Djokovic Claims Masters Cup; Pros Hit Exo Circuit; Tennis Week Tanking
Djokovic Ends Season with ATP Tennis Masters Cup Title
Serb Novak Djokovic announced his intentions for 2009 on Sunday, ending his 2008 campaign with the Masters Cup title and finishing a mere 10 points behind world No. 2 Roger Federer on the ATP Rankings.
Djokovic was sharp in jumping all over Nikolay Davydenko 6-1 in the first set of Sunday’s final, then holding off the Russian 7-5 in the second set. It was the 21-year-old’s fourth title of the year following the Australian Open, and Masters Series crowns in Indian Wells and Rome.
“I would put it in the same league as a Grand Slam because the best eight players in the world are participating here,” Djokovic said. “I feel very happy. End up the season the way I started it, with a win in a big event. So it’s a great boost up for upcoming season.”
Davydenko’s year included three titles, but the Russian failed to reach the quarters at any of the Grand Slams.
Nestor-Zimonjic Beat Bryans, Clinch No. 1 in Masters Cup Final
The Canadian-Serbian team of Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic topped American twins Bob and Mike Bryan 7-6(3), 6-2 on Sunday to capture the Tennis Masters Cup, winning the final that determined the year-end No. 1 ranking.
“It’s pretty unusual that that No. 1 ranking comes down to one match, that’s probably one in a million,” Bob Bryan said. “With all the points out there, having it hinge on a few points at the end of the season is pretty amazing. But they had some good results. We all won big tournaments. I think they deserve it. They won the season-ending championships. I guess got to tip our hat to them.”
The Bryans were attempting a record-setting four consecutive year-end titles, and what would have been their fifth overall. Instead the Canadian-Serb pair walked away with the coveted year-end No. 1 on the strength of a Wimbledon championship and a runner-up finish at the French, among other results.
The 36-year-old Nestor also finished as the year-end No. 1 team in 2002 and 2004 with Mark Knowles.
“We have had a great year,” Nestor said. “At times a little inconsistent. But when we’ve played well, we’ve been very tough to beat. We really get on a roll. I think when we’re playing well, we’re deserving of the No. 1 ranking.”
For the Bryans it was an odd season of coming up short that ended much like it began. The American twin tandem lost in their first four tournament finals at Sydney, Delray Beach, San Jose and Las Vegas before finally breaking through for their first title at the Masters Series-Miami. The Americans then lost in Davis Cup play to the French team of Clement-Llodra before reaching the final in their next three tournaments, winning at Barcelona and Rome (d. Nestor-Zimonjic), but losing at Hamburg (l. to Nestor-Zimonjic).
After a quarterfinal at the French and a semifinal at Wimbledon, the twins again lost to their nemesis’ Nestor-Zimonjic in the MS-Canada final. They then rebounded during the summer hardcourt circuit, winning titles at the MS-Cincinnati and the US Open. After the US Open they won only one match in two tournaments entering the Masters Cup.
TENNIS-X NEWS, NOTES, QUOTES AND BARBS
SPA OR TENNIS COURT? Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga may be a new name added to the rarified air of the year-end Masters Cup, but the 23-year-old is already a veteran when it comes to acting the part of a pampered star. Tsonga lost a three-setter to Russian Nikolay Davydenko in his opening match in Shanghai, then in his post-match conference blamed the ball kids for adding to his fatigue by making him take extra steps toward his towel.
“When I ask for my towel, my towel didn’t come,” Tsonga said. “Sometimes I have to take my towel alone. So for me it’s maybe 10 meters more. But if you count at the end of the match, it’s like one kilometre.” Hopefully the Frenchman can add two minutes onto his 45-minute training runs during the offseason to counteract the fatigue brought on by the extra towel effort.
SHOW US THE EXO $$$$$: Rafal Nadal withdrew from events at the end of this year citing knee tendinitis. Roger Federer likewise with a bad back, and other top players with similar ailments. All complain about the length of the ATP calendar — so what to do during the off season? Apparently their injuries are unaffected by playing non-ATP exhibitions, lured by the millions offered by the oil-rich Middle Eastern and Asian nations.
Abu Dhabi has yet been unable to secure a date on the ATP calendar, so the oil-flush capital of the United Arab Emirates is simply offering the top players ridiculous amounts of appearance money to play an event Jan. 1-3, 2009. Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Nikolay Davydenko, Andy Roddick, and James Blake will compete at the Capitala World Tennis Championship in the tiny Zayed Sports City’s 5000-capacity Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex.
Greg Sproule, managing director, IMG, Middle East, was not shy about their event bypassing the ATP and getting a jump on the official start of the year, with ATP events kicking off on Jan. 5. “We view it as the year is starting with us.”
The Grand Slams, Masters Series and Davis Cup remain the biggest events on the tennis calendar, and with tennis players essentially being free agents, what they do in between is up to them. Next time a top player complains about the rigor of the ATP calendar, pull up their exhibition schedule. Then again, as Rafa might, say, ‘Is difficult to turn down $2 million to play three days, no?’
This Tuesday Federer will meet fans in Kuala Lumpur where he is playing the Showdown of Champions exhibition with James Blake, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg. Cha-ching.
SERENA SLIDES TO ONE POST-US OPEN WIN: From tennis writer Ravi Ubha: “All that surfing — and acting — must have taken a toll on Serena Williams. For the second year in a row, Williams bailed during the year-end championships, this time skipping her final group match in Doha, Qatar, against Russian Elena Dementieva because of a pulled stomach muscle. Bizarrely, Williams, who hit the waves in Hawaii and filmed an episode for MADtv in October as she recovered from an ankle injury, suggested the stomach problem affected her little in a 5-7, 6-1, 6-0 defeat to sister Venus a day earlier. As one might guess from the score, the encounter lacked the drama of their classic U.S. Open quarterfinal in September, when Williams saved 10 set points and prevailed 7-6 (6), 7-6 (7). “I never felt anything on court, although it was hurting by the time I got back to the hotel,” Williams said.
BRYANS VS. WILLIAMS: The Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, will play a doubles exhibition against the Bryan brothers at the Andy Roddick Foundation charity event on Dec. 7 in Boca Raton, Fla. The Bryans will follow with a Dec. 13 exhibition against the former French Open-winning Jensen brothers in Atlanta.
TENNIS IS CLEAN: At the Masters Cup, Russian Nikolay Davydenko said tennis is a clean sport when it comes to players throwing matches, even though Russian (allegedly) mobsters dropped $7 million+ plus on one of Davydenko’s opponents after Davydenko had won the first set. Davydenko eventually retired from the match, handing his opponent a win. “I don’t think tennis really has any problem with gambling,” Davydenko said. “Tennis is clean because they tried to investigate every player, not just me.” The key word there is ‘tried.’ So how come so many players have come forward saying they were asked to throw matches? Clean…
ANYONE CARE ABOUT THE REIGN IN SPAIN?: Rafael Nadal was devastated that injury is keeping him out of the Davis Cup final when Spain travels to Argentina. The rest of the Spanish squad. Apparently not so much, as Reuters put it, “Higher-ranked players like Carlos Moya, Tommy Robredo and Nicolas Almagro were tired or had already started their holidays ahead of pre-season training for next year.” This after the Spanish team appointed Marcel Granollers, ranked outside the Top 50, to replace Nadal on the squad. Nice effort. I guess we missed it, but what have Moya, Robredo or Almagro done for anyone lately that has made them tired? Is Almagro tired from not reaching a quarterfinal since the French? Granollers? C’mon, way to phone it in.
MISC: Roger Federer when asked if he missed the ailing Rafael Nadal at the Masters Cup in Shanghai: “We’re not dating, so no.”…Andy Roddick on the injured Rafael Nadal skipping the Masters Cup in an effort to compete in the Davis Cup final, his tendinitis-ridden knee allowing: “Rafa’s earned every right to pick and choose what he wants to prioritize. He’s also responsible to his teammates and his country.”…2008 ends with two surprise year-end No. 1s: Jelena Jankovic and Rafael Nadal…The USTA announced that Brian Hainline, M.D., has been named to the newly-created position of Chief Medical Officer, USTA. Hainline will “develop and oversee medical policies affecting all aspects of the sport, from recreational programs to professional tournaments, with an eye toward promoting and developing the healthy growth of tennis.”…Billie Jean King is the recipient of this year’s NCAA President’s Gerald R. Ford Award, the award named in recognition of the late President Gerald Ford that honors individuals who have provided significant leadership as an advocate for higher education and intercollegiate athletics…Shahar Peer has a new coach in Pablo Giacopelli…Serena Williams was in Johannesburg last week to, according to local papers, “endorse Hewlett-Packard’s product line” and support the Starfish Great Heart Charity for orphans infected with HIV. Serena later in the week visited Kenya to open a school she funded in collaboration with the Build African Schools Initiative and Hewlett Packard…The “Kings of Tennis” exhibition event scheduled in Asia during this past weekend featuring eight former world No. 1 players was cancelled due to an apparent funding issue (aka organizers couldn’t come up with enough appearance scratch). Due to appear were Ilie Nastase, Bjorn Borg, Stefan Edberg and Mats Wilander representing the European team, and Roy Emerson, John McEnroe, Marcelo Rios and Pete Sampras representing the Americas side…Stefan Edberg will make his debut on the Outback Champions Series circuit this week at the “Emirates NBD’s The Legends “Rock” Dubai”…Andy Roddick says he has a short list of possible coaches he will be speaking to in the coming weeks. We’re sitting by the phone Andy. We can fix that transition game. Really…Former player David Wheaton writing for The Christian Worldview right before the U.S. election: “But for now, tomorrow, Election Day, the choice may not be everything we want (it never is), but the choice should be extremely clear for Christians: John McCain will bring much more of a Christian worldview to the White House than Barack Obama and that is the criterion that matters.”…Radek Stepanek played at the Masters Cup for the injured Andy Roddick, but the Czech, who was on vacation in Thailand, had his luggage held up in customs. “I had the racket from Novak Djokovic and socks from Andy [Murray],” said Stepanek after losing 7-6, 6-4 to Roger Federer. He also had to buy new contact lenses, also held up with his luggage…Andy Roddick on the ATP requiring more mandatory tournaments in 2009: “I think too much is asked of us as far as playing 11 months of the year, and now they’re imposing more mandatory tournaments. It doesn’t make a whole a lot of sense. It’s unfortunate for someone like Rafa [Nadal] that goes out there and does things the right way. No one is ever going to question how much effort he gives every time he’s on the court. I don’t think anybody wants to be on the court more than he does, so at a certain point you would hope they start respecting our opinions a little bit more.”…Serbian media is reporting that the country will have a new 2009 ATP event to be held in Belgrade in May. “The final approval is still subject to a few details that are being finalised between now and the end of 2008,” an ATP official told Eurosport. “It’s been approved in principle and we need to sort out a few details and then we will announce its spot in the calendar and the prize money and so on.”…According to TennisReporters.net, Tennis Week publisher Randy Master has left the publication and has returned to the Tennis Channel. Sources say that IMG, which owns the publication, is considering Tennis Week’s future viability. IMG bought the publication about two years ago.
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