Azarenka Tops Poll

Victoria Azarenka has come out on top as the player most likely to win their first Grand Slam this year. The Ace of Baseline public poll ran from the end of the 2011 season to the start of the 2012 Australian Open and the 22-year-old Belarusian won with 37.5% of the vote.

It had been a two horse race for a long while with Azarenka sharing the lead with current world number one Caroline Wozniacki until a flurry of late votes following her title success in Sydney swayed things her way.

The poll result in full was:

Caroline Wozniacki: 25%
Victoria Azarenka: 37.5%
Vera Zvonareva: 6.25%
Agnieszka Radwanska: 12.5%
Marion Bartoli: 0%
Andrea Petkovic: 18.75%
No new winners in 2012: 0%
Others: 0%

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So Far So Good

Photo Source: AFP / Getty Images

The first week of the ATP and WTA seasons have been concluded with many of this year’s featured players performing well.

Tournaments in Brisbane, Auckland, Chennai and Doha boasted a number of high-profile names while the Hopman Cup also panned out Down Under in Perth.

With many ranking points to save early on this year, Milos Raonic got off to the best possible start by winning the second ATP World Tour title of his career in Chennai. The 21-year-old Canadian beat Janko Tipsarevic 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-4) in a final which didn’t feature any breaks.

Andy Murray took no time to claim his first title of the year and 22nd ATP World Tour crown of his career as the world number four went all the way at the Brisbane International. Not only was it the maiden event of 2012 for the Brit but also the first with new coach Ivan Lendl.

The eight-time Grand Slam winner has been installed to take Murray to the next level by claiming a major title himself. Lendl watched from the stands as his pupil dispatched of Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-1, 6-3 and, with improved movement on the court, he will be a serious title threat again at the Australian Open.

Murray had beaten Dolgopolov in last year’s Aussie Open quarter-final when the Ukrainian emerged as a main player on the tour. The 23-year-old’s chances of jumping another step and making the top 10 this year look to be on the right track.

At 19, home favourite Bernard Tomic is set for big things. After breaking the top 50 last year he’s backed that up with a semi-final berth already.

There was less joy for Kei Nishikori though, as he fell in the second round despite being seeded fifth. Cedrik-Marcel Stebe and Ryan Harrison both crashed out in the first round but young Aussie James Duckworth took full advantage of his wildcard by beating Nicolas Mahut in the opening round.

For the ladies at Brisbane there were less positives. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova went out in the second round along with Bojana Jovanovski but they had some saving grace as they were beaten by eventual champion Kaia Kanepi and multiple Grand Slam winner Serena Williams respectively.

Things didn’t improve in Auckland. Top seed Sabine Lisicki made the last eight but had to retire in her quarter-final match due to an abdominal injury. She’ll be hoping it doesn’t prove too serious and won’t keep her out of the first major of the year next week.

Elsewhere, Rebecca Marino lost her first match of 2012 in straight sets but teenage Czech Karolina Pliskova came through qualifying to make the main draw.

At the Hopman Cup, Petra Kvitova and Tomas Berdych took the main prize for the Czech Republic but Grigor Dimitrov put some impressive displays in for Bulgaria including a 6-2, 6-1 win over top 10 player Mardy Fish.

Abierto Juvenil Mexicano 2012

While much of the world celebrated the Christmas holidays, a host of young tennis players were seeing through 2012 in Mexico City. The Abierto Juvenil Mexicano, previously known as the Casablanca Cup, began on Boxing Day and although much of the event took place last year, it’s the opening tournament of the 2012 junior circuit.

The clay court event was being held at Club Deportivo Chapultepec for the first time having been on the hard courts of the Club Casablanca Satelite. Here’s a round-up of the action:

Round 1
Seven of the 16 seeds in the boys’ draw fell in the opening round. The highest were Dutch fifth seed Moos Sporken and Peru’s sixth seed Daniel Santos who both crashed out in three sets. Home pressure told for another pair of seeds when Mexican wildcards Andres Zepeda and Ivar Jose Aramburu Contreras defeated Jorge Brian Panta Herreros (9) and Tendai Tapfuma (12). The bottom three seeds consisting of British duo Sam Hutt and Jordan Angus along with Russian Anton Desyatnik all went out in straight sets. In the girls’ draw Osaka Mayor’s Cup quarter-finalist Katy Dunne lost in the first round for the second successive Grade A event. The 11th seeded Brit lost 6-4, 6-1 to Russian Elena Maltseva. Belgian Kimberley Zimmermann’s victory over 15th seed Petra Uberalova of Slovakia was the only other notable result.

Round 2
Fourth seed Hassan Ndayishimiye’s exit proved to be the biggest shock of the round in the boys’ draw. American qualifier Martin Redlicki always had the Burundian rattled after forcing a first set tiebreak but despite losing it he went on to win 6-7 (3-7), 6-2, 6-3. Thien Nguyen Hoang (13) was the only other seed to fall. In the girls’ draw, three seeds were sent home as Ayaka Okuno (6), Rebecca Peterson (9) and Laura Pigossi (16) all lost in straight sets. Japan’s Okuno proved to be the only one of the top eight seeds missing in the third round.

Round 3
Second seed Yoshihito Nishioka, an Orange Bowl semi-finalist a fortnight ago, succumbed to the home advantage as he lost to Ricky Medinilla. The Mexican produced a great performance, taking the match comfortably with a 6-2, 6-2 scoreline. Matteo Donati, who had beaten sixth seed Daniel Santos in the first round, continued his impressive form by beating 11th seed Mikael Torpegaard in the third. He emerged victorious against the Dane 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 and was one of three unseeded players in the quarter-final draw. Meanwhile, the seeds continued to progress in the girls’ draw as the top five all made it into the last eight. Daria Salnikova progressed and Maltseva re-emerged to prevent eighth seed Deborah Kerfs from making it a clean sweep of seeds in the quarter-finals.

Quarter-finals
It wasn’t long before the top seed Nikola Milojevic joined Nishioka through the exit doors. Despite heading into the last eight having not dropped a set, the Serb found himself well beaten by Israeli eighth seed Bar Tzuf Botzer 6-2, 6-3. In fact, all of the quarter-final matches in the boys’ draw were decided in straight sets. Third seed Frederico Ferreira Silva and 10th seed Stefano Napolitano ended the runs of unseeded pair Donati and Medinilla respectively but fifth seed Connor Farren was on the wrong end of a 6-2, 6-3 scoreline as Argentine Juan Ignacio Galarza progressed to the semi-finals. There were no significant shocks in the girls’ draw as top seed Ganna Poznikhirenko, third seed Elizaveta Kulichkova and fourth seed Kyle McPhillips all overcame lower-ranked opposition. However fifth seed Varvava Flink’s relatively easy 6-2, 6-4 win over second seed Zarah Razafimahatratra was somewhat of an upset.

Semi-finals
An all-Russian final line-up emerged in the girls’ draw after Flink and Kulichkova emerged victorious against higher seeded opponents. Flink reached her first Grade A final after beating the USA’s McPhillips 6-3, 6-4 while Kulichkova had to overcome her doubles partner and top seed Poznikhirenko of the Ukraine. The pair lost the doubles final to Marcela Zacarias and Laura Pigossi but Kulichkova could salvage some joy at the end of the day with her 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 win in the singles. Elsewhere, Silva and Napolitano made it to the final of the boys’ event with the Portuguese beating Botzer 6-4, 7-5 and the Italian scrapping through 6-4, 0-6, 6-4 over Galarza.

Finals
Napolitano and Kulichkova were crowned the inaugural champions of the Alberto Juvenil Mexicano with both claiming straight set wins in their respective finals. Kulichkova defeated her friend and compatriot Flink after dominating the first set and coming back from 5-3 down in the second to win 6-2, 7-6 (9-7). Napolitano had an easier ride against Silva winning 6-4, 6-4 to bag his first Grade A title. Silva did have some revenge though as he ruined his opponent’s perfect day by claiming the doubles crown. Silva and his American partner Connor Farren defeated all-Italian pairing Napolitano and Matteo Donati 4-6, 6-4 [10-4].

Photo Source: Francesco Panunzio / itftennis.com

Photo Source: Susan Mullane / itftennis.com

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