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Djokovic And Murray – The Wimbledon Battle Royale, Round 4

Novak Djokovic

by James A. Crabtree

Novak Djokovic

Normality has been restored, with the exploits of Janowicz, Darcis, Del Potro, Stakhovsky, Brown, Kubot and Verdasco disappearing into the vault named Wimbledon folklore.

After all the hiccups throughout the draw the number one and two ranked players meet in the final. Wimbledon 2013, like 33 of the last 34 Slams will be won by one of the Big Four.

Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, currently the best hard-court players tour, know each other’s games well. Too well, having played18 times, with Djokovic leading 11–7. This tally includes three Grand Slam finals. The 2011 and 2013 Australian Opens, won by Djokovic and the 2012 US Open, won by Murray.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wqbbikk13tk

For Murray to win this one he will have to find influence from a multitude of sources. He is coming off a tough fight back victory against Verdasco, and a solid win against Janowicz. There is no reason to believe he has peaked. Also, he has beaten his rival on the big stage but also on the same court, one year ago during the Olympic semi-final. He knows he can’t rely on just rallying out his opponent. He needs surprise attacks, rather than just the passive get backs. Somehow he needs to persuade the Serb to over hit his backhand and question the serve that can get tight under pressure. He needs to keep Novak guessing, find a way into his brain while keeping his own mind unruffled. Conversely, the Serb will be looking to play the very same mind games, and very similar tactics to the Scot.

Wimbledon 2013 will serve to either even the score for Murray or push Djokovic past the tallies of Becker and Edberg with six total slams and onto seven to equal Wilander and McEnroe.

Novak has reached this level by shaking the old label as someone who would quit and crumble. These days he doesn’t merely tolerate tough battles, in truth they galvanize him, not that he has had many this Wimbledon. When he is pushed to the brink he screams, dives, slides, rips and fights to the bitter end better than no man. A tennis machine, possibly inspired by Nikola Tesla, is always dangerous even when he is playing badly; he is always in the game. Novak carries the air of invincibility. He doesn’t miss an easy shot. His serve is rarely broken. He doesn’t make unforced errors. He chases down balls that most players wouldn’t have even attempted. The only real worry is the fact he has only been pushed once all tournament, in that absurdly good semi-final against Del Potro. But is it foolhardy to question someone who has been good?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKbsq26lU7E

If Novak claims his second Wimbledon crown he will further cement his name as a legend, all round good guy, great player on all surfaces and poster boy for the new Serbia. If Murray wins his first Wimbledon crown, and the countries first in seventy-seven years, the Scot will enter the realms if immortality. Murray hysteria will abound. Aside from all his extra million dollar deals will be surely be a Knighthood, statue at the All England Club, a new Column in Trafalgar square opposite Nelson and likely divinization.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tK4HDCIr_E8

Andy Murray Immortalized In…LEGO

Andy Murray....in Lego

Andy Murray is likely to be knighted one day for his Olympic gold medal-winning performance at the 2012 London Games, defeating seven-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer on Centre Court at the All England Club.

However, until the Scotsman becomes “Sir” Andy Murray, he will have to settle for being immortalized….in LEGO.

All Olympic champions from Team GB at the London 2012 Games are being honored with a LEGO “minifig” replica of themselves. Britain’s Daily Telegraph shows photos of some of the other LEGO minifigs here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/picturegalleries/9464974/London-2012-Olympics-LEGO-minifigs-of-Team-GB-gold-medal-winners.html?frame=2305352

Four weeks after losing a heart-breaking Wimbledon singles final to Federer, Murray turned the tables on the Swiss maestro, easily defeating winning Olympic gold by a 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 margin. Winless in four major singles finals, including his 2012 Wimbledon loss and three previous major singles finals to Federer, Murray was finally able break through and win on one of the grandest stages in all of sport. While not as famous as the 76-year drought since the last British man, Fred Perry, won the men’s singles title at Wimbledon in 1936, the last British man to win Olympic singles gold was 104 years ago in 1908 when Josiah Ritchie was the Olympic champion. Curiously, the 1908 Olympic tennis event was also played at the All England Club at Wimbledon, although the event was staged down the road at the former Worple Road facility just down the road from the present location of the club.

The No. 4 ranked Murray is still in search for his first major tournament victory. He has his next chance later this month at the US Open, a tournament that he has called his favorite.

 

Andy Murray ready to win a slam, Serena Williams as a wildcard — The Friday Five

Britain's Andy Murray celebrates his vic

By Maud Watson

New and Improved

Just a month after Roger Federer defeated Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final, the Scot turned the tables on the Maestro to deliver an Olympic Gold Medal to his native Great Britain. The fact that Murray won wasn’t entirely shocking, but the manner in which he pulled it off was. He did something few have been able to do – he made Federer press. The result was a very lopsided affair that left everyone stunned. Make no mistake. His win is nowhere near equal to what it would mean if he won Wimbledon. Nor is it even tantamount to him potentially winning one of the other three majors. But it was huge. For one, it showed the improved mental toughness of Murray, as we didn’t see the long slump that followed his previous three major final losses. He also didn’t allow the moment to get to him. He played his new brand of controlled but aggressive tennis against one of the sport’s greatest, and he made it look easy. That Gold Medal match, more than any other in his career, served as the strongest case to argue that Murray is ready to win a slam. He’s too talented not to have his moment in the sun.

She’s Got the Look

This past Saturday, Wimbledon Centre Court saw the Serena of old – absolutely dominant with just a pinch of controversy. While acknowledging that Serena’s decision to do the “Crip Walk” and lack of remorse for doing so could justifiably be construed as classless (particularly considering the time and place), there’s no denying that the tennis coming off of her racquet was far above superb. Since losing in the opening round of Roland Garros, she has gone on a tear. It started at Wimbledon, and she looked even more devastating at the Olympics. She was barely giving up games, let alone sets, and she emphatically embarrassed Sharapova in the Gold Medal match. Serena looks like a woman on a mission to get back to the top, and the way she’s played in her last two events have gone a long way towards repairing the invincible aura she once carried. These days, Serena is a bit of a wildcard, so she isn’t a sure bet on anything this summer. That said, if she continues to maintain her drive and focus, she could just run the table through the US Open.

Consolation Prize

His improvements haven’t been as obvious as Murray’s, but how great was it to see Juan Martin del Potro walk away with the bronze medal in London? The big Argentine has steadily been working his way back up to the top of the game and trying to recapture the form that made him the 2009 US Open Champion. He gave Federer nearly all that he could handle in the Olympic semifinals, and to be able to recover and defeat Djokovic to take home the Bronze shows that he’s starting to regain that mental strength in addition to the ground strokes. If he can continue to win a few more of these key matches to boost the confidence, a return to the upper most echelons of the game could be just around the corner.

Double Delight

While the debate may continue as to whether or not tennis belongs in the Olympics, you can’t miss the fact that doubles benefited greatly from that week in London, and the players themselves seemed thrilled to be a part of it. The Bryan Brothers finally got their gold, while the Williams Sisters defended theirs from four years ago. There were consolation prizes like a Bronze Medal finish for Petrova and Kirilenko (the latter of which just missed the podium in singles), gravy for the likes of Andy Murray, who won a Silver in Mixed alongside Robson after winning Singles Gold, and just the pure joy of a player like Max Mirnyi, who at the age of 35, won the Gold in Mixed Doubles with partner Azarenka. They were all compelling storylines that held their own against the singles competition. I for one am hoping that the bit of extra coverage and exposure of doubles at the Olympics will lead to a greater appreciation and demand for that competition year-round. It’s a whole new ball game with plenty on tap to entice and delight.

Olympic Woes

For all of the positive vibes to come out of the Olympic tennis competition, there are likely, and understandably, some frustrated tournament organizers and fans. The US Open Series – the lead-up to the year’s final major – has suffered thanks in no small part to the London Olympics. Players have skipped pre-Olympic events, and many others opted to withdraw from post-Olympic competition. This is particularly upsetting for fans and organizers at Montreal and Toronto, as those are top-tier events that offer more ranking points and put up a greater financial commitment. Granted, the governing bodies are at the mercy of when the Olympics themselves are staged. The previous two Olympic Games occurred a full week after Cincinnati had wrapped, while the 2000 Games in Sydney didn’t occur until after the US Open. But it’s not like nobody knew when London was coming, and while recognizing that some tournaments are inevitably going to suffer some casualties to their fields, better planning to the tennis calendar could help minimize this damage. Just something to think about for Rio in 2016.

Citi Open tournament director doesn’t mind competing with the Olympics

World No. 12 Mardy Fish signing autographs after practice on Sunday (© Romana Cvitkovic)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — With the Olympics in London this week, all eyes are focused on the overseas action. But tennis fans in the U.S. have a home-grown tournament right in their nation’s capital, the Citi Open run by Lagardere Unlimited which runs all week.

In view of tough competition from the Olympics for tennis, I spoke with long-time Citi open Tournament Director Jeff Newman about the impact of having a top-tier tournament during the same week as the Olympics and whether there was a choice to move the tournament.

“Traditionally, we are positioned in one of the best weeks of the ATP and now WTA calendars,” Newman stated. “We are right before the 1000 Master events in Cincinnati and Canada. So, every four years, in order to have that date, sure, we are up against the Olympics. But we always try to focus on who is here and not on who is not. And we feel that we have great fields this year.”

With speculation that world No.  13 and top seed Mardy Fish might pull out of the Citi Open due to an ankle injury sustained in Atlanta two weeks ago, the men’s typically American-heavy draw could have been hardest hit. Luckily, Fish was seen on the courts today playing an intense practice set with Tommy Haas, a former semifinalist here in 2008. Fish, although ranked high enough to make the U.S. Men’s Olympic team, elected to skip the Olympics this year.

Newman goes on to solidify his statement about the strength of both the men’s and women’s field. “We have Mardy Fish, who clearly is a great story; Brian Baker, the comeback kid of the year; Sam Querrey who is in the L.A. finals today; Tommy Haas, who was a former world No. 2, and James Blake. And on our women’s side with Sloane Stephens, making the great run she did at the French Open; Melanie Oudin, who won her first tournament recently.”

The women’s field also includes world No. 28 and top seeded Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and South African Chanelle Scheepers who also bypassed the Olympics for a spot in D.C.

With the ticket prices not altering from last year, attending the Citi Open gives fans even “more value for your money than any previous years,” admits Newman.

“Sure, are there stars overseas for the Olympics? Of course. But at the same time, we have a very entertaining field in store for fans.”

The Citi Open runs through Sunday, August 5 with the women’s doubles final scheduled for Friday, August 3, the women’s singles final on Saturday, Aug 4, and the men’s doubles and singles final on Sunday, August 5. The television schedule is as follows on ESPN2 and The Tennis Channel.

ESPN2

Fri, Aug 3, 5-9pm

Sat, Aug 4, 3-5pm

Sun, Aug 5, 4-6pm

Tennis Channel

Thurs, Aug 2, 4-8pm

Fri, Aug 3, 2-4pm & 9-11pm

Sat, Aug 4, 7-9pm

For live updates from the Citi Open, follow me on twitter @TennisRomi!

 

 

Juan Mónaco achieves a deserved place in the Top 10

Juan feature

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.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOMyD3FOv1c&feature=related
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.

Venus Williams talks Olympics, eats a burger and wins in front of First Family

Venus Williams

By Romi Cvitkovic

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In front of an impressive crowd that included First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha, seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams debuted in a Washington Kastles 20-11 win over the Boston Lobsters in World TeamTennis on Monday night. (Full gallery of Williams and First Family below.)

The Kastles have now won 22 consecutive matches and are 6-0 on the season, continuing one of the greatest winning streaks in all of sports.

Before stepping on court to battle, the Kastles’ team and owner Mark Ein met with the First lady for candid conversation and a team photo. The Obamas were in attendance when sister Serena Williams won here last year, so it was due time for Venus to play in front of the First Family as well. (I heard that President Obama was at the USA vs. Brazil basketball game at the Verizon Center, so it was no surprise that the Obama ladies jetted there via helicopter after the Kastles’ sealed the win as well!)

An excited and radiant Williams laughed her way through a press conference with reporters and talked about her health, comeback and the upcoming London Olympics.

After being diagnosed last year with Sjogren’s Syndrome, working intensively with doctors, and adjusting her diet to all vegan, Williams returned to play on the WTA Tour last March after a six-month break and commented on her improvement.

“For me, health-wise, it’s definitely a journey. I’ve come a long way since this time last year. I’m still tweaking things, working with my doctors and trying to figure things out exactly … I feel like if I can cover this last [summer] stretch that would be amazing for me. At this point, I’m very grateful that I can still play tennis; that I’m still able to live my dreams out here. But, of course, I want more.”

And more is what Williams will try to attain as she makes her way to her fourth Olympics after earlier speculation that her ranking wouldn’t be low enough to allow her direct entry.

“This Olympics is more exciting for me. All the other ones, I didn’t have to worry whether or not I would make it. I was on top of the rankings. I didn’t have any problems. It was, for a lack of a better word, for granted. But this time, I had to fight so hard for it, just to get in contention and come back from so much. For me, this is the ultimate achievement.”

Williams indeed has much to be grateful for, including her sister Serena, with whom she won the Wimbledon women’s doubles title for the fifth time earlier this month.

“It’s extra motivation to win the doubles – it takes my Slam count higher. People say my name with the Slam count going up and it’s exciting. It means a lot to me to play doubles with Serena. Earlier, when I first started [back on the Tour in March], I couldn’t play singles and doubles in the same tournament, it was a lot for me.”

With a rejuvenated outlook and the same killer instinct that took her to the top of the rankings, Williams took on the task of playing a grueling three-of-five events, including women’s singles, and mixed and women’s doubles. It would be a true test of her health in the oppressive D.C. humidity and heat that soared into the mid-90s.

First up, Williams partnered with Leander Paes for mixed doubles, and while her serve showed signs of rust, the team was efficient in their 5-1 win over the Lobsters’ Carly Gullickson-Eagle and Eric Butorac.

After a brief rest, Williams was back on court with Anastasia Rodionova in women’s doubles, taking on Gullickson-Eagle and Irina Falconi. With her expert hands at net and long reach, Venus capped off another 5-1 win over the Lobsters.

Men’s doubles gave Williams the break she needed and time on the bench to laugh with the Rodionova sisters and even devour a burger (sure hope it was vegan!). Meanwhile, Kastles’ players Leander Paes and Bobby Reynolds dealt another heavy blow to the Lobsters, winning 5-0 — already solidifying a team win for the night.

Although, the Kastles had the win in the bag, the most anticipated match of the night pitted Williams against world No. 85 Irina Falconi in the women’s singles event — but luck was not on Williams’ side. As the veteran hit double fault after double fault, Falconi was on mark, hitting a final deep down-the-line  forehand to clinch the win, 5-0.

Quick to dispel any concern about her possibly-aching joints due to her autoimmune disease, Williams commented on her dwindling energy during the course of the evening.

“I think I just cooled down, and I couldn’t quite get started back up again. In team tennis, you really have to keep your energy up. You have to manage the stop and go. I didn’t manage it that well.”

Despite Williams’ letdown at the end of the WTT match, her outlook to the Olympics quickly put goals in perspective for the three-time Gold Medalist. Healthier, happier and re-energized, Williams hopes to build on her past success there.

“I’ve been training to bring home medals for the U.S. and I would love if the medal was gold-colored.”

(All other photos and gallery credit to author)

 

 

Wimbledon’s unseeded stars; India fighting for gold medal at Olympics — The Friday Five

Venus Williams (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

By Maud Watson

Not So Happy Feet

Between kicking a box that injured a linesman and suffering a case of “foot-in-mouth” disease after, David Nalbandian’s feet have gotten him into a lot of hot water this past week. The Argentine will be able to play Wimbledon thanks to the slow bureaucratic machinery of the ATP, but count me among the camp that believes Nalbandian should be suspended for his behavior. Many were quick to equate Nalbandian’s actions with Djokovic’s smashing of the Perrier sign at Roland Garros (for which Djokovic was fined). But they are not the same thing. If two drunks get behind the wheel of a car, the guy who gets picked up merely for drunk driving gets off easier than the guy who gets picked up after his drunken driving causes an accident. They’re both guilty of the same offense, but the severity of the punishment does and should take into account the consequences of their actions. If anything Nalbandian’s actions were more akin to Tim Henman’s disqualification from Wimbledon for hitting a ball girl. Unlike Nalbandian, however, Henman took his lumps and issued a public apology. By contrast, Nalbandian has looked to blame the ATP for his actions. He also has a track record of problems with fellow players, officials, and administrators, which should be taken into account. So, while recognizing that a suspension in tennis, unlike in other sports, does mean more than just missing tournaments – it’s also a loss of potential prize money and ranking points – the ATP needs to put its foot down, suspend him, and show that it will not stand for this type of careless and deplorable behavior.

Lurking in the Shadows

There’s always a buzz when a Grand Slam gets underway, but there’s been some extra chatter this year with a few big names going in unseeded. The biggest star to be doing so is 5-time Wimbledon Champion Venus Williams. Williams has struggled to find consistency this year, but throughout her career, no matter what her form was heading into Wimbledon, she’s always managed to flip the switch on the lawns of the All England Club. Kim Clijsters, a four-time major champion, also enters into the third major of the year unseeded. The Belgian has struggled with injury, and Wimbledon has been her worst Slam of the four. After a strong showing this past week in The Netherlands, however, she’s a decent bet at SW 19. In short, who knows what to expect? Either of them could just as easily lose early as waltz away with the title. They may also cause more than a few early problems for some of the pre-tournament favorites. Either way, the scenario makes Wimbledon just a little more interesting.

Hornet’s Nest

We all thought the U.S. Olympic selection process would be ugly, but it may not hold a candle to what has unfolded with the Indian selection process. The AITA originally planned to nominate Paes and Bhupathi as their number one team, but Bhupathi refused and insisted he be paired with his current partner Bopanna instead. Bopanna also refused to participate in the Olympics unless teamed with Bhupathi. The AITA tried to wait it out, insisting that it wouldn’t be fair to Paes to be paired with a more inexperienced and lower ranked junior player given that of the three, Paes has the highest ranking. But in the end, the AITA decided the chance to earn a medal for India was too enticing and ultimately caved to the demands of Bhupathi and Bopanna (though they have threatened to potentially punish the pair after the London Olympics have concluded). That may be too little, too late for Paes, however, with reports circulating that he has opted to withdraw from the Olympics. The rift between Paes and Bhupathi has been well publicized, with Paes being assigned the bulk of the blame for the rift. Maybe this is just karma’s way of paying him back. As for Bhupathi and Bopanna, they may be feeling extra pressure to deliver a medal. After all, a medal could go a long way towards softening any disciplinary action the AITA may levy against them later this year.

Out of Nowhere

At age 34, Tommy Haas is arguably playing on borrowed time as far as the career of a tennis professional is concerned. The oft-injured German came into Halle without too many expectations, and thanks to his countryman Kohlshreiber’s defeat of Nadal in the quarterfinals, his run to the final remained mostly low key. In the final he faced Federer, the guy who has practically owned the event to the point a street was named in his honor. But Haas, who has a game that translates to grass better than most, was firing on all cylinders, completely shocking the Swiss as he stole the first set and never looked back to win it in two. It’s a phenomenal win for Haas, and as he heads into Wimbledon, unseeded and brimming with confidence, he has the potential to cause some players a lot of headaches.

R.I.P.

The sport of tennis lost two greats this past week – Barry MacKay and The Honorable Judge Robert Kelleher. After a successful career, Barry MacKay served as one of the early pros on Jack Kramer’s tour before going on to be a tournament director and world-class broadcaster. Kelleher also enjoyed success as a player, but his greater contributions came as a winning U.S. Davis Cup captain, and more importantly, the role he played in the U.S. to help make Open Tennis a reality. They touched the sport in a variety of ways, and both will be greatly missed.

Rejuvenated Wozniak is Dreaming Olympic Big

Aleksandra Wozniak is back in the mix

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.

Americans Serena Williams and John Isner shine — The Friday Five

John Isner shines in Davis Cup action

By Maud Watson

In the Zone

Serena Williams was firing on all cylinders last week in Charleston, which wasn’t just bad news for the rest of the field – it was devastating. Serena showed no mercy as she demolished her opponents en route to the title, dropping a grand total of just three games in the semis and final. Though it was an absolute clinic by the decorated Grand Slam champion, it’s difficult to use as a barometer for how she’ll perform in Paris. For starters, near the latter rounds, she played above her head (even by her lofty standards), and that level for her has increasingly become the exception rather than the norm. Additionally, while there are few players who at their best can potentially hang with Serena at her best, it’s still worth noting that the currently hottest players on the WTA were absent. Finally, there’s the fact that the win is unlikely to have a substantial carry-over effect on Serena herself. She’s frequently shown she never lacks for confidence at any event, irrespective of how match fit she is, simply taking things as they come. So, congrats on a well-deserved 40th career singles title for the younger Williams, who reminded the world of what she’s capable of when her heart and head are in it, but one fantastic title win does not just yet a heavy favorite for Roland Garros make.

Riding the Momentum

Where Ryan Harrison failed to capitalize on his opportunity when named to the U.S. Davis Cup Team, John Isner continued to shine. Since upsetting Roger Federer in the team competition this past February, he’s continued to improve and surprise everyone, including perhaps himself. He delivered a much-needed win against Simon to pull the Americans even with France on the opening day of last weekend’s tie, and he clinched the victory with his triumph over Tsonga. He’s also being smart with his scheduling, choosing to sit out the optional Masters 1000 event next week in Monte Carlo in order to rest and get fit for the remainder of the clay court and following grass court seasons. As he continues this good run of form, he’s set to become the No. 1 American man sooner rather than later. Such an achievement would be a crowning moment for Isner as well as the USA, given that Isner has been one of the handful of Americans to consistently comport himself with class and dignity this season.

PR Nightmare

Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario needs a crash course in public relations stat. We previously heard she was broke thanks to the mishandling of her finances by her parents, which has since been followed by rebuttal from her mother claiming otherwise. Now the “Barcelona Bumblebee” is upsetting her nation’s top female player by personally attacking Anabel Medina Garrigues during her announcement that Garrigues would not be part of her Fed Cup squad. As captain, it’s her prerogative as to who she’d like to select for the team, but there was no need to launch an attack against the Spanish No. 1. Her actions and decisions in recent months might suggest it’s time for the Spanish Tennis Federation to consider looking at a potential replacement. It’s a shame given what all Sanchez-Vicario has done in the sport and for her county, but recent behavior dictates that a review of her ability to be a leader at this point in time is in serious doubt.

Good Cause

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will be facing off in an exhibition on July 14, when they hope to break the tennis attendance record by filling all of the 80,000 seats in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid where the match will take place. The proceeds from the match will go to both the Real Madrid Foundation and the Rafael Nadal Foundation, which provide funding for programs aimed at disadvantaged children. It’s great to see two of the biggest names in the sport continue to give back (especially in the midst of a busy summer schedule), and while they’re going for an ambitious record, as one of the most exciting rivalries in the sport right now, they might just do it.

Potentially Ugly

Mary Joe Fernandez is living in a dream world if she thinks Serena’s “heart is in Fed Cup, ” as Serena’s sudden patriotism is undoubtedly spurred on by her desire to play in the Olympics. Despite committing to her second tie this season, Serena will still need to get special permission from the Olympic Committee to compete in London. Sister Venus is looking to try and raise her ranking high enough to gain automatic entry for the London Games, but if she doesn’t, she’ll also require special permission to compete in the British capital. Where this may get messy is if another player – a player who has put in more time representing their country during the non-Olympic years – gets burned. It’s hard to vilify the Williams Sisters, who are just doing the same as other top pros this season and also have historically performed well in the Olympics. Still others will contend spots should go to those who have put in the time and who arguably could still medal for the USA (especially when factoring in Venus’ health liabilities). Of course, the ITF could just spare the U.S. and other nations, like Russia, this potentially ugly situation by doing away with the whole problematic Fed/Davis Cup participation rule, but hard to see that happening any time soon.

Exclusive: Caroline Wozniacki on being an actress, her biggest fear and future karaoke battles with Serena Williams

Caroline Wozniacki (REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity)


Former world #1 Caroline Wozniacki holds not only 18 WTA Tour titles but also a great sense of humor. During the Sony Ericsson Open, the 21-year-old Dane cheerfully chatted with me about her most memorable moments on court, the best part of being a tennis player, her aspirations to be an actress, her biggest fear,  and the three tennis players she would most want to party with.

What is your most memorable moment on court?

I’ve had a lot. I think reaching the #1 ranking for the ranking and what happened in Beijing was definitely a big moment for me. Or lifting up my first trophy – or any trophy. Or walking into the opening ceremony of the Olympics was huge as well.

What is the best part of being a pro tennis player?

To travel the world and get to meet new people and get to experience things that others maybe never experience, which is great.

If you weren’t a tennis player, what would you be?

I would like to be an actress – I think that would be quite fun. Always, when we had plays in school, I wanted to be in there. I had the leading role quite a few times, which is cool.

How old were you when you did that?

I can’t remember. (Smiles) I think it was all from 9 to 14 years old. I remember I was Sandy in Grease as well, so I had to sing and I’m a terrible singer. I wasn’t shy I just sang. (Laughs)

If you could play against any player in history, who would it be any why?

That’s a tough one because I would Martina Hingis, but I’ve played her before. She was my role model growing up.

If you’re hosting a party, what three tennis players do you invite?

I would invite Serena [Williams] – she would have to bring her Karoake. (Laughs) I would bring Agnieszka Radwanska and maybe someone like … of the guys … maybe someone like Rafa [Nadal].

Which actress would you like to play you of a movie of yourself?

Maybe Cameron Diaz or Scarlett Johansson.

They have your likeness.

I don’t know, maybe. I would like to think that. (Smiles)

What are two things you couldn’t live without?

My mobile phone and … (Shyly) maybe some chocolate once in a while. (Smiles)

What is one thing that scares you?

Spiders. And I’m a bit afraid of the dark, especially if I have to walk outside when it’s dark, I don’t like it. (Laughs)

(Three watermarked photos courtesy of Neal Trousdale. To check out more photos from the Sony Ericsson Open, check out Neal’s Flickr page.)

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