strokes

ATP Tour Honeymoon Fever Continues – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson
Taking a Stand – The ladies of Spain are making their voices heard, stating that they are prepared to boycott the first round of the 2011 Fed Cup if the Spanish Tennis Federation doesn’t show a little more support for Spanish women’s tennis. They’re maintaining their position even in the aftermath of the Federation’s response to their initial demands, and supporters of women’s tennis have to respect their stance. What’s more, former Grand Slam champions Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario and Conchita Martinez have lent their support to their countrywomen. It will be intriguing to see how it all unfolds. Spain is tied for third in all-time Fed Cup title wins with 5, though their last win came in 1998. With so much success on the men’s side, however, there’s no reason to think that a similar level of success couldn’t be achieved on the women’s side without the same kind of support. Hopefully their stance will pave the way to change.

Return of a Champion – 2009 US Open Champion Juan Martin Del Potro will be making his return to competitive tennis in Bangkok next week. All eyes will be looking to see how quickly the big Argentine will be able to shake the rust from his game. In many ways, he couldn’t be coming back at a better time. The big guns tend to take a bit of a break at this time, and many of the tournaments will be contested on indoor hard courts where one is often able to produce his best tennis due to not having to battle the elements. Hopefully Del Potro is able to find his range quickly, as the sport has missed the powerful strokes of this young gun that belongs with the rest of the big boys at the top of the men’s game.

Injury Woes – One player on the opposite end of the spectrum from Del Potro is Fernando Gonzalez. The Chilean is set to undergo hip surgery that is expected to keep him out of the game for up to nine months. To compound his problems, his doctors have already informed him that a knee surgery may also be necessary. Playing the brand of tennis that he has throughout his career, it’s not surprising that the body would eventually give out, but hopefully it will also bounce back and allow him a chance to end his career on a high.

First Time for Everything – There were some pretty memorable Davis Cup victories over the weekend, but the biggest praise has to go the nation of Serbia, especially Janko Tipsarevic. Tipsarevic kept Serbian hopes alive by bringing his best to the court and defeating Tomas Berdych in his opening match on Friday, but the Serbs still found themselves down 2-1 going into the final Sunday. That’s when Djokovic and Tipsarevic came up good when the chips were down to lead Serbia to its first ever Davis Cup final. It will be a tough task to take out a deep French team, but what a fantastic story it would be.

Taking the Plunge – On a lighter note, two engagements were announced for two of the game’s most well known doubles specialists. Indian star Mahesh Bhupathi is set to wed former Miss Universe Lara Dutta, and one half of the famous Bryan Brothers duo, Bob Bryan, has also announced his engagement to girlfriend Michelle Alvarez. Dutta’s reps have already confirmed that her marriage to Bhupathi will not take place for at least a couple of years. No word yet on when Bob will look to tie the knot, but don’t look for it to impact his play. With so much left to play for, it’s unlikely the thought to hang it up has entered his mind, and neither Bryan seems the type where the institution of marriage could turn into a hindrance to their games.

FRANCESCA SCHIAVONE CELEBRATES WIN WITH A DIVINE KISS

By Ritesh Gupta

The way Francesca Schiavone reacted after her quarterfinal victory over Caroline Wozniacki in the French Open is something what a tennis fan longs for.

A tennis pro can’t express much in the playing arena especially when there are a series of matches lined up. But the manner in which Schiavone expressed herself was touching to say the least.

She held her head in disbelief. Taking a few steps, standing in the middle of the court and acknowledging the applause from the crowd, Schiavone wrapped up her celebration by kissing the coveted surface. Definitely an emotional moment, which Schiavone would cherish throughout her life.

And why wouldn’t she?

For one, who will now appear in a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time, such reaction is quite understandable. She is also the first Italian woman in the Open era to make it to this stage of the French Open. Schiavone next plays Elena Dementieva.

Schiavone, who will be turning 30 this month, has been on the professional tour for more than a decade. Though she has never been in the top 10, she still has the ability to pose a threat to anyone.

Schiavone’s 6-2, 6-3 triumph over third seeded Wozniacki showcased her athletic ability. She backed up up the same with an array of fluent strokes. The Italian was clearly in her elements today, hardly letting Wozniacki to get into rhythm.

On this day, Wozniacki not only lost the baseline duel, but she was also found wanting at the net. Wozniacki only won 5 of 13 points at the net. In fact, on quite a few occasions, even when Wozniacki had an opening and rushed to the net, Schiavone made up for it with her speedy recovery, setting up winners by either forcing her opponent to play tough half volleys or passing her at the net.

Schiavone remained in front throughout. She won three games on the trot at 3-2 in the first set. Wozniacki, who conceded an early break in the second set, levelled to raise hopes at 3-3. But Schiavone, who seldom hides her emotions while playing, motivated herself whenever Wozniacki showed signs of catching up. The Italian showed her aggressive intent as she to chose to serve and volley to set up her first match point. She capitalised on the same with a gutsy smash. And post that she celebrated her win beautifully.