Mondays with Bob Greene
Petra Kvitova beat Angelique Kerber 6-2 0-6 6-3 o win the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, Japan
Joao Sousa beat Julien Benneteau 2-6 7-5 6-4 to win the Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Milos Raonic beat Tomas Berdych 76 (4) 6-3 to win the Thailand Open in Bangkok, Thailand
Bojana Jovanovski beat Zhang Shuai 6-7 (7) 6-4 6-1 to win the Yinzhou Bank International Women’s Tennis Open in Ningbo, China
“She’s my favorite player.” – Venus Williams, talking about her sister, Serena Williams, who is ranked number one in the world.
“I think Venus is the greatest player I’ve ever played, and to me she’s capable of anything. So I would never say that she isn’t capable of becoming a top player again, no more than I’d say I wouldn’t be.” – Serena Williams, talking about her sister, Venus.
“I just gave my best, it was a tough shot there, I just went for it and it went it … Tennis is like this: if you don’t go for it, you’ll never make it, so I just went for it.” – Joao Sousa, when he staved off a match point and went on to become the first Portuguese player to win an ATP Tour title.
“I tried everything today … I played very well, particularly I was very aggressive and I didn’t let him play for two sets almost. At 5-4, I had match point and I played the point perfectly … He made the passing shot down the line with his forehand. I took my chance, it didn’t pay off and it’s hard, it’s hard, it’s very hard. But it’s sport.” – Julien Benneteau, after losing to Joao Sousa.
“I’m getting better every tournament. I’ve had my issues, to say the least, but it’s given me an unreal amount of character.” – Venus Williams, who reached the Pan Pacific Open semifinals, including a victory over top-seeded Victoria Azarenka.
“I was maybe just a little bit better and had a little bit more power in the end. But she played great.” – Bojana Jovanovski, praising her opponent, Zhang Shuai, after winning the Yinzhou Bank International Women’s Tennis Open.
“I was just lucky I did a good job at the end. Of course I was feeling a little bit tired. Angie came back in the match and I just tried to focus on the point at hand.” – Petra Kvitova, after outlasting Angelique Kerber to win the Toray Pan Pacific Open.
“It feels good but I don’t know if it was that hard. I hope it was … that’s insane, it’s awesome.” – Venus Williams, after hitting a serve that would have been a record if the right timing equipment had been used.
“I’m disappointed to lose but I moved pretty well, so the glass is half full.” – Kimiko Date-Krumm, following her tight two-set loss to 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur at Tokyo.
“It’s always a little difficult because you know each other so well, and your thinking gets complicated. But I was saying to Sania (Mirza) earlier, I just have to calm down and concentrate on my game, and not think about what they’re going to be thinking.” – Cara Black, on playing against her former doubles partner Liezel Huber.
“I am always very happy to contribute my time to noble causes such as charities for kids here in China. Tonight’s match with Li Na was all about the kids to put a smile on their faces, get them excited about tennis and hopefully inspire them to become champions one day.” – Novak Djokovic, after playing a mini-exhibition against Li Na in Beijing’s Olympic Park to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the China Open.
Milos Raonic fired 18 aces as he beat Tomas Berdych to capture the Thailand Open and keep alive his chances for a berth in the year-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. It was the Canadian’s second title of the year. The 18-year-old Raonic is in the running for the elite eight-man field for the season finale, which will be held inLondon. He won the first set tiebreaker after saving his only break point. An early break in the second set on his only opportunity of the match held up for his fifth career title. Berdych, who is currently fifth in the race toLondon, is the only player in the top 10 who has not won a title this season.
It wasn’t easy, but Petra Kvitova survived to win her second WTA title of the year. Kvitova needed four match points before she downed fellow left-hander Angelique Kerber in the final of the Pan Pacific Open. With the victory, the 2011 Wimbledon champion moves closer to a spot in the season-finale WTA Championships. Both finalists defeated former world number ones in the semifinals – Kvitova beating Venus Williams and Kerber stopping Caroline Wozniacki – to set up the first all-left-handed WTA final since 2009 and the first in 20 years at a “Premier” level.
Joao Sousa has done something no other Portuguese man in history has done – won an ATP World Tour title. Ranked 77th in the world, Sousa stopped fifth-seeded Julien Benneteau in the Malaysian Open final to earn his first crown, thus going one step further than Frederico Gil, who lost in the Oeiras,Portugal, title match in 2010. Sousa also became the seventh first-time winner on the ATP World Tour this season. The 24-year-old saved six of eight break points during the match, including one when he was match point down and serving at 30-40, trailing 2-6, 4-5. “I’m so tired mentally and physically, but I just feel amazing, it’s just a dream come true, winning my first title here inMalaysia,” Sousa said.
SHARING THE JOY
When Cara Black and Sania Mirza teamed up for the first time, everything clicked. In their first tournament as a team, Black and Mirza won the Toray Pan Pacific Open doubles, downing Chan Hao-Ching and Liezel Huber. The dropped the first set before winning the second set at love in just 27 minutes. Then came the match tiebreak, where Black and Mirza captured the final four points to rally from double match point down at 9-7 to close it out 4-6 6-0 11-9. “In the second set we were a little more calm and clearer thinking, putting more balls back in the court and had a little bit of strategy going,” Black said. Mirza said: “We teamed up together knowing yes, we can be a very good team. Obviously the first time you play you don’t expect to win – you try, but you don’t expect it – but we’re happy we could come through and win such a big tournament, and winning such a tight match in the finals was great, too.”
SERVE RECORD DENIED
It may have been the fastest women’s serve in history, but it didn’t count. Venus Williams was denied a chance to better her world record because the Toray Pan Pacific Open inTokyodidn’t have the proper measuring technology. During her 6-3 6-7 (4) 6-3 quarterfinal win over Canadian teen-ager Eugenie Bouchard, Williams rocketed a serve timed at 209 kilometers per hour. But the WTA usesIDSradar guns to measure service speeds, and those are not deployed inTokyo. Consequently, the 33-year-old American’s serve of 207.6 km per hour, hit during the 2007 US Open, remains the fastest serve in women’s tennis. “I saw that, but I was like: ‘Is that real?’ So I don’t know if that’s real,” Williams said. “I know I’ve been serving a lot harder this tournament than since I’ve come back from my back injury.”
SUCCESS IN NINGBO
Bojana Jovanovski is one of the hottest players on the WTA Tour. Jovanovski won her third WTA title – her second in recent weeks – as she captured the Yinzhou Bank International Women’s Tennis Open inNingbo,China. It wasn’t easy, as Jovanovski and Zhang Shuai battled for 71 minutes in the opening set, which Zhang won. Zhang then broke her opponent to move in front 2-0 in the second set before Jovanovski began her winning comeback, taking 12 of the next 15 games to close out the match. Jovanovski won inTashkent,Uzbekistan, this year and inBaku,Azerbaijan, last year.
Zhang didn’t leave Ningbo without a title, however. She teamed with Chan Yung-Jan to win the doubles, stopping Irina Buryachok and Oksana Kalashnikova 6-2 6-1.
When Steffi Graf retired, she had an impressive résumé of 22 Grand Slam tournament singles titles. She believes that number could be overtaken by Serena Williams, as well as the record 24 held by Margaret Court. Williams captured her 17th major title at this year’s US Open. “She’s got a lot of tennis left in her,” Graf said in a phone interview. “I can easily see her pass all of our records. I don’t see the competition catching up to her at all. Having just turned 32, Williams is one major championship away from matching the 18 titles each held by Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. “She’s so strong and has such a powerful game,” Graf said of Williams. “She has a chance to overpower her opponents, and she’s shown that over and over.” In her final season in 1999, Graf beat a 17-year-old Williams in Sydney,Australia, and lost to her at Indian Wells,California. “You can feel a strong energy and determination,” Graf said. “That can be definitely intimidating playing against her. You know there’s a force on the court.”
SET FOR ISTANBUL
China’s Li Na has qualified for the third consecutive year-ending TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships, which will be held inIstanbul,Turkey, October 22-27. The tournament showcases the world’s top eight women singles players and top four doubles teams as they compete for a record purse of USD $6 million. Li is the fifth player to qualify for the season-ending competition, joining Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska. She began the season by winning her seventh career title, this one at the Shenzhen Longgang Gemdale Open, and reached her third career Grand Slam tournament final, where she lost a dramatic three-setter to then-world number one Azarenka.
Former world number one Venus Williams had her best tournament in a long time when she knocked off top-seeded Victoria Azarenka on her way to the semifinals of the Pan Pacific Open. Showing flashes of the game that took her to seven Grand Slam tournament singles titles, Venus beat an ailing Azarenka 6-2 6-4, who spent much of the match bending over her racquet between points. “I’ve sat through two US Open finals between her and Serena and you could tell from the first game she wasn’t herself,” Williams said. “It was definitely hard to concentrate because you sort of feel bad. I don’t know what was bothering her, but I just hope she feels better.” Azarenka had a large fan brought courtside to try to cool off during changeovers. And during the match the 24-year-old Belarusian threw several tantrums and committed numerous unforced errors. “I haven’t been able to practice for three days and I didn’t sleep at all last night,” Azarenka said following her loss. “I felt hot, then cold. … You can’t play at 20 percent against a top player – it just doesn’t work that way.”
SERENA NUMERO UNO
No surprise here. Serena Williams has clinched the WTA’s year-end number one ranking for the third time in her career, having also achieved the honor in 2002 and 2009. Williams has been ranked number one in the world on six occasions during her career, most recently sinceFebruary 17, 2013, when the 31-year-old right-hander became the oldest player to hold the number one spot since computer rankings were introduced in 1975. This year Williams has won a career-best nine singles titles, including Roland Garros and the US Open, bringing her Grand Slam singles totals to 17 titles. With 55 career titles, Serena is now tied for seventh with Lindsay Davenport and Virginia Wade on the all-time list of most titles won. Her USD $3.6 million prize money earned at the US Open is the largest single prize money purse in tennis history and made her the first woman to surpass USD $9 million in a single season.
Long-time girlfriend Jelena Ristic has finally captured Novak Djokovic. The world’s top-ranked player announced their engagement on Facebook, posting, “Getting used to introducing Jelena as my fiancé and future wife So happy!” The two have been dating for eight years. She is currently director of the Novak Djokovic Foundation, having studied Business Administration at Bocconi University in Milan,Italy, and earning a Master’s degree in Luxury Management and Services from International University of Monaco. The 26-year-old is a native of Belgrade,Serbia.
Martina Hingis and her mother have been accused of assaulting the tennis great’s husband. Police in the Swiss canton of Schwyz told the media that Thibault Hutin was in the process of filing a complaint following an incident at the couple’s apartment in the village of Feusisberg. The 27-year-old equestrian told a newspaper that his wife, her mother and her mother’s boyfriend had “beaten and scratched” him. Hutin said the mother’s boyfriend had also struck him in the head with a DVD player. Hingis, inducted this year into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, won five Grand Slam tournament singles titles during her career. She recently ended six years of retirement to play doubles.
SIGNS TO LEAD
Great Britain’s Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) went overseas for its new leader. The new chief executive will be Michael Downey, who has been president of Tennis Canada. Downey will start his new job on January 6, replacing Roger Draper. Nick Humby will be acting chief executive until the 56-year-old Downey takes over. The new leader will earn less than half that paid to Draper, whose huge salary (USD $1.03 million annually) came in for criticism.
Bangkok: Jamie Murray and John Peers beat Thomasz Bednarek and Johan Brunstrom 6-3 3-6 10-6 (match tiebreak)
Kuala Lumpur: Eric Butorac and Raven Klaasen beat Pablo Cuevas and Horacio Zeballos 6-2 6-4
Ningbo: Chan Yung-Jan and Zhang Shuai beat Irina Buryachok and Oksana Kalashnikova 6-2 6-1
Tokyo: Cara Black and Sania Mirza beat Chan Hao-Ching and Liezel Huber 4-6 6-0 11-9 (match tiebreak)
Tokyo (men): www.rakutenopen.com
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$2,315,250 China Open,Beijing,China, hard
$1,297,000 Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships,Tokyo,Japan, hard
$144,317 Ethias Trophy,Mons,Belgium, hard
$100,000 2013 Sacramento Challenger,Sacramento,California,USA, hard
$5,185,625 China Open,Beijing,China, hard
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$3,8949,445 Shanghai Rolex Masters,Shanghai,China, hard
$125,000 Tashkent Open,Tashkent,Uzbekistan, hard
$100,000 First Republic Bank Tiburon Challenger,Tiburon,California,USA, hard
$235,000 Generali Ladies Linz,Linz,Austria, hard
$235,000 HP Japan Women’s Open Tennis,Osaka,Japan, hard