New Coaches for Robin Soderling and Maria Sharapova – The Friday Five
By Maud Watson
First Taste of Victory
In a dramatic, boisterous tie that came down to the wire, the nation of Serbia claimed its first Davis Cup title by defeating France 3-2. The win was particularly impressive as all of the momentum appeared to be on the side of France going into the final Sunday, with the French duo of Michael Llodra and Arnaud Clement coming back from two sets down to win the doubles and give France the 2-1 lead. Respect and praise has to be given to Novak Djokovic, however, who shouldered the pressure and came through for his country to push it to the fifth rubber, not to mention his crucial win on the opening day of the tie to level things at 1-1. Finally, it was great to see Viktor Troicki come through in the deciding match, and in such dominating fashion. Sometimes Davis Cup success proves a propellant to bigger and better things for an individual player, so keep an eye on Troicki in 2011 to see if the Davis Cup success doesn’t propel him to new heights.
As expected, it didn’t take long for big-hitting Swede Robin Soderling to find a new coach, as he announced that he’ll be working with Italian Claudio Pistolesi. Pistolesi was not his first choice. He reportedly tried to obtain another Swedish coach but to no avail. Even so, both Soderling’s prior coach Magnus Norman and veteran Swede Thomas Johansson have both given high praise to Pistolesi. He has previously coached Monica Seles, Anna Smashnova, Ai Sugiyama, Davide Sanguinetti, Simone Bolelli and Michael Berrer, so he’s not lacking for experience. Barring Seles, however, (whom he only briefly coached), Soderling would be his biggest client. This new partnership has the potential to pay off for both in the long run. In addition to this coaching change, it was also announced that Maria Sharapova has begun working with Swedish coach Thomas Hogstedt, a man whom Soderling is said to have approached. Hogstedt will not be replacing Sharapova’s longtime coach, Michael Joyce, but will instead be working in conjunction with him. Hogstedt has previously worked with Na Li and Tommy Haas, so he has as proven track record. Hopefully the fresh set of eyes and voice in her ear will help Sharapova regain the form that took her to the winner’s circle of majors.
It was already known that American Serena Williams would be sidelined with injury for the Aussie Open, but the former World No. 1 has reportedly told the New York Post that she expects to be out of commission for the entire winter season and looks to return in the spring. No word yet on when exactly she plans to return in the spring. Assuming she returns completely healthy when the cast finally does come off, her chances are still good to make a decent run at the French, a chance at the Wimbledon title, and you can bet her ranking will quickly climb back towards the top.
Back in the Game
One player who thankfully is on the opposite end of the spectrum from Serena is Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro. He has been granted a wildcard into the Sydney International . It will take some time to brush the rust off his game, but it’s hard to imagine the hard-hitting Del Potro will see his ranking linger in the 200s or even 100s for long. And while it’s hard to see him winning his second major this coming season (especially given the form of Nadal in 2010), expect to see him in the thick of it.
In one of the most unfortunate stories of not just the week, but the year, it was learned that someone broke into a West Los Angeles public storage facility, and virtually all items chronicling the career of “Pistol” Pete Sampras were stolen. While Sampras has not been completely devastated by the loss, it is understandable the sadness he feels at not having it available to show his children, both of whom never saw him play in his prime. It is unclear if the thief was aware of the nature of the cargo he was stealing, as it will be difficult to turn a profit on these stolen goods without raising too many eyebrows. There is also always the slight hope that the thief will be caught and the items recovered. After all, Sampras’ loss is undoubtedly a large personal blow, but it is also a loss to the tennis world, as those items belonged to one of the greatest players to have ever picked up a racquet.