Tennis-X Previews, Notes: WTA Champs; ATP Vienna, St. Petersburg
Wozniacki Looks for High Note at Season-ending WTA Championships
It was another year without a Grand Slam title for Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki, and another year looking at the year-end No. 1 ranking in view after staying injury-free amidst an injury-decimated field of stars on the WTA Tour.
Absent from the season-ending championships are Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters, all vowing to return in 2012 but sidelined for most of 2011.
At the year-end TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships this week in Istanbul, Turkey, Wozniacki will compete in the Red Group with Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova, former world No. 2 Vera Zvonareva and Aggie Radwanksa. The top two finishers from the round robin group will advance into the semifinals.
“It’s a tough group, but both groups are tough,” the Woz said. “It’s all great players. I’m going in there just hoping to play my best tennis and we’ll see what happens.”
Kvitova makes her first post-season WTA Championships appearance, as does Radwanska, not counting her two years as an alternate.
The White Group will be led by Maria Sharapova, who makes her fifth year-end championship appearance, beating Serena Williams in the 2004 final.
“I think we all know what to expect going into the groups,” Sharapova said. “It’s the Top 8 girls of the year. You’re going to get a tough group either way and tough opponents. It’s just a matter of being ready from the first match on.”
Also in the White Group are Victoria Azarenka (third appearance), French Open champ Li Na (first), and US Open champ Sam Stosur (2nd).
“Maria and Victoria I’ve never beaten before, so there’s a great challenge in itself,” Stosur said. “Obviously Li Na I’ve had success against, but every tournament is new. It’s going to be a tough week but I’m looking forward to it.”
Play begins Tuesday at the event, with the draw coming out on Monday.
Melzer 3-Peat, Muster Wildcard, DelPo Make ATP Vienna Interesting
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga makes his Vienna debut as the top seed, but all eyes will be on home-country favorite and two-time defending champion Jurgen “Tuna” Melzer at the Erste Bank Open on indoor hardcourt this week in Austria.
Also among the seeds are former US Open champ Juan Martin Del Potro, Radek “The Worm” Stepanek, Juan Ignacio Chela, Kevin “Mr.” Anderson, Nikolay Davydenko and Fabio Fognini.
Austrian 44-year-old and former No. 1 Thomas Muster took a wildcard, and says Vienna will likely be his last ATP-level tournament. He will meet fellow Austrian wildcard and 18-year-old Dominic Thiem in the first round.
“My second career has been the best I can manage with my body,” Muster told Die Presse newspaper of his comeback tour. “My second career has become a very tough job.”
Other early-round matches of interest are (1) Tsonga after a bye versus Robin Haase or Jarkko Nieminen, (8) Fognini vs. Spanish veteran Tommy Robredo, (6) Anderson vs. Austrian Andreas “Don’t be a” Hader-Maurer, and (3) Melzer after a bye versus James Blake or Guillermo “G-Lo” Garcia Lopez.
Other unseeded floaters include Xavier “X-Man” Malisse, Marcos Baghdatis and “Dr.” Ivo Karlovic.
Returning champions in the field are Melzer (2010-09) and Philipp Petzschner (2008).
Simon, Tipsarevic Hope for Masters Boost at St. Pete
Top seeds Gilles Simon and Janko Tipsarevic, the latter coming off a title run in Moscow, look to boost their chances of claiming one of the final ATP year-end championship spots this week with solid efforts at the St. Petersburg Open, held this week on indoor hardcourt in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Joining the pair among the seeds are Alexandr Dolgopolov, Marin Cilic, Russian hope and former champ Mikhail Youzhny, Marcel Granollers, Alex Bogomolov Jr., and Russian hope Dmitry Tursunov.
Wildcards into the main draw went to Latvian Ernests Gulbis, Israel’s Dudi Sela, and Russian Ivan Nedelko.
Tough openers of note include (5) Youzhny vs. the Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky, (6) Granollers vs. Igor Andreev, (7) Bogomolov vs. Russian Igor Kunitsyn, and a physically-tested (2) Tipsarevic vs. Olivier “The Roach” Rochus.
Former winners in the field are Mikhail Kukushkin (2010), Stakhovsky (2009), and Youzhny (2004).
TENNIS-X NEWS, NOTES, QUOTES AND BARBS
RAFA ON RAFA SUCKING — Rafael Nadal has been getting his ass handed to him by Novak Djokovic this year. When Andy Murray joined the party by bageling the Spaniard late in the season it sent Nadal over the edge. Now he’s talking about himself in the third person. “I believe Rafa 2010 had something more special than Rafa 2011, especially in tough situations,” Nadal said. Instead of a lack of confidence, Nadal blamed losing fimnals of late on “very, very small things…It is hard to win big matches. I lost a lot of finals this year.” And while Murray says the level of men’s tennis has gone up this year, Nadal said his and Roger Federer’s have simply dropped. For 2012 Rafa says two things are in order: “First thing, I was in perfect conditions mentally all these years, but second thing because I always try to improve and play better and better. That’s the goal and that’s what I have to keep doing if I want to keep being here for a long time.” Can gluten-free be far off?
Roger Federer is outside the Top 3 rankings for the first time since 2003…It is almost November, and the top three-ranked women on the WTA Rankings have not won a Slam title in 2011…The No. 6-8 spots remain open for the ATP Masters, with the first five sewn-up by 1 Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Roger Federer and defending champ David Ferrer…The US Open is in discussions with broadcasters for a possible Monday men’s final…Kim Clijsters says she will play an exo against Caroline Wozniacki before the end of the year, and Venus Williams has committed to play a December exo in Barbardos for a truckload of cash…John McEnroe won the Champions Series season-ending HSBC Tennis Cup in Buffalo, NY, beating Todd Martin 8-5 for his first victory since 2009. “Wow! To finally get a win on the series this year feels amazing,” the 52-year-old McEnroe told the AP. “I thought I had a chance tonight, and got off to a great start in the finals against Todd. The win certainly brings a big smile to my face.” In the semis McEnroe beat Jim Courier 6-3 and Martin defeated Michael Chang 6-2…Reportedly HBO has launched an investigation into the story that no broadcast network has wanted to touch — that former South African tennis star Bob Hewitt purportedly had a long history of sexual harassment against various underage tennis students of his. The International Tennis Hall of Fame is also coming out with a “special committee” to look into allegations by five women who have accused Hewitt of harassment and abuse when they were in their teens and he their coach. Hewitt gained fame particularly in doubles alongside partner Frew Macmillan. Hewitt’s son Turner has denied all the media allegations, and Hewitt himself has remained in hiding in South Africa…Chris Evert speaking to ABC: “When I was young I wanted to be a social worker. Also, I could see being a psychologist. I feel I have a good instinct about people.”…ATP Shanghai director Michael Luevano wants the player money dispute settled, speaking to the BBC: “They need a summit with the Grand Slam present, the ITF present, the WTA present and of course the ATP. Lock them in a room and throw away the key until they come out. The players are maybe coming across as being spoilt when I don’t think that is the case. It’s like voting for the pope. Stay there [in the meeting] and we’ll wait for the white smoke.”
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