Federer Will not Concede French Open Title:
Everyone is talking about Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic right now, but anybody would be a fool to forget about the other large threat at Roland Garros this month – 16-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer. “It’s definitely an interesting time right now that Novak hasn’t lost all season long. It makes it a new, different situation, but for me it doesn’t change a whole lot,” said the Swiss ace. “Right now [Djokovic and Nadal] are playing better than me and better than other players. I feel like everybody can play on all the surfaces these days and that makes it extremely hard to win all these big tournaments.” At 29, Federer has a lot on his plate with a family to look after but he is by no means faded as far as top-class tennis is concerned.
The Dominant Force Dislodges the Immovable Object:
Novak Djokovic continued his unbeaten start to 2011, ending Rafa Nadal’s two-year winning streak on clay in the final of the Mutua Madrid Masters. The Serbian won 7-5, 6-4 at the Caja Magica, racing in to a 4-0 lead in the first set. The Spaniard levelled proceedings but ‘Nole’ showed his new resilient side by again fighting back to take the set. The second started with the Spaniard lobbing his opponent expertly through his legs while running to the back of the court but the magic was not to last as Djokovic closed out the match to seriously put his case forward about taking the No.1 ranking off of Nadal. “I came up against a great player obviously – he’s having a monster year,” said Nadal afterwards. “He was better, you have to accept that.” Djokovic showcased his new found self-belief when he said: “I stepped onto the court today believing I could win. I needed to be aggressive and it was a great match.” If Djokovic wins this week’s Rome Masters and Nadal fails to reach the semi-finals then we will have a new No.1 to cast our eyes over next week. It was Djokovic’s first win over Nadal on clay in ten meetings between the pair on the surface.
Kvitova Shocks Azarenka in Madrid:
Petra Kvitova lifted her third title of the year by shocking Victoria Azarenka 7-6(3), 6-4 in the Madrid Open final. It adds to the titles she took in Brisbane and Paris earlier in the year. The 18th-ranked Czech star dominated the first tiebreak after both players had broken the others’ serve in the first set. Four breaks were seen in the second and with the 21-year-old leading 5-3, she needed two match points to see off the Belarusian’s challenge. “We know each other so it was going to be tough to find the key, but I think it was who will play faster, who will be the more aggressive – and I was the first!” she said afterwards. “It’s nice to win the tournament and to be in the top 10 at the same time, but it’s just a number. I want to improve my game and we’ll see – I don’t want to be only number 10!” Azarenka was quick to praise her opponent’s play: “Petra had such a great week and totally deserved to win today,” she said. “She showed some impressive tennis.”
Injuries Still Rife Among Stars:
Venus Williams has put her French Open participation in doubt after pulling out of next week’s Brussels Open. The 30-year-old has still not been seen since retiring from her third-round match against Andrea Petkovic at January’s Australian Open and her eyes may now be on Wimbledon having signed up for the pre-Slam event at Eastbourne. Meanwhile, David Nalbandian is one definite casualty on the men’s draw saying he is “not right physically” to play. The 2004 and 06 semi-finalist has lost 6kg since getting injured in March and fighting a fever over recent weeks. He hopes to return at Queen’s to prepare for Wimbledon. 2009 US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro may also miss out on Roland Garros after revealing he has torn a hip muscle. “The results of my tests showed a tear in the hip,” the Argentine wrote on his Twitter page. “I have already started rehabilitation and I will do all I can to be in Paris.” Ernests Gulbis is still suffering from a respiratory problem that has kept him out of Madrid and Rome. He hopes to have the problem resolved by the Roland Garros kick-off. “Every time a small wind blows it affect me,” Gulbis told The Times of London. “My immune system was not good and this time I had to drink antibiotics for three days and didn’t practice at all. I hope to get a wild card into Nice.” India’s Sania Mirza was continuing her comeback in the Prague Challenger, hoping to maybe make a late push for Paris, but she was forced to withdraw from her first-round match with Aleksandra Krunic after suffering back spasms. “Tried to play today, back was no good, it’s gotta be one of the worse feelings ever to pull out mid-match,” she said on Twitter.
Roddick not Enjoying European Clay Holiday:
Andy Roddick’s miserable start to the 2011 clay season continued with a first-round defeat to Gilles Simon at the Rome Masters. The world No.19 notched a 6-3, 6-3 victory to frustrate the 28-year-old, who a week earlier had suffered a first-round Madrid exit to clay-court debutant Flavio Cipolla. “He moves very well, which you don’t want to see when you are short of matches like I was today, when you are not getting clean hits,” said Roddick. “We soon got into rallies and it became a battle striking the ball in movement, I was coming second sometimes.”
Carlsen calls for Wozniacki to Attack:
After three straight losses to Germans Julia Goerges (twice) and Andrea Petkovic in recent weeks, former Danish star Kenneth Carlsen believes the world No.1 may be playing too defensively against foes who up their game against the top-ranked star. “Caroline has trouble with the likes of Goerges and [Petkovic] when they [are playing their best] and not making so many mistakes,” he said. “When they do, it might look as if Caroline is bombed out. It’s the girls who take the initiative immediately, and you’ll get no peace from Caroline. Most people know that it is the way to beat Caroline, but it is also difficult because she, like Nadal, gets to so many balls and sends them back. We are still talking about small margins, but Caroline might be too defensive and rely too much on her own game, and with good reason, because she beats nine out of 10 opponents that way.”
Li Hoping for Danish Magic:
China’s Na Li has hired Danish Fed Cup captain Michael Mortensen as her new coach after citing that she could not regain her confidence whilst working under husband Jiang Shan, who had coached her to the Aussie Open final. “After the Australian Open I didn’t do well until Madrid,” said Li. “We’re working well together—we have good communication and [Mortensen] is helping me a lot. He’s giving me a lot of confidence and I feel positive on court.”
Kuznetsova Coach Split:
Two-time grand Slam winning-Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova has announced via her official website that her and coach, Spain’s Carlos Cuadrado, have parted ways. She will still work with her other coach, Larissa Savchenko, and her hitting partner Alexander Krasnorutskiy.
Peering in to DC’s Debut:
Washington DC will have its own WTA World Tour event again this summer with the Mid-Atlantic Women’s Tennis Championships taking place from July 25-31. Israel’s most successful player, of both men and women, ever, Shahar Peer, will headline the field in the 32-strong draw which also features Lucie Safarova, Jelena Dokic and rising American stars Melanie Oudin and Sloane Stephens. Stacey Allaster, Chairman & CEO of the WTA, said: “We are thrilled to bring women’s tennis back to the incredible sports fans of the Washington DC area. The Mid-Atlantic Women’s Tennis Championships promises to be a fantastic event featuring some of the best female athletes on the planet. I look forward to this being the first edition of a great tradition of WTA tennis in Washington DC.”
France’s Gael Monfils climbs above Nicolas Almagro to No.9 in the world in this week’s South African Airways ATP World Rankings after last week’s play in Madrid. The Ukraine’s Alexander Dolgopolov returns to the Top 20. Thomaz Bellucci’s first ATP Masters semi-final sees him climb 14 to No.22 in the world, a career best. Andreas Seppi enters the Top 50 while Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo, Illya Marchenko and Rainer Schuettler are in to the Top 100. Victoria Azarenka became the top-ranked Belarusian ever in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings on the back of her Madrid finals defeat as she became the new world No.4, a career-best. Maria Sharapova is up to No.8, her best ranking since November 2008, while Petra Kvitova is a career-best No.10 after her win over Azarenka. Julia Goerges makes her Top 20 debut while Czech star Lucie Hradecka enters the Top 50 at No.45. Incidentally, this week is the first in rankings history that there has been no Americans in both the Top 10 of the women’s and the men’s game. Yet American star Andy Roddick refused to accept that tennis in his country was on the way down. “There is no bigger crisis in American tennis than there is in Italian. We’re kind of a victim of our own success over the years in the sport,” he said.
Nadal moves Further Ahead in GOAT Race:
Rafael Nadal’s semi-final victory over Roger Federer at last week’s Mutua Madrid masters means he has moved further ahead of the early-season leader in the 2011 GOAT race. Federer’s semi-final berth earns him 50 points, while Nadal’s final defeat to Novak Djokovic earns him 100. They both also gain an extra 10 points for entering the Rome Masters this week.
Roger: 665, Rafa: 890
Nadal: Because He’s Worth it
Rafael Nadal was celebrating after lifting the Sportsman of the Year Award at this year’s Laureus Sports Awards. The reigning French and US Open and Wimbledon Champion beat of stiff competition from some of the world’s top athletes to raise the trophy in Abu Dhabi. Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniacki and Kim Clijsters were all nominated for the Sportswoman of the Year award but lost out to the American skiing Olympic gold medallist Lindsey Vonn.
Laver Backs Murray for Success:
He may have taken a fair bit of stick from doubters questioning his ‘bottle’ after his third straight Grand Slam final defeat but Andy Murray will undoubtedly take great comfort after one of the true greats of tennis backed him to come good. Rod Laver, the only man to twice win all four majors in a calendar year and the last man to do so, has backed Murray to one day lift one of the great trophies aloft and has called for the British press to get off his back. “He did very well in coming through the field that he was against,” the eleven-time Grand Slam winner told Garry Richardson of the BBC. “Just look at the way that [Novak] Djokovic played that day and through the whole two weeks. He was just a man obsessed. Unfortunately Murray did not have any chance because Djokovic just played unbelievably well.” He said of Murray’s future chances: “Winning the first one is probably the toughest thing you’ll ever come across. He just has to not let the British public take hold of him and say ‘you’re a failure’ because he’s certainly not that at all…I think he’s certainly capable of pulling it off but…that’s up to Andy. It depends on his ability to win the big matches when he’s not playing so well. Sometimes he can get a little emotional and that detracts from his great ability.” The full interview can be heard at the The full interview can be heard at the BBC Tennis website.
Sampras a Monfils Fan:
Before the serious play began at this week’s SAP Open in San Jose current French star Gael Monfils took to the court to play an exhibition against esteemed Hall of Famer Pete Sampras. The young wild child scored a 7-6(4), 6-4 victory and certainly left a mark on his opponent. “I played a little better than I did last year and held my own,” said the 14-time Grand Slam winner. “But physically that’s the most I’ve served and volley in combination of the last seven years. Not easy. Gael’s a great mover. He returns well and made me work pretty hard on my service game, but all in all, I’m very happy with the way I played. I had a few chances in the first set I let slip away, but he’s the real deal. I’ve played a lot of good movers in my day, but not only does he move well, but he slides, which helps really cover the court that much better.” But he wasn’t getting carried away with talk of Monfils ending France’s wait for a major winner: “You look at Roger [Federer], [Rafael] Nadal and [Novak] Djokovic now, you can tell that they can play at that level a little bit easier, a little less effort, whereas with Gael I think just to get there is a lot of work. He has the talent, it’s just a matter of putting it all together, but he has the game. He serves big, he can come in when he has to, and returns quite well, but to win these majors you’ve got to be very, very special. He has the talent; it’s just going to take some time. He’s still very young. He’s 24. He still has a lot of time to get it.”
Nadal set to resume Training:
World No. 1 Rafael Nadal has announced via his official website that he is set to resume training ahead of Spain’s Davis Cup match with Belgium next month. “I feel quite good,” the statement read. “I am going home today (Tuesday) to Manacor to begin training on the courts. I am going to start training slowly, following a plan, so that there are no setbacks.” Nadal also spoke of his disappointment of the way he crashed out of this year’s Australian Open at the quarterfinal stage to friend and compatriot David Ferrer: “I was crying in the locker room,” said the 24-year-old. “I [hated that I had] to go out of the tournament. Last year, I had to do it and it was something I didn’t want to repeat. But from the third game I knew I didn’t have a chance to win. David was playing fantastic and I wasn’t able to run enough to rise to the level to beat him.”
Querrey-ing his Form:
It’s not been a good start to 2011 for American star Sam Querrey. Complaining of a loss of love for tennis mid-way through last season it looks like his poor run has spilt over in to the new tennis calendar. This week in San Jose the world No. 17 suffered the unceremonious honour of falling to the world No. 113 Lukas Lacko of Poland in straight sets in their first-round encounter. “I didn’t try to play fast,” said the 23-year-old. “I tried to play more accurate, to make him run, and I knew he was going to miss when he was moving a lot.” His current run of a 1-8 win/loss ratio is a far cry from his career-best four titles on three different surfaces during the early part of last year which placed him third behind Rafa Nadal (seven) and Roger Federer (five) for the most titles won. Lacko was positively beaming after the greatest win of his career which places him against the 2009 US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro in round two. “It’s a good feeling because it proves to me I’m able to beat guys like this,” he said. “I played a couple matches this year, last year, against guys like Sam – Top 20, Top 10 players. I played good matches, I got chances, but I never finished the match. I lost too many close matches. It’s good satisfaction to beat a guy like this.”
Li Screams for Ice Cream:
Li Na is already cashing in on becoming the first Asian player to reach a Grand Slam final after ice-cream giant Haagen-Dazs signed her up as an ambassador and the face of all their Eastern advertisement campaigns. Among her benefits will be free consumption of ice cream at any of their worldwide stores. It is thought to be the first time the ice cream giant has used an athlete in its campaigns. Her finals appearance saw Na climb to a career-high No. 7 in the world, three places below Japan’s Kimiko Date Krumm who once sat at No. 4. The deal is said to be worth well over $1m over several years and she is said to also be signing a similar deal with Rolex shortly.
Home is where the Heart is for Anderson and Dodig:
There were two maiden winners on the ATP tour last week as Kevin Anderson took his home title at the SA Tennis Open in Johannesburg and Ivan Dodig took home the PBZ Zagreb Indoors in his native Croatia. Anderson was a set down against the Indian star Somdev Devvarman but rallied to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. “It’s an amazing experience,” said the new world No. 40. “Obviously just winning my first title is one thing, but doing it in front of my home fans and my country with my friends and family watching is something I’ll remember forever. My end of year goal is to finish the year in the Top 20. Obviously it’s a good start, but there’s still a lot of tennis to be played and it’s just important to recognise the accomplishment this week and build in confidence for the rest of this year.” Dodig’s victory was a little more straightforward as he overcame the No. 8 seed Michael Berrer 6-3, 6-4. “I think it’s the best thing that can happen to a player – to play at home in front of your own crowd,” said the 26-year-old. “I’m really happy and enjoying this day. It was amazing for me all week and it’s an unbelievable experience. I think I served really well all week, especially on the important points. My serve is my best shot. I’m very happy that the serve was working great in all the matches this week.” For more fallout from both Anderson and Dodig visit the ATP site.
The Kids Are Alright:
This year’s Australian Open threw us a bevy of new names to look out for in the main draws of ATP events and some of the best performers at Melbourne Park are continuing the early season promise in to February. 20-year-old Canadian Milos Raonic qualified for the main draw Down Under and eventually reached the fourth round where he lost out to David Ferrer. Now at the SAP Open in San Jose the new world No. 84 has recorded an impressive 6-3, 6-4 victory over the No. 4 seed Xavier Malisse of Belgium. “It was a good win,” said Raonic. “He returns well. He’s been playing well this year. I’ve been playing well also, so I focused on making sure I take care of my serve and stay on top of that. I had a few opportunities there on his return and I was able to utilise them, so it helped. I was serving really well so it was putting a bit more pressure on his service game not to get down too early.” New Lithuanian prospect Richard Berankis was semifinalist Ferrer’s third-round victim in Melbourne but also at San Jose he conquered the No. 6 seed Benjamin Becker of Germany 6-3, 7-6(2). The Japanese No. 8 seed Kei Nishikori was another third-rounder in Australia and he is also in to round two. The 21-year-old overcame Jan Hajek of the Czech Republic 6-1, 7-6(6).
Clijsters to be No. 1?:
If the Belgian Kim Clijsters wins her quarter final matchup with either Nadia Petrova or Jelena Dokic in Paris she will climb above Caroline Wozniacki as the No. 1 player in the women’s game. The four-time Grand Slam winner reached this stage with a less than regulatory victory over the world No. 78 Kristina Barrois. “I knew it would take time to get into the rhythm and get the feel for the ball,” the 27-year-old said. “Slowly I got into the match and started being more aggressive. It’s nice to be in Paris. I love the court here and the crowd is so welcoming.”
Ivanovic Single Again:
Ana Ivanovic has apparently split with coach Antonio van Grichen after only two months after the pair “failed to mesh.” He apparently wanted to implement many changes to the former world No. 1s game as well as criticising her current body weight which she did not agree with. Ivanovic has now announced her intent to find a regular hitting partner to create stability while she searches for a new full-time coach.
Blake Flying Solo:
Former world No. 4 James Blake has announced that he is no longer travelling with a full-time coach after splitting with Kelly Jones last year. The 31-year-old stated at the SAP Open in San Jose that he believes he is too old to be helped by a full-time strategist and instead travels with a full-time physio to help him with many long-term injuries he carries. “I really don’t need someone to put me through the same drills that I already know and to tell me things that I’ve already seen and heard,” said the world No. 170. “I may have Kelly, Brian [Barker, another former coach] or my brother [Thomas] come around here and there because someone on the outside can always pick up things that you can’t, but I knew that by this age I would know the game well enough to coach myself.”
Olympic Dream in Balance for Williams Sisters:
Venus and Serena Williams are set to be included in the USA’s Fed Cup squad for their match against Germany in April for the first time since 2007 as they have been told that they must at least show up for, if not play in, one tie this year to keep themselves eligible for Olympic play in 2012. ITF rules state that players don’t have to necessarily play but be on site and show support for their team during two ties prior to the Olympics beginning.
Young Enough to Conquer:
Donald Young quickly became the forgotten man of American tennis after his early promise failed to materialise in to a genuine challenge to the higher echelons of the sport. But while many have written him off he is back in action at the SAP Open in San Jose this week without his parents in sight. While both are USTA pro coaches and have definitely passed on some good advice to their talented but enigmatic son, the fact he is working now with other USTA coaches such as David Nainken and Leo Azevedo is a good sign. He is showing improvements to his game on his return and certainly believes a corner may have turned in his quest to be remembered for more than just ‘the one that got away.’ “It’s developing weapons and picking the way I want to play and sticking with it,” he told TennisReporters.net. “I’ve been doing it quite a bit. In the past I went with the wind and didn’t have a set game plan.” The 21-year-old Young still has his sights set on a Top 50 berth despite having never climbed higher than No. 73 before now. “To be honest, I’d be upset if I didn’t get there too,” said the left-hander. “Some of my peers have moved up and made it there and I’d like to move higher. But if I play better the wins will come. I’ve set [my goals] low before and now I want to set them higher. It’s wavered and there were times I feel like I couldn’t do it, but then you win some matches and you feel you can.”
No-Go for Novak:
It is reported that Australian Open Champion Novak Djokovic pulled out of this week’s ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament with a shoulder injury. It is not yet known how long the Serb will be out of action for.
Another Fresh Start for Safina:
In yet another attempt to resurrect her freefalling career the Russian Dinara Safina has announced that Davide Sanguinetti will be her new coach going forward in to 2011. Her latest former coach, Gaston Etlis, will work with the Argentine Juan Monaco. The injury and confidence-plagued sister of former men’s star Marat Safin was No. 1 in the world in April 2009 but now finds herself ranked 117.
There was no home comfort for the French at the WTA Paris Open this week as every single home-grown player crashed out in the first round for the first time in the tournament’s history.
Dolgopolov Fanbase Growing:
On the back of his exceptional run at this year’s Australian Open the star of Alexandr Dolgopolov Jr. continues to rise. If you are a fan of his or just want to know what it’s like growing up on the ATP tour following your father around then head over to their website where you can read a fantastic article on the upbringing of one of tennis’ latest starlets. It’s a little different to say the least!
The Russian Mikhail Youzhny has re-entered the Top 10 of the South African Airways ATP World Rankings at No. 10 this week after his recent events replacing Jurgen Melzer while Marcos Baghdatis re-enters the Top 20. South Africa’s Kevin Anderson leaps 19 places to No. 40 after his maiden victory at the SA Tennis Open and Santiago Giraldo also enters the Top 50 at No. 47. Ivan Dodig leaps 24 to No. 60 after his victory in Zagreb and Somdev Devvarman (No. 80), Karol Beck (No. 87), Nicolas Mahut (No. 90) and Gilles Muller (No. 91) are all high risers. Due to last week’s Fed Cup commitments there were no movers in the Top 100 of the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings this week.
GOAT Race Unaltered:
With neither Roger Federer nor Rafa Nadal in action this week the GOAT Race scores remain unaltered.
Roger: 330 Rafa: 130
*Justine Henin is to return to action this weekend at the Hopman Cup in Australia having been kept out since Wimbledon with an elbow injury. The former world No. 1 hopes to be able to compete in the Australian Open but fears it may take her up to six months to regain full fitness. “There were concerns about the future of my career,” the 28-year-old Belgian said. “I hope I can build my condition by playing tournaments this year and hope to be really ready around June-July.” 2010 was the seven-time Grand Slam winner’s return from an 18-month retirement and she will hope to add that elusive Wimbledon title to her CV before giving up permanently.
*British No. 1 Andy Murray has confirmed that Spaniard Alex Corretja will remain as his coach for at least the first half of 2011. Corretja, a former world No. 2, took over the role after Murray split with Miles Maclagan back in July. “Andy has taken time out from his busy pre-season fitness training to confirm that the current coaching set-up, with both Alex Corretja and Dani Vallverdu, will continue into the first half of next year,” read a statement on Murray’s official website.
*Brad Gilbert has confirmed that he will work as a consultant to Japanese star Kei Nishikori at fifteen tournaments throughout 2011. Gilbert retired from the tour in 1994 and his since coached Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray on a permanent basis. “I have been working at the IMG Bollettieri Academy for a few years now, helping out Kei and other players,” Gilbert told ATPWorldTour.com.
“I decided to expand my role with Kei to 15 tournaments, but TV work with ESPN will remain my first priority.”
*World No. 8 Jelena Jankovic has begun working with former Romanian world No. 13 Andrei Pavel on a trial basis after lifting only one title in 2010 at Indian Wells. She was being handled by Ricardo Sanchez but they have now parted ways.
*American Wayne Odesnik has had his two-year doping ban overturned after 12 months. He is now free to return to competitive matches from December 29. Whilst entering Australia for last year’s Brisbane International he was stopped by customs and eight vials of the growth hormone HGH were found in his luggage, although Odesnik never tested positive for taking the substance. Whilst at one time being ranked as high as No. 77 in the world, Odesnik was ranked No. 111 when the incident occurred and has now slipped off the rankings altogether.
*Maria Sharapova has reserved a wildcard entry in to the Sydney tournament for if she falls early on in the previous week’s festivities at Auckland. The former world No. 1 is usually pretty lax in her preparations for Melbourne Park but has opted for a more strenuous approach after losing in the first round in 2010.
*Alona Bondarenko has announced she will miss the Australian Open after undergoing the second knee surgery of her career. 2010 semifinalist Jie Zheng will also miss the competition after failing to recover from the wrist surgery she underwent in September. In the men’s draw, Robby Ginepri is set to miss out after he set March as his benchmark to return to the tour after suffering a motorbike accident in November whilst swerving to avoid a squirrel.
*The GB Fed Cup team have announced that teen starlets Heather Watson and Laura Robson are set to compete in next month’s Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 tie in Israel. Watson, 18, was the 2009 US Open junior champion while Robson, 16, won the Wimbledon junior title in 2008 aged just 14. Watson said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to have been selected. It’s a dream come true as I’ve grown up watching the competition. I can’t wait to head out to Israel with the girls and give it our all.” Captain Nigel Sears added: “It is the right time for Heather and Laura to try and make it a successful week.”
*Teens the world over were celebrating early Christmas presents after receiving wildcards in to the 2011 Australian Open main draw. Australia’s No. 11 Olivia Rogowska was celebrating after defeating former world No. 4 Jelena Dokic 1-6, 7-6(3), 6-3 in the final of the Australian Open Wildcard Playoffs. Dokic, though, has since been handed a discretionary wildcard by the Aussie tennis authorities. Marinko Matosevic overcame Peter Luczak in five sets in the men’s final to earn his place and Luczak has also been handed an entry card. Tennis Australia have also handed discretionary wildcards to Matt Ebden and Alicia Molik. In the American equivalent, played at the Racquet Club of the South, Georgia, world No. 444 Lauren Davis, 17, upset No. 113 Coco Vandeweghe, 19, in their final 6-2, 6-2. Ryan Harrison won the male playoffs after overcoming Jack Sock. The French Tennis Federation have awarded their discretionary pass in to the main draw to Virginie Razzano.
*Latest Career Grand Slam achiever Rafa Nadal was voted the 2010 BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year. “For me it’s an honour, thank you very much to the BBC for giving me this award,” said the 24-year-old. “It’s just a dream being in the list of great champions to receive this award.” For reaction and to see the Spaniard collect the trophy visit the BBC Tennis website. Marca.com also named him ‘Spanish Athlete of the Decade’ while elpais.es readers voted him the ‘Spanish Athlete of the Year.’
*The ATP website has interviews with a host of top stars available to read at your leisure including how Andy Roddick and Marcos Baghdathis have prepared themselves for the 2011 season and whether Novak Djokovic can keep up his impressive end to 2010.
*You have until midnight on December 31 to cast your votes in the TennisReporters.net 2010 Tennis Awards so get over there now before it’s too late to have your say on who were the players of the year, which matches really set your fires alight and which stars provide the greatest eye candy.
By Maud Watson
Taking the Reins
A week after Australia named the appointment of Patrick Rafter as its new Davis Cup captain, the United States followed suit. On Wednesday it was announced that Jim Courier would be replacing Patrick McEnroe at the helm of the U.S. team. Courier will have some big shoes to fill, as McEnroe did much to turn around the fortunes of the U.S. Davis Cup squad, which included a title win in 2007. But Courier, a four-time Grand Slam winner, brings plenty of experience to the table, including serving as a member of the 1995 victorious U.S. Davis Cup squad. And, as an added bonus, reports seem to indicate that there’s a slight chance Mr. Courier’s new appointment could entice a healthy Andy Roddick to devote time to Davis Cup duty once again.
Thomas Muster made his comeback debut at the main ATP World Tour level in his native Austria this week, and unfortunately, it didn’t have a fairytale ending. The 43-year-old succumbed to his native countryman Andreas Haider-Maurer in straight sets in the opening round, though it should be noted that the second set ended in a tiebreak. Perhaps Muster is still polishing off some of the rust, but it is a little difficult to see him putting in another two good years as he stated he hopes to do. Still, judging by the crowd’s reaction to his efforts, there’s little doubt that his comeback is still bringing plenty of smiles to fans’ faces.
In addition to Muster, the ATP World Tour may see the return of yet another veteran in Australian Mark Philippoussis. After securing two wins on the Champions Series seniors’ tour, the veteran Australian has stated that he has found his hunger once again and is contemplating a return to the main tour level. While there are many fans who would love to see Scud see his plan through, it’s certainly questionable on Philippoussis’ part. It’s not as though this is the first time he’s considered such a comeback, and while those who compete on the Champions Tour are champions in their own right, they are retired from the main tour for a reason. The difference in the caliber of play is wide, and Philippoussis is kidding himself if he thinks success on one tour means it will translate to success on the ATP World Tour. Sadly, one has to wonder if Philippoussis’ considerations for a return don’t stem from the fact that he squandered his talent during his prime by choosing to live the good life instead putting in the time necessary to remain more injury-free and to realize his full potential. But then again, if Muster thinks he can do it in his 40s, there’s at least a glimmer of hope for the Aussie to do it in his 30s.
Few would argue that 2010 has been the year of Rafael Nadal. With the No. 1 ranking sewn up, three of the four majors to his name, and achieving the career Grand Slam, it has been his banner year. But Roger Federer, despite the subpar results by his high standards, has still managed to achieve yet another milestone, as he tied Sampras’ record of 64 singles titles with is win in Stockholm last week. At this stage in the game, Connors’ 109 still seems untouchable and McEnroe’s 77 a doable but lofty goal, but look for Federer to add to his total and use this mini-milestone as a springboard to better things in 2011.
In case you missed your daily dose of gossip, it’s worth noting a story that broke late last week followed by one earlier this week. The first concerns the engagement of Maria Sharapova to LA Laker Sasha Vujacic. More than once Sharapova has commented that she couldn’t see herself playing till she was 30, and if her results don’t drastically improve in 2011, don’t be entirely surprised if she hangs up the racquet and decides to permanently soak up the California sun. Then there’s Lleyton Hewitt, who became a father for the third time as he and wife Bec welcomed a baby girl last weekend. The whole charging for texts to find out the baby girl’s name is a little odd (and someone please let me know if that goes to some kind of charity), but congratulations are in order for the Hewitt’s. Don’t look for a third child to have a negative impact on Hewitt’s game either. It’s his body he’ll need to worry about.
Federer After Strong End to Year, Azarenka in for Doha and Rafter to Captain Aussies for Davis Cup Play
*Roger Federer insists he is ready for a strong end to 2010 despite a decidedly off-day at the office when he lost to Andy Murray in the final at the Shanghai Masters. “I’m certainly not yearning for the year to be over,” said the 16-time Grand Slam winner. “I’m very positive for the rest of the season. I had a bit of an off day in the Shanghai final. It’s a pity, but Murray pushed me to that. Mentally I have a lot left for the end of the year.” He added: “I’ve played pretty well since Wimbledon. I hope to go deep into this event and hold up the trophy at the end of the week.” Federer is preparing to play at the Stockholm Open for the first time in a decade and he told BBC Sport how he was looking forward to the occasion.
*According to tennis critics a lot of players have gained from Serena Williams’ injury absence in the latter half of the year and this is true in the case of Viktoria Azarenka who will replace the stricken US star in the WTA Finals in Doha next week. The Belarusian confirmed her place by beating Andrea Petkovic in the first round at the Kremlin Cup.
*Following John Fitzgerald’s retirement after a decade in the role it is Pat Rafter who will take up the reigns as Australian Davis Cup Captain. The two-time US Open winner receives the blessing of “Fitzy” himself and a host of Australian tennis greats coming in to the post. “I am really looking forward to working with the team and helping lift Australian men’s tennis on the world stage,” said Rafter. “We’ve got a lot of young players that have a great opportunity to play for Australia. My standards and expectations are extremely high. This is a great opportunity to be part of something that means a lot to me.” Another Aussie legend, Tony Roche, joins him as coach. For full reaction to the announcement check the ITF website.
*Last week’s HP Open in Osaka was one for the history books. Kimiko Date Krumm (40) shocked the likes of Sam Stosur and Shahar Peer on her way to meeting Tamarine Tanasugarn (33) in what was the final between the oldest competitors ever, with a combined age of 73. By beating Stosur, Krumm also became the first 40-something to ever beat a Top 10 player. Krumm was trying to break the record for the oldest title winner, Billie Jean King having won at Birmingham aged 39 in 1983, but it was Tanasugarn’s day. “I just tried my best and fought as hard as I could,” Date Krumm said. “Nobody wants to lose, so I tried everything. Now I’ll play some ITF events followed by the Asian Games – so I’ll be continuing to play tennis the rest of the year.” Tanasugarn was happy with her performance: “I tried to be more aggressive in the third set and I finally made it,” she said. “Osaka is a great city. This is a great feeling and hopefully I can continue to play like this and get a good start to 2011.”
*Andy Murray says that his win over Roger Federer at Shanghai has once again given him belief that he can lift a Grand Slam. Asked after his shock defeat to Federer’s friend and compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka at the US Open whether he could achieve the feat Murray simply replied: “I’m not sure.” Now things are different. “I need to win tournaments like this,” said Murray. “Beating guys like Roger, beating guys like Rafa (Nadal) gives you confidence that when you do play them in the big tournaments you will beat them. I need to play like I did this week for a whole tournament in the Slams, but it’s pretty simple. I don’t think my game needs to improve so much. I think I have the ability to win them. I’ve been close a few times.” The full interview can be seen at the BBC Sport Tennis website.
*Polish star Agnieszka Radwanska will miss the rest of the season and the 2011 Australian Open after undergoing surgery on a stress fracture in her foot, reports the Polish Times. She is expected to return in February or March.
*Betty Blake, mother of American star James Blake, is releasing her own book on how to be a “tennis mom.” ‘Mix It Up, Make It Nice: Secrets Of A Tennis Mom’ will give insight in how to train and prepare a future tennis star and focuses more on education and family values rather than athletic and tennis training.
*Former world No. 1 Thomas Muster will return to tour-level action as a wildcard at next week’s Bank Austria Tennis Trophy in Vienna. He turned 43-years-old this month but is still hungry to add to the 44 tour-level titles he has already lofted before his retirement following the 1999 French Open, the site of his sole Slam triumph in 1995. “I’m looking forward to it enormously,” Muster told Austria’s Krone. “I want to inspire the crowd with my fitness and fighting spirit. I’m fighting like in the good old times and I will give everything in front of the fans in Vienna.” Muster will now become the oldest player to compete on the tour since Jimmy Connors competed at the same age in Atlanta in 1996.
*Patrick McEnroe will step down as US Davis Cup Captain later this month after a decade in the hotseat. With the US facing an important playoff against Columbia to stay in the top tier of the competition this will not help the players with their preparations. “It’s with a heavy heart I’m resigning as Davis Cup captain,” said McEnroe. “But it’s a decision I felt was best. Davis Cup is a significant time commitment and this decision will allow me to focus more energy on my family and to the US Tennis Association’s player development programme.” McEnroe captained the US to Davis Cup victory in 2007 but things have not gone so smoothly recently. Four-time Grand Slam winner Jim Courier has already voiced interest in taking over the role.
*The Davis Cup team selections for this month’s matchups have been announced. Play will take place between September 17-19 in the World Group semifinals where France take on Argentina and Serbia face the Czech Republic. Gael Monfils will be France’s main dangerman with injury robbing them of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and he will be backed up by Richard Gasquet, Michael Llodra and Gilles Simon. Argentina will be relying on Juan Monaco, the in-form David Nalbandian and doubles outfit Eduardo Schwank and Horacio Zeballos for victory. In the other big semifinal, Novak Djokovic will lead the Serbian charge with the help of Viktor Troicki, Janko Tipsarevic and Nenad Zimonjic. Tomas Berdych, Radek Stepanek, Jan Hajek and Ivo Minar will play for the Czech Republic. The squads for the World Group Playoff matches have also been named and they can be viewed at the ITF website.
*The wind has been rustling some feathers at Flushing Meadows this week and the players have been waxing lyrical about the conditions in their post match interviews. “The talent to play in the wind, I don’t have yet,” bemoaned Gael Monfils after Novak Djokovic (with Aeolus and Njord) blasted him away on Ashe. “He can play really well in the wind,” said Robin Soderling of his conqueror Roger Federer. “He moves well. He’s always in the right place.” Just like in all other conditions then. But R-Fed was a bit more blasé about the whole wind situation. “I’ve been practicing my serve a whole lot, for my whole career,” the five-time US Open Champ said. “If I can’t serve in the wind, I’ve got a problem, you know?” But not everybody was looking for excuses. After crashing out to Vera Zvonereva Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi was looking closer to home: “I can’t blame the wind for everything, I didn’t play well,” said the world No. 32.
*Venus Williams’ run at this year’s Open has seen her edge towards yet another record. She has now appeared in ten US Open quaterfinals which ties her with Lindsay Davenport at fourth on the all-time leaders list. The top three are Chris Evert (19), Martina Navratilova (14) and Steffi Graf (12). Unfortunately age is very much against her efforts to surpass the likes of Navratilova and Evert.
*Stanislas Wawrinka’s coach Peter Lundgren has expressed his delight at his new protégé reaching his first Grand Slam quarter final this week in NY. The former Roger Federer and Marat Safin coach told Tages Anzeiger following the Murray win: “When you work with someone and he implements what you tell him and gets results right away, it’s a wonderful feeling. He is much more aggressive, serving better… Before he played too far back. There he’s also strong and defends well, but you won’t win any matches against top players.”
*Marcos Baghdatis has quit Davis Cup play with Cyprus to concentrate on regaining his place in the Top 10 singles rankings. He has starred for his country almost single handed for a long stretch, winning 54 of his 67 matches. Injuries have destroyed the last few years of his career after reaching No. 8 in 2006 but he has returned to the top 20 this year.
*Andy Murray doesn’t seem too confident right now about winning a Grand Slam. Following his US Open fourth round exit to Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka a despondent Murray said: “I have no idea of whether I’ll win a Grand Slam or not. You know, I want to but if I never win one, then what? If I give 100%, try my best, physically work as hard as I can, practice as much as I can, then that’s all I can do.” The 23-year-old gives a candid and honest assessment of his match which can be seen in full here.
*The American men have been attacking tournament organisers in force at the US Open as they believe not enough of them are placed on Ashe Stadium. They believe the big-name foreign stars are preferred to home-grown talent. “I haven’t played on that court in two years. Man, is it different from playing on Louis Armstrong and Grandstand,” said Mardy Fish. “There’s not hardly any wind outside, and it’s windy in there, really windy. For him [Novak Djokovic, Fish’s conquerer] to play every match in there and sort of get used to that, I think certainly helped him. Doesn’t mean that if I play [Arnaud] Clement out there that I win today by any means,” added Fish, who was bested in straight sets by Djokovic after a five-setter in round three against the Frenchman Clement. “But it took me a while to get used to it.” After losing in the third round to Mikhail Youzhny, John Isner added: “I didn’t hit a ball on that court, no practice or anything prior to this match. Same with my opponent, Mikhail,” said Isner. “But without a doubt, had I been a little bit more comfortable on that court it probably would have helped, but it was the same for both of us. He handled it better.” Then Sam Querrey added to the criticism after losing to Stanislas Wawrinka: “Not a huge fan of the scheduling this week,” Querrey said. “We have a lot of Americans here. None of us play on center court. If you go to the French Open, they have [Richard] Gasquet, [Julien] Benneteau, [Gael] Monfils, they’re on center court every day.” Something for the money men to think about next year if they want a home-grown winner to appease the fans again.
*The world was brought in to perspective by one player this week among the madness that combines to bring us the US Open. Talking about events in his native Pakistan, doubles specialist Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi said ahead of the mixed doubles final: “The only motivation I have for these two weeks is to get these titles for the people back home. I’m trying to send some positive news back home with the floods and everything.” A fitting message.
*Proud dad Srdjan Djokovic has been sporting a t-shirt baring his son’s face this week. But what does Novak think? “I would never wear the shirt. Me, personally, never. My father, I understand… He’s a proud father. What can I say? I’m just happy to see them supporting me. I don’t know where he got this fancy shirt. To be honest, it was somewhere in Belgrade. I cannot say it. He’s my father. If he wants to wear this shirt, he can wear this shirt.”
Two weddings, a street-buying and twitter overload are among the happenings on the ATP Tour this week. We’ll catch you up on the lives of Radek Stepanek, Janko Tipsarevic, Juan Martin del Potro, John Isner, Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt.
Former top-10 players on their respective tours, Radek Stepanek, 31, and Nicole Vaidisova, 21 wed this past Saturday in the Czech Republic’s biggest church, St. Vitus Cathedral. The couple had reportedly been engaged since 2007, shortly after Stepanek’s engagement to Martina Hingis, a former #1 and five-time grand slam winner, had been called off in August of 2007.
In other wedding news, world number 45 Janko Tipsarevic married his long-time girlfriend Biljana Sesevic last week near Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. Tennis players and good friends Novak Djokovic, Nenad Zimonjic and Viktor Troicki were among the party guests and party they did until the early hours of the morning!
First, some obligatory wedding photos:
Janko and new wife, Biljana
Jelena Ristic, Janko, Biljana, Novak Djokovic
Viktor Troicki with model-girlfriend Suncica Travica, Novak Djokovic with girlfriend Jelena Ristic and Nenad Zimonjic with wife Mina dancing the night away.
Now onto the party photos!
Clockwise: Biljana and Djokovic dancing; Djokovic and Jelena singing to the band; Janko and Biljana; Zimonjic, Troicki, singer Lepa Brena, Janko and Djokovic dancing
In some rather unique news, Juan Martin del Potro has bought a street in his hometown of Tandil, Argentina that connects two newly purchased lands of his. In an attempt to keep tourists away from his home, del Potro purchased a street for $50,000 under the mayor’s and city council’s approval. Neighbors and preservation activists, however, are scrutinizing the deal. They are worried the heritage of Tandil may be compromised and that others may begin purchasing their own street with no justification for it. It will be interesting to see if this makes its way to the court system.
John Isner and Nicolas Mahut won an ESPY award for Best Record-Breaking Performance this past Wednesday evening in Los Angeles for their marathon battle at this year’s Wimbledon. They beat out the competition of Roger Federer, Usain Bolt, Brett Favre, and the Connecticut Women’s Basketball team.
Roddick may have more on his hands than he bargained for! Friend and Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocino challenged Roddick to a duel … on the tennis court! Via his twitter account, Ochocinco stated: “How long are you gonna keep ducking me on court, say the place, grass, clay or hard surface, don’t be scared!” To which Roddick replied: “I might just try to beat u with a frying pan.”
Ochocinco was a regional tennis champion in his youth so he is no newcomer to the sport. However, back in January when talk first arose of the two dueling it out, Ochocinco stipulated that Roddick must play with his left hand. So, can Ochocinco take on Roddick as a left-handed frying pan hitter? We can’t wait to find out!
And speaking of twitter, who’s excited for the upcoming US Open Series? Ok, it might be too soon to start thinking about the US Open which is 1.5 months away, but maybe this will lighten the spirit. Watch as Roddick and Serena Williams talk twitter. Remember, they grew up knowing each other as kids, so it’s all in good-fun. Andy’s a bit modest with his follower count, isn’t he? For a full list of tennis tweeters, check out http://www.tennistweets.com/ .
Ever wondered how Roger Federer did his ‘between-the-legs’ forehand at last year’s US Open against Novak Djokovic? Well, he explains in a step-by-step analysis below.
Former world number 1 Lleyton Hewitt lost a court battle in Australia. Don’t remember hearing about this? Neither did I, but come to find, it was about his “C’mon” fistpump. Hewitt claimed that he had originated the gesture, but an Australian court has found that it is not exclusive to him but encompasses Australian sports as a whole. Maybe it’s time to start looking for a new slogan, Lleyton.
Tennis fans of Queensland, Australia, were celebrating after three of their big name stars received wild cards this week for the 2010 Australian Open.
Davis Cup star Carsten Ball, two-time junior Grand Slam winner Bernard Tomic and national under 18 champion Jason Kubler were all handed passes to the event.
Ball missed the recent wild card playoff tournament with a back injury but has performed exceptionally well in 2009 and came close to making the main draw cut off point so the organisers made the decision to hand him a wildcard.
Tomic won this year’s US Open boy’s title to add to the 2008 Aussie boy’s title he’d already picked up. The Australians view Tomic as a huge prospect for the future and he has already shown promise by reaching the second round of the 2009 tournament.
Sixteen-year-old Kubler went on a 30-match winning streak this year which included victory at the prestigious Osaka Junior Open as well as leading Australia to Junior Davis Cup victory.
Former World No. 8 Alicia Molik and rising star Olivia Rogowska received wild cards in the women’s draw, Rogowska being the losing finalist in the recent wildcard playoffs.
The decision on the final wildcards to be handed out to the men’s and women’s draws will be made soon.
*Women’s doubles pairs were left feeling nervous as one of the most successful pairings of all time, America’s Lisa Raymond and Australia’s Rennae Stubbs, announced that they will once more compete together in 2010. Between 1996 and 2005 they won 32 titles together including three Grand Slams – Australia (2000), Wimbledon and the US Open (both 2001). They also won the 2001 Sony Ericsson Championships and both held the No. 1 ranking slot. Raymond has won a further two majors with another Aussie, Samantha Stosur, but the pair were always the most successful together. Raymond commented: “It’s funny how things come full circle.”
*Australian World No. 77 Peter Luczak has signed up to play in the 2010 Movistar Open, an ATP World Tour 250 tournament beginning January 31st in Santiago, Chile. The tournament takes place during the 200th anniversary of Chilean independence and vast celebrations are set to mark the event.
*Spanish clay court coach Felix Mantilla has been added to the Australian Davis Cup coaching team and captain John Fitzgerald was full of praise for the move, describing it as one of the most significant moves in decades. “Having Felix Mantilla now is a great asset to us,” he said. “I reckon it’s a very, very important appointment.”
*British tennis has awarded its December AEGON Awards with Naomi Broady picking up player of the month, Luke Bambridge (Junior Player) and Neil Frankel (coach) being the other benefactors.
*The Australian Open Changing Ends Film Festival has extended its entry deadline until January 18th. By submitting a film of no longer than 30 seconds you could win the top prize of $5,000 and have your film shown during end changes at the 2010 Open. Films must have a tennis theme. For more information visit www.changingends.com.au.
The semi’s might be delayed due to rain but Serena’s still a Success. She will grace the cover of “Success” magazine this October. Ofcourse we here at TennisGrandstand were able to get our hands on the preview of that cover.
The issue contains an interview with the multiple Grand Slam winner with insights and wisdoms on how to achieve success. Here is a quick excerpt of that interview:
A shining example of someone who charts her own course, Serena achieves her goals her way. “I think when you are given a great opportunity and you have the chance to do other things, you need to follow your dreams and try to make the most of your opportunities.”
Juggling tennis, a clothing line and philanthropic commitments, Serena works hard to do it all, and do it well. “I am not doing anything for money. I am doing because I love it.”
- Commit to doing your very best
- Be a good sport
- Don’t listen to naysayers
- Follow your heart
- Promote your work
With a new coach and training base, American Julie Ditty believes her best tennis still to come.
Playing with Liga Dekmeijere of Latvia, the duo reeled off six consecutive games and held the lead for the entire match as they advanced into the second round of the US Open, defeating the team of American Meghann Shaughnessy and Alicia Molik of Australia, 7-6 (4), 6-1.
“I think Liga and I are a good pair on the court,” said Ditty. “Because I’m left-handed, it helps to play with a right-handed player. I like to set up the points up more for my partner, and she can be aggressive with her shots.”
Dekmeijere and Ditty were playing against a team who are both coming back from long-standing injuries and illnesses, but who have both reached the top 5 in the doubles rankings. Molik is also a two-time Grand Slam winner in doubles (at the Australian Open in 2005 and Roland Garros in 2007).
“It helped me to talk to people who saw them play their match last week in New Haven,” said Dekmeijere. “Of course, I’m focused on my game, but I needed to know some pointers, and what their strengths or weaknesses were.”
After breaking Molik’s serve while leading 3-2, Ditty served for the set at 5-3, only to have her seen broken with a Shaughnessy forehand that clipped the line. In the tiebreak, two overhead winners by Dekmeijere sent the American-Latvian pair up an early minibreak. On their first set point while leading 6-4, a forehand volley winner by Ditty gave the pair the opening set.
Molik held serve in a 9 deuce game to start the second set, but it was the last game the American-Australian duo would win in the match. Finding the range on their ground strokes and volleys, Dekmeijere and Ditty never faced another game point for the rest of the match, as a mistimed forehand by Shaughnessy sealed the match.
Although she has struggled on the singles court in 2009, Ditty has been producing the best doubles result of her career and currently sits at a career high ranking of No. 66. She reached the semifinals in doubles at a WTA event in Auckland and won a round in Roland Garros and Wimbledon, the latter with Dekmeijere. The highlight of her year came during Fed Cup in February, where she helped the US win the final match of their first round tie against Argentina, playing an instrumental role in helping the US Fed Cup team reach the finals this year.
“I still feel like things are getting better and still feel like I’m working towards something,” said Ditty.
Part of Ditty’s improved attitude can largely be attributed to her new coaching situation. Having traveled alone for most of the year, Ditty recently started traveling with a new coach, Carlos Drada. After playing more tournaments than almost anyone on tour last year (36) and spending time training in different cities including Seattle and San Francisco, Ditty moved to Lexington, Kentucky, at the beginning of August and intends to make the city her new base.
“I’m so much happier now,” said Ditty. “I have a great coach and Lexington is really close to my family. It’s great to have everything that I need right there.”
Ditty and Dekmeijere await the winner of a first round doubles between Lucie Safarova and Galina Voskoboeva, and the No. 12 seeds, Vania King and Monica Niculescu.