Saturday, October 31, 2015

Martina Hingis & Sania Mirza win 20th match in a row reach semis in Singapore

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SINGAPORE - Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza extended their monster winning streak to 20 matches in a row to reach the semifinals of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global.

Watch highlights, interviews and much more video from Singapore right here on!

Facing Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic, who'd beaten them the last time they played in Rome this year, Hingis and Mirza lifted their game at exactly the right times - they got the only two breaks of the match, at 4-all in the first set and 5-all in the second, subsequently serving both sets out.

The No.1-seeded Hingis and Mirza edged the No.4-seeded WTA Rising Stars in 90 minutes, 6-4, 7-5.

"We had played them twice before and we were 1-all, so we knew we had to come out and play well, like we've been trying to do every match here at the WTA Finals," Mirza said in her on-court interview.

"We just tried to come out and play our best, and that was enough to win today."

And so, Hingis and Mirza's winning streak - which has brought them back-to-back-to-back-to-back titles at the US Open, Guangzhou, Wuhan and Beijing - hits a milestone 20 matches in a row in Singapore.

They're two wins away from their ninth WTA doubles title since joining forces eight months ago.

"It feels pretty good!" Hingis said after Friday's victory. "Sania came up to me and asked me why don't we try to play together, and at first we both had our partners, but as soon as we started we won a hat-trick right away at Indian Wells, Miami and Charleston. It was amazing how fast we clicked.

"It was a dream to come here to Singapore, and hopefully we can keep winning here."

The Swiss-Indian duo was also named the year-end World No.1 doubles team on Friday night.

Hingis and Mirza will play the No.3 seeds, Chan Hao-Ching and Chan Yung-Jan, in the semifinals.

Meanwhile, the last round robin match of the doubles took place, and saw No.6 seeds Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears edge No.7 seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka, 6-3, 3-6, 11-9.

But it was Hlavackova and Hradecka who ended up advancing to the semifinals, and the Czechs will play No.8 seeds Garbiñe Muguruza and Carla Suárez Navarro for a place in the final on Saturday.

Roger Federer into semis at Swiss Indoors Basel

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In a rematch of the 2014 final, hometown favorite and top seed Roger Federer defeated No. 8 seed David Goffin of Belgium 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 on Friday to return to the semi-finals of the Swiss Indoors Basel.

Goffin, 24, fell to 1-21 against Top-10 competition, his lone win coming against Milos Raonic in the Basel quarter-finals last year.

"I know David quite well, even though we've only played three times now," said Federer. "He came to Dubai last year and we practiced together. I knew what he could do, so I wasn't surprised in the match today when he was returning easily, taking the ball on the rise and distributing it left and right with the forehand. We found great rhythm in the second set and in the third it was up to me."

It was the Belgian, who grew up idolising Federer and even plastered his bedroom walls with posters of the Swiss superstar, who flinched first as he was broken to go down 2-4 in the opening set. The World No. 3 would cement the break and Goffin was soon trailing by a set.

There would be three straight breaks of serve though the first six games of the uneven second set. Goffin would eventually take control at 5-2, two games later forcing a third set. Federer’s 14 unforced errors proved his undoing.

The 34-year-old Federer righted his ship in the final set and went on to earn his 56th win of the year. He is now 59-9 lifetime in his hometown.

Goffin, No. 17 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, is still seeking his first title since winning Metz in 2014.

Federer will next face Jack Sock, who rallied from a set down to defeat Donald Young 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, becoming the ATP World Tour 500-level event’s first American semi-finalist since Andy Roddick in 2010.

"It feels great. I didn't expect to play three Americans in a row coming over here to Europe in the fall," said Sock, who earlier downed Denis Kudla and John Isner. "But it's good for American tennis. Unfortunately, I had to play three friends in a row. But it feels good to be in my first semi."

This was new territory. In fact, the last time two American players reached the Basel quarter-finals was back in 1994, when Federer served as a ballboy for Patrick McEnroe and Jared Palmer.

After falling behind 0-2 in this first tour-level meeting between these compatriots, Young reeled off three straight games to work himself back into the first set and went on to claim the opener, breaking his opponent at love with Sock serving at 5-6. Sock would commit 17 unforced errors in dropping the set.

Young again fell behind in the second set, 0-3, but the 26-year-old left-hander would battle back to level at 4-all. However, Sock, 23, responded with a break in the ninth game, and went on to force a third set.

The now-familiar pattern repeated itself in the final set, Sock breaking his Davis Cup teammate en route to a quick 2-0 edge. This time there would be no comeback for Young, still seeking his first ATP World Tour title. He fell below the .500 mark with the loss at 22-23 on the year.

Martina Hingis & Sania Mirza retain unbeaten run in Singapore

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SINGAPORE - Extending their winning streak to 19 straight matches, Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza have all but sealed their spot in the semifinals of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global with a 6-4, 6-4 win over No.7 seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka in the Red Group.

Watch highlights, interviews and much more video from Singapore right here on!

Hingis and Mirza had yet to play the recently reunited Czechs, who won two major titles and an Olympic silver medal, and were forced to withstand a valiant challenge in the second set when the top seeds trailed 1-4.

"They're a great team and we kind of took the accelerator off a little bit and play a little safer, but you can't really do that at this level," Mirza said after the match. "We just tried to get ourselves back together; 4-1 seems bigger than it is because it's really only one break. She was great at the net and I was feeling the ball good at the return, so that helped!"

Mirza paired up with Hingis for the first time at this year's BNP Paribas Open, but it was the Swiss Miss' title run at last year's Miami Open - where she won the title with Sabine Lisicki - that she credits with giving her the belief in another top-flight comeback.

"That was the key victory that we had there," Hingis recalled. "We were down seven match points in the quarterfinals. We dug throught that, won the title, and I defintely felt like I could be a contender for big events and here we are, having a great run this year with Sania and I'm really enjoying every second of it."

Addressing the crowd, Hingis grabbed the mic to shout, "and I couldn't do it without you here!"

The top seeds have only to play No.4 seeds Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic before round robin play comes to an end, but have set up a highly favorite situation for themselves having already earned two straight set wins; of the sixteen remaining qualification scenarios (see below), only one leaves their chances of reaching the semifinals somewhat up in the air.

Both Babos and Mladenovic and Hlavackova and Hradecka remain in the hunt for that second spot, however, and Friday's results will prove crucial for the No.4 and No.7 seeds. For their part, the pair of WTA Rising Stars recovered from a difficult first match against the Czechs to oust No.6 seeds Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears, 7-6(5), 6-2, to keep their own hopes alive.

"We are very pleased," Mladenovic said after the match. "It feels good to get our first win at our first WTA Finals. We had a rough start in our first match, but I thought today was a great level from both of us - especially in the first set, it was really tight and close. I'm happy we stayed strong until the end and came up with some great shots in the crucial moments."

Babos and Mladenovic split their two encounters with Hingis and Mirza in 2015, something the WTA Rising Stars are keenly aware of heading into the final round robin match.

"It's going to definitely be a big challenge for us, and there's a semifinal spot at the end of it maybe and we already faced them twice this year. The last time we played them, if I'm not wrong, we beat them in the final of Rome, so we have a day off tomorrow, we're going to prepare the best we can and I believe in ourselves."

The White Group concludes their round robin play on Thursday as No.3 seeds Chan Hao-Ching and Chan Yung-Jan attempt to remain unbeaten in Singapore as they come up against No.8 seeds Garbiñe Muguruza and Carla Suárez Navarro, while No.2 seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova will try to turn around a tough loss to the Chan sisters when they face No.5 seeds Caroline Garcia andKatarina Srebotnik.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Roger Federer back in the quarter finals at Swiss Indoors Basel

Top seed and six-time champion Roger Federer stayed perfect against Philipp Kohlschreiber on Thursday, handing the German his 11th FedEx ATP Head2Head defeat in as many tries 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 to reach the Swiss Indoors Basel quarter-finals.

The World No. 3 now leads Kohlschreiber 24-3 in sets during their decade-long rivalry, and the 32-year-old German has now lost his past 15 matches against Top-10 opponents.

Federer notched a break of serve in the fifth game to distance himself in the opening set, one in which he would tally 12 winners to five unforced errors.

With Federer serving to stay in the second set down 4-5, 30-40, Kohlschreiber would level the match at one set apiece with a break when Federer dumped a backhand into the net.

It was the ninth game of the third set that Federer would get his second and final break, and the 17-time Grand Slam champion would then step up to serve out the match. He would finish with 13 aces, winning 87 per cent (42 of 48) of his first-serve points.

The 34-year-old will next face Belgian David Goffin in a rematch of the 2014 Basel final, which Federer won 6-2, 6-2. Goffin advanced on Thursday with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.

Federer improved to 55-9 on the season, including nine finals, second only to World No. 1 Novak Djokovic (13). He is now 58-9 lifetime in Basel. The last time he failed to reach the Swiss Indoors final was in 2003, when he fell to Ivan Ljubicic in the second round.

He did not play in Basel in 2004-05, but he’s reached the final every year since 2006, when he won the title for the first time (d. Fernando Gonzalez). He began with a 14-6 record in Basel, but over the past nine years is 44-3.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Roger Federer races through opener at Swiss Indoors Basel

Top seed Roger Federer began his quest for a seventh title at the Swiss Indoors Basel on Tuesday by beating Mikhail Kukushkin 6-1, 6-2 in 55 minutes.

"I got off to a good start, which was a goal of mine," said Federer, who was coming off an opening-round loss at the Shanghai Rolex Masters. "Once in the lead, I was able to stretch that and keep pressure on my opponent. I'm very pleased for a first round, especially after Shanghai."

Federer raced into a 5-0 lead before wrapping up the 22-minute first set, then broke in the fifth and seventh games of the second set for his 54th match win of 2015. The Swiss lost seven of his first service points and saved two break points in the third game of the pair's third meeting.

Federer, now with a 57-9 match record and 6-5 finals mark in Basel, will next challenge Philipp Kohlschreiber, who overcame 11 aces from Jerzy Janowicz in a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory.

"Clearly, it was an important victory," said Federer. "Losing today wouldn't have been great for my confidence. I feel no effects from losing in Shanghai. I hope this match is a stepping stone to greater things this week. I've played so well over the years here in Basel."

Earlier in the day, Grigor Dimitrov set up a second round clash against third seed Rafael Nadal after he defeated Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-3, 6-4. Nadal has a 6-0 FedEx ATP Head2Head advantage against Dimitrov.

No. 6 seed John Isner exacted revenge for his Round of 16 loss to Ernests Gulbis last week in Vienna with a 6-3, 6-4 win over the Latvian in 65 minutes. Isner fired 19 aces and won 90 per cent (28 of 31) his first-serve points. The 14th-ranked American would finish with 28 winners to 14 unforced errors. Gulbis, No. 82 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, finished with only eight winners to 20 unforced errors.

Eighth seed David Goffin recorded his 35th match win of the year by beating Andreas Seppi 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 in just over two hours.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Martina Hingis & Sania Mirza stay on course at WTA Finals in Singapore

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SINGAPORE - Looking to end their nearly perfect season with a ninth title, Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza got out to early leads in each sets against No.6 seeds Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spearsand never looked back, winning their first round robin match at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, 6-4, 6-2.

Watch highlights, interviews and much more video from Singapore right here on!

"I think we played pretty well; it was nice to get that break really early in both sets. Sania came out with some great serves when it was needed. We were able to hold on and finish off," Hingis said after the match.

Mirza remains undefeated in Singapore (4-0), having captured the title last year with partner Cara Black, but has gone from strength to strength with the Swiss Miss, capping their initial successes in Indian Wells, Miami, and Charleston with a first major title at Wimbledon. Since arriving to Flushing in search of a second major, Mirza and Hingis haven't lost a match, riding a winning streak that now totals at 18 after titles at the US Open, Guangzhou, Wuhan, and Beijing.

"It's always great to come back to a tournament where you've done really well in the past. It's great to come back to Singapore," the No.1 ranked doubles player said. "I always keep saying this, but it's as close to home for me as possible. It was great to get that first win, and just to warm-up - we haven't played together in a couple of weeks, so it was great to get that win today."

While the top seeds lead the Red Group, rivals Chan Hao-Ching and Chan Yung-Jan got off to a good start in the White Group. The No.3 seeds - and the last team to beat "Santina" at the Western & Southern Open - edged past No.5 seed Caroline Garcia (who is coming off a run to the final of the WTA Rising Stars Invitational - and Katarina Srebotnik, 6-4, 7-6(4).

"We were a little bit nervous, but definitely excited, and it was quite a good first match for us," said elder sister Yung-Jan, who also goes by Latisha. "They're not a weak team; everyone here could be in the finals of a Grand Slam. Everybody's trying their best, and I'm happy we got the advantage in the first round."

The Chan sisters didn't pair up full-time until after Wimbledon, but made up for lost time in earnest during the Asian Swing, reaching two finals at the Pan Pacific Open and the China Open, and winning a title at the Japan Women's Open Tennis.

"At the end of the second set, we just tried to keep..." Chan Hao-Ching, who also goes by Angel, began before her sister suggested, "calm?"

The two laughed before Angel finished: "Yes, and to keep playing the way we were for two sets!"

The Chans now tie No.2 seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova for first place in the White Group; the two go head-to-head on Tuesday. Also in action will be Garcia and Srebotnik, who will be looking for their first win against No.8 seeds Carla Suárez Navarro and Garbiñe Muguruza.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Roger Federer happy to be home in Basel

Martina Hingis receives Tennis Hall of Fame ring

SINGAPORE - Former World No.1 Martina Hingis may be in the midst of an exciting present on the WTA's doubles circuit, but a moment during the first night of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global was devoted to the Swiss Miss' glittering past.

Fans were treated to a montage of some of Hingis' best moments from her first career that saw her shatter several "youngest-ever" records, and her second career that brought her back into the Top 10 in singles and earn multiple wins over the game's best.

International Tennis Hall of Fame CEO Todd Martin then presented Hingis with the Hall of Fame ring. Inducted in 2013, the now 20-time Grand Slam champion has since returned for a third time to dominate on the doubles court, winning five major titles in 2015 (two in women's doubles, three in mixed).

"These are the moments we live for, and why we come back and play," she explained in a speech to the crowd. "It's thanks to you that I tried to come back and cherish every single moment."

Named the organization's Global Ambassador this summer, Hingis encouraged fans to visit the International Tennis Hall of Fame; located in Newport, Rhode Island, Hingis took a tour of the hallowed grounds and had a chance to hit on its traditional grass courts for a promotional spot that was broadcast throughout the Asian Swing.

"It's a beautiful place. I've been there three times already, and every time I go, I learn something new - how the tennis balls are made, or how dresses have changed over the years. When you go through the walkway of the museum, there's just so much history, the history of our game."

Top seeded in the WTA Finals doubles draw - alongside partner Sania Mirza - Hingis is set to begin her quest for a third WTA Finals doubles title (fifth overall in singles and doubles) on Monday night against No.6 seeds Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Roger Federer talks longevity at Swiss Indoors Basel

No doubt about it, Roger Federer has been a game changer.

With so many players now peaking later in their careers and continuing to play their best tennis into their 30s, the 34-year-old Swiss believes it is down to a change in professionalism and attitude, sparked by his own and others’ commitment to the tour.

Speaking at the Swiss Indoors Basel on Sunday, Federer explained how the norm in tennis has shifted, with players now contesting a full calendar and allowing no let-up as the season draws to a close. The lure of the prestigious Barclays ATP World Tour Finals has players chasing points until the end in a bid to land one of the coveted eight places in London.

Indeed, while other players are still fighting for the two remaining spots at this year’s Final Showdown, Federer is also hoping for a big finish to end the year above Andy Murray as No. 2 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.

“We were a good generation,” said World No. 3 Federer. “We were in the transition of becoming really professional, understanding that we need to change our life around to become more physical.

“The end of the season was always a grind, you just felt tired thinking about it. A lot of players would check out. I don't feel that's the case anymore.

“So a lot has happened and now it will be interesting to see the next two-three years. I think there's a good wave of players coming through and that will be a true test for our generation to see how we're going to handle it.”

Federer is preparing to make his 16th appearance at his hometown tournament in Basel. The right-hander has a 56-9 record at the ATP World Tour 500 indoor hard court tournament, lifting the trophy six times, most recently triumphing last year with victory over David Goffin.

Casting his mind back to his first appearance in 1998, when he lost in the first round to Andre Agassi, Federer reminisced about a vast change in expectations over the course of the past 18 years.

“[At first], let's say winning maybe five or six games in the first round was going to be a good result,” said Federer. “Then it was maybe if you win a set, it would be great. Winning a round would be great. Next thing you know, I was defending titles. It would be nice [to do that] again. That's changed obviously a lot in the approach and with experience, I'm less nervous and less anxious.

“I still enjoy it as much as ever. It's true that the routines now are easier. I know how to handle ticketing. I know how to handle having friends here and family. In the beginning there was just so much going on that it was kind of crazy, but in a good way. I remember I was always very nervous on court because I always wanted to do so well here.

“I grew up here. I played soccer just behind the stadium. I came here on my bike as a ball boy. It feels like it was yesterday. This is what makes the tournament so special.”

Federer is due to open his bid against Mikhail Kukushkin, whom he leads 2-0 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. The Basel native is looking claim his 1050th match win and is chasing his sixth ATP World Tour title of the season this week.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Roger Federer & Rafael Nadal nominated for ATP Sportsmanship Award, ,no mention of Novak Djokovic!

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Kevin Anderson and David Ferrer have all been nominated for the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award this year.

There is however no mention of Novak Djokovic, who has been excluded from the nominations for the second year in a row! Federer has won this award 10 times in the last 11 years, since 2004. The only exception came in 2010, when Nadal won it. The winner is chosen by votes from fellow ATP players.

Federer, who is the world no. 3, has also won the ATP Fan Favourite award, voted by Fans on the ATP Website for 12 years. In 2013, he was also given the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year award.

If you could choose, which players would you vote for?

There are also other awards: Singles Player and Doubles Team of the Year (World No.1);

Comeback Player of the Year, which was won by Nadal in 2013 when he played an amazing year coming back from the knee injury; Fans' Favorite Team;

Most Improved Player, Stars of Tomorrow and Ron Bookman Media Excellence Award.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Roger Federer: 'I'm not going to retire. I'm still motivated'

During a press conference hold yesterday in Zurich, the World No. 3 Roger Federer spoke about his future retirement from tennis. He's far away from it.

The Swiss also confirmed his presence in the ATP 500 Rotterdam which takes place next February: 'Right now I'm not planning to retire and I hope to comeback in Rotterdam also in the next years. For sure, considering my age, it could not be like this. I didn't know in 2012 or 2013 what would have happened, so right now I don't know too, but it possibly could be my last participation there'.

Roger gets asked almost in every press conference about his farewell: 'I understand it. I would like to know when I finish to be able to plan certain things. If I know that 2016 will be my last season, physically I would prepare a different way'.

Federer is still motivated, even if... 'The motivation can't be there due to injuries, due to many tournaments or due to travels. The flame can put out, but I don't get annoyed when I'm on the air-plane'.

A busy schedule for the Swiss next year, since he is going to play Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. '2016 is the Olympic year and next year will be different than the others. I'm going to rest in different periods... I'm not sure if at the Olympics I will focus only on singles, or have a chance of multiple medals. I spoke with Stan [Wawrinka] and Martina [Hingis] about their plans. I will probably decide at the end of the year'.

The Swiss spoke again about Rotterdam and the bond with Richard Krajicek: 'I'm very happy that tournament director Richard Krajicek got interested, I was very surprised that he made a trip to Zurich, but it strengthens my bond with the tournament and I want to make it a good week. Rotterdam is a good preparation for Indian Wells and besides that it also takes place in Europe, so my children can ski. I like to spend time with them. Rotterdam is one of my favorite tournaments, I appreciate the crowd support and I enjoy smaller tournaments more as they are very intimate. In Grand Slams it's all different, there are 350 players and you don't get the same attention. In smaller tournaments there are only 32 players and the big players like me are on the posters in the town. I've good memories of this tournament, my first appearance was back in 1999 and I won in 2005 and 2012'.

Would you like to manage a tournament when you're finished with your tennis career? 'You never know, I didn't really think about this. In the Basilea tournament I was a ball boy and there was an idea a few years ago but nothing more. There are many ways to stay involved in tennis, be a tournament owner or an organizer is a great one. Tournaments do a great job, they work hard 50-51 weeks per year for only one week, tennis players appreciate it'.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The aging of women's tennis: Should fans be worried?

Do you remember the 2006 US Open women's final?

Maria Sharapova's masterly all round performance. Her famous little black dress. It was also Justine Henin's third Grand Slam final loss that year after making it to the last stage of all four majors. Looking back, the match has also become a landmark for a different reason. In these nine years, since Sharapova held aloft the US Open trophy as a 19 year old, no other teenager has emerged as a Grand Slam winner in women's tennis.

You only need to look at the other tennis majors to realise that the slow disappearance of leading women's players under the age of 20 from the highest stage has been happening for a while. The last teenager to win the women's title at Wimbledon was Maria Sharapova in 2004 when she first burst on the scene as a precocious 17 year old. For the Australian Open you've to go back to 1999 when Martina Hingis won the third and last of her titles at Melbourne Park at 18, while for the French Open you'd have to go to Iva Majoli's win in 1997. This long drought at Roland Garros is in stark contrast to the period from 1987 to 1992, when the French Open women's singles title was won six consecutive times by teenagers. Serena Williams' sheer dominance over the last few years aside, the median age of Grand Slam winners in women's tennis has stayed well north of 25 years for the past decade.

Moreover, no teenager has held the world's number one year-end ranking since Martina Hingis in 1999, though Caroline Wozniacki did manage the feat as a 20-year-old in 2010. As per the October 12th, 2015 WTA rankings, the youngest player in the women's top-10 list is the fourth ranked 22-year-old Spaniard Garbiñe Muguruza. The closest a teenager is to getting a place in the top 10 is the 18-year-old Swiss Belinda Bencic who's currently ranked 13th, and, interestingly, is coached by Martina Hingis's mother, Melanie Molitor.

What's the big deal you might say? Don't all sports go through phases of dominance by certain players leading to others losing out on bigger successes? The men's side in tennis would be a case in point with 34 of the last 40 tennis majors having been won by just three men, two of whom are reaching 30 while the third one is enjoying his best run in years at 34. In retrospect, the 80s were a more fertile ground for young male players with as many as four teenagers winning Grand Slam titles -- 17-year-old Mats Wilander at the 1982 French Open, 19-year-old Stefan Edberg at the 1985 Australian Open, 17-year-old Boris Becker at the 1985 Wimbledon and another 17-year-old Michael Chang at the 1989 French Open. Since then, teenage major winners in men's tennis have been far rarer -- the last one was a 19-year-old Rafael Nadal in the 2005 French Open, only the second teenager to lift a Grand Slam trophy since another 19-year-old, Pete Sampras, won the 1990 US Open.

Here are certain factors that have impacted professional tennis in general and women's tennis in particular in the last two decades leading to dearth of younger players at the highest level:

The game has become more physical

New equipment technology has made tennis increasingly "power driven and concussive". This shift is quite visible in women's tennis, which is now more physical than ever with grinding baseline play replacing the deft serve and volley game. Teenage players, in addition to not being fully grown, lack the power and muscle required for succeeding against this style of play.

Competition is more intense

Tennis is arguably the most financially lucrative sport for female athletes with four of the top five spots in the 2015 Forbes list of richest female athletes held by tennis players. Combine this with the improved fitness levels of top players and new entrants are up against a progressively deeper pool of talent.

The financial cost for competing on the tour is high

While tennis rewards its top players with substantial prize money and attractive endorsements, for a new player the cost of competing on the tour can be prohibitive once you factor in expenses associated with travelling and lodging with a coach, trainer and any other family or support staff. The changed nature of the game in conjunction with a longer "break even" financial cycle leads to some talented younger players to reconsider playing professionally.

"Age eligibility rule" limits the number of events for teenage players

One factor that has specifically impacted the women's game from an age perspective is the"age-eligibility rule". In 1995 the WTA implemented its age eligibility rule governing the number of professional tennis tournaments a player could participate in depending on her age. While some reviews and modifications have been made to the rule over time, the basics have remained intact. As per the 2015 WTA official rulebook, 14-year-old players are limited to eight professional tournaments in a year plus Fed Cup matches. A 15-year-old player can enter 10 professional tournaments along with the WTA season-ending finals (if she qualifies for it) plus Fed Cup matches. The pattern continues with the maximum number of professional tournaments increasing to 12 for a 16-year-old player and 16 for a 17-year-old player. High-performing players between the ages of 15 to 17 can also earn up to four "merited increases per birth year", which lets them compete in more events if they fulfill their player development requirements. The limit is lifted once a player turns 18.

So, where does this leave us?

The "aging" of men's tennis hasn't had any adverse impact on the game and most pundits generally agree that this is a golden period in the men's game.

Women's tennis has thrived in the past decades on the appeal of young virtuosos like Tracy Austin, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, Jennifer Capriati and Martina Hingis. It was their success and popularity that played a key role in the overall growth of prize money and endorsements for women's tennis players. In my opinion, for the sport to become bereft of this prodigiousness is not only unwelcome but could also prove to be a threat to the overall popularity of the women's game.

That said, while the age eligibility rule and other factors have curbed the emergence of teenage prodigies in women's tennis, they've had a positive impact on players themselves with occurrences of burnout and early retirement having reduced in the last two decades. Moreover, with players being more mentally and psychologically prepared to deal with the pressures of professional sport, unbecoming incidents like those associated with Jennifer Capriati during the first phase of her career have become rare.

The new tennis season is almost here and while we might see a change of guard at the top it is highly unlikely that there will be a teenager winning a woman's Grand Slam title. Maybe, for women's tennis, 25 is the new 18.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Why the ATP and WTA tours can no longer ignore the IPTL

Serena Williams' 2015 WTA Tour season ended the day she lost to Roberta Vinci in the semifinals at the U.S. Open. Maria Sharapova hasn't completed a match since Wimbledon. Roger Federer has played in just one match, outside of Davis Cup, since the U.S. Open. Sabine Lisicki, a Wimbledon finalist in 2013, announced she's done for the year, too.

Still, all four of these players are scheduled to participate in the International Premier Tennis League that kicks off its 2015 season Dec. 2.

Brushed off by the ATP and WTA Tours as a glorified exhibition, theIPTL is back for a second year, and it's bigger. This time, Rafael Nadal,Kei Nishikori and retired greats such as Marat Safin are joining the league.

With the biggest stars playing in front of packed houses in some of the most under-served tennis communities in the world, the ATP and WTAcan no longer ignore the IPTL.

Whether through cross-promotion or by simply including IPTL results on its website, the ATP and WTA need to find a way to embrace what is becoming one of the biggest stories in the offseason.

The IPTL has developed into more than just a traveling exhibition. The matches are competitive and high quality. Most importantly, the events are star-studded and entertaining.

An individual sport, tennis is driven by personalities. When the biggest personalities in the business are promoting and participating in something, fans take notice.

It's not as if the ATP and WTA ignore other non-tour activities. Whether Sharapova is hawking candy, Serena Williams is showcasing her clothing line at New York Fashion week or Federer is pitching Moet at a press junket, the tours cover these players and events.

So if the ATP and WTA have no problem promoting players pitching non-tennis products, why ignore them when they are actually playing tennis?

Besides, the IPTL is not going away. Founded by former tour playerMahesh Bhupathi, the IPTL was designed to be tennis' answer to cricket's International Premier League in India. Similar to the World Team Tennis of the 1970s, IPTL features teams in Singapore, Japan, the Philippines, India and Dubai.

In April, the IPTL held its version of a draft. Top players like Federer and Nadal are reportedly being paid $1 million per match.

The Singapore Slammers feature Novak Djokovic, Nick Kyrgios, MarceloMelo, Belinda Bencic, Dustin Brown, Karolina Pliskova and CarlosMoya.

Federer headlines the UAE Royals. The rest of the roster includes Goran Ivanisevic, Ana Ivanovic, Marin Cilic, Daniel Nestor, KristinaMladenovic and Tomas Berdych.

The Philippine Mavericks are led by Serena Williams, who will be joined by Milos Raonic, Richard Gasquet, Sabine Lisicki, Mark Philippoussis,Jarmila Gajdosova and Filipino-American Treat Huey.

The new Japan Warriors are led by Kei Nishikori and feature Sharapova, who last year played for the Manila Mavericks. The team also includes Kurumi Nara, VasekPospisil, Leander Paes, Daniela Hantuchova, Lucas Pouille and Safin.

Nadal is the headliner for defending-champion Indian Aces. Monfils,Agnieszka Radwanska, doubles specialists Sania Mirza and RohanBopanna as well as Ivan Dodic and Fabrice Santoro round out the team.

Of course the biggest names are getting huge paydays. But it's not all about the money. Players get to test themselves against top competition with little to no pressure. It's a fun way to work on their games and reach out to fans.

Last year, Serena Williams skipped Brisbane. Her only prep for the 2015 season was IPTL and the exhibition Hopman Cup. That approached seemed to work out just fine.

In fact, even some of the young IPTL participants such as KristinaMladenovic, benefit from playing. Mladenovic finished 2014 ranked No. 81. She is No. 27 now. Think of the learning experience she received sitting court-side while watching Williams, Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki operate. She also got a chance to measure her game against the best without fear of losing rankings points.

For a young ATP player, no amount of coaching or practice duplicate a nothing-to-lose match against Federer, Djokovic, Nadal, Monfils,Gasquet or Nishikori.

Perhaps what irks ATP and WTA officials is that some of the players who are cashing in on this offseason league are complaining about the length of the tours.

Last year, when the IPTL first announced its plans, WTA Melissa Pine, the WTA’s Asia-Pacific vice president and tournament director of last year's WTA Championships in Singapore, spoke with the National about concerns over player burnout.

“But I guess just as a matter with the WTA and players, it’s for them to ensure that they’re striking the right balance in the off-season between capitalizing on promotional opportunities, while at the same time ensuring they have the proper rest and recovery for the upcoming season."

Radwanska recently stated that she would like to see the WTA Tour season reduced. Yet she too will be playing in the IPTL.

Maybe Radwanska wants a break from the grind of back-to-back tournaments and would rather enjoy IPTL-style match play. Matches rarely last longer than 30 minutes, and top players can opt out of venues if they wish.

Opting out contributes to the exhibition feel of the IPTL. However, unlike pre-tournament exhibitions such as kid's day, the IPTL matches are taken seriously. Players are clearly out there to win, and a trophy is awarded to the winner.

Another appeal is how the IPTL brings together present, past and future stars. Each team has young players, established Grand Slam champions, a local hero and past champion.

The league also brings together intriguing pairings fans never see on the tour, such as Gael Monfils and Federer playing doubles or Andy Murray and Sharapova teaming up for mixed doubles as they did last year.

During the season, the legends and champions tours, while staged at Grand Slam events, are largely overlooked by fans. In the IPTL, the past champions matches count toward team success. And then there is something gratifying to players and fans about seeing the game's best talent, past and present, assembled court-side.

The IPTL has certainly won over players who were once skeptical of the new league. Federer, quoted in the Gulf News, "Firstly, I want to see whether it takes off or not...I know a lot of people have invested in it or are part of it. Anywhere where tennis grows is a good thing, so I hope it takes off and becomes very successful."

Early last year, when the league appeared to be struggling to cement deals with big stars, Max Eisenbud, the agent for Sharapova and Li Na, issued an email stating that his clients would not be participating in the league. Li retired, but Sharapova came aboard. Federer replaced Nadal, who had committed but withdrew due to injury.

Using its hashtag #Breakthecode, the IPTL dominated tennis news on Twitter. Players posted selfies in last year's offseason. The IPTL promotes the ATP and WTA, routinely posting updates on its stars in tour events.

Merely staying on the sidelines is probably not a good idea. No formal arrangement is needed. However, when the biggest and brightest stars are tweeting daily pics from the IPTL, how can the ATP and WTAcontinue to ignore?

If embraced properly, the IPTL could enhance, not hurt, the tours.

Perhaps the ATP and WTA should look to the NBA and how it's handled non-sanctioned leagues. Although not sponsored by the NBA, the Drew League is featured on The NBA appears to understand the Drew League keeps its stars in the news in the offseason.

Like the Drew League, the IPTL satisfies the fan's postseason appetite for following the stars.

Instead of ignoring the IPTL, the ATP and WTA should consider embracing the league. After all, they have the similar interests in promoting and growing the game of tennis.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Roger Federer prepares for indoor season in Dubai

After losing to Albert Ramos in three sets one week ago in Shanghai, Roger Federer landed to Dubai to practice under United Arab Emirates' sun in order to prepare the indoor season that will see him in ATP 500 Basel from October 26, then immediately in the Masters 1000 of Paris Bercy and from 15 November in the ATP World Tour Finals in London.

Federer, who refused wild card for the ATP of Vienna, said after the loss against Ramos: 'I just think the first round here in Shanghai has always been historically quite difficult. I didn't get used to the conditions, the surface, the balls and the night matches. I don't underestimate or lack respect to anybody out there. These guys are all touring professionals, they know what they're doing. He did a good job. You could see he's been in the groove, he was playing a good match. It was just unfortunate. I'm well physically.'

He's not planning to retire just after the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. "I'll be back in Shanghai next year". assured. These days the Swiss is practicing with former top 100 player Peter Wessels, who is a tennis academy director in Dubai.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Martina Hingis on cloud nine with many titles in '15

BEIJING, CHINA – Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams aren’t the only ones racking up Grand Slam titles this year. Martina Hingis, now in the third reiteration of her career, has won five Grand Slam doubles titles (three mixed with LeanderPaes and two women’s with Sania Mirza) and another six tour titles in 2015, earning more than $1.3 million in prize money. “Santina,” their new, crowd-sourced nickname, have practically been unstoppable since first partnering in March of this year, immediately winning their first three outings.

Mirza climbed to the No. 1 ranking in doubles for the first time along the way, also adding her maiden doubles Slam title. Most recently, the pair claimed the China Open trophy to mark their fourth doubles title in a row. Mirza took some time off after Beijing and Hingis continued playing, partnering with Chinese player Han Xinyun at theTianjin Open, but lost in the first round.

While in Beijing, following a 1–6, 6–4, 10–6 second round victory over Flavia Pennetta and Sara Errani with partner Mirza, Martina Hingis sat down with contributor James Pham in a special to to talk comebacks, prize money, social media and more. Even when you and Sania aren’t playing well, you’re winning. You said at the U.S. Open that you felt “invincible.”

Martina Hingis: Well, there we were playing well! [laughs] When you’re on a winning streak, you have this belief that you’re eventually going to come back and find the winning solution. [In the second round match vs. Pennetta/Errani], Flavia [was] just coming off so much confidence winning the U.S. Open. So it was definitely there already a tough match; it was the semifinals at the U.S. Open [where Hingis/Mirza defeated Pennetta/Errani 6–4, 6–1]. And now we played a first round, well second round, but we had a bye. So we had three, four days off and all of a sudden they played two matches, a singles and a doubles, and we’re like, “Oy!” We had to adjust to that a little bit and we found a way.

Your success this year has got some people saying that the best team in doubles is “Martina Hingis and anyone”…

[laughs] No, no, I wouldn’t say that. Sania is a perfect partner for me right now. They’re [Sania Mirza and Leander Paes] very unique in their styles, but I think because I’m able to adjust to both baseline and the net, on my side I’m very comfortable. They just happen to be Indian both of them, but they’re true champions in their own way. I’m just happy to have such great partners. But it doesn’t just fall from heaven.

All that winning comes with some pretty decent prize money. Simone Bolelli told us last week that the money in doubles is a pretty motivating factor. As of this week, you’ve won more money this year than players like Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka.

He just won a Grand Slam. That’s pretty okay! [laughs] I don’t say “no” to the prize money. That’s definitely changed over the years. I won the same prize money at Miami as when I won Wimbledon back in the day. It’s nice. As a top doubles player, it’s almost like mixing with the top 20 girls in the world.

​People often compare doubles to a marriage. Is that a good analogy?

Well, you can see from the past that when things don’t go well off the court, it’s hard to play a good tennis match. So I think it is very important to get along, especially in my case. I mean, today, I wasn’t feeling great, I wasn’t playing well, but Sania’s like: “Hey, might as well play a match. I know we’re not playing [well] but let’s try and find a way, think positive.” Things eventually started happening. I think that’s really important, what I cherish about Sania. She’s a very positive person and those negativities go away. That’s what she’s got. And also with Leander. It’s really important to have this attitude. A lot of the time, it’s to put the other ahead of you, in front of you, when you’re not doing so well and let the other shine. That’s what happens in our case. I have a good day, and she doesn’t have a great day and vice versa. But we’re here for each other and that’s what makes this couple so successful.

With how well you were doing in doubles last year and this year, many were wondering whether you were contemplating a singles comeback. I know you’ve said “no”, but was there even a 1% chance you thought about it?

Well, I did play [singles in] Fed Cup and I know my true self and that I would have to work a lot harder on the physical part. Obviously, I don’t feel like I can play with a singles player from the baseline. I’m 35 now, so I’m not the new kid on the block anymore. It’s not only this; it’s the recovery also. For the doubles, it’s already there. I feel it sometimes and it would be harder for the singles. That’s why I wouldn’t want to put myself in that position of suffering anymore. Fed Cup pretty much provided me with some answers. I was pretty close. I knew I had the game but not physically. I played a good set against Aga [Radwanska] and had that win kind of going for me against Urszula [Radwanska]. Tennis is a 52-week year pretty much and you have to go week after week. You recover faster when you’re 16, 17 than when you’re 35. I mean, I’ve had my comebacks. I’m happy about that, but I felt like, hey, it’s not going to happen. I’d rather be playing like this, achieving something, having a great life and not having to be at the limits all the time, physically.

Your “third career” is shaping up pretty well...

It’s nice. Everywhere we go now, withSania, she’s got the Indian support all around the world. Even here in China, it’s been amazing. That’s why I’d rather be a challenger in winning Grand Slam titles like this, because who doesn’t like winning? I’d rather win big Slams and tournaments and be the top team in the world than having to struggle to first, second round in singles.

I was hoping to have this kind of success but the beginning was a struggle. It wasn’t that easy. You earn the confidence. I still felt like I had the game, but the coaching kind of got me back. With Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova or definitely winning the Miami tournament with Sabine got me back and that changed my priorities.

​Can you compare the satisfaction you get coaching versus playing?

I mean, I was very happy for Anastasia [Pavlyuchenkova] when she won the tournament [Estoril, 2013], so that was very fulfilling. If she wins and she gets better, that felt like I was winning, too, because I did my part. She beat Suarez on clay and she played another great match against Azarenka who was number 3 in the world, so I felt like we were going somewhere. That was very fulfilling. [Not as much as] if you win yourself, but under the circumstances, I was very happy with that. I just enjoy being good at whatever you do, try to help other people to get them better and take the best out of them. That’s what my mom said, that it was very fulfilling to be my coach and to achieve something together. As a player, I didn’t enjoy practice. But as a coach I did a lot more because it was like, you do this and this, think about it, when they hit it and connect… I mean the way Anastasia or Sabine can hit the ball, I’m like “wow.” I’ve never been able to hit a ball like that.

I notice you don’t share a lot on social media. It’s mostly tennis photos.

Yeah, because this is what I do. Who cares about food photos? I sometimes put some horse photos. I’m never home! You know when I was home for like two days last time, I just went to the city with my friends. That was the last time I went and did something. I’m pretty busy playing. You’ll maybe see some more horse and ski photos, maybe. [laughs]

Is that partly because in the past, so much of your private life was made public?

That’s exactly what I don’t want to share.

So the best thing about being Martina Hingis would be…

I would not change with anyone right now in my situation. I’m really happy the way things are going. I get to travel, I’m healthy, being successful and just happy in life. And it’s great to have a partner like Sania who reminds you of that all the time, and also my parents. When I tell my parents that I’m tired, they’re like: “You want to be home? You remember how when you were not playing, how you were? So you better go and play!” [laughs]

Friday, October 16, 2015

Genie Bouchard suing USTA over injuries from fall at U.S. Open

More than five weeks after she won what would be her final match at the United States Open, Eugenie Bouchard filed a lawsuit against the United States Tennis Association and the U.S.T.A. Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for damages related to the head injury she sustained after falling on a tile floor in a physical therapy room on Sept. 4.

In the suit, which was filed Wednesday in United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Bouchard said that the fall had been induced by “a slippery, foreign and dangerous substance on the floor” that had been caused by the tournament and that the tournament had failed to give her any warning about the condition.

Bouchard’s lawyer, Benedict Morelli, said the substance was a cleaning agent that was intended to be left on the floor overnight when the room would no longer be used. Bouchard entered the room after a late finish to a mixed doubles match and a subsequent news conference.
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“If they were going to do that, they should have closed the door and locked it off,” Morelli said. “And they didn’t do that.”

Chris Widmaier, the U.S.T.A.’s managing director of corporate communications, said the organization’s policy was not to comment on active litigation.

Bouchard, a 21-year-old Canadian, was a breakout star in 2014, reaching the final of Wimbledon and the semifinals of the Australian Open and the French Open. She was in the midst of an apparent resurgence at the U.S. Open after a disappointing season, but withdrew from the tournament before her fourth-round match because of a concussion and other symptoms related to the fall.

Bouchard is still troubled by the injury. She withdrew from a tournament two weeks ago in Wuhan, China, where she had reached the final last year, and retired midway through her first-round match last week in Beijing, citing dizziness. She has also withdrawn from events in Hong Kong and Tokyo.

The lawsuit notes that Bouchard’s ranking, which peaked at No. 5 last year, has continued to drop. She is No. 39 in the world but was No. 25 at the time of the accident.

Bouchard is asking for a jury trial and is seeking unspecified damages. “We could be talking about millions and millions,” Morelli said, although with Bouchard still experiencing symptoms, “we don’t know the extent yet.”

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Martina Hingis ousted from Tianjin doubles sans Sania Mirza

Tianjin, China: Top-seeded duo of Martina Hingis and Han Xinyun were beaten in the WTATianjin Open tennis tournament here on Wednesday.

The Swiss veteran and her Chinese partner lost to Croatia's Darija Jurak and American Nicole Melichar 7-5, 3-6, 2-10 in the doubles first round, Xinhua reported.

"I am very disappointed," said Hingis, who had won doubles titles in Wuhan, Guangzhou and Beijing with India's Sania Mirza.

Second seeded Chinese pair Xu Yifan and Zheng Saisai beat Elizaveta Kulichkova and Evgeniya Rodina from Russia, 6-4, 6-4

In the singles second round, third seed Karolina Pliskova from the Czech Republic overcame Poland's Magda Linette 6-2, 6-1, while fifth seed Kristina Mladenovic of France beat Urszula Radwanska of Poland 6-4, 6-4.

Hungarian Timea Babos advanced after stunning seventh seeded Alison Riske from the United States 6-3, 6-3.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Martina Hingis & Sania Mirza could finish as year end #1's

The pair have won eight titles together this year. (AP Photo)

Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza have now won 18 matches in a row and eight titles together this year.

Hingis said the key is that when they're faced with important points, they raise their level. In Beijing, Hingis and Mirza beat Hao-Ching Chan and Yung-Jan Chan of China in the final, 6-7(9), 6-1, 10-8.

"They dropped the level a little bit, and we were right away on top of them, broke them, were always up. I think that's what was killing them," Hingis said. "That's what we did in the past matches every time."

Hingis and Mirza began playing with each other in March, winning Indian Wells, Miami, Charleston, Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, Guangzhou, Wuhan and now Beijing.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova won the Australian Open and the French Open. Safarova, however, has been dealing with injury and illness and was unable to play the doubles at the U.S. Open. She will return to competition in Linz next week.

Hingis and Mirza are in position to finish as the year-end No. 1 team. The duo have already qualified for the WTA Finals in Singapore. Seven teams have already qualified, including Mattek-Sands and Safarova.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Defending champion Roger Federer suffers early exit at Shanghai Rolex Masters

Roger Federer has had plenty of difficult days against a Spanish left-hander during his illustrious career. But it wasn’t his great rival Rafael Nadal whipping forehands at him on Tuesday in Shanghai. Instead it was the Spanish No. 10, Albert Ramos-Vinolas, who held his nerve to claim the biggest win of his career over Federer.

Having lost the first set against World No. 70 Ramos-Vinolas, Federer steadied the ship with a strong second set and looked poised to sustain his momentum in the decider. Indeed, just 12 months ago in Shanghai he had found himself in worse trouble when he faced six match points against Leonardo Mayer in his opening match. On that occasion, Federer had narrowly escaped and gone on to win the title.

But there was to be no let-off against the resilient Ramos-Vinolas, who did not let the opportunity to claim his first Top 10 win slip through his grasp. The 27 year old stayed strong on serve in the third set and snuck a crucial break in the eighth game.

“I definitely thought of last year's match,” said Federer. “But at the same time it was a completely different match. Playing a lefty maybe also had something to do with it. Who knows? Albert was doing a good job of trying to stay on the offensive as well as I was trying to do the same. There were some good rallies there.

“I had my chances. I just couldn't make it today. I’ve got to look into it. But at the end of the day this can happen during the year. Unfortunately, here in Shanghai where I was defending champion, I was really hoping again to play a great tournament.

“I just think the first round here in Shanghai has always been historically quite difficult, getting used to the conditions and the surface and the balls. The balls play very different than in other places. Last year I got lucky. This year I didn't. So it's a pity.”

Ramos-Vinolas is the lowest-ranked player to beat Federer since July 2013, when World No. 114 Federico Delbonis stunned Federer in the Hamburg semi-finals.

“I'm always cautious,” said Federer, who had lost just three games in his one previous meeting with Ramos-Vinolas at Wimbledon three years ago. “I don't underestimate or lack respect for anybody out there. These guys are all touring professionals, they know what they're doing. The margins are so small.

“I played him at Wimbledon before, so I knew him. I've seen him play. He's definitely improved since then. That was a while back and that was not his favourite surface. I was aware that he could give me a tough workout and even beat me.”

Defeat for Federer in Shanghai, where he was defending 1000 Emirates ATP Ranking points, also puts in jeopardy his chance of finishing as year-end World No. 2 behind Novak Djokovic.

The Swiss started the week 770 points behind Andy Murray in the year-to-date standings. Murray has the chance to stretch that lead even further this week now, only defending 90 points from his third-round exit against David Ferrer last year. The Scot begins his campaign on Wednesday against Steve Johnson.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Shanghai Rolex Masters Preview

Shanghai Rolex Masters (Shanghai) - The eighth ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament of the season features a star-studded field, which includes the entire Top 20 in the Emirates ATP Race to London. This is the seventh year of the ATP Masters 1000 tournament at the Qizhong Tennis Center, which was the site of the Tennis Masters Cup from 2005-08. Reigning champion Roger Federer,

World No. 1 and 2012-13 winner Novak Djokovic and 2010-11 titleholder Andy Murray are the former champions. A historic occasion will take place with the trio of Federer (17), Rafael Nadal (14) and Djokovic (10) playing together for the first time as Grand Slam champions with more than 10 titles. No other trio to have won 10 or more Grand Slam titles in the history of men’s tennis have ever played in a tournament together.

Emirates ATP Race to London – There are valuable Emirates ATP Race to London points at stake and players will add to their total for each round reached. Players with a bye and lose in opening match (2R) will receive 10 pts. Here is the breakdown: first round (10), second round (45), third round (90), quarter-finals (180), semi-finals (360), final (600), winner (1000). Here is the updated Top 25 Emirates ATP Race to London going into play Saturday in Beijing and Tokyo:







Novak Djokovic*




Andy Murray*




Roger Federer*




Stan Wawrinka*




Tomas Berdych


Lost in 1R


Rafael Nadal




Kei Nishikori


Lost in SF


David Ferrer


Lost in SF


Richard Gasquet


Lost in 1R


John Isner


Lost in QF


Kevin Anderson


Lost in 1R


Marin Cilic


Lost in QF


Milos Raonic


Lost in 1R


Gilles Simon


Lost in QF


Jo-Wilfried Tsonga


Lost in 1R


David Goffin


Lost in 2R


Feliciano Lopez


Lost in 1R


Dominic Thiem


Lost in 1R


Benoit Paire




Bernard Tomic


Lost in 1R

Big Four Dominance – The ‘Big Four’ of Djokovic, Federer, Murray and Nadal have won 46 of the last 50 ATP Masters 1000 tournaments, which dates back to Nadal’s triumph at Monte-Carlo in 2010. The only other players to emerge with an ATP Masters 1000 title are Robin Soderling (2010 Paris), David Ferrer (2011 Paris), Stan Wawrinka (2014 Monte-Carlo) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (2014 Toronto).

World No. 1/Top Seed – World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is making his sixth Shanghai appearance in seven years (except 2011) and he comes in with a 19-3 career record. This is the third straight year he is the top seed. The 2012-13 champion had his 13-match winning streak in Shanghai snapped with his SF loss to Federer last year.

Going into the Beijing semi-finals, Djokovic has compiled a 66-5 match record (43-4 on hard) on the season with seven titles: Australian Open, ATP Masters 1000 Indian Wells, Miami, Monte-Carlo, Rome, Wimbledon and US Open where he captured his 10th career Grand Slam title. On Monday, it marks the 168th week overall he has ranked No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, which is sixth-most. He will surpass No. 5 John McEnroe’s total of 170 on Nov. 2. He will finish No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings for the 4th time in 5 years (except 2013).

Novak Dominates in China - Djokovic comes into Shanghai having won 31 of his last 32 matches in China (going into Beijing SF), winning consecutive titles in Beijing and Shanghai in 2012-13 and Beijing last year.

His 28-match winning streak in China ended last year when he lost to Federer in the semi-finals in Shanghai. Overall, he has won eight career titles in China (five in Beijing, three in Shanghai). He has never lost in the Beijing Open (27-0, entering SF) and is 19-3 at the Shanghai ROLEX Masters (since 2009). He also went 4-4 at the Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai in 2007-08, winning the title in 2008. The only country in which he’s won more titles is the U.S. (11). He has never lost in a final in China (8-0).

Roger Reigning Champion – World No. 2 and reigning champion Roger Federer is making his fifth tournament appearance (13-3 record). This is also his first tournament back since reaching the US Open final on Sept. 13 (l. to Djokovic).

The following weekend he played in a Davis Cup World Group playoff tie vs. the Netherlands, winning both singles matches. Prior to last year, Federer reached the final in 2010, the semi-finals in 2012 (l. to Murray both times) and the third round in 2013 (l. to Monfils). He won back-to-back titles in 2006-07 here at the Tennis Masters Cup and was runner-up in 2005. The 34-year-old Swiss superstar enters with a 53-8 record on the year (29-3 on hard courts). He is second with five ATP World Tour titles this year. His last title came in August in Cincinnati where he captured his 24th career ATP Masters 1000 crown (d. Djokovic).

Murray Returns to Action – What a difference a year makes for Andy Murray, who came into Shanghai last year ninth in the Emirates ATP Race to London. The 28-year-old Scot, who is second in the Race, has already earned a spot in the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London. He led Great Britain to the Davis Cup final with an undefeated record this year (6-0 in singles, 2-0 in doubles).

He is playing in his first tournament since a fourth-round exit at the US Open (l. to Anderson). The following weekend, he led Great Britain to a semi-final win over Australia. Murray has a 14-2 record in the tournament, winning titles in 2010-11 and reaching the final in 2013 (l. to Djokovic after holding 5 MPs). Last year he lost in the third round to Ferrer.

Ferrer Holding Final Spot – Since returning from an elbow injury this summer, David Ferrer has won 11 of 12 matches (going into Beijing SF). His only loss came in his first tournament back at the US Open to Jeremy Chardy in the third round. Since then, he has won two Davis Cup matches, his 25th career ATP World Tour title in Kuala Lumpur and advanced to semi-finals in Beijing. The 33-year-old Spaniard is holding down the eighth and final position for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. He has widened his lead to more than 1,000 points (1,080) over Richard Gasquet, who is in ninth place.

Race Movers

Rafael Nadal 6 (+1 spot)
John Isner 10 (+1 spot)
Marin Cilic 12 (+1 spot)
Benoit Paire 19 (+9 spots)
Fabio Fognini 21 (+4 spots)
Nick Kyrgios 29 (+1 spot)
Jack Sock 31T (+5 spots)

Potential Milestones

Shanghai - Singles
Roger Federer - 1049 wins
David Ferrer - 649 wins
Feliciano Lopez - 394 wins
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 344 wins
Ivo Karlovic - 294 wins
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez - 245 wins
Yen-Hsun Lu - 145 wins
Lukasz Kubot - 95 wins

Shanghai - Doubles
Marcin Matkowski - 395 wins


16 October – Philipp Kohlschreiber (32)

In Case You Missed It

Novak Djokovic won his 29th consecutive match in Beijing and picked up his sixth China Open title against Rafael Nadal. Read

Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock rediscovered their mojo and took home the China Open doubles title. Read

Stan Wawarinka defeated good friend Benoit Paire in the Tokyo final. Read

Raven Klaasen and Marcelo Melo kicked off their partnership with a title run in Tokyo. Read

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Roger Federer enjoys looking at the draw ahead of tournaments

Most players will tell you that they never peek at the draw, that they take it one point at a time, one match at a time. But not Roger Federer. In fact, so studious is the Swiss that the moment a draw is released he studies like a college hoops fanatic gearing up for March Madness.

Not that the World No. 2 claims to be an expert prognosticator.

“I love looking at the draw, trying to understand who is going to come through,” said Federer, prepping for his title defense at the Shanghai Rolex Masters. “I’m horrible at it usually, but I like looking at them. There’s no avoiding where you are in the draw, so I’m aware of who is around me. What I can’t stand is going to the draws when they pull the names out of the hat. If you’re sitting there I feel like any draw is a bad one because you see it coming. But I like looking at the draw just like a fan.”

In addition to his foray into draw analysis, Federer will take on a new role in Shanghai: pizza maker. As the Master 1000 event’s defending champion, he was asked to create an original pizza to be served in the players’ restaurant throughout the tournament.

“That’s exciting,” said Federer. “Because a lot of pizzas were taken, the classic ones, I came up with one that I like — figs, arugula salad, prosciutto, and creme fraiche, and extra mozzarella, if you like.”

What does the father of four call his signature creation?

“It’s the ‘Figalicious,’” he said. “I don’t know if you know, but the name is really important.”

Federer is making his fifth appearance at the Shanghai Rolex Masters. Prior to last year, he reached the Shanghai final in 2010, the semi-finals in 2012 (l. to Andy Murray both times) and the third round in 2013 (l. to Gael Monfils). The 34-year-old comes in with a 53-8 record on the year (29-3 on hard courts).

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Martina Hingis & Sania Mirza win title #8 in Bejing!

BEIJING, China - Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza continued their incredible winning streak at the China Open on Saturday, winning their fourth WTA doubles title in a row - and eighth of the year - with a nail-biting win over the Chan sisters in the final of the Premier Mandatory-level tournament.

The No.6-seeded Chan sisters, Hao-Ching and Yung-Jan, were actually the last team to beat Hingis and Mirza, in the semifinals of Cincinnati right before the US Open, and for the first hour of the match it looked like they might be on to something again, as they rallied from 5-2 down in a tie-break - and fought off two set points, first at 6-5 then again at 8-7 - to squeak out the 67-minute first set.

But the No.1-seeded Hingis and Mirza went right to work from there, winning 14 points in a row to take the second set in just 25 minutes and clinching victory after a match tie-break, 6-7(9), 6-1, 10-8.

"I think the first set, we were probably a bit unlucky not to win," Mirza said after the match. "We got a pretty terrible call at that break point to go up 3-2, then after that we probably should have won that tie-break because we were up the whole time. All credit to them, though, they came up and made us hit one extra ball. They probably played us the best out of the last five or six times we've played them.

"It was a tough tie-break to lose. We could have easily mentally lost it. But we just tried to get ourselves together again. We wanted to keep it together, and really use our experience to get it back."

"We stayed aggressive and tried to keep pushing and creating more opportunities, and all of a sudden things started happening," Hingis said. "It took so much energy to be down all the time and have to come back, because we had so many break chances, chances to win the set, but we just tried to keep our level and stay on top of them. Once we were in the super tie-break, we were always winning."

And so, they now have eight WTA doubles titles on the year at Indian Wells, Miami, Charleston,Wimbledon, the US Open, Guangzhou, Wuhan and Beijing. The last four - the US Open, Guangzhou, Wuhan and Beijing - have come in what is now a four-tournament, 18-match winning streak.

They're the first team to win eight WTA doubles titles together in a year since Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci won eight in 2012. The last team to win more was Cara Black and Liezel Huber's 10 in 2008.

The Swiss-Indian duo's next tournament together will be the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, but one of them - the Swiss - is playing one more tournament in Tianjin.

"Sania is going home," Hingis said.

"I have stuff at home to do. She's actually playing with a Chinese next week," Mirza said.

"I'm looking forward to Tianjin," Hingis, who played with Flavia Pennetta at the International-level event last year, added. "I was there last year, and it's a great tournament, and a beautiful stadium."