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Lleyton Hewitt’s Last Chance to Step Up in Indian Wells, Miami?

Lleyton Hewitt

By Yeshayahu Ginsburg

I’m not going to lie, I have become a bit of a Lleyton Hewitt fan over the past few years. Few people in tennis fight as hard as he does every single point. He has talent, yes, but what gets him through matches on the tennis court is energy and momentum. He hasn’t had the ability to just beat other players on talent alone for a few years now. When he is playing uninspired, he can lose to just about anyone. But when he finds a reason to fight and grabs on to it, he can still play one of the highest levels of tennis on tour.

We watched Hewitt play Novak Djokovic on the biggest of stages twice last year. The first was in the fourth round of the Australian Open when Djokovic actually looked unbeatable. Hewitt was being dominated early but rode the crowd to actually take the third set. The second time was at the Olympics, where Hewitt actually won the first set but could never really pull ahead in the second set. Both of these times, Hewitt was playing tennis on a level equal to the best players in the world.

So why isn’t Hewitt still a top player? Why is his ranking just barely inside the top 100? In short, Hewitt is not so young anymore. His body can no longer keep up with what his mind and heart want him to do. Fatigue sets in much earlier in tournaments and matches. Once he’s tired, he can no longer get to the ball in time to hit his crisp, accurate shots. His form is a little forced and errors start flying everywhere. But before that point, his game is pretty much just as clean as it was 15 years ago.

Which brings me to the reason that the upcoming 4 weeks should be the most important of Hewitt’s year. The Indian Wells and Miami Masters tournaments offer Hewitt something that no other tournaments on tour offer. It’s a Grand Slam format—with a break in between each of the rounds, but it’s only best-of-three. It is the best of both worlds for Hewitt. It gives him the opportunity to take a day off between matches so that fatigue won’t kill him early in each match. And it’s only best-of-three sets, which means that he is not out there for at least two hours in each match.

Over the past few years, we have seen Hewitt play in tough matches. We have seen him push others to five sets. And we have seen him have to come back from tiring matches and attempt to do it again the next day. I have absolutely nothing against Hewitt when I say that his body just can’t do it anymore. He can’t play for 3 hours then come back two days later. He can’t play a tough three-setter then come back the next day. But what he can do, and what he should concentrate on doing, is playing at his absolute best in the two tournaments that don’t force him to do either of those things.

Some have begun referring to Indian Wells as the “fifth Slam”. It is certainly the tournament that has tried to hardest in recent years to put itself a step above the other Masters tournaments. But for Lleyton Hewitt in the next two weeks, it has to be the only Slam. It is his best opportunity to make a great run at a big tournament. He needs to take it because he’s not going to have so many more chances.

Aussie Juniors Thompson and Schipanski Spill about Hitting with Djokovic, Cilic, Raonic

Jack Schipanski practicing with world No. 1 Novak Djokovic (photo via Tennis Australia Facebook page

James Crabtree is currently in Melbourne Park covering the Australian Open for Tennis Grandstand and is giving you all the scoop directly from the grounds.

By James Crabtree

MELBOURNE — One of Rafael Nadal’s great advantages in his tennis journey was the opportunity, as a junior, to hit and train with fellow Majorcan Carlos Moya.

Observing personally the preparation and expertise that some of the games best players employ, that keeps them leading the field, is perhaps the best lesson any young player can be a part of. Getting to practice with a professional player gives a junior player a step up and one that can ultimately skyrocket a young players game.

Jack Schipanski and Jordan Thompson are such two players.

During the last few weeks at the Australian Open these two junior Australian players, who are currently making the leap to the men’s game, were given the opportunity to hit with a range of stars.

“I told Scott Draper I was around and available to hit,” said Schipanski of his experience. “Scott got back to me later that morning, and said you’ve got Novak.”

Schipanski hit with the world No. 1 for about an hour on an outside court whilst Djokovic’s coach, hitting partner, strength and condition trainer, physio and an abundance of fans watched on.

“His coach was also a help with some technical things on my game, he gave me some great advice.”

Later Djokovic was a little more challenging.

“We played a few points and he said whoever loses this point has do to five push-ups. So I played one of the best follow up forehands I have ever played and won the point. He comes straight back and says double or nothing. Again I get a forehand on top of the net, he guesses the wrong way and I miss an easy put away. Then it’s push-ups in front of everyone watching.”

Jordan Thompson revelled in his experience and found it an invaluable opportunity before his Australian Open qualifying match.

“My coach knows Bob Brett who coaches Cilic so I hit with him first. I then hit with Djokovic. After that, the tournament desk kept ringing. I hit with Djokvoic and it was tough, it felt like every ball he hit was hitting the baseline.” Jordan added, “The next day in qualifying I played against a guy roughly 800 places above me in the rankings, I had so much confidence. I won that match 9-7 in the third set, then lost to Ryan Sweeting in the second round of qualifying.”

Jordan got an up close and personal with a few more stars.

“Raonic was telling me where he was going to hit his serve and I still couldn’t get it. Lleyton was intense for two and a half hours but barely broke a sweat. Dolgopolov was the most fun. He was putting all kinds of spins on the ball. That slice backhand is a horrible joke, takes the ball places it shouldn’t go. We played a set, which I lost 6-3 on one break.”

Jordan and Jack are leaving the junior ranks and will find themselves on the circuit this year, contesting both Futures and Challenger events across Australia in the coming weeks.

Keep an eye out for them, there is no reason to believe that they wont be the big name in years to come, perhaps hitting with some young upstart before a tournament.

Make This Place Your Home: Jarmila Gajdosova

Jarmila-Gajdosova

By Victoria Chiesa

“Settle down, it’ll all be clear; don’t pay no mind to the demons, they fill you with fear. The trouble it might drag you down; if you get lost, you can always be found. Just know you’re not alone, ’cause I’m gonna make this place your home.” -“Home”, Philip Phillips

Twelve months ago, Jarmila Gajdosova opened her 2012 season at the Hopman Cup in Perth, partnering Lleyton Hewitt and representing Australia. The Australian sporting fans were slow to embrace her in that event, but rallied her and pulled her through a tough opening win against Anabel Medina Garrigues. In Australia’s second team tie against France however, Gajdosova was double-bageled by Marion Bartoli in 50 minutes, and was reduced to tears after the loss. Following that loss to Bartoli, Gajdosova was the victim of obscene and ongoing abuse on Twitter in regards to both her on-court performance and her, well, Australian-ness. She was called “gutless,” “a joke” and others referred to her as “a refugee.”

Gajdosova was born in Bratislava, Slovakia and her WTA bio states that she “fell in love with Australia in her first trip to the Australian Open as 14-year-old”; she became an Australian citizen on November 23rd, 2009. She was married to ATP Tour journeyman Australian Sam Groth, and went by the name Jarmila Groth from February 2009 until late 2011. Following their divorce, Gajdosova was again subjected to abuse on Twitter and the ongoing harassment led to her absence from the social media site for a period of time.

On the court, she has had decidedly mixed success in her adopted homeland. In 2010, ranked outside the top 100, she fell in qualifying in both Brisbane and Sydney. Gajdosova started off 2011 again in Brisbane, where she knocked off top-seeded Sam Stosur in straight sets for her first win over a top 10 ranked opponent. She would go on to win her second career title in Hobart the next week, as she posted wins over Johanna Larsson, Tamira Paszek, Roberta Vinci, Klara Zakopalova and Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Despite these results in the lead-up events, Gajdosova has never won a match at the Australian Open in her career, posting a 0-7 record.

Gajdosova’s best career results in Grand Slams came in 2010, where she reached the fourth round of the both French Open and Wimbledon. She reached a career high ranking of No. 25 in May of 2011 but her high-risk, high-reward style of play always leaves her vulnerable to extended dips of poor form. Her 2012 season was the imperfect storm, as her tennis and personal life went into a tailspin. Her last match win of the 2012 season came in May at Roland Garros, where she benefitted from a retirement from Magdalena Rybarikova. She ended the season on a nine-match losing streak, and plummeted from No. 45 to her current ranking of No. 183. Gajdosova’s mother passed away in late September and she could not grieve with her family, as she was competing at the WTA event in Guangzhou.

Gajdosova returned to Brisbane in 2013 for the fourth straight year as the beneficiary of a main draw wild card; a new year offered her a new start. With new coach Antonio Van Grichen in tow, she faced off against Roberta Vinci in the opening round. She was greeted with a warm reception and after dropping the opening set, the crowd was a huge factor in propelling her on to victory. After Gajdosova ripped her final backhand past Vinci at the net, handing her a 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory, she again walked off an Australian court in tears. These tears were different from 12 months ago. These were tears of relief, tears of triumph. Gajdosova later recognized how much she had finally been embraced by the Australian crowd.

https://twitter.com/Jarka_Tennis/status/285285737304301568

As the last Australian standing in Brisbane, Gajdosova fell in the next round to lucky loser Lesia Tsurenko, who replaced Maria Sharapova in the draw. Despite getting off to a good start in the match, Gajdosova could not contain her unforced errors and eventually fell, 6-1, 1-6, 4-6. As Gajdosova tried to fight back late in the third set, chants of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie” could be heard throughout the stadium.

Gajdosova will continue her long road back up the rankings next week in Hobart, the site of her last tournament triumph. Her goal is to return to the main draw of the Australian Open, via either qualifying or a main draw wild card. One thing is certain; Australians are famous for the passion they show for their athletes, and they’ll finally be cheering Gajdosova on in her own backyard. After all she’s been through in the past twleve months, Gajdosova deserves nothing less.

Sam Stosur: the highs and lows since the U.S. Open

Sam Stosur (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)

By Melinda Samson, Special for Tennis Grandstand

Sam Stosur had quite a year in 2011 by acheiving a career-high singles ranking of four in February and defeating Serena Williams to win the US Open in September. Since then, Stosur has struggled reaching only one semifinal and two finals since her maiden slam title. Does she have it in her to mount a surprise run at this year’s French Open?

Stosur’s maiden Grand Slam title was a massive achievement, making her the first Australian woman to win the US Open final since Margaret Court Smith in 1973, and the first Australian woman to win a Grand Slam final since Evonne Goolagong Cawley won Wimbledon in 1980.

And it wasn’t a straightforward ride to victory. Stosur proved her strength and stamina by defeating Nadia Petrova in a third round match that turned out to be the longest ever US Open women’s match in the open era, lasting 3 hours and 16 minutes.

Then, during the final, Stosur calmly played on after Serena’s rant against the chair umpire, un-rattled by the incident that later cost Serena a $2000 fine.

There’s something special about Sam

As well as being an elite tennis player and Grand Slam champion, Stosur is also a great Australian. She is supremely fit, works incredibly hard, is tanned, smiley, humble and let’s face it, she can pull off cool sunnies on court like not many other players can.

Scott Draper, Manager of Developmental Tennis for Tennis Australia, who partnered with Stosur to win the 2005 Australian Open Mixed Doubles final, summed up what makes Sam’s style of play special:

“Sam works extremely hard and is physically strong, which gives her an incredible advantage in being able to overpower her counterparts.

Sam’s point of difference is that she’s not the typical female tennis player. She has angular swings, a heavy forehand, one of the best serves in the women’s game and she can slice. This style of play takes her opponents out of their comfort zone and away from what they typically see.”

An early loss at the 2012 Australian Open

A great Australian trait is that we love sport and we love an Aussie winner. So when Stosur played in Australia this January, the burden of expectation from the home crowd was enormous, and ultimately proved to be too big for Stosur to bear.

Playing in Australia was Stosur’s kryptonite. What should have been her home ground advantage turned into a bonus for her opponents.

A second round loss at the Brisbane International was followed by first round losses at the APIA International inSydneyand the Australian Open in Melbourne.

After the Australian Open loss Stosur said on her blog:

“There’s nothing probably more than my expectation. I really, really wanted to do well here and over the summer…… I did everything I could to try and give myself a good opportunity. It obviously didn’t happen.”

Stosur’s results since the Australian Open

Then February came, WTA tennis moved to other parts of the world and the kryptonite of the Australian public’s expectations lost its power.

Stosur played Fed Cup for Australia against Switzerland where two wins boosted her confidence. After the wins, Stosur said on her blog:

“You want to win as many matches as possible to erase anything negative and it does not matter the opposition, it is always good to win.”

Here’s a summary of Stosur’s singles results since the Australian Open:

  • Qatar: reached the final of the WTA Qatar Total Open and was defeated by Victoria Azarenka
  • Dubai: made it to the quarterfinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and was defeated by Jelena Jankovic
  • Indian Wells: defeated by Nadia Petrova in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open
  • Miami: defeated by Serena Williams in the fourth round of the Sony Ericsson Open
  • Charleston: made the semi final of the Family Circle Cup in Charleston and was defeated by Serena Williams
  • Stuttgart: made the quarter finals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, and was defeated by Maria Sharapova
  • Madrid: made the quarterfinals of the Mutua Madrid Open and was defeated by Czech qualifier Lucie Hradecka
  • Rome: was defeated by Venus Williams in the third round of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

Next up, the French Open

The French Open starts on Sunday, May 27th. It will be two slams after the highest of Stosur’s highs and one slam after what is probably amongst the lowest of her lows.

We know Stosur can play incredible tennis and after making the French Open final in 2010 we’ve seen what she is capable of at Roland Garros.

Stosur recently displayed her clay “A” game with two cracker Fed Cup wins against Germany in Stuttgart in April, helping Australia get back into the 2013 World Group.

I have high hopes for Stosur at the French Open, while at the same time I’m doing my best not to have expectations! She is seeded sixth and will play her first round match against Elena Baltacha. If Sam progresses through the draw she will potentially play her Round 3 match against Nadia Petrova, Round 4 against Sabine Lisicki and quarter final versus world No.1 Victoria Azarenka.

Follow Tennis Grandstand for updates on Sam Stosur’s progress, as well as other Australian players in the main draw, all throughout the French Open.

 

Melinda Samson is attending Roland Garros and will be writing updates on Australian players through their trek of the tennis world’s second slam. She also manages the website Grand Slam Gal and is attempting to do the fan version of a tennis grand slam in 2012. Follow her on Twitter for further live updates @GrandSlamGal.

Sam Stosur looks for 2010 tennis form in Charleston

Sam Stosur (Photo courtesy of Rick Limpert)

By Rick Limpert, Special for Tennis Grandstand

Being a veteran on the WTA Tour, Sam Stosur has been through this before.

Rebounding from a bad stretch of tournaments the previous year can be tough, but Stosur says keeping the right mindset is most crucial when things don’t go your way for an extended period of time.

Such was the case last year during the spring clay court swing on the WTA Tour.  Stosur lost early in Charleston, Madrid and at Roland Garros.

That was a far cry from 2010, a year that she won in Charleston and reached the finals of the French Open.
“Last year I struggled with a bit of illness, so that didn’t help,” admitted Stosur.  ‘Before you know it, that part of the year is over…it’s kind of unfortunate.”As for this year, Stosur likes what she sees and how she feels, so far.

“I’m playing pretty good tennis and I’m happy on the clay, so I’m ready to get that part of the season started,” explained Stosur at the WTA All Access Hour held Monday in Charleston at the Family Circle Cup.Stosur knows with the likes of the Williams’ Sisters back on tour, nothing is going to be easy.

“Serena played real well against me (in Miami), but I had a few chances and at the end of the day she went out there and beat me,” offered up the reigning U.S. Open champ.
The Aussie got off to a flying start on Tuesday with a 6-0, 7-5 victory of Jamie Hampton, so confidence is buildingConfidence is one thing, but she knows like the rest, that nothing is easy on the WTA Tour.

Rick Limpert covers sports, technology and the intersection of sports and technology for the likes of Yahoo News, Yahoo Sports, and Examiner.com.  He also hosts the popular “The Tech of Sports” radio show and podcast at http://netcaststudio.com/ .  You can follow him on Twitter at @RickRoswell

Fun Q&A With Sam Stosur

Sam Stosur during WTA All-Access Hour at the Sony Ericsson Open


Australian and current world number 5 Sam Stosur has been riding high since winning last year’s U.S. Open, and she has cruised through her first match here at the Sony Ericsson Open. With her game still soundly developing and her mental strength peaking, Sam is on course to potentially be a multiple-slam champion. Only time will tell, but in the meantime, enjoy the Q&A I did with her in Miami. We talk about her most memorable moment, Steffi Graf and flying.

One of the more easy-going WTA players, she came across friendly and eager to participate.

What is your most memorable moment on court?

Definitely the U.S. Open last year — the final, the whole last two weeks was fantastic. And I remember every match but, of course, the final was the standout one.

Looking back on it with what happened with Serena Williams, does it overshadow your victory or anything?

Not in my eyes, no! (Laughs) I don’t even think about that point in time. Obviously, it was a big point in the match and that could have really turned it, but that’s not something I look at and it doesn’t make anything with it sour.

What player do you least like to face on court and why?

I don’t know. There’s a few players I have never beaten before, I guess. So probably those. There are lots of players you like playing against and you like the way they play and the way the ball comes off. And then there’s others that you definitely don’t [like to face on court].

Any particular players?

I won’t name names but you can see who I’ve never beaten before and put them in. (Laughs)

*Editor’s Note: On a quick search, Sam is 0-6 against Victoria Azarenka, 0-5 against Kim Clijsters and 0-4 against Flavia Pennetta.

If you could play against any player in history, who would it be and why?

Probably Steffi Graf. She was my idol growing up and I loved the way she played, loved her forehand, her demeanor court, everything. She’s got to be one of the greatest players that’s ever played, so I would like to play her.

Have you ever had a chance to hit with her?

No. I met her once though so that was pretty cool. I was probably more nervous meeting her than playing most of my matches. (Laughs)

If you were hosting a party, what three tennis players would you invite?

There are some fun ones on tour … [Francesca] Schiavone, Na Li, Alicia Molik – she’s retired now, but you can put her in. (Laughs)

What are two things you can’t live without?

Lip balm and maybe a computer.

Are you online a lot, staying in touch with family/friends that way?

It fills in time, doesn’t it? (Laughs)

Do you watch movies on your laptop?

Yup.

What’s the most recent good one that you have seen?

Good one that I’ve seen? I haven’t watched too many good ones recently. (Laughs) The last one I downloaded was “The Help” but I haven’t watched that one yet.

It’s good, I enjoyed it – made me cry.

(Laughs) I will probably cry too then.

Last question, what is one thing that scares you?

Flying.

Flying, really?!

Yea, I don’t like flying. (Laughs)

You’re a tennis player and you have to travel so much?

I know, it’s a really bad combination!

(Photo courtesy of Neal Trousdale. You can view his full Flickr gallery here.)

Australia’s Big Hope

Bernard Tomic

Bernard Tomic has been heralded as the next big thing in Australian tennis for years now. With Lleyton Hewitt nearing the end of his career, it’s time for Aussie fans to look to the next generation. The good news is that Tomic shows a great deal of promise, already having made it to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon. The bad news is that Tomic is somewhat of a polarizing figure. A few years back, the newspapers picked up on a supposed feud between Tomic and Hewitt. Then he was accused of faking an illness during the 2011 Australian Open wildcard playoffs. More recently, Tomic has claimed that the police were harassing him by pulling him over for “hooning” in his BMW M3. “Hooning” is apparently Australian slang for driving recklessly.

The teenager is bursting with confidence. When asked about his first round match against Fernando Verdasco, who is a former Australian Open semifinals (2009) and was seeded 22 at this tournament, Tomic had plenty to say. Most players try to hype up their opponents, touting their talents even if a win is near guaranteed. How many times have you heard Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal tout the merits of a much lower ranked player? Instead, Tomic reminded the press that, “the last six months [Verdasco] hasn’t really done much.  I think it’s a good time to play him.” It’s true that Verdasco did not have the best year in 2011, but he was still the higher ranked, more seasoned player. These kinds of statements can really come back to burn a player. Lucky for Tomic, he won, and he won in a rather spectacular fashion.

Tomic’s gutsy five set win over Verdasco went a long way to making me a believer. If his confidence gets him results, then so be it. It’s part of his game. Every player will say they believe they can win, that anything can happen. I think Tomic actually believes he can win any match. That’s how a lot of top players have made their way to the top. They were young and cocky, and believed they could beat the best. It’s just been a while since we’ve seen one of these phenoms follow through.

One of the big question marks around Tomic was his fitness. He looked tired in the third set against Verdasco, but in his post match interview hinted that was all part of his game plan, that he was lulling the Spaniard into a false sense of security. By sets four and five, Tomic looked like a new man, and the crowd was loving it. There’s really no better test of a player’s fitness than a close five set day match at the Australian Open, where it is almost always scorching. Clearly he has been putting in the effort off the court.

The chances Tomic can make a splash at this year’s Australian Open are slim. He faces American Sam Querrey in the second round, whose ranking has dropped due to spending much of last season out with an injury. After that, potential opponents include Alexandr Dolgopolov in the 3rd round and the mighty Roger Federer in the Round of 16. Add in the fact that media attention on Tomic will be at an all time high after Samantha Stosur crashed out in the 1st round, and the teenager will need all the confidence he can get this week.

Teenagers Tomic, Harrison Facing Great — Perhaps Too Many — Expectations

Bernard Tomic

First things first: Win a singles title.

For teenagers and top 100 ATP World Tour players Bernard Tomic and Ryan Harrison, that should be the top priority going into 2012. But with the way both of them have shot up the rankings over the past couple of years, much more is expected from the 19-year-olds.

That’s what happens when you make the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, like Tomic did last year—becoming the youngest player since the legendary Boris Becker to do so. Or when you make back-to-back semifinals during the 2011 summer hard-court swing, like Harrison did. Those results helped solidify the hype over the two, which has been essentially building since before they hit their teens.

But is that hype too much?

The two have both openly about being future Grand Slam champions, and with some of the wins they’ve notched early on, there could be reason to believe. However, the ATP rankings have had more than its fill junior-championship winners who haven’t seen that success translate to the pros in recent years.

The fact that Tomic and Harrison come from two of the nations with the deepest tradition in the game—Australia and the U.S., respectively—doesn’t exactly ease the pressure the two are facing. Questions have been around for years about the state of the game for both countries, and Tomic and Harrison have been hailed as keepers of the flame. That can be an enormous burden for anyone, tasked to follow in the footsteps of Lleyton Hewitt or Andy Roddick—not to mention the all-time greats that came before them, such as Rafter, Agassi or Sampras.

And despite the highlights of their 2011 campaigns, Tomic and Harrison both had some growing pains off the court: Harrison was criticized for offering his opinion on how Roger Federer could hold on to the number-one ranking and Tomic’s “hooning” incident made headlines around the world.

Plus, neither one of the teens would ever be considered a genteel type when things don’t go their way between the lines! Maturity could go a long way in deciding their future paths.

The 2012 season kicked off with mixed results for the pair in Brisbane, Australia, this week: Number-eight seed Tomic defeated Julien Benneteau in three sets, while Harrison fell to veteran Marcos Baghdatis in straights.

Those two scorelines probably won’t do too much to slow or speed up the hype machine for either player. Still, eyes should be kept on Tomic and Harrison over the next 12 months—but perhaps the expectations should be tempered.

Have Rod Laver be Part of Your Holiday Season

rod-laver

As the holiday season fast approaches, New Chapter Press recommends the newly-updated memoir of Australian tennis legend Rod Laver — “The Education of a Tennis Player” – as an ideal gift for tennis fans around the world.

Written with Hall of Fame journalist and historian Bud Collins, “The Education of a Tennis Player” is Laver’s first-hand account of his famous 1969 Grand Slam season, capped off by his win over fellow Australian Tony Roche in the final of the U.S. Open. Laver also writes about his childhood and early days in tennis, his 1962 Grand Slam and offers tips on how players of all levels can improve their game. He also shares some of the strategies that helped him to unparalleled success on the tennis court.

Originally published in 1971, “The Education of a Tennis Player” ($19.95, www.NewChapterMedia.com) was updated by Laver and Collins with new content including his recovery from a near-fatal stroke in 1998 and helping Australia once again win the Davis Cup in 1973. The memoir features descriptions of Laver’s most suspenseful matches and memorable portraits of his biggest rivals Ken Rosewall, Lew Hoad, Tony Roche and Pancho Gonzalez.

“I am delighted that “The Education of a Tennis Player” is back in circulation and available for a new generation of tennis fans,” said Laver of his newly updated memoir. “Winning the Grand Slam for a second time in 1969 seems just like yesterday and this book brings back a lot of memories of the great matches and exciting times. I hope people enjoy reading my story.”

Laver captured 11 major singles titles during his career, including Wimbledon in 1961, 1962, 1968 and 1969. After joining Don Budge as the only man to win a Grand Slam by sweeping all four majors in 1962, Laver turned professional where he, along with fellow pros Hoad, Rosewall and Gonzalez, were banned from playing the “amateur-only” major tournaments. When the “Open Era” of tennis began in 1968, Laver netted another five major singles titles, including his Grand Slam sweep of all four in 1969. Laver won nearly 200 singles titles during his career and was inducted into the International Tennis of Fame in 1981.

Collins, himself a 1994 inductee in the International Tennis Hall of Fame, first met Laver in 1956 at the Longwood Cricket Club in Boston during the U.S. National Doubles Championships. Thirteen years later, the two collaborated on the book that was only to be published if Laver won the Grand Slam. Collins is best known for his colorful television commentary – and his colorful wardrobe – as well as his columns in the Boston Globe.

“Rod Laver is one of the greatest treasures we have in tennis and “The Education of a Tennis Player” is one of our sports most important literary works,” said Collins. “Rod was always so humble and gracious, but he could play tennis like a hurricane. He was as a great a champion as we have ever had in tennis and one of the all-time nicest guys.”

New Chapter Press is also the publisher of the newly updated second edition of “The Bud Collins History of Tennis” by Bud Collins, “The Roger Federer Story: Quest for Perfection” by Rene Stauffer, “Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games” by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli, “Acing Depression” by Cliff Richey and Hilaire Richey Kallendorf, “Tennis Made Easy” by Kelly Gunterman, “The Lennon Prophecy” by Joe Niezgoda, “Bone Appetit, Gourmet Cooking For Your Dog” by Susan Anson, “The Rules of Neighborhood Poker According to Hoyle” by Stewart Wolpin, “People’s Choice Cancun – Travel Survey Guidebook” by Eric Rabinowitz and “Weekend Warriors: The Men of Professional Lacrosse” by Jack McDermott, among others. Founded in 1987, New Chapter Press is an independent publisher of books and part of the Independent Publishers Group. More information can be found at www.NewChapterMedia.com.

Federer After Strong End to Year, Azarenka in for Doha and Rafter to Captain Aussies for Davis Cup Play

Victoria Azarenka

*Roger Federer insists he is ready for a strong end to 2010 despite a decidedly off-day at the office when he lost to Andy Murray in the final at the Shanghai Masters. “I’m certainly not yearning for the year to be over,” said the 16-time Grand Slam winner. “I’m very positive for the rest of the season. I had a bit of an off day in the Shanghai final. It’s a pity, but Murray pushed me to that. Mentally I have a lot left for the end of the year.” He added: “I’ve played pretty well since Wimbledon. I hope to go deep into this event and hold up the trophy at the end of the week.” Federer is preparing to play at the Stockholm Open for the first time in a decade and he told BBC Sport how he was looking forward to the occasion.

*According to tennis critics a lot of players have gained from Serena Williams’ injury absence in the latter half of the year and this is true in the case of Viktoria Azarenka who will replace the stricken US star in the WTA Finals in Doha next week. The Belarusian confirmed her place by beating Andrea Petkovic in the first round at the Kremlin Cup.

*Following John Fitzgerald’s retirement after a decade in the role it is Pat Rafter who will take up the reigns as Australian Davis Cup Captain. The two-time US Open winner receives the blessing of “Fitzy” himself and a host of Australian tennis greats coming in to the post. “I am really looking forward to working with the team and helping lift Australian men’s tennis on the world stage,” said Rafter. “We’ve got a lot of young players that have a great opportunity to play for Australia. My standards and expectations are extremely high. This is a great opportunity to be part of something that means a lot to me.” Another Aussie legend, Tony Roche, joins him as coach. For full reaction to the announcement check the ITF website.

*Last week’s HP Open in Osaka was one for the history books. Kimiko Date Krumm (40) shocked the likes of Sam Stosur and Shahar Peer on her way to meeting Tamarine Tanasugarn (33) in what was the final between the oldest competitors ever, with a combined age of 73. By beating Stosur, Krumm also became the first 40-something to ever beat a Top 10 player. Krumm was trying to break the record for the oldest title winner, Billie Jean King having won at Birmingham aged 39 in 1983, but it was Tanasugarn’s day. “I just tried my best and fought as hard as I could,” Date Krumm said. “Nobody wants to lose, so I tried everything. Now I’ll play some ITF events followed by the Asian Games – so I’ll be continuing to play tennis the rest of the year.” Tanasugarn was happy with her performance: “I tried to be more aggressive in the third set and I finally made it,” she said. “Osaka is a great city. This is a great feeling and hopefully I can continue to play like this and get a good start to 2011.”

*Andy Murray says that his win over Roger Federer at Shanghai has once again given him belief that he can lift a Grand Slam. Asked after his shock defeat to Federer’s friend and compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka at the US Open whether he could achieve the feat Murray simply replied: “I’m not sure.” Now things are different. “I need to win tournaments like this,” said Murray. “Beating guys like Roger, beating guys like Rafa (Nadal) gives you confidence that when you do play them in the big tournaments you will beat them. I need to play like I did this week for a whole tournament in the Slams, but it’s pretty simple. I don’t think my game needs to improve so much. I think I have the ability to win them. I’ve been close a few times.” The full interview can be seen at the BBC Sport Tennis website.

*Polish star Agnieszka Radwanska will miss the rest of the season and the 2011 Australian Open after undergoing surgery on a stress fracture in her foot, reports the Polish Times. She is expected to return in February or March.

*Betty Blake, mother of American star James Blake, is releasing her own book on how to be a “tennis mom.” ‘Mix It Up, Make It Nice: Secrets Of A Tennis Mom’ will give insight in how to train and prepare a future tennis star and focuses more on education and family values rather than athletic and tennis training.

*Former world No. 1 Thomas Muster will return to tour-level action as a wildcard at next week’s Bank Austria Tennis Trophy in Vienna. He turned 43-years-old this month but is still hungry to add to the 44 tour-level titles he has already lofted before his retirement following the 1999 French Open, the site of his sole Slam triumph in 1995. “I’m looking forward to it enormously,” Muster told Austria’s Krone. “I want to inspire the crowd with my fitness and fighting spirit. I’m fighting like in the good old times and I will give everything in front of the fans in Vienna.” Muster will now become the oldest player to compete on the tour since Jimmy Connors competed at the same age in Atlanta in 1996.

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