knee injury

WHERE IS BRITISH WOMEN’S TENNIS?: 25 YEARS SINCE ANNABEL CROFT’S BRITISH WIN

Today, April 28, 2010, marks the 25th anniversary of the last fully British female to win a WTA Tour singles title (Monique Javer won a WTA Tour singles title in 1988 but was only half British). On 28th April 1985, 18-year-old Annabel Croft of Great Britain, ranked No. 83 at the time defeated world No. 7 Wendy Turnbull 6-0, 7-6(5) to win the Virginia Slims of San Diego and her first WTA Tour Title, causing much excitement amongst the British press. The young British hopeful never rose to expectations caused by this victory and failed to win another title before quitting her professional career in 1988.

I doubt this statistic will bring a smile to the already frowning LTA reeling from the recent government report on their expenditure. But who within the British camp is remotely ready to step up and claim the next WTA tour singles title?

British No. 1, Elena Baltacha has certainly had a wonderful start to the year rising to a ranking high of No. 59, memorably beating world No. 10 Li Na in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells only to lose in the next round to Alicia Molik. She is currently training in preparation for the WTA event in Rome and it remains to be seen if she can produce back to back performances throughout the course of a tournament to win her first WTA title.

Britain’s Anne Keothovong and Katie O’Brien both won their first round matches of the Grand Prix De Sar La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Morocco. Keothovong recovered from an embarrassing second set performance to defeat France’s Julie Coin to win 6-3, 0-6, 6-4, but her form this year after being forced out of the game for six months due to a knee injury has hardly given enough evidence to suggest enough consistency to flip the coin of British tennis fortunes in the near future. Fellow Brit, O’Brien defeated France’s Pauline Parmentier 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 and commented “I was really pleased to come through my first match of the year on clay, especially as I haven’t had ideal preparation. I only started hitting on the clay a few days ago, as I was stranded in South Africa for six days where there weren’t any clay courts. I had to take five flights over two days to get to Fes, but I’ve recovered well, all considered. I’m now looking forward to tomorrow’s match against Renata Voracova. I lost to her last year in three sets on the clay, so I’m aiming to get my revenge.” She received more good news when it was confirmed that she had been given the key to a main draw entry in the French Open following the withdrawal of Sania Mirza. Out of the three, O’Brien is the less likely to emulate Croft’s singles victory considering her lack of victories over top ranked players.

Meanwhile, 16-year-old Laura Robson recently reached the semifinals of the $50k event in Alabama after winning five consecutive matches in the USA, battling to a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory over the world No. 144 Sophie Ferguson of Australia in the quarterfinals; an excellent indication of the consistency of Robson throughout a tournament considering she also came through two matched in the qualifying rounds. She also went on a fine run to the quarterfinals in the doubles with fellow Brit Heather Watson. Could Robson be the one to break the 25 year wait?

Robson’s achievements in Alabama have seen her rise an impressive 46 places to a career high of No. 269 in this week’s WTA singles rankings. She also sits at No. 103 in doubles, another career high due to her great run of form that saw her reach the semi finals in doubles at the $25k event in Osprey, Florida the week before. I have a feeling we may need to wait a little while longer for our young star to win a WTA singles title, however perhaps she will be the one to bring home a Grand Slam too; we can only dream.

Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter.   She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.

HOPE FOR BRITISH TENNIS AT INDIAN WELLS

Despite British tennis being mauled to pieces like an animal’s corpse in a barren landscape, with even the politicians launching an investigation into how the LTA spends its millions from Wimbledon profits and tax payers money, there has been a beacon of hope burning brightly in the Californian sun. Our British fighter, Elena Baltacha, aged 26, became the first British woman to defeat a top ten player since 1998, when Sam Smith defeated the 1994 champion Conchita Martinez at Wimbledon. Baltacha beat world No. 10, the Australian Open semifinalist Li Na in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., in a battling and spirited performance by a 7-6, 2-6, 7-6 margin.

She has since unfortunately lost to Aussie, Alicia Molik, winning just two games in the third round, however this represents a significant step in the right direction for the health of women’s tennis in Britain. This was helped by Anne Keothovong’s movement into the top 50 last year (the first woman to do this in a century) before her knee injury hampered her considerable progress.

Baltacha’s two victories in the main draw was the first time in 15 years that a British woman had won back to back victories in a tournament of this caliber. Both Keothovong and Baltacha are beginning to turn into the kind of role models young female juniors in Britain have been yearning for, such as the likes of Laura Robson.

Baltacha said of her victory against Na, “When I broke into the world’s top 100 in September last year, I felt like I really belong, and that was a defining moment. I’m not struggling with anything major, I’m practicing hard, I’m feeling confident and that all helps. When you are playing the better girls more often, you are seeing a more consistent, faster ball and unless you adapt to that, you aren’t going to survive. I have stuck in there, I think playing three matches already in the event helped but I felt from 4-4 in the final set that I was the one in charge of the match. It took about ten seconds for me to realize she had missed that last backhand but of course I’m elated. I’m playing as well as I’ve ever played and I’m really excited about my prospects.”

That feeling of belonging amongst the world’s best will hopefully transpire through into the consciousness of the young girls currently competing in LTA tournaments across the country. If they can start making headway on the WTA Tour, then why can’t we many will be thinking as they struggle to keep a balance between their time on court and their education. Many of our top juniors drop out at a young age, because quite frankly unlike the Premiership Football League, which contains a plethora of British rags to riches stories to choose from, tennis has so few. Is it worth the risk many players and parents ask themselves as they have to make the difficult decision to drop their studies in favor of a tennis career which seems like a one in a million chance of success; there are no scholarships for tennis in universities like in America, thus the decision is a difficult one for many.

The problem in the women’s game is the number of girls actually playing the game in Britain. There are such a small percentage of girls who play the sport mainly from the middle-upper class bracket, however if Baltacha and Keothovong were to climb further up the rankings, would talented girls from poorer backgrounds begin to see tennis as a way out, like the Russians, who have had a number of role models to aspire to over the years? With Laura Robson hot on the heels of Baltacha and Keothovong, I truly hope that with an overhaul of the way money is spent, Britain will finally have something to cheer about in the women’s game.

Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach from London. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter.   She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.

US Open – Day 1 Recap

No shocking upsets on day one at the U.S. Open in New York, although there very nearly was. Third seeded American Venus Williams nearly suffered her first loss ever in the opening round at Flushing Meadows against VeraDushevina of Russia before winning 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, 6-3. Fighting a knee injury that seems to have been bothering her since at least Wimbledon, Williams was down a set and a break in the second set before self-correcting.

Meanwhile, defending champions Roger Federer and Serena Williams both advanced with ease. Federer over-matched NCAA champion Devin Britton 6-1, 6-3, 7-5 while Serena defeated fellow American Alexa Glatch 6-4, 6-1. Expectations for both Britton and Glatch were low, but for different reasons.

Britton is only 18 years old and has only played in one prior professional level tournament before today. The young American was clearly overtaken by nerves as he attempted to play his serve and volley game against the world number one. You have to give this kid credit though, he did manage to breakFederer’s serve in both the second and third sets. At 6’3” he has some pop on his serve and seems more than willing to come to the net. We’ll be hearing from him again down the road.

Glatch meanwhile has been bothered by a serious back injury lately. According to her coach, Kevin O’Neill, she has only been able to even hit a tennis ball for the past six days or so and had not played a tournament match since Wimbledon, failing to get past the qualifying rounds of both Stanford andLos Angeles. It was the 20 year old’s fifth U.S. Open appearance.

The $19,000 first round losers paycheck should help both Britton and Glatch cope with the tough draw they received this year.
Overall the day provided American players with a winning record of 9 wins and 7 losses. Not all that bad considering that two of the matches involved Americans facing off against each other.

While there were no big upsets, Mikhail Youzhny from Russia did knock off 26th seeded Paul-Henri Mathieu from France while Kai-Chen Chang of China defeated 25th seeded Kaia Kanepi of Estonia.

The “thanks for coming out award” goes to Rossana de los Rios who was defeated 6-1, 6-0 by 14th seed Marion Bartoli.
The evening session began with a tribute to the humanitarian work Andre Agassi has done with the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy. Agassi gave a brief, but moving speech about the motivation behind his charity work and the success of its first-ever graduating class this past June. One hundred percent of the students made it to graduation and also gained acceptance into a college program. The tribute made no mention of Agassi’s tennis achievements and instead gave fans some insight into the huge accomplishments the American champion has made off the court.