Dinara Safina

Roger Federer Named in Lawsuit

From the Australian Open to the US Open, I couldn’t get enough tennis. It seemed like there was a constant stream of news. I was attending tournaments almost monthly and if I wasn’t watching in person, I was glued to the TV. For those of you in Europe, I highly recommend a subscription to the online Eurosport player. They provide great tennis coverage, much better than what we have here in the US. Anyway, the last month has been tough for me, not because of my crazy schedule or copious amounts of work, but because I’m going through tennis withdrawal. My favorite blogs are only updated every few days, my twitter feed is as silent as I’ve ever seen it, and if I want to watch a match I have to stay up until 3am.

Luckily, next week the ATP tour moves back to Europe and I can stop being nocturnal. Even better, there’s actually been news. The last few weeks have been pretty boring. Rafa won another tournament. Yeah, that’s not really news anymore. Serena Williams claimed she was coming back at Linz and then tweeted that she was actually wrapping up the year instead. I guess that’s kind of news, but who didn’t see that coming?

Anyway, let’s talk about some of this week’s developments.

First up, Caroline Wozniacki has reopened the infamous WTA #1 debate. After winning the Beijing tournament Caro topped Serena Williams for the number one spot even though Wozniacki remains winless at Grand Slam events. I thought we exhausted this debate when Jelena Jankovic was #1, and then again when Dinara Safina was #1, but I was wrong. Everyone had to weigh in all over again and I was actually quite surprised by the overwhelming criticism of the adorable Dane. As far as I’m concerned the numbers don’t lie. She won the points and deserves the credit. Plus, Caroline Wozniacki has won as many tournaments this year as Serena Williams has played. Don’t tell me she doesn’t deserve this.

Nadal lost in Shanghai. I think there was actually more press about his loss to Jurgen Melzer than the fact that he won last week’s tournament. Frankly Nadal can afford to spread the wealth a little when it comes to winning and this was pretty darn impressive for Jurgen Melzer, who has never beaten Rafa before. Also, a great way for Melzer to underscore the point I made in my article a couple of weeks ago that the older players keep getting better. If he keeps playing this way, Jurgen actually has a reasonable chance of making the World Tour Finals.

Roger Federer was named in a betting lawsuit. Apparently the owner of IMG, Fed’s management firm, upped his bet on Fed to win the 2006 French Open final based on a tip. The IMG guy may be guilty or he may not, but I honestly don’t believe Fed had anything to do with this. Roger addressed the situation in his latest press conference, saying he was unconcerned as there was no truth whatsoever to the claim.

Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic are parting ways next year. If you don’t follow doubles, this means nothing to you. However, these guys are the number two doubles team and have won three Grand Slam titles together. Nestor will play with Max Mirnyi next year and more interestingly, Zimonjic will pair up with Michael Llodra. I’m pretty intrigued by this second pair. Nenad only plays doubles so I’m a little surprised he chose a partner that is currently a high ranked singles player.

Andy Roddick is injured, again. Poor Andy just can’t catch a break. He was forced to withdraw from his first match in Shanghai against Guillermo Garcia Lopez with a leg injury. He hopes to be back for Basel and almost certainly for Paris, but it’s going to be an uphill battle to make it to the World Tour Finals this year. Roddick looked pretty torn up about his withdrawal in Shanghai and I can’t blame him. Andy’s bestie Mardy Fish is also out, with some kind of ankle injury. Hopefully they both make a full recovery and we’ll see an American back in the Top 10 soon.

In weird tennis news, Ana Ivanovic was docked an entire game worth of points during a match in Linz. Apparently she had to leave the court to throw up but wasn’t given permission. It turns out the game was insignificant since Ana won quite convincingly, but you’ve got to think this was a little unfair. Would the ref have preferred she throw up on court?

Well, that’s a wrap for this week’s tennis news. Plus, it’s 3am and I’d really like to catch the Djokovic/Garcia Lopez match. I’ll be back next week, hopefully with something a little more interesting.

Will They Ever Win…Again?

A tennis player’s career is defined by Grand Slam competition. Whether it’s fair or not, even players who win tons of titles or attain the world number one ranking will go down in history beneath those who are talented or lucky enough to win one of the coveted Slam titles. This means that an entire year’s worth of work usually boils down to just eight weeks of results.

All things considered, Ana Ivanovic and Dinara Safina have enjoyed similar careers. They’re only two years apart in age. Both have achieved the world number 1 ranking. Both have competed in three Grand Slam finals. Recently, both women have shared a similar dive in the rankings. However, with all of these similarities, one huge difference defines the careers of these two women. They faced each other in the 2008 French Open final and Ana scored her first and only Grand Slam victory. Regardless of what turns her career took after Roland Garros ’08, Ana Ivanovic will go down in the history books as a Grand Slam champion while Dinara Safina will be dragged out as a sad statistic for underachievers. Now, before I get a deluge of angry comments from both Ana and Dinara fans, I fully realize that both of these women are still young and active on the tour. It’s certainly possible that one of them could score another Slam victory before they retire; however, as it stands, this is the situation.

Because Slams are so important for a player’s career, it’s only natural to speculate on which players will win and which will come up short. I’ve compiled a list of some of the most talked about cases and answered the all important question, ‘will they ever win?’ or ‘will they ever win again?’

First up, let’s look at some players who’ve come awfully close to taking home one of those coveted trophies, but in the end came up second best. Will they ever win?

Andy Murray

Will he win? Yes.

Frankly the whole Andy Murray argument is what spurred me to write this article. Murray’s been as high as number 2 in the world and has been camped out in the top 4 for the better part of the last two years. He’s made the finals at both the US Open and the Australian Open, falling easily to Roger Federer both times. Even after his defeat at this year’s Aussie Open, journalists were asking “When will Andy Murray win a Slam?” Lately, journalists have been asking “Will Andy Murray win a Slam?” Those are two very different questions. Andy Murray certainly hasn’t gotten worse in the past two years, in fact his fitness and conditioning has made him stronger than ever. Lately, he just doesn’t seem to have ‘it,’ whatever illusive factor makes Federer and Nadal so incredible at Grand Slams. Murray’s proved capable at beating both of them, just not on tennis’ biggest stages. Well, I disagree with the commentators. Andy’s only 23 and while he may have battle past Rafael Nadal for the entirety of his career, at some point Nadal will falter and Murray will win a major.

Robin Soderling

Will he win? Yes.

I wavered a lot of this one. Robin was a fairly unheard of commodity before the 2009 French Open, where he beat 4 time defending champion Rafael Nadal and made his first Grand Slam final. Everyone was convinced this was one of those one time dream runs, but then he did it again. French Open 2010 rolled around and for the second year he beat the defending champion, this time Roger Federer, before making his second consecutive French Open final. Since then, Soderling also made the quarter finals at both Wimbledon and the US Open. Robin’s had the misfortune of meeting Roger Federer at almost every turn when it comes to Grand Slams. Frankly, only Andy Roddick has been less lucky in this respect. However, one day, Roger Federer isn’t going to be on the other side of the net and Robin will get lucky. Probably.

Vera Zvonareva

Will she win? No.

Bepa’s great and she’s had an amazing breakout year, making two consecutive Grand Slam finals at Wimbledon and the US Open. Pre-Wimbledon, I wouldn’t even have considered putting her name on this list, so she’s definitely doing something right. However, no matter how well she played leading up to the final, it didn’t seem to stop her from self destructing. Mentally, I’m just not sure that Bepa has the strength to make it through all seven matches en route to a Grand Slam title.

Caroline Wozniacki

Will she win? Yes.

Caroline’s only 20 years old. She’s already made one Grand Slam final and she’s about to take over the world number 1 ranking, and while that certainly doesn’t guarantee Caro will win a Grand Slam, her resume’s pretty strong. She made the semifinals at this year’s US Open as the number one seed and I was very impressed with her return game. Overtime, I think Caroline’s game will continue to improve and best of all, she’s got youth on her side. The eight year age gap with Serena Williams means that she’ll have plenty of Slam opportunities with a Serena-less draw.

While one Slam is plenty impressive, when it comes to winning, more is better. So, will these former champions be able to add to their totals?

Novak Djokovic

Will he win again? Yes.

From the 2005 French Open to Wimbledon 2009 (18 Slams,) Novak Djokovic was the only man aside from Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to win a Grand Slam title. He played an incredible match against Roger Federer at this year’s US Open and took Nadal to four sets in the final. At 23, he’s got plenty more opportunities to win. Let’s just hope that one of the Slams is unseasonably cool.

Roger Federer

Will he win again? Yes.

This is probably the biggest debate in tennis right now. Roger Federer is 29. His amazing semifinal streak ended at this year’s French Open and he only won two titles so far this year, although one of them was the Australian Open. Well, Fed’s doubters are fools. Even if he only plays for another 2 years (he definitely wants to compete in the 2012 Olympics,) that’s 8 more chances at a 17th Grand Slam title. He’s won 16 on the last 30 Grand Slams. Do you really want to bet against him?

Andy Roddick

Will he win again? No.

It kills me to write this. I still tear up watching footage of the 2009 Wimbledon final. Just kidding, kind of. However, I’ve come to the realization that, at 28, it’s likely that Roddick will never win that illusive second major title. Last year, I would’ve given him a chance, but I think Wimbledon was the straw that broke the camel’s back. That was potentially the best match Andy ever played and the defeat was clearly and understandably crushing. Andy has been unlucky enough to play the most matches against Roger Federer of any guy on tour with a lopsided head to head of 2 to 19, including four major finals, all won by Federer. When he finally decides to call it a day, I think Roddick will still be known as a one Slam winner, the 2003 US Open champion. Here’s hoping I’m wrong.

Maria Sharapova

Will she win again? No.

I started tossing around ideas for this article a week ago and I originally had Maria down as a yes. She’s three time major champion and just 23 years old, even though it seems like she’s been around forever. At that age, with that resume, it’s hard to believe that she won’t win again. I really thought that this year’s US Open was her chance. Her serve looked slightly more consistent and she had a pretty good draw. But then she lost to Caroline Wozniacki. I was still optimistic. However, Masha crashed out of Tokyo to Kimiko Date Krumm, who’s 40, yes 40. Since then, Maria’s decided to end her 2010 season. I’m just not sure that physically or mentally she’s ever going to get back to her old form. Maria’s titles came at Wimbledon in 2004, the US Open in 2006, and the Australian Open in 2008. By virtue of the pattern, she really should have won this year’s French Open. I’m kidding, but that would’ve been awesome.

Venus Williams

Will she win again? No.

This one should be fairly obvious. She’s 30 and she has knee problems. She’ll wow us with crazy outfits for another couple years and eventually call it quits.

I’m sure you’ve realized I’ve left some pretty famous names off the list. There’s no question in my mind that Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal will both win more majors, so I didn’t even bother including them. Did I miss out on your favorite? Feel free to let me know who you think will win, or who won’t. Comment below, or tweet me @achangeofends.

The WTA Tour Goes Samurai Style at the Toray Pan Pacific!

Anyone ever noticed the similarities between tennis and Samurai sword fighting? It both takes a lot of skill to begin with.  With powerful swings and skill and elegance you try to find a way to tear down your opponents defense while at the same time you give nothing away.

That’s what I was thinking of when I saw the pics of the ladies at the Toray Pan Pacific tournament.

Gisela Dulko, Jelena Jankovic both participated.

The Toray Pan Pacific always has a strong field and this year isn’t any different.  US Open runner up Vera Zvonareva, US Open semifinalist Caroline Wozniacki as well as former winners Maria Sharapova, Dinara Safina and Kimiko Date-Krumm will also play in Tokyo.

Serena Williams retracted from the Toray Pan Pacific tournament due to the slow recovery process of her right foot that forced her out of the US Open as well as other events.

We wish her the best.

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Extra bonus pics of Maria Sharapova practicing in Tokyo:

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And please take a vote in our poll:

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Elena Dementieva Returns…And Wins

By Luís Santos

Games, Set and Match, Dementieva. These were the final words of Elena’s first match since Roland Garros where she was forced to retire due to a calf injury. She missed the entire grasscourt season including Wimbledon and was staging her comeback at Stanford drawing veteran Kimiko Date Krumm.

It was a bitter ending to what could have been her first Grand Slam title after the likes of Henin, Serena Williams and other direct rivals were all sent packing early on. But injury would slow Dementieva down and force her to retire during the second set.

But fresh of 8 weeks of rest and world traveling to visit friends and family, Dementieva is back on track, back to training and as fit as ever, ready to shake the rust off and flourish in one of her favorite parts of the season – the US Open Series, which she won last year.

Her first hurdle came in the shape of Kimiko Date Krumm, a time capsule of tennis so to speak, a player blasted away from the 90s and a complete headache to another Russian – Dinara Safina. Safina has gone 0-2 since Date returned including a loss in the first round of Stanford. Dementieva was not fazed though and after a first set hiccup, she regrouped and won 3-6 6-3 6-4.

Elena now awaits the winner of the match between Maria Sharapova and Olga Govortsova in hopes of fighting for a semifinal spot.
Let’s hope Elena can make a revival of the tennis that saw her claim the Series last year and fortunately go one tournament better this year – the US Open.

THE UNICEF OPEN PICTORIAL – PART ONE

Photographer Ralf Reinecke is currently attending the UNICEF Open in The Netherlands for TennisGrandstand. This means lots of photos of lots of good players in the next few days.

And I will start off right here with a whole bunch taken yesterday in sunny Rosmalen. Justine Henin, Dominika Cibulkova, Dinara Safina and Anastasia Rodionova and more all feature in this wonderful pictorial!

Thanks Ralf Reinecke and keep ’em coming!

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STOSUR UNDER PRESSURE: THE CHRONICLES OF THE LIONESS, THE DUMP TRUCK, AND THE CITY OF LOVE

Peter H. Nez

The women’s game is back! A return to elegance, a return to charm, a return to that sweet display of all-court fastidiousness and unabashed attack. A return to women who actually know how to serve. A return to likeability? Yes, I said it… Sam Stosur and Francesca Schiavone are likeable women, unlike others on tour. In an era of women’s tennis where question marks and strained TV ratings were plaguing the WTA Tour, an era that witnessed inconsistency and unfulfilled prophecies, one Dinara Safina comes to mind, an era that produced infidelity amongst usual loyal fans, I know I fast forwarded most of the women’s matches on my TiVo, we have a mighty welcomed return to the game’s true spirit in Stosur and Schiavone. What a great story these two have inspired in the last week and a half of play at Roland Garros.


 

I remember back in 2006 when I was watching a young Sam Stosur play in a doubles match at Indian Wells, and wondering to myself, “Why doesn’t Sam have a great singles record?” My friend I was with at the tournament, a very knowledgeable tennis player himself, agreed. She had all the tools, all the weapons, and a mental adjunct that seemed appropriately balanced and tantrum-free. I think I can safely say that we will never see Sam Stosur violently shaking her fist at any unassuming linesperson ever, and I mean EVER. Sam is just too professional for that, too decent, one could even say. Yes, there is something very likeable about Stosur, almost something angelic about her. In her visage on court one can see the fierce determination, coupled with the vulnerability that we see in the likes of past champions like Navratilova, Evert, and even Nadal maybe. There is a sweet innocence about her, which really comes out in interviews. She has the quiet Lioness in her, which roars and bellows when on court, flexing those very toned, and shapely arm muscles, that are very female, whipping her cyclone kick serve, which compliments this surface so well, and bashing ground strokes past her bewildered opponents, but then is reduced to a soft kitten when the spotlight is shone on her, flashing that shy, vibrant smile, almost ashamed of what she has accomplished, much like Nadal in that matter – very understated.

To get past Henin was a big enough feat, but to maul through the likes of Serena “I should be playing on the ATP Tour” Williams, is another thing entirely. Herein lies the divide: On one side of the net, you have the indomitable one, the dump truck, the entourage, the glitz and glamour, the cell phoneitis, the fashion, the diva, the attitude, the limousines, the rappers, the basketball stars, Miami, the cars, and money. And across from that you have the grace, the humility, the honor, the girl from down under, the water and breeze, the harmony of the elements, the silent assassin, the shape and fit, the look, the grace, the Lioness. I felt like I was watching the resurrection of what used to be, what should always be. The Gods are not crazy after all. Stosur moved beautifully, served like a top women’s player should serve, and didn’t seem to look back, or wonder what if at all. After the first set went Stosur’s way, and then the break in the second, one could almost sense the turning of the tide, not just in this match, not just in this tournament, not just in women’s tennis, but a shift back to a realer way of life, a realer way of carrying oneself, a dignified return to nobility in a game as old as time.

Then the screech in the skies erupted, the clouds returned, the dark matter unfolded yet again: Stosur got broken in the ninth game (the first time in the entire match) when she was serving for the match. Navratilova, who was commentating for the match foreboded another gloomy meltdown from another woman, who shoulda, woulda, and coulda… History was against Stosur, her record against Williams worked upon her psyche, she would have to self induce a lobotomy psychosomatically if she was to have a chance of forgetting that missed opportunity. Everybody who plays tennis, both recreationally and professionally knows what Stosur was going through. You feel sick, you want to break something, yell at a kitten, smash your head against the wall, dig a hole right underneath you and wait till dawn to reappear. Well, there goes her chance, the collective psyche of the tennis world communicated. No way was Serena going to lose now. And after coming back to take the second set, it seemed inevitable. With her trademark Yelp, and fist pumping, confidence reemerged in Serena’s serve, and her ground strokes. Poor Stosur was all I could think, all anyone was thinking. Except for Stosur herself. It was remarkable to witness. Stosur fought against the will of the Earth, she wasn’t going to listen to those booming expletives resounding in her head, she washed the doubt away with her Roland Garros towel, grit her teeth, picked up her weapon and fought with the entire pride riding on her shoulders. She didn’t care if God was on her side or not. She played with destiny like it was a ball of putty in her hand, like a Lioness playfully batting a baby gazelle, before taking a big chomp. It almost seemed that in her disposition she was saying to herself, “Well, what are you gonna do Sam? Just walk away, or go out with blood trickling from your feet?” The result speaks the choice she obviously made, and it was the first time in a long time that I yelled and jumped in the air for a women’s match in years. Against all odds, against all prospective bets, against the no. 1 player in the world, Sam Stosur showed what it takes to be a true champion. And after whomping Jankovic in the semis, it’s her tournament to take. And we will all be there watching, maybe the most watched women’s final in years. Maybe then, will the true Queen of the jungle be crowned.

WOMEN FALL LIKE DOMINOS IN MADRID

The clay courts of the Madrid Open have provided some shock exits in the first round this week, with Justine Henin, Dinara Safina, Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova falling like dominos to the dismay of tournament chairman Manuel Santana, who breathed a sigh of relief as top seed Serena Williams managed to survive a match point to get through her first match of the tournament against Vera Dushevina, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 – lasting a mammoth 3 hours and 26 minutes.

The American world No. 1 looked on her way out of the clay event when the unseeded Russian had a match point at 6-5 in the second set. Visibly chastising herself on court and appealing wildly to her father and coach Richard Williams in the stands, she miraculously summoned her enormous willpower to claw her way back and take the deciding set despite having a long treatment break for what appeared to be right thigh and lower back problems. She revealed “After so long on the court, I was saying to myself, ‘You’d better win this thing’”.

After squandering one match point with a wild backhand at 6-4 on the third set tie break, a ninth ace on the next point provoked a primal cry of joy from the 28 year old, who said “When I shout like that, it’s just to get energised. I need my emotion to help me play better.” She is now on course to meet Russian sixth seed Elena Dementieva in the last eight. Her sister, fourth-seeded Venus Williams also downed Swiss qualifier Stefanie Voegele 6-4, 6-2 to proceed.

Meanwhile, Aravane Rezai of France beat Justine Henin. 4-6, 7-5, 6-0, who revealed she had not fully recovered after falling ill following her win at the Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart last weekend, her first title since coming out of retirement.

Lucia Safarova of the Czech Republic defeated Russian bombshell Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-3 to the disappointment of her male fans in Madrid. The leggy blonde commented “It’s a struggle trying to find the rhythm…I thought she played really solid, good tennis and did everything she needed to win the match. More solid than me anyway.”

Israel’s Shahar Peer recorded the biggest upset, defeating the reigning French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 2-6, 6-0 after the Russian dropped serve six times in the match and said “I’ve been playing well since the beginning of the year. Even the matches I’m losing, it’s just a point here and a point there. I’ve been working very hard on my game the last two years and I saw the fruits starting to come last summer. I’m playing with a lot of confidence right now.”

Dinara Safina’s preparations for the French Open took a serious knock after she lost 7-6, 7-6 to Czech qualifier Klara Zakopalova in the first round. The defending champion claimed seven breaks of serve, but the 28-year-old from Prague dominated the tiebreaks only allowing Safina one point in the first, and three in the second. Despite being the runner up in the last two French Open finals, Safina struggled on the clay and has slipped from three to five in the updated WTA rankings on Monday.

Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach. 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.

THREE DAYS OF PORSCHE GRAND PRIX, THREE DAYS OF PHOTOS

Our photographer Ralf Reinecke is still in Stuttgart covering the tournament and providing you with the top of the notch photos.  Ralf Reinecke provided us pics of Dinara Safina’s birthday, Anke Huber presenting the new Porsche Grand Prix award and matches. Ofcourse many many matches that include Justine Henin, Gisela Dulko and Li Na.

The Gisela Dulko photos were a special request from the guys at GiselaDulko.net. If we can fill in request then we will. So there you go, guys! Enjoy the Dulko pics.

Other than that the tournament so far has been exciting with many surprise upsets. Caroline Wozniacki, I have to note that she is injured, Victoria Azarenka out and the most surprising exit is Dinara Safina’s. But I really hope that she remained injury free this week and found back her mojo. So that she can keep playing tennis. I mean let’s be real here: What would the WTA Tour be without her?  You let me know by commeting down below.

Now here we go with the photos of Stuttgart.  Credit to Ralf Reinecke.

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DINARA SAFINA QUITTING? I HOPE NOT!

More photos from Stuttgart. Our photographer, Ralf Reinecke, attended the opener of the Porsche Grand Prix last night in Stuttgart. He came back with gorgeous photos of Gisela Dulko, Ana Ivanovic, Agnieszka Radwanska, Victoria “Vika” Azarenka and many more.

Now I am wondering with so much beauty gracing the courts in Stuttgart this week, will we ever have a dull moment? I think not!  And I think many would agree with me here.

However there are some concerning reports from Stuttgart. Dinara Safina is thinking of quitting the WTA Tour if her injuries persist.  I do share the concerns of Dinara Safina’s but I sincerely hope that she will remain pain free this week and enjoys the game. It would be bad for her to quit now. But then again a certain Belgian, Kim Clijsters, quit a few years ago as well citing the many injuries as one of the reasons of retirement and she made a succesful come back.  Perhaps Dinara Safina can pull a Kim Clijsters as well and, might she retire, make a come back in a few years.

“I am glad to be here, this is my first big test after having come back from my injury,” Safina said. “My physio is here and I really want to take it step by step. I only started playing on court again on April 3.

“Everybody, including my brother Marat (Safin), told me to take my time but it was really difficult because I wanted to come back on court so badly.

“Right now I feel safe and comfortable, but I need to watch closely that it stays that way.

“My back injury is the worst you can get, because if things go wrong again, that might be it for my professional career altogether.”

Safina was the world number one exactly a year ago, when she reached the final in Stuttgart, but 12 months on she now realises how much she loves the game after her enforced lay-off.

“There is no way that you can go easy on a lower back injury,” she added.

“With a broken arm or leg, you can rest it, but with your back it is almost impossible. It has made me realise how much I love tennis.

“I just want to get back on court. Regarding things like rankings, titles, defending points – who really cares?”

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ALL ACCESS HOUR IN STUTTGART

So we managed to get credentialed for the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix tournament in Stuttgart. We sent in our funky photographer who goes by the name of Rollin’ Ralf Reinecke (guys I just love alliteration) to the tournament and he gave us some really good stuff.

We got photos of Caroline Wozniacki, Victoria Azarenka, Ana Ivanovic and Dinara Safina at the All Access Hour.

Enjoy the photos! I sure did…

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