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By Bob Greene

STARS

Guido Pella beat Adrian Ungur 6-3 6-7 (4) 7-6 (4) to win the ATP Challenger Tour Finals in São Paulo, Brazil

Kimiko Date-Krumm beat Yulia Putintseva 6-1 3-6 6-4 to win the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

SAYING

“Beating (Thomaz) Bellucci gave me a lot of confidence. It was one of the hardest matches I’ve ever played. Everyone was rooting against me.” – Guido Pella, who upset Brazil’s Bellucci in his first match of the ATP Challenger Tour Finals in São Paulo, Brazil.

“The circumstances leading to the fall were all so unlucky, but since the accident I feel I have been really lucky. I was lucky to be alive and not have damaged anything major. I was lucky my friends found me and took me to a great hospital where they took great care of me.” – Sergei Bubka, who is recovering from a three-story fall.

“There’s no comeback (to tennis for me).” – Andy Roddick, after beating Andy Murray in an exhibition match.

“I looked at the list of past winners and it’s certainly a very impressive line-up that includes many of my idols growing up.” – Laura Robson, after being named WTA Newcomer of the Year.

“I just felt like it was time for a different voice. CB and I will remain great friends and he will always be someone I can go to for help or advice.” – John Isner, after dropping Boynton as his coach.

SEASON-ENDER

By winning his second marathon battle against Adrian Ungur, Argentina’s Guido Pella captured the season-ending ATP Challenger Tour Finals in São Paul, Brazil. And that victory moved Pella into the Top 100 in the South African ATP Rankings for the first time. “The match was really special because if I lost I would be out of the Top 100 and I would have to wait until 2013 to see if I could get in,” Pella said. “My goal this year was getting closer to this group. I was able to get through that and everything will be different next year. I expect to stay in the Top 100 for a long time” Ungur won their round-robin meeting 4-6 7-6 (6) 7-6 (5). But in the final, it was Pella who came out on top 6-3 6-7 (4) 7-6 (4). The Argentine said the key to his victory was winning his first round-robin match against highly favored Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil. “Beating Bellucci gave me a lot of confidence,” Pella sad. “At the start I was a little bit nervous, but I managed to win the match. … I won the title in the toughest match of my career.”

Kimiko Date-Krumm wins the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge in Dubai

SENIOR SUCCESS

Age seems to be no barrier for Kimiko Date-Krumm. The veteran Japanese star became the oldest woman to win a singles title in the Open Era when she bested Yulia Putintseva 6-1 3-6 6-4 in the final of the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. At 42 years, two months old, Date-Krumm, ranked as high as fourth in the world in 1995, obliterated the old record set in 1983 by Hall of Famer Billie Jean King, who was 39 years, seven months when she won her last singles crown. Date-Krumm’s latest title comes 20 years after the WTA named her the “Most Improved Player of the Year.” Rain forced the 18-year-old Putintseva to complete her 3-6 6-4 7-6 (3) semifinal win over Kristyna Pliskova before facing Date-Krumm for the title. Martina Hingis, the former world number one, is coaching Putintseva.

While Kristyna Pliskova failed to reach the title match in singles, her twin sister Karolina played for the doubles championship. But Karolina Pliskova and Eva Hrdinova lost to Maria-Elena Camerin and Vera Dushevina 7-5 6-3.

SERENA HONORED

After dominating the second half of the season, Serena Williams has been named WTA Player of the Year. The 31-year-old American won Wimbledon and the US Open, increasing her Grand Slam tournament singles total to 15, while also capturing Olympic gold in both singles and doubles along with the season-ending WTA Tour Championships in Istanbul, Turkey. From April to October Williams won 48 of her 50 matches. While she is ranked third in the world, William is considered the best player. She has now won the WTA award four times, having earlier captured the honor in 2002, 2008 and 2009. The award is voted for by international tennis media.

SERGEI RECOVERING

Making a remarkable recovery, Sergei Bubka is already standing and almost walking. The 25-year-old Ukrainian is undergoing six hours of physical therapy a day after he suffered a three-story fall and sustained multiple fractures. After being locked inside the bathroom of a friend’s apartment, Bubka fell when he leaned to look outside the window. While he doesn’t remember the fall, he does remember yelling for help. He underwent nine hours of surgery at the Georges Pompidou hospital in Paris.

SKIPPING AUSTRALIA

Because of health issues relating to his heart surgery, American Mardy Fish will miss the Australian Open next month. The 30-year-old underwent an operation in May to correct a form of arrhythmia. He is listed as “improving” and plans to return to the ATP Tour in February at the SAP Open in San Jose, California, USA. “The good news is that Mardy’s health is improving and he is back on the court slowing getting back into his regular workouts,” Fish’s agent, John Tobias, told the news agency Reuters. Fish has not played since the US Open in September when he had to pull out of his fourth-round match against Roger Federer because of heart palpitations. Fish began the year ranked eighth in the world but has since fallen to 27th. He first noticed the problem with his heartbeat before a Davis Cup match in February and the condition worsened in the following weeks. When he was at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Florida, USA, in March, he woke up with his heart beating three times faster than normal. He later said that he had feared then that he would die. Despite the slide in the world rankings, Fish is still the third-highest ranked American.

SPLITS WITH COACH

John Isner has switched coaches. The top American player ended his relationship with Craig Boynton, who has coached the 14th-ranked Isner since March 2009. His ranking peaked at a career-high ninth in the world in April, but he fell back after suffered first-week losses at the final three Grand Slam tournaments: the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. This year he won titles in Newport, Rhode Island, USA, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA. “I had a great run with Craig, learned a lot and felt like I improved every year,” Isner said. “I just felt like it was time for a different voice.” Isner has hired Michael Sell as his coach for 2013. When Boynton became his coach, the big-serving 6-foot-9 Isner was ranked well outside the top 100, dropping as low as 147th. But he finished 2009 at number 34 after reaching the fourth round of the US Open. He is perhaps best remembered for his 11-hour, five-minute marathon victory against Nicolas Mahut of France in the first round at Wimbledon. Isner won 70-68 in the fifth set.

SELECTED

Britain’s Laura Robson has been named WTA Newcomer of the Year for 2012. The 18-year-old became the first Brit to reach a WTA final in 22 years when she lost in Guangzhou, China, in September. At the London Olympics, Robson teamed with Andy Murray to win the mixed doubles silver medal, and reached the US Open fourth round in singles with upset victories over Kim Clijsters and Li Na. “It’s a huge honor to have won the award,” said Robson, who became the first Briton to win a WTA award since Virginia Wade was named Player of the Year in 1977. Former winners of the newcomer award include Clijsters, Maria Sharapova, Venus and Serena Williams, Martina Hingis and Jennifer Capriati. “I hope that I can go on to achieve close to what many of the past winners have achieved in their careers,” Robson said.

SIGNED

The Delray Beach International Tennis Championships already has five former champions in its field for 2013. The latest to sign up for the Florida event were former champions Tommy Haas, who won the title in 2006, and Kei Nishikori, the 2008 winner. Other former winners in the field include Mardy Fish (2009) and the world’s top-ranked brother team of Mike and Bob Bryan, who captured the doubles in both 2009 and 2010. Also in the field is John Isner, the top-ranked American player. “We will see more Top 20 players on the courts in Delray Beach in 2013 than any other year in our history,” said tournament director Mark Baron.

SCULPTURE

A great Argentine tennis player, Guillermo Vilas, has been honored with a sculpture. Presented by Peugeot, the sculpture has been erected at the Club Náutico Mar del Plata, where Vilas first began to play tennis. It is the first monument in Argentina dedicated to Vilas and comes 35 years after he won his first Grand Slam tournament title, the 1977 French Open. The iron sculpture depicts Vilas hitting a one-handed backhand and is named, “Vilas, el revés argentino” (Vilas, the Argentine backhand). Artist Daniel Masi designed the sculpture, with Eduardo Puppo responsible for the initial idea and development. Puppo is an Argentine tennis journalist who authored A History of Argentine Tennis and is a tennis analyst for the Spanish language CNN. The left-handed Vilas also won the US Open in 1977 and the Australian Open in both 1978 and 1979. In 1977, he won 17 of 33 tournaments and compiled a match record of 145-14, including an Open Era winning streak of 46 matches.

SET FREE

Murder charges have been dropped against a 70-year-old tennis lineswoman who had been accused of beating her husband to death with a coffee mug. Lois Goodman had been arrested in August as she prepared to officiate at the US Open. Prosecutors requested the dismissal, although they gave little indication why they were dropping the case. A spokeswoman Los Angeles Count, California, USA, District Attorney’s office said only that “additional information” had come forward. “Based upon this information, we announced that we are unable to proceed with the case at this time,” spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said. “The court granted our request to dismiss the case without prejudice.” Goodman had faced a maximum sentence of life in prison if she had been convicted of murder. By dismissing the case without prejudice means that charges can be re-filed against Goodman in the future. “I’m so happy,” Goodman said. “I feel wonderful. I’ve always maintained my innocence. It was just a tragic accident.” According to police, Goodman reported on April 17 that she found her 80-year-old husband, Alan Goodman, dead in their home and surmised that he had suffered a heart attack and fallen down a flight of stairs. But the death was ruled a homicide in August and Lois Goodman was charged with murder and arrested in New York City. Defense lawyers contend that Alan Goodman’s death was an accident, a conclusion they say was also originally reached by Los Angeles police.

SALESMAN

Now that he is a brand ambassador for Moët & Chandon, Roger Federer will take center stage in the company’s upcoming advertising campaign. “Roger Federer personifies the glamour of achievement, great generosity and tremendous style values that have been key to our House throughout its long history,” said Stéphane Baschiera, president and CEO of Moët & Chandon. “As the champagne of victory and an enthusiastic supporter of major tennis tournaments around the world, we are extremely proud to welcome Roger Federer with Moët & Chandon’s hallmark hospitality.”

STARS FOR STARS

Novak Djokovic and his coach, Marian Vajda, participated in an exhibition event in Vajda’s hometown of Bratislava, Slovak Republic, which benefited the Novak Djokovic Foundation and the Stars for Stars Foundation. Besides Djokovic and Vajda, also participating in the Tennis Classic were ATP World Tour Newcomer of the Year Martin Klizan and retired Slovakian player Dominik Hrbaty. Djokovic and Klizan played a singles match before Djokovic paired with Vajda against the Slovakian pair in doubles. The four also held a clinic for young Slovakian players.

SABBATICAL

Because there are no tennis tournaments with purses of USD $75,000 or more scheduled for this year, the Mondays with Bob Greene column will be suspended until January 7, 2013. Enjoy the holidays.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Dubai: Maria-Elena Camerin and Vera Dushevina beat Eva Hrdinova and Karolina Pliskova 7-5 6-3

SURFING

ITF: www.itftennis.com

Brisbane: www.brisbaneinternational.com.au

Doha: www.qatartennis.org/

Chennai: www.aircelchennaiopen.org

Auckland: www.asbclassic.co.nz/

TOURNAMENTS WEEK OF DEC 31

MEN

$1,110,250 Qatar ExxonMobil Open, Doha, Qatar, hard
$486,000 Brisbane International, Brisbane, Australia, hard
$486,000 Aircel Chennai Open, Chennai, India, hard

WOMEN

$1,000,000 Brisbane International, Brisbane, Australia, hard
$500,000 Shenzhen Gendale Open, Shenzhen, China, hard
$235,000 ASB Classic, Auckland, New Zealand, 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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