By Lisa-Marie Burrows
Barely a day has gone by since the doors of SW19 closed and the 2012 Olympic dream for many was over. It was a wonderful week on the grass that brought smiles, laughter, tears, Boris Becker-inspired dives and even a little victory dance that we shall never forget. Here is a look at some of the many surprises, shocks, disappointments and special moments from a very special week in tennis:
A Golden Moment: Andy Murray had walked off Centre Court four weeks earlier in floods of tears, sorrow in his heart and with all of his Grand Slam victory hopes crushed at the hands of Roger Federer, fast-forward four weeks and the results had completely reversed. Andy Murray defeated the 7-time Wimbledon champion in straight sets to win the Olympic gold medal and he looked as though the weight of the world had fallen off his shoulders as he clambered up to his box to celebrate with his team and family – a moment that he, his fans and Great Britain will never forget! As a special tribute to his victory, the Royal Mail have announced that a special first class postage stamp shall be made in honour of his unforgettable achievement at the Games.
A Bitter-Sweet Result: For Roger Federer the only title missing from his illustrious list of achievements is the Olympic gold medal and many had tipped the world No.1 for Olympic success at the tournament in Wimbledon. But alas, it was not meant to be for the Swiss maestro, however, he did not leave empty handed, he walked away with a silver medal and at least now he can say he has won an Olympic medal in the singles event as well as the doubles (he won the gold medal with compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka in Beijing).
Serena Sees Double: There is no doubt in anybody’s mind right now that Serena Williams is once again on top of her game. After being hospitalized with a potentially life-threatening blood clot, she fought against the odds, her body and her critics to claw her way back to the top of her game, in fact all the way to the top of the podium at the Olympics – not once, but twice. Serena enjoyed a phenomenal run through the Olympic tournament to win her first Olympic gold medal and achieve her Career Golden Slam in the singles and then went on to win the gold medal in the doubles with her big sister, Venus. A remarkable achievement for the American. Congratulations Queen Serena!
Disappointment for Djokovic: Novak Djokovic had a dream 2011 and after reaching the top of his game, achieving the world No.1 spot, many expected him to repeat his phenomenal year in 2012. Were they asking too much of Djokovic? Was he asking too much of himself? Who knows? Djokovic has admitted he is feeling tired and at the Olympics he could not find his A-game to win a medal. He won the bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but could not repeat this success in 2012. Djokovic will look for a good run at the Masters Series events before the US Open starts where he will defend his title.
Shock Losses and Early Exits: There were some shock losses at the Olympics, which raised a few eyebrows early on at the start of the tournament. Tomas Berdych and Agnieszka Radwanska delivered two of the biggest surprises as they were knocked out in the opening round of the tournament. Berdych was a Wimbledon finalist in 2010 and after he lost in the opening round of Wimbledon this year, many expected more from him at the Olympics. Radwanska was a finalist at Wimbledon this year and she was surprisingly ousted in the opening round.
We have not had much chance for tennis withdrawals as thankfully this week the players are back in action at the Masters Series events in Toronto and Montreal, Canada.
By Lisa-Marie Burrows
What qualities does a tennis player need to have to be continuously successful? Talent? Passion? Physicality? Mentality? Perseverance? Endurance? Attributes such as these are all part and parcel of a professional tennis player, but to maintain all of these things week in week out, tournament after tournament, having packed the suitcase in one country only to step on an airplane and open it another country whilst fighting off fatigue is not easy, but it must be done.
Many of the players have these qualities, but not letting any of these attributes waiver when you are tired, disappointed or homesick are one of the toughest challenges week after week, year after year, yet for some players this comes naturally.
Argentina’s Juan Mónaco is a prime example of a player who possesses such qualities and this week he has enjoyed breaking into the Top 10 for the first time in his career after winning his first 500 tournament at the bet-at-home Open – German Tennis Championships in Hamburg. It was not an easy final for the new world No.10 as he had to take on home town favourite Tommy Haas and of course his adoring partisan audience who were hoping that the German would lift the trophy, but it was not to be, as Mónaco won in straight sets 7-5, 6-4.
The 28-year-old Monaco has landed the tenth spot amongst the worlds most elite players – in a generation that comprises arguably some of the greatest players of all time with the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the mix. Entering the Top 10 is not an easy feat to achieve in an era so heavily dominated by three top athletes such as those mentioned and he now joins compatriot and former US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro who assumes the ninth position in the rankings.
It has not been an easy road to achieve for Mónaco, a six-time title winner, who has compiled an impressive 31-10 match record in 2012. He has put together his most successful season and is enjoying a career best year having won two other tournaments in 2012 at Vina del Mar and in Houston and he was also a finalist in Stuttgart the preceding week to Hamburg, where he lost to Janko Tipsarevic. It is not easy to bounce back from any defeat – particularly in a closely fought match (especially a final with a beautiful Mercedes up for grabs too!), but Mónaco picked up his racquet and got back on with it and refused to let defeat hinder his performance in Hamburg, which has made his title win all the more impressive.
Juan Mónaco has had a challenging 2012 having come back from a horrific ankle injury, which he sustained on the clay courts of Monte Carlo, leaving many wondering if he would be able to participate in the tournaments during the rest of the season, but participate he did. He surmounted his come back in Rome where he impressively pushed Novak Djokovic, who was No.1 in the world at that time, to three sets and almost had him on the brink of defeat.
As his injury improved, so did his confidence. At Roland Garros he made it through to the fourth round before losing to eventual champion, Rafael Nadal and on the grass courts of Wimbledon Mónaco reached the third round, having never gotten past the first round match before.
Upon reaching the Top 10, nobody can deny that Juan ‘Pico’ Mónaco is one of the hardest working players on Tour, who puts in the hours daily on the tennis court and trains hard off court to achieve the goal of being amongst the elite in the world. Many were delighted to see that he has allocated the position, as he is such a popular competitor with players, media and fans of tennis.
He may have achieved this at 28-years of age, but he is a prime example of it is better late than never. In fact 2012 has been a great year for many of the ‘older’ players on the ATP and WTA Tours and like a fine wine, many have continued to get better with age. Andreas Seppi is also 28-years old and has enjoyed achieving a career high ranking in June of No.24 after an impressive clay court season, particularly in his home country tournament in Rome where he made it to the quarterfinals. His Italian compatriot, Sara Errani, is 25-years old and has won four titles this year and was the surprise runner up at the French Open.
Wimbledon featured two champions who are no strangers to the tournament – Roger Federer and Serena Williams. We all know about their illustrious history and outstanding achievements at SW19 and this year is no exception, as Roger Federer lifted his record breaking 7th Wimbledon trophy and Serena Williams leveled her sister’s record of five victories at the Championships.
As one of the hardest working players around, Pico has never seemed to worry about simply trying to be better than his contemporaries or predecessors, but only to be better than himself and push his own tennis capabilities to the limit.
Will he continue with this fantastic form and win a Masters Series title? A Grand Slam? An Olympic medal? Who knows? But the one thing for sure, is that he will go out there fighting for one and his continued resilience and determination have proven that he has rightfully earned that Top 10 place in the rankings.
By Melissa Boyd
Tennis Canada has announced the four players nominated for selection to the Canadian Olympic Team for the London 2012 Olympic Games. Daniel Nestor, Vasek Pospisil, Milos Raonic, and Aleksandra Wozniak will represent Canada in London. Raonic and Wozniak will play singles while Nestor and Pospisil will team up for doubles.
In singles, the Top 56 players in the world as of the June 11 rankings deadline receive direct entry into the tennis event provided they meet all other requirements set out for qualification. Raonic sits at No. 21 in the world while Wozniak’s third round appearance at the French Open lifted her to the exact cut-off point of No. 56. It will be the first Olympic Games for both.
“It’s something I’ve been dreaming since I’m a little girl, and my dream came true today,” Wozniak said. “It’s definitely a different atmosphere than playing in the Grand Slams and on the WTA Tour, something where you’ll be with the best athletes around the world in all different sports”.
For the doubles event, each of the Top 10 players receives direct entry with a compatriot of their choice. As the No. 1 doubles player in the world, Nestor has elected to play with first-time Olympic hopeful Pospisil. The duo holds a 2-0 Davis Cup record, including a pivotal win against Grand Slam champions Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram during Canada’s World Group play-off versus Israel last September.
London will represent the fifth consecutive time Nestor has represented Canada at the Olympic Games. At the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, he won gold with partner Sebastien Lareau marking the first, and only, tennis medal in Canadian history.
“I’m very proud to be in a position where I can represent my country and hopefully bring back another medal,” said Nestor. “It was quite a special feat winning Olympic gold in Sydney in 2000 and with the growth of tennis in our country, we all can have a chance to make Canada proud.”
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) will announce the full official list of entries on June 28 which will include the ITF places in singles and doubles. Additional nominations for players who did not make the rankings cut-off can be submitted to the ITF to be considered for ITF places.
“Congratulations to these four tennis players on joining the 2012 Canadian Olympic Team,” said 2012 Team Chef de Mission Mark Tewksbury. “I know you will give your everything to make Canadian fans proud in London.”
Following a tumultuous two seasons that were mired by injuries and coaching uncertainty, former world no.21 Aleksandra Wozniak has shown Top 25 form this season and is making her way back up the rankings with a renewed passion for her sport.
Wozniak became the first Canadian in 20 years to win a WTA singles title when she was crowned champion at Stanford in 2008 and appeared to destined to contend for titles for many years to come. Now 24 years old and with her hardships a thing of the past, the Wozniak hitting the court is definitely the 2.0 version. After finishing the 2011 season ranked outside the Top 100, she came into the off-season 100 percent healthy for the first time in a while. Wozniak took up boxing to improve her strength and agility. Her hard work is paying dividends so far in 2012.
Wozniak has also brought her father, Antoni back in the fold as her full-time coach. He introduced her to tennis when she was three years old and is the master technician behind her smooth strokes. Wozniak appreciates having her recently retired Dad around every day to work on the little things.
“ I am able to take my Dad on the road with me which is tremendous and makes a big difference because he can always keep improving my game,” Wozniak said. “He sees things right away and those little details make a big difference in my game. I think I’m pretty close to where I was, but I think I am coming back differently and stronger than before.”
Wozniak has improved her ranking by more than 50 places since the start of the season and finds herself ranked firmly inside the Top 60 again. Perhaps most impressive though is the kind of matches she is winning, the long, exhausting type. Matches she would have never been able to win earlier in her career. Wozniak has also played the top players very tough, losing 7-5 in the third to Agnieszka Radwanska in Dubai and dropping a third set tiebreak to Venus Williams in Miami after holding a match point.
She is battling and fighting harder than ever with one lifelong dream motivating her every move, representing Canada at this summer’s Olympic Games in London. At no. 56 on the world rankings and with few points to defend until Roland-Garros, Wozniak has put herself in a good position to earn an Olympic berth.
“As an athlete, to know you made it to the Olympics, I can’t even describe it,” Wozniak added. “For me it’s very important to represent my country the best that I can. It’s a big privilege to represent Canada at the greatest sporting event in the world. For any athlete it is very special and it would be really exciting.”
Not only is Wozniak a transformed player, but she’s also a different person. Physically, she looks better than ever and her renewed confidence is evident in the way she carries herself. Her likeable, radiant personality makes it easy to root for the talent Canadian and It will be fun to watch her rise back to the upper echelon of the women’s game. Wozniak is certainly not a name any player will want to see opposite their own in the draw, especially on Wozniak’s favourite surface during the clay court season.