virginia slims

WHERE IS BRITISH WOMEN’S TENNIS?: 25 YEARS SINCE ANNABEL CROFT’S BRITISH WIN

Today, April 28, 2010, marks the 25th anniversary of the last fully British female to win a WTA Tour singles title (Monique Javer won a WTA Tour singles title in 1988 but was only half British). On 28th April 1985, 18-year-old Annabel Croft of Great Britain, ranked No. 83 at the time defeated world No. 7 Wendy Turnbull 6-0, 7-6(5) to win the Virginia Slims of San Diego and her first WTA Tour Title, causing much excitement amongst the British press. The young British hopeful never rose to expectations caused by this victory and failed to win another title before quitting her professional career in 1988.

I doubt this statistic will bring a smile to the already frowning LTA reeling from the recent government report on their expenditure. But who within the British camp is remotely ready to step up and claim the next WTA tour singles title?

British No. 1, Elena Baltacha has certainly had a wonderful start to the year rising to a ranking high of No. 59, memorably beating world No. 10 Li Na in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells only to lose in the next round to Alicia Molik. She is currently training in preparation for the WTA event in Rome and it remains to be seen if she can produce back to back performances throughout the course of a tournament to win her first WTA title.

Britain’s Anne Keothovong and Katie O’Brien both won their first round matches of the Grand Prix De Sar La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Morocco. Keothovong recovered from an embarrassing second set performance to defeat France’s Julie Coin to win 6-3, 0-6, 6-4, but her form this year after being forced out of the game for six months due to a knee injury has hardly given enough evidence to suggest enough consistency to flip the coin of British tennis fortunes in the near future. Fellow Brit, O’Brien defeated France’s Pauline Parmentier 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 and commented “I was really pleased to come through my first match of the year on clay, especially as I haven’t had ideal preparation. I only started hitting on the clay a few days ago, as I was stranded in South Africa for six days where there weren’t any clay courts. I had to take five flights over two days to get to Fes, but I’ve recovered well, all considered. I’m now looking forward to tomorrow’s match against Renata Voracova. I lost to her last year in three sets on the clay, so I’m aiming to get my revenge.” She received more good news when it was confirmed that she had been given the key to a main draw entry in the French Open following the withdrawal of Sania Mirza. Out of the three, O’Brien is the less likely to emulate Croft’s singles victory considering her lack of victories over top ranked players.

Meanwhile, 16-year-old Laura Robson recently reached the semifinals of the $50k event in Alabama after winning five consecutive matches in the USA, battling to a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory over the world No. 144 Sophie Ferguson of Australia in the quarterfinals; an excellent indication of the consistency of Robson throughout a tournament considering she also came through two matched in the qualifying rounds. She also went on a fine run to the quarterfinals in the doubles with fellow Brit Heather Watson. Could Robson be the one to break the 25 year wait?

Robson’s achievements in Alabama have seen her rise an impressive 46 places to a career high of No. 269 in this week’s WTA singles rankings. She also sits at No. 103 in doubles, another career high due to her great run of form that saw her reach the semi finals in doubles at the $25k event in Osprey, Florida the week before. I have a feeling we may need to wait a little while longer for our young star to win a WTA singles title, however perhaps she will be the one to bring home a Grand Slam too; we can only dream.

Melina Harris is a freelance sports writer, book editor, English tutor and PTR qualified tennis coach. For more information and contact details please visit and subscribe to her website and blog at http://www.thetenniswriter.wordpress.com and follow her twitter updates via http://www.twitter.com/thetenniswriter.   She is available for freelance writing, editing and one to one private teaching and coaching.

The Greatest Match of All-Time?

There has been much talk about the greatest match of all-time. The last two Wimbledon finals (Rafael Nadal defeating Roger Federer 9-7 in the fifth set in the 2008 final and Federer edging Andy Roddick 16-14 in the fifth  set in 2009) certainly are integral part of this conversion. One match that deserves consideration is the 1996 final of the year-end ATP Tour World Championship between Pete Sampras and Boris Becker. The summary of this match, as well as other events that also happened on November 24, are documented below in this book excerpt from ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com).

November 24

1996 – Pete Sampras and Boris Becker play what many say is one of the greatest matches of all-time, with Sampras fending off Becker and a raucous pro-German crowd 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4), 6-7 (11), 6-4 to win the year-end ATP Tour World Championship in Hannover, Germany. Sampras says the match is perhaps the most dramatic of his career. “This is one of the best matches I have ever been part of,” says Sampras. “This is what the game is all about. It’s not the money, it’s not all that, it’s the great matches.’

1996 – Steffi Graf needs five sets to defeat 16-year-old Martina Hingis 6-3, 4-6, 6-0, 4-6, 6-0 to capture the year-end Chase Championships at Madison Square Garden in New York. Graf wins despite twisting her knee in the seventh game of the fourth set. Hingis, herself, considered quitting the match after pulling her left thigh muscle in the fourth set.

1991 – Seventeen-year-old Monica Seles wins the year-end Virginia Slims Championships, defeating Martina Navratilova 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 in a rematch of the U.S. Open women’s singles final. The win ends one of the most lucrative years in the history of women’s tennis as Seles wins three major singles titles – the Australian Open, the French Open and the U.S. Open – as well as 10 tournament titles. She reaches the final of all16 tournament she enters and earns $2.457 million in prize money, a record at the time.

1999 – Andre Agassi defeats top rival Pete Sampras 6-2, 6-2 in round robin play at the year-end ATP Tour World Championships in Hannover, Germany. Playing only his third match after recovering from hip and back injuries, Sampras gives much of the credit to Agassi for his victory, ”I was a touch rusty, but it had a lot to do with Andre,” Sampras says. ”It’s not an excuse, he clearly outplayed me.” Says Agassi, “On my best day, I couldn’t beat Pete 2 and 2 if he’s playing what he’s capable of. I could have everything go well for me and I am not going to beat him 2 and 2.” Says Sampras of his rivalry with Agassi, “When we are both playing well, on top of our game, there’s a good chance we’ll get through these tough matches and meet in the finals or semis of the Slams. If that happens, we can definitely take this game to a whole new level, especially in the United States.”

1969 – Neale Fraser, the retired Australian tennis standout and current insurance salesman, is named captain of the Australian Davis Cup team. The 36-year-old Fraser replaces Australia’s legendary Harry Hopman, who steers the Australian Davis Cup team for 22 years – and 16 titles – since 1939. Fraser goes on to captain the Aussie Davis Cuppers for one more year than Hopman – a record 23 years – and guides Australia to four titles.