Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Woods hoping to resume good play in Abu Dhabi

Tiger Woods says he’s starting a season fully fit, something he hasn’t been able to say in at least eight years he estimated.
“It’s been quite a few years since I’ve been physically fit,” Woods said on Tuesday in his first appearance at the Abu Dhabi Championship.
“So I’m looking forward to getting out there and giving it a full season, which I haven’t done in a while.”
Woods’ confidence is higher than of late after the way he ended 2011, when he won his Chevron World Challenge in December for his first title in more than two years.
He’s hoping to pick up this year where he left off last year, though Woods faces a tough field included top-ranked Luke Donald, second-ranked Lee Westwood, defending champion Martin Kaymer and US Open champion Rory McIlroy.
“I’m looking forward to this year,” Woods said. “That’s something that I have to say, because I was able to prepare and get fit enough to prepare last year and toward the end of the year. I demonstrated to myself what I can do with implementing what (coach Sean Foley) wants me to do on the golf swing.”
Woods took part in traditional Emirati ayala dancing earlier in the day with Westwood and McIlroy, and was in good spirits for most of the press conference. But he appeared slightly agitated when the questions turned to a book written by Hank Haney, who was Woods’ swing coach for six years.
The book, due out in March, chronicles the time Haney began working with Woods at the Bay Hill Invitational in 2004 until they parted a month after the 2010 Masters, where Woods made his return to golf after being exposed for multiple extramarital affairs that shattered his image and led to divorce.
Woods said he was unhappy that those he had worked with including Haney and former caddie Steve Williams had spoken out.
“Certainly it’s something that I have to deal with. I get asked at press conferences what these guys have done, and that’s just part of it,” he said. “Am I disappointed? Yes. Frustrated? Certainly, because I have to answer the questions. … So I’ve answered them and I guess I’ll have to continue doing it. Hopefully, this will come to an end.”
After missing much of 2011 with injuries, Woods said he finally was “healthy enough to practice” toward the end of the season and it paid off.
He finished third at the Australian Open, and then delivered the clinching point for the American team in the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne before winning in Chevron. With the win, Woods has moved up to 25th in the world after briefly falling outside the top 50 last year.
“I think Australia was pretty big for me to go down there for two weeks and play in that type of wind, and to hit the ball as well as I did, I really controlled my golf ball for two weeks, and you know, I think that led to what I did at the World Challenge,” Woods said. “I hit the ball just as well there, and made a couple of putts, and especially on the last two holes there. You know, consequently, got a W.”
The 14-time major winner would only say his goal this year was to win more than he had last year, and was hopeful one of those victories would be another major. He is four short of Jack Nicklaus’ record.
Woods has switched his season-opener from San Diego to Abu Dhabi this year and admitted his scheduling decisions are influenced by the appearances fees he’s offered. Woods refused to say how much he was getting at Abu Dhabi, but unlike the US PGA Tour, the European Tour allows for appearance fees which can reach into the millions of dollars.
“You know, I’d have to say yes, it certainly does,” he said on the influence of appearance fees. “That’s one of the reasons why a lot of the guys who play in Europe, they do play in Europe, and they do get paid. I think the only tour that doesn’t pay is the US tour. But, you know, a lot of the guys play all around the world and they do get appearance fees.”
Woods said he didn’t think there was a need for appearance fees on the US PGA Tour.
“Well, I think that where we offset it is our prize money is pretty high,” he said. “We certainly play for more money than any other tour in the world, and the average winning … I think the average winner gets a million bucks a week, so that’s more than any other tournament, or any other tour, on average.”
Woods praised Donald, calling his winning the money titles on the US and European Tours last season a “heck of an achievement.” But he saved his highest praise for the great Seve Ballesteros, who died in May following a three-year battle with a brain tumor.
Woods said the five-time major winner was the most talented golfer he ever played alongside.
“Never seen a person do the things with the golf ball that he was able to do and the creativeness that he was able to do,” Woods said. “To me, he certainly had the most talent that I had ever seen in person. I never saw (Ben) Hogan hit a golf ball. Never saw (Byron) Nelson hit a golf ball. I never saw Jack in his prime. But I did see Seve when I first came out here, and I was able to play with him a few times; it was impressive.”

Federer, Nadal seal semifinal showdown

Roger Federer sauntered through at the Australian Open on Tuesday to set up a first grand slam semifinal against Rafa Nadal since 2005 after the Spaniard fought tooth and nail to keep his own hopes alive.
So long ranked one and two in the world rankings, until Novak Djokovic broke their duopoly, their meetings have more often than not been reserved for finals, one of which came three years ago in Melbourne when Nadal reduced Federer to tears.
Federer looked in the mood to add to his 16 grand slam titles when the Swiss third seed produced another sublime display full of dazzling winners to fell Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 in his 1,000 career match.
Nadal was given a torrid time against Tomas Berdych late into the night on a heaving Rod Laver Arena, however, before grinding to a 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory.
The stadium also witnessed the demise of women's world number one Caroline Wozniacki, whose counter-punching style was meat and drink to big-hitting Belgian Kim Clijsters.
Her quarterfinal defeat against the 2011 champion means she will lose top spot in the rankings and means one of Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka or Petra Kvitova will seize the No.1 position by the end of the year's first grand slam.
While neither Nadal nor Federer can shake the number one ranking free of Djokovic's grasp in Melbourne, the stylish Swiss and swashbuckling Spaniard are desperate to stop the Serb dominating the slams the way he did in 2011.
Federer, who failed to win a major title last year for the first time since 2002, had an unexpectedly straightforward win over del Potro, needing just under two hours to prevail.
Chasing a fifth title in Melbourne, he was never seriously threatened in his first meeting with Del Potro in a major since he was surprisingly beaten in the 2009 US Open final.
Federer, who lost a five-set classic to Nadal in the 2009 Australian Open final, will now get the chance to avenge that defeat against the Spaniard.
"Obviously I'd like to play Rafa because of our great epic match in the finals here a few years ago," he said before Nadal had stepped on court against Berdych. "I'd like to get a chance to play him again here." His wish came true, but only just as Nadal flirted with a two-set deficit against an inspired Berdych.
A set down and facing set point in the second set tiebreak, Nadal was given a let-off when a lunging Berdych volleyed into the tramlines and he dug himself out of trouble to overhaul the tall Czech in a taxing four-hour tussle under the lights.
Nadal said his matches against Federer would always be significant, even though neither of them are number one.
"The rankings are important but we are talking about a player who won 16 grand slams and I have won 10," he said.
"All the matches against him are special, even if we are (number) 20 against 25." The pair's only previous meeting in the last four of a major was at the French Open in 2005 when Nadal won before going on to claim his first grand slam title.
Four-times grand slam winner Clijsters has said this will be her last season on Tour and few rivals will be shedding any tears after her dismantling of Wozniacki suggested she could dominate women's tennis for years to come.
Crowd favorite Clijsters ended the Dane's hopes of winning a first grand slam with a 6-3, 7-6 triumph as temperatures pushed up to 35 centigrade at Melbourne Park.
The 28-year-old Belgian bounced around the court with abandon, and if the ankle she turned painfully over against Li Na in the last round was bothering her it did not show.
After a one-sided first set, Wozniacki looked down and out at 5-2 in the second but drew on all of her reserves to fight back and take it to a tiebreak.
The comeback only served to delay the inevitable, however, as the Belgian took the decider 7-4, sealing victory on her first match point with a forehand volley.
"It definitely didn't feel like being up a set and 5-2," Clijsters said in a courtside interview.
"I was happy to get through and not go to a three-setter because it's so hot." While Azarenka has a reputation for getting hot under the collar, the Belarussian showed her composed side against Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska in their quarter-final.
Despite going a set down, Azarenka raised her game to pole-axe Radwanska in the second set and grind out the third for a 6-7, 6-0, 6-2 win.
"I think I am a different player right now, especially mentally-wise," Azarenka said. "Today I really tried to forget about the first set and start from zero and really fight hard.
"I think that's the toughest thing out there. Especially when the weather is tough. Your mind is boiling and it's difficult to think."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Courageous Clijsters through, Federer thumps Tomic

"Built Belgian tough" might become a badge of honor for future tennis generations after courageous Kim Clijsters' win over Li Na on Sunday, while Roger Federer dashed the dreams of home fans by crushing young gun Bernard Tomic.
On a day when the clouds cleared, the mercury bubbled and temperatures soared, Rafa Nadal won a battle of Spanish lefties against Davis Cup team mate Feliciano Lopez, and Tomas Berdych was booed mercilessly for a petulant show of bad sportsmanship.
Defending champion Clijsters crumpled to the court at 3-3 in the first set after her left ankle rolled sickeningly over.
The Belgian, bidding farewell to the Australian Open in the final year of her career, had her ankle heavily strapped and Li took advantage to win the first set.
The 28-year-old Belgian clawed her way back into the match to win the second set in a tiebreak as the crowd began to believe she could pull off the win. Clijsters closed out the match 4-6, 7-6, 6-4 to keep her hopes alive of a fifth grand slam title.
However, she conceded the injury had made her think about quitting against Li, whom she beat in the 2011 final.
"It definitely crossed my mind at some point, but I knew if I could just try to let the medication sink in ... the pain would go away a little bit and maybe with the adrenaline I could just fly through it," she said.
Clijsters was joined in the quarter-finals by number three seed Victoria Azarenka, who endured her traditional late-game hiccup before beating Iveta Benesova 6-2, 6-2.
World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki endured a nervy second set against Jelena Jankovic before clinching a 6-0, 7-5 win.
Still giddy from Lleyton Hewitt's heroics against Milos Raonic, Australian fans could barely believe they had two players in the men's fourth round, but hopes that 19-year-old Tomic could depose four-times champion Federer proved wide off the mark.
Teen Tomic had already come through two five-setters to reach the fourth round while 30-year-old Federer looked as fresh as a daisy in securing a 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 win.
The Swiss, bidding to match Roy Emerson's record of five Australian Open titles, will face former US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro in the quarter-finals.
Federer agreed Tomic had the potential to win silverware.
"I think he has had a wonderful tournament and there's much more that's going to come the Australian way," he said.
"It's going to be tough against Del Potro. I don't look beyond that because he's coming up strong. He has had a good year, played all the top guys again and pushed us all."
 World No. 2 Nadal, with heavy strapping on knee, ankle and foot, huffed and puffed his way past Lopez with little Spanish sparkle but was happy to go no more than three sets.
Memories of his last eight withdrawal against Andy Murray two years ago, and defeat at the hands of David Ferrer last year, still haunt him.
"Hopefully it won't happen this time," said Nadal after his 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 win. "Every year is different. I had a bad experience for the last two years here. It's tough to have to go out of a tournament like Australia in quarter-finals."
In the day's only real note of controversy, Czech Berdych was booed off Hisense Arena after a bad tempered 4-6, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6 win over Nicolas Almagro.
Berdych refused to shake hands with the Spaniard after he sealed the win because he felt the 10th-seeded Almagro had deliberately blasted a return at his head during the fourth set.
"The court is pretty big and you always have some space to put the ball in," No. 7 Berdych complained. "And not even if you are standing three or four meters from the guy (does he need) to hit it straight to your face.
"This is not the way how tennis is."
Berdych's courtside interview was drowned out by the crowd booing and hissing, while tennis coach and commentator Brad Gilbert said he was appalled at the Czech's decision.

Balotelli gives City 3-2 victory over Spurs

MANCHESTER, England:  Mario Balotelli converted a stoppage-time penalty to give leader Manchester City a dramatic 3-2 victory over Premier League title rival Tottenham on Sunday.
Just after Jermain Defoe had missed Tottenham's own chance to win the game, Balotelli was fouled by Ledley King and the Italy striker netted to give City an 11th straight home league win this season.
"I was calm, like every time I take a penalty," Balotelli said.
City had thrown away a two-goal lead after Samir Nasri and Joleon Lescott scored in a four-minute span early in the second half. Tottenham immediately hit back, with slack defending allowing Defoe to score on the hour and Gareth Bale to equalize five minutes later.
City moved eight points ahead of third-place Tottenham, with only Manchester United separating the sides.
The game came to life in the 56th minute with a flurry of goals. David Silva, who had been pulling the strings of City's midfield, was the provider.
After a quick break forward, Silva slipped the ball through the heart of the Tottenham defense and Nasri lifted the ball past Brad Friedel.
Nasri played a part in City's second, three minutes later, sending in the cross that Edin Dzeko flicked toward the far post.
While Tottenham midfielder Scott Parker initially blocked the ball he failed to keep hold and clear, allowing Lescott to scramble it over the line.
City appeared to be on course to match its crushing 5-1 rout of Tottenham in August, only for the visitors to be gifted a route back into the game inside a minute.
Younes Kaboul launched the ball forward and Stefan Savic's attempt to make a headed clearance only directed it back into the path of the onrushing Defoe.
The England striker met the ball and rounded keeper Joe Hart on the edge of the penalty area before coolly slotting home.
The comeback was on, with the equalizer coming five minutes later.
Aaron Lennon broke free on the left flank before squaring to Bale, who lifted the ball beyond the reach of Hart into the top corner.
Tottenham could have snatched a late winner. Bale charged down the left and picked out Defoe at the far post, but the striker couldn't get a touch to nudge the ball over the line.
And then came a rare blip for King in the Tottenham defense, having not been on a losing side since August 2010, and Balotelli's winner.

Milan beats Novara to remain hot on Juve's heels
In Rome, strike pair Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho scored the goals as AC Milan emerged with a 3-0 victory from their trip to Novara on Sunday and remain hot on the heels of league leaders' Juventus.
Juve won 2-0 at Atalanta on Saturday night and had briefly put daylight between themselves and the rest but Milan's success closes the gap to a single point.
Udinese are also hanging on in third, three points behind Juve, after their comfortable 2-1 win over Catania, whose consolation came five minutes into time added on.
Ibrahimovic scored a brace and is now level with Udinese captain Antonio Di Natale at the top of the goalscoring charts.
Unlike the Italian Cup meeting between the pair on Wednesday - which Milan squeaked through 2-1 after extra-time - Novara couldn't make life particularly difficult for the champions.
Almost all the pressure in the first half was put on the Novara goal but the hosts managed to hold firm.
Ibrahimovic hit a vicious free-kick that Samir Ujkani couldn't hold but Robinho fired the follow-up from a tight angle across the face of the goal.
The big Swede had another free-kick from a good position that he hit with venom and again it was too hot for Ujkani to handle but the ball spooned up and over the bar.
From the resulting corner Philippe Mexes teed up Thiago Silva but his close range header was miraculously cleared off the line by Andrea Caracciolo.
Milan kept pushing and Ujkani twice denied Ibrahimovic while Antonio Nocerino fired a shot narrowly past the upright.
Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri wasted little time in trying to inspire his team, throwing on young forward Stephan El Shaarawy at half-time in place of full-back Luca Antonini.
And the hosts cracked just 12 minutes after the re-start as Milan captain Massimo Ambrosini picked out Ibrahimovic at the back post with a short, dinked cross.
The Sweden forward had lost his marker and had time to control the ball on his thigh before volleying past Ujkani.
El Shaarawy should have sealed the points 20 minutes from time when played in by Robinho but having skipped around Ujkani he sliced his finish wide.
But moments later Robinho slid in at the back post to divert in El Shaarawy's shot that appeared to be going wide.
And the coup de grace came from Ibrahimovic in the final minute with a clever flick that fooled Ujkani and three defenders before trickling over the line.
Udinese were comfortable in dismissing Catania to contain their stunning campaign in which they have now proved they are no flash in the pan.
Colombia wing-back Pablo Armero opened the scoring on 20 minutes and enigmatic striker Di Natale added the killer second eight minutes into the second period.
They did concede with virtually the last kick of the game but it was too little too late.
Napoli, however, appear definitely out of the title running and probably also Champions League contention as they drew 1-1 at Siena.
Emanuele Calaio opened the scoring for the hosts midway through the second period before Goran Pandev rescued a point four minutes from time for Walter Mazzarri's men.
The game of the day was in Sicily where Palermo trumped Genoa, who have now conceded 16 goals in their last four games, in a 5-3 thriller.
Inter Milan will look for their seventh straight win as they host Lazio, one point and one place above them in fourth, in the late game.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Jeonbuk, Al Sadd set up Asian Champions League final clash

JEONJU, South Korea: Brazilian playmaker Eninho scored both goals in Jeonbuk Motors’ 2-1 win over 10-man Al-Ittihad on Wednesday and they will play Al Sadd in next month’s Asian Champions League final. 
Qatar’s Al Sadd overcame Suwon Bluewings 2-1 on aggregate despite losing the second leg of their semifinal 1-0 at home.
Jeonbuk qualified 5-3 on aggregate and the South Koreans will be confident of a second title following their 2006 success after another high-tempo attacking display saw off the Saudis.
“We got what we wanted, we are at home for the final and that is an advantage,” Jeonbuk coach Choi Kang-hee told reporters.
“Eninho’s goals were a big help but we still had work to do.”
Ittihad’s slim hopes of overturning the 3-2 first leg deficit at the World Cup stadium in Jeonju suffered an early blow when their leading striker Naif Hazazi was shown a red card in the 12th minute for head-butting Cho Sung-hwan.
Hazazi, who scored his side’s two goals in the first leg, shoved a teammate after the referee waved the red card, before collapsing to his knees in tears. Two other Saudi players had to help him from the field.
“The sending-off was another blow but there won’t be any punishment for Hazazi. He is an excellent player and this kind of thing happens in football,” Ittihad coach Dimitri Davidovic said.
Ten minutes later Eninho raced on to a neat flicked header from Jeong Shung-hoon, held off a heavy challenge and struck a left-foot shot into the corner from 14 meters out.
Jeonbuk flowed forward with wave after wave of attacks before Eninho scored a deserved second in the 36th minute direct from a corner. The Brazilian’s inswinger went over Rashed Al Rahab at the near post and sneaked past goalkeeper Mabrouk Zaid.
The Saudis, who won back-to-back Champions League titles from 2004, pushed forward bravely in the second half and grabbed a consolation goal in the 73rd minute through Brazilian Wendel after a clever pass by Mohammed Noor.
The night ended badly for Jeonbuk when, with two minutes left, substitute Krunoslav Lovrek was sent off after collecting a harsh second yellow for tangling with Al Rahab after play had stopped.
The red card means he will miss the final along with striker Luiz Henrique and defender Cho Sung-Hwan, who picked up yellow cards and will be suspended.
In Doha, South Korea’s Suwon sparked hopes of an unlikely turnround by taking the lead after just seven minutes at the air-conditioned Al Sadd stadium with a superb volley by Oh Jang-eun.
The Suwon striker controlled the ball on his chest before firing a low right-foot shot into the corner to halve the 2-0 deficit from the controversial first leg.
Sadd were missing attacking duo Keita Kader and Mamadou Niang after they were red-carded after a 22-man brawl in the first leg, and the Qataris opted to drop deep to protect their lead.
The visitors dictated play and enjoyed the bulk of possession against their more physical opponents but failed to create the clear-cut chances their dominance merited.
Al Sadd’s former Asian Player of the Year Khalfan Ibrahim was impressive throughout and came closest to scoring for the home side 10 minutes before halftime with a rasping drive that Jung Sung-ryong tipped on to the crossbar.

Saudi-Spanish group bags rail contract

DAMMAM: A Saudi-Spanish consortium is on track to build the key Western component of the Kingdom’s high-speed rail system that will link Makkah, Madinah, Jeddah and Rabigh, the Saudi Railways Organization announced Wednesday.
The second phase of the multibillion-riyal Haramain High Speed Rail project was awarded to Al-Shoula consortium, which comprises two Saudi and 12 Spanish companies such as Renfe, Talgo, Adif and OHL. It is being described as one of the largest foreign infrastructure projects ever won by the Spanish companies.
“An approval has been issued on awarding Phase 2 of the project to Al-Shoula consortium, comprising a number of Saudi and Spanish companies,” Saudi Railways Organization reported Wednesday from its headquarters here in Dammam. The contract is worth nearly SR38 billion.
The project includes construction of railway tracks, installation of signals and telecommunication systems, electrification, operational control center, procurement of 35 passenger trains along with operation and maintenance for 12 years.
Spanish Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Pablo Bravo expressed delight, and acknowledged the tough competition that Spanish companies faced in winning the coveted project.
“I am very happy and very satisfied that the award has gone to a Saudi-Spanish consortium,” he told Arab News from Riyadh. “I tell you, we will do a very good job … We are, as you know, the world leader in high-speed rail networks.”
Spain and France have been in stiff competition to win the contract. Wire reports said French Prime Minister Francois Fillon had discussed the project during his visit to Saudi Arabia earlier this year. Spain has been a world leader in high-speed rail networks and boasts one of the longest such systems in Europe, ahead of France.
In July, media had widely speculated that the Al-Shoula consortium had won the project, beating the French group which included SNCF and Alstom. However, SRO President Abdul Aziz M. Al-Hokail clarified at that time no deal had been reached.
The Haramain High Speed Rail project, widely known in industry circles as HHR, is a 444-km high-speed inter-city rail transport system currently under construction linking the two holy cities of Madinah and Makkah via King Abdullah Economic City in Rabigh and King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah.
The Makkah-Madinah rail link is part of the major railway expansion project, which includes linking Jeddah with Riyadh and Dammam. The Makkah-Jeddah-Madinah rail link is expected to carry more than 150,000 passengers daily during peak seasons, such as Haj and Umrah.
The rail line is planned to provide a safe, comfortable transport in 320-kph electric trains. Construction started in March 2009. The railway is expected to carry 3 million passengers annually, including Haj and Umrah pilgrims, helping to relieve highway congestion.
The double-track line will be electrified, and the design speed is 360 kph. Commuting the 85 km between Jeddah and Makkah will take less than half an hour, while the 410 km between Jeddah and Madinah will take about 2 hours.
There will be several stations including at Madinah (Knowledge Economic City) at the north end of the line, King Abdullah Economic City-Rabigh, King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah, and Makkah in the south. The Makkah Central Station will be located near the 3rd Ring Road. The Jeddah Central Station will be located on the Haramain Road.
The stations will be “aesthetically iconic” buildings with designs that take into account Islamic architectural traditions. They will have shops, restaurants, mosques, car parking, a helipad and VIP lounges.
The two holy cities attract pilgrims all year round, and, in addition to Jeddah, make up the main center in the Kingdom’s Western region.
Considered by many as the Kingdom’s economic capital, Jeddah is the second most populated city after Riyadh and is popularly known as the gateway to Makkah

Troicki, Zvonareva advance at Kremlin Cup

MOSCOW (AP) — Defending men’s champion Viktor Troicki and top-seeded woman Vera Zvonareva advanced to the quarterfinals of the Kremlin Cup with straight-set victories on Wednesday, while Lucie Safarova upset second-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
The second-seeded Troicki beat Pere Riba of Spain 6-4, 6-4, while Zvonareva routed Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia, 6-1, 6-1.
With a victory, Radwanska could have secured the last spot left for next week’s season-ending WTA Tour championships in Istanbul. Now she will have to wait for Marion Bartoli’s results in Moscow this week.
Fresh from winning her seventh career title in Osaka, Japan, Bartoli is seeded third and needs to win the title here. Any other result for her will see Radwanska qualify directly for the first time after being a substitute in 2008 and ’09.
Safarova broke in the ninth game of the first set, but the Pole leveled at a set apiece to force the decider. The 27th-ranked Czech broke decisively in the third set with a precise forehand crosscourt in the seventh game. She netted on her first match point, but won the second when Radwanska hit a backhand into the net.
Also Wednesday, Kaia Kanepi of Estonia came from 5-1 down in a third-set tiebreaker to upset fourth-seeded Francesca Schiavone of Italy 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (7), and three-time winner Nikolay Davydenko, seeded fourth, defeated fellow Russian Teimuraz Gabashvili 7-5, 6-2.
Troicki broke once in each set and sealed the victory on his first match point. The Serbian player will face Alex Bogomolov Jr. of the United States, who beat his doubles partner Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to advance.
“It was a tough match today,” Troicki said. “It was tough to break him. He was serving always over 200 (kph). But I also served good.”
Last year, Troicki beat Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus in Moscow for his first career title.
“I hope to do well to defend my title, but there’s a lot of good players and I still have three matches to go to defend it,” Troicki said.
The fifth-seeded Bogomolov Jr., who was born in Moscow, broke his opponent once in the first set to take the lead, but stumbled in the second set, losing four games in a row at one point. He saved two break points before breaking Kukushkin in the third game of the decisive third set, and held on to win.
Schiavone, who won here in 2009, saved two match points before her forehand landed just wide on the third one.
“I’d been down before (in the match), so I just kept playing to see what would happen,” said Kanepi, who rallied back from an early break in the final set.
Zvonareva, runner-up here in 2008, won nine consecutive games before Jovanovski held her serve in the fourth game of the second set. The Russian went on to finish the match in just over an hour.
“From the stands the matched looked like an easy one,” Zvonareva said. “But there were tough games in which I managed to stay concentrated. I didn’t make consecutive unforced errors and didn’t allow her to feel as if she was leading the play. And it was the key to my victory.”
The Russian, who has not played a competitive match since losing in the second round in Beijing two weeks ago, is using the tournament to prepare for next week’s season-ending WTA Tour championships in Istanbul.
In the last two women’s first-round matches, eighth-seeded Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia defeated Polona Hercog of Slovenia 6-3, 7-6 (3), while Elena Vesnina routed wild card Alla Kudryavtseva 6-0, 6-1.