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The Elected Representative: Caroline Wozniacki – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Hanging it Up

After previously stating that he might give it a go in 2011 and see how both his body and ranking held up, American Taylor Dent has decided to officially call it a day on his career. An exciting serve-and-volleyer who reached a career high ranking of No. 21, his career was unfortunately hampered by multiple back injuries. With his wife and young son Declan, Dent will have plenty to keep him busy in retirement, but he’s already expressed interest in staying connected with the tennis world. No doubt that with his charming disposition, he could make a great addition to Tennis Channel’s commentary booth. Another retirement, albeit less publicized, was that of Czech doubles specialist, Martin Damm. You can expect to see him back on the tennis scene right away, however, as he has already announced that he will be coaching American sensation Ryan Harrison. Harrison wowed audiences at the US Open this past summer, and he’ll be looking to utilize Damm’s expertise to take the next step in his budding career.

Prayers Answered

Maybe it was the numerous complaints from fans across the country. Maybe it was a more lucrative deal. Whatever the reasoning behind the switch, American tennis fans will be thrilled to note that the Indian Wells and Miami Masters, two of the largest events in tennis, will be broadcast on ESPN2 and ABC in 2011. This is welcomed news after the two tournaments had previously been aired on the affiliates of Fox Sports, which meant poor, haphazard coverage that led to plenty of hate mail and angry postings. Hopefully the change in carriers will also lead to an increase in viewership, participation, and popularity of the sport in the United States

Repeat Champs

This past weekend, Italy defeated the United States in a repeat of the 2009 final. The title marked Italy’s third championship in just four years. Granted, the United States was fielding a relatively young team that included teenage Fed Cup rookie Coco Vandeweghe, but much credit has to be given to the veteran Italian squad that included both Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone. The victory in particular had to be the icing on the cake for Schiavone, who enjoyed her best season as a professional. Perhaps both of the Italians will be able to channel the positive boost from the Fed Cup title into their play in 2011, much the same way Schiavone did this past year.

London Calling

Tournament organizers and Parisian fans were disappointed when current World No. 1 Rafael Nadal was forced to pull out of the final Masters event of the season, having cited tendinitis in his shoulder. Hopefully the injury is not a result of the tweaks he has made to improve his serve, and Nadal and his camp will be praying it doesn’t become nearly as problematic as his knees. At the very least, Nadal will be doing all in his power to ensure that he is ready for the final tournament of his season, the ATP World Tour Championships in London. He’s yet to add that impressive title to his long list of accomplishments, and after a poor showing at the same event last year, he’ll be looking to make amends at the end of what has been the best season of his young career.

Elected Representative

While much of the United States was focused on its national elections, the WTA had its own election earlier this month. Newly-crowned year-end No. 1 Caroline Wozniaki will be joining the WTA Player Council, replacing Patty Schnyder. In addition to Akgul Amanmuradova and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Wozniaki will be joining Schiavone and both Venus and Serena Williams. As Wozniaki’s star has only continued to shine brighter with each tournament she enters, it’s safe to say that hers will be a voice that carries some weight as the Player Council works to continually shape policy and life on the WTA.

GONZO OUT, MURRAY DUCKS OUT ON DAVIS CUP: TENNIS PEOPLE

* Former world No. 5 Fernando Gonzalez has announced he will be away from the tour for 10 weeks while he battles a bilateral patellar tendinitis. “Unfortunately I have bad news,” he told his official website. “The bilateral patellar tendinitis that I have will force me to be away from competition for 10 weeks. Because of that, I will have to skip Gstaad, Bastad, Hamburg and, most sadly, the Davis Cup quarterfinal tie against Czech Republic at Coquimbo.” He has targeted the hard-court ATP Masters tournament in Toronto in August as his return.

*Andy Murray has conformed he will not be participating in Great Britain’s crucial Davis Cup relegation playoff against Turkey next month. New captain Leon Smith must face the Turks without his two highest ranked players as Alex Bogdanovic is also missing. But Murray felt the Brits were in good shape even without their two top stars. “I’ve given a lot of reasons for not playing and I do think that it’s time for us to start winning ties, having young players getting used to winning,” Murray told BBC Sport. “Right now it’s important that the guys get used to winning and beating teams like Turkey and I think they will do.”

* Rafa Nadal has admitted that recapturing his Roland Garros crown from Roger Federer was always top priority in his mind ahead of reclaiming the No. 1 slot in the South Africa Airways ATP World Rankings. In an interview with Fox Sports he said: “The (French Open trophy) is the most important thing for me. After the No. 1 is there, yes. But I was No. 1, and believe me, I am very happy. When I was crying after the match, the last thing I was thinking was the No. 1. The first thing is the title and all the hours I worked, a lot, to be here another time.” The interview also gives the views of top stars including Robin Soderling on Rafa’s chances of dominating at Wimbledon again two years on from that epic 2008 final against Roger Federer. Check it out at the Fox Sports website.

* Roger Federer’s defeat to Lleyton Hewitt in the final at Halle last Sunday was only his second defeat on grass since 2003, the first being the blockbusting 2008 Wimbledon final against Rafael Nadal. The victory for Hewitt moved him up to No. 26 in the world in this week’s ATP rankings (14/06) which will help emphatically with his seeding for Wimbledon. Benjamin Becker re-enters the Top 50 at 48 while his Queens final defeat to Sam Quarrey has seen Mardy Fish jump 20 places to No. 70 in the world.

*Thai star Paradorn Srichapan has officially announced his retirement from professional tennis. He has always said he hoped to return from the wrist injury that has kept him sidelined since early 2007 but a recent motorcycle accident in which he broke both his hands and injured his knee has put paid to that. He is now set to coach the Thai Davis Cup team.

*In the Sony Ericsson WTA Rankings (14/06) Na Li’s victory over Maria Sharapova in Birmingham moves her in to the world’s Top 10 for the first time since February. Aravane Rezai is in to the Top 20 at 19 while Sybille Bammer and Arantxa Parra Santonja enter the Top 50. It is the first time since the week beginning August 25, 2003 that only one Russian occupies a Top 10 slot.

* The knee injury that forced Russian Elena Dementieva to pull out of her French Open semi with Francesca Schiavone has now ruled her out of Wimbledon. The 28-year-old reached the semis in 2008 and 2009 and had hoped to go one step further this year. In better news, Richard Gasquet has stepped up his return from the back injury that kept him out of Queens in a bid to make the Slam, reports L’Equipe. Kei Nishikori also hopes to make the event according to his management.

* Kim Clijsters reflected favourably on her return from injury which saw her crush compatriot Yanina Wickmayer 6-1, 6-1 at Eastbourne. “It was not bad for a first match in a while,” said Clijsters. “I stayed focused very well… Yanina wasn’t playing her best tennis, she made a lot of mistakes, but I was trying to go to the lines a lot and be really aggressive.”

* Following on from yet another Roland Garros title Rafa Nadal chose somewhere different to celebrate – Disneyland Paris. He posed with new-generation favourites such as the Incredibles and spent the day on his favourite rides and attractions. “It’s a place I love,” he said. “I often come with my family and I also intend to return very soon.”

* Lindsay Davenport has increased her return to the WTA Tour by announcing she will also be playing the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford this year.

* Billie Jean King is backing Martina Hingis to also return to pro tennis on the doubles circuit following her competing in the 2010 World Team Tennis season. Hingis has already announced that her and Anna Kournikova will compete in the legends doubles competition at Wimbledon this month and King believes she is “testing the waters” in regards to a full return according to the associated press. In a conference call with Tennis.com, however, Hingis has claimed she is still undecided on the issue but has considered teaming up for doubles with Lindsay Davenport after the former American star announced more dates for her comeback this year.

* Following on from his defeat to Feliciano Lopez at Queens Rafa Nadal gave an insight in to how he was going to be spending his time off before Wimbledon. “Have some dinner with the friends and maybe play some golf. That’s it,” he said. “Oh, and World Cup—always,” he added. He also pinpointed where he may improve before tackling the third Grand Slam of the year at Wimbledon later this month. “Next week, in Wimbledon, I gonna have more time to practice and to adjust a little bit more the serve, a little bit more the backhand and the movements on the grass. So that can be good thing.”

* Dominica Cibulkova has begun to work full-time with Dinara Safina’s recently axed coach Zeljko Krajan, according to TennisReporters.net.

* Three-time Rogers Cup Champion Chris Evert is heading in to the tournament’s Hall of Fame. She will be inducted in a ceremony on August 16th during the evening session of that day’s play.

* GB’s Ken Skupski has spoken of his delight at moving in to the world’s Top 50 doubles players, at No. 49. “We’ve [Skupski and partner Colin Fleming] just finished with the Aegon Championships and we’re heading to Eastbourne to play in the Aegon International and that’s the tournament prior to Wimbledon,” he told BBC Sport. “We feel we have got a good chance next week. I’m not sure whether we’ll be seeded but we will be one of the top ranked teams there.”

MARIA SHARAPOVA AND BOYFRIEND LAKERS STAR SASHA VUJACIC AT INDIAN WELLS

Still checking on blogs like I have been doing this whole week. I found some interesting articles that I will link to.

FoxNews.com wonders where the young women contenders are. We got Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin,  Serena & Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova. But where are the likes of Caroline Wozniacki, Yanina Wickmayer or Victoria Azarenka?  Fox Sports goes into details. Read all about it here: http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2010/03/11/young-womens-contenders/

Greg Couch is attending Indian Wells and blogs. One of his blogs is an interesting read.  It deals with America’s tennis sweetheart  Melanie “Miracle Melanie” Oudin. She got ousted in the first round of the Indian Wells tournament losing to Roberta Vinci, 3-6, 6-3, 6-0. But that’s not the worst part according to Greg.  Mel’s playing as if she no self confidence at all and it’s a not a fun sight.  http://tennis.fanhouse.com/2010/03/12/miracle-melanies-missing-confidence/

TheSportReview.com wonders about the, according to them, sad state of the WTA Tour. Will the WTA Tour be able to bounce back after a bad year filled with bad headlines? TheSportReview.com thinks they can. http://www.thesportreview.com/tsr/2010/03/is-womens-tennis-finally-about-to-bounce-back/

TMZ.com has a cute photo of lovebirds Maria Sharapova and boyfriend and Lakers star Sasha Vujacic.

NO LAUREUS LOVE FOR ROGER FEDERER: THE FRIDAY FIVE

By Maud Watson

And the Award Goes to… – In the aftermath of the Oscars, one of sports’ most prestigious awards, the Laureus Awards, were announced earlier this week. Tennis twice took top honors, with Serena Williams winning for Sportswoman of the Year, while Kim Clijsters took home the prize for Comeback of the Year. The only head scratcher for me was Federer going away empty handed, especially since he essentially had a better season than Serena Williams. That said, track star Usain Bolt, who won Sportsman of the Year, was a deserving candidate, and overall, it was still another great showing for tennis.

Bit of Joy – After the devastating earthquake that caused the tie between Chile and Israel to be delayed by a day, it was host country Chile that gave their home nation something to smile about in the wake of tragedy. Chile ultimately won the tie 4-1. After the win, Chilean star Fernando Gonzales dedicated the victory to his fellow countryman and announced he was going one step further to assist with relief efforts by pulling out of Indian Wells to tour the areas hit hardest by the quake, as well as leading calls to raise aid.

The Good Goran Returns – Much to the delight of up-and-comer Marin Cilic, Goran Ivanisevic has agreed to continue to serve as his part-time coach. He’ll be with Cilic for both the Miami and Madrid Master 1000 events. This is not a permanent change, as Brett is still Cilic’s full-time coach. Given Ivanisevic’s experience, however, there’s no doubt his influence will further enhance the younger Croat’s game and see him continue his climb up the rankings.

Tennis Channel to the Rescue – After a couple years of multiple complaints from viewers, Indian Wells worked out a deal that will see Tennis Channel become the main cable provider for the tournament. It may not be ESPN2, but I was happy to see the network switch. It’s ridiculous that two of the biggest events in tennis, Indian Wells and Miami, should be on a network like Fox Sports that offers a random and small amount of coverage across the United States. It cheats the fans, and in a way, it cheats the tournament. At least this year, there should be a little less hate mail flying around as fans can tune into Tennis Channel to get the coverage they deserve.

Humiliation for Great Britain – It’s no secret that the nation of Great Britain, once a powerhouse in Davis Cup play, has been struggling to find a foothold in the competition.  Particularly in the wake of the retirements of both Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski, as well as a lack of participation from current British No. 1 Andy Murray, the people of Great Britain have collectively had to hold their breath with each nerve-wracking tie.  But this past weekend was more than nerve-wracking for the Brits; it was humiliating, as current British Captain John Lloyd “earned” the distinction of becoming the first British captain in 110 years to lose five successive ties, the latest coming at the hands of Lithuania.  Now just a step away from being relegated to the lowest level of the Davis Cup competition, the LTA is reviewing what went wrong against the tiny Baltic nation.  Sources speculate John Lloyd may get the sack, and many, including Boris Becker, are suggesting that Tim Henman is the ideal candidate to replace Lloyd.  I’m not opposed to Henman taking over the helm (though he’s already stated he’s not interested in the position at this time), but I personally think the LTA is missing the point if that’s all that is done.  Even Henman himself has stated it isn’t fair to blame Lloyd or Annacone for Britain’s poor performance.  If the talent isn’t there (or properly developed as the case may be), it’s hard to win a Davis Cup match, irrespective of who’s guiding the ship.