By Bob Greene
Richard Gasquet beat Nikolay Davydenko 3-6 7-6 (4) 6-3 to win the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha, Qatar
Serena Williams beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-2 6-1 to win the Brisbane International women’s singles in Brisbane, Australia
Li Na beat Klara Zakopalova 6-3 1-6 7-5 to win the Shenzhen Longgang Gemdale Open in Shenzhen, China
Andy Murray beat Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 (0) 6-4 to win the Brisbane International men’s singles in Brisbane, Australia
Janko Tipsarevic beat Roberto Bautista-Agut 3-6 6-1 6-3 to win the Aircel Chennai Open in Chennai, India
Agnieszka Radwanska beat Yanina Wickmayer 6-4 6-4 to win the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand
Spain beat Serbia 2-1 to win the Hyundai Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia
“I kind of zoned, where I’m in a really calm place and not panicking, I’m not overthinking it and not just blasting every ball. I get really calm and kind of serene. It was a really good week in Brisbane, for sure.” – Serena Williams, after capturing the women’s singles for her 47th career title.
“This was the fourth time I’ve played against Serena and every time I go on the court feeling confident and feeling well. I started the match pretty well, but when she’s on fire I feel like there’s not much I can do. I was hoping to turn the match around, I was fighting every point to the end, but what I said about playing her was true. She’s a great player.” – Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, after losing to Serena Williams in the women’s final in Brisbane, Australia.
“Winning the title certainly helps boost my confidence for the coming weeks, but it also depends on how I’m playing on the courts. Confidence itself won’t guarantee a win.” – Li Na, after winning in Shenzhen, China.
“It was about a few points today, but she really proved she’s a top player. She played her best from 5-all. She’s playing unbelievably fast and flat, and she’s hitting her backhand down the line very well. To me she’s one of the top three players right now and I hope she can make it there. There’s no way to be sad about losing – I lost to a top player and I’m happy to reach the final.” – Klara Zakopalova, who lost to Li Na in the Shenzhen, China, final.
“I couldn’t imagine a better start to the year. I’m very happy. I really like this tournament. It’s my first time here and everything was very good. … I didn’t even drop a set.” – Agnieszka Radwanska, following her win over Yanina Wickmayer in the Auckland, New Zealand, final.
“She doesn’t give you anything. You have to work for every ball. If you make mistakes too early you will lose pretty bad.” – Yanina Wickmayer, who lost to Agnieszka Radwanska in the title match.
“I was mentally stable and was not worried when I was one set down. I didn’t play my best tennis in every match this week, but I am happy to win the title.” – Janko Tipsarevic, after winning in Chennai.
“This boosts our confidence, and to win our first WTA title together in the first week of the year and in the first year of this tournament, it means a lot to us.” – Chan Yung-Jan, who teamed with her younger sister Chan Hao-Ching to win their first WTA doubles title together.
“I thought the standard of tennis was good today. There were a lot of high quality rallies and I had to change a few things. He started the match off very well and was extremely aggressive. I managed to start dictating a lot of points and used my forehand well.” – Andy Murray, after beating Grigor Dimitrov to capture the men’s singles in Brisbane, Australia.
“Fear? Why fear? Why do I have to feel intimidated? I want to play them. I want to play them all. There’s nothing better than to play against these guys and do the best you can against them. Eventually, long-term, if you want to be good you’re going to play them almost every week.” – Grigor Dimitrov, when asked if he was afraid to play of felt intimidated by any of the top three players in the world: Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer or Andy Murray.
One week into the season and Serena Williams has already sent a strong signal to her rivals: She’s at the top of her game. Ranked third in the world, the American took just 51 minutes to beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and capture her 47th career title. “I’ve been in the zone a few times,” Williams said of her game. “I don’t know if I was in the zone today, but I was definitely heading in that direction.” So overpowering was the winner that Pavlyuchenkova told Williams: “I always feel like I don’t know how to play tennis when I play against you.” The reigning Wimbledon, US Open and Olympic champion, Williams has won 52 of her last 54 matches, including winning the season-ending WTA Tour Championships and now the 2013 opener. She didn’t drop a set at Brisbane. “I was looking at a lot of old matches on YouTube, and I feel like right now I’m playing some of my best tennis. I feel like I want to do better and play better still,” Williams said. She will be the favorite to win her 16th major championship and sixth Australian Open title later this month.
SICK FRIEND IS KEY
Fighting back tears, Andy Murray dedicated his latest tournament title to “one of my best friends back home. After beating Grigor Dimitrov to win the Brisbane International men’s singles, Murray said in his trophy presentation speech: “You’re going to be OK. You’re going to get through.” Asked to identify the person, Murray said, “Just a sick friend.” Dimitrov made Murray work hard for the victory, pounding out hard ground strokes against the tournament’s top seed as he battled into a tiebreak before Murray won 7-0. Even in defeat, the 21-year-old Bulgarian showed he could be a dangerous player in the Australian Open.
It took him six tries, but Janko Tipsarevic finally won the Chennai Open. The 28-year-old Serb beat Spain’s Roberto Bautista-Agut in the final one year after he lost the title match to Canada’s Milos Raonic. “I think there’s just one work to say, and it’s ‘finally,’” Tipsarevic said. “Last year, some of you may know, I could smell it, it was just there.” His fourth career crown wasn’t easily obtained as Bautista-Agut won the opening set 6-3. “Roberto was just the better player than me in the first set, making me move left and right and being the dominant man on court,” Tipsarevic said. “But I refocused, similar top my semifinal, and I took it step by step from there.” Bautista-Agut upset top-seeded Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals.
SHENZHEN STEP ONE?
Li Na’s second WTA title in China could be the start toward her second Grand Slam tournament crown. The top-seeded Li overcame Czech Klara Zakopalova to win her seventh career title and stamp herself as a contender for the Australian Open. Two years ago, Li reached the final of the year’s first Grand Slam tournament before going on to become China’s first major singles champion when she won at Roland Garros. In 2004 Li became the first Chinese winner on the WTA tour when she captured the title at Guangzhou.
SETTLES DAVIS CUP FEUD
The All India Tennis Association (AITA) has agreed to accept most of the demands made by the country’s top players who had threatened to boycott the first round of Davis Cup play next month against South Korea. The AITA agreed to the demands made by the eight players, including getting a new coach, a higher share of prize money and having a voice in the choice of venues for ties. Leander Paes was the only top player who was not part of the complaining players.
SUCCESS IN QATAR
Any elbow problem was forgotten in Richard Gasquet’s run to his eighth career title. The Frenchman rallied to beat Nikolay Davydenko and win the Qatar Open in Doha. “I’m really happy with the way I won,” Gasquet said. I’m confident. When you’re winning a tournament like that, it’s perfect. I played a lot, so for sure I will be ready for Melbourne.” Gasquet pulled out of this week’s tournament in Sydney, Australia, because of elbow trouble. Davydenko called for the trainer early in the third set for treatment on his hip. He blamed his conditioning for his defeat. “He beat me physically,” Davydenko said of Gasquet. “He runs very well.”
Agnieszka Radwanska was almost perfect as she swept away the competition to win her 11th career singles title by beating Yanina Wickmayer in the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand. The Pole dropped only one set in five matches in the Australian Open warmup. “I couldn’t imagine a better start to the year,” Radwanska said. “It’s the perfect preparation for the Australian Open. Wickmayer, who was making her third finals appearance in Auckland, having won once, didn’t go away quietly. She saved five match points before losing to Radwanska for the third time in three meetings. “I’m a little disappointed,” Wickmayer said. “But I fought my heart out and I left my heart and soul on the court. I couldn’t have done any more than I did.”
Defending Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka said it “a bad pedicure experience” forced her to withdraw from her semifinal match against Serena Williams at the Brisbane International. The world’s top-ranked woman pulled out of the match 30 minutes before it was to be played, announcing she had undergone a minor procedure to fix an ingrown nail on her right big toe. “I don’t know in medical terms, but I had to get a piece (of nail) out of my toe because it was jamming into me and got infected,” she said. “It’s something that’s very just really unfortunate, but I had to do that. It was just jamming underneath into the skin.”
Like hitting a tennis ball against a backboard, players keep coming back after retirement. The latest is Zimbabwe’s Cara Black, who teamed with Anastasia Rodionova in Auckland, New Zealand, to win the ASB Classic doubles. The pair beat the top-seeded team of Julia Goerges and Yaroslava Shvedova 2-6 6-2 10-5 (match tiebreak) in the final. Earlier in the tournament Black and Rodionova ousted the second-seeded team of Marina Erakovic and Heather Watson as well as the third seeds, Liga Dekmeijere and Megan Moulton-Levy. It was the 55th WTA doubles title for Black. She spent 163 weeks ranked number one in the world in doubles, but hadn’t played since July 2011. During her layoff, she gave birth to Lachlan Alexander Stephens in April 2012. “I’d actually never really had a break from the game before,” Black said. “Fortunately I was injury-free in my whole career, so I played full schedules, year in, year out. So when I left the tour I was sort of mentally fried from all the years of traveling and things. Then the time away refreshed me a lot, and having a child changed my whole perspective a lot. I had time on my hands so I started going out and hitting again, and it felt good, so I thought I’d give it a bash again, nothing to lose, have a bit of fun, really.” Winning is really fun.
SPAIN STOPS SERBIA
Anabel Medina Garrigues won both of her matches to lead Spain to a 2-1 victory over Serbia and the country’s fourth Hyundai Hopman Cup title. Seeking its first Hopman Cup championship, Serbia took a 1-0 lead on Novak Djokovic’s 6-3 7-5 win over Fernando Verdasco. But Medina Garrigues outlasted Ana Ivanovic 6-4 6-7 (3) 6-2, then teamed with Verdasco to capture the decisive mixed doubles. Ivanovic, who once was ranked number one in the world, led 5-2 in the second set before having to hang on to win the tiebreak. The veteran Spaniard was dominant after that. “I was dreaming all of my career of winning against a great player in a big stadium,” Medina Garrigues said. “I’m 30 years old and finally I take it, so I’m really happy. The crowd is like a Grand Slam and they were supporting me because they wanted a live mixed doubles.” They got it.
Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams were named 2012 World Champions by the International Tennis Federation (ITF). Djokovic won the honor for the second straight year, while Williams was named Women’s World Champion for the third time. American brothers Bob and Mike Bryan were named Men’s Doubles World Champions for the ninth time in 10 years, while Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci captured the Women’s Doubles title for the first time. Named ITF Junior World Champions were Canada’s Filip Peliwo and American Taylor Townsend. All will receive their awards at the ITF World Champions Dinner in Paris, France, in June.
Thomas Enqvist continued his winning ways against Fabrice Santoro when he edged the Frenchman 6-3 4-6 10-7 (match tiebreak) to capture the inaugural Raizen Grand Champions Rio title. Enqvist has never lost to Santoro in their four career meetings. “We haven’t played for a long time and he beat me again,” Santoro said. “I’ve never beaten him on the main tour or the ATP Champions Tour. He’s younger and fit, strong and powerful … But I will win next time.”
SITE FOR DAVIS CUP
The Davis Cup will hold its Asia/Oceania Zone Groups III and IV competition in Yangon, Myanmar, April 22-May 5. A total of 19 nations will participate at the 10-court facility during the two weeks. Eight nations – Cambodia, Hong Kong China, Iran, Malaysia, Oman, Pacific Oceania, United Arab Emirates and Vietnam – will contest the Asia/Oceania Zone Group III. The following week will have 11 nations compete in Zone IV: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Iraq, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Turkmenistan and Yemen. “The Davis Cup is a very prestigious event and for the nation of Myanmar we are extremely proud of this honor to be host nation,” said U Aung Maw Thein, president of the Tennis Federation of Myanmar. “Because of the Davis Cup this will be a catalyst for developing the tennis at all levels throughout the country.” Davis Cup by BNP Paribas is the largest annual international team competition in sport with 130 nations entered in 2013.
STOPS WITH A WIN
Playing a ceremonial farewell match in Antwerp, Belgium, Kim Clijsters finished her career with a 6-3 6-3 victory over American Venus Williams. Clijsters retired from the WTA tour after the US Open, but played an exhibition before a crowd of 13,000 at the Antwerp Sports Place, including Crown Prince Phillipe and Princess Mathilde. Clijsters beat Williams on her way to her last two US Open titles – in 2009 and 2010, and she held a 7-6 career edge over the American. Clijsters also won the US Open in 2005 and earned the Australian Open in 2011.
Bernard Tomic will not be representing Australia when it plays a first-round Davis Cup tie against Taiwan in February. “As a team we just felt that part of the commitment that we make to athletes and athletes make to the sport is they always put 100 percent commitment and effort in competing for their country,” Craig Tiley, director of tennis for Tennis Australia, said. “It’s not one specific incident, just an aggregation of his approach to the game.” The 20-year-old Tomic appeared to stop competing in a string of matches that saw him tumble from a career-high world ranking of 27th to his current ranking of 52. “We just felt that this decision should provide additional motivation every time he walks on the court to be a total professional in his approach to not only his preparation but competing in the match and post-match,” Tiley said.
Argentina’s Juan Ignacio Chela has retired from the ATP Tour. Chela reached the quarterfinals of three Grand Slam tournaments – the French Open in 2004 and 2011 and the US Open in 2007. He won six ATP singles titles and three doubles crowns, all on clay. The 36-year-old was ranked as high as 15th in the world in 2004.
SCRAP SERBIAN EVENT
The Serbia Open is no more. Novak Djokovic’s tournament has been dropped after it failed to attract top players or major sponsors. Last year even Djokovic and other top Serbians skipped the event. First held in 2009, the Serbia Open was sold back to the ATP. It was the only ATP tournament held in Serbia.
SEEKING SPOT IN RIO
Although he’s planning on cutting back on his schedule over the next few years, Roger Federer says he wants to compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. “I have to make sure that I take care of my schedule, of my body, of my mind,” the 31-year-old Swiss star said. “Hopefully I can still stay on tour for many more years and hopefully play the Olympics in three and a half years or so, so I have to look far ahead and not just the next six months.” Federer has competed in four Olympics, winning a doubles gold at Beijing in 2008 and a singles silver at London last year.
After being in charge of tennis’ anti-corruption group for more than four years, Jeff Rees has retired. He has been replaced by Nigel Willerton, a former police officer. Rees was hired as Director of Integrity in August 2008. Following a series of player suspensions for betting on matches and a gambling investigation into a match involving Nikolay Davydenko, the ATP and WTA Tours along with the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the Grand Slam Committee formed the Tennis Integrity Unit. In the last four years two players have been banned from tennis for life. Willerton has been an investigator for the Tennis Integrity Unit since June 2010.
Emirates has replaced South Africa Airlines as the title sponsor of the ATP Rankings. Emirates also becomes the official airline of the ATP World Tour and the official Platinum Partner of the men’s tennis tour as well the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. The five-year agreement runs through 2017. Emirates will also become the presenting sponsor of the ATP World Tour number one trophy ceremonies and the ATP Newcomer of the Year award.
Auckland: Cara Black and Anastasia Rodionova beat Julia Goerges and Yaroslava Shvedova 2-6 6-2 10-5 (match tiebreak)
Brisbane (men): Marcelo Melo and Tommy Robredo beat Eric Butorac and Paul Hanley 4-6 6-1 10-5 (match tiebreak)
Brisbane (women): Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Sania Mirza beat Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Kveta Peschke 4-6 6-4 10-7 (match tiebreak)
Chennai: Benoit Paire and Stanislas Wawrinka beat Andre Begemann and Martin Emmrich 6-2 6-1
Doha: Christopher Kas and Philipp Kohlschreiber beat Julian Knowle and Filip Polasek 7-5 6-4
Shenzhen: Chan Yung-Jan and Chan Hao-Ching beat Irina Buryachok and Valeria Solovieva 6-0 7-56
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
$436,630 Apia International Sydney, Sydney, Australia, hard
$433,400 Heineken Open, Auckland, New Zealand, hard
$690,000 Apia International Sydney, Sydney, Australia, hard
$235,000 Moorilla Hobart International, Hobart, Australia, hard
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
MEN and WOMEN
Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia, hard (first week)