Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will lock horns for the first time in 2011 when they contest the final of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. World number one Nadal eased through his semi-final with 6-4 6-4 success over Czech Tomas Berdych, while Federer rallied to defeat Sweden’s Robin Soderling 6-7 6-3 6-3. Spaniard Nadal had to battle to assert his authority in a hard-fought opening set, claiming the vital break in the ninth game. A double break then put him 4-1 up in the second set before Berdych broke back to love, but Nadal then held firm to seal the victory. Federer, the world number two, lost the opening set 7-3 in a tiebreak but then knuckled down to wrap up the victory with his 16th ace of the match. The Swiss star was avenging his defeat by Soderling at the Zayed Sports City’s International Tennis Complex last term.
Archive for December, 2010
The 29-year-old believes he is in the best shape for five years after overcoming a series of injuries that threatened to derail his career. Lleyton Hewitt is looking forward to climbing the rankings this year after coming through a gruelling off-season schedule. The former world number one has endured two hip operations in recent years and also suffered hand and knee problems in 2010. But, after linking up with legendary coach Tony Roche, Hewitt can be confident about the new season, where he starts at a lowly 54th in the world rankings.
“Yeah it’s been good, I’ve had no interruptions this year,” he said. “When you’re training extremely hard, sometimes you get little niggles throughout and you’ve got to have a couple of days off here and there. “This year there’s been none of that. I’ve been at least six days a week, sometimes seven days a week, going as hard as I can.
The Aussie, who will team up with Alicia Molik in the Hopman Cup next week, wants to keep his training regime under wraps. “I’m not going to let everybody know what I’ve been doing,” he said. “There’s a few different things I’ve been doing out there, I’ve mixed it up a lot. “The last week and a half I’ve been able to taper off and do a lot more quick, reaction stuff,” he added. “It isn’t quite as grinding on your body physically and mentally but believe me, the first five or six weeks were bloody tough. “As long as the motivation’s there and I want to go out there and compete and become a better player then I’ll do it.”
Ivanovic’s immediate aim is to win the $1 million Hopman Cup mixed-teams event in Perth, where she will partner world No.3 Novak Djokovic in a powerful Serbian team. The pair also joined forces in 2006 but failed to progress past the group stage.
“He’s a joker, he’s a very nice guy,” Ivanovic said of Djokovic. “I’ve known him since before we started playing tennis, so we’ve been friends for a long time. “We make jokes all the time. Serbia enter the tournament as the No.1 seeds but must negotiate there way past group opponents Australia (Lleyton Hewitt, Alicia Molik), Belgium (Ruben Bemelmans, Justin Henin) and Kazakhstan (Andrey Golubev, Yaroslava Shvedova) to reach the final. The major threat in group B is Great Britain, whose pairing of Andy Murray and Laura Robson reached the final last January.
A confident Ana Ivanovic has set her sights on snaring a second grand slam title and a top-10 ranking next year as she attempts to recapture her golden form of two years ago. Ivanovic tumbled out of the world’s top-60 earlier this year before a late rally, in which she captured titles in Austria and Bali, saw her finish the season with a ranking of 17. The 23-year-old, who earlier this month appointed Antonio van Grichen as her new coach, said she had regained the confidence that saw her shoot to No.1 in the world and claim the French Open in 2008. “Once you lose it (confidence), it feels like it’s very hard to get back,” Ivanovic said on Thursday ahead of the Hopman Cup in Perth. “In my case I tried to search for it in many different directions, different places, different people, but you realise that it’s all the time within you. “You just have to discover it … just realise it’s within you and believe in yourself first. “That’s what I was lacking a little bit so to have that back is great. “I want to get back to top 10 (next year) and hopefully win another slam. “I was really fortunate in my career to have so far already won a grand slam and reach number one position. “If I had to choose, I would always choose a grand slam over the number one ranking. “I know I have the potential to win some more and one would be a good start next year.”
Tomas Berdych will get the chance to avenge his Wimbledon final defeat to Rafael Nadal after he beat Marcos Baghdatis to set up a clash against the world number one at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship. Berdych defeated Baghdatis 6-3 3-6 7-5 to book his semi-final contest with the defending champion at the Zayed Sports City. “It is the just the perfect start by playing matches like this one and then the next day to play the number one player in the world,” Berdych told AP. Robin Soderling will also play in the last four after he defeated Jo Wilfried Tsonga in three sets. The Swede won 6-4 6-7 6-1 and he will now face Roger Federer.
David Taylor has named a seven-player squad that will compete for places on the country’s Fed Cup team in 2011. Samantha Stosur is expected to lead the team, but who plays alongside her is very much up for grabs. Anastasia Rodionova, Alicia Molik and Jelena Dokic are all vying for the second singles spot, while the evergreen Rennae Stubbs is hoping to gain a berth as doubles speciailist. Sophie Ferguson and Jarmila Groth, who just gained Australian citizenship from her native Slovakia, have also been nominated in the squad and will be making their Fed Cup debuts for Australia if they get the nod. Only four players will make the final cut, so Taylor and team coach Nicole Bradtke will be keeping a keen eye on the start of the season Down Under, culminating with the Australian Open.
Australia’s 2011 Fed Cup campaign kicks off with a mouth watering first round home clash against double defending champions Italy, being held at Hobart’s Domain Tennis Centre on 5-6 February. The Aussies, having sealed promotion with a 5-0 whitewash of Ukraine last April, will be making their first appearance in the World Group – Fed Cup’s top tier – since 2004. “There has been some strong individual performances and milestones recorded throughout 2010,” said Taylor, who is starting his sixth season at the helm. “Sam reached a career high of No. 5 in July, Jarmila recorded her highest ever ranking of No. 41 in September and won her first WTA event in Guangzhou, Anastasia recorded her career-high ranking of No. 62 in August, and Sophie also had a career high of No. 109 in July this year. “Add to these performances two experienced former Top 10 players, Jelena and Alicia, and a Top 10 doubles player, Rennae, and we have a lot of depth to choose from for our Fed Cup clash in February. “It will also be Jarmila’s first chance at a Fed Cup debut after her long wait for Australian citizenship, which was granted last year. “Both Nicole and I will be watching all seven players’ performances over the next month to select the strongest possible team to take to Hobart.”
Italy comes into the tie fresh from being crowned Fed Cup champion for the third time after defeating USA 3-1 in the final to win a second straight title. Francesca Schiavone is likely to spearhead the visiting challenge, setting up a rematch of this year’s Roland Garros final when the Italian defeated Stosur to lift her sole Grand Slam trophy. If Italian captain Corrado Barazzutti also names Flavia Pennetta, Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani, he will extend his run of selecting an unchanged team to seven ties. “The World Group boasts some very tough competition,” said Bradtke, who played on the Australian Fed Cup team between 1988 and 1996. “We’re looking forward to taking on Italy, who have a tremendous record in Fed Cups and I am expecting the tie to be a close challenge but one which is achievable. “Playing the champion team we will be seen as the underdogs but, like the Italian team, the Aussie girls are all very passionate about playing for their country and with the home crowd advantage we will have an extra edge in February.”
Official team nominations for all first round ties – World Group and World Group II – are due on 26 January.
Teenager Bernard Tomic has been granted the last main draw wildcard into the Brisbane International. Tennis Australia Head of Men’s Tennis, Todd Woodbridge said the decision on the wildcard was made after consultation between he and the other selectors, Davis Cup captain Pat Rafter and AIS head coach Brent Larkham. “We have granted it to Bernard because he is a young talent who we want to get some matches,” Woodbridge explained. “While he has been training very hard and this is obvious in his physical development, nothing can replicate matches and being match hardened. Bernard now has an opportunity to get some matches. We want him to get as much top quality tennis as possible in the next couple of weeks to show his form and fitness.”
Brisbane International Tournament Director Steve Ayles said Tomic was a welcome addition to the line-up. “He is an outstanding young talent and of course he is a Queenslander. We are delighted to have him in the event,” Ayles said. Marinko Matosevic and John Millman were also given wildcards into the Brisbane International main draw. There is expected to be some hot competition for the two remaining main draw wildcards into the Australian Open. “Bernard is one of a handful of players who are under consideration for a wildcard for the Australian Open. The final decision will be based on which players show that they are the most deserving.” Woodbridge said.
Former world number four Nicolas Kiefer has announced his retirement from tennis. The 33-year-old German revealed in a statement on his personal website he wants to spend more time with his daughter Mabelle Emilienne who was born in August. Kiefer reached number four in the world in January 2000, but has now slipped outside the top 700. He reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open in 2006, the quarter-finals of Wimbledon in 1997 and the last eight of the US Open in 2000.
Jelena Dokic will make her long-awaited return to the Medibank International Sydney in January after securing a wildcard. Australian favourite Dokic was announced as the first female wildcard into the January 9 to 15 event and will join seven of the world’s top 10 women, including Caroline Wozniacki, Kim Clijsters and Samantha Stosur. This will be Dokic’s first appearance at the event since January 2000 and only her third visit to Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre. Dokic, currently ranked 138, said she was excited about returning to her hometown event, after a difficult injury-plagued 2010 season.
“I am very grateful to be awarded a wildcard into the Medibank International Sydney,” Dokic said. “I have a lot of great memories from playing there during the 2000 Olympics, so I hope the Sydney crowds will come out and support me. “The tournament organisers have shown a lot of confidence in me and have provided me with a great opportunity to get some tough matches under my belt ahead of the Australian Open. “The women’s draw there is incredible, so I know I am going to have to be at my very best to get some good results but I am very happy with how my form is coming along so far.”
Justine Henin returns to competition in the Hopman Cup team event on Saturday but she may not be fully fit for six months. Henin, who last played a major event at Wimbledon in June, said her elbow will be assessed during the Australian Open, which starts on 17 January. “I hope I can build my condition by playing tournaments this year and hope to be really ready around June-July.”
The Belgian, who returned to tennis at the beginning of 2010 after 18 months in retirement, suffered a partially ruptured ligament in her right elbow after falling at Wimbledon during a fourth-round defeat to Kim Clijsters. “I am realistic, it is my comeback, it has been a difficult year,” said the seven-times Grand Slam winner. “I started the season pretty well but then physically it has been pretty difficult. It hasn’t been an easy comeback and a serious injury like that just six months after I came back was the worst for me.”
At the Hopman Cup she will be guaranteed three singles and three doubles matches before the first Grand Slam of the year begins in Melbourne. Last year Henin made a triumphant return to reach the final of the Australian Open before losing to Serena Williams. The powerful American will be absent through a troublesome foot injury this year, but Henin insists she should not be regarded as one of the main contenders for the title. “No-one is dominating women’s tennis – there are a lot of ups and downs,” she said. “Serena is not going to be there so it is going to be wide open, but I don’t consider myself one of the biggest favourites.”
Andy Roddick was back at Brisbane’s Pat Rafter Arena today preparing to defend the title he won here almost 12 months ago. After returning from a knee injury that kept him off the ATP tour for three months at the end of 2009, winning his first tournament of 2010 was an unexpected bonus for the No.1 seed. But while season 2010 started brightly for the former world No.1, it’s fair to say that it didn’t end the way Roddick envisaged it would – losing all three of his round-robin matches at the season-ending championships to world No.1 Rafael Nadal, Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych and No.3 Novak Djokovic was not how the American wanted to finish the year.
“I definitely don’t feel like I was well prepared for the last little bit of last year and it showed. The one thing that doesn’t lie in tennis is if you’re not prepared you can’t lie about it,” Roddick told media at Pat Rafter Arena following one of his two practice sessions today. “I battled sickness for a big part of last year and from then on out I think I was playing catch up.”
For Roddick fans, and more importantly the man himself, 2011 is looking better. He says the off season has been a good one and he’s feeling better physically than he has since May 2010. “I think everybody comes here with a fresh sense of optimism. Y’know, one of the biggest things for athletes is [to] kind of brainwash ourselves conveniently every so often and the start of every season kinda lends itself to thinking big and this year is certainly no different for me. “I feel like I had a pretty good off season and I’m excited to start this year fresh.” And compared to this time last year, Roddick is way ahead in terms of preparation. “I come in last year and I hadn’t been playing much and so this was a really good springboard for me and I enjoyed my time and I’m happy to be back. “I like this event [and] they put on a first-class event. My wife enjoys coming here, so let’s not pretend like I make any decisions,” Roddick joked. “It’s a good place to start the year.”