Jelena Dokic

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Australian Open: Grounds Pass Perspective – Live Coverage

Day 2 160

by Stephanie Neppl, Special for Tennis Grandstand

Attending the Australian Open takes endurance – for long, unpredictable days and especially for the heat. Of course, fans have it a little better than the players who are unable to duck into air conditioned shops and enjoy ice cream to cool down a bit.

The 2012 Australian Open is no different. The heat has been unbearable and the crowds noticeably larger during the first few days, but fans have been rewarded by fantastic tennis and lots of drama.

A grounds pass is definitely the way to go when attending the first week of any grand slam, but the setup here is ideal. It’s very easy to watch player practices as they are spread out all over Melbourne Park so you get great access to the players. While the schedules aren’t posted anywhere, the Aussie Open twitter account is very good at tweeting who will be where at what time.

Many top players were practicing with each other this week: Petra Kvitova and Zheng Jie, Jelena Dokic and Shahar Peer, John Isner and Sam Querrey. The element of surprise when wandering the grounds is great – one never knows which players will be around the corner if you’re happy to bounce around between courts instead of focusing on one match.

Many top players tend to practice on courts 16 and 17 which are on the Hisense Arena side of Melbourne Park. This is quite a walk from the courts on the other side of Rod Laver, so fans must often race back and forth to catch matches and practices. No wonder the frozen Coke drinks are so popular!

We’re nearly through two full rounds of tennis, and the biggest shock so far was definitely Sam Stosur losing on Tuesday to Sorana Cirstea. The newspapers on Wednesday were not kind but hopefully Bernard Tomic’s big wins will keep the Aussies happy. Day three had a few surprises on the women’s side as two ladies who did well here last year were both upset. Francesca Schiavone of Italy lost to her countrywoman Romina Oprandi and Peng Shuai of China was knocked out by Czech Iveta Benesova. Ironically Schiavone and Peng are doubles partners this year so perhaps they’ll have a better run in that draw.

A few dramatic five-setters kept the nightlife going at Melbourne Park Wednesday night. John Isner and David Nalbandian battled for more than four and a half hours before the American won 10-8 in the fifth set. The match had some major controversy over chair umpire Kader Nouni not allowing the Argentine to challenge an Isner serve (which was proven to have been out) at 8-8 in that final set. This will surely be a huge talking point for a few days and was a sad way for Nalbandian to exit Melbourne, possibly for the last time.

Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgololov took his match 8-6 in the fifth over Tobias Kamke of Germany. Nicolas Almagro also won in five but bagelled Grigor Dimitrov in the fifth.

The most intriguing match for Thursday is surely that between Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick. Neither are in their primes but the Rod Laver Arena night crowd should be in for some great fight between these two old rivals.

Stephanie Neppl is the Social Media Manager for Tennis Auckland and is in Melbourne covering the Australian Open. She is the author of the website I Have a Tennis Addiction and you can follow her on twitter @StephInNZ for further updates.

Jelena Dokic reconciles with father, Tokyo loses big names in early rounds, Maria Sharapova injured – The Friday Five

Maria Sharapova

By Maud Watson

On the Mend

After eight years of being estranged from one another, Jelena Dokic has reunited with her father, Damir. Damir’s exploits are well publicized and have routinely landed him near the top of very “Worst Tennis Parent” list. That is why like some others, I’m curious as to how this rekindled partnership will play out over the course of the coming months. On one hand, it’s always great to see reconciliation, especially between family members. Jelena herself has stated this is what she wants and believes her father has changed (though he will still be ineligible to receive credentials for WTA events). But given all that’s happened the last eight years, it’s hard not to feel that this partnership isn’t a little “awkward” as Darren Cahill tweeted. Hopefully the return of Damir will bring many positives to Jelena’s life, but only time will tell if this tiger has changed his stripes.

Tokyo Trouble

In one of the more prominent WTA events of the fall, the Pan Pacific Open saw a couple of troubling big name losses early in the event. The first was that of reigning US Open Champion Sam Stosur. The Aussie lost to Kirilenko, which is not necessarily a bad loss, but it was an upset nonetheless. After the way she fought her way to the US Open title, many were optimistic she’d fully put it together between the ears. Hopefully this loss will prove to be the exception rather than the norm, as it would be a shame to see her follow the post-Grand Slam title success of Li Na and Petra Kvitova. The other high profile loss was that of Caroline Wozniacki, who fell to Kaia Kanepi. The loss proved once again that when not at the top of her game (and sometimes even then), the Dane is vulnerable to big hitters. But the loss may have also in part stemmed from the possible burnout that comes with the mental pressure of knowing she has to consistently win to defend that number one ranking and keep her critics at bay. At this point, it may not be such a bad idea for Wozniacki to step away for a bit, risk losing that ranking, maybe hit the golf course with the boyfriend, and come back refreshed.

Added Distraction

She’s faced far more serious injuries over the course of her career, but the ankle injury that forced Maria Sharapova to retire from her quarterfinal match against Petra Kvitova at the Pan Pacific Open may prove costly in more ways than one. Obviously there was the withdrawal from the tournament itself. Having put together her most successful season post-shoulder surgery and being one of the heavy favorites to win Tokyo, the former No. 1 will rue the missed opportunity to add to her list of titles and build her confidence going into 2012. But what may be more unsettling for Sharapova is the manner in which she sustained the injury – she came down awkwardly on her left ankle while finishing her service motion. For a player who has never overcome the serving yips since her shoulder trouble, this could prove yet another unwanted distracted that may only increase those yips.

New Aspirations

Once a top ten player able to use her court craft and guile to frustrate even the biggest of hitters, Russian Anna Chakvetadze has since seen her game in a freefall the last few seasons. The combination of her family’s terrifying robbery ordeal along with injuries and illness have hindered Chakvetadze’s efforts to produce anywhere near her top level of tennis. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why she’s now looking into politics. Chakvetadze has been named one of the three candidates put forth by the pro-business Right Cause Party. Her candidacy has already garnered some mudslinging, with one opponent suggesting her candidacy is nothing but a bad joke. It’s also drawn questions from Sharapova as to how much Chakvetadze can focus on her tennis if she’s involved with politics. In either case, the Right Cause Party enjoys little public support, so it is unlikely Chakvetadze will win a parliamentary seat. But seeing a player with the smarts to attempt such a lofty goal to do what she believes is best for her country is admirable, and in the end, it may just prove the brief hiatus she needs to come back with a fresh mind to try and rebuild her game.

In Demand

It seems that recently USTA coaches are being sought after by what they hope will be the next great crop of American stars. Melanie Oudin, who has been living a nightmare on tour since her breakout 2009 season, has split with her longtime coach Brian DeVilliers to pair up with Tom Gullikson. Though freely admitting her slump has been entirely her own fault, she’s hoping Gullkson’s fresh perspective will put her back on the path to success. On the men’s side, after a brief split, American teen Jack Sock has rehired Mike Wolf to take over the coaching reigns, but the biggest victory by the USTA has to be that of Donald Young seeking its assistance. After a much publicized tiff between the two, Young and his family have wisely agreed to let the USTA take the lead in his coaching and development. Young will be under the guidance of his former coach Mike Sell, who was also the former coach of Monica Seles. American tennis fans will be eager to see if these changes pay dividends in the near future.

Around the grounds at the Citi Open: Oudin’s nose piercing, Dokic’s memorable moments, and “hot pants”

Oudin and coach

The grounds of the inaugural Citi Open located at the Tennis Center at College Park just outside of Washington, DC are charming and appealing. With 12 indoor courts, 15 outdoor courts, a spacious clubhouse and gym, it serves as an USTA Certified Regional Training Center for Mid-Atlantic junior players and has other programs for all ages and abilities, making it a busy venue year-round. And this week is no exception. With some of the world’s top women showcasing their hard-hitting talents on court, there are many sights to behold.

As you walk around, don’t be surprised if you bump into a player or two on the walkways. The casual and intimate setting allows direct interaction between players and fans, and the players seem to thrive off the crowd support. Notably, Shuai Zhang had a large cheering section in her win against Jelena Dokic. But Dokic herself is no stranger to the lime light as she was a top-ranked Australian woman and a former world #4. After being away from the tour for 4 weeks because of a hamstring injury sustained at Wimbledon, she still believes she is in the “warm up” stages of the summer and “was not too disappointed” by her loss.

(Dokic photo courtesy of Soheil Soheily for the WTA)

Obviously, I would have liked to have won, but I look forward to keep on training,” she added. I asked her if there was a ranking goal in her mind or if she was just focused on improving her game. Currently ranked #54, she responded that “it’s not so much about the ranking, but just to play well … since everything goes one with another.”

Although she didn’t disclose what tournaments she had coming up in the summer hard court season, she touched on her year so far. Her Kuala Lumpur title back in February 2011 “really helped me and got my confidence back up” after a tough 2010. “I’ve had top 10 wins this year and top 20 wins, so I would just like to get a little bit more consistent.”

I then asked her about her most memorable moment in her career. While the interview thus far had been fairly subdued, she seemed to light up as she reminisced about her time on tour and how it brought her joy. After a moment she responded: “It’s hard, I think I’ve had a couple. I think 2009 Australian Open was a great one [where she made it to the quarterfinals as a wildcard entrant], winning my first title was pretty big [the Rome Masters in 2001], and semis of Wimbledon, and Sydney Olympics [both in 2000], so there have been quite a few. I don’t think I would limit it to just one, because every good tournament or memory, every single one is very different. And at different times in my life they meant different things to me. But I think every victory is big.”

After the interview, I returned back to the match courts to witness Melanie Oudin fighting, but eventually falling, in the first round to 2011 Wimbledon quarterfinalist Tamira Paszek. Earlier in the week, I spotted Oudin sporting an accessory I hadn’t noticed before – a small stud nose piercing.

She removed it before hitting the courts for a practice session, which included one-and-a-half hours of straight drilling with her coach. While the other players incorporate a lot of rallies into their practices and play points against their hitting partners, Oudin’s had none and it made me curious: how do you integrate the things you just worked on in a pressure situation with no practice sets? With several interesting exercises, this one pictured below took the cake. In order to speed up her swing, her coach fed her balls in the air — from only a few feet away at the service line! Thankfully, in order to finally put the drills to good use, Oudin returned to the courts a few hours later and played a practice set against another player.

As players hit the courts several times per day, it’s easy to find high quality tennis even outside of the matches. Paszek herself was looking noticeably fit during her practice session with another familiar face, Antonio Van Grichen. He was the long-time coach to current world #4 Victoria Azarenka, and more recently had a short stint with Ana Ivanovic, but ended the coaching relationship with her earlier this year. Over twitter, Van Grichen would not confirm that he was Paszek’s “full time coach,” but rather that he was just “helping her on training weeks.” As Paszek has been doing well recently, having Van Grichen would be beneficial as he’s trained players to higher rankings and has been able to tweak small things in their game.

(Paszek photo courtesy of Soheil Soheily for the WTA)

Several young stars have also signified their arrival on tour, including Canadian Eugenie Bouchard, who won her first main draw tour-level match at the age of 17. Likewise, American standouts Beatrice Capra and Asia Muhammed played in the singles’ qualifying rounds, but both went down in the final round in close three-set encounters. The two teamed-up in doubles sporting their bright Nike and Adidas attire, but went down to the tandem of Sania Mirza and Yaroslava Shvedova in the opening round. Capra grew up training at this Tennis Center and it showed with her confidence on court. Although she is playing professional tournaments, she forfeits the cash rewards and will instead take her talents to Duke University where she will enroll as a freshman there this Fall.

With the temperature soaring well into the 90’s, the lemonade and fruit stands were a welcome distraction for spectators, but it’s the players “hot pants” that were making a scene on court this week. Allison Riske, Muhammed, and Bojana Jovanovski were all spotted wearing itsy-bitsy short-shorts while practicing. But I can’t blame them. With the heat index and humidity, it felt closer to 110 degrees out here!

(Jovanovski photo courtesy of Neal Trousard)

 

Check out the official photography page of the Citi Open on Flickr. All photos taken by Soheil Soheily for the WTA.

All other uncredited photos taken by the author.

Pavlyuchenkova and Dokic Victorious, Roddick Back at Queens and Djokovic Back for Serbia Next Round

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Pavlyuchenkova Still Queen of Monterrey:

Russian teenager Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova continued her love affair with Monterrey as she rallied to overcome Jelena Jankovic 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 in the final on Sunday. The reigning Champion started slowly but improved to beat the Serbian former No. 1 and take her record at the tournament to a perfect 10-0. She is also 3-0 in WTA finals. “Last year I said it was very special for me, but this one was also very special, maybe even more,” Pavlyuchenkova said on court after the final. “The crowd made it possible for me last year and they made it possible for me this year too. They pulled me through each match. It’s always tough to defend a title so it means a lot.” Jankovic paid tribute to her opponent: “It’s a great city and I felt amazing here,” she said. “Congratulations to Anastasia, she played so well tonight. She was the better player. Well done.”

Dokic Crowned in Kuala Lumpur:

Australian Jelena Dokic lifted her first title since 2002 by sneaking past Lucie Safarova in the final of the BMW Malaysian Open on Sunday. She was only one forehand away from losing but fought back to win 2-6, 7-6(9), 6-4. Dokic has been on a decent run recently and it is the first time since her run to the quarter finals of the 2009 Aussie Open that she has consistently shown glimpses of her former greatness that once saw her sit at No. 4 in the world. “Lucie beat so many good players to reach the final this week. I don’t know how I came back against her today,” Dokic declared. “This is my second time in Malaysia – I was here 10 years ago for the first time so it has been a while. But I’ve been here nearly two weeks this time and it has been fantastic. I don’t know where I pulled it out from today but I did. I even surprised myself… and when you start winning matches and titles, your appetite only gets bigger.”

Roddick Aims For Fifth Queen:

Andy Roddick has signed up to compete for his fifth title at Queens Club in the AEGON Championships. The warm-up tournament to Wimbledon has been a happy hunting ground for the American who won three straight titles from 2003-05 defeating Frenchman Sebastien Grosjean twice and the giant Croat Ivo Karlovic in the finals. He also triumphed over another Gaul, Nicolas Mahut, in 2007. Roddick sits alongside Boris Becker, John McEnroe, Lleyton Hewitt, Roy Emerson, MJG Ritchie and AF Wilding as four-time winners. McEnroe leads in all-time titles with five as he also has a doubles trophy from the tournament. Roddick joins world number one Rafael Nadal in the draw as well as the 2008 and 2011 Australian Open Champion Novak Djokovic. The tournament takes place June 6-12.

Novak “Should Be Back:”

Serbian Davis Cup coach Bogdan Obradovic believes Novak Djokovic will be back with the Serbian squad for their tough quarterfinal tie with Sweden after the Aussie Open winner missed their victory over India on the weekend. Despite the comfortable-looking scoreline the performance wasn’t of the standard which led them to their maiden title last year and they know they will have to improve to overcome the Scandinavians. “It’s definitely going to be a very tough tie and we should have Djokovic back for the match against the Swedes,” Obradovic said. “Djokovic had made it clear he would be unable to play this time but also said he would be available for the quarterfinals, meaning that we will go to Sweden confident that we can go a step further in our objective to retain the silverware.” Elsewhere, France overcame Austria in the interesting venue of a hangar at Vienna Airport and the USA overcame Chile 4-1 and Spain beat Belgium by the same scoreline to set up a mouth-watering quarterfinal on American soil. Unfortunately it wasn’t all good news for the Davis Cup last week. The players of Kazakhstan had their hotel rooms robbed during their 3-2 victory in the Czech Republic with $25,000 worth of cash and computers taken. News agency CTK reports that Czech officials also had equipment taken.

Williams Wants Speedy Return:

Despite suffering from further blood clots in her lungs Serena Williams says she wants to return to the sport as quickly as possible. The 29-year-old has not played since lifting her fourth Wimbledon title last July. Despite currently having to inject herself twice a day with blood thinning medication she believes she may be able to make a return in “early summer.” Williams said that it was swelling in her leg that first made her aware she was ill: “I could not breathe,” she said. “I remember thinking, ‘I’m walking but I cannot breathe.’ That forced me to the emergency room. They told me they had to check me in immediately or it wasn’t going to be a good result. Luckily enough, I was able to catch it soon enough that my career won’t be affected.”

New Record Serve:

Croatia’s 6ft. 10in. Ivo karlovic, the tallest player on the tour, set a new world record for the fastest serve during his country’s Davis Cup tie with Germany on the weekend. The serve hit 251kmh which overtook Andy Roddick’s serve of 149.4kmh he hit in the 2004 Davis Cup semifinal when the USA beat Belarus 4-0.

Raonic Set “For the Top:”

Milos Raonic’s Spanish coach Galo Blanco believes anything is possible for the 20-year-old if he continues to work hard. He has had a barnstorming start to 2011, which has seen him rise from No.159 in the world to No.37. “If I’m honest, we did not expect this start to the season,” Blanco told RadioMARCA. “I had a lot of faith in Milos, but his progress has been much faster than we expected. What has helped us a lot is that we didn’t stand still after reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open. If he hadn’t continued working, he wouldn’t have had those results in San Jose and Memphis. What he does so well is that he keeps wanting to improve every day. It is something he has learnt from the Spaniards.”

Double Trouble:

Nine of the Top 10 men’s singles players will be in doubles action at the ATP Masters 1000 event at Indian Wells this fortnight. World No.1 Rafa Nadal is the reigning doubles Champion with Marc Lopez and the pair return to defend their title this year. They triumphed together earlier this season in Doha. Novak Djokovic and Viktor Troicki team up for the first time in over the year and Andy Murray will again be with older brother Jamie. Robin Soderling teams up with Jarkko Nieminen and they will have to face the Bryan brothers in round one. Roger Federer is with compatriot and friend Stanislas Wawrinka and David Ferrer pairs up with Nicolas Almagro who he recently defeated in the Acapulco final. Jurgen Melzer is again with his Wimbledon-winning buddy Philipp Petzschner, Tomas Berdych is with Janko Tipsarevic and Fernando Verdasco teams up with David Marrero.

Jankovic Happy With Pavel:

Reigning BNP Paribas Open Champion Jelena Jankovic believes she has turned the corner after her poor end to 2010 and equally disappointing start to 2011 following work with her new coach Andrei Pavel. After a semifinal in Dubai and the final at Monterrey she believes she can make another assault on Indian Wells. “We started working in December for a little and then after Australia we really worked hard for a month to develop my game again,” she said. “I’ve improved some things and I’m starting to feel confident again and I feel like I’m on the right track.”

Houston We Have a Hewitt:

Former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt has accepted a wildcard in to the US Men’s Clay Court Championship in Houston next month. The 2009 winner joins former winner Mardy Fish (2006) and defending Champion Juan Ignacio Chela in the draw. Fellow Americans in the draw include James Blake, John Isner, Sam Querrey and Michael Russell. The Bryan brothers headline the doubles field. Blake, Milos Raonic and Bernard Tomic have also received wildcards in to Miami as has Ryan Harrison.

Nalbandian Missing Again:

Injury-prone Argentinean David Nalbandian will miss the next two months after surgery on his left leg and groin. The 29-year-old tore a leg muscle and strained his groin in a Davis Cup rubber with Romania’s Adrian Ungur last weekend. His spokesman, Bernardo Ballero says he will be back for the French Open in May. In better news, Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez has resumed hitting practice following hip surgery and aims to be back in time for Belgrade in April.

Rankings Watch:

There is very little movement in the South African Airways ATP World Tour Rankings this week after the conclusion of Davis Cup play. Juan Monaco is the first player to climb and he is the world’s new No. 30. France’s Jeremy Chardy climbs six to re-enter the Top 50 and Germany’s Dustin Brown climbs two to re-enter the Top 100. Jelena Dokic’s first title since 2002 in Kuala Lumpur sees her jump 30 to No. 61, her highest ranking in over a year. Gisela Dulko is up to No. 47 from No. 56 while America’s Vania King drops 10 to No. 100.

GOAT Race:

Both Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal have entered Indian Wells this week so have added ten points to their totals.

Roger: 450 Rafa: 140

SERENA’S “MINI-RETIREMENTS” HELP HER LONGEVITY

Serena Williams

By Blair Henley

It’s been almost three months since Serena Williams last played a tennis match.

Since her victory at the Australian Open, she has visited Kenya to open a secondary school in her name, appeared on the Home Shopping Network to sell her Signature Line and even enrolled in courses to become a nail technician. Her interests outside of tennis have raised eyebrows regarding her dedication to the game, but perhaps her frequent layoffs, injury related or not, are actually what have enabled her reign atop the women’s tour for so long.

It’s easy to root for the grinder who eats, sleeps and breathes tennis. Society says that hard work pays off, and we love seeing proof. When Ana Ivanovic won the French Open in 2008, fans cheered her gritty style of play and analysts seemed to think there were big things in store for the marketable Serb. Her ranking now sits at No. 57 and she has not come close to replicating her Grand Slam success. The same could be said for Nicole Vaidisova, who went from the world top 10 in 2007 to the top 200 in 2010. She recently announced her retirement at the ripe old age of 20. Jelena Dokic is another young and promising baseliner who reached the top 5 in 2002 before slowly sliding out of the spotlight.

These are just a few examples of players who have clawed their way to the top only to have trouble staying there. On the other hand, Serena has proved herself against the best in the world for over ten years and doesn’t seem fazed by the pressure of heightened expectations that has knocked many would-be stars off their short-lived pedestals.

Despite her incredibly successful career, critics are quick to say that she has failed to make the most of her talent and athleticism. They wonder what she could achieve if she completely immersed herself in the game, but I’ve yet to hear anyone laud Serena’s unusual approach as a contributing factor in her unparalleled longevity in tennis’ modern era.

There’s no denying that tennis is a training intensive sport, and any top tour competitor has paid her dues. For some, however, tennis becomes all-consuming – and not in a good way. There is pressure to train constantly and play as many tour events as possible at the expense of a well-rounded existence.

Serena seems to shrug off what people think she should be doing and as a result comes into events with a rested body and a fresh outlook. If all her spare time were spent on the court and at the gym, perhaps her career would have fizzled a long time ago like so many of her peers.

Tennis fans were amazed at Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters’ recent comeback success, but their dominance was simply a result of a renewed perspective. The intermittent breaks from competition that we are used to seeing from Serena are, in a sense, mini retirements. Like Henin and Clijsters, she returns refreshed and hungry after having pursued other passions.

While it may not be in every player’s best interest to step away from the game to develop a new line of merchandise, I do think there is value in Serena’s approach. Taking time to remember that there is more to life than wins and losses on a tennis court could be a good thing.

HENIN, DEMENTIEVA TO FULFILL THE APPETITE OF TENNIS FANS

Elena Dementieva

By Melina Harris

WTA players and tennis fans alike were waiting with baited breath to see where seven-time major champion, the diminutive Belgian Justine Henin was going to be placed in the Australian Open draw last week. Unfortunately for the players, but fortunate for fans, the draw created a hugely competitive mouth-watering half of the draw featuring Justine Henin, Elena Dementieva, Jelena Dokic, Flavia Pennetta, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Henin’s Belgian rival Kim Clijsters.

Indeed, after impressive first-round performances, Henin and Dementieva have set up what promises to be one of the most eagerly anticipated second round match in Australian Open history Wednesday night in Australia. Henin eased her way comfortably back into Grand Slam action with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Belgian compatriot, Kirsten Flipkens, breaking early in both sets, while Dementieva demolished Russian compatriot Vera Dushevina 6-2, 6-1 firing an audacious 23 winners during her smooth victory in the Hisense Arena.

In previewing this match, I felt it necessary to take a moment to ponder what must have gone through Henin’s deeply contemplative mind as she faced the prospect of Dementieva in the second and a rematch of the recent Brisbane International final with Clijsters in the quarters? Something along the lines of unwavering relish I would think as she admitted in a recent uncharacteristically open interview with the Sunday Times newspaper in the UK, ‘I’m afraid I am not an observer in life. I am somebody that has to go out there and do things. I need challenges all the time, I need to set myself a goal and achieve.’ She also admitted after an 18-month ‘retirement’ from the game, ‘I need tennis; it’s something I have found out about myself. I wasn’t sure whether I truly needed it before or whether it was something I’ve just always done but after nearly two years of seeing things through different eyes, I know it’s something I must have in my life.’

With this new found thirst for the game, I doubt the mentally fragile but freshly confident world No. 5 Dementieva is relishing her second-round match up with the notoriously cool Belgian. Despite winning convincingly against the battling Williams sisters in Doha and the Sydney International tournament, impressing critics with her stoic displays, it is evident she has some niggling insecurities to triumph over in order to win her first Grand Slam here in Australia. The fact that she openly admitted having to remind herself ‘she’s just like you, you know, she can be nervous’ regarding her opponent Venus Williams, reveals how she clearly suffers at the hands of a rather damaging inferiority complex against Grand Slam champions, which could play a significant role in the way this second round match will play out.

It remains to be seen whether Wednesday January 22nd at 19:00 local time will signify a turning point in women’s tennis and the most exciting match of the year so far. Millions of tennis fans will tune in to see whether Henin will manage to defuse Demenieva’s meticulously honed confidence with her steel, style and psychological strength.  It will be fascinating to watch how the possible psychological advantage Henin may have over Dementieva will play out on Wednesday. This match could symbolize the beginning of an illustrious Grand Slam career for Dementieva or launch the return of the elusive Henin to the top of rankings once again. It’s certainly an intriguing encounter which should not be missed – set those alarms people, we’re in for a treat!

JELENA DOKIC COMEBACK IS RIGHT ON TRACK

I have been  follower of Jelena Dokic career ever since she caused that great upset by defeating Martina Hingis in straight sets at Wimbledon back in 1999.

After a long absence from the tennis courts, mostly because of family problems, I was happy to read that she was working on a come back. And it’s a work in progress. She stated that 2009 was going to be her last attempt at a come back. And luckily for us, it worked out. She’s still playing and ocassionally swaying the courts.

In 2010 she is preparing for the Australian Open in Hobart.  She proved too strong for Elena Baltacha beating her in straight sets 6-4, 6-2. She will now meet Shahar Peer in the next round.

“I feel like I’m fitter this year and hitting the ball better,” Dokic told reporters.

Now that sounds good and hopefully she will be able to get far at the Australian Open. Just like she did last year when she reached the Quarterfinals on a wild card.

I have created a poll which you can see right after the pics! Cast your vote and feel free to discuss using the comment box.

[polldaddy poll=2509321]

ALL-IN-ONE-PICTORIAL: MARIA SHARAPOVA, ANA IVANOVIC, ELENA DEMENTIEVA, JELENA DOKIC!

The tennis season kicked off this week and it shows. What I got here are photos, photos and more photos of Jelena Dokic (the come back girl), Ana Ivanovic and Elena Dementieva.

As an extra bonus I added Maria Sharapova photos of her sensational win over Venus Williams earlier this week. It’s sensational because I say so. No, seriously. After so many months of injury and being sidelined it’s great to see Sharapova grace the courts in stylish fashion once again.

I say stylish fashion because I think that Maria Sharapova and tennis fashion have become one. And no, no not with with the Force as Star Wars fans would say but it’s just that in my view Maria Sharapova and Tennis Fashion have become one word. That’s how good I think she dresses on the courts.

About Jelena Dokic, it’s great that she’s making another come back after many years of absence.  A lot of trouble and turmoil in her private life. From pesky fathers to changing nationalities more often than most men would change their underwear. But it’s all going to be good now, I hope.  Whatever she does, I’ll never forget that Wimbledon match where she crushed Martina Hingis.

Then we have Ana Ivanovic. She got a new coach and hopefully her results will come back straight up. She made a free fall and stopped performing consistently after winning the Roland Garros tournament in 2008. I guess the success and the attention of winning a Grand Slam tournament must have been so overwhelming that it takes time to adjust.  Let’s just hope that she has adjusted because when fully focussed on her game this Serbian Siren is top 1 potential!

Another name on the list is Elena Dementieva. There is a lot I can write and / or say about this Russian bombshell but what I have to say about her is actually perfectly written in this article by Galen E. Bull called “Defending Dementieva“.

Furthermore I hope this is going to be a “Maria Sharapova” – year. When injury free Sharapova is almost unbeatable.  Ofcour her shrieking is lewd, lascivious, salacious, outrageous! But who cares…she’s one of the best in the world and the WTA Tour can praise themselves with a personality like Sharapova’s gracing the tennis courts.

London Showcase Set For Kick-Off: Tennis in the Commonwealth

Andy Roddick

By Leigh Sanders

The final line-up for the ATP World Finals Championship in London, England, next week has been confirmed following the conclusion of the Paris Masters. Nikolay Davydenko and Fernando Verdasco secured the last two berths following their performances on the hard courts of Paris. Eight players went in to the week’s play knowing a victory there could secure a place at the prestigious event but after the twists and turns had unfurled Davydenko and Verdasco won through after Robin Soderling and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga failed to advance past the quarterfinals.

However, with Andy Roddick having missed five weeks with a knee problem he has announced that he is unable to participate, allowing Soderling the opportunity to take his place in the event for the first time.

“I have not fully recovered from my knee injury and I won’t be able to compete,” said Roddick. “One of my goals in 2010 will be to qualify for this event again.”

The round-robin stage of the tournament has been drawn (seeds in brackets) and Group A sees career Grand Slam winner Roger Federer (1), Britain’s Andy Murray (4), US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro (5) and Fernando Verdasco (7) vying for qualification. Group B consists of 2009 Australian Open Champion Raphael Nadal (2), the 2008 winner Novak Djokovic (3), Nikolay Davydenko (6) and Robin Soderling (8).

In the doubles at Paris, Polish duo Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski took the final berth at the tournament with an emphatic win over the Bryan brothers in Paris. That victory prevents South African Wesley Moodie and his partner Dick Norman taking part. The round robin groups have also been drawn. Group A sees world No. 1 and No. 2 Daniel Nestor of Canada/Nenad Zimonjic (1), India’s Mahesh Bhupathi/Mark Knowles (3), Frantisek Cermak/Michal Mertinak (5) and Max Mirnyi/Andy Ram (7). Group B will consist of the Bryan brothers (2), Lukas Dlouhy/Leander Paes of India (4), Lukasz Kubot/Oliver Marach (6) and Mariusz Fyrstenberg/Marcin Matkowski (8).

*Great Britain’s Murray crashed back down to earth in Paris following his victory at the Valencia Open last time out. He failed to progress past the third round in Paris, sluggishly going down 6-1, 3-6, 4-6 to Radek Stepanek just sixteen hours after he had seen off James Blake in the previous round in a match that went on till the early hours of last Thursday.

* Daniel Nestor of Canada clinched his ninth doubles title of 2009 with partner Nenad Zimonjic after the pair beat the Spaniards Marcelo Granollers and Tommy Robredo 6-3, 6-4 in the final of the Paris Masters. The world No. 1 and No. 2 have now stretched their rankings lead over the Bryan brothers to 830 points. It follows on from their recent win in the Davidoff Swiss Indoors Basel. Aussie Jordan Kerr reached the third round with American Travis Parrott before they eventually went down 6-2, 6-4 to the in-form Czech-Slovak partnership of Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak. In the previous round, Kerr/Parrott had halted doubles specialist and fourth seed Leander Paes of India and partner Lukas Dlouhy. The exit of South African Wesley Moodie and Belgian Dick Norman in round two to the eventual finalists Granollers/Robredo means they miss out on a place at the ATP World Tour Finals. Another Aussie, Paul Hanley, and his Swedish partner Simon Aspelin also fell foul of the Spaniards in round three after they had beaten India’s Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles, seeded No. 3, in round two. South Africa’s Jeff Coetzee lost with his partner Marcelo Melo of Brazil in the opening round to the ever-impressive French duo Julien Benneteau and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

*In this week’s ATP World Tour Rankings for singles (16/11) there was no movement for any Commonwealth tennis star ranked in the Top 100 in the world. India’s Somdev Devvarman climbs two to 122 and Canada’s Frank Dancevic is down nine to 132. Australians Carsten Ball and Chris Guccione also saw falls this week, five and 12 respectively.

*In the doubles rankings (16/11) Canada’s Daniel Nestor extends his lead as the world’s No. 1 but there are no other changes for the other Commonwealth players ranked in to Top 10. Australia’s Paul Hanley is down a place to 28 while his compatriot Jordan Kerr climbs one to 30. Fellow Aussie Ashley Fisher is down two to 43. Despite falling in the singles rankings Carsten Ball is up one to 57 and Chris Guccione drops to 66. Following their recent leaps and bounds up the rankings Britain’s Ken Skupski (3) and Colin Fleming (4) see falls in their rankings. Countryman Jonathan Marray drops one to 92. Pakistan’s Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi sees a jump of six and is now ranked at 60. Jeff Coetzee of South Africa sees the biggest fall of all as he drops 12 to 68 while Rohan Bopanna of India climbs five to 90.

*The final WTA rankings for 2009 have been decided following the closing tournaments in Bali and Doha for the top players of the year. There were no Commonwealth players in the Top 10, Australia’s Samantha Stosur the highest ranked at 13. Canada’s Aleksandra Wozniak (35) is the only other player in the Top 50. Next up is another Australian, Jelena Dokic, at 57 while Sania Mirza of India is below her in 58. It’s been a bad year for British tennis but Katie O’Brien will be delighted to end the year as British No. 1 as her end of season form sees her end up in 88, one ahead of Elena Baltacha in 89. Anne Keothavong’s long injury sees her drop to 98 in the end-of-season rankings.

*The final doubles rankings or 2009 have also been decided. Australians Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs finish the year joint No. 7 and Sania Mirza of India is the third-highest ranked Commonwealth star at 37. Canada’s Marie-eve Pelletier ends the year ranked 66 while her compatriot Sharon Fichman is 96. British No. 1 Sarah Borwell is at 76. Natalie Grandin of South Africa, ranked No. 78, makes it only seven Commonwealth players in the Top 100 at the end of 2009.

*In a review of the British sporting “crown jewels” which decides which sporting events are to be aired on free-to-air television, it has been decided that Wimbledon should be kept on the list beyond 2017. The review, carried out by the Independent Advisory Panel for Listed Events, always causes arguments between satellite broadcasters and sports authorities but it is no question that the British public will be delighted that the prestigious tennis tournament is kept where everybody can view it without subscribing to satellite providers. The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) has already expressed concern at the decision as they believe it hampers investment in tennis. It seems money truly does talk in all sports.

*Australian tennis fans are celebrating the news that former Australian Open finalist and crowd favourite Marcos Baghdatis will return to play the Medibank International Sydney in 2010 alongside Aussie Lleyton Hewitt, Gael Monfils, Tomas Berdych and Stanislas Wawrinka. While at the Brisbane International, Frenchman Gilles Simon has announced he’ll begin his 2010 season by making his tournament debut. Both provide warm ups to the Australian Open.

*Former world No. 8 Alicia Molik of Australia won on her return to court in the first round of the Cliffs Esperance International. After a shaky start she saw of compatriot Monika Wejnert 3-6, 6-1, 6-1.

*The All England Tennis Club and the LTA have announced that the 2009 Wimbledon Championships raised a total of £29.2 million which will be invested in to British tennis. The aim this year is to improve tennis facilities throughout the country so that all communities have access to quality coaching and future players coming through the youth ranks will be of a higher calibre. It would also mean that top players like Andy Murray wouldn’t have to seek the level of coaching they require abroad.

*British tennis starlet Heather Watson has qualified for the Tevlin Challenger $50k event in Toronto, Canada, despite losing in the final of the Qualifying Tournament to American Macall Harkins. Two competitors from the main event have withdrawn allowing Watson to progress as a lucky loser.

*British No. 7 Jade Curtis reached the semifinals of the $10k AEGON Pro-Series Women’s singles event in Jersey before going down 4-6, 1-6 to No. 6 seed Matea Mezak of Croatia.

Tennis In The Commonwealth – Stosur on Verge of Top 10

Andy Murray

By Leigh Sanders

Britain’s Andy Murray has offered his support to Andre Agassi after the former star’s revelations about crystal methamphetamine use in his autobiography. While other top players, such as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, have voiced disappointment at the news, Murray claims it has not ruined his views on his boyhood hero.

“I judge him as a tennis player; he was great, one of the best of all time,” said Murray. “I loved Andre, met him numerous times. I guess it’s something he has to deal with himself. He’s entitled to say whatever he wants and I wish him the best.”

Meanwhile, Murray tasted victory on his return to the court at the Valencia Open after he defeated Spanish qualifier Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-3, 6-1 in his first match in six weeks. It was Murray’s first appearance on court since Great Britain’s embarrassing Davis Cup defeat to Poland in September.

*A dozen WTA stars who have excelled on the international tournament level this season have gathered in Bali for the inaugural Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions. The draw on Monday split the stars in to four round-robin groups of three with Australia’s Samantha Stosur drawn in Group B alongside Maria Jose Martina Sanchez and Agnes Szavay. After the three competitors in each group play each other the group winner will advance to the semifinal on Saturday with the final held on Sunday. Depending on results this week, Stosur could realise her dream of entering the World’s Top 10 with victory in Bali.

*In this week’s ATP singles rankings (02/11) there was little movement for Commonwealth tennis players. Australian Peter Luczak continued his climb up the top 100 with a three place jump to 80 while his compatriot Chris Guccione jumped one place to 103. Somdev Devarrman of India climbed five to 116 while South African Kevin Andersen is up to 120.

*The ATP doubles rankings for November 2 see a little more movement for Commonwealth players. Daniel Nestor (Canada, 1), Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes (India, 7 and 8) and Wesley Moodie (South Africa, 9) all remain unmoved in their top 10 berths. Australians Paul Hanley and Jordan Kerr remain in 26 and 29 respectively while Ashley Fisher drops to 40 and Stephen Huss climbs to 45. South African Rik De Voest is behind him in 46 and Briton Ross Hutchins is 47. Fellow Britons Ken Skupski (16) and Colin Fleming (14) saw massive climbs to 50 and 53 respectively following their victory in St. Petersburg (see below). South Africa’s Jeff Coetzee dropped 21 places to 56. Jonathan Marray of Great Britain climbs one place to enter the Top 100.

*This week’s Sony Ericsson WTA Singles Rankings (02/11) see Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada fall from 30 to 34 while Australia’s Jelena Dokic has jumped from 64 to 57. British No. 1 Anne Keothavong now finds herself ranked 84 as she continues to fall during her period of injury while her compatriot Elena Baltacha also dropped one spot to 87. British No. 3 Katie O’Brien also dropped a place to 91 but there are now only a few ranking spots and only 63 ranking points between the No. 1 and No. 3 ranked players from the British Isles.

*In the doubles (02/11) The Australian duo Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs dropped from No. 5 to No. 7 this week while Sania Mirza of India climbed a place to 37. Canada’s Marie-eve Pelletier fell a place to 67 and British No. 1 Sarah Borwell was up three to 75. Another Canadian, Sharon Fichman, climbed to 97.

*The race for the final two ATP World Tour Finals places in London, England, later this month heated up this week. At the Valencia Open, Gilles Simon, Jo Wilfried-Tsonga and Gael Monfils led the French charge in to round two as they looked to make the Championships while the Spaniards Tommy Robredo and Fernando Verdasco also progressed as they look to secure a place. The Russian Nikolay Davydenko is also looking for one of those two slots and he is through in Valencia too, beating Alejandro Falla of Columbia 6-2, 6-1.

*In the doubles at Valencia, British-Australian pair Ross Hutchins and Jordan Kerr were knocked out in the first round by the in-form third seeds Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak on Monday. The match was closely fought and they eventually went down 4-6, 6-4, 10-6. The Czech-Slovak duo are one team with a chance of claiming a berth at the ATP World Tour Finals in London, England, later this month. In the quarterfinals they will face South African-Australian pair Jeff Coetzee and Stephen Huss who overcame Spanish wild cards Marc Lopez and Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo.

*British doubles pair Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski picked up their second ATP World Tour title when they beat the French pairing of Richard Gasquet and Jeremy Chardy in the final of the St. Petersburg Open. The win capped a memorable year for the pair who won their first title at Metz in September and followed that up by winning the ATP Challenger event in Orleans, France last week. They are expected to represent GB against Lithuania in their forthcoming Davis Cup tie.

*Aussie Paul Hanley has lost in the first round of the Davidoff Swiss Indoors Basel doubles with Swedish partner Simon Aspelin. The fourth seeds were upset by the South American pairing of Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa 5-7, 3-6. Canadian world No. 1 Daniel Nestor and his partner Nenad Zimonjic survived a scare against South Americans Lucas Arnold Ker and Fernando Gonzalez as they came from a set down to win 4-3, 6-3, 10-5 in the same competition. Nestor has triumphed twice here in 2003 and 2006 with long-time partner Mark Knowles. Wildcard home favourites Roger Federer and Marco Chiudinelli were also defeated in the first round. They fell to Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan and American James Cerretani.

*Another Aussie to taste an early defeat was Peter Luczak in the singles at the Davidoff Swiss Indoors Basel. The qualifier was downed by the Czech Jan Hernych who saved six break points to win through 6-3, 6-4 in 76 minutes.

*Jelena Dokic of Australia continued to show her fine form as she won her second ITF title in two weeks in Poitiers, France. She beat the Swede Sofia Arvidsson in the final. Despite a few setbacks this year including a back injury and a debilitating virus she has climbed from 198 to 64 in the rankings this year. “I’m very happy with the way things have played out these last three tournaments,” said Dokic. “It shows that my consistency is at a very high level and the fact that I can win so many matches in a row.”

*Britain was mightily close to more glory this week at the $15K AEGON Pro-Series Event in Cardiff, Wales. Marcus Willis and Dan Evans both reached the semifinals of the singles before losing to Yannick Mertens (BEL) and Henri Kontinen (FIN) respectively. In the doubles, Brits Alexander Slabinsky and Tim Bradshaw lost in the final to the Irish pair of James McGee and Barry King.

*Sarah Borwell of Great Britain partnered American Raquel Kops-Jones to the semifinals of the $100k Doubles Event in Ortisei, Italy. The No. 2 seeds went down 6-7(3), 3-6 to Tathiana Garbin (ITA) and Timea Bacsinszky (SUI), who went on to win the tournament.

*Christopher Simpson won the AEGON British Tour in Taunton after winning 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 against Artiom Kolpakov (LTU). He had beaten fellow Briton David Brewer in the semi final. In the women’s event, Jessica Ren triumphed over another British girl, Alexandra Walker 6-3, 6-3 in the final. She had beaten her sister and No. 1 seed, Jen Ren, in the semifinal.

*Marinko Matosevic of Australia was knocked out of the quarter finals of the Samsung Securities Cup in Seoul, Korea by The Dutch third seed Thiemo De Bakker. His compatriot Greg Jones fell at the same stage to Lester Cook of the USA. Moving on to the Flea Market Cup in Chuncheon, Korea, Matosevic has reached the same stage with victory over the German Matthias Bachinger. Fellow Aussies Greg Jones and Sadik Kadir fell in the round of 32.

*Hot Canadian prospect Vasek Pospisil clinched his third straight tournament win in Mexico over the weekend. The 19-year-old won the $10K event in Obregon to add to his two wins in September in Italy. In the doubles, he partnered Australian Nima Roshan to the Championship, beating Adrien Bossel and Julien Dubail 6-7(5), 6-3, 11-9 in the final.

*Young Australian tennis starlets Olivia Rogowska and Bernard Tomic have been nominated for the 2009 Sports Performer of the Year awards. Rogowska came perilously close to upsetting Dinara Safina in the first round of the US Open while Tomic is the most anticipated Australian prospect since Lleyton Hewitt.

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