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By Justin Cohen

ATP announces 2014 ATP World Tour tournament calendar

The ATP has released its 2014 ATP World Tour calendar, as approved by the ATP Board of Directors. The 2014 calendar, featuring 61 tournaments in 31 countries across six continents, will incorporate a four-week South American swing in February, highlighted by a new ATP World Tour 500 event in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brad Drewett, ATP Executive Chairman & President, said: “The four-week South American swing including a new event in Rio de Janeiro is an exciting development for the sport. There are significant opportunities for growth in South America, a region that has become a key focus for us as we look to grow and develop the sport in that territory.” Elsewhere, the 2014 calendar will reincorporate a week’s break in between the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris and the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at The O2 in London. “Following careful consideration and feedback from our tournament and player members, the prevailing consensus for the benefit of our key stakeholders was to reinstate a week’s break in between the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Paris and our season-ending event in London,” said Drewett. Other changes to the calendar include a change of surface for the ATP World Tour 500 event in Acapulco, which will move from clay to hard court leading into the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Indian Wells. The 2014 overall tournament prize money levels will be determined at ATP Board meetings later this year.

Djokovic, Sampras, Fish, Bryan Brothers to play Los Angeles Tennis Challenge on March 4

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, 14-time Grand Slam champion Pete Sampras, former World Top 10 player Mardy Fish and the most successful doubles duo of all time the Bryan Brothers will take part in the inaugural Los Angeles Tennis Challenge at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion on Monday, March 4. Tickets became available starting Saturday morning, January 19 at www.TicketMaster.com. They can also be purchased by calling the UCLA Central Ticket Office at (310) 825-2101 Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or by calling the event directly at (310) 824-1010, ext. 251. The event is being co-hosted by Fish and former ATP World Tour player and Tennis Channel broadcaster Justin Gimelstob. The star-studded night of exciting exhibition matches falls just days before the start of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Calif. “I am very excited about playing professional tennis in Los Angeles for the first time on March 4 at the LA Tennis Challenge,” Djokovic said. “To be playing against my good friend Mardy Fish, and partnering with my childhood tennis Idol, Pete Sampras, against the No. 1 doubles team in the world will be an amazing experience. In addition, to be able to help raise valuable funds for so many wonderful charities in the process will certainly make being at the newly refurbished Pauley Pavilion, the place to be Monday night, March 4th!” Proceeds from the event will benefit the Justin Gimelstob Children’s Fund, the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation, the Novak Djokovic Foundation, Call to Cure and the Southern California Tennis Association’s community tennis initiatives. Three exhibition pro-set matches will take place beginning at 7 p.m. Djokovic will take on Los Angeles resident Fish in singles followed by a doubles match pitting Djokovic and his childhood idol Sampras against Southern California natives Bob and Mike Bryan. An opening singles match between two marquee players will be announced shortly. “We are so thankful that a new professional tennis event will be in Los Angeles,” Mike Bryan said. “Los Angeles is home to us and it is vital that competitive and entertaining tennis is accessible here. The LA Tennis Challenge will grow into the premiere tennis event in Los Angeles, and we are proud to support it. The LA Tennis Challenge will be broadcast by Tennis Channel in the United States. To learn more about the LA Tennis Challenge go to www.LATennisChallenge.com. Like the event on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LATennisChallenge and follow on Twitter at @LA10sChallenge. For more information you can email: info@latennischallenge.com.

Tennis considers “Biological Passport”

According to an article written by Douglas Robson in USA Today, a biological passport could soon be an added carrying card for all professional tennis players. Stuart Miller, who oversees tennis’ anti-doping program for the International Tennis Federation, said Saturday such a program was “being considered seriously.” The so-called biological passport is a method of collecting and comparing biological data from athletes so that variances from normal biological levels or “markers” can be detected. Identifying those irregularities helps spot doping. The passport model is being used in cycling and track and field. “Our aim would be to implement it, but implementation is reasonably complex,” Miller said by phone from London. He characterized discussions within the ITF as “ongoing” rather than advanced but said it could be “fully operational in the order of 12 months” once it was underway. Miller did not rule out implementation as early as 2014. Consideration of the passport program coincides with a growing unease and outspokenness in the wake of Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey. Armstrong admitted to using EPO, testosterone and blood doping to fuel his record seven Tour de France wins. Players from Serena Williams to Roger Federer said they were surprised and dismayed. None was harsher than two-time defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic. “I think it’s a disgrace for the sport to have an athlete like this,” the No. 1 Serb said of Armstrong. “He cheated the sport. He cheated many people around the world with his career, with his life story. … I think he should suffer for his lies all these years.” Others expressed concern about the efficacy of tennis’ current program, especially the amount of blood testing it conducts away from competition. According to the ITF’s posted figures for 2011, there were only 21 out-of-competition blood tests. At the ATP World Tour Championship in London, Federer and Scotland’s Andy Murray called for more blood testing in the sport. Djokovic said this week that he had not had a blood test in six or seven months. Bob Bryan, the top seed in doubles with brother Mike Bryan, said he had never had an out-of-competition blood test.

Fundraiser held for former Aussie player Andrew Florent stricken with cancer

According to an article written by Matt Cronin on TENNIS.com, the Australian Open and various pros and ex-pros are holding an online fundraiser for former Aussie player Andrew Florent, who has been stricken with cancer. The 42-year-old Florent and his wife Rachel have two young sons, Oliver and Jai. The tournament is auctioning off tickets to the men’s and women’s singles finals, accommodations at the Crown Metropol, tickets to the Legends Lunch starring Rod Laver and Andre Agassi, and a photo with this year’s Australian Open men’s singles champion. Jim Courier will also give the auction winners a tennis lesson, and they will get a chance to play doubles with Patrick Rafter and Goran Ivanisevic. “This is terrible news, but what has heartened “Florey” and his family has been the outpouring of support from the entire tennis fraternity,” said his longtime friend Paul Kilderry. “This auction is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with the added bonus that the winner is helping out a former Australian tennis player in a time of great need.” Florent achieved a career high doubles ranking of No. 13. The auction is being held on ebay.com/au, and those who want to donate directly to the Florent family can visit wacharitydirect.com.au.

Kuznetsova signs clothing sponsorship agreement with Chinese brand Qiaodan

After more than 10 years wearing Fila clothing on and off the court, world No. 75 and two-time Grand Slam singles champion Svetlana Kuznetsova has signed a clothing sponsorship deal with Chinese brand, Qiaodan. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Kuznetsova, who just reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open in Melbourne losing to top-ranked Victoria Azarenka, switched to Qiaodan right before the start of this year’s first major.

Goerges signs with Fila, leaves Nike

World No. 18 Julia Goerges has signed a clothing sponsorship agreement with Fila. The signing is an important one for Fila as it fills the void for just losing the face of their tennis clothing line in Kim Clijsters, and now two-time Grand Slam singles champion Svetlana Kuzentsova to a Chinese brand. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed. The German, who has won two career singles titles in Stuttgart and Bad Gastein, previously wore Nike until the end of 2012.

Alicia Molik named Australian Fed Cup captain

Former WTA Top 10 player Alicia Molik has been named the new captain for the Australian Fed Cup team. She replaces David Taylor, who decided not to return to his position after five years, so he could focus 100 percent on coaching Samantha Stosur. Molik reportedly beat out Todd Woodbridge, Rennae Stubbs and Nicole Pratt for the position.

Murray, Serena named 2012 International Tennis Writers Association Ambassador of the Year

Andy Murray has been presented with the International Tennis Writers Association’s top award. The 25-year-old Scot and the WTA’s Serena Williams were voted the ITWA’s Ambassadors of the Year for 2012, receiving their trophies at the Australian Open this past Saturday. The ITWA represents more than 100 of the world’s leading tennis journalists. Its awards recognize not only achievements on the court but also conduct off it, including co-operation with the media. Sebastian Fest, co-president of ITWA, said: “Andy Murray and Serena Williams are great champions, but they are also very good ambassadors for their sport. Both understand that their high standing in tennis involves major media commitments and we appreciate their co-operation with all areas of the media.” Murray won his first major title at last year’s US Open and also captured gold and silver medals at the London 2012 Olympics in the singles and mixed doubles events respectively. He finished as the year-end No. 3 in the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time.

Nadal returning to competitive action at Vina del Mar tournament in Chile

Former World No. 1 Rafael Nadal will return to action during the week of February 4 at the Vina del Mar tournament in Chile, a clay-court event. The lefty has not played a competitive match since losing at Wimbledon in June 2012. Following the tournament in Chile, Nadal will play the event in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Nadal, Ferrer won’t play first round Davis Cup tie for Spain

Spain Davis Cup captain Alex Corretja announced on Tuesday that Rafael Nadal and regular player David Ferrer will not participate in their first round tie against Canada in Vancouver from February 1-3. Nadal has not played since his shocking loss at Wimbledon in June 2012 due to tendinitis in his left knee. Ferrer is fresh off his 500th career win during his quarterfinal victory over Nicolas Almagro at the Australian Open. Captain Corretja announced that Almagro will lead Spain against Canada, while the doubles team of Marcel Granollers and Mark Lopez will be called upon to play, as well as world No. 51 Albert Ramos.

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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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