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08/04/2013 08:00 PM
Wawrinka: "I deserve that Grand Slam"

Stanislas Wawrinka, who won his first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, says he deserved the crown after his final-round win over Rafael Nadal, who was contending with a back injury. The Swiss will move up to a career-high No. 3 ranking when they are released on Monday.

“To win a Slam, to be No. 3, both for me is a big surprise,” he said. “But I think more to win a Slam.  Because in the ranking you can be No. 3 without winning a Slam. But now it's both happening, so it's a big surprise. It's amazing feeling. I saw Roger [Federer] winning so many Grand Slams in the past, so now it's my turn to win one.  If you look the 10 past years, except [Juan Martin] Del Potro, it's only the top four guys who was winning all the Grand Slams. So, I will need time to realize what I did in these two weeks.  Because at the end, even if Rafa was injury, I think I deserve that Grand Slam because I won against Djokovic, No. 2; I won against Rafa.  I did amazing two weeks, and I was playing my best tennis ever.”

08/04/2013 07:10 PM
Kubot, Lindstedt win Aussie Open doubles title

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP)—Lukasz Kubot and Robert Lindstedt won the Australian Open men's double title in their first Grand Slam as a team with a 6-3, 6-3 win Saturday over Eric Butorac and Raven Klaasen.

Kubot and Lindstedt dominated from the start, fending off the only breakpoint they faced and wrapping up the final in just an hour and five minutes.

Butorac and Klaasen — who had an upset win over top-ranked Bob and Mike Bryan in the third round — upped their tempo in the second set to stay in touch, but could only watch as their opponents served out the match. In the first round, they beat local favorite Pat Rafter, who came out of retirement at the age of 41 to play doubles with Lleyton Hewitt.

08/04/2013 06:00 PM
Nestor, Mladenovic win Australian Open mixed doubles

Melbourne, Australia (AP)—Daniel Nestor of Canada and Kristina Mladenovic of France combined to win the Australian Open mixed doubles title with a 6-3, 6-2 win Sunday over sixth-seeded Sania Mirza of India and Horia Tecau of Romania.

Nestor and Mladenovic, who won the Wimbledon mixed doubles title last year, fended off all five break points they faced and broke the Mirza-Tecau combination four times in the 58-minute match.

''Kiki, she's the best mixed doubles player. She really helps me out on court,'' the 41-year-old Nestor said. ''I actually have to cover less of the court, which is perfect for me, because I'm so old. ''

Nestor has won all four majors in men's doubles. This was his second Australian Open mixed doubles title his victory at Melbourne Park in 2007.

08/04/2013 05:00 PM
Australian Open: Wawrinka d. Nadal

I’m not sure what Stanislas Wawrinka expected as he faced the prospect of becoming just the second man outside of the game’s Big Four to win a major title over the past 36 opportunities. Whatever it was could not have been what happened on the floor of Rod Laver Arena tonight, as Wawrinka won the most bizarre Grand Slam final in recent memory, overcoming an injured but unyielding Rafael Nadal over four sometimes brilliant, sometimes ghastly sets lasting two hours and 24 minutes. 

The final score was 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. And the question lingering after Wawrinka cracked the final ball, a forehand approach winner, was: “Just how badly is Nadal hurt?”

Wawrinka’s prospects looked grim going into the match, even though he had knocked knocked out No. 2 seed Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals. For one thing, he was winless against the tournament’s top seed in 12 tries. Moreover, he had never won a set in any of those matches. To top it off—no, wait, not yet—he had been unable to convert on nine set-point opportunities in those 12 matches. And finally, nobody had ever beaten Djokovic and Nadal in the same tournament.

In other words, Nadal was not only in Wawrinka’s head, he’d built a McMansion there and moved all of his junk in.

Yet from the start, there were signs that Wawrinka had somehow managed to evict Nadal from between his ears – at least temporarily. Few first-time Grand Slam finalists have come out looking as calm, confident, and determined as Wawrinka. In what some would find a refreshing—and astonishing—plot twist, it was Nadal who seemed to fall prey to bouts of anxiety in the early going.

Thus, Wawrinka was able to draw first blood with a break for 3-1—the kill shot an unreturnable cross-court forehand. While Wawrinka has always been known for his heavy, punishing backhand, it was his forehand that had carried him to the ultimate round at this tournament.

With that lead in hand, Wawrinka continued to play assured, handsome tennis. He had another break point in the sixth game, and although Nadal survived it to go to 2-4, it was clear that Wawrinka had him on the run. In the next game, Wawrinka held for the 33rd consecutive time in the tournament. 

Yet that elusive first-set win seemed improbable just a game later, as Wawrinka served at 5-3. He got off on the wrong foot with a forehand shank right out of the Roger Federer playbook, then watched helplessly as Nadal attacked and pinned him down, 0-40. But three uncharacteristic service-return errors followed by a unreturned serve and an ace saved the game—and earned Wawrinka that long-sought first set.

My notes alongside that game count say, “bizarre.” But it turns out that in the big picture the assessment was premature. 

Wawrinka kept the pedal to the metal to start the second set. Looking unhappy and grousing over having been slapped with a time violation warning, Nadal lost a quick four-point game to start the second set. But he could at least console himself with the fact that three of those points were stone-cold winners by his opponent.

In the next game, Wawrinka grew a little tentative after building a 40-0 lead. He played two poor points but saved further stress as he served and bunted away Nadal’s returns with an awkward forehand volley. He led, 2-0.

In the next game, and with no forewarning, Nadal netted a routine forehand at 30-0 and immediately called for the trainer. He grabbed at his back. He bent at the waist, trying to stretch his lower back muscles. There was no interruption, and he went on to win the game for 1-2.

On the changeover, Nadal consulted briefly with the trainer, then disappeared into an on-site training room to get some work done on his back and, presumably, take some painkillers. The break lasted seven minutes and 15 seconds, and when Nadal returned—to a chorus of boos and jeers from the crowd—he didn’t return a single serve of Wawrinka’s in the next game. 

Nadal was obviously hobbled, so much so that over the span of the next few games the question wasn’t so much “What’s wrong with Rafa?” as “When is he going to walk up and tell Wawrinka he can’t go on?”

Wawrinka broke in the next game with ease, and then held for 5-1. Nadal was barely able to move, but his handicap was so enormous that it left Wawrinka struggling to concentrate and come up with a viable game plan. He won the set and broke Nadal to start the third, yet things went swiftly downhill for Wawrinka from there.

It’s never easy to play a guy who can barely move, and Wawrinka didn’t respond to the challenge well. He had trouble handling Nadal’s off-speed, slice serves and his own game declined precipitously. Nadal broke him for 2-0, and when Nadal held the next game it was clear that Wawrinka was mentally shot. 

Nadal went on to win the set, but what was most troubling for Wawrinka was the fact that Nadal was gradually becoming more mobile, more able to tap into his power. He was unable to serve effectively, his movement was still obviously impaired. But Nadal’s groundstrokes were beginning to find their mark, and Wawrinka seemed utterly at a loss for how to play. Consider: Even when Nadal was barely able to move, Wawrinka didn’t attempt a single drop shot.

Wawrinka managed to settle his nerves to break Nadal in the sixth game of the fourth set but then played an absolutely dreadful, error-shot game to allow Rafa to break back. That turned out to be rock bottom for Wawrinka, but he began to swim back up toward the light in the next game, breaking Nadal at 15 with a passing shot followed by an inside-out forehand winner. Reprieved, Wawrinka served for the trophy. 

By then, a subdued and dispirited Nadal knew that he could no longer forestall the obvious. Almost miraculously, he had managed to make some kind of match of the final, and that may help explain why Wawrinka did absolutely no dramatic celebrating when he won the match. He just jogged to the net, shook Nadal’s hand, and expressed his concern and condolences.

Wawrinka had taken the big step, he had become Stan the Grand Slam Man. And he did it with great class and some of the best tennis we’ve seen over a two-week span in a long time.

Stat of the Match: While he produced a boatload (49) of unforced errors, Wawrinka also managed to win 87 percent of his first-serve points.

08/04/2013 04:00 PM
Wawrinka beats injured Nadal for first major at Aussie Open

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Stan Wawrinka added a win over Rafael Nadal to his list of firsts in a stunning run to his maiden Grand Slam title, extending his rival's injury-cursed run at the Australian Open with a 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 upset in Sunday's final.

The 28-year-old Wawrinka had never taken a set off Nadal in 12 previous meetings, but attacked from the start against the 13-time major winner and regained his nerve after dropping the third set against the injured Spaniard.

Nadal appeared to be on the verge of retiring in the second set, when he hurt his back and needed a medical time out, but he refused to quit.

"It's really not the way you want to win a tennis match, but in a Grand Slam final I'll take it," said Wawrinka, the first man in 21 years to beat the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked players en route to a Grand Slam title.

Nadal was a hot favorite to win at Melbourne Park and become the first man to win each of the four Grand Slam tournaments twice in the Open era -- instead, his injury curse struck again. It remains the only major he's hasn't won at least two times.

"Rafa, I'm really sorry for you, I hope your back is going to be fine, you're a really great guy, good friend and really amazing champion," Wawrinka said as he accepted his first major trophy. "Last year I had a crazy match, I lost it. I was crying a lot after the match. But in one year a lot happened -- I still don't know if I'm dreaming or not but we'll see tomorrow morning."

Warwinka lost in five sets to Novak Djokovic in the fourth round of the 2013 Australian Open, in the longest Grand Slam match of the season. Djokovic went on to win his third consecutive title at Melbourne Park, and then beat Wawrinka again in five sets in the U.S. Open semifinals.

But Wawrinka avenged those losses this time, beating Djokovic in five sets in the quarterfinals -- ending a run of 14 straight losses to the Serbian player.

Now he'll move from No. 8 to No. 3. In doing so, he'll surpass Federer, a 17-time Grand Slam winner who lost to Nadal in the semifinals -- to become the highest-ranked Swiss player for the first time in his career.

Wawrinka also broke up a sequence of wins for the Big Four -- with 34 of the previous 35 majors going to either Nadal, Djokovic, Roger Federer or Andy Murray.

"Stan, you really deserve it," Nadal said. "Luck was against me today but you really deserve it.

"Last thing that I wanted to do was retire. I hate to do that, especially in a final. Same time, is tough to see yourself during the whole year you are working for a moment like this, and arrives the moment and you feel that you are not able to play at your best. "

Nadal has had a terrible stretch with injuries at the Australian Open, and has described it as his unluckiest Grand Slam. He won the title in 2009, and lost an epic five-set final to Djokovic in 2012. But he missed the 2013 edition during a seven-month layoff with knee injuries and illness, and his quarterfinal losses in 2010 and 2011 were affected by injuries.

"It has been a very emotional two weeks -- I'm sorry to finish this way," he told the Rod Laver Arena crowd. "I tried very, very hard -- this year was one of the more emotional tournaments in my career."

A possible retirement was looming when Nadal was serving at 0-2 in the second set. He bent over at the waist to stretch his back and then grabbed his lower back with his hand and grimaced in pain. His serve immediately dipped to 141 kph (87 mph).

When Nadal took a medical timeout after falling behind a set and a break, and returned to a chorus of boos without a shirt after 7 minutes, it seemed that an early finish was on the cards.

Wawrinka was aggravated during the time out, demanding that officials tell him why Nadal needed the break. And he came out aggressively to finish off the second set.

Nadal's serve speed dipped even further to 125 kph (77 mph) and then 114 kph (70 mph). The support in the stadium gradually shifted as the crowd saw the Spaniard battling to stay on the court.

His service speed improved in the beginning of the third set, prompting a fan to yell advice to Wawrinka: "C'mon Stan, no sympathy!"

By the end of the set, Nadal's serve was back up to 174 kph (108 mph) and Wawrinka's error count was escalating.

Wawrinka composed himself after an exchange of breaks in the fourth set to serve it out in 2 hours, 21 minutes. After a muted celebration, he consoled Nadal in the courtside chairs before getting a chance to hold up and kiss his first big trophy.

02/27/2013 09:28 AM
Djokovic, Federer, del Potro into Dubai quarterfinals

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP)—Defending champion Roger Federer and top-seeded Novak Djokovic are on course to face each in the Dubai Championships final after each moved into the quarterfinals Wednesday with straight set victories.

The world's two best players were joined by Juan Martin del Potro and Tomas Berdych who also won in straight sets. Berdych saved 12 of 14 break points to beat Tobias Kamke 7-5, 6-1, and Del Potro defeated Somdev Devvarman 6-4, 6-4 before hitting a few balls with former Argentina soccer star Diego Maradona.

Djokovic beat Roberto Bautista-Agut of Spain 6-1, 7-6 (4).

The top-ranked Djokovic broke Bautista-Agut three times to win the first set in 23 minutes and took a 3-0 lead in the second. But at 5-3 up and serving for the match, Bautista-Agut managed to break Djokovic and seemed to suddenly come alive - going on to save four match points to level the set at 5-5.

Djokovic produced a volleyed winner to go up 6-5 up, only for the 55th-ranked Spaniard to have a good service game capped by a return from the Serb into the net to force the tiebreaker. However, Djokovic soon took control, accelerating into a 5-2 lead and winning the match when Bautista-Agut double faulted.

''I played really, really well and a high level throughout most of the match and then I had another poor game like yesterday toward the end when I needed to close it out and a few match points,'' Djokovic said. ''He fought his way through and I have to give them credit for that. He's a great competitor. I never played against him, so I didn't know really what to expect.''

Djokovic now plays seventh-seeded Andreas Seppi of Italy who beat Lukas Rosol 6-4, 7-6 (4).

Federer beat Marcel Granollers 6-3, 6-4, looking much more confident than he did in his opening, three-set victory over Tunisian wild card Malek Jaziri. His serve was almost untouchable — he won 84 percent of first serve points - and he was much more aggressive, winning several key points at the net.

The 17-time Grand Slam winner broke the 34th-ranked Spaniard to go up 4-2 on the way to winning the first set. Federer broke a second time to make it 3-2 in the second and closed It out with a dominant serving game - including an ace and a final serve that Granollers returned wide.

''The last four sets have been pretty good, you know, so I'm happy I bounced back after a rough opening first set here in the first round,'' Federer said. ''I think I was sharper today. I had a more, clear plan. I knew what I could and couldn't do.''

Federer will next face Nikolay Davydenko of Russia, who beat Victor Hanescu of Romania 6-4, 7-6 (2). Federer has an 18-2 record against the Russian and hasn't lost to him since 2010 in Qatar. But the Swiss star said he still had to be ready for a player who once was ranked third before sustaining a series of injuries.

"I'll never disrespect a guy like Nikolay. He's done too much in the game," he said. "That's why I know it's a dangerous round next match... I know what he can do on his absolute best day because I was one of the guys that got crushed by him as well during that time."

Maradona, who is a goodwill ambassador for the Dubai Sports Council, went on court after Del Potro's match to give the Argentine a hug. Dressed in a polo shirt and tracksuit bottoms, Maradona then proceeded to hit a few balls with Del Potro and even had a volley winner.

"It's a pleasure to share moments with Diego," Del Potro said. "All the Argentinian people love him, and he's our No. 1 representative on the world in the sports. You know, to play some balls with him here in this stadium, it's amazing for me. He played really well, not like soccer, but he can hit the balls with me."

Berdych led 4-2 and 5-3 in the first set but Kamke broke to get back to 5-4 and then held for 5-5. The 90th-ranked German later saved five set points before Berdych broke him to win the set.

Berdych, who reached the quarterfinals for the fourth straight tournament, said he struggled to adjust from the indoor courts of Marseille to the faster, outdoor courts in Dubai. He also complained about the intense sun and windy conditions.

"It was a tricky one and not one of my best games," Berdych said. "I'm happy with the way it went. Just enough to win in two sets. I was really trying to extremely focus on every single point because you don't know what can happen, what the wind will do."

Also, German qualifier Daniel Brands defeated eighth-seeded Mikhail Youzhny of Russia 6-4, 6-4.

02/26/2013 03:23 PM
Tennis Channel's complaint against Comcast in jeopardy

The Tennis Channel and the FCC appear to have their backs against the wall in the network’s discrimination case against cable giant Comcast.

Last year, the FCC ordered Comcast to provide equal treatment to Tennis Channel in its tier placement, ruling that it must be on the same tier as the two sports networks it owns, the Golf Channel and NBC Sports.

But on Monday, judges on U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit panel expressed concern about whether the Tennis Channel's complaint was issued on time, and whether the FCC’s order affected its First Amendment rights.

A variety of outlets reported that Senior Judge Harry Edwards appeared ready to strike the FCC order on the grounds that the Tennis Channel’s discrimination complaint was filed outside the one-year FCC complaint window.

One of the judges said that it was “ludicrous” for the FCC to suggest that a complaint could be filed anytime somebody wanted.

Tennis Channel argues that if such a time limit were placed on complaints, then companies such as Comcast could wait for a year after a contract is signed and then discriminate against them as much as they like.

Comcast counters that being told where to place Tennis Channel is an invasion of its First Amendment rights because it is being ordered what to do editorially, and that it has a constitutional right to favor its own speech over others, so long as it does not do so for anti-competitive reasons.

There is no timetable set for the judges ruling, but a decision is expected in a few months.

The stakes are high: Tennis Channel has said that if it were move to the same basic tier that Golf Channel and NBC Sports are on, the network would be available in an additional 20 million homes, which could mean about $3 million per year in revenue. Tennis Channel is currently available in about 34 million homes nationwide.

02/26/2013 03:23 PM
Fish plans to play Indian Wells

Mardy Fish announces on Twitter that he plans on playing the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, which begins next week. He is also scheduled to play the LA Challenge exhibition next Monday night.

The 30-year-old has not played since he withdrew from his fourth-round match against Roger Federer at last year’s U.S. Open due to heart trouble. Fish reached the Indian Wells singles final in 2008; he partnered Andy Roddick to win the doubles title in 2009.

02/26/2013 02:41 PM
Australia concedes Fed Cup ground to Swiss

Switzerland and Australia have agreed that the Swiss will host April Fed Cup playoff tie outdoors on red clay at the Tennis Club Chiasso in Chiasso.

Tennis Australia was originally awarded choice of ground, but the Fed Cup Committee has approved a proposal by the two nations to move the tie to Switzerland. As part of the agreement, Australia will now have choice of ground on the next two occasions Australia and Switzerland meet in Fed Cup.

The winner of the tie will advance to the World Group, while the loser will be relegated to World Group II competition next year.

02/26/2013 02:23 PM
Gulbis: Some in Top 100 ‘can't play tennis’

Former Delray Beach champion Ernests Gulbis tells the Sun Sentinel that there are players ranked inside the Top 100 who aren’t very good.

The Latvian, who had to qualify for this week's tournament in Delray Beach, has seen his ranking drop from a career-high No. 21 in February 2011 to No. 109.

“I was really getting pissed to see who's in the top 100,'' the 24-year-old Gulbis said. "There are some guys who I don't know who they are. Some guys, I'm sorry, with respect—they can't play tennis."

Gulbis, who has been said by some to have Top 10 potential, hired coach Gunther Berezniki last summer and said that he is in better shape and ready to fulfill his potential.

"This is the first year I really want to do this,'' Gulbis said. "I'm starting to enjoy tennis much more. Before I didn't like it, honestly. I had a couple of good wins and enjoyed it. Then I went on the wrong path and was doing wrong stuff for my game. Now, I want to play maybe five more years and do the best I can. My goal is to really win something big.”

02/26/2013 11:47 AM
Mattek-Sands advances at Malaysian Open

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP)—Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the United States won her first main-draw singles this year, beating 16-year-old Donna Vekic of Croatia 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 Tuesday in the rain-disrupted first round of the Malaysian Open.

Mattek-Sands, a former top-30 player who has slipped to No. 197, is playing as a wild card. She eliminated the sixth-seeded Vekic in nearly two hours.

The American has had more success in doubles of late, winning her second title of the year with Sania Mirza in Dubai last weekend.

Also advancing were fifth-seeded Misaki Doi of Japan, Patricia Mayr-Achleitner of Austria and Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic.

Playing Wednesday are top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki and defending champion Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan.

02/26/2013 11:34 AM
Del Potro saves match points to beat Baghdatis

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Juan Martin del Potro saved three match points Tuesday to get past Marcos Baghdatis 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (4) and reach the second round of the Dubai Championships, while Michael Llodra upset eighth-ranked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets.

Top ranked Novak Djokovic, looking for his fourth Dubai title, had a much easier time against good friend Viktor Troicki, beating him 6-1, 6-4 in just over an hour.

Del Potro, who reached the quarterfinals in Marseille and won his 14th title the week before in Rotterdam, appeared sluggish early, handing the first set to Baghdatis when he hit one of his three double faults. But the 2009 U.S. Open champion served better in the second, and broke Baghdatis to go up 3-2. The two traded breaks in the third and Del Potro won it when the Cypriot hit a forehand into the net after a short rally.

Del Potro then saved three match points at 5-4 in the third before forcing the tiebreaker.

"I was fighting every time of the match," Del Potro said. "He's a great player. He fights like me every point, and we made fantastic rallies. The crowd was enjoying the game. I'm so glad to beat him tonight in Dubai."

Del Potro said his right wrist is still bothering him, having missed most of 2010 after having surgery on it and still struggling to return to the top.

"I'm trying to keep focus on this tournament because it's very important," Del Potro said. "And then to come for Indian Wells and Miami, I need good results here."

Tsonga, who had never lost in six meetings against Llodra, blamed the loss partly on the fact he only arrived in Dubai on Monday after winning the Open 13 in France. Tsonga also said a key turning point was when he had to replay a point at 4-3 in the first set, double-faulted twice and was broken.

"Maybe if I win the first set it gives me enough energy, maybe to play in the second and maybe win," Tsonga said. "But after that, I'm just disappointed and then I'm scared. ... I was supposed to win this set, and you do like two double faults because you're thinking about it. That's it."

Llodra broke Tsonga twice in the second set to go up 5-2 and clinched the match when his fellow Frenchman hit a return long.

"Today I didn't start well," Llodra said. "Beginning of the second set, I break him early, and after, it was just to be focused on my serve. ... It's special to beat him."

Coming off his third consecutive Australian Open title, Djokovic broke the 44th-ranked Troicki twice to easily win the first set. The second was tighter, with Troicki breaking Djokovic to even the set at 4-4. But Djokovic broke back and then clinched the match with a slicing serve that Troicki couldn't return.

"That was a great one, especially in the first set, considering the fact I haven't played an official tournament for three, four weeks," said Djokovic, who now has a 13-1 record against Troicki. "This is one of the fastest hard courts on the tour that I have experienced outdoors. So you need to be really committed to every point and play well."

In other matches, sixth-ranked Tomas Berdych made easy work of American wild-card entry Rajeev Ram, beating him 6-1, 6-3. Australian Bernard Tomic withdrew from his match against Romanian Victor Hanescu after falling behind 3-2 in the first set.

Former third-ranked Nikolay Davydenko of Russia had the other upset on the day, downing ninth-ranked Janko Tipsarevic 6-0, 7-5. It was the third tournament in a row that the Serb had lost his opening match after he injured his heel at the Australian Open.

The big-hitting Tipsarevic had trouble with his serve all match, committing six double faults and finishing with a first serve percentage of only 49 percent.

The 46th-ranked Davydenko said it was clear Tipsarevic isn't playing at this best.

"Maybe he doesn't have the confidence after the Australian Open," the Russian said. "After his injury, he tried to come back. (His) game is good but is not enough now. Maybe he will feel better in America."

02/21/2013 02:14 PM
Maradona wants to coach del Potro

Former soccer star Diego Maradona, who is an ambassador for Dubai Sports Council and has been attending WTA matches in Dubai this week, jokes that he will take charge of a fellow Argentine next week, when the ATP begins its tournament there.

“Next week I’ll be the one training [Juan Martin] del Potro myself," he told Gulf News. “I will ask Franco Davin to step aside and Diego will train del Potro.”

02/21/2013 02:05 PM
Kvitova calls Dubai a mini major

Former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova has high praise for the depth of the Dubai field.

The world’s top two of Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka were in the draw before pulling out with injuries. Kvitova beat world No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-2, 6-4, today to reach the semifinals.

“Well I mean, it’s like a small Grand Slam,” she told reporters. “Everybody is playing there, so I can’t say that I have any chance I will win. I play my best I can.”

02/21/2013 01:54 PM
Nalbandian won't stress over ranking

Former world No. 3 David Nalbandian, who returned to singles play for the first time in six months last week in Sao Paulo (where reached the final), says he has changed his attitude about playing.

"I feel whole," the 31-year-old told reporters in Buenos Aires. “This year I'm going to be different. I want to go every week, choose which tournaments to play and enjoy them. I am not going to go crazy over rankings.”

The former Wimbledon finalist is currently ranked No. 78.

02/21/2013 01:42 PM
Tursunov upsets Tipsarevic to reach Marseille quarterfinals

MARSEILLE, France (AP)—Russian qualifier Dmitry Tursunov upset fourth-seeded Janko Tipsarevic 7-6 (4), 6-2 to reach the Open 13 quarterfinals on Thursday.

The 30-year-old Tursunov, a semifinalist at the tournament two years ago, saved the four break points he faced and broke serve twice.

Sixth-seeded Gilles Simon of France advanced to his third straight quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-1 win against Roberto Bautista-Agut, although Simon's serve was again not at its best. Although he broke his Spanish opponent seven times, he conceded three breaks of his own.

Simon faces either No. 2 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina, the defending champion, or countryman Michael Llodra in the quarters, while Tursunov plays Gilles Muller of Luxembourg.

02/21/2013 09:07 AM
Wozniacki, Kvitova to meet in Dubai semifinals

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova overpowered defending champion Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2, 6-4 Thursday to set up a semifinal against Caroline Wozniacki in the Dubai Championships.

Wozniacki, once ranked No. 1, defeated Marion Bartoli 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, capitalizing on 14 double-faults and 46 unforced errors by her opponent. Two double-faults cost Bartoli games in the second set.

Doubles specialist Roberta Vinci of Italy surprised former U.S. Open champ Sam Stosur 6-2, 6-4 in their quarterfinal. She will next face doubles partner Sara Errani, who downed Nadia Petrova of Russia 6-4, 0-6, 6-3.

Radwanska, ranked No. 4, had no answers for the big-hitting Kvitova, who neutralized her opponent with a powerful forehand.

"I think to beat Agnieszka here it means something more because she's defending champion, so she's playing well here," said Kvitova, who has a 4-1 record against the Pole. "So that's a good sign for me."

Kvitova had 38 unforced errors against Radwanska and said she would have to play better against Wozniacki.

"I am a player who is going for the winners, so I have to accept the unforced errors, too," she said. "I shoot bullets on the court next time."

Wozniacki was almost untouchable in the second set, and the third went back-and-fourth. Bartoli jumped ahead 2-0 and then Wozniacki ran off five straight games. Bartoli won two straight to make it 5-4 but Wozniacki was able to hang on and serve out the match.

Afterward, Diego Maradona, an ambassador for the Dubai Sports Council, came onto the court to give her one of his signed Argentina jerseys emblazoned with his No. 10. The Dane gave the soccer great a signed tennis racket.

"It was disappointing to lose that first set after I had been up," Wozniacki said. "But then I felt like she couldn't really do much in that second set because I was all over it."

Vinci put away Stosur, who lost in the quarterfinals in Doha last week following a second-round exit at her home Australian Open. Stosur made 28 unforced errors and was broken twice in each set.

"Way too many errors," Stosur said. "She did well to not be bothered by anything I was trying to do. She used her slice very well which kept all the points neutral."

Despite the latest setback, Stosur felt she was improving over her dismal start to the year.

"January didn't really go as well as I wanted it to. I wasn't playing up to the standard and level that I think I'm capable of," she said. "The last couple of weeks, it's gotten better. I've played many more good matches than bad."

Vinci also ousted sixth-ranked Angelique Kerber. Her coach told her to attack Stosur's backhand.

"She has an unbelievable forehand, so I tried to play against her backhand because she has a lot of problem with backhand, and try some slice and also some top when I have time," Vinci said.

Vinci said her success in doubles -- the Italian has 19 doubles titles to only seven singles -- has contributed to her resurgence in singles, where she was ranked 17th.

"In doubles, you can try something that you can play in singles," she said. "I probably play more relaxed and then I play better in the singles."

02/20/2013 03:13 PM
Marseille: Berdych d. Gulbis

It doesn’t take much to make people hopeful about Ernests Gulbis again, does it? Coming into Rotterdam last week, everyone’s favorite lackadaisical Latvian was ranked firmly in the triple digits and had just one victory on the year. Brandishing a strange new forehand, though, Gulbis emerged from qualifying to reach the round of 16 and gave eventual champ Juan Martin del Potro a decent run for his money there. Even better, Gulbis claimed that he was going to cut back on the drinking and smoking. Fans wondered, not for the first, second, or even the third time: Was the 24-year-old Ernie, who has beaten Roger Federer and challenged Rafael Nadal on clay, and who is still the owner of a world-class serve, ready to turn things around at last?

We got our next piece of evidence today, when the 118th-ranked Gulbis faced top seed Tomas Berdych in Marseille. While Gulbis lost 6-4, 6-7 (10), 6-4, and that strange forehand failed him many, many times, this wasn’t a match that should make anyone write him off again just yet. Gulbis had upset Berdych in the first round at Wimbledon last year, and the Czech admitted today that he doesn’t like to play him: ‘You don’t know what’s going to happen,” Berdych said. Gulbis has the ability to take the racquet of a player’s hand, and Berdych, a power player himself, isn’t used to that.

What happened in the first set of this match, though, was fairly predictable. Gulbis earned two break points at 2-2, went for big forehand returns, and missed both of them. The two players then held until Gulbis was serving at 4-5. At 30-30 in that game, Gulbis drilled a backhand into the net. Down set point, he drilled a forehand into the net. What had been a close set was suddenly over.

The real surprise in this match wasn’t from the Gulbis side of the net; it was the fact that Berdych couldn’t close out the second set, and never looked comfortable on the court. After trading breaks in the middle of the set, the two went to a tiebreaker. Berdych saved two set points, only to squander three match points, one with a shank on a makeable forehand volley. Worse, he dumped a tentative forehand into the net at 10-10, and lost the set on a Gulbis forehand winner on the next point. Berdych really doesn’t like to play Gulbis; the Czech looked as tight trying to close out No. 118 as he does when he’s trying to close out one of the Big 4.

But he wasn’t tight enough to lose it. Berdych broke at 2-2 in the third, when Gulbis double-faulted and missed a forehand badly at break point. From there, Berdych held out, but it still wasn’t easy. He lost two more match points at 5-4, before kicking a nasty second serve into Gulbis’s body for the win, on his sixth match point.

Berdych advances to play the winner of Julien Benneteau and Jerzy Janowicz, and could be a tough out after surviving this one. As for Gulbis, I can’t say I like the new forehand. It involves a huge swooping motion with his left arm; by the time he gets around to swinging, he’s often on his back foot, and can look something like a tilting scarecrow as he hits.

If there’s going to be a Gulbis resurrection, it won’t be his forehand technique that leads the way. It will be, as it is for every player, how he deals with the psychological ebbs and flows of a match. Today he hung in when he was behind, saving five match points. But he didn’t deal with success all that well. He squandered his own break points, and when he finally broke Berdych at 3-3 in the second, he immediately gave his serve back. Gulbis seemed bothered by having the lead, slamming a towel to the ground and jawing with his father in the stands.

That was nothing compared to what Gulbis did with his racquet in the third set. Down a break at 3-4, he threw it to the court, watched it bounce high in the air above him, then threw it down again and shattered it. The sound was loud enough to force chair umpire Cedric Mourier to cover his ears. When Gulbis saw him do that, the two shared a laugh, a laugh that continued even as Mourier gave him a warning for racquet abuse.

Hey, maybe it’s a sign of progress: At least Gulbis cares enough these days to crush his racquet. The smash and the laugh, after all, are part of what fans like about Ernie, and why they get their hopes up about him so easily.

02/20/2013 02:41 PM
Top-seeded Ferrer into Buenos Aires second round

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP)—Top-seeded David Ferrer of Spain began his defense of the Copa Claro title with a comfortable 6-4, 6-1 victory over Argentine wild card Agustin Velotti on Wednesday.

Ferrer, ranked No. 4, is a heavy favorite to win his second tournament of the season. He won in Auckland, New Zealand, last month.

The first-round match was postponed Tuesday because of rain in the Argentine capital.

Second-seeded Nicolas Almagro of Spain played a second-round match later against Andrey Kuznetsov. Argentines David Nalbandian and Carlos Berlocq also played later in a first-round match.

02/20/2013 02:14 PM
Serena upset with Dubai over Sveta snub

Serena Williams criticizes the tournament officials in Dubai for not handing former two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova a wild card. The tournament gave out wild cards to veteran Marion Bartoli, as well as teenagers Laura Robson and Yulia Putintseva.

Kuznetsova was off the tour for six months due to a knee injury and just returned in Australia. A three-time finalist in Dubai, she is currently ranked No. 51. Kuznetsova owns a home in Dubai and when she found out she was not getting a wild card she tweeted: “Someone can explain me the Wild Cards of Dubai??? What a choice ...”

Williams, who is friendly with Kuznetsova, told reporters there that it was tough on the Russian.

“She’s such a great player and she got injured. She’s won a couple of Grand Slams, so it’s like how can such a great player not get a wild card?" Serena said. "It’s kind of weird, but she’ll be back and then she’ll be fine, so she doesn’t have a lot to worry about. (If I were in her situation) I would request a wild card, and if I didn’t get one, I probably wouldn’t play.”

Kuznetsova qualified, but lost to Roberta Vinci, 6-3, 6-2, in the first round.

“I read what Serena said, that she wouldn't play the tournament,” Kuznetsova said. “The thing is there aren’t so many tournaments to play. I wouldn't play it, either, because I think I deserve to have a wild card. But in my situation, I just have to go through this patch. Not many players that would say just ‘I'm not gonna play.’ But there’s also a good way to look at it. That I have to still be humble. I still have to prove that I can do it and I can go through qualies.

"It's very weird, believe me, to play qualies. You're like you cannot turn yourself on, like, 'Where am I? Am I playing qualies for real?’”