Scott Draper

Sam Stosur: the highs and lows since the U.S. Open

By Melinda Samson, Special for Tennis Grandstand

Sam Stosur had quite a year in 2011 by acheiving a career-high singles ranking of four in February and defeating Serena Williams to win the US Open in September. Since then, Stosur has struggled reaching only one semifinal and two finals since her maiden slam title. Does she have it in her to mount a surprise run at this year’s French Open?

Stosur’s maiden Grand Slam title was a massive achievement, making her the first Australian woman to win the US Open final since Margaret Court Smith in 1973, and the first Australian woman to win a Grand Slam final since Evonne Goolagong Cawley won Wimbledon in 1980.

And it wasn’t a straightforward ride to victory. Stosur proved her strength and stamina by defeating Nadia Petrova in a third round match that turned out to be the longest ever US Open women’s match in the open era, lasting 3 hours and 16 minutes.

Then, during the final, Stosur calmly played on after Serena’s rant against the chair umpire, un-rattled by the incident that later cost Serena a $2000 fine.

There’s something special about Sam

As well as being an elite tennis player and Grand Slam champion, Stosur is also a great Australian. She is supremely fit, works incredibly hard, is tanned, smiley, humble and let’s face it, she can pull off cool sunnies on court like not many other players can.

Scott Draper, Manager of Developmental Tennis for Tennis Australia, who partnered with Stosur to win the 2005 Australian Open Mixed Doubles final, summed up what makes Sam’s style of play special:

“Sam works extremely hard and is physically strong, which gives her an incredible advantage in being able to overpower her counterparts.

Sam’s point of difference is that she’s not the typical female tennis player. She has angular swings, a heavy forehand, one of the best serves in the women’s game and she can slice. This style of play takes her opponents out of their comfort zone and away from what they typically see.”

An early loss at the 2012 Australian Open

A great Australian trait is that we love sport and we love an Aussie winner. So when Stosur played in Australia this January, the burden of expectation from the home crowd was enormous, and ultimately proved to be too big for Stosur to bear.

Playing in Australia was Stosur’s kryptonite. What should have been her home ground advantage turned into a bonus for her opponents.

A second round loss at the Brisbane International was followed by first round losses at the APIA International inSydneyand the Australian Open in Melbourne.

After the Australian Open loss Stosur said on her blog:

“There’s nothing probably more than my expectation. I really, really wanted to do well here and over the summer…… I did everything I could to try and give myself a good opportunity. It obviously didn’t happen.”

Stosur’s results since the Australian Open

Then February came, WTA tennis moved to other parts of the world and the kryptonite of the Australian public’s expectations lost its power.

Stosur played Fed Cup for Australia against Switzerland where two wins boosted her confidence. After the wins, Stosur said on her blog:

“You want to win as many matches as possible to erase anything negative and it does not matter the opposition, it is always good to win.”

Here’s a summary of Stosur’s singles results since the Australian Open:

  • Qatar: reached the final of the WTA Qatar Total Open and was defeated by Victoria Azarenka
  • Dubai: made it to the quarterfinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and was defeated by Jelena Jankovic
  • Indian Wells: defeated by Nadia Petrova in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open
  • Miami: defeated by Serena Williams in the fourth round of the Sony Ericsson Open
  • Charleston: made the semi final of the Family Circle Cup in Charleston and was defeated by Serena Williams
  • Stuttgart: made the quarter finals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, and was defeated by Maria Sharapova
  • Madrid: made the quarterfinals of the Mutua Madrid Open and was defeated by Czech qualifier Lucie Hradecka
  • Rome: was defeated by Venus Williams in the third round of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

Next up, the French Open

The French Open starts on Sunday, May 27th. It will be two slams after the highest of Stosur’s highs and one slam after what is probably amongst the lowest of her lows.

We know Stosur can play incredible tennis and after making the French Open final in 2010 we’ve seen what she is capable of at Roland Garros.

Stosur recently displayed her clay “A” game with two cracker Fed Cup wins against Germany in Stuttgart in April, helping Australia get back into the 2013 World Group.

I have high hopes for Stosur at the French Open, while at the same time I’m doing my best not to have expectations! She is seeded sixth and will play her first round match against Elena Baltacha. If Sam progresses through the draw she will potentially play her Round 3 match against Nadia Petrova, Round 4 against Sabine Lisicki and quarter final versus world No.1 Victoria Azarenka.

Follow Tennis Grandstand for updates on Sam Stosur’s progress, as well as other Australian players in the main draw, all throughout the French Open.

 

Melinda Samson is attending Roland Garros and will be writing updates on Australian players through their trek of the tennis world’s second slam. She also manages the website Grand Slam Gal and is attempting to do the fan version of a tennis grand slam in 2012. Follow her on Twitter for further live updates @GrandSlamGal.

Interview with former ATP slam champion and current Tennis Australia manager Scott Draper

By Melinda Samson, Special for Tennis Grandstand

To win the tennis grand slam a player needs strength, skill, stamina, smarts and staying power. They also need to play exceptional tennis on all tennis court surfaces; hard court, clay and grass.

The varying surfaces are something that I love about tennis. After all, what other professional sports men and women need to adjust to their game to three different surfaces during the same year?

To find out what it takes to win on all surfaces, I interviewed former Australian ATP tennis player Scott Draper. Scott won the Wimbledon Junior Doubles title in 1992, Queens Club Championship in 1998 and partnered with Sam Stosur to win the Australian Open Mixed Doubles title in 2005. He reached a career high ranking of 42 in 1998 and now looks after player development for Under 16s for Tennis Australia, managing five tennis academies throughout Australia.

After hearing what Scott had to say, I have even more respect for the sport of tennis and the players. I know a lot of tennis fans have a huge knowledge of the technicalities of the game but not being one of them, I learned a lot from Scott’s answers during the interview.

What changes have you seen to the way grand slam tournaments are played?

The game has become faster as player skills, flexibility and movement have improved. And the impact of changes in racquet strings, balls and equipment over the past 20 years has been extraordinary.

Tennis has become a game of physical warfare. Players still have many different games styles but now it’s possible to completely overpower your opponent, which I think that has taken away some of the flair of the game.

What are the main differences between the grand slam tennis court surfaces?

Although each surface is different in terms of speed and height of the bounce of the ball, the aim is for all surfaces to be set up to be fair and equitable for all types of players.

Generally for the courts:
• Clay courts are slower, have higher bounce and more spin
• Hard courts are typically medium speed with true bounce
• Grass courts are fast with lower bounce.

Here are some of the specifics of courts at the slams.

1. Clay Courts at Roland Garros

The speed of play on the clay at Roland Garros is weather dependent; the courts can be fast on a hot day but when it’s rainy the balls are heavier and courts are slow. A slower court means serves don’t have as much impact, drop shots die and the player needs to be able to do a lot more with the ball.

As the balls and courts are slower, players can get to more balls, which means it takes more shots to win a point.

2. Grass Courts at Wimbledon

The grass at Wimbledon is a softer surface than clay, meaning balls bounce lower. Grass is renowned for typically being the fastest surface.

In the late 90s Wimbledon courts were very fast but now the balls and grass are slower than they were, so points are longer, which means baseline players are doing well more often.

It’s also important to note though that there is a big difference between the courts at Wimbledon. The newer courts are harder and faster. I once played on the newer courts and served 33 aces… my next match was on the older courts, and couldn’t get nearly the same purchase of the court – hence, I didn’t serve as many aces.

The players know that the courts are different and experience really counts; once you’ve played there you know how to rethink your game depending which court you’ll be playing on.

3. Hard Courts at the US Open and Australian Open

On the hard courts at the US Open the ball bounces higher and the court is quicker. The courts at the Australian Open are fairly slow in comparison to the US Open.

What does it take for a player to adjust to the different surfaces as the tennis year progresses, particularly from hard court to clay?

As a kid growing up you want to develop a game that has the ability to work on all surfaces. To be successful you need to be a great athlete, a great mover and a great competitor.

Players should also become a student of the game, learn how to understand your opponent, the different court surfaces and your own strengths and weaknesses. And you’ve got to love the battle!

Once you get to the tour you can continue to improve but it’s hard to reinvent the wheel and make major changes to your game.

For the grand slams, it’s all about getting your body and game style ready in the lead up to the events. Figure out how long you have to get ready and what the priorities are.

From a physical perspective for example, points are longer at the French Open so you might increase your cardio training. The transition from French Open to Wimbledon is really quick, so you could adjust your movement patterns to allow for the balls bouncing lower.

How difficult is it to adjust to the different grand slam tournaments?

To be a great grand slam player you need to be smart, well organised and plan the transition. And experience is massive!

Tennis is an extraordinarily hard game because there is so much complexity to it and your opponent has so much to do with the final result. You can do everything correctly but if you’re playing someone who is playing their 10 out of 10 game, for most players you just can’t match them if you’re playing your 8 out of 10 game.

If you’re not ready in body and mind then it’s hard to expect the best from yourself.

All that aside, when it comes down to it adjusting to the different slams is part of what tennis players need to know how to do.

Prepare as much as you can but once you’re there, let the preparation pay off and just do what you need to do.

How much impact do other factors have on a player’s ability to play well at grand slam tournaments?

Your shoes are really important. For hard courts you have a swivel on the sole, clay court shoes have a herringbone for more grip and grass court shoes have dimples.

Each tournament also has a different feel and that can impact on a player’s success.

The Australian Open is really relaxed and you can get back to your hotel in about 10 minutes. Wimbledon has a different feel again because everyone stays at Wimbledon village in houses. And although being in for Paris Roland Garros is really full on, the US Open can be a mad house by comparison; it can take either 20 minutes or 1.5 hours to get to the courts.

Plus at the slams there is a lot of commotion going on around you and that can be distracting, especially if you’re new to it. Roger Federer makes it look so easy but for up and coming players, if you want to win, the best approach is get in, do your work and then get out.

When you’re not one of the top players, lets face it, you lose a lot of matches during the year, so resilience is a huge factor and it’s easy to fall flat if you don’t have the right people around you.

Melinda Samson is attending Roland Garros and will be writing updates on Australian players through their trek of the tennis world’s second slam. She also manages the website Grand Slam Gal and is attempting to do the fan version of a tennis grand slam in 2012. Follow her on Twitter for further live updates @GrandSlamGal.

Mondays With Bob Greene: Rafael Nadal Wins His First Grass-Court Title

16 June 2008

STARS

Rafael Nadal won his first grass-court title, the Artois Championships, by beating Novak Djokovic 7-6 (6) 7-5 in London, England.

Roger Federer won the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany, for the fifth time, downing Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3 6-4

Nikolay Davydenko beat Tommy Robredo 6-3 6-3 to win the Orange Prokom Open in Warsaw, Poland

Kateryna Bondarenko won her first WTA Tour title, the DFS Classic in Birmingham, England, by beating Yanina Wickmayer 7-6 (7) 3-6 7-6 (4)

Maria Kirilenko defeated Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-0 6-2 to win the Torneo Barcelona KIA in Barcelona, Spain

SAYINGS

“I now have titles on all surfaces, so I am now a more complete player than I was a week ago.” – Rafael Nadal, after winning a grass-court tournament, The Artois Championships.

“It feels great. Finally I have my own title. I didn’t expect my first one to come on grass.” – Kateryna Bondarenko, who earned her first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title by capturing the DFS Classic.

“Maybe if he wins it six times people won’t question him. People are sitting here saying, `Can Roger win Wimbledon?’ Yes, he can. He’s won it five times.” – Andy Roddick, about Roger Federer.

“It’s been a terrific week. I’ve only been playing on grass for three years so it’s quite an improvement for m e to get to the final.” – Novak Djokovic, after losing to Nadal in the final at Queen’s Club.

“I need three days off. Four would be amazing! I’ve spent nine days in the last four months at home. I need to be with friends, family, forget the tennis for a few days. I need to play some golf.” – Rafael Nadal.

“We’re confident going into Wimbledon. I think we’ll be second seeds, and anytime you’re the opposite of the Bryans it’s a nice thing.” – Daniel Nestor, who with his partner Nenad Zimonjic won The Artois Championships doubles.

“I am mentally exhausted after the French Open. I am not ready to compete so soon after winning my first Grand Slam.” – Ana Ivanovic, withdrawing from the Wimbledon warm-up tournament in Eastbourne, England.

“My game plane was just to make her play every point. I knew she hadn’t had a lot of wins recently and I wanted to stop her taking the initiative out there.” – Bethany Mattek, after upsetting world number seven Nicole Vaidisova at the DFS Classic.

“I think I played well. Even though my knee hurt a lot, I kept on fighting. I’m not a quitter.” – Yanina Wickmayer,

“Nobody beats John Sadri 15 times, so he’s lucky I retired. I drew the line.” – John Sadri, noting his career record against John McEnroe was 14-0, including the 1978 NCAA championship match.

SPANISH HISTORY

When Rafael Nadal won The Artois Championships at Queen’s Club in London, he became the first Spaniard to capture a grass-court title since Andres Gimeno at Eastbourne, England, in 1972. Nadal also became the first player to win the French Open and The Queen’s Club in the same year since Ilie Nastase of Romania captured both titles in 1973. He also is the first player since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win at Roland Garros and a grass-court title in the same year. And he is the first left-hander to win The Artois Championships since Scott Draper of Australia in 1996.

SURFACE STREAK

Roger Federer has compiled an Open Era record 59-match winning streak on grass going into Wimbledon, where he is seeking his sixth consecutive title. He extended his record to 25-0 at the Gerry Weber Open, where he has won in his last five appearances on the grass in Halle, Germany. Federer’s last loss on grass was to Mario Ancic in the first round at Wimbledon in 2002. The victory was Federer’s 10th grass-court title, tying him with Pete Sampras for the Open Era record.

SERBIAN SWEEP

With Ana Ivanovic ranked number one in the world and Jelena Jankovic number two, Serbia becomes only the third nation since the rankings began in 1975 to have the world’s top two players. The United States have had five different pairs occupy first and second in the rankings at the same time, and Belgium joined the select group when Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters held those two spots.

STRATOSPHERIC MATCH

Kateryna Bondarenko of the Ukraine and Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium reached the final of a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour event for the first time when they squared off for the title at the DFS Classic in Birmingham, England. Before last week Bondarenko had never been beyond the quarterfinals of a Tour singles event, while Wickmayer’s best showing before Birmingham was a second-round appearance in Antwerp, Belgium. Bondarenko won the hard-fought battle of newcomers 3-6 (7) 3-6 7-6 (4).

SECOND-SET IRE

Fernando Gonzalez forfeited his third-round match at Queen’s Club when he let his temper get the best of him. The Chilean was warned for ball abuse in the first set, then was docked a point when he smashed his racket in anger. When he abused a ball again after losing his serve in the 11th game of the second set, umpire Les Maddock issued a game penalty, sending Gonzalez to the locker room and giving the match to Ivo Karlovic.

SEEKING MORE SAY

The world’s top three players have become political allies in an attempt to take more control over their sport. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are all but certain to be elected to the ATP Player Council. The three have complained about the current ATP leadership and have expressed concern about the potential impact of a lawsuit filed against the ATP by tournament organizers in Hamburg, Germany. Federer, Nadal and Djokovic are running unopposed for three of the four slots reserved for players ranked one to 50.

SPADEA INTO WIMBLEDON

American Vincent Spadea and Frenchman Thierry Ascione gained spots in the main draw at Wimbledon when officials decided not to award the final two of eight wild cards in the men’s singles. Spadea, ranked 110th in the world, and Ascione, ranked 119th, where the next two players in the rankings who were eligible to play at the grass court Grand Slam. Receiving wild cards into the men’s field were Belgian Xavier Malisse, Britons Jamie Baker and Alex Bogdanovic, Canadian Frank Dancevic and Jeremy Chardy of France. The women’s wild cards went to Australia’s Samantha Stosur, Poland’s Urzula Radwanska, Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro and Britain’s Elena Baltacha, Naomi Cavaday, Katie O’Brien and Melanie South.

STILL NUMBER ONE

Cara Black is moving up the all-time list of players who have held the number one ranking in doubles. The Zimbabwean has been ranked number one for a total of 68 weeks, tying her with Helena Sukova. Martina Navratilova leads the list with a total of 237 weeks being ranked number one. Liezel Huber, who teamed with Black to win the DFS Classic in Birmingham, England, joined her partner at number one and now has been ranked at the top position for 31 weeks.

SPANISH SKIN

Fernando Verdasco has bared all for a good cause. The Spanish player can be seen without clothing in the July issue of the United Kingdom’s Cosmopolitan Magazine. Verdaco is the second tennis player to pose in the nude in support of the Everyman Male Cancer Campaign. Another Spaniard, Tommy Robredo, was the first to pick a unique way to help raise awareness and funds for research into testicular and prostate cancer.

SWISS RETURN

Martina Hingis and Jana Novotna will repeat their Wimbledon final of 1997 when they play an exhibition match at the Liverpool International Tournament. Hingis retired after banned for two years from competitive tennis following a positive test for cocaine at Wimbledon last year. Hingis also took time to join Pat Cash, Goran and American Ashley Harkleroad at a charity dinner in Liverpool, England, to support Claire House, a hospice for children.

SWITCHING SPORTS

John Sadri’s current love is golf, where last week he shot an opening-round 77 that put him 10 strokes off the lead in the North Carolina Amateur in Raleigh. Now 51, Sadri once was ranked number 14 in the world in tennis and lost to Guillermo Vilas in the 1979 Australian Open men’s singles final. Sadri, who owns a construction company in Charlotte, North Carolina, said he took up golf to get closer to business clients.

SIGN OF AFFECTION

Evonne Goolagong Cawley’s home town is going big-time to honor their champion. How big? The New South Wales town of Barellan is building a giant replica of the wooden tennis racket Goolagong used during the height of her success in the 1970s. The steel construction will be 13.8 meters (45 feet) high and will stand on a 45-degree angle in the town’s Evonne Goolagong Park. Goolagong won 92 tournaments during her career, including Wimbledon in 1971 and 1980.

SPORT FOR AUSSIES

Australia’s most popular sport is tennis, according to the Sweeney Sports Report, which used various indicators such as participation, attendance at major events, viewing figures and merchandise sales to quantify the popularity of major sports. Golf, which moved into first place when Aussie Greg Norman was the world’s number one player, is now near the bottom of the list. The survey showed that swimming was second most popular and cricket third. The year’s first Grand Slam tournament, the Australian Open, was voted the third most popular sporting event in Australia behind the Australian Football Rules Grand Final and The Melbourne Cup, a horse race.

SPEED SKILLS

Tennis players can judge speed better than others, according to a study in Switzerland. But it could either be the case that tennis improves temporal processing or that better temporal processing allows people to become better tennis player. And the effects observed were quite small since we all use some of the skills on a daily basis, as when driving a car. Tennis players are only significantly better at spotting tennis balls in a match, not at spotting a cat running across the road while they are driving.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

London: Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic beat Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa 6-4 7-6 (3)

Halle: Mikhail Youzhny and Mischa Zverev beat Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes 3-6 6-4 10-3 (match tiebreak)

Warsaw: Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski beat Nikolay Davydenko and Yuri Schukin 6-0 3-6 10-4 (match tiebreak)

Birmingham: Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Yaroslava Shvedova and Tamarine Tanasugarn 5-7 6-4 10-4 (match tiebreak)

Barcelona: Lourdes Dominguez Lino and Arantxa Parra Santonja beat Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 4-6 7-5 10-4 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Eastbourne: http://eastbourne.lta.org.uk/

‘s-Hertogenbosch: www.ordina-open.nl

Wimbledon: www.Wimbledon.com

Roger Federer: www. rogerfederer.com

Ana Ivanovic: www.anaivanovic.com/

Koninklijke Nederlandse Lawn Tennis Bond: www.knltb.nl

The Lawn Tennis Association: www.lta.org.uk/

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$584,000 Ordina Open, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, grass

$584,000 The Slazenger Open, Nottingham, Great Britain, grass

$125,000 Braunschweig Challenger, Braunschweig, Germany, clay

WTA TOUR

$600,000 International Women’s Open, Eastbourne, Great Britain, grass

$175,000 Ordina Open, ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, grass

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP and WTA TOUR

The Championships, Wimbledon, Great Britain, grass