Saturday, February 28, 2015

Roger Federer sets up final with Novak Djokovic in Dubai

tumblr roger fedeerer

Roger Federer recorded his 10th match win of the season Friday and now he has his sights set on clinching a seventh crown at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Second seed Federer overcame lucky loser Borna Coric, 15 years his junior, 6-2, 6-1 in 57 minutes for a spot in his ninth final at the Aviation Club, the venue of the ATP World Tour 500 tournament.

Federer will next attempt to clinch his 84th tour-level title (83-42 in finals) and his second crown of the year – after lifting the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp trophy last month. He will challenge top seed and four-time former titlist Novak Djokovic in Saturday's final.

Federer opened up a 3-1 lead, before Coric clinched his lone service break. Federer converted all of his three break point opportunities in the 27-minute first set and then dominated the second set.

"Maybe I was a bit tentative in the beginning, but I was still able to get off to somewhat of a good start, not being broken early, then breaking him right away," said Federer. "I felt like after five games I knew more or less what to expect, and I realised what had worked until that point and what had not."

The Swiss hit three aces past Coric and is now five aces away from striking the 9,000th ace of his career. He also hit 20 winners and won nine of his 13 points at the net.

"I can see why he has so far caused difficulties for some of the top guys and he still has a lot of room for improvement in his game," said Federer. "He does a really good job for a big guy. It's unbelievable how in the past 10 years we have seen so many big guys moving well from the baseline. I think he returns very well, especially off second serves, and that's such a huge part of today's game, I believe."

Coric, who had beaten Andy Murray in the quarter-finals, said, "He was just way too good for me. I was feeling so rushed. I didn't have any time to play my game plan. I was just trying to hold in the rally as long as I could. I was serving very badly... When you're playing against a guy who is No. 1 or No. 2 in the world, you need to be serving much better if you're going to even compete with him."

Friday, February 27, 2015

Roger Federer through to semis in Dubai after Gasquet retires

This is by far my least favourite outfit

World No. 2 Roger Federer is one step closer to claiming an unprecedented seventh Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title after Richard Gasquet retired down 1-6 due to lower back pain in their quarter-final match on Thursday.

"I know enough about the back, and I know how horrible it is to play with that and how much worse it can sometimes become," said a sympathetic Federer. "It's maybe better not to take any chances at this point."

Federer completed the first set in just 20 minutes, taking advantage of a hobbled Gasquet, who triumphed over Roberto Bautista Agut in a tight three-set match on Wednesday. Federer tallied three aces in the set, leaving him eight short of reaching the historic 9,000 mark.

"I think I played well," Federer said. "I served well. Then again, the test was so short that it's tough to judge on a 20-minute match. But, you know, I think I was hitting the ball well again, like yesterday. I felt able to play aggressive and do what I was hoping to do, so I was very pleased, actually."

The Swiss has spent just two hours and 16 minutes on the court in his first three matches.

He’ll meet the face of the next generation in the semi-finals, after 18-year-old lucky loser Borna Coric upset No. 3 seed Andy Murray 6-1, 6-3. The Croatian teenager, named the 2014 ATP Star of Tomorrow Award Presented by Emirates, scored the second Top 10 win of his young career, dispatching Murray in 79 minutes.

"He seems to really play up when it matters against the better players," Federer said of his next opponent. "Today I think it was a great victory. I didn't see any of the match, so I can't tell about Murray's level. But regardless of the level, to beat Murray 6-1, 6-3, it was, it's a great score. Because historically Murray has played very well here in Dubai. It's definitely a message I get."

Coric announced his arrival last fall by upsetting Rafael Nadal en route to the Swiss Indoors Basel semi-finals. Perhaps it is fitting that the World No. 84 is the first teenager to reach the Dubai semi-finals since Nadal clinched the title as a 19 year old in 2006.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Roger Federer refreshed and ready for more

What a difference a month makes.

Thirty days ago, Roger Federer’s early exit in the Australian Open third round surprised fans and fellow player alike. Despite coming into the first Grand Slam of the year on the heels of a title run in Brisbane and an historic 1,000th ATP World Tour victory, the World No. 2 struggled to find his rhythm in his four-set loss to Andreas Seppi.

On Monday at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, a refreshed Federer looked sharp as he dispatched of Mikhail Youzhny in under one hour, extending his FedEx ATP Head2Head record over the Russian to 16-0. Afterward, the Swiss explained the virtues of playing without reservations.

“The last thing I want to do is lose back-to-back matches playing careful,” said the six-time Dubai champion. “I know I can play careful tennis, but then you cannot leave it up to the other guys sometimes if you are going to win or lose. I feel over the years I have won my biggest matches in most tournaments by playing on my terms, and you can't always do it. It's difficult to come out and dominate every match, every point, and it's also hard work always playing aggressive.”

During his time away from competition, Federer relaxed at the beach, trained and planned his tournament schedule for the coming year, admitting he has his projected schedule set through the summer of 2016. And while he enjoyed the respite from the day-to-day grind, he is ready to compete again.

“It's nice getting back out there and having thousands root for you and for your opponent, because you can only practise that much after a while without anybody watching you,” said Federer, who lives and trains in Dubai during much of the season. “It just gets a bit boring after a while. So I prefer to play matches after all.

“I'm lucky enough to be put on prime time most of the time so people come out and watch me play often… So I appreciate that, and it's definitely keeping me on the tour longer. There's not a doubt about that.”

In addition to extending his 43-5 record at the tournament, the 33-year-old will look to do damage on the doubles court with the help of Swiss countryman and Davis Cup team mate Michael Lammer.

Michael Lammer was one of my best friends on tour and in my life, and he's a guy I have never played doubles with,” Federer explained. “So I really want to do that before he retires because he's not far off.”

“I have played doubles with Marco [Chiudinelli], with Yves [Allegro], with Stan [Wawrinka], but never with Michael other than back in the Junior Swiss Championships when we were 14, 16, 18. So we go way back. That's why we are both excited about it, and I'm very thankful for the wild card from the tournament organisers.”

Federer and Lammer will open their doubles campaign on Tuesday evening in front of an undoubtedly enthusiastic crowd. The No. 2 seed will continue his quest for an unprecedented seventh Dubai singles title against the winner of Fernando Verdasco and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

Sadly he didn't get very far in the doubles losing in the first match out.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Roger Federer fights back to reach quarters in Dubai

Roger Federer fought back from a slow start on Wednesday to reach the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships quarter-finals.

The second seed, who is a six-time champion at the Aviation Club, defeated Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 6-3 in 60 minutes during the night session.

“I'm very happy how the match went," said Federer. "I think it was a good quality match from my side. I think Fernando played well for spells, but I think I was quite consistent."

Verdasco led 4-1 in the first set, producing a series of stunning winners to keep Federer on the back foot. But Federer regrouped to win five straight love service games – 20 points – to clinch the 30-minute opener.

“It's not the first time it's ever happened to me, but it's a great comeback because I did feel that Fernando was hitting the ball well and came out and played very committed [and] serving well," added Federer.

Federer hit four aces and is now 11 aces away from striking the 9,000th ace of his career. He won 83 per cent of his first service points against Verdasco to reach the last eight.

On 11 January, the 33-year-old Swiss became only the third player in tennis history (after Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl) to record 1,000 match wins with his 83rd title at the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp (d. Raonic).

He will play Richard Gasquet on Thursday. Gasquet saved one match point to edge past seventh seed Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(6) in two hours and 22 minutes. Bautista Agut led with a break in the third set.

“I'm looking forward to playing against him," said Federer. "Last time we played was Davis Cup final on that Sunday, in front of that big crowd, and it was a lot of pressure. I think this time is going to be a bit more relaxed going in."

Federer leads Gasquet 13-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. Their most recent clash came in last year’s Davis Cup final, which Federer won 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Roger Federer will not play Davis Cup this year

According to the AP, roger Federer will not play Davis Cup at all in 2015. Federer Notches Sweet 16 vs. Youzhny in Dubai The 17-time Grand Slam champion, who helped Switzerland win its first ever Davis Cup title in 2014, says the event has cluttered up his schedule for many years, and he feels that now the Swiss have the long-sought-after title he can back off.

"It wasn't a difficult decision," Federer said Monday at the Dubai tournament, according to the AP. "I have played for so long, and I think by winning it I can finally do whatever I please, to be quite honest." 

He added: "It's been a big burden for me throughout my career and one of the things that have caused more difficulties in my life than many other things, I must say. I always feel there is so much guilt put on you from the federation or from the ITF more so than anybody else. So I'm happy I was able to finally tick that off and do it altogether.

Can't say that I am shocked, or that I disagree with his decision.  

As a long time fan I'm perfectly happy that he decided to focus on tournaments and Grand Slams instead.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Roger Federer makes successful return in Dubai

Roger Federer opened his bid for an unprecedented seventh Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title on Monday with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Mikhail Youzhny in the first round.

Federer fired eight aces against Youzhny in the 56-minute win, taking him to a career ace count of 8,985. The right-hander is bidding to join Goran Ivanisevic, Ivo Karlovic and Andy Roddick as the only players to reach the 9,000 aces milestone since records began in 1991.

The Swiss improved to a 16-0 mark against Youzhny in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series as he won his first match back since suffering a surprise third-round exit against Andreas Seppi at the Australian Open last month.

"I think it was close in that first set." said Federer. "I think we were both trying to find our range. I'm happy I didn't start to play too careful after it, because it is tough to play here in Dubai with the quick conditions. After that, I think I started to return much better. Serve got a bit more consistent. My half volleys were getting better. I was able to get the set and the break, and then that's when you can bring it home."

Federer improved to a 7-1 match record on the season, highlighted by winning his 83rd tour-level title at the Brisbane International (d. Raonic).

The 33-year-old Federer has a 43-5 match record at this ATP World Tour 500 hard-court tournament, lifting the trophy in 2003-05, 2007, 2012 and 2014. He also finished runner-up in 2006 and 2011. The second seed goes on to face the winner of an all-Spanish clash between Fernando Verdasco and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

Denis Istomin caused the first upset of in Dubai. Istomin, who is currently No. 65 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, knocked out No. 14-ranked Ernests Gulbis 7-5, 6-2 in one hour and 34 minutes. Gulbis, who had won their two previous tour-level matches, has yet to win a match this year (0-5).

"I'm not in good form right now," said Gulbis, who led 4-1 in the first set. "I'm not feeling my shots at all. I have no timing. In practice I have been playing worse than in the match."

Elsewhere, Joao Sousa beat a long-time friend, wild card James McGee, also making his tournament debut, 6-1, 6-2 in 65 minutes, and goes on to face third seed and 2012 finalist Andy Murray or Gilles Muller.

"I know him very well, because he used to practise in Barcelona with me at the same academy," said Sousa. "[It] was not easy to play against him, but I played good tennis and I am happy to be in second round."

Andrey Golubev defeated qualifier Fabrice Martin 7-5, 6-4 in 87 minutes for a second round clash against top seed and four-time champion Novak Djokovic or Vasek Pospisil.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Roger Federer feeling at home in Dubai

With a fan base that stretches across the world, Roger Federer is at home wherever he competes, but the World No. 2 admits some cities have become more special than others.

As Federer readies to begin his quest for an unprecedented seventh Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships crown, the Swiss described the comfort of competing in the city he calls his training base.

“I have to switch my mind from relaxing to tournament rhythm,” said Federer. “That’s why I have the tendency, either in Basel or Dubai, to check into a hotel and say ‘ok, I’m at a tournament’. Last year I stayed at home, this year I’m back at a hotel. I mix it up depending on how my mood is. We’ll see how it starts tomorrow. I’m eager to find out.

“I’m growing a great fan base all around the world. I feel very welcome. Every tournament seems to want me there. It fills me with great joy. If you have something you really enjoy doing, why give that up? I feel I can still play with the best and when you win titles things get simpler again.”

The 33-year-old father of four is closing in on two milestones in the Arabian desert. The all-time tournament leader with six titles and 42 match wins, he is bidding to win seven or more titles at three tournaments, in addition to his haul at Wimbledon (7) and the Gerry Weber Open in Halle (7). Federer is also closing in on becoming just the fourth player to achieve 9,000 aces, needing to strike 23 to reach the plateau.

Federer's Stomping Grounds

Tournament Titles
Gerry Weber Open (Halle) 7
Wimbledon 7
Barclays ATP World Tour Finals 6
Western & Southern Open (Cincinnati) 6
Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships 6
Swiss Indoors Basel 6

With an elite field that also includes four-time champion Novak Djokovic, 2012 runner-up Andy Murray and two-time finalist Tomas Berdych, neither task will be easy for the defending champion. Federer understands he'll need to work hard to retain the title.

“I think it’s going to be tough. It’s tough for anybody. When you take a close look at everybody who’s here, you always think it’s hard…Every match has to be played. You only have to beat whoever is on the opposite side of the net. You don’t have to beat the other 31 guys in the draw. You want to have the right mindset going into a tough tournament like this. It’s hard, but it’s been like this for years now. I take it one match at a time, but at the same time when you’re the player of my caliber and experience you have to focus on your own game.”

Federer will renew a 15-year-old rivalry against former World No. 8 Mikhail Youzhny in the first round. The second seed leads the FedEx ATP Head2Head series 15-0. He says he is eager to return to action following a four-week break after suffering a third round exit to Andreas Seppi at the Australian Open. Refreshed and reloaded, Federer has a plan.

“I’ve been very lucid, very clear in what I wanted to do in the past month between vacation, practice and build-up (to Dubai), getting everything organised all the way to Wimbledon and beyond. It has been a good time for me to re-assess my goals and come back stronger.”

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Martina Hingis hungry for more success despite Dubai doubles loss

Dubai: Former world number one Martina Hingis is hopeful her success in the Grand Slams will enable her to win more doubles titles in the latest phase of her career.

Winner of the inaugural singles crown in Dubai in 2001, Hingis and partner Flavia Pennetta were knocked out of the 2015 doubles event by the Rodionova sisters, Anastasia and Arina, 6-3, 7-6 (2) in their third round match on Wednesday.

However, last month the ‘Swiss Miss’ had teamed up with Indian Leander Paes to win the Australian Open final 6-4, 6-3 over Daniel Nestor and Kristina Mladenovic — giving her a 16th Grand Slam title, of which five are singles.

Though she has nine women’s doubles Slam victories and another two mixed crowns, Hingis is yet to taste success at a regular tournament since coming out of retirement in 2013.

Hingis, now 34, said: “It feels great obviously to have won another Grand Slam title and now I’m wishing for that success to continue into women’s doubles. Unfortunately it didn’t happen here in Dubai this week, but we’ll work through it. That’s the nice thing about tennis — there’s always next week.”

The Swiss star returned to playing women’s doubles with Sabine Lisicki, whom she also coached briefly in 2014, before switching partners to Pennetta, with whom she narrowly missed qualifying to the year-end WTA Tour Finals in Singapore last year.

“I think we finished last year really well. We played US Open finals, won two tournaments after that, so you definitely have hopes that you’re going to play well. But the year is still long and we haven’t started that well, so we have to take it one tournament at a time and we will see,” Hingis said.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Roger Federer celebrates Chinese New Year Dubai style

Defending champion Roger Federer helped ring in the Year of the Goat as he launched the Chinese New Year celebrations at Burj Al Arab on Thursday, ahead of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which begins Monday, 23 February.

Six-time Dubai champion Federer was invited to participate in the ceremony for the colouring of the eyes of the lion. The lion dance is a traditional cultural dance performed at significant ceremonies and Chinese New Year celebrations. 

Colouring of the eyes is an important part of the ceremony, and the responsibility is reserved for someone of high social status, as it is believed to give the lion its spirit, and brings it to life. This ceremony must be undertaken prior to the lion dance commencing.

Federer was delighted to be part of the ceremony, saying, “It’s been a fantastic evening, I’m honoured to have been part of this celebration. The Burj Al Arab is iconic, and this celebration is a nice gesture for the Chinese guests. I’ve had some amazing moments playing here in Dubai, especially playing here on the helipad, and playing in China too, so the chance to celebrate this, I wasn’t going to miss it.”

About the upcoming tournament, Federer said, “I feel ok coming into this year, I know the court well, I know what to expect. I had two weeks off after the Australian Open so I feel refreshed and ready to play. I really like the stadium, I’ve played very well here over the years, and the Dubai tournament is run so well; it’s a great event and a great atmosphere.”

Organised by the tournament and Burj Al Arab, Federer was a special guest of the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, Mr Chang Hua; the China Consul General, Mr Tang Weibin; Gerald Lawless, President and Group CEO Jumeriah Group; and Mr Anthony McHale, General Manager of Burj Al Arab. Also in attendance was Salah Tahlak, Tournament Director.

Gerald Lawless said, “We are delighted that Dubai Duty Free could bring Roger here for the celebration of Chinese New Year. Roger is a great friend of Dubai Duty Free, and of Jumeirah, so this is the icing on the cake to have him here. Our fastest growing visitor group is the Chinese so it’s great to do this."

Roger Federer being part of this occasion is very special, and we are happy to have been involved in this event. Roger is a wonderful champion, having won the title six times here. Next week’s tournament is shaping up to be one of the best ever,” said Tournament Director, Salah Tahlak.

The tournament commences on 23 February with the finals on 28 February. Along with Federer, the tournament will star World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, World No. 4 Andy Murray and two-time Dubai finalist Tomas Berdych.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Kim Clijsters wins first exhibition match since retirement

Not many tournament directors could pick up a racket at a moment's notice, take the court, and beat a Top 10 player. Then again, no other tournament director is Kim Clijsters.

The four-time Slam champion, who has been retired since 2012, served as the tournament director of the Diamond Games in Antwerp, Belgium, last week. 

She found herself in a bind on the final Sunday when she got word that one of the finalists, Carla Suarez Navarro, was unable to take the court due to a neck injury.

“'Oh s***, what now?' That’s what shot through my mind when we heard that Carla was withdrawing," Clijsters said. The walkover gave AndreaPetkovic the title, but with a stadium full of ticket-buyers expecting to see a match, Clijsters knew she had to deliver something for the fans. So she gamely picked up a racket and took the court for a one-set exhibition against Petkovic.

“It was the beginning of a chaotic ten minutes," Clijsters said. "Some quick decisions had to be made. Before I knew it I was playing. What was I doing! But I think the audience appreciated it.​"

Clijsters has a history of proving how quickly she can shake the rust off her game. After retiring at 23-years-old in 2007, she announced her return in 2009 and won the U.S. Open as a wildcard in just her third tournament back on tour. 

With injuries racking her body and the desire swelling to spend more time at home with her husband, Brian Lynch, and daughter, Jada, Clijsters walked away from the game again after the 2012 U.S. Open, where she lost to Laura Robson in the second round. Against Petkovic on Sunday, it was as if no time had passed. The movement, ball-striking and precision were still there for the 31-year-old.

Clijsters won the exhibition set 5-3. "I hope you don't take any offense Kim, but I'm glad you are done playing on tour," Petkovic joked afterwards.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Martina Hingis returns to Dubai

February 16, 2015 -- Dubai, UAE Tennis legend Martina Hingis has turned the clock back to compete once more in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, eight years after her last appearance in the Emirates.

The now 34-year old, who spent an incredible 209 weeks as the world number one and won five Grand Slam singles titles, was the very first winner of the WTA event in Dubai, beating Nathalie Tauziat in the 2001 final. She went on to reach a further two quarter-finals before eventually retiring from the game.

But always the keenest of competitors, she decided to return to compete in doubles and has carried on as before, adding more trophies to her already crowded shelves and returning once more to the world’s top 10.

It is no surprise that she is enjoying so much success again, as she was also a world number one doubles player, earning no less than nine Grand Slam titles as well as two mixed doubles crowns. This year she has already partnered Sabine Lisicki to the Brisbane title, going through the entire week without the loss of a set and following up their success in lifting the Miami title in 2014 when Martina claimed her first title in seven years.

But it is with her other favoured partner, Flavia Pennetta, that she will compete in Dubai. The pair won two titles together last season, in Wuhan and then in Moscow. Incredibly, the pair also reached the final of the US Open before losing in three tight sets to Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina, who are seeded number two in Dubai this week.

Martina is arguably enjoying life on the WTA Tour even more now than before. She retired twice from singles, and when she came back for her second singles career she found she was under far less pressure. The same applies now to her doubles career. Every win is a bonus and something to savour.

“Before, I always played for somebody - my mum, she was my coach and I always wanted to do well for her and success came and it was a great combination,” she said. “The second time around I felt okay, I’m doing it for myself and see how far it’s going to get me. It was different.”

Seeded number one is the pairing of Su-Wei Hsieh and the ever popular Sania Mirza, with Shuai Peng and another WTA Tour veteran, 39-year old Kveta Peschke, seeded four. All four teams receive a first round bye.

“It is a measure of her longevity and passion for the game that Martina Hingis is able to return to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships a remarkable 15 years since she first played here and won the inaugural WTA Tour event,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman of Dubai Duty Free, the tournament owners and organizers. “A champion never forgets how to compete and how to win, and Martina continues to thrill her countless fans around the world.”

A star-studded doubles draw adds to what is already an outstanding festival of tennis that features almost every top singles player in the world, with seven of the top 10 doubles players taking part.

“The doubles event is always exciting to watch, and this year with the inclusion of one of the greatest ever to have played the game tennis fans in Dubai have even more exciting competition to watch,” said tournament directoir Salah Tahlak. “If Martina Hingis can join Flavia Pennetta to claim the title 15 years after she won here for the first time it will be an unprecedented achievement, but no surprise. We look forward very much to seeing how well she can do.”

The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships WTA event takes place between 15th and 21st February and in singles features defending champion Venus Williams, Wimbledon champion and 2013 Dubai winner Petra Kvitova, French Open and WTA Finals runner-up Simona Halep, former Dubai winners Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki, Brisbane runner-up Ana Ivanovic, Australian Open semi-finalist Ekaterina Makarova and recent Sydney semi-finalist Angelique Kerber.

Play then continues between 23rd and 28th February with the action-packed ATP tournament which stars world number one and Wimbledon and Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic, defending Dubai champion Roger Federer, Australian Open runner-up Andy Murray and two-time Dubai finalist Tomas Berdych.

The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free, and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Kim Clijsters on Diamond Games & Genie Bouchard

ANTWERP, Belgium - In October, Kim Clijsters was announced as the Tournament Director for the BNP Paribas Fortis Diamond Games, which is back on the WTA calendar for the first time since 2008. And the WTA legend has been very, very busy - and very, very excited - in her new role.

"The build-up has been really fun," Clijsters said. "Being part of this side of tennis has taught me a lot. There are a lot of things you don't think about as a player, you just assume everything gets organized well and don't know all the hard work that goes into it. That's something that's definitely changed my perspective. It's really exciting to see everything we've discussed in meetings coming to life.

"It's also exciting because I have a lot of variety in my days - communicating with the players, the WTA and of course the sponsors, and I can watch some tennis too. I really like having that variety."

Speaking of players, Clijsters is particularly impressed with the tournament's No.1 seed.

"Eugenie Bouchard played so well at the Slams last year. I played the legends in Paris and saw her working out in the gym, and she had so much determination and discipline - she stood out just with that, and add to that her great results. She's just the total package for the tournament, the fans, the sponsors and everyone. I'm glad we can have her here, and that the fans can get to know her.

"I'm excited she's here. She's young and has such a great career ahead of her."

Clijsters, who won this tournament herself in 2004, is also looking forward to seeing how the four Belgians in the main draw will do - former Top 15 players Yanina Wickmayer and Kirsten Flipkens and a pair of up-and-coming Belgian stars, wildcard Alison Van Uytvanck and qualifier Klaartje Liebens.

"It's great for the tournament. When Justine and I were playing the crowds would be sold out, so having more Belgians in the draw is just great for the tournament. And it's good for the girls too. Hopefully some of them can do well here and that'll help them out for the start of the season."

One of the traditions unique to the tournament in its first incarnation, and which has returned for this reboot, is the coveted diamond racquet - anyone who wins the tournament twice in three years wins a special racquet made with 4.5 kilograms of gold and 2008 diamonds. It's worth $1.5 million.

"I've been around it a few times in the last few months," Clijsters said. "When we announced the tournament, the trophy was obviously an eye-catcher. It's a beautiful, beautiful trophy. You only take it home if you win the tournament twice in three years. So far only Amélie was able to do that.

"Maybe this year's winner will be motivated to come back next year and win it!".

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Ubisoft gets green light for Assassins Creed movie out in 2016

Ubisoft has announced that the much-discussed Assassin's Creed film has finally been greenlit and is now in production.

Ubisoft announced a deal with New Regency for an Assassin's Creed film back in 2012, which included Michael Fassbender signing on as the lead actor. Since then the status of the movie has been in question, due in part to a delay in the projected release.

Today during Ubisoft's third-quarter fiscal earnings call, the publisher offered an update, announcing that the film has officially been greenlit and is now in production. Ubisoft says the film is on track to meet its new 2016 release date, which was announced last month.

Our Track
I still have plenty of reservations about whether or not Hollywood can make an Assassin's Creed movie that doesn't suck, but I respect Michael Fassbender's work, and it's good to hear that Ubisoft and New Regency are confident enough in the script to finally greenlight the project. Then again, Ubisoft also signed off on the Prince of Persia film, and we saw how that turned out...

Yes let's hope it's better then Prince of Persia, because compared to that; Tomb Raider was a bigger success (although let's face it that was mostly thanks to Angelina Jolie).

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Kim Clijsters thinks Diamond Games has a strong WTA field

Kim Clijsters believes the Diamond Games will be hotly contested as a strong field prepares to compete at the WTA hard-court event.

After seven years as a Tier II tournament, the last five editions were played as exhibition events, while 2015 marks its first time as a Premier-status competition.

As a player, Clijsters won this event in 2004, as well as finishing runner-up on three occasions.

Now tournament director, the Belgian is thrilled with the quality of the competition in Antwerp. World number one Serena Williams is absent, but other stars such as Eugenie Bouchard, Angelique Kerber and Andrea Petkovic make for an exciting line-up.

"I just discussed this with somebody at the WTA: the cut-off of our entry list is 60," said Clijsters.

"In layman's terms: the world's number 60 is the lowest ranked player to be directly qualified for the main draw.

"With 28 girls in the main draw that means that out of the 60 best players in the world, half will compete at the Diamond Games.

"Okay, we're missing Serena Williams but that's a Fed Cup issue. She is taking on Argentina with the American team to secure her place at the Olympic Games.

"No worries, I'm very happy with the players who do come to Antwerp this week.

"Let's start with top-seeded Eugenie Bouchard. She will undoubtedly become one of the absolute stars of this generation.

"She has already reached seventh place on the WTA rankings and played last year's final at Wimbledon. She's incredibly talented and pairs that talent with plenty of discipline: an ideal combination.

"I know Angelique very well. She beat me at my last appearance at Wimbledon. But I forgive her, she's a very cool girl.

"And Petkovic is a great personality."

Bouchard, Kerber, Petkovic and Luice Safarova come into the tournament as the top four seeds, and all enjoy byes into the second round of action.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Martina Hingis participates in Budapest Fed Cup

Budapest’s modern Syma Event and Congress Centre is set to once again host some of the biggest names in the world of women’s tennis when the Europe/Africa Division 1 Fed Cup qualifying tournament is held here from February 4-7.

Like last year, the tournament will feature several top 100 players. Expected to join Hungary’s own burgeoning star Timea Babos are young guns Heather Watson (Great Britain) and Elina Svitolina (Ukraine) and a trio of former world #1 players, including Belarus’ Victoria Azarenko, and Serbia’s dynamic duo of Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic.

As a special treat for Hungarian tennis fans, Martina Hingis – recently elected into the Tennis Hall of Fame, five-time Grand Slam champion and one of the best players ever to play the sport – will make a special appearance on Saturday, February 7 to sign autographs.

Hungary will play host to 14 other European teams, including traditional tennis powerhouses such as Great Britain and Serbia, for the opportunity to be one of two teams to qualify for the prestigious World Group Division Two tournament next year. The Budapest Times has all you need to know about the Fed Cup – who is playing, when they play, how to get tickets and who to watch – right here in our handy Fed Cup Viewers’ Guide.

What is the Fed Cup?

The WTA Fed Cup, previously known as the Federations Cup, is the women’s equivalent to the Davis Cup – a competition that pits each country’s best players against each other in a series of singles and doubles matches to determine a champion. The tournament, now in its 53rd year, is the leading country vs. country tournament in women’s tennis. The current champion is the Czech Republic, who defeated Germany in a rubber last November.

The tournament is tiered, with the top 16 teams playing in two World Group tiers that see the top two singles players each play the opponent’s top two players with an additional doubles match.

The tournament in Budapest acts as the highest regional qualifier in the Europe / Africa zone. Matches consist of the top two players playing only one match each and a doubles match if a tiebreaker is needed. The two bottom teams in the tournament are relegated to Europe / Africa Division II. Only the first place team from each division has a chance to qualify for the World Group Two playoffs, and the four group winners will face each other here in Budapest on Saturday, February 7.

The winners of those matches advance to a playoff, to be played in July, against the first-round losers from World Group Two (winners of that playoff qualify for World Group Two in 2016). Budapest hosted last year’s regional qualifier as well and saw the Hungarian team place 5th following a 2-1 loss to Romania. Overall, Hungary has spent a total of 18 years in the World Group, including runs to the quarterfinals in 1963 and 1985. The young Hungarian squad will need to topple the 6th-ranked Serbian team if they hope to qualify again in 2016.

What’s happening in Budapest?

The tournament will feature some of the best women’s tennis players in the world – several ranked in the Top 100 and three former world #1s – playing for their home countries. All of the action will take place at the Syma Event and Congress Centre (1 Dózsa György St.), located conveniently next to Ferenc Pukás Stadium near the Stadion metro station on the Red Line.

Each day will be divided into morning sessions that begin at 10am and evening sessions that begin at 4pm. The preliminary round runs from Wednesday, February 4 to Friday, February 6 and the playoffs and placement matches take place on Saturday, February 7.

Special guest Martina Hingis will be in attendance on Saturday to sign autographs. Tickets run between HUF 500 (upper stands) and HUF 1990 (centre court, lower stands) for a daily pass, or between HUF 1500 (upper stands) and HUF 5990 (centre court, lower stands) for a tournament pass.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Martina Hingis wins 2nd mixed doubles title at Australian Open!

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MELBOURNE, Australia - Martina Hingis won the biggest title of her doubles comeback on Sunday, capturing the mixed doubles crown at the Australian Open alongside Indian legend Leander Paes.

The No.7-seeded Hingis and Paes didn't drop a set all tournament long and clinched the title with a 6-4, 6-3 championship win over No.3 seeds Kristina Mladenovic and Daniel Nestor, who had won two Grand Slam mixed doubles titles together before - Wimbledon in 2013 and right here last year.

"I think we grew with every match - the confidence, the teamwork, the suggestions we had, one or the other. We really trust each other," Hingis said. "I think that was the key in every match. The big points, like today, we were up a break in the first, in the second, and then they broke me back. But we stayed there, stayed focused, and just did our job. I think that was the key, that we were always there."

Hingis now has two Grand Slam mixed doubles titles to her name, having won the Australian Open back in 2006 with another Indian legend, Mahesh Bhupathi. It's her overall 16th Grand Slam title - she has five in singles (including three titles here) and nine in women's doubles (including four here).

The former World No.1 came back to doubles in the 2013 season and played a full 2014, and is now back in the Top 10. She was asked afterwards how she decided to come back to the pros again.

"I was never really completely out of the picture or away from tennis," Hingis said.

"It was always part of my life one way or another. I was playing some exhibitions, then I was coaching a little bit, which probably got me more into it because I was playing with the girls, hitting, being face to face with the best players in the world like Anastasia, Sabine, obviously some of the biggest hitters. So I felt like maybe I could play with them, but only half-court, so I don't have to run that much.

"But I felt I could still hold my own. Lee has been on me for three years - we played World TeamTennis for a couple years. Maybe I should have done it earlier and played a couple tournaments together already, but I wasn't ready to take the tension and be on the court. But he really kept on me.

"In the ceremony after the match my voice became very little. Who would have thought I'd still be back on that court after 20 years. It's not even like the cherry on top, it's more than that to be there and to be able to hold another Australian Open trophy. It's really more than I could ever dream of."

So what does the woman who has everything go after next - maybe Olympic gold?

"Right now we're very far away," the Swiss Miss said. "We're really enjoying this moment and having this title. I mean, it's out there, definitely. It's something that would probably be...

"I mean, I haven't played the Olympics since '96, so..."

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Martina Hingis in the finals of Australian Open mixed doubles

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) When Martina Hingis came out retirement for the second time in her career two years ago, she set some ground rules for herself.

She would only play doubles, no singles. And she only wanted partners who would help her win trophies.

It took a little time, but the 34-year-old Hingis is becoming a fixture in Grand Slam finals again.

The Swiss star and her partner Leander Paes of India will play for the mixed doubles title at the Australian Open on Sunday against the team of Kristina Mladenovic of France and Daniel Nestor of Canada.

It's the second straight Grand Slam final for Hingis - she played for the women's doubles title at the U.S. Open with Flavia Pennetta, but they lost to the Russian team of Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina.

''I think definitely when I go on court I want to win every time,'' Hingis said this week. ''Now I can pick and choose the tournaments that I want to play, I have the partners that I want to play with and I enjoy being out there on the court.

''Also, it helps feeling like we have the chance to win the tournament.''

She has more than a good chance to win with the 41-year-old Paes, a veteran doubles specialist with 14 Grand Slam titles - all in doubles and mixed doubles.

The two had played mixed doubles in World Team Tennis together and joked around last year about giving it a go at the majors.

''Normally it's the guy who comes up and asks, but for somebody who talks a lot, I'm kind of shy,'' Paes said.

Hingis only wishes it hadn't taken them so long to join forces.

''I was saying even on the court, `Hey, we maybe should have played 10 years ago,''' she said with a laugh.

Of course, 10 years ago, Hingis wasn't playing. A Grand Slam champion and No. 1-ranked player at the age of 16, she abruptly retired six years later, citing recurring injuries. She returned to the tour in 2006, then retired again a year later after testing positive for cocaine at Wimbledon.

After six years away, however, she missed the competition and decided to return yet again - as a doubles specialist - in 2013.

Now she's back in a final again at the Australian Open, where she made her Grand Slam debut 20 years ago. She's also having fun, smiling and laughing easily on the court - something that didn't happen so frequently during her peak years.

For Paes, winning the title on Sunday would give him yet another distinction in his long career: two major titles with Martinas. He captured the mixed doubles at the Australian Open in 2002 with Martina Navratilova.

"The trophies, we have plenty in our showcase. One more would be lovely, but it really doesn't make much of a difference,'' he said. ''We love playing tennis and that's the fun part.''