Elena Dementieva

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.

HISTORY FOR SCHIAVONE AND NADAL: THE FRIDAY FIVE

By Maud Watson

A Veteran’s Historic Moment – Francesca Schiavone is not a household name to the casual sports fan. Her run to the Roland Garros women’s final was a quiet one that included a retirement from her opponent Elena Dementieva in the semis. Her foe in the final was Sam Stosur, the woman who had taken out Justine Henin, Serena Williams, and Jelena Jankovic in three consecutive matches to reach the final. Stosur also owned a 4-1 win-loss record against Schiavone. The Aussie came in equipped with a bigger serve, more powerful groundstrokes and a better 2010 season leading up to that point. But on that sunny Saturday afternoon in Paris, none of that mattered. Schiavone earned a lot of fans that day, including myself, as she played a spectacular match littered with positive emotions from beginning to end to become the first Italian woman to ever win a singles major title. What made her performance all the more impressive was that Schiavone herself admitted she never thought she would be in a position to win a Slam and to go out there playing that brand of stellar tennis, realistically knowing that it might be her one and only chance to ever win one of the top four prizes in the sport, is truly admirable.

Back on Top – A name a little more familiar to sports fans is that of Rafael Nadal, who sent a message to the rest of the field during his stay in the French capital. The Spaniard was in a ruthless mood as he cruised to the Roland Garros title for the fifth time in six years, doing so without the loss of a set. His defense against the powerful groundstrokes of Soderling in the final was phenomenal and clearly broke the spirit of the big-banging Swede. The added bonus for Nadal is that the win also propelled him back to No. 1 in the rankings ahead of Roger Federer.  Nadal has gotten that winning feeling back, and it’s set up him nicely going into the short grass court season where he can play with relatively less pressure given that he has no points to defend from 2009.

Double Trouble – While both of the Williams sisters crashed out earlier than either would have liked in the singles competition at the French Open, they didn’t allow that to impact their doubles game. The sisters took the title on the terre bateau, marking their 12th major doubles crown and their first in Paris since 1999. Their run at Roland Garros also assured them the top ranking in doubles, so the Williams sisters now rule the top spots in both the singles and the doubles. Given that when the Williams sisters enter the doubles draw its no secret that everyone else is unofficially playing for second, it’s nice to see them achieve the No. 1 doubles ranking. And love them or hate them, you have to applaud the Williams sisters’ staying power at every level of the game.

Comebacks Abound – The start of the grass court season is seeing its share of comebacks, at least in a manner of speaking. First, there is the return of Nikolay Davydenko, who last played in early March, marking his comeback with a win over Simon Greul in Halle. Given the Russian’s form coming in to the 2010 season, here’s hoping he quickly finds his game and shakes things up at the top of the pack. It was also announced that American Lindsay Davenport would be making a bit of a return to the game, teaming with Bob Bryan for the mixed doubles competition at Wimbledon, as well as with Liezel Huber for some women’s doubles later this summer. Finally, Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo, who left the game last year, will be returning, but not as a player. Mauresmo, a former Wimbledon champion, will be acting as an advisor to fellow compatriot Michel Llodra this grass court season.

Record Set To Be Broken – There were murmurs of it earlier in the year when it was announced that Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin would be facing off in an exhibition to be played post-Wimbledon. Now those murmurs have become official shouts of triumph for the exo organizers, as it was announced that based on the ticket sales, the attendance for the Belgian showdown slated for July 8 will total 30,670. That total will top the previous record of 30,472 that was set during the famous “Battle of the Sexes,” match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King 37 years ago. Congrats to the two Belgians and organizers, and if the match is anything like some of their previous tussles, spectators are in for a real treat.

WHO DESERVES TO COME OUT ON TOP AT ROLAND GARROS?

These final few days of Roland Garros will seem like a fairytale for two female players who have waited a lifetime for the opportunity ahead of them.

Sam Stosur and Francesca Schiavone have battled the odds and their own doubts to reach their first Grand Slam final and overcome the hopes and dreams of Jelena Jankovic and Elena Dementieva respectively who would also have been debuting. Now it’s time to get ready to face each other in a bid to add another name to the list of the many women who have hoisted one of the four majors aloft throughout history.

There has been much talk this week of who “deserves” it. It is one of the most overused phrases in sport and, in fact, is utter nonsense.

The highlight of knock-out competition is the shocks and surprises isn’t it? If tennis was played out in a league format like many other sports than Federer and the Williams sisters would dominate every year wouldn’t they? They consistently perform better than a lot of other players on the tour and would surely drop less matches than their competitors.

However, playing as we do, one slip up and it’s goodnight. So it comes down to not who you’ve beaten, but who is next. This talk of Stosur “deserving” it because she has beaten Henin and Serena and also that of Jankovic because of the career she has held is utter nonsense.

You have to go out there in the right frame of mind for every single opponent and be ready to defeat players of every style and calibre. The player who “deserves” to win the Slam is the one that beats everybody in front of them. Whether that be Federer, Nadal and Djokovic or the drunkard nextdoor and a three-legged dog.

The back stories are fantastic. From the problems of a destroyed childhood home to a Grand Slam final it has been a long and incredible journey for Stosur while Schiavone is the toast of Italy as she becomes the first female from her country to grace such an occasion.

While Dementieva’s retirement will not be the way she would have liked it to happen she’s not going to be one to look a gift horse in the mouth.

The challenge for whichever one comes out on top this weekend is now taking this in to the grass-court season and continuing with the drive to beat all and sundry before them and prove that they really “deserve” to be thought of as a champion.

It doesn’t matter who they’ve beaten to get here, it’s what they do now that matters. This is the chance of a lifetime for both these women and I can’t wait to see who “deservedly” becomes the Champion by controlling the situation better than their opponent and beating their winners in the Paris clay.

FAN WATCH: ELENA DEMENTIEVA DEFEATED BY INJURY

By Luís Santos

It was a sad day for Elena Dementieva as she was forced to retire from the semifinal of her favorite Grand Slam, after dropping the first set 7-6(3).

Elena was attempting to reach her third slam final, and second at Roland Garros, but after struggling with injuries all tournament it finally caught up with her as she conceded an easier ride to the final for gritty Franny Schiavone.

Elegant Elena actually served for a 5-3 lead holding 4-3 and 40-15 but it wasn’t meant to be as Schiavone turned things around to level the match at 4-all and eventually go up 5-4. As the players entered the tiebreak it seemed as if Elena would move up a gear going up 2-0, but she quickly let Francesca win six points in a row and eventually the Italian won the set.

After that Elena said goodbye to the tournament in a mist of tears and disappointment. Her fans feel the same.

FRANCESCA SCHIAVONE CELEBRATES WIN WITH A DIVINE KISS

By Ritesh Gupta

The way Francesca Schiavone reacted after her quarterfinal victory over Caroline Wozniacki in the French Open is something what a tennis fan longs for.

A tennis pro can’t express much in the playing arena especially when there are a series of matches lined up. But the manner in which Schiavone expressed herself was touching to say the least.

She held her head in disbelief. Taking a few steps, standing in the middle of the court and acknowledging the applause from the crowd, Schiavone wrapped up her celebration by kissing the coveted surface. Definitely an emotional moment, which Schiavone would cherish throughout her life.

And why wouldn’t she?

For one, who will now appear in a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time, such reaction is quite understandable. She is also the first Italian woman in the Open era to make it to this stage of the French Open. Schiavone next plays Elena Dementieva.

Schiavone, who will be turning 30 this month, has been on the professional tour for more than a decade. Though she has never been in the top 10, she still has the ability to pose a threat to anyone.

Schiavone’s 6-2, 6-3 triumph over third seeded Wozniacki showcased her athletic ability. She backed up up the same with an array of fluent strokes. The Italian was clearly in her elements today, hardly letting Wozniacki to get into rhythm.

On this day, Wozniacki not only lost the baseline duel, but she was also found wanting at the net. Wozniacki only won 5 of 13 points at the net. In fact, on quite a few occasions, even when Wozniacki had an opening and rushed to the net, Schiavone made up for it with her speedy recovery, setting up winners by either forcing her opponent to play tough half volleys or passing her at the net.

Schiavone remained in front throughout. She won three games on the trot at 3-2 in the first set. Wozniacki, who conceded an early break in the second set, levelled to raise hopes at 3-3. But Schiavone, who seldom hides her emotions while playing, motivated herself whenever Wozniacki showed signs of catching up. The Italian showed her aggressive intent as she to chose to serve and volley to set up her first match point. She capitalised on the same with a gutsy smash. And post that she celebrated her win beautifully.

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.

SUNNY SUNSHINE IN MELLOW MIAMI

The Sony Ericsson Open isn’t just about tennis. With the great weather in Florida and the sea nearby, the place is also about having fun. And that’s what these players were having. And lots of it.

STAR SIGHTINGS: Golf-great Jack Nicklaus stopped by the Sony Ericsson Open on Friday. The rain prevented him from seeing the stellar lineup, but NFL star Terrell Owens got a quick bite to eat in the players’ lounge while catching up with his good friend Andy Roddick. Owens was able to watch a great match between Justine Henin and Elena Dementieva, followed by Roddick and Igor Andreev.

MIAMI DOLPHIN CHEERLEADERS: Miami Dolphin cheerleaders Fabiola Romero and Samantha Ruiz came to the Sony Ericsson Experience to teach Spain’s David Ferrer a few steps from their kick line. The bashful Ferrer poised for a couple of pictures with the dancing beauties before racing off to practice. The Dolphin cheerleaders hung around and signed autographs for the fans.

SONY ERICSSON OPEN PARTY TOUR: Making its second stop of the tournament, the Sony Ericsson Open Party Tour unloaded at Sunset Place this evening. Fans packed the popular hangout to get autographs from Nicolas Almagro. Sony Ericsson models were present taking photos of tennis fans as they enjoyed interactive games, danced to the hottest tunes spun by Power96 and watched highlights from last year’s Sony Ericsson Open. The final stop of the tour will be on Sunday, March 28 at the University of Miami for the second annual Sony Ericsson Open Pool Party. The event is only opened to UM students.

Photocredits Sony Ericsson Open 2010.

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WHEN TENNIS GETS GOING, TENNIS GOES INDIAN WELLS

So one of my favourite tournaments of the year starts this week and I am all excited about it. I have tracked many of my favorite tennis players through twitter and subscribed to many RSS feeds of various tennis site to be completely up-to-date as possible. It’s time to get ready for a good time, sunny weather and Eurosport.

I have read Bobby Chintapalli’s comprehensive list of favorites to win the tournament and I agree with most of them.  The only big name that was missing from that list was Caroline Wozniacki. Though I understand the criteria Chintapalli to compile the list and her reasons to leave out Wozniacki from her, otherwise, great list.

Chintapalli argues, and I quote:

I had to start somewhere, and I started with the players who have the best match win percentages so far this year. Of course there are many other great players with the potential to go far at Indian Wells. (Caroline Wozniacki’s clearly very good and very good for tennis, but her match win percentage this year is 57.1% — that’s the only reason she’s not on this list.)

Like I said, her argument for leaving out Wozniacki is a good one.

Then I started to read the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour website.  And every week they have a player from the WTA Tour blog from a certain location. I have to say that I loved the introduction to the blog of this week’s player.

INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA – Indian Wells has been the stage for some of Daniela Hantuchova’s most glorious moments, so is there really anywhere better for the Slovak No.1 to do the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Blog from?

It’s true. I remember vividly when Hantuchova beat Hingis back then.  And I remember the second time that she won the tournament too. Hantuchova is a master on the courts of Indian Wells and always a force to be reckoned with. You never know.  Life’s full of surprises, so is tennis.

After that I started to read the Twitters of Elena Dementieva and Victoria Azarenka, just to see what they were up to and if they had any expectations.

Victoria “Vika” Azarenka prepared herself for the tournament hitting some balls with Gisela Dulko and afterwards she told that Kim Clijsters entered the courts.  Then there was something funny on Vika’s Twitter account.

Somebody asked her what she would like to have as an extraordinary talent.

Her answer:

my personal answer is i want to be able to read people minds! it think its kinda cool! well thanks again..i hope u enjoyed it as well

To read more about Victoria Azarenka, sign up for Twitter and start following her  @vika7 . She’s often very funny and takes time out for her fans.

Elena Dementieva’s Twitter was less interesting. It’s less personal but she did leave a link to an audiocast with an interview of her at Indian Wells. You can find it by clicking here: http://www.bnpparibasopen.org/News/Interviews-Audio/Interviews-Audio.aspx More interviews are available including but not limited to: Caroline Wozniacki (who has surprisingly not Twittered about Indian Wells at all) and Sam Stosur.

Then I decided to hop over to a very decent site that I have visited quite a lot in the past two weeks. It’s WTA  Women’s Tennis who have  comprehensive coverage with great videos and photos of the Indian Wells tournament. Like the photos of Jelena Jankovic training. If she doesn’t win the tournament then she at least should win the “The most beautiful smile” award. Because that’s what she has.

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WILL BALANCED APPROACH TO LIFE WORK FOR OUDIN?

By Melina Harris

As I sat on the British table at the Professional Tennis Registry’s award ceremony last night at the Crowne Plaza, Hilton Head Island, we were informed that Brian de Villiers, coach of America’s new sweetheart, 18-year-old Melanie Oudin could not accept his award for PTR Touring Coach of the Year due to his commitments in supporting his young protégé in France during her impressive run at the Open GDF Suez tournament in Paris, which came to an end after a gutsy semifinal performance on Saturday against top seeded Elena Dementieva 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.

De Villiers was given the award by the PTR based on Oudin’s meteoric rise into America’s consciousness as their No. 3 female player on the tour behind Serena and Venus Williams following her impressive run to the quarterfinals at last year’s US Open, when she dispatched of Dementieva, Petrova and Sharapova no less. Her two victories in the recent Fed Cup to give the United States a 4-1 win over France has not gone unnoticed by the American public desperate for someone to take over from the impressive Williams sisters. However the level-headed star recently commented, “I know people are hoping I’m the next up-and-coming American but I don’t read any of that, the blogs, the press, what anyone says. I just focus on myself and I already have my own goals. That’s what I’m concentrating on.”

After the recent ‘burn outs’ of Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova in their early twenties with career threatening injuries, I began to wonder whether steps had been taken by De Villiers to ensure Oudin’s longevity in the game?

Unlike Sharapova, whose years of intensive training on the hard courts of the Nick Bollettieri Academy in Florida have caused the star to remodel her serve in order to recover from a recurrent shoulder injury and Nadal’s pounding on the Spanish clay as a junior causing widespread concern over his tendonitis, De Villiers has been careful not to overdo the training and instead has chosen to allow Oudin to also focus her attentions on academic pursuits. De Villiers is well known for encouraging his young players to keep a balanced perspective on and off court. It has been documented that Oudin intends on studying for a medical degree in the future. Could this more balanced view be the key to her future success?

Indeed, the recent rise of American collegiate graduate John Isner to No. 25 in the ATP world rankings has emphasized the idea that devoting too much time to tennis at a young age without consideration of a player’s personal and mental development outside of the game can be detrimental, while a more balanced approach to education can be more conducive to a lengthy and successful career.

The Williams sisters were notoriously held back from playing junior events by their father which could have been the predominating factor in their continued enthusiasm for the game, as well as their other pursuits such as Serena’s charity work and their fashion lines.

I think there has been a definite switch in opinion regarding the age at which players are expected to achieve success, confirmed by the notable come backs of Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters in their mid twenties following breaks from the game, when both players were allowed the time to shift their focus on personal development which has possibly given them an edge over their weary contemporaries such as Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic whose years of focus and discipline have lead to mental and physical fatigue. Most players should be reaching their peak around the mid to late twenties mark, like the great Roger Federer, who many forget took 17 attempts at a Grand Slam title before winning one. However, in the past players have been written off as failures if they haven’t succeeded in their teens or early twenties, which with hindsight was ridiculous.

I really hope that young players such as Laura Robson and Melanie Oudin are given the time and space to develop at a more natural pace, with the inclusion of academic and social pursuits to ensure their love for the game, which can be lost like Andre Agassi admitted in his recent autobiography who went so far as to say he ‘hated’ the sport, but only began to truly love it aged 27 during his comeback which included several Grand Slam victories.

As Oudin plays in the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships in Memphis this week, it will be interesting to see whether the level-headed youngster, whose slogan “believe” is emblazoned on her trainers, and her coach’s balanced approach will create a fairy tale ending for her adoring American fans and become a future Grand Slam tournament champion.

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.

US OPEN DARLING MELANIE OUDIN BACK ON TRACK?

Is Melanie Oudin, the darling of last year’s U.S. Open, finally back on track? The 18-year-old Georgian busted out of a six-match losing streak to be the heroine of the U.S. Fed Cup team’s 4-1 upset win over France over the weekend.

Oudin beat France’s Julie Coin 7-6 (3), 6-4 on indoor clay in Lievin, France to clinch victory for the United States and send Captain Mary Joe Fernandez’s squad into the semifinals against Russia in April in the United States.

Oudin gave the USA a 2-0 lead on Saturday when she beat Pauline Parmentier of France 6-4, 6-4.

Since her celebrated run to the quarterfinals of the 2009 US Open, Oudin has registered only a paltry 1-6 record, losing her last six matches entering this Fed Cup series. Her two match wins against France was her best win streak since she beat in succession at the US Open Russians Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova, before losing to eventual finalist Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark in the quarterfinals. Her U.S. Open success earned her media opportunities on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” among others but not many more match victories.

Will her inspired effort in France lead to more success on the WTA Tour?