Elena Baltacha

Daniela Hantuchova loses in first round shocker

The biggest upset of the Luxembourg tournament so far  is the first round loss of Slovak Daniela Hantuchova in a hard fought battle versus Czech lucky loser  Lucie Hradecka 7-6 5-7 1-6.  Mandy Minella, a wildcarded player, lost in the first round to qualifier Anne Keothavong 6-3 1-6 6-3.  Check for the extra pics of Mandy Minella in our gallery.

Number two seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova struggled versus Canadian talent Rebecca Marino and lost to her in three sets 1-6 6-3 6-3. While number six seed Julia Goerges had little trouble disposing herself of Elena Baltacha 7-5 6-1.

Other results:

BRIANTI Alberta (ITA) 6 1 6
TATISHVILI Anna (GEO) 3 6 3

Remaining first round matches:

AZARENKA Victoria (BLR)
ZAHLAVOVA STRYCOVA Barbora (CZE)

DATE-KRUMM Kimiko (JPN)
HALEP Simona (ROU)

IVANOVIC Ana (SRB)
RAZZANO Virginie (FRA)

KERBER Angelique (GER)
SCHOOFS Bibiane (NED)

Photos  © by Rick Gleijm

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Monitoring pre-Wimbledon sentiment about British Tennis

It’s that time of year when many Brits start to become interested in tennis.

But, thanks to the success of Andy Murray, Elena Baltacha and James Ward at the pre-Wimbledon warm-up tournaments, some of us are dusting off our rackets and heading down to the local rec’s courts a little earlier than normal.

It’s interesting to look at how these successes (Ward’s victories were particularly unexpected) have affected sentiment surrounding the phrase ‘British Tennis’.

The phrase has traditionally attracted many negative connotations. Years of heavy investment has led to years of under-achievement. No British man has won Wimbledon since 1936 when champion Fred Perry won in long trousers, wielding a wooden racket.

For the period June 9th to June 15th 2011, social media monitoring tool Brandwatch collected 576 mentions of the phrase across news and social networking sites; it is a sign of how successful the period was that only three per cent of them were negative.

Brits are still hedging their bets though – burned by years of false dawns (remember John Lloyd, Buster Mottram, Jeremy Bates and Tim Henman all falling short at Wimbledon) only five per cent of the mentions were positive!

Mentions of British tennis peaked on Friday June 10th with 88 being collected by Brandwatch. This was the afternoon when Brit newcomer James Ward (ranked 216th in the world) beat defending champion Sam Querrey in the Queen’s Club quarter-finals.

Duanne Jackson on Facebook said what many of us were saying: “Watching a British tennis player that isn’t Murray, Henman or Rusedski. Shocked!”

Better was to come a few hours later in the day when Facebook messages such as “Two British tennis players into the semi-finals of a tournament: isn’t this a sign of the apocalypse?” started clogging up the networks.

On Saturday, 11th June, armchair tennis fans were still trying to figure out their new tennis hero. Was he a baseliner or a serve and volleyer? Single handed or double-handed on the backhand wing? And more importantly who did he look like? Lisa Jane Riley on Twitter commented: “Do you not think he looks a little like a thin Alex Reid (the cage fighter ex-partner of Jordan)?”

Later in the afternoon, he was looking a little less like a winner but he still posted a highly-respectable performance during a 6-3, 7-6 defeat against world number 17 (and Muhammad Ali-look-alike) Jo Wilfried Tsonga.

Murray kept the British flag flying with a demolition job on his nemesis Andy Roddick in the other semi-final and fellow Scot Elena Baltacha reached the Ladies final at the Eastbourne event.

This might explain why The Scotsman was one of the top ten sites mentioning British Tennis during the week studied.

Both players would go on to win their final but mentions of “British tennis” had already peaked the day before: quarter-final day received 88 mentions and semi-final day just 60.

Finals day on June 12th received even fewer mentions; just 57. Perhaps understandable given that Murray’s final was washed out by rain. It was good to see Ms Baltacha receive the lion’s share of the mentions as she won an Eastbourne final which was switched indoors.

Murray’s moment in the sun finally came on Monday June 13th as he played a couple of between-the-leg shots to win his rain-delayed final on a day when British tennis received 65 mentions.

There were several cynical social networkers who pointed out that the win might not be such a good omen for British tennis: people who win rain-delayed Queen’s tournaments are often eliminated early when Wimbledon begins (the springy-haired John McEnroe in 1979 springs to mind).

Mentions of British tennis continued to climb on the Tuesday and the Wednesday as Britain continued to bask in the success of Mr Murray and the Wimbledon qualifying tournament got underway in overcast Roehampton.

Conclusion

So why did mentions of “British tennis” peak on quarter-final day, rather than on finals day when Murray triumphed at Queens?

This might be down to the James Ward effect – his unexpected victories surprisingly might seem to offer more hope for the overall future of British tennis than Murray’s victories do.

We already know how good Murray is but the thought of another Brit breaching the top 50 might suggest a pattern of British success whereas Murray’s position near the top of the tennis summit is just isolated success.

In a way, Murray’s success is the exception to the rule of British tennis – Brits are expected to lose – but Ward might be challenging this rule.

Roll on Wimbledon!

Author: Dominick Soar

Brandwatch is a Social Media Monitoring Tool that measures online buzz and sentiment.

The Sony Ericsson Open once again attracts the best players

By Thomas Swick
[email protected]

On my way to the media center yesterday morning I saw a young woman heading toward me, with her head down, intently texting. I moved out of the way before we collided, but wondered: What if I had also been texting? This is a potentially dangerous activity. Or, depending on your attitude, a new way of meeting people.

Heading up the steps I paused on the second floor landing to watch the Wozniacki family arriving for the day, the father with Polish courtliness stepping aside to let his wife, stylish as always, follow after their daughter. Except for the palm trees, it could have been parents’ weekend at Yale.

I headed over to Court 6 for the Andrea Petkovic match. The fact that Petkovic studies political science and, according to Wikipedia, loves the works of Goethe and Wilde, makes her the thinking man’s tennis player. Other men find her interesting as well, since she looks like a sinewy Amanda Peet.

The first match was still going on when I arrived: Elena Baltacha of Great Britain versus Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic. Behind late in the second set, Baltacha asked to see the trainer and was told that the trainer would come only for an emergency.

“Well, it is an emergency,” Baltacha pleaded, “because I can’t move. That’s not an emergency?”

She lost soon after.

“Thank you,” she said sarcastically to the chair umpire.

Her coach came down from his place in the stands.

“Disgusting,” he said to the chair umpire in a British accent. “Absolutely disgusting. Letting a cripple play. Is that how you look after players?”

“I think she was looking for an excuse,” a spectator said after the coach and his player had departed.

Petkovic arrived shortly, and started her match against the American Jamie Hampton. Her play was intelligent, but not what I would call Wildean. Tennis is mostly a game of mutes, and has been pretty much since the McEnroe era, and racket technology has rid it of a lot of its nuance. It is a wordless, high-powered exchange in which the participants sometimes seem more like robots than human beings.

It is why it’s important always to linger after the finish. Petkovic not only patiently signed autographs and posed for pictures, she seemed happy doing so. It helped of course that she had won, but you got a sense of someone with a wider perspective, a grander purpose.

Not far away, a large crowd fronted an empty Court 10. I asked a woman who they were waiting for and she didn’t know. “Isn’t that silly?” she said. “We’re standing here waiting and we don’t know who we’re waiting for.”

Then an official arrived and said that Djokovic would not be coming. “I’ve never seen so many disappointed faces,” the man said. Though I took it well, knowing that I’d see Djokovic at the 4 o’clock press conference. I was becoming a fan of the post-practice press conference. Even the post-no-practice press conference.

After lunch, on Court 5, Richard Gasquet hit with Stanislas Wawrinka. It was like a beauty pageant of one-handed backhands. To me, the ultimate in tennis is not just being No. 1, but being No. 1 with a one-handed backhand. Sorry Andre. Sorry Rafa.

But there was no talking, even in practice, and not a trace of a smile. You could find happier looking people dressed in suits and sitting in cubicles.

“I was over watching Soderling hit with Raonic,” the man next to me said. “Soderling’s serve sounded like a cannon going off. I don’t know why that is. Raonic’s serve had more of a pop to it.”

His phone rang and he answered it.

“Hello Mark, how ya doin? I would love to play some tennis. Do you hear these cannons going off? I’m at the Lipton.”

Shawn had told me that he still refers to the Sony Ericsson by its old name, and everyone who knows tennis understands.

Federer made his way, with police escort, to Court 4. “Please clear the way,” boomed one of the officers. “He’s not signing now; he’ll sign after his practice.”

“Just get a picture, honey,” a woman shouted to her husband. “He’s not signing autographs.”

The bleachers, which were packed, erupted in applause as he stepped onto the court. I guess if you warrant a post-practice press conference, you deserve applause at your practice.

Next door, on Court 3, there was another sort of beauty pageant, as Petkovic was playing doubles with Anna Ivanovic. The bleachers there were also full, though the crowd, surprisingly, did not consist exclusively of young men.

I left early and headed to the press conference. Djokovic talked as much about soccer as he did about tennis. Some players had formed a team and played a match to raise money for Japanese earthquake victims. When asked to name the best soccer-playing tennis players, Djokovic answered immediately: “Baghdatis. Second best: Murray.” The biggest problem, he said, was that “everyone wanted to play attack. Baghdatis and Murray accepted nothing else.” He continued talking with reporters after the last question; he too seemed capable of enjoying the moment.

At the media happy hour – yes, not only do we watch tennis all day, but they reward us for this by giving us a happy hour – Bud Collins stood in pale blue shirt and a pair of trousers printed with colorful triangles.

“I guess it’s a teepee design,” he explained. “We buy the fabric in Santa Fe and then give it to my tailor. Jim Courier walked over and discussed ways to get more young American girls playing tennis.

I walked back out through the grounds. Evening is the loveliest time at the center: The day’s swirl of activity is winding down, the unclouded sun is losing its punch. There is a pleasant lull between the departure of the day ticketers and the arrival of the night crowd. Music wafts from the stage over the courts: Wednesday night it was blues guitar; Thursday night, Spanish guitar. It is in the evening, with its balmy breezes, when you suddenly realize you’re on a subtropical island off the coast of Miami. An island which once again has attracted the best tennis players on the planet.

Clijsters Sidelined, Baltacha out of Commonwealth Games but Mirza Boost for Organisers

*Current Queen of the US Open Kim Clijsters has been forced to pull out of next month’s China Open with an infected foot. The Belgian star recently had a mole removed from the base of the foot but the wound has become infected. “I’m very sorry to have to cancel,” said the 27-year-old. “The wound on my sole is healing really bad – playing tennis is not possible.” Serena Williams has already announced that her foot injury sustained when stepping on broken glass in Munich earlier this year will also keep her out of the competition. She hopes to return for Moscow.

*Scotland’s Elena Baltacha has pulled out of the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in Delhi with a chronic liver condition linked to her immune system. “After a lot of thought and discussion, I have taken the heartbreaking decision to withdraw from the Games,” the 27-year-old told BBC Sport. “Conditions in Delhi are such that going there would pose too high a risk to my health. I am incredibly disappointed because I was really excited about playing for Scotland but I will be cheering on Team Scotland with all my heart, in particular my fellow tennis players. I am very, very sad that I won’t get to play alongside them.”

*Under fire Commonwealth Games bosses will undoubtedly be buoyed by the news that top Indian star Sania Mirza will be staying at the much-maligned Players’ Village, contrary to recent rumours. Her father, Imran, told PTI News: “She will check in to the Village with the rest of the team.”

*Despite losing his first comeback match since his wrist surgery Juan Martin del Potro seemed very pleased with the condition he is in. He, perhaps surprisingly, lost to the Belgian Olivier Rochus in Bangkok on Tuesday but his wrist seemed to be near full strength according to the Argentine. “The most important thing for today is my wrist,” said the 2009 US Open winner, “and it’s perfect. I hope to play five or six more tournaments between now and the end of the season. It was a great moment for me being with the fans on centre court playing a match again. I felt very happy. I lost today but I have good things to take for the future.” For the full interview check out the ATP World Tour website.

*There is no movement this week within the Top 20 of the South African Airways ATP World Rankings released on Monday (September 27th). Argentina’s Juan Ignacio Chela leaps 14 places to No. 39 while Belgium’s Xavier Mallisse climbs five to No. 50. Spain’s Pablo Andujar jumps 28 places to No. 77 after losing the Bucharest final to Chela and Somdev Devvarman jumps 17 to enter the Top 100.

*This week’s Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings finally bring good news for troubled Russian star Dinara Safina who has climbed ten slots to No. 49 this week while Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic climbs two to No. 50. Another Russian, Alia Kudryavtseva, sees a massive rise from No. 82 to No. 57 and Elena Vesnina does likewise from No. 72 to No. 58.

*Gilles Simon’s title at Metz last week was his first since becoming a father during the US Open. “Thanks to my fiancée for being here,” he said. “She was worried that I would be distracted – I think I’ve given the best response today.”

*Spanish pinup Fernando Verdasco is known to be a fan of martial arts and has been learning some local specialties while playing at the PTT Thailand Open this week. He took part in some Muay Thai alongside 2008 Olympic Gold Medallist Somjit Jongjorhor on stage in Bangkok and former ATP pro Paradorn Srichapan also joined in. “I would love to learn more Thai boxing,” said Verdasco. “I’ve always loved martial arts so maybe when I stop playing tennis I can learn some more. It was a lot of fun to learn some of the moves today.”

*Top seed Rafa Nadal has also been experiencing local culture while competing at the PTT Thailand Open this week. He took part in Thailand’s ‘A Million Trees For The King’ project by planting a tree in honour of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Afterwards he partook in some local pastimes with friends. “I did a lot of things,” said the reigning Wimbledon, French and US Open Champion who took part in a religious ceremony with Buddhist monks on the beach over the weekend. “I was with friends. I was on the beach, very nice beach. We did water sports, we went to golf one time, we went [go-carting] another time. So we did a lot of things. We went there, having fun in Hua Hin and enjoying a lot.”

*Kazakhstan’s Evgeny Korolev is set to miss up to four months after undergoing elbow surgery today (September 30th). It is a problem which has dogged him since January and that has seen him drop from a career-high No. 46 to No. 97. Robby Ginepri will also be missing from the tour for the rest of the season after also undergoing elbow surgery on an injury suffered in a biking accident. Ginepri reached the fourth round at Roland Garros this year before falling to Novak Djokovic.

*29-year-old Frenchman Thierry Ascione has announced his retirement from professional tennis following the conclusion of play in Metz last week. “Right before and right after the match it was really emotional,” he said. “I had a beautiful career. I knew from the beginning I wasn’t going to be a champion. To be one, I think I would have needed a different personality but I don’t regret anything. I had the best times and through tennis I met my best friends.”

*London fashion week has just finished for 2010 and tennis got near the catwalks with Andy Murray and Serena Williams in attendance along with actress Sarah Jessica Parker and photographer Mario Testino to see Burberry unveil its latest collection. “I’m looking forward to seeing the clothes,” said British No. 1 Murray. “I like Burberry so it should be fun.” “This is my first fashion show in Europe,” added fashionista Serena. “I like Burberry, I always do the ones in New York so it was definitely something I wanted to come and do. I can’t believe I’m here I’m so excited.”

WHERE IS BRITISH WOMEN’S TENNIS?: 25 YEARS SINCE ANNABEL CROFT’S BRITISH WIN

Today, April 28, 2010, marks the 25th anniversary of the last fully British female to win a WTA Tour singles title (Monique Javer won a WTA Tour singles title in 1988 but was only half British). On 28th April 1985, 18-year-old Annabel Croft of Great Britain, ranked No. 83 at the time defeated world No. 7 Wendy Turnbull 6-0, 7-6(5) to win the Virginia Slims of San Diego and her first WTA Tour Title, causing much excitement amongst the British press. The young British hopeful never rose to expectations caused by this victory and failed to win another title before quitting her professional career in 1988.

I doubt this statistic will bring a smile to the already frowning LTA reeling from the recent government report on their expenditure. But who within the British camp is remotely ready to step up and claim the next WTA tour singles title?

British No. 1, Elena Baltacha has certainly had a wonderful start to the year rising to a ranking high of No. 59, memorably beating world No. 10 Li Na in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells only to lose in the next round to Alicia Molik. She is currently training in preparation for the WTA event in Rome and it remains to be seen if she can produce back to back performances throughout the course of a tournament to win her first WTA title.

Britain’s Anne Keothovong and Katie O’Brien both won their first round matches of the Grand Prix De Sar La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Morocco. Keothovong recovered from an embarrassing second set performance to defeat France’s Julie Coin to win 6-3, 0-6, 6-4, but her form this year after being forced out of the game for six months due to a knee injury has hardly given enough evidence to suggest enough consistency to flip the coin of British tennis fortunes in the near future. Fellow Brit, O’Brien defeated France’s Pauline Parmentier 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 and commented “I was really pleased to come through my first match of the year on clay, especially as I haven’t had ideal preparation. I only started hitting on the clay a few days ago, as I was stranded in South Africa for six days where there weren’t any clay courts. I had to take five flights over two days to get to Fes, but I’ve recovered well, all considered. I’m now looking forward to tomorrow’s match against Renata Voracova. I lost to her last year in three sets on the clay, so I’m aiming to get my revenge.” She received more good news when it was confirmed that she had been given the key to a main draw entry in the French Open following the withdrawal of Sania Mirza. Out of the three, O’Brien is the less likely to emulate Croft’s singles victory considering her lack of victories over top ranked players.

Meanwhile, 16-year-old Laura Robson recently reached the semifinals of the $50k event in Alabama after winning five consecutive matches in the USA, battling to a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory over the world No. 144 Sophie Ferguson of Australia in the quarterfinals; an excellent indication of the consistency of Robson throughout a tournament considering she also came through two matched in the qualifying rounds. She also went on a fine run to the quarterfinals in the doubles with fellow Brit Heather Watson. Could Robson be the one to break the 25 year wait?

Robson’s achievements in Alabama have seen her rise an impressive 46 places to a career high of No. 269 in this week’s WTA singles rankings. She also sits at No. 103 in doubles, another career high due to her great run of form that saw her reach the semi finals in doubles at the $25k event in Osprey, Florida the week before. I have a feeling we may need to wait a little while longer for our young star to win a WTA singles title, however perhaps she will be the one to bring home a Grand Slam too; we can only dream.

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.

HOPE FOR BRITISH TENNIS AT INDIAN WELLS

Despite British tennis being mauled to pieces like an animal’s corpse in a barren landscape, with even the politicians launching an investigation into how the LTA spends its millions from Wimbledon profits and tax payers money, there has been a beacon of hope burning brightly in the Californian sun. Our British fighter, Elena Baltacha, aged 26, became the first British woman to defeat a top ten player since 1998, when Sam Smith defeated the 1994 champion Conchita Martinez at Wimbledon. Baltacha beat world No. 10, the Australian Open semifinalist Li Na in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., in a battling and spirited performance by a 7-6, 2-6, 7-6 margin.

She has since unfortunately lost to Aussie, Alicia Molik, winning just two games in the third round, however this represents a significant step in the right direction for the health of women’s tennis in Britain. This was helped by Anne Keothovong’s movement into the top 50 last year (the first woman to do this in a century) before her knee injury hampered her considerable progress.

Baltacha’s two victories in the main draw was the first time in 15 years that a British woman had won back to back victories in a tournament of this caliber. Both Keothovong and Baltacha are beginning to turn into the kind of role models young female juniors in Britain have been yearning for, such as the likes of Laura Robson.

Baltacha said of her victory against Na, “When I broke into the world’s top 100 in September last year, I felt like I really belong, and that was a defining moment. I’m not struggling with anything major, I’m practicing hard, I’m feeling confident and that all helps. When you are playing the better girls more often, you are seeing a more consistent, faster ball and unless you adapt to that, you aren’t going to survive. I have stuck in there, I think playing three matches already in the event helped but I felt from 4-4 in the final set that I was the one in charge of the match. It took about ten seconds for me to realize she had missed that last backhand but of course I’m elated. I’m playing as well as I’ve ever played and I’m really excited about my prospects.”

That feeling of belonging amongst the world’s best will hopefully transpire through into the consciousness of the young girls currently competing in LTA tournaments across the country. If they can start making headway on the WTA Tour, then why can’t we many will be thinking as they struggle to keep a balance between their time on court and their education. Many of our top juniors drop out at a young age, because quite frankly unlike the Premiership Football League, which contains a plethora of British rags to riches stories to choose from, tennis has so few. Is it worth the risk many players and parents ask themselves as they have to make the difficult decision to drop their studies in favor of a tennis career which seems like a one in a million chance of success; there are no scholarships for tennis in universities like in America, thus the decision is a difficult one for many.

The problem in the women’s game is the number of girls actually playing the game in Britain. There are such a small percentage of girls who play the sport mainly from the middle-upper class bracket, however if Baltacha and Keothovong were to climb further up the rankings, would talented girls from poorer backgrounds begin to see tennis as a way out, like the Russians, who have had a number of role models to aspire to over the years? With Laura Robson hot on the heels of Baltacha and Keothovong, I truly hope that with an overhaul of the way money is spent, Britain will finally have something to cheer about in the women’s game.

Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach from London. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter.   She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.

MURRAY IS NOT THE ONLY BRIT FLYING THE FLAG DOWN UNDER

By Melina Harris

Andy Murray is not the only one flying the flag for Brits down under after his comprehensive dismantling of Marc Gicquel in the second round in difficult weather conditions: the first round victories of Brits Elena Baltacha and Katie O’Brien in the women’s singles meant that for the first time since 1992, Britain had two women into the second round of a Grand Slam tournament outside of Wimbledon.

Unfortunately, while O’Brien looked out of her depth as she lost to former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic in straight sets Wednesday admitting, ‘I was trying to go for a little bit too much, I think I expected her to put me under more pressure, and to be honest, she didn’t. She just played solid but she didn’t do anything outstanding.’ Elena Baltacha’s impressive and gutsy win against Kateryna Bonderenko, an opponent ranked 51 places higher on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, has set up a fantastic duel against world No. 2 Dinara Safina in the third round Friday.

This will be a great challenge for Britain’s top player, whose career has taken more knocks than Muhammad Ali, suffering from tonsillitis, glandular fever and liver problems to name just a few. However, she is now certain to establish a new career highest ranking once the event is over. The world No. 83 said ‘I feel good. No, I feel fantastic’ after her victory revealing ‘the thing that has changed with me is confidence…if you really believe you can deliver, whether it’s in a very tight situation or not, then you can get there. I know there’s a lot more to improve on my tennis but mentally I think I’m getting there now.’

She went on to say ‘Now I have got nothing to lose against Safina. I know she is a good player, but she has had her blips recently. I have a day off to recharge and then I’m going to go for it again.’ Safina is in desperate need of a Grand Slam tournament victory to silence her critics and justify her elevated world ranking but this pressure could actually go in Baltacha’s favour if she can capitalize early in the match.

Next up for Murray is Florent Serra, who struggled through five sets and saved two match points in his match against the Finn, Jarkko Nieminen, so hopes are high in Britain that a relatively rested Murray can dispatch of him with ease. In his post match interview Murray noted ‘He’s been around the 50 mark for quite a long time. He’s a solid player. He’s had two very long matches so far. Saved a couple of match points today. So, you know, he’s gonna go for it. Have to make sure I’m on my game.’

Let’s not forget Laura Robson, who was granted a sweet 16th birthday present with an impressive win against the experienced American pair, Jill Craybas and Abigail Spears, 6-3, 7-5 with the shrewd choice of Aussie, Sally Peers as her partner. Robson has been adopted by the Aussie crowd, with one cheeky spectator even giving her a certificate to change her residency to Australia; sorry mate, she’s ours!

JELENA DOKIC COMEBACK IS RIGHT ON TRACK

I have been  follower of Jelena Dokic career ever since she caused that great upset by defeating Martina Hingis in straight sets at Wimbledon back in 1999.

After a long absence from the tennis courts, mostly because of family problems, I was happy to read that she was working on a come back. And it’s a work in progress. She stated that 2009 was going to be her last attempt at a come back. And luckily for us, it worked out. She’s still playing and ocassionally swaying the courts.

In 2010 she is preparing for the Australian Open in Hobart.  She proved too strong for Elena Baltacha beating her in straight sets 6-4, 6-2. She will now meet Shahar Peer in the next round.

“I feel like I’m fitter this year and hitting the ball better,” Dokic told reporters.

Now that sounds good and hopefully she will be able to get far at the Australian Open. Just like she did last year when she reached the Quarterfinals on a wild card.

I have created a poll which you can see right after the pics! Cast your vote and feel free to discuss using the comment box.

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Tennis in the Commonwealth – Katie O’Brien New British No. 1; Alicia Molik Ends Retirement

By Leigh Sanders

* Andy Murray of Great Britain has picked up his sixth title in 2009 after he defeated Russian Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 6-2 in the final of the Valencia Open. The top seed was playing his first tournament for six weeks after recovering from a wrist injury and he will be delighted to have returned to the court in such style. Murray broke the Russian early on in the first set and never looked back, taking his fourteenth career title. It serves as perfect preparation for the upcoming ATP World Tour Finals in London, England, later this month. Along the way, he saw off local favorite Fernando Verdasco as well as seeing through a tricky encounter with the Argentine Leonardo Mayer.

*World No. 1 and 2 (doubles) players Daniel Nestor of Canada and Nenad Zimonjic ended their recent run of early round defeats to win the Davidoff Swiss Indoor doubles championship in Basel. It is the third time Nestor has won here, having done so with long-time partner Mark Knowles in 2003 and 2006. They ended the hopes of Pakistani Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and the American James Cerretani in round two and the final saw them comprehensively beat the formidable Bryan brothers 6-2, 6-3. Australian Paul Hanley was eliminated in the first round with his partner Simon Aspelin of Sweden.

*The doubles is also underway in Paris with huge interest for Commonwealth tennis fans. Canadian Daniel Nestor and his partner Nenad Zimonjic are set to face the French pair Arnaud Clement/Michael Llodra in round two after a first-round bye was given to all seeded teams. India’s Leander Paes and partner Lukas Dlouhy also had a first round bye and line up against Jordan Kerr of Australia and the American Travis Parrott after they defeated Martin Damm and Jonathan Erlich 6-3, 6-4 in round one. Fifth seeds Wesley Moodie (South Africa) and Dick Norman prepare for a second round encounter with Spanish duo Marcel Granollers and Tommy Robredo after they overcame US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro and Fernando Gonzalez 7-6(2), 6-2 in their first round match. Another Aussie, Paul Hanley, and his Swedish partner Simon Aspelin claimed a huge first-round scalp as they overcame the French pairing of Jeremy Chardy/Gilles Simon. They now face the third seeds Mahesh Bhupathi (India) and Mark Knowles (Bahamas) as they enter the action. The only Commonwealth player to taste defeat at the first hurdle was South Africa’s Jeff Coetzee who, with partner Marcelo Melo, went down 3-6, 4-6 to the home-grown pair of Julien Benneteau and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

*Australia’s Samantha Stosur failed to progress past the group stages of the Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions in Bali, Indonesia, after winning one and losing one of her Group B round robin matchups. She was narrowly edged out of her opening encounter 7-6(4), 7-5 by Spaniard Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez. Despite then beating Agnes Szavay, Martinez Sanchez’ victory over the same player condemned Stosur to elimination. The tournament was won by Aravane Rezai of France after Marion Bartoli retired through injury after one set in the final.

*There were Commonwealth representatives in the doubles too at Valencia but they unfortunately saw little success. Ross Hutchings of Great Britain and Australia’s Jordan Kerr fell at the first hurdle while South African Jeff Coetzee and another Australian, Stephen Huss, lost in round two to the eventual champions Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak.

*The race for the final two berths at the ATP World Tour Finals in London, England, hots up this week as seven contenders battle it out at the Paris Open to secure a place. Nikolay Davydenko is favorite for one slot and his first round 6-2, 6-1 thrashing of German Benjamin Becker means he’ll make it as long as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Robin Soderling or Fernando Verdasco don’t win the tournament. Tsonga looked set to miss the finals after retiring from his first match at Valencia last week with a wrist injury but he’s also through to the second round this week and will face compatriot Gilles Simon. Verdasco’s progress ends the slim qualification hopes of Radek Stepanek and Maran Cilic while Soderling faces Ivo Karlovic for the right to face Davydenko and end the hopes of one of his rivals.

*Lukasz Kubot and Oliver Marach have become the fifth team to qualify for the doubles at the ATP World Tour doubles Championship. The final three berths will also be decided at Paris this week.

*This week’s ATP World rankings (09/11) sees a two-place drop for Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt who now lies in No. 22. His compatriot Peter Luczak climbs a place to 79 while Canada’s Frank Dancevic (123) is now above India’s Somdev Devvarman (124) after the latter dropped eight places this week.

*The ATP doubles rankings sees no movement in the top 25 ranked players in the world this week (09/11). Below that, Paul Hanley of Australia drops a place to 27 and fellow Aussies Jordan Kerr (31), Ashley Fisher (41), Carsten Ball (58) and Chris Guccioni (62) also see dropped rankings. Rik De Voest (South Africa) drops a place to 47 and Great Britain now occupies 51-3 with Ross Hutchins, Ken Skupski and Colin Fleming while Jonathan Marray continues his climb in to the Top 100 with a nine-rank jump to 91. Pakistan’s Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi climbs five to 66 while India’s Rohan Bopanna drops one to 95.

*In this week’s WTA singles rankings (09/11) Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak has dropped a place to 35, seeing her as the highest place Commonwealth player to see a change in their ranking this week. Katie O’Brien now finds herself the new British No. after climbing from 90 to 88 and compatriot Elena Baltacha fell to 89. Anne Keothavong is now ranked 100 and faces dropping out of the top 100 in the World as she continues to recover from injury.

*In the WTA doubles rankings (09/11), Marie-eve Pelletier of Canada climbed a place to 66 while her compatriot Sharon Fichman narrowly hangs on to her top 100 status as she now finds herself ranked 99. Brit Sarah Borwell fell one to 76.

*British No. 5 Dan Evans is through to the second round of the Caversham International AEGON Pro-Series Event in Jersey with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Austrian Martin Fischer. Dan Cox fell at the sword of the top seeded German Florian Mayer in their first round match.

*Former world No. 8 Alicia Molik of Australia has cut short her retirement from tennis after only 12 months and has secured a wild card for the main draw of the 2010 Moorilla Hobart International. She has formerly won two Grand Slams in doubles (France and Australia) and represented Australia in both the Fed Cup and the Hopman Cup.

*Electrical goods giants Panasonic have signed a new three-year deal as the main sponsors of the Australian Open, the Medibank International Series and the Brisbane International which commences in January 2010.

*Former Australian Davis Cup legend Colin Long has sadly passed away aged 91.

Tennis In The Commonwealth – Murray and Robson To Play For GB In Hopman Cup

By Leigh Sanders

Andy Murray and Laura Robson have confirmed they will represent Great Britain at the Hopman Cup, the official mixed team competition of the ITF, in Perth, Australia in January. Murray will use the event to prepare for the 2010 Australian Open. He is looking to improve his record at Melbourne Park and has decided to use the same tournament that Novak Djokovic (2008) and Marat Safin (2005) played on their way to victory Down Under. They will be the first British representatives at the tournament since Jeremy Bates and Jo Durie lost in the first round in 1992. Each match consists of a men’s and women’s singles and a doubles. The hosts will be represented by Lleyton Hewitt and Samantha Stosur. Melanie Oudin and John Isner have been confirmed as the American team while Russia will be represented by Elena Dementieva and Igor Andreev while Tommy Robredo and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez will compete for Spain.

Robin Soderling is a doubt for the ATP World Tour Finals in London, England, after the world No. 10 was forced to withdraw from his semifinal in Stockholm against Cyprus’ Marcos Bagdhatis with an elbow injury. The Swede would have made up points on the Spaniard Fernando Verdasco who currently holds the eighth and final qualification place for the Championships. Soderling has not yet pulled out of his scheduled tournaments in Valencia and Paris ahead of London hoping he will be fit to fight for his place in the end-of-season tournament.

The final line-up for the Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha was decided this week without one representative from the Commonwealth making the final cut. Jelena Jankovic sealed the eighth and final spot despite crashing out of the quarterfinals of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow and she joins Venus and Serena Williams, Elena Dementieva, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Dinara Safina, Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka in the battle to find the top player for 2009.

This weeks ATP singles world rankings (26/10) saw Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt climb two places to 20th while his compatriot Peter Luczak held on to his ranking of 83. Chris Guccione, also from Down under, climbed five places to 104th. Britain’s Andy Murray remained in 4th place and India’s Somdev Devvarman climbed three to 121st. In the doubles, Daniel Nestor of Canada remains No. 1 despite his early exit from Shanghai recently but Mahesh Bhupathi of India drops one place to 7th. Paul Hanley of Australia climbs four places to 26th after his finals appearance in Stockholm (see below) while South Africa’s Jeff Coetzee remains 35th after his semifinals berth at the same tournament. Australia’s Ashley Fisher is below him in 36th while Britain’s Ross Hutchins and Aussie Stephen Huss both fell this week to 49th and 50th respectively.

This week’s WTA rankings (26/10) saw Australia’s Samantha Stosur remain at 13 as she continued her climb towards the world top 10 while Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada climbed one place to 30. Another Aussie, Jelena Dokic, dropped to 64th and Britain’s Elena Baltacha jumped from 93 to 86 after her semifinal appearance at St. Raphael (see below). Her compatriot Katie O’Brien was also up one to 91st.

In the WTA doubles rankings (26/10) Australians Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs find themselves tied for 5th spot after Stosur jumped three places while Sania Mirza of India drops two places to 38th. Sarah Borwell, British No. 1 for doubles, jumps one place to 78th while South Africa’s Natalie Grandin is up two to 80th.

Daniel Nestor of Canada suffered his third straight first-round defeat with partner Nenad Zimonjic at the Bank Austria Tennis Trophy. The top two doubles players in the world fell to John Isner and Australian Jordan Kerr 4-6, 7-6(8), 10-6 in just over 90 minutes. It is the eighth first-round defeat the pair have suffered this year.

Jeff Coetzee of South Africa and Australia’s Stephen Huss reached the semifinals of the If Stockholm Open before going down to Kevin Ullyett and Bruno Soares. It was the 500th doubles victory for Ullyett making him only the 31st man in ATP history to reach that landmark. In the final they faced Australia’s Paul Hanley and Sweden’s Simon Aspelin. Soares and Ullyett won through 6-4, 7-6(4) to break the hearts of the Australian and the Swede.

In the doubles event at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow India’s Rohan Bopanna partnered Janko Tipsarevic to a semifinals berth where they were eventually defeated by Frantisek Cermak of the Czech Republic and Slovakia’s Mikal Mertinak. Metinak/Cermak went on to win the tournament and improve their chances of appearing in the doubles bracket at the ATP World Tour Finals in London, England next month.

Geoff Pollard has been re-elected as the President of Tennis Australia for another twelve months following this year’s Annual General Meeting held in Melbourne on Monday.

More doubles joy for Great Britain this week as Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski were victorious at the ATP Challenger Event in Orleans, France. They defeated the French pair of Sebastian Grosjean and Olivier Patience 6-1, 6-1 who had beaten another British pair, Jamie Murray and Jamie Delgado, in the semi finals to prevent an all-British final. In Glasgow, Scotland, Chris Eaton and Dominic Inglot picked up their third Doubles title of the month. They defeated fellow Brit Dan Cox and Uladzimir Ignatik of Belarus.

Peter Luczak of Australia was defeated in the round of 32 at the Bank Austria Tennis Trophy on the hard courts of Vienna by the Spaniard Nicolas Almagro. After taking the first set Luczak battled hard but it wasn’t quite enough and he went down 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-1.

Rising teenage star Bernard Tomic of Australia will warm up for the 2010 Australian Open by partnering Aussie tennis legend Pat Cash at the World Tennis Challenge in Adelaide next January. The novel tournament, which concludes just four days before the Open begins, sees a retired tennis star partner a modern-day pro in a team format. The 17-year-old Tomic will represent Australia with Cash, 27 years his senior. Representing America will be John McEnroe and Robby Ginepri, while Henri Leconte will represent Europe with an unconfirmed teammate. Finally, world No. 14 Radek Stepanek will head the Internationals team with an unconfirmed retired player.

Britain’s Elena Baltacha reached the semifinals of the $50k Event in St. Raphael, France before going down to the No. 3 seed Sandra Zahlavova of the Czech Republic. Meanwhile in Glasgow, Scotland, Melanie South was defeated in the final of the AEGON Pro-Series Event. 5th seed Johanna Larsson of Sweden was too much for the British No. 4, winning in three sets. But South made amends in the doubles, teaming with Emma Laine of Finland to defeat the Mayr sisters of Italy 6-3, 6-2 and bring home the Championship. Future tennis starlet Heather Watson crashed out of the first round of the singles, going down 6-2, 2-6, 7-6(2) to Tunisian veteran Selima Sfar.

Tennis Canada has announced that former Chairman Harold P. Milavsky will be inducted in to the Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame in the Builder category with a dinner in his honour on December 3rd at the Glencoe Club in Calgary.