Azarenka, Sharapova and Errani/Vinci first to qualify for TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships-Istanbul

NEW YORK, NY, USA – The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) announced today that World No.1 Victoria Azarenka, four-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova and the top doubles team of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci are the first players to qualify for this year’s TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships, which will be staged at the Sinan Erdem Arena in Istanbul, Turkey. The WTA’s year-end finale, to be held from October 23-28, will feature the world’s top eight singles players and top four doubles teams, competing for the coveted title and a share of $4.9 million in prize money.

“I congratulate Victoria, Maria, Sara and Roberta on becoming the first players to secure their places at the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships-Istanbul,” said Stacey Allaster, WTA Chairman and CEO. “Maria and Victoria have had outstanding seasons with each earning Grand Slam titles, the WTA World No.1 ranking and Olympic medals, highlighted by Maria achieving her career Grand Slam. Sara and Roberta have been the stand-out doubles pair this year, winning seven titles including their first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros.”

“We are delighted that Victoria, Maria, Sara and Roberta have qualified for the second staging of the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships-Istanbul, which launched with such great success last year in Turkey,” said Ayda Uluç, Turkish Tennis Federation President. “We are planning to raise the bar even higher at this year’s event and look forward to showcasing the talents of these extraordinary players to fans in Istanbul and around the world.”

 

Victoria Azarenka

“This year has been amazing for me so far, starting by winning the Australian Open, becoming WTA World No.1 for the first time and winning two medals at the Olympics. Last year, the atmosphere at the WTA Championships in Istanbul was great and I am looking forward to playing there again.”

After winning her first Grand Slam title at this year’s Australian Open, Azarenka became the 22nd player to hold the WTA World No.1 ranking. Her stellar start to the season began with a 26 match winning streak, the best since 1997 when Martina Hingis won 37 straight. The streak yielded the Belarusian four singles titles: the Apia International Sydney, Australian Open, Qatar Total Open (Doha) and BNP Paribas Open (Indian Wells).

The 23-year-old’s strong results have also included finishing runner-up at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix (Stuttgart) and Mutua Madrid Open, advancing to the semifinals at Wimbledon and US Open, and claiming singles bronze and mixed doubles gold medals at the London 2012 Olympics. This year Azarenka boasts a WTA-leading 14 victories over Top 10 ranked opponents, including a 7-2 record against Top 5 opponents.

Azarenka returns to the Championships for the fourth consecutive year, having finished runner-up to Petra Kvitova in a close three-set final in 2011.

 Maria Sharapova

“I am very happy to be returning to Istanbul for the WTA Championships. This year has been really special for me, winning the Roland Garros title to complete my career Grand Slam, rising back to No.1 for a time and of course taking home a silver medal from the London Olympics. It will be great to finish off the season in Turkey. We received such incredible support from the fans last year, so I’m looking forward to competing against the world’s best players there once again.”

The 25-year-old became only the 6th player in the Open Era to complete a career Grand Slam when she claimed the Roland Garros title in June. The victory propelled her back to WTA World No.1 for the first time since 2008, a position she held for 4 weeks, taking her career total to 21 weeks. The Russian also made her Olympic debut in London, coming away with a silver medal.

Sharapova has won three titles in 2012: the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix (Stuttgart), Internazionali BNL d’Italia (Rome) and Roland Garros, her fourth Grand Slam title. She finished runner-up at the Australian Open, BNP Paribas Open (Indian Wells), Sony Open Tennis (Miami) and the Olympics.

Sharapova, who defeated Serena Williams to win the 2004 Championships, will compete in the season-ending tournament for the sixth time in her career. She also finished runner-up in 2007, and her 3 hour, 24 minute final against Justine Henin remains the longest WTA singles final on record.

 

Sara Errani/Roberta Vinci

“We are so happy, so excited, to have qualified for the WTA Championships,” said Vinci. “We’ve played very good tennis this year and this is the reward. I was at the WTA Championships a long time ago, back in 2001, but it is even more special for me to do this with such a good friend as Sara. I think the level of competition in doubles has become even tougher over the last decade, so we are looking forward to some great matches at Istanbul.”

Errani and Vinci will be the first all-Italian team to compete at the prestigious year-end event. Vinci will be returning to the Championships for the second time in her career – 11 years after her first appearance in doubles in 2001 (partnered with Sandrine Testud, QF). Errani will be making her tournament debut, joining a list of a list of five Italians who have competed in doubles at the Championships including Rita Grande (2001), Flavia Pennetta (2010, 2011), Francesca Schiavone (2006) and Vinci (2001).

Errani and Vinci have had an outstanding year, winning seven titles, highlighted by becoming the first all-Italian pair to win a Grand Slam doubles title at Roland Garros. The duo won five consecutive titles – Barcelona Ladies Open, Mutua Madrid Open, Internazionali BNL d’Italia (Rome), Roland Garros and UNICEF Open (‘s-Hertogenbosch) – and their 25-match win streak was the longest by a team since 1994, when Gigi Fernández and Natasha Zvereva won 28 straight.

First teaming up on a regular basis in 2010, Errani and Vinci have collected a total of 12 doubles titles as a team. They have also compiled an undefeated record to date in Fed Cup doubles competition for Italy, being key ingredients in the country’s championship runs in 2009 and 2010.

On Monday, September 10, Errani and Vinci will rise to World No.1 and 2 respectively on the WTA’s doubles rankings. Errani becomes the second Italian to hold the honor, after countrywoman Flavia Pennetta held the top spot for 18 weeks during 2011.


RACE TO THE TEB BNP PARIBAS WTA CHAMPIONSHIPS-ISTANBUL

(players/teams in bold already qualified)

SINGLES

DOUBLES

PLAYER

POINTS

TEAM

POINTS

Maria Sharapova (RUS) 7290 Errani / Vinci 8079
Victoria Azarenka (BLR) 7286 Huber / Raymond 6756
Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) 6017 Hlavackova / Hradecka 5700
Serena Williams (USA) 5900 Kirilenko / Petrova 4055
Petra Kvitova (CZE) 5031   Kops-Jones / Spears 2983
Angelique Kerber (GER) 4920 Llaogstera Vives / Martinez Sanchez 2837
Li Na (CHN) 3992 Vesnina / Makarova 2321
Sara Errani (ITA) 3990
Samantha Stosur (AUS) 3072
Marion Bartoli (FRA) 2905

 

Tickets for the 2012 TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships–Istanbul, as well as info about the event, are available for purchase through Biletix – either online at www.biletix.com or at Biletix ticket counters in Turkey.

Follow all the latest news about the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships-Istanbul on www.wtachampionships.com, www.facebook.com/WTA, and www.twitter.com/WTA using #WTAChamps.

 

MEDIA CONTACT:

Eloise Tyson, WTA, +44.207.386.4100, etyson@wtatennis.com

Feray Akşit Güney, TEB, +90.216.635.6487, feray.aksitguney@teb.com.tr

Elodie Verbeke, BNP Paribas global sponsorship, +33632300396, elodie.verbeke@bnpparibas.com

 


 

About BNP Paribas:

BNP Paribas (www.bnpparibas.com) is one of the strongest banks in the world*. The Group has a presence in more than 80 countries and more than 200,000 employees, including more than 160,000 in Europe. It ranks highly in its three core activities: Retail Banking, Investment Solutions and Corporate & Investment Banking. In Europe, the Group has four domestic markets (Belgium, France, Italy and Luxembourg) and BNP Paribas Personal Finance is the leader in consumer lending. BNP Paribas is rolling out its integrated retail banking model across the Europe-Mediterranean zone and boasts a large network in the western part of the United States. In its Corporate & Investment Banking and Investment Solutions activities, BNP Paribas also enjoys top positions in Europe, a strong presence in the Americas and solid and fast-growing businesses in Asia.

* Rated AA by Standard & Poor’s i.e. 3rd rating level on a scale of 22.

 

About Türk Ekonomi Bankası (TEB):

Türk Ekonomi Bankası (TEB), a reputable and prestigious institution in the Turkish banking sector, was established in 1927. Since its establishment, TEB, with its expanded network of branches and a diversified range of products and services, pursues operating in various fields of the banking sector as investment, leasing, factoring and portfolio management. In February 2005, BNP Paribas, one of the top 10 most important banks in the world and the largest in the Euro zone, operating in 83 countries, became a partner of TEB which went public in February 2000. In the wake of its strategic partnership with the BNP Paribas, Türk Ekonomi Bankası carries its expertise in foreign trade, corporate, commercial and private banking over into the fields of retail banking and banking for small and medium-sized businesses. Today TEB is one of the major players of the Turkish Financial Services Market with consolidated asset size of 40.5 billion TL and more than 9.000 employees.

 

About BNP Paribas and Tennis:  

Long-standing partner to the sport of tennis since 1973, BNP Paribas is actively involved in the game at both local and international level, and in club, schools and social tennis as well as professional events. BNP Paribas has gradually become the number one sponsor in world tennis: official sponsor of Roland Garros since 1973 and sponsor of five ATP Masters 1000 events – the BNP Paribas Masters since 1986, Monte Carlo Masters since 2005, Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome since 2006, BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells since 2009 and the Shanghai Masters since 2010. The Group is also title sponsor of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas since 2001 and the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas since 2005, as well as being actively involved in many other international competitions including the Bank of the West Classic in California, the Grand Prix Hassan II in Casablanca, the Open 13 in Marseille and the BNP Paribas Showdown in New York. BNP Paribas is also an official partner of International Wheelchair Tennis, such as the the “BNP Paribas World Team Cup”. Through its support for more than 20 national tennis associations, 2000 clubs, 550 amateur tournaments, plus schools and social programs around the world, BNP Paribas helps to promote tennis and encourage widespread participation in the game. The Group’s commitment to social values is reflected in the sports sponsorships it has undertaken in numerous projects, including Yannick Noah’s ‘Fête le Mur’ Association and the tennis Téléthon in France, the Oberer Tennis Camp in Switzerland and the BNP Paribas ‘Taste of Tennis’ in the United States. As part of its creative sports sponsorship policy, BNP Paribas has launched a website “www.wearetennis.com” entirely dedicated to tennis news.  The Group’s new sponsorship slogan ‘We are tennis’ underlines the fact that BNP Paribas promotes tennis for all, at all levels.

 


With Sugarpova, Maria Sharapova Looks to Sweeten the World of Candy

Throughout her tennis career, the 25-year old Maria Sharapova has not been sweet to her opponents, winning four Grand Slam titles, including the 2012 French Open. But Sharapova is looking to be a lot sweeter to many, as she launches Sugarpova, a premium candy line that reflects her fun, fashionable, sweet side.

I had a chance to ask Maria about Sugarpova and how it began. “I can’t take credit for coming up with the name. I was having a meeting with my manager who had met with Jeff Rubin, who is pretty influential in the candy business, and they had started talking about it. Originally, it was something I was going to be a part of, then I thought…I really want to own this”, Maria said. “I guess I can say it started because I have been part of so many little things in my career, been a part of collaborations and collections. It came to a point where I really wanted to invest my own money into something, make all final decisions” Sharapova continued.

Sugarpova offers a bit of luxury, and aims to interpret classic candies in her own signature style. She hopes to bring a new level of quality to the candy world through fun, unexpected types, shapes and names. Some of the names include Smitten Sour, Flirty, and Cheeky.

Sugarpova is already off to a good start, as Sharapova mentioned that the candies are sold out. What should people expect from the brand in the future? “I do hope it goes into chocolate and caramels and all that, but for my body I really hope not” she said with laughter. Sharapova has enjoyed the sweet taste of success on the court, and, with Sugarpova, off the court as well.

Andre Agassi To Be Inducted Into Tennis Hall of Fame

NEWPORT, R.I., USA, January 20, 2010 - Andre Agassi, a former world No. 1 and one of the most revered athletes in the world, will receive the highest honor available in the sport of tennis, induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The announcement of Agassi’s induction was made today at Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, the public charter school that Agassi founded in 2001 in Las Vegas’ most at risk community. The students at Agassi Prep, who range from kindergarten through Grade 12, joined Agassi in a pep rally style event to celebrate his induction.

“I’m truly honored to be recognized alongside the greatest players of tennis,” said Agassi. “My tennis career afforded me the opportunity to make a difference in other people’s lives and it was truly special to share this exciting moment with the students of Agassi Prep.”

Agassi is the sole 2011 inductee in the Recent Player category. Additional 2011 inductees in other categories will be announced at a later date.

“During his 20-year career Andre Agassi recorded some of the most incredible achievements in tennis, including Grand Slam titles, an Olympic gold medal, and Davis Cup success. The energy and excitement that he personally brought to the game inspired generations of players. Today, he continues to inspire people around the world as a dedicated philanthropist, and, therefore, it was only appropriate that we share this news at the school where so many young people benefit from his generosity,” said Christopher E. Clouser, chairman of the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum. “Andre is a true champion of the game, and we are delighted to honor him for his contributions and achievements with induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.”

Agassi’s Induction Ceremony will be held on July 9, 2011 at the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum in Newport, R.I. The Ceremony will be held in conjunction with the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships, an ATP World Tour event.

Tickets for the Induction Ceremony and its surrounding events are limited. Box seats, custom sponsorship and hospitality packages are available. In addition, the International Tennis Hall of Fame is developing additional events and programs to complement the Induction Ceremony and allow as many fans as possible to be part of the celebration. Individuals looking for additional information should call 866-914-FAME (3263) and/or visit www.tennisfame.com.

Agassi, 40, of Las Vegas, Nevada, held the No. 1 singles ranking for 101 weeks, and is regarded as one of the greatest tennis players of all time, as well as one of the premier athletes of his generation. Agassi achieved a career singles record of 870-274, winning 60 titles, including four at the Australian Open, two at the US Open, and one victory each at the French Open and Wimbledon. Within his 60 tournament wins, he captured 17 Masters 1000 events. In 1990, he won the season-ending ATP World Tour Championships. Agassi earned a Gold Medal at the 1996 Olympics, by taking the Singles title in Atlanta. A member of two winning American Davis Cup teams (1990, 1992), Agassi achieved a career record of 30-6 in Davis Cup play for the United States. Agassi’s passionate performances, non-traditional apparel and style, and extraordinary skill made him one of the most iconic athletes in the history of the game. He is credited for reviving the popularity of the game and inspiring a generation of tennis players.

In 1999, Agassi came back from two sets down against Andrei Medvedev in the final to win the French Open, putting him in the elite company of Rod Laver, Don Budge, Fred Perry and Roy Emerson, as the only five men at that time to have achieved a Career Grand Slam. (Roger Federer later joined them with his victory at the French Open in 2009.) This win also made him the first male player in history to have won all four Grand Slam titles on three different surfaces (clay, grass, and hard courts), a tribute to his adaptability.

Agassi turned professional in 1986 at the age of 16, and made his way into the top-100 in his first professional year, finishing the season ranked No. 91. He won his first Tour-level title in 1987, and closed out his second professional season ranked No. 25 in the world. In 1988 his year-end ranking was No. 3 and he surpassed $2 million (US) in career prize money, after playing in just 43 career tournaments – the fastest anyone in history had reached that mark. Agassi enjoyed a long, successful career through 2006, during which time he earned more than $30 million (US) in prize-money, fourth only to Roger Federer, Pete Sampras and Rafael Nadal to date.

In June 2003, at the age of 33, Agassi became the oldest player to hold the No. 1 singles ranking, a position that he held onto for twelve weeks. Agassi retired from professional tennis on September 3, 2006, after losing in the third round of the US Open. He delivered a memorable retirement speech and was honored with an eight-minute standing ovation from the crowd.

During his career and into retirement, Agassi has been a dedicated philanthropist. In 1994, he founded the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education, which is devoted to helping at-risk youth in Las Vegas and its surrounding areas. Since the inception of the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education $150 million dollars has been raised to benefit the mission of the Foundation, including $92 million from the Grand Slam for Children fundraising event. In 1995 and 2001, Agassi was awarded the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award, which is presented annually to one ATP World Tour player in acknowledgement of outstanding humanitarian contributions.

In 1997, he established the Andre Agassi Boys & Girls Club in Las Vegas, which supports 2,000 children throughout the year and boasts a world class junior tennis team and basketball program. Additionally, the club utilizes a rigorous system that encourages a mix of academics and athletics.

In 2001, Agassi opened the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, a tuition-free public charter school in Las Vegas’ most at-risk neighborhood. The school utilizes advanced technology, smaller class sizes and extended school hours, among other tactics, to combat lowered academic expectations and to foster a sense of hope among this community’s most challenged children. In 2009 and 2010, the school graduated a 100% acceptance rate for higher education.

In 2007, Agassi joined forces with Muhammad Ali, Lance Armstrong, Warrick Dunn, Jeff Gordon, Mia Hamm, Tony Hawk, Andrea Jaeger, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Mario Lemieux, Alonzo Mourning and Cal Ripken, Jr. to found Athletes for Hope. The non-profit organization helps professional athletes get involved in charitable causes and aims to inspire the sports community, especially athletes, to make a difference and to inspire others to pass their passion for philanthropy from generation to generation.

Agassi is married to retired professional tennis player and 2004 Hall of Famer Stefanie Graf, and they reside in Las Vegas with their two children.

Induction Process
International Tennis Hall of Fame President and 1970 Hall of Famer Tony Trabert serves as Chair of the Enshrinee Nominating Committee. Election to the Hall of Fame is voted on by a panel of more than 100 tennis media professionals around the world and a 75% favorable vote is required for induction.

Inductees to the International Tennis Hall of Fame are elected in the categories of Recent Player, Master Player and Contributor. To be eligible for Hall of Fame induction in the Recent Player category, the individual must have been active as a competitor in the sport within the last 20 years prior to consideration; must not have been a significant factor on the ATP or WTA Tour within five years prior to induction; and must hold a distinguished record of competitive achievement at the highest international level. Consideration is given to integrity, sportsmanship and character.

Located in Newport, Rhode Island, the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum is a charitable, non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the history and heritage of tennis. Since 1955, the International Tennis Hall of Fame has inducted 218 people representing 19 countries.

To learn more about Andre Agassi’s induction or about the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, please visit tennisfame.com or call 401-849-3990.

# # #
About the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum
Established in 1954, the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum is a non-profit institution dedicated to preserving the history of tennis, inspiring and encouraging junior tennis development, enshrining tennis heroes and heroines, and providing a landmark for tennis enthusiasts worldwide. The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum was recognized as the sport’s official Hall of Fame in 1986 by the International Tennis Federation, the governing body of tennis. The Hall of Fame is located in Newport, Rhode Island, USA, on a six-acre property that features an extensive Museum chronicling the history of the sport and honoring the 218 Hall of Famers; 13 grass tennis courts and an indoor tennis facility that are open to the public and to a club membership; a rare Court Tennis facility; and an historic 297-seat theatre. Annually in July, the venue hosts the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships for the Van Alen Cup, an ATP World Tour event. The buildings and grounds, which were constructed in 1880 by McKim, Mead & White to serve as a social club for Newport’s summer residents, are renowned for their incredible architecture and preservation. The facility was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987. The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum is supported by Official Partners including BNP Paribas, Campbell Soup Company, Chubb Personal Insurance, Kia Motors and Rolex Watch USA. For information on the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum and its programs, call 401-849-3990 or visit us online at www.tennisfame.com.

Nadal Clinches Year End No. 1 For The Second Time

LONDON, ENGLAND – For the second time in three years Rafael Nadal will finish as the No. 1 player in the year-end South African Airways ATP Rankings.

The 24-year-old Spaniard is the ninth player in the history of the South African Airways ATP Rankings (since 1973) to finish as ATP World Tour Champion at least twice. He and rival Roger Federer are the only players since 2000 to clinch the year-end No. 1 ranking in the week after the US Open. Federer did it in 2004 and ’06.

Nadal said: “It has been an incredible season – one of my best ever, if not the best. Winning the US Open together with Roland Garros and Wimbledon, as well as the three back-to-back (ATP World Tour) Masters 1000s in Europe, was not easy.  I worked very hard to get back to the top and it feels really good to know I will end the year as No.1.”

Nadal will be officially crowned as the 2010 ATP World Tour Champion during a special ceremony at the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London, Nov. 21-28. Nadal and Federer are the first two players to qualify for the eight-man field. He is the third left-hander to finish No. 1 at least twice, joining Jimmy Connors (five times, 1974-78) and John McEnroe (four times, 1981-84).

On Monday, Nadal became the seventh man in history to achieve a career Grand Slam as he earned his first US Open title. He is also the first player to win three straight Grand Slam titles in the same year since Rod Laver won all four in 1969. Nadal is the youngest player in the Open Era to achieve a career Grand Slam. It was the Mallorcan native’s ninth career Grand Slam crown and he is the second-youngest player behind Bjorn Borg to win nine Slam titles.

Nadal also joins Ivan Lendl and Federer as the only players to have held, lost and regained the year-end No. 1 ranking in the 37-year history of the South African Airways ATP Rankings (since 1973). Lendl held the year-end No. 1 ranking from 1985-87 and finished No. 2 in 1988 before reclaiming No. 1 in 1989. Federer was No. 1 from 2004-07, went to No. 2 in ’08 and then returned to the top spot last year.

Nadal leads the ATP World Tour with six titles and a 59-7 match record in 2010. Since April he has won 43 of 46 matches, winning six of nine tournaments, including three consecutive ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay court events (Monte-Carlo, Rome, Madrid) and his fifth Roland Garros title in six years. In July, he captured his second Wimbledon title in three years.

ATP WORLD TOUR CHAMPIONS (since 1973) MULTIPLE ATP WORLD TOUR CHAMPIONS
Year Player Player Number of titles.
2010 Rafael Nadal (Spain) Pete Sampras 6
2009 Roger Federer (Switzerland) Jimmy Conners 5
2008 Rafael Nadal (Spain) Roger Federer 5
2007 Roger Federer (Switzerland) Ivan Lendl 4
2006 Roger Federer (Switzerland) John McEnroe 4
2005 Roger Federer (Switzerland) Bjorn Borg 2
2004 Roger Federer (Switzerland) Stefan Edberg 2
2003 Andy Roddick (U.S.) Lleyton Hewitt 2
2002 Llyeton Hewitt (Australia) Rafael Nadal 2
2001 Lleyton Hewitt (Australia)
2000 Gustavo Kuerten (Brazil)
1999 Andre Agassi (U.S.)
1998 Pete Sampras (U.S.)
1997 Pete Sampras (U.S.)
1996 Pete Sampras (U.S.)
1995 Pete Sampras (U.S.)
1994 Pete Sampras (U.S.)
1993 Pete Sampras (U.S.)
1992 Jim Courier (U.S.)
1991 Stefan Edberg (Sweden)
1990 Stefan Edberg (Sweden)
1989 Ivan Lendl (Czech Republic)
1988 Mats Wilander (Sweden)
1987 Ivan Lendl (Czech Republic)
1986 Ivan Lendl (Czech Republic)
1985 Ivan Lendl (Czech Republic)
1984 John McEnroe (U.S.)
1983 John McEnroe (U.S.)
1982 John McEnroe (U.S.)
1981 John McEnroe (U.S.)
1980 Bjorn Borg (Sweden)
1979 Bjorn Borg (Sweden)
1978 Jimmy Connors (U.S.)
1977 Jimmy Connors (U.S.)
1976 Jimmy Connors (U.S.)
1975 Jimmy Connors (U.S.)
1974 Jimmy Connors (U.S.)
1973 Ilie Nastase (Romania)

About the ATP
The ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) is the governing body of the men’s professional tennis circuits – the ATP World Tour, the ATP Challenger Tour and the ATP Champions Tour. With 62 tournaments in 32 countries, the ATP World Tour showcases the finest male athletes competing in the world’s most exciting venues. From Australia and Europe to Africa; from North and South America to Asia, the stars of the ATP World Tour battle for prestigious titles at Grand Slams (non ATP members), ATP World Tour Masters 1000, ATP World Tour 500 and ATP World Tour 250 events. At the end of the season the world’s top 8 ranked singles players and top 8 doubles teams, based on their performance throughout the year, will qualify to compete in the season’s climax – the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. Held at The O2 in London, the event determines the final South African Airways 2010 ATP Rankings. For more information, please visit www.ATPWorldTour.com.

Nadal’s Rise Comes As No Shock

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – As Rafael Nadal sat on the podium with his well-earned US Open Men’s Singles Trophy, a smile came over his face when he was asked the last English question of the night.

You see, Nadal is a huge soccer fan, and since he doesn’t play the sport, but rather watches it as a fan, the little kid in him came out when asked if Spain’s World Cup win was more special to him than any of his nine Grand Slam Titles.

“So when Spain won the World Cup was amazing,” said Nadal, who completed the career Grand Slam by beating Novak Djokovic, 6-4 5-7 6-4 6-2. “ I was crying like ‑‑ like today, maybe, no?  But is different feelings, but at the same time every feeling is unbelievable.  But is very difficult to compare.  Football is unbelievable.  You know how big is football in Spain, or maybe you don’t know, but we deserved that title.”

Frankly, Nadal deserved today’s title as much as his countrymen’s soccer crown. By becoming only the seventh player in history to achieve wins in all four majors, his rise to the top is complete.

Only a short time ago, the 24 year-old was considered a clay-court specialist, someone who could win Roland Garros every single year, but couldn’t do much in any of the other surfaces. Rather, that was Roger Federer’s turf. Sure he made the finals on the grass courts at Wimbledon in 2006 and 2007, but he couldn’t get over the edge with the Maestro.

Then something happened in 2008. Nadal started to catch up with the other surfaces. He reached the semis in Australia and a month after his fourth consecutive French Open win, he played a classic at Wimbledon, finally beating Federer in a five set classic 6-4 6-4 7-6 7-6 9-7 to break the barrier.

“In Wimbledon, is true I have to adjust a lot my game to play in Wimbledon,” he said. “But in my opinion, play in Wimbledon for me always wasn’t that bad, because one of the most important things on Wimbledon is the movements, and I think my movements are good to play well in that surface.”

Nadal always relied upon his speed. It allowed him to catch up to balls, but he lacked the big serve which he needed to dominate on the hard courts. Yet in 2009, he won Australia and many though that it would be the year of the Spanish bull.

Unfortunately though, it didn’t turn out that way.

“Last year I had a difficult year,” he said. “Well, I had a great year because when you win a Grand Slam and three Masters 1000 you have a great year, but is true the second half of the year was very difficult for me, have some personal problems, home, and after, I have a lot of injuries, here the abdominal, before, the knees.

“So, yeah, wasn’t an easy year.  But is, at the same time, for sure, is not good have these moments but live these moments but at the same time, yes, because after that, when you come back, you are ready to (through translation) value how difficult is win titles and how difficult is be there all the time, no?”

Even coming into 2010, Nadal didn’t seem the same when he came back from his injuries with Quarterfinal loss in Australia.

But he remained positive and as he got healthy, something very interesting happened. As Rafa rose, Federer may have lost a bit of a step at age 28, allowing his Spanish rival to take his customary French Open title, and then Wimbledon.

But the US Open remained the one missing piece to the puzzle.

So coming in, Nadal made changes to his grip on his serve, giving him an extra 12 to 15 miles per hour on his shot and a true determination to make this his year at the Open.

“So always when you are playing well and when you are in the right moment with big confidence, seems like you improved a lot,” he said.  “But, you know, there are moments when you are not playing that good, when you lose your confidence, you lose matches, and seems like you are not playing that good and you forgot to play tennis.  It’s not like this, and it is not like this I improved a lot since 2009.  I think I improved my tennis a little bit but is not a radical change, no?

“Sure, to win in here in the US Open I think is the more difficult tournament for me to play, more difficult conditions to adapt, to adjust my game on this court, for the balls, for the court, for everything, no?”

Yes it was. And now that he achieved it, Nadal has the enviable task of being on top, something Federer did with grace for almost a decade. But, something says this talented young man will pass that test with flying colors as well. Because he specialty is still clay, and Paris is home to five of his nine Grand Slam title, he still will be able to dominate the competition there, especially now with his new found skills on other surfaces.

And even though, he still has a ways to go to catch Federer’s 16 major titles – and counting – with a little luck for his health, Nadal could become the greatest of all time before everything is said and done.

Right now, though, the Spaniard is just looking ahead to the rest of the season and one other goal he has for his career.

“But my goal remains for me that the Masters Cup is the big, yeah, probably the last big tournament that I didn’t win,” he said.  “That’s true is the most difficult title for me to win, because we play it in indoor, and when indoor, indoor very quick surface, so going to be always very difficult if we don’t change that.

“But at the same time is a challenge for me to keep improving to have the chance to play well there and to have the chance to win.  So that’s what I going to try this year.  For me right now the next goal is try to finish the season much better than what I did in other years.”

Spoken like a true champion.

US Open Mens Preview

(August 28, 2010) In the shadow of Arthur Ashe Stadium, paradise came to the parking lot of the US Open. Clad in a white warm-up, Roger Federer popped out of the back seat of a Mercedes and walked to the red brick building to pick up his US Open player credential at about 2:30 on Wednesday afternoon. Moments later, Rafael Nadal, wearing a white t-shirt and shorts, Babolat racquet in hand, walked by to greet Federer in meeting of two men who have split the spoils in combining to win 20 of the last 22 Grand Slam titles.

World No. 1 Nadal and the second-ranked Federer met briefly in the parking lot drizzle, will their paths cross again in what could be a day of dazzle in the US Open final?

You might think after transforming Grand Slam center courts into their own personal stomping grounds for several years, either man might grow slightly complacent, but both Nadal and Federer figure to be highly motivated to reign in New York.

The top-seeded Nadal, a semifinal casualty in each of the last two years, may be looking at his best shot to capture his first career US Open championship, complete the career Grand Slam and solidify his status as one of the greatest players of all time by becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold the Roland Garros, Wimbledon and US Open crowns simultaneously.

A resurgent Federer, who snapped a six-month title drought in defending his Cincinnati title on Sunday, is aiming for his seventh straight US Open final as he attempts to reclaim the crown he lost to Juan Martin del Potro in five sets last September. Should Federer win the Open he could challenge Nadal for the year-end No. 1 ranking and move closer to his stated goal of winning 20 career majors and surpassing Pete Sampras’ record fo 286 weeks at No. 1.

Two guys who have lapped the Grand Slam field could be racing toward history and each other in two weeks’ time.

Del Potro, who beat Nadal and Federer in succession to win his first major, is out of the Open with a wrist injury, 2007 finalist Novak Djokovic is mired in malaise and fourth-seeded Andy Murray appears to be the only man capable of derailing the first Rafa-Roger US Open final.

The US Open draw was conducted today and while the women’s draw is more wide open that at anytime in recent memory, the men’s draw revolves around three men — Nadal, Federer and Murray — who serve as the tennis equivalent of Manhattan gridlock for aspiring upwardly mobile members of the men’s draw:  paralyzing presence to be avoided at all costs.

Here’s a look at each quarter of the draw.

First Quarter

Nadal opens against Teymuraz Gabashvili and while this year’s Open is hardly a case of now or never for the 24-year-old Mallorcan, former US Open champion John McEnroe says this may well be the best shot the muscular Mallorcan ever has of mastering the Flushing Meadows major.

“I think this is the best chance perhaps he will ever have to win the Open and I don’t think we should forget the fact he has improved his efforts pretty much every year the last two years,” McEnroe said in a conference call with the media today. “Despite having issues physically — the stomach last year and the knees a couple of years ago — he’s gotten to a couple of semis. I think he’s poised. He’s had the time off, he says he’s 100 percent healthy, the body is there and he is much tougher to beat in a best of five set match.”

The biggest issue for Nadal may be beneath his feet. Can he tame the game’s fastest Grand Slam tennis that has left him looking bewildered on some occasions and overwhelmed on others in his US Open losses? Nadal is a more complete player now than he was when he fell to Murray in a four-set US Open semifinal loss played out over two days two years ago.

The best big-match player in the game looked like a solid favorite to finally break through in Flushing Meadows when he rolled Tomas Berdych in straight sets to win his eighth career major at Wimbledon last month. But in losses to Murray in the Toronto semifinals and Marcos Baghdatis in last week’s Cincinnati quarterfinals, Nadal looks more like the guy who endured an 11-month title drought than he does the Flushing Meadows favorite.

Things happen quickly in tennis. Remember the euphoria surrounding Murray’s run to the Melbourne final when many were touting him as the next No. 1 after he bounced defending champion Nadal out of the tournament? The fact is Nadal has not won a hard-court title since the 2009 Indian Wells and looked as capable of adjusting to quick Cincinnati court conditions as a commuter trying to catch up to speeding cab. Julien Benneteau does not serve as big as Boris Becker, but Nadal could not consistently hit deep returns in that match, resorted to chipping his backhand and basically bluffed his way through the second set, saving a match point playing defense and waiting for the Frenchman to crack.

In practice sessions this week, Nadal’s two-handed backhand return has not been consistently sharp, but if he can regain the range on that shot he should get through the top quarter of the draw that features some dangerous players in the form of 10th-seeded David Ferrer, who beat Nadal in the fourth round of the 2007 US Open, 24th-seeded Ernests Gulbis, a talented, but extremely volatile Latvian who pushed Nadal to a 6-4 third set in the Rome semis on clay in May, and the dangerous David Nalbandian, who has thrashed Nadal on hard courts in the past, but has never beaten him in a best-of-five set match.

Coming off an opening-round exit last year, Gulbis has the game to push through to the quarters, but can degenerate into morose moods and periods of flaky play on court.

Quarterfinal Conclusion: (1) Rafael Nadal vs. (24) Ernests Gulbis or (31) David Nalbandian

Second Quarter

Murray has arguably the smoothest path to the semifinals of the top three contenders. The two-time Grand Slam finalist opens against Lukas Lacko with 25th-seeded Swiss Stan Wawrinka looming as his first potential seeded opponent. Wawrinka’s game is based on a brilliant one-handed backhand, he can serve big and has become a more disciplined match player working with coach Peter Lundgren, who formerly coached Federer and guided Marat Safin to the Australian Open title. But Wawrinka hasn’t been able to sustain himself in running rallies with Murray, a much smoother mover around the court. Murray destroyed the Swiss the last time they met in New York and should dispatch him again should they meet here.

Sam Querrey, who opens against American wild card Bradley Klahn, should reach a third-round match with 14th-seeded Spaniard Nicolas Almagro, who can hammer the ball as big as just about any Spaniard on Tour. If Querrey can get past Almagro he could test Murray in what would be a rematch of the Los Angeles final. Querrey fought off a match point to beat Murray in LA, but the best-of-five set format favors the Scot, who is fitter, faster and a better player at this point. If Querrey is landing his first serve, can shorten up the points with his forehand and get the New York City crowd into the match he has a shot should that match come off.

“I think Andy is the better player right now,” McEnroe said. “Sam showed a lot of heart and is is getting into better condition. People are looking carefully at Sam. In a best of five, Andy should be a strong favorite, no question about that. Andy should have beaten Sam in LA, he entered at the last minute, but I wouldn’t discount Sam particularly if he was rested for that match. Certainly, he’s fitter than he’s ever been and is a dangerous player. Things have set up for Andy about as good as he could have hoped for.”

Wimbledon finalist Berdych opens with a potentially tricky opponent in French left-hander Michael Llodra. American John Isner, who upset Andy Roddick last year, is still in the draw, but if he does play, Isner figures to be hampered by the right ankle injury he sustained in Cincinnati. If Isner was healthy, he could test Berdych in the fourth round, but given the tenuous condition of his ankle, Berdych should get through to the quarters to face Murray.

Berdych swept Murray in straight sets in the Roland Garros round of 16. And you could look at the fact another tall, lanky, big hitter, Marin Cilic, bounced Murray out of the Open last year as a sign Berdych could overwhelm Murray, who is prone to periods of passive play at times, this year. But Murray has had a consistently solid Grand Slam season in reaching the Australian Open final and the Wimbledon semifinals, knows he has a real opportunity to return to the semifinals and is coming off his second straight Rogers Cup title.

Quarterfinal Conclusion: (4) Andy Murray vs. (7) Tomas Berdych

Third Quarter

This is the most wide open of the four quarters of the field with Djokovic the highest seed in this section, but based on the fact the Serbian showman has shown little confidence and played with a sense of resignation in losing to Andy Roddick in Cincinnati last week, it’s difficult to imagine Djokovic returning to the semifinals unless he pulls out some electrifying wins along the way to ignite some intensity in what has been a timid game recently.

Djokovic takes on Davis Cup teammate and good friend Viktor Troicki in the first round. The four players to watch in this section are sixth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko, a former US Open finalist and ATP World Tour Final champion, Roddick, Mardy Fish and Marcos Baghdatis.

Since reaching back-to-back Masters finals at Indian Wells and Miami where he played some of the best tennis of his career, Roddick has slumped though he did reach the Cincinnati semifinals and failed to serve out the match in suffering a brutal loss to Fish. Roddick could be challenged in the second round against Olivier Rochus or Janko Tipsarevic, but should get to a fourth-round meeting with Davydenko, a player he has owned throughout his career, winning five of their six meetings. If Roddick can play more assertive tennis, his hit backhand up the line to open up the inside-out forehand even more, and use the speed of the court to pressure opponents, he has a solid shot to reach the quarters.

“His tennis earlier on in the year — when he got to the finals at Palm Springs and then he won at Key Biscayne — his tennis was certainly on a different level. He since seems to have lost that touch a little bit and maybe it’s just a little loss of confidence from losing a few matches — I think Wimbledon and his loss at Wimbledon set him back a little bit,” Hall of Famer Jimmy Connors, Roddick’s former coach, said. “I don’t think he ever expected to lose out on Court 2 to Lu. He is strong enough mentally and physically to be able to wipe that aside and to start playing the kind of tennis necessary to win a US Open now. He struggled during the summer. But certainly, he is strong enough and a good enough player to overcome that, especially with the excitement of the US Open and being the only American right now in the top ten. The crowd should give him a boost and help him lift his game to another level. I would look for him to go into the US Open with the right attitude and to play the kind of tennis to create a lot of excitement.”

The 19th-seeded Fish has never looked better, thanks to a nutrional plan that has seen him shed 30 pounds, and has never played better either. Fish sat out the Open last year and could take a quantum leap in the rankings toward the top 10 with a strong run in New York. Two years ago, Fish advanced to the quarters falling to Nadal and is a significantly improved player now. The quarterfinals are within reach, but he’ll likely have to beat Baghdatis, who beat Nadal in Cincinnati, and Djokovic back to back to make it. Fish is a combined 0-7 lifetime vs. those two players, but has never been in better form than he is right now. This could be a career-defining tournament for Fish.

Fish and Baghdatis opened the season playing a tremendous semifinal in Sydney with Baghdatis prevailing, 6-4, 6-7(7), 7-6(5) to raise his record to 3-0 vs. Fish.

“I think Mardy has a good chance,” Connors said. “Mardy Fish if he can handle the three out of five sets and over a two-week period, I think he also has a good chance as he has certainly been playing that kind of tennis over the course of the summer to put him in as a contender.”

Quarterfinal Conclusion: (9) Andy Roddick vs. (16) Marcos Baghdatis or (19) Mardy Fish

Fourth Quarter

Three former World No. 1 Grand Slam champions, Federer, No. 32 seed Lleyton Hewitt and No. 22 seed Juan Carlos Ferrero occupy three of the final eight lines of the draw.

Federer faces Brian Dabul in the first round and should cruise to a possible third-round meeting with Hewitt.

Given the fact Federer has lost just one match in the past six years in New York, he’s a strong favorite to advance to a quarterfinal against fifth-seeded Robin Soderling, who knocked the defending Roland Garros champion out of Paris at the same stage earlier this year.

Can Soderling, who takes mammoth cuts off both the forehand and backhand wings, time the ball effectively enough to beat Federer again here? Certainly, Soderling has enough offensive firepower to bea almost anyone when he’s on, but Federer is a much better defensive player and transition from defense to offense more effectively.

The surface is better suited to Federer’s style. Look for Federer to return to the semifinals.

Quarterfinal Conclusion: (2) Roger Federer vs. (5) Robin Soderling

Read more from Richard Pagliaro at Tennis Now, where this story originally was posted.