Amelie Mauresmo

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A Look Back At The Playing Career of Amelie Mauresmo

Amelie Mauresmo

With much of the Wimbledon hype surrounding Amelie Mauresmo’s coaching role with Andy Murray, we look back at the playing career of the Frenchwoman, courtesy of tennis historian Bud Collins. The following is the bio of Mauresmo from his famous book “The Bud Collins History of Tennis” set for an updated re-release later this year.

 

The only French woman to win Wimbledon other than Suzanne Lenglen (1919–23, 25) and the fifth woman of her nation to win a major, Amelie won two majors in 2006—the Australian over Justin Henin (BEL), 6-1, 2-0, ret. and Wimbledon over Henin, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. Unseeded, she lost the 1999 Australian final to Martina Hingis (SUI), 6-2, 6-3, defeating No. 1 Lindsay Davenport (USA), 6-4, 6-0 in the semifinals. A superb athlete, well-rounded attacking game, she played Federation Cup 11 years, 1998-99, 2001–09 played 21 ties, posting a 30-9 singles, 2-2 doubles record. She led France to the Cup in 2003, winning two singles in 4-1 final-round win over U.S., including the decisive point, 6-2, 6-1, over Meghann Shaughnessy. In the 2005 Fed Cup final, lost to Russia 3-2, she lost the decisive doubles match with Mary Pierce to Elena Dementieva-Dinara Safina, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3. A member of the French Olympic team in 2000, 2004, she won Olympic silver in women’s singles in 2004, losing to Justine Henin-Hardenne. She was a member of the world’s Top 10 for seven years—No. 10, 1999; No. 9, 2001; No, 6, 2002; No. 4, 2003; No. 2, 2004; No. 3, 2005-06 (briefly No. 1, 2004). She was a quarterfinalist at the Australian Open three times (2002, 04-05), the French Open twice (2003-04) and the US Open four times (2001, 03-04-05). She was a semifinalist at Wimbledon twice (2004-05) and the U.S. Open twice (2002, 06). She was born in St. Germains en Laye, France on July 5, 1979. A right-hander, 5 ft. 9, 152 lbs, she turned pro in 1993 and was the world junior champ in 1996. She won 25 singles titles and three doubles pro titles and $15,022,476 in prize money. She announced her retirement at the end of the 2009 season.

MAJOR TITLES (2)—Australian singles, 2006; Wimbledon singles, 2006.

Marion Bartoli: More Than “Still A Weirdo”

Marion Bartoli has gotten the "weirdo" label for too long; ever consider that she's one of the normal ones?

In the hours and days following Marion Bartoli’s maiden Grand Slam win, pundits and commentators have been hard at work spinning the wheel of adjectives (if not euphemisms) to describe the Frenchwoman. “Quirky.” “Eccentric.” “Unique.” All of which are ways of dancing around the word one really wants to use when opining on the veteran top tenner: “weird.”

Compared to her WTA colleagues, it’s true: Marion Bartoli is weird. While her two-handed groundstrokes set her apart from the rest on a fundamental level, Bartoli has made a career of exaggerating the sport’s fundamentals. She takes dramatic practice cuts before kangaroo jumping her way into a widely open-stance return position. She winds up to serve in a hitch-filled motion that looks more like a manual flip book of what a serve is supposed to look like. She is very aware of her surroundings, acknowledging cheering fans with an emphatic fist pump of appreciation.

Even in the context of a tournament so full of surprises and early round upsets that Wimbledon itself was re-dubbed “Wimbleweird,” Bartoli managed to stand out. Though coming into what has been her best major tournament (reaching the finals in 2007), the Frenchwoman had suffered through a middling 2013 highlighted by her decision to extricate her father from his perennial position as her coach and confidante. While bigger names went out in her half of the draw, Bartoli continued to cruise, not only reaching the final without losing a set, but also doing so without facing a top 10 player.

Against prohibitive favorite Sabine Lisicki, Bartoli continued to “weird out” those in attendance. The German had taken out two of the top four seeds, and had won three of her four matches against the Frenchwoman (including a quarterfinal encounter at the All-England Club two years ago). Yet, Lisicki crumbled under the weight of expectation, and Bartoli steadied her own nerves to play with the enthusiastic poise that has seen her conquer multiple Slam champions and reigning World No. 1s throughout her career.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JX9zMBNq7Tc

As she closed out victory with an ace and jubilantly skipped over to greet her supporters (including her father with her new hitting partner, Thomas Drouet), I began to wonder if the read on Bartoli was all wrong.

Maybe Marion is one of the normal ones.

As a player, what was weird about Bartoli, whose best results have come on grass, using her on-the-rise groundstrokes to overwhelm seven opponents en route to the title? As a person, shouldn’t the athlete who gracefully stalks about big stages seemingly immune to nerves and tension look more to viewers like the “weird” one?

In this way, Bartoli is the People’s Champion in more ways that one would think. Over the years, she has approached a game often played at immortal levels as methodically as she has uniquely, constantly trying new and better ways of competing with the game’s elite. What many deemed “rituals,” she has seen as formulas for success. Where she has shown fits of greatness, she has also shown human frailty as she struggled with various injuries that derailed potentially earlier title runs.

When she saw she could go no further with her father’s coaching earlier this year, she began opening up to other ideas, and even made amends with the French Federation after years of ostracism and alienation. Fed Cup Captain Amelie Mauresmo and teammate Kristina Mladenovic’s presence in Bartoli’s player box was proof that Bartoli had been warmly welcomed back into the fold.

With these changes came a dip in form; some may have thought her master plan had backfired, but Bartoli refused to buckle under the immediate consequences of major change. As she’s always done, she continued to work and fine-tune her team until they were as formulaic as her two-handed volleys.

In victory and in press, she was charming and unguarded, standing in stark contrast with the high-jumping cartoon character one sees between points. Her pure, unadulterated joy was very human, something we all could imagine feeling after reaching the precipice of our life’s purpose.

If there was anything “weird” about Marion Bartoli holding the Venus Rosewater Dish aloft, perhaps it had to do with the fact that, despite the changes in technology, the vast accumulation of natural (or superhuman) talent, even the steely nerves shown throughout the tennis world, a normal young woman can continue to grow, change and tinker with her game and rise to the pinnacle of her sport.

After all these years and compared to the surrounding names in the Wimbledon Compendium, Marion Bartoli may still be a “weirdo.” But her fortnight at the All-England Club proved that she was something more.

She’s one of us.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUv9AMB9cz8

Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic and More Glam Up for WTA 40 Love Celebration in London

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(June 30, 2013) Current and former WTA world No. 1s gathered together on Sunday in London to celebrate “40 Love” – the 40th anniversary of the WTA, founded by trailblazer Billie Jean King.

The WTA and its leaders have strived to bring equality, recognition and respect to the tour over the years. The organization is now the global leader in women’s professional sport, and proudly counts many pioneering accomplishments, including the successful campaign for equal prize money.

Seventeen of the 21 WTA No. 1s were in attendance, including three of the original nine, displaying elegance and beauty. Can you name each one in the photo below?

Emcees Pam Shriver and Mary Carillo introduced each of the No. 1s in style, referencing the “sassy sour” Maria Sharapova to the ever elegant Monica Seles. Each lady then had the chance with the mic, and afterward, it was time to mingle and celebrate.

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The “pink” carpet arrivals were no less stunning.

Teenagers Eugenie Bouchard and Madison Keys were also invited guests, with the WTA calling them “potential future world No. 1s.” Quite an honor.

Eugenie Bouchard and Madison Keys

Watch all the pink carpet interviews with the World No.1s, gala speeches from the legends and much more with a full replay of all the Sunday celebrations. (Begins around the 24 minute mark.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jT_OVo2FC0c

On Guts Alone

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To win a tennis match, a player usually requires a near-perfect alignment of their physical and emotional states. For most, even the slightest niggling pain or mental wobble can derail what would otherwise be a clear course to victory. But to say that all players can achieve this elusive equilibrium would not only be a gross oversimplification of the game, but also ignores those who can make up for a physical lack on the strength of one muscle in particular: the heart.

Such heart was on full display during a first round encounter in Doha between Marion Bartoli and Francesca Schiavone. Bartoli, a notoriously unorthodox player who sports two-fisted groundstrokes, was recovering from a flu virus that ruled her out of a return to Fed Cup. Schiavone, her undersized and underpowered opponent, is a crafty veteran who has suffered a lackluster 18 months arguably fueled by decreased motivation. Both came to court seemingly aware of the other’s deficiencies and sensed their own opportunities.

The Italian was largely story of the first set. A player who has only won one of her last seven sets played, Schiavone was whipping the kind of angles that took her to the 2010 French Open title. Exposing Bartoli’s flu-hindered movement, she had multiple chances to take a 5-1 lead and re-assert her quickly fading presence on the WTA Tour.

For Bartoli, this was not simply a first match post-illness: this was the first time in her career that she was playing without lifelong coach, father Walter Bartoli. While she has expressed an interest in working with two-time Slam champion and French Fed Cup Captain Amelie Mauresmo, the Bartoli came to Doha only with a fitness coach from the French Tennis Federation, the governing body that kept her out of the last two Olympic Games. With all of these careening circumstances, the stage appeared to be set for a Schiavone comeback performance.

Assuming this underestimates Marion’s own heart. The Frenchwoman, regardless of illness, may not be the fittest player on tour (something that might be due to training methods like these), but like Schiavone, has been able to rely on her heart, mind and resilience to pull off some improbable victories. Looking down and out at the US Open against former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, Bartoli charmed a packed Grandstand crowd with her earnest effusiveness as she turned the match around and bageled her highly lauded opponent in the third set.

After holding for 2-4, she took advantage of Schiavone’s suddenly tentative play and began red-lining her own game for some incredible winners off of the Italian’s serve. The tiebreaker was a tense affair, but Bartoli kept her nose in front and parlayed the momentum into a big second set advantage.

Schiavone was far from finished, however. She used all of her veteran wiles to put off the inevitable, even attempting to engage Bartoli at the net following a failed volley attempt. With both beneath peak physical condition, the two played brilliant all-court rallies on guts alone as the Frenchwoman wrapped up the match in straight sets.

Playing another gutsy player in Kuznetsova, Bartoli will have to hope she recovers from the draining physical effort that comes from fending off a game opponent. If not, she will have to call again upon that indomitable heart.

Marion, Misunderstood

Marion Bartoli will be playing her first Fed Cup tie since 2004 this weekend.

The year was 2004. Cesar Millan was yet to be called “The Dog Whisperer.” Ridiculously successful sequels Shrek 2, Spiderman 2 and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban were dominating the box office. The Red Sox were winning playoff games and the Russians were winning slams.

And Marion Bartoli was playing Fed Cup.

As a 19-year-old, Bartoli partnered Emilie Loit in doubles in two separate ties that year; the pairing won their doubles match in a 5-0 semifinal win against Spain, but lost the deciding rubber to the Russian duo of Anastasia Myskina and Vera Zvonareva in the finals. 2004 marked the only time that Bartoli had competed in the national ITF team event in her career.

Until now.

New French Fed Cup captain Amelie Mauresmo announced on Wednesday that Bartoli, along with Alize Cornet, Kristina Mladenovic and Virginie Razzano will be the French squad that will take on Germany in a World Group II first round tie on February 9-10 in Limoges.

Bartoli’s previous point of contention with the French Tennis Federation came from the role, or lack thereof, of her father in Fed Cup ties. Previous Fed Cup captains Loic Courteau and Nicolas Escude, as well as the federation itself, took issue with the fact that Bartoli wanted to be coached by her father during the ties, rather than practice together with the team. The parties involved also questioned the nature of Marion’s relationship with her father.

“In France, they think our relationship is, so to speak, fake, and that in public it’s big smiles and behind the scenes I’m getting pushed around every day,” she once said. “When I try to explain to them that is not the case, they have a hard time to understand.”

More than just the French public and tennis administration have had a hard time understanding the Bartolis. To say that they have gone outside the box in their approach to Marion’s tennis training is putting it mildly. One of the WTA’s more colorful characters, Bartoli’s shadow swings between every point have become her trademark, and she (allegedly) boasts an IQ of 175. She and her antics are always a spectacle on the WTA, no matter where she plays; nonetheless, these things are what endear her to her fans.

Due to her Fed Cup absence, Bartoli was ruled ineligible to compete at the Olympic Games. Three Games have come and gone since Bartoli made a name for herself on the circuit, but it was perhaps the last snub that hurt her the most and may have contributed to this reconciliation. The 2012 London Olympics were held at the site of Bartoli’s greatest career successes, on the lawns of the All-England Club. Without Bartoli, Cornet required an special invitation to compete, as she did not make the cut by ranking; she won a match before falling tamely to Daniela Hantuchova in the second round. Many argued that Bartoli would have been an outside, but no less legitimate, medal contender on the surface.

So the question remains: after nine years, 17 ties and a boatload of conflict, why now? Some detractors will state Bartoli’s chances to represent her country in the Olympics have come and gone; she’ll be 32 when the Olympics in Rio come around in 2016. Others would say she’s selfish for making the concessions, and is only looking to repair her image at home after the 2012 debacle. Both parties remained stubborn throughout this saga, and each holds a share of the blame.

No one can question Marion Bartoli’s patriotism. Despite all the quirks, the results don’t lie; a Wimbledon finalist with wins, among others, over Serena Williams, Justine Henin, Victoria Azarenka and Kim Clijsters in her career, Bartoli’s made the most of what she has. With the crowd behind her, she reached the semifinals at Roland Garros in 2011, the best performance at that event by a Frenchwoman since Mary Pierce won the title there in 2000 and reached the final again in 2005. All of that success has come with her father by her side, with little support from the national federation.

However, for this tie, Walter Bartoli will not be on site to help Marion prepare for her matches; he will be allowed to attend, but only as a family member. While we may not ever know what was said between Mauresmo and Bartoli over the past weeks, one thing is certain; someone finally understood.

Open GDF Suez Paris Photo Gallery with Bartoli, Mauresmo, Mattek-Sands

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Follow professional tennis photographer Rick Gleijm as he covers the Open GDF Suez WTA Tour event in Paris this week. The gallery below includes the draw ceremony that features Amelie Mauresmo, Marion Bartoli and Mary Pierce, as well as day two qualifying matches featuring Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Julie Coin, Marta Domachowska, Varvara Lepchenko, Mona Barthel, and Naomi Broady among others. For full qualification results, go here.

Also make sure to check out Rick’s feature “Paris Tennis Diary: From the Photo Pit.”

Rafael Nadal set for Return – The Friday Five

Rafael Nadal set for return

By Maud Watson

Home Sweet Home

In an announcement that had to come as no surprise to many, it was decided that the French Open can remain known as Roland Garros, as it will continue to be staged at its current location. The decision comes with the caveat that many updates will be made to the present site over the course of the next few years, including the construction of new courts, a new press center, and a retractable roof over center court, which would allow for the potential of night matches. This will all be made possible by expanding the site by approximately 12 acres, which should hopefully also give fans a bit more elbow room. But these changes for some, such as former World No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo, are not enough. As Mauresmo and other opponents have argued, the decision means that the French Open will remain the smallest of the four majors, and it will still be limited in the renovations that can made in order to compete with the other three Grand Slam events. These arguments are all valid points, and it’s possible that this current vote may only be delaying the inevitable. But personally, it was nice to see it stay at home. It is a beautiful venue, and it also has a great history (check out the 1928 Davis Cup France vs. United States tie, and be sure to check out the history behind flying ace Roland Garros).

Added Incentive

For the third consecutive time, the ITF and WTA have worked out an agreement stating that ranking points will be awarded to those women who compete at the 2012 Olympics, with the ATP expected to once again also follow suit. The thought process behind this decision is that it should help guarantee the headliners compete in London, but this decision should also be raising the question as to whether or not tennis even belongs in the Olympics in the first place. It hasn’t always been a staple of the Games. It was missing from the docket for more than 60 years following the 1924 Olympics before returning as a full medal sport in Seoul in 1988. But the fact that ranking points are needed to entice the players to compete is further proof that merely representing one’s country is not enough to convince them to participate. This is nothing against the players. Many have freely admitted that while winning an Olympic gold medal would be wonderful, winning a major would still mean more. It’s also a long season, and it’s understandable that if a player can’t add to his or her ranking, he or she might opt to take that week off. Tennis is also one of the few Olympic sports that allows professionals to compete, and given the nature of the sport, it’s not as if these players don’t already compete against one another on many large international stages week in and week out. It’s a tough call, but maybe it really is time to consider pulling tennis from the Olympics or revamping it to remain true to the Olympic spirit by only allowing amateurs to play.

Brief Hiatus

Perhaps after his stumble in Rotterdam, Andy Murray is learning from last year’s disaster. The young Scot has opted to pull out of Dubai citing a wrist injury. There seems to be some speculation as to the real severity of the injury, but all are in agreement that his withdrawal was the right move. Last year he angered Dubai tournament organizers by admitting he was ill prepared and merely tinkering with his game after his early exit. It’s good to see that this time around, Murray now appears to be taking a step back and mentally preparing himself for the long season ahead. He isn’t scheduled to play again until tennis’ “March madness” when Indian Wells and Miami are contested back-to-back. He might still be smarting from his poor performance in the Netherlands, but hopefully Murray will be ready to step it up once again.

Return Set

It’s official. Rafael Nadal will be well enough to represent his native Spain in the upcoming Davis Cup tie against Belgium, and Captain Albert Costa has named him to the team that will also include David Ferrer, Fernando Verdasco, and Feliciano Lopez. Costa noted that having the luxury of fielding Nadal would bring “certain tranquility” to the team. Hard saying how “tranquil” his multitude of fans will feel, however. Presumably Nadal wouldn’t play unless he’s 100%, but he’s generally shown a very strong commitment to Davis Cup and might be tempted to play even if not quite top notch. All eyes will be looking to see how he covers the court as an indicator of what we can expect from him this coming spring.

New Coach

The young Frenchman Richard Gasquet is now working with Italian Riccardo Piatti, though he will continue to employ the services of countryman Sebastien Grosjean. Tennis fans will remember seeing Piatti in Croat Ivan Ljubicic’s corner when Ljubicic reached a career high ranking of No. 3. Gasquet is currently suffering from shoulder injuries, but fans will be holding their breath to see if Piatti will prove to be the coach who can finally help Gasquet put it all together and realize his true potential. It hasn’t been fair the amount of pressure that has been put on Gasquet since before he was ten years old, but it would be an absolute travesty if he were never able to maximize his game and get the most out of his career.

THE YEAR THAT WAS: 2009 IN REVIEW

Another calendar year about to come to a close means that we can officially turn the page on another exciting year of professional tennis. Truly 2009 was not just an ordinary year in the history of the sport, but one that had fans and media alike talking tennis at great lengths over the past twelve months.

Tennis grabbed the headlines for a variety of reasons – some good, some bad – and captivated us from Rafael Nadal’s first hard-court Grand Slam victory in January to Nikolay Davydenko’s unlikely season-ending triumph at the Tour finals in November. In between we had a comeback like no other from Kim Clijsters in the summer and a meltdown from Serena Williams that made John McEnroe look like a saint. What about December you ask? Well hey, we have to give these guys a break sometime don’t we?

With all the high’s and low’s from the past year it is difficult to focus on just a few, but some certainly stood out more than others.

Roger Federer’s Achievements:

Up until the last Slam of the year in 2008, our boy Roger was getting a lot of flack from people about his performance on the court. No major titles to his credit, a thrashing by Rafa at Roland Garros and losing to the Spaniard again at Wimbledon did not bode well for his attempt at continued domination and his desire to topple the Grand Slam record held by Pete Sampras. Eventually he did win the U.S. Open to salvage some much needed respect and confidence – but could he maintain it in 2009?

Roger responded with authority by making all four Slam finals, finally breaking through at the French Open to complete his career-slam and re-taking Wimbledon in a match for the ages (yeah I know, we said that in 2008 too!) He broke Pete’s record with his 15th major title and also celebrated the year in his personal life with a wedding and the arrival of twins.

He is arguably now the greatest player of all-time and whether he adds to his Slam-total or not, it will be a good while before we even think about his record being challenged. Despite not being named the AP athlete of the year, this guy is as classy a champion as we’ll ever see. He is without a doubt, the tennis played of the year for 2009.

Serena Williams’ Ups and Downs:

On the women’s side the distinction of player of the year goes to Serena Williams. I’m not sure if the word ‘classy’ can be thrown in along with that, but her record at the majors was untouched. Slam victories at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, along with the season-ending championship in Qatar,’ all cemented her status as world number one. And let’s not forget her doubles accomplishments with sister Venus, as the duo won three Slams together and finished the year ranked third overall despite only entering six tournaments.

Negating some of the praise for her tennis achievements was the unfortunate meltdown in her semi-final match at the U.S. Open against Kim Clijsters. Her verbal assault towards a line-judge was completely unacceptable and brought all the wrong kind of attention to the sport in a match that should have been purely about two great and talented tennis players. Foot-fault or not, she was deducted a point according to the rules and as it was on match-point it ended up being the end of the contest.

Take away that one incident – if you can – and everyone would have been singing Serena’s praises for such a fantastic year. Personally I think we can shrug off this ugly heat-of-the-moment outburst and look for Serena to let her play speak for itself in 2010.

Comebacks:

Big-name, small-name, older and younger, there were several notable comebacks in 2009. The most impressive no-doubt goes to a certain Belgian player named Kim Clijsters. Clijsters chose a difficult time of the year to return to professional tennis – halfway through the season – and knocked off some tough competition in her first two tournaments back. It was in her third tournament, at the U.S. Open however, that she really showed us what she could do. After more than two years away from the game, Clijsters knocked off both Williams sisters en-route to her second career Grand Slam title. Makes you wonder if a little time away from the game might help some other players seeking to win another major, doesn’t it?

Other returning players worth note include Taylor Dent on the men’s side who overcame a potentially career-ending back injury to jump from 804 to 75 in the ATP rankings. It’s nice to see the affable serve and volleyer back on the court after such a prolonged absence from the game.

Kimiko Date-Krumm showed us that age is but a number when she returned to the court at 38 years old and became the second-oldest player behind Billie Jean King to win a tour event.

Maria Sharapova returned from an injury to her shoulder that kept her away from the game for ten months. While her powerful groundstrokes remain a threat, her serve was a disappointment as she attempted to use an adjusted motion. If she can keep the number of double-faults to a minimum there is no reason why Sharapova cannot return to Grand Slam success. January will mark two years since her last major victory.

A final comeback worth noting is that of Justine Henin. While Henin has yet to play a competitive match, she made her announcement in 2009 and one cannot help but think the success of her fellow-Belgian Kim Clijsters was partially responsible. What a great boost to the women’s game that is already thriving with plenty of big-name appeal.

Andre Agassi’s Revelations:

When eight-time Grand Slam champion Andre Agassi left the game in 2006, he exited as a soft-spoken, elder-statesman of the tour and a highly respected ambassador of the sport. It was hard to remember him as the long-haired, Big-mac eating, rock-star Agassi of the 80s or the over-weight, sullen, challenger-level Agassi of 1997. Agassi’s autobiography, Open, reminds us of these times and other dark moments in his tennis career that we never even imagined.

Recreational drug-use, lies to Tour officials about dope tests, and a deep rooted hatred for the game were all shocking admissions that Agassi shares with his readers. How did Agassi’s confession sit with his peers and his fans?

Some, like Martina Navratilova, were quick to condemn him, while others like Andy Roddick stood firm behind him. Most voiced their surprise and disappointment and some applauded his candor. While the manner in which Agassi came clean is somewhat less than perfect, his book sheds much insight into the tortured inner-feelings of one of the sport’s more complex characters.

Many lessons can be learned from his writing such as the pressure tennis parents place on their children, the completely ineffective drug-testing policies the tour’s adhere to and the ability to overcome adversity and triumph through hard work and determination.

Israeli Tennis:

It was a year of major tennis accomplishments and disappointments for Israeli tennis players in 2009. The ugly side of sports emerged in February in the United Arab Emirates when politics and racism reared their head in a controversial decision that had everyone talking. Israeli top-forty player Shahar Peer was denied entry into the Emirates despite qualifying for direct entry into the tournament in Dubai. Tournament organizers hid their motives behind so-called fears of security concerns for Peer. In truth, this was just another example of a country that attempts to appear progressive displaying its shallow prejudice.

Sony Ericsson WTA Tour officials mistakenly allowed the tournament to continue despite Peer’s exclusion. Fortunately the situation was corrected in time for the ATP event the following week with Andy Ram playing in the doubles draw. Despite Ram’s entry, American Andy Roddick took a noble stand and refused to play due to the treatment of Peer. A nice gesture of solidarity on his part.

Just when that situation had resolved itself, Israel was once again in the middle of a controversy – this time in Malmo, Sweden, for a Davis Cup tie in early March. Player safety was again cited as the reason why the best-of-five tie would be played with no spectators in attendance. The controversial decision clearly did not help the favored Swedes, as Israel advanced with a surprise 3-2 victory.

Davis Cup would prove to be the saving grace for Israeli tennis in 2009, as the country would defeat a powerful Russian team to get to the semi-finals before bowing out against the eventual champions from Spain. With a roster compiled of unheralded journeymen such as Jonathan Erlich, Harel Levy, Andy Ram and Dudi Sela, Israel made it to their very first Davis Cup semi-final and shocked many along the way. After all of the sensational press they had received earlier in the year, it was a deserving, feel-good story for the Israelis.

Other Notable Events:

- Rafael Nadal’s first-ever loss at Roland Garros versus Robin Soderling. The most shocking loss of 2009 without a doubt and one that would greatly help Federer achieve his missing slam.

- Andy Roddick coming so close to winning his elusive second Grand Slam title. Boy did Andy ever take Roger into extra-innings at Wimbledon in June. He earned some much needed respect after that five set marathon.

- Melanie Oudin’s unexpected run at the U.S. Open where she made it to the quarter-finals. A nice shot-in-the-arm for American tennis that bodes well for the future.

- Drug suspensions and subsequent reversals for Richard Gasquet, Yanina Wickmayer and Xavier Malisse. It is time for the ATP and WTA Tour’s to conduct a serious review of how they handle positive drug tests. Gasquet’s excuse that he ingested cocaine from a night-club encounter with someone’s mouth just doesn’t sit right.

- The retirement of former Grand Slam champions Thomas Johansson, Amelie Mauresmo and Marat Safin as well as Fabrice “The Magician” Santoro and Ai Sugiyama

Murray Intends To Win Major Title in 2010: Tennis in the Commonwealth

By Leigh Sanders

Great Britain’s top star Andy Murray has reiterated his intention to break his Grand Slam duck in 2010. Speaking to BBC Scotland, he said that he feels he improved throughout 2009 and firmly believes next year will be his best yet. “I always said I’d play my best tennis between 23 and 27 and I’m 23 next year,” said Murray. “I had three tough losses in the Grand Slams. Hopefully, I can turn that round next year and draw on the experience.”

*The ATP has announced its top five matches of 2009 and three of the selections were held at Commonwealth-based tournaments. Unsurprisingly, the nail biting Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick takes the No. 1 slot. Rafael Nadal’s semifinal victory over compatriot Fernando Verdasco at the Australian Open ranks third while Nikolay Davydenko’s triumph over Roger Federer in the ATP World Finals semifinal at London, England’s o2 Arena placed fifth. Meanwhile, British No. 1 Andy Murray’s shock defeat to the Croatian Marin Cilic in the US Open fourth round ranked third in the top five upsets of the year but Murray still made the ATP’s list of the year’s top players.

*The news of former world No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo’s retirement has led to praise for the two-time Grand Slam champion from many quarters. Canada’s Aleksandra Wozniak is one who will be sad to see her leave the world’s tennis arenas and with particular reason; it was Aleksandra who defeated Amelie in her last match at this year’s US Open. “She was a lot of fun to watch because not only did she do everything well, but she did it with flair at the same time,” said Wozniak. “It was an honour for me to play her in her last match, especially since we played on Arthur Ashe stadium court at the US Open – it was one of the biggest wins of my career and a very special moment for me.”

*Some of Australia’s biggest tennis names are missing from the first round of playoffs competing for wildcard berths at the 2010 Australian Open. Chris Guccione, Carsten Ball and Sam Groth are all suffering from injuries and will miss the December 14-20 event.

*The Medibank International Sydney championships in Australia have announced their strongest lineup to date with nine of the world’s top ten players in the women’s field taking to the courts. Joining the likes of Serena Williams, Dinara Safina and Caroline Wozniacki will be home favourite Samantha Stosur. The home fans can also cheer on Lleyton Hewitt in the men’s event but he will have to overcome players of the calibre of Gael Monfils, Tomas Berdych and Stanislas Wawrinka if he is to emerge victorious.

*Great Britain’s Anne Keothavong saw the third greatest decline in ranking spots on the WTA tour during 2009. She started the year at No. 60, rising to No. 54 by July but a knee injury then finished her season and she ended the year at No. 98. It is, though, her second-best year-end finish in 11 years on the tour. The biggest climber was Germany’s Andrea Petkovic (No. 379 – No. 56, 323 places) and the greatest recession was suffered by Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova (No. 44 – No. 99, 55 places).

*Australian tennis is again celebrating with the news that Russian-born Anastasia Rodionova has been granted citizenship. The current world No. 96 becomes the third-highest ranked Aussie player behind Samantha Stosur and Jelena Dokic. Jarmila Groth was also granted citizenship last month and this continues the strengthening of the sport Down Under.

*Former world No. 1 Alicia Molik of Australia continued her impressive return from retirement by taking another title, this time at the Pro Tour Event in Bendigo, Australia. Her compatriot Matt Ebden took the men’s trophy.

*Former Tennis Canada board of directors chair Harold P. Milavsky was inducted in to the Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame during a ceremony held at the Glencoe Club, Calgary, attended by much of the Alberta tennis and business worlds.

*Third seed Heather Watson of Great Britain is through to the second round of the Orange Dunlop Bowl tournament in Florida. The 17-year-old emphatically beat American Krista Hardebeck 6-2, 6-2. Watson is currently ranked No. 4 in the world for juniors and reached the last 16 in her last run out at the Eddie Herr International Junior Championships.

*Aussie serve-and-volley specialist Pat Rafter triumphed over the Swede Stefan Edberg in the final of the ATP Champions Tour Event in London, England last week.

Mauresmo To Quit Tennis?

Amelie Mauresmo will likely announce her retirement tomorrow at a press conference in Paris, France according to French sportsmagazine L’Équipe.

Mauresmo played her last match at the US Open where she lost to Aleksandra Wozniak in the second round.  Mauresmo, the current number 21 of the WTA Tour, was supposed to play several tournaments in October but withdrew which fueled speculations that she was going to retire.

Mauresmo won two majors during her impressive career. She won both Wimbledon and the Australian Open. Due to many injuries she was unable to play much in recent years.

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