williams sister

Ana Ivanovic Splits with Coach – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Abrupt Ending

Few saw this one coming, but following her defeat to Italian Francesca Schiavone on the last day of the round robin competition at the WTA Championships, Elena Dementieva shocked fans with the announcement that she was retiring, effective immediately.  She later cited one of the main reasons behind her decision was the desire to start a family, and while tennis fans undoubtedly understand and wish her the best, the hard-hitting Russian will still be missed.  Arguably the best of her generation to have never won a major, she was a steady presence at the top of the women’s game.  Her serve may have been near the bottom of the barrel, but she could compete with the game’s biggest hitters stroke for stroke and played some of the most exciting matches against the game’s top stars.  So while her value may not be weighted the same as a Williams sister or one of the Belgians, Dementieva’s departure will leave a hole on the WTA Tour.

Nerves of Steel

Trying to win a top tier event like the WTA Championships when competing against the best players in the world is a difficult task in and of itself.  Managing to take the title after enduring a frightening car crash is a near impossible ask.  Yet that is exactly what Kim Clijsters did.  En route to play her semifinal match against Sam Stosur, a truck “came out of nowhere” to hit the car Clijsters was in.  Thankfully, the only person hurt in the accident was Clijsters’ manager Bob Verbeeck, who suffered some minor cuts from all of the shattered glass.  Hats off to Clijsters who quickly found her composure to reach the finals, where she took out the current World No. 1 Caroline Wozniaki in three sets.  After an ordeal like that, a fourth Grand Slam title might prove to be a walk in the park.

The Nightmare Continues

The frequently-injured Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is suffering from knee problems yet again.  After sitting out nearly three months following Wimbledon, Tsonga revealed that he has suffered a tear in the patella tendon while in Montpellier.  While there is a slight silver lining in that the injury is not as serious as the post-Wimbledon setback, he has been forced to heed his doctor’s advice and end his season early, which includes missing the trip to Belgrade as part of the French squad that will face off against Serbia for the Davis Cup title.  Tsonga has done much to get himself into better shape over the course of the past few years, and some players are naturally just more prone to injury.  But these recurring injuries might suggest that Tsonga needs to start searching for more solutions, be they tweaking his workout or perhaps adjusting his style of play.  As one of the most fascinating players on tour to watch, it would be shame to see the curtain fall on his career prematurely due to a multitude of injuries.

Leader of the Pack

The BNP Paribas Open will be leading the way as far as Hawkeye technology is concerned when the event is staged in 2011.  Tournament Director Steve Simon announced on Wednesday that not one, not two, not even three, but that all eight match courts will be equipped with Hawkeye.  This has to be welcomed news to players at all levels of the game, who will always have the option to challenge a call, irrespective of the fact that they may not be on one of the main show courts.  Spectators at the event can also relax at the Stadium Plaza, which will now provide feeds from three show courts, while the Garden Club displays will be providing feeds from two.  Bearing in mind that finances are a potentially large hurdle, hopefully other tournaments will follow suit with the BNP Paribas Open as the situation allows.

Coaching Split

Earlier this week Ana Ivanovic announced that she would be splitting with Steffi Graf’s former coach Heinz Gunthardt, as he is unable to be with her fulltime due to other commitments.  Gundthardt and Ivanovic began their relationship earlier this year, and they enjoyed success in a relatively short amount of time.  Ivanovic cut her ranking woes by more than half by going from 58th to 24th in the world, and she ended a two-year title drought with her win in Linz last month.  Having finally righted the ship and still in her early 20s, it is hard to imagine that there won’t be some high profile coach willing to pick up where Gundthardt left off.

ANOTHER SCALP FOR HENIN: THE FRIDAY FIVE

By Maud Watson

Henin Collects Another Scalp – The weekend before it was Flipkins and Pennetta, and this past weekend it was current world No. 20, Nadia Petrova. Henin once again vanquished her foe in straight sets in an exhibition match in Cairo. Granted, Henin has not faced the likes of either Williams sister, Clijsters, or any other Top 10 players for that matter, but there’s no denying that she’s looked sharp in the early stages of her comeback.  I, for one, am licking my chops to see what she can do at the 2010 Aussie Open.

The Ban is Lifted – It was nice to see the ITF end things on a positive note for 2009. After what I personally consider some questionable rulings on their part, I was thrilled to read that the ITF did the right thing by agreeing to suspend the bans that had been put on Belgian tennis players Yanina Wickmayer and Xavier Malisse. It is unfortunate that neither player will be able to play the Australian Open given that entries are now closed (unless of course someone is kind enough to offer them a wildcard), but at least they will not be subjected to losing an entire year of their careers.

Back in the Mix – At the end of last week, the IOC announced that Mixed Doubles would be a part of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. It’s been a long time since mixed doubles was included in the Olympics, with American Hall of Famers Richard Norris Williams II and Hazel Wightman being the last pair to compete and win in the event back in 1924. Not sure if it’s too early to start taking bets, but who’s got odds on Serbia or India taking gold?  (And who wishes there were still the possibility of seeing Federer and Hingis take on the competition?)

The Boys are Back In Town – The town of Abu Dhabi that is.  The exhibition will feature six of the world’s top 10 players on the ATP World Tour, including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.  The event was a great success in 2009, and it’s definitely shaping up as a great way to kick off the 2010 tennis season.

King Juan Carlos – In the annual Spanish Masters event, which was held in Bilbao Spain, Juan Carlos Ferrero proved he still had plenty of game left in the tank, when he defeated countryman Tommy Robredo in a three-set semifinal encounter before going on to take the title over Nicolas Almagro in three tight sets. It couldn’t have been a better way to end the year for the former world No. 1 and 2003 Roland Garros champion, who earlier this year had slipped to No. 115 in the rankings and required a wildcard to play in Wimbledon. He put together a remarkable summer and finished his year just outside of the Top 20.  Fingers crossed that he can build on this success in 2010 and fans around the world will treated to some vintage Ferrero.  Vamos!

Serena opens defense with 6-4, 6-1 win over Glatch

NEW YORK (AP)—Serena Williams has begun the quest for her fourth U.S. Open title with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Alexa Glatch.

Williams entered Monday’s play ranked second in the world behind Dinara Safina, even though Williams has won the Australian Open and Wimbledon this year and Safina is without a Grand Slam title.

Seeking her second straight U.S. Open championship, Williams hit 18 winners and had 19 unforced errors in an uneven start to the tournament. It was still good enough to beat Glatch, who earned a wild-card entry into the draw.

Williams’ sister, Venus, was scheduled to play Vera Dushevina of Russia on Monday night.