grand prix de sar la princesse lalla meryem

Djokovic aiming for clay crown, Nadal continues to break records and a shock win for Goerges in Stuttgart

Djokovic Aims to Remain Unstoppable:

Novak Djokovic says he is aiming to do what nobody else has since 2009 and overcome Rafael Nadal on clay. The Serb has enjoyed an unbeaten start to 2011, 27 matches that have taken in titles at the Australian Open, Dubai, Indian Wells and Miami, and the 23-year-old believes he has what it takes to finally stop the Spaniard in his tracks. “I am playing with a lot more confidence against him these days,” said the two-time Aussie Open winner. “I now believe I can beat anyone on any surface, although beating Nadal on clay remains a big ask and the biggest challenge of all. Down the years, as Nadal kept ripping apart everything in front of him on red clay, we always thought there was no room left for improvement in his game and he kept surprising us. He is still the player to beat [on clay] and the favourite in each of the upcoming events, including the French Open, because he is so dominant on this surface.” If these two continue in the same vein of form then this year’s Roland Garros could certainly be very interesting.

Nadal Records Continue:

Rafael Nadal continued his exceptional run on clay, which stretches back 34 matches to 2009, with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over compatriot David Ferrer in the final of the Barcelona Open. In a repeat of last week’s Monte Carlo final the 24-year-old raced through the first set in emphatic fashion. An early second-set wobble saw Ferrer establish a 4-2 lead but Nadal rallied and took four straight games to win the match. Nadal has now won six Barcelona titles in his last six visits, having missed last year with a knee injury, and he becomes the first man in the Open Era to win two events six or more times, his victory at Monte Carlo being his seventh successive at the club. “It’s incredible to come back here to my tournament and my fans after not being able to play last year,” said Nadal. “I am very, very happy for the win and sorry for David, who is having a fantastic year and deserves a title. It’s bad luck for him having to play me in three finals but it’s my sixth title here and it’s a huge delight.”

 

Goerges Stuns Wozniacki in Stuttgart:

Julia Goerges shocked world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki by overcoming the Dane 7-6(3), 6-3 in the final of the Stuttgart Grand Prix. She becomes the first German since Anke Huber in 1994 to triumph there. The new world No.27 (a career-best) assaulted the 20-year-old’s backhand from the off, forcing her in to repeated errors. Taking a 5-2 lead in the first-set tie-break Goerges forced Wozniacki in to two errors, sending forehands long, to hand her the set. Once Goerges had opened up a 3-0 lead in the second the title looked as good as hers. “Against Caroline it feels like you always have a mountain to climb and I did it,” said the 22-year-old. “Julia played very well, very aggressive and the balls were going in,” said Wozniacki. “I tried everything but it did not work. I’ll have to go back on the practice court and make things better. Hopefully we will have many more matches in the future.”

Brianti Breaks her Duck at Fes:

Italian veteran Alberta Brianti secured her first WTA Tour Level title at the age of 31 at the Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Fes, Morocco. She overcame the 19-year-old Romanian Simona Halep in the final 6-4, 6-3. It was Brianti’s second final, having lost to Shahar Peer in Guangzhou, China, two years ago. Not bad for a player who had never won back-to-back matches on clay before the event. “I played so well all week,” said the new world No.67. “I was a little bit surprised – we were playing on indoor hardcourts in Moscow for Fed Cup on the weekend, and I came here so late. I didn’t expect to win the tournament at all. In the first round I was down 4-0 with points for 5-0, but then things started going better.”

Querrey to Defend at Queen’s:

Queen’s Club have confirmed that the 2010 finalists, winner Sam Querrey and Mardy Fish, have agreed to return to the grass-court Wimbledon warm up this summer. They join a field already populated by the likes of Rafa Nadal, British No.1 Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro. The French trio Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Richard Gasquet  and Gilles Simon, as well as Fernando Verdasco, Marin Cilic, Ivan Ljubicic and Ernests Gulbis, are all also involved. “This is arguably the strongest field of players we have ever had,” said Tournament Director Chris Kermode. “We also have a field of great depth this year, with every player on the entry list ranked inside the world’s Top 100. It means that there will be big names and great matches from day one and we are really looking forward to it.”

Roddick Given a Legg Up:

Three-time winner Andy Roddick has committed to the 2011 Legg Mason Classic in Washington DC for the tenth time in his career. The 2001, 2005 and 2007 victor won his 30th Tour level title this year at Memphis, making him only the third active pro (behind Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal) to have achieved that feat. “The Legg Mason Tennis Classic is very excited to announce that Andy Roddick, one of the most sought-after players by tournaments around the world, has committed to play,” said Jeff Newman, Tournament Director and Senior Vice President with Lagardère Unlimited. “Andy typically plays only 13 ATP World Tour Tournaments per year out of the 62 held in 32 countries worldwide,” he continued. “Similar to Andre Agassi during his career, we feel fortunate that Andy continues to choose to play in Washington each year.”

Sanchez-Vicario Attacks Modern WTA Tour:

Former world No.1 Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario has taken a swipe at the modern WTA Tour, stating that the tour she played on in the 1990s was of a higher standard. “We had eight or 10 players who always had an extreme rivalry,” she said. “And to be No.1, or winning a Grand Slam or two, that just didn’t come. Now everything is much more open. You can be number one without being a great champion. There is a lot more power in the game, but it lacks variety. If you ask people, they know names of the Williams sisters or Clijsters and Henin, but don’t ask them to tell you the name of the number one.” Was this a thinly veiled dig at current incumbent Caroline Wozniacki? “There was more variety, players with different games, stronger minds, more character,” she continued. “I played with three generations and they evolved. I had to adapt. It’s the same now. If you want to compete in today’s game you have to play a much more physical [game] and more power than before.”

Nadal Could Struggle at Altitude:

Former Spanish Davis Cup captain Emilio Sanchez says that while world No.1 Rafa Nadal is still the favourite to triumph at Madrid next week he could find the high altitude of the tournament difficult to handle. “When a tournament is on clay Nadal is the favourite, but if a site has difficulties like Madrid, with the altitude or enclosed court, that gives other players at his level a chance to make things difficult,” he said.

Haas Back where he Belongs:

Former world No.2 Tommy Haas has returned to the courts this week in the doubles in Munich after 14 months out of action due to hip surgery and repeated shoulder injuries. The 33-year-old is partnering Radek Stepanek in what will be a very welcome sight for all home fans at the event. He is hoping that a good showing will result in invites to the upcoming tournaments at Madrid and Rome as well as the French Open. “I have trained very well in the last few months and want to play again,” Haas told German paper Sport-Bild Online.

Injuries Galore on WTA Tour:

After Tennis People reported last week that Venus Williams was unsure over when she would return to tour level action, now her sister Serena has backtracked on earlier hopeful predictions saying that she, too, is unsure on when she will pick up her racquet again competitively. “I’m feeling better,” said the younger Williams sibling. “Just starting training. I’m a little later than I suspected and hoped. But it’s going steady. Slow and steady, I think, always works out when it’s a race.” The news comes as the sisters, as well as Belgian ace Kim Clijsters, have all pulled out of the upcoming WTA event in Madrid. Venus reached the final at Madrid last year where Aravane Rezai bested her, but she has not really competed since the 2010 US Open due to injury. Clijsters and Venus are also expected to miss Rome.

Nadal Joins 500 Club:

Rafael Nadal’s semifinal victory over Ivan Dodig in Barcelona was the 500th Tour Level win of his career. He is the youngest man after Bjorn Borg to achieve the feat.

Young not a Happy Tweeter:

Donald Young has aimed a foul-mouthed rant at the USTA for overlooking him for a wildcard in to this year’s French Open. The 21-year-old was not given a berth in the USTA’s WC playoff event in Boca Raton despite winning the Challenger event at Tallahassee last week, reaching the third round at Indian Wells via a win over Andy Murray and cracking the Top 100 at No.98. “F*** USTA! Their full of s***! They have screwed me for the last time!” said the tweet, which Young then apologized for, stating that it was out of character. Soon after that, Young shut down his Twitter account altogether but neither he nor his representatives have responded to press requests for comments. Young has since apologised to those at the top of American tennis but the head of USTA Player Development and former Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe revealed he is still upset at the youngster due to the amount of free coaching he has received from the organization over the years with, truthfully, little return to show for it. “My emotion is not coming from my personal opinions,” McEnroe said. “It’s coming from the people on my staff, our team, that have gone above and beyond to try to help Donald Young, and not just him, but all the players we try to help. Again, we can go back and debate whether you like our program. You can do a referendum on me and my run in another two, three years. Kick me out the door if you don’t like the results. I get that. I understand the position. I understand the responsibility. But I also understand what my team is doing on a daily basis, and I don’t like what I heard. I don’t like my team being put in that situation based on all they’ve done. I do take it personally, but I take it personally because of who I am in my position in this team.” Ryan Harrison turned down an invitation to the event stating that he would rather enter the Grand Slams the hard way via on-site qualifying.

Petkovic Hires Gunthardt:

Andrea Petkovic has hired Steffi Graf’s fomrer coach Heinz Gunthardt to work with her on a part-time basis alongside full-time mentor Petar Popovic. Gunthardt worked with Ana Ivanovic for part of last year but that agreement came to an end as she wanted a full-time coach with her at all times and Gunthardt didn’t wish to commit to that. “The point is that I will incorporate my ideas and experiences and give an input,” Gunthardt said. “I will not be working with Andrea every day.”

Gajdosova Refutes Marriage Rumours:

Jarmilla Gajdosova, up until recently Jarmilla Groth, has refuted claims that her marriage to Sam Groth fell apart as she had only married him to obtain Australian citizenship. She approached Tennis Australia about representing them in 2004 and moved to the country. She applied for citizenship in 2007, the year she met and began dating Groth before they married in February 2009 with Gajdosova becoming a citizen in November of that year. “To people who say bad things about me: I didn’t need get married to become aussie citizen-check the facts… and check the law!” Gajdosova wrote on her Twitter account. “I got married because I loved sam and did it from my heart not because I am from poor country or I need it him for passport!”

Soderling and Tsonga Set Sail:

The Portuguese navy invited world No.5 Robin Soderling and No.18 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga aboard their sail ship Sagres this week while they were competing at the Estoril Open. They received a tour of the ship including climbing the rigging before putting on a small tennis exhibition on deck for the ship’s crew. “It was a really good experience, totally different from the tennis world,” said Tsonga. “[Climbing up the rigging] was really dangerous! I can’t imagine what it would be like if it was windy. The last time I was on a boat, which I rented for fishing, I was sick for five hours. Here it was okay, as it was a big boat moored up.” Meanwhile, the 2009 US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro took time out to visit the Benfica football team who were preparing for their Europa League semi-final first-leg against fellow Portuguese outfit Braga this Thursday. He was presented with a signed club shirt by his fellow countrymen Javier Saviola, Pablo Aimar, Nicolas Gaitan and Franco Jara. Whatever he said to them worked as the Lisbon club triumphed 2-1.

Almagro Posts Career Best in Rankings Watch:

Nicolas Almagro became the 17th Spaniard to crack the Top 10 of the South African Airways ATP World Rankings this week, a career best. Ivan Dodig’s run to the semifinals at Barcelona sees him climb 12 in to the Top 50 at No.44, another career best, while Spain’s Pablo Andujar also enters the Top 50 at No.48. Czech star Jan Hajek, Germany’s Mischa Zverev and France’s Florent Serra all enter the Top 100. In the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings, Sam Stosur climbs above Li Na to No.6 in the world. Andrea Petkovic finds herself at No.15 in the world for the first time. She is joined in the Top 30 by surprise Stuttgart winner Julia Goerges at No.27, meaning that there are two Germans in the Top 30 for the first time since Steffi Graf retired in 1999. Alberta Brianti’s win at Fes saw her jump from No.94 to No.67 in the world while the woman she conquered, Simona Halep, is at a career-best No.52. Venus Williams has dropped to No.16 in the world with her continued injury absence. It is the first time since August 2007 that she has been outside the Top 15.

Rafa Takes lead in GOAT Race:

Roger Federer took some time out following his early exit in Monte Carlo leaving Rafa Nadal with a chance to take the lead, which he grabbed with both hands. By taking the title he adds another 200 points to his total giving him a lead of 175.

Roger: 595 Rafa: 770

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.