2009 Men’s Singles – Pre-tournament news

Andreas Seppi, EXCLUSIVE, Julien BENNETEAU, Radek STEPANEK

2009 AEGON International

Pre-tournament news by Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rudd

gael monfilsMonfils misery

A further injury to Gael Monfils (pictured) has ended the interest of the provisional top seed to compete at 2009 Eastbourne, after the French ace was forced to withdraw from the tournament at Queen’s Club less than a week before he was due to play at the inaugural AEGON International.

The 22-year-old tends to bounce in and out of the world’s top 10 with his on-going left kneecap injury, but ended his interest in the 2009 AEGON Championships on Tuesday 10 June because of a wrist injury he picked up at the London event.

Monfils has opted to miss Eastbourne to concentrate on being 100% for Wimbledon on 22nd June and took advice from the French Tennis Federation (FTF) over these two injuries before pulling out of the AEGON International on Friday 12 June.

Monfils surprisingly played at Roland Garros, where he reached the semi-final stage in 2008, despite having played only one match on clay in the six weeks prior to the grand slam – suffering defeat in Monte Carlo.

And he was outclassed 6-4, 6-0 by hard-hitting Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis in a tame exhibition match in Paris just a few days before the 2009 French Open, when Monfils’ injury to his knee was deemed severe.

“In the evening I had a new, bad pain – it’s not great. I clench my teeth but my knee is still hurting. I’m not at all physically prepared to play [at the French Open], but I still believe a miracle will happen,” claimed Monfils who excelled at Roland Garros before winning two matches on the grass courts at Queen’s Club.

Bernard Montalvan, an FTF doctor, explained that Monfils suffers from an inflammation of the left kneecap that could require surgery and a long period of rehabilitation.

“I clench my teeth but my knee is still hurting … I still believe a miracle will happen!”

– Gael Monfils

Stepanek still on injured list

czech star stepanek may skip eastbourneRadek Stepanek’s ankle injury means that he has choosen to skip Eastbourne’s pre-Wimbledon event in a race be fit for the more lucrative Championships at SW19.

The Czech Republic ace (pictured) retired injured at the Prosrejov Challenger event in early June, immediately after reaching the third round at Roland Garros and definitely misses Eastbourne 2009.

His doctor, Dr Rene Kloc, confirmed about the ankle injury: “The ligaments are not torn but are badly swollen, his involvement in Wimbledon is uncertain.”

The 30-year-old has repeatedly suffered throughout his career with a range of injuries, which have jeopardised Stepanek becoming a regular name in the world’s top 10.

But Stepanek is also well-known for courting as well as on court skills, having been the former fiance of ex-world no1 Martina Hingis and is currently going out with compatriot Nicole Vaidisova despite the huge age gap.

Talented trio fully rested

janko tipsarevicAt last there is some good news for organisers and fans alike as the injuries to Janko Tipsarevic, Eduardo Schwank and Lu Yen-Hsun did not prevent the trio from turning up at Queen’s Club in London.

However, they were all dismal and duly dispatched in the first round at the 2009 AEGON Championships, so at least all have been given time to rest before making their respective Devonshire Park debuts.

Although Tipsarevic retired with leg injuries against Scotland’s Andy Murray at the 2009 French Open, the Serbian crowd-pleaser didn’t appear to struggle with injury – just his game – as he was thrashed by qualifier Nicolas Mahut in the first round at Queen’s Club.

Argentine Schwank retired injured in the opening round of May’s Furth Challenger event in Germany, having breezed through the qualifying rounds, yet was miraclously fit when he was destroyed by Aussie Lleyton Hewitt in the first round at Queen’s to make it one game in the past three sets for out of form Schwank.

And China’s Yen-Hsun may have retired from his first round match at the Roland Garros after losing the opening set to France’s Mathieu Montcourt but was in London on the grass courts.

However, he was remarkably slow around the court during his first round exit at Queen’s Club to Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. The 25-year-old last won two sets in early May at Israel’s Ramat Hasharon Challenger.

EXCLUSIVE | Eastbourne eyed up Murray

andy murray could play eastbourneAndy Murray was all set to play at Devonshire Park had he failed to make much of an impact at the 2009 AEGON Championships in London.

The British ace (pictured) said after his early antipicated French Open exit: “I love playing at Queen’s. But this year there isn’t the same pressure, as the points system has changed.

“You want to play matches to get used to the courts and the movement on grass, but it’s not the end of the world if you lose early.

“There are a lot of exhibition events the following week and the Eastbourne tournament’s not a long way away. If you feel like you want competitive matches you can go there, though ideally I’d have a decent run at Queen’s.”

But event organisers at Eastbourne had kept an eye on Murray’s excellent run at Queen’s Club in case they could persuade him to make the 2009 AEGON International, which currently has no real star attractions in the men’s draw.

Neither of the men’s newly-sponsored AEGON tournaments have ignited the interest of the big guns on the ATP Tour this year, which gives Murray little competition at Queen’s and would have also been a breeze at Eastbourne.

However, the wily Scot did not want to wear himself out before his best ever shot at Wimbledon, particularly as he has a tendency to run out of steam at the larger tournaments and especially events where there are the best of five set matches.

The Lawn Tennis Association told http://www.eastbournetennis.com: “With regard to Andy Murray, he has not entered the tournament yet. If he should request a wildcard, while there are still wildcards available, then he will be given one.”

Gasquet hit by suspension

Career in balance after cocaine drug test

richard gasquetRichard Gasquet will not play at Eastbourne’s inaugural AEGON International. The 22-year-old was handed an immediate provisional suspension (on May 12) from the International Tennis Federation (ITF), following traces of cocaine found in an urine sample after a random drug test.

The French ace (pictured) is gathering evidence to prove his innocence, despite returning two positive drug tests at March’s Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. Gasquet claims that a separate test of his hair samples on May 7 showed no trace of cocaine. He will get an opportunity to put his case in front of anti-doping tribunal around mid-July.

But as it takes around 60 days to put together a suitable panel from around the world, Gasquet misses the French Open, Eastbourne and Wimbledon. With his career is in jeopardy if he is handed a two year ban from the ATP Tour, Gasquet is eager to prove his innocence.

richard gasquetHe issued a statement on 10 May, which said: “The test of the B sample submitted at the end of March 2009 confirmed the positive result of the A sample taken on the same day. I want to prove my innocence and will explain myself at an appropriate time.”

The website of L’Equipe, the daily French sports newspaper, claimed that the drug results revealed traces of cocaine. And cited sources at both the French Tennis Federation (FTF) and Team Lagardere – Gasquet’s training base.

However, the FTF admitted their surprise at reports of Gasquet’s misdemeanour. The FFT also issued a statement on 10 May, which read: “The FFT has learnt of the positive test of Richard Gasquet at the Miami tournament, although no official notification has been made.

“This piece of information is very surprising with regards to the character of Richard Gasquet and, if confirmed according to official proceedings, would be a very sad one for Richard Gasquet, for tennis in general and for French tennis in particular – whose image would be tarnished.

“At this stage, the FFT does not wish to make further comments because it is down to the anti-doping authorities, within the International Tennis Federation (ITF), to assess such a case and it is not for the FFT to intervene.

richard gasquet“The FFT will follow with great attention the developments of this case, avoiding making hasty judgments and anxious to leave the player to organise his defence for the international tennis bodies. If the facts are correct, however, this would be particularly unfortunate in light of all the efforts of the FFT in terms of deterring athletes from using banned substances.”

Gasquet did not compete at the recent Madrid Masters in Spain, withdrew from a recent tournament in Estoril, Portugal (neck injury) and pulled out of Miami (shoulder injury).

He has slipped down the world rankings and languishes just outside the top 20, but despite being seeded no4 for the prestigious event at Devonshire Park will be an overwhelming favourite if he plays. This is because Gasquet has an outstanding record on grass, which includes twice winning the pre-Wimbledon tournament at Nottingham.

“Tennis on grass has always been special to me and I’m convinced that this is the best tournament to play before The Championships,” said Gasquet. “I’m delighted to play the AEGON International this year at Eastbourne.”

But whether he will get the opportunity to play at Devonshire Park in June lies in the balance and has shocked the tennis world.

Entrant news

2009 AEGON International | 13-20 June

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CLICK FOR CURRENT ATP TOUR WORLD RANKINGS

EXCLUSIVE | Entrants for the 2009 AEGON International at Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park:

1 Monfils, Gael FRA, world no10 at time of entry
2 Stepanek, Radek CZE 17
3 Tursunov, Dmitry RUS 22
4 Melzer, Jurgen AUT 27
5 Andreev, Igor RUS 32
6 Seppi, Andreas ITA 36
7 Mathieu, Paul-Henri FRA 39
8 Santoro, Fabrice FRA 44
9 Benneteau, Julien FRA 46
10 Bolelli, Simone ITA 50
11 Ljubicic, Ivan CRO 53
12 Querrey, Sam USA 61
13 Ginepri, Robby USA 62
14 Tipsarevic, Janko SRB 63
15 Youzhny, Mikhail RUS 64
16 Gabashvili, Teimuraz RUS 65
17 Lu, Yen-Hsun TPE 67
18 Schwank, Eduardo ARG 71
19 Garcia-Lopez, Guillermo ESP 72
20 Gonzalez, Maximo ARG 74
21 Fognini, Fabio ITA 75
22 Haas, Tommy GER 76

The unlikely lads

Murray and Nadal sign early for Queen’s

andy murrayThere will be disappointment for the followers of men’s tennis, as Andy Murray (pictured left) and world no1 Rafael Nadal (pictured below) have signed up early to play at Queen’s Club in London prior to Wimbledon.

This severely narrows down the possibility of either player appearing on the prestigious grass courts at Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park this year, although no one cannot be totally discounted until the last minute.

As Murray’s mother Judy has been involved in the past at Eastbourne’s tennis week, it was hoped that she would be able to help tempt him to show his silky skills to the popular seaside resort crowd.

But following a gruelling clay court season, with Queen’s immediately after the French Open, it is improbable that either Murray or Nadal will wish to play another tournament so close to Wimbledon.

rafael nadalNottingham, which hosted the men’s tournament until last year, had traditionally struggled to attract many big names on the ATP Tour because of the event was played just a week before Wimbledon and the distance from London. But Eastbourne offers a more intimate setting for the tennis stars, and is undoubtedly a more relaxing place to be than Nottingham.

But Nadal, the biggest name in the men’s sport, will be attempting to folllow on from the defence of his French Open crown and try to repeat last year’s remarkable grass court double at Queen’s and Wimbledon.

Nadal, the Olympic champion, said about Queen’s: “To arrive as the last champion is going to be a really nice experience. It was totally unexpected for me to win after winning at Roland Garros. I arrived and had one day to adapt to grass. But I played really, really good tennis.”

“After winning at Roland Garros, I arrived and had one day to adapt to grass”

– Rafael Nadal

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