Archive for the 'Brisbane Tennis' Category


Verdasco will return to Brisbane in January 2011.

Fernando Verdasco, is the fourth top 10 player to start their Australian summer in Brisbane. Joining the current singles champion and world No. 8, Andy Roddick, world No.5 Robin Soderling and Queensland’s own Samantha Stosur, ranked No.6, Verdasco will return for his second attempt at a Brisbane International title after making the final of the event in its inaugural year. “Fernando was a finalist in the singles and doubles at the Brisbane International in 2009,” Tournament Director Steve Ayles said. “I remember in his post-match speech that he promised he would come back and go one step further. Now he is confirmed to contest the event, he can do just that. “The Spaniard has had a great year with two ATP title wins. One against Robin Soderling in a close three-set match at the Barcelona Open BancSabadell and the other against Andy Roddick at the SAP Open in San Jose, which ended the American’s chances of winning the title for the fourth year in a row. “As such I would imagine there will be quite a bit of rivalry between these three come January. “The 26 year old is a crowd favorite on and off the court and he is a great addition to the 2011 event. I look forward to welcoming him back,” Ayles said.

Verdasco is currently the third-highest ranked Spanish tennis player on the ATP circuit, behind world No.1 Rafael Nadal and No.7 Ferrer. The Spaniard has won five ATP titles and has been a finalist on a further eight occasions. He has also played a major part in winning two Davis Cup’s, playing the deciding match in both 2008 and 2009. Verdasco’s best result at a Grand Slam was in 2009, following the Brisbane International, where he made the semifinals of the Australian Open. Verdasco lost to compatriot Nadal, 7-6(4) 4-6 6-7(2) 7-6(1) 4-6, in an epic match that went for five hours and 10 minutes.


A healthy Jelena Dokic is roaring to go….

Jelena Dokic believes she’s fitter and hitting the ball better than before her nation-stopping run to the Australian Open quarterfinals last January.

After resolving to return to the WTA’s top 20 in 2010, Dokic on Friday indicated she can repeat the heroics of last year’s stunning comeback at Melbourne Park.

The Serbia-born right-hander recaptured Australian hearts by upsetting a series of seeds before falling to Dinara Safina in a three-set cliffhanger in the quarters.

As brightly as she starred at the Open, Dokic said she was now in superior shape and possessed a more refined all-round game than 12 months ago.

“I do [feel I’m playing better] actually,” she said. “I feel like I’m hitting the ball well.

“I feel that my biggest improvement has been my fitness, I think I’m moving very well and my endurance is really good so I feel like I’m in much better shape than I was last year.

A dangerous floater in the draw of the Brisbane International, Dokic returned to Melbourne from her Monaco home base on Boxing Day with memories still warming her heart.

“It was great, I love that place,” she said in Brisbane. “I love Melbourne in general, even when I had my toughest times when I was coming back three years ago and doing all the playoffs I had a lot of fun there.

“I always came early to train there and I feel like it helped me get my career back on track.”

One of the best ball-strikers on the WTA tour when on song, Dokic ended a topsy-turvy year with two titles and a final loss in three challenger tournaments in Europe to see her ranking improve to No.56.

The 26-year-old worked extra hard to regain her fitness after a three-month layoff for glandular fever, which came after suffering a back injury when up a set and a break at the second round of the French Open against Elena Dementieva.

Dokic will be among the most scrutinised players at the Brisbane International, starting Sunday, along with drawcards Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters and Ana Ivanovic.

She didn’t rest over Christmas, motivated to continue her late-season momentum and play more consistently to break back into the top-20.

“I still have to prove myself and I still have to have more consistent results and that’s what I’m looking to do this year, I would like to have 15-20 tournaments where I do well, not three or four,” she said.

“Consistency is the key.”

Ranked as high as No.4 in 2002, Dokic conceded she must shoulder greater expectations this month but deflected most of the pressure on to Australia’s highest-ranked player, Sam Stosur.

“I think Sam has more than me,” she said. “She is [No.13] in the world and is expected to do well.

“I don’t feel like everything is on me.”


Safina’s sore back forces her to withdraw from Brisbane.

Dinara Safina withdrew Friday from next month’s Brisbane International because of a bad back, leaving her status for the Australian Open in doubt.

Safina, the former top-ranked player in the world, had hoped to return from injury at the Brisbane event and start tuning up for the first major of 2010. But tournament director Steve Ayles said Safina’s back problem will prevent her from playing Jan. 3-10 at Brisbane.

“At this stage she’s still entered in Sydney and the Australian Open. We were first up … unfortunately she’s not going to be recovered in time,” Ayles said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

“I know she would have been working around the clock to try to be ready for the event, but in the end time beat her and she is still undergoing treatment.”

The Sydney tournament will feature most of the women’s top 10 in the week before the Australian Open, which starts Jan. 18 in Melbourne.

Safina tearfully withdrew from the WTA Championships with a serious back injury in October, a problem she originally thought could keep her out of the Australian Open. But she signed on for the Brisbane tournament only two days later.

The Russian player lasted only 13 minutes in her first round-robin match of the season-ending championships before retiring while serving at 1-1 against Jelena Jankovic. Safina’s withdrawal meant she lost the year-end No. 1 ranking to Serena Williams.

Belgians Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters, both back from retirement, headline the Brisbane International women’s draw, along with Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Dokic. The tournament is in its second year.


Stepanek upsets verdasco to win in brisbane.


Drop-shot king Radek Stepanek executed his pre-match plans perfectly to “destroy the rhythm” of tournament favourite Fernando Verdasco in a thrilling Brisbane International final.

For a third straight match, Stepanek used all his wily wares to claw back from a set down against a higher ranked rival at Pat Rafter Arena and claim the tournament’s inaugural title on Sunday.

The upset 3-6 6-3 6-4 victory gave the canny Czech veteran and world No.26 just his third ATP career title which he celebrated with some on-court breakdancing better left in the 1980s.

“I do that always … well I did it for the third time, when I win a tournament,” the 30-year-old on-court entertainer joked after the fluctuating 2hr 15min affair.

“I’m very happy the way I played this week. I was fighting from the first to the very last point each match.”

Also being rehashed from his `80s experiences was Stepanek’s deft array of drop shots which succeeded in taking the powerful Verdasco out of his comfort zone on the baseline.

The left-handed Spanish Davis Cup hero moves swiftly around the court but was undone by the huge number of Stepanek chips after clinically taking the first set in 42 minutes.

But the eighth seed, who grew up in Karvina, a mining town near the Polish-Czech border, said they were nowhere near the amount he played as a junior.

“I just played a few today,” he said. “When I was young I played drop shots every second rally.

“It was part of the game plan to get him out of the rhythm and to move him around the court and it worked quite well.

“I was destroying the rhythm of the opponents since I was a kid and I’m still doing it today, but I’m more professional in many ways and that’s the biggest difference.”

Like he did in the quarterfinal against world No.17 Robin Soderling and semifinal against No.24 Richard Gasquet, Stepanek outsmarted Verdasco and got the capacity 5500-strong crowd behind him.

When he finally won his first game at 0-3, thanks to a blistering forehand winner down the line on the run, he played it up by animatedly blowing on his “hot” racquet.

Stepanek hit just 29 per cent of his first serves in the opening set but soon found his range and quickly pounced in the second by breaking in the fourth game and continuing his momentum.

Verdasco regained one of two service breaks in the third set but missed a hot chance to draw level at 4-4 but another drop shot snuffed out the left-hander’s opportunity.

Stepanek, who typically won the match with another drop shot, dedicated the victory to the baby son of his conditioning coach Mark Vseticek, born last fortnight.

Coached by another Czech, Petr Korda, Stepanek’s Brisbane run has him confident of a genuine assault at the Australian Open and return to the top 10.

He climbed as high as No.8 after a Wimbledon quarterfinal finish in 2006 but a back injury sidelined him for four months and he’s only just regaining his top form.

“I had to start work from zero, now it’s been two years and I’m starting to feel again that I’m getting to the top physically,” Stepanek said.

“This tournament proved to me I’m on a good way.”

Verdasco’s day got even worse as he and doubles partner Mischa Zverev were defeated in the doubles final by French duo Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Marc Gicquel.

Tsonga and Gicquel wrapped up the final in straight sets, 6-4 6-3 in one hour and nine minutes.

Marc Gicquel and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

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No excuses for Ana Ivanovic’s defeat.


Ana Ivanovic has denied her Australian Open campaign is in disarray after being wiped off Pat Rafter Arena by an evergreen Amelie Mauresmo.

Like fellow Serb and tournament top seed Novak Djokovic, Ivanovic bombed out of the Brisbane International meekly with a 6-3 6-2 upset loss to 29-year-old Mauresmo on Thursday.

The world No.5 was expected to sweep past the Frenchwoman, who had made tough work of her first two clashes against Jelena Dokic and compatriot Julie Coin, but it was Mauresmo who shone in the 67-minute quarterfinal.

Ivanovic struggled for rhythm throughout and was terribly shaky on serve, failing to hold five of her last six service games after leading 3-2 in the first set.

But she will stick to her Australian Open masterplan of a solid week of practice in Melbourne.

Ivanovic also only played three matches before her last assault at Melbourne Park, which finished with a defeat in the final to Maria Sharapova, but she looks far less convincing.

While patchy in tough wins over Petra Kvitova (world No.50) and Italian qualifier Roberta Vinci (83), the 21 year old talked up her Open chances.

“I was pretty happy with my first two matches,” she said. “I played really well the first one and [against Vinci Wednesday night] I dug really deep and it gave me a lot of confidence.

“I didn’t have much time to recover … and I didn’t have the energy to dig deep again.

“In Melbourne I’m going to be practicing and playing lots of sparring.

“I just have to get more consistent and work more on my serve.”

Ivanovic started her campaign Down Under as the second favourite to Serena Williams for the Open but betting agencies dropped her to $7 fourth favourite after the loss to Mauresmo.

The French Open champion did show fight against Mauresmo with three straight winners in the fifth game of the second set to break back, but she handed the ascendancy back in the very next game with a double fault.

It was the French right-hander’s first triumph over a top-10 player in almost two years – the last coming against Kim Clijsters to win the final in Antwerp in February 2007, the last of her 24 career titles.

Mauresmo’s performance, after a heavy off-season training regime under new coach Hugo Lecoq, prompted Ivanovic to believe she was “showing great things” and able to fight her way back into the top 10.

“It feels great,” said Mauresmo, who holds a 6-2 record over the Serbian glamour girl.

“I’m very proud of the way I played today from the first one to the last.”

Second seed Victoria Azarenko was also in trouble but fought back for a gutsy 7-6(5) 6-4 victory over Czech Lucie Safarova to set up a semifinal with Italian Sara Errani, who beat Olga Govortsova 6-3 6-3.

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Ernests ‘The Gull’ Gulbis knocks off Djokovic.


Add another name to the list of newbies that are being touted as the next generation of players to reach the top of their profession. Ernests Gulbis is a 6’3


Ernests ‘The Gull’ Gulbis knocks off Djokovic.


Add another name to the list of newbies that are being touted as the next generation of players to reach the top of their profession. Ernests Gulbis is a 6’3”, a 20 year old from Latvia who has raised some eyebrows with his 2008 performances at both the French Open and the US Open. He didn’t win either tournament but he upset a couple of seeded players along the way, and he came close to beating Roddick on his home court. Incidentally they both discovered after their match on August 29th. in New York, that the following day was their birthday. An omen of what, if anything, I’m not sure. Ernie, as he is nicknamed, has an impressive array of shots on both sides, and those soft hands that seem so important in potential winners. His talent is raw and natural and needs to be polished to advance him to the next level. He is coached by Karl Heinz Wetter. He lone victory on the ATP tour came in the doubles in Houston when he paired with Rainer Schuettler. He has represented Latvia in Davis Cup matches and his record is 7-7, 4 wins in singles and 3 in doubles. His success has advanced Latvia to the Tier 1 level of the competition for the first time in history.

His family is unusual by most standards. His Father is a successful investment banker and his Mother is a well known actress. Both of his Grandfathers were above average achievers in their chosen fields, one a Nationally ranked basketball player, while the other a famous film maker and director. He has a 23 year old sister, Eline, who has graduated as a lawyer from London, two younger sisters, Laura (14) and Monika(10) who are both playing tennis and a brother Kristops (16) who is attending the Saddleback Golf Academy in Florida.

Ernests has been ranked as high as 38th., but has dropped down to 54th. at the present time. He might finish the season in the top 50, and move on to participate in the 2009 Australian Open in January. The courts in Melbourne are his favourites and he is expected to do well. He is not to be taken lightly by any of his opposition. He has the game to beat any of them if they are just slightly off and expecting to breeze through to the next rounds. Ernie has a powerful serve that earns him lots of free points, it’s not unusual for him to serve four aces simultaneously in one game, he’s done this against some of the best returners in the game. His forehand is considered to be his most lethal, and is reminiscent of the forehand of James Blake. He has a deft touch, makes a lot of drop shots (maybe too many), and can also lob and volley with precision.

In the best mix of men players to have ever graced the tennis scene, it is so difficult to rise to the top, and even more difficult to stay there. Does Gulbis have what it takes? Only time will tell!

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Djokovic loses in First round in Brisbane.

djokovic-9An out-of-sorts Novak Djokovic has snapped up a Sydney International wildcard in a desperate bid for match practice before his Australian Open defence after suffering a shock first round defeat at Brisbane.

A change of racquet began disastrously for the world No.3 as little-known Latvian Ernests Gulbis made a racket of his own by claiming a 6-4 6-4 boilover over the top seed in 88 minutes at the Brisbane International on Tuesday.

The Serbian insisted he was not panicking despite being forced to hastily change his Australian Open preparation barely two weeks ahead of the opening grand slam.

Djokovic will be the top seed at the Sydney event which will start on Sunday.

“It is obviously disappointing for Novak to have bowed out in Brisbane as he gears up for his Australian Open defence,” Sydney International tournament director Craig Watson told AAP.

“We certainly understand that he will be looking for more matches leading up to the Open, and with that, we are happy to be in a position to provide Novak with a wildcard into the Medibank International Sydney.”

Just like in Brisbane, Djokovic is on track for a potential Australian Open final re-match with third seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at Sydney.

“I am very grateful to receive the wildcard for Sydney,” Djokovic said.

“It was disappointing to lose in Brisbane but I now have another chance for more high quality matches in Sydney.

“I have heard a lot about the tournament and I am looking forward to playing there.”

There is one Sydney International wildcard remaining.

The Sydney tournament will provide a welcome hit-out for Djokovic who tried to put on a brave face after his shock Brisbane exit.

“I am not panicking. It’s not the end of the world,” he said.

The 20-year-old Gulbis’ first win in three attempts over Djokovic was a promoter’s nightmare at the inaugural Brisbane event.

But an oddly calm Djokovic looked hardly surprised by the result after detailing his disrupted preparation which included a late arrival and switching racquet brands.

“I like everything (in my preparation) to be 100 per cent perfect, sometimes it is not possible,” he said.

“There are still some things (with the racquet) I am not used to and unfortunately I get this result.”

Formerly aligned with Wilson, Djokovic used his new Head racquet for the first time in competition at Brisbane.

Djokovic began the week with a chance of overtaking Roger Federer at No.2 in the world rankings but now he is simply grateful to be playing again before his Australian Open defence after Gulbis’ heroics.

“It is probably one of my best wins but best games I don’t think so, I have had some beautiful losses,” Gulbis said.

The error-riddled Serb’s first serve percentage was a woeful 48 and he was broken in the fifth game of the match, losing the first set in 45 minutes.

The second set started with four straight breaks.

Djokovic finally looked on track when he brought an abrupt halt to the spate of breaks to hold his serve to lead 3-2 in the second.

However, Gulbis showed poise beyond his years to break again in the ninth game.

In other first round men’s results on Tuesday, Australia lost their remaining men in the main singles draw after wildcard Brydan Klein was downed 6-0 6-4 to fifth-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych and qualifier Joe Sirianni bowed out 7-5 6-7 2-6 to Frenchman Michael Llodra.


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Ivanovic and Verdasco win…Baghdatis out in Brisbane.


Ana Ivanovic kept her legion of fans happy tonight with a 6-4 6-2 win over Czech teenager Petra Kvitova at the Brisbane International.

In front of a lively crowd at Pat Rafter Arena, Ivanovic faced some stubborn resistance from Kvitova in the first set before snatching the break she needed to take the set 6-4.

The second was an easier affair with Ivanovic asserting her authority over her younger opponent.

Kvitova struggled to return Ivanovic’s first serve and could only convert two of 10 break point chances.

This was the pair’s third meeting, but there was no third time lucky for Kvitova, Ivanovic has won all three.

Ivanovic will now meet the winner out of Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Roberta Vinci. A match the Serbian star will be favoured to win as both players are qualifiers.

Fernando Verdasco took just over an hour to defeat local teen-ager Bernard Tomic 6-4, 6-2. Verdasco seved well and Tomic had trouble handling the pace of Verdasco’s shots.

Crowd favourite Marcos Baghdatis has been ousted from the Brisbane International in three sets by Jarkko Nieminen.

In a match lasting just over two hours, the smiling Cypriot toiled hard but ultimately came up short.

Baghdatis took the lead in a tight first set, which he claimed 7-5 but that was where the good news for Baggy ended.

Nieminen struck back ruthlessly in the second sweeping the Cypriot 6-1.

The final set was closer, but the result the same – Nieminen claiming it 6-4 and the match.

Nieminen will next play the winner out of No.2 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Argentinian Agustin Calleri.

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Hewitt and Stosur only Aussie winners!


Australia’s top ranked woman Sam Stosur has wasted no time in her bid to crack the world’s top 30, producing an impressive straight sets victory on her first day of the Brisbane International.

On an otherwise disappointing day of results for Australia’s women, with a valiant Jelena Dokic losing and Hopman Cup representative Casey Dellacqua going down in Perth, Stosur flew the flag by disposing of ninth seed Ai Sugiyama 6-2 6-3 to the delight of the home crowd.

Minus her customary sunglasses at the covered Pat Rafter Arena, the world No.52 looked in control and dominated play against her older opponent.

Pushed continually throughout the match, Stosur saved seven break points to deny Sugiyama any chance of a comeback.

Her opening round victory was a grand return to form by the Australian, who has endured almost two years of hampered play due to illness and injury.

She reached a career-high of No.27 in early 2007, before bouts with viral meningitis and lyme disease pulled her back down.

The 24-year-old said it was a great start to the year and now has her eye on returning to the top 30 fold.

“If I can get back to the top 30 as soon as possible that would be great,” Stosur said.

“I haven’t really put a number on it as such in my own head, but … if I can keep playing like that and hopefully improve on it, then hopefully I can do well.

“But it’s the same old thing: take one match at a time.”

Lleyton Hewitt put more than four months of frustrating rehab behind him as he made a successful return to the court with a tough three sets victory over Germany’s Nicolas Kiefer at the Hopman Cup.

Hewitt, who underwent career-saving surgery on his hip last August, came from a set down to defeat Kiefer 6-7 (8-6) 6-3 6-2, keeping Australia in the tie after world No.56 Sabine Lisicki beat Casey Dellacqua 4-6 6-2 7-5 in the women’s singles rubber.

But Australia’s hopes of winning a second Hopman Cup title was left in tatters when Germany won the mixed doubles 6-7 (7-2) 6-3 7-6 (10-5 in the match tiebreak) to take the tie.

The loss means Australia must win their last two ties against the Slovak Republic and US – plus rely on other results to go their way – to reach Friday’s final.

Hewitt, who has slipped to 70 in the world rankings, displayed his trademark doggedness throughout his singles contest as he ground down Kiefer, who has now lost all four encounters against the South Australian.

“It’s good to be back,” Hewitt said after the match, which lasted almost three hours

Dokic, who also has eyes on climbing the rankings after a long absence, managed to push fifth seed Amelie Mauresmo to two tiebreaks, but could not go all the way, eventually falling 7-6 (11-9) 7-6 (7-5).

Tournament wildcard Dokic hit 31 winners to Mauresmo’s seven, but conceded 33 unforced errors to six and failed with two chances to serve for the first set.

“It hurts knowing I had those chances against her,” said Dokic, who played her last professional match in May last year.

“If I got blown away maybe it wouldn’t hurt so much.”

Mauresmo said later she thought the signs suggested Dokic could one day compete with the world’s top ranked women.

It was a tough day for fourth seed Daniela Hantuchova, who was booted from the tournament by 21-year-old Italian surprise packet Sara Errani 7-6 6-4 6-0.

Another leading light to bow out was eighth seed Francesca Schiavone from Italy, who was defeated by Belarus’ Olga Govortsova 7-5 6-2.

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