Dulko and Pennetta First Doubles Team to Qualify to WTA Championships

ST. PETERSBURG, FL, USA – Today, Argentina’s Gisela Dulko and Italy’s Flavia Pennetta became the first doubles team to qualify for the season-ending WTA Championships – Doha 2010, set to take place for the third year in a row at the Khalifa International Tennis Complex in Doha, Qatar, from October 26-31, and offering prize money of $4.45 million.  Dulko and Pennetta will make their first trip to the prestigious Championships as a team after a successful season highlighted by winning five titles – more than any other team on Tour.  It’s also the first time that both players qualified for the year-end Championships in either singles or doubles.

“It is very exciting to qualify for the WTA Championships. We are thrilled to play in the prestigious event for the first time in each of our careers and look forward to competing in Doha against the best doubles teams in the world,” said Dulko.

“I’m so happy to qualify for the year-end Championships with Gisela as we are close friends on and off the court and it is very special for us,” added Pennetta.  “We have worked very hard this year and reaching the Championships is a perfect way to end the season.”

Dulko and Pennetta have played 13 tournaments together in 2010, winning five titles to take their career tally together to eight.  Earlier this season, they compiled a 17-match winning streak – the longest on Tour since March 2007 (when Cara Black and Liezel Huber won 22), which garnered three consecutive Premier-level titles at the Sony Ericsson Open (Miami), the Internazionali BNL d’Italia (Rome) and the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix (Stuttgart). Their run was finally stopped by Serena and Venus Williams at the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open (Madrid), where Dulko and Pennetta finished as runners-up.

The second half of the season has been highlighted by two additional titles – the Rogers Cup (Montreal) and the Collector Swedish Open (Bastad).  Dulko and Pennetta also recorded strong Grand Slam results this year, reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, Roland Garros and the US Open.  Dulko and Pennetta have amassed an impressive 40-8 record as a team so far this season. Dulko also won a sixth doubles title this year, collecting the Copa BBVA Colsanitas (Bogota) with Edina Gallovits.

“I congratulate Gisela and Flavia on qualifying for the WTA Championships for the first time in their careers,” said Stacey Allaster, Chairman and CEO of the WTA. “They are an exciting and charismatic team and have worked incredibly hard to become the most consistent doubles champions during 2010.  Gisela and Flavia will make a great addition to the doubles roster during the WTA’s season finale in Qatar and it’s great that the fans will be able to watch them compete with the best doubles teams on Tour.”

Serena Continues Legacy in Oz

[CHICAGO] – Each and every time Serena Williams reaches the semi-finals of the Australian Open, she goes on to win the title. This first Grand Slam of 2010 was no exception. Williams dominated this all Wilson final, putting an end to the amazing return of former #1, Justine Henin.

With her [K] Blade Team racket, the 12 time Grand Slam champion held strong throughout the entire tournament despite being injured. The final match was all about Serena’s well known power game as she defeated Henin 6-4, 3-6, 6-2. Fans knew they were watching a great champion doing what she does best. Serena pushed through her injury and played like a true champion, running down every ball and leaving it all on the court.

“It feels incredible to defend my title here in Melbourne,” Serena said after winning against Henin. “Justine is a great competitor but I knew this was my time to shine and gave it everything I had.”

This was Williams’ fifth Australian Open title and she is the first woman in the Open Era to win five Australian Open titles. She is also the first to win back-to-back Australian Opens since Jennifer Capriati in 2002.

Before winning her singles championship, Serena defended the doubles title with her sister Venus and their [K] Blade Team rackets. The sisters rolled over the world’s top-ranked women’s doubles team of Cara Black and Liezel Huber in two sets 6-4, 6-3. It’s their fourth Australian Open title together; part of their collection of an astonishing eleven Grand Slam women’s doubles championships.

“It is just great to continue this success with Serena,” said Venus after winning her doubles title. “We know each other’s game so well– we’re the perfect match.”

Wilson Racquet Sports is a division of Chicago-based Wilson Sporting Goods, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of sports equipment and owned by Amer Sports. Wilson designs, manufactures and distributes sporting goods throughout the world and focuses on making technologically advanced products which help players of all levels perform better. Wilson’s core sport categories include: Football, Basketball, Baseball, Volleyball, Soccer, Youth Sports, Uniforms/Apparel, Golf, Footwear and Racquet Sports (Tennis, Racquetball, Squash, Badminton and Platform Tennis). For more information, visit www.wilson.com.

Serena Apologized, Now Let’s Move On

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Over the weekend I wrote that Serena Williams has a chance today to do the right thing and apologize about her actions on Saturday night.

And today she did just that.

“I wanted to apologize first to the lineswoman, to the USTA, and my fans most of all, and to Kim Clijsters who ended up having such a wonderful tournament and winning the championship, and what an amazing feat that was,” Williams said after she and her sister Venus beat the team of Cara Black and Liezel Huber for the Woman’s Doubles Championship, 6-2, 6-2. “I just really wanted to apologize sincerely, because I’m a very prideful person and I’m a very intense person and a very emotional person. I think it all showed.

“Most of all, I’m a very sincere person. I wanted to offer my sincere apologies to anyone that I may have offended. I would again like to thank the fans for all the support that I’ve gotten. I think it’s awesome and cool that I’ve got so much support. I appreciate everything.”

Because she apologized, Serena will find out that America is a very forgiving country. Baseball players like Alex Rodriguez and Jason Giambi were more or less exonerated for their steroids uses because they said they were sorry. And those like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who still live the lie, are having problems.

Serena, though, didn’t take any drugs, didn’t shoot herself with a gun she smuggled into a club, nor did she have dog fight each other. No she lost her temper, much like the way John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, and even Andre Agassi have done in the past.

In baseball, actions like that are cheered. Yet not in tennis, which is more civilized, especially on the ladies side.

“I don’t really follow too much baseball,” Serena said. “I think every athlete is really intense.”

So now tennis needs to get out of its own way and move on from this ugly incident. Williams lost the singles title, partially due to her actions and of course her poor play, which caused the incident. Rather than having a tremendous investigation, the WTA needs to let the fine stand and consider the situation closed.

As for Serena, let’s see if she learned her lesson. In the future, will she think twice if she foot faults again? Well her tune changed about the lineswoman.

“I don’t think my foot touched the line in that call,” she said. “Looking back on it, I think the lady did the best that she could. She was just doing her job. I guess at the time, she probably saw it as what it was. You know, she was just doing her best.”

And that’s all anyone is looking for – their best. On Saturday, Serena was wrong for threatening the lineswoman, today she said she was sorry.

Serena paid her fine and seems like she knows she did wrong.

Now its time to move on.

Unseeded Parrott and Gullickson Win Mixed Doubles

Entering the Open, Travis Parrott wasn’t even sure who his mixed doubles partner would be because original partner Abigail Spears opted to play with Robert Kendrick instead.

As fate had it, that turned out to be a good omen as it allowed him to text Carly Gullickson who was looking for a partner two days before the tournament. So much for needing practice as the unlikely unseeded American pair got a wildcard and rode it all the way to the mixed doubles crown capping off a great run by upsetting defending champs Cara Black and Leander Paes 6-2, 6-4.

Usually, Black and Paes are as tough as it comes. But the underdogs caught them by surprise to pull it off. Up two breaks in the second after crusing through the opening set, they dropped serve making things tight.

But both remained poised winning on Parrott’s serve when Gullickson putaway a forehand volley into an open court, screaming in joy before hugging her victorious partner.

“I was super-relaxed because I felt no pressure on the court, because it was just fun,” the exhilerated Gullickson said.

The daughter of former MLB pitcher Bill Gullickson played the early hero during their amazing run with her volleying skills besting one of doubles’ best in Max Mirnyi back in Round One, saving match point in their comeback win over Mirnyi and Nadia Petrova.

“Then, you walk into that second round, and you’re just all of a sudden, just happy to be in the tournament,” a pleased Parrott noted. “It’s a whole new mind frame.”

“If she’ll play with me,” Parrott said as Gullickson fittingly replied:

“Yeah, for sure.”

Perfect conclusion from an unlikely duo took them all the way. One neither will ever forget.

Williams Sisters in Doubles Finals

The Williams sisters aren’t only dominating women’s singles but also doubles. Earlier today, they advanced to the women’s doubles final by posting a hard fought three set win over the Russian team of Alisa Kleybanova and Ekaterina Makarova, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-2.

Serena- who plays Kim Clijsters tomorrow for a place in the singles final- teamed up with big sis Venus to advance to their first Open doubles final since 1999. Having won Wimbledon together, the dynamic duo will make their 10th appearance in a slam final putting a perfect 9-0 record on the line against the winner between tomorrow’s other semi featuring top ranked Cara Black and Liezel Huber or No.3 rated Australian tandem Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs.

“Hopefully, that’s a record that won’t end yet,” Serena said who’s hoping for the same end result that saw her sweep both titles at Wimbledon. “We really want this. I’m sure whoever we play really wants it, too.”