Titles Wrap: Clijsters, Melzer, Monfils Among Winners; Tennis-X Notes
Clijsters Takes Shine Off Wozniacki Finish, Winning WTA Championships
Former No. 1 Kim Clijsters took the shine off the end of current No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki’s season in the final of the year-ending WTA Championships on Sunday in Doha, where the Belgian veteran outlasted the Dane 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 for her third career season-ending championship.
Clijsters was also a year-end WTA Championships winner in 2002 and 2003. She joins Martina Navratilova (eight year-end championships), Steffi Graf (five) Chris Evert (three) and Monica Seles (three) as players to win three or more year-end championship titles.
The 20-year-old Wozniacki ends the year at the No. 1 spot on the WTA Rankings, but the loss was another slight on a season where critics levied she assumed the No. 1 spot by default due to season-killing injuries to Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Justine Henin, in addition to other players sidelined for various periods during the year.
Wozniacki has yet to claim a Grand Slam title, while Clijsters this year again won the US Open. In the final Clijsters led by a set and 4-1 before Wozniacki came back to force a third. Clijsters broke twice in the third set to put a bow on her second year of a comeback after a retirement to have her first child.
“It seemed like it would never end,” Clijsters said of the final. “It was a tough battle. We showed some great tennis and some great fitness — I think we showed the crowd some great women’s tennis tonight…I also have to congratulate her on making it to the No. 1 ranking.” Now Wozniacki looks forward to 2011, and a full slate of No. 1 ranking challengers, to again prove her merit.
Gael Force Overwhelms Ljubicic for ATP Montpellier Title
No. 3 seed Gael Monfils outlasted No. 4 seed Ivan Ljubicic 6-2, 5-7, 6-1 for the inaugural ATP Montpellier title at the Open Sud de France.
The 24-year-old Monfils improved to 3-9 in career ATP finals, and is 1-2 on the year. The 31-year-old Ljubicic dropped to 10-13 in career finals.
“I am so happy about this title, and it’s even more special because it is in France and in front of my crowd,” Monfils said. “Today I was again very solid I think in my game, but also emotionally. I am extremely happy about the title, about my concentration throughout the week and about the level of my game.”
Monfils jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the third set before wrapping up the title. “Today I didn’t make as many points with my serve unfortunately, which I also expected because he is a fantastic returner,” Ljubicic said. “I think the first set was the key to the match because I had break points in almost every game and I couldn’t convert them.”
Melzer Wins Vienna, Stays in Year-end Champs Hunt
World No. 12 and top seed Jurgen Melzer successfully defended his title at the Bank Austria Tennis Trophy on Sunday, coming from a set down to defeat fellow Austrian break-out player Andreas Haider-Maurer 6-7(10), 7-6(4), 6-4 in Vienna.
Haider-Maurer only got into the main draw as a lucky loser when Ernests Gulbis withdrew; Haider-Maurer beat 43-year-old comeback player and former No. 1 Thomas Muster in the first round.
It was Melzer’s first title of the season, and keeps him in the running for a spot in the Top 8 at the ATP year-end champions with two weeks to play in the regular season. Melzer is also the only player on the ATP World Tour ranked inside the Top 15 in both singles and doubles, and has already qualified for the doubles year-end championships with Philipp Petzschner.
Kukushkin Claims First Career Title
Russian-born Kazakhstan citizen Mikhail Kukushkin won his first ATP title Sunday, defeating Russian Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 7-6(2) for the St. Petersburg Open crown in Russia.
The No. 88-ranked Kukushkin upset the No. 10-ranked Youzhny, needing two service breaks in each set.
Youzhny fell to a 2-3 record in finals this year, and 7-10 in career ATP finals. Kukushkin prevailed on only a 53% first serve percentage, and converting on only four of 11 break points.
TENNIS-X NEWS, NOTES, QUOTES AND BARBS
Caroline Wozniacki finishes the year No. 1, Elena Dementieva drops the retirement bomb, and the WTA Tour puts another injury-riddled, star-lacking season to rest. Here’s hoping for the return of Justine Henin and Serena and Venus Williams in 2011 — and while we’re at it, the attempted comebacks of Martina Hingis and Ana Kournikova. If you thought it wasn’t bad, consider that Vera “The Crying Game” Zvonareva had a chance to finish the year No. 1 during the year-end championships…Argentina’s Gisela Dulko and Italy’s Flavia Pennetta finish the 2010 season as the No. 1 doubles team in the world for the first time on the WTA tour…Kim Clijsters’ driver got into a car accident on her way to play the semifinals in Doha — the car was smashed-up enough where it was abandoned for a replacement car, and she still won to reach the final…So we couldn’t even get the WTA Championships live on Sunday in the U.S.? Tape delayed from Doha, even though it was in the late morning? Sad…WTA CEO Stacey Allaster in her season year-end comments: “But obviously there has been a change. [Sony Ericsson] are no longer our title sponsor, but they remain or No. 1 partner. We will unlock our two brands, but our two brands will live together, wherever possible, side by side. As our tournament members from Dubai said this morning — Salah is here, the tournament director from Dubai — we are still married. They are still our No. 1 partner. We will not have a title sponsor.” — Wow, way to lay it on thick for the sponsors. Married. And also on someone else owning their URL (since they announced they are no longer the ‘WTA Tour,’ but now the ‘WTA’): “Digital being a key focus of our growth strategy, a 40% increase on wtatour.com. We need to work out and get our URL back. Somebody else owns it, but we’re going to do our best to be wta.com.” — Pony-up the cash to the nerd who bought that and has been sitting on it for 12 years!
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