By Bob Greene
Richard Gasquet beat Mikhail Kukushkin 4-6 6-4 6-4 to win the Kremlin Cup by Bank of Moscow men’s singles in Moscow,Russia
Simona Halep beat Samantha Stosur 7-6 (1) 6-2 to win the Kremlin Cup by Bank of Moscow women’s singles in Moscow,Russia
Grigor Dimitrov beat David Ferrer 2-6 6-3 6-4 to win the If Stockholm Open in Stockholm, Sweden
Tommy Haas beat Robin Haase 6-3 4-6 6-4 to win the Erste Bank Open in Vienna, Austria
Caroline Wozniacki beat Annika Beck 6-2 6-2 to win the BGL BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open in Luxembourg
“Even if I would have lost the match, the most important thing was to test myself to the limits and try to control what I can. This was icing on the cake.” – Grigor Dimitrov, after upsetting David Ferrer to win the If Stockholm Open.
“He won a lot matches recently and won Challengers. He won seven matches here. He won against big players. For sure, I knew it would be tough because his shots are flat and very strong and he doesn’t miss much and serves well. I knew it would be a big fight for me if I wanted to win. It is a big win for me to win in three sets.” – Richard Gasquet, after beating Mikhail Kukushkin to win the Kremlin Cup men’s singles.
“Maybe Sam was tired because she won inOsaka last week, and after Asia I had about 10 days of break because I had a right shoulder injury. But I recovered well from that, and now I feel good, and my game was very good this week. Maybe I was just a little bit fresher today.” – Simona Halep, who beat Samantha Stosur to win the Kremlin Cup women’s singles.
“Twenty-first title, it’s great. I’m still young – I have a few more years to go – so to be at 21 already is just great. This is what you practice for, so to win is an amazing feeling.” – Carolina Wozniacki, after winning in Luxembourg, his 21st career title but first of 2013.
“Caroline and I practiced once here and I was very nervous, and I was nervous today too. But I never expected I’d be here until Sunday. I had a great week and played some great tennis, but Caroline was just too good today. – Annika Beck, following her loss to Carolina Wozniacki in the title match in Luxembourg.
“We will celebrate in different parts of the world. Denis will go toBasel(Switzerland) and I will go to Kazan(Russia) to play a challenger. If we have internet on the plane, we’ll celebrate via Whatsapp.” – Mikhail Elgin, after teaming with Denis Istomin to win their first ATP World Tour doubles title.
“We are happy to win. We have been playing for almost two years. We’ve played semifinals. It’s our first final and we won. It’s our first win at such a big event. Maybe we have more wins to come. We won in Moscow, it’s nice.” – Denis Istomin, following his doubles win with partner Mikhail Elgin.
“Maybe the referee should just call ‘game Tommy’ and ‘game Robin’ tomorrow.” – Robin Haase, referring to the similar names in the Erste Bank Open final where he played Tommy Haas.
“I am disappointed as I’ve had my chances. When I broke him at 1-0 in the second set, I started to feel stronger. I believed I could turn around the match. But he played all or nothing at the end and that paid off for him.” – Robin Haase, following his loss to Tommy Haas.
“I’m very happy. Obviously it’s a great feeling to win a title. It doesn’t come around very often. To do it here after (also winning) in 2001, it’s special.” – Tommy Haas, after winning in Vienna for the second time in his career.
“It’s the best eight players in the world. Anybody who is here is going to be a challenge.” – Victoria Azarenka, noting the strong field for this week’s WTA Championships.
“Both of the groups are very tough and I don’t think you can choose anyone who you think is weaker.” Kvitova said. ”This means that it’s going to be a big fight every day, every match.” – Petra Kvitova, talking about the field in this week’s WTA Championships.
“Playing the championships, you are playing against the best players in the world so there is no easy match, so every match will be tough from the beginning. There is no warm up. There is no getting your rhythm. You have to bring your best performance from the start to the end.” – Jelena Jankovic, one of the eight singles players in the WTA Championships.
“Having just retired from the ATP Tour, you’d think I have an advantage over some of the guys, but players like Andy (Roddick), Andre (Agassi) and Pete (Sampras) are so talented and competitive that it is going to be a great challenge for me to win some titles. I look forward to the challenge.” – James Blake, who along with Andy Roddick will play the 2014 PowerShares Series for seniors beginning in February.
“I loved playing tennis. I loved it since the first day I grabbed a racquet, I was crazy about it. One never knows what comes behind that or with that. I loved to play, I was competitive, I wanted to win, that was all I knew. In the first few years tennis is a game. Later, it becomes a job.” – Gabriela Sabatini.
START OF SOMETHING BIG?
Grigor Dimitrov upset top-seeded David Ferrer in the final of the If Stockholm Open to win his first ATP World Tour title. The 22-year-old Bulgarian is expected to win many more trophies before his career ends. Dimitrov becomes the eighth first-time champion in 2013 and the first Bulgarian to win an ATP World Tour event in the Open Era. Ferrer was seeking his third title of the year and lost to Dimitrov for only the first time in four career meetings. “It’s one of my biggest wins,” Dimitrov said. “To beat a top guy in a final. It’s a great feeling and it’s good for your mental state. You know you can hang with these guys and the next time you play against them, especially in the Grand Slams, you will be better prepared.”
STILL IN RACE
With his victory inMoscow, Richard Gasquet is still in the running for the elite eight-man field who will play in the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. Gasquet downed Mikhail Kukushkin to move to ninth place in the ATP Race To London. Because Andy Murray has withdrawn from the season finale, the ninth player gains the final berth. “I’ll try my best to qualify,” Gasquet said. “Two big tournaments are coming up, including in Paris.” Gasquet lost the opening set and was down a break at 4-3 in the third. But the Frenchman captured the next three games to claim the victory. It was Gasquet’s third title of the year, having also won inDoha,Qatar, and Montpellier,France. Kukushkin had to go through qualifying to reach the main draw. But the 25-year-old upset fourth-seeded Alexandr Dolgopolov in the second round and defending champion Andreas Seppi in the semifinals. Ranked outside the Top 300 in June, Kukushkin will return to the Top 70 in this week’s rankings.
Being aggressive is the key to Simona Halep’s game this year – and she now has five WTA titles to prove it. Halep beat Australian Samantha Stosur to capture the women’s crown in Moscow,Russia– her fifth title of 2013. “I’ve been playing more aggressively this year, hitting the ball very strong, and I’m more relaxed on the court and have been focusing much better on every point,” the Romanian said. “I still have a few things I want to improve, but I will work on them in the off-season. I’m very happy with how I’m playing now.” Only Serena Williams has won more tournaments this year than Halep. The world’s top-ranked player has won 10 titles. Halep is second in number of WTA titles won by a Romanian, breaking the tie she had with Irina Spirlea and Ruxandra Dragomir-Ilie. Halep now trails only Virginia Ruzici, who won 12 titles in her career and is Romania’s only Grand Slam champion, winning the French Open in 1978. “It’s been an incredible year for me,” Halep said. “I’ve won five titles now. I feel incredible.”
Stosur also left Moscow with a title. She teamed with Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova to win the doubles, beating the second-seeded team of Alla Kudryavtseva and Anastasia Rodionova. It was Kuznetsova and Stosur’s first WTA doubles title together. Kuznetsova has won 16 doubles titles in her career, while Stosur, who first made her name in doubles, now has won 24.
SUCCESS AT LAST
It’s been a long time since Carolina Wozniacki ended a tournament with the winner’s trophy. But she did just that at the BGL BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open when she stopped Annika Beck in straight sets. It was the former world number one player’s first title this year and 21st in her career. Wozniacki captured the final 11 points of the match as she won the Luxembourg WTA stop for the first time. She was two points away from winning the title in 2008, only to lose to Elena Dementieva. “Last time I was in the finals where it was five years ago,” she said. “I’m really happy to make it a step further this year and take the title.”
Tommy Haas is getting better with age. The 35-year-old German won his second title of the year by edging Dutchman Robin Haase in the Erste Bank Open in Vienna, Austria. Haas also won the Vienna tournament 12 years ago and now has 15 career titles. He became the oldest ATP tournament winner by capturing the title in Munich, Germany, in May and still has a slim chance of qualifying for next month’s Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. “This victory is really something special,” said Haas, who is currently ranked 12th in the world. “You don’t win tournaments too often and this year I’ve won in my two favorite cities.” Haas has had his career interrupted several times for injuries, and underwent hip surgery in 2010. “If you had seen me 3½ years ago … I was really asking myself if it made sense to continue,” he said. “I have been paying a lot of attention to my fitness and nutrition and I am always looking to improve my tennis.” Haas becomes the 15th player over 30 years of age to win on the ATP World Tour this year.
SELECTED AS ALTERNATES
Caroline Wozniacki and Sloane Stephens will be the singles alternates at the TEB BNPParibas WTA Championships being held this week in Istanbul,Turkey. Wozniacki, a former world number one fromDenmark, will be the first alternate and the American Stephens the second. The singles field consists of Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Agnieszka Radwanska, Li Na, Petra Kvitova, Sara Errani, Jelena Jankovic and Angelique Kerber. The four doubles teams participating are Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, Nadia Petrova and Katarina Srebotnik, Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina, and Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai. Maria Sharapova withdrew from the competition because of an injury. The top eight singles players and top four doubles teams are competing for a record-setting USD $6 million.
Petra Kvitova will be the first one to test top-ranked Serena Williams when the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships get underway inIstanbul,Turkey, this week. Also in the same round-robin group with Williams are Agnieszka Radwanska and Angelique Kerber. Second-ranked Victoria Azarenka heads the White Group, which also includes Li Na, Sara Errani and Jelena Jankovic. Williams is seeking to become the first player to successfully defend the title since Justine Henin in 2007. The American is seeking her fourth WTA Championships title, which would tie her with Chris Evert for third most. “It’s a tough group. I have to be ready,” Williams said. “That’s the thing about this tournament and why it’s so tough, you have to be ready from the first match on.” Round-robin play runs from Tuesday to Friday, with the top two in each group advancing to Saturday’s semifinals.
At first, Lukas Rosol dominated his Erste Bank Open semifinal against Tommy Haas. Rosol slammed 16 aces to raise his total for the tournament to 49 and conceded just two points on serve in the opening set. After that, it was Haas who took over, and won 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (0) when the match ended without a ball being struck. “I managed to play my best tennis on the big points and in the tiebreaker,” Haas said. “That makes me very satisfied.” Haas led 6-0 in the tiebreak when a penalty point against Rosol ended the match. After being warned earlier by referee Cedric Mourier, the Czech broke his racquet by smashing it on the court. “I’ve been on the circuit for 17 years,” Haas said. “But I’ve never won a match without playing match point.”
Hall of Famer Gabriela Sabatini says she was so shy that she deliberately lost matches when she was young so that she wouldn’t have to speak to the media. In an interview with Argentine newspaper La Nacion, Sabatini said: “When I was younger and thought that I had to talk after winning a tournament, I often lost in the semifinals so I did not have to. It was that bad. I was very introverted. I had some issues at school because I was very inward-looking,” Now 43 years old, the 1990 US Open women’s champion said her shyness was a major problem. “I got very nervous at that point. But at the same time I was very competitive and I got frustrated when I did not win,” she said. Sabatini retired in 1996 and travels often to Europe and the United States to promote her line of perfumes and other businesses.
The world’s top-ranked player, Rafael Nadal, is skipping the Swiss Indoors because of fatigue. After being sidelined for seven months recovering from a knee injury, Nadal has played 74 matches this year, losing only five. The next tournament on his schedule is the Paris Masters, starting October 28. He then will play the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London,Great Britain, beginning November 4.
The ATP World Tour has cleared Malek Jaziri of Tunisia of any wrongdoing after he was ordered by his federation not to play against an Israeli opponent. In making its decision, the ATP said the International Tennis Federation (ITF) will now rule over whether the Tunisian tennis federation should be punished. Playing in a Challenger tournament in Tashkent,Uzbekistan, Jaziri cited a knee injury when he withdrew from a second-round match against Israel’s Amir Weintraub. However, Jaziri’s brother, Amir, said the player had been ordered by the Tunisian Tennis Federation – itself under pressure from the Tunisian Ministry for Youth and Sports – not to play Weintraub. “We have found no wrongdoing on the part of the player and all the information we have collected will be passed on to the ITF,” the ATP said in a statement. Jaziri and Weintraub are both members of the same tennis club in Sarcelles,France, just north of Paris.
There’s a possibility Andy Murray won’t return to the ATP Tour until after the Australian Open. The Wimbledon champion underwent a back operation last month and has just begun his rehabilitation. He now says he will play the Australian Open in January only if he is “100 percent fit.” The 26-year-old Scot has already said he will not play the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London. “The rehab process is pretty tedious and long and I don’t want to come back too soon and have to start that process all over again,” Murray said. Asked if he wants to play the year’s first Grand Slam event, Murray said, “I hope so, but I’m not going to come back unless I’m 100 percent fit. I’ve got a long way to go yet.”
SELECTED FOR FAME HALL
The latest inductees into the United States Professional Tennis Association’s (USPTA) Hall of Fame are Nick Bollettieri, Vic Braden and Steve Wilkinson. “I cannot think of three other tennis-teaching giants who deserve this recognition more than Nick, Vic and Steve,” said USPTA CEO John Embree. “In their own individual ways they have contributed mightily to our mission of elevating the standards of tennis-teaching professionals and coaches across the country and around the world.” Bollettieri has helped mold several number one-ranked players, including Andre Agassi, Boris Becker, Jim Courier, Martina Hingis, Jelena Jankovic, Marcelo Rios, Monica Seles, Maria Sharapova, and Venus and Serena Williams. Braden made an impact as a player, teaching professional and broadcaster. He and Jack Kramer also co-founded the Jack Kramer Tennis Club inPalos Verdes,California,USA. Wilkinson was head men’s coach at Gustavus Adolphus College for 39 years and is the winningest coach in the history of men’s American collegiate tennis with 923 victories. He has coached 46 players to all-American honors, including current ATP tour player Eric Butorac. The induction ceremonies were held during the USPTA World Conference in Orlando,Florida,USA.
Mercedes-Benz has signed a multi-year sponsorship deal to become the Official Car and Platinum Sponsor of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, which will be held in London,Great Britain, November 4-11. Through the agreement, Mercedez-Benz will provide a premium fleet of cars for the Official Transport of the tournament.
SET TO EXPAND
Expansion plans at Roland Garros have the green light. The Administrative Court of Paris overturned an earlier ruling and will allow the French Open site to expand, including a retractable roof over center court. The project was approved by city authorities two years ago. But work was suspended after a tribunal sided with residents concerned that the project would encroach on a nearby botanical greenhouse. The French Tennis Federation welcomed the Administrative Court’s ruling with “great satisfaction.”
SENIOR STARS TO SHINE
Add Andy Roddick and James Blake to the “older generation.” Roddick and Blake will make their debut on the 2014 PowerShares Series tennis circuit, a 12-city tour that features Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. The PowerShares Series will begin February 5, 2014, in Kansas City, Missouri, and will conclude March 21 in Surprise, Arizona. Besides Roddick, Blake, Sampras, Agassi, McEnroe and Connors, the tour also includes Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander, Jim Courier, Michael Chang, Todd Martin and Mark Philippoussis. Each event will feature two one-set semifinal matches, followed by a one-set championship match. After Kansas City, the tour will make stops at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Birmingham, Alabama; Indianapolis, Indiana; Denver, Colorado; Houston, Texas; Salt Lake City, Utah; Sacramento, California; Portland, Oregon; Nashville, Tennessee; Charlotte, North Carolina, and Surprise, Arizona.
A former player, coach and longtime captain of Canada’s Fed Cup team, Rene Simpson, is dead at the age of 47. Tennis Canada said Simpson died in Chicago, Illinois, USA, after a year-long battle with brain cancer. Simpson reached a career-high singles ranking of 70th in the world in 1989, when she also advanced to the third round of the French Open. In doubles she was ranked as high as 32nd, winning three titles. She was a US Open doubles quarterfinalist. On the lower-tier ITF circuit, Simpson won three singles and four doubles titles.
Luxembourg: Stephanie Vogt and Yanina Wickmayer beat Kristina Barros and Laura Thorpe 7-6 (2) 6-4
Moscow (men): Mikhail Elgin and Denis Istomin beat Ken Skupski and Neal Skupski 6-2 1-6 14-12 (match tiebreak)
Moscow (women): Svetlana Kuznetsova and Samantha Stosur beat Alla Kudryavtseva and Anastasia Rodionova 6-1 1-6 10-8 (match tiebreak)
Stockholm: Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and Jean-Julien Roger beat Jonas Bjorkman and Robert Lindstedt 6-2 6-2
Vienna: Florin Mergea and Lukas Rosol beat Julian Knowle and Daniel Nestor 7-5 6-4
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$2,086,850 Valencia Open 500,Valencia,Spain, hard
$1,988,835, Swiss Indoors Basel, Basel, Switzerland, hard
$6,000,000 TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships, Istanbul, Turkey, hard
$100,000 Internationaux Féminins de la Vienne,Poitiers,France, hard
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$4,386,216BNPParibas Masters,Paris,France, hard
$750,000 Garanti Koza WTA Tournament of Champions,Sofia,Bulgaria, hard
$125,000 Nanjing Ladies Open,Nanjing,China, hard
Italy vs. Russia at Caliari, Sardinia, Italy, clay