By Bob Greene
Novak Djokovic beat Andy Murray 5-7 7-6 (11) 6-3 to win the Shanghai Rolex Masters in Shanghai, China
Heather Watson beat Chang Kai-Chen 7-5 5-7 7-6 (4) to win the HP Open in Osaka, Japan
Victoria Azarenka beat Julia Goerges 6-3 6-4 to win the Generali Ladies Linz in Linz, Austria
Uladzimir Ignatik beat Lukas Lacko 6-3 7-6 (3) to win the Tashkent Open in Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Hsieh Su-Wei beat Duan Ying-Ying 6-2 6-2 to win the ITF Women’s Tournament in Suzhou, China
Jack Sock beat Mischa Zverev 6-1 1-6 7-6 (3) to win the First Republic Bank Tiburon Challenger in Tiburon, California, USA
“Britain has been breaking quite a few records recently. I’m happy I could break another one today. I’m proud to do this for my country.” – Heather Watson, after becoming the first British woman since 1988 to win a WTA tournament, saying she was inspired by Andy Murray’s US Open victory that ended a 76-year wait for a British Grand Slam tournament men’s singles winner.
“I won the match. But, you know, as spectators could see, we were very close. It was a very even match throughout the whole three sets. He was so close to the victory that I cannot say I was the better player.” – Novak Djokovic, after he narrowly beat Andy Murray to win the Shanghai Rolex Masters.
“It was a disappointing one to lose. I’ve lost tougher matches than that before in the biggest events, so I’m sure I’ll recover from it pretty well.” – Andy Murray, following his loss to Novak Djokovic.
“I don’t really count my victories. I just try to go out there and enjoy every match.’” – Victoria Azarenka, following her triumph in Linz, Austria.
“I got to two finals here, which I’ve never achieved in one week before, and even though I didn’t win, I’m happy with my tournament.” – Julia Goerges, who lost in the finals of both the singles and doubles at Linz, Austria.
“He didn’t serve that well for him tonight, so I was able to be very aggressive on his second serve. He maybe slowed down his first serve a little bit, so I was able to take a few more chances. Obviously that helped. I went for it, like I did the past few times I played against him, and it worked tonight. When you’re beating the best player of all time probably, it’s obviously going to be special.” – Andy Murray, after beating Roger Federer in Shanghai.
SUCCESS IN SNAPPING STREAK
Following in Andy Murray’s successful footsteps, Heather Watson became the first British woman in 24 years to win a WTA singles title. In September, Murray became the first British man to win a Grand Slam tournament singles crown since 1936. “It’s starting to sink in,” Watson said after she rallied from match point down to beat Taiwan’s Chang Kai-Chen in the final of the Japan Open. “I’ve worked so hard for this moment. That’s why I practiced so hard, ran all those miles, lifted all those weights – for moments like this.” A British woman hadn’t won a title since Sara Gomer in 1988. And she had to survive four match points at 5-4 down in the third set. “I was already thinking how I was going to cry in the locker room,” Watson said of facing those match points. “I’m really proud of myself for getting through that.” Before Laura Robson had reached the final in Guangzhou, China, last month, a British woman hadn’t reach a title match since Jo Durie in 1990 – before either Robson or Watson was born. Ranked 71st in the world, the 20-year-old Watson had a chance to become the first Briton to win both the singles and doubles at the same WTA event since Anne Hobbs in 1985. But Watson and her partner, Japan’s Kimiko Date-Krumm, lost to Americans Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears 6-1 6-4.
SQUEAKING TO VICTORY
He had to save five match points, but Novak Djokovic eventually wound up beating Andy Murray to capture the Shanghai Rolex Masters crown. The Serbian trailed by a set and 5-3 before rallying against the man who beat him in the US Open final in September. Djokovic saved four match points in the tiebreak to force the match to a decisive third set. Djokovic had lost to Murray in their last two meetings, including the US Open title match. Murray also won when they faced each other in the semifinals of the London Olympics. “We had an incredible year so far with our matches, big matches in important events,” Djokovic said. “He definitely is a different player this year. You could see by the results he’s achieved. He’s more aggressive on the court and he’s definitely a danger to anybody on any surface.” Ranked second in the world, Djokovic prevailed on his third match point when Murray’s groundstroke sailed long. The Serb lost his cool when he was broken for a fourth time. He shattered his racquet by smashing it on the court four times before tossing it towards his chair, drawing a warning from the umpire. “We are professional tennis players and we’re big rivals, but in the end we’re humans. We shouldn’t be ashamed of our emotions,” Djokovic said. “I don’t see anything bad in showing your emotions – positive, negative emotions. We can’t just be flat-faced throughout the whole match.”
Victoria Azarenka kept her winning streak going as she easily captured the Generali Ladies title in Linz, Austria. It was the 13th straight match win for the top-ranked Azarenka, who has not lost since falling in the US Open final in September to Serena Williams. “I felt very good, very energized each day of this week,” said Azarenka, who won 12 straight points early in the second set as she built a 5-0 lead. She then lost four straight games before capturing the crown on her fifth match point. “It was a good match, very intense,” Goerges said. “I had a super comeback at the end, but she was just too consistent and deserved to win.” It was Azarenka’s sixth WTA trophy of the year, tying her for the lead with Williams.
SEEKING TOP SPOT
China’s Li Na became the eighth and final qualifier for the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships, which will be held in Istanbul, Turkey, later this month. Li clinched a berth by reaching the quarterfinals at the China Open. For the first time in the 42-year history of the WTA Championships, every player in the singles field represents a different country: Victoria Azarenka is from Belarus, Maria Sharapova from Russia, Agnieszka Radwanska from Poland, Serena Williams from the United States, Angelique Kerber from Germany, Petra Kvitova from the Czech Republic, Sara Errani from Italy and Li. The Chinese star won her sixth WTA title in Cincinnati and reached three other finals, at Sydney, Rome and Montréal.
Australia’s Samantha Stosur was cruising along when she was shockingly eliminated in the semifinals of the Japan Open in Osaka. The top seed, Stosur raced through the first three games before finding herself in a close encounter. Still, the Australian was two points from winning the match when Chang Kai-Chen won eight of the 10 points to win the game and take control of the third-set tiebreaker. When the dust had cleared, Chang had stunned Stosur 6-4 4-6 7-6 (3), her second-best career win. In 2009, Chang knocked off then-number one Dinara Safina in Tokyo. To reach the semifinal, Chang had surprised eighth-seeded Laura Robson in a three-setter. The victory over Stosur put Chang into the final, where she lost to Britain’s Heather Watson.
The doubles final at the Shanghai Rolex Masters could have been called “The Battle of India.” When it was over, Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek had won their third tour-level title of the season by defeating Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna 6-7 (7) 6-3 10-5 (match tiebreak). “Today was a bit more of a personal match for us three Indians,” said Paes. “Radek came in and he made it fun for me. He relaxed, laughed, joked. Said, ‘stay smooth, relaxed and have a hungry intensity.’ I come up and make it fun for him and try and take over whenever I can.” The Indian tennis federation recently banned Bhupathi and Bopanna from playing Davis Cup because they refused to team with Paes in doubles at the London Olympics. Stepanek, from the Czech Republic, was the only non-Indian on the court. He and Paes have already qualified for the year-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, while Bhupathi and Bopanna are still in the hunt for one of the remaining four spots. In the first full year that they have been partners, Paes and Stepanek won the Australian Open and were finalists at the US Open. “We’ve had a great year,” Paes said. “It started off with a big bang. To do well early in a partnership is something that can happen. But to continue playing well right through the whole year shows the quality of tennis that we play.” It was the 51st tour-level doubles title for the 39-year-old Paes. Six years younger, Stepanek improved to a 16-12 record in tour-level doubles finals.
On the day he announced his retirement, Andy Roddick quietly helped out another player. The Court of Arbitration for Sport has reduced Dimitar Kutrovsky’s two-year ban to 15 months, citing testimony by Roddick that helped the Bulgarian in a doping case. In publishing its ruling,CAS said Roddick “testified about Kutrovsky’s character” by telephone with the August 30 appear heading held in New York. That was the same day Roddick called a news conference to announce the US Open would be his final tournament. Kutrovsky tested positive in February for the banned stimulant methylhexaneamine at the SAP Open in San Jose, Calif. The CAS panel accepted that the 25-year-old Bulgarian did not intend to dope with an over-the-counter energy supplement.
STILL HAS GOALS
Roger Federer says he is prepared to “give everything” to finish the year in the number-one spot in the South African Airways ATP Rankings. “I would love to finish number one for the end of the year,” the Swiss master said in Shanghai, where he lost in the semifinals to Andy Murray. “For that, it’s going to take a great stretch again, winning Basel, Paris and London, I assume, to give myself a chance. We’ll see how it goes. I’m relaxed about it. I’ll give everything I can.” Last year Federer went on a 17-match winning streak after the US Open, winning the Swiss indoors in Basel, the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris and the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London. Currently ranked number one, Federer is being closely pursued by Novak Djokovic, who beat Murray to win the Shanghai Rolex Masters. “The goal was to become world number one this year, which happened, not the end of the year,” Federer said. “But if that happens, that’s a bonus.”
Following a suggestion by India’s top female player, Sania Mirza, the Fenesta Open National Tennis Championships in New Delhi increased the prize money for women while the tournament was being played, making it equal with the men. “Sania brought this to my notice today, asking why is there a difference in the prize money between men and women when several international tournaments have the same prize money for both,” said Ajay Shriram, chairman of the tournament sponsors. “We immediately decided to increase the prize money and bring parity.” Mirza, who was chief guest at the tournament and not playing, said: “I think Mr. Shriram for accepting my suggestion so quickly.”
SET FOR PERTH
France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will make his Hopman Cup debut at the end of the year as tournament organizers boast it will be the strongest field ever. Also in the Hopman Cup field – which is considered an exhibition – will be Novak Djokovic, Venus Williams and Ana Ivanovic. The mixed international event will be played at the new Perth Arena from December 29 to January 5. “It’s really good because I will arrive really early to Australia (and) I will be able to play three matches to prepare for the Australian Open,” said Tsonga, whose French team partner will be Mathilde Johansson. The Serbian pair of Djokovic and Ivanovic is the top seed, ahead of the American team of Williams and John Isner.
SENIOR SEASON OPENER
Overcoming a 7-5 deficit, Jim Courier rallied to beat John McEnroe 8-7 (1) in the final of the PowerShares Series’ season-opening Cancer Treatment Centers of America Tennis Championships. “For the first event of the season the quality of tennis played tonight was outstanding,” Courier said. “Once I was able to break John and get back into the match, I was able to take control.” In the semifinals, Courier beat Todd Martin 7-6 (5) and McEnroe stopped Michael Chang 6-2.
Linz: Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Kveta Peschke beat Barbora Zahlavova Strycova and Julia Goerges 6-3 6-4
Osaka: Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears beat Kimiko Date-Krumm and Heather Watson 6-1 6-4
Shanghai: Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek beat Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna 6-7 (7) 6-3 10-5 (match tiebreak)
Suzhou: Timea Bacsinszky and Caroline Garcia beat Yang Zhaoxuan and Zhao Yi-Jing 7-5 6-3
Tashkent: Andre Begemann and Martin Emmrich beat Rameez Junaid and Frank Moser 6-7 (2) 7-6 (21) 10-8 (match tiebreak)
Tiburon: Rik De Voest and Chris Guccione beat Jordan Kerr and Andreas Siljestrom 6-1 6-4
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$673,150 Kremlin Cup, Moscow, Russia, hard
$633,325 If Stockholm Open, Stockholm, Sweden, hard
$633,325 Erste Bank Open, Vienna, Austria, hard
$750,000 Kremlin Cup, Moscow, Russia, hard
$220,000 BGL BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open, Luxembourg, hard
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$1,839,850 Valencia Open 500, Valencia, Spain, hard
$1,813,300 Swiss Indoors Basel, Basel, Switzerland, hard
$100,000 Seoul Challenger, Seoul, Korea, hard
$4,900,000 TEBBNPParibas WTA Championships, Istanbul, Turkey, hard
$100,000 Internationaux Féminins de la Vienne, Poitiers, France, hard