There will be guaranteed all-Williams round robin play this week at the WTA Tour Championships, where Serena and Venus have been drawn in the “Maroon” group with Russians Dinara Safina and Elena Dementieva. The “White” group is comprised of Russians Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva, and Serbs Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic.
While both Williams sisters are in the same group, an all-Williams final remains a possibility. The No. 1 finisher from the Maroon Group will face the No. 2 finisher from the White group, and vice versa as two players from each group advance into the semifinals.
Serena was the victor in the sisters’ last all-family meeting this year at the US Open.
“It doesn’t bother me at all — we’re always in the same half of the draw, so I’m used to it,” said Serena, who leads the sisters’ career meetings 9-8.
The two-time defending champion at the year-end championship is missing, as dominant No. 1 Justine Henin retired earlier this year.
Reaching the Australian Open final in January first put Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on the map, but this week the Frenchman thrust himself into the upper echelon by simultaneously capturing the Masters Series-Paris title and qualifying as the last of the elite eight at the year-ending Masters Cup.
The No. 13-seeded Tsonga defeated David Nalbandian 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 to collect the Paris title in front of the partisan crowd, denying the Argentine a trip to the Masters Cup. In the semifinals Tsonga defeated James Blake, denying the American a trip to the Masters Cup.
“I was hurting everywhere but I told myself that I had to give it all as I had the chance to play this Masters Series,” said a sobbing Tsonga after the final. “Two years ago, I was 250th in the world and loafing around in the minor tournaments.”
Tsonga has enjoyed a strong indoor season since the US Open, defeating Novak Djokovic in the Bangkok final, and reaching the semifinal at Lyon.
QUEBEC CITY, Canada
Top-seeded Nadia Petrova captured the final regular-season event of the year, coming from a set down to defeat No. 6-seeded American Bethanie Mattek 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 at Quebec City. It was the Russian’s second title of the year, while Mattek was competing in her first career final.
“To finish off the season like this is wonderful,” Petrova said.
TENNIS-X NEWS, NOTES, QUOTES AND BARBS
SAFIN PONDERS RETIREMENT: Marat Safin’s 2008 campaign ended with an opening-round loss at the Masters Series-Paris, but the event could also be the last for the former No. 1, who says he is thinking about retirement: “I need time to sit down and relax and just enjoy my life without any tennis for a couple of months and then I will see. If I feel like I want to continue playing, I will. If not, it will be over…It’s a little bit uncomfortable to find yourself ranked Top 10 for many years and then to find yourself ranked 70, 30 and 50. I’m open for anything, I have no pressure, nothing to prove. I just want to be comfortable in my decision.”
BLAKE BLASTS 2009 SCHEDULE: American James Blake implied that outgoing ATP CEO Etienne de Villiers had too much input, and the players too little into the new 2009 schedule which features eight must-play events in addition to the four Grand Slams. Both world no. 1 Rafael Nadal and world No. 2 Roger Federer getting injured and withdrawing last week at Paris was evidence, according to the No. 2-ranked American. “I think we’re going to have to deal with eight for eight mandatory events,’ Blake said of the Masters Series (being rebranded ‘Masters 1000’ for next year) events on the ATP calendar. “It’s unfortunate, because I don’t think that’s good for the players. In this tournament, you see the top two players in the world getting injured — it couldn’t be a clearer signal that the year is too long. There’s too many mandatory events, too many times that we have to be playing. Look at baseball players, football players, basketball players, they have a real off-season. That’s why they’re playing into their 40s and we’re retiring at 30. It’s just tough on our body. When the top two players can’t make it through a season at 22 and 27 years old — the peak of their health — it’s saying something about the season. To make us have eight mandatory events, four mandatory Grand Slams, and four out of 11 mandatory 500s, it just seems mind boggling to me as a player.”
MISC: Serena Williams is the only player in this year’s field that has won the year-ending WTA Tour Championships…France will have two players in the Top 10 on Monday (Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gilles Simon) for the first time in 20 years, since Yannick Noah and Henri Leconte in 1988…Roger Federer has committed to play in the March 2009 Davis Cup tie against the U.S., with the U.S. site to be determined…Arlen Kantarian, CEO of professional tennis, announced he is leaving the USTA — because the USTA wouldn’t negotiate a new contract, where he was reportedly making $7+ million a year between salary and bonuses?…Anna Kournikova speaking to the star-Telegram on possibly playing doubles on the WTA Tour: “Maybe one day I’ll do it, but I don’t know. I don’t like to speculate because people start to ask me about it all the time, and they start waiting for some kind of announcement. Until I really know for sure, I don’t like to say anything because people speculate too much.”
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