tennis player

Sabine Lisicki on Brad Pitt, Roger Federer and her Wimbledon Semifinals Run

After a resurgent 2011, German beauty Sabine Lisicki is sitting pretty in the WTA Tour rankings at a career-high number 13. I had the opportunity to sit down with Sabine at the Sony Ericsson Open and chat about her most memorable moments on court, Roger Federer, legends she has hit with, and the three famous people she would most want to have dinner with.

During the course of the interview, Lisicki could not have been more gracious and involved in the questions, laughing and/or giggling a total of eleven times. I would bet that her and Ana Ivanovic could compete in a “giggle-off” and see who the nicest WTA player is – it would be a tough call! But alas, I digress. On to the questions and get ready for some laughs!

What is your most memorable moment on court?

There are several. Obviously, my first grand slam in Australia [in 2008]. But from last year, a very emotional moment was winning the title in Birmingham and beating Na Li at Wimbledon, on center court, with a full house. That meant a lot to me, especially after coming back from an injury.

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

(Laughs) I hate that question! (Laughs) I honestly don’t know, because tennis was always what I loved and what I always wanted to do and I feel very lucky that I have the opportunity to do what I love.

Do you have any hobbies on the side that you enjoy?

There are things that I might do after tennis, because I’m interested in design/fashion, but also in the human body, so some medicine-type of thing, because we go through so many health issues and we learn a lot about our body and I’m just curious to learn more, so I’ll see which direction I’ll go. The human body is veryinteresting, so you can always discover more.

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

(Long pause) The ones I would love to play against, I’ve practiced with them already! (Laughs)

Is this like Steffi Graf?

Steffi and Andre, I’ve played with both and I’ve practiced with Mary Pierce and Martina Hingis, so all the idols. I would love to hit with Roger [Federer] one day.

What are two things that you couldn’t live without?

Friends and family.

If you could have dinner with any three people, living or dead, who would they be and why?

Living or dead? (Laughs) Ok, a fun one, Brad Pitt. (Laughs) An interesting one would be the pilot who landed the plane on the Hudson River. I would love to hear from him what he thought in those moments, because he was so under pressure having so many passengers and landing the plane. And the third one, Drew Brees (NFL Quarterback).

Grand Slam Fallout, Henin Gone Again and WTA Rankings Record

Djokovic Keeps Murray Waiting:

Two good friends, two very different sets of emotions kick off a bumper Grand Slam edition of  Tennis People. Melbourne Park saw Novak Djokovic repeat his 2008 triumph here to lift his second Grand Slam on Sunday which left Andy Murray staring defeat in the face for his third straight final. The Serbian continued the fearsome display which overcame Roger Federer in the semis to dismiss the Scot in straight sets 6-4, 6-2, 6-3. Murray simply had no answer to the explosive groundstrokes Djokovic continually fired over the net and his error count continued to rise as the match wore on. It follows Djokovic’s excellent end to 2010 where he was ousted by Rafa Nadal in the US Open final before leading Serbia to its maiden Davis Cup win over France in December. “[Winning a] Davis Cup title and another Grand Slam title. I’m living the dream of a tennis player, definitely,” declared Djokovic after the match. “I have been more focused and dedicated to the sport than I have ever been before. To be able to win in straight sets against a player like Andy Murray in the finals of Grand Slam, it makes my success even bigger.” He added of his friend: “I really have big respect for him and his game, because I think he has everything what it takes to become a Grand Slam champion. I’m sure that very soon he will be. This was a great match. From the start to the last point, I did what I intended of doing tactically, what I talked with my coach, what I prepared for. It’s the best way that I could ask for to start a season. Both of those guys [Federer and Murray] play their best tennis on the hard courts, as well as I do. But to be able to win against those players in straight sets is incredible.” “It’s better than it was last year,” said Murray on suffering his second-straight Australian Open final defeat. “It was obviously tough, disappointing. I thought Novak played unbelievably well. It’s tough, but got to deal with it. Anyone who played in three finals would have loved to have won one. But I haven’t. I just need to keep working hard and try and do it. I would have liked to have played better,” confessed Murray. “But I think he would have beaten every other player on the tour if he played like that tonight. He served well. He didn’t make many mistakes from the back of the court. He moved really, really well. He hit the ball very clean.” For more fallout hit the ATP website.

Clijsters Claims First Non-American Slam:

Kim Clijsters fully embraced her ‘Aussie Kim’ adopted moniker by finally lifting the hallowed trophy last weekend. The three-time US Open Champion hoisted her first Slam off of American soil by outlasting the Chinese star Li Na 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. It was a sad end to Na’s historic showing which made her the first Chinese player to reach a Grand Slam final (Michael Chang was affiliated to the United States). Na was more aggressive in the first set with her ten winners outnumbering three from Clijsters. But the Belgian steadied herself and her experience began to shine through as she slowly closed out the victory. “She did everything better than me in that first set,” Clijsters told the gathered press. “Her ground strokes were heavier, deeper. She served better, she returned better. She was playing really, really well – probably the best she’s ever played against me. I tried mixing it up, putting some slices in, hitting a few higher shots that drew some errors. I saw her get a little bit aggravated and I just tried to hang in there.” Clijsters also praised her adopted home crowd in her on-court speech: “I finally feel like you guys can call me Aussie Kim, because I won the title. I’ve been coming here for many years and you guys have always been amazing. It helps so much.” Li was philosophical following her defeat: “I take positives. I think I played great tennis. She played better than me. After the match, when I was going back to the locker room, I made a joke that a tennis match should only be one set. I’m still happy what I did today. Right now I’ll just take total rest, because Chinese New Year is coming soon. I’ll take time with the family and prepare for the next tournament.” More can be seen by hitting the WTA website.

Bryans Make it Ten of the Best:

Bob and Mike Bryan denied the ‘Indian Express’ of Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes the Career Grand Slam after cutting them down in the final of the men’s doubles at the Australian Open. It was Slam number ten for the 32-year-olds who now stand just one behind the legendary Aussie duo of Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde. “It never gets old,” said Bob. “Especially to play those two guys, the ‘Indian Express’, who we have tons of respect for. We were jacked up for this match. These two guys are legends. It was an extra special feeling out there on the court playing two guys that have dominated the game 10 years ago.” “We had a great couple of weeks,” reflected Paes. “We had a tough draw. Pretty much played all the best teams in the world getting to the final. Today we lost to the best team on the planet who played lights out today. I thought they played the perfect match. As far as Mahesh and myself are concerned, a great two weeks.” See more at the ATP website.

Crown Jewel for Flavia and Gisela:

They had a fantastic 2010 which saw them rise to the top of the doubles rankings on the back of seven team titles. But 2011 has exploded in to life for Flavia Pennetta and Gisela Dulko who lifted their first Grand Slam at Melbourne Park. Seeded No. 1 they faced a difficult test against the surprise package of the tournament; Victoria Azarenka/Maria Kirilenko. It looked evenly matched. Pennetta/Dulko had dropped only 26 games in five straight set wins en route to the final while Azarenka/Kirilenko had dropped only 25 games and one set. But the top seeds struggled early on and the underdogs rushed the first set 6-2. They even held match points in the second before the Italian and the Argentine rallied to take the match 2-6, 7-5, 6-1. “We were in shock,” Dulko said. “At a set and 4-1 down, at the changeover, we were looking at each other saying, ‘Come on, we have played less than an hour.’ We went for it. We tried to play more aggressively and didn’t wait for them to.” She added: “I think Victoria started to get a little bit more nervous than in the beginning and missed more balls. I think her level started to go down a bit, then Maria maybe as well. But most importantly we just kept fighting. In the end we believed we could turn the match around. It was a good ending.” “It’s a Grand Slam. It’s something really amazing for me,” Pennetta added. “Last year we played so well. We won the WTA Championships and so many good tournaments, but we didn’t make any finals at the Grand Slams or win one of them. We started this year really well and hope to do the same in the next one.” The full fallout can be seen at the WTA website.

Nestor Still Defying Age:

Canadian doubles expert Daniel Nestor made it two Aussie Open mixed doubles titles by partnering Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia to overcome home-grown hero Paul Hanley and Chan Yung-Jan in the final at Melbourne Park. He previously lifted the title in 2007 with Elena Likhovtseva. “She played great [and] I played well, too,” said Nestor. “That’s some of the best mixed I played this week. I don’t always play that well. In the first [set] we lost serve and then broke back. That was important to stay close there. I played a bad game to start the second, which kind of lost our momentum, but then we broke right back again. Then they played a pretty good game to break us to win the set.” It was mixed doubles Slam number five for Srebotnik who won her last two with Nestor’s long-term men’s doubles partner Nenad Zimonjic.

Henin Calls It A Day (Again):

It was the 3am announcement that triggered a massive scramble as journalists leapt out of bed to gain coverage of the second retirement of Justine Henin from professional tennis. The Belgian who has seven Grand Slams to her name has struggled to overcome the elbow injury suffered at last year’s Wimbledon and has decided to give up the ghost permanently rather than struggle towards her dream of that elusive grass-court Slam and suffer complications for the rest of her life. After her early comeback showed signs of promise her recent results have been less-so and she took the decision following her exit Down Under. “It’s time now to turn an incredible page of my life…What a wonderful adventure! I’m sad to end with an injury but that’s the life. I just want to thank you all for your support during all these years…I will never forget it,” she announced via her Facebook and Twitter pages.

United Nations at the WTA:

This week the Top 10 of the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings features ten women of differing nationalities for the first time ever. A Dane, a Belgian, a Russian, an Italian, an Australian, an American, a Chinese, a Serbian, a Belarusian and a Pole make up the Top 10 with an Israeli at No. 11. It shows just how truly global the sport of tennis has become during the Open Era as globalization has truly brought tennis to the four corners of the globe. More on this later on in Rankings Watch.

Dream Doubles Pairing for Close Friends?

Following his victory over long-term friend Andy Murray at the Aussie Open Novak Djokovic has announced that the 23-year-olds hope to team up for the doubles Championships at Indian Wells later this year. “We spoke in Melbourne of the possibility of playing doubles together in Indian Wells and I will raise the issue again with him,” Djokovic told the Serbian sports daily Sportske Novosti. At last year’s Rogers Cup in Toronto Djokovic teamed up with Rafa Nadal for a very high profile yet unsuccessful doubles campaign.

Nadal Confident of Swift Return:

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal expects to be fully recovered from the hamstring injury suffered in his quarterfinal defeat to David Ferrer by the end of next week. The Spaniard said in a statement on his official website on Tuesday: “Doctors estimate a recovery period of about 10 days from today.”

Queensland Victims to Receive Aid:

The final totals are in from the ATP and WTA as to how much will be donated to the victims of the Queensland floods following the completion of play at the Australian portion of the 2011 tennis calendar. Both organisations pledged $10 for every ace hit by players in the singles, doubles and mixed doubles categories at the Brisbane International, Medibank Open Sydney and the Australian Open. The total raised was $51,700 which adds to the personal contributions by stars such as the $10,000 donated by American No. 1 Andy Roddick ($20 for every ace he hit) and that of Sam Stosur who donated $100 for every ace she hit. The Rally for Relief event organised by Roger Federer also raised over $1.5m.

Djokovic Fit for a Queen:

Novak Djokovic has announced he will return to the AEGON Championships at the Queen’s Club alongside world No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the run-up to this year’s Wimbledon. Djokovic has never won a title on grass and lost an exceptional final to Nadal here in 2008. He hopes the experience of re-finding that Grand Slam touch in Australia will help him progress on other surfaces too. “The AEGON Championships is one of the nicest tournaments around,” said Djokovic. “The Queen’s Club has got great grass courts, it’s a great atmosphere with always a packed house of spectators, and you just feel good there. Rafa and I had an incredible match in the Queen’s final in 2008 and it was the closest I ever got to a grass court title. Wimbledon is the most important tournament (of the year) for me, and I really want to do well at Queen’s and at Wimbledon this year.”

Serena Sets Comeback Date:

Serena Williams is set to make her comeback at an exhibition event organised by Nike just two days before Indian Wells begins in Portland, Oregon. She hasn’t played since cutting her foot after the completion of Wimbledon last year but is set to line-up alongside Maria Sharapova, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. She is yet to name her official comeback date on the WTA Tour.

Berankis in VMAN:

New Lithuanian star Richard Berankis has been featured in the latest edition of VMAN magazine after starring at this year’s Australian Open. The 20-year-old is now the youngest man in the Top 75 players in the world after reaching the third round. “I used to follow my older sister to the club and I would hit against the wall by myself while she practiced,” he says of his introduction to a sport. “I don’t really remember when or how I picked up my first racket but my earliest memory was my first match, which I lost. I was really pissed off afterwards, but I didn’t cry.” He added about the pressures of being a professional: “I guess I don’t really think about the pressure,” Berankis says nonchalantly. “I’m usually too focused and into the match. When you are competing almost every week, you get in a mode that is very focused and determined. I’m always working to get stronger and better, I’m always looking to the future. Sure there are times I get tight and nervous, like every other player, but the greatest ones know how to handle those emotions and still play their best.”

No Seeing Double for Bryans:

Bob Bryan will miss up to a month of the tennis calendar after hurting his left shoulder playing mixed doubles in Australia.

Fish out of Water:

Mardy Fish is still complaining of the thyroid infection that affected him at Melbourne Park so has pulled out of the upcoming tournament at San Jose. He hopes to return the following week at Memphis.

Coetzee/Schuettler Aim to Inspire Kids:

As the 2011 SA Open kicked off the No. 7 seeded German Rainer Schuettler joined Jeff Coetzee and wildcard Izak van der Merwe in hosting a tennis clinic for children from disadvantaged areas at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre in Jabavu, Soweto. “Development is the foundation stone on which we need to build the game of tennis in South Africa,” SA Tennis Association CEO and SA Tennis Open Tournament Director Ian Smith said. “We are committed to development and firmly believe that out there somewhere is a breathtaking talent just waiting to be unearthed. These clinics not only promote tennis but create a level of enjoyment that hopefully will motivate these youngsters to continue playing the game.”

Vigil for Mandela:

All South Africans competing at the SA Open joined tournament director Ian Smith for a candle-lit vigil in honour of ailing South African hero Nelson Mandela before the tournament began. Kevin Anderson, Rik de Voest and Jeff Coetzee led proceedings.

All Change in the Rankings Watch:

As mentioned above, the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings has seen drastic changes this week following the completion of the Australian Open. Kim Clijsters’ victory at Melbourne Park makes her the new world No. 2 and leaves her only 140 points behind the No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki who remains Slam-less. Francesca Schiavone leaps to No. 4 in the world (a career high) while Na Li also finds herself a career high No. 7 in the world. Agnieszka Radwanska re-enters the Top 10 after her impressive run Down Under. The Italian Flavia Pennetta leaps from No. 25 to No. 16 and Petra Kvitova jumps 10 to No. 18. Andrea Petkovic enters the Top 25 at No. 24 and Iveta Benesova goes from No. 60 to No. 45. The biggest mover is South Africa’s Chanelle Scheepers who takes a gargantuan leap from No. 107 to No. 80. In the South African Airwaves ATP World Rankings there are movers too. David Ferrer climbs to No. 6 on the back of his semifinals appearance but he is the only mover within the Top 10. The Swiss Stanlislas Wawrinka jumps five to No. 14 while surprise quarterfinalist Alex Dolgopolov jumps 14 to No. 32. Nikolay Davydenko’s first-round exit sees him drop 10 to No. 35 in the world, a far cry from his No. 8 ranking of 2009. Spain’s Tommy Robredo re-enters the Top 50 at No. 40 while new Lithuanian star Richard Berankis is up 22 to No. 73. Germany’s Daniel Brands climbs 23 to No. 79 but the week’s biggest climber is new Canadian prospect Milos Raonic who led the teenage charge by gaining 58 places to enter the Top 100 at No. 94.

R-Fed Surges Ahead in GOAT Race:

With Rafa Nadal limping out of the Aussie Open at the quarterfinal stage it opened up an opportunity to fly out ahead in the GOAT Race for Roger Federer. Yet he came up against an emphatic and resurgent Novak Djokovic at the semifinal stage and went down in straight sets. He therefore scores an extra 100 points to take open up a 200-point lead over his closest rival.

Roger: 330 Rafa: 130

Have Rod Laver be Part of Your Holiday Season

As the holiday season fast approaches, New Chapter Press recommends the newly-updated memoir of Australian tennis legend Rod Laver — “The Education of a Tennis Player” – as an ideal gift for tennis fans around the world.

Written with Hall of Fame journalist and historian Bud Collins, “The Education of a Tennis Player” is Laver’s first-hand account of his famous 1969 Grand Slam season, capped off by his win over fellow Australian Tony Roche in the final of the U.S. Open. Laver also writes about his childhood and early days in tennis, his 1962 Grand Slam and offers tips on how players of all levels can improve their game. He also shares some of the strategies that helped him to unparalleled success on the tennis court.

Originally published in 1971, “The Education of a Tennis Player” ($19.95, www.NewChapterMedia.com) was updated by Laver and Collins with new content including his recovery from a near-fatal stroke in 1998 and helping Australia once again win the Davis Cup in 1973. The memoir features descriptions of Laver’s most suspenseful matches and memorable portraits of his biggest rivals Ken Rosewall, Lew Hoad, Tony Roche and Pancho Gonzalez.

“I am delighted that “The Education of a Tennis Player” is back in circulation and available for a new generation of tennis fans,” said Laver of his newly updated memoir. “Winning the Grand Slam for a second time in 1969 seems just like yesterday and this book brings back a lot of memories of the great matches and exciting times. I hope people enjoy reading my story.”

Laver captured 11 major singles titles during his career, including Wimbledon in 1961, 1962, 1968 and 1969. After joining Don Budge as the only man to win a Grand Slam by sweeping all four majors in 1962, Laver turned professional where he, along with fellow pros Hoad, Rosewall and Gonzalez, were banned from playing the “amateur-only” major tournaments. When the “Open Era” of tennis began in 1968, Laver netted another five major singles titles, including his Grand Slam sweep of all four in 1969. Laver won nearly 200 singles titles during his career and was inducted into the International Tennis of Fame in 1981.

Collins, himself a 1994 inductee in the International Tennis Hall of Fame, first met Laver in 1956 at the Longwood Cricket Club in Boston during the U.S. National Doubles Championships. Thirteen years later, the two collaborated on the book that was only to be published if Laver won the Grand Slam. Collins is best known for his colorful television commentary – and his colorful wardrobe – as well as his columns in the Boston Globe.

“Rod Laver is one of the greatest treasures we have in tennis and “The Education of a Tennis Player” is one of our sports most important literary works,” said Collins. “Rod was always so humble and gracious, but he could play tennis like a hurricane. He was as a great a champion as we have ever had in tennis and one of the all-time nicest guys.”

New Chapter Press is also the publisher of the newly updated second edition of “The Bud Collins History of Tennis” by Bud Collins, “The Roger Federer Story: Quest for Perfection” by Rene Stauffer, “Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games” by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli, “Acing Depression” by Cliff Richey and Hilaire Richey Kallendorf, “Tennis Made Easy” by Kelly Gunterman, “The Lennon Prophecy” by Joe Niezgoda, “Bone Appetit, Gourmet Cooking For Your Dog” by Susan Anson, “The Rules of Neighborhood Poker According to Hoyle” by Stewart Wolpin, “People’s Choice Cancun – Travel Survey Guidebook” by Eric Rabinowitz and “Weekend Warriors: The Men of Professional Lacrosse” by Jack McDermott, among others. Founded in 1987, New Chapter Press is an independent publisher of books and part of the Independent Publishers Group. More information can be found at www.NewChapterMedia.com.

Will They Ever Win…Again?

A tennis player’s career is defined by Grand Slam competition. Whether it’s fair or not, even players who win tons of titles or attain the world number one ranking will go down in history beneath those who are talented or lucky enough to win one of the coveted Slam titles. This means that an entire year’s worth of work usually boils down to just eight weeks of results.

All things considered, Ana Ivanovic and Dinara Safina have enjoyed similar careers. They’re only two years apart in age. Both have achieved the world number 1 ranking. Both have competed in three Grand Slam finals. Recently, both women have shared a similar dive in the rankings. However, with all of these similarities, one huge difference defines the careers of these two women. They faced each other in the 2008 French Open final and Ana scored her first and only Grand Slam victory. Regardless of what turns her career took after Roland Garros ’08, Ana Ivanovic will go down in the history books as a Grand Slam champion while Dinara Safina will be dragged out as a sad statistic for underachievers. Now, before I get a deluge of angry comments from both Ana and Dinara fans, I fully realize that both of these women are still young and active on the tour. It’s certainly possible that one of them could score another Slam victory before they retire; however, as it stands, this is the situation.

Because Slams are so important for a player’s career, it’s only natural to speculate on which players will win and which will come up short. I’ve compiled a list of some of the most talked about cases and answered the all important question, ‘will they ever win?’ or ‘will they ever win again?’

First up, let’s look at some players who’ve come awfully close to taking home one of those coveted trophies, but in the end came up second best. Will they ever win?

Andy Murray

Will he win? Yes.

Frankly the whole Andy Murray argument is what spurred me to write this article. Murray’s been as high as number 2 in the world and has been camped out in the top 4 for the better part of the last two years. He’s made the finals at both the US Open and the Australian Open, falling easily to Roger Federer both times. Even after his defeat at this year’s Aussie Open, journalists were asking “When will Andy Murray win a Slam?” Lately, journalists have been asking “Will Andy Murray win a Slam?” Those are two very different questions. Andy Murray certainly hasn’t gotten worse in the past two years, in fact his fitness and conditioning has made him stronger than ever. Lately, he just doesn’t seem to have ‘it,’ whatever illusive factor makes Federer and Nadal so incredible at Grand Slams. Murray’s proved capable at beating both of them, just not on tennis’ biggest stages. Well, I disagree with the commentators. Andy’s only 23 and while he may have battle past Rafael Nadal for the entirety of his career, at some point Nadal will falter and Murray will win a major.

Robin Soderling

Will he win? Yes.

I wavered a lot of this one. Robin was a fairly unheard of commodity before the 2009 French Open, where he beat 4 time defending champion Rafael Nadal and made his first Grand Slam final. Everyone was convinced this was one of those one time dream runs, but then he did it again. French Open 2010 rolled around and for the second year he beat the defending champion, this time Roger Federer, before making his second consecutive French Open final. Since then, Soderling also made the quarter finals at both Wimbledon and the US Open. Robin’s had the misfortune of meeting Roger Federer at almost every turn when it comes to Grand Slams. Frankly, only Andy Roddick has been less lucky in this respect. However, one day, Roger Federer isn’t going to be on the other side of the net and Robin will get lucky. Probably.

Vera Zvonareva

Will she win? No.

Bepa’s great and she’s had an amazing breakout year, making two consecutive Grand Slam finals at Wimbledon and the US Open. Pre-Wimbledon, I wouldn’t even have considered putting her name on this list, so she’s definitely doing something right. However, no matter how well she played leading up to the final, it didn’t seem to stop her from self destructing. Mentally, I’m just not sure that Bepa has the strength to make it through all seven matches en route to a Grand Slam title.

Caroline Wozniacki

Will she win? Yes.

Caroline’s only 20 years old. She’s already made one Grand Slam final and she’s about to take over the world number 1 ranking, and while that certainly doesn’t guarantee Caro will win a Grand Slam, her resume’s pretty strong. She made the semifinals at this year’s US Open as the number one seed and I was very impressed with her return game. Overtime, I think Caroline’s game will continue to improve and best of all, she’s got youth on her side. The eight year age gap with Serena Williams means that she’ll have plenty of Slam opportunities with a Serena-less draw.

While one Slam is plenty impressive, when it comes to winning, more is better. So, will these former champions be able to add to their totals?

Novak Djokovic

Will he win again? Yes.

From the 2005 French Open to Wimbledon 2009 (18 Slams,) Novak Djokovic was the only man aside from Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to win a Grand Slam title. He played an incredible match against Roger Federer at this year’s US Open and took Nadal to four sets in the final. At 23, he’s got plenty more opportunities to win. Let’s just hope that one of the Slams is unseasonably cool.

Roger Federer

Will he win again? Yes.

This is probably the biggest debate in tennis right now. Roger Federer is 29. His amazing semifinal streak ended at this year’s French Open and he only won two titles so far this year, although one of them was the Australian Open. Well, Fed’s doubters are fools. Even if he only plays for another 2 years (he definitely wants to compete in the 2012 Olympics,) that’s 8 more chances at a 17th Grand Slam title. He’s won 16 on the last 30 Grand Slams. Do you really want to bet against him?

Andy Roddick

Will he win again? No.

It kills me to write this. I still tear up watching footage of the 2009 Wimbledon final. Just kidding, kind of. However, I’ve come to the realization that, at 28, it’s likely that Roddick will never win that illusive second major title. Last year, I would’ve given him a chance, but I think Wimbledon was the straw that broke the camel’s back. That was potentially the best match Andy ever played and the defeat was clearly and understandably crushing. Andy has been unlucky enough to play the most matches against Roger Federer of any guy on tour with a lopsided head to head of 2 to 19, including four major finals, all won by Federer. When he finally decides to call it a day, I think Roddick will still be known as a one Slam winner, the 2003 US Open champion. Here’s hoping I’m wrong.

Maria Sharapova

Will she win again? No.

I started tossing around ideas for this article a week ago and I originally had Maria down as a yes. She’s three time major champion and just 23 years old, even though it seems like she’s been around forever. At that age, with that resume, it’s hard to believe that she won’t win again. I really thought that this year’s US Open was her chance. Her serve looked slightly more consistent and she had a pretty good draw. But then she lost to Caroline Wozniacki. I was still optimistic. However, Masha crashed out of Tokyo to Kimiko Date Krumm, who’s 40, yes 40. Since then, Maria’s decided to end her 2010 season. I’m just not sure that physically or mentally she’s ever going to get back to her old form. Maria’s titles came at Wimbledon in 2004, the US Open in 2006, and the Australian Open in 2008. By virtue of the pattern, she really should have won this year’s French Open. I’m kidding, but that would’ve been awesome.

Venus Williams

Will she win again? No.

This one should be fairly obvious. She’s 30 and she has knee problems. She’ll wow us with crazy outfits for another couple years and eventually call it quits.

I’m sure you’ve realized I’ve left some pretty famous names off the list. There’s no question in my mind that Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal will both win more majors, so I didn’t even bother including them. Did I miss out on your favorite? Feel free to let me know who you think will win, or who won’t. Comment below, or tweet me @achangeofends.

The ATP’s Aging, Like a Fine Wine

Tennis has been and always will be a sport for the young. Not only is the sport physically grueling, but 12-15 years of bouncing around from hotel room to hotel room can really take a toll on a player. Doubles players can usually eek out a few extra years, but it’s still extremely rare to see any player pushing 35, no less 40. However, lately I’ve noticed that players seem to be getting older. I know, this is not a strange phenomenon. We all get older, but for tennis, there’s a twist. Not only are the players getting older, but they also seem to be getting better or at least playing well for longer.

I spent some time pouring over ATP ranking stats this week and came up with some interesting results. Let’s assume the average tennis player turns pro at 18 and plays until 30. While 25 may seem young to the rest of us, a tennis player has officially entered the second half of their career. Let’s look at the numbers. First off, this week’s Top 20 includes 15 players who are 25 and older, 75%. This same week 20 years ago, the Top 20 included just six players 25+, only 30%. This could easily be a coincidence, right? My thoughts exactly. So, I looked at the same week of rankings every five years from 1990 to the present. The answer was pretty striking. The current average age of Top 20 players is 26.1 and there’s not a single teenager in the bunch. In 2005 and 2000, the average age was 24.9, 24.1 in 1995, and just 22.35 in 1990, including three teenagers. You may say there’s not that much difference between these numbers. However, this means that in the last 20 years, the best players, on average, have gotten four years older, approximately on third of a player’s career.

Ok, so I’m done boring you with the numbers, but I wanted more than just anecdotal evidence to back up my claim. Now I can jump into the fun part. Let’s look at some specific cases.

Roger Federer (ranked No. 3, age 29): I don’t care what you’re stance is on the Federer debate. If you want my personal opinion, he’s the GOAT and he’ll take another major or two. Even if you disagree with me, you have to admit that he’s still a contender in any tournament he plays. While he may be entering the twilight years of his career, he’s still ranked No. 3 in the world and he’s the oldest player in the Top 10. He was the second to qualify for the year-end finals in London and won the only Grand Slam this year not won by a man named Rafael Nadal. He may not be getting better, because let’s face it, it’s hard to beat perfection, but even on the decline, Federer provides a pretty convincing case for players continuing to play well, even when their pushing 30.

Mikhail Youzhny (ranked No. 9, age 28): Youzhny’s bounced in and out of the Top 10 for several years now, but the 28-year-old landed the No. 9 spot after equaling his career-best performance by making the semifinals at this year’s US Open. Youzhny had only made the semifinals of a major once before in his career, at age 24. This year, he had the misfortune of meeting Rafael Nadal in the semis, but Mikhail proved he still has the skills to win tough matches.

Jurgen Melzer (ranked No. 13, age 29): Honestly, I think Jurgen is one of the best cases to prove my point. At 29, he achieved a career-high ranking of 13 after this year’s US Open. Prior to 2010, Melzer had never made it past the third round of any Grand Slam tournament. This year he made the semifinals of the French Open and the fourth round at both Wimbledon and the US Open. He also won the men’s doubles title at Wimbledon. Overall, Jurgen’s been playing some of his best tennis, at an age where most players are starting to consider retirement.

Ivan Ljubicic (ranked No. 17, age 31): Ivan may not have reached a career-high ranking this year, but he did become the oldest man to win his first Masters 1000 event. In March 2010, Ljubicic won Indian Wells, one of the premier ATP events outside of the Grand Slams. This alone is not the impressive story. To win Indian Wells, Ljubicic took down Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals, beat defending champion Rafael Nadal in the semifinals, and defeated Andy Roddick to take home the trophy. I don’t care if the guy’s faded back into obscurity. That result will remain pretty damn impressive for a very long time.

Mardy Fish (ranked No. 19, age 28): I think we’ve all read this story a hundred times by now. Fish is in the best shape of his life and arguably playing his best tennis. He’s just two spots away from equaling his career high ranking, which I think he’ll have by the end of the year. Fish won two tournaments back to back this summer in Newport and Atlanta and he also made the finals at the Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati, nearly scoring a win over Roger Federer. Also to be noted, as late as July, Fish was ranked No. 79 in the world…and now he’s 19. It’s amazing for any player to jump 60 spots in just three months, but almost unheard of for a 28-year-old.

Michael Llodra (ranked No. 28, age 30): Ok, so I’m leaving my Top 20 bubble, but I couldn’t create this list without including Mika. He’s got a throwback serve-and-volley game that I just can’t get enough of and the personality to match. Llodra won two titles this year in Marseille and Eastbourne and is currently at a career-high ranking, seemingly still on the rise. Until recently, Llodra was known mainly as a doubles specialist, having won two men’s doubles titles at the Australian Open and one at Wimbledon. Llodra has successfully reinvented himself as a great singles player and doubles player. In this year’s Davis Cup semifinals, Llodra clinched both the first singles match and the tie-winning doubles match against Argentina to secure France a spot in the Davis Cup finals this December.

Alright, so I’ve given you my best info on men in the ATP, but I would be wrong not to mention that this effect seems to be occurring in the WTA as well. Just this week, Kimiko Date Krumm turned 40 and beat Maria Sharapova. In June, Francesca Schiavone won her first Grand Slam title at the French Open at the age of 29. Serena Williams may have been taken down by a beer bottle after Wimbledon, but at 28 she still managed to win two majors this year and is just as fearsome as ever.

I could go on and on, but let’s just say that age isn’t the restriction it used to be when it comes to tennis. However, on a side-note, Thomas Muster should really pack it in. I’m all for older guys sticking it out (I’m talking to you Marat Safin, why would you leave us at 29? I could’ve watched you for many years to come), but it’s just embarrassing for a former No. 1 to be losing in the first round of challenger events at 42.

Confessions of Tennis Players: The WTA Interviews Players About Life on the Tour

Ever saw how uncannily accurate some players serve? We all saw the Roger Federer video and like he says a magician never reveals his tricks (right back at ya!). I got a video of Agnieszka Radwanska who is doing a little target practice who deserves equally as much credit for being so incredibly accurate.

The WTA Tour’s video collection doesn’t stop there. Next video we have is an interview of  Flavia Pennetta with  a colorful description that matches her personality:

One of the most stylish players on the Tour, Flavia Pennetta, lives a glamorous life traveling the world. Or does she? We caught up with one of the brightest stars of women’s tennis to find out what life is like for Flavia off court. We found out how she relaxes, who she hangs out with, and most important of all: where she likes to go shopping.

Jarmila Groth is an emerging player who recently switched nationality from Slovakian to Australian. And that switch is what the next video is all about .

Jarka Groth – winner of the Landsky Lighting Guangzhou International Women’s Open – became an Australian citizen at the end of 2009. But how much does she really know about Australia? We thought we’d test her knowledge in our Unofficial Australian Citizenship Test. How do you think she did?

And yes do let us know how you think she did. I am always interested in people’s opinions so don’t hold back.

Next up is Akgul Amanmuradova.

Akgul Amanmuradova is a talented athlete. The Uzbek star is currently enjoying one of her best seasons on the WTA Tour to date, but it could have been very different. Because Akgul is also a talented basketball player, as we found out.

Not only is she a talented tennis player but she is 1.90 meters tall or as you Americans say 6 ft 3 inch. She can always try out for the WNBA if tennis doesn’t work out.

Another player who seems to have a second calling in this lifetime is none other than US Open 2010 winner Kim Clijsters. She took time out from US Open training and did one of the most honorable things in sports; Throw the first pitch in a baseball game.

What made Kim Clijsters take time out of training for the US Open to throw out the first pitch at the Mets Game? Was she nervous? Did she practice beforehand? Watch as WTA takes you behind the scenes at Citi Field Stadium.

Now for something different. Yesterday I wrote an article about Anna Kournikova being the poster girl for goodlooking Eastern European girls I have received not only five comments but also an incredibly insightful one.

YOU NEED TO GET YOUR HEAD EXAMINED AND YOUR EYES A GOOD CHECK OUT BECAUSE THERE ARE A HANDFUL OF EASTERN EUROPEAN GOOD LOOKING WOMAN SO GO TO THE DR THERE ARE MORE BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN SO MANY OTHER COUNTRIES SPAIN MEXICO AND THE BEST LOOKING WOMAN IVE EVER SEEN ARE FROM VENEZUELA GORGEOUS GIRLS ALL OF SOUTH AMERICA ARE GORGEOUS WOMAN AND DONT FORGET ‘BRAZIL’ THE BEST GORGEOUS AND THE BODIES TO DIE FOR NOBODY WOULD EVEN LOOK AT ANNA KOURNIKOVA THERE

Well apparently my mental health is just isn’t what it used to be. Neither are my eyes.  But I did check out the other countries having been to all the countries, except Venezuela, you mention.  And how can I forget Brazil when my ex fiancee hails from Brazil.

Very interesting comments you have there but in my article I did not exclude any of the other countries you mention. I never said that that Brazil, Venezuela, Spain and Mexico did not have goodlooking women. I merely pointed out that the Eastern European women on the tennis tour are incredibly goodlooking.  That is all.

And just to once again confirm the myth; Here is another video of the FHM shoot with Victoria Azarenka and Anna Chakvetadze.

And to bug you even more with Anna Kournikova I have added an extra bonus in the form of a gallery of Anna Kournikova and Martina Hingis playing an exhibition match at the US Open 2010.

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Please take a vote in our poll on the hottest Eastern European tennis player.

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Arthur Ashe: A Remembrance of Things Past

The largest tennis stadium in the world is named after him. The last major of the year is decided on his surface. Nothing could be more appropriate than to commend the efforts of a man, who not only changed the game, but changed the way we see things. One book does it better than the rest.

Mr. Ashe was low key, mild mannered, a shy man you could say, but his game and presence stood tall, brash, and personified individualism like none other. In Mike Towle’s book, I Remember Arthur Ashe: Memories of a True Tennis Pioneer and Champion of Social Causes by the People Who Knew Him by Cumberland House, we get a candid glance into the life of someone who hardly showed any emotions on the court, carried himself with the utmost class and dignity, and seemed impervious to the spotlight. Unlike most biographies, which typically consist of a laborious bulk of exposition and pastoral beginnings, Towle’s book is a narrative not of his own, but of the people that knew Arthur Ashe well, and some not so well, but relay an experience they had encountering the great tennis legend revealing a more human side of Ashe, one that has never been unveiled before.

The structure of the book is linear following Ashe’s career from its auspicious beginnings to the tragic end of losing a bout with AIDS, all told through personal friends and colleagues alike, and even at times the very subject himself. My favorite passage from the book, one that I think reveals his human side the most, is when Ashe recalls a match he had against tennis great John Newcombe in Sydney where he lost due to some good old fashioned day dreaming. ‘I remember I won the first set,’ Ashe recalls, ‘Then all of a sudden I started thinking about this stewardess, Bella, I had met. She was Miss Trinidad of 1962. I just kept seeing her – this gorgeous face, this beautiful creature – and the next thing I know the match is over and Newcombe won.’

This book is more than a book about a tennis player. It’s a book about being human, and few stories mirror Arthur Ashe’s journey. Here’s to you Arthur, and to you too Mr. Towle for a great idea.

Breast-Reduction Surgery Gains Simona Halep New Followers

The best match so far today at the US Open is the one between Simona Halep and Jelena Jankovic.  Jankovic barely won and survived a major scare in the first round of the final major of the year versus the 18 year old Romanian.

I recalled hearing the name Simona Halep before. I just couldn’t figure out where I got that name from. So I asked my big friend Google and I remembered fairly quicky who Simona was: Simona is the girl who had breast-reduction surgery a few months back.

In an interview with Belgian newspaper “De Pers” she told that she felt better after the surgery and that she didn’t care what others thought of it.

Halep also didn’t care much about the fact that her breasts often drew more attention than her qualities as a tennis player.  She complained that breasts would often get in the way of her game, were the cause of a serious backache and made it hard for her to serve. She would have also performed surgery even if she wasn’t a tennis player.

Halep may have disappointed her fans by reducing her breastsize but gained a new bunch of followers who like her for her tennis qualities.

Check the photos of Simona Halep before and after the breast-reduction surgery:

Before the surgery:

After the surgery:

Federer Defeats Djokovic to Advance to Rogers Cup Final

While it wasn’t quite as dramatic as his match last night against Tomas Berdych, Roger Federer still required three sets to narrowly dispose of Novak Djokovic tonight at the Rogers Cup. Federer defeated Djokovic 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 to advance to the finals where he will meet defending champion Andy Murray.

To say that one player is more deserving of another is perhaps not a fair statement – but in this case Federer was clearly the more consistent player despite the close margin on the scoreboard.

The first set was an embarrassment for Djokovic as he barely looked like a top-hundred player, let alone top five. He kept spraying his forehand long and his backhand into the net while Federer looked like his vintage self. His errors were not just a little off the mark, as his shots were hitting the bottom of the net and about one to two feet long at the baseline. The tennis player inside of me cringed multiple times watching him fumble around the court.

Roger won the first set in a mere 25 minutes, causing one fan to yell out, “That’s the Roger we know!” It certainly does seem like he is starting to round into form.

At the start of the second set the crowd broke into a cheer for the defeated Rafael Nadal who was standing courtside. Other than that outburst it had been fairly quiet on Centre Court with the throng of Serbian fans silenced as their star player slept-walked through the match to that point.

Federer continued to control the match by breaking in the opening game of the set. Djokovic at this stage was even shrugging his shoulders after winning a point. At this stage I could not comprehend how this guy ever hoped to seriously compete for another Grand Slam to add to the one he holds from 2008. There was no evidence of a killer instinct at all from Djokovic.

Things began to change when Djokovic barely held his second service game of the set to avoid going down by two breaks. He chuckled as he walked back to his chair and emerged playing a much different type of tennis. He broke Federer to tie things up at 2-2 and the rallies between the two resembled what you would expect from two high-level players such as these.

The crowd livened up and the chants of “Go Roger” and “Go Nole” became indistinguishable as the fans were clearly divided in their allegiances. Part of me felt sorry that Tomas Berdych could not enjoy any such support last night.

After a 15 minute game that contained 8 deuces, Djokovic would hold for 4-3. As has been so often the case here in Toronto this week, the player who was almost broken then broke his opponents serve and suddenly Novak was up 5-3. He would hold his serve in the next game and even things up at one set apiece.

I said hello to tournament Media and Communications Head Mike Cvitkovic just prior to the start of the third set and asked him his thoughts on the match, to which he replied, “Roger Federer is going to cost me my marriage!” It was certainly starting to look like another long, dramatic evening match at the Rexall Centre.

Instead of falling behind 1-4 tonight in the third, Federer raced out to a 4-1 lead. Later while serving at 4-2, Roger double faulted for 40-A and then a poor drop shot attempt allowed Djokovic to put it away and break serve to get back into the match.

At 5-5 Federer would flirt with disaster by falling behind 15-40 on his serve. Fortunately he could count on Djokovic to continue with his somewhat puzzling inconsistencies and got the game to deuce. A point later at Djokovic’s advantage and the Serb netted a return of serve to negate his third break opportunity. Federer let out an exuberant scream of, “Come on” while Djokovic busted up his racquet for – surprisingly – the first time all night.

At this point I’ve got no idea whatsoever of what will happen next. Isn’t that the beauty of tennis?

The pressure got to Djokovic as he served a 5-6 and after another deuce, two bad backhand errors handed Federer the victory.

When the two player shook hands after the final point, Djokovic appeared to take an extra moment with Roger and share a laugh. Federer was asked in his post-match press conference about these comments and revealed that Djokovic told him that he should have won the match earlier and therefore deserved the victory.Federer had the press room laughing as he followed that up by saying, “I was like, yeah, I kind of agreed!”

Despite the tense nature of his past two wins, Federer is on the cusp of his first tournament title since the Aussie Open in January. One immediate benefit to winning today is the fact that he will leap-frog Djokovic in the rankings and return to a somewhat more familiar position of number two in the world.

The forecast calls for rain and thundershowers on Sunday, but all things being equal we will have the Federer-Murray final beginning at 1:30pm ET.

Murray leads their head-to-head 6-5 although Federer has won all the big-money matches that occurred in tournament finals. Two of those victories were Grand Slam finals when the outcome mattered the most.

Federer revealed the respect he has for his next opponent by stating that Murray was, “…very good at a very young age. I knew that the very first time I played him in Bangkok in the final that he was one who was going to fight for the world No. 1 and for Grand Slam titles.”

Regardless of the outcome, this is the best tennis that both players have shown us in quite some time. In fact the pinnacle of 2010 for Murray and Federer came back at the Australian Open when they met in the final. Both are working hard towards coming full-circle with a potentially strong bookmark ending at Flushing Meadows in two weeks time.

The LA Open Preview

The Farmers Classic LA Open starts Monday July 26, one of the many US Open Series hard court tournaments lined up, touted as a ‘tune up’ event, one of many, preceding the Big Show at the end of the month in New York. Yours truly, the ubiquitous hooligan/tennis junkie/prominent writer for the ages (I’ll let you decide which one of those is not a cold hard fact) will be in attendance giving you the low down on every quirk, forehand, sigh, up the T ace, blistering hallway gossip, who’s who and who’s what, who’s doing this and who’s doing that, and a whole lot more…

The tournament boasts some hot talent attending with a couple of top ten players and a few rising to the occasion. British upstart Andy Murray, the no. 1 seed, and hungry as ever, will be playing the long standing event for the first time. Murray reached two slam finals losing both times to Roger Federer and seems ready to hoist a trophy on Super Sunday. Entering the LA Open confirms his will and desire to be at utmost preparedom for the pressure of getting there. But we all know getting there is only half the feat. Murray may face a tough first round opener if Russian Schizo Teymuraz Gabashvili wins his first match. The Russian may look like a typical plebian tennis player, making his way through some lower tier events into the second week, but lately has put together a potent all around game with gusto showing good runs at recent Grand Slams. Joining Murray in the top half of the draw is Ernest Gulbis, the eccentric Latvian, who looks like a grassy knoll hippie at times, but has put together an impressive resume of victims including Roger Federer this past clay court season in Rome.

The American contigent will be represented well with Sam Querry who has won the event prior, posing as the second seed, and Mardy Fish, who looks more like a top ten player lately than even Andy Roddick, who handed Roddick a straight sets defeat this past week in Alanta in the semis. James Blake enters as an all time low 14 seed who may be able to muster some momentum, but being placed on Murray’s side of the draw, less than likely. Some other notables include the most inconsistent tennis player in history, much to the chagrin of myself and others, Marcos Baghdatis, who has garnererd great results in the past on hard courts; Mr. Beautiful: Feliciano Lopez, and Argentinian high flyer Horacio Zeballos, who has been gaining some momentum as being the next big thing out of that land of tennis gold, which has produced the likes of the ever under achieving David Nalbandian, and 2009 US Open winner Juan Martin Del Potro, who is still ailing from a wrist injury. Stay tuned everybody for it may be a rockstar gala event as only LA can conjure, and with yours truly carousing the aisles in the thick of it all, stands not to dissapoint.