By Melinda Samson, Special for Tennis Grandstand
Sam Stosur had quite a year in 2011 by acheiving a career-high singles ranking of four in February and defeating Serena Williams to win the US Open in September. Since then, Stosur has struggled reaching only one semifinal and two finals since her maiden slam title. Does she have it in her to mount a surprise run at this year’s French Open?
Stosur’s maiden Grand Slam title was a massive achievement, making her the first Australian woman to win the US Open final since Margaret Court Smith in 1973, and the first Australian woman to win a Grand Slam final since Evonne Goolagong Cawley won Wimbledon in 1980.
And it wasn’t a straightforward ride to victory. Stosur proved her strength and stamina by defeating Nadia Petrova in a third round match that turned out to be the longest ever US Open women’s match in the open era, lasting 3 hours and 16 minutes.
Then, during the final, Stosur calmly played on after Serena’s rant against the chair umpire, un-rattled by the incident that later cost Serena a $2000 fine.
There’s something special about Sam
As well as being an elite tennis player and Grand Slam champion, Stosur is also a great Australian. She is supremely fit, works incredibly hard, is tanned, smiley, humble and let’s face it, she can pull off cool sunnies on court like not many other players can.
Scott Draper, Manager of Developmental Tennis for Tennis Australia, who partnered with Stosur to win the 2005 Australian Open Mixed Doubles final, summed up what makes Sam’s style of play special:
“Sam works extremely hard and is physically strong, which gives her an incredible advantage in being able to overpower her counterparts.
Sam’s point of difference is that she’s not the typical female tennis player. She has angular swings, a heavy forehand, one of the best serves in the women’s game and she can slice. This style of play takes her opponents out of their comfort zone and away from what they typically see.”
An early loss at the 2012 Australian Open
A great Australian trait is that we love sport and we love an Aussie winner. So when Stosur played in Australia this January, the burden of expectation from the home crowd was enormous, and ultimately proved to be too big for Stosur to bear.
Playing in Australia was Stosur’s kryptonite. What should have been her home ground advantage turned into a bonus for her opponents.
A second round loss at the Brisbane International was followed by first round losses at the APIA International inSydneyand the Australian Open in Melbourne.
After the Australian Open loss Stosur said on her blog:
“There’s nothing probably more than my expectation. I really, really wanted to do well here and over the summer…… I did everything I could to try and give myself a good opportunity. It obviously didn’t happen.”
Stosur’s results since the Australian Open
Then February came, WTA tennis moved to other parts of the world and the kryptonite of the Australian public’s expectations lost its power.
Stosur played Fed Cup for Australia against Switzerland where two wins boosted her confidence. After the wins, Stosur said on her blog:
“You want to win as many matches as possible to erase anything negative and it does not matter the opposition, it is always good to win.”
Here’s a summary of Stosur’s singles results since the Australian Open:
- Qatar: reached the final of the WTA Qatar Total Open and was defeated by Victoria Azarenka
- Dubai: made it to the quarterfinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and was defeated by Jelena Jankovic
- Indian Wells: defeated by Nadia Petrova in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open
- Miami: defeated by Serena Williams in the fourth round of the Sony Ericsson Open
- Charleston: made the semi final of the Family Circle Cup in Charleston and was defeated by Serena Williams
- Stuttgart: made the quarter finals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, and was defeated by Maria Sharapova
- Madrid: made the quarterfinals of the Mutua Madrid Open and was defeated by Czech qualifier Lucie Hradecka
- Rome: was defeated by Venus Williams in the third round of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
Next up, the French Open
The French Open starts on Sunday, May 27th. It will be two slams after the highest of Stosur’s highs and one slam after what is probably amongst the lowest of her lows.
We know Stosur can play incredible tennis and after making the French Open final in 2010 we’ve seen what she is capable of at Roland Garros.
Stosur recently displayed her clay “A” game with two cracker Fed Cup wins against Germany in Stuttgart in April, helping Australia get back into the 2013 World Group.
I have high hopes for Stosur at the French Open, while at the same time I’m doing my best not to have expectations! She is seeded sixth and will play her first round match against Elena Baltacha. If Sam progresses through the draw she will potentially play her Round 3 match against Nadia Petrova, Round 4 against Sabine Lisicki and quarter final versus world No.1 Victoria Azarenka.
Follow Tennis Grandstand for updates on Sam Stosur’s progress, as well as other Australian players in the main draw, all throughout the French Open.
Melinda Samson is attending Roland Garros and will be writing updates on Australian players through their trek of the tennis world’s second slam. She also manages the website Grand Slam Gal and is attempting to do the fan version of a tennis grand slam in 2012. Follow her on Twitter for further live updates @GrandSlamGal.
Stosur realizes full potential, Djokovic amazing run continues, ITF has Davis Cup scheduling issues – The Friday Five
By Maud Watson
Novak Djokovic capped off the Grand Slam season the same way that he started it – with a win. The Serb continued his historic year by earning his third Grand Slam of 2011 and first US Open title in impressive fashion, defeating Federer and Nadal in succession. It’s hard to pick which was the more impressive of the two wins. He had to put the memory of Paris behind him and mount a comeback from two sets down (and save two match points) against Federer in the semis before outlasting Nadal in one of the most powerful shotmaking displays fans have seen in quite some time. His entire run showcased his brimming confidence, physical and mental toughness, and his all court game. It’s an impossible ask for him to repeat these kind of results again, but there’s little doubt that Djokovic looks poised to stay atop the game for awhile. Can’t wait to see what he does in 2012.
After failing to rebound from a nerve-filled performance against an in-form Schiavone in the 2010 Roland Garros final, many were rightly left to wonder if Sam Stosur would ever find a way to harness her big game and ride it to a Grand Slam title. She certainly came into the US Open under the radar, and after playing the longest women’s match in US Open history to squeak by Nadia Petrova and losing the longest tiebreak to Maria Kirlenko, you wouldn’t have picked Sam Stosur against Serena Williams in the final. Serena had cruised through the event without the loss of a set. But maybe the fact that it was a dominant 13-time major champion on the other side of the net helped Stosur. She appeared calmer from the outset than she did at the French, and with the exception of a minor hiccup early in the second (caused by yet another infamous Williams tirade), she confidently crossed the finish line to secure her first major title. Stosur has the game and the power to pocket a few more majors, so let’s hope she doesn’t follow the example of Li and Kvitova when the 2012 season starts.
Though many disagree on how heavy the punishment should have been for Serena Williams’ tirade against chair umpire Asderaki in the US Open final, all seem sure of the fact that a $2000 fine was a joke. While the outburst wasn’t profanity-laced like her 2009 tantrum, a suspension may have been in order. Unlike other players’ outbursts, Serena’s was more personal. She implied the umpire was a racist bigot and suggested that Asderaki had it out for her personally. It might also have been deemed a repeat offense, given that Serena was on probation. But most important of all, there was no remorse on the part of Serena despite being given numerous opportunities to admit guilt. It was only two days after receiving the fine that she tweeted her emotions got the better of her, but tweeting is an easy way out. It’s still not an apology to Asderaki, and it clearly demonstrated that Serena learned nothing from 2009 (something a suspension then might have done more effectively than a large fine, which is pocket change to a multi-millionaire like her). As for the defense that guys like Roddick and McEnroe have done worse, two wrongs don’t make a right. We can’t go back and change the past. Yes, McEnroe should have been suspended on more than one occasion, and Andy Roddick should have received multiple fines this past US Open for the way he conducted himself. It’s time to draw the line. And it’s a sorry day for American tennis when with the possible exception of Nastase, it is only American players who are thrown up as examples of bad behavior when a match isn’t going their way. It’s time to take a page out of their peers’ books and start showing as much class in defeat as in victory.
The New York crowd is never going to win an award for tennis etiquette, but the crowds at this year’s US Open seemed great until the final match. Yes, the Djokovic/Nadal rivalry is an exciting matchup, and it’s going to inspire passion in both of their respective fan bases. But the amount of shouting (and below the belt applauding) that took place between first and second serves, as well as during points was atrocious. It was annoying having to listen to it on the television, and one can only imagine what it must have been like for the more respectable (and dare we say sober) fans within the same vicinity as these unruly hooligans. It’s a big stadium with a lot of people, but it’s hard to believe USTA staff couldn’t have done a better job of booting out the troublemakers. It would have made for a more enjoyable match and less of a distraction to the players.
Shot in the Foot
It’s worth noting again that the ITF has shot itself in the foot as far as the Davis Cup competition goes. Why it’s scheduled the week after a major is beyond comprehension. There’s a natural letdown after a Slam event, which already kills some of the buzz that might have otherwise surrounded the upcoming ties. Couple that with the fact that the game’s top stars – the players the ITF would most like to see compete in Davis Cup – have question marks surrounding their preparedness and even possible participation in the this weekend’s matchups due to their deep runs in New York, and the logic behind the Davis Cup scheduling comes under even further scrutiny. If the ITF really wants to work on doing a better job of rebuilding the prestige of this historic competition, they should start with the scheduling.
What a match between Samantha Stosur and Serena Williams in the finale of the US Open 2011. Stosur was considered the underdog in many previews of many well known journalist of the much anticipated finale of the US Open 2011 for the women but managed to hold more than her own versus hard hitting Serena Williams. Stosur won in straight sets 6-2 6-3 and took home her maiden Grand Slam title. I watched the match with medicine leftovers from yesterday’s match between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. Even an Online Canadian Pharmacy would envy me of the stash that was laid out on my table. But in some matches you really need downers. Just like the match between Stosur and Williams was one of them.
For you stat freaks out there:
1st Serve %
29 of 56 = 52 %
30 of 46 = 65 %
Winning % on 1st Serve
18 of 29 = 62 %
22 of 30 = 73 %
Winning % on 2nd Serve
9 of 27 = 33 %
10 of 16 = 63 %
Receiving Points Won
14 of 46 = 30 %
29 of 56 = 52 %
Break Point Conversions
1 of 5 = 20 %
5 of 9 = 56 %
8 of 13 = 62 %
7 of 11 = 64 %
Total Points Won
Fastest Serve Speed
Average 1st Serve Speed
Average 2nd Serve Speed
Djokovic Keeps Murray Waiting:
Two good friends, two very different sets of emotions kick off a bumper Grand Slam edition of Tennis People. Melbourne Park saw Novak Djokovic repeat his 2008 triumph here to lift his second Grand Slam on Sunday which left Andy Murray staring defeat in the face for his third straight final. The Serbian continued the fearsome display which overcame Roger Federer in the semis to dismiss the Scot in straight sets 6-4, 6-2, 6-3. Murray simply had no answer to the explosive groundstrokes Djokovic continually fired over the net and his error count continued to rise as the match wore on. It follows Djokovic’s excellent end to 2010 where he was ousted by Rafa Nadal in the US Open final before leading Serbia to its maiden Davis Cup win over France in December. “[Winning a] Davis Cup title and another Grand Slam title. I’m living the dream of a tennis player, definitely,” declared Djokovic after the match. “I have been more focused and dedicated to the sport than I have ever been before. To be able to win in straight sets against a player like Andy Murray in the finals of Grand Slam, it makes my success even bigger.” He added of his friend: “I really have big respect for him and his game, because I think he has everything what it takes to become a Grand Slam champion. I’m sure that very soon he will be. This was a great match. From the start to the last point, I did what I intended of doing tactically, what I talked with my coach, what I prepared for. It’s the best way that I could ask for to start a season. Both of those guys [Federer and Murray] play their best tennis on the hard courts, as well as I do. But to be able to win against those players in straight sets is incredible.” “It’s better than it was last year,” said Murray on suffering his second-straight Australian Open final defeat. “It was obviously tough, disappointing. I thought Novak played unbelievably well. It’s tough, but got to deal with it. Anyone who played in three finals would have loved to have won one. But I haven’t. I just need to keep working hard and try and do it. I would have liked to have played better,” confessed Murray. “But I think he would have beaten every other player on the tour if he played like that tonight. He served well. He didn’t make many mistakes from the back of the court. He moved really, really well. He hit the ball very clean.” For more fallout hit the ATP website.
Clijsters Claims First Non-American Slam:
Kim Clijsters fully embraced her ‘Aussie Kim’ adopted moniker by finally lifting the hallowed trophy last weekend. The three-time US Open Champion hoisted her first Slam off of American soil by outlasting the Chinese star Li Na 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. It was a sad end to Na’s historic showing which made her the first Chinese player to reach a Grand Slam final (Michael Chang was affiliated to the United States). Na was more aggressive in the first set with her ten winners outnumbering three from Clijsters. But the Belgian steadied herself and her experience began to shine through as she slowly closed out the victory. “She did everything better than me in that first set,” Clijsters told the gathered press. “Her ground strokes were heavier, deeper. She served better, she returned better. She was playing really, really well – probably the best she’s ever played against me. I tried mixing it up, putting some slices in, hitting a few higher shots that drew some errors. I saw her get a little bit aggravated and I just tried to hang in there.” Clijsters also praised her adopted home crowd in her on-court speech: “I finally feel like you guys can call me Aussie Kim, because I won the title. I’ve been coming here for many years and you guys have always been amazing. It helps so much.” Li was philosophical following her defeat: “I take positives. I think I played great tennis. She played better than me. After the match, when I was going back to the locker room, I made a joke that a tennis match should only be one set. I’m still happy what I did today. Right now I’ll just take total rest, because Chinese New Year is coming soon. I’ll take time with the family and prepare for the next tournament.” More can be seen by hitting the WTA website.
Bryans Make it Ten of the Best:
Bob and Mike Bryan denied the ‘Indian Express’ of Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes the Career Grand Slam after cutting them down in the final of the men’s doubles at the Australian Open. It was Slam number ten for the 32-year-olds who now stand just one behind the legendary Aussie duo of Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde. “It never gets old,” said Bob. “Especially to play those two guys, the ‘Indian Express’, who we have tons of respect for. We were jacked up for this match. These two guys are legends. It was an extra special feeling out there on the court playing two guys that have dominated the game 10 years ago.” “We had a great couple of weeks,” reflected Paes. “We had a tough draw. Pretty much played all the best teams in the world getting to the final. Today we lost to the best team on the planet who played lights out today. I thought they played the perfect match. As far as Mahesh and myself are concerned, a great two weeks.” See more at the ATP website.
Crown Jewel for Flavia and Gisela:
They had a fantastic 2010 which saw them rise to the top of the doubles rankings on the back of seven team titles. But 2011 has exploded in to life for Flavia Pennetta and Gisela Dulko who lifted their first Grand Slam at Melbourne Park. Seeded No. 1 they faced a difficult test against the surprise package of the tournament; Victoria Azarenka/Maria Kirilenko. It looked evenly matched. Pennetta/Dulko had dropped only 26 games in five straight set wins en route to the final while Azarenka/Kirilenko had dropped only 25 games and one set. But the top seeds struggled early on and the underdogs rushed the first set 6-2. They even held match points in the second before the Italian and the Argentine rallied to take the match 2-6, 7-5, 6-1. “We were in shock,” Dulko said. “At a set and 4-1 down, at the changeover, we were looking at each other saying, ‘Come on, we have played less than an hour.’ We went for it. We tried to play more aggressively and didn’t wait for them to.” She added: “I think Victoria started to get a little bit more nervous than in the beginning and missed more balls. I think her level started to go down a bit, then Maria maybe as well. But most importantly we just kept fighting. In the end we believed we could turn the match around. It was a good ending.” “It’s a Grand Slam. It’s something really amazing for me,” Pennetta added. “Last year we played so well. We won the WTA Championships and so many good tournaments, but we didn’t make any finals at the Grand Slams or win one of them. We started this year really well and hope to do the same in the next one.” The full fallout can be seen at the WTA website.
Nestor Still Defying Age:
Canadian doubles expert Daniel Nestor made it two Aussie Open mixed doubles titles by partnering Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia to overcome home-grown hero Paul Hanley and Chan Yung-Jan in the final at Melbourne Park. He previously lifted the title in 2007 with Elena Likhovtseva. “She played great [and] I played well, too,” said Nestor. “That’s some of the best mixed I played this week. I don’t always play that well. In the first [set] we lost serve and then broke back. That was important to stay close there. I played a bad game to start the second, which kind of lost our momentum, but then we broke right back again. Then they played a pretty good game to break us to win the set.” It was mixed doubles Slam number five for Srebotnik who won her last two with Nestor’s long-term men’s doubles partner Nenad Zimonjic.
Henin Calls It A Day (Again):
It was the 3am announcement that triggered a massive scramble as journalists leapt out of bed to gain coverage of the second retirement of Justine Henin from professional tennis. The Belgian who has seven Grand Slams to her name has struggled to overcome the elbow injury suffered at last year’s Wimbledon and has decided to give up the ghost permanently rather than struggle towards her dream of that elusive grass-court Slam and suffer complications for the rest of her life. After her early comeback showed signs of promise her recent results have been less-so and she took the decision following her exit Down Under. “It’s time now to turn an incredible page of my life…What a wonderful adventure! I’m sad to end with an injury but that’s the life. I just want to thank you all for your support during all these years…I will never forget it,” she announced via her Facebook and Twitter pages.
United Nations at the WTA:
This week the Top 10 of the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings features ten women of differing nationalities for the first time ever. A Dane, a Belgian, a Russian, an Italian, an Australian, an American, a Chinese, a Serbian, a Belarusian and a Pole make up the Top 10 with an Israeli at No. 11. It shows just how truly global the sport of tennis has become during the Open Era as globalization has truly brought tennis to the four corners of the globe. More on this later on in Rankings Watch.
Dream Doubles Pairing for Close Friends?
Following his victory over long-term friend Andy Murray at the Aussie Open Novak Djokovic has announced that the 23-year-olds hope to team up for the doubles Championships at Indian Wells later this year. “We spoke in Melbourne of the possibility of playing doubles together in Indian Wells and I will raise the issue again with him,” Djokovic told the Serbian sports daily Sportske Novosti. At last year’s Rogers Cup in Toronto Djokovic teamed up with Rafa Nadal for a very high profile yet unsuccessful doubles campaign.
Nadal Confident of Swift Return:
World No. 1 Rafael Nadal expects to be fully recovered from the hamstring injury suffered in his quarterfinal defeat to David Ferrer by the end of next week. The Spaniard said in a statement on his official website on Tuesday: “Doctors estimate a recovery period of about 10 days from today.”
Queensland Victims to Receive Aid:
The final totals are in from the ATP and WTA as to how much will be donated to the victims of the Queensland floods following the completion of play at the Australian portion of the 2011 tennis calendar. Both organisations pledged $10 for every ace hit by players in the singles, doubles and mixed doubles categories at the Brisbane International, Medibank Open Sydney and the Australian Open. The total raised was $51,700 which adds to the personal contributions by stars such as the $10,000 donated by American No. 1 Andy Roddick ($20 for every ace he hit) and that of Sam Stosur who donated $100 for every ace she hit. The Rally for Relief event organised by Roger Federer also raised over $1.5m.
Djokovic Fit for a Queen:
Novak Djokovic has announced he will return to the AEGON Championships at the Queen’s Club alongside world No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the run-up to this year’s Wimbledon. Djokovic has never won a title on grass and lost an exceptional final to Nadal here in 2008. He hopes the experience of re-finding that Grand Slam touch in Australia will help him progress on other surfaces too. “The AEGON Championships is one of the nicest tournaments around,” said Djokovic. “The Queen’s Club has got great grass courts, it’s a great atmosphere with always a packed house of spectators, and you just feel good there. Rafa and I had an incredible match in the Queen’s final in 2008 and it was the closest I ever got to a grass court title. Wimbledon is the most important tournament (of the year) for me, and I really want to do well at Queen’s and at Wimbledon this year.”
Serena Sets Comeback Date:
Serena Williams is set to make her comeback at an exhibition event organised by Nike just two days before Indian Wells begins in Portland, Oregon. She hasn’t played since cutting her foot after the completion of Wimbledon last year but is set to line-up alongside Maria Sharapova, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. She is yet to name her official comeback date on the WTA Tour.
Berankis in VMAN:
New Lithuanian star Richard Berankis has been featured in the latest edition of VMAN magazine after starring at this year’s Australian Open. The 20-year-old is now the youngest man in the Top 75 players in the world after reaching the third round. “I used to follow my older sister to the club and I would hit against the wall by myself while she practiced,” he says of his introduction to a sport. “I don’t really remember when or how I picked up my first racket but my earliest memory was my first match, which I lost. I was really pissed off afterwards, but I didn’t cry.” He added about the pressures of being a professional: “I guess I don’t really think about the pressure,” Berankis says nonchalantly. “I’m usually too focused and into the match. When you are competing almost every week, you get in a mode that is very focused and determined. I’m always working to get stronger and better, I’m always looking to the future. Sure there are times I get tight and nervous, like every other player, but the greatest ones know how to handle those emotions and still play their best.”
No Seeing Double for Bryans:
Bob Bryan will miss up to a month of the tennis calendar after hurting his left shoulder playing mixed doubles in Australia.
Fish out of Water:
Mardy Fish is still complaining of the thyroid infection that affected him at Melbourne Park so has pulled out of the upcoming tournament at San Jose. He hopes to return the following week at Memphis.
Coetzee/Schuettler Aim to Inspire Kids:
As the 2011 SA Open kicked off the No. 7 seeded German Rainer Schuettler joined Jeff Coetzee and wildcard Izak van der Merwe in hosting a tennis clinic for children from disadvantaged areas at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre in Jabavu, Soweto. “Development is the foundation stone on which we need to build the game of tennis in South Africa,” SA Tennis Association CEO and SA Tennis Open Tournament Director Ian Smith said. “We are committed to development and firmly believe that out there somewhere is a breathtaking talent just waiting to be unearthed. These clinics not only promote tennis but create a level of enjoyment that hopefully will motivate these youngsters to continue playing the game.”
Vigil for Mandela:
All South Africans competing at the SA Open joined tournament director Ian Smith for a candle-lit vigil in honour of ailing South African hero Nelson Mandela before the tournament began. Kevin Anderson, Rik de Voest and Jeff Coetzee led proceedings.
All Change in the Rankings Watch:
As mentioned above, the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings has seen drastic changes this week following the completion of the Australian Open. Kim Clijsters’ victory at Melbourne Park makes her the new world No. 2 and leaves her only 140 points behind the No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki who remains Slam-less. Francesca Schiavone leaps to No. 4 in the world (a career high) while Na Li also finds herself a career high No. 7 in the world. Agnieszka Radwanska re-enters the Top 10 after her impressive run Down Under. The Italian Flavia Pennetta leaps from No. 25 to No. 16 and Petra Kvitova jumps 10 to No. 18. Andrea Petkovic enters the Top 25 at No. 24 and Iveta Benesova goes from No. 60 to No. 45. The biggest mover is South Africa’s Chanelle Scheepers who takes a gargantuan leap from No. 107 to No. 80. In the South African Airwaves ATP World Rankings there are movers too. David Ferrer climbs to No. 6 on the back of his semifinals appearance but he is the only mover within the Top 10. The Swiss Stanlislas Wawrinka jumps five to No. 14 while surprise quarterfinalist Alex Dolgopolov jumps 14 to No. 32. Nikolay Davydenko’s first-round exit sees him drop 10 to No. 35 in the world, a far cry from his No. 8 ranking of 2009. Spain’s Tommy Robredo re-enters the Top 50 at No. 40 while new Lithuanian star Richard Berankis is up 22 to No. 73. Germany’s Daniel Brands climbs 23 to No. 79 but the week’s biggest climber is new Canadian prospect Milos Raonic who led the teenage charge by gaining 58 places to enter the Top 100 at No. 94.
R-Fed Surges Ahead in GOAT Race:
With Rafa Nadal limping out of the Aussie Open at the quarterfinal stage it opened up an opportunity to fly out ahead in the GOAT Race for Roger Federer. Yet he came up against an emphatic and resurgent Novak Djokovic at the semifinal stage and went down in straight sets. He therefore scores an extra 100 points to take open up a 200-point lead over his closest rival.
Roger: 330 Rafa: 130
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.
Roger Federer, the man who has won more major singles titles than anyone in history, was once considered a Grand Slam tournament choker. Rene Stauffer, the author of the book THE ROGER FEDERER STORY: QUEST FOR PERFECTION ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com), takes readers back to the time when Federer was remarkably perceived as a Grand Slam underachiever.
The Grand Slam Block
Roger Federer’s declared goal for 2003 was, as before, to win a Grand Slam tournament. He finally wanted to rid himself of the moniker as the best player in tennis without a Grand Slam title. In his 14 career Grand Slam tournament appearances, his best results were two modest quarterfinal finishes— both achieved in 2001.
Coach Peter Lundgren still displayed an unshakable belief in Federer. He constantly repeated the mantra in his sonorous voice that Federer required more time than others to fully develop. “He has an unbelievable repertoire and he needs more time with his game for all the pieces to come together,” he said, declaring that the goal to be achieved for the 2003 season was to reach the top four in the world rankings. “Roger is on the right path and shouldn’t listen to what others are saying. He’s like a bird that is learning how to fly. As soon as he reaches his maximum flying altitude, he’ll be hard to beat. He is now beating all the players he is supposed to be beating. There isn’t much of a difference between being ranked No. 1, No. 5 and No. 10.” Pleasant words and nice thoughts—but what else was Peter Lundgren supposed to say?
More disturbing than the initial, unexpected defeats to Jan-Michael Gambill in Doha and Franco Squillari in Sydney was the reappearance of the pains in his groin that just didn’t want to go away. Federer was forced to rest and not practice for two days and his status for the Australian Open was in doubt. In addition, his late season surge and appearance in the Tennis Masters Cup in China late in 2002 diminished the already paltry tennis offseason. The season’s first Grand Slam tournament came much too early in the tennis season, especially for those who competed in the year-end Tennis Masters Cup. “There isn’t enough time to prepare,” said Federer.
The Czech Pavel Kovac was a member of Federer’s entourage as a physiotherapist since the past summer. He was a taciturn, burly man completely devoted to serving Federer. The wear and tear of the tennis circuit made Kovac and his services very important to Federer’s future success. Kovac managed to stop Federer’s pain just in time for him to post at the Australian Open.
In his first three matches, Federer did not lose a set. Expectations rose, especially when two of his rivals in his half of the draw—Lleyton Hewitt and Marat Safin—were eliminated from the tournament—Hewitt losing to Younes El Aynaoui and Marat Safin withdrawing with injury prior to his third-round match with Rainer Schuettler. In the round of 16, Federer faced David Nalbandian for the third time in his professional career—and for a third time—he was defeated. Federer seemed dazed against Nalbandian and struggled with the Argentinean’s backhand and strong counter-attack in the 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 loss. Another opportunity to win a Grand Slam tournament disappeared. Federer was completely devastated.
Away from the pressures of Grand Slam tournament play, Federer flourished and continued his winning ways. He won 16 of his next 17 matches—including two singles victories in Davis Cup against the Netherlands, where the Swiss, led by new captain Marc Rosset, defeated the Dutch 3-2. He then won his sixth and seventh career ATP titles in Marseille and Dubai. For the third consecutive year, the ATP named him the “Player of the Month” for February.
While Federer experienced disappointments on the major stages of the Tennis Masters Series events in Indian Wells and Key Biscayne, he again demonstrated his strength in Davis Cup, registering all three points for Switzerland in its 3-2 upset of France in Toulouse. So excited was Federer at leading the Swiss into the Davis Cup semifinals, he uncharacteristically celebrated at a disco in the French city, dancing and partying until the wee hours of the morning. Federer’s success continued into the start of the clay court season as he won the title in Munich and also reached the final of the Italian Open, losing unexpectedly to Felix Mantilla of Spain. The result, however, still propelled him into the conversation as being a favorite to win the French Open.
“I feel much better this year than the year before when I first was in the top 10,” he explained in one of the many interviews before the French Open. “It was a new situation for me back then. I’ve gotten used to it in the meantime.”
He admitted to feeling the pressure from the public. “The entire world keeps reminding me that I am supposed to win a Grand Slam tournament and be No. 1 in the world. That’s not fair because it’s not that easy,” he said. He then stated defiantly that “whoever wants to beat me will have to work hard for it. I don’t want to lose in the first round at Roland Garros again.”
On a summery Monday afternoon in Paris, Federer’s first match at the 2003 French Open took place on Court Philippe Chatrier, the center court named after the Frenchman who was a past president of the International Tennis Federation. His opponent was an unknown Peruvian Luis Horna, whom Federer beat earlier in the year in Key Biscayne. Horna, ranked No. 88 in the world, had yet to win a match at a Grand Slam tournament. Federer took an early 5-3 lead in the first set, but began to show his insecurity and nerves when, during a routine rush to the net, he slipped and fell to the ground, only to mutter to himself and show negative emotions. Despite his lead, he seemed discouraged and, quite unusually, often glanced desperately at Peter Lundgren. Federer lost his service break advantage and despite holding a set point in the tie-break, he surrendered the first set by an 8-6 tie-break. The match immediately turned into a drama for Federer. He seemed frustrated, apathetic and didn’t show any belief that he could win. He appeared mentally absent, missing even the easiest shots. He tallied 82 unforced errors in the 7-6 (6), 6-2, 7-6 (3) first-round loss.
The tournament was shockingly finished before it even really began. Federer, the fallen favorite, appeared in the overcrowded interview room with his head bowed low. “I don’t know how long I’ll need to get over this defeat,”
he said. “A day, a week, a year—or my entire career.”
Federer became the ridicule of the tournament. France’s sports newspaper L’Equipe ran a headline the next day translated as, “Shipwrecked In Quiet Waters” and published a cartoon in which a steam ship named “Roland Garros” steams away, leaving Federer behind in quiet waters. Florida’s Palm Beach Post described him as the “Phil Mickelson of Tennis,” comparing Federer to the American golfer who failed to win any of the major tournaments despite his great talent and many opportunities. “Federer has all the strokes but no Grand Slam trophy. He carries the dog tags of the best tennis player who
has never won a major competition.”
The loss undeniably confirmed Federer’s reputation as a Grand Slam loser. He showed that he was a player who could not pull out a match even though he was not playing his best tennis—a characteristic that most champion tennis players exhibited, most notably in the present by Lleyton Hewitt, who could win a match on guts and determination alone. Since his victory over Sampras at Wimbledon in 2001, Federer was 0-4 in matches at the French Open and Wimbledon—the last three matches without even winning a set. His last five Grand Slam tournaments ended in defeat at the hands of much lower-ranked players
What could one say in his defense? Federer was now five years into his ATP career and approached his 22nd birthday. He won six ATP singles titles, excelled in Davis Cup play and time and again insisted he was capable of achieving greatness. He was considered one of the bigger stars in tennis and climbed to No. 5 in the world rankings. But outside of the title in Hamburg, all of the tournaments he won were smaller events and even the German Open was not a Grand Slam tournament. Federer failed routinely in the arenas where it was decided if a player was a champion or not. The once precocious maverick simply could not bring his tremendous potential to bear at the Grand Slams. When looking at the successes of his idols, rivals or earlier great players, he couldn’t help but feel envy.
At his age, Becker, Borg, Courier, Edberg and Sampras as well as Hewitt, Safin and many others had already long since won their first Grand Slam titles. Federer, however, had not even reached the semifinals at a Grand Slam tournament. The experts were unanimous in their opinions that Federer was mature enough athletically to break through a win his first title. But athletic brilliance alone was not sufficient enough and Federer was still searching for the key to real success. An analysis would seem to indicate that a mental block was preventing him from winning. He felt under pressure to such a degree at the Grand Slam tournaments that he couldn’t concentrate on the moment, especially in the early rounds. This was a basic rule for success. The pressure came from all sides—but mostly from himself. He hadn’t yet learned that these tournaments couldn’t be won in the first week but they certainly could be lost. With some luck, he could have already won a Grand Slam title—in 2001, for example, after upsetting Sampras. Everything would have looked different.
After his loss to Horna, Federer seemed to be the loneliest man in tennis. He was a man alone braving the stormy tempest. How could he have known that this defeat was to be his last such one-sided Grand Slam defeat in a very, very long time? How could he have known that this painful experience was necessary in order to become the hardened, keen-sighted but yet modest champion who would have the tennis world at his feet?
Federer described what really happened when he faced Horna in Paris months later. “I was simply not prepared mentally,” he said. “I put myself under too much pressure. After losing the first set, I couldn’t get back into the match. I had the feeling that it was impossible, that I was no longer in control of the situation. After the first set, I said to myself, ‘Even if I survive this round, I still have to play six more rounds to win this tournament.’ That almost drove me insane. I put myself under such pressure that I couldn’t play anymore.”
After the match, he said that he was overwhelmed with questions about the how and why. “But at that moment, I didn’t really feel like talking about it. I was too disappointed. I wanted to do nothing else but take eight days vacation and then start my preparations for the grass tournament in Halle. I didn’t want to think about Roland Garros—I wanted to forget it. I didn’t want to analyze what happened because I knew that I had simply failed mentally. I didn’t accept it by any means.”
By David Goodman
It was 1998 and I was working for USTA/Eastern as their executive director. Former Eastern junior Justin Gimelstob, a Jewish fella like me, had just won his second straight Grand Slam mixed doubles title with Venus Williams. I said to myself, “Self, how many other Jews have won Grand Slam titles?”
I had to know.
The first players to make my list were fairly easy. Dick Savitt won the 1951 Wimbledon singles title. Ilana Kloss, who I knew as CEO of World TeamTennis, won the 1976 doubles title with Linky Boshoff (the only Linky to ever win a Grand Slam title). Angela Buxton won the 1956 French and Wimbledon doubles titles with the great Althea Gibson. That’s right, an African American and a Jew, playing together because no one else wanted them as partners. “Leben ahf dein kop!” my grandmother would say (“well done!”).
After a little digging, I learned that 1980 Australian Open champion Brian Teacher enjoys lox on his bagels, 1983 French Open mixed doubles champ Eliot Teltscher (with Barbara Jordan) is no stranger to a yarmulke, and two-time doubles champ Jim Grabb (’89 French Open with Richey Reneberg and ’92 U.S. Open with Patrick McEnroe) doesn’t sweat, he shvitzes.
Dr. Paul Roetert, then the head of sport science at the USTA, heard about my budding kosher list and told me that his fellow Dutchman Tom Okker, winner of the 1973 French Open doubles title with John Newcombe and the 1976 U.S. Open doubles title with Marty Riessen, was Jewish. In fact, I later learned that Tom often had troubles against Romanian Ilie Nastase, who would whisper anti-Semitic remarks when passing by on changeovers. That shmeggegie sure had chutzpah.
Back in ’98 I looked up past winners of Grand Slam events and came by Brian Gottfried, who I had met once or twice in his role as ATP President. He’s gotta be Jewish, I thought. His name is Gottfried, for crying out loud. So I called him. I left what had to be one of the strangest messages he’s ever received. I actually asked him what he likes to do when the Jewish high holidays come around. To Brian’s credit, he called back and told me he enjoys spending the holidays with his family and typically goes to the synagogue. Bingo! Another one down.
I honestly don’t remember when Vic Seixas came to my attention, but no matter, I had missed the greatest Jewish tennis player of all time, not to mention one of the greatest mixed doubles players ever. The Philadelphia native won eight mixed doubles titles (seven with Doris Hart), five doubles titles (four with Tony Trabert), as well as singles championships at Wimbledon in 1953 and Forest Hills in 1954. Vic still shleps from his home in California to attend various tennis events around the country. If you see him, give my best to the lovely and talented alter kocker!
So, for the time being my list was done. Until recently. Something told me to dust off the list (or clean the spots off my monitor) and see if any of My People had triumphed in recent years. And lo and behold, the land of milk and honey, the Jewish state itself, the only country in the Middle East without oil, came through. Meet Israelis Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram.
Erlich and Ram won the 2008 Australian Open doubles title, and Ram also has the ’06 Wimbledon mixed (with Vera Zvonareva) and ’07 French Open mixed (with Nathalie Dechy) doubles titles on his shelf. But don’t worry, Shlomo Glickstein, in my mind you’re still the pride of Israeli sports. (In fact, in 1985 Shlomo was one French Open doubles win from making the list himself.)
So that was all, I thought. There were names on the Grand Slam winners lists that sounded good to me. American Bob Falkenburg, Czech Jiri Javorsky and American Marion Zinderstein (Zinderstein? She’s gotta be Jewish!), but I just can’t prove their Hebrewness.
Miriam Hall sounded Jewish, I thought, so I googled her, just as I did the others. There was nothing on the Internet to lead me to believe she was a member of The Tribe, but I did find her 1914 book, Tennis For Girls. Perhaps I’ll get it for my daughters, who will learn that “the use of the round garter is worse than foolish – it is often dangerous, leading to the formation of varicose veins.” Better yet, Miss Hall advised that “… the skirt should be wide enough to permit a broad lunge…”
On second thought, perhaps my kids aren’t old enough for such a detailed how-to book.
Alas, my search brought me to Hungarian Zsuzsa (Suzy) Kormoczy, winner of the 1958 French singles championships. I had found the athlete the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame calls the first and only Jewish woman to win a Grand Slam singles event.
Enter controversy. According to Morris Weiner (pronounced Weener), who wrote an article called “Jews in Sports” in the August 23, 1937 edition of The Jewish Record, Helen Jacobs’ father was Jewish. You know Helen. She owns nine Grand Slam titles, five of which are singles championships (1932-1935 U.S. Championships and 1936 Wimbledon). And while any Rabbi worth his or her tallis would probably argue that the mom had to be Jewish for it to count, I’m with Morris Weiner. Call me a holiday Jew, but Helen is on my list. Besides, according to The Jewish Record’s Weiner (there, I said it), Helen was the first woman to popularize man-tailored shorts as on-court attire. And her 1997 obituary says she is one of only five women to achieve the rank of Commander in the Navy. Happy Hanukkah, Commander Helen.
So, by my count there are 14 Jewish Grand Slam champions who have won a combined 44 Grand Slam titles. And perhaps there are more. Alfred Codman (1900 U.S. Singles Championships)? Helen Chapman (1903 U.S. Singles Championships)? Marion Zinderstein has to be Jewish, don’t you think? The work of a Jewish Grand Slam tennis historian never ends.
David Goodman has worked in the tennis industry for 20 years. He was executive director of USTA/Eastern, Inc., co-founder and CEO of The Tennis Network, executive director of Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education, and Vice President of Communications at Advanta Corp. He has been a World TeamTennis announcer since 2002, and is on the USTA Middle States Board of Directors. If he enters the US Open qualifying tournament in New Jersey later this month, he figures he’ll have to win about 20 matches in order to become the 15th Jewish Grand Slam champion.
Jewish Grand Slam Tournament Winners
Buxton, Angela 1956 French Championships Women’s Doubles (Althea Gibson)
1956 Wimbledon Women’s Doubles (Althea Gibson)
Erlich, Jonathan 2008 Australian Open Men’s Doubles (Andy Ram)
Gimelstob, Justin 1998 Australian Open Mixed Doubles (Venus Williams)
1998 French Open Mixed Doubles (Venus Williams)
Gottfried, Brian 1975 French Open Men’s Doubles (Raul Ramirez)
1976 Wimbledon Men’s Doubles (Raul Ramirez)
1977 French Open Men’s Doubles (Raul Ramirez)
Grabb, Jim 1989 French Open Men’s Doubles (Richey Reneberg)
1992 U.S. Open Men’s Doubles (Patrick McEnroe)
Jacobs, Helen 1932 U.S. Women’s Singles Championships
1932 U.S. Women’s Doubles Championships (Sarah Palfrey Cooke)
1933 U.S. Women’s Singles Championships
1934 U.S. Women’s Singles Championships
1934 U.S. Women’s Doubles Championships (Sarah Palfrey Cooke)
1934 U.S. Mixed Championships (George M. Lott, Jr.)
1935 U.S. Women’s Singles Championships
1935 U.S. Women’s Doubles Championships (Sarah Palfrey Cooke)
1936 Wimbledon Women’s Singles
Kloss, Ilana 1976 U.S. Open Women’s Doubles (Linky Boshoff)
Kormoczy, Suzy 1958 French Singles Championships
Okker, Tom 1973 French Open Men’s Doubles (John Newcombe)
1976 U.S. Open Men’s Doubles (Marty Riessen)
Ram, Andy 2006 Wimbledon Mixed Doubles (Vera Zvonareva)
2007 French Open Mixed Doubles (Nathalie Dechy)
2008 Australian Open Men’s Doubles (Jonathan Erlich)
Savitt, Dick 1951 Wimbledon Men’s Singles
Seixas, Vic 1952 U.S. Championships Men’s Doubles (Mervyn Rose)
1953 Wimbledon Men’s Singles
1953 Wimbledon Mixed Doubles (Doris Hart)
1953 French Championships Mixed Doubles (Doris Hart)
1953 U.S. Championships Mixed Doubes (Doris Hart)
1954 Wimbledon Mixed Doubles (Doris Hart)
1954 U.S. Men’s Championships
1954 U.S. Championships Men’s Doubles (Tony Trabert)
1954 U.S. Championships Mixed Doubles (Doris Hart)
1954 French Championships Men’s Doubles (Tony Trabert)
1955 Wimbledon Mixed Doubles (Doris Hart)
1955 Australian Championships Men’s Doubles (Tony Trabert)
1955 French Championships Men’s Doubles (Tony Trabert)
1955 U.S. Championships Mixed Doubles (Doris Hart)
1956 Wimbledon Mixed Doubles (Shirley Fry)
Teacher, Brian 1980 Australian Open Singles
Teltscher, Eliot 1983 French Open Mixed Doubles (Barbara Jordan)
The Bryan Brothers equalled the Open Era doubles record of the Australian Woodies, Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodford on Sunday by securing their 61st victory of their careers in the Madrid Masters doubles final. The telepathic twins beat world No. 1 pair, Daniel Nestor and partner Nenad Zimonjic 6-3, 6-4 in a final lasting only 55 minutes. Nestor and his partner were broken twice, with the Americans saving all three break points they faced. The brothers ruthlessly claimed victory on the first match point they gained. Interestingly, all twelve previous meetings between the teams have come in finals, seven of those in Masters events.
Nestor commented, “The Bryans always play us tough…we’ve had some good wins against them but they’ve been too tough this season. Obviously, it’s all about the Slams for us now, and our next big objective is the French Open. We’ll head to Paris now and regroup. We want to be playing our best in a week when the major begins.”
Like the Woodies, the brothers are a left-right combination, which they used to great effect in the final. Bob commented, “That is definitely the best combination…the sun out there today was really bad for a leftie, so we decided to put Mike on a different side. We can use winds to our advantage and the leftie serve is always tougher to break, I think. We feel like our game is pretty comfortable if I make first serves and Mike is such a good returner he keeps us in other guys’ service games.”
The Bryan Brothers have now leapt to the pinnacle of the world doubles rankings overtaking Nestor and Zimonjic as the world No. 1 doubles pair. The impressive brothers began 2010 with their eighth grand slam title at the Australian Open and have already won titles in Delray Beach, Houston and Rome. If they were to become victorious at the French Open in three weeks time, they will break the record held by the Woodies in some style, with a Grand Slam win.
Indeed, they show no sign of relaxing their steely grip on the world doubles tour and will no doubt break the record in impressive style and go on to win even more titles, keeping the doubles tour in the media spotlight for the next generation of tennis players. “We’re still having fun. It never gets old or boring to be travelling the world with your brother,” Mike said. “We love winning titles and sharing the trophies and memories. We don’t want to say, ‘Now that we’ve done this or that, we’re going to retire next year.’ I don’t think we’d find this adrenalin sitting on the couch at home so we might as well soak it up while we can.”
The talented twins have also been enjoying the adrenalin rush of playing in their rock band, The Bryan Bros Band at various concert venues around the world with singer David Baron. They even performed with the Counting Crows in front of 30,000 screaming fans. It seems for the twins, success is like a drug they cannot easily give up. You can download their new album ‘Let it Rip’ on iTunes now. British fans, check out the hilariously awful rap by Andy Murray on one of the tracks, alongside a slighter better Novak Djokovic about signing autographs – it’s well worth a listen and the other tracks are actually pretty catchy!
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.
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.