flash in the pan

Caroline Wozniaki has Reached the Pinnacle of the WTA Rankings

By Maud Watson

At the Apex – Dane Caroline Wozniaki has reached the pinnacle of the WTA Rankings, and it will be interesting to see how she is perceived in the weeks to come. Like some of the other recent No. 1’s such as Safina and Jankovic, she has reached the top without a Slam to her name. But while it may not pan out this way, Wozniaki seems as though she’s more in the vein of a Mauresmo or Clijsters, who also reached the top ranking before going on to win their Grand Slam titles. Besides, Slam or no Slam, Wozniaki deserves the No. 1 ranking the same as Safina and Jankovic did when they held it. History will remember more those who won the majors, but finding a way to stay healthy and having the mental fortitude to perform consistently at a high level week in and week out is a great achievement in and of itself, and there should be no qualms if that achievement is rewarded with the top ranking in the game.

Breakthrough – The 2010 season is winding down, and many in the tennis world are already anxiously looking forward to 2011. But for Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, the best moment of his season, and indeed, perhaps of his career, came last week in Bangkok. He recorded his first win over a current world. No. 1, defeating compatriot Rafael Nadal in three sets. Garcia-Lopez showed nerves of steel in his victory, having to save 24 of 26 breakpoints to see himself across the finish line. Impressively, he didn’t suffer the let down that so many do after such a big win, taking out the man from Finland, Jarkko Nieminen, in three close sets to secure the title. This could be a flash in the pan, but such a week could give Garcia-Lopez and his fans even more of a reason to look toward the 2011 season.

Early Exit – More players are calling time on their 2010 seasons in an effort to get healthy going into 2011. Svetlana Kuznetsova has been suffering from an illness that has prevented her from playing at her top form. Unable to practice or work on her fitness, the Russian veteran has smartly opted to close the curtain for the time being in order to allow her body to rest and recharge for next year. The situation for Aggie Radwanska is unfortunately more serious. The young Pole is suffering from a stress fracture in her foot, and as she correctly pointed out, it is a tricky injury. She is unsure if she will be prepared to play the Australian Open next January. Fingers crossed she’s able to make it, as unlike so many of the game’s current stars, Radwanska brings an entertaining game of cunning tactics and touch to the court. As for the elder Williams sister, she is still struggling with a niggling knee injury. Venus hasn’t alluded to the injury being a threat to her chances to go for her first title Down Under, and as a young 30, pocketing another Slam or two isn’t out of the question. Finally, Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero has been forced to undergo both wrist and knee surgery, and will need the next two months to rehab and get healthy. It would be a cruel twist of fate if Ferrero is unable to bounce back from these injuries given the admirable turnaround he has done this year as far as his career and ranking are concerned. Hope to see all of these players in full flight next season.

The Great Compromise – Not so long ago, it was announced that the powers-at-be in the ATP were looking at the possibility of shortening the length of the season by 2-3 weeks. As the starting date of the Aussie Open wasn’t set to move, speculation was that a shortened season would also mean the axing of a few ATP events. But ATP CEO Adam Helfant has put that speculation to rest, stating that no tournaments would be lost should the ATP shorten its season. Undoubtedly some tournament directors are breathing a slight sigh of relief, though no cutting could mean stacking another tournament or two within a week, which means more competition to secure the best field, but it’s better than being wiped off the map completely. Hats off to Helfant if he’s able to find a way to make all parties happy.

Grunt Work – In a study performed at the University of British Columbia and the University of Hawaii, the Public Library of Science put out their findings showing that there’s a good chance that those players who grunt (or shriek as the case may be) actually gain an edge on their quieter opponents. The study’s findings suggest that “the presence of an extraneous sound interfered with participants’ performance, making their response both slower and less accurate.” More research into this subject will have to be done, but hopefully the ITF is taking a hard look at this. Particularly in the case of some of the louder shriekers on the WTA Tour, things have gotten out of hand. It’s an annoyance to the fans and takes away from the game. Plus, given how far things have come since Monica Seles, recent history would also suggest the problem will only get worse as this ugly trend is allowed to continue. One hopes that similar studies to the one conducted by the Universities of British Columbia and Hawaii will give the ITF the evidence that they need to start taking more action.

IVANOVIC’S MISTAKE: THE FRIDAY FIVE

By Maud Watson

Mixed Priorities? – By now, everyone probably knows that Andy Roddick’s wife Brooklyn Decker is appearing on the cover of the famous Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. But in case you missed it, Serb Ana Ivanovic is also being featured in the popular magazine spread. It’s easy to see why she was approached to be in the issue, but I question her decision to do it nonetheless.  This is a woman who has slipped to No. 23 in the rankings, was in tears during her second round Australian Open defeat to Gisela Dulko, and after a dismal performance this past weekend in Fed Cup, freely admitted that she’s suffering from a psychological crisis. Her lifetime contract with Adidas aside, now is the time for Ana Ivanovic to focus more on her tennis and get it back on track. If she doesn’t, then she’s going to quickly be labeled as one of those underachievers who is nothing but a flash in the pan.

Setting an Example – In a refreshing bit of news, Barclay’s conducted a survey of 1,500 individuals and found that tennis stars Roger Federer and Steffi Graf were named top male and female sports role models. Given that it’s one of the cleanest sports, and the fact that golf has recently been rocked by the Tiger Woods scandal, it wasn’t entirely shocking that tennis should score so high. Hopefully tennis’ growing reputation as a model sport for young children and adults everywhere will further help grow viewership and participation around the globe.

Suffering Safina – It was announced earlier this week that former world No. 1 Dinara Safina had to pull out of the Dubai tournament due to her lingering back problem. She hopes to be able to compete in the upcoming Indian Wells tournament. I personally have my fingers crossed for the industrious Russian. I firmly believe she has the game to win a Grand Slam title, but this lingering back injury could very well be a sign that this is the beginning of the end of her tortured career.

Thai Sighting – For all of you Paradorn Srichaphan “Sricha-fans” out there who’ve been wondering what Thailand’s favorite native son has been up to, he’s been preparing to star in an upcoming Thai action film.  Just a week after Leander Paes announced he was going to be starring in a psychological thriller, Paradorn announced that he would be the feature star in the upcoming film Beng Rjan II. Paradorn has been sidelined from tennis with a wrist injury since 2007, and odds appear slim he’ll ever make it back onto the tour. With any luck, this movie gig will work out and he’ll have a second career on the big screen.

The Enigma is Back – I’ll be the first to admit that aside from thrilled, I was more surprised to read that Russian Marat Safin is planning to play the Champion Series event in Rio this coming March.  Given Safin’s attitude towards tennis as primarily a business, I never really expected him to play another competitive match again, and certainly not so soon after his November retirement. One thing is for certain, however.  Given the more laid back and jovial atmosphere that exists on the Senior Tour, you can bet that the affable Safin is going to be bringing plenty of laughter to the tennis court and delighting fans around the world once again.