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Tennis News

McEnroe and Rafter win Albert Hall titles

John McEnroe and Pat Rafter won the Tennis Legends and Masters Tennis titles respectively at the Albert Hall in London.

McEnroe collected the Legends title for the third year running after beating Mats Wilander 6-2 6-4 in the final.

"I was playing well. I was hitting the ball clean,” said McEnroe.

“I got a little careless and Mats' concentration is great so he takes advantage of some opportunities when they come up."

Wilander was philosophical after losing to an older opponent.

"John is hitting the ball extremely well. He returns so well," he said.

"I think that's something that has maybe got better with age. It's really hard to find a space in the service box that he doesn't get to.

"He seems to read my serve and he's just a little too good, especially on the big points."

In the Masters final, Australian great Rafter beat Britain's Tim Henman 6-3 6-1 to collect the title for the first time since 2009.

"That's the best tennis that I've played since I've been doing these events," said Rafter.

"I feel like I found something in my game, which is weird at 40 years of age. I feel like I'm actually still working on things.

"I've enjoyed it. I always love being in London with the family and the kids at this time of year. it's been a great week for me."

Henman was impressed with his opponent despite the disappointment of losing on home turf.

"Pat's playing fantastically well. Every match this week, he's shown he's been the best player here," he said.

"He was too good for me, he's serving unbelievable. I could have done everything a little bit better, but the way Pat's playing, his consistent level is very impressive.”

Ivanisevic beats Rusedski at Royal Albert Hall

Former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic rolled back the years to beat Greg Rusdedski 7-6(2) 7-6(6) at the Statoil Masters Tennis, held at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

The Croatian then raced to the Hawthorns to watch his beloved West Bromwich Albion play at home to Manchester City only to see his side fall 3-2 to the 2011-12 Premier League champions.

The London crowd were left disappointed when Mark Philippoussis retired with a back injury during the evening session’s singles match against Tim Henman with the Australian 5-4 behind in the first set.

"It was really unfortunate," said Henman. "It's a great new surface this year and I think it really benefits the players.

“You feel like you can construct rallies out there. I think we played some good tennis at times. To end like that is really unfortunate for Mark, hopefully he can recover quickly."

Philippoussis added: "Obviously it’s not the way you want to finish on the court, especially for such a beautiful cause.

“It's a great event so it's incredibly disappointing. I was having a great time out there, it's a great court, so I hope I can rest it for a couple of days, and hopefully see if I can get out there on Friday.”

Djokovic beats Nadal in Chilean exhibition match

Novak Djokovic has beaten Rafael Nadal again, less than two weeks after his triumph at the ATP Tour Finals in London.

The Serb beat Nadal 7-6(3) 6-4 in Santiago, Chile, as both players help celebrate the retirement of former Olympic gold medallist Nicolas Massu.

Djokovic and Nadal played six competitive matches against each other in 2013 with both men winning three matches each.

Nadal leads the head-to-head series between the two 22-17.

The pair will play another match in Buenos Aires in Argentina on Sunday to mark the retirement of David Nalbandian.

Before the Nadal and Djokovic match, Massu and Nalbandian faced off against each other with Massu getting the win 6-4 6-2.

Top WTA award for Serena after staggering season

Serena Williams has been named WTA player of the year for the fifth time after her dominant season.

The 32-year-old American won 11 titles in total during 2013 – including the French Open, the US Open and the WTA Championship.

The 17-times Grand Slam winner, who played won 78 matches during the season and lost only four, picked out her victory at Roland Garros as her favourite moment.

"Well, obviously the French Open was probably the thing that stands out most," she told the WTA website.

"I really wanted to win that for a number of years now, so that was definitely something exciting. And also being undefeated on clay was pretty exciting too. So my results on clay this year definitely stand out.

"Overall I'll remember the wins, but I also want to learn from my mistakes so I don't repeat them."

Serena also won the player of the year award in 2002, 2008, 2009 and 2012.

She won a staggering $12,385,572 in prize money during the season and February became the oldest world number one of all time.

Elena Baltacha announces retirement

Former British number one Elena Baltacha has retired from tennis with immediate effect.

Baltacha, 30, reached a career-high ranking of 49 in 2010 but injuries and surgery saw her career tail off in recent years and she now sits outside the top 200.

"It just feels it's the right time," Baltacha said in a statement released by the LTA. "My body has taken such a bruising over the last 16 years and that's finally taken its toll.

"I have had some amazing experiences through playing tennis - some incredible highs and some very low lows - and I wouldn’t change any of them but now my mind and my body are telling me it’s time to move on to a new phase of my life."

Born in Ukraine, Baltacha moved to England as a child with her professional footballer father Sergei, who represented the USSR. The family later moved to Scotland, where Elena was raised.

In a 16-year professional career, Baltacha won 11 ITF singles titles and four in the doubles. She never reached a WTA Tour final, but her Grand Slam record includes three third-round appearances, twice in Australia and once at Wimbledon.

Other career highlights include victories over Li Na and Francesca Schiavone, who were both top-10 players at the time.

Her most recent success was an impressive victory in Nottingham earlier this season, which was her first final since winning the tournament in 2010.

Baltacha, who suffers from a chronic liver condition, said she intends to remain in tennis.

"I want to take that passion and put it into learning to be the best coach I can be so that I can take all my experiences as a player and use that to help develop the next generation of British tennis players," she said.

"I am very committed to my Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis, which I started with my coach Nino Severino. We believe that no matter what background you are from, that all children, rich or poor, should have the opportunity to play tennis. Hopefully we’ll produce a champion one day."

Czech Republic beat Serbia to retain title

The Czech Republic retained their Davis Cup title after Radek Stepanek ruthlessly exploited the inexperience of Dusan Lajovic in the decisive rubber to seal a 3-2 final victory over Novak Djokovic's Serbia on Sunday.

The Czechs, who became the first nation to retain the Davis Cup since Spain in 2009, lifted the trophy after Stepanek's 6-3 6-1 6-1 victory amid wild cheers by several hundred visiting fans in the imposing Kombank Arena.

Djokovic ensured the final went to the wire by beating Tomas Berdych 6-4 7-6(5) 6-2 to level the tie at 2-2 but there was to be no repeat of Serbia's epic 3-2 final victory over France three years ago.

The world number two did not have the right support cast this time round with Janko Tipsarevic sidelined due to a foot injury and Viktor Troicki banned for missing a blood test in April.

The 117th-ranked Lajovic was thrown into the fray and had 17,000 noisy Serbian fans on their feet after he broke Stepanek, a former top-10 player now ranked 44th, in the opening game.

But that turned out to be the high point for the 23-year-old as his opponent highlighted the gulf in class between the two players.

"The match was the same (as last year's final), under the biggest possible pressure that can be," Stepanek, who beat Spain's Nicolas Almagro in the decisive rubber 12 months ago, said in a courtside interview.

"I knew that I would want to use the experience from last year's final. I controlled the match apart from the first game and I think I played in my best form ever this weekend.

"Of course, it is more difficult to defend the title, but I think we used the experience from last year and we earned it."

Stepanek combined his baseline and volleying skills to good effect, running Lajovic ragged with stinging forehands to carve out easy net points as the despairing Serbian bench watched on helplessly.

Earlier in the day, Djokovic came out on top against world number seven Berdych after a titanic tussle in the opening two sets.

He converted his 10th break point in the final game of the first, clinched a rollercoaster tiebreak in the second and wrapped up the third for the loss of only two games.

Djokovic blew kisses to the crowd and asked them to stay and support Lajovic's effort to punch above his weight, but it all ended in tears for Serbia as the stadium started to empty long before the 34-year-old Stepanek sealed victory with a searing smash down the line.

The result focused attention on the decision to leave Djokovic out of Saturday's doubles, which the Czechs won in straight sets, as well as naming Lajovic for the final singles instead of the more experienced and hard-hitting Ilija Bozoljac.

"We only had so many fit and eligible players to choose from and although I must take responsibility for the outcome as the decision maker, I have no regrets about the team selection in any of the rubbers," Serbia captain Bogdan Obradovic told a news conference.

"Missing two second-choice players was too big a blow and we just couldn't do more although we tried to cope with the tough situation as best we could. The positive thing is that we have expanded our Davis Cup team and we will keep the faith in our new arrivals."

Djokovic beats Berdych to force final decider

Serbian world number two Novak Djokovic forced the Davis Cup final against holders Czech Republic into a decisive fifth rubber on Sunday with a 6-4 7-6(5) 6-2 win over Tomas Berdych in the opening reverse singles.

The home team's Dusan Lajovic will face Radek Stepanek with Serbia chasing their second title after beating France in 2010, while the Czechs aim to become the first team to retain the silverware since Spain won back-to-back honours in 2008 and 2009.

Djokovic came out on top after a titanic tussle in the opening two sets, converting his 10th break point in the final game of the first to gain the upper hand and then clinched a rollercoaster tiebreak in the second after winning the last three points.

Both players produced tennis of the highest quality, rifling in aces, passing shots and volleys in a packed Kombank Arena where 17,000 fans created a cracking atmosphere.

Having failed to get back into the match after leading 4-2 in the tiebreak, Berdych was on the back foot in the third set as the effervescent Djokovic turned on the heat with the support of passionate home supporters and a brass band playing an ancient Serb battlesong.

He broke the Czech's serve in the opening game of the third set and raced through it to seal his victory with an ace after two hours and 41 minutes of absorbing tennis, drawing a standing ovation from the terraces.

Djokovic and Berdych ensure Serbia and Czechs level

Roared on by 17,000 partisan fans Novak Djokovic fired Serbia ahead in the Davis Cup final on Friday but Tomas Berdych hit back for the Czech Republic to leave the tie delicately poised going into the weekend.

The opening day went exactly according to the script with home talisman Djokovic seeing off the challenge of Radek Stepanek 7-5 6-1 6-4 in the Kombank Arena just days after winning the ATP World Tour Finals in London.

Berdych was rock-solid as he cooled the atmosphere in the cavernous indoor arena, beating gutsy world number 117 Dusan Lajovic 6-3 6-4 6-3.

Lajovic, a last-minute replacement for the injured Janko Tipsarevic, won the hearts of the home fans with some gritty resistance but could find no way through against the hard-hitting Berdych.

Saturday's doubles, which is likely to feature Berdych and Djokovic, now looks crucial to the outcome of the tie.

"We have not yet decided who will play the doubles tomorrow but if everything stays as it is, Radek (Stepanek) and I are ready to team up because we both feel good and not too exhausted after today's singles," Berdych said.

With Serbia short of injured Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki, who is serving a doping ban, Djokovic looks like being in for an exhausting end to his season too.

"I am still not sure if I will play in the doubles (on Saturday) because we have to look at Sunday's reverse singles too and the overall exertions of the three-day schedule," Djokovic said after brushing Stepanek aside.

"If selected I will ignore my exhaustion because a full house on a home court brings the out best in me.

"I am not a doubles specialist of course but it's not like I've never played doubles and it also wouldn't be the first time I've been involved in all three Davis Cup days.

"You don't get a chance to play in the final on home court every year so the motivation is huge and I will always be happy to find a way to overcome fatigue after a long season."

Djokovic, who outplayed Nadal in London on Monday, had to work hard to take the opening set after allowing Stepanek to win three games in a row and level at 5-5.

However, he stepped up a gear to see off the battling Czech to give Serbia the perfect start as they seek to repeat their 2010 victory in the final against France.

"The first set was crucial and after enduring a few poor games I came up with some big serves at crucial moments, especially when I faced break points," Djokovic told a news conference in the same imposing Kombank Arena that staged their momentous triumph three years ago.

"After that I felt pretty much in control of the match."

Stepanek squandered an opportunity to break Djokovic early in the second set and was brushed aside after that as the Serb tormented him with stinging baseline power and trademark winners down the line.

Lajovic delighted the home fans with sporadic moments of inspiration against Berdych, especially with his one-handed backhand down the line.

Five times he had Berdych at 0-30 on his serve only to watch powerless as the world number seven took the next four points to snuff out any danger of a shock.

The colorful band of several hundred Czech supporters celebrated with their noisy trumpets as Berdych closed in on victory. One break was all Berdych needed in the first two sets but he broke twice in the third to see off the 23-year-old.

"It was tough because I played a guy I had never seen before and he had nothing to lose," Berdych said.

"It was a difficult situation to handle mentally because Serbia were 1-0 up and he had the backing of the home crowd."

Djokovic is expected to play with Nenad Zimonjic on Saturday. The Czechs have slightly more options with world No.47 Lukas Rosol or Jan Hajek also available to partner either Stepanek or Berdych.

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