Play is already in full swing as qualifiers took to the courts for their matches, and top players like Juan Martin del Potro, Andrea Petkovic and Tommy Haas hit the practice courts on a hot weekend in Washington, D.C. to kick off the Citi Open.
Check out the full gallery from opening weekend, including other players like Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, Irina Falconi, Jessica Pegula, Rhyne Williams, Donald Young, Christian Harrison, Caroline Garcia, Matt Ebden, and Sloane Stephens.
Gallery by Tennis Grandstand photographer Christopher Levy.
TALLAHASSEE, FL, May 2, 2013 – The red, white and blue rolled on Thursday at the Tallahassee Tennis Challenger.
No. 2 seed Ryan Harrison played some of his best tennis of the week at the $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit event, beating fellow American Donald Young 7-6 (5), 6-4 to book a place in the semifinals at Forestmeadows Tennis Complex.
Harrison is joined by two other Americans – No. 7 seed Denis Kudla and defending champion Tim Smyczek – as well as Cedrik-Marcel Stebe of Germany in the semifinals.
Alex Kuznetsov, who earned the Har-Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge birth in the French Open Wednesday, retired in his evening match against Smyczek, a close friend, with a shoulder injury. The No. 5 seed Smyczek was leading 6-4.
The day, however, was all about Harrison, who gave a spirited fist pump following a back-and-forth battle with Young, who won this title in 2011.
“The biggest thing I was trying to do was just stay calm, stay focused, and keep after it,” Harrison said of his win. “We’re both young, American, and have played a few matches against each other; so there was a little bit of competitiveness going on. I would say it was a tough win.”
It was a tough win for Kudla, who took down Facundo Arguello of Argentina 7-6 (3), 6-4. Arguello has been hot during the last few weeks, winning seven of nine matches leading up to Thursday.
The Cinderella story of the tournament has been Stebe, who as an unseeded player has won three straight matches to book his place in the semifinals. The German beat 2012 finalist Frank Dancevic 6-4, 6-3 to earn the right to play Smyczek.
In doubles, the American duo of Sekou Bangora and Reid Carleton were winners over Takura Happy and Salif Kante of Florida A&M University, booking a semifinal spot. They’ll be joined by Greg Jones and Peter Polansky, who beat former Florida State University standouts Jean-Yves Abone and Vahid Mirzadeh in the evening session.
Harrison, the world No. 81, is looking for his ninth straight win after capturing the Savannah title last week. The 20 year old won eight in a row in 2009 at a futures event then a challenger in California.
“I came out today, and I was ready to play. I feel a lot more energetic,” said Harrison, who has been as high as No. 43 in the world. “This is my eighth straight match win. The biggest thing I have to focus on is just tomorrow. You can’t think about the finals or two more before you get through the next one. I’ve played Dennis before. He’s tough, he’s a great competitor, and he’s playing well. I’m excited about the match, and that what I’m going to be focusing on.”
Harrison and Kudla will play their semifinal during the evening session, following doubles at 6 pm. Smyczek and Stebe are set for an afternoon tussle.
RESULTS – MAY 2, 2013
Singles – Quarterfinals
 Ryan Harrison, United States, def. Donald Young, United States, 7-6 (5), 6-4
 Tim Smyczek, United States, def. Alex Kuznetsov, United States, 6-4, Ret.
 Denis Kudla, United States, def. Facundo Arguello, Argentina, 7-6 (3), 6-4
Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, Germany, def. Frank Dancevic, Canada, 6-4, 6-3
Doubles – Quarterfinals
Sekou Bangoura and Reid Carleton, United States, def. [WC] Takura Happy, Senegal, and Salif Kante, Senegal, 6-3, 6-2
Greg Jones, Australia, and Peter Polansky, Canada, def. Jean-Yves Aubone and Vahid Mirzadeh, United States, 6-3, 6-4
Daily updates on this tournament can be found at www.procircuit.usta.com and www.tallahasseechallenger.com. Live streaming is also available on www.procircuit.usta.com. The tournament can be followed on Facebook at “USTA Tallahassee Tennis Challenger” and on Twitter @TallyChallenger or by using the #TallyChallenger hashtag.
The tournament is part of the Har-Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge and can be followed on Twitter at #USTAHarTruWC and www.USTAHarTruWC.com.
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (April 6, 2013) – UCLA recruit Mackenzie McDonald will attempt to become the first boys’ 18s back-to-back winner since Grey King in 1971-72 as the 46th annual ASICS Easter Bowl, the nation’s elite junior tennis tournament, begins on Sunday.
The ASICS Easter Bowl will be played for the first time at the Sunrise Country Club just down the road from its former home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. The ASICS Easter Bowl is a USTA National Spring Championships in boys’ and girls’ 14s and 16s and an International Tennis Federation Grade 1 level tournament in the 18s.
McDonald is also attempting to become a three-time winner of the event, having previously won the boys’ 14s in 2009. In recent years, Donald Young did the same, winning the 14s and then the boys’ 18s twice in 2004 and 2006. Other past winners of the 18s title include Sam Querrey, Michael Russel and Robby Ginepri on the boys’ side and Taylor Townsend, Christina McHale, and Melanie Oudin on the girls’ side.
Once again this year, the winner of the boys’ and girls’ 18s this year will receive a wild card into the main draw at the US Open Juniors and a USTA Pro Circuit Futures event.
ASICS America is a popular athletic footwear, apparel and accessories company headquartered in Irvine, Calif., ASICS has made a huge leap with its involvement into tennis by offering award-winning tennis footwear and apparel, launching a collection of tennis rackets, and sponsoring some of the top professional tennis athletes in the world such as WTA former No. 1 Samantha Stosur of Australia. The U.S. ASICS tennis team features former Easter Bowl standouts Steve Johnson and Irina Falconi, both currently making huge waves on the national and international stages.
Laurel Springs School, an accredited, online private school, has signed on as a major sponsor of the event and like ASICS will be on-site all week during the tournament. On Monday night, Laurel Springs will host an informational gathering and Coaches Seminar as Laurel Springs School founder Marilyn Mosley Gordanier will be on hand to answer questions and share information about Laurel Springs. The event begins at 5 p.m. at the Sunrise Country Club. Coaching legends Larry Stefanki (John McEnroe, Marcelo Rios and Andy Roddick) and USC men’s coach Peter Smith will entertain questions. More than 60 Easter Bowl players attend Laurel Springs.
Here are the top three seeded players in each division:
Boys’ 18s: Noah Rubin (Rockville Centre, N.Y.); Stefan Kozlov (Pembroke Pines, Fla.); Mackenzie McDonald (Piedmont, Calif.)
Girls’ 18s: Jamie Loeb (Ossing, N.Y.); Louisa Chirico (Westchester, N.Y.), Marika Akkerman (Toronto, Canada)
Boys’ 16s: Sameer Kumar (Carmel, Ind.); Kyle Seelig (Hatfield, Pa.); Taylor Fritz (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.)
Girls’ 16s: Francesca Dilorenzo (New Albany, Ohio); Ena Shibahara (Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.); Meredith Xepoleas (Huntington Beach, Calif.)
Boys’ 14s: John McNally (Cincinnati); Connor Hance (Torrance, Calif.); Zeke Clark (Tulsa, Okla.)
Girls’ 14s: Claire Liu (Thousand Oaks, Calif.); Kelly Chen (Cerritos, Calif.); Jaeda Daniel (Port Charlotte, Fla.).
Another significant change at this year’s ASICS Easter Bowl is that Lornie Kuhle has taken over as tournament chairman, seeking to continue a tradition started in 1968 by New Yorker and tournament founder Seena Hamilton.
First played in 1968, the ASICS Easter Bowl has been noted not only for the hospitality given to players and parents, but for its far-reaching media exposure and for keeping all the game’s important issues in public view.
Sponsors include ASICS America, Laurel Springs School, Advantage Tennis Academy and the Southern California Tennis Association.
To keep up with all the ASICS Easter Bowl news, visit the website at www.easterbowl.com and check out the tournament on Facebook and Twitter @EasterBowl. For more information on ASICS, check out: www.ASICSAmerica.com and follow on Twitter @ASICSAmerica.
by James A. Crabtree
What a disappointment the American men currently are.
For a country that is so rich in tennis history it is heart breaking to see a power house such as the United States limp through the season.
True, some players have been playing well. Sam Querrey has displayed a mild resurgence, James Blake is attempting one last hurrah, Jack Sock could well be a diamond in the rough and Mardy Fish is back at Indian Wells but hasn’t played since the 2012 U.S. Open. Outside of the top 100 Tim Smyczek looks to be a hustling player making waves. The players hanging in the bottom half of the top 100 such as Brian Baker and Michael Russell, are those with heart whilst the majority of the new batch, thus far, are all hype.
The real disappointment lies with the supposed new generation of stars. Granted, they do all talk a good game, profess their commitment to hard work and assure us that they are just that one big win from joining the elite. At this point none look like worthy candidates to propel the stars and stripes forward during the teenage years of this decade and for the most part lack true grit.
Ryan Harrison is still only twenty years old, and players tend to show their potential at around twenty two these days. Impressively Harrison has the skills to battle with the elite, just not the temperament to outclass anybody notable so far.
In 2011 Donald Young reached a career high ranking of 38, the fourth round of the U.S. Open and made the final of a 250 event in Thailand. The John McEnroe prophecies were starting to ring true until 2012, when Young pressed the self-destruct button and lost seventeen matches in a row. 2013 hasn’t been so bad, but Young is way off in the rankings.
Back in the early eighties many players from the eastern bloc looked to defect their homeland for the American dream. These days the reverse is happening. After some financial disputes with the USTA, Russian born Alex Bogolmov Jnr decided he was more Russian than American in 2012. Jesse Levine is another with eyes on being part of a Davis Cup team, having aligned with Canada, the country of his birth. Reportedly both players still live in Florida.
None of the current crop look poised to make a leap.
For those who can remember, rewind ten years prior and it was a much different story.
Pete Sampras was sailing off into the distance after his fourteenth slam. Andre Agassi had recently collected his fourth Australian title, and Andy Roddick was only months away from cracking the big time.
In many people’s eyes Roddick didn’t win enough, mainly because he failed to win a second slam. It must be remembered that his second chance was always going to be a lot tougher thanks to a certain Mr Federer who spoilt many careers. Now with the oft-criticised Roddick gone, and enjoying retirement, the torch as America’s best player hasn’t been passed onto a worthy candidate.
Now before the stomach acid of the Isner fans starts churning let’s remember that big John does very little outside of the U.S. or Davis Cup duties and has been looking rather out of sorts this year. Is it too soon to count him out?
And when was the U.S. this unsubstantial? Certainly not twenty years ago when the Americans were surely the majority in any draw.
So what has happened in the years since? Is the college system watered down, do the Academies need a revamp, is American tennis stuck in the past or just stuck in a lull?
As much as champions are formed at the grass root level, the formative years are spent idolising a hero. Naturally, an idol a young player can relate to will only help to cultivate progression.
With so many tournaments stateside, roughly 18% of the total tour, it is bad for tennis to have a weak America. And with so few American contenders a sense of complacent mediocrity can set in quickly.
Our esteemed tennis photographer is currently at Melbourne Park and will be providing daily tennis galleries from the 2013 Australian Open. Make sure to check back each day for a new gallery and don’t miss the fun from down under!
January 9, 2013 — Tennis Grandstand photographer is currently enjoying the sun and heat of the tennis season’s first Slam in Melbourne Park, and he will be at the Australian Open providing daily galleries of the sports biggest and brightest stars. Check back each day for a new gallery and don’t miss out on the fun!
Today’s photos come from the qualifying tournament as well as practice court photos, and include Donald Young, Christina McHale, Casey Dellacqua, Olivia Rogowska, Michael Yani and Cedrik-Marcel Stebe. As the tournament gets underway, the players’ list will quickly expand.
By Romi Cvitkovic
WASHINGTON, D.C. — American Sam Querrey is one of a number of tennis players skipping the London Olympics this summer — but not by choice.
Querrey, who reached a career-high ranking of world No. 17 last year, joined the Sacramento Capitals for an unforgettable overtime thriller against the Washington Kastles last Wednesday. While Querrey was able to upset the Kastles’ “Closer” Bobby Reynolds 5-3, the Kastles ultimately prevailed on their sixth match point in the final team tiebreak, winning 21-19.
Querrey is coming off of his best Grand Slam results since the 2010 US Open, when he made it to the third round of this year’s Wimbledon Championships. His match against Marin Cilic went 17-15 in the fifth set for 5 hours and 31 minutes, making it the second-longest match in Wimbledon history. But a short while ago, he wasn’t even able to hit a tennis ball with confidence, much less survive on the court for over five hours without pain.
Querrey’s world began falling apart almost as quickly as his ranking had shot up. In early 2011, he struggled with a right elbow injury that prevented him from making much of a dent in any tournament he entered. After Queen’s Club in June, not being able to withstand the pain in his elbow any longer, he decided to get surgery and after three months, made a comeback.
Falling into the Challenger-level abyss and now ranked 125 in the world, Querrey was forced to play qualifying rounds of tournaments and finally reached a quarterfinal in Memphis this past February. He went on to win the Sarasota Challenger in April but fell in the first round of Roland Garros. He quickly rebounded as the grass court season started and went all the way to the semifinals of Queen’s Club. He then had another breakthrough when he defeated world No. 21 Milos Raonic in the second round of Wimbledon in June.
Querrey’s time had finally come. After the heartbreak and hard work, his dream re-solidified.
During his pre-match press conference on Wednesday, Querrey was asked about his good grass court season and the momentum he has gained. He answered simply.
“I feel like I’m playing really well — playing at a better level than my ranking,” he smiled.
Ranking. Isn’t that a funny thing in tennis? How accurate is a 52-week ranking system in this sport when your most recent results are the ones that correctly reflect your current game?
On June 11, 2012, Querrey was ranked No. 77 and thus the sixth-highest ranked American on Tour. This also happened to be the date for the U.S. Olympic team cut off. With Mardy Fish already deciding to skip the Olympics, Querrey still missed the chance to be the team’s fourth player, as Donald Young was ranked No. 48 and Ryan Harrison No. 52, and the team already included top Americans John Isner and Andy Roddick.
However, looking at the rankings two weeks later or even today, Querrey would have solidly made the U.S. Olympic tennis team with his ranking now at No. 55, whereas Young has dropped to No. 58.
Never one to resent other players, Querrey answered honestly when I asked him about this ranking dilemma between him and Young for the Olympics.
“It’s a little bit out of my control with getting hurt last year and then my ranking dropping to 120. Donald definitely earned [the Olympic spot] with his results, mostly from the end of last year. I’m happy for him. I got to play the Olympics in 2008 and he wasn’t there. So this is his first one, so I’m just excited for him.”
Putting things in perspective, Querrey talked about how playing six World TeamTennis matches in nine nights (with cross-country travel!) helped build his confidence for the summer hard court swing that begins this week in Los Angeles.
“It’s just a great opportunity especially in Los Angeles and D.C. with a lot of guys gone to the Olympics. They are two big weeks for me and I hope to win both of them … the six World TeamTennis matches this week has been really good practice for the hard court season … I feel like the results are starting to come back like in 2010.”
(All photos credit to author)
Donald Young proved doubters wrong last season.
It began with an upset win over then world No. 5 Andy Murray at the 2011 Indian Wells Masters. Then came a series of career highs as Young reached his first ATP semifinals in Washington, D.C., had a fourth round showing at the U.S. Open, and played in his maiden ATP final in Bangkok. After struggling on the ATP Tour, it appeared that Young was on his way to fulfill the potential he showed during his extremely successful junior career.
But despite the momentum heading into the new season and reaching a career high No. 38 in February, the 22-year-old Young is struggling to repeat the success in 2012.
In the nine tournaments Young has played this year he has only gone past the first round twice – at the Australian Open and at Memphis, losing both in the second round. His latest loss came at the hands of world No. 352 Paul-Henri Mathieu, losing 6-0, 6-1 in the first round at the Monte Carlo Masters. It was his fifth consecutive loss to a lower ranked player.
At No. 50 in the world, Young is the fourth ranked American and is still in a position to turn around his sub-par season. And if the 2011 U.S. Open was any indication, American tennis fans are eager to see Young succeed. With each victory in Flushing Meadows, the crowds for Young grew increasing boisterous and spirited. Young, who often exhibits negative body language during his matches, seemed to be on an upward trajectory and the American player to watch. That distinction now belongs to 26-year-old John Isner, who at No. 9 in the world is the top ranked American.
With Young, the coaching question is never far. After accepting an increased role from the USTA coaches last season, Young decided to go back to being coached by his mother Ilona in late 2011. As of now, there is no indication Young will be making any coaching changes.
Young may have proved his skeptics wrong last season, and as a result played with confidence befitting his talents, but he must find his game quickly before the doubts and doubters begin creeping up again.
All three tournament wildcards went to young Americans. Madison Keys, Lauren Davis and Melanie Oudin all received the free pass into the main draw.
With just over a week until the start of the Australian Open, there is little time to tinker with one’s game for the first Grand Slam of the year.
While the top four players in the world will be taking the week to rest themselves in anticipation for a deep-run in Melbourne, there are plenty of other of the game’s great players who are in action.
The ATP has two tournaments, one in Sydney and another in Auckland, while the Kooyong Classic exhibition will boast a strong field as well. Here’s a closer look at what tennis fans can expect.
Juan Martin Del Potro starts his year in Sydney as the top seed. After making a strong return to the circuit last season following a wrist injury, the 2009 U.S. Open champion is ready to make some noise this year. Del Potro is certainly capable of challenging anyone in the top four and I would put him in the mix of the few serious contenders at the Aussie Open.
The Argentine could see Marcos Baghdatis in the quarters here and then Feliciano Lopez who is the fourth seed. I would however, put the winner of the first round match between Viktor Troicki and veteran Aussie Lleyton Hewitt to advance against Del Potro in this section of the draw.
Hewitt has won the even four times, in 2000, 2001, 2004 and 2005. Don’t expect a repeat as his career is clearly on the downward spiral and injuries have taken their toll on the two-time Grand Slam champion. This may be the last year we see Hewitt playing on the ATP Tour, so enjoy him while you still can.
John Isner from the United Statesis the second seed. Patrick McEnroe recently stated that he feels Isner has the potential to reach the top ten in the ATP rankings. While I do not see that as being a realistic assessment for the 6’9” Isner just yet, this guy is certainly a strong top-thirty player who can cause incredible damage on a hard court due to his imposing serve. It will be Isner’s first action of the year so it will be interesting to see how he comes out of the gate.
Isner could face either veteran Xavier Malisse or Radek Stepanek in the quarters and given his ranking he should be beating opponents like these. However, at this stage of the year anything is possible.
A likely semi-final opponent would be third seeded Richard Gasquet who had a solid week at the Hopman Cup where he defeated Fernando Verdasco, Lleyton Hewitt and Wu Di before falling to Tomas Berdych in the finals.
All-court wonder and the always hustling David Ferrer is the number one seed in Auckland. Ferrer started the year off by making the finals of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi and was the runner-up in that exhibition to Novak Djokovic. Ferrer starts his week off with a bye at the Heineken Open and will face the winner of the match between Albert Ramos and Lukas Rosol. In other words, a nice way to ease into the tournament.
Ferrer’s main opposition will be from third seeded Fernando Verdasco who has just competed in the Hopman Cup. There, the Spaniard defeated Lleyton Hewitt 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, knocked-off Wu Di of China 6-3, 6-4 and was beaten by Richard Gasquet 6-2, 6-4. So essentially, he won the two matches he was supposed to win and could not find a way to be competitive against a solid opponent in Gasquet. Never any consistency with Fernando, but he has the tools to go deep in any draw.
The second seed here is Nicolas Almagro, but unless we’re talking about a clay court match I wouldn’t count on this guy to get too far. While he did make the semi-finals in Chennai, the field was rather weak and he was no match for Canadian Milos Raonic who took him out 6-4, 6-4.
Look for guys like Philipp Kohlschreiber, Donald Young and perhaps Sam Querrey to enjoy some success in this draw. It is nice to see Young seeded in the tournament (7th) and hopefully able to build on a nice season in 2011. There is still so much potential with the American and he still has many years ahead of him despite already being a presence on the ATP Tour for several seasons.
Always a high-quality exhibition tournament, the Kooyong Classic again boasts a strong field in 2012. Ten players make-up the draw that has both a championship and consolation side to it.
American Andy Roddick will be the most high-profile player involved and will make his season debut on the tennis court at Kooyong. Roddick’s buddy and current number-one American male tennis player, Mardy Fish, will also be present.
This year will be of the utmost importance to Roddick who struggled mightily a year ago. He needs to re-assert himself and prove to his fellow players that he is still relevant in the sport today. Usually a strong starter, Roddick will be one to watch closely here this week.
Continuing with North-American players, we have Canadian Milos Raonic who has just made the finals in Chennai. Raonic is going to be very exciting to watch this year, especially if he can stay healthy. This guy’s game is perfectly suited toWimbledonand it is no surprise that he grew up idolizing Pete Sampras.
The rest of the players here include Jurgen Melzer, Bernard Tomic, Tomas Berdych and recent Qatar finalists Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Of all the stops this week, Kooyong will be the one I’m most interested in due to its very strong field.
Keep checking back with us all week long for updates and check out my Twitter feed as well if you like. Only one more week until the first Slam of 2012 so we have lots to look forward to!
Tennis at the London Olympics
The London Olympics Games adds another dynamic to the 2012 tennis calendar. Coming just three weeks after Wimbledon, players will have to adjust their already busy schedules for a shot at Olympic gold. Although the Games do not hold as much gravitas as the four Grand Slams, the London Olympics should attract a lot of interest due to its familiar location at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, host of the Wimbledon Championships.
The defending Olympic champions are Rafael Nadal and Elena Dementieva, both of whom won the singles competition at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It should be interesting to see if Roger Federer can add Olympic gold in Men’s singles to his collection or if Andy Murray can win it for the home team.
Can Novak Djokovic repeat his 2011 magic?
Novak Djokovic had one of the most memorable tennis seasons ever in 2011. The test now becomes whether the world No. 1 can sustain his dominance in 2012. At only 24-years-old, the Serbian is in prime position to add to his four Grand Slam titles. Even with nagging injuries and a target on his back, Djokovic looks to be the man to beat as the new season unfolds.
Will Caroline Wozniacki win her first major title?
The Slam-less world No. 1 may not have an aggressive game, but she continues to perform consistently well on tour (as evident by her second consecutive year-end No. 1 ranking.) Can she finally break through in 2012 and win her maiden Grand Slam? With a new coach, Spaniard Ricardo Sanchez, in hand – Wozniacki has the chance to finally put this question to rest with a Grand Slam victory and prove to critics that she is worthy of her ranking.
What’s next for Donald Young?
One of the more surprising stories of 2011 was the emergence of Donald Young. Long touted as the future of American tennis, Young turned pro in 2004 at only 15-years-old after an extremely successful junior career. Young spent the following years toiling in the Challenger Tour and losing to players below his ranking. But 2011 was a turnaround year for the 22-year-old.
Young upset then world No. 5 Andy Murray at Indian Wells, which was followed by his first ATP semifinals appearance at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic. He brought his exciting game to the U.S. Open and fought his way to the fourth round, reinvigorating fans that have yearned to see him succeed. Young also reached an ATP final in Bangkok, losing to Andy Murray. At world No. 39, Young’s confidence is at an all time-high and a successful 2012 will go a long way in proving that he is ready to be player that everyone expected him to be.
The return of Sam Querrey and Robin Soderling
The 2011 season was a frustrating one for both Sam Querrey and Robin Soderling. Because of an elbow injury that required surgery, Querrey was forced to miss most the season, including Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. The towering American began the year at a career high world No. 17 and has the talent to contend at Grand Slams. Querrey was able to play in a couple Challenger tournaments towards the end of year and now sits at world No. 93.
Two-time French Open finalist Soderling suffered a wrist injury and was diagnosed with mononucleosis that forced him to withdraw from the U.S. Open and will keep him out of the 2012 Australian Open. Previously ranked as high as world No. 4, the hard-hitting Swede is currently ranked No. 13 in the world.
Like Juan Martin del Potro this year, the return of these two talents will be much welcomed in 2012.
Is Petra Kvitova the real deal?
With the current parity in women’s tennis, there is an absence of a dominant player that can contend in every Grand Slam. There were four different winners in the 2011, with three earning their maiden major title. The 21-year-old Kvitova has the game to cement herself as a favorite going into tournaments and finished the season strong, with a win at the WTA Tour Championships and Fed Cup victory. It remains to be seen, but 2012 can be a statement year for the world No. 2.
Which maiden Grand Slam winner will back it up in 2012?
Speaking of first-time Grand Slam winners, Li Na, Petra Kvitova and Sam Stosur will all have a chance to defend their 2011 victories on the big stage. Li, Asia’s first Grand Slam singles winner, struggled after her win at Roland Garros, losing in the second round at Wimbledon and exiting in the first at the U.S. Open. The streaky Stosur finished the year in style with a convincing win over Serena Williams on Arthur Ashe stadium and will be an early favorite going into her home Grand Slam at the Australian Open, which begins January 16.
Can the young Americans make a push in the rankings and Grand Slams?
At the 2011 U.S. Open, young Americans made headlines for scoring upsets, which provided a glimpse of American’s tennis future. Players such as Christina McHale, Sloane Stephens, Irina Falconi, Madison Keys, Ryan Harrison, Donald Young and Jack Sock all rose rapidly in the rankings in 2011 and could be a factor in tournaments next season, including the Grand Slams.
Will there be a No. 17 for Roger Federer?
The 2011 season marked the first time since 2002 that 16-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer did not win a major title. But with at least a quarterfinals appearance in each Grand Slam this year, the 30-year-old Swiss proved he has much left in his tank. Federer ended Djokovic’s undefeated streak of 43-consecutive wins at the French Open semifinal and was “a shot” away from reaching the U.S. Open finals. He should not be counted out for any of the Grand Slams in 2012.
The return (and retirement?) of Kim Clijsters
Kim Clijster’s 2011 campaign was cut short due to an abdominal injury, but she appears healthy and ready to make a push in 2012. At 28-years-old, Clijsters is one of the veterans on the WTA Tour and had said earlier in the year that the 2012 Olympics may be her last “big event.” Her return instantly makes her an early favorite at the Australian Open and the will she/won’t she retirement talk will certainly be a topic throughout the year.
The young guns
In addition to young Americans ready to make a run, several fresh faces on the ATP Tour made a name for themselves in 2011. Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov made an early statement by reaching this year’s Australian Open quarterfinals, knocking out Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Robin Soderling along the way. With his unorthodox style and go-for-broke shots, the 23-year-old Dolgopolov has plenty of upside.
Canada’s Milos Raonic brought his country’s tennis hopes back into conversation with booming serves that reached 150 miles per hour. In 2011, the 21-year-old Raonic won his first career ATP title at the SAP Open and reached the finals at Memphis. Currently ranked No. 31 and recovered from hip surgery, Raonic is eager to continue his ascent in 2012.
As a qualifier, Bernard Tomic stormed all the way into the Wimbledon quarterfinals where he lost in four-sets to eventual champion Novak Djokovic. The 19-year-old has a powerful game and could be a real threat at the Grand Slams next season.
The health of Venus Williams
At 31-years-old and suffering from various ailments, Venus Williams appears to be in the tail end of her illustrious career. Williams suffered another set back when she was diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes fatigue and joint pain, during the U.S. Open. She was scheduled to play in Auckland next week in preparation from the Australian Open but withdrew to continue her recovery. There will be a lot of focus on her status as the season approaches and the game will be missing one of its biggest stars until she returns.