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By Justin Cohen

Wild Cards Announced for 2012 Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs

The USTA announced on Tuesday that former Top 30 player Bethanie Mattek-Sands (Rochester, Minn.), former US Open junior champion Jack Sock (Lincoln, Neb.) and two-time reigning NCAA singles champion Steve Johnson (Orange, Calif.) are among the players competing in the 2012 Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs, held December 14-16, at Life Time Athletic & Tennis at Peachtree Corners in Norcross, Ga., a certified USTA Regional Training Center. Eight men and eight women will compete in the fourth annual Wild Card Playoffs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with each winner earning a singles main draw wild card into the 2013 Australian Open. The USTA secured the opportunity through a reciprocal agreement with Tennis Australia, where the two national tennis federations exchanged wild cards for the 2012 US Open and 2013 Australian Open. The men’s field also includes Bradley Klahn (Poway, Calif.), Rhyne Williams (Knoxville, Tenn.), Denis Kudla (Arlington, Va.), Tennys Sandgren (Gallatin, Tenn.), Christian Harrison (Shrevport, La.) and Daniel Kosakowski (Huntington Park, Calif.). The women’s field also includes Irina Falconi (Jupiter, Fla.), Mallory Burdette (Jackson, Ga.), Madison Keys (Rock Island, Ill.), Julia Cohen (Philadelphia), Maria Sanchez (Modesto, Calif.), Alison Riske (Pittsburgh) and Alexa Glatch (Newport Beach, Calif.). To help kick off the fourth annual Australian Open Wild Card Playoff, 2012 Olympic men’s doubles gold medal winners and 12-time Grand Slam doubles champions Bob and Mike Bryan will play a unique exhibition, the “Battle of Georgia,” taking on five select doubles teams from the state each in a first-to-four-games exhibition match on Friday, December 14, at Life Time.

Western & Southern Open Sells More Than $400,000 in Gift Cards during Cyber Monday Promo

In a record-setting holiday promotion for the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, tournament fans purchased $40,750 worth of tournament “Court Cards” from 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. on November 26, 2012. The one-day promotion offered tournament Court Cards at a 10 percent discount. A Court Card is redeemable for tickets at the tournament box office, and food, beverage and merchandise at the Lindner Family Tennis Center during the event. The Western & Southern Open is one of only five professional tennis events in the world (outside of the grand slams) to feature top-level men’s and women’s tournaments playing concurrently at the same venue during the same week. The event is played in Mason, OH, 20 miles north of Cincinnati. Interesting facts from the Cyber Monday promotion included: An order was placed an average of every 8.5 minutes, 320 total Court Cards were purchased, the most popular denomination of gift cards ordered was $100, an average of $1,698 of card value was ordered every hour and cards were ordered from 19 different states. The 2013 Western & Southern Open will be held from August 10-18.

Li Na, Wozniacki Headline BNP Paribas Showdown in Hong Kong

World class tennis returns to Hong Kong after a two-year absence as a pair of Top 10 stars of women’s tennis will be joined by two legends of the men’s game for the BNP Paribas Showdown on March 4 at the AsiaWorld-Arena. Li Na, Asia’s first Grand Slam champion, will take on two-time year-end world No. 1 and Grand Slam finalist Caroline Wozniacki while eight-time Grand Slam champion Ivan Lendl will renew his rivalry with John McEnroe, a seven-time Grand Slam champion, during the event in Hong Kong. The BNP Paribas Showdown will be produced by StarGames, Inc., in conjunction with the Hong Kong Tennis Association. It marks the first time the AsiaWorld-Arena has played host to such an international tennis event. BNP Paribas, a leader in banking and financial services and the world No. 1 tennis partner, will support this event as title sponsor. Additional event sponsors include Fiji Water, Getty Images, Wilson and PURE Fitness and Yoga. “Once more, BNP Paribas is proud to bring the best of tennis to Asia by supporting this outstanding sporting event, as it does with the same acclaimed tennis event in New York. We are excited to share our passion and enthusiasm for tennis with the fans in Hong Kong” said Paul Yang, Chief Executive Officer for BNP Paribas Hong Kong. “The BNP Paribas Showdown gives the bank a perfect opportunity to accelerate the growing awareness of our brand in Asia and it reaffirms our commitment and loyalty to this region and to this sport.” The matches will take place the same night as an event with the same name is held at Madison Square Garden in New York City as part of the first annual “World Tennis Day.” Serena Williams will play Victoria Azarenka in the first match in New York, followed by Rafael Nadal against Juan Martin del Potro.

McEnroe, Haas Sign On for 2012 Necker Cup

Seven-time Grand Slam Champion and tennis Hall of Famer John McEnroe has agreed to play in the first annual Necker Cup, joining world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, the Bryan Brothers and other current and past ATP players in the Premier Tennis Travel hosted pro-am on Sir Richard Branson’s private island, Necker Island, in the British Virgin Islands. Additionally, Necker Cup organizers at Premier Tennis Travel have announced that current ATP veteran, former World No. 2 and 2012 Comeback Player of the Year Tommy Haas has signed on to play in what is being billed as the world’s most exclusive pro-am. A former Australian Open and Wimbledon semifinalist, Haas has won 14 career ATP singles and doubles titles, as well as a silver medal in the 2000 Olympic Games. Amateurs can book a spot in the Necker Cup Pro-Am by calling (001) 800-376-0975 or by visiting www.NeckerCup.com.

Former ATP Chief Mark Miles Lands New Role as CEO at IndyCar’s Parent Company

According to an article written by Matt Cutler on SportsBusiness.com, experienced sports industry executive Mark Miles has been named CEO of Hulman & Co, parent company of the IndyCar Series, Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) and the sport’s media and technology partner IMS Productions. In the sports world, Miles served as CEO of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), the governing body of men’s tennis, from 1990 to 2005. Before that he led Indianapolis’ staging of the 1987 Pan American Games, while he also served as chairman of the board for the city’s hosting of the National Football League’s (NFL) Super Bowl last year. Miles added: “I’m excited about joining the team and contributing my lifetime learning from international professional sports, large-scale major sports events and business environments. I have worked for companies with global profiles and brands, and I’m happy to continue that on behalf of the Hulman-George family and its significant business interests.”

Wilson Unveils New Racket Series for 2013

Building upon the success of one of its most popular rackets among Next Gen tour players, Wilson Racquet Sports is unveiling the next evolution of the Blade™ racket series for 2013, engineered for hard-hitting players that want to maximize control, spin and feel. The new rackets take control to the next level and feature Wilson’s proprietary Amplifeel™ handle technology for optimal feel, as well as an enhanced modulus graphite construction for added control. A new sleek black and silver cosmetic, inspired by tour players, rounds out the revamped product family. “I had a great time testing the Blade 98,” said Milos Raonic. “The increased level of feel and control gives me exactly what I am looking for in 2013. It looks and feels great for my game.” The Blade 98™ is now available in an additional 16×19 (318g) spin-enhancing string pattern. Milos Raonic leads the charge of Blade 98 players, and newest Wilson team member, Gael Monfils, switched to Wilson to play with the new racket. Wilson Next Gen players Laura Robson, David Goffin and Elina Svitolina are already adding wins to their career records. Included in the group are the Blade 93™, Blade 98 and Blade 104™. Used by 75 percent of Wilson’s Next Gen team, the rackets will be available at retail December 1.

Murray, Hewitt, Raonic Headline 2013 Brisbane International Field

World No. 3 and defending US Open Champion Andy Murray and former World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt headline a strong player field at the 2013 Brisbane International presented by Suncorp. Five Top 20 players have signed up for the Australian Open tune-up event including No. 13 Milos Raonic, No. 16 Gilles Simon, 2012 Brisbane runner-up and World No. 18 Alexandr Dolgopolov, as well as No. 19 Kei Nishikori. Other set to compete in Brisbane in January include Marcos Baghdatis, Tommy Robredo, Australian No. 1 Marinko Matosevic, David Goffin, Martin Klizan, Radek Stepanek, Jurgen Melzer, Florian Meier, Jarkko Nieminen and Paul-Henri Mathieu. This year’s tournament will take place from December 30, 2012 – January 6, 2013.

Bryan Brothers help Eric Butorac Raise $50,000 During Charity Event in Minnesota

With the help from fellow ATP players Bob and Mike Bryan, Nicholas Monroe, Brian Battistone and Michael Yani, doubles specialist Eric Butorac was able to raise more than $50,000 during his fourth annual charity event, Eric Butorac’s Minnesota Tennis Challenge on November 17 in Eden Prairie. “It feels so great to give back to the Minnesota tennis community,” Butorac says. “It is the place where I enjoyed most of my tennis development and hope that many others can share the same opportunities that I had.” Hosted by Wayne Bryan at Life Time Athletic in Eden Prairie, the charitable cause raised more than $50,000 for inner city tennis programs in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Proceeds benefited the Fred Wells Tennis & Education Center, Inner City Tennis, Saint Paul Urban Tennis and the Rochester Boys and Girls Club. The event saw 1,000 people turn out for the festivities, featuring a clinic, doubles Pro-Am, VIP reception, a doubles match between Butorac/Monroe and the top-ranked Bryans, and an auction and gala.

Ryan Harrison Invitational Raises Funds for Wounded Warriors Project

Ryan Harrison and fellow Americans Bob Bryan, Mike Bryan, Ryan Sweeting, Scott Lipsky and Christian Harrison came together recently in Shreveport, Louisiana to raise money for the Wounded Warriors Project in the first annual Ryan Harrison Invitational. “I could not be happier with the way things went this first year of the Ryan Harrison Invitational,” said the 20-year-old Harrison. “I am so grateful for what our troops do to preserve our freedom and rights here in the United States and around the world and I am glad that we could all come together to help raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project. They sacrifice so much for us.” Several hundred people turned out for the charity event, which featured a gala, kids clinic and exhibition. The gala on Saturday night, which included dinner, dancing, a meet and greet, as well as a singing performance by Ryan’s younger brother Christian, raised approximately $20,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project.

Juan Carlos Ferrero to Coach Nicolas Almagro Part-Time

According to a report on TENNIS.com by Matt Cronin, the recently retired Juan Carlos Ferrero will coach fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro on a part-time basis. Ferrero told journalists during the Davis Cup final that he does not want to travel full-time, but will accompany Almagro to the ATP event in Acapulco in February.

Dimitrov to be Coached by Swedish Team

World No. 48 Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria will now be coached by the Good to Great Tennis Academy in Sweden, which is run by former ATP players Magnus Norman, Nicklas Kulti and Mikael Tillstrom. Dimitrov was most recently coached by Patrick Mouratoglou at his academy in Paris. Tillstrom will accompany Dimitrov at the Australian tournaments in January 2013.

Federer to skip Miami Masters, Monte Carlo, Paris Bercy in 2013

As Roger Federer typically does around the Thanksgiving holiday, he releases his tournament schedule for the upcoming season. In 2013, Federer will skip the Miami Masters in March, a tournament he has played every year since 1999. The 17-time Grand Slam Champion will also skip Monte Carlo and is not scheduled to play in his hometown event in Basel. The Swiss will begin tournament play in 2013 at the Australian Open, and then play ATP 500 tournaments in Rotterdam and Dubai, followed by the Indian Wells Masters. He will then take seven weeks off before returning on clay in Madrid, then play the week after that in Rome and head to Roland Garros. He will again play the grass court warm-up tournament in Halle (his only ATP 250-level event) before heading to Wimbledon. During the North American summer, Federer will play Canada, Cincinnati, and the US Open. In the fall, he is only scheduled to play Shanghai before the ATP World Tour Finals (assuming he qualifies), which means he will skip the Masters in Paris/Bercy again.

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About Justin Cohen
Justin Cohen is a graduate of Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, with a bachelor’s degree in Communications and Specialization in Journalism and was a member of the varsity tennis team, where he and his teammates finished as the runner-up at the 2006 NCAA Division II Men’s Tennis Championships. Justin began writing his weekly column, “This Week in Tennis Business with Justin Cohen” in July 2009. The following month, he covered the ATP/WTA Western & Southern Financial Group Masters and Women’s Open in Cincinnati, Ohio interviewing most of the top ranked players in the world. A lifelong tennis enthusiast who has enjoyed traveling to many professional tennis tournaments, Justin has much experience in the tennis industry. Previously, he worked at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association in Princeton, New Jersey, and also completed summer internships in ticket sales at the ATP/WTA Tour Western & Southern Financial Group Masters and Women’s Open in Cincinnati and in marketing at the Tennis Channel in Los Angeles.

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