By Maud Watson
Notable Performances – There have been a number of great matches at this year’s US Open, and as predicted, some of the biggest stars in the game have lived up to their billing to reach the latter rounds of the year’s last major, while others have had some outstanding breakout performances. But a special tip of the hat has to go to Swiss No. 2 Stanislas Wawrinka. A talented player with a relatively versatile game, he’s struggled to really find his footing in the Slams. It now seems those days could potentially be behind him, as Wawrinka finally took out one of the Top 4 at a major, defeating Andy Murray in four sets in the third round of the 2010 US Open. Though he nearly faltered at the next hurdle against Sam Querrey, he found a way to follow up his big win by grinding to a 5-set victory over the American. Look for him to hopefully build on his US Open performance going into 2011, especially with the solid coaching he is getting from Federer’s former man, Peter Lundgren.
Relinquishing the Helm – Over the course of Labor Day Weekend, Patrick McEnroe announced that he would be stepping down as captain of the United States Davis Cup squad. The move stemmed from McEnroe’s desire to spend more time with his family, as well as in his other job with the USTA in developing elite players. No word yet on who will replace the younger McEnroe, but he himself had suggested that both Jim Courier and Todd Martin would make excellent candidates for the job. Whoever takes the job will have their work cut out for them, but at least there is the assurance that there’s a young and talented crop of Americans eagerly willing to step up and represent their country in the international team competition.
Back for More? – Once again Hingis is toying with the idea (and the tennis world) with the possibility that she may be coming back to the WTA Tour to strictly play the doubles circuit. Hingis has stated her decision will be based primarily on whether or not her heart is in it, as well as if she can find a steady partner. Davenport had suggested playing with Hingis but wanted to return sooner than Hingis was ready to. Curious to see if Cara Black would be interested in teaming with the Swiss Miss given that she has tried out a few different partners since she split with Liezel Huber (she’s played with four different partners at each of the 2010 majors this year). They wouldn’t bring a lot of fire power to the court, but they would be no less formidable to any opponent.
Eggs in One (Promising) Basket – Paul Annacone has opted to cut short his time working with the British LTA after being named the full-time coach of Roger Federer. The reasoning behind his immediate resignation was the potential for a conflict of interest, given that his charge could meet British No. 1 Andy Murray in the latter rounds of any tournament on any given week. Given the current state of British tennis, the move has to be a welcomed one for Annacone, particularly given the talent and prestige of some of his past clientele.
At Long Last? – On Wednesday, Chief Executive of the ATP Adam Helfant announced that the ATP would be looking at increasing the offseason by two to three weeks, and that he expects a formal decision on the matter no later than the last board meeting of the year, which takes place in mid-November. A longer offseason is well overdue, but it will be interesting to see if action is finally taken, and if so, how smoothly it will go. Currently there is no talk of moving the Australian Open start date, which seems to imply any changes to create the longer offseason would have to come from tweaking the ATP tournament calendar, and depending on the nature of those changes, it could be a bumpy road ahead.
The women’s qualifying draw packs more heat than on the men’s side for one main reason: Yanina Wickmayer. Despite being ranked 16th in the world, the Belgian is being forced to grind it out through three qualifying matches in order to secure a spot in the main draw.
Wickmayer was suspended by the Flemish Anti-Doping Tribunal in her home country in early November for apparently failing to report her whereabouts at certain times during the season.
The twenty year old rising star appealed the decision and had it overturned by a civil court in Belgium. Unfortunately for Wickmayer the new ruling came after the December 7th cut-off date for entries into the Australian Open.
That left Wickmayer with the option of applying for a wild-card from the tournament, but when it was not extended, it left her with no other option but going through the qualifying draw.
It’s disappointing that such a talented player is being forced to jump through hoops in order to qualify for the main draw. While I certainly feel that Wickmayer will make it through the qualies, it will place a greater physical strain on her body ahead of an already grueling Grand Slam schedule. Hopefully it will instead serve as a motivator for her and help her gain some momentum for a memorable tournament. She is obviously seeded number one in the qualifying draw and won a tough opening match on Thursday by a score of 4-6, 6-0, 7-5.
Aside from Wickmayer, the qualifying draw has a few other players worth following.
Alexandra Stevenson will best be remembered for her surprising run to the semi-finals at Wimbledon as a qualifier in 1999. That was a long time ago and Stevenson never built upon that success. Several injuries would creep up in 2002 and slow her progress and then a right-shoulder injury would derail her career at the end of 2004 and cause her ranking to plummet. Stevenson has been back to playing a full schedule for a couple of years now, but has not been able to regularly make it past qualifying draws and challenger-level tournaments.
Fifteen year old Laura Robson teamed up with Andy Murray at the Hopman Cup earlier this month and acquitted herself quite well. Born in Australia (Melbourne in fact) but playing for Great Britain, Robson lost to Daniela Hantuchova in three sets in the first round of Wimbledon last year, her first appearance at a Grand Slam. The youngster will turn sixteen during the Aussie Open and represents the future of female tennis in the U.K.
Canadians: I have to give a shout-out to the numerous Canadian women who are represented in the qualifying draw in Melbourne this year including, Valerie Tetreault, Heidi El Tabakh, Rebecca Marino and Sharon Fichman. Our country does not have much representation in the upper rankings of the tennis world, but these ladies are showing that Tennis Canada does have some talent in the mix just below the surface.