2014 French Open Men’s Contender Profiles – Fast Facts with Jack Cunniff


(May 24, 2014) Profiles of the top Men’s Singles contenders for the 2014 French Open. Note: Grand Slam records for main draw matches only.  – by Jack Cunniff     http://twitter.com/jrcunniff

1. Rafael Nadal
2014 Record: 34-6
Grand Slam Record: 177-24
French Open Record: 59-1
French Open Best Result: Won (2005-08, 2010-13)
Fast Fact: In his 59 wins at the French Open, Nadal has been extended to a 5th set only twice (Isner, 2011 1R; Djokovic 2013 SF).

2. Novak Djokovic
2014 Record: 24-3
Grand Slam Record: 162-31
French Open Record: 36-9
French Open Best Result: RU (2012)
Fast Fact: At the past four Grand Slam events, Djokovic has won more singles matches than any other player, male or female, but currently holds no Grand Slam titles.

3. Stan Wawrinka
2014 Record: 21-5
Grand Slam Record: 75-35
French Open Record: 20-9
French Open Best Result: QF (2013)
Fast Fact: Wawrinka has earned more prize money in the past 18 months ($6.3M) than he had in the previous 10 years ($5.9M).

4. Roger Federer
2014 Record: 28-6
Grand Slam Record: 265-42
French Open Record: 58-14
French Open Best Result: Won (2009)
Fast Fact: Both Federer and Lleyton Hewitt are appearing in their 61st Grand Slam at 2014 Roland Garros, tying them with Andre Agassi, and trailing only Fabrice Santoro (70) for the most Open Era Slam appearances.

5. David Ferrer
2014 Record: 27-10
Grand Slam Record: 115-45
French Open Record: 32-11
French Open Best Result: RU (2013)
Fast Fact: Ferrer is attempting to reach the Fourth Round at his 16th consecutive Grand Slam; he hasn’t lost before the 4R since the 2010 French Open (l. to Melzer, 3R)

6. Tomas Berdych
2014 Record: 27-8
Grand Slam Record: 93-42
French Open Record: 13-10
French Open Best Result: SF (2010)
Fast Fact:. In his 10 previous French Open appearances, Berdych has lost in the first round in half of them, and has only passed the 2R on three occasions (2006, ’10, ’12).

7. Andy Murray
2014 Record: 21-9
Grand Slam Record: 121-30
French Open Record: 18-6
French Open Best Result: SF (2011)
Fast Fact: Of his 13 appearances in Grand Slam semifinals, only one has been at Roland Garros (2011).

8. Milos Raonic
2014 Record: 15-7
Grand Slam Record: 23-13
French Open Record: 4-3
French Open Best Result: 3R (2012-‘13)
Fast Fact: Raonic earns a Top Eight seed without ever reaching the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam; the last player to accomplish that was Gilles Simon (2009 Australian Open).

9. Kei Nishikori
2014 Record: 27-5
Grand Slam Record: 28-18
French Open Record: 5-3
French Open Best Result: 4R (2013)
Fast Fact: Nishikori has the 3rd best winning percentage on tour for 2014 (84.4%), trailing only Djokovic (88.9%) and Nadal (85.0%).

10. John Isner
2014 Record: 16-9
Grand Slam Record: 30-23
French Open Record: 5-5
French Open Best Result: 3R (2010, ‘13)
Fast Fact: Isner is the only player in the Top Twenty with a career losing record on clay (36-37).

11. Grigor Dimitrov
2014 Record: 26-8
Grand Slam Record: 12-14
French Open Record: 3-3
French Open Best Result: 3R (2013)
Fast Fact: After losing his opening round match in 8 events last year, Dimitrov has a 10-0 record in his opening round matches in 2014.

12. Richard Gasquet
2014 Record: 13-7
Grand Slam Record: 69-37
French Open Record: 13-10
French Open Best Result: 4R (2011-‘13)
Fast Fact: Gasquet is attempting to win his 100th clay court match in the first round of Roland Garros.

13. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
2014 Record: 17-10
Grand Slam Record: 75-25
French Open Record: 17-6
French Open Best Result: SF (2013)
Fast Fact: Tsonga’s last win against a Top Ten player was in the 2013 French Open (d. Federer, QF); he has lost his last eight matches vs. Top Ten players.

14. Fabio Fognini
2014 Record: 26-11
Grand Slam Record: 21-23
French Open Record: 10-5
French Open Best Result: QF (2011)
Fast Fact: Fognini passed the .500 mark in career wins and losses for the first time when he won his 3R match in 2014 Miami.

15. Mikhail Youzhny
2014 Record: 6-9
Grand Slam Record: 93-50
French Open Record: 22-13
French Open Best Result: QF (2010)
Fast Fact: Youzhny has lost his last six matches that have gone to a final set; he hasn’t won a deciding set since Valencia, October 2013.

16. Tommy Haas
2014 Record: 14-10
Grand Slam Record: 104-54
French Open Record: 21-12
French Open Best Result: QF (2013)
Fast Fact: Haas becomes the oldest Top 16 seed at a Grand Slam since Jimmy Connors (age 36, 11 months at 1989 US Open).


US Men’s Clay Court Championship Announces Entry List


(February 26, 2014) HOUSTON – Four former champions are on the initial entry list of 21 players for the 2014 Fayez Sarofim & Co. US Men’s Clay Court Championship that will be held April 7-13. It will mark the 80th tournament that River Oaks Country Club has hosted.

Defending champion John Isner of the United States will be joined by former champions Juan Monaco (2012), Lleyton Hewitt (2009) and Ivo Karlovic (2007) in the tournament.

Isner, at No. 13, is the top ranked of all entrants, and is one of three Top 20 players in the field, joined by Spaniards Tommy Robredo (No. 16) and Nicolas Almagro (No. 17). Robredo and Almagro, the 2013 runner-up, are two of only four active players on the ATP with more than 200 career match wins on clay.

“We are very pleased to see the caliber of players on our initial entry list,” said Tournament Director Van Barry. “This field really has everything we could ask for – an international flavor, players with high rankings, players who have had success here and players who are well-liked by our fans. We are very excited to have all these guys come to River Oaks and are looking forward to a great week with them as we celebrate the 80th tournament in the Club’s history.”

The initial entry list of 21 includes players from 13 countries. Three more players will be granted wild cards into the field, while four will be added through a qualifying tournament held April 5-7. Below is the initial entry list (Feb. 24 ranking in parentheses):

Nicolas Almagro – Spain (17)
Benjamin Becker – Germany (90)
Alex Bogomolov, Jr. – Russia (93)
Pablo Cuevas – Uruguay (197*)
Somdev Devvarman – India (78)
Matthew Ebden – Australia (62)
Alejandro Falla – Colombia (79)
Daniel Gimeno-Traver – Spain (85)
Santiago Giraldo – Colombia (58)
Alejandro Gonzalez – Colombia (76)
Lleyton Hewitt – Australia (42)
John Isner – United States (13)
Ivo Karlovic – Croatia (55)
Bradley Klahn – United States (65)
Feliciano Lopez – Spain (37)
Juan Monaco – Argentina (43)
Sam Querrey – United States (56)
Tommy Robredo – Spain (16)
Janko Tipsarevic – Serbia (70)
Fernando Verdasco – Spain (32)
Donald Young – United States (91)
*Entry based on injury protected ranking

Two of the top doubles teams on the ATP World Tour have also committed to play the 2014 tournament. Bob and Mike Bryan, the twin-brother tandem that has won four titles at the US Men’s Clay Court Championship, and the Spanish duo of Fernando Verdasco and David Marrero, champions at the 2013 ATP World Tour Finals, have both been entered into the doubles draw.

In 2014, River Oaks Country Club will celebrate hosting a tournament for the 80th time since its inauguration in 1931. The upcoming tournament will also mark the 104th staging of the US Men’s Clay Court Championship.


Tomas Berdych Ends Title Drought with Win in Rotterdam

Berdych wins Rotterdam


(February 16, 2014) Tomas Berdych ended his title drought on Sunday in Rotterdam decisively beating Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-2 to win his first ATP singles title since October 2013, the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament.

The Czech only lost one set the entire event, to Ernests Gulbis in the semifinals.

Berdych’s ranking will move up to No. 6 when the rankings come out on Monday.

Cilic who knocked out Andy Murray in the quarterfinals, was trying to win two straight tournaments. He won in Zagreb last Sunday.

“It feels absolutely amazing,” Berdych said. “It’s been a while, actually 16 months since I won a title. To win a title in Rotterdam it’s a nice bonus. I’m extremely happy with the way I handled it throughout the week. I’ve been serving pretty well, which has been the strong part of my game.”

“It was a tough one today,” said the losing finalist. “What made the difference in the end was that Tomas served really well. Overall I think the tournament was great. I played great tennis and enjoyed it here. I had a great run of nine [straight] wins and I hope to make that run soon again.”

For Berdych it is his ninth tour-level title in his 20th final. He becomes the first Czech to win in Rotterdam since Radek Stepanek back in 2006.


ATP World Tour Announces 2015 Schedule


(February 10, 2014) The ATP has released the 2015 ATP World Tour calendar following meetings with its ATP Board of Directors in London last week.

The 2015 calendar will feature 62 tournaments in 31 countries across six continents and, for the first time, will incorporate a three-week grass-court swing in the lead up to The Championships, Wimbledon.

The extended grass-court swing will be comprised of events in Stuttgart, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, London-Queen’s, Halle, and a new 48-draw event in Nottingham (previously held as a 28-draw in Eastbourne). Newport will continue to be held the week after Wimbledon. In addition, Queen’s and Halle will be re-categorised as ATP World Tour 500 events, bringing the grass-court season additional weight in the 52-week Emirates ATP Rankings with a 75 percent increase in points attributed to the surface.

China remains the only country outside the United States to host ATP events across ATP World Tour 250 (Shenzhen), ATP World Tour 500 (Beijing), and ATP World Tour Masters 1000 (Shanghai) categories. Meanwhile, the 4-week South American swing continues to be highlighted by the Rio tournament, the first ATP World Tour 500 event to be held in the continent. The weeks for the ATP World Tour 250 events in Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo will be determined in due course.

The ATP will also re-introduce a third tournament in week 17 of the 2015 ATP World Tour calendar alongside the Munich and Oeiras tournaments. The week had previously held the Serbia Open in Belgrade, which saw its last edition in 2012. The ATP will be commencing an application process to lease an ATP World Tour 250 to be played outdoors on clay in the European region.

The full 2015 ATP World Tour calendar is attached.


Sam Querrey and Kei Nishikori Commit to play US Men’s Clay Court Championship


HOUSTON – Sam Querrey and Kei Nishikori have committed to play the 2014 Fayez Sarofim & Co. US Men’s Clay Court Championship at River Oaks Country Club.

Querrey, the tournament runner-up in 2010, and Nishikori, the runner-up in 2011, join 2013 champion John Isner, 2013 runner-up Nicolas Almagro and 2012 semifinalist Feliciano Lopez as early commitments to play the tournament that will be held April 7-13.

“It’s great to be able to make this announcement and start thinking about spring and the tennis tournament after the winter blast we had this week,” said Tournament Director Van Barry. “Sam has always been very loyal to the tournament and is a fan favorite. Kei is a rising star in tennis, and certainly adds to the international flavor of our tournament. We look forward to welcoming them back to River Oaks and adding to the already strong field we’re assembling for the 2014 tournament.”

Querrey will be playing at River Oaks for the fifth time in his career. He reached the final in 2010, falling to Juan Ignacio Chela in the title match. He’s twice reached the doubles final at River Oaks, finishing as runner-up with Isner in 2011 before winning the title with James Blake in 2012. Querrey, the No. 2 ranked American, has reached 12 career ATP finals and won seven titles.

Nishikori, 24, reached a career high ranking of No. 11 last summer, which is the highest-ever for a Japanese player on the ATP World Tour. When he was 14-years-old, he moved from his home in Japan to the Bollettieri Academy in Florida to train. As a professional, he has won three titles while appearing in a total of five career finals, including the 2011 River Oaks final in which he fell to American Ryan Sweeting. So far in 2014, Nishikori has reached the semifinals in Brisbane and the fourth round at the Australian Open

Isner will attempt to be the first player to successfully defend his US Men’s Clay Court Championship title since Andy Roddick won the 2001 and 2002 titles. Isner is the No. 1 ranked American, and will be making his sixth appearance at the tournament. Almagro has led the ATP in clay-court match wins three times in the past six seasons. With a career record of 229-108 on clay courts, he joins Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer and Tommy Robredo as the only active players with more than 200 wins on clay. Lopez recorded his 300th career match win during the 2013 season and also reached his eighth career ATP World Tour final.  He has been a member of four Davis Cup championship teams.

In 2014, River Oaks Country Club will celebrate hosting a tournament for the 80th time since its inauguration in 1931. The upcoming tournament will also mark the 104th staging of the US Men’s Clay Court Championship.


2014 Australian Open Men’s Contender Profiles


(January 11, 2014) Profiles of the top Men’s Singles contenders for the 2014 Australian Open. Note: Grand Slam records for main draw matches only.  – by Jack Cunniff     http://twitter.com/jrcunniff

Nadal waves and smiles

Rafael Nadal

2013 Record: 75-7

Grand Slam Record: 171-23

Australian Open Record: 35-7

Australian Open Best Result: Won (2009)

Fast Fact: If Nadal wins the Australian Open title, he will be the first men’s player in the Open Era to complete the career Grand Slam twice, with at least two Men’s Singles titles at each Slam event.

Djokovic wins 89

Novak Djokovic

2013 Record: 74-9

Grand Slam Record: 158-30

Australian Open Record: 39-5

Australian Open Best Result: Won (2007, ’11-’13)

Fast Fact: Djokovic is attempting to become the first man to win five Australian Open Men’s Singles titles in the Open Era.

David Ferrer

David Ferrer

2013 Record: 60-24

Grand Slam Record: 111-44

Australian Open Record: 28-11

Australian Open Best Result: SF (2011, ’13)

Fast Fact: Ferrer’s 2013 match winning percentage dropped 14% in the second half of the year, from 37-10 (78.7%) to 24-13 (64.9%).

Andy Murray smiling

Andy Murray

2013 Record: 43-8

Grand Slam Record: 117-29

Australian Open Record: 29-8

Australian Open Best Result: RU (2010, ’11, ’13)

Fast Fact: Murray is the only player in the Open Era to have appeared in at least three Australian Open finals without winning the title.


Juan Martin Del Potro

Juan Martin Del Potro

2013 Record: 51-16

Grand Slam Record: 62-25

Australian Open Record: 16-7

Australian Open Best Result: QF (2009, ’12)

Fast Fact: Del Potro has lost his last six 5-set matches, dating back to the 2R of the 2010 Australian Open (d. Blake, 2R)

Roger Federer

Roger Federer

2013 Record: 45-17

Grand Slam Record: 260-41

Australian Open Record: 68-10

Australian Open Best Result: Won (2004, ’06, ’07, ’10)

Fast Fact: With his appearance in the Australian Open, Federer passes Wayne Ferreira for the most consecutive Grand Slam appearances in the Open Era (57).

Berdych 9 228

Tomas Berdych

2013 Record: 54-25

Grand Slam Record: 88-41

Australian Open Record: 24-10

Australian Open Best Result: QF (2011-’13)

Fast Fact: Berdych is the only men’s player of the Top 16 Australian Open seeds that failed to win a title in 2013.

Stan Wawrinka

Stanislas Wawrinka

2013 Record: 51-23

Grand Slam Record: 69-35

Australian Open Record: 17-8

Australian Open Best Result: QF (2011)

Fast Fact: Wawrinka has lost to current or former No. 1 players in the last five Grand Slam events.

Richard Gasquet

Richard Gasquet

2013 Record: 50-23

Grand Slam Record: 67-36

Australian Open Record: 16-10

Australian Open Best Result: 4R (2007, ’08, ’12, ’13)

Fast Fact: In the opening round of the Australian Open, Gasquet is attempting to win the 200th hardcourt match of his career.

JWT Tsonga China-Open-Tsonga-smiles-in-press

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

2013 Record: 39-16

Grand Slam Record: 72-24

Australian Open Record: 24-7

Australian Open Best Result: RU (2008)

Fast Fact: Tsonga has reached at least one Grand Slam Semifinal in each of the last four years.

88 Raonic

Milos Raonic

2013 Record: 45-21

Grand Slam Record: 21-12

Australian Open Record: 8-3

Australian Open Best Result: 4R (2011, ’13)

Fast Fact: Raonic’s record against Top 25 opponents at Grand Slam events is 3-6, with all three wins coming at the Australian Open.


Tommy Haas photo by Maria Noble

Tommy Haas photo by Maria Noble

Tommy Haas

2013 Record: 47-21

Grand Slam Record: 104-53

Australian Open Record: 26-12

Australian Open Best Result: SF (1999, ’02, ’07)

Fast Fact: At 35, Haas becomes the oldest men’s player to earn a Top 16 seed at the Australian Open.

John Isner-2

John Isner

2013 Record: 39-24

Grand Slam Record: 30-22

Australian Open Record: 7-5

Australian Open Best Result: 4R (2010)

Fast Fact: Isner has played 61 tiebreaks in 52 Grand Slam matches, with a 70% winning percentage (43- 18).


Mikhail Youzhny

2013 Record: 39-24

Grand Slam Record: 92-49

Australian Open Record: 19-12

Australian Open Best Result: QF (2008)

Fast Fact: Four of Youzhny’s last five Australian Open matches have gone to 5 sets.





An Evening with Roger Federer and Friends


By James A. Crabtree

(January 8, 2014) MELBOURNE PARK – A normal evening at a friend’s house might include the usual pleasantries. You would likely arrive promptly with a bottle of red, before being shown to the living room whilst your friend finishes up the cooking, agreeable smells wafting in from the kitchen.


During this time you would probably mooch round the living room, investigate photos on the wall; check out the DVD collection, feel envious of their flat screen TV or perhaps just cringe at their horrid couch.


Alas, the evening with Roger Federer didn’t include a meal lovingly cooked by Mrs. Mirka Federer, a bad couch or giggles over a glass of red.


At this particular evening with Roger you were rewarded with a LED key ring upon entry and a ticket that hid Federer as a silhouette thanks to its hologram capabilities. Quickly the new toy became a poor man’s light saber by every child and geek wishing to kill time before Federer’s arrival.


And we had to wait…


Old rival Lleyton Hewitt showed up in a suit (yes that wasn’t a typo) for a chat as did former Federer coach Tony Roche (not in a suit). A very tanned Pat Rafter (in more than just his Bonds jocks) followed for a quick hit up with Jo-Wilfred Tsonga. Federer then hit up with a very spritely seventy-five years young Rod Laver (wearing Wimbledon whites) – yes that wasn’t a typo either….

Hold on a minute…yes you heard correctly…Two time Grand Slam champion Rod Laver hitting in his own Rod Laver Arena. Where do you put that on the list of accomplishments?


Federer and Tsonga then had a hit of their own before getting down to business for a very serious exhibition that felt more like an extension of their five set thriller from a year before.


Federer had a nervous start before finding his rhythm then dictating for a 3-1 lead. Tsonga rebounded to go 4-3 up as some wisecrack in the stand screamed out ‘C’mon Rafa’ earning a smile from Roger. The games went back on serve to a concluding tie-break that Tsonga took, disappointment the majority.


The seriousness eased for the beginning of the second set as both players paraded their array of skills for the sort of rallies club players’ dream of. Federer started swinging easy, his smile masking his competitive intentions, and raced ahead to snatch the important points and the set 6-3 like a thief in the night.


Tsonga changed his shirt to wolf whistles from the crowd at the beginning of the third set, and also his fortune, racing to a 4-2 lead. Federer responded winning the next three games, including a hard fought break on Tsonga’s serve that included the most implausible hawk-eye challenge that had everybody grinning. Federer ruined his chance to serve it out before Tsonga showed signs of fatigue after levelling at 5-5. Federer broke again quickly before controlling the outcome with a final point that included a bevy of smashes.


The LED lights were back in force for the final interview as lighters once did for rock ballads. Federer indulged the crowd with a light-hearted chat, telling the crowd he would choose Leonardo DiCaprio to play himself in a movie, and giggling that Serena or Novak would be a good name for his next child (if chosen to name after a current tennis player).


The Roger Federer charity event watched globally and attended by a capacity of fifteen thousand enthralled ‘Federer Tragics’, as one women referred to herself as, not only entertained those who watched it but ultimately benefited, inspired and educated the recipients of his foundation.


So far the Roger Federer Foundation has helped over 86,000 children, the majority being in Southern Africa, with the primary focus on improving education. The foundation plans to reach a million children by 2018 and nights like tonight will only make that process quicker. The event raised over one millions dollars.


There are not too many bad things you can say about Roger Federer. In truth, if you were to scratch your head deep in thought you might not think of any. Simply, there is no better ambassador for tennis, or for sport in general. Every day Federer goes out of his way to add to his already compelling resume of achievements, highlighted by triumphs on the court, but decorated by his exploits for humanity.


James Crabtree is a journalist living in Melbourne. Follow him on twitter @JamesACrabtree


Lleyton Hewitt Upsets Roger Federer for Brisbane Title



(January 5, 2014) For the first time since the Halle in 2010 Lleyton Hewitt has won a tournament. In a battle of 32-year-olds, Hewitt stunned No. 1 seed Roger Federer 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 to win Brisbane International.

The former No. 1 who have been playing each other on tour since 1999 were playing their 27 match against each.

In the first set, Hewitt came out as the Hewitt of old, breaking Federer three times with Federer hitting 22 unforced errors.

The momentum swung in Federer’s favor in the second set after fighting back to even the match.

The third set was a tale of missed opportunities for the 17-time major champion. Federer failed to take advantage of seven break points within the Australian’s first three service games. Overall Federer was 1 for 10 in break point chances on the day.

The first game of the final set lasted 16 minutes with Hewitt saving 4 break points. In turn, Federer was broken in the fourth game and Hewitt held on to win.

“Playing the best players in the world and finals of tournaments, always it’s exciting,” Hewitt said. “That’s why you still play the game. For me, it was motivation enough just to try to get the win out there and obviously win another title. It’s been a couple of years. So I was just ready for the challenge today.

“I played great obviously at the start, really well. It took Roger a little bit of time to get into the match. Then I just had to fight hard at the start of the third set.

“It means a lot with the calibre of players here as well in this tournament. It’s not an easy tournament to win. I wasn’t one of the top four seeds, so I had to win all five matches to get through. There are pleasing parts and massive positives to take out of it.”

“I didn’t play great today which is a bit unfortunate, but also Lleyton was the best player I played this week,” Federer said. “He made it toughest on me. So I have a clear idea what I need to work on, and I have a clear idea where my mind and body is that… I’m very hungry and eager to attack the Australian Open next week.”

For Hewitt,  who is now 7-2 in finals in Australia, it’s his first tournament win on home soil since he captured Sydney in 2005. He raises his record against Federer to 9-18. The victory will move him up in the rankings from No. 60 to around No. 43. The last time Hewitt was in the top 50 was in October 2010.



Serena Williams Defends Brisbane Title, Federer, Hewitt to face-off for Men’s Crown

Serena brisbane

(January 4, 2014) Picking up from where she left off in dominant 2013, Serena Williams began the 2014 tennis year by defending her Brisbane title. It was a battle between the two top players when Williams beat No. 2 Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 7-5 on Saturday.

The win upped Williams’ winning streak to 22 dating back to 2013. The last person to beat her was Azarenka at the Cincinnati event back in August. She now has a 24-3 record against Azarenka. The 17-time major champion heads into the Australian Open seeking a sixth title when the tournament begins on January 13.

It’s Williams’ 58 title of her career, seventh on the all-time leaders lisy for WTA titles, after Martina Navratilova (167), Chris Evert (154), Steffi Graf (107), Margaret Court (92), Evonne Goolagong Cawley (68) and Billie Jean King (67).

Everything old is new again on the men’s side as top seed Roger Federer will face Lleyton Hewitt for the Brisbane title on Sunday. Federer needed three set to stop beat eighth seed Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-3 after Hewitt’s comeback 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 win over second seed Kei Nishikori.

The 32-year-olds, Federer and Hewitt have played each other 26 times beginning in 1999, with Federer leading the head-to-head record 18-8, winning 16 of the last 17.


(Photo above courtesy of the tournament’s twitter feed)

More to follow…..


Serena Williams Beats Maria Sharapova to Reach Brisbane Final


Serena Williams

(January 3, 2014) No. 1 Serena Williams made it 14 straight wins over Maria Sharapova on Friday when the American bested the Russian 6-2, 7-6(7) to move into the final of the Brisbane International tennis tournament.

Defending champion Williams will face No. 2 Victoria Azarenka for the title on Saturday. Azarenka had to battle past Jelena Jankovic 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.

The first set saw Sharapova and Williams exchange early breaks, with the world No. 1 pulling out and past Sharapova 6-2 in the first set.

In the second set Sharapova grabbed a 4-2 lead which she could not hold. Both women broke each other’s serve 3 times each during the set which ended in a tiebreak. Williams grabbed the first minibreak and missed out on two match points. Williams sealed the match on her third match point with an ace.

It was a match which saw both women hit more errors than winners with Williams hitting 23 winners to 34 errors while Sharapova had 16 winners to 23 errors. Williams won despite only getting 41% of her first serves in with 7 double faults and seven aces.

This was first meeting between the two women since last year’s French Open final. Williams improved he dominate record over Sharapova to 15-2.

“Overall happy that I can compete at this level, I really have to take the positives from this,” said Sharapova.

“If I want to give myself a chance to beat Serena I have to raise my level”

“It was very satisfying,” Williams said of the win. “Some of the points were fun, the intensity level was so high….I was really enjoying myself”

“She’s so intense on court and off court she’s so cool, there’s a lot of mutual respect, “Serena said of her opponent in the final.

“It’ll be a good match to see where we both stand”

In other Williams family news, Serena’s sister Venus Advanced to the final of Auckland due to the withdrawal of Jamie Hampton who has a right hip injury. Venus will play Ana Ivanovic in the final.

Brisbane, Australia
December 29, 2013 – January 5, 2014

Results – Friday, January 3, 2014
WTA Singles – Semifinals
(1) Serena Williams (USA) d. (3) Maria Sharapova (RUS) 62 76(7)
(2) Victoria Azarenka (BLR) d. (4) Jelena Jankovic (SRB) 16 63 64

WTA Doubles – Semifinals
Mladenovic/Voskoboeva (FRA/KAZ) d. Minella/Scheepers (LUX/RSA) 63 64

ATP Singles – Quarter-finals
[1] R Federer (SUI) d M Matosevic (AUS) 61 61
[2] K Nishikori (JPN) d M Cilic (CRO) 64 57 62
[8] J Chardy (FRA) d [WC] S Groth (AUS) 75 64
L Hewitt (AUS) d [Q] M Copil (ROU) 64 62

ATP Doubles – Quarter-finals
[2] M Fyrstenberg (POL) / D Nestor (CAN) d [WC] M Ebden (AUS) / T Kokkinakis (AUS) 75 46 10-8


PAT RAFTER ARENA start 12:00 noon
ATP – [3] J Murray (GBR) / J Peers (AUS) vs [2] M Fyrstenberg (POL) / D Nestor (CAN)

Not Before 1:00 pm
ATP – L Hewitt (AUS) vs [2] K Nishikori (JPN)

Not Before 3:00 pm
ATP – [1] R Federer (SUI)  vs [8] J Chardy (FRA)

Not Before 7:00 pm
WTA – [1] S Williams (USA)  vs [2] V Azarenka (BLR)
WTA – K Mladenovic (FRA) / G Voskoboeva (KAZ) vs A Kudryavtseva (RUS) / A Rodionova (AUS)

ATP – TBA – R Federer (SUI) / N Mahut (FRA) vs [4] J Cabal (COL) / R Farah (COL)


Auckland, New Zealand
December 30, 2013 – January 4, 2014

Results – Friday, January 3, 2014
Singles – Semifinals
(2) Ana Ivanovic (SRB) d. (3) Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) 60 76(3)
Venus Williams (USA) d. (5) Jamie Hampton (USA) w/o (right hip injury)

Doubles – Semifinals
(3) Hradecka/Krajicek (CZE/NED) d. Pliskova/Pliskova (CZE/CZE) 63 61

Order Of Play – Saturday, January 4, 2014
Centre Court (from 12.00hrs)
1. Doubles Final: Fichman/Sanchez vs. Hradecka/Krajicek
2. Singles Final: Venus Williams vs. Ana Ivanovic (NB 14.30hrs)