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By Bob Greene

STARS

Serena Williams beat Maria Sharapova 6-4 6-3 to win the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships in Istanbul, Turkey

David Ferrer beat Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-1 3-6 6-4 to win the Valencia Open 500 in Valencia, Spain

Juan Martin del Potro beat Roger Federer 6-4 6-7 (5) 7-6 (3) to win the Swiss Indoors Basel in Basel, Switzerland

Monica Puig beat Elena Vesnina 7-5 1-6 7-5 to win the Internationaux Féminins de la Vienne in Poitiers, France

Lu Yen-Hsun beat Yuichi Sugita 6-3 7-6 (4) to win the Samsung Securities Cup Challenger in Seoul, Korea

SAYING

“I wanted it so bad, but I didn’t want to say it. For my own sanity I really wanted it, even though I didn’t need it. I really wanted to end on a good note.” – Serena Williams, on winning the WTA Championships.

“She had another great serving day against me. I don’t think I even had a break point. That’s one of the reasons she’s such a great champion and has had a tremendous amount of success in her career.” – Maria Sharapova, following yet another loss to Serena Williams.

“My serve worked, my forehand worked. It was really close, but this time in my favor, finally, after six losses and two big losses at the Olympic Games and Roland Garros. It’s my turn.” – Juan Martin del Potro, after beating top-ranked Roger Federer to win the Swiss Indoors.

“Altogether I’m exhausted.” –Agnieszka Radwanska, after playing two consecutive matches that took more than three hours each, including at 3 hours, 29 minutes the longest recorded best-of-three-set match in WTA Championships history.

“It was so difficult to qualify for this tournament – we only did it last week in Moscow – so to be the last team in and win it is just great. We had a great tournament here and this is an amazing feeling.” – Maria Kirilenko, who teamed with Nadia Petrova to win the WTA Championships doubles.

“It’s disappointing for me to miss the last two tournaments of the season in Paris and London, but it doesn’t come as a surprise. I will hopefully resume my tennis practice soon since I am making good progress with my recovery from injury. I am not ready to compete in time for these events, so I will continue my recovery in Mallorca and work hard to be back as soon as possible.” – Rafael Nadal, announcing he will miss the last two big tournaments on the ATP Tour calendar.

“I want to dedicate the victory to Juan Carlos Ferrero on his farewell. He has given me the opportunity to grow as a erson and as a player.” – David Ferrer, after winning the title in Valencia, Spain.

“It was another really good week. We improved a little bit more in Tokyo, after Kuala Lumpur, and this week even more. It is a good feeling to know we are becoming a better team every week. We didn’t drop a set here and it feels good.” – Bruno Soares, after teaming with Alexander Peya to win the doubles in Valencia, Spain.

“I think Serena is for sure this summer the best player in the world, winning two Grand Slams and the Olympics in between. For sure she’s on fire.” – Agnieszka Radwanska, on Serena Williams.

“Vika (Victoria Azarenka) was unstoppable in the beginning of the season. Then Maria became number one, she won the French Open. Then Serena had an amazing summer.” – Petra Kvitova, on the women’s tour in 2012.

“He is the only tennis player who has made me feel inferior.” – Juan Carlos Ferrero, talking about Roger Federer when asked who the best player he had ever faced was.

“Margaret duPont was a giant in tennis and had a huge impact on my career. She was one of my sheroes and was a great influence on my life both on and off the court. I hope today’s players and any boy or girl who dreams of a career in tennis will go to the history books and read about Margaret because her career wasn’t just about winning matches, it was also about mentoring others.” – Billie Jean King, on Margaret Osborne duPont.

“It was always just tennis, tennis, tennis, tennis. I’m not sure why I loved the game so much. But I did. I just did. And I always have.” – Margaret Osborne duPont, who died at the age of 94, in an interview several years ago.

SERENA SUPREME

Serena Williams defeats Maria Sharapova to win the 2012 WTA Championships in Istanbul.

Victoria Azarenka finishes the year ranked number one in the world, Maria Sharapova as number two and Serena Williams as the best player. Go figure. The American dominated the year-ending TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships, racing through the elite field without dropping a set and thrashing Sharapova in the final, 6-4 6-3. Since losing in the opening round of the French Open, Williams is 31-1, winning Wimbledon, the Olympic gold medal, the US Open and became at age 31 the oldest player to win the year-end WTA Championships. It’s only because of the first half of the year, when she was hampered by injuries and illnesses, that she ends up behind Azarenka and Sharapova in the rankings. Both Sharapova and eighth-ranked Li Na say Williams is the world’s top female player. “I think it’s a true statement, without trying to sound full of myself or anything,” Williams said in agreeing with her fellow players. “I always said that if I’m playing well and I’m doing everything right, it’s really difficult to beat me. I still believe that.” She only lost four times in 2012: to Caroline Wozniacki in Miami, Florida, USA; to Li Na at the Italian Open in Rome; to Virginie Razzano at the French Open, and to Angelique Kerber at Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. Serena won 58 matches, including all three times she took on Sharapova this year and all five of her matches against Azarenka. “It’s surprising to win two Grand Slams, the Olympics, Madrid and the Championships and to be number three,” said Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou. “If there is a bug somewhere, someone has to find it.”

STILL NUMBER ONE

By beating Li Na and reaching the semifinals of the WTA Championships, Victoria Azarenka clinched the top spot in the season-ending rankings. “It’s kind of difficult to believe that a little girl from Belarus is on that list,” Azarenka said. “It’s really incredible achievement. When I started to play tennis I had this big picture in my head that I want to be there. Back then it’s so far away. It’s like pretty much touching the sky. I’m here sitting kid of in the sky, so it’s really incredible feeling.” Azarenka won the Australian Open in January and has been ranked number one for most of the year. Maria Sharapova, who finished the year ranked second in the world, took over the top spot after winning the French Open. But Azarenka regained the top spot when she reached the semifinals at Wimbledon, only to lose to Serena Williams. Despite dominating the sport in the second half of the season, winning two Grand Slam singles titles, the Olympic gold and the WTA Championships, Williams ends the year ranked third in the world.

SWISS MASTER

Argentine Juan Martin del Potro has a knack about beating Roger Federer in tournaments the Swiss great usually dominates. Del Potro won the 2009 US Open, stopping Federer’s bid for a sixth straight title at America’s premier tennis event. And it was del Potro who won Sunday as Federer was seeking his sixth title in his Basel, Switzerland, hometown tournament. It was their first meeting since their Olympic Games semifinal where Federer prevailed in a 36-game final set. Del Potro also lost to Federer in the quarterfinals of both the Australian and French Opens this year, the Rotterdam final, the quarterfinals at Indian Wells, California, USA, and the semifinals at Dubai. This time it was del Potro who prevailed. “Very few players beat Federer, and it shows me that I am getting closer to the ones at the top,” del Potro said. The Argentine won the only service break of the match in the fifth game of the opening set and went on to claim his second title in a row following his win in Vienna, Austria, a week ago. “I had my chances in the third set but he was able to come out of that one and I didn’t play a good tiebreak,” Federer said. “That is the story of the match.”

STILL SIDELINED

Continuing his recovering from his left knee injury, French Open champion Rafael Nadal has pulled out of the Paris Masters and the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London, Great Britain. The 26-year-old Nadal has not played since losing in the second round at Wimbledon in June. The left-hander has won 11 Grand Slam tournament singles titles. He also is expected to miss the Davis Cup final between his native Spain, the defending champion, and the Czech Republic.

STAYING HOME

Roger Federer has joined Rafael Nadal on the sidelines for this week’s Paris Masters tournament. Ranked number one in the world, the Swiss star announced he was staying home following his loss to Juan Martin del Potro in the final of the Swiss Indoors in Basel, Switzerland. “I’m not going. It’s the only right decision for me,” Federer said. “I had some niggling stuff and I didn’t want to take a chance obviously before the World Tour Finals. I need some time to prepare.” Federer was the defending champion in Paris, and also won the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals last year. “I had one of the best weeks of my life last year,” said Federer, who won last year’s Paris indoor event for the first time at age 30. “The fans were amazing and the last thing I want to do is mislead any fans. This is really just a last-minute decision.”

STOMACH WOES

After losing her opening match, Petra Kvitova withdrew from the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships in Istanbul, Turkey, with a viral illness. Kvitova said she had a sore throat and stomach problems. “I try my best to be ready for the Fed Cup,” Kvitova said of the international team competition that will be played in Prague, Czech Republic, November 2-3. “It’s final at home and I really want to play in front of our crowd, my family and friends, and try to win the Fed Cup title again. I will try my best to be ready for the weekend.” Besides Kvitova, who won Wimbledon and the WTA Championships in 2011, the Czech team will include Lucie Safarova, Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka. The defending champions will take on a Serbian team that includes Anna Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Bojana Jovanovski and Aleksandra Krunic.

SET FOR LONDON

Even before he won the title in Basel, Switzerland, Juan Martin del Potro had a spot in the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals all sewed up. When Rafael Nadal withdrew from the season-ending tournament due to injury, del Potro became the sixth singles player to qualify for the elite eight-man field. Earlier qualifiers were Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Janko Tipsarevic, Richard Gasquet and Nicolas Almagro are among those in contention for the final two spots. Del Potro will be making his third career appearance at the season finale. In 2009, he reached the final. “Being in that tournament means a lot,” del Potro said of the London event. “It’s only eight players fighting for one tournament. It’s the best eight players of the year, so it’s very important to me. I will be fighting against the big names in London and maybe I’ll have a chance to make another final.”

STRONG PERFORMANCE

Daniel Nestor joined an elite group when he teamed with Nenad Zimonjic to win the Swiss Indoors Basel title. The Canadian became the fourth player in ATP World Tour history (since 1973) to capture 80 doubles titles. Only Mike Bryan, with 84, Todd Woodbridge (83) and Bob Bryan (82) has won more team trophies. “It feels good to reach the milestone,” Nestor said. “It’s nice to win again, as Max (Mirnyi) and I have struggled a little bit. I started playing well again this week, so hopefully we can finish strong in Paris and London.” Nestor and Zimonjic were playing as a team for the first time since they captured the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals last year. Nestor has qualified for this year’s ATP World Tour Finals with Mirnyi, his new partner. “Playing with Nenad is always fun, we’ve had a lot of success together,” Nestor said. “He is one of the best on tour. It is always nice being on the same side as him. He played great, hitting a lot of big serves when we needed them. We both played well when we needed to.”

SPANISH STAR

Spain’s Juan Carlos Ferrero’s career ended at home, just as he wanted. Once ranked number one in the world, Ferrero had earlier announced that he was retiring after playing his home event, the Valencia Open. It was an emotional moment when he lost to close friend Nicolas Almagro in an opening round match. The two exchanged smiles and jokes during the match, which Almagro won 7-5 6-3. Then the two combatants embraced at the net as the 32-year-old Ferrero was given an ovation by the crowd. He fought back tears before tossing his racquet, shirt and other personal items into the stands. “It was an honor to finish my career playing you. I think you are a great champion,” Ferrero told Almagro. Ferrero turned professional in 1998 and went on to win 16 titles, including Masters events in Monte Carlo and Rome. He will join Almagro’s coaching staff on a part-time basis next year. “Maybe it was the most bitter win of my career as a great tennis player is leaving us,” Almagro said. “I hope he’ll be with me for a few weeks next year and I think we’ll have some fun. I still have a lot to learn from him.”

SHARAPOVA NOT SO SURE

Maria Sharapova is not sure it’s a good idea to give first-round losers at next year’s Australian Open a huge pay increase. “I think the compensation as you win more rounds is right, but I’m not sure about the first round,” the Russian said. The Australian Open has increased its prize money next year to USD $30 million, making it the richest event in tennis. And while the exact breakdown of prize money has not yet be announced, it is expected that the biggest increases will go towards the early rounds in a move to counter concerns that lower-ranked players are struggling to sustain careers on the ATP and WTA tours. Players have long argued that the percentage of total revenue from Grand Slam tournaments set aside for prize money should be increased. There was even talk of a boycott of next year’s Australian Open before the increase was announced. “They are under a lot of pressure because they are the first slam of the year, but I think that the other Grand Slams need to step up, based on what they make, because their revenue is much bigger than Australia’s,” Sharapova said.

SURPRISE

A week ago, Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova had to win their semifinal match in Moscow, Russia, in order to qualify for the season-ending TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships in Istanbul, Turkey. Well, they won that semifinal and became the fourth and final doubles team to reach the field in Istanbul. Then, in their very first match at the WTA Championships, they lost their opening set 6-1 and their stay in Turkey appeared to be a brief one. But not so fast. Not only did Kirilenko and Petrova eliminate the top-ranked team of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci 1-6 6-1 10-4 (match tiebreak), they then beat the second-seeded duo of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka 6-1 6-4 to win the season-ending tournament, the biggest WTA title of their careers. “We felt we could dominate the game today. It sounds simple, but really it’s quite difficult,” Kirilenko said after the final. “We’re happy to win another title together.” The Russian pair has now won four WTA doubles together, having captured Cincinnati in 2008, Moscow in 2009 and Miami this year. Hlavackova and Hradecka were playing their 15th WTA doubles final together and have posted a 9-6 record. They also were the losing team at Wimbledon, the London Olympics and the US Open this year.

SAD NEWS

The winner of more than 30 Grand Slam tournament singles and doubles titles, Margaret Osborne duPont is dead at the age of 94. The Tennis Hall of Famer won the singles title at Wimbledon in 1947, the US National Championship (now the US Open) singles from 1948 to 1950, and the French singles title in 1946 and 1948. Between 1941 and 1962, she won 31 doubles and mixed doubles titles at the three Grand Slam tournaments. She never played Australia’s major tournament. Five years after winning her last Grand Slam tournament title, she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, USA, in 1967. She won more titles – 25 – at what is now the US Open than any other player in history. Her last Grand Slam tournament title, the mixed doubles at Wimbledon, came when her son was 10 years old.

SITES GALORE

Four cities are in the running to stage the WTA Championships beginning in 2014. The WTA announced the four “Candidate Cities” are Kazan, Russia; Mexico City, Mexico; Singapore; and Tianjin, China. The four were selected from 43 cities that wanted to hold the season-ending women’s tennis event. The winning city will be announced in the spring of 2013.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Basel: Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic beat Treat Conrad Huey and Dominic Inglot 7-5 6-7 (4) 10-5 (match tiebreak)

Istanbul: Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova beat Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka 6-1 6-4

Poitiers: Catalina Castano and Mervana Jugic-Salkic beat Stephanie Foretz Gacon and Tatjana Malek 4-6 6-0 10-4 (match tiebreak)

Seoul: Lee Hsin-Han and Peng Hsien-Yin beat Yong-Kyu Lim and Ji Sung Nam 7-6 (3) 7-5

Valencia: Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares beat David Marrero and Fernando Verdasco 6-3 6-2

SURFING

Paris: http://bnpparibamasters.fft/
Sofia: http://sofia-tennis.bg/
London: www.atpworldtour.com/Finals/2012.aspx
Fed Cup: www.fedcup.com/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

MEN

$3,161,630 BNP Paribas Masters, Paris, France, hard

WOMEN

$750,000 Qatar Airways Tournament of Champions, Sofia, Bulgaria, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

MEN

$7,110,545 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, London, Great Britain, hard
$109,887 Bratislava, Slovakia, hard

FED CUP
Championship

Czech Republic vs. Serbia at Prague, Czech Republic, hard



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About Bob Greene
Bob Greene, the esteemed former Associated Press tennis writer, wraps up the week that was in international tennis with his “Monday’s With Bob Greene” column – a revival of his popular weekly feature at the AP.

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