pan pacific open

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

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.

The Friday Five: Hingis ban has been lifted

By Maud Watson

WTA Woe in Tokyo – As one of the Premier events on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, the Toray Pan Pacific Open drew a great field, including 9 of the current top 10 players.  Fans and tournament organizers alike should have been able to pencil in some mouth-watering quarterfinal match-ups.  But as it seems has happened so often throughout the year, the draw fell apart, with 7 of the top 10 seeds losing before the third round.  Like ‘em or hate ‘em, the WTA needs some players with consistency, who show up week in, week out, and win Majors.  One hopes the nation of Belgium might soon be providing such competitors…

Great Panes – This past Monday, American up-and-comer Sam Querrey suffered what has to be considered among one of the most freak accidents in the world of sports.  After his practice session at the PTT Thailand Open, Sam sat on a glass table, which he fell through, resulting in him badly cutting his forearm and requiring emergency surgery.  He is expected to be out 4-6 weeks.  As one of the great hopes for American tennis and a player who has really turned it on over the past couple months, I hope to see Sam back in action sooner rather than later.

The Comeback Bug Continues – Perhaps not as notable as the return of both Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin, two other players making their comeback appearances earlier this week were Paradorn Srichaphan and Joachim Johansson.  Srichaphan ended a two-and-a-half year absence from the tour by pairing up with fellow countryman Danai Umdomchoke.  Though the pair lost in their opening match (and a successful Srichaphan comeback is unlikely), it was still nice to see one of the players so largely responsible for helping to put Asian tennis on the map have another go at it.  I was more excited about the return of big Swede Joachim Johansson in Malaysia.  With an impressive win over Lleyton Hewitt and a relatively tight three-set loss to Richard Gasquet, Johansson proved he still has game.  And at the age of 27 with his big serve, there’s no reason he can’t still do some damage on the ATP World Tour.

Rafa Ready – Contrary to some of the news you might have read in recent days, Rafael Nadal has declared himself fit and ready to go, and with the absence of Swiss maestro Roger Federer in Shanghai, Rafa will be looking to regain some of the ground (and aura) he lost over the summer.  More importantly to him, Rafa is prepared to represent his country in the Davis Cup final to be played in Spain against the Czech Republic December 4-6.  All I know is, I don’t envy the tough decisions Spanish Davis Cup captain Albert Costa is going to face!

The Ban is Lifted – This is a story that might fall through the cracks, but this past Wednesday marked the end of the two-year Martina Hingis was forced to serve, which effectively ended her comeback and her career.  I personally hated to see the ban slapped on her, because she brought a craftsmanship to the game that few of her peers could, not to mention the fact that the foundation of the case against her was suspect.  Her ban seemed even harsher and more ridiculous when Richard Gasquet got off with a mere two-month ban for essentially the same offense.  Hopefully the powers-at-be will learn from this miscarriage of justice, and hopefully Martina will continue to contribute to the sport in a myriad of other ways.