By Melissa Boyd
Four years ago many wondered if she would ever play again and when she did, next to no one believed she could taste the sweetest victory of her career, the one that she earned on the famed red clay courts at Roland-Garros. In the space of three days, Maria Sharapova became World No. 1, captured her first French Open title, completed the career Grand Slam and wrote another page in the tennis history books.
People may have doubted Sharapova’s ability to win a Grand Slam after suffering a potentially career threatening shoulder injury in 2008, but Sharapova herself never stopped believing through all of the trials and tribulations of her comeback. It all came together for her on the clay in 2012, a surface on which she once famously described herself as being a “cow on ice”. Remarkably, Sharapova went undefeated on red clay this year, a streak which culminated with her fourth Grand Slam title in Paris following a 6-3, 6-2 over first time Major finalist Sara Errani of Italy.
“I had so many outs in my career. I could have said, I don’t need this. I have money; I have fame; I have victories; I have Grand Slams,” Sharapova said. “But, when your love for something is bigger than all those things, you continue to keep getting up in the morning when it’s freezing outside, when you know that it can be the most difficult day, when nothing is working, when you feel like the belief sometimes isn’t there from the outside world, and you seem so small.”
The 25-year-old Russian is the tenth woman to complete the career Grand Slam joining the esteemed ranks of Maureen Connolly, Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Shirley Fry, Steffi Graf, Doris Hart, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, and Serena Williams. She is the first player to accomplish the feat having won only one title at each of the four events. Sharapova’s performance at Roland-Garros will propel her to a whole new category of greatness, the one that is reserved for the best players of all-time.
Beyond the numbers and the significance of such a monumental triumph, it’s how Sharapova found her way back to the pinnacle of her sport that is perhaps most impressive. She overcame bad losses, poor form and a less than reliable serve. She has since improved her movement, rediscovered her lethal groundstrokes and most importantly, found her confidence. The Sharapova that won her first French Open title is a better player than the Sharapova who won her first three Grand Slam crowns.
Beneath Sharapova’s fame, fortune and steely exterior, lies the heart of a true champion and the exuberance of a young woman who is realizing her dreams. She is a fierce competitor who takes her tennis very seriously and when she fell to her knees and cried tears of joys into the French ‘terre battue’ after Errani’s shot went into the net on match point, she showed the world just how much the greatest moment of her tennis life meant to her.
“It’s the most incredible feeling. I don’t know what to say. I’m so happy. I’ve worked so hard for this,” Sharapova said. “It took a lot to get to this stage and even more to win it. There are so many tough days where you feel like giving up, but you don’t. It’s been such a journey to get to this stage again.”
Wozniacki a contender, Clijsters the outsider, Sharapova can win and Ana Ivanovic gives tough draws – A Roland Garros 2011 preview
I am not really one for writing previews. It’s a guessing game if you ask me. Like when Jo-Wilfried Tsonga reached the finals of the Australian Open. Who would have guessed that? Certainly not me…it’s things like that that put me off. No matter how hard you try, it’s still a guessing game. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun previewing the French Open 2011.
Caroline Wozniacki is a contender
This is supposed to be her moment. She can win the tournament in 2011 but it’s going to be very tough. Wozniacki has some good results on clay in the warm up tournaments reaching the finals of Stuttgart and winning Brussels and Charleston but failed to impress at the big tournaments such as the Mutua Madrid Open and the Italy Open.
I’m happy to be the first winner of the Brussels Open by GDF SUEZ! It’s a beautiful city and the crowd was great all week : ) Now I’m looking forward to Roland Garros – I think I play on Monday, but I’ll be ready…
Will she win this year’s Roland Garros? She is a contender but to be honest with you, she is not going to win this year’s Roland Garros.
Maria Sharapova is a potential winner
Maria Sharapova gallery is only short of the Roland Garros title to complete her career Grand Slam. And mind you, she is only 24 years old. With her win at the Italy Open, mainly thanks to her serve that seems to be holding now, she showed that she has a game for clay. Would it be too soon to say that she can win Roland Garros? I think not. So I am going to say it out loud: Maria Sharapova can win Roland Garros.
And how does Sharapova prepare for a Grand Slam? Right, by going into the city to relax.
I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend. I had an early practice today and decided to enjoy the city. I am trying to push myself these days to take the time to enjoy these amazing places I travel to. So many times all I see is the hotel, airport and tennis courts. Going to have a nice dinner tonight with my team and have an early night.
Victoria Azarenka has to stay injury free to win
Now here is a player who is in form. She won Miami, Marbella, was forced to withdraw from Stuttgart due to injury, reached the finals of Madrid and then was forced to retire in Italy. And with Azarenka now being able to keep her head cool under pressure, she definitely has a shot at winning her first Grand Slam title in Paris. But in order to win it, you have to stay injury free. Can she do that? If so then we might just have a winner on our hands here.
Kim Clijsters is the dangerous outsider
Kim Clijsters has been working hard to get in shape for the French Open 2011. Her participation was in doubt for a long time after sustaining two injuries. One on her wrist and a foot injury after falling at a wedding. She surprised friend and foe when her name showed up on the sheet. Kim Clijsters has never won Roland Garros but is a two time finalist. Can she win? Kim Clijsters has not played any of the warm up tournaments and hasn’t played on clay at all. But don’t let that fool you. With a minimal preparation she won the US Open back in 2009 and let’s not forget that Kim Clijsters is a clay specialist. Those are things that speak in her favour. But for now she is the dangerous outsider.
Other players to watch:
Julia Goerges – Impressively won Stuttgart and reached far in Madrid.
Andrea Petkovic - Is having an amazing season 2011 so far. She won Strasbourg 2011 and is one of the most entertaining players on the tour in my humble opinion.
Vera Zvonareva – Always a contender whereever she plays.
Petra Kvitova – Impressive win at the Mutua Madrid Open and then went on to play a ITF tournament. Am I missing something here? At any rate, watch out for Petra Kvitova and here is why: http://www.worldtennismagazine.com/archives/4501
Samantha Stosur – I think she is one of the hardest working woman on the tour. Always good to watch and last year’s finale wasn’t a fluke, she is the real deal.
Francesca Schiavone – The 2010 Roland Garros winner. Will she win this year? No way. Let’s hope doesn’t pull a Myskina by losing in the first round as the title defender.
Special mention: Ana Ivanovic
So this is what you get when you let Ana Ivanovic do the draw for Roland Garros 2011.
Oops! I didn’t help my friends Nole or Rafa with the Roland Garros draw this morning – I gave them both tough draws! I’m happy to be in the half of the draw that doesn’t play on Sunday, but I’m looking forward to my first match.
But at least we got a good photo out of it!
All kidding aside. I am happy to hear that Ana can play Roland Garros 2011. And judging by her Facebook message about her unfortunate withdrawal from the Internationaux de Strasbourg proved to be a good decision.
Had a very good day. Nice practice this morning, including backhands. My wrist is feeling better. Then in the evening I went to the roof of a famous Parisian store and hit with Sam Stosur, Tsonga and Gasquet on a mini clay court. Amazing views of the city!
And I am cautiously optimistic when I say that Ana can make it to the fourth round. She just got back from injury and hasn’t played too many warm up tournaments.
Have you checked the new Tennis Reporters website yet? If not then you should: http://www.tennisreporters.net/
Want to play in the suicide pool for Roland Garros? Check Jennifer’s game at Racquet Required
Happy 130th birthday USTA (World Tennis Magazine)
Rachel wraps up the weekend (On The Go Tennis)
And Ralf Reinecke pleases us with some photos of Strasbourg.
Tennis is a sport for insomniacs. It’s played nearly all year and at all hours, so if you so much as blink, or in most cases take a nap, you might miss something monumentally important. Lately, I seem to have slept through some of the most shocking moments in tennis and last night was no different. When I finally got around to checking twitter, I had to ask myself whether this was 2011 or 2008. The very first tweet that I saw was from @WTATour saying, “Seven-time Grand Slam champion @Justine_Henin has announced her retirement from professional tennis. You’ll be missed Justine!”
In case you’ve been living in a hole, I’ll explain. Between 2003 and 2007, Justine Henin won seven Grand Slam titles, including 4 French Opens, 2 US Opens, and 1 Australian Open, as well as an Olympic gold medal and 2 WTA Championships. Going into the 2008 season, Henin was celebrating one year as the No. 1 player in the world. She appeared to have a near lock on the title at Roland Garros and was generally pegged as the favorite for that year’s tournament. Then, just one week before the start of the clay court major, Henin called a press conference and announced her retirement from tennis. This was truly shocking. It’s not often that the No. 1 player in the world, at the age of 25, opts to call it quits, particularly the week before her favorite Slam. Actually, Henin was the only woman to retire while still ranking No. 1.
At the time of her first retirement, she stated, “I am leaving as the world No. 1 and that is important as it is always better to go out at the top, I leave without any regrets and I know it is the right decision.” Clearly, she had regrets because at the end of the 2009 season, she announced her return to tennis in 2010. She was motivated by the idea of finally winning Wimbledon and achieving a career Grand Slam, as Roger Federer had done in 2009. She intended to continue playing through the 2012 Olypmics.
Justine’s comeback seemed almost as good as Kim Clijsters’ when she reached the final at the Australian Open, only her second tournament back on tour. She seemed well on track to finally attain the illusive career Grand Slam at Wimbledon. But things came to a crashing halt when she injured her elbow after falling in her 4th round match against compatriot Kim Clijsters. The injury was grave and cost Henin the rest of the season, but there was little doubt that she would return to the tour healthy and get back to her winning ways. Henin warned the world that she came to Australia not 100%, but ready to compete. Unfortunately, her Australian Open ended early when she lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova in the 3rd round.
Somehow Justine managed to shock us all over again this morning, by announcing her retirement from professional tennis, again. This time, there will be no coming back. Justine released a letter to her fans saying, “After having well considered and following the advice of doctors, it is now clear and I accept that my career here … … finally ends. Even though it’s hard, very hard, while I came back with a tremendous fighting spirit. I’m sorry … I had hoped for a different return and dreamed of a different ending. I will need time to process all this, but I remain convinced that even with little progress, my level with my return did not meet my expectations, despite everything I’ve learned a lot over the past 15 months.”
Whether you’re a fan or not, Justine is a great champion and has contributed a great deal to this sport. It’s a real shame that resurgence was cut short because of an injury. I offer the best of luck to Justine in her future endeavors.
By Maud Watson
Answering the Call
As it has so often done in the past, the sport of tennis will once again be rallying to the call to aid victims of another natural disaster, this time the devastating floods in Queensland, Australia where the city of Brisbane has been particularly hard hit. Andy Roddick and Sam Stosur donated money for each ace they hit last week during the Brisbane event, and Stosur and Matthew Ebden will be continuing this trend through the Australian Open. The ATP and WTA have also pledged to follow their example. But the charity won’t stop there. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Kim Clijsters, Lleyton Hewitt and Sam Stosur plan to participate in another exhibition event similar to last year’s “Hit for Haiti.” It’s sad that with so many tragedies in recent years, organizing these events has practically become second nature, but it’s always something special to see these star athletes coming together for a common cause.
And the Nominees Are
It’s that time of year again, when the sports world looks to who will win one of the prestigious Laureus Awards, and once more, tennis is well represented. Up for Sportsman of the Year is Rafael Nadal. Finishing No. 1 in the world and winning three of the four majors last year (and completing the career Grand Slam in the process), the Spaniard has a glittering résumé but is up against some tough competition with Sebastian Vettel, Manny Pacquiao, Kobe Bryant Andres Iniesta, and Lionel Messi also in the running. On the women’s side, tennis is heavily represented, with Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters and Caroline Wozniaki vying for the honor, while Lindsey Vonn, Jessica Ennis, and Blanka Vlasic round out the other half of the nominees. Stay tuned to find out who will take home top honors.
Top Men’s Seed
The seeds for the Australian Open are out, and no surprise that the powers-at-be at Tennis Australia have essentially stuck by the rankings, naming Rafael Nadal as the No. 1 seed in the men’s draw. There’s no issue with Nadal being named No. 1 given his performances over the course of the 2010 season, though between his recent bout of the flu and Federer’s phenomenal form in Doha (and nod to Davydenko’s performance is also in order), it’s hard to see him as an overwhelming favorite. Throw Soderling’s Brisbane title run and the strong starts of Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Roddick into the mix, and Nadal will have his work cut out for him to make it four straight majors.
Top Women’s Seed
As with the men’s field, Tennis Australia also stuck to the women’s No. 1 ranking and named Caroline Wozniaki as the top seed in the 2011 staging of the Aussie Open. As the most consistent performer on the WTA last year, no one should begrudge the Dane her top ranking, but being named the top seed is a bit questionable. Clijsters certainly had the better 2010, winning a major and getting the better of Wozniaki in the year-end championships. Their most recent performances in Sydney would also seem to suggest that Clijsters is quicker off the blocks. But the women’s tour is generally full of surprises, so perhaps Wozniaki will live up to her seed and win her maiden major, quieting the critics who question the legitimacy of her No. 1 ranking.
When Rod Laver speaks, people listen, and in an interview that came out earlier this week, the “Rocket” was quick to say that while Nadal winning the Australian Open would be an amazing achievement, it would not be a Grand Slam. With Laver being the last male to achieve the Grand Slam over 40 years ago (and Graf the last player to do so in 1988), fans and sports pundits are itching to see the feat repeated. But to even consider looking at Nadal’s achievement as a Grand Slam should he go on to take the title in Melbourne would be a disservice to the sport. However short the off season is, it is still an off season – a time to recuperate and allow any niggling injuries to heal. Playing straight through the season and fighting one’s way to the winner’s circle of every major in a calendar year is what makes the true Grand Slam so rare and so special. To his credit, Nadal has not suggested that should he go on to win the title, it be given the same recognition as a calendar-year Grand Slam. It would be the “Nadal Slam,” similar to the “Serena Slam,” that Serena Williams completed with her 2003 Australian Open win. So all power to Nadal if he’s able to achieve a phenomenal feat by simultaneously holding all four majors, but fans will have to wait a little longer to see something as special as that which was achieved by only Don Budge, Maureen Connolly, Laver, Margaret Court, and Steffi Graf.
*The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has named Rafael Nadal and Caroline Wozniacki as their world champions for 2010. 20-year-old Dane Wozniacki has ousted Serena Williams as world champion after six tournament wins during this calendar year. She is, however, yet to lift a Grand Slam. “To be listed with all the former world champions is something I’m really proud of,” said the No. 1 player in the women’s game. Rafa Nadal was a more obvious choice on the men’s side having taken three of the four majors and becoming the youngest player to complete the career Grand Slam after finally conquering New York. The 24-year-old reclaims the crown off Roger Federer. “It is an honour to be named world champion for the second time,” said the 24-year-old. “After a difficult year in 2009, it was an amazing feeling to regain the number one ranking and finally win the US Open. My goal all the time is to keep improving and be a better player each year than I was the previous year.” This should be a pretty dominant 2011 for the Spaniard then.
*American No. 1 Andy Roddick has committed to his country’s Davis Cup cause for 2011. The 28-year-old missed the 2010 event but is set to return under the stewardship of new captain Jim Courier. The USA will travel to Chile for round 1 between 4-6 of March. “I have always said that Davis Cup is something you should commit to for the entire season and not when it is convenient,” said the world No. 8 who suffered a torrid time at last month’s ATP Tour Finals. “Andy not only brings his outstanding Davis Cup record but also his experience and team leadership which will be invaluable to our efforts,” Courier added. “On a personal note I am very excited to get the opportunity to sit on the bench with Andy and help him continue to perform at his very best on the Davis Cup stage.”
*Rejuvenated Serbian star Ana Ivanovic has hired Portuguese coach Antonio van Grichen on a trial basis till at least the end of the Australian hard-court season. She enjoyed a fabulous end to 2010 which saw her climb back to No. 17 in the world but then split with coach Heinz Gunthardt as he no longer wanted to travel full-time. van Grichen enjoyed great success coaching Viktoria Azarenka to No. 6 in the world and he has also worked briefly with Vera Zvonareva and Sorana Cirstea.
*Belgian stars Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin are pondering pairing up to compete at the London 2012 Olympics together. The pair once shared a pretty hostile relationship but having both returned from retirement recently this seems to have thawed. They have competed as a team once before at the 2006 Fed Cup where Belgium lost to Russia in the quaterfinals. Both are said to be treating the Olympics very seriously and Clijsters has hinted that 2012 could be her final year on the tour. “We have to get together to discuss this, see what the possibilities are and assess how far we want to go in this,” said world No. 3 Clijsters. Henin, 28, added: “There is a real willingness to be there.” Further feedback from the players can be read at the BBC Tennis website.
*The Australian Open have announced that both Juan Martin del Potro and Dmitri Tursunov have been accepted directly in to the men’s singles playing field as they both have injury-protected rankings.
*Gael Monfils has pulled out of the French team to play next month’s Hopman Cup and will be replaced by Nicolas Mahut. This means that he will come face to face with America’s John Isner for the first time since their record breaking 183 game, 11-hour epic encounter at Wimbledon back in June.
*After an exceptional year world No. 16 Mardy Fish has set his sights on cracking the Top 10 in 2011. “I have very high expectations, higher than I’ve ever had,” he told the Treasure Coast Palm. “I’m healthy, fit, confident. So I don’t think it’s unrealistic to aim for the Top 10. I don’t have many (rankings) points to defend the first half of the year. The first three Grand Slams, I didn’t get past the second round. So if I can be more consistent through the first part of the year, win some matches on the clay, do something more at Wimbledon, I should be able to get there.”
*Serbian Davis Cup hero Novak Djokovic took some time out on Tuesday to visit the Special Olympics Centre in Monte-Carlo where he spoke to members, posed for photos and signed autographs. He became involved with the organisation earlier in the year where he has helped fund various events. “I was really impressed with the good organisation of the centre and the nice and dedicated people working there,” Djokovic said, sporting his newly shaved head from the final celebrations. “It’s always very nice to be able to give time and resources to these kinds of causes here in Monte-Carlo, where I live.”
*Rafa Nadal becomes the latest sporting superstar to become a modelling figurehead for fashion powerhouse Giorgio Armani. He follows in the footsteps of football’s David Beckham and Christiano Ronaldo and will spearhead their spring/summer campaigns for 2011.
*The Moorilla Hobart International has a strong lineup ready for tennis fans when it kicks off on January 9, 2011. There are five former Top 10 players including the Russian former world No. 1 Dinara Safina who will be looking to put a dreadful 2010 behind her. World No. 16 Marion Bartoli will take the top seeding but she will face stiff competition from the likes of Kimiko Date-Krumm, Patty Schnyder, Anna Chakvetadze (two former Champions), Alona Bondarenko and Shahar Peer if she wants to be victorious.
*Dutch doubles legends Jacco Eltingh and Paul Haarhuis will return to the ATP Tour briefly in February to compete at the ABN Amro Tournament in Rotterdam to raise money for the Richard Krajicek Foundation. Between 1991 and 1998 they won 39 doubles titles together.
*Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi has begun his first mission as UNDP Goodwill Ambassador by visiting the victims of this year’s devastating floods in his native Pakistan. He flew in by helicopter to oversee rebuilding projects where homes are being built of wood, brick and stone, most notably with indoor plumbing. “It is really overwhelming,” said Qureshi. “You see the pictures on the television, you read about the thousands and thousands that are affected. But until you actually go there and see the suffering and in such harsh weather, it is very tough to fully comprehend.” You can read his full reaction at the ATP website.
*Yen-Hsun Lu’s 4-6, 7-6(3), 7-6(4), 6-7(5) 9-7 victory over Andy Roddick in the fourth round at Wimbledon has been named the upset of the year by the ATP. “Through three sets I was playing horrendously, I mean really, really badly,” Roddick moaned at the time. “Actually I think the fifth set was probably the best set that I played as far as hitting the ball, making him struggle to actually get through service games sometimes. But when you dig yourself a hole, it’s tough to get out. He deserved to win more than I did. That’s for sure.”
*Following recent reports that much of Pete Sampras’ career trophy haul had been pinched from a storage facility in LA, the ITF have offered him duplicates of some of those missing. He has been offered two replica trophies of his Davis Cup wins with the United States, according to thestar.com. Sampras also recently admitted he had no insurance to cover the theft.
*Former women’s star Martina Hingis has tied the knot with French showjumper Thibault Hutin, six years her junior, in a private ceremony in Paris. “Our marriage may come as a surprise to many, but it was planned a long time in advance,” the 30-year-old, who has been engaged twice before but never married, told Swiss magazine Scheizer Illustrierte.
*American doubles star Bob Bryan has wed lawyer Michelle Alvarez on December 13.
*Serena Williams is to be inducted in to the California Hall of Fame next week. She enters alongside Hollywood director James Cameron, country music singer Merle Haggard, former Secretary of State George Shultz, actress Barbra Streisand and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
*Canadian Valerie Tetreault, 22, has announced her retirement as a pro following four and a half years on the tour. She reached a career-high No. 112 in the world in February but leaves to study communications, citing depletion in motivation as the main reason.
*17-year-old George Morgan, the British junior No. 2, has become the latest player to add his name to the prestigious pool of Champions to lift the Orange Bowl title in Key Biscayne, Florida. He beat the Dutch second seed Jannick Lupescu 6-2, 6-3 in the Under-18s final having already lifted the Under-14s trophy in 2007. Most of tennis’ top talent have competed at the Championships and past winners include Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Bjorn Borg.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was dragging myself out of bed nice and early ready and eager for the Australian Open to kick off. Ten months later and the 2010 tennis season is ready to draw to a close.
There is much talk at the moment about the shortening of the tennis calendar. In return for a longer winter break to recuperate, many tournament organisers want a halt put to the money-spinning off-season exhibitions which many stars partake in.
If such plans go ahead, then these ATP Finals will become THE final say in the tennis season, but maybe at an earlier date. As it is, mid-November is the time for the top eight players from the last forty-odd weeks to battle it out for the final big scalp of the year.
While many argue that the lineup picks itself, there is always a surprise and who would have placed David Ferrer or Tomas Berdych in the mix at this point last year? We take a look at the eight hopefuls and run the rule over their chances of finishing the year on the highest of highs.
Finished the year as the world No. 1 and waded in to the “GOAT” debate after finalising the career Grand Slam with victory, at last, at Flushing Meadows. He has nine Majors, has reached the semi finals of this tournament in 2006 and 2007 and holds an Olympic Gold from Beijing.
He is many people’s favourite for London and rightly so. However, his form has been a little erratic since that victory in New York and many still question his ability compared to Federer’s on the hard courts.
However, doubt Rafa at your peril. The man also equalled Andre Agassi’s record of 17 ATP Masters titles this year and is more than adept at bringing his A-game when it really matters. But the bookies acknowledge that Rafa has never won this tournament so he is installed as 3/1 second favourite.
2010 Titles: Monte Carlo, Rome, Madrid, French Open, Wimbledon, US Open, Tokyo
2010 Finals: Doha
The nearly man. Since that 2008 Australian Open it just hasn’t quite happened for the Serb who has often been derided for his collapses on court and his perceived exaggeration of injuries to escape tricky opponents early.
While his on-court manner has undoubtedly toughened and the tears and early exits are becoming less of a problem he still has not secured that second major. His big enemy continues to be consistency. That dramatic victory over Federer in the US Open semis succeeded by a rather empty performance in the final against Rafa due to fatigue.
The two-time French Open finalist won this tournament in 2008 and after a relatively quiet period following Flushing Meadows maybe he is rested enough to quietly negotiate his way to a second triumph, leading to perhaps that second major? He is the 4/1 third favourite.
2010 Titles: Dubai, Beijing,
2010 Finals: US Open, Basel
Despite complaining about the increased pressure which followed his Wimbledon finals appearance it has been a great year for Czech star Tomas Berdych. The 25-year-old reached a career-high No. 6 in October as well as that first Slam final at SW19.
He also reached the semifinals at the French and is debuting in the end-of-year Championships. His fast pace and aggressive play is sure to delight the locals that got behind him back in the summer although winning this may be a step too far.
The only man here not to lift a title in 2010, Berdych is available at 25/1, placed last alongside Ferrer.
2010 Titles: none
2010 Finals: Miami, Wimbledon
It has been a fairly difficult year for A-Rod who has battled with losses of form as well as illness throughout the season. But the 2003 US Open winner looks back to full fitness and with three semifinals placings in these championships he is somebody with the experience to repeat that feat.
With the likes of John Isner, Sam Querrey and a rejuvenated Mardy Fish challenging his placement as America’s No. 1, Roddick will have to remain at the top of his game to keep ahead of the pack and what better way to do that than victory here?
However, he only qualified due to Verdasco’s end-of-year collapse and lost some big matches to the likes of Soderling and Federer who he would need to beat here if he was to see success. Roddick is available at 20/1 with only Berdych and Ferrer below him.
2010 Titles: Brisbane, Miami
2010 Finals: San Jose, Indian Wells
With critics questioning his temperament after squandering five match points against Gael Monfils at Paris it is up to R-Fed to shut them up as he has continually throughout his glittering career.
Statistically the greatest of all time, Federer lifted the Australian Open in January but has failed to reach a Grand Slam final since. But who would be stupid enough to bet against the man who has 16 Grand Slams and four ATP Finals to his name?
However, Federer hasn’t won this trophy since 2007 which shows the competition at the top of the sport. Even so, he is still the favourite with the bookies at 5/2. Could it be a return to form?
2010 Titles: Australian Open, Cincinnati, Stockholm, Basel
2010 Finals: Madrid, Halle, Toronto, Shanghai
The wait for the Grand Slam continues as he defeated Federer in two of the three finals they met in this year but the important one, Australia, was taken by the Swiss.
Murray made the semifinals of this tournament in 2008 and will hope to go one better, but the latter half of 2010 has not been too good for the Scotsman. A shock loss to Stanlislas Wawrinka at the US Open has been followed by some not-too-flattering results across Asia and Europe, Shanghai aside.
But with the home crowd behind him you cannot dispel him as the British public have helped roar him to two Wimbledon semifinals before this. Murray is available at 9/2.
2010 Titles: Toronto, Shanghai
2010 Finals: Australian Open, Los Angeles
The pantomime villain of tennis, nobody can argue with Soderling’s ability on a court. Always there or thereabouts in the major tournaments nobody likes to play him.
You never know which Soderling is going to turn up though and every great defeat can be matched to a despairing loss throughout his career. He will be hoping the former turns up as he did in Paris last week.
The two-time French Open finalist has also reached the semifinals here and will be looking to go one further. Soderling is available at 10/1.
2010 Titles: Rotterdam, Paris
2010 Finals: Barcelona, French Open, Bastad
As he showed by turning up in a grey suit to Downing Street while everyone else wore black you just cannot ignore David Ferrer. As this year’s last minute late surger in to the finals everybody will be looking elsewhere for a winner. But as a successful 2010 clay season showed he can beat anyone.
Spanish players are so many that they have to perform at the highest level consistently to remain above the parapet. Ferrer has done so. While only reaching one Grand Slam semi final he lost the 2007 ATP Tour Final to Roger Federer and nobody will relish playing him.
Placing him at 25/1 alongside Berdych shows the bookies have little faith in him but this will not bother the diminutive star one bit.
2010 Titles: Acapulco, Valencia
2010 Finals: Rome, Beijing
By Maud Watson
A Familiar Face & a First – When the last ball was struck at the final major of the year, the fans at Flushing Meadows saw two of the game’s biggest stars crowned the victors in what was an historic US Open. On the women’s side, Kim Clijsters secured her third consecutive US Open title, putting on a clinic as the pre-tournament favorite easily brushed aside Russian Vera Zvonareva without even breaking a sweat. Hopefully Clijsters will be able to use this experience and find her way to another major title at one of the other three Grand Slam events. But as great as Clijsters’ championship run was, the bigger praise has to go to Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard had a mediocre summer by his lofty standards, but he saved his best for when it really counted. His win in New York saw him complete the career Grand Slam, and at the age of just 24, he’s the youngest to have accomplished the rare feat. The standout player of 2010, fans can only look forward to seeing what he’ll do for an encore in 2011.
Second Fiddle – While few ever remember those who finished second, it’s worth recognizing the efforts and accomplishments of both US Open singles finalists Vera Zvonareva and Novak Djokovic. Many thought that Vera Zvonareva’s run to the Wimbledon final was a fluke, but her finalist appearance in New York seems sure to suggest that she has officially put it together and is a legitimate threat to win a Slam. As for Djokovic, he’s essentially been the forgotten man for the better part of the year, despite his ranking always being within the top 2-4. With his captivating win over Federer in the semifinals and new-found fighting spirit, he’s reminded the rest of the tennis world that he is a major champion, and a second championship title may not be too far around the bend.
Double the Fun – In what has to be described as the best summer of their careers, the Bryan Brothers ended the Grand Slam season where they began – in the winner’s circle. They took their ninth major doubles title (3 behind the all-time leaders of Newcombe/Roche, and 2 behind Open Era leaders the Woodies) over the highly-praised pairing of Pakistani Aisam-Ul Haq Qureshi and Indian Rohan Bopanna. Still the top-ranked doubles duo, odds are good that they may yet break the record for most majors as a team. On the women’s side, the less known combination of American Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan triumphed in their second straight major, dismissing both of the top two seeded teams en route to the title. So while American fans may be lamenting the state of tennis in the United States, there appears to be plenty to still smile about in the doubles arena.
Best Few have Seen – Many are aware of the multitude of streaks compiled by the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Justine Henin, etc., but even the longest of win streaks by any of these stars pales in comparison to what Dutch player Esther Vergeer has managed to accomplish. The sensational wheelchair tennis star defeated Daniela di Toro love and love to not only win her fifth US Open Championship, but her 396th consecutive match! Her incredible run has done much to continue to raise the profile of this fascinating sport, and if you haven’t had a chance to see it, take the first opportunity that you can to do so. These athletes are truly an inspiration to all.
Raise the Roof – A hurricane wasn’t the culprit this time around, but for the third straight year, the men’s final was postponed to Monday. To make matters worse, Monday’s final suffered yet another lengthy rain delay that forced it to a second television network in the United States, and very nearly a third. Needless to say, there have been further grumblings about the need for a roof. Rumor has it that the USTA is looking at the possibility of building a new stadium with a retractable roof, and tennis enthusiasts around the globe sincerely hope that the USTA will see this through. It can’t afford more of these Monday finals, nor can it afford to lag behind the other majors.
As the US Open unfolded and the player field began to dwindle, storylines were made, but none more so than the unexpected win by Novak Djokovic in the semis and his ensuing raindance. Fernando Verdasco also had his celebratory dance after his win over comrade David Ferrer. And the Indian Pakistani duo of Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi made their mark for peace. I leave you off with a little known locker room video that had me giggling like a schoolgirl. Let’s take a look at this week’s top stories in tennis!
Novak Djokovic as a True Contender
The biggest story this week may be Novak Djokovic’s defeat of the king of tennis himself, Roger Federer, in the semifinals of the US Open, 5-7, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5. Federer not only had a winning head-to-head ratio against Djokovic (10-5), but he was 184-6 after winning the first set in a grand slam. Djokovic overcame all odds and pulled off the greatest win of his young career.
As the two weeks in Flushing Meadows were unfolding, it seemed like there was a natural pull for a Federer-Nadal final, something that had never happened here before. It was as if all the pleading by journalists, fans and commentators was paying off. Well, until Djokovic came out from “under the radar” and spoiled the party.
It’s slightly disconcerting that the #3 player in the world was given little thought for a run to the title here. He has been a steady member of the top 4 for the last three years, yet his respiratory problems and tendency to fold under pressure situations made him seem like just another bump along Federer’s route to the final. In Federer’s post-match press conference he even acknowledged that “The guys who overlooked [Djokovic] don’t know anything about tennis, unfortunately.” What makes the story more comedic is that CBSNews’ twitter feed had this up even before the Djokovic-Federer semi was over: “Rafael Nadal Reaches First U.S. Open Final, Moves on to play Roger Federer for Championship and Career Grand Slam.”
But enough of the hilarity, let’s get back to the tennis.
While easily dropping the second and fourth sets, it seemed that Federer had turned it around and was on his way to a ‘W.’ He held two match points on Djokovic’s serve, up 4-5, 15-40 in the fifth but allowed the Serb to dictate both points. If you are a Djokovic fan, you know to await disappointment because he succumbs to the do-or-die moments 95% of the time. However, this day was different. He not only won both rallies convincingly, he did it on his own terms: blasting forehand winners on both occasions to bring the score to deuce. He then earned the only break of the set at 5-all and sealed the win when Federer’s forehand went wide on match point. Djokovic stood there stunned, staring at his box, almost not convinced he had just beaten the Great Federer.
In his post-match press conference, he revealed exactly what was going on in his head during the match: “I got a bit nervous end of the first and third set, and that’s why I lost those sets. But anything except that, I think I played overall a great game, fighting really and being aggressive when I had chance, and defending well. I just knew I have to be patient and not lose my emotions too much, because that was the case in the past where I was losing the momentum with him. He uses that nervousness of the opponent. He feels it. Today, I kind of closed my eyes on the forehands in the match points and just went for the shots. I was lucky.” Very lucky indeed.
Furthermore, Federer struggled at the net in the two sets he easily lost and his first serve percentage wasn’t even hitting 50% until more than halfway through the match. On the other hand, Djokovic was more consistent on his first and second serves percentages. And if you don’t believe me that Djokovic has been serving extremely well during this whole US Open, take a look at this stat: he’s #6 on first serve percentage with 69%. What’s more is that all of the other men on the list only played 1, 2, or 3 matches each for these high percentages, Djokovic played 6 matches. (Source: http://www.usopen.org/en_US/scores/extrastats/f_srv_pct_ms.html )
Djokovic Must Have Done his Raindance
In what turns out to be the third-straight year the Men’s Singles final will be played on a Monday due to rain, there is increased talk about the US Open having a covered stadium to avoid this. While Roland Garros doesn’t have the need for a roof as clay dries faster, the Australian Open and Wimbledom both jumped on the track and built roofs atop their marquee stadiums. So, why not the US Open? One of the reasons is that Arthur Ashe stadium is the largest tennis stadium in the world and estimates are that it would cost around $150 million dollars to build. Tough obstacle.
But Novak Djokovic doesn’t seem to mind the final has to be pushed back one day. After his grueling on-court battle yesterday against Roger Federer, he welcomes the delay, and even his fellow female player knows it! As Djokovic had just learned of the postponement, he was leaning against a wall in the locker room, smiling. A Russian player currently vying for the Women’s Doubles trophy, Nadia Petrova, walked past him and said, “You are lucky! Seriously lucky!” Djokovic just stood there nodding and replied, “Another day in New York.”
When Rafael Nadal was questioned, he diplomatically responded: “There’s nothing you can do about this; it’s New York in the rain. For sure it’s fairer like this. I think it’s better for both of us to have a day of rest.” I’m not so sure I agree with him as he didn’t have a tough semifinal match with only 20 hours to recover. If the final had been played Sunday, it would have favored Rafa for sure. And his uncle, Toni, seems to agree: “For us, it would have been better that it had not rained today, because Djokovic might have been a bit more tired. But it was fairer like this.”
The two opponents share the same publicist, Perez Barbadillo, and he jokingly said: “Obviously, Rafa would have preferred to play today, and Novak was praying for rain, so I suppose what I take out of things is that God is Orthodox,” referring to Djokovic’s Serbian Orthodox faith. “He’s been listening to Novak.” (Read the full New York Times article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/13/sports/tennis/13tennis.html )
To further spark conflict for the US Open title, it seems that the ATP website has already picked it’s winner — even before the match has been played! (I took a screenshot knowing very well it would be corrected within a couple hours.)
Rafael Nadal’s faster serve
Imagine playing tennis since the age of 4, turning professional at 15, and playing the same heavy-topspin lefty game until you break the top 10 at the tender age of 18 and achieve #1 just three years later. If this were my track record, I wouldn’t look to change anything about my game. Not only is there no need, but technically-speaking, if the change brings a worsening in results, it may be hard to revert back to the old ways.
This is not the case with Rafael Nadal, who, two days prior to the start of the US Open, changed the grip on his serve.
Rafa swung by the commentators’ booth in Arthur Ashe stadium during the Gael Monfils-Novak Djokovic quarterfinal and chatted with ESPN’s Brad Gilbert and Chris Fowler about the change. “I am trying to serve a little bit more like Wimbledon because the ball here is very soft,” said Rafa. “It is not getting a lot of topspin, I try to play a little bit more flat. And for that reason, I am serving faster, that’s it.” Changing his grip didn’t happen overnight though as the media would have you believe. While hitting his fastest serve ever at 134 MPH in Flushing Meadows, Rafa is quick to say that “I worked a lot to serve well during my career and I have to keep working hard.” It looks like then that there is no such thing as a quick-fix — hard work is still what achieves results.
Fernando Verdasco’s Golden Moment
Although the fourth round featured some great matchups, the duel between Fernando Verdasco and David Ferrer on Louis Armstrong stadium was pure heart on full display. And I wouldn’t expect any less from the passionate Spaniards. Both men won 70% of their first serves and hit a combined total of 23 aces, not something that either is usually known for. However, Verdasco had 73 winners to Ferrer’s 38.
Even though the match lasted well over four hours, aggressive play with plenty of marathon sprints to and from the net were seen up through the last point from both players. Ferrer had quickly gone up 4-1 in the fifth set tiebreaker, visibly frustrating Verdasco. His run ended there, however, as he never converted another point. Verdasco pulled off the shot of the tournament with his sprinting forehand volley that looped around the net pole and into the deuce corner on Ferrer’s side. Verdasco fell on his back in joy, and after shaking hands with his opponent and the chair umpire, proceeded to continue his excited 12-year-old celebratory dance. As he double fist-pumped his way into the hearts of fans, he dropped to the ground on both knees and slapped the court seemingly giving gratitude to the tennis gods, all the while yelling “Yes! Yes!” I even heard from a friend they could hear Verdasco yelling all the way up in Canada. Dude, gets around!
Check out Verdasco’s match-winning point:
“Indo-Pak Express” Leaves Mark
Even though the Bryan Brothers came through for American fans in capturing the US Open Men’s Doubles title, their opponents in the finals received perhaps even greater recognition globally. The duo of Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi began their “Stop War, Start Tennis” campaign back in Wimbledon as part of the effort to support peace between the two embattled countries they come from, India and Pakistan, respectively. They have quickly gained not only the support of fans, but the leaders of their countries as well for showing there can be great respect and partnership between the two countries.
The “Indo-Pak Express” as the two are fondly called, had a great run only dropping one set before going out in two hotly-contested tiebreakers in the final. In his post-match presser, Bob Bryan said that “This has been the best match we ever played. These guys played incredible. We had to step up and match their energy.”
With United Nations ambassadors Hardeep Singh Puri of India and Abdullah Hussain Haroon of Pakistan sitting together in the audience, the crowd cheered and gave Bopanna and Qureshi a standing ovation during the trophy ceremony for their peace-loving efforts. Qureshi went on to say that he was dedicating his share to the 21 million flood victims in Pakistan and thanked the Bryan brothers for donating a portion of their winnings to the Pakistan flood victims as well. In the interview room of Ashe stadium, the UN ambassadors from India and Pakistan presented the Bryan brothers with ceremonial Pakistani garments called ‘ajraks’ and thanked them for their benevolence. “A lot of people in Pakistan don’t have homes and are out on the street,” Mike Bryan stated. “Sport can bring people together.”
And if you haven’t had enough of Djokovic yet, check out the Bryan Brothers Video Blog in the locker room of Ashe stadium with the ‘Djoker’. He’s not only shirtless and ‘buffed up,’ but he’s doing pushups and shaking hands with Jimmy Connors in his skivvies! Eat it up, Djoker fans, he’s a world-class chatter.
By Melina Harris
Hello everybody, welcome to my new weekly column for Tennis Grandstand, where I will be giving my thoughts on the tennis world surrounded by the inevitable warmth and sunshine of both the weather and the British press in England (well, now and again maybe during Wimbledon when Andy wins!).
I write these words on an unusually sunny morning in a coffee bar overlooking a serene and sparkling Ramsgate harbour in the garden of England, Kent, the location and inspiration for such literary greats as Charles Dickens, T.S Eliot and the master painter Turner. On Sunday, the British public held their breath and the world watched eagerly as two great artists walked onto the tennis world stage in the first Grand Slam final of the year in Melbourne, Australia.
Contesting his 22nd career Grand Slam singles final, world number one Roger Federer played the role of the old master, Turner, creating the final in exactly the way he wanted, wowing the crowds with his honed style and grace, while our British hopeful Andy Murray sprayed the court with touches of his potential brilliance like urban graffiti artist Banksy’s iconic and unmistakable political images on randomly selected walls across London.
However, like a Banksy original crudely painted over by a council worker, Murray’s brilliance was eclipsed and wiped out by the majestic beauty of Federer at his best. The 28-year-old Swiss master dispatched of the young Scot in a closely contested straight set victory, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(11) to land his 16th major title, leaving our gutsy boy choking back the tears in his post match interview (mirroring the feelings of our nation, impatient for an end to our ‘150 thousand’ (Federer) years of hurt) as he tried to sum up his performance in front of the Aussie crowd.
I haven’t yet taken a look at the back pages of the numerous British newspapers for fear of reading phrases such as ‘Scottish choker’ and the ominous rhetorical question, ‘Is Murray yet another Henman?” For a majority of the British public who know very little about tennis, let alone the extreme lengths it takes to achieve Murray and Henman’s obvious greatness, they view what these players have achieved thus far as failure. I can’t count the number of times over the years I’ve heard conversations in pubs, restaurants and coffee bars about how Tim Henman was a ‘rubbish’ player, even though he was consistently amongst the top ten players in the world and Murray, now number three in the world, a sour and miserable Scottish loser whom they hated with a passion (his comments about not supporting the English football team will never be forgotten it seems).
As a player myself, I know just how hard it is to progress through the ranks in British tennis and would like to take this opportunity to praise Tim and Andy for their hard work and determination in the face of such negative press (we are notorious as a nation in building sports stars up just for the pleasure in bringing them back down again). I would urge my international readers to just take a look at the recent John Terry debacle (our English football (soccer) captain, who previous to his extra marital affair was hailed as a hero who has now become the new hate figure in sport) let alone the David Beckham red card affair in the World Cup, where pictures of a replica figure of him hung from a tree engulfed in flames like something from the Salem Witchcraft trials was featured regularly in the press, when he had previously been hailed a national hero.
Of course it would genuinely be fantastic for British tennis if Andy were to go on and win a Grand Slam title, especially at Wimbledon, however why can’t the British public celebrate his performance over the last two weeks and look positively to the future, with rising star Laura Robson posing the mouth watering potential of a female Grand Slam champion instead of always publicly pulling our sports stars to shreds in coffee shops, pubs and most lethally in the British press.
For instance, Robson, who unfortunately lost to Russian Karolina Pliskova in the girls singles final in Melbourne, couldn’t escape the damaging British press as she was criticized and labeled a moody teenage loser by a Times journalist, who commented damagingly, ‘I saw a future champion on Saturday. I also saw a loser. I saw someone with exquisite talent and the temperament to go with it. I also saw a player who was error-prone and too flaky to live. Of course, they were the same person. This was Laura Robson in the final of the junior girls’ singles at the Australian Open in Melbourne.’
I only hope that Laura takes the advice of Cheryl Cole (our nation’s pop star sweetheart and omnipresent judge of the X factor) and never ever buy a British newspaper or nonchalantly google herself, because all she will discover are a bunch of sad old journalists picking out the negatives, predicting failure and gloom; a recipe for disaster if the philosophy of ‘The Secret’ is to be believed, that positive thinking attracts positive results, whereas a whole nation of negative thinking will simply mean the continuation of the misery and failure so many Brits seem to revel in. Perhaps this is the point?
So Murray and Robson may have fallen at the final hurdle in Melbourne, but I urge the British public to stay positive, eradicate the negativity and maybe just maybe we might get the champions we so clearly deserve. To be honest, I think Fred Perry is more likely to rise from the dead and win Wimbledon this year than this actually becoming a reality, however I’m one hundred percent sure that Andy and Laura will make them eat their words by the end of the year and I cannot personally wait to applaud them in my new weekly column at tennis grandstand! Bring it on!
Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach from London. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter. She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.