Nadal, Srichaphan, Petrova Injured
On Tuesday pro tennis was reminded that injury will again play a prominent role in 2007 when three marquee players retired from matches with various work stoppages, putting their Australian Open campaigns in jeopardy.
World No. 2 Rafael Nadal, thwarted in his attempt to gain his first title of the year last week in Chennai, retired Tuesday in his first-round match in Sydney against local hopeful Chris “Penthouse” Guccione, pulling the plug at 5-6 down in the first set with a groin injury.
“I speak with the officials at the ATP and with my physio and they tell me it (the hamstring) is very tight and they feel with treatment in two more days I’m going to be 100 percent,” Nadal said. “I want to play the Australian Open for sure. It’s very important for me. Last year I can’t play and this year I want to play there.”
Nadal was nonetheless impressed with the service delivery of Guccione.
“Unbelievable serve, phew,” Nadal said. “For me he is one or two of the best serves in the world with (Ivo) Karlovic. Maybe I can’t touch it.”
Also retiring Tuesday was former Top 10er Paradorn “The Thai Fighter” Srichaphan, who pulled the plug trailing 2-6, 0-3 against Czech qualifier Ivo Minar.
The top-seeded Bryan brothers had a disappointing start to the season in Sydney, upended in the first round by the unseeded French duo of Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra 10-5 in a match tiebreak.
Also in Sydney on the women’s side, former US Open champ Svetlana Kuznetsova retired against Katarina Srebotnik with a respiratory illness that she says won’t keep her from participating in the Aussie Open — but more disturbingly No. 4 seed Nadia Petrova retired again with a slow-healing abdominal injury, trailing 2-6, 2-4 against Serb comer Ana Ivanovic.
Also in Sydney China’s unseeded Li Na outlasted (6) Elena Dementieva 7-5 in the third, Israel’s unseeded Shahar Peer straight-setted (7) Patty Schnyder, and the hot-handed Serb Jelena Jankovic ended the hopes of local wildcard Sam Stosur in straight sets.
At the WTA event in Hobart the spotlight seems to be on the unseeded players as Serena Williams (d. Safarova 7-6 in the third), (WC) Alicia Molik (d. (6) A.Bondarenko) and (WC) Sania Mirza (d. Oprandi 6-0 in the third) advanced while additional seeds (2) Anabel Medina Garrigues (l. to Bammer) and (5) Mara Santangelo (l. to Castano) fell.
“I just kept making so many unforced errors. I knew I was going to win,” said the modest Williams. “That didn’t cross my mind — I didn’t think I was going to lose at all. I was really happy to win, because I wasn’t ready to go home yet. I want to play a few more matches before the Australian Open.”
AROUND THE DIAL:
ATP President Etienne de Villiers says that in order to address withdrawals at the end of the year, the tour is introducing a $3 million bonus pool for the top four players in 2007, if they commit to play eight of nine Masters Series events, including the two indoor events in Madrid and Paris…USTA President Jane Brown Grimes on no American women in the Top 10 on the WTA Tour Rankings: “I do believe it’s cyclical. I’m sure that out there somewhere is a Richard Williams or a Jim Evert throwing balls across the net to some 8-year-old who’s going to be a star…We’ve sat here before where it looks bleak, but you can never count the U.S. out. The competition from other countries has gotten much stronger, especially from France, Spain, Russia and China. France puts one-third of the proceeds from the French Open into development. China is government-backed. The stakes are higher and moves like our partnership with the Evert Academy to house and train top juniors are more critical to our health as an association.”…From The Times: “Lleyton Hewitt, the Australia No 1, approached Pat Rafter to become his coach a few hours after Roger Rasheed resigned on Friday, but the former US Open champion turned down the position because of a long-standing family commitment.”…Jimmy Connors’ mother Gloria has passed. “She had an unwavering passion for tennis,” Jimmy Connors said. “All my life, she taught me — made me a world champion — she always got me to do things without my even realizing. She instilled passion, excitement and enthusiasm into me that was contagious to everyone around me. And yet separately, she was my mother and my friend.”…Blogger Peter Bodo on Rafael Nadal, Martina Hingis and Dinara Safina losing early this week: “It may seem counter-intuitive, but it looks more and more like the week before the start of a major is not a very good time to throw a tennis tournament — especially a significant one. This is not to say that Jet Boy is faking his pirata pull or that Hingis or Safina tanked their matches. But just as there are inconvenient truths, there are convenient losses (and injuries). Whether you want to blame the calendar, the level of tennis being played these days, or the Wilanders (or lack thereof) displayed by the players,t he inconvenient truth is that the days when a champion or contender with a lusty appetite for combat goes on along run that sweeps him or her right through a Grand Slam event are long, long gone.”…The Melbourne Herald Sun says Rob Aivatoglou, the manager who was canned by Lleyton Hewitt, was interviewed by police concerning “alleged misappropriation of money and related offences.”…Andy Roddick says he is gaining on Roger Federer: “Probably for the first time in two or three years after those matches I felt like the gap was maybe going my way for once. So that’s exciting. There’s still a long way to go, but I’m a lot more optimistic about it than I was maybe the last couple years.”…From Lawn Tennis News: “Sania Mirza will get an appearance money totalling $90,000 for participating in next month’s Bangalore WTA open. That’s twice the amount Indian male star Leander Paes commands. It has been attributed to Sania’s fine showing at the Doha Asian Games, that her marketability (never short in India) has also served to prop her appearance fee up.”…Best headline of the week, from The Australian: “After bottoming out, Serena’s back”…Rennae Stubbs writing for The Age: “Having said that, though, Amelie Mauresmo can often be seen talking to Kim Clijsters, Kuznetsova to Nadia Petrova or Elena Dementieva, and it is not uncommon to see them cracking each other up. But don’t get too close to Svetlana — aside from the taste in rap music, she has this habit of pinching you on the arm and it really hurts. We try not to say many controversial things about each other in the press because we have to play and be around each other so much, but I haven’t been averse to speaking my mind once in a while if I feel a player has done the wrong thing. That used to happen more, but now it is done more through the ever-increasing entourages. There is the odd time when a player comes off the court and sits down to have a good old cry after losing, but the locker room is the one place to do it without the scrutiny of the cameras, the public or even entourages. I usually wait until I get in the shower to let it out, whether it be happiness or sadness.”
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