ATP Troublemaker Troicki Back from Ban with Sydney Title in 1st All-qualifier Final
In a historic first-time all-qualifier final on tour, Serb Viktor Troicki defeated Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin 6-2, 6-3 on Saturday for his second career ATP title at the Apia International Sydney in Australia.
What you won’t read in the tournament wrap on the ATP website is the tournament win bringing possible closure for Troicki — who in 2013 was banned from the tour for 18 months for refusing to supply a blood sample, then spent 2014 slogging through Challenger tour events to work his way back to the tour.
“There are a lot of emotions actually,” said the No. 92-ranked Troicki. “It’s been a tough road, a lot of work, and it paid off with a nice title. If I look back to where I was five, six months ago, it’s amazing to have a title already…It’s very emotional.”
Kukushkin was looking to win his first title since St. Petersburg in 2010.
“A final of an ATP tournament is important,” Kukushkin said. “Of course it’s something special, and of course it was great for me anyway because I won seven matches. To start the season like that, to win so many matches, to get some confidence, is really important.”
Qualifier Vesely Cracks 1st Title at ATP Auckland
Czech qualifier Jiri Vesely won his first career title on Saturday at the Heineken Open in Auckland, New Zealand, in the final stopping unseeded Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 6-2.
The all-lefty championship was a meeting between first-time ATP finalists, with the 21-year-old Vesely capitalizing on earlier upsets over world No. 13 Ernests Gulbis and world No. 16 Kevin Anderson.
“It feels amazing to be part of the ATP champions,” said the big-serving 6-foot-6 Vesely, who led all players in aces during the week. “It’s not something that everyone is [able] to achieve, so I’m very grateful for that. I can really see that it’s possible to play with the best guys and I think that’s something very important for me for the future.”
Mannarino said he felt the pressure of the Vesely serve during the final.
“When you get broken by someone who’s serving like this, you feel like it’s slipping away,” he said. “I was trying to deal with my own game and it was really tough today.”
Watson Beats Florida Pal Brengle for WTA Hobart Crown
Unseeded Heather Watson of Great Britain weathered rainy conditions to defeat American qualifier Madison Brengle 6-3, 6-4 on Saturday in the final of the Hobart International in Australia. It was the Brit’s second career WTA title after Osaka in 2012.
“It was tough conditions again today, very windy, and I knew Madison would be tough — we know each other very well on and off the court, and we practice a lot in Florida,” Watson said. “It really was my toughest match of the week. I was happy I stayed mentally strong and managed to get ahead and hold my nerve at the end.”
Watson continued the break-out tradition in Hobart, becoming the 22nd different champion in the tournament’s 22-year history. She did not drop a set all week in upsets over No. 5 seed Sloane Stephens, No. 8 Alison Riske, and No. 9 Roberta Vinci.
It was the first time for Brengle surpassing the quarterfinal round at a WTA event. “I think be both didn’t play all that badly given how horrible that wind was,” the American said. “It’s totally different coming in off the back of all these matches. You have all the cobwebs blown out, and I’ve enjoyed playing here so much.”
TENNIS-X NEWS, NOTES, QUOTES AND BARBS
Caroline Wozniacki retired in the first round of her match in Sydney this week with a wrist injury…When Roger Federer joined the 1,000+ win club last week with Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl, the start contrast was the Swiss with the best winning percentage of the three. Stunning when you consider Connors and Lendl played most of their tennis in the less competitive pre-ATP World Tour days without Masters Series events…One of Rory McIlroy’s girlfriends, a blonde American PGA Tour-employee, could be a stunt double for Caroline Wozniacki…Hey Nico Almagro — yes you’re injured, but a nice bonus to be fat also. Time to retire and hit the pro golf tour where you get paid to be fat. Golf. You know a sport is hurting when they need to bring a “fitness trailer” to events. “Hey ‘athletes,’ remember we’re on TV — the PGA is more than hammering beer and nachos at the ’19th hole’ with John Daly…Petra Kvitova is posing topless on the cover of the latest issue of DNES magazine, holding a naked baby over her naughty bits. “I took part in this cover picture in today’s DNES magazine to help an important charity for orphans,” she wrote on Facebook. “It’s a campaign in the Czech Republic to raise awareness and money for the orphans.” When you see the pic, you’ll see it’s a campaign men approve of…The FAST4 tennis format looks awesome — for fat people. Let’s remove the endurance factor from tennis. Perfect for Nico Almagro…By winning the Auckland title, Venus Williams became the fourth-oldest player to win a WTA title at 34 years and five months, behind Billie Jean King, Kimiko Date-Krumm and Martina Navratilova. The USTA is hoping the William sisters will play until they are 50 if U.S. women’s tennis is going to stay relevant. Caroline Wozniacki to Venus after losing to her in the Auckland final: “Week after week you work so hard and you have been on tour for so long I have a picture on my phone when I was 12 and you told me to stay in school.” That is so funny there’s nothing to add…What is better, a monster serve or placement? Roger Federer had 21 aces to Milos Raonic’s 12 in the Brisbane final…From Pete “HolterMedia” Holtermann: “Federer has won 1,000 matches. I don’t believe any other active singles player has PLAYED more than 900 matches.”…Five of Serena Williams‘ 18 Grand Slam titles have come in Oz…Juan Martin del Potro on his wrist: “Sometimes the pain is high, sometimes it is low…[the] doctor says that I can’t make it worse by playing at a high level, so I am very positive for that.”…Ryan Harrison and Steve Darcis won Challengers last week…ESPN tennis talking head Hannah Storm, who is reportedly a nightmare to work with during the network’s Grand Slam coverage, got caught live on air pushing a make-up person away right before they went live on air. Storm went from resting bitch face to angry to smiley-for-the-camera, all in a millisecond. Afterwards she tweeted she was doing the make-up person a favor as she didn’t want her to get fired…The not-a-Williams-sister second wave of Americans are hurting heading into the Aussie Open as Sloane Stephens lost second round in singles at Hobart, then pulled from the doubles citing an abdominal injury this week, then Madison Keys retired in the second round with a right shoulder injury at Sydney…There is zero chance of an all-American men’s final at the Australian Open because: 1) U.S. men’s tennis is at its historic worst; 2) Only five U.S .men are in the draw; 3) They are all in the top half of the draw…The last all-American Aussie Open final? Pete Sampras vs. Andre Agassi in 1995…Aggie Radwanska beat Serena Williams last week in the Hopman Cup final. ESPN Senior Writer Howard Bryant, who occasionally writes about tennis when he’s watched a few hours and gets a bug, pegs Aggie as a “sell” for 2015…From tennis writer Chris Clarey’s want list for 2015: “A true tennis version of the NFL RedZone, an American television channel that shows the critical phases of professional football games, bouncing from stadium to stadium when teams get within scoring range or a big play is made. The American network ESPN, which will have the U.S. rights to all four Grand Slam tournaments in 2015…” Sign us up for that, we like it…Tommy Robredo pulled from Auckland with a adductor muscle strain…ATP Sydney featured the tour’s first all-qualifier final ever, then Auckland followed with a qualifier vs. an unseeded player…How funny was that “Mean Tweets” during the college football championship game? ESPN needs to do that during their coverage of the Australian Open. We’d love to hear Hannah Storm reading the tweets about her. And Brad Gilbert. And Patrick McEnroe, Pam Shriver, etc.
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