Andy Murray Marks Rise to the Top With Tour Finals Romp
London: Andy Murray celebrated his rise to the top of the world rankings with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Marin Cilic on Monday as the Scot made a strong start to his bid to win the ATP Tour Finals.
Murray was officially confirmed as the first Briton to reach number one last Monday and he marked his first match since that historic moment by dispatching Cilic at the prestigious season-ending event at London’s O2 Arena.
The 29-year-old took only 90 minutes to extend his remarkable winning streak to 20 matches as he looks to add to the four consecutive titles he won in Beijing, Shanghai, Vienna and Paris.
It was exactly the start Murray needed because to guarantee ending 2016 in pole position, he must win the Tour Finals title for the first time, with anything less than that giving Novak Djokovic the chance to overhaul him depending on the deposed number one’s own results.
“It’s a great atmosphere and I think I played one of my best matches here. I’m going to keep working hard to give people moments like this,” Murray said.
“I have confidence from winning matches and I was a little bit more solid when I had opportunities.”
Murray has enjoyed an incredible 11 months in which he has won Wimbledon for the second time, claimed a second Olympic singles gold medal and become a father for the first time.
So it was fitting that Murray’s first appearance as the world’s best player came within an hour’s drive of his family home in Surrey.
While Murray has amassed a combined seven titles across London at Wimbledon and Queen’s, he has failed to reach the final of the Tour Finals in six attempts and this was one of his better displays at the O2.
Murray emerged to huge cheers from the sell-out 17,000 crowd but, clearly in businesslike mood, he responded only with a shy wave.
Turned the tables
Life at the top carries the added burden of motivated opponents keen to take down the main man, but Murray has always relished a challenge and he quickly stamped out the threat of an uprising from Cilic.
He staved off two break points to hold serve in the first game and then turned the tables to break for a 2-0 lead when Cilic blasted a backhand into the net.
Murray was having a few problems locating his serve and Cilic break back in the next game, but the Wimbledon champion responded with another break of his own to remain in charge.
Cilic was sporting an extraordinarily lurid pair of shorts that looked more suited to the beach and his error-strewn play suggested he was already thinking of his holiday plans as Murray closed out the set with ease.
Murray pressed home his advantage with a pair of sublime winners to break in the fifth game of the second set and another break in the seventh meant it wasn’t long before he was soaking up the applause of his fans.
In the other match in Murray’s group, Kei Nishikori avenged his painful US Open loss to Stan Wawrinka as the Japanese star routed the world number three 6-2, 6-3.
Nishikori was denied a second Grand Slam final appearance in September when Wawrinka defeated him in the US Open semi-finals and the world number five got his own back with a dominant display.
“I was very solid from the first game and very confident. I played a good game today,” Nishikori said.
Florida-based Nishikori harbours hopes of overhauling Wawrinka in the race to finish the year in third place in the ATP rankings and this victory keeps him on course.
“That is my goal for this week, to win matches and reach number three. I see the opportunity to go up the rankings and I’ve been playing well so I hope to keep it up,” Nishikori said.
Sania Mirza had a dazzling 2016, winning eight tournaments, including a Grand Slam. In an exclusive interview with TOI the glamourous Hyderabadi talks about the year that was, the tears and treats. She holds forth on finding a balance between the pain of falling short at Rio, the strains of splitting from Martina Hingis and the high of finishing No. 1.
THOUGHTS ON THE 2016 SEASON…
I’ve had a good year. I won eight tournaments, one Slam and made the final of the mixed doubles of the French Open and even though there was a bit of turmoil not just in terms of the Olympics, but also because you split with someone who you’ve had so much success with. It’s a decision you actually have to make. The splitting was not the issue, but going through the process of making that decision. It takes a lot out of you. But all-in-all I’ve had a good year. Not many people win eight tournaments in a career. My partner (mixed-doubles) Ivan (Dodig) says, you have won more tournaments in a year than I have in my career and he’s ranked eight in the world. I’ve been No. 1 all year. Another amazing year, but it has been a tough year.
WHAT DID THE SEASON TEACH YOU ABOUT YOURSELF?
I’ve dealt with a lot of things in my life, from when I was young even. That’s the amazing thing about tennis, every year brings new challenges. When I started the year (2016), I never thought, Martina and I would split, I don’t think she thought so either. But what I learnt about myself is that I adapt well. There were situations I found myself in this year, time and again that I needed to adapt to. That was not just in terms of the partnership (SanTina), but also adapting to a certain scenario that was created outside of tennis. Adjusting to new people, new situations. That’s what I learnt. Ten years ago, that would’ve been a lot more difficult. I’m 29, almost 30 now, mentally I’m a lot stronger. But that takes a toll on you, especially when you come to the end of the year. You adapt so much week after week after week… Like last year, I wasn’t feeling so tired at the end of the year, even though I probably played the same amount of matches.
SHOULD SANTINA HAVE STALLED THE SPLIT TILL THE END OF THE YEAR?
Like some relationships, partnerships to run its course. That’s the nature of sport. People thought the split was all dramatic or we weren’t speaking, but we share meals on the Tour, have lunch together. It was always very cordial. It was a professional decision. I think everyone who plays sport, is clear that they want to win. If you’re not able to win then you have to find a solution and that’s what we did. We weren’t able to win as much as we were winning and we were both not happy with it. I don’t think either of us regrets the decision. I stayed No.1, I won three tournaments out of the five I played after the split. I can speak for myself and I’m ok. I’ve had a very good year regardless of the split.
It is important to get along with your partner, you don’t necessarily have to be soulmates to have a meal together but it shouldn’t be uncomfortable either. That’s why with Martina and me, we were able to have lunch together or talk to each other, because the decision was professional.
YOU’RE NOT ONE TO GIVE IN TO TEARS EASILY…
The lowest point of my year was the match we lost for the bronze medal and the match before that (the semi-finals, playing for a place in the final). I cried like I haven’t cried in a long time. I cried after the match, I cried even when I was doing press. I walked off the court and I wasn’t able to control myself. People sometimes think because we deal with wins and losses on a daily basis that we get over them a lot easier.
There are some losses that sting more than the others. As tennis players, we don’t have the luxury of taking six months to recover from a loss. I’m usually ok the next morning (after a bad loss), that’s how I am as a person. There’s not a lot you can do about it. We lost on Saturday (in Rio) and I didn’t play a match until Wednesday in Cincinnati (if I am not wrong) because it was raining. Even when I played my first match in Cincinnati, it (the loss) was bothering me. That’s a very long time, at least for me it was.
People saw Novak (Djokovic) crying when he walked off the court at the Olympics. As tennis players, we’re so used to having another chance week after week, that at the Olympics, when the dream crashes there are only three people/teams that are going to win… There are hundreds competing and when the dream crashes, and you realise it won’t happen for another four years and may never happen again. You may never have that chance again… That’s when it gets you. If I lose a match here (on the Tour), it’s not going to change my life. I can tell you that I’ll be ok if I win the next tournament. But at the Olympics you don’t have that option, that’s why you see so much more emotion from us tennis players at the Olympics.
Sometimes there’s so much built up, that tears help in getting it all out. I felt a lot better after crying. I came to Cincinnati and won the tournament straightaway.
IS TOKYO 2020 A POSSIBILITY?
The only thing that crossed my mind at that point was ‘this was it’. I’ve been to two other Olympics and I have lost, but I always knew that I was going to make it to another Olympics. It wouldn’t have stung as much if we had lost in the first round or even early in the tournament. We were so close to winning a medal… It was heartbreaking.
I must not call it the lowest point because we were fourth and finishing fourth is huge. That is the best performance in the Olympics by an Indian pair (in mixed doubles). For me, it’s not ok to be a runner-up. I don’t like consolation prizes, that’s just who I am. No disrespect to anybody, I want to win everything I play. So when I look back it was a good performance, we didn’t come back with a medal, but we almost made it. We had two shots at it, but we didn’t make it. At that point it was difficult to get positives.
Rohan (Bopanna) and I flew out to Cincinnati a couple of hours after we lost. On the bus from the village to the airport, which took an hour and 15 minutes, we might have said two words to each other if at all. There was nothing to say. There’s not a lot you can say to each other at that time even though we were the ones who had gone through that pain together. In that moment, it’s better not to say anything to each other. I switched my phone off because the worst thing is when people message you and say, ‘it’s ok! next time!’. That’s the last thing you want to hear. It’s not ok and there’s no next time.
Prakash Amritraj messaged me when I made the final of Cincinnati, ‘coming back like an absolute champion. That’s what champions do, they bounce back. I didn’t message you the last week because there was nothing I could say that would make you feel better’. I got a few athlete messages like that. Those emotions can only be understood by someone who has won and lost. What it means to be that close yet that far.
The chances of being in Tokyo 2020 are minute. Firstly I don’t think my body will survive. I have issues with my knee, the same knee (left) on which I’ve had surgery, where I have 30 per cent less meniscus. I have torn more of my meniscus, I don’t want to have surgery because I’m able to play still. It’s not that I’m limping around, but I have problems. I have a growth on my right knee, I have no idea what it is. Four years is a long time. Realistically, even if I make it, I’m not going to be at my peak. That’s a fact, as athletes we have to accept that we peak at a certain time. I may still be in a position to compete, but will I be in a position to give myself a chance to win a medal? Probably not.
WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR 2017?
At the end of each year, we’re asked what our goals for the new season are. After you become No.1 and win Grand Slams, the goal is to win more Grand Slams. That’s the reason why we are playing, why we put ourselves through the grind, stay away from family and pursue those goals. Do I have a specific goal? No, but it would be great to win a Slam and as many tournaments as I can. I’ve never had ranking goals, singles or doubles. I feel when you win tournaments and do the right things that takes care of itself. That’s not something you can chase, you can only chase winning tournaments.
CHAMPIONING A CAUSE….
Standing up for what I believe is right came naturally to me. The awareness that you have about certain issues comes with experience. It was always in my personality to go with what I thought was right. The reason I continued to play tennis was because I felt I was good at it and nobody had the right to tell me that I shouldn’t be playing. I’m talking about when I was 11-12 years old. So as a 12-year-old for me to stand up and say that I want to be a tennis player in a country that hadn’t produced a top-100 singles player in a long time was standing up as well. It was just that I was standing up for myself. The things that I stood up for, more significant issues, changed as I grew up.
I experienced being treated unfairly on a lot of occasions because maybe I am a woman. The questions that are being asked to me would not be asked to a male athlete or to a male star, but I was being asked those questions which are unfair. Those are experiences that made me want to stand up for these issues more than any other issue. I have always believed in standing up for things that are close to my heart, whether that’s trying to help children or the poor, whatever it is. I’m not vocal about everything I do, but I feel this women’s equality and equal opportunity issue requires me to be vocal because if I’m not vocal, I don’t help the situation.
Davis Cup: Bopanna Wins Singles, Lim Prevents Clean Sweep By India
Chandigarh: Not used to playing singles anymore, India’s Rohan Bopanna found rhythm in nick of time to edge past Hong Chung before Yong-Kyu Lim prevented a Korean whitewash with a gritty win over Ramkumar Ramanathan in the Davis Cup AsiaOceania Group I tie on Sunday.
Asked to take court in place of Saketh Myneni, who is still recovering from his gruelling match on Friday, Bopanna laboured to a 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 win against Chung, who is ranked as low as 655 in the ATP rankings.
Bopanna last played a singles match in the Davis Cup in 2012 when he won the dead fifth rubber against Uzbekistan s Sarvar Ikramov.
It was 10th singles win for Bopanna in Davis Cup on Sunday and thankfully it was a dead rubber since India had sealed tie on Saturday itself by wining the doubles.
Playing the dead fifth rubber, 217-ranked Ramkumar lost the close contest 3-6, 6-4, 6-7(2) in little over two hours to Lim, who is placed 409 rungs below the Indian.
Despite losing the tie 1-4 , the Koreans have to be credited for making life tough for the Indians. They were playing on an alien surface but fought their hearts out in the tie.
All Indian players performed a popular Bollywood number Bayee Wah , immediately after Lim closed the tie, much to the surprise and delight of the fans.
India will now make its third attempt to qualify for the elite 16-nation World Group. They await the results of the World Group matches to know the rival in the play-offs to be held in September.
India last played in World Group in 2011 when it lost the first round against Serbia. After that, they have lost play-offs twice against Serbia (in 2014, Bangalore) and Czech Republic (in 2015, New Delhi).
Army man Lim, who lost to Myneni, recovered remarkably from the spasm he suffered on Friday, and played clean tennis to beat Ramkumar.
Lim broke Ramkumar in the fourth game and served out the opening set in the ninth game in which he also saved a break chance after the Indian had saved three set points.
In the second set, Lim again had a chance to go up but the Indian saved a break chance in the seventh game to hold.
The 21-year-old lad from Chennai kept fighting and finally broke Lim in the 12th to make it one-all.
Ramkumar grew in confidence and started to play much better. He broke Lim in the sixth game for a 4-2 lead but was broken while serving for the match in the ninth as he served a double fault.
That proved costly as Lim stretched it to tie-breaker in which he prevailed.
Earlier, lack of singles match practice was evident in Bopanna s match as he heavily relied on his booming serve but Chung refused to be intimidated and posed a good challenge before the Indian.
Bopanna peppered Chung with aces, firing 27 in all in the one-hour 23-minute match. It was his big serve that rescued him as he struggled with precision in his ground strokes as he was covering the entire court in a match after a long time.
Bopanna initially lost all points on his serve on double faults. His fifth double fault, followed by a backhand into the net meant that the Korean had the chance to draw first blood. The crafty left-hander sent down a forehand winner to take the offer, much to the shock of the Indian camp and home fans.
Bopanna again failed to put across a volley that crashed on to the net to hand Chung his first set point. Under pressure, Bopanna made a forehand error and the Koreans had smiles on their faces.
The Indian, struggling with his ground strokes, was broken early in the second set that put Chung ahead 3-0.
However, a break in the seventh game brought Bopanna back in the match.
Chung sent a forehand to net to be down 30-40 but managed to save two breakpoints. Bopanna smashed a crosscourt backhand winner to earn his third chance and converted it with a forehand volley winner.
At 4-4, he again broke Chung in the ninth game and served out the set in the next game.
The tall Indian had a chance to go up early in the third set as he had Chung down at 0-40 but could convert none of the three chances.
Chung took a medical timeout to treat his left shoulder after the third game in the final set. Bopanna broke him in the fifth game and retained the lead to serve out the match with an ace.
Serena Williams has won only one of her five tournaments this year, in Rome in May, while enduring a pair of shock defeats in the Australian and French Open finals
London: Serena Williams finds herself under siege from revitalised rivals and an army of doubters as the defending champion starts her bid for a seventh Wimbledon title and a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam crown.
Since she walked off Wimbledon’s Centre Court cradling the Venus Rosewater Dish awarded to the women’s champion nearly 12 months ago, Williams has found herself engaged in a losing battle with the history books.
That Wimbledon final victory over Garbine Muguruza meant Williams had won all three of the year’s major titles, putting her within touching distance of becoming the first woman to secure a calendar Grand Slam since Steffi Graf in 1988.
But Williams’ historic bid came to stunning end in the US Open semi-finals when she was beaten by 300-1 outsider Roberta Vinci.
In the aftermath of that chastening September day in New York, Williams has appeared a more vulnerable figure.
For so long, Williams’ power game and competitive instincts intimidated opponents into submission, but this year she has won only one of her five tournaments, in Rome in May, while enduring a pair of shock defeats in the Australian and French Open finals.
There is a growing sense the emotional scars from the US Open haven’t fully healed for Williams and Germany’s Angelique Kerber took advantage to shock her in Melbourne in January, while Spain’s Muguruza avenged her Wimbledon loss by beating Serena in Paris earlier this month.
Falling at the final hurdle twice this year has left Williams still stuck on 21 Grand Slam titles — one short of Graf’s Open era record of 22 and three behind the all-time record of 24 set by Margaret Court — ahead of Wimbledon, which gets underway on Monday.
– Twilight –
The 34-year-old is the oldest woman to be ranked number one in the world and, with off-court interests including the fashion industry and a recent appearance in a video for pop-star Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ single, critics have claimed Serena is no longer so focused on her tennis in the twilight of her glittering career.
Given Williams compiled a remarkable 53-3 match record in 2015, even she had to admit 2016 has been a disappointment by her sky-high standards.
“Not as great as I want it to be,” Williams said when asked to assess her year so far. “I could do better. But honestly, that’s how I felt about 2015.”
In the circumstances, Williams will be relieved to feel grass under her feet as she returns to the venue where she won the first of her six Wimbledon titles in 2002.
“I’ve had people put me down because I didn’t look like them,” Williams said in a recent documentary.
“I’ve had people look past me because of the colour of my skin. I’ve had people overlook me because I was a woman. I’m still going.”
With Maria Sharapova absent as she appeals against a two-year ban for doping, the main challengers for Serena’s crown should be second ranked Muguruza, former Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska and the likes of Kerber, Simona Halep and Victoria Azarenka, who defeated Williams in the Indian Wells final in March.
Muguruza, who last year became the first Spanish woman to reach the Wimbledon final since 1994, is the pick of the bunch after winning her maiden Grand Slam title in such composed and combative fashion at Roland Garros.
The Venezuela-born 22-year-old’s first round exit in last week’s Mallorca Open was a setback but she is now fully focused on Wimbledon.
“The truth is I’m disappointed, but now I’m just training harder to arrive ready for Wimbledon,” Muguruza said.
“It feels like ages since I last stepped on grass, but it brings me great memories, even though it isn’t a surface I’ve always liked.
“I’ve learned to love it more lately and then reaching the final at Wimbledon, that was something so special.”
In a survey conducted by an online ethnic marketplace Craftsvilla.com to celebrate World Ethnic Day, Sania Mirza received 62.9 percent votes as the Best Dressed Sports Celebrity in Ethnic Wear
New Delhi: On World Ethnic Day on Sunday, India’s tennis star Sania Mirza — who off and on flaunts lehengas, saris and anarkalis in bright colours at events — topped a list of Best Dressed Sportspersons.
In a survey conducted by an online ethnic marketplace Craftsvilla.com to celebrate World Ethnic Day, Sania received 62.9 per cent votes as the Best Dressed Sports Celebrity in Ethnic Wear, read a statement.
Craftsvilla.com conducted a series of surveys — online polls open to customers of Craftsvilla.com. The platform has a million hits a day on desktop, app and mobile, and the time period for the analysis was from May 20 to June 5.
The results saw star shuttler Saina Nehwal, who often incorporates kurtis with denims, taking the second spot with 18.8 percent votes.
Monica Gupta, Co-Founder of Craftsvilla.com, believes sportspersons are the new style icons.
“I feel great joy, when I see these iconic sportswomen in ethnic wear. They have graced magazine covers, ramps and of course, our medal tallies,” said Monica Gupta.
Squash player Dipika Pallikal came in third with about 9.3 percent of the votes.
Others to feature in the survey were shuttler Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa and shooter Heena Sidhu.
Agnieszka Radwanska lost in the Australian Open semi-finals and crashed out in the Roland Garros fourth round. Her only title in 2016 came in Shenzhen just after Australia
Eastbourne: Struggling top seed Agnieszka Radwanska will be searching for her first victory of the pre-Wimbledon grass court season when the Eastbourne International begins on Monday.
The world number three has played only one match so far this season on the lawns, going out in Birmingham to CoCo Vandeweghe.
“The first match is always tricky pretty much without practice on grass,” Radwanska said.
“I need a couple of more days to adjust. Hopefully Eastbourne will be better.”
Radwanska has a decent pedigree on grass, winning junior Wimbledon in 2006, taking Eastbourne honours two years later and also playing the 2012 Wimbledon final as well as making two semi-finals at the All England Club.
But so far in 2016 results have been modest for the Pole, who lost in the Australian Open semi-finals and went out in the Roland Garros fourth round.
Her only title in 2016 came in Shenzhen just after Australia.
The field at Devonshire Park features seven former tournament champions — Swiss Belinda Bencic (2015), Madison Keys (2014), Elena Vesnina (2013), Ekaterina Makarova (2010), Caroline Wozniacki (2009), Radwanska (2008) and Svetlana Kuznetsova (2004).
The top of the draw is populated by five of the world’s top 10 — Radwanska, US Open finalist Roberta Vinci, Bencic, fellow Swiss Timea Bacsinszky and double Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova who, like Radwanska, is also scratching for form.
All 16 seeds have byes into the second round for the final tune-up week prior to the start of Wimbledon on June 27.
Italian Vinci takes the second seeding while number three Bencic will be testing her fitness after making a return this month after missing more than two months with back pain.
Bacsinszky is seeded fourth, ahead of Kvitova and Russia’s two-time Grand Slam winner Kuznetsova (sixth).
Australian Samantha Stosur takes the seventh seeding as she works with a temporary coach after parting company for the second time with longtime mentor David Taylor.
Rafael Nadal, currently down with wrist injury, may play at the Toronto Masters, in July-end, as a preparation for the Rio Olympics
Madrid: Rafael Nadal is on track to make the Olympics and plans toreturn from a wrist injury at the Toronto Masters at the end of July, days before the Games begin, his coach said on Thursday.
“The plan is to play in Toronto because that’s what suits us,” Toni Nadal, who is also Nadal’s uncle, told a press conference in Mallorca, adding the 14-time Grand Slam title winner could start training on court again in two weeks.
“It’s following the normal recovery schedule and now he has to strengthen the wrist and the arm again,” said Toni Nadal.
“(Nadal) will arrive in form in Rio. It will give him time to prepare.”
Nadal, 30, will miss Wimbledon after failing to recover from the wrist injury which also forced his early withdrawal from the French Open last month.
He pulled out of the French Open, where he has been champion on nine occasions, after injuring a tendon in his left wrist after just two rounds. Nadal, the world number five, is keen to play at the Rio Olympics after being unable to defend his gold medal at the 2012 London Games because of a knee injury.
He had been scheduled to be Spain’s flag-bearer at the opening ceremony. The Spanish federation announced earlier Thursday that Nadal and Garbine Muguruza will lead Spain’s charge for Olympic tennis glory and could play together in the mixed doubles.
Ana Ivanovic Sets up Mallorca Open Quarterfinal With Garcia
Mallorca: Former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic cruised into the Mallorca Open quarterfinals by beating Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain 6-1, 6-0 on Thursday.
Ivanovic conceded only seven points on her first serve, and set up her second quarterfinal of the season against another local, Caroline Garcia.
Garcia has beaten Ivanovic in their last three matches, all a year ago, but this will be their first meeting on grass.
Garcia beat Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany 6-4, 7-6 (8).
Also advancing were Veronica Cepede Royg of Paraguay, and Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium.
Roger Federer Tops Malek Jaziri After Trouble in Second Set
Halle: Top-seeded Roger Federer overcame a 4-1 deficit in the second set to beat Malek Jaziri 6-3, 7-5 on Thursday and stay on course for his ninth title at the Gerry Weber Open.
Federer caught up and broke serve for 6-5, before serving out the match. Jaziri sent a backhand wide on the first match point.
Jaziri actually hit two more winners than Federer but also had three more unforced errors.
Federer will play fifth-seeded David Goffin in the quarterfinals. Goffin was up 4-6, 7-5, 2-0 when Sergiy Stakhovsky retired with a back injury.
Earlier, eighth-seeded Philipp Kohlschreiber endured 26 aces from Ivo Karlovic in winning 6-7 (7), 6-4, 7-5.
Kohlschreiber will play third-seeded Dominic Thiem in the quarterfinals, a rematch of their showdown in the rain-delayed final of the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart that was completed on Monday. Thiem beat Kohlschreiber for his first title on grass.
Thiem breezed past Teymuraz Gabashvili 6-4, 6-1.
In other quarterfinals, Andreas Seppy plays Florian Mayer and Marcos Baghdatis meets Alexander Zverev.
Dustin Brown, who defeated Rafael Nadal in the second round of Wimbledon last year, is presently ranked 120 in the world, and reached his first ever ATP Tour semi-final this year in the Open Sud de France
London: Dustin Brown, conqueror of Rafael Nadal in the second round of Wimbledon last year can look forward to a payday of at least 30,000 pounds (USD 42,500), after receiving one of the wildcards for this year’s tournament on Wednesday.
The 31-year-old German — whose defeat of Nadal was only his third over a top-10 ranked player in his career — is presently ranked 120 in the world but reached his first ever ATP Tour semi-final this year in the Open Sud de France.
Others to receive wildcards for the Grand Slam event that gets under way on June 27 include 37-year-old Czech veteran Radek Stepanek, who gave British number one Andy Murray a real scare at the French Open last month, eventually losing in five sets in their first round clash.
His best performance at Wimbledon came in 2006 when he reached the quarter-finals.
In the women’s draw another veteran Slovakia’s 33-year-old former world number five Daniela Hantuchova — a quarter-finalist at the All England club in 2002 — is among those who receives a wildcard.
Another six wildcards, three men and three women, will be announced at a later date.
The prize money for a first round loser has gone up this year to 30,000 Pounds from 29,000 pounds.
Maria Sharapova’s ban, announced by the International Tennis Federation last week, is backdated to January 26 this year, when she tested positive for prohibited substance meldonium
Laussane: Russian superstar Maria Sharapova has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against her two-year doping ban, CAS confirmed on Tuesday.
The 29-year-old tested positive for the controversial banned medication meldonium during January’s Australian Open.
The ban, announced by the International Tennis Federation last week, is backdated to January 26 this year, when she tested positive for the prohibited substance.
“In her appeal to the CAS, Ms Sharapova seeks the annulment of the Tribunal’s decision to sanction her with a two-year period of ineligibility further to an anti-doping rule violation,” CAS said in a statement, adding that a decision would be made by July 18 at the latest.
“Ms Sharapova submits that the period of ineligibility should be eliminated, or in the alternative, reduced.”
If her appeal is unsuccessful the five-time Grand Slam champion will miss the Olympic Games in Rio in August while the earliest Grand Slam she could next enter is the French Open in 2018.
Sharapova blasted the ban as “unfairly harsh” in a statement on her Facebook page.
“While the tribunal concluded correctly that I did not intentionally violate the anti-doping rules, I cannot accept an unfairly harsh two-year suspension,” fumed Sharapova.
“The tribunal, whose members were selected by the ITF, agreed that I did not do anything intentionally wrong, yet they seek to keep me from playing tennis for two years. I will immediately appeal the suspension portion of this ruling to CAS, the Court of Arbitration for Sport.”
Meldonium was added to the world anti-doping WADA list on January 1. Sharapova said she’d been taking it for 10 years to help treat illnesses, a heart issue and a magnesium deficiency.
Tennis queen Serena Williams bumped into Brazilian football superstar Neymar at beach club in Las Vegas.Even a 21-time Grand Slam champion can be in awe of a football superstar. Yes, Serena Williams probably had her fan-girl moment when she bumped into Brazilian and Barcelona striker Neymar Jr at a beach club in Las Vegas last weekend.
During a poolside party, the 34-year-old Serena got starry eyed when she met Neymar, who has been in the US for business reasons. Neymar did not play the Copa America which is also being played in the US.
Serena, dressed in a black swimsuit, posted a photograph with Neymar on social media. The 24-year-old soccer star was pictured shirtless an in a pair of patterned purple swim-shorts.
The moment was also captured in a video that saw the duo blowing kisses and in good spirts.
Serena recently lost the French Open women’s singles final to Spain’s Garbine Muguruza. Serena is aiming Steffi Graf’s record of 22 Grand Slam titles.
Simona Halep — a French Open finalist in 2014, the same year she reached the last four at Wimbledon — said she had enough time to regain fitness for the year’s third Grand Slam tournament
London: Former Wimbledon semi-finalist Simona Halep withdrew from the WTA Birmingham tournament with an achilles injury on Sunday, just two weeks away from the season’s third Grand Slam event at the All England Club.
The 24-year-old Romanian — a French Open finalist in 2014, the same year she reached the last four at Wimbledon — said she had enough time to regain fitness.
“It’s nothing serious but it’s a bit sore,” said Halep, presently ranked number five in the world.
“I have almost two weeks to recover before Wimbledon so I will take a few days’ rest and then some treatment and then start to play again.”
Halep, who went out in the last 16 at the French Open, had been due to play experienced Czech Lucie Safarova, herself a French Open finalist in 2015, in the first round in Birmingham.
For AITA Everything Revolves Around Leander Paes
Once the All India Tennis Association (AITA) decided that it will not deny Leander Paes his record seventh Olympic Games, they had to go with the mixed doubles pairing of Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza to make all the three players happy.
AITA can now breathe easy, having experienced how messy things can get four years ago when they could not get Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi to play the mens doubles at the London Games.
Long before the selectors flew into Delhi for the meeting, the decision was already made and it was presented to them as a fait accompli for their ratification, not for any tinkering.
That’s precisely the reason Paes stressed more than once before the selectors met that he had full faith in AITA President Anil khanna, who is not a selector.
Poor chief selector S.P. Misra. He sat next to Khanna at the media briefing without having to say how the pairings were arrived at. Khanna hogged it all, using up as much air time as he could, talking about the rising standards of Indian tennis, mentioning the names of all players he could remember.
He kept saying what a great player Paes is and what his contribution to Indian tennis is, even as he lauded Bopanna for earning for the country the mens doubles entry by finishing among the top 10, thus making it clear what the Bengulurean did was for the country – not for himself.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) rule has a rider, the doubles players who qualified for Rio on their own steam could choose their partners but the national federation had to approve it. So, both Sania and Bopanna picked their partners and informed AITA in writing and wanted it to be ratified.
Needless to mention, given a choice, both Bopanna and Sania would rather not partner Paes and the reasons are public knowledge – the lack of chemistry. It is not only with these two and Mahesh Bhupathi, with whom he has had a running battle; Paes is not exactly liked by the younger lot too.
To say Paes is selfish and self-centred is uncharitable. Yes, in the last few years, he is expending all his energies to stay afloat on the circuit with his body not co-operating with his spirit and for good measure he keeps reminding tennis fans what an honour it is for him to play for the Indian flag. Did some other icon say it every now and then?
What did the selectors (Khanna?) do to sort the issue out without seriously hurting anyone? They were firm not to allow the situation to get out of hand like they did before the 2012 London Games.
It was no secret that both Paes and Bopanna wanted to pair up with Sania and both said that was their best chance to win an Olympic medal. To achieve what he exactly set out, Bopanna put a spanner in the works by telling AITA that he would like to partner Saketh Myneni, ranked 125th in doubles a month before reaching his best ranking of 114, though he had just started playing after recovering from a shoulder injury.
It was kid stuf, frankly. Bopanna knew AITA had no option if they want Paes to play with him, though it was keen that Paes partnered Sania to have the best shot at a medal, the elder statesman of Indian tennis having won his 10th mixed doubles Grand Slam title at Rolland Garros and in the process completing a career Grand Slam. The authorities were caught in a bind and had to given in to Bopanna and Sania.
To pacify all, AITA, which in the past refused to add a sixth player to the Davis Cup squad, picked a seven-member team to play South Korea in Chandigarh next month to allow Paes to join at his own request. That means he will play doubles with Bopanna.
In the last year or so, AITA exempted Paes from playing in the zonal ties and he himself was not keen because he was on pursuit to collect points to improve his fast crashing doubles ranking.
For ATA, everything revolves around Paes and Khanna thinks if there is any residual acrimony after the selection, Chandigarh is the right place to bring about a working relationship between the two stalwarts.
Will Paes really go to Chandigarh to play? Some say keep your fingers crossed.
I Have Conveyed My Decision on Mixed Doubles Partner to AITA: Sania Mirza
New Delhi: She was forced to partner Leander Paes during the 2012 London Olympics but this time around world No. 1 doubles player Sania Mirza has “conveyed” her decision to AITA top brass about her preferred mixed doubles partner at the Rio Games.
“I have already spoken to AITA and conveyed my decision on the Olympic issue. They have a meeting on the 11th (June) and let’s wait for that,” Sania told PTI during an interaction here on Thursday.
Asked if she would divulge as to what transpired during your discussions with AITA bosses, Sania said a curt no.
“No, I won’t.”
It’s no secret that Sania and Rohan Bopanna are likely to pair in mixed doubles, the category where India have the best chance of winning a medal.
Looking resplendent in a black evening gown, as soon as Sania entered the ceremony hall, funnily enough, the other main protagonist in the Rio tennis saga, Leander, too dropped in, looking dapper in a black suit.
“Winning every tournament is a difficult thing. But it’s a pleasure being defending champions and there is pressure also. There was pressure first time also and it will be no different. We will take one match at a time, ” said the world No. 1.
The duo had a 41-match winning streak that was broken in February this year, but Sania is confident that they will be able to keep the level up.
“Red clay is not our favourite surface and it was one bad day. But we both then picked up our game to keep up the level in mixed doubles,” she told during the CNN18’s event where she won the ‘Indian Sportsperson of the Year’ award.
Her autobiography will be hitting the market soon and she said that it is her story of guts and glory along with pleasures and pains of being at the top for such a long time.
Is there a possibility of seeing shades of Andre Agassi’s ‘Open’ in her book, she replied: “Andre told his story and I will be telling my story. Every story is unique and special in its own way. I have gone through a lot both on and off the court. It’s been a long journey and I owe it to family who have shared this with me. I hope my book inspires the aspiring tennis players in our country,” Sania concluded.