Injured Nadal, Federer Headline 2012 Qatar ExxonMobil Open
Rafael Nadal has a bad shoulder, but that’s not keeping the Spaniard from getting in line for the appearance-fee bonanza this week at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha, Qatar, which also features defending champion Roger Federer looking to extend his fine run from the end of the 2011 season.
Nadal essentially stated that even with a bad shoulder, he is taking the Middle Eastern cash tour that this week also included the lucrative Abu Dhabi exhibition. After the Australian Open he says he will shut it down for a month to heal-up, missing the Dubai event.
Other seeds in Doha are Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael “Force” Monfils, Viktor Troicki, newly-minted Russian Alex Bogomolov, Jr., Mikhail Youzhny and Andreas Seppi.
Both Nadal and Federer will be tested in their openers — the No. 2-seeded Swiss against Russian former champ Nikolay Davydenko, and the Spaniard against German veteran grinder Philipp Kohlschreiber. Federer and Tsonga could reprise their 2011 ATP year-end championships final in the Doha semifinals.
The No. 7 Youzhny has a tricky opener against Ernests Gulbis, and other floaters in the draw include “Dr.” Ivo Karlovic and Dmitry Tursunov. Wildcards went to the Ukraine’s Sergei Bubka, Qatar’s Jabor Al Mutawa, and Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri.
Past champs in the field are Federer (2011,’06-05) and Davydenko (2010).
Murray and Stosur Lead but Williams, Clijsters Ready to Dance in Brisbane
The joint ATP/WTA Brisbane International in Australia this week touts Andy Murray and Sam Stosur as the top seeds, but under the surface among the lower ranks lies drama, especially on the women’s side.
Stosur will have to contend with the return of formerly-injured powerhouses Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters, in addition to former No. 1-ranked Serbs Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic. Joining Stosur, Williams, Clijsters and Jankovic among the women’s seeds are the dancing Andrea Petkovic, former French champ Francesca Schiavone, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Dominika Cibulkova.
Stosur’s draw sees her facing Clijsters or Ivanovic in the quarterfinals, and Serena likely waiting in the semifinals of the top half. The bottom half of the draw is particularly light.
“I’m really looking forward to coming back to Brisbane in 2012,” said “Aussie Kim.” “The last time I was there I played extremely well. The final against Justine was a big match. We were extremely focused and set the bar pretty high. I was so excited to win that match and am hoping to get that kind of preparation again. Having won Brisbane in 2010 and then the Australian Open in 2011, I’m looking forward to getting back to Australia to defend both my titles.”
Serena said she looks forward to giving the Australian fans the opportunity to see her.
“I have such a great fan base in Australia,” Williams said.
The No. 2 seed Petkovic starts against Shahar Peer, but no other floaters exist in the bottom half as the seeds Petko, Jankovic, Schiavone and Pavlyuchenkova are left to battle for semifinal spots.
Notably absent is defending champ Petra Kvitova, who defeated Petkovic in the 2011 all-unseeded final. Brisbane has been elevated to a WTA “Premier” event in 2012, tripling its prize money but still featuring only two Top 10 players for a “top-level” event. Clijsters (2010) and Lucie Safarova (2006) are returning champions in the field. Maria Sharapova withdrew from the event citing an ankle injury.
On the men’s side the top-seeded Murray is joined by fellow seeds Gilles Simon, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Florian Mayer, Kei Nishikori, Radek “The Worm” Stepanek, Jurgen “Tuna” Melzer and Aussie hope Bernard Tomic.
Murray starts against Kazakhstan purchase Mikhail Kukushkin, Tomic against French veteran Julien “United Colors of” Benneteau, Melzer against German Philipp Petzschner, and Simon (who lost in the first round last year) against the big-hitting American Ryan Sweeting in opening matches to watch for.
Other “floaters” in the field include American comer Ryan Harrison and Marcos Baghdatis meeting in the first round, former world No. 2 Tommy Haas, Jarkko Nieminen and Nicolas Mahut.
Defending champ Robin Soderling is missing the event, still struggling with mono that will also keep him out of the Australian Open. Former champs in the field are The Worm (2009) and Haas (2001).
Two Top 10 Players Head ATP Chennai Open
The Aircel Chennai Open in India may seem like the dregs of events this week up against the oil-rich Qatar ExxonMobil Open and Brisbane, but in actuality the event boasts more Top 10 power than Brisbane, and almost the same main draw cut-off around a No. 100 ranking for you draw nerds out there.
Top 10ers Janko Tipsarevic and Nicolas Almagro head the field, joined by seeds Stan Wawrinka, Milos “Big Baby” Raonic, Ivan Dodig, Fabio “The Fabulous One” Fognini, Xavier “X-Man” Malisse, and Olivier “The Roach” Rochus.
The Top 4 seeds receive first-round byes to entice them to, well, come to India in the first place, but some opening-round hot-as-India action is still in the mix.
Tipsarevic will start against the winner of Indian wildcard and touted player Yuki Brambri vs. Slovak Karol Beck. Wawrinka could also start against an Indian if American-college-trained Somdev Devvarman can get by France’s Eric Prodon, and Raonic could start against Sam Querrey in a serving throw-down if the American can get past Romanian Victor Hanescu in his opener.
Former champs in the field are Wawrinka (2011) and X-Man (2007).
Top Seed Lisicki, Dokic on Collision Course at WTA Auckland
No Top 10 players are in sight, but a Top 20 contingent of Sabine Lisicki, Shuai Peng, former Slam champ Svetlana Kuznetsova and Flavia Pennetta lead the field this week at the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand.
Also among the seeded players are Julia “Gorgeous” Goerges, Roberta Vinci, Yanina Wickmayer and Monica Niculescu.
Lisicki starts against French wildcard Virginie Razzano, and in the second round lurks a possible meeting with former Top 5 drama queen Jelena Dokic. Lisicki could meet the No. 5 Goerges in the quarterfinals, and the No. 4 Pennetta in the semis if the seedings hold.
Other wildcards went to Kiwi Sacha Jones and Slovak Maggie Rybarikova.
Last year Hungary’s Greta Arn defeated Wickmayer in the final. This year the unseeded Arn starts against the No. 5 seed Goerges. Returning champs in the field are Arn (2011) and Wickmayer (2010).
TENNIS-X NEWS, NOTES, QUOTES AND BARBS
James Blake has pulled out of Brisbane and the Australian Open citing personal reasons…Lleyton Hewitt starts the season with a reportedly bad toe injury, even though he hasn’t played competitively since the Davis Cup in September…South African Kevin “Mr.” Anderson pulled from Brisbane citing a knee injury…Brit Heather Watson pulled from Auckland with an ankle sprain…Kiwi Sacha Jones will reportedly play under the Aussie flag…When Wikipedia does a better job of documenting tournament history than the WTA website does, that is kinda sad…Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario was named the Spanish Fed Cup captain…The USTA billed the Russian tennis federation $75,000 for Alex Bogomolov, Jr., who changed his tennis citizenship status from American to Russian after being enticed by the Russians. No word yet as to whether the Russians will stroke a check to the USTA. USTA head Patrick McEnroe said “He has received quite a bit of support, it’s an ITF decision and at the USTA we are exploring our options,” he told Yahoo! Sports. “I certainly believe…I have no issue with Alex personally. From the USTA standpoint, he was born in Russia, he has family there, he should repay the USTA. He’s actually signed something saying that and we’ll see what happens.”…Andy Murray has brought on Ivan Lendl as his full-time coach…So to retake the No. 1 ranking in 2012, Rafael Nadal’s plan is to play the lucrative Abu Dhabi exo with a bad shoulder, then shut it down in February, skipping the ATP Dubai event? Cash is king, and obviously more important than retaking No. 1…No. 88-ranked Swedish teen Lucas Renard was given a six-month suspension after admitting he violated the sport’s anti-corruption rules, “contriving or attempting to contrive the outcome” of a match. He was fined $5,000, and four months of the ban will be suspended if he successfully completes anti-corruption education training (which, we guess, is someone yelling at him “Don’t try to fix matches, dumb-ass!”)…Bethanie Mattek-Sands says she is recovered from her rotator cuff surgery and with Mardy Fish will represent the U.S. at the Hopman Cup exo in January…The WTA Tour is entering the final year of its title sponsorship with Sony Ericsson, and the phone giant says it will not renew after 2012…Venus Williams, who pulled from Auckland, says she hopes to be healthy for the Australian Open…Maria Sharapova pulled from Brisbane citing an ankle injury, but says she will be ready for the Australian Open…France’s Jeremy Chardy and Aravane Rezai will receive Aussie Open wildcards under the Aussie-French Slam reciprocal agreement. The U.S. wildcards go to Jesse Levine and Madison Keys, who won the USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs tournaments…Kazakhstan has bought-off another Russian player in No. 39-ranked 20-year-old Ksenia Pervak, and the Russian tennis establishment is pissed: “I’m upset and angry about Pervak’s switch to the Kazakhstan national team,” Vladimir Kamelzon, head coach of the Russian team, told RIA Novosti. “I just can’t understand Pervak’s decision, and I will never accept it.”…Alex Corretja is the new Spanish Davis Cup captain…35-year-old German Rainer Schuettler says 2012 will be his last year.
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