The 26-year-old Spaniard has won 11 Grand Slam tournament singles titles, including this year’s French Open. But he has not played since being upset in the second round at Wimbledon by Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic. Because of the injury, diagnosed as a partial tear of the patella tendon and an inflammation of the Hoffa’s fat pad, Nadal withdrew from the London Olympics and the US Open. “The reality is that at the age of 26 and after a career of more than 10 years, with very good results, it has been my good fortune that my knees have not prevented me competing at the highest level for many years,” Nadal said. “I hope that when I return they don’t hinder me.”
Tickets for the 2012 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas final sold out within six hours after they went on sale. The Czech Republic and Serbia will battle for the crown November 3-4 in Prague, Czech Republic. The final will be played indoors at the O2 Arena, which has a seating capacity of 13,000. Led by former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, the Czechs will be seeking to win their second straight Fed Cup crown, having defeated Russia 3-2 in the 2011 final in Moscow. “My wish was to play in a sold-out arena, but I did not expect that it would sell out in one day,” Kvitova said. “My father ordered more than 100 tickets himself.” Serbia will be led by two former world number ones – Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic. The Serbs are attempting to follow in the footsteps of their male counterparts, who captured the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas title in 2010. It is the first meeting between the two teams as independent nations. Fed Cup by BNP Paribas is the largest annual international team competition in women’s sport, with 85 nations participating this year.
SET FOR ISTANBUL
Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska is the latest player to qualify for the season-ending TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships, which will be held October 23-28 in Istanbul, Turkey. The tournament will feature the world’s top eight singles players and top four doubles teams competing for a share of USD $4.9 million in prize money. Radwanska has won three tournaments in 2012 and reached the final at Wimbledon. “I am looking forward to returning to Istanbul for the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships this year,” Radwanska said. “This is a goal for every player at the start of the season, and I’m so happy to have made it.” When she earned a berth in the Wimbledon title match, the 23-year-old Radwanska became the first Polish woman since 1939 to reach the final at a Grand Slam tournament. Others who have already qualified for Istanbul include Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams.
SAYS I DO
Austria’s Jurgen Melzer has his own Czech mate. Ranked as high as eight in the world in 2011, Melzer and WTA player Iveta Bensova of the Czech Republic have married. While she achieved her best singles ranking at 25th in the world in 2009, the left-hander was 17th in the doubles rankings last year. Their wedding wasn’t the first time the two have teamed up. They won the mixed doubles at Wimbledon in 2011. The two were married September 14 at Laxenburg Castle in Austria.
Another WTA-ATP couple is also in the news. Karolina Sprem and Marcos Baghdatis, who were married earlier this summer, are expecting their first child later this month.
Just because he’s retired from the ATP Tour doesn’t mean Andy Roddick has gone into hiding. He’s been busy with fundraising efforts for the Andy Roddick Foundation, and finding success. With the support of nine-time Grammy Award winning musician John Legend, actor Matthew McConaughey and Roddick’s actress wife, Brooklyn Decker, the seventh annual Andy Roddick Foundation charity gala in Austin, Texas, USA, last month raised more than USD $1million for the Foundation. The proceeds will help fund youth programs at a new eight-court tennis and learning facility in Austin as well as other youth programs run by its partner organizations. Roddick created the foundation in 2000 and has since raised more than USD $10 million for its programs as well as various Texas-based and South Florida-based youth organizations.
Bangkok: Lu Yen-Hsun and Danai Udomchoke beat Eric Butorac and Paul Hanley 6-3 6-4
Kuala Lumpur: Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares beat Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins 5-7 7-5 10-7 (match tiebreak)
Orléans: Lukas Dloughy and Gilles Muller beat Xavier Malisse and Ken Skupski 6-2 6-7 (5) 10-7 (match tiebreak)
Tokyo: Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears beat Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Kveta Peschke 6-1 6-4
Tokyo (men): www.rakutenopen.com/
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$2,205,000 China Open, Beijing, China, hard
$1,280,565 Rakuten Japan Open, Tokyo, Japan, hard
$138,230 Ethias Trophy, Mons, Belgium, hard
$100,000 Rely Aid Natomas Challenger, Sacramento, California, USA, hard
$4,828,050 China Open, Beijing, China, hard
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$3,531,650 Shanghai Rolex Masters, Shanghai, China, hard
$125,000 Tashkent Open, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, hard
$100,000 First Republic Bank Tiburon Challenger, Tiburon, California, USA, hard
$220,000 Generali Ladies Linz, Liinz, Austria, hard
$220,000 HP Open, Osaka, Japan, hard
$100,000 ITF Women’s Tournament, Suzhou, China, hard