Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Azarenka wins sixth season title in Linz

Updated October 15, 2012 07:40:30

World number one Victoria Azarenka has claimed her sixth title this season after beating German Julia Goerges in straight sets at the Linz WTA tournament on Monday morning (AEDT).

The Belarusian, in her ninth final appearance of 2012, overcame the fifth seed 6-3, 6-4 for a 14th career title.

In her first appearance at the tournament, the top seed had lost just 11 games in her first four matches and looked on course for another routine victory as she stormed into a 6-3, 5-0 lead against fifth-seeded Goerges.

"At 5-0 it felt like such a comfortable lead. I think I won seven games in a row at that point. But then Julia just went for her shots, and I kind of misjudged the situation," Azarenka said.

"I felt like the match was already in my hands, but Julia is such an unpredictable player, and the momentum can turn around really quickly with her, and it did. I wasn't really expecting to have such a change."

But Azarenka soon wrapped up the title when, with Goerges serving at 4-5 and 30-all, she took the last two points.

"I'm glad I stayed in the moment," Azarenka said.

"I did the right things at that moment to finish the match and I'm very happy I managed to win."

Azarenka's 2012 trophy haul began with her first grand slam title at the Australian Open, with follow-up victories in Sydney, Doha and Indian Wells.

But the 23-year-old then proceeded to lose the three following finals - including a defeat by Serena Williams at last month's US Open - before her 6-3, 6-1 defeat of world number two Maria Sharapova in Beijing.

Azarenka, whose win-loss record is now 13-0 since the US Open, and 26-0 in sets, will have a week off before the WTA Championships in Istanbul.

"I just want to rest a bit - it has been a long trip for me," she said.

"I'm happy I have this week to recover, regroup and refocus to go for that last push."

Goerges was playing the fifth WTA final of her career and is now 2-3 in those.

The German took the court again later on Sunday in the doubles final, where she partnered Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, but that did not go her way either, with Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Kveta Peschke winning 6-3, 6-4.


Tags: tennis, sport, austria

First posted October 15, 2012 07:31:53

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Aussie Matosevic off to winning start

Updated October 16, 2012 08:18:40

Australian Marinko Matosevic produced the shock of the first day of the ATP Austrian Open in Vienna as he beat Dutch sixth seed Robin Haase 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Matosevic's world ranking of 55 is the best of his career and the 27-year-old Aussie showed he means to hold onto it in his victory featuring five aces and four breaks of serve in 97 minutes.

Gilles Muller of Luxembourg staged a fightback to overcome Belgium's Steve Darcis 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 6-3 with the winner firing down 16 aces but needing almost two and a half hours to advance.

Argentine Juan Martin del Potro, the top seed, is making a re-appearance after a month out with a left wrist injury, last playing in a Davis Cup semi-final loss to the Czech Republic in Buenos Aires.

The Argentine is fighting this week for one of three remaining spots at the World Tour Finals which wrap up the season from November 5 in London.

Del Potro lost the Vienna final last year to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and will hope to go a step further this week to help his cause.

The provisional number seven in the London field is expected to duel with number nine rival Janko Tipsarevic, also in with a chance and seeded two here.

Spain's David Ferrer on Monday claimed the fifth place behind Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and the injured Rafael Nadal.


Tags: tennis, sport, australia, austria

First posted October 16, 2012 08:18:40

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Stosur eyes off Istanbul chance

Updated October 16, 2012 09:15:56

Australia's Samantha Stosur says she is still looking to sneak into a potential backdoor slot for the $4.9 million WTA Championships in Istanbul later this month.

The 2011 US Open champion, currently ninth in the world, had been desperate to sneak into the season-ending WTA championship but missed out on the elite top-eight line-up after losing early to Julia Goerges in Beijing.

That defeat allowed China's Li Na to claim the final spot in the money-spinning tournament, leaving 28-year-old Stosur dependent on an injury withdrawal if she is to extend her season.

Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli is also breathing down Stosur's neck to be first choice replacement.

Stosur, top seed in Moscow this week, told reporters that this year, in contrast to some earlier sub-par showings in the Russian capital, she would be out to hit top form and take the title.

"This year I'm definitely come into this tournament hoping to do well," the 28-year-old Stosur, who announced a last-moment withdrawal from playing in Moscow last year.

"Last year I decided to withdraw from playing here just after the final in Osaka having already qualified for the WTA Championships. It was impossible to play all the Asian swing and then continue playing here.

"But this year I have a goal to finish ninth if possible. Of course me and Marion (Bartoli) will watch closely each other's perfomance here, both hoping to finish as the first substitute in Istanbul.

"And as far as we both failed to qualify for the main draw we'll go to Istanbul prepared to play at any moment looking what will happen to the other players there."

Stosur also said that she was satisfied in general with her performance this season.

"Compared to last year, this year looks probably more disappointing as my results were much lower," Stosur said.

"I didn't have such a big win like the US Open, but I had lot of semis and lot of quarters this year and overall it wasn't really bad."


Tags: tennis, sport, australia, turkey

First posted October 16, 2012 09:15:56

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Murray to meet Djokovic in Shanghai final

Updated October 14, 2012 07:13:20

Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic cruised through their semi-finals at the Shanghai Masters to set up a repeat of their memorable US Open final last month.

Murray, bidding for a hat-trick of titles in Shanghai, overpowered world number one Roger Federer 6-4, 6-4 after Djokovic dispatched Tomas Berdych for the loss of one less game.

Federer, who conceded a crucial break of serve in the first set after serving three double faults, was given a reprieve by a rain delay when Murray reached 5-4 in the second set but he could not fend off the inevitable on the resumption.

Murray will be looking for a third consecutive victory over Djokovic after beating the Serbian world number two in the Olympic semi-final and then in their Flushing Meadows showdown.

Djokovic was equally impressive against hard-hitting Czech Berdych in winning 6-3, 6-4.

He roared into a 5-1 lead in the first set before Berdych made a match of it.

Djokovic was again dominant in the second set, capitalising on an early break to lead 4-2 before eventually serving out to sail into his first Shanghai final.

"Obviously it's a big challenge when you play a top 10 player," said Djokovic, who lost back-to-back Shanghai semi-finals in 2009 and 2010.

"Tomas is in great form the past couple of months. He's always a difficult player to play against on any surface because he has a very powerful serve and great forehand.

"I played tactically right. I was putting a lot of returns into the court, putting a lot of pressure on his serve.

"On the other hand, I was serving well when I needed to."


Tags: tennis, sport, china

First posted October 14, 2012 07:01:44

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Watson beats Chang in Osaka final

Updated October 14, 2012 19:48:33

Heather Watson edged past Chang Kai-chen of Taiwan at the Japan Women's Open tennis tournament on Sunday to become the first Briton in 24 years to win a WTA title.

The 20-year-old Watson, having played her first WTA final, squandered one match point when one set and 5-4 up but hit a double fault.

She had to save four match points in the final set before winning 7-5, 5-7, 7-6 (7-4).

She became the first Briton to win a WTA title since Sara Gomer at Aptos back in 1988.

Until a few weeks ago no Briton had even reached a WTA final in 22 years until Laura Robson broke the drought with her run to the final in Guangzhou, China.


Tags: tennis, sport, japan

First posted October 14, 2012 19:48:33

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Djokovic masters Murray in Shanghai

Updated October 14, 2012 23:46:22

Novak Djokovic saved five match points before sealing a stunning 5-7, 7-6 (13-11), 6-3 victory over Andy Murray in the Shanghai Masters final.

The iron-willed Serbian second seed, 25, came out on top in a gripping second set tie-break lasting more than 20 minutes to level the match. He broke twice in the decider in a marathon match lasting three hours and 21 minutes.

A gruelling first set contained seven breaks of serve as the players went toe-to-toe in a breathtaking display of power hitting, with neither able to grab the initiative.

But third seed Murray, 25, made what proved to be the crucial breakthrough in the 11th game, recovering from 0-40 to break for a 6-5 lead as an infuriated Djokovic destroyed his racquet, tossing it away in disgust.

It was a different story in the second set, with both players secure on serve until defending champion Murray broke in the seventh game to lead 4-3 when Djokovic put a volley into the net.

But agonisingly for Murray, Djokovic, refusing to be beaten, saved a match point to pull level at 5-5 and the set went into the dramatic tie-break.

The Serbian denied the Scot four more times in the shoot-out, sealing the set with a drive volley that was followed by a trademark fist-pumping celebration.

Two breaks in the decider were enough for Djokovic to claim victory.

Murray beat his rival in five sets in last month's US Open final to secure Britain's first men's grand slam singles title since the 1930s, just weeks after his Olympic triumph in front of home fans in London.

The Scot, who lost the Wimbledon final to Roger Federer, had never been beaten at the Shanghai Masters before Sunday, winning the 2010 and 2011 tournaments.

Djokovic came into the match on a 9-0 winning streak since losing to Murray, a run that included his third China Open title.

Djokovic enjoyed one of the finest seasons in tennis history in 2011, winning three grand slams.

He is hot on the heels of Federer as he tries to secure the year-end number one ranking for the second year in a row.


Tags: sport, tennis, china

First posted October 14, 2012 23:13:48

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Murray, Federer set up Shanghai semi

Updated October 13, 2012 09:11:34

Andy Murray remained on course for a hat-trick of titles at the Shanghai Masters, despite the best efforts of tricky Czech Radek Stepanek.

Third seed Murray, still on a high from winning the US Open last month, was out-foxed in the first set by the unorthodox Stepanek before recovering to win their quarter-final clash 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Number one seed Roger Federer, who is guaranteed to spend a 300th week on top of the ATP rankings, cruised past Croatia's Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-4 to conclude the day's action at the Qi Zhong Tennis Centre.

In the bottom half, Tomas Berdych proved too solid for Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, winning 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), while Novak Djokovic ended the run of Germany's Tommy Haas with a 6-3, 6-3 triumph.

Murray met his match early on against Stepanek, a player who relies on crafty angles, changes of pace and razor-sharp volleys to throw opponents off balance.

Stepanek pounced on some loose play from Murray to earn three break points in the fifth game of the opening set and although two were saved the Czech converted the third.

The 33-year-old Stepanek hardly lost a point on serve in the first set but Murray gradually got to grips with his opponent and seized control at 2-2 in the second set, surging ahead to take the match into a decider.

The momentum briefly switched back to Stepanek when he broke to lead 2-1 in the third but Murray responded immediately.

The Scot began to dominate the baseline exchanges and broke serve in the eighth game before securing victory in two hours and 18 minutes.

"It was quite a scrappy first couple of sets, but obviously the second set I managed to get a break, got a bit of momentum," said Murray, whose match against Federer will be eagerly anticipated after his thrashing of the Swiss at the London Olympics.

"I dictated a majority of the points at the end of the match and I needed to because he was playing with a lot of variety, making it hard for me."

Federer, who beat Murray in the Wimbledon final to earn a 17th major singles title, was largely untroubled against Cilic, although he did waver when attempting to serve out the match.

The Swiss squandered a match point at 5-3 and Cilic took advantage to break for the second time in the match.

Federer was not detained for much longer, however, earning two more match points in the following game and converting the first when Cilic fired a forehand long.

Meanwhile, Djokovic denied Haas his 500th match victory with a clinical performance.

"My return games were exceptional," Djokovic said.

Djokovic will be attempting to win his fifth title of the year, although Berdych will provide a stern test after the Czech's impressive display against Tsonga.

"I think it was a really solid game and solid performance from beginning until the end," Berdych said.

"I think the biggest difference between me and Jo was I was able to take the small chances during the first and especially the second set. It was not many of them, but I was able to keep it and convert it on my side."


Tags: sport, tennis, china

First posted October 13, 2012 08:59:21

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Stosur dumped from Osaka semis

Updated October 13, 2012 19:28:51

Sam Stosur's push for the second spot in the Japan Open final failed on Saturday as she fell in three sets to Taipei's Chang Kai-chen.

Stosur lost the first set but reclaimed the second before dropping a hard-fought final set in a tiebreak to go down 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7/3).

Kai-chen will face Heather Watson in the final after the Brit beat local hopeful Misaki Doi 7-6 (7/2), 7-5.

Tags: tennis, sport, japan

First posted October 13, 2012 19:28:51

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Hewitt and Stosur to play Brisbane International

Updated October 09, 2012 21:48:45

Lleyton Hewitt is hoping a change of schedule will bring better fortune at the Australian Open after agreeing to debut at the Brisbane International.

Hewitt and world number nine Samantha Stosur confirmed on Tuesday they will start their Australian Open build-ups at the Brisbane tournament from December 30-January 6, joining fellow grand slam winners Andy Murray, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova at Queensland Tennis Centre.

For 31-year-old former world number one Hewitt it's a first, though he has enjoyed some memorable career moments in Brisbane, most notably the epic and spiteful 1999 Davis Cup tie against Russia.

Hewitt beat Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who branded the Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre grasscourt venue a "potato field", and then iced the tie by beating Marat Safin to clinch a memorable 4-1 victory.

"I've got some great memories of Brisbane and have had a couple of good wins there so hopefully it might change things for me in 2013," said Hewitt, who is ranked 105 after another tough season marred by injury.

"I love playing Australian tournaments and Brisbane is always a tough field and I want as many tough matches a possible, especially at that time of year.

World number nine Stosur was looking forward to playing in front of her home crowd for the fourth time and hoping she could produce some better results.

"It's always fun to play at home. You don't get many opportunities to play in your home country and the state that you've grown up in," said 2011 US Open champion Stosur.

"I have had a couple of good wins at the Brisbane International. I would like more, so hopefully that will change in 2013.

"It is a good week and a great atmosphere playing at Pat Rafter Arena ... the bigger the tournament has got, the bigger the names that want to come out and play.

"What better preparation than playing the best players in the world straight up."


Tags: sport, tennis, brisbane-4000

First posted October 09, 2012 14:07:03

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Tomic falls at first Shanghai hurdle

Updated October 10, 2012 06:57:32

Australian teenager Bernard Tomic admitted giving only "85 per cent" as he joined compatriots Lleyton Hewitt and Marinko Matosevic in crashing out in the opening round of the Shanghai Masters.

Hewitt started strongly before losing 7-5, 6-1 to Czech Radek Stepanek, but his second set fade out had nothing on that of Tomic.

Tomic admitted the pressures of the tennis tour were taking their toll, the 19-year-old winning just eight points in a miserable second set as he went down 6-4, 6-0 to Germany's Florian Mayer.

His Shanghai flop comes just weeks after he was branded "disgraceful" by Davis Cup team captain Pat Rafter following his US Open defeat at the hands of Andy Roddick.

US tennis great John McEnroe said Tomic seemed to give up during his 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 loss to Roddick in the second round at Flushing Meadows.

And on Tuesday the Australian, who stands six feet five inches (196 centimetres) tall, admitted he was having problems with the mental side of his game as he adjusted to life on the gruelling tennis tour.

Tomic admitted he only gave "about 85 percent", adding: "Today I gave 100 per cent in the first set. I felt in the second set, my 100 per cent wasn't even close to where it should be ... the mental skill is one of my biggest problems."

Tomic, who has slipped to 43rd in the rankings after hitting a career-high of 27, admitted it had been tough-going in 2012 after a breakthrough year in 2011 during which he reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals.

"It's been a long year," he said.

"I played a lot of tournaments. Haven't had time to rest. I think I only rested one week after Roland Garros.

"I think it was the wrong sort of move that I made. I think it's costing me now, the last few months. My performance has not been as good.

"It's been a massive road this year. I didn't plan my schedule as I should have and it's cost me a lot of matches that I probably should have won," added the Australian, who turns 20 later this month.

Mayer, who will next play US Open champion Andy Murray, said he was surprised at how easily Tomic had folded in the second set.

"Of course, second set we don't have to talk about it, he probably didn't try his best, but I'm happy, easy match, not too long on the court," he said.

"In sports you want everybody to fight," he added. "But it's tough, I know it from my side. I also don't fight every match because it's tough, but I try my best."

Matosevic lost 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 to Canadian 12th seed Milos Raonic.


Tags: tennis, sport, china

First posted October 09, 2012 17:35:34

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Djokovic, Federer still alive in Shanghai

Updated October 12, 2012 06:59:23

Roger Federer survived a huge scare on Friday morning (AEST) to reach the Shanghai Masters quarter-finals and guarantee a 300th career week as world number one as Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray showed ominous form.

The Swiss 17-time grand slam champion came into the match against compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka with an enviable 11-1 head-to head record but struggled to impose himself and was forced to dig deep before winning 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-0.

In a gripping contest lasting nearly two hours, Wawrinka, who teamed up with his illustrious compatriot to win Olympics doubles gold in 2008, broke Federer in the seventh game to lead 4-3 and sealed the first set.

Out-of-sorts Federer, 31, continued to struggle in the second set as the pair swapped breaks of serve and was in desperate trouble when Wawrinka earned a break point for a 5-4 lead, which would have left him serving for the match.

But the Swiss great dodged that bullet and stayed strong in a nerve-jangling tie-break to level the match and immediately broke his 27-year-old countryman at the start of the third set as momentum shifted decisively in his favour.

A dejected Wawrinka failed to win another game as Federer wrapped up the third set 6-0.

Earlier, Serbian second seed Djokovic looking to wrestle the world number one ranking from Federer barely broke sweat against Spain's Feliciano Lopez, wrapping up a straightforward 6-3, 6-3 victory in front of enthusiastic fans.

In-form Djokovic, fresh from his third China Open title in Beijing on Sunday, struck 12 aces and took advantage of some below-par serving by the left-handed Lopez, breaking him three times.

"I'm not very well known around the Tour for big serving," said Djokovic.

"But so far in this tournament, and also in Beijing, it has been working very well for me. It has been giving me a lot of free points, a lot of confidence into the matches."

US Open champion Murray proved far too strong for Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov, serving consistently well and seizing on five out of six break points to win 6-2, 6-2 in just 57 minutes.

It was the first match of the tournament for the Scot, who had a walkover into the third round. The top eight seeds received a first round bye.

"I think I did a decent job," said Murray. "It's very, very different conditions to last week. I think you can see by some of the results here, the guys that have come from Beijing have adapted to the conditions much, much quicker."

Fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, currently in line to secure the last singles berth in the elite eight-man field at the ATP World Tour Finals, beat Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus 6-2, 7-6 (7-2) in a contest containing eight breaks.

Czech fourth seed Tomas Berdych, sixth in the Race to London, set up a quarter-final meeting with Tsonga after fending off a barrage of 17 aces from American Sam Querrey to win 6-2, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4.

Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic upset eighth seed John Isner of the United States in three sets while 10th seed Marin Cilic of Croatia beat Spain's Fernando Verdasco, also in three sets.

As the season enters its final few weeks, Federer, Djokovic, Murray and the injured Rafael Nadal have already qualified for the ATP World Tour Finals. There are four places still up for grabs.


Tags: tennis, sport, china

First posted October 11, 2012 21:58:01

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Stosur advances in Osaka

Updated October 08, 2012 18:23:15

Top seed Samantha Stosur progressed to the second round of the Japan Open in Osaka.

The world number nine, who made the final last year, beat local hope Erika Sema 6-4, 6-2.

In other results, fellow Australian Casey Dellacqua downed Japanese veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, American Jamie Hampton beat Japan's Ayumi Morita 6-3, 6-2 and France's Pauline Parmentier defeated countrywoman Mathilde Johansson 6-2, 6-2.

Tags: tennis, sport, japan

First posted October 08, 2012 18:23:15

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Federer shrugs off death threat

Updated October 10, 2012 16:16:36

A blogger in China who made a death threat against Roger Federer said he had apologised but remained at large after vowing to "assassinate" the world number one, according to an Internet posting.

An Internet user under the name "Blue Cat Polytheistic Religion Founder 07" threatened the tennis player before he arrived to play, prompting organisers to step up security for the Shanghai Masters, which started on Sunday.

"I have not been arrested," said a posting on China's popular baidu.com site, where the original threat also appeared.

"I took the initiative to contact the relevant people to apologise," said the message, which was posted around midday on Tuesday.

The original threat read: "On October 6, I plan to assassinate Federer for the purpose of tennis extermination."

The user also posted a doctored image showing a decapitated Federer on his knees on a tennis court, with an axe-wielding executioner standing next to him.

Shanghai Masters organisers said last week ahead of the competition that they were taking the bizarre threat "seriously" while Federer himself labelled it a "distraction" after arriving in the Chinese commercial hub.

"Obviously maybe it's a little bit of a distraction, there's no doubt about it," Federer said Sunday.

"It was something just very small on a website, nothing clear and concrete, people just debating."

Federer's wife and twin daughters have not travelled to China but he said that decision had nothing to do with the threats.

Federer has been surrounded by a dozen security guards in dark suits who also stayed on the sidelines around the court when he practised on Tuesday. His first match is on Wednesday.

A Shanghai police spokesman on Wednesday declined to comment on the case.

In 1993, former world number one Monica Seles was stabbed by a fan during a match in Hamburg.


Tags: tennis, sport, china

First posted October 10, 2012 15:38:55

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Hopman Cup lauds 'strongest field yet'

Updated October 09, 2012 19:14:06

The Hopman Cup will once again wheel out the big names this summer, dispelling fears the iconic mixed-teams event would lose out on the best players following the controversial dumping of tournament co-founder Paul McNamee.

World number Novak Djokovic, pin-up girl Ana Ivanovic and seven-times grand slam champion Venus Williams will be joined by Australian Bernard Tomic, Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Spain's Fernando Verdasco and Germany's Tommy Haas at the 25th edition from December 29 to January 5.

McNamee was axed as tournament director earlier this year, with the International Tennis Federation effectively putting Tennis Australia in charge of the event.

But with TA also in charge of the Brisbane International, which runs at a similar time to the Hopman Cup, McNamee feared TA would ensure the world's best players would feature in Brisbane rather than Perth.

However, Hopman Cup event director Steve Ayles - who is employed by TA - denied a conflict of interest existed.

"I didn't think there was any substance to those comments then, I don't now and I won't in the future," Ayles said on Tuesday.

"I think it's one of the strongest fields that the event's had.

"Even some of the players that are ranked lower, like Venus Williams, she's ranked 40th at the moment, but I think it's fair to say that nobody expects her to play to that ranking.

"Andrea Petkovic, she's a top-10 player when she's fit. And hopefully by January she'll be fit again.

"We've got three males in the top 12. There's a lot of good combinations in there."

Perth-born Casey Dellacqua will partner world number 43 Bernard Tomic for Australia, the pair seeded a lowly eighth.

Serbian duo Djokovic and world number 12 Ivanovic deservedly earned top billing while the US, with Williams and world number 12 John Isner, second seeds.

Third seed Italy will be represented by Andreas Seppi and 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone; world number 23 Verdasco will partner Anabel Medina Garrigues for fourth-seeded Spain, while world number 21 Haas has been teamed with Petkovic for Germany.

Despite Tsonga's number six world ranking, France was seeded seventh, with the flamboyant Frenchman to be paired with Mathilde Johansson.

South Africa will be represented by Kevin Anderson and Chanelle Scheepers.


Tags: tennis, sport, perth-6000, wa, australia

First posted October 09, 2012 17:09:37

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Australian Open strike not a real option: Murray

Updated October 11, 2012 08:19:24

US Open champion Andy Murray Wednesday praised Australian Open organisers for boosting prize money, saying he never viewed a strike at the year's first major as a realistic option.

The organisers of the season-opening grand slam announced last week that the total purse would rise by $4 million to a record $30 million.

It followed reports that players were mulling a boycott of the 2013 Australian Open to try to gain a higher percentage of grand slam revenues for themselves.

Speaking after being handed a walkover into the third round at the Shanghai Masters, the Scot said he hoped the threats had gone away for the time being.

"I think the Australian Open has stepped up really well. They've obviously listened to the players and the ATP and have made a real effort to improve things," said the 25-year-old, the defending champion in Shanghai.

"You know, from my side, I never viewed striking at the Australian Open as a real option.

"From all the players I've spoken to so far, everyone's been very happy with the increases in the prize money and their plan over the next few years, as well. Hopefully that's something we won't need to worry about for a while."

Murray's comments follow more cautious remarks by Roger Federer, with the world number one saying Sunday he was not sure the cash boost was significant enough to quell player unrest in the long-running row over prize money.

Speaking after a players' meeting on the eve of the Shanghai Masters, Federer welcomed communication between players and the grand slams but said "nothing is clear from this end".

"The question is, are we that extremely happy with the Australian Open? It was nice to see they have made a move. Is it significant enough? I'm not sure. We'll see how things play out in the next nine months," he said.

Serbian world number two Novak Djokovic last week welcomed the bigger purse but warned that the fight for a greater share of revenue was not over.

One issue is the pay of lower-ranked players, who often exit in the first round.

While this year they pocketed Aus$20,800 for a first-round defeat in Melbourne, some players struggle to make ends meet during the year as they pay for much of their own expenses and travel.

Without a high profile they are also unable to score lucrative sponsorships.

Tennis Australia chief executive Steve Wood said officials were seeking further input from the players about a fairer distribution of the prize money.

Australian Open director Craig Tiley said increases would be weighted towards those who lose in the early rounds.


Tags: tennis, australian-open, sport, united-kingdom, melbourne-3000, vic, australia

First posted October 11, 2012 08:19:24

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Stosur and Tsonga heading to Sydney

Updated October 10, 2012 11:00:21

Samantha Stosur and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga head the list of entries in the Australian Open warm-up Sydney International tournament.

Stosur, who will play a week earlier at the Brisbane International, said the competitive field made the Sydney event a key part of her Australian Open preparation.

"Every year the tournament is tough, the cut off is around 25 in the world so you really jump straight in the deep end there," Stosur said.

"Going into the first grand slam of the year you want to be playing the best in the world and that always happens in Sydney."

Tsonga hopes playing at Sydney can help him repeat the form of 2008 when he went from playing the warm-up event to reaching the final of the year's first major.

"For me it's very important to prepare well for the Australian Open," said Tsonga, who last played in the event in 2009.

"Playing the Sydney event provides great preparation.

"Right after in 2008 I played the final at the Australian Open."

Tags: sport, tennis, sydney-2000

First posted October 10, 2012 11:00:21

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Federer, Djokovic win at Shanghai Masters

Updated October 12, 2012 10:21:38

Top seeds Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic cruised into the third round of the Shanghai Masters on Thursday morning (AEDT) as defending champion Andy Murray progressed without even picking up a racquet.

As the tournament kicked into life with the introduction of the big guns, America's Sam Querrey sent Kei Nishikori tumbling 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 just days after his opponent became the first Japanese player to win the Japan Open.

Swiss world number one Federer, battling to cling on to his top ranking, beat Taiwanese qualifier Lu Yen-hsun 6-3, 7-5 to set up a clash with fellow countryman Stanislas Wawrinka.

Federer's build-up to the Shanghai tournament was clouded by a death threat from a blogger in China, but the Internet user, in a fresh posting on the popular baidu.com site, later apologised. He remained at large.

Djokovic, who will regain the world number one ranking if he wins the title and Federer loses before the quarter-finals, dismissed Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 6-2 in just 54 minutes.

"Very pleased with my serving in Beijing and obviously the first match today," said the second seed, who lost just five of his service points. "So that's something that I've been working on, obviously."

The Serbian will next play Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, who beat German 16th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-4.

US Open champion Andy Murray did not even have to take to the court as Germany's Florian Mayer withdrew with a rib injury, giving the Scot a walkover.

"I'll practise again. I mean, you never know whether it's a good or a bad thing. I mean, you're obviously prepared to play the match," said third seed Murray, who next faces Alexandr Dolgopolov of the Ukraine.

Japan's Nishikori, suffering from an ankle problem, was brought down to earth with a bump after his title win despite a strong start against Querrey, who won five straight games from 4-1 down in the decider to seal the match.

Nishikori, at a career high of number 15 in the rankings after his weekend win on home soil against Canada's Milos Raonic, had on-court treatment on his right ankle, which he said had been bothering him since last week.

"I tried to play but he had a good serve," he said.

"I broke him first in the third set but couldn't finish the match. It's disappointing but I was close to win with this injury. Nothing I can do," he said.

There were wins for fourth seed Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, fifth-seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, sixth seed Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia and 13th seed Wawrinka.

But among the seeds to fall were Raonic and the French pair of Richard Gasquet and Gilles Simon.

As the season enters its final stages there are four places still up for grabs at next month's season-ending World Tour Finals in London. Federer, Djokovic and Murray have all qualified, along with the injured Rafael Nadal.


Tags: tennis, sport, china

First posted October 11, 2012 07:17:33

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Djokovic victorious at China Open

Updated October 07, 2012 23:25:25

World number two Novak Djokovic overcame Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France in straight sets on Sunday to win the China Open for a third time.

The 25-year-old Serb defeated the world number seven 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 to maintain his unbeaten record at the ATP 500 tournament in Beijing.

Djokovic has won the China Open every time he has entered, his previous titles coming in 2009 and 2010 before he missed last year because of injury, and his record at the tournament now stands at 14-0.

He is pressing to beat Roger Federer to the year-end number one spot in the world rankings and said he was "delighted" at his latest triumph.

"It's an amazing feeling to win this trophy in the new stadium," he said of the capital's National Tennis Stadium, which had yet to be built the last time he won in Beijing.

The Serbian had won his previous five meetings against Tsonga, including three this year, and was ultimately too strong for the Frenchman, who was making his first China Open final appearance and only his third full match of this year's tournament.


Tags: tennis, sport, china

First posted October 07, 2012 23:25:25

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Stosur through to Osaka semis

Updated October 12, 2012 18:39:32

Top seed Samantha Stosur moved through to the semi-finals of the Japan Open with a straight-sets defeat of American Jamie Hampton in Osaka.

Stosur encountered little trouble in winning the quarter-final clash 6-2, 6-4.

She will next meet Taiwan's Chang Kai-Chen, who beat number eight seed Laura Robson of Great Britain 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 ( 7-4).

The other semi-final will be contested by Briton Heather Watson and Japan's Misaki Doi.

Watson triumphed 7-5, 6-3 over France's Pauline Parmentier 7-5, 6-3, while Doi advanced by beating South African seventh seed Chanelle Scheepers 2-6, 6-1, 6-3.

Tags: sport, tennis, japan

First posted October 12, 2012 18:38:01

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Nishikori wins Japan Open

Updated October 07, 2012 20:06:54

Kei Nishikori stunned big-serving Milos Raonic in three sets with an electrifying display of attacking tennis to become the host country's first Japan Open champion on Sunday.

The 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 6-0 victory was the eight seed's second career title after winning in Delray Beach in 2008 and will elevate the 22-year-old from 17th to 15th in the world rankings.

Nishikori took the first set tie-break 7-5 after a jaw-dropping running backhand pass, clenching his fist to salute the roars of a sell-out Tokyo crowd.


Tags: tennis, sport, japan

First posted October 07, 2012 20:06:54

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Stosur advances in Japan, Dellacqua out

Updated October 10, 2012 18:54:55

Samantha Stosur dropped a set but bounced back to progress to the third round of the Japan Open, but countrywoman Casey Dellacqua was not so lucky.

Stosur lost the first set 1-6 to France's Virginie Razzano before recovering to take the next two 6-2, 6-4.

Taiwan's Chang Kai-Chen fought off Dellacqua in a first-set tiebreak before comfortably winning 7-6 (6/4), 6-3.

Tags: tennis, sport, japan

First posted October 10, 2012 18:54:55

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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Djokovic to face Tsonga in Beijing final

Updated October 07, 2012 09:41:27

Novak Djokovic brushed aside Florian Mayer at the China Open to set up a final against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, as Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka made it to the last two of the women's event.

The world number two from Serbia furthered his aim of finishing the year top of the ATP rankings with a simple straight-sets victory, maintaining his unbeaten record at the Beijing tournament that stretches back three years.

Top-seed Djokovic defeated the 29th-ranked Mayer of Germany 6-1, 6-4 with the help of seven aces.

The 25-year-old, second to Roger Federer in the rankings, has won the China Open on the two occasions he has entered - in 2009 and 2010 - and will aim to make it three out of three on Sunday.

"There are no secrets between us," Djokovic said of Tsonga.

Djokovic leads Tsonga 7-5 in head-to-heads, and has won all three of their meetings this year.

"We have played a lot of important matches on the big stage. He's a very powerful player, big serve, big forehand, and if that works, he can win against anybody on any surface," he added.

Tsonga marched into the final when Spain's Feliciano Lopez retired during the second set of their match.

The world number seven thrashed Lopez 6-1 in the first set and was 4-1 up in the second when the left-handed Spaniard called it a day, citing an injury to his left wrist.

"I played really well and I felt really good on the court," Tsonga said.

"I didn't know before he was a bit injured. I'm just happy today with my game."

The Frenchman has enjoyed an easy progression to the final of the Beijing tournament since needing three sets to overcome Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin in the first round.

The 27-year-old received a walkover in the second round after Nikolay Davydenko withdrew and beat Russia's Mikhail Youzhny in straight sets in the third.

"During this week my level has got better and better," Tsonga said.

"I have played maybe some of my best tennis here. I haven't played like this in couple of months and maybe a couple of years now and that's why I think I can win the final tomorrow."

In the women's draw, Sharapova overcame home favourite Li Na in straight sets.

The 25-year-old Russian defeated Li, Asia's only grand slam winner, 6-4, 6-0, to reach the final for the first time in five attempts, but it took the French Open champion a while to break into her stride.

Li sped to an early 3-1 lead due to some poor serving by Sharapova, including three consecutive double faults in one game, but the Russian fought back, winning three games in a row before taking the set with a break.

"It was a really high-quality first set with a few ups and downs and obviously she had the lead," Sharapova said.

"In those first few games I thought my percentage of first serve was low.

"Against someone like Li Na who likes to step in and take the ball early, I think I put a lot of pressure on myself to have to hit too many second serves.

"My goal after that was just to get my first-serve percentage much higher than it was in the first three or four games," she added.

"I came back and then I broke her in that last game of the first set. It was important for me to take that momentum going into the second."

World number one Azarenka from Belarus beat ninth seed Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-2.

"I felt the first set was really close and could have gone either way," Bartoli said.

"Vika (Azarenka) is probably the best returner in the game and it's not like I was serving badly. She was breaking me because she was returning too well and that's why I couldn't win the points," the world number 10 added.

"Maybe she could have missed one or two but she didn't. That's the way it is."


Tags: tennis, sport, china

First posted October 07, 2012 09:41:27

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Friday, October 5, 2012

Djokovic struggles, Stosur exits China Open

Updated October 03, 2012 10:36:02

Novak Djokovic made a rusty return to action at the China Open, while Samantha Stosur made a shock second-round exit at the hands of German Julia Goerges.

Djokovic, playing his first match since losing last month's US Open final to Andy Murray, beat German qualifier Michael Berrer 6-1, 6-7, (3-7), 6-2 in the men's first round, but the performance was far from impressive.

The Serbian world number two took the first set with ease but lost the second on a tie-break after hitting several unforced errors against the 123rd-ranked left-hander, before improving his groundstrokes for the decider.

"I had a tough time to really return his serve in the second (set), because he went for precision more than the speed of his first serves," Djokovic said.

"He had a very high percentage of first serves in and he put a lot of pressure on my serves. I tried to stay closer to the line in the third, and it worked."

Goerges, ranked 21st in the world, provided one of the day's upsets with her 7-6, (7-2), 4-6, 7-5 win over eighth seed Stosur.

A double fault from Stosur in the final set gave Goerges break point for the match, which she quickly put away.

Throughout the match, Stosur was frustrated by her mistakes and after falling far behind in the tiebreak, she earned a warning from the umpire for profanity.

World number one Victoria Azarenka, who pulled out of last week's Pan Pacific Open quarter-finals with fatigue, stormed into the third round by ousting Germany's Sabine Lisicki 6-4, 6-2.

Defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska also went through, defeating China's Zhang Shuai 6-2, 6-3.

Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki fought back from a set down to defeat Taiwan's Hsieh Su-Wei 6-7, (5-7), 7-6, (7-3), 6-0.

Chinese star Li Na brushed aside on-form Nadia Petrova of Russia in straight sets to progress to the last 16.

Asia's top women's player, who needs a strong showing this week to qualify for the WTA Championships in Istanbul later this month, won the match convincingly at a packed National Tennis Stadium 6-1, 6-2.

It was the 2011 French Open champion's first win against Petrova, who triumphed at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo on Saturday, in seven attempts.

"That's the charm in playing tennis. Every day you can challenge yourself," Li said.

"You are defeated consecutively, but it doesn't mean you are defeated by her all the time. This is sport. You never know what's going to happen."

Men's second seed David Ferrer retired due to illness during the first set of his match against Taiwan's Lu Yen-Hsun, while third seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France battled to a 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-3) victory over Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin.

French fifth seed Richard Gasquet easily accounted for Australian Matthew Ebden, downing him 6-2, 6-4.


Tags: sport, tennis, china

First posted October 03, 2012 10:33:08

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Monaco claims Malaysian Open

Updated September 30, 2012 23:07:19

Argentina's Juan Monaco clinched his fourth title of the year and kept Julien Benneteau waiting for his first ATP crown when he won the Malaysian Open 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in Kuala Lumpur.

The match lasted three hours and came a day after Monaco, the second seed and world number 11, came through a tight semi-final against Japan's Kei Nishikori.

The win keeps alive Monaco's hopes of reaching November's ATP World Tour Finals as one of the eight top-ranked players.

But it meant heartbreak once again for France's Benneteau, 30, who has now lost seven ATP finals.


Tags: tennis, sport, malaysia

First posted September 30, 2012 23:07:19

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Australian Open prize money topped up to $30m

Updated October 02, 2012 14:59:40

The 2013 Australian Open will offer a record $30 million in prize money, as organisers respond to threats of a boycott from players agitating for a greater share of revenue.

Tennis Australia chief executive Steve Wood said the $4 million hike from the last tournament was the single biggest increase in the history of the opening grand slam of the season.

"We are proud to announce this major increase in prize money," he said.

"We have led the world in prize money for these incredible athletes and we want to ensure that the Australian Open continues to make a major contribution to the financial wellbeing of professional tennis players."

It follows reports in August that players on the ATP Tour, which runs the men's game, were considering a boycott of January's tournament in a bid to gain a higher percentage of grand slam event revenues for themselves.

At issue is the pay of lower-ranked players who often exit in the first round after making the long journey Down Under.

While this year they pocketed $20,800 for a first round defeat at the Australian Open, some players struggle to make ends meet during the year, as they pay for much of their own expenses and travel.

Without a high profile, they are also unable to score lucrative sponsorship deals that could help sustain their careers.

Wood said Tennis Australia officials would seek further input from the players regarding a more equitable distribution of prize money, with an announcement on the breakdown closer to the tournament.

"We are supporting the lower-ranked players in their quest for compensation," he added.


Tags: tennis, sport, melbourne-3000, vic, australia

First posted October 02, 2012 13:47:41

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Gasquet wins Thailand Open

Updated September 30, 2012 21:31:03

Richard Gasquet snapped a title drought stretching back two-and-a-half years as he beat close friend Gilles Simon 6-2, 6-1 in an all-French final at the Thailand Open in Bangkok.

The 67-minute victory came partly because Simon fell victim to a knee problem, a day after playing what he called some of his best tennis to reach the final. He cut a hugely despondent figure afterwards.

Gasquet, 26, last tasted title success on clay in Nice in May 2010, and had lost three finals since then, including Estoril and Toronto this season.

"I'm glad to win a title but it's tough to do it like this against another French player, a friend of mine," he said.

"I have to be pleased to win but it was a little bit strange.

"I've had some tough matches this week, so this seventh title is a big one for me.

"I've played and lost some finals over the years since my last one, so it's always good to finally win one. It was a good win for me here, a big comeback week."

Gasquet, seeded second in Bangkok, says he knew nothing of Simon's condition until his opponent took treatment trailing a set and 4-1 down.


Tags: tennis, sport, thailand

First posted September 30, 2012 21:31:03

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