The rebel rocker of tennis finally wins


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The size and grandeur of his trophy may have been pretty pathetic, but no one could wipe the smile off the face of Janko Tipsarevic after he won the Malaysian Open.

At the ripe old age of 27, the resplendent rock star of tennis has been forced to sweat it out in waiting for his first ATP Tour title.

The world number 17 finally captured his maiden title at the fifth attempt as he beat Marcos Baghdatis 6-4 7-5 in Kuala Lumpur to become the 10th first-time winner on the ATP World Tour this season.

The Serb was previously the only player in the top 20 not to have won an ATP Tour title, with four runners-up efforts behind him at the 2009 Kremlin Cup in Moscow, the 2010 UNICEF Open in s-Hertogenbosch, the Delray Beach International and at Eastbourne this year.

Tipsarevic is now as much a fan of Kuala Lumpur as he is of tattoes, dark sunglasses, excessive facial hair and random piercings.

"I deserve it (to win the title). I'm so happy that it came in a good place, at a tournament that is really, really nice," he said.

"I hope I kept the fans on the edge of their seats until the very end. I could not be happier."

He is currently number 13 in the 2011 ATP year-to-date rankings, and the Belgrade native still has a real chance of claiming one of the final four spots up for grabs ahead of the season-ending World Tour Finals in London.

"In two of my previous four finals I was overly aggressive, and in two of them I was too defensive," he added. "But this time... I deserved it."

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There are still many people who lament the so-called lack of characters currently in the sport, and Tipsarevic is the very antithesis to the media-savvy, unflinchingly dry stars of the modern-day Tour.

Tipsarevic loves nothing more than ripping off his shirt on court, roaring up to the heavens after winning a big point, and showing his displeasure in rather comically curt fashion. In short, he's a character.

The world number 17 was a part of the triumphant Serbia Davis Cup team in 2010, and in many ways is the ebullient personality within the set up.

If the Davis Cup success gave Tipsarevic a taster of glory, he has now sampled it as an individual.

At the age of 27, he has enjoyed his best season on Tour, compiling a 44-20 match record and hitting a career-high ranking of 13 after reaching his first Grand Slam quarter-final at the US Open.

Tipsarevic may not have the talent of compatriot Novak Djokovic, but he certainly has the kind of character the game badly needs.

Tennis is far better off for having the exuberant Serb around the top 20, and Tramlines desperately hopes he can continue to go from strength to strength. There is not enough of his type around any longer.

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It may have been a good week for Tipsarevic, but Li Na - the first Asian woman to win a grand slam singles title - has been rounded upon by critics following her shock first round exit at the China Open.

The state media of China and sections of her huge fan base accused the French Open winner of spending too much time securing lucrative sponsorship deals rather than improving her tennis and capitalising on her historic win in Paris.

"Li Na: world tennis star or expert in the fashion world?" said one headline on, in reference to the many commercial deals the 29-year-old has signed.

When asked if the need to satisfy her sponsors was piling destructive game-affecting pressure on her, the clearly upset Li Na apologised to her corporate backers for her premature exit.

"I know if I can do well on the court of course it's good for all the sponsors, but I have to say sorry for that," she said.

Editorial writers and disappointed fans jumped on her comment, saying she has spent more time signing contracts and less on the training court.

"I am very discouraged. Li Na almost got zero points. Too many endorsement contracts! Perhaps she can no longer win any more match," one fan posted on the Chinese version of Twitter, Weibo.

Tramlines thinks she is getting a very rough deal. And Tim Henman thought he had it tough in Britain.

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