Dinara Safina

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

(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.


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.)


Andrea Petkovic: The True Tragic Heroine in Tennis

By David Kane

No matter a tennis fan’s complicated allegiances, the vast majority can agree that nobody wants to see a player in pain. Moreover, nobody wants to see an injured player before a new season has truly begin. Sadly, that was exactly what we were forced to witness this week; a mere hours into the 2013 season, the plucky but hapless Andrea Petkovic ruptured the meniscus in her right knee.

At the Hopman Cup, an exhibition event in Perth, Australia, the part-time YouTube celebrity/full-time wit had barely finished the first set against up-and-coming Australian Ashleigh Barty when she had to retire in tears with what would be diagnosed as her third major injury in the space of a year. No stranger to the bench, Petkovic suffered a back injury that ended her Australian summer last January, and an ankle injury one tournament into her comeback that took her out of contention for another four months.

All of this from a player who once suffered an ACL injury in 2008 that nearly ended her career.

Dubbed “Petkorazzi” by her fans, the German is a polarizing character; her brash style and on-court dance moves endear many and alienate others. She spent most of the 2011 season dancing her way into the top 10, with quarterfinal finishes at three of the four Grand Slam tournaments, and a run to finals of the Premier Mandatory event in Beijing, where she fell to Agnieszka Radwanska in three sets.

Spending most of 2012 on the sidelines undid most of her progress and caused a tumble from the top 100, but a late season surge that saw her make semifinals in Luxembourg and a WTA 125 in Pune gave her “Petkorazzis” hope that 2013 would see the beleaguered German star return to her former place among the game’s elite.

This newest setback promises to further delay such a return, this time perhaps indefinitely.

Despite your opinion of her, you cannot deny her horrible luck. Through it all, the perennially injured Petkovic has done her best to maintain her trademark sense of humor in the face of a very unfunny 12 months:



When a player seems to be followed by the proverbial rain cloud as Petkovic has been, the outside observer cannot help but be reminded of another one of our sport’s tragic figures, Dinara Safina. The former No. 1 was once plagued by chronic criticism regarding her status as a “Slamless Number One” only to become plagued by a chronic back injury that seems to have permanently removed her from a game she ostensibly once dominated.

Both Petkovic and Safina can be characterized as players who have unconditional love and passion for a game that has given them such heartache. While lacking the natural talent and fluid shots of their peers, these two women found success largely thanks to burning desires to succeed and the willingness to put in the long hours required for that success.

It has been said that determination can make up for good genes, that prodigal talents cannot neither compare to nor reach the heights of their less natural, but more disciplined, peers. Petkovic’s compatriot Julia Goerges and Safina’s own brother Marat may be known for their innate athletic gifts, but a healthy Petkovic and a mobile Safina were able to outpace rivals and siblings alike in a game that rewarded consistency as much as flashes of brilliance.

Qualifiers like “healthy” and “mobile” are important in situations like these, for an injured Goerges or Safin, with their natural ability, cannot (or could not) be counted out like Petkovic and Safina can be (or will be). For our determined underdogs, those years of dedicated and disciplined training, however admirable, created robotic and inorganic strokes that look the opposite of effortless. These unique game styles require precise timing and unhindered execution; inject injury or lay-off rust into the equation and the results are calamitous. Women who work so hard deserve better luck.

But one must return to the initial, unspoken question of “Why?” Why do such good-natured women and such dedicated athletes like Petkovic and Safina suffer bad luck to this undeservedly absurd degree?

Perhaps there is a reason why effortless styles of play tend to correlate with longevity. Roger Federer and Steffi Graf’s abilities to combine athleticism with balleticism allowed them to dominate the sport for decades at a time. The idea of an extended injury lay-off was simply a foreign concept to these two legends, and each had the same hunger and motivation as their less elegant peers.

As disappointing as these injury setbacks have been, Petkovic will likely return, and if Safina were not already physically exhausted, I do not doubt that she would do the same. These players’ love for the game is inspiring and while purists may scoff at their aesthetically displeasing technique, fans will always admire their dedication in the face of constant adversity. But there comes a point when we must ask whether style is truly subjective, and if these players’ unwavering drive to succeed is the very thing causing their bodies to fail.

A Blogger’s Christmas Carol: The Past, Present and Uncertain Future of Russian Women’s Tennis

By David Kane

Two tweets from former World No. 2s, Vera Zvonareva’s announcement that she would be missing the upcoming Australian Open, and Svetlana Kuznetsova’s suspense-filled declaration that she indeed loved life, seemed to sum up the status quo for Russian women’s tennis these days. It feels like a lifetime ago that to be a Russian on the WTA Tour usually signified a player with a high ranking who made deep runs in major tournaments and, if nothing else, was a fierce competitor, a member of a contingent strong in numbers. As recently as 2009, there were four Russian women in the top 10, two in the top 4. As the 2013 season approaches, only Maria Sharapova remains among that elite group, with three others floating around the top twenty.

The formerly proud and prolific Russian horde even found themselves the butts of a light joke from Tennis Australia, who boasted that their best player, Samantha Stosur, could beat anyone with an “-ova” surname. That Stosur has failed to beat a player inside the top 50 Down Under since 2006 (and has a paltry head-to-head record against most Russians in general) illustrates how far things have fallen for what used to be the game’s most indomitable force.

With Christmas only hours away, imagine if you will, jaded tennis fans, several midnight visits from three of the most knowledgeable spirits: the Ghosts of Tennis Past, Present and the always ominous Ghost of Tennis Future. Allow these spirits to remind you of what has already been, and perhaps warn you of that which is soon to be.

It was a little over a decade ago that “Anna’s Army,” led by the glamorously talented Anna Kournikova, burst onto the women’s tour. While their leader failed to win a singles title, those who followed in her footsteps took full advantage of the road she paved. In 2004, thirty years after Soviet Olga Morozova reached the finals of Roland Garros and Wimbledon, the first three Russian women won Grand Slam titles at major tournaments that featured two all-Russian finals. While Sharapova has won most often on the sport’s biggest stages, compatriots like Svetlana Kuznetsova, Dinara Safina and Elena Dementieva have more than made names for themselves with multiple Slam titles (Kuznetsova), 26 weeks atop the world rankings (Safina) and multiple Slam finals and semifinals (Dementieva).

The year 2009 represented a second crest on the wave of Russian dominance: Kuznetsova won the third all-Russian final of the Open Era, Safina was ranked No. 1 for most of the year, and Dementieva came within one backhand passing shot of upsetting Serena Williams for a place in the Wimbledon final. As the decade came to a close and talented youngsters like Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Maria Kirilenko began to post impressive results, the Russian horde looked as strong as ever.

Barely two years on, the Ghost of Tennis Present presents a wholly grimmer reality. Vera Zvonareva may have been the breakout player of 2010, reaching two Slam finals and peaking just behind the top spot in the rankings, but since then, “Anna’s Army” has done an almost complete about face. What could explain such a dramatic reversal of fortune? Ostensibly, injuries and early retirements are to blame. Dementieva retired at the end of 2010. Safina is indefinitely absent with a broken back. Kuznetsova and Zvonareva are rehabbing injuries in the hopes of reviving their stalled careers.

Truthfully, however, most of the Russian contingent could be diagnosed with problems that are as mental as they are physical. Over the years, it has become increasingly uncomfortable to watch these talented women fail to get out of their own way time and time again in important situations. Matches that look to be straightforward from the outset end up having more twists and turns than a Tolstoy novel, complete with double-digit double-faults and screaming into hands. Where most of the top men could have their names etched in to the final rounds of major tournaments in pen, even the faintest pencil tracing could derail what should be unassailable progress.

In fact, Maria Sharapova has been so successful at deviating from this tragic formula that, despite bearing the Russian flag at the London Olympics, American journalists and commentators hardly believe her to be of the same ilk, and frequently attempt to claim her as their own. This is wrong. Not only is Sharapova as Russian as her compatriots, but she has also suffered her own heart-wrenching losses to prove it.

The average Russian tennis player can be accused of many things, but rarely can it be said that she does not want success badly enough. In the last decade and a half, this diverse group of women has taken passion in this sport to a level where every point is a battle, every match a war. Painful as it can be to watch, the inherent entertainment value cannot be denied. More often than not, when a Russian takes the court, she takes on two adversaries: her opponent, and herself. When she wins, then, the victories are twice as sweet, for her and those who were swept up in her almost spiritual fervor and feel as if they helped will her over the finish line.

All of this is why what the Ghost of Tennis Future has to say is so important. Because they are so rarely the champions at the end of the fortnight, they may appear inconsequential to the many storylines in the canonical WTA soap opera. However, the drama that the Russian contingent brought and continues to bring (although on a muted level) kept viewers interested. They emit a passion for the game that could convert any causal fan (Bah Humbug!) into a diehard (Merry Christmas!).

Once, it was said that the Russians were coming. For a few brief-shining moments, they had arrived. Now, there are more than a few ghostly moans in the night, calling for their return.

Top 20 Tennis Gifs of 2011

There have been a lot of 2011 lists made this month that perfectly sum up the tennis season, shine light on the best and worst matches and spark intellectual debate amongst tennis fans. This is not one of those lists.

Rather I have spent the past week scouring the depths of Tumblr and Tennis Forum, polling on Twitter, and racking my brain to come up with the first (that I’m aware of) all-tennis-gif list! The only rules I set for myself was that it had to be a gif from the 2011 season, and that it couldn’t contain words (an arbitrary rule I admit, but it helped narrow things down).

So sit back, close out some of your other tabs and programs (this is very image heavy- 20 gifs!) and enjoy this unique look back at the 2011 season.

20. Victorious Vika







The always understated Viktoria Azarenka came out of her shell to celebrate a victory at Wimbledon.

(via tennisgifs)

19. Best Shot Ever

Mr. Modesty Andy Roddick reacted to his infamous Championship point at Memphis in February.

(via ballinz)

18. Vegemite Vera

Vera Zvonareva’s poker face was as good as ever as she tried some vegemite at the Australian Open.

(via tennisgifs)

17. Ferrer Shrugs

No big deal, David Ferrer. You just beat Novak Djokovic 6-3 6-1 at the World Tour Finals.

(via nidssserz)

16. Bouncing Bartoli

Thirsty girl! Only Marion Bartoli (at the Australian Open) could make sitting look so exhausting and mesmerizing.

(via @CWTennis)

 15. Dancing Frenchies

The world is just a better place when Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are dancing in it. Together.

(via ballinz)

 14. The Miracle

In February’s Fed Cup tie, Russian teammates Dinara Safina and Maria Sharapova shared a laugh. Then my heart exploded.

(via tennisgifs)

13. Dynamite Dani

Daniela Hantuchova upset World #1 Caroline Wozniacki at the French Open, then unleashed her inner dork.

(via tennisgifs)

12. Murray’s Shower Surprise

“Like” it or not, Andy Murray caused quite a splash in his Head Racket commercial, released earlier this year.

(via tennisgifs)

 11. Hungry Fer







If you can’t play tennis, might as well eat a burger. Isn’t that the saying? (Fernando Verdasco at the tie in Austin, Texas)

(via nidssserz)

 10. The Petko Dance (+1)








Andrea Petkovic lost the China Open Final, then danced with winner Agnieszka Radwanska. She’s cooler than you are.

(via tennisgifs)

9. Jo’s Head Bop

In the Valencia final Juan Martin Del Potro did what we’ve all wanted to do for some time and knocked Tsonga in the head.

(via ballinz)

8. Sabine Celebrates

If you don’t feel warm fuzzies watching Sabine Lisicki react to her win over Li Na at Wimbledon, you officially don’t have a soul.

(via tennisgifs)

7. The Djoker Returns

Work it! Thanks to a rain delay at Wimbledon Novak Djokovic found some time for fun in the midst of all that winning.

(via tennisgifs)

6. Federer’s Finger

Roger Federer upset the world #1, ended the winning treak, and then wagged his finger. I’m not sure which was more noteworthy.


5. Gilles and Son

He won the Hamburg title and then gave the cutest high-five ever. It was a good few minutes for Gilles Simon.

(via ballinz)

4. The Kiss That Missed

Grigor Dimitrov missed his shots on the court and (incredibly awkwardly) at the net in his loss to Gael Monfils at the U.S. Open.

(via nidssserz)

3. Slip, Slide, and Catch

Only Rafael Nadal could make falling look this cool. It’s really just ridiculous.

(via yardmansalsa)

2. Settle Down

David Ferrer gets excited, Feliciano Lopez calms him down, and the guy in the background remains creepy. A Davis Cup classic.

(via cuhrayzay)

1. The Disappearing Racket

At first it was there, and then it wasn’t.  Radwanska’s Australian Open racket mishap still can’t be beaten- it was by far the best gif moment of the year.

(via tennisgifs)


So, there’s my list.  What are your favorites? What did I miss? What shouldn’t be here? Sound off in the comments or send me a tweet.  And most of all tennis fans and friends, have a Happy New Year!










Safina has “No Return”, Li Na Continues Year of Firsts and Tipsarevic Joins Winner’s Circle

Safin says Safina is Done:

Marat Safin says that his little sister Dinara Safina is finished on the tennis circuit. The former world No.1 has not been seen since May and has struggled tremendously over the past two years with a back injury that has seriously limited her playing time. She has dropped as low as No.129 in the world. “Dinara was injured two years ago, in Beijing, remember?” Safin told Eurosport.  “She left, but never recovered completely. She tried to return, but only aggravated the crisis. Now she needs to keep her back to be able to walk normally and live a normal life. [Her back] will continue to be treated, but she will play no more…She will make an official statement herself, but as her brother, I believe that there is no chance of return.”

Firsts Continue for Li Na:

Li Na’s record-breaking year continues as she becomes the first Chinese player to qualify to play singles at the year-ending WTA Finals. She joins Caroline Wozniacki, Maria Sharapova, Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka in guaranteeing her place in Istanbul. $5m will be shared out among the players as the tournament switches from a two-year stint in Doha and Li will be hoping for a large slice of the spoils. “This year has been the most successful of my career so far and I’m very happy to have qualified for the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships,” Li said. “I’m proud to be the first Chinese woman to qualify in singles for this event and I look forward to some tough matches against the best players of the season.” In January she became the first Asian player to reach a Grand Slam final at the Australian Open and she bettered that in June by becoming Asia’s first winner at the French Open. She has also become Asia’s highest-ranked player this year, peaking at No.4 on the WTA World Rankings.

Tipsarevic Nets Maiden Title:

Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic has finally rid himself of the unwanted mantra of being the only player in the ATP Top 20 not to win a title. He defeated Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis in the Malaysian Open final 6-4, 7-5 to win an ATP Tour final at the fifth time of asking. “It feels great. I think I deserved it,” said the 27-year-old. “I’m so happy that it came in a good place, at a tournament that is really, really nice, and against a good player. Marcos Baghdatis has played in 11 finals and was a former Top 10 player, a Grand Slam finalist. So I feel happy that I won against a great player in a final that I hope kept the fans on the edge of their seats until the very end. I could not be happier.” Over in Bangkok, world No.4 Andy Murray was way too strong for American Donald Young as he annihilated the man who had embarrassed him in the first round at Indian Wells 6-2, 6-0. “In terms of the way I’m playing it’s very good to get off to a start like that on this stretch and hopefully I can continue that through Shanghai,” said the Scot. “It’s a very good start. Roger [Federer] always plays very well on the European indoor courts, so I’m sure I’m going to have to win a lot more matches if I want to finish No.3 [in the world this year]. That’s the goal and I’ll keep working hard to give myself a shot at doing that.”

Djokovic Makes Rafa “Nervous”:

Toni Nadal thinks that his nephew Rafa may be getting nervous when he faces Novak Djokovic after he watched him fall at the Serb’s feet six times this year. “It is clear that there have been too many losses and it is true that Rafael has become nervous [during] their recent matches and so far, there is the reality that Djokovic is playing superior to the rest….I hope it does not last forever,” he said. “Rafael’s type of game has worked well against Djokovic and has been very spirited. We must return to make a change, not [in] his game, but of mentality and try to win again.”

Federer Second Biggest Sporting Brand:

Forbes have named Roger Federer the second biggest sporting brand in the world, behind one of the other three ‘Gillette Champions’ Tiger Woods. “Federer holds the most impressive endorsement portfolio in all of sports with 10 major deals, including a Nike sponsorship that is the most lucrative in all of tennis,” said Forbes. “He is also the only one of Gillette’s original three ‘Champions’ to have his deal renewed this year as the brand dropped Tiger Woods and Thierry Henry.” Earlier this year, Forbes listed Federer 25th in its annual list of the world’s 100 most influential celebrities.

Ivanovic Returning to Bali:

Ana Ivanovic will return to the Bali setting of her Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions win in November after receiving the first wild card in to the tournament courtesy of the organisers. The event brings together the eight best performers over the year’s International series of WTA tournaments and the 24-year-old will be given the chance to defend her title. “It almost goes without saying Bali is one of the most beautiful places on the tennis circuit – probably the best, in fact,” Ivanovic said. “I had a wonderful time there last year. Off the court I was able to relax on the beach, but on the court I played some of my best tennis and was so happy to win the title.”

Savic Banned for Match Fixing:

Serbian tennis player David Savic has been banned for life from professional tennis after being found guilty of match fixing. The 26-year-old world No.659 was also fined $100,000 after being found guilty of three violations. He is only the second player to be found guilty of such charges after Germany’s Daniel Koellerer was also banned in May. Savic reached a career-high No.369 in the world in 2009 but has never played above the Challenger circuit. Savic, though, claims he was set up by an unnamed top player, and that the allegations against him are an “absolute lie”.

Azarenka Out of Beijing:

Victoria Azarenka has pulled out of the China Open with a right foot injury, giving Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova a walkover win.

GB Win Junior Davis Cup:

Great Britain have won the Junior Davis Cup for the first time after defeating Italy in the final, in Mexico’s San Luis Potosi. With former world No.4 Greg Rusedski coaching them, Evan Hoyt, Kyle Edmund and Luke Bambridge justified their top seeding by bringing home the spoils. Hoyt and Edmund won the two singles rubbers, meaning the doubles was not needed to be played. “I’m very proud of our team,” said Rusedski. “It feels great to be the first British team ever to win the Junior Davis Cup.”

Stars Pay Tribute to Japan while Competing in Tokyo:

Some of the world’s biggest names have been paying tribute and pledging their support to the Japanese people following the year the country has endured. Still recovering from natural and nuclear disasters it is a small miracle that these events are taking place at all. “It has been a really hard year for all the Japanese people,” said world No.2 Rafael Nadal. “For people like me, who was here in the past, can make some sense about what happened. The reason why I am here is that I believe Japan is a fantastic country and a safe country. The people are very, very nice and I always send all my support to the people and the country.” Rising star Milos Raonic revealed that he had been following proceedings with a vested interest. “My dad is a nuclear engineer and kept following what has been going on. He kept me up-to-date with the news. I know it has been a really tough time, but I am happy people are getting back to their homes. There is still a lot of work to be done. But I wish all the best to the Japanese people and to the country. It is a very respectful and well mannered country. They treat us so well.” World No. 4 Andy Murray added: “I hadn’t played here for five or six years, but the people look after us really well here. They put on a nice tournament for the players, there are many practice courts and the hotel is very close and convenient. I think that is why they get strong fields and hopefully I will be back a few more times.”

Race for Finals On in Rankings Watch:

With few opportunities remaining to garner rankings points for the upcoming ATP and WTA finals in London and Istanbul, America’s Mardy Fish currently sits in eighth on the South African Airways ATP World Rankings, but Gael Monfils and Tomas Berdych are not far behind him. With Monfils missing both Beijing and Shanghai through injury qualification doesn’t look overly optimistic for him. Nicolas Almagro and Gilles Simon, in 11th and 12th respectively, will not be happy with early exits in Beijing this week as they try to make up ground on those above them. Donald Young enters the Top 50 for the first time this week after reaching the final at Bangkok, while Japan’s Kei Nishikori is in to the Top 50 at No.47, one below his career-best No.46 in May. Germany’s Matthias Bachinger climbs ten to No.88, while Federico Gil, Joao Souza and Tobias Kamke are in to the Top 100. Vera Zvonareva climbs back up to No.3 in the world in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings this week while Petra Kvitova is in to the Top 5 for the first time. Kim Clijsters climbs back in to the Top 8 with Istanbul around the corner, which Francesca Schiavone the unlucky star who falls out of the qualification berths. Ana Ivanovic is back in to the Top 20 at No.18. Iveta Benesova and Christina McHale are in to the Top 50 and Stephanie Dubois and Romina Oprandi are in to the Top 100.

Nadal Back in Action for GOAT Race Points:

With Roger Federer again sidelined by injury Rafael Nadal has earned himself a little more room in the GOAT race as he trundles towards a long-ago evident victory. By entering Tokyo Nadal earns an extra ten points, which makes the scores:

Roger: 1100 Rafa: 1920

Players Back Kendrick Over Ban, Safina to Miss Season’s Close and Federer Not Ready to Stop

Players Back Kendrick:

Many of tennis’ big stars have rallied behind American Robbie Kendrick after he was banned from tennis for 12 months last week by the ITF for failing a doping test. He is set to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport as he claimed he unwittingly ingested the banned substance in a capsule of Zija XM3 he took to help him with jet lag. Amer Delic is one pro to speak out in Kendrick’s support. “Robert will be first one to tell you that he made a mistake, but everyone will tell you that he didn’t do it with an intent to cheat and everyone will also tell you the punishment that he got is way too harsh,” Delic told Tennis.com. “Especially if it’s compared to what Wayne Odesnik has served. Even three months and repaying the money is ridiculous, but he is willing to compromise because all he wants to do is play his last US Open.” In a statement issued by his attorneys, Kendrick also counts players and coaches John McEnroe, Tom Gullikson, John Isner, Robert Ginepri, James Blake, Bobby Reynolds and Michael Russell as supporters. The ITF said that they believed Kendrick hadn’t inhaled the substance deliberately but that it was each player’s responsibility to check all medicines to ensure they don’t contain banned substances. Kendrick hopes to get his ban reduced to three months.

Safina to Miss Season’s Close:

Russian former world No.1 Dinara Safina will miss the rest of the 2011 tennis calendar with a back problem. The 25-year-old has suffered a torrid couple of years and many questioned her dedication to the sport after a humiliating 0-6, 0-6 defeat to Kim Clijsters at the Australian Open in January. “I’m sorry to report that my back is still acting up. I will not be able to play until at least the end of the year,” she told her official website. Earlier this year she had spoken of a possible break, saying: “I’m just tired of fighting with myself. At the moment I can’t do anything tennis-wise. When I can do certain moves without feeling lots of pain, then I would consider resuming my training.”

Ageism no problem for Federer:

Roger Federer may have turned 30 this week but he says he is nowhere near ready to quit. Past greats such as recent Tennis Hall of Fame inductee Andre Agassi have excelled past their 30s; Agassi winning 15 titles, including two Australian Opens, past the big three-o. “I [have] inspiration [from] guys that played for a very long time, like Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Ken Rosewall, Rod Laver, as it’s very inspiring to see what they’ve been able to do,” said Federer. “People tend to say that after a certain time or when you have kids you can’t win any more. I don’t want to say I’m a special case, but I’ve won so much, I feel like if I put myself in the right position, do all the right things, I’ll definitely get a shot again of winning big tournaments.”

Serena Back in the Big Time:

Serena Williams overcame early trouble to secure her first title in over a year after beating France’s Marion Bartoli 7-5, 6-1 in the final at Stanford. The Bank of West Classic is Williams’ 38th title on the WTA Tour and her first tournament in her native America since 2009. She will be delighted with her week, securing a double bagel over Anastasia Rodionova in the first round before securing comfortable wins over Maria Kirilenko, Maria Sharapova and Wimbledon semi-finalist Sabine Lisicki on her route to the championship match. “I haven’t won a tournament that isn’t a Grand Slam in forever, so this is cool,” Williams said. “I’m taking every tournament much more seriously now – not that I didn’t before, but now even more so. “I definitely want to take this whole [US series] swing seriously. Believe it or not, I don’t love the grass and I do love playing on hardcourts, so this is a good time for me to be playing right now.” And speaking of her ranking, she added: “I hated the triple digits. I’ve got to get to single digits though.”

Nadal Up for the Cup:

Spain’s Rafael Nadal says he will be available for his country’s Davis Cup semifinal with France next month. The French Open Champion missed their quarterfinal with the USA to recover from the clay season, but he says if captain Albert Costa wants him, “I’ll be there”.

Petrova Reaches Dizzy Heights at Citi Open:

Russia’s Nadia Petrova won the tenth WTA title of her career last week as she overcame Shahar Peer to win the Citi Open 7-5, 6-2. It completes a remarkable turnaround for the 29-year-old who has suffered a bad 2011, including missing the month before Miami suffering with vertigo. “Before Miami I had vertigo for six weeks. It knocked me off my feet,” she said. “I couldn’t defend my points in the clay court season and felt a little down. I wasn’t in a happy place, but Wimbledon was a turning point for me.” She reached the fourth round at SW19, eventually losing to Victoria Azarenka. “I knew Shahar wasn’t able to hurt me with her serve, especially her second serve, so even though I was broken early in each set I knew I could turn it around,” Petrova said of the final. “I’m happy with my record against her. And today was an important match, going for the title – all I had in my mind was to fight for every point and at the end of the day walk away with the beautiful trophy.”

Oudin to Blame for Form:

2009 US Open quarterfinalist Melanie Oudin says that nobody but herself is to blame for her recent poor form which culminated in a horrendous 0-6, 1-6 loss to Elena Baltacha at San Diego this week. Oudin won the hearts of her nation after beating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova before losing to Caroline Wozniacki at Flushing Meadows in 2009, aged just 17. Since then, though, she hasn’t exactly set the world alight and has complained previously of the pressure America thrusts on her before all the big tournaments. “I feel like it’s about my figuring it out and I can’t get down on myself every time I lose,” she told Tennis.com of her recent struggles. “I don’t feel like it’s somebody else’s fault. Some players when they [don’t] do well, they just blame the coach. But I’m smart enough to realise that it’s not the coach. It’s all on me.”

Blake Ignores his Rising Star:

Despite breaking back in to the Top 100 this year after a horrid stretch of injuries former Top 5 player James Blake says that he doesn’t even look at his own ranking anymore. “It would be like watching the stock market every five minutes: You’d go crazy watching it go up and down and up and down,” the 31-year-old told the Washington Post. “So I just look every once in a while and hope it’s a steady incline.”

Jovanovski Far, Far Away from Home:

Serbian tennis player Bojana Jovanovski ended up 900m away from the tennis center she was supposed to be playing at this week when she traveled to Carlsbad, New Mexico instead of Carlsbad, California for the San Diego Open. She said she only realized her mistake when her transport was not waiting at the airport she landed at. “They said they were at the airport and looking for me,” the world No.53 explained. “I said I was the only person here.” When she eventually got to the right destination, she lost to Italy’s Roberta Vinci 6-3, 4-6, 1-6.

Rankings Watch:

The year is slipping away from us before we know what happened and the first South African Airways ATP World Rankings for August see American Mardy Fish climb above Tomas Berdych to become the new world No.8, equalling his career-best. Spain’s Albert Montanes is in to the Top 50, while Ernests Gulbis climbs 29 places to No.55. Sam Querrey’s decline continues as he drops 23 places to No.72 and Andrey Golubev, Diego Junqueira and Julien Benneteau are all in to the Top 100. The biggest winner in this week’s Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings is former world No.1 Serena Williams who jumps from No.169 to No.79 in the world on the back of her title at Stanford. Italy’s Irina Falconi also has a big leap from No102 to No.81, while Marina Erakovic jumps from No.121 to enter the Top 100.

Ana Ivanovic loses in first round of Roland Garros. Question rises: Where is that champion we used to know?

And sometimes smokes gets in your eyes. Your vision is troubled and you want the player you put your money on (No, I don’t mean live betting) to succeed no matter what.  And that goes for Ana Ivanovic as well. I want her to succeed but I am bummed that she lost to Johanna Larsson from Sweden in three sets 7-6, 0-6, 6-2.  So I am faced with the harsh reality that Ana just isn’t the player she was back in 2008 when she was winning and winning. It’s really too bad and I seriously wonder how it is possible for a player who has the potential to win more than one major in her career can just not get back to her winning ways.

I do think that her struggles with injuries since the beginning of this year has played a big part. First of all her fitness isn’t what it is supposed to be and she never really got back into her groove. The one that won her the Bali tournament in 2010 and we all thought that she was getting back and ready to show some of the top 10 players how tennis played.

Perhaps Ana should take some time off from tennis, like Dinara Safina, and heal up rather than going from injury to injury every month.  Injuries need good time to heal and as much as I love watching Ana on the courts, it’s no fun if you have to watch her struggle. First round exits are becoming all too common and humiliating for a player who can be of great stature.

I still have hopes that some day Ana will be on top of her game and win another major. She has proved that she can play on hardcourt, clay and grass. She has reached deep into the Australian Open, US Open, Wimbledon and has won French Open. There is no reason to think that she can’t do it again. All it takes is a little belief.

Enjoy the photos of Ana practicing at the French Open 2011 and try to forget that it’s the last time we will see her practice for the 2011 edition of Roland Garros.

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Clijsters injured, Nishikori has home in mind and Safina winning again

Paribas Open Ends in Belgian Tears:

Reigning US and Australian Open Champion Kim Clijsters was forced to retire from her BNP Paribas Open encounter with Marion Bartoli with a shoulder injury. The 2003 and 2005 winner took the opening set before calling a trainer on court while trailing 2-1 in the second. With Bartoli taking the next game she decided to call it a day. Her early exit from the tournament ends all hopes the 27-year-old had of regaining the number one world ranking from Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki. Wozniacki won her round of 16 match beating Alisa Kleybanova 2-6, 6-3, 6-1, booking her own place in the quarter-finals and securing top seed in the process. “With those higher shots against the opponent today, I just feel it pinching a little bit more when I have to do that kick serve and when I have to reach that right arm up higher with the forehand,” said Clijsters. “It’s not that I’m really, really worried about it but it is something that I have to pay attention to and that I don’t want to risk.”

Nishikori Thinking of Home:

It must have been a highly difficult task but Japanese star Kei Nishikori took to the court at Indian Wells to face the Russian Igor Andreev just hours after last week’s earthquake and tsunami tore through his homeland. The 21-year-old immediately contacted friends and family when he had heard of the disaster. “I talked to them this morning and they were fine,” he said on Friday. “My town was okay. It wasn’t too bad. But around Tokyo and others, it’s bad.” Despite going down to Andreev he refused to blame what had happened at home for the defeat. “I was shocked yesterday and today, but I have to concentrate on my game. I don’t think it affect[ed] me, but maybe inside my heart I was thinking [of it] a little bit. It was okay.” He wore a black ribbon on-court to honour those who had lost their lives in the tragedy. Russian star Maria Sharapova, who runs a foundation offering scholarships to children from around the Chernobyl area, also spoke of her sympathy for the victims in the wake of the news filtering out of the instability of the nuclear reactors at the Fukushima power plant. “Crazy, right?  Can you believe one disaster 25 years ago?  Now another?” she said. “In terms of what’s going on over there, it’s crazy and something that you can’t even prepare for. It happens, and you see the coverage on it and the videos, and it’s really incredible that something like that can even happen in the world. It opens your eyes, and obviously puts a lot of perspective in your life.  [Japan] is a country where I have very great memories from. I started playing there when I was very young, and I always loved my experiences there. So to see it going on there to its culture and the people, it’s really sad.”

Safina Smiling Again:

Just a month after her flirtation with quitting tennis Dinara Safina was smiling again after a string of good performances at Indian Wells including a 7-6, 6-4 victory over the fourth seed Sam Stosur. In April 2009 the younger sister of the equally enigmatic Marat Safin sat atop of the world but terrible form and niggling injuries have seen her plummet to No.108 in the Sony Ericsson WTA Rankings. In January she suffered a 0-6, 0-6 humiliation at the hands of champion-in-waiting Kim Clijsters in the first round of the Aussie Open but things slowly seem to be picking up again. “Definitely it’s a nice feeling to get [that winning feeling] back,” the 24-year-old told reporters. “It’s been a while since I had these feelings, after winning a match, and you really can smile and enjoy the win. Many things have happened, so I really want just to enjoy the moment. After Australia, it was tough. I said to my mom: ‘I’m retiring’. I said: ‘I don’t want any more of this’. For me it was tough because I knew that I’m gonna start from the next week with a new coach. It was a moment that was going in my mind, like: ‘Will I be back?’ But there is a saying that you never give up.”

Soderling Walking Wounded:

Swedish star Robin Soderling says he should never have taken to the court due to injury after his shock 6-7(8), 4-6 defeat at the hands of Philipp Kohlschreiber. The two-time French Open finalist said he “shouldn’t have done that” when asked about taking to the court. When asked about whether he considered retiring after the first set, throughout which he did at times look extremely uncomfortable, he said: “Yeah, of course. But, you know, I wanted to keep on playing. I didn’t withdraw from many matches in my career. Of course it was tough, but I felt that even though I had some problems, I still had a few set points in the first set. But again, it was maybe stupid to continue play after the first set.” He also said he was unsure whether he would be recovered in time for Miami. “I think it’s pretty stupid to play,” he added. “Hopefully they won’t find anything bad and then I will be able to play [Miami]. But I’m not sure.”

Federer Eyes Opponent’s Serve:

Roger Federer is statistically the greatest player in the sport’s history. Yet he has recently spoken of possible areas where he admires opponents. “A good serve is a good start,” he said. “Then you pick the obvious suspect. The ones who are hitting aces and unreturnable serves and can clutch serve all day. One of those big guys, like John [Isner] or [Ivo] Karlovic or [Andy] Roddick and so forth.  Guys who have proven themselves over a long period of time, of course, and also have variety.” One of his rivals who seems to be able to break his game is Andy Murray. Yet he wasn’t sure trading his one-handed backhand for Murray’s excellent defensive strokes would benefit him. “I don’t know how effective it would be, Murray’s backhand with my game,” Federer added. “My game needs my one-handed backhand, I feel, and I don’t know how his game would work out with my forehand.”

Gonzalez to Return in Belgrade:

Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez says he is aiming to return to the sport at the Serbian Open 2011 in April after recovering from hip surgery. He hasn’t competed since last year’s US Open. Speaking on his Twitter account he said: “My protected ranking is No. 55 and works at nine tournaments or nine months, whichever comes first. Also I confirm a wild card in Belgrade.” The 30-year-old also announced that he was now working with a new coach, former Chilean star Horacio Matta. Elsewhere, David Nalbandian is aiming to return midway through the clay season in order to be ready for Roland Garros. The surgery he underwent on Thursday on his groin and leg was successful. “I am very calm and am confident that I’ll be ready soon to face the rest of the year absolutely fine,” said the world No. 19.

Nadal-Federer Friendship Stays in Locker Room:

World No.1 Rafa Nadal has insisted that despite being great friends off the court he and Roger Federer take their on-court rivalry very seriously. The pair hold 25 Grand Slam singles titles between them yet also host many fundraising events and exhibitions for fans. Despite kicking back together off-court this hasn’t stopped them producing some memorable scraps over the years for the sport’s biggest titles. “We love competition,” said the 24-year-old. “But we understand outside competition [there] is the relationship of outside of the court. [It] doesn’t affect nothing on our performance on court. That’s the most important thing. At the end, we have a good connection together, and that’s why we are always open to do exhibitions or events for our foundations or anything together. I think Roger, for sure he’s a good person, but at the same time he’s a good friend of mine at this moment. For sure, our relationship is getting closer and closer all the time, and I think we are feeling comfortable together.”

Clijsters to Adopt Child:

Belgian supermum Kim Clijsters has spoken of her desire to adopt a child once her glittering tennis career draws to a close, according to CNN. She is the reigning US and Australian Open Champion and one of the sport’s biggest names. But she has widely hinted that this year could be her last and that retirement this time would be permanent. “I have always said that my goal in life is to adopt so that is something that I want to start working on when I am done playing,” she said. “[My husband and I] have a lot of help and we travel with a big group, but I want to try and be as hands on as possible.”

Nadal Not Focussed on Defending Points:

Rafa Nadal says that he is not fazed about defending the vast amount of points he accumulated during last year’s clay-court season as he does not have the same method of thinking as the ranking system does. In 2010 he lifted the titles at Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid as well as yet another French Open title. But he said that just keeping up good form this year is all that matters. “Even if I like or I don’t like, that’s what’s gonna happen. Always the same,” he said. “I don’t have to defend no points, because every season start from zero, and I am focused always. And when I am playing in Monte Carlo, if I do quarterfinals, I win, I don’t know, 160 points, not I am losing 800 points. So that’s how I approach every tournament. For me [at Indian Wells], I defend semifinals; and if I do quarterfinals, my approach is am I losing points? Defend or not defend, doesn’t matter. If I don’t have to defend that points, for sure I’m not gonna be No. 1. I don’t believe about defend points or not. I believe in play well and try to win. You play well, you have chances. If you are not playing well, doesn’t matter if you don’t defend nothing or a lot. You not gonna win.”

Henman: “Kids Aren’t Alright:”

Former world number four Tim Henman has hit out at Britain’s floundering tennis stars for failing to push on after promising junior careers. He also claimed they were the victims of Britain’s “blame the system” culture. Scotland’s Andy Murray continues to challenge at the top of the men’s game while Heather Watson and Laura Robson look like promising talents in the women’s. But there is little else to cheer for as Britain’s Davis Cup team have slumped to the fourth tier of competition. “The players should appreciate how lucky they are with the opportunities they’ve got, and they’ve got to get out there and maximise that,” said the six-time Grand Slam semifinalist. “That’s what success is about and unfortunately in British tennis there are too many people over the years who haven’t maximised their potential.”

Raonic to Inspire Canadians:

As Milos Raonic takes the ATP Tour by storm he has spoken of his intent to raise the profile of tennis in his native Canada. Speaking of his first-round win over Marsel Ilhan of Turkey at Indian Wells he said: “I noticed when I was walking off the court that there were a lot of Canadians in the crowd. I heard people saying ‘I’m Canadian. I’m here. I came down to watch you.’ It means a lot.” He also spoke of his intent to get Canadian youngsters involved in the sport. “Even further down the road, the goal would be all those tremendous talents and athletes you have going into hockey, if they could see really a successful road towards tennis in Canada, they might come this way. There really are some spectacular Canadian athletes, like [ice hockey star Sidney] Crosby, for example, [fellow hockey star Wayne] Gretzky.”

Ivanovic doing it for Herself:

Serbian former world No.1 Ana Ivanovic has ended her brief training arrangement with childhood friend Marija Lojanica in order to take more control of her own career. “We are still friends, but it just was a little bit time for me to consider certain things because we had a little bit of different view of my stage and where I should be at,” Ivanovic said. “I just felt like I needed to get a little bit stronger. I was feeling very weak on the court and I had quite a few injuries. I just want to take a little bit different approach, and gain some more muscles, because my game is so powerful. I felt weak, and that caused a lot of stress on my body.”

Murray Wants Scottish Davis Cup Tie:

World No.5 Andy Murray has spoken of his desire to see Davis Cup tennis played in his Scottish homeland. The 23-year-old pointed towards Stirling as a real possibility as three quarters of the likely GB team to play Luxembourg in July trained at the University courts when they were juniors. “It’s a great venue with an excellent atmosphere which would sell out no problem,” said Murray ahead of the Lawn Tennis Association decision on Monday. “Too often it’s just been the most convenient venue. But if they pick the right venue and get a full passionate crowd, I don’t mind where it is. I think they should just make sure it’s in a place where tennis is in a high demand, because it’s going to be a tough match.”

Watson Holmes-less:

The Lawn Tennis Association has confirmed that Guernsey-born starlet Heather Watson has split from her coach Billy Wilkinson who has overseen her rise from No. 176 to No. 132 in the world.

GOAT Race Update:

Both Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal have entered the business end of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells so their scores are unchanged from last week. Both are looking to score big going in to next week’s column.

Roger: 450 Rafa: 140

Nadal not Feeling Pressure, Safina at a Loss and Djokovic/Murray eye Silverware

*Rafa Nadal insists that there is “no pressure” as he bids to become the first man since Rod Laver to hold all four Slams at the same time. Dubbed the “Rafa Slam,” it is a feat not even his greatest rival Roger Federer has achieved. Speaking before the tournament began he said: “Maybe I am only going to have this opportunity [once] in my career. But [it is] not for that reason I [am] going [to] have the pressure. The pressure is like every Grand Slam, you want to play well in the important tournaments. And for me, having the fourth or not is something that is not in my mind.” He also was quick, as always, to place himself behind R-Fed in the list of favourites to lift the trophy. “I feel if I play at my best level, I can have a chance to be in the second week, and there we will see what happens. Every match will be really difficult, so I have to be ready for everything. But I for sure am feeling less favourite than [Federer] and not more favourite than Djokovic, Murray, Soderling, these kinds of players.”

*Before we can even catch our breath following the Christmas rush we are thrust back in to the hectic world of a Grand Slam and already the headlines are keeping us hooked. Former world No. 1 Dinara Safina collapsed to a 0-6, 0-6 defeat at the hands of No. 3 seed Kim Clijsters in just 44 minutes. Many of her critics are labelling her as finished as the woman who reached the final here in 2009 has won only nine of her last 25 matches since returning from her latest injury setback. “I was sitting in the changeover, and I was like, OK, at least how can I get a chance to hurt her?” said the younger sister of enigmatic men’s star Marat Safin. “Nothing was hurting her, not my backhand, my forehand or my serve. My return, nothing. She was dictating basically from the first point. There was nothing that I could do to hurt her. Embarrassing.” But she has vowed to defy those doubters and fight her way back to the parapet of the game she once sat on top of. “I will give my 100% to get back. I will fight. I will go through whatever it takes,” she added. “But first I want to find answers. I’m fully motivated…I cannot say that I didn’t practise hard but I guess something was not right. I don’t know. I have to figure out the answers.” The full interview, plus Clijsters’ reaction can be seen at the WTA website.

*That result was the sixth ‘double bagel’ of Clijsters’ impressive career. All have come at Grand Slams with four of the six being in Melbourne. They have all come within the first two rounds and all, bar one, have seen her reach at least the semi finals. The omens look good for the Belgian. They read as follows:

2000US OpenMarta Marrero1st2nd
2003Australian OpenPetra Mandula2ndSF
2003WimbledonRossanna de los Rios1stSF
2004Australian OpenMaria Elena Camerin2ndR-Up
2007Australian OpenVasilisa Bardina1stSF
2011Australian OpenDinara Safina2nd?

*Both Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are confident they can lift the 2011 Aussie Open title after coming close to lifting majors in 2010. But they appreciate the fact that they must aim to overcome the top two of Nadal and Federer if they are to achieve this, having had mixed results in previous encounters. Djokovic overcame Roger Federer in the mesmerising US Open seminfal in New York last September before losing to Rafa Nadal in the final. He also lost to Tomas Berdych in the semis at Wimbledon. “They’re the two best players in the world, deservedly,” said The Serb. “Of course, [they are] the two biggest favourites in any tournament they play to win the title. I guess I’m in this small group of players behind them that is trying to challenge them in each event. How far back, I can’t say. To be able to compete with them is a big challenge. Every time we play they take my game as well to another level. They make me play better. In case I get to play them in this tournament, I will look forward to it.” Murray lost the other Wimbledon semi to Nadal whilst he also lost last year’s Melbourne final in straight sets to Federer. He believes that experience will help his assault this time around. “Experience obviously helps,” said the 23-year-old Scot. “I played quite a lot of big matches last year. I went through some very tough patches last year, as well, especially after the Aussie Open. That was something I had to come back from and I learned from. So I think mentally I’m probably in a better place.” The full interviews can be seen on the ATP website.

*Danish beauty Caroline Wozniacki has come under further scrutiny as she begins another Slam looking to lift her first major. The top female star is probably sick of listening to the old “worthy No.1” debates and, even if she won’t admit it, Matt Cronin believes she is showing the signs of stress and strain. “I believe that I’m a really good player,” the 20-year-old said. “I can beat anyone on a good day. If I win, great. If I lose one match, just back on the practice court, work, and get stronger. I think that’s also why I’ve reached the level I’ve reached. I’m never satisfied. I always want to get better. Every time I step on the practice court, I always see things that I want to improve. I think I get frustrated, but I use it in a positive way. That’s the way I’m built.” The full report can be seen at the FOX Sports website.

*It was the match that truly exploded the 2011 tennis season in to life. David Nalbandian overcame feisty home favourite Lleyton Hewitt in a dramatic five-set tussle that reprised the 2005 quaterfinal here, that time Hewitt coming out on top. Visibly exhausted following the late finish, Nalbandian was understandably elated at the shift he had just put in. “It was a very tough first round,” said the Argentine. “We both know it, every time we play it’s long matches, tough ones, he’s a real fighter. He played unbelievable. It’s amazing playing with him in a full stadium, here in Australia. We both had a lot of chances, I was serving for the match, it was that kind of match nobody can forget. Cramping was around all the time, he was too tired as well. I played the two match points, I play incredible, serve and volley, it was amazing, and then after that the match was for both. I can win, I can lose, the match was very close. I was one point to be two break points down in the fourth, so I play very good shots, I didn’t care about it. I win my serve, and that’s helped me, that helped me to win the match. I take that we both fight a lot all the time; it doesn’t matter when we are tired we keep fighting. Today the match was for me, but he can win as well. I take the brave heart that I put today on court.”

*Venus Williams has been sporting yet another bizarre dress Down Under but then, what’s new? With what could best be described as fishing net wrapped around her midriff she has claimed that Lewis’ Carroll’s most famous creation is the inspiration. “The outfit is inspired by Alice in Wonderland,” said the 30-year-old. “It’s kind of about a surprise, because when Alice goes down the rabbit hole, she finds all these things that are so surprising. This outfit is about having a surprise in a tennis dress, and showing some skin and then just having a print. Prints don’t happen that often in tennis. So it’s called the Wonderland dress.” Okay then.

*Former world No, 6 Nicolas Lapentti has retired from tennis, aged 34, after suffering ongoing tendonitis in his knee. He won five ATP Tour singles titles and reached a further seven finals in his 16 years as a professional. “It took me a lot to take the decision,” he said. “I didn’t want to rush; I wanted to be 100 percent sure. I’m leaving tennis without regret. I’ll have a farewell match, but I don’t know when and against whom. I have to get over the injury first.”

*When faced with questions about her longevity Japanese stalwart Kimiko Date Krumm says that it is her husband who will decide how long she prolongs her gargantuan career for. “If my ranking is high enough to play in the Grand Slams I’ll be back next year,” she said. “I’ll just have to check with my husband first. We only spent about a month together in total last year.”

*Fundraising for the flood victims of Queensland, Australia has topped the $1.8m mark following another charity event organised by the gracious Roger Federer on Sunday. Rally For Relief was a 90-minute-long friendly extravaganza featuring many of the sport’s top stars. Pat Rafter captained the Green Team which featured the Andy’s Roddick and Murray, Viktoria Azarenka, Vera Zvonereva, Kim Clijsters and Rafa Nadal. The Gold Team was led by home favourite Lleyton Hewitt and featured the talents of Novak Djokovic, Ana Ivanovic, Justine Henin, Caroline Wozniacki, Roger Federer and Sam Stosur. Players rotated round court and even took turns as line judges while US Davis Cup captain Jim Courier oversaw proceedings from the umpire’s chair. As usual, players were miked up and fired quips as sharp as their groundstrokes across the net much to the delight of the 15,000 present at the Rod Laver Arena. The event finished with an all-Aussie encounter as Hewitt battled Rafter before Nadal and Clijsters faced Federer and Stosur in mixed doubles.

*Former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic has blamed her pre-tournament injury disruptions for her first round crash at Melbourne Park. “For the last 10 days I couldn’t push hard in practice because of my abdominal strain,” said the Serb, who was forced to withdraw from the Hopman Cup with the problem. “I had [only] really Sunday and Monday that I could push a little bit more, and the first couple days that I could actually serve. I think that at the end got to me. It’s a ten-day strike before the Slam.”

*Maria Sharapova has been discussing her recent split with long-term coach Michael Joyce publicly, Thomas Hogstedt taking over the reigns. “After a really long period of time, I think a few things become a routine,” said the 23-year-old, who describes Joyce as “like a brother” and who will continue to look after him financially. “I think from both of our perspectives it was really a good move to bring in a new voice, a fresh perspective into the team. Obviously it’s different not having him at a tournament after so many years. But it’s part of an athlete’s career…It’s been going really well with Thomas. I like the work ethic that he’s brought on the court. I’m happy so far, but you never know where things will take you.”

*Nadia Petrova insists she is in no rush to find a new coach having been “single” since the off-season. “Frankly, I’m in no hurry to get a new coach because I’ve been on tour for so long,” said the Russian. “What I need is a regular hitting partner.”

*Swiss star Patty Schnyder says she is unsure how long she will continue to play tennis after bombing out of the Aussie Open at the first hurdle. “I haven’t made any commitments beyond the next one or two months,” she said. “I’ll play Fed Cup against Israel and then Doha and Dubai. After that I don’t know.”

*Former player and founding member of the ATP, Jim McManus, 70, has passed away of medical complications brought about by his recent fight with cancer. Before the ATP was established McManus twice featured in the Top 10 American players in both singles and doubles. In 1968 he and Jim Osbourne reached the semifinals at the US Open, probably his greatest moment as a player. But it is after retirement that he really made his mark. Employed by the ATP for 28 years he worked on rankings, tournament representation and development, pension plans, player entries, the Senior Tour and alumini services as well as being one of the original Board of Directors. “It is with great sadness that we learn of Jim’s passing,” said Adam Helfant, the ATP’s Executive Chairman and President. “From his early days as a player, and later as a founding member of the ATP, Jim was always regarded as a true pioneer of the game of tennis. On behalf of the ATP, I can say that men’s tennis has truly lost one of its greatest and most significant figures.”

*There is an interesting piece written on Maria Sharapova and how her recent engagement could affect both her playing career and her assets in comparison to former Russian pinup Anna Kournikova. It is written by Mark Hodgkinson of The Daily Telegraph in London and can be read at the website for the Montreal Gazette.

*The GOAT race enters week two with both Roger and Rafa competing at this year’s Australian Open. Both gain 20 points for their troubles and have the chance to add mega bucks to their totals next week.

Roger: 230, Rafa: 80

Kim Clijsters Offers Caroline Wozniacki some Friendly Advice

Anyone else followed Caroline Wozniacki at the Aussie Open? Well  I have and I have been reading reports too from others. First of all, I disagree with all the critics who say she doesn’t deserve to be number one because she has not won a major. The number 1 spot doesn’t necessarily mean that you need a major and that’s what Jelena Jankovic proved and Dinara  Safina and now it’s Caroline Wozniacki who proves it. A major does look good on your list of won tournaments, I have to admit that.

The media are all over Wozniacki at the moment and try to add pressure for her to win her first Grand Slam tournament. Caroline however keeps her cool but things from the Wozniacki camp tell a different story and that Wozniacki is indeed nervous and does let what the media says get to her. But all that pressure comes with being the number one of the world. It is something she will have to get through.

Kim Clijsters offers some good advice for Little Miss Sunshine. In an interview conducted by Reuters, Clijsters comments that Wozniacki must play it smart to reach her full potential and wondered if it was necessary to play so many tournaments a year (Wozniacki played 22 tournaments in 2010).

“So I wonder maybe it’s not the smartest choice (to play so many events).

“You need to peak and make goals and not worry about money or points here and there. But it will happen. She’s young, she’ll learn.”

Speaking of her own experience about the media, being number and not having won a Grand Slam tournament yet Clijsters said the following:

“Somebody will always be targeted for that,” Clijsters told Reuters in an interview at the Australian Open On Thursday.

“Is it unfair? It’s not something that happens out of the blue or that’s only her. I was in the same situation. I was younger than Caroline probably and you have to deal with it!”

“Dealing with that pressure is not always that easy,” said the 27-year-old. “After a while you start doubting yourself just because of what you have to answer in the media.

“I do feel that (she’s) very close. She hasn’t been on the tour for many years and she’s already at number one.

“She will gradually grow into that role where she’s on top of the women’s game and winning grand slams, or a very big contender.”

To read the full interview with Clijsters  , click here

What are your thoughts regarding the media pressure on Caroline Wozniacki? Drop us a line by using the comment box. For now enjoy the photos of Caroline Wozniacki at the Australian Open.

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