Hingis Headlines WTA Gold Coast Field
Martina Hingis returns to the site of her 2006 comeback from a three-year hiatus, hoping to better her semifinal result last year at Gold Coast where she electrified the WTA Tour, starting from zero and finishing inside the Top 8 by year’s end.
The Swiss Miss is joined among the seeds by Russian Dinara Safina, Serb pin-up girl Ana Ivanovic, German Anna-Lena Groenefeld, Israel’s Shahar Peer, China’s Na Li, Slovak Katarina Srebotnik, and Japan’s Ai Sugiyama.
Hingis opens against Top 50-ranked Austrian Sybille “The Whammer” Bammer, while the No. 2-seeded Safina faces an all-Russian meeting against Elena Likhovtseva.
Wildcards went to Aussies Nicole Pratt, Shannon Golds and Sophie Ferguson.
ATP player Radek Stepanek proposed to Hingis in Prague last month.
“I’m happy,” Hingis said. “I was surprised when it (diamond ring) was spotted right away because in Switzerland I’ve been walking around for a month and no-one’s said anything. I guess people here pay more attention to things.”
In last year’s final unseeded Czech Lucie Safarova beat Hingis’ semifinal conqueror, Flavia Pennetta 6-3, 6-4.
Jankovic Top Seeded, Myskina Looks for Resurgence at Auckland
Serb Jelena Jankovic, knocking on the door of the Top 10, former Slam winner Anastasia Myskina and former Top 10er Daniela Hantuchova are the marquee players this week at the WTA stop in Auckland, New Zealand, the ASB Classic.
Also among the Top 8 seeds are France’s Marion Bartoli, Russian Vera Zvonareva, German Martina Muller, Greece’s Eleni Daniilidou, and American Shenay Perry.
Bartoli won the title last year, rolling over Zvonareva 6-2, 6-2.
Myskina says she hopes to use Auckland as a launching pad for a run again at the Top 10.
“It’s good for me that there are Top 20 players (in Auckland),” Myskina said. “I need those matches at the beginning of the year. Everyone is tough. I’ve never played here before and I wanted to try something different. I’ve been practicing really hard and running a lot in preparation for the start of the year. Every time I start the year different. Last year was okay, maybe this year will be good.”
Bartoli says it’s a good feeling to return to the site of her 2006 championship.
“The surface in Auckland suits my game and I don’t mind playing with the wind. It’s a little windy here and I like to play with the wind,” Bartoli said. “I’m very happy to be back in Auckland and hope the season starts as well as last time. It’s great to be in a place where I play good tennis. Auckland gave me plenty of confidence for the year.”
Nadal, Nalbandian Kick Off Chennai Open
World No. 2 Rafael Nadal didn’t start his season until February in 2006 due to injury, and the Spaniard is happy to pick up some early-year points this week at the Chennai Open in India.
Nadal will open with a potentially difficult match-up against former Slam runner-up Rainer Schuettler before an easier meeting with either Indian wildcard Karan Rastogi and Brazil’s Thiago Alves.
Argentine David Nalbandian, the No. 2 seed, opens against Denmark’s Kristian Pless before a potential meeting with either Indian wildcard Prakash Amritraj or the big-serving “Dr.” Ivo Karlovic.
Other seeds are Belgian Xavier “X-Man” Malisse, France’s Julien “United Colors of” Benneteau, Fabrice “The Magician” Santoro and Nicolas Mahut, former No. 1 Carlos Moya, and Paradorn “The Thai Fighter” Srichaphan.
In last year’s final the top-seeded Ivan Ljubicic served aside Moya 7-6(6), 6-2.
Federer Missing at ATP Doha Qatar ExxonMobil Open
World No. 1 Roger Federer is delaying his start to the 2007 season, skipping this week’s oil-rich prize money field at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha where he last year collected the title.
Faceless Russian Nikolay Davydenko replaces the Swiss as the top spot in Doha, joined by fellow seeds Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia, Cyprus’ Marcos Baghdatis, Brit climber Andy Murray, Russian Mikhail Youzhny, Swede Robin Soderling, France’s Sebastien Grosjean, and Swiss Stan Wawrinka.
Davydenko opens against the aggressive Korean Hyung-Taik Lee, and Ljubicic faces a qualifier in the first round, then the winner of Moroccan wildcard Younes El Aynaoui and former Slam winner Thomas Johansson.
Other opening round match-ups of interest are (7) Grosjean vs. Olivier “The Roach” Rochus, (8) Wawrinka vs. Max “The Beast” Mirnyi, (6) Soderling vs. Kristof Vliegen, (3) Baghdatis vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber, and (5) Youzhny vs. Daniele “Choppin'” Bracciali.
German Tommy Haas withdrew from the event, malady to be announced.
Gael Monfils, unseeded this year, last year lost 6-3, 7-6(5) to Federer in the final.
AROUND THE DIAL:
It’s wonderful that Roger Federer visits tsunami-affected children in Tamil Nadu in southern India on the eve of the second anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami during the off-season, but do we need inane headlines on the ATP website like, “Federer Praises Young Tsunami Victims”? Whew! Thank goodness he praised them, we feared he would admonish them for being poor and tell them to get jobs…From Earl John of SMH on Australia’s crumbling tennis present and future: “Australian tennis is in crisis and must make dramatic changes if it wants to find the next generation of champions, say former Davis Cup greats. Jason Stoltenberg has revealed he quit as head coach at Tennis Australia’s National High Performance Academy in October because he was disillusioned and worried the measures being implemented to produce our next champion were doomed. The former Davis Cup and world top-20 player who coached Lleyton Hewitt says he has lost respect for some officials and doubts key members of the Tennis Australia regime that swept in 18 months ago understand what it takes to reach the elite level. “I approached [development] like I was training for the [ATP] Tour and they approached it like they were training for college,” Stoltenberg said. “The uncomfortable thing for them was that I wasn’t prepared to compromise my beliefs and knowledge on what it takes to succeed on the tour. I wasn’t prepared to just lie down for the sake of keeping the job. I stood up for what I believed in and, quite simply, for what was initially agreed to. There were a lot of promises made to people — me included — just to get them on board. Once on board and it came to fulfilling those promises there were all sorts of excuses.”…The USTA has arranged for Americans Sam Querrey and Madison Brengle to receive Australian Open wildcards…From Paul Malone of The Herald Sun: “Martina Hingis has won her biggest love match, becoming engaged to Czech player Radek Stepanek…the 26-year-old Swiss miss wore a diamond ring while practising at Royal Pines and chatted happily to tour regulars about her engagement. Hingis showed off the ring to countrywoman Emmanuelle Gagliardi with a beaming smile when they crossed paths on the practice court. Hingis and Stepanek will be reunited next month at the Australian Open in Melbourne.”…Martina Hingis was No. 7 on the top Google News searches of 2006…Virginia Ruano Pascual has pulled from Auckland with a knee injury…Brit Andy Murray has signed a 1 million pound deal with Highland Spring bottled water…From lse.co.uk: “A junior tennis star, tipped by Andy Murray to be a Wimbledon champ, has been banned from practising in his South West London garden. Oliver Golding, 13, Britain’s junior number two has been banned by the local council from using his court after school, following complaints by his neighbours. They complained to the council that Oliver and other children who use the court, the only floodlit one in the area, were disturbing them. It has also left his mother, Sandra, unemployed because she has been forced to cancel after-school lessons. The ban comes into effect at 4pm six days a week just as Oliver returns to his East Twickenham home from school. Ms Golding said: “How does Britain expect to produce a Wimbledon champion when there is nowhere to practice? It was suggested that if Oliver can’t play in the garden I should to proper facilities two and a half hours away — it is completely ridiculous.”…Blogger Peter Bodo on his “stocking stuffers”: “Justine Henin-Hardenne: A letter from Andre Agassi, explaining how much nicer life is — at every level — if you stop thinking just of yourself, and make an effort to connect with your peers and the tennis public. The Little Backhand That Quit is a self-absorbed, self-pitying, walking, talking public relations disaster — which is really too bad, because she has a beautiful game, a fierce combative spirit, and a serene, chaste persona that could make her an international role model and ambassador for women’s tennis.”…From Will Swanton of the Sydney Morning Herald: “The top drawcard of Australian tennis, Lleyton Hewitt, is no longer one of the faces of the Australian Open after an embarrassing administrative bungle by Tennis Australia. Hewitt’s quest to win his home grand slam is compulsive viewing every January, guaranteeing massive television ratings, ticket sales and revenue for Tennis Australia, but his image was pulled from promotional material on Hewitt’s orders because the photo it chose did not show the name of his sponsor, Yonex. Roger Federer, Marcos Baghdatis, Maria Sharapova and Amelie Mauresmo are the headline acts in Hewitt’s absence.”…The South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Charlie Bricker says Roger Federer being too good is killing tennis: “Roger Federer won’t play his first 2007 match until Jan. 8 and here’s hoping he either slips a bit over his nearly impeccable form of the past three years or someone — anyone — steps up to push him to the wall. Because right now, notwithstanding Andy Roddick’s three (failed) match points against Federer in the Masters Cup in November, there is no drama at the upper level of men’s tennis, and it is having the odd effect of turning fans off…My view is there are only a few events at which Federer jogs your interest, and even then you may not stay tuned long…Why? Ironically, he’s too good. For the uninitiated, you go to a Federer match or watch on television out of curiosity. It’s normal to want to find out why this guy is almost unbeatable, and you are, of course, amazed by his shot-making. But he doesn’t sustain your interest in the way Andre Agassi did or even Roddick, who gives you real personality on court along with his game. Or you tune into a Federer final at a key tournament (Indian Wells, Key Biscayne, Canadian Open) because you expect the level of play to be high and you’re hoping for some drama. Usually, there is little or none. I know recreational tennis players who have a high interest in the game, watch the first set of a Federer match, which he invariably wins, and then…”click.””…Delray Beach, Florida, will host the first-round Fed Cup match between the United States and Belgium on April 21-22.
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