It was the longest final since this event gave up a best-of-five-set format. The statistics will reveal that both players reached break point 18 times, with Henin winning the actual breaks, 6 to 4. That alone suggested an extraordinarily tight contest, but it was more than that. Henin, having started the year with a divorce, moved on to a reconciliation with her family: an emotional reunion that allowed her to return to the game with joy.
...For Sharapova, a year blighted by injury has ended on a note higher than she dared consider possible only two weeks ago. The Russian nearly didn't play here because of a shoulder problem, but the shoulder has stood up to five matches of high quality and the only thing she seemed to be suffering from Sunday was a cold. But when she was offered a remedy by the trainer her reply was curt. "I'm not putting that thing up my nose," she said, which, given all that has been happening in the game, was probably an excellent decision.
Always articulate and sporting in defeat, Sharapova told the crowd, "I just want to congratulate Justine. She has gone through a lot in her life this year and it was an honor to play against her today." Later, Sharapova was upbeat. "I came here with questions and I don't have any questions now," she said. "I have proved to myself I can play at this level again."
...The 12th game of the first set turned into a mini-marathon. There were 10 deuces as Henin battled to hold her serve. She staved off set point seven times, sometimes as Sharapova froze on shots she had previously hit through with aplomb and twice with superb cross-court winners off the forehand... As it turned out, that was merely a rather tasty appetizer. At 4-4 in the second, Sharapova was clearly the favorite, but suddenly a double fault put her in trouble and, with her serve finally showing signs of losing its potency, Henin came up with a service-return winner off the forehand. Although Sharapova clawed her way back to 3-3 after going a break down early in the third, she was never quite the same player again, as Henin began making heavy inroads on a faltering serve.
One of the attributes of international tennis is that it reflects the realities of the world beyond the borders of the sport.
In London, there is a trial involving claims that champion jockey Kieran Fallon defrauded Betfair of millions of pounds. "There was irregular betting," Betfair spokesman Adrian Murdock told The Globe and Mail, "and it appeared races were being fixed. Now, if you take the information we can give in terms of when bets are placed and where they're placed, at least by IP [internet protocol] address, and who holds the accounts, that's a very good place [to start] tracking down the people responsible."
Those methods are also being used in policing tennis. Murdock said tennis is Betfair's "fastest growing" sport but "dwarfed by football [soccer] which is dwarfed by horse racing." The latter is about 60 per cent of its business. A betting exchange and not bookmaker in the traditional sense, Betfair is very hands-on about tennis since the Davydenko affair. "We'll monitor just about every market [type of wager]," Murdock said. "Somebody or something [a machine] is watching it. When something doesn't look right, alarms start ringing."
...Just look at yesterday's 3-hour-24-minute win (5-7, 7-5, 6-3) by Henin over Maria Sharapova in Madrid for proof that the game remains the best advertisement for itself.
Di Mauro suspended, fined $60,000 for betting on tennis
Alessio Di Mauro was suspended for nine months Saturday for betting on tennis matches, becoming the first player to be sanctioned under the ATP's new anti-corruption rules. The 124th-ranked Italian was also fined $60,000 after being found guilty of making 120 bets with an online bookmaker from Nov. 2, 2006 to June 12 this year. ...
Di Mauro's coach, Fabio Rizzo, told Gazzetta dello Sport earlier this week that Di Mauro was an avid online gambler but never bet on his own matches or cheated.
"He didn't know about the ban on players betting on their own sport and he also foolishly bet on tennis," Rizzo said. "But not on his own matches, and not even on tournaments he played in.
"And we're talking about very small figures -- $15-$22 at a time that Alessio bet on an online site, like many colleagues. He's always had a passion for betting on sports, mostly soccer."
"(Justine) Henin has on average dominated the (WTA) tour, but if you look at the championships in Madrid, you see Henin beat (Marion) Bartoli 6-0, 6-0," Seles told Steve Hartman, Mychal Thompson and Vic "The Brick" Jacobs in a radio interview she conducted on Friday on "The Loose Cannons Show” on AM 570 KLAC. "Those scores shouldn’t happen in the championships. You want to see the top players play each other. That’s the only way the fans will tune in."
It took Maria Sharapova a solid hour to get over her 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 defeat to Justine Henin in the Sony Ericsson Championships. There were some tears and few bouts of anger in the locker room because she felt that she had the Belgian well in her sights towards the end of the second set of the three-hour, 24-minute marathon in Madrid.
After she recomposed herself, she thought better of her performance in retrospect, but also let her camp know that she has every intention of winning the Aussie Open in two-and-a-half months time and is just a few well-placed shots away from doing so.
...SERENA WILLIAMS "Incomplete": Give her credit for showing up and trying to play even with two bad wheels. No one really knows who she would have done if healthy, but the safe bet would have been a semifinal.
MARION BARTOLI "D": Being first alternate is an awful position, especially when it looks like you won't get to play and then all of a sudden you are yanked in at the last second and have to face the No. 1, who is dying to get a piece of you.
On Gonzalez’s decline since Australia: "It’s the evolution of a top player. Everyone has to go through it. It’s a growing process. Roger went through it, he knows what it’s all about. Djokovic is gonna find out next year…. It’s not like [Fernando] just doesn’t focus on what he’s trying to do. All these practice sessions, he knows when things break down, when he can’t hit two balls in a row. He knows what’s going on. Before this tournament started is the first time he could maybe free up a little bit and have no pressure on him being the seventh ranked guy in an eight man field.
Outside the Lines: Scandal reactions in Shanghai - Sandra Harwitt, Tennis.com
The top dog of American tennis said he never gave thought to not making the journey to Shanghai.
“I got a couple of emails about it, but it was always my intention to play here,” Roddick said. “Playing here was probably one of the reasons along with Davis Cup why I wasn’t able to go to Paris [for the Masters event there earlier this month). Davis Cup is probably my top priority this year, but you’re not going to get in any better workout for Davis Cup than playing against this field.
“And, you know, it’s such an honor, it’s an event unto itself here, so I was always coming.”
Toni Nadal: Better. He changed his insoles last year due to the [foot] injury he suffered at the end of 2005. The feet had to adapt to that. As he stepped onto new areas of the sole, he felt the consequences in his knees.
Henin caps memorable year with WTA title - Matthew Cronin, Focsports
The only major hiccup Henin experienced all year was her shocking loss to France's Marion Bartoli in the Wimbledon semis, and she learned from the defeat that she had to be ready for every twist and turn that might come at her. When she got another shot at Bartoli in Madrid, she embarrassed her, scoring the first double-bagel in WTA Championships history with a 6-0, 6-0 victory.
..."It has been an incredible year," Sharapova said. "She is someone who has gone through so much in life this year and it is an honor to play against her. It's been a difficult year, with a lot of injuries — two weeks ago I didn't know if I was going to play here and so to get to the final is a surprise. I hope we can play many more times so I can get my revenge."
Henin will enter the 2008 Australian Open as the favorite and will now be chasing history. She's only one major title behind Serena, who is once again physically struggling and after winning the Aussie Open and Miami in the first quarter of the year, failed to win another title and only reached one other final. Venus has six Grand Slam crowns and won her fourth Wimbledon title this year, but like her sister, is struggling with her body as she pulled out of Madrid due to strange spells of dizziness.
Stat-of-the-week: Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia slipped from No. 48 to No. 136 last week when the points from his 2006 runner-up finish at the Masters Series event in Paris came off the ATP’s ranking computer.
Hrbaty has not played since having elbow surgery in September.
Currently, he has the longest streak of consecutive Grand Slam events played – 44. That is 12 behind the record of 56 held by the retired Wayne Ferreira of South Africa.
His streak is in jeopardy because with a ranking well outside the top 100, Hrbaty will not gain direct entry into January’s Australian Open. And he will not be able to use an injury-protected ranking because he has not been out of action for more than six months.
Masters Cup to Close Year of Strange Events - Christopher Clarey, New York Times
Of all the winners since 1970, only two have failed to win a Grand Slam singles title at some stage in their careers: Alex Corretja and David Nalbandian. And as this weird season would have it, Nalbandian is the missing link in Shanghai.
After slumping and grumping into insignificance, he has slimmed down and fired up under new management and gone on a potentially sea-changing roll in the last month. He won the Masters Series events indoors in Madrid and Paris by beating Federer and the world’s well-established second fiddle, Rafael Nadal, convincingly in both places.
It was no fluke, and what was particularly persuasive was the completeness of his compact game, which looked like a genuine, sharp-angled antidote to the topspin-heavy duopoly of Federer and Nadal.
...With Nalbandian and his momentum in the mix, this Masters Cup might have felt more like the prologue to next season than the postscript to this one. Without him, Federer reassumes his customary role as solid favorite.
In particular, Immenga took issue with the timing of the ATP's request for all of Davydenko's telephone records, which came via e-mail during the U.S. Open in August. "You don't send him a legalized telephone request while he's playing the U.S. Open," Immenga said of the ATP, which governs men's tennis. "That's the only reason why we're really [upset] 'cause that's not the way you work with somebody who is in your organization.
"Within seven business days, while he is playing? Excuse me?"
...Davydenko was first interviewed Sept. 25, and his wife and brother spoke to the investigative team, separately, Monday at the Sheraton Airport in Frankfurt. The three members of the group were former Scotland Yard detectives Albert Kirby and Dave Nutton and ATP official Gayle Bradshaw.
Immenga has asked for the investigation to be suspended until the end of the year. "Yeah. That's what I asked then, because if you look at what has happened so far, I feel the investigators are helpless and rather frustrated," he said. "They have had for months the names on the betting accounts."
Fernando Gonzalez adds name to list of Roger Federer’s conquerors
- Neil Harman, The Times
If nothing else, such signs of vulnerability from the world No 1 ought to sharpen everybody else’s senses for 2008.
...González said: “He [Federer] is No 1 by far because in tennis the ranking is made with 18 tournaments, not one. He has already finished No 1 four years in a row. But you have to lose. He’s human. I didn’t beat him 6-2, 6-2. I have to work for two hours and run a lot, be a little bit lucky, went for my shots and did it.”
Yet, while Federer undoubtedly spent last night in an analytical frame of mind, he admitted the coaching question is on his mind.
“I'm not going to get too down on myself right now,” he said. “But I'll definitely assess the situation of what do I need for next year at the end of the season. The conversation will come up about the coaching situation, no matter if I win the tournament here or whether I lose the next two matches. That's not going to change. So I'm going to be looking into how I'm going to attack next year.”
It was the Swiss maestro's ninth loss this year, the same as his total losses for the previous two seasons. Gonzalez was the sixth player to whom Federer had lost this year, the same as the number of individuals to whom he lost in the previous two seasons.
With the sport already reeling from a series of corruption claims and the Martina Hingis drugs affair, a German newspaper published fresh allegations linking the Davis Cup player with abnormal betting patterns on internet gambling websites.
..."I am a professional sportsman and I always play to win. I have strictly nothing to hide, I am at the disposal of the German confederation and ATP to answer all their questions."
Georg von Waldenfels, the president of the German Tennis Federation, responded by saying he would look to make contact "as quickly as possible with Kohlschreiber" to discuss the claims.
...The paper claimed that two recent matches in which Kohlschreiber played were the subject of an abnormal volume of bets. The German's defeat against Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Oct 4 during the ATP tournament in Metz, which Kohlschreiber was favourite to win, was one of the matches highlighted.
Defeat by González takes shine off Federer's aura of invincibility - Steve Bierley, The Guardian
"I was amazed at his consistency," said Federer, "because that's what makes a difference between a good forehand and a great forehand. He drilled some into the corner that normally he would never make. In some ways I have some regrets and in some ways I don't because I thought it was ridiculous what kind of shots he came up with." All the players know that they must do precisely that to defeat Federer, though most perish in the process. Not this time.
In yesterday's other match in the red group Andy Roddick beat Davydenko 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. After the defeat the Russian's manager, Ronnie Leitgeb, said he hoped the investigation into Davydenko possible involvement in a betting scam this year would be resolved as soon as possible. "If he is cleared then we have to talk about damages. I have found him the best lawyers in Germany but first we have to clear him."
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