Monday, January 6, 2014
WEEKLY TENNIS NEWS
Tennis News’ Person Of The Year: Larry Ellison
Larry Ellison, the man whose contagious enthusiasm and clear vision has transformed the annual Indian Wells event in early March from a very good tournament into one so supreme the BNP Paribas Open frankly leaves some of the esteemed Grand Slam events in its’ wake, has been named Bob Larson’s Tennis News’ Person Of the Year 2013.
Four years have now passed since Ellison, according to Forbes magazine the world’s fifth richest man and third wealthiest American, decided being a committed tennis fan was enough to satisfy his passion for the sport and paid a reported $100 million for the tournament Charlie Pasarell and Raymond Moore had built from the desert floor of California’s Coachella Valley.
Ellison wanted to make the Indian Wells Tennis Garden a site that every other tournament looked at with admiration and a certain sense of envy. He didn’t want his tournament to continue with a reputation of just being one of the more successful stops on the tennis tour, he wanted it to be the very best. Or at least supreme outside the sacrosanct domain of the sport’s four Grand Slam venues.
He knew there was scope for expansion and improvement, and he made it known money was not a problem. So in 2011, in his mission to continually raise the bar, he made sure Hawk-Eye line calling technology was in place for all eight of the tournament’s match courts.
More than that he appreciated the top performers merit top dollar and last year, after a considerable amount of political sparring with the ATP World Tour board of directors, Ellison was allowed to grant more than $860,000 of additional prize money across both the singles and doubles in both male and female events.
So every player was guaranteed to earn above the minimum prize money levels per round established for the tournament. Not everyone was happy but that is so often the way in the business of improvement and innovation.
Ellison is a fan of many sports and last September his Oracle Team USA yacht team made global news by succeeding with one of the greatest comebacks ever known to retain the Americas Cup. In just a few weeks his focus will be fully committed to tennis again with the 2014 version of the BNP Paribas Open and the opening of a new permanent 8,000 seat second stadium, a new box office, four additional practice courts, added restaurants and many other features to make the site more fan-friendly.
Tennis News publisher Bob Larson summed up the thinking behind Ellison receiving the award when he said: “He has been selected for his impact on tennis this year by making his tournament a very powerful one. He stepped forward increasing prize money for both men and women.
“He also increased the footprint of his tournament in Indian Wells. In addition to increasing the size of the venue he is also doing some innovative things in the new stadium, such as bringing in upscale dining facilities for the spectators. Attendance at the event brings it up to impressive figures.”
Ellison follows a list of notable tennis names that have received this award. Tennis Channel creator Steve Bellamy was the inaugural recipient in 2005 followed by Peter Burwash, the esteemed Canadian coach who set out his mission to take tennis to every part of the globe.
Arlen Kantarian, arguably the United States’ Tennis Association’s most go-getting CEO of professional tennis followed in 2007 and next year the award went to the one and only Nick Bollettieri. John Muir, head of Wilson Racquet Sports and president of the Tennis Industry Association was honored in 2009 and Stacy Allaster’s work as CEO of the WTA was recognized the following year.
Tennis’s most generous sponsor BNP Paribas was a worthy winner in 2011 and last year for the first time, two of the playing fraternity got their hands on the award, the record breaking doubles tandem of Bob and Mike Bryan. Now Larry Ellison has his name added to the esteemed list.
In Spite Of Loss In Brisbane Finals Federer Is Pleased With His Play
Despite a 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 loss in the Brisbane final to Lleyton Hewitt, Roger Federer is well pleased with his start to the 2014 season after coming off of a year to forget. The Swiss travels to Melbourne for next Monday's start of the Australian Open with good confidence despite getting off to the slowest of starts in the final against his longtime Aussie rival.
"I haven't thought about it a whole lot," 17-time grand slam winner Federer said of his chances to lift a possible fifth title in Melbourne. "I think I can play very well. I think I was able to sort of serve better overall, more consistent this week than I have in a long time. So that's very good."
Federer was pleased with his decision to begin the year in Australia for the first time as he made a popular debut but in Brisbane which resulted in a record crowd in excess of 100,000 fans through the gate of the event. He also played in the doubles just to sharpen his eye and reached the semi-finals with Nicolas Mahut.
"I feel pretty good, especially having played all the matches I have here now, with the doubles in particular, it's a good thing -- I didn't quite know what to expect from myself before the tournament. I played consistent, I must say," Federer said.
After dealing with back pain in 2013, Federer added: "I'm pretty pleased just that my body is holding up good in the first week, because you don't quite know what to expect. Overall there were many good things (this week). I need to get to Melbourne and see what the court speed is down there and then you'll have a real good idea of what you need to work on."
Azarenka Hopes To Find The Zone In Australia
It’s very uncommon for the first tournament of the season to feature four women who has claimed the No.1 ranking to reach the semifinals, but that what occurred in Brisbane when current No. 1 Serena Williams and three other players who have reigned as queens of the sport made it to the final four.
Some players would rather have an easier field in trying to warm up for majors, but not Victoria Azarenka who says she prefers quality every time out. She’ll need it when she faces Williams in the final.
“I don't think it's ever too early,” Azarenka said. “ I always want to play against the best players every week. That's what I'm here for, to go every day and try to beat the best. If you want to win big titles and big tournaments you got to play against the best players, so I feel great about having that challenge every time I step on the court. If there is no challenge it seems boring and unmotivating.”
Azarenka realizes that if she is going to win her third straight Australian Open title, that she is going to have to play at a higher level against Williams than she showed overall in her wins over Stephanie Voegele and Jelena Jankovic in Brisbane, both of which were hard fought and harrowing three set wins.
At some point she is going to have to find her way into the proverbial zone, which she reached in 2012 when she crushed Maria Sharapova for her first major crown at the Aussie Open.
“You can never predict that,” she said.: You can never think, Okay, right now I'm going to be in the zone. It just happens. The things you go through, sometimes how you pull out the match when you're down or when you have to save a match point, it's tough to explain what was going on in that moment because it's a feeling. The thoughts that go through your mind are like thousand thoughts. Boom, boom, boom. Sometimes you're just like, Okay, well, the ball comes. So it's very tough to predict and explain how you feel in that moment. You just know because it feels good.”
The 24-year-old Azarenka was the only player to score two wins over Williams last year. But once again, Williams showed her champion’s mettle in inching past Sharapova in the other Brisbane semi. Williams bested Azarenka in the US Open final, so now it’s on the Belarusian to once again show she can stay with her in 2014.
“That's the goal.” Azarenka said. “That's the goal for sure, you know, to keep challenging, to keep trying to do the best you can and try to win.”
Murray Not Expecting Miracles In Melbourne
With just two ATP World Tour singles matches to his name after a three month absence enforced by back surgery, Wimbledon champion Andy Murray has categorically admitted it would be ‘unrealistic’ to expect to win the Australian Open with such limited opportunity to get acclimated to tennis competition at the highest level.
In the long-term, Murray is convinced the back surgery he underwent at the end of September will benefit both his tennis and quality of life outside of the court. But after losing to German Florian Mayer and winning a relatively meaningless 6-0,6-0 Qatar ExxonMobil Open encounter against 2,129th ranked local teenager Mousa Shanan Zayed, the world no.4 admits he will be grossly underprepared when the Grand Slam action begins in just nine days’ time.
Before leaving on a 14 hours flight from Doha to Melbourne, Murray took stock of his match play since returning, which apart from his singles outings this week amounts to two exhibition run-outs in Abu Dhabi and two doubles matches, and admitted: “I wouldn’t expect to win the Australian Open.
“In terms of expectations I have no idea, to be honest. I wouldn’t like to say whether I’d be happy reaching the second week, or winning it, or whatever. I’ll have to see how the next 10 days or so go. You can get a lot done in that time.”
Murray felt his lack of match fitness contributed to him allowing the match against Mayer slip off the hook. He led by a set and 3-0 before comprehensively losing his momentum to meet a second round exit in three sets.
“The way I was playing for half the match against Mayer I would be very happy with, but being able to maintain that for five sets is tricky,” he stated. “Having a day off between matches would help me and also I’m going to get fitter by playing matches, so there’s a possibility that if I can get through a couple of rounds I’ll start to feel better as the tournament goes on. My body will start to feel better.”
The most match play Murray will get before the start of the Australian Open is a match or two at the exhibition AAMI Classic at Kooyong. He has declined wild card invitations into both the Apia International in Sydney and Auckland’s Heineken Open, sticking by his long-term policy of not playing a full ATP World Tour event in the week before a major.
Instead he will spend the majority of his preparation time in the next week playing sets against top-flight performers on the Melbourne Park practice courts. “That’s one thing I could have maybe done a bit more when I was over in Miami, but I didn’t take more than one day off at a time and I trained for about 10 and a half weeks, so by the end of the training block I wasn’t fresh,” Murray said.
“I was tired. Playing points and sets is the hardest part of what we do. The points and stuff I got at the end of the training block weren’t particularly good because I was fatigued. That kind of showed against Mayer. Towards the end of the second set and the beginning of the third, my intensity definitely dropped a bit – and you can’t do that against these guys.”
Murray concluded: “This week was a good experience for me. It’s quite stressful playing your first match back. Doing all the training stuff is great, but then when you actually go out to play a match again in front of crowds and when you haven’t done it for a while you’re a little bit nervous and it’s different.
“It feels like a new experience again. So just getting back on the court again is good for me. I’ll start to feel more comfortable the more matches I play.”
Hobart Organizers Were Stunned With Williams’ Withdrawal “To Rest”
WTA organizers were dealt a body blow as seven-time grand slam winner Venus Williams withdrew from the pre-Australian Open event to rest after losing a final in New Zealand at the weekend to Ana Ivanovic. Williams, 33, pulled the plug on her participation, with her camp saying she needed to rest before next Monday's start of the grand slam in Melbourne.
"After a long week during my first tournament of the year, my body needs time to rest and recover," the number 47 said in a statement, "Unfortunately, I am not able to play this week in Hobart. I sincerely do hope to play there in the coming years."
Williams, a former number one who now plays a shadow of her former game, last won a title in October, 2012, and claimed her last major title six years ago. "I know it was a hard decision and we wish her the best of luck for the Australian Open," tournament director Mark Handley told local media.
Williams was sighted at Melbourne Park at the weekend as she prepared for a week of private training.
Nadal Relaxes In Doha After Tournament Win
Rafael Nadal is so relaxed after starting his year with a first ever Qatar ExxonMobil Open title that he saw no need to rush for a flight to Australia and instead spent a leisurely day off in Doha catching up with his former football idol Raul and relaxing with his family.
The world no.1 was unconcerned that his main rival Novak Djokovic was already practicing at the Australian Open site and acclimatizing to Melbourne conditions or that Roger Federer was getting used to the antipodean heat, playing the Brisbane International final against Lleyton Hewitt.
After braving the evening chill of the Arabian Gulf to beat Gael Monfils 6-1, 6-7, 6-2 and move above Andre Agassi into a clear eighth position in the all-time list of trophy winners with 61 titles, that well known creature of habit Nadal was no mood to change a routine.
Wherever he is playing around the world, he always aims to arrive at the site of a Grand Slam to begin practice on the Tuesday before action begins. So he was content to catch a 1am Monday flight out of Doha and utilize eight hours of time difference in his favor.
“Even if I had lost here in the first round, I would still have the ticket [to Melbourne] for Sunday night and I think is enough time for me,” said Nadal who had a long-standing lunch arrangement with Raul, the Real Madrid all-time top goal scorer who has been playing for the Qatar Stars League team Al Saad for nearly two years.
“I feel being so long time in the same place and waiting for the tournament is something that few things are positive and other things are negative. So I am happy here. I have a day off here in Doha, and then I fly.
“So I am going to arrive there in Melbourne on Monday evening and I’m going to practice on Tuesday at 4pm like I always do. I’m going to have almost a week to practice well there, and I think hopefully will be enough to acclimate my game to Australia. If your game is not adapted in six days, you will never be adapted. That's my feeling.”
Nadal’s title win took his haul to 11 since he returned to the game 11 months ago after protracted knee issues. He missed last year’s Australian Open but could not be feeling happier on his return to Melbourne Park where he has won the title just once, in 2009.
“I don't go there thinking about the adaptation of my game,” insisted Nadal who recaptured his best form against Monfils after indifferent performances against two Germans, 74th ranked Tobias Kamke and world no.162 Peter Gojowczyk. “I go in there thinking about the things that I want to keep practicing to be very competitive there. I want to keep practicing in the same way that I played today. I think that's the right way.”
However Nadal felt like taking one more dig at the ATP World Tour calendar, something he delights in criticizing. “It's tough because Australian Open is very early,” he said. “It would be better to play such an important tournament a little bit later in the season. That's the real thing. Because when it is the third tournament of the season, or second tournament of the season for me, you are competing for one of the most important titles. So for me that something a little bit strange.
“But in the end every year is same. It is nothing new for me and for us. I hope to have a good week of preparation there in Melbourne and try to adapt my game to that quick surface and hope to be ready for next Monday.”
Robson’s Wrist Problems May Keep Her Out Of The Australian Open
Laura Robson’s chances of even starting the Australian Open have been thrown into doubt following the British no. 1 being forced to retire midway through her first match of the year at the Hobart International earlier today because of ongoing wrist problems.
The 19 year-old, who during the off-season announced a new coaching relationship with Nick Saviano and Jesse Witten, never even made it onto court at last week’s ASB Classic in Auckland when the injured left wrist forced her to withdraw before the tournament started.
In Hobart, Robson managed to win the first set 6-4 against 61st ranked Belgian Yanina Wickmayer but then the player whose ranking has been slipping steadily since achieving a career high of 27 just after Wimbledon and now stands at 46, opted to retire. The decision came after delivering a double fault that awarded her opponent an immediate break of serve in the second set.
Last year Robson accrued 160 ranking points by reaching the third round of the Australian Open before losing to eventual semi-finalist Sloane Stephens. Should she be forced to miss the action at Melbourne Park, Robson would certainly fall outside the top 50.
Prior to the match, Robson had told the tournament's official website: “It's going to be my first match for 2014, so I'm very excited. I haven't played a match so I don't know how it is going to end up, but in practice it feels okay.”
Later a post on the tournament's official Twitter feed then indicated Robson's injury was a recurrence of the previous problem suffered in Auckland. The Hobart International website reported : “The official reason for Robson's mid-match retirement today was her wrist.”
After s a holiday trekking across the Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina, Robson spent the next five weeks working at her fitness and tennis game at Saviano’s academy outside Fort Lauderdale in Florida.
Meanwhile Robson’s British Fed Cup team-mate, Heather Watson whose 2013 schedule was seriously affected by glandular fever (mononucleosis) and saw her ranking slip to a current world no.120 after peaking at 39 last February, insists she is fully match-fit for bid to this week qualify for the Australian Open.
Watson managed to qualify in Brisbane, then losing out to 9th seed Dominka Cibulkova but fell to Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the second round of Sydney’s qualifying. However she declared: My body's a bit sore after quite a few matches in the past few days, but that's exactly what I wanted in preparation for the Australian Open. You can do fitness, but match situations are very different. There's more pressure, so I feel very match fit."
Cash Laments Lack Of Young Aussies In The Pro Ranks
As Pat Cash dips back into tennis briefly at this week's exhibition event in Adelaide, the World Tennis Challenge, the former Wimbledon winner admits to mixed feelings about the lack of hard-charging young Aussies in the current game.
Cash, 48, was pleased to see 32-year-old Lleyton Hewitt beat Roger Federer for the Brisbane title which began the ATP season and the run-up to the Australian Open starting in a seek. But the veteran is also alarmed that younger players - most notably the 43rd-ranked Bernard Tomic - have not stepped up to take over the top Australian ranking.
"It's really inspiring to see that Lleyton is 32 and is playing so well," said Cash. "But in some ways, it's slightly disappointing that he is still the top Australian. Lleyton's a great player - but you would hope to have some other guys in the top 10, 20. It's inspiring but a little strange to see that Lleyton is still our top-ranked player."
Cash is betting on the emergence of teenaged young guns Nick Kyrgios, 18, a Wimbledon junior doubles champion, and Thanasi Kokkinakis, 17, who will play on the Cash team at the exho which pits stars from the past, present and future. "Lleyton just goes to show how experience goes a long way, you see players hitting their peak mid-20s and even later.
"But we have got a lot of depth. We have got a lot of good young players coming through and I think that is the encouraging thing. But it just takes a few years for players these days to come through."
Coach Nadal Reveals Some Coaching Secrets
While every day seems to bring a new high profile coach to the upper echelon of the ATP World Tour, Toni Nadal remains a constant. And while his world no.1 nephew Rafael continues to look supreme at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha, the senior Nadal is in Brisbane, addressing Tennis Australia's seminar of 70 coaches.
Uncle Toni outlined his philosophy and admitted one major reason why there remains to be no threatening challenge from younger players to the quartet of his nephew, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, who have won 34 of the past 35 Grand Slam titles is a lack of respect to coaches and a wariness of hard work along with absolute commitment.
He wonders when he sees coaches being totally subservient to their young players and said: “Never in my life, I bring the racquet to the practice. Almost never, I bring the racquets to the stringers. Or water to the court for Rafael. The young players now play really good, but make many mistakes.”
Uncle Toni was prepared to elaborate. “Coaches come for players with water, with food - many times I see the player go to the court for practice and the player goes with nothing and the coach has the bag,” he observed. “I have seen many times players who talk to his coach so bad.
“The players should have respect for the coach and all the people, the same as someone who cleans this apartment. It is a problem.”
And Uncle Toni admits there is a family understanding that whenever his charge loses – and admittedly that hasn’t been very often of late – it is agreed Rafa is the man to blame rather than his coach.
"Never, when Rafael lose, it is my fault. If Rafael lose, it's (his) fault and it's true. When he wins his matches, it's for him," Toni Nadal said.
"For this reason too, Rafael has never changed his coach. Now, he is maybe the only one who has the same coach, the other players changed their coach because the players are tired (of hearing) all the same (things) from the same people."
Mother Dellacqua Is Content And Progressing
Just after Alicia Molik became the show stopper at the Australian Open and before Jelena Dokic wowed the crowds at Rod Laver Arena, the quiet lefthander Casey Dellacqua raised the roof, coming out of nowhere in 2008 to reach the fourth round, upsetting No. 15 Patty Schnyder and No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo before going down to No. 3 Jelena Jankovic.
Dellacqua has had an up and down career since then, somewhat due to debilitating injuries, but she regained confidence in 2013 on the doubles court when she and her teenage partner Ashleigh Barty reached three Grand Slam finals.
But even though she is ranked No.142, the 28, she has not given up on her singles career. She is a mother now and the bread earner in her family. Having to help her partner Amanda take care of their baby son, Blake, has given her a new perspective on life and her career. She says that being a parent has made her more content.
“At the end of the day, whether I win or lose, I walk off and get to go home to my wonderful family,” she said. I'm very lucky in that respect. It's one of the things I don't feel pressure in the sense I have to support them anymore. I've had a successful career today, and I'm now out here and just I want to make him proud. If he gets the opportunity to watch me one day or not, I've given it everything. Yeah, I'm very grateful, and we are very grateful for him. It's not a bad thing. “
While she and Amanda’s lives revolve around the baby during many hours of the day, she is also cognizant to be a successful player that she has to make sure to take care of her athletic needs. That means practicing, focusing on fitness and making sure she gets enough rest.
“I'm very lucky I have a very supportive partner, Amanda. She does most of the yuck night feeds,” Dellacqua said after she beat Galina Voskoboeva 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 in Brisbane. “Last night I slept 12 hours. I got up 6:00 AM and took him for a walk so she could get a few more hours. She's not playing obviously. But I'm very lucky I have that support. We'll travel with my mom or some other family on the road so that we have extra help on the road as well. I'm not going to deny it. It's not going to be easy. But I want my family with me. That's what I want, so we'll make it work.”
Even though she has struggled in singles, the Aussie tennis crowds still seem familiar -with Dellacqua and will try and lift her to what would be a huge upset of two-time defending Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka on New Year’s Day. The cagey performer is counting on it.
“The crowd will certainly be hoping for some good tennis,” she said. You know, hopefully they'll obviously be for me more than for her.
I'm very excited with the thought of playing someone like Vika just to really see where I'm at. Obviously she’s definitely probably one of the best in the world. It'll be another test for me and another challenge. I'm looking forward to it. I've played some ITFs, but this is what you play for. You play to play on the show courts and play with the best players in the world.”
Daily Tennis News—Business
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Wozniacki And McIlroy Are Engaged
Caroline Wozniacki and boyfriend Rory McIlroy are set to create a tennis-golf dynasty after announcing their engagement on New Year's Day via Twitter.
"Happy New Year everyone! Rory and I started 2014 with a bang! ... I said YES," said former WTA number one Wozniacki. McIlroy chimed in with a tweet of his own: "Happy New Year everyone! I have a feeling it's going to be a great year!! My first victory of 2014 #shesaidyes!!"
The young multimillionaires, together since 2011 made the announcement at Sydney where Wozniacki is training after withdrawing from this week's Brisbane event as a precautionary move due to a shoulder injury.
The former No. 1 is hoping to play next week in her only tune-up for the Australian Open, the Sydney International.
The engagement comes only a few months after reports circulated that the couple had split up, rumors which were denied by both parties.
Tsonga Has No Plan To Play Doubles In Melbourne
Despite helping France to a first-ever Hopman Cup title alongside Alize Cornet, with the tie decided by the mixed doubles rubber, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will still not be adding the event to his grand slam to-do list anytime soon.
The ATP No. 10 and teammate Cornet earned the French victory 2-1 over Poland (Agnieszka Radwanska and Grzegorz Panfil), giving the French a title at the mixed teams event on Perth on a third try going back a decade. Excited as he was to have been on the winning side, Tsonga will still have to limit his mixed exposure for the sake of his form in the more important singles.
"In men's singles; it's very difficult and when you expect to play a semis and final in the Grand Slam, it's tough to play mixed doubles or even doubles for me - it's impossible. I enjoy a lot doubles, I used to play doubles sometimes in the Davis Cup and of course this week I got to play with Alize, so maybe at the end of my career when I will be finished in singles we'll do something."
Tsonga will take a few days off prior to arriving in Melbourne to face Roger Federer on Wednesday night at a charity event at the Rod Laver arena. "I'm in holiday for a few days, then I will play with Rodger. It's going to be a lot of fun. But I'm really happy to win today, it's always good to hold the trophy and tonight we did it and it was great."
2013 Prize Money Earnings
January 6, 2014
January 6, 204
Tennis Job of the Day
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Tennis Job of the Week - Tennis Professional
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