By Bob Greene
Mona Barthel beat Sara Errani 7-5 7-6 (4) to win the Open GDF Suez in Paris, France
Maria Kirilenko beat Sabine Lisicki 5-7 6-1 7-6 (1) to win the PTT Pattaya Open in Pattaya, Thailand
Canada beat Spain 3-2 at Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Italy beats Croatia 3-2 at Turin, Italy
Serbia beats Belgium 3-2 at Charleroi, Belgium
United States beat Brazil 3-2 at Jacksonville, Florida, USA
France beats Israel 5-0 at Rouen, France
Argentina beats Germany 5-0 at Buenos Aires, Argentina
Kazakhstan beats Austria 3-1 at Astana, Kazakhstan
Czech Republic beats Switzerland 3-2 at Geneva, Switzerland
Americas Zone: Uruguay beat Dominican Republic 3-1 at Montevideo, Uruguay
Asia/Oceania Zone: Australia beats Chinese Taipei 5-0 at Kaohsiung, Taiwan; Uzbekistan beats China 4-1 at Namangan, Uzbekistan; South Korea beats India 4-1 at New Delhi, India; Japan beats Indonesia 5-0 at Tokyo, Japan
Europe/Africa Zone: Poland beats Slovenia 3-2 at Wroclaw, Poland; Romania beats Denmark 5-0 at Cluj Napoca, Romania; Ukraine beats Slovak Republic 3-2 at Kremenchug, Ukraine
Americas Zone: Mexico beats Puerto Rico 4-1 at Humacao, Puerto Rico; El Salvador beats Barbados 4-1 at Santa Tecla, El Salvador; Venezuela beat Guatemala 3-1 at Caracas, Venezuela; Peru beats Haiti 5-0 at Lima, Peru
Asia/Oceania Zone: New Zealand beats Lebanon 5-0 at Auckland, New Zealand; Pakistan beats Sri Lanka 3-2 at Colombo, Sri Lanka; Thailand beats Kuwait 4-1 at Meshref, Kuwait; Philippines beats Syria 3-2 at Lapu-Lapu, Philippines
Europe/Africa Zone: Finland beats Bulgaria 3-2 Finland at Sofia, Bulgaria; Ireland beats Estonia 3-2 at Dublin, Ireland; Latvia beats at El Menzah, Tunisia; Monaco beats Belarus 3-1 at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, Monaco; Moldova beats Hungary 3-2 at Chisinau, Moldova; Bosnia/Herzegovina beats Luxembourg 4-1 at Sarajevo, Bosnia/Herzegovina; Lithuania beats Cyprus 4-1 at Siauliai, Lithuania; Portugal beats Benin 5-0 at Lisbon, Portugal
“When I came here I wasn’t expecting to win the title at all. I was just taking it round by round, hoping to win the first round, then hoping to win the second round, and so on. When I got to the final I knew it would be tough, because Sara had such an amazing year last year and is playing so well – she just doesn’t give anything away.” – Mona Barthel, after beating Sara Errani to win the Open GDF Suez.
“Mona serves so well, plays so well from the baseline and physically moves so well – I just couldn’t beat her today. I usually like to have more time to place the ball where I want, but I was on a limit today, particularly on my serve. I tried my best, but she was just unbeatable today.” – Sara Errani.
“It’s pretty amazing and it’s something we should all be pretty proud of. There’s a lot of great feelings that come out. As much as you try to treat it like any other match, it’s quite different. Throughout that match I was trying to stay calm and try to make the most of it. I’m really happy with how I managed that and how the crowd was behind me. I hope it gives Canada more respect from everybody else. I think we’re a great nation in so many ways and in tennis we’re just trying to build up a reputation.” – Milos Raonic, who led Canada to a first-round Davis Cup World Group victory over top-seeded Spain.
“When we drew Canada I knew it was going to be difficult for many reasons, especially on this surface. Canada did better than us and we need to congratulate them.” – Alex Corretja, Spain’s Davis Cup captain.
“Players are on their own to decide if they want to play or want to rest. It’s not like we were underestimating Canada. Not at all. Our players didn’t come because their calendars are very busy and they chose another option. But we have no regrets about the ones who didn’t come or the ones who were here. They were trying to do their best and for us it’s always a big disappointment to go out in the first round.” – Alex Corretja, acknowledging Spain played without most of its top players.
“As a country we’ve had some big wins in Group One, but for the first time ever in the history of Canada we’ve managed to get to the quarterfinals. It’s been difficult in the past because we’re unseeded and so we have to match up against a really good team right off the bat. Ultimately, we made history today and we’re all really proud and it’s such a great feeling we want to do it again in April.” – Martin Laurendeau, Canada’s Davis Cup captain.
“I can’t move my leg. I can’t take a single step.” – Philipp Kohlschreiber, who was leading 5-4 in the fifth set of his Davis Cup match when he was forced to retire with a leg injury.
Behind the big game of Milos Raonic, Canada shocked top-seeded Spain and advanced past the first round of the Davis Cup World Group for the first time in history. Raonic won both of his singles matches and Canada’s other point in its 3-2 win came when Frank Dancevic surprised Marcel Granollers on opening day. Spain played without most of its top players: Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Nicolas Almagro and Fernando Verdasco. Raonic’s clinching victory came against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who was inserted into the Spanish lineup an hour prior to the match. Garcia-Lopez replaced Marcel Granollers, who struggled in a first-day loss Dancevic, then had to play five sets in doubles. Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau said he’s trying to process what his team has accomplished. “The closest I ever got to this as a player was 21 years ago when we were up 2-0 against Sweden and we didn’t put them away, so I’ve been waiting for this chance for a long time,” he said. “But I can’t take much credit for this. The guys performed unbelievably well.”
SURPRISE IN PARIS
Mona Barthel wound up her biggest week in tennis by capturing the Open GDF Suez, beating top-seeded Sara Errani in the final. Earlier in the week, Barthel had upset fifth-seeded Roberta Vinci and third-seeded Marion Bartoli as she won her first WTA Premier title. Errani forced her German opponent to win the match. The Italian rallied from a 3-5 first-set deficit before pulling even at 5-all, then came back from 2-5 in the second set to send it into a tiebreak. “Even though I was up a set and 5-2, I knew she’s a fighter and doesn’t give any points away,” Barthel said. “I was a little bit nervous – it was my first final in such a big tournament and she was making it so difficult for me in the end. But I just tried to keep stepping in and going for my shots, and I had to keep telling myself I was still in a position to win the match despite all of those things.”
STAYING THE COURSE
The Czech Republic and Switzerland rewrote the record book when they battled for seven hours, one minute in a doubles match. Thomas Berdych and Lukas Rosol outlasted Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka and Marco Chiudinelli 6-4 5-7 6-4 6-7(3) 24-22 in the longest match in Davis Cup history. The old mark was six hour, 22 minutes it took for John McEnroe to beat Mats Wilander. It was the second longest match of all time, behind the Wimbledon marathon between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut. “I have never played tennis that long,” Berdych said. “I like it because I now have a new experience.” The doubles proved to be the decisive match as the Czech Republic edged Switzerland 3-2 in the first-round tie.
Esther Vergeer long ago proved she was a champion. The Dutch wheelchair tennis star has now gone 10 years without a defeat. The 31-year-old has won 470 consecutive matches since she lost to Australian Daniele di Toro in Sydney, Australia, on January 30, 2003. “I am impressed I got this far,” Vergeer said. “I sometimes still cannot believe that in all these years I did not have a breakdown. I am proud and I am going to celebrate.” Vergeer took up wheelchair tennis when, at the age of 12, surgery on her spinal cord went wrong. A former national standard wheelchair basketball player, she eventually decided to concentrate on tennis and played her first tournament in 1994. Vergeer became world number one for the first time in 1999 and has gone on to win 169 tournaments. She has been named ITF Wheelchair World Champion for the last 13 years. In the last 10 years, she has faced only one match point, that against fellow Dutchwoman Korie Homan in the women’s gold medal match at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. Only one professional athlete is known to have a longer winning streak than Vergeer. Pakistan squash player Jahangir Khan won 555 consecutive matches, although he was only undefeated for 5½ years from 1981 to 1986.
SLOANE IS HURTING
Sloane Stephens will miss this week’s first round Fed Cup competition between the United States and Italy because of a strained abdominal muscle. Currently ranked a career-high 17th in the world, Sloane was hurt during her run to the Australian Open semifinals, a run that included a win over Serena Williams. Melanie Oudin was named to replace Stephens on the American team that will play February 9-10 on an indoor red clay court in Rimini, Italy. Williams is the highest-ranked American, but she hurt her back in the Australian Open quarterfinal loss to Stephens.
This time, Maria Kirilenko was successful. The Russian defeated Sabine Lisicki to win the PTT Pattaya Open in a two-hour, 37-minute marathon. “I feel great. To win a title is always special,” Kirilenko said, “but it’s even more pleasure when you win such a tough one. It was tough. Sabine played very well. I’m very happy to win this title.” A year ago, Kirilenko played in the final at Pattaya City, Thailand, but lost a three-hour, 14-minute battle to Daniela Hantuchova. “I was so disappointed after last year’s final, but this year it’s a much different feeling,” Kirilenko said. “Obviously I’m really excited about this right now.” Four of Kirilenko’s six career titles have come in Asia: Beijing in 2005, Kolkata in 2007, Seoul in 2008 and now Pattaya City. Her other two wins were at Estoril, Portugal, and Barcelona, Spain, in 2008.
STOPPED BY INJURY
Germany’s top player, Philipp Kohlschreiber, was leading 5-4 in the fifth set of a Davis Cup first-round match against Argentina when he pulled his left hamstring and was forced to retire. He was leading Carlos Berlocq 6-3 5-7 6-2 4-6 5-4 when he had to stop. “It was a bitter thing for me and the whole team,” said the 29-year-old Kohlschreiber, who left the Buenos Aires stadium on crutches. Argentina finished up winning the tie 5-0 and advancing to the quarterfinals.
When Fabio Fognini beat Ivan Dodig in the fifth rubber, Italy advanced to the Davis Cup World Group quarterfinals for the first time in 15 years. Marin Cilic had defeated Andreas Seppi in straight sets to draw Croatia even and send the tie into the decisive fifth rubber. Fognini rallied to win 4-6 6-4 6-4 6-4 in two hours, 46 minutes.
SHARING THE SPOILS
Kazakhstan advanced to the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas quarterfinals when Andrey Golubev rallied for a set down to defeat Austria’s Jurgen Melzer. It was Melzer’s second singles defeat in three days in Astana, Kazakhstan. “I was a little bit nervous at the beginning and Melzer was playing well,” Golubev said. “He changed his game a little bit and that’s why he won the first set, but then I came up with some good returns and some good points from the baseline.” Golubev continues his record of never losing a Davis Cup singles match at home. “I just really wanted to win this match and I was putting a lot of effort into my serve and my returns,” the 25 year-old Golubev said. “This certainly wasn’t a simple game. I played all three days but I still feel pretty fresh. I think it was tougher for me mentally.”
Paul Flory, the face of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Ohio, died at the age of 90 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. Flory was tournament director from 1975 to 1997 and remained tournament chairman until his death. It is the country’s oldest professional tennis event still played in its original city. And except for the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, site of the US Open, the Western & Southern Open is the only tennis site in the United States to have four permanent stadiums, each having lights for night play. An ATP tournament for most of its history, a WTA stop was added in 2004, and in 2011 it became a joint event with both the men’s and women’s tournaments being played at the same time. Flory is survived by his three children – Susan, Ann and Bruce, the latter of whom also served as tournament director from 1998 to 2010 – four grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Paris: Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci beat Andrea Hlavackova and Liezel Huber 6-1 6-1
Pattaya City: Kimiko Date-Krumm and Casey Dellacqua beat Akgul Amanmuradova and Alexandra Panova 6-3 6-2
Viña del Mar: www.vtropen.cl
Fed Cup: www.fedcup.com
San Jose: www.sapopentennis.com
São Paulo: www.brasilopen.com.br
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
$551,879 Open Sud de France, Montpellier, France, hard
$551,879 PBZ Zagreb Indoors, Zagreb, Croatia, hard
$551,879 VTR Open, Viña del Mar, Chile, clay
$100,000 Challenger of Dallas, Dallas, Texas, USA, hard
$100,000 Dow Corning Tennis Classic, Midland, Michigan, USA, hard
Czech Republic vs. Australia at Ostrava, Czech Republic, hard
Italy vs. United States at Rimini, Italy, clay
Russia vs. Japan at Moscow, Russia, hard
Serbia vs. Slovak Republic at Nis, Serbia, hard
World Group II
Switzerland vs. Belgium at Bern, Switzerland, clay; Argentina vs. Sweden at Buenos Aires, Argentina, clay; Spain vs. Ukraine at Alicante, Spain, clay; France vs. Germany at Limoges, France, clay
Zone Group I
Europe/Africa at Eilat, Israel, hard: Pool A: Belarus, Austria, Croatia, Georgia; Pool B: Great Britain, Portugal, Hungary, Bosnia/Herzegovina; Pool C: Poland, Romania, Israel, Turkey; Pool D: Slovenia, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Luxembourg
Americas at Medellín, Colombia, clay: Pool A: Colombia, Canada, Peru, Venezuela; Pool B: Paraguay, Brazil, Chile, Mexico
Asia/Oceania at Astana, Kazakhstan, hard: Pool A: Kazakhstan, India, Thailand; Pool B: China, Korea, Chinese Taipei, Uzbekistan
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$1,728,200 ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, hard
$546,930 SAP Open, San Jose, California, USA, hard
$455,775 Brasil Open, São Paulo, Brazil, clay
$2,369,000 Qatar Total Open, Doha, Qatar, hard
$125,000 Copa Bionare, Cali, Colombia, clay