Venus, Roddick Collect Titles; Dubai Tennis Saga Continues
Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships
Between injury pull-outs and the controversy with the women’s edition banning Shahar Peer, the men’s version of the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships this week is looking pretty thin. Five Top 10 players pulled citing injuries in Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Nikolay Davydenko, Andy Roddick and Fernando Verdasco.
That leaves seeds Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Gilles Simon, David Ferrer, Marin Cilic, Igor Andreev, Ivo Karlovic and Marat Safin.
Watch for: Opening round matches (6) Andreev vs. Spaniard Feliciano “F-Lo” Lopez, (4) Ferrer vs. Ivan Ljubicic, (8) Safin vs. Richard “Baby Fed” Gasquet.
Shocker: Defending champ Andy Roddick pulling while still in the semis at Memphis, passing on defending his ranking points and collecting a hefty appearance fee. “They have all seemed to have legitimate injuries,” Colm McLoughlin, the managing director of Dubai Duty Free, told reporters on Saturday regarding players skipping out. “I have no concerns. We have heard that Roddick was on the start of a hernia. I didn’t hear any other reports.”
Roddick had a different reason for pulling out. “I really didn’t agree with what went on over there,” Roddick said of the tournament denying Shahar Peer a spot in the draw. “I don’t know if it’s the best thing to mix politics and sports, and that was probably a big part of it.”
Delray Beach International Tennis Championships
Delray Beach, Fla., USA
No Top 20 players, but plenty of U.S. talent and a few international surprises will likely make for some interesting semifinal match-ups come the weekend. Nearby Tampa resident Mardy Fish is the top seed, joined by fellow seeds Sam Querrey, Ernests Gulbis, Igor Kunitsyn, Steve Darcis, Florent Serra, Jeremy Chardy and Yen-Hsun Lu.
Last-minute wildcard and former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt is unseeded, as is former world No. 2 Tommy Haas and former Aussie Open runner-up Marcos Baghdatis.
Watch for: (6) Serra vs. Nieminen on the punter’s upset tip; openers (3) Gulbis vs. Baghdatis, (7) Chardy vs. Haas, (8) Lu vs. Hewitt, and (2) Querrey vs. Guillermo “The Backboard” Canas.
Abierto Mexicano Telcel
One Top 10 player on both the men’s and women’s sides headline the Mexican Open — Argentine David Nalbandian and American Venus Williams.
Joining Nalbandian on the men’s side are Gael “Force” Monfils, Tommy Robredo coming off a claycourt title last week, defending champ Nicolas Almagro, Jose Acasuso, Al Montanes, Marcel Granollers and former No. 1 Carlos Moya.
The elder Williams sister’s claycourt acumen will be tested against fellow seeds Flavia Pennetta who seeks to defend her title, Spanish comer Carla Suarez Navarro, Iveta Benesova, Gisela Dulko, Lucie Safarova, Tathiana Garbin and last week’s Bogota winner Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.
Men’s notes: unseeded Juan Monaco vs. (3) Robredo 2nd rd.; (2) Monfils vs. (8) Moya quarterfinal.
Women’s notes: (1) Venus vs. (6) Safarova in quarters; wildcards Anna Orlik of Belarus, Emilie Loit of France, and Melissa Torres Sandoval of Mexico; Kaia Kanepi withdraws with a viral illness.
Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships
Venus Williams says she can be No. 1 in the world again. The elder Williams sister proved it this week in Dubai, defeating world No. 1-ranked sister Serena in the semifinals, and unseeded Frenchwoman Virginie Razzano 6-4, 6-2 in the final to claim the Dubai title on Saturday.
“It was a great week to be able to win against the world’s best player, my sister,” said Venus, who will return to the Top 5 on the WTA Rankings. “I would love to be the best in the world — and I am coming. So I am going to try.” Venus is now the only active player with 40 or more WTA titles.
Regions Morgan Keegan Championships and the Cellular South Cup
Memphis, Tenn., USA
No. 2 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus wins her second career WTA title and second of the year, upsetting top-seeded Dane Caroline Wozniacki by a convincing 6-1, 6-3 line and raising her career record in finals to 2-4. Azarenka and Wozniacki then teamed in the doubles final, capturing the title with a 6-1, 7-6(2) victory over the Ukraine-Dutch teaming of Fedak-Krajicek.
Copa Sony Ericsson Colsanitas
No. 7-seeded Spaniard Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez wins her first career singles title with a 6-3, 6-2 upset of No. 3-seeded Argentine Gisela Dulko. Martinez Sanchez then teamed with countrywoman Nuria Llagostera Vives to again beat Dulko and her partner, Italy’s Flavia Pennetta in the doubles final in a third-set tiebreak.
France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga won his second title of February on Sunday, defeating unseeded French countryman 7-5, 7-6(3) for the title at Marseille. The 23-year-old Frenchman won his first title of the season in Johannesburg, and improves his 2009 match record to a tour-best 19-3.
“Against Michael it’s different because you have to hit passing shots all the time and you’re always under pressure,” Tsonga said. In the doubles final Llodra turned around and captured the title with countryman Arnaud Clement, defeating Julian Knowle and Andy Ram.
Regions Morgan Keegan Championships
Memphis, Tenn., USA
Andy Roddick got revenge on Radek Stepanek for a loss last week in San Jose, bullying the artful Czech 7-5, 7-5 to take the Memphis title for the second time in his career.
Stepanek grabbed the mike and created a humorous moment during the trophy ceremony by announcing he wanted to present Roddick with the winner’s trophy — after Roddick had taken the runner-up trophy by mistake. Mardy Fish and Mark Knowles captured the doubles title.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Tommy Robredo won his second title in as many weeks, beating homecountry favorite Juan Monaco 7-5, 2-6, 7-6(5) for the Copa Telmex title. Robredo found himself down 0-3 and later 2-4 before fighting back in the third set.
“Juan played very well and the truth is the match was decided by a few points,” Robredo said. “Anyone of us could have won the match…I am very happy for having won back-to-back titles for the first time in my career. It feels great.”
TENNIS-X NEWS, NOTES, QUOTES AND BARBS
PEER-WTA-DUBAI-ATP-RAM REDUX — From Dave Solomon, writing for the New Haven Register: “The WTA is almost taking bows behind Israeli player Shahar Peer, the 45th-ranked player in the world, who at the 11th hour was denied a visa to compete in the ongoing women’s event in Dubai…It is not for Peer to ask her colleagues or her governing body to take punitive action on her behalf. It shouldn’t need to be asked, not in the 21st century world in which an African-American was elected to the United States presidency…the WTA, which brings its circus to town in late August for the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament, is not the same organization any longer. The governing body and rank-and-file player besmirched themselves by failing its responsibility to support a colleague who faced discrimination within their own family. We take particular exception with Venus and Serena Williams, who ought to be able to see a greater principle when it’s staring them in the face. “I thought it was unfair,” said Venus Williams earlier this week. “We’re all very supportive of Shahar.” Unfair? Unfair is when someone cuts in line in front of you to ride Space Mountain. What happened in Dubai is a disgrace and the fact that not a single player pulled out is a damning statement about the WTA as a whole…WTA head Larry Scott failed in his elemental charge to protect all of his players against discrimination. There is simply no place in the sports world for such behavior.”…
From David Johnson of the Florida Times-Union: “The international outcry has assured that Andy Ram doesn’t face the same ban in this week’s men’s event in Dubai. That’s no thanks to the response by the WTA Tour and Peer’s fellow players, which was weak and spineless. The tour was blind-sided by the move, and that’s embarrassing for an international sports organization that deals with differences in language and culture almost every day. Peer’s fellow players could have rallied to her defense. If Serena and Venus Williams had vowed not to play at a tournament that discriminates against any player, the Dubai event would have been a colossal flop. It’s possible the Williams sisters would have been fined for such a move, and that the boycott would have damaged the tour as much as the tournament. But it’s a stand someone had to take.”…
From tennis writer Charlie Bricker, titled “WTA’s Scott handled Dubai masterfully”: “Should the WTA have cancelled the tournament right there, before the event began?…I argued that, no, WTA CEO Larry Scott had done the right thing by allowing the tournament to go forward while issuing a very strong statement that indicated that Dubai could very easily lose its tournament in 2010. It was my opinion that the individual actions by players, who heavily criticized the UAE decision, and other condemnations by persons and organizations outside the WTA, such as the Wall Street Journal (which was a sponsor) and the Tennis Channel (which refused to fulfill a contract to televise the tournament) were stronger and would be viewed as far more significant than if the WTA turned this Arab-Israeli issue into a Dubai vs. the WTA dispute.”…
From Jemele Hill at ESPN: “Meanwhile, the Williams sisters chose money over principle and met Friday in a semifinal matchup, with Venus winning in a third-set tiebreaker. “Sponsors are important to us,” Venus said. “We wouldn’t be here without sponsors and we can’t let them down. Whatever we do, we need to do as a team — players, sponsors, tour and whoever — and not all break off in one direction. We are team players.” If playing for a lucrative purse is more important than taking a stand for fairness, Venus needs to re-evaluate her definition of a team player. If this had been a racial issue, the Williams sisters would never have played in Dubai, and I couldn’t imagine Venus’ expressing such unabashed loyalty to her sponsors, or even caring what sponsors thought. I’m certain the WTA would have withdrawn and the media coverage worldwide would have been unrelenting. Some of you probably think I’m being unfair by singling out the Williams sisters. There were 53 other female players in the tournament and any one of them could have boycotted on Peer’s behalf. It’s not like the Williams sisters were the only ones who failed Peer. The WTA had some early indications Peer’s participation could be denied. The tour should have threatened to boycott from the onset. Now that all this has transpired, it shouldn’t sanction another event in Dubai. But I expect more from Venus and Serena because they’ve experienced discrimination. I’m as disappointed in them as I was with Tiger Woods, who said Augusta National Golf Club had the right to set club rules however it saw fit, even if it meant excluding female members. Woods clearly forgot the club once used that same excuse to prohibit golfers of color from playing there. When you’re a leader of your sport, you bear a different responsibility, and the Williams sisters have assumed ownership of the torch once carried by Althea Gibson, Billie Jean King and Arthur Ashe. If legacy and equality are important to Venus and Serena, they will give Dubai the Indian Wells treatment. Otherwise they’ll be sanctioning treatment they would never accept for themselves.”…
Harvey Araton writing for the New York Times: “There is always going to be international conflict, and athletes in the middle. But they can’t be abandoned there when there is a choice. Tennis should finish its business in the gulf this month, and say bye-bye, Dubai.”…
DUBAI TO PAY FINE? ADMIT ANY WRONGDOING? — Dubai is still considering whether to appeal the $300,000 fine for denying Israel’s Shahar Peer a spot on the Dubai draw. “There is an appeal situation if we want to use it, in the WTA rule book, but we have not gone into detail on it,” Colm McLoughlin, managing director of Dubai Duty Free, told reporters on Saturday. “I recognize the WTA have an issue with their rules. We are looking at it [the fine] and will respond in a few days.” Furthermore, Dubai Tournament Director Salah Tahlak denied the original statement that Peer had been denied entrance due to security reasons. “Whatever reason was given last week, we had our reasons,” Tahlak said. “Maybe then it was still fresh what happened in Gaza and we made that very clear in the statement.”…
FANS SHUT OUT OF SWEDEN vs. ISRAEL DAVIS CUP — Fearing protests of the Israel team, the government of Malmo, the host of the tie in Sweden, has announced that no fans will be admitted to the Sweden vs. Israel Davis Cup tie. “The ITF has been informed that, for security reasons, the local government in Malmo has advised the Swedish Tennis Association that the upcoming Davis Cup by BNP Paribas first round tie between Sweden and Israel must be played behind closed doors,” says the Davis Cup website. “The ITF thinks this decision is very unfortunate because it denies tennis fans in Sweden the opportunity to watch these elite teams compete in the competition and believes that this is not in the long-term interests of Davis Cup. However, for this tie, the ITF reluctantly accedes to the decision of the local authority.”…
Aussie Casey Dellacqua will undergo shoulder surgery and be out for 3-4 months…
FEDERER OPTS OUT OF DUBAI, DAVIS CUP — Citing a back injury that needs greater attention, Roger Federer announced he will skip the ATP event in Dubai and the March Davis Cup meeting when the U.S. hosts Switzerland. “After my back injury last autumn I didn’t have enough time to build up the affected muscles again and fully heal,” Federer wrote on his website. “I will use the coming weeks for further rehabilitation in order to be sure that I’m fully fit for the rest of the season…This decision was very difficult for me, because I won’t just be missing one of my favorite tournaments of the tour, but also the chance to go through to the next round with my teammates.”…
ATP ROCKED BY STANFORD COLLAPSE — Stanford Financial, the ATP’s official investment, is under investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission. During the ATP event in Memphis last week, Stanford offices in Memphis were raided and shut down. Stanford is accused of bilking up to $8 billion from 50,000+ investors in approximately 131 countries. Stanford is also an official sponsor of the ATP doubles tour. The ATP, while dumping Stanford as a financial advisor, says it is reviewing their sponsorship. Aka, ‘Let us know if you guys are completely f****d, or will still be around to give us cash.’ Stanford is also involved in sponsoring golf, cricket, and sports worldwide, and is a big investor in the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami next month, and the ATP Champions Series senior tour.
So for denying Shahar Peer a spot in their draw, the richest tournament/country in the world gets fined $300,000? That’s like fining you or me $3. That’s weak…
Five-time Delray Beach finalist Xavier “X-Man” Malisse lost in the Delray qualies to Taylor Dent. One-time U.S. hope John Isner lost to Canadian Frank Dancevic.
Former Fed Cup captain Zina Garrison is reportedly suing the USTA, saying she was discriminated against during her time with the team because she is black…
The Tennis Channel has secured the rights to broadcast U.S. Davis Cup ties for the next two years, starting with the U.S. vs. Switzerland in March. The Tennis Channnel takes over for the cable channel Versus, which previously broadcast the ties after they were dropped by ESPN…
After being rebuffed by Brit Davis Cup captain John Lloyd and some of his current players, Greg Rusedski says he is giving up on his bid to play alongside Andy Murray and help drive Britain back into the Davis Cup World Group. Aside from Murray, Britain only has Challenger-level players ranked outside the Top 150 to fill the No. 2 singles spot. Good decision-making Lloyd, bravo! Good luck dropping Britain further into zonal competition…
In Memphis, former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt reached his first semifinal round in 18 months (counting injury time off)…
In recent exos, Tommy Haas beat Pete Sampras in a third-set breaker, while last week at Memphis, Lleyton Hewitt beat Sampras in straights…
The Tennis Channel refused to broadcast the WTA Dubai tournament in protest of the event denying Israel’s Shahar Peer a place in the draw. “This is an easy decision to come by, based on what is right and wrong,” Ken Solomon, the chairman and chief executive of the network, told the New York Times. “Sports are about merit, absent of background, class, race, creed, color or religion. They are simply about talent. This is a classic case, not about what country did what to another country. If the state of Israel were barring a citizen of an Arab nation, we would have made the same decision.” Bravo.
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And the Lone Voice Against Dubai’s Tennis Travesty is…Andy Roddick?
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