2012 olympics

Women to Score Big at Olympics, Henin in Mourning and Raonic’s Maiden Title

Olympics High Ranking for Women:

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has announced that for the third-straight competition ranking points will be available to all women competing at 2012 Olympics in London. They hope the move will entice all the top players to participate. Entry criteria has also been altered to allow four singles players and two doubles pairings to partake from each competing country. ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti said: “More top women will be eligible to compete in London, which is good.” The ITF is now in talks with the ATP to strike a similar deal for the men’s players.

Henin “Mourning” Her Career:

Former world No. 1 Justine Henin has described her feelings following her second retirement from the sport as being in “mourning.” An elbow injury suffered at last year’s Wimbledon failed to heal properly and forced the 29-year-old to announce her leaving after her defence of the Aussie Open ended in round three against Svetlana Kuznetsova. “I regard ending my career more like a sentence that’s been handed down than a decision I’ve made,” said the seven-time Grand Slam winner. It is also ironic that the injury which ended her career was suffered whilst playing her long-time nemesis turned friend Kim Clijsters. “The will is there, but physically I can’t [carry on]. Now I have to mourn the end of my career. I’ve had to deal with a lot of injuries throughout my career but this time, at 29, I just can’t go on. You have to be reasonable about things. When I came back from Australia, I had consultations with three different doctors. It got to the point that I needed 10 minutes in the morning just to get my elbow functional. The ligament wasn’t solid enough to handle the intensity of the game. I’m going to miss all the great feelings you have as a professional tennis player. I hope I’ll pick the racquet up again one day, but more than anything I want to live a normal life.” We wish one of the greatest talents to grace the women’s game luck in whatever ventures she now chooses to pursue.

Raonic Nips Debut Title:

The star of 20-year-old Milos Raonic continues to rise after the Canadian shocked Fernando Verdasco and much of the tennis world to lift the SAP Open in San Jose last week. The 20-year-old secured a 7-6(6), 7-6(5) victory in a tightly contested final to become the first Canadian since Greg Rusedski to lift an ATP Tour title. It also makes him the youngest victor since a 19-year-old Marin Cilic triumphed at New Haven in 2008. The match ended in somewhat controversial circumstances. Raonic hit a blockbuster 138mph serve which Verdasco got his racquet too. However, just before string met ball a spectator screamed “yes” and the Spaniard netted the return. The umpire refused to replay the point leaving the world No. 9 furious. “It came quicker than expected and it was amazing, I can’t stop smiling” said Raonic of lifting an ATP title. “I hope I can keep it going more than six weeks, for a full year schedule, and see where I am at the end of the year. I can play at this level. It’s going to be tough to jump into the top 10 right now but I think I’m on the right way. I have some things I want to work on but I’m happy with my week and I’ll always remember this. This is what I’ve always dreamed of.” Verdasco was surprisingly gracious in defeat given the final proceedings: “I saw the big potential he had in Australia,” Verdasco said of Raonic’s fourth-round achievement at the Aussie Open. “He deserved the victory here. He was hitting big serves but he also had so many forehand winners. I tried it all but couldn’t do anything more. He played too well.” Raonic yesterday (Wednesday) repeated the result at the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships in Memphis.

Soderling Finally a Defender:

Swedish star Robin Soderling successfully defended an ATP title for the first time in his career last weekend as he overcame Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in the final of the ABN AMRO World tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. Soderling has now clinched two titles this year (he also took Brisbane) equalling his season best total from 2010. “I had many tough matches this week,” said the 26-year-old. “I had to fight a lot for every match. I was lucky, I had the margins on my side. I think to win tournaments like this, you need to of course play well, but you need a little bit of luck as well.” Rotterdam is proving a fruitful city for Soderling who also reached the final here in 2008, losing to Michael Llodra. “I’ve had two wins and one final, it’s very good, I like it here a lot,” he said. “It suits my game and when you come to a place where you’ve played well before it brings out good feelings. Of course it’s tough trying to defend the title, it adds some extra pressure, but I felt good and had only positive feelings.” Full fallout can be read at the ATP website.

Pennetta to make History:

Doubles beauty Flavia Pennetta will make history on Monday when she climbs above her partner Gisela Dulko to claim the No. 1 ranking in doubles. It will be the first time ever that an Italian, male or female, has sat at the top of the pile in either singles or doubles. This week last year, Dulko won the Bogata Championships alongside Edina Gallovits-Hall. As she is not playing this week those points have fallen off her total and so Pennetta will climb above her. This follows on from the pair’s maiden Grand Slam at Melbourne Park where they overcame Victoria Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko in the final.

Kvitova Stuns Supermum:

Petra Kvitova lifted her third, and biggest, WTA Tour title with a shock 6-4, 6-3 win over Kim Clijsters at the Open GDF SUEZ in Paris last weekend. “I’m very happy to win my second title of the year, and it doesn’t get much better than beating the new No.1 in the final,” said the No. 4 seed. “I thought I played very well. I played my game, fast and aggressive, as I couldn’t let her dominate. It’s very special to defeat Kim in the final. I’d like to thank my team and I would like to dedicate this victory to my grandfather, who passed away last week.” Clijsters was gracious in defeat: “My opponent was just better today,” she said. “I couldn’t play my best because she put so much pressure on me. I had to go for it because if I put it in her hitting zone, she was dominating. If she continues to play like that, she will be Top 10 before long. She is so much fitter and moves better than last year.” More can be read at the WTA website.

Hantuchova Back in Business:

Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova was celebrating last weekend after her first title in nearly four years at the PTT Pattaya Open in Thailand. After overcoming the top seed Vera Zvonereva in a mammoth semifinal encounter she faced Sara Errani in the title decider. It was slightly more straightforward for her as she ran out a 6-0, 6-2 victory in just an hour and 16 minutes. “I was really hungry to get another title,” the 27-year-old said. “I was focused and aggressive from the start. I won the whole tournament in straight sets, which is a good sign. After the injury at the start of the year, this feels great. I had a good pre-season and now it’s paying off. I just never doubted myself. The match with Vera was a little final I would say, but I have to give credit to Sara, she played well the whole tournament. I hope to come back to Pattaya City. I didn’t have time to see anything of Thailand, so hopefully I come back not just for the tournament, but also holidays!”

Zvonereva Living the Dream:

In a column for the Gulf Times world No. 3 Vera Zvonereva has been discussing life as a tennis celebrity. “I believe there is a big side of talking to the media which isn’t about getting column inches,” wrote the Russian. “Sometimes I think we have to do interviews, sign autographs and have pictures taken as a way of giving back to the fans. That’s important. I also think it’s a two-way thing. The media must respect when enough is enough and give us our privacy. You learn how much to give as you get older. When you are young you give too much. It has to be a balanced relationship. You have to know where to draw the line because everyone wants a piece of you. I will always be a girl who doesn’t need the attention but I’ll always give what I can for my fans. They want to know who I am, see I’m a normal person who does normal things. I have a personality and I’m not afraid to show it.”

Murray Not Mint for Dubai:

Andy Murray has withdrawn from next week’s Dubai Championships with a wrist problem, his official website has confirmed.

Sharapova Back at The Priory:

World No. 13 Maria Sharapova has once again committed to playing the AEGON Classic at the Edgbaston Priory this summer as preparation for Wimbledon. It is the eighth time in nine years she will play the event, having previously won it in 2004 and 2005. “I’m excited to be playing once again,” said the 23-year-old. “It’s one of my favourite pre-slam tournaments. I always get such a warm welcome in Birmingham at the event and from the people in the city.” Sharapova was also a finalist here in 2007 and 2010.

Gasquet Orders An Italian:

French star Richard Gasquet has hired the Italian Riccardo Piatti as his new coach after splitting with Eric Deblicker recently, reports L’Equipe. Piatti is the man responsible for guiding the giant Croat Ivan Ljubicic to No. 3 in the world. “Everybody knows Richard’s an excellent player,” Piatti said. “He’s still young and had to live with huge expectations because of his early success. He has to be given time to grow and better manage his emotions.” Gasquet will also continue to take advice from former Top 10 player Sebastien Grosjean.

Bhupathi Gets the Universe:

Doubles star Mahesh Bhupathi has married for a second time, wedding former Miss Universe Lara Dutta in a ceremony attended only by the two families.

Mauresmo Dismayed with Roland Garros Decision:

Former world No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo has voiced her dismay at the French Tennis Federation’s decision last Sunday to keep the French Open at Roland Garros past 2016, reports Reuters. The areas of Versailles, Gonesse and Marne-la-Vallee also bid to hold the tournament but were beaten off despite all offering areas larger in size for development. “I think that in Paris today we don’t have the possibility to have the necessary space to develop Roland Garros,” said the two-time Grand Slam winner. “We are the smallest of the four Grand Slams and I think it is important to have the chance to grow, and for the public to have more room.”

WTT No.1 Heaven:

Ten current and former world No. 1s will compete in this year’s World Tennis Tournament with Martina Hingis and Anna Kournikova agreeing to compete in the competition beginning in July. Hingis will play for the John McEnroe-led New York Sportimes alongside Kim Clijsters. Serena and Venus Williams as well as Sam Querrey will represent the Washington Kastels while Kournikova and Lindsay Davenport will turn out for the St. Louis Aces alongside competition debuting Mark Philippoussis. Melanie Oudin will also make her WTT debut this year, starring for the Philadelphia Freedoms. Pete Sampras will play for the Newport Beach Breakers, competing for the first time since 2007, and Bob and Mike Bryan again play for the defending Champions Kansas City Explorers. Mardy Fish will battle for the Sacramento Capitals and John Isner and James Blake will represent the Boston Lobsters.

Third Time Lucky For Blake?:

James Blake is now making a third and final attempt at a return to the ATP Tour following yet another long injury lay-off. The injury-prone 31-year-old missed most of 2010 but was back in action last week at San Jose. Matt Cronin of Tennis Reporters fame caught up with him to find out his thinking behind the decision. Read the great article over at the Fox Sports site.

Rankings Watch:

The Austrian Jurgen Melzer is the new world No. 10 in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings following close of play in Rotterdam. He leapfrogs the Russian Mikhail Youzhny. The Serbian Viktor Troicki leaps five to No. 19 while Andreas Seppi of Italy is in to the Top 50 at No. 47. Milos Raonic’s maiden title at San Jose sees him leap 25 places to No. 59 in the world and Simone Bolelli and the Argentinean pair of Brian Dabul and Leonardo Mayer are up in to the Top 100. In the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings Kim Clijsters has climbed above Caroline Wozniacki to become world No. 1 for the first time since she came out of retirement. It is the fourth time in her career she has sat on top of the sport. Petra Kvitova’s shock win over Clijsters in Paris sees her climb 4 to No. 14. The Ukraine’s Alona Bondarenko is in to the Top 50 with Anna Chakvetadze dropping out. Akgul Amanmuradova of Uzbekistan jumps from No. 72 to No. 64 and Jelena Dokic, Laura Pous-Tio and Ksenia Pervak enter the Top 100, Dokic climbing from No. 120 to No. 91.

GOAT Race Update:

Again, neither Roger Federer nor Rafa Nadal was in action last week so the scores remain as they were.

Roger: 330 Rafa: 130

Dementieva’s Retirement: Foreshadowing What’s to Come?

After the final round robin match of the Doha Championships, all of the players gathered on the court for a special announcement. Elena Dementieva, a stalwart of the women’s tennis tour, was about to upset the delicate balance of the tennis world by announcing her retirement, effective immediately. In a very touching ceremony, Elena thanked her supporters while the audience, her mom, Vera, and the other YEC competitors looked on. Everyone, even stony faced Sam Stosur, looked a bit teary eyed by the end Elena’s speech.

Elena’s abrupt departure set the tennis world abuzz. Were there more high profile retirements on the horizon? Later that day, Kim Clijsters announced that she would wrap up her career, for the second time, after the 2012 Olympics. Thanks for the warning Kim, but you’re at least a year ahead of yourself. Talk about the longest goodbye tour ever.

The way I see it, neither extreme is the way to go. I’m not a huge fan of Elena Dementieva, but even I felt jilted by her sudden exit. I wanted a farewell tour damn it, but not two years worth of farewell. We’ve seen both mistakes before. Justine Henin almost retroactively announced her retirement even though she was the world number one at the time, depriving fans of a proper goodbye. On the other hand, Marat Safin, a former number one player, gave us a full season’s notice, and by the end of the season he’d been asked so many retirement questions that the actual day couldn’t come fast enough. If you want my suggestion, the best time for a player to announce their retirement is before the last major event they plan to play. Clearly there are exceptions to any rule, but this allows the player a proper farewell in front of a large crowd and gives fans enough time to accept the inevitable.

As much as I hate to say it, I think the next couple of years are going to be full of these tearful goodbyes. Many of our favorite players are pushing 30 and for tennis players, that’s just about ancient. Here are a few of my best guesses as to who will be trading in their racket for retirement in the coming years.

The Honor Roll

My honorable mentions go out to players who will almost certainly retire Slamless, but who have given us a great deal of entertainment and heart over the years.

Tommy Haas

Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll be seeing Tommy play anymore tennis, which is unfortunate because he deserves a nice send off. This former top 10 player is already 32 years old and his ranking has dropped down into the 300s after undergoing hip surgery earlier this year. Nothing’s out of the question, but the chances of Tommy coming back strong at this point are slim.

James Blake

This 30 year old New Yorker has had recurring knee issues and lackluster results this year. I attended James’ 3rd round match against Novak Djokovic at this year’s US Open and I couldn’t help but think of it as a kind of last hurrah. I wouldn’t be surprised if Blake pulls the plug any minute now.

Nikolay Davydenko

Davydenko broke his wrist earlier this year, which kept him out for the majority of the season, but his ranking has stayed high. The 29 year old has often been considered a contender for a major title but has always fallen short, way short, when it comes to the Grand Slams. I’m basing this one solely on age, not performance. If he stays in shape and avoids more injuries, Nikolay could prove me wrong.

The Cum Laude Society

Venus Williams

I may not shed a tear over this one, but I know someone will. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Williams sisters, an opinion based purely on behavior, not talent. However, I also don’t really know how to picture the tennis world without Venus and little sister Serena. Venus turned 30 this year and underwent knee surgery after this year’s US Open. She actually posted great results at the Slams this year, reaching two quarterfinals and a semifinal, but I question how much longer she can keep it up. I have a feeling Venus will let us know pretty early on when she plans to retire. She strikes me as the type that wants a long farewell tour.

Lleyton Hewitt

This one will be a little bit tougher. Lleyton Hewitt’s a pretty likeable guy, so I’d imagine fans will be sad to see him go. I mean who can resist the Aussie accent? Hewitt was once number one in the world but his career has been riddled with injuries. Lleyton’s career peaked early on when he became the youngest man ever to be ranked number one at the age of 20, the same year he picked up the US Open title and the World Tour Finals. He followed up those results by winning Wimbledon in 2002 and defending his WTF title. I wouldn’t exactly say that things have been downhill since then, but a man who’s won two Grand Slam singles titles does not aspire to be ranked 50th in the world and very rarely making an appearance in the second week of a major. Lleyton’s wife recently gave birth to their third child and I have a feeling that this 29 year old’s tennis days are numbered. I hope that Hewitt gives us a little notice and decides to wrap things up at the Australian Open. He deserves a good hometown send off.

Andy Roddick

I’m dreading this, a lot. Andy has always been one of my favorite tennis players and I’ve always felt he had the talents to win several Grand Slams. Roddick triumphed at the 2003 US Open against Juan Carlos Ferrero, but in every subsequent Grand Slam final he’s been thwarted by Roger Federer. The current total is at four, three Wimbledon and one US Open. Most recently, in what I consider to be one of the most heartbreaking matches of all time, Andy lost to Roger Federer in the 2009 Wimbledon final 16-14 in the deciding set. As much as I would love to see Roddick keep playing for years to come, Andy has said that he will not overstay his welcome in the tennis world. If he cannot maintain a high ranking, Andy will retire. Lucky for us, Andy is currently still in the top 10 and on course to appear in his eighth consecutive World Tour Final, so maybe we’ll get a few more years.

Roger Federer

Honestly, I don’t even want to discuss this. Roger Federer is my favorite tennis player and really the reason I fell in love with tennis. I think he’s the greatest ambassador the sport has ever had and an incredible example of what a star athlete should be. For me, Federer’s retirement will leave a gaping hole in the tennis world. Even if you’re a Rafa fan, you should be able to appreciate that the famous rivalry has helped make both players as great as they are today. Luckily, Federer is on a quest for the one trophy that has eluded him, an Olympic gold medal. Although, he did recently say that winning one more Wimbledon is actually more important to him than the Olympic gold. Roger has confirmed that he will definitely continue playing through the 2012 Olympics, but after that all bets are off. I personally believe Fed is not done winning Grand Slams and would love to see him go out on a high note (maybe a late career title at Wimbledon, I think that would be fitting.) However, if he’s not winning, I can’t imagine Roger will stick around. Currently he possesses a record 16 major titles and is ranked number two in the world. If his ranking starts to slip and he starts losing to nobodies, you can count on his retirement. Finally, Roger better not pull any of this surprise retirement crap. I have yet to see Federer play live and I fully intend to do so before he retires, so I’m going to need plenty of notice.


By Leigh Sanders

* Roger Federer has told BBC Sport he intends to play on after the 2012 Olympics despite recent rumors he was growing tired of the sport he has dominated for years. The 28-year-old world No. 1 also believes his best tennis is around the corner. “I don’t have a problem saying this is the second half of my career because I do have kids and a lot of things have changed around me,” he said. “People think I’m going to retire at the 2012 Olympics – which is not true. Even though you never know, it depends on your body. I would like to play beyond that so we’ll see how it goes.”

* A Romanian TV station is reporting that tennis Hall of Famer Ilie Nastase may quit the country in a bid to escape the press. The 63-year-old, two-time Slam winner is said to be fed up of the paparazzi invading his privacy, particularly during recent divorce proceedings with third wife Amalia Nastase. Realitatea TV believes he is ready to quit his homeland.

* Rafa Nadal’s straight-set victory over Roger Federer in Madrid makes him the all-time leader in Masters Tournament victories with 18, leaving Andre Agassi behind on 17. The Bryan brothers’ victory in the men’s doubles has them tied for the most ATP Tour doubles titles on 61 with Aussie 2010 International Tennis Hall of Fame inductees Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde.

* India’s Sania Mirza has said she will return to action at Birmingham, England, on June 9 following her three-month hiatus to marry Pakistani cricket star Shoaib Malik, according to her Twitter page.

* Jelena Jankovic’s third-round victory over Anabel Medina Garrigues in Madrid was her 400th career singles win.

* British No. 1 Andy Murray has declared himself confident ahead of the French Open and insists he has reversed the slump which has affected him since his Aussie Open final defeat to Roger Federer back in January. “I’ve got my intensity back, my mind’s where it needs to be,” Murray told BBC Sport. “Going into the French I’ll definitely feel way, way better than I did a few weeks ago.”

* Speaking via conference call for Tennis Channel Martina Navratilova has said she is “cancer free” following surgery six weeks ago. “I’m doing well,” she said. “I just started radiation last week.”

* This week’s ATP World Rankings (17/05) sees Rafa Nadal re-take the No. 2 slot from Novak Djokovic following his win in Madrid last week. Nicolas Almagro’s fine performance on the Spanish clay has seen him climb 13 spaces to the brink of the top 20, ranked No. 22. Argentine Juan Ignacio Chela has re-entered the top 50 at 48.

* In this week’s WTA World Rankings (17/05), the Williams sisters were dominating women’s tennis again as they occupied the top two slots for the first time in seven years. Serena still holds the no. 1 ranking while Venus has climbed to No. 2. Shahar Peer has re-entered the top 20 at No. 19 while Aravane Rezai’s stunning win over Venus in Madrid sees her jump eight places to 16. Anabel Medina Garrigues re-enters the top 50 at No. 49.

* Sporting brand Wilson have reported on their Facebook page that Juan Martin del Potro has been in Minnesota visiting Dr. Richard Berger with a view to swapping his plaster cast for a softer and lighter one which will enable him to step up his return to the game by starting rehab soon.

* American high school tennis hopeful Stefan Mangroo has been disqualified from a tournament for refusing to play on The Sabbath. The 17-year-old Franklin High School Junior and his partner Cody Buffenbarger were due to play the semifinals of the doubles at the Division II sectional tournament on Saturday May 15 but Mangroo refused to compete due to this being The Sabbath for Seventh-Day Adventists. “You have to stand up for what you believe,” said Mangroo.

Roger Federer Never Fails to Amaze Us

Allow me to be the millionth person to acknowledge Roger Federer on his  15th Grand Slam title.  What news could be greater for a soon to be father?  This isn’t something we will see the last of from Mr. Federer.

He’s the guy I can imagine with a record 20 wins if he keeps this pace.   He did announce hipes to compete in the 2012 Olympics.
I can’t tell you how many people surprised me by watching the match last  Sunday: a photographer, media people, etc., people who normally don’t have an interest in tennis but were fascinated by Roger’s brilliance.
“Who DIDN’T watch it?” someone put it.  To bring that to a sport is  simply magical, and for that and your wins, Mr. Federer, you deserve  congratulations.