Sunday, October 27, 2013

Tursunov falls in rare all-Russian semifinal

Moscow natives, left to right, Mischa Zverev, Dmitry Tursunov and Igor Andreev pose
at last year's Comerica Bank Challenger in Aptos, Calif. Zverev moved to Germany
at 4 years old, Tursunov to Northern California at 12 and Andreev to Spain at 15.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   The United States and Australia aren't the only tennis powers that have declined.
   Quietly, Russia also has stumbled.
   The glory days, when Russia won three straight Grand Slam women's singles titles in 2004 and the Davis Cup in 2006, seem like ancient history.
   What happened?
   Former world No. 1 Marat Safin, 2004 French Open champion Anastasia Myskina and two-time Grand Slam runner-up Elena Dementieva retired.
   Former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova, 2010 Wimbledon runner-up Vera Zvonareva, and former top-20 players Dmitry Tursunov and Igor Andreev have battled injuries.
   Svetlana Kuznetsova has not advanced past the quarterfinals of a Slam since winning the 2009 French Open for her second major title.
   Nikolay Davydenko, who reached a career-high No. 3 in 2006, has never been the same since being investigated for match fixing even though he was cleared five years ago.
   Mikhail Youzhny, ranked as high as No. 8 in 2008, has slipped with age.
   Russia still has six women in the top 30 and six men in the top 100. But the nation has only one woman, No. 3 Sharapova, in the top 15 and no men in the top 20 (although Youzhny will return on Monday). 
   Youzhny and Tursunov -- 31- and 30-year-old Moscow natives, respectively, and two of the wackiest players on the men's tour -- met Saturday in the first all-Russian semifinal on the ATP World Tour in more than three years.
   Youzhny, ranked 21st, triumphed 6-2, 6-4 in 75 minutes in on a hardcourt in Valencia, Spain, to improve his career record against No. 39 Tursunov, who trains in the Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay, to 3-1.
   The unseeded Youzhny will face top seed and defending champion David Ferrer of Spain in today's final.
   Youzhny has an elaborate, trademark victory celebration somewhat reminiscent of San Francisco Giants slugger Pablo Sandoval's ritual when he steps to the plate. Youzhny spins his racket and then waves to the crowd with his left hand, holds his racket face on top of his head with his left hand while saluting each side of the stands with his right, and finally pumps his right fist.
   Also, after missing an easy shot five years ago in Miami, Youzhny hit himself in the head with the frame of his racket three times, drawing blood.
   Tursunov, meanwhile, is well-known for his self-deprecating, irreverent sense of humor. Here are some highlights from his 2011 "bag check" video for Wilson Sporting Goods:
   --On his tournament accreditation badge depicting a big letter "L": " 'L' for loser, I guess."
   --On a callous on his hand: "I'm single, so ... "
   --While flipping through a few bills in his wallet: "That's all my prize money for this year."
   To watch the video, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zhMLG8sIw4U.
   In the doubles final today in Valencia, top seeds and former Stanford All-Americans Bob and Mike Bryan will play second-seeded Alexander Peya of Austria and Bruno Soares of Brazil.
   The 35-year-old Bryan twins seek their 11th doubles crown of the year, which would equal their career high, and 94th overall.

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