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Last updated at Sat, 23 Mar 2013 06:55:49 GMT
Returning to posting article summaries...

  Cinderella stories reaching Sony Open tennis tournament field - Linda Robertson, Miami Herald

March Madness visited the Sony Open in the form of a three-hour rain delay, a 14-minute blackout, a lucky loser’s victory and an underdog’s upset of one of the tournament’s top contenders.

...“The delays are not easy when you are in a rhythm,” said Kamke, who won a raffle for tickets to the Miami Heat game against Detroit, but gave them away when it became clear that he wouldn’t be finished in time to go downtown.

  Fort Lauderdale's Davis impressive as stand-in for Azarenka at Sony - South Florida Sun-Sentinel
The 19-year-old Davis proved a worthy stand-in for the No. 2 seed as a lucky loser entry, outlasting Boca Raton's Madison Keys 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (7) in a 2-hour, 43-minute second-round match on the Stadium Court at Crandon Park Tennis Center.

...["]I love her for pulling out," Davis said of Azarenka. "I was just so happy, I didn't care if I won or lost. I was so grateful for the opportunity to play."

...It ultimately took a tie-breaker to separate the two South Floridians who are close friends and frequent training partners in Boca Raton. Davis fended off three consecutive match points before gaining the advantage on a Keys double fault.

...“I was just really nervous,” Keys said. “Was going for it too much, trying to end points way too soon instead of just working the ball.”

  A Bigger Payday at the French Open - Christopher Clarey, New York Times
U.S. Open officials initially announced a $4 million increase in total men’s and women’s prize money for 2013. In other times, that would have been cause for player celebration, but this time — and the credibility of the players’ threats to withhold their services — is different.

Under heavy pressure from the underwhelmed men and, to a lesser degree, the women, the U.S. Open leadership announced a further increase Wednesday of $4.1 million for 2013. That brings the overall purse to $33.6 million with a commitment to reach $50 million by 2017. The decision was made with major input from new United States Tennis Association president, Dave Haggerty, and former men’s tour players on the U.S.T.A’s board of directors like Patrick Galbraith, Tommy Ho and Todd Martin.

Though Ysern declined to give precise figures, he said the French Open planned to increase prize money “spectacularly” over the next four years, from 2013 to 2016. “We’re going to be below the U.S. Open, but we’re on the same path,” said Ysern, stating that the emphasis would remain on increasing rewards for players who are eliminated in earlier rounds.

  'Lucky loser' Davis outlasts Keys - Richard Evans, Foxsports
Having crushed Ryan Harrison 6-2, 6-2 in the first round, Blake played another superb match against 24th-seeded Frenchman Julien Benneteau and won 6-2, 6-3. “

Yeah, it’s a great feeling,” Blake said afterward. “I’m just happy to be out here playing. It’s days like today that make it worth it. Makes it a lot of fun. Apart from two nights ago, it’s been a while since I’ve played this well. I have had days like this in practice, and I was just waiting to kind of put it together in a tournament.”

The match was moved onto Center Court after Dmitry Tursunov pulled out injured just before he was due to play No. 3 seed David Ferrer. So Blake benefited from the support of a large crowd as he took the fight to Benneteau, whacking huge forehands from the baseline and crowding the net whenever he saw the chance to get in.

  Bernard Tomic to end Davis Cup exile and play in tie against Uzbekistan - Leo Schlink, Melbourne Herald Sun
The Queenslander said in January he would boycott the tie in retaliation for being suspended by Cup captain Pat Rafter from February's Asia/Ocenia tie against Chinese Taipei.

Rafter, with the full support of TA, dumped Tomic for unprofessional conduct and lack of effort. But after discussions between Rafter and Tomic, the impasse has ended.

  'Tennis-fatigued' Vancouver gears up for Italy's Davis Cup challenge - Vancouver Sun
With the curtain set to rise in less than two weeks, Ziv reports that advance ticket sales are about three-quarters sold for the Italy-Canada matches, and marketing efforts will be ramped up next week in an attempt to fill the building.
  No Nadal or Federer as Sony Open begins - South Florida Sun-Sentinel
"You miss those guys; they're great ambassadors of the game. You play with the field you have and we have a great field. Ticket sales are slightly down, but we're talking percentages after three record years in a row.''
  No Nadal or Federer as Sony Open begins - South Florida Sun-Sentinel
"You miss those guys; they're great ambassadors of the game. You play with the field you have and we have a great field. Ticket sales are slightly down, but we're talking percentages after three record years in a row.''
  Sloane Stephens bounces back after tough opening set - South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Early in her first match at the Sony Open, it seemed Stephens was headed for another disappointing day. But after dropping a tough opening set in just 20 minutes, Stephens gathered herself and battled back for a 0-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 64 Olga Govortsova of Belarus in second-round play.

...Stephens couldn't help but smile afterward when comparing her Sony experience to last year's tournament. "It just feels good to get a win after having some tough losses after Australia," Stephens said. "I was telling my mom earlier, last year, I played five matches in a row to get to the third round? Or four matches to get to the third round? Now I won one round and I'm in the third round. It's definitely an experience and how things change in a year. ... Going through the tough situations after Australia, I mean, definitely helped me. I'm happy to be where I am now."

Stephens' next opponent will be world no. 18 Venus Williams who outdueled 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-4 in an exciting match on Stadium Court that lasted more than two and a half hours late Thursday night.

  Sloane Stephens bounces back after tough opening set - South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Early in her first match at the Sony Open, it seemed Stephens was headed for another disappointing day. But after dropping a tough opening set in just 20 minutes, Stephens gathered herself and battled back for a 0-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 64 Olga Govortsova of Belarus in second-round play.

...Stephens couldn't help but smile afterward when comparing her Sony experience to last year's tournament. "It just feels good to get a win after having some tough losses after Australia," Stephens said. "I was telling my mom earlier, last year, I played five matches in a row to get to the third round? Or four matches to get to the third round? Now I won one round and I'm in the third round. It's definitely an experience and how things change in a year. ... Going through the tough situations after Australia, I mean, definitely helped me. I'm happy to be where I am now."

Stephens' next opponent will be world no. 18 Venus Williams who outdueled 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-4 in an exciting match on Stadium Court that lasted more than two and a half hours late Thursday night.

  Looking out for No. 1: Who can ascend this spring? - USA Today
Doha, Feb. 11-17: If Williams makes the Doha semifinal, or if Azarenka loses in the semifinal or earlier, then Williams will be No. 1.

Dubai, Feb. 18-24: If Williams wins Dubai, she will be No. 1.

Indian Wells, March 4-16: Williams won't play, but Azarenka is the defending champion; if she exits before the final, Williams is No. 1.

Miami, March 18-20: Both reached the quarterfinals last year, so Serena could take #1 if she makes the final and goes two rounds beyond Azarenka.

...That means that, starting from the time Federer's Rotterdam title comes off, Djokovic has a lead of at least 3,000 "safe points" (points guaranteed to be on the books) every week from then until the clay season — it's more than a 4,000-point lead after Indian Wells.

  Fed Up - Steve Tignor,
Australia vs. Czech Republic

Safarova is 150 spots ahead of the Aussie No. 2, Jarmila Gajdosova. The match between them, which would be the last of the singles on Sunday, could be the key. USA vs. Italy From a curiosity standpoint, it will be interesting to see if Hampton can continue her run of good play when she shifts over to clay.

...Japan vs. Russia Date Krumm played her first tie way back in 1989, two years after her first opponent, Kirilenko, was born. The 42-year-old is 2-0 against Maria. If she can steal a win in their opening rubber, things could get tight in Olympic Stadium.

...Australia vs. Czech Republic

Safarova is 150 spots ahead of the Aussie No. 2, Jarmila Gajdosova. The match between them, which would be the last of the singles on Sunday, could be the key. USA vs. Italy From a curiosity standpoint, it will be interesting to see if Hampton can continue her run of good play when she shifts over to clay.

Slovak Republic vs. Serbia

Both Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic, who led the country to the final last year, are missing.most likely win for the Serbs will be in the first match, between Jovanovski, who has been playing well, and Hantuchova, who will turn 30 in a couple of months.

  Indian Wells: If ATP doesn’t approve prize money increase, we'll drop to 2011 levels - Matt Cronin,
The BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells is prepared to reduce its prize money back to 2011 levels if the ATP Board of Directors does not approve its proposed increase for the 2013 tournament, has learned.

...The ATP Board is supposed to re-vote on the issue next week. If they don’t approve it, Moore says that Indian Wells will revert to its 2011 prize money levels, about $4.5 million overall.

“I’m not optimistic at all,” Moore said about the upcoming vote. “We’ve folded our tent. We have a proposal and they can either accept it or reject it. We are going to go with whatever the tour rules and be good citizen, which doesn’t mean we have to like it. If they vote against it we are going to the minimum requirement, and the players are going to lose big time. Instead of offering $1 million to our singles winners, it will be $760,000, and instead of $11,000 to first-round losers, we are going to give $8,000. I think the players are going to go ballistic and they should.”

  Lucic-Baroni holds off Craybas - Midland Daily News
Lucic-Baroni, seeded seventh, swept the first set but was put back on her heels by Craybas before finishing strong in a 6-0, 4-6, 6-2 victory to advance to today’s quarterfinal round against American Mallory Burdette.

During the day on Thursday, American Jessica Pegula upset No. 4 seed Melinda Czink of Hungary 6-4, 6-4; Russia’s Alla Kudryavtseva upset No. 5 seed Tatjana Malek of Germany 1-6, 6-3, 6-1; and Croatia’s Ajla Tomljanovic upset No. 6 seed Olga Puchkova of Russia 6-1, 6-4.

  Why is Rafael Nadal in Chile? - New Yorker
Like an opera singer coming back from vocal-chord surgery at a performance with the local community symphony, he’s hoping to make sure everything’s in working order before he takes on a tougher crowd.
>> A "local community symphony"? This is an ATP event with real live pros here.
  Rafael Nadal, Back in the Dirt - Wall Street Journal
  Changes apparent in Rafael Nadal in comeback from knee injury - blog
If tennis players could ever be greeted on court with a robust and feverish ticker-tape parade, Rafael Nadal would have been a worthy recipient at his first singles match in more than seven months at the VTR Open in Chile on Wednesday.

A lot has happened since Nadal’s knees said no mas in June after a shocking second-round exit at Wimbledon at the callous hands of Lukas Rosol. Andy Murray is no longer the Slam-less pretender and … well … there was … OK, never mind. Not much has changed.

...And sticking to the theme, he clearly used his time off to read the ATP memo about time violations. He’s been much quicker between points in Chile than before.

More important, Nadal has shown signs that he’s not going to make things difficult for himself. His decision to begin his comeback on clay was a departure from his 2009 comeback that started on hard courts. In 2009, he sputtered through 11 straight hard-court tournaments, where he went 2-11 against the top 10 and won zero titles.

February 6

  Nadal d. Delbonis - Steve Tignor,
In recent years, the 250-level event has struggled to fill seats on most days, but that wasn’t the case for Wednesday afternoon’s second-rounder between Rafael Nadal and Federico Delbonis.

...Delbonis, a 22-year-old Argentine ranked No. 128, broke Nadal with heavy topspin forehands in the first game, and followed it up with a love hold... Nadal, who had the area below his left knee strapped, struggled with his movement along the baseline, and struggled to keep his shots from sitting up in the middle of the court. And he was sweating like crazy.

...The key moment came with Delbonis serving at 3-4. Nadal had four break points but was a little too tight to capitalize—on one of them, he was late on a forehand pass that you rarely see him miss. A better opponent would have shut the door and held serve, but Delbonis couldn’t do it.

  Anderson Recovering Well - ATP Tour
Kevin Anderson hopes to make a return to the ATP World Tour later this month after undergoing surgery to remove loose bone fragments in his elbow two weeks ago in Melbourne.
  Remembering Arthur Ashe - Mike Lupica, New York Daily News
To say that he was just a tennis player is like saying Jackie Robinson was just a baseball player. He grew up in Richmond, Va., and used to talk about how, when he was still playing baseball as a boy, he and his black friends would all run straight to second base on the first day of tryouts because they all wanted to wear No. 42 and be Jackie Robinson. “We didn’t think we could play ball the way he could,” Ashe, who went to UCLA the same as Robinson did, said once. “But he made us believe we could make the country a better place.”
  Remembering a Pioneer in Fields Far Beyond His Sport - Donald Dell, New York Times blog
Arthur once said the toughest obstacle he faced was being born black in America. His experience with racism moved him to learn more about apartheid. He visited South Africa in 1973 and played in the national championships. His appearance forced the government to integrate the stands at Ellis Park, where the championships were played. Arthur believed it would help young blacks who attended the matches or many clinics he conducted to see a free black man winning matches against white players.

The impact of his trip and his later visit in 1974 to meet Nelson Mandela, then imprisoned on Robben Island, cannot be overestimated. After being released from prison, he was asked if there was anyone from the United States he would like to see. He said, “How about Arthur Ashe?”

  Arthur Ashe Anniversary Immensely Important - Steve Flink, Tennis Channel
When Ashe took that 1968 U.S. Open and established himself as one of the most prominent athletes in the world—as well as becoming the first African American man to secure a major title—I was not yet a reporter but rather a 16-year-old fan. Watching him oust Okker that day at Forest Hills was one of the great joys of my youth. The combination of his flair and elegance as a player along with his unshakably cool demeanor made him enormously appealing not only to me but to sports fans in every corner of the globe. The way Ashe presented himself with his ultra-cool exterior and his singularly riveting style of play made him immensely appealing. We followed his every move and match because the implacable Ashe was exemplary in so many ways.
  Why Did Nadal Schlep to Chile? Clay, Sweet Clay. - Wall Street Journal
Now that Nadal is returning from a nearly unprecedented extended absence for such a highly ranked player, it’s the kind of tournament he may want–and need–to play more often to protect his achy knees and extend his career well past his 27th birthday this June during the French Open.
  Milos Raonic boosts local clinic - Toronto Star
“It’s something pretty special to be a part of,” Raonic said Tuesday of leading Canada to an upset win over Spain, the world’s top-ranked tennis country, for a spot in the Davis Cup quarter-finals for the first time. “The one thing that really stood out was that even with it being a big weekend with Super Bowl and the hockey season being so new, we were front-page news and I’m really grateful for having a chance to promote tennis.

...Some $40,000 of the donation will establish the Milos Raonic Kids Agility Clinic at the Toronto facility. Another $30,000 will be used to match gifts by other donors in support of the development of a low-cost prosthetic knee, which is being worked on in house.

  Looking Back - Tom Tebbutt, Tennis Canada
Flying home to Toronto on Monday from the Davis Cup in Vancouver brought to an end a nearly six week trip to the Antipodes and back. Here are some thoughts on last weekend’s Davis Cup and the Australian Open

...After his clinching singles victory on Sunday, Raonic expressed some interesting thoughts about his sport in Canada. There wasn’t space in the blog following Sunday’s historic win, so here are his views on two subjects – making the sport more accessible in Canada and Spanish success in the world of tennis.

Canadian Tennis: “In the summer in Canada, one thing that makes tennis accessible is that there’s public courts. All the courts I’m aware of that get bubbled, that get covered, court fees are pretty high. I think if the demands are there for tennis, if everybody wants to play, they should have a chance to play. We shouldn’t be limited in the tennis talent we provide worldwide because of our weather. And I want people to step up in that way and try to make a difference – make tennis more affordable, let little kids play, let them play as much as they want, give them a chance to be better. And give their parents a chance to help their kids achieve their dreams. I know when I was growing up, I was on the ball machine at six in the morning and nine at night because that’s when it was cheapest. I was thankful that the people at the Blackmore Tennis Club (Richmond Hill, Ont.) gave unbelievable amounts of help to my father and I so we could get there and afford it. With my foundation, I’m trying to help kids that are disadvantaged fulfill their dreams. But I think with these kinds of results (Canada’s win over Spain) anybody should have a chance to fulfill their dreams and I don’t think fees or anything like that should get in the way.”

...I’m not Azarenka’s biggest fan, but I give her the benefit of the doubt – she was struggling with a rib and back issue and by the rules she is entitled to treatment as determined by the medical doctor.

  Tennis star waving the flag for Liechtenstein - Tasmania Examiner
Apart from sounding similar, Launceston and Liechtenstein would not appear to have much in common.

...Stephanie Vogt is the seventh seed at the Launceston International tennis tournament - a marginally less impressive claim to fame than as the flag bearer for her nation at last year's Olympics.

Vogt, who turns 23 next week, was one of three athletes in her country's Olympic team and said as one had previously carried the flag at Beijing, she drew lots for the honour with swimmer Julia Hassler.

  Schultz-McCarthy to play doubles with her niece; Craybas back as two-time DCTC champion - Midland Daily News
Schultz-McCarthy, 42, will be playing doubles this week with her niece, 20-year-old Janie Scheepens of the Netherlands. She said she still enjoys not only competing but also giving the fans a show.

...“I love to play in front of people. (I’m) just a show-off, I guess,” Schultz-McCarthy said at Monday’s press conference. “ ... It’s just something that I like, even if it’s not a tournament like this, even if it’s just an exhibition or something like that.

Since 2008, she has played sporadically, taking time off to have two children and to devote more energy to coaching her niece and running her Brenda Schultz-McCarthy Tennis and Adventure Camp in Virginia. “I love (being a mother), but sometimes it’s like, ‘Whoa, tennis was pretty easy (compared to parenthood),’” she said with a laugh.

“ ... I struggled a little bit last year and didn’t have so great of a year. I think I lost my way a little bit mentally,” added Craybas, who reached a career-high ranking of No. 39 in singles in 2006. “But so far this year, I’ve really enjoyed myself. I think last year I lost the joy a little bit, but I’ve found it again. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this year goes.”

Regarding her monster serve, Schultz-McCarthy said it is almost as good as ever.

“My serve is great. That’s (the part of my game that’s) always there,” she said, adding with a smile, “ ... If I’m feeling good, I can hit it harder than anyone else in this tournament. ... People will still be like, ‘Aaah!’ (when I hit a big serve).

“It’s just a gift,” she added. “ ... It’s a pure gift from God.”

  Sloane Stephens on Diet, Fitness, and Beating Serena - Shape
SHAPE: How did it feel to beat Serena? SS: It felt great to get to the semi-finals of a major event. Serena is a great champion, so it's a good feeling to know I can compete with the very best.

SHAPE: Who would you rather go up against: Roger Federer or Andy Roddick—based on looks, not skill? SS: Good question...I'll go with Fed!

  "It's nice to return but we'll see how the knee stands up" - Marca
"Doubles is not as aggressive as singles, but it's a nice feeling to have returned. I am happy to get back to competition and with a friend like 'Pico' and in a great atmosphere. We'll see how the knee stands up to the singles," he said afterwards.

The Spanish player appears to have attained a good level of fitness on his return. Alert at the net and quick at the back of the court Nadal was responsible for a number of key points in the match considering the time he has spent out with injury.

February 4

  Andy Murray happy to pay way to cleaner tennis - Paul Newman, The Independent
"A lot of it unfortunately comes down to money and maybe it's down to our governing bodies and the ATP [Association of Tennis Professionals] to invest some of our own money into WADA [the World Anti-Doping Agency] and make sure we get more testing done," Murray said. "If it means taking some of the money out of the players' earnings then that's what we have to do."

As for the current "Operation Puerto" trial in Spain, Murray believes it is wrong that the doctor at the centre of the alleged doping ring does not have to name his clients, who include tennis players. "I think it's essential that the names of whoever was involved with him come out," Murray said.

The world No 3 said he had been asked regularly whether tennis was clean. "If one in 100 players is doping, in my eyes that isn't a clean sport and we need to do everything we can to ensure that everyone that's competing at the highest level - and below - is clean," he said. "I think that comes with the biological passports and with more blood-testing."

  Tennis Classic still growing, improving - Midland Daily News
The Dow Corning Tennis Classic began in 1989 as an avenue to give hometown hero Meredith McGrath some professional exposure. Twenty-five years later, the tournament is still going strong — and shows no signs of slowing down.

“I am surprised at how big it’s gotten,” said Harter. “At first, it was just a tennis tournament. Now, with the (catered) meals and everything, for us it’s a big week, a big event.

“You see all sorts of different things and meet all sorts of different people,” he added. “(The social side of the tournament) is a big factor. Our daughter is coming all the way here (from Minneapolis) this year just for this.”

Not surprisingly, Woody said that he has added a few new wrinkles in honor of the tournament’s 25th anniversary. Among those additions are new electronic scoreboards on Stadium Court, a radar gun to gauge the speed of serves, and live online streaming of all matches on Stadium Court, both during the day and in the evenings.

Woody said that streaming the matches live, with the help of the USTA, just made sense. “They’re doing it on the men’s tour now, and when we did it on our own a few years back with static cameras and no commentary, we had a lot of international following,” Woody said. “We had over 10,000 people following the matches (online). ... I think that makes the tournament even bigger.["]

  Midland Challenger still going strong at 25 - Douglas Robson, USA Today
But in an era when U.S. tournaments have been puling up stakes left and right, the event is alive and thriving.

...The indoor event at the Midland Community Tennis Center pulls in roughly 15,000 fans and guests, which is nearly 40% of the city's population. Players describe it as "homey," "friendly," and "easy."

Players are invited to give motivational talks at local schools (and sometimes offered a small payment in exchange). At-risk youth attend a special day of tennis, speeches and activities. Sponsors such as silicone manufacturer Dow Corning and Midland-based chemical giant Dow Chemical Co. — two of the biggest employers in town — entertain clients over buffet dinners, drinks and matches. Shultz-McCarthy, a mother of two young sons, has stayed with the same family since she first played her more than 20 years ago. Former No. 1 doubles player Liezel Huber invited her Midland host family to her wedding.

According to veteran Jill Craybas, players look forward to Midland and often try to work it into their calendar. "Everyone always raves about this tournament throughout the year," says 38-year-old Craybas, a two-time Midland singles champion. "It could be a WTA event in a heartbeat."

  SAP Open leaving a lot of history behind - Bruce Jenkins,
Long removed from the days of sellout crowds and star-laden draws, this event has been sold to high-powered Brazilian interests and will be staged in Rio de Janeiro next year. Throw in the concurrent demise of the Los Angeles tournament (the Farmers Classic, moving to Bogota, Colombia), and California will become a veritable ghost town on the men's tennis map, while players head to Europe or Latin America for their post-Australian Open tournaments.
  Boise will host Davis Cup tennis match between U.S., Djokovic - Idaho Statesman
“Obviously for tennis, this is the biggest thing that’s ever happened to Boise and the state of Idaho. ... The community is just going to love it,’’ said Patton, part of the organizing group that worked to bring the international match to Boise.

...“The USTA has made a lot of concessions to try and make this work for us,’’ Patton said last month. “I think I’m being pretty pragmatic. I said this, ‘My word is on the line, you bring it to Boise and we're going to pack it.’ ’’

  Swiss Player Suffers 2 Painful Defeats in Davis Cup - Christopher Clarey, New York Times
The powerful, sensitive Swiss veteran was gallant in defeat at the Australian Open, where he kept taking chances and came closer than anyone to beating Novak Djokovic.

So it continued in Geneva. On Saturday, he lost the longest match in the Davis Cup’s long history as he and his partner Marco Chiudinelli were beaten, 24-22, in the fifth set after 7 hours 1 minute of tennis by Tomas Berdych and Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic. Then on Sunday, Wawrinka lost an extended, four-set duel with Berdych that clinched victory for the Czechs.

That was quite enough to make a grown man cry.

“I train every day for this,” Wawrinka told the Swiss media after breaking down in the post-match news conference. “I so appreciated the support of the public.”

  Salute to underdog spirit - New Zealand Herald
The Middle East nation were always going to be unbackable underdogs. None of their players have a single ATP ranking point; all the team have to hold down full-time jobs. One runs a jewellery store, another works for a business media company. Most play only local tournaments, of a low standard, since there are no ITF events there.

"I work full-time, I coach and then I practise when I can," says doubles player Ibrahim Abou Chahine, who works for Zawya, a business news service owned by media giant Thomson Reuters. "It's a tough situation. Waking up at 6.30am, going to work from 8am to 5pm, then coaching from 6pm to 8pm. Then if you can still stand, you go out and train." ...While we bemoan our current depth, with no male players in the top 200, Bahreddine talks of Lebanese "legends" of the past such as Jicham Zaatini, who reached a career high ranking of 502, or Ali Hamadeh, who peaked at 154 in doubles. Lebanon is ranked third out of 20 Arab countries and 13 out of 35 nations in Asia.

  Salute to underdog spirit - Peter Bodo,
One of the great beauties of Davis Cup is that the tournament has been one of the main agents that keeps the game of doubles relevant and intact.

...Today, the first doubles Saturday of this year’s Davis Cup competition, we had a great demonstration of just how important and unpredictable doubles can be, as well as how doggedly and brilliantly players can perform in doubles when it really matters. It was, all in all, a doubles day for ages. Three teams—Serbia, France, and Argentina—wrapped up clean 3-0 sweeps by winning the doubles, but at the other five ties doubles may fulfill its intended role as a potentially pivotal “swing” match. Let’s take a quick look at them.

  Sam is the man- Phew! - Matthew Cronin,
Davis Cup is an international competition so its ties are scheduled on dates that work in the over all calendar, not to the benefit of any particular nation, which is why the US faced Brazil on the weekend Feb. 1-3, with the last day being Super Bowl Sunday. Trying to pack a stadium on that day is impossible as it’s the biggest sporting day in the US and given that many tennis fans are also football fans, not enough folks came out to see Sam Querrey finish off Thiago Alves 4-6 6-3 6-4 7-6 in the final rubber after Thomaz Bellucci... tuned an out-of-sorts John Isner 2-6 6-4 6-7 6-4 6-3.

Then Querrey came out sloppy, Alves zoned a bit and the US was just two more lost sets from suffering one of the most stunning upsets in the nation’s history. But Querrey calmed down, began to strike the ball more cleanly and finally edged Alves late. Querrey didnt have to be a top-10er there but he closed the tie out and that’s never easy under any circumstances so he certainly deserves praise.

There is no question... the MVP of the weekend was Czech Tomas Berdych, who a day after he and Lukas Rosol won a seven-hour clash match against Stan Wawrinka and Marco Chiudinelli 24-22 in the fifth set took care of Wawrinka 6-3 6-4 3-6 7-6 in Geneva to give the Czechs an insurmountable 3-1 lead. The Czechs will travel to Kazakhstan in April, which beat Austria.

  Phone A Sports Psychologist, John Isner - Sandra Harwitt,
Later on in his post-match press conference, Isner continued to accept blame for not coming through with the win, making a number of revealing — and accurate, if painful — admissions. “It can be sort of a cruel sport when things don’t go your way,” Isner said. “That was the case out there today. In the future I want an opportunity to try to redeem myself in a situation like that.”

“Just got to break through in a big moment, whether it’s a Davis Cup mach, whether it’s a Grand Slam,” Isner added. “It’s something I haven’t done. It feels like it’s a huge gorilla on my back or something. I haven’t been able to do it. It’s wearing on me a bit, to be honest, mentally. It’s very disappointing. It’s something I have to improve.”

  Raonic's redemption sets tennis history - Vancouver Sun
"You didn't beat a B team. You beat Spain," Corretja said. "In Spain, we have lots of good players. We didn't have Nadal, Ferrer, Almagro, Lopez ... it is true. But I say, the Canadian people should enjoy this. It's a great opportunity for them. They're a very dangerous team. They have a good chance to reach the (Davis Cup) semis. Canada beat Spain 3-2.

"When Barcelona plays soccer against Real Madrid, the only thing that counts is who wins. Never mind who the 11 players are. If we had beaten Canada without Milos Raonic, do you think I would be sad for that? No. I would be so happy. ["]

After years of battling in the Davis Cup hinterland, in Americas zone play, against the likes of Mexico and Ecuador on clay, in hostile environments, or against Israel in the draining heat of the Middle East, Canada fought its way back to the World Group last year, only to lose 4-1 at home against France. Raonic pulled out of his scheduled singles match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga with a knee injury, even though he played (and won) the ATP Tour stop in San Jose the following week.

..."It sucked to hear those kinds of things, that kind of doubt," Raonic said. "I love to prove people wrong, and many people were saying maybe Davis Cup doesn't mean a lot to me - and I think I showed that it does."

  Davis Cup website - World Group reports
  Future still cloudy for Mardy Fish - TC Palm
Responding to a recent text I sent to him requesting an update on his health and playing status, Fish wrote: "Still trying to figure out when I'm going to play again. Won't be talking about it before then." Fish, who grew up in Vero Beach, is still in the field at the Delray Beach tournament, which starts Feb. 25 — just two weeks after the San Jose event.
  MWT Tony Bosch Files - Miami New Times
On Monday, New Times released an investigation into Biogenesis, a local anti-aging firm run by Tony Bosch. Records obtained by New Times suggest Bosch was selling performance enhancing drugs to a number of professional athletes...

...Thus far, Rodriguez, Bosch, Odesnik, Cruz and Gonzalez have all issued statements denying New Times report into Biogenesis.

...Another athlete already linked with performance-enhancing drugs listed in Bosch's records is tennis pro Wayne Odesnik. Born in South Africa but raised mostly in the Miami area, Odesnik was banned from the tour for a year after Australian authorities caught him in March 2010 importing human growth

  Australian Open officials seek to solve the fireworks dilemma - Linda Pearce, Melbourne Age
"We are working with the state government to see what possibilities exist," Tiley told Fairfax Media. "We've been talking about what's best, because we do want continuous play, but at the same time we want to recognise and celebrate Australia Day, so it's a bit (caught) between a rock and a hard place.

"If we can make both things work, and have a win-win for both, it would be great. Our preference would be that (the fireworks) don't disrupt the match.

Another issue to be addressed in the coming months is the lack of space on the men's trophy, the historic Norman Brookes Challenge Cup, for if there is room to add another name below that of 2013 champion Novak Djokovic, it will only be one. First won by Fred Perry in 1943, the cup stands on a 15.5 cm plinth which carries the names of the men's singles winners, each of whom receive a replica of the original.

So, what to do now? "It's an interesting question. Our engraver tells us we can possibly squeeze in one more name next year, but that would be tight," Tiley said. "We've been expecting for the last few years it would get to this point, but we are in the process of discussing it and talking to a couple of curators as well. There's a number of options out there, but obviously we are committed to not changing the trophy. We've got to find more space, that's the bottom line."

  Sloane Stephens continues making noise - Leighton Ginn, Desert Sun
  Sloane Stephens continues making noise - Leighton Ginn, Desert Sun
  Redfoo of LMFAO talks tennis, Azarenka - ESPN Playbook
I’m making a lot of songs that are tennis-inspired. I have a song that actually features [Victoria’s] grunt. It’s in the perfect key. Is she excited about that being in the song? Well, hold on. [Redfoo puts his phone on speaker.] Victoria Azarenka: It’s a fun way to use [the grunt]. I didn’t realize he would actually do it, I thought it would be a joke. That was a pleasant surprise. So we’ll ask: You two are officially dating? Yeah, I think so. It’s pretty out there. I hope so! We don’t talk about it that much, but if I saw her with another dude, I wouldn’t be happy about it. We just try to do our thing and have fun and laugh.
  Time tennis prima donnas earned their paychecks - New Zealand Herald
Tennis pros are the most ridiculously pampered athletes on earth and it's time it stopped. What other sport do you know provides its combatants with personal towel-handers, umbrella-holders, juice-fetchers and ball-boys?

Not to mention lets the players sit down and rest every second game, has an on-call masseuse available during a match and all the while insists the paying punter is shushed quiet like a schoolkid being told off by matron at library period?

  Tennis star Li Na targets new Hong Kong Open next year -
"I will fight for the chance to come [in 2014]," said Li, who will be in town next month for the BNP Paribas Showdown exhibition event. "It depends on my physical condition," added the 30-year-old. "I can't guarantee that I will come [in 2014]. After all there are still some unknown factors."

...The Hong Kong event has been given "International" status by the Women's Tennis Association, which places it one rung below the organisation's top-level "Premier" events, which in turn sit below the grand slams.

The WTA has also scheduled a Premier event for Li's hometown of Wuhan from September 22 next year - just before the China Open in Beijing from September 29. Guangzhou will host an International-level event from September 15.

  Kazan Never Wanted WTA Champs - Russian Tennis Chief - Rsport
“The city sports committee filed an unauthorized application and by accident, so initially we didn’t even want this tournament.”

Moreover, Tarpishchev claimed there was no financial incentive to organize such event in Russia.

  Dow Corning Tennis Classic has come a long way in 25 years - Midland Daily News
Even though I was initially a little overwhelmed by the scope of the tournament, I fell in love with it right away. I loved getting invited to the reception at the former Holiday Inn to hob-knob with host families and officials and, of course, players. I loved getting to watch fantastic tennis up close and personal — and getting paid to do so! — and then getting to interview the players afterward. I loved the ambience of the Midland Community Tennis Center, whether it was the hustle and bustle and numerous matches being played simultaneously during the day sessions or the undeniably electric atmosphere and packed crowds for the evening sessions.

I loved just about everything about the tournament, and so I was able to adjust to my role of DCTC beat writer pretty effortlessly. Back then, I covered the entire tournament, beginning to end, and continued to do so through 2003.

...One moment that has always stuck out in my mind was when Li Na of China won the 2002 DCTC championship. Li, who at the time was a teenager, knew absolutely no English.

So, as she was surrounded by three or four members of the print media and at least two or three TV cameras, this poor girl just stood there, staring helplessly at us all and not knowing what to do. I felt bad for her, I admit.

January 30

  New racket, bigger business for Nadal - DPA
  Nice car Bernard, but you can forget about driving it for a while - Sydney Daily Telegraph
But his promise to behave went up in smoke when Tomic put the peddle down as he headed home from a TV interview. Online bookmaker was quick to offer odds on Tomic which had nothing to do with tennis. The question turned to how will the speedster will get to training. Bicycle is the $2.50 favourite, followed by rollerblades ($3) and skateboard ($4).
  James Blake to be analyst on Tennis Channel - Connecticut Post
As he has for the last decade, American tennis star James Blake is packing his bags this week for a Davis Cup clash, this one in Jacksonville, Fla., with the U.S. team taking on Brazil. But the 33-year-old Blake, ranked No. 121 in the world, won't be on court competing...

..."Yeah, I'm used to hanging out in the players' lounge. Well, I'll probably need a different kind of credential. But I'm thinking they'll still let me in the locker room," he said with a laugh. "I know these guys pretty well. I don't think they'll view me as "the media."

  Fifty thoughts from dramatic Australian Open - Jon Werthiem,
We're all -- or at least we should be -- pretty talked out on Azarenkagate and her questionable medical timeout during the semifinals against Sloane Stephens. She is not an innocent victim, but she wasn't the first player to bend the rules like this. She chose the wrong time. And, yes, the wrong opponent. (If she pulls this against, say, Angelique Kerber and not a young, bottomlessly charming American in whom many have a personal stake, is the reaction half as severe?) She won the match and then the title but hardly got away with it, as her reputation was shredded. She did her time, as it were; there was retribution.

... We've seen players appeal to the chair and ask whether to expend a challenge. But never to the opponent. In the third set of the Almagro-Ferrer quarterfinal, a ball is close. Almagro looks over the net and asks Ferrer about the call. Ferrer responded: Nah, it was out; don't waste your challenge. That was good enough for Almagro, who kept playing. A few games later, Almagro hit a ball long. Ferrer looked over the net as if to say, "This one? This you should challenge."

Tim Smyczek got bounced from qualifying and was something less than pleased. But John Isner pulled out of the main draw with his knee injury, and suddenly a lucky loser slot opened. As one of the four highest-ranked players who did not qualify, Smyczek was eligible to have his name drawn from the lucky loser pool. When his name was picked, he was pitted against Ivo Karlovic and won handily. He lost his next match to Ferrer but won a set and acquitted himself admirably. He also picked up $50,000. One of his first purchases when he returns: He'll take his roommate out to a steak dinner. Smyczek, you see, lives with ... John Isner.

... This will fall on deaf ears. It always does. But at some point a responsible, unconflicted adult (anyone? anyone?) will address injury-mania.

  Notes on a draw sheet - Matthew Cronin
Patrick McEnroe apparently said on ESPN that he hasn’t seen a young player yet who can seriously compete with the Big 4 member at major. Neither can I .

...I’m also not convinced as Djokovic is that Ferrer, Tsonga, Berdych, Tipsarevic, Almagro or Wawrinka et al are capable of winning Slams. Pulling a huge upset, yes.

...The Djokovic vs. Wawrinka marathon was the men’s match of the tourney followed closely by Ferrer’s comeback over Nicolas Almagro and Federer over Jo Tsonga. The women’s matches are the event for the drama quotient were Stephens over Serena Williams, Laura Robson over Petra Kvitova and Sveta Kuznetsova over Caroline Wozniacki.

...It’s good to see that Bojana Jovanovski isn’t just a hitter any more. A little more consistency and she could become a top-20 player.

...Many fans like mixed doubles, perhaps more than regular doubles, so it’s high time to start ranking mixed teams again and its also time to start holding mixed competitions at the combined Masters Series. I realize there is a prize money element involved as well as court time issue, so here’s my solution: make the Masters Series mixed draws eight teams, and cut four teams out of both the men’s and women’s doubles draws. That will do it.

  Keeping Tabs, Melbourne: Jan. 28 - Steve Tignor,
Of all of the columnists who held forth on the Timeout, Patrick Smith of The Australian was the harshest. He gave Azarenka no quarter, and didn’t change his opinion after her “locked rib” explanation. But today Smith, while still maintaining that the timeout was “gamesmanship,” accords Azarenka a measure of respect for her victory. Writing in the second person—after a few paragraphs, I felt like I was reading “Bright Lights, Big City” again— he finishes with these words for her: “You should feel proud. You beat not one opponent but thousands. Chokers don’t win those sorts of matches. Champions do. Victoria Azarenka does.”
  MaliVai Washington and The Most Courageous Davis Cup Story You Probably Don’t Know - World Tennis Magazine
On the first day of play, Washington was set to open the best-of-five match series against the young Kuerten, who Washington said he “wouldn’t have been able to pick out of a two-man line-up” prior to that week in Brazil.

...The third set would also go to a tie-breaker and, with Washington leading 5-3, something strange happened. Washington said that he started to feel a sharp pain in his left knee. He played through it and secured the crucial two-set-to-one lead with a 7-3 tie-breaker win, but he was concerned about his condition.

...“I just kind of managed to get through that fourth set solely on adrenaline I believe,” he said.

...“I remember getting out of surgery and the doctor said there was about a 30 to 40 percent chance that I’ll play professional again,” said Washington. “That was a big surprise to me. I always had this idea that you go in, you have knee surgery, you work your tail off, you rehab, and you get right back out there. Then he’s telling me there is a less than 50 percent chance that you will get back out there and compete again. To me, (what the doctor said) was kind of just words. I didn’t buy it because I knew that I would be willing to put in the time in rehab and get back out there.” go through eight months of rehab and then you play a couple of tournaments, it felt like my knee felt as bad as it ever felt. That’s when I went back, visited more doctors, had it looked at again and proceeded to have another surgery, this time out in Colorado with Doctor (Richard) Steadman and had the exact same surgery on a little different part of my knee. Adjacent to the where I had the old surgery.”

...Washington rehabbed the knee again and returned to tennis in July after a three-month hiatus, but said “it was just never right.” “For the better part of two years, how my day went was contingent on how my knee felt,” Washington said. “If my knee felt good, I could have some success on a tennis court. If my knee did not feel good, I was likely going to lose. Once I made the decision to retire, my day was no longer contingent on how my knee felt, so it was a relief.”

  Lament for a single hander - Canberra Times
But perhaps they don't care for the old-fashioned look of post-modern tennis, with its rallies prolonged like those more languid baseline exchanges in the '30s; when the only time out between games was for strawberries and cream, not for opening a casualty clearing station for blisters or psychological crises.

Tennis is now a cruder game than it should be, and it has spawned cruder responses from crowds that seem more like celebrity-event groupies than tennis enthusiasts.

...But puffed-up celebrity is no substitute for the true tennis mavericks, of whom now there are few among our earnest professionals. Perhaps the money is just too big for eccentricity to flourish.

  In sit-down interview Andre Agassi opens up -
"I would hit a great backhand to (Novak) Djokovic and would start to move to a part of the court, and he would be 15 feet behind the baseline. That means I can't move into the court.

"Now I'd have to match him from a movement perspective. Movement is the one thing all these guys have in common. You need to have to be able to cover more real estate."

..."When you have a dysfunctional relationship with anyone or anything, and you have it for a certain period of time, you can never get to that point where that, in and of itself, is now a healthy thing in your mind," he added.

"I always needed my reason - I never got to the point where I just wanted to play."

  Tennis's Awesome Problem - Wall Street Journal
Among the recent or recent-ish matches I have described or heard described as all-time include the 2008 Wimbledon final between Federer and Nadal; the 2012 Australian Open final between Nadal and Djokovic... Now some of these matches get called all-time because they are truly all-time (Federer-Nadal Wimbledon is indisputable—I will come to your house and chase you around the front yard with a Wilson T-2000 if you disagree), but we're all probably guilty of occasionally getting gushy. There is such exuberance among modern tennis fans about the routinely great tennis they witness that, after a while, a conversation about the state of the men's game becomes a giddy effort to parse greatness—i.e., distinguishing the plain great from the super-great and the profoundly great.

...Still, this is a nice problem to have... But an odd side effect of all of the very great tennis is that now the merely good tennis winds up feeling like a weird kind of letdown. Sunday's Australian Open men's final in Melbourne between Djokovic and Murray fell into

...the tennis nuts sound like they're repeating themselves, all of the awesome and epic and classic. It's OK. Give us a break. Not every event can match the interplanetary thrill of the NFL draft. At least tennis fans are arguing about actual tennis.

  A Miami Clinic Supplies Drugs to Sports' Biggest Names - Miami New Times
San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera, Oakland A's hurler Bartolo Colón, pro tennis player Wayne Odesnik, budding Cuban superstar boxer Yuriorkis Gamboa, and Texas Rangers slugger Nelson Cruz. There's even the New York Yankees' $275 million man himself, Alex Rodriguez, who has sworn he stopped juicing a decade ago.

...The names are all included in an extraordinary batch of records from Biogenesis, an anti-aging clinic tucked into a two-story office building just a hard line drive's distance from the UM campus. They were given to New Times by an employee who worked at Biogenesis before it closed last month and its owner abruptly disappeared.

  Just give me a minute - Economist blog
Perhaps the most effective solution would be a point-docking system. If players forfeited just a single point per timeout, that would probably eliminate the temptation to cheat the system, since in tight matches, each point is immensely valuable. The ability to remain fit throughout a match is as just much a skill as having a good backhand. Playing poorly loses you points—so why shouldn’t, in a modest way, getting injured?
  Andy Murray back in training eager to avoid spring slump - Paul Newman, The Independent
For Murray, the next five weeks will be an opportunity for a more considered approach to his work. For the first time since he made his debut here seven years ago the Scot does not plan to play in any tournaments between the Australian Open and the back-to-back Masters Series tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami next month.

..."I obviously didn't do particularly well on the clay until the French last year and Indian Wells wasn't good either, so there's obviously potential to pick up points and improve my ranking," Murray said. "It's tough. If I had won here I would have had two Slams, a Wimbledon final and Olympic gold [in my ranking points total] and still been well behind Novak. With his consistency just now and with Rafa [Nadal] coming back, it's going to get tougher. I'll need to do well the next few months and not play badly, especially in the Masters Series."

  how Novak Djokovic turned himself into a champion - Simon Briggs, The Telegraph
But Djokovic himself agrees with Vajda that the Melzer meltdown was a turning point. “It did change things,” Djokovic said. “I remember 2010 as a very special year in my career because the first six months were very difficult in terms of results and also my health was pretty bad. I won a title in Dubai but beside that my game was not there, I changed my serve technique. I had a lot of mental issues. Every single pro athlete has to go through this crisis period in his career. “I lost that match and then from Wimbledon on, in the second part of the year, I started playing much better and being more confident on the court. I felt I got a huge relief mentally rather than anything else. My serve was coming back, and then the Davis Cup title came at the right moment for myself and my country and all of my colleagues, because that’s when I got a strong wind in my back, and it switched momentum
  Lax drug-testing casts undue shadow over centre court - Neil Harman, The Times
ITF must act over doping to preserve image The problem with tennis is not whether it has a cheating culture, but that if it does, unless there is a dramatic shift in approach, we will never know about it.
  SA needs to think big to revive tennis, says Tiley - SA
"To kick-start the process it is imperative for South Africa to stage a world-class event that attracts top players and interest round the globe," says Tiley, who was born in Durban and attended Bryanston High School in Johannesburg before captaining the South African Davis Cup team.
  Soweto Open returns with government's help - SA
The tournament was launched in 2009 and continued for three years before financial restructuring by the City of Joburg, who was the chief sponsor, during the tough economic climate resulted in its decision not to sponsor the event in 2012.

TSA did not have sufficient time to find a new sponsor and give the necessary guarantees to the ATP and ITF tours so it was forced to shelve last year’s event. However, TSA approached the Department of Sport and Recreation and Minister Fikile Mbalula came out in full support of re-establishing the two tournaments.

January 18

  What You Missed, Jan. 17 - Steve Tignor,
As predicted, it was a stifling Thursday here. For most of the afternoon, the temperature was north of 100 degrees. The grounds were mostly deserted, the seats on the side courts emptier than normal. Between points, whenever they could, the players in Rod Laver Arena snuck into the shade at the back of the court. Early leads were even more critical than normal—at one stage, those who won their first sets were 17-1 in their matches. At times it appeared that Bernard Tomic and Daniel Brands had made a pact to conserve energy, get each other into tiebreakers, and see what happened from there.
  A comprehensive list of tennis nicknames by ESPN's Brad Gilbert - USA Today blog
  A Delicate Mating Game of Partners for Mixed Doubles - New York Times blog
Jack Sock, an American ranked 149th in singles, opted against playing with his former partner, 84th-ranked American Melanie Oudin, with whom he had won the mixed doubles title at the 2011 United States Open. Instead, Sock latched on to 174th-ranked Ashleigh Barty of Australia, and the pair were given a wild card.

For Sock, like most players entering the tournament, the concern was not finding a partner who would necessarily be the best possible complement on court, but merely one who would get him into the tournament.

While Sock had a plan, others simply have to make cold calls. Next to the sign-in sheet are two additional clipboards with paper — blue for men, pink for women — where players seeking a partner can write their ranking and contact information.

  Stosur stumbles with end in sight - Linda Pearce, Melbourne Age
Oh dear. Oh, really. Just, oh. Sam Stosur's latest Australian Open has ended early, disastrously and distressingly for another year, the ninth seed losing the last five games and her second-round match, 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 to China's Zheng Jie. Did she choke? There could be no denying it, and she didn't. ''I don't know. Whatever word you want to put on it, at 5-2 up in the third, double-break, probably is a bit of a choke, yeah.''
  Loser Fleming cheered by partner Hutchins' fight - Paul Newman, The Independent
In the wake of a 7-5, 7-5 defeat by Michael Kohlmann and Jarkko Nieminen, Fleming said that he had been in contact every day with Hutchins, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma three weeks ago and has just begun a course of chemotherapy.

"It's really inspirational how well he's doing," Fleming said. "He started his treatment on the 10th. He said his treatment is fine, but he said he's feeling a little bit nauseous. I think he's tired and he's enjoying being at home to rest up.

  Laura Robson continues rugged march by trampling fallen champion - Neil Harman, The Times
It was still 35C at midnight in Melbourne Park, Petra Kvitova’s face was covered in a mix of sweat and tears and Laura Robson was scenting blood.

She drew it from the 2011 Wimbledon champion half an hour later to complete a famous victory in a match that more than made up in drama what it lacked in precision and order.

  No laughs for Jamie Baker after ‘freak show’ - Alix Ramsay, The Scotsman
Quite how Rosol had managed it, Baker did not know. All he could be certain of was that he still had not won a match a grand slam tournament. “He’s like he’s a freak show, the way he plays,” Baker said. “He doesn’t put a ball in court the whole set but he continues doing the same thing. Any other sane person would change their tactics and try to get a ball in court but he doesn’t and then, sure enough, it happens at some point. Some of the tennis he played, if he was able to do that the whole time, he’s be top 20 in the world, no problem. And he isn’t. “There aren’t any rules or patterns, other than he’s going to keep going as hard as he can. And obviously his serve is a massive, massive weapon. He just keeps everything going with that.”
  Jerzy Janowicz hasmeltdown over line call at Australian Open - Melbourne Herald Sun
Leading 9-8 in the tie-break more than an hour into the game, Janowicz repeatedly screamed “How many times!”, dropped his racquet and fell to his knees, apparently convinced that his opponent’s shot had bounced out.

...“You can’t control your emotions all the time. “This was a really big point for me. – we played this set for more than one hour.

“I went nuts but calmed down a bit later on.

“Sometimes I have problems controlling my emotion, but I am working on it.”

  Tennis world shocked by leading figure Andrew Florent's illness - Leo Schlink, Melbourne Herald Sun
Tennis world shocked by leading figure Andrew Florent's illness
  Why can't TV and radio broadcasters get international tennis players' names right? - Brisbane Courier-Mail
Dol-goppa-lov: McLachlan, Todd Woodbridge, Bruce McAvaney and the others - all but two. This continued throughout the final (where Dolgopolov lost to Andy Murray), through Sydney and Kooyong, and well into the Australian Open.

Fast-forward 12 months and this year, among others, it's Grigor Dimitrov. Three versions so far, even before the Open.

Yet Tomic's already given up on the "itch" that - as in Dokic or Ivanovic - should end his Serbo-Croatian name. It's enough to wear anyone down.

Fitzy gets Gael Monfils right, too. Modestly he says that's because he brings his French-student daughter to the matches. Or perhaps he just bothers to listen and learn. Not so McAvaney. He switches effortlessly from Mon-fee to Mon-feel. Occasionally, quite inadvertently, he strikes it lucky with Mon-feess.

  More space and more clout for Australian Open - Christopher Clarey, New York Times
Its officials also have been the most openly supportive of the men’s players’ demands for a greater percentage of Grand Slam revenue and more input in decision-making. After consultation with the tours, the tournament has committed much of its 2013 increase in prize money to the early-round losers. “I said to the players at the meeting: ‘Why are we doing this? Why are we being aggressive with prize money?’ ” Tiley said. “And I said: ‘I’m looking at you all in the eye right now. It’s because of your careers. Some of you in this room are making a good living, and a lot of you in this room and every one of you who is not in this room are not making a living.’ So I said, ‘We will make a promise to you that we will do our part in changing that.’ ”

...United States Open officials argue that their approach is generous and temporary. Gordon Smith, the United States Tennis Association executive director, said by telephone that the tournament found itself in a financial predicament this year.

...According to Smith, the cost to the tournament in 2013 for switching the men’s semifinals to Friday and keeping the final in its Sunday slot would have been about $10 million, while the cost of keeping the men’s semifinals on Saturday and scheduling the final on Monday was considerably less, at $1.5 million. Switching the semifinals to Friday would have required a loss of two ticketed sessions.

...“I have great respect for the players,” Smith said. “But I don’t think it’s reasonable to say, ‘Increase your prize money by millions of dollars and take a $10 million hit to give us a day of rest.’ ”... “We’ve only committed to this Monday final for one year,” said Smith, who added that the Open would not consider starting on a Sunday as the French Open does. “We are in the midst of renegotiating our television rights agreements in this calendar year, and it is our preference moving forward to negotiate a rights deal that will, one, allow us to have a Sunday final and, two, will be a deal that will allow us to continue to increase prize money. That’s our perfect world.”

  At Australian Open, 'you see a lot of happy' players - Douglas Robson, USA Today
"It's nice that the Australian Open has been listening to us," said Player Council President Roger Federer, who has pushed for better compensation for lower-ranked men with other top players like Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. "If you look around, you see a lot of happy faces here in Australia from the players side, regardless of what's happened in the past. We are thankful they are appreciating the package of the players."

Money talks. But what players say sets the Australian Open apart since it relocated to Melbourne Park in 1988 is the friendly, "G-day mate" vibe catering to players' needs — everything from investment in top-notch facilities, bend-over-backwards transport services and a location in the heart of downtown with easy access to restaurants, hotels and mass transit.

"I feel like this tournament definitely has the best facilities out of any of the majors," Venus Williams said Monday after dispatching first-round opponent Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan. "(It's) constantly improving."

...Scorching temperatures, proximity to the year-end holidays and skimpy prize money compared with the other Slams once meant players stayed away.

January 14

  Date-Krumm makes history - AAP
The 42-year-old upset Russian 12th seed Nadia Petrova 6-2 6-0 in the first round at Melbourne Park on Tuesday.
  Update On ATP Executive Chairman & President Brad Drewett - ATP release
Drewett, who took over as ATP Executive Chairman and President on 1 January 2012, has been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease). He will continue in his current role on an interim basis as the ATP Board of Directors begins the search process for his successor in the near future.
  Maria Sharapova Doesn’t Deny She’s Dating Grigor Dimitrov -
“Oh come on, you are putting me on the spot… I’m not saying anything,” she said. “I got nothing for you.”

“He’ll be fine. Trust me with the way he plays,” the 25-year-old Sharapova added. “He’ll be completely fine.”

After his loss to Juliean Benneteau, Dimitrov defelected the question. “I don’t think it’s a distraction. I just believe I am here to be on the court. I am not here to speak about my private life. People love gossip. Who doesn’t? But I believe it’s a privacy invasion. I don’t think that’s right.”

Australian papers
  chip on John Tomic's shoulder is huge, but is he just a misunderstood tennis dad? - Will Swanton,
In heated debate with Tennis Australia, John has bellowed that no-one understands how hard he fought to create a better existence for his family, firstly in Germany and now in Australia. His past might not excuse the combustible and combative temperament, but perhaps it provides a little context.
  ballboy who bombed yearns for the courts days of grace - Melbourne Age
There is a running debate over what we should expect from our elite sportspeople, and whether they should be role models. So what if Tomic is a bad boy? Does it matter, particularly if he wins?

Well, yes, it does. For me, there is an unwritten contract between elite sportspeople and the public that supports them. Their behaviour matters. Watch enough junior sport and the trickle-down effect is evident, as youngsters seek to emulate the best in the game. Their impact can last a lifetime.

Tomic has made a flying start to the Australian summer. An intensive training period appears to have begun paying some dividends, notably beating world No. 1 Novak Djokovic at the Hopman Cup. It will be interesting to see if his on-court form is matched by an improvement in off-court attitude. It's important to remember that Tomic is only 20, and has a lot of maturing to do. And these days, the media scrutiny is much more intense than in the golden era. But should he begin to emulate the attitude and character of the greats that have gone before him, he will find an Australian public ready to embrace him. If we give the kid a break, he just might take it.

  Is winning the way to win us over? - Richard Hinds, Sydney Morning Herald
The parallels between Tomic and the young Lleyton Hewitt are obvious. Raw teenage talents tainted by a tempestuous relationship with officialdom and the media. Yet, in his mostly sanguine behaviour on court, and a seemingly naive nature, the Australian prodigy Tomic resembles is Mark Philippoussis.

... Like Philippoussis, both Tomic's work ethic and appetite for the contest have been questioned. With good reason given his ''strategic withdrawal'' from a handful of matches last year, most ignominiously in his ''tank job'' against Andy Roddick at Flushing Meadows.

...The Philippoussis comparison invites the unspoken question about Tomic - his ethnicity.

  Gallant Hewitt bows out - Melbourne Age
While the veteran displayed many of his trademarks - the c'mons, the plucky scrambling, clever court craft and clean volleying - he was unable to overcome his opponent's advantage in power, falling in straight sets 7-6 (7-4), 7-5, 6-3 in slightly over three hours.

Like many a champion footballer, Hewitt retains his skills, but in his 30s - he turns 32 next month - no longer has the zip that allowed him to compensate for his power deficit.

That said, the distance between Tipsarevic and Hewitt wasn't enormous. It remained pretty constant, though. There was only one phase of the match, early in the second set, when one could say that Hewitt was actually in a commanding position but this would prove fleeting.

  Relief at last as Stosur goes through - Linda Pearce, Melbourne Age
Stosur's long-time coach David Taylor has always admired Pat Rafter for his problem-solving skills on the tennis court, and it may be that the Davis Cup captain has helped, in some small way, to address the riddle of Stosur's enduring struggles in Australia.

... ''Pat did very well getting the best out of himself, and he loves tennis, and I think those sort of qualities can have a positive effect on someone like Sam,'' Taylor said after Stosur's 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 defeat of Taiwan's Kai-Chen Chang that was her first on her home circuit following five consecutive losses dating to last January.

... ''It was just a couple of random hits, no press. He came on his own, two racquets, wanted to have a hit, but it's not as though he's coaching Sam Stosur now or whatever … He just wanted to help out and that's why I really appreciated it, because he didn't want anything from it himself, he just actually took a lot of time to sit down and talk about playing under pressure at the Australian Open, coming back to Australia when he'd won the US Open, just really great things that I probably can't offer Sam and someone like Pat can.''

  Venus on different planet - Melbourne Age
That medal, won with sister Serena, is hidden ''in a sack'' so that should Venus ''become a statistic and lose all my money'' she can melt the gold off the top and get by. After 20 years, it's an unlikely last resort. ''When you're a young person you just don't think it's ever going to end and you're on top of the world,'' said the fashion designer in waiting. ''Now I realise all those opportunities. I try and take the best I can of it. When it's over I will be out and hopefully I won't run out of money and have to commentate. I love the game and while I'm here I'm going to go for it.''
  Even Andy Roddick can't resist return volley as Novak Djokovic opens play - Courtney Walsh, The Australian
AS Novak Djokovic began his campaign for a historic third straight Australian Open title in impressive fashion yesterday, a long-time observer making his grand slam debut as a couch potato watched with interest.

...And his assessment? "First time I've watched tennis in a while ... Djokovic is still really good," Roddick posted.

  Open Fire - Andy Murray or Crocodile Dunblane? - Melbourne Herald Sun
They have labelled him Crocodile Dunblane – fearless and ready to take the Australian Open by storm. That’s how the Scot was portrayed in a poster to promote the start of the Grand Slam event in Melbourne yesterday. The spoof poster depicted him as “Crocodile Dunblane”, a satirical take on our hit movie Crocodile Dundee.
British papers
  Jonny Marray may have to sacrifice new doubles partner Andre Sa to make Masters cut - Simon Briggs The Telegraph
Unless Marray and Sa do something spectacular over the next fortnight, their combined ranking will not be high enough to make it into the Masters tournaments, which is where the bulk of the money and the rankings points are to be found. Marray has a strong ranking of 18, so he has a good chance of making the cut with a different partner.

Assuming that he does not spend too long recovering from a hernia operation, which he will undergo once he is finished with this tournament, the obvious short-term solution would be for him to team up with Colin Fleming, the world No 26 from Scotland. Fleming is also here in Melbourne. His regular partnership with Ross Hutchins has been interrupted because of the Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis that has sentenced Hutchins to six months of chemotherapy.

  Watson battles back to wipe out signs of second-season syndrome - Paul Newman, The Independent
Pervak and Watson last met in the quarter-finals of the 2009 junior tournament here. Pervak won in straight sets and went on to beat another Briton, Laura Robson, in the final. At that stage, Pervak was already competing regularly in senior events and by the end of 2011 was soaring up the world rankings. A year in which she won her first title on the main tour, was runner-up in another and reached the fourth round at Wimbledon saw her climb to No 37 in the world. Now, after a less memorable 12 months, Pervak is down to No 82, having failed to win a Grand Slam match in 2012. Nevertheless, her new year has started promisingly. After knocking out Caroline Wozniacki en route to the Brisbane quarter-finals in the first week of the season, Pervak today beat Germany’s Mona Barthel 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 to record her first victory in a Grand Slam tournament since she beat Andrea Petkovic, then the world No 13, at Wimbledon two years ago.
  Andy Murray wins Australian Open first round, demolishing Robin Haase - Kevin Mitchell, The Guardian
He arrived in Australian fresh from a prolonged winter training camp in Florida; Haase, who does not have those resources, turned up having won just one of his past 10 matches.

After an hour and 37 minutes the world No 3 had crushed the world No 53 6-1, 6-1, 6-3. It was an entertaining workout, with plenty of lovely shots on both sides of the net, the concluding ones invariably delivered by Murray. "It was a good start," Murray said. "Nice to win in straight sets. It took a little while to get used to the breeze. I've come close here a few times, so to finally get a slam [in New York] was great and I'll try to focus on the second part of my career now."

Asked about what seems to be an ideal relationship with his coach of 12 months, Ivan Lendl, Murray joked, "Yeah, in front of the cameras, anyway. He works me very hard. He's very honest, very open."

  Jamie Baker believes extra training will pay off in the long run - Neil Harman, The Times
Jamie Baker’s round of interviews meant that he missed the ATP player meeting, where his peers queued to thank Tennis Australia for the A$1,000 they presented to every competitor who had made the grand-slam grade. As an entrant into the qualifying event, the gift meant more to those at Baker’s level than the millionaires he joins in the main draw tomorrow.
  Start your Engines - Tom Tebbutt, Tennis Canada
After his surprisingly convincing 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 win over up-and-coming Grigor Dimitrov on Monday, I went to Julien Benneteau’s media conference in a small interview room. I got the sense from the questions from some of the French journalists that they thought Dimitrov hadn’t given the gutsiest effort, using the French equivalent of “sufficiency,” which seemed to suggest Dimitrov, rumoured to be Maria Sharapova’s current squeeze, had not exactly put everything into it. But the best part was being there to learn about what a sports fiend Benneteau is. He’s even interested in cricket and told of how, because it rains so much in England, he first had the sport explained to him by a French coach in 1999 while he was there for a tournament. So he follows some of the Test cricket going on in Australia at the moment, but he’s interested in lots of sports and watched the beginning of the Atlanta Falcons – Seattle Seahawks NFL playoff game when he woke up before his match on Monday. He said his earliest memories go back to 1981 or 1982 and a cassette he had of a Jimmy Connors–Ivan Lendl match at the US Open.

...He would eventually like to host a sports radio or television show, but not one necessarily restricted to tennis. He said his four favourite sports are soccer, rugby, golf and skiing, and told of staying up past midnight the other night in Australia to watch live-streaming of a ski race. But he is not so keen on watching tennis, except for some of the really big matches.

  Harrison ready for shot at Djokovic - Richard Evans,
“No, I don’t find it frustrating,” Harrison replied to questions about having to play Djokovic after beating Giraldo 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4. “I look at it as a good opportunity. It’s a privilege to be able to play big players on the big courts. It’s what drives me. Especially now as I feel different this year. I am full of confidence after all the work I did in the offseason.”

...The most interesting facet of Harrison’s victory over Giraldo, a 25-year-old only two places below the American at 64 in the ATP ranking, was the way he adapted to the conditions during the match.

“My natural game is to be aggressive,” he said. “But the conditions were brutal out there with gusty winds and I had to adjust to what was not working. I had to take a step back and start playing slices to throw him out of his rhythm. I didn’t really hit the ball well today but I trusted my fitness and ground it out.”

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