Oh, Right, And The Yanks…

So, while the wildcards have been decided for the Australians and the French, those darned Americans are still toughing it out down in Atlanta. After a couple of rounds and a load of drama, the finals have been decided. On the mens side, Ryan Harrison and Jack Sock are to face off against each other. While the Women’s final will see Coco Vandeweghe and Lauren Davis play for a spot in the Main Draw of the Australian Open.

A couple of really interesting matches here. Though he was pushed to 9-7 in the third set yesterday, Ryan Harrison will begin the match as favourite tomorrow, but that could quickly change. Jack Sock has already proved his worth this week, playing some great tennis in addition to shrugging off a sprained ankle to move through to the final. Either way, it should prove an intruiging battle between two of the USA’s brightest prospects.

After brushing aside Beatrice Capra, America’s “next big thing” Coco Vandeweghe will compete against Lauren Davis in the final of the Women’s wildcard playoff. Lauren Davis has been the story of 2010 as far as American juniors are concerned. She is currently on a 15 match winning streak in juniors, having clinched three of the most prestigious non-slam junior events – the Yucatan World Cup, Eddie Herr and the Orange Bowl. She also immediately broke through in the seniors, romping to victory in the Bayamon $25k event and defeating a number of fellow young American talents en-route. Let’s hope she can dispel of another one later on today.

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Sania Mirza Wins In Dubai

India’s Sania Mirza defeated fifth-seeded Bojana Jovanovski 4-6 6-3 6-0 in the final of the $75k Dubai ITF event, to clinch her biggest title of the year.

After a year torn apart by a chronic wrist injury and poor form, this is a pretty good win for 2010′s most googled female athlete, and the perfect way to finish the year. She’ll go to Australia full of confidence and optimism, and with a forehand that massive – who knows what could happen?

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Olivia Rogowska And Marinko Matosevic Clinch Australian Open Wildcards

Australia’s Olivia Rogowska and Marinko Matosevic were granted wildcards into the main draw of next month’s Australian Open after winning their respective wildcard playoff finals earlier today. Rogowska, 19, fought back from a first set blowout to defeat Jelena Dokic 1-6 7-6 6-3, while Matosevic, 25, toughed out a 6-1 1-6 6-3 4-6 6-4 victory over the top-seeded Peter Luczak.

What a surprise in the Women’s draw! Before the match, everything was pointing to a victory for Jelena. Olivia’s form prior to this week had been absolutely abysmal, and Jelena’s victory over Molik yesterday was brutal, but Olivia did so well to beat the odds and fight her way to victory. In the first set, Jelena was flawless – serving big and pummeling the ball consistently into the corner. She went up a break in the second, but Olivia immediately pegged back and just hung in. She soon adjusted to the blistering pace of Jelena’s shots, and soon she was redirecting Jelena’s pace and using it to her advantage. That coupled with the rain delays and Jelena’s form dropping, enabled Olivia to eventually clinch the match and the wildcard. A pretty impressive victory for Olivia – particularly the way in which she dug in deep and fought hard throughout the match. Hopefully this won’t have too much of a negative effect on Jelena either. She will most likely get a wildcard anyway, so hopefully she can continue to move forward and upwards.

And a good win and well-deserved wildcard for Marinko Matosevic. Still relatively young a 25, he has had a strong year on tour this year and is certainly capable of stealing a win or two in Australia next month.

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The Brat Pack: Anastasija Sevastova

“I’m working on serving and volleying more.”

It’s 2010 now, so since when do young players ever say things like that? Sure, they often speak about being “aggressive”, and they’re forever stressing the role that fitness plays in their tennis, but serving and volleying? Hell. No. I wouldn’t even be surprised if some of these young players have never even heard of the phrase. But Anastasija Sevastova sure has, and it is her willingness to incorporate variety into her tennis and to be led by intellect rather than instinct, that separates her from many of her contemporaries.

Born in Liepaja, Latvia. Sevastova’s prospects were bleak from the very beginning. With no tennis federation to fund her dream, a scarce amount of tournaments to compete in, and largely unchallenging opposition, she was forced to skip the junior circuit, competing in a grand total of three junior events (winning two). But she somehow made it work. After turning pro in 2005, the next four years would see a steady rise up the rankings as she conquered the ITF Circuit, qualified for her first Grand Slams and slowly began to experience success on the WTA Tour. However, this year would prove the real breakthrough year, with achievements including a first title in Estoril, a Premier Mandatory quarterfinal, plus upsets over Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic and Samantha Stosur.

Small but stocky, Sevastova assumes the role of an aggressive baseliner on court. Both groundstrokes are strong, versatile and solid, backed with an above average serve and reliable return. Her resourcefulness and intelligence is what sets her apart from the standard mould of aggressive baseliners; from her tendency to slice, to her ability to effortlessly play dropshot-lob combinations mildly reminiscent of Martina Hingis, and her willingness to move confidently into the forecourt. Mentally, Sevastova is a mystery. Half of the time she is dialled in and completely focused on her match, and the other half she looks like she’d rather be doing anything other than playing tennis.

Talented as Nastija Sevastova is, her game is still so rough around the edges. Will she ever be a world-beating top player? Not sure about that. But she could carve out a lucrative career for herself depending on her progress over the next couple of years. I almost feel like her breakthrough in Estoril was slightly too early. She may be the same age as the current world number one, but her game is still developing and having skipped juniors, her competitive juices are yet to fully come alive. She still has a lot to learn before we see what she is really capable of, but that’s why the next few years will be unnervingly exciting for Nastija Sevastova.

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Benoit Paire and Virginie Razzano Awarded French AO Wildcards

Benoit Paire and Virginie Razzano have been awarded the French reciprocal wildcards into the 2011 Australian Open. Paire, 21, will be making his debut at the Australian Open next year, while Razzano, 27, has competed at the event ten times.

Perfect picks from the FFT. On the Women’s side, many were hoping and expecting Kristina Mladenovic to take the wildcard, but thankfully they were wrong. Had it not been for her injury woes in 2010, Virginie would have undoubtedly made it into the main draw on merit, so it was the appropriate decision, especially considering how well she used her US Open wildcard last year.

As you can guess, I am especially thrilled about the men’s wildcard. The FFT and Benoit have had their problems in the past (hence his MDWC snub at this year’s French Open), but it’s great to see them swallow their pride and award him with the wildcard. He’s one of their biggest talents coming up, and with his mentality he needs all the help he can get. Let’s hope he can deliver in Australia.

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Quotable Quotes: Lovable Aussie Newspapers Bash Tomic

“Tennis stars are historically encouraged to boost themselves as the best things since Pat Cash’s headband.”

“Tomic appears to have assumed this sense of self-importance, even though he has not yet assumed the sporting status that would qualify him to.”

“It could have been a 24-hour thing, of course. Sniffles can be like that.”

“Some, like Lleyton Hewitt, can get away with being obnoxious. You mightn’t want Hewitt at your backyard barbecue – imagine the outburst if he was offered a burnt sausage – but he has won Grand Slams.”

*snort* I won’t be disputing any of that.

Source.

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British Women To Rule The World In 2011

The 2011 British Fed Cup team was named today, with Elena Baltacha, Anne Keothavong, Heather Watson and Laura Robson all called up to represent the country next year. Considering Britain have forever found themselves falling at the final hurdle in the Fed Cup competition, could these additions be what the team need to push them that one step further?

On a separate note, in light of all the AO Wildcard playoffs going on in the US and Australia, I feel like Wimbledon need to hurry up and get their own reciprocal arrangement with the other slams. I get that we haven’t had too many good juniors in recent times, but it could have provided both Heather and Laura with the opportunity to experience the main draw of a slam away from all of the pressures and drama that come with being a Brit at Wimbledon. But as usual, instead of making decisions based on common sense and for the benefit of their players, the LTA/Wimbledon Committe/whoever it is continue to make these decisions based on the old pretentious country club tradition. A shame.

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Style Vs Substance: Rogowska And Dokic Through

A comparison between Olivia Rogowska and Alona Bondarenko was offered to me today, and the more I think about it, the more it seamlessly fits together. There are so many similarities between the two; from the fluid movement, to the manner in which the pair excel at manipulating the ball around the court with deceptively powerful and flat strokes. Both specialize in using the full length and width of the court extremely well, and both avoid moving into the forecourt at all costs. Most signficantly however, is that I see in Rogowska a flaw that has wreaked havoc throughout Bondarenko’s career. The problem of style over substance.



www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKcCwt2SHyQ

That flaw was on show in its full glory today. From start to finish, Rogowska was the aggressor in her match against Ferguson. Her fluid, attractive strokes wreaked havoc on the older Aussie, and anyone with no knowledge of either player would have believed Rogowska to be the player ranked around the top 130. After all, she had more firepower, a stronger serve and her defence was far more impressive. Yet the final scoreline was considerably tight — 7-6 6-4 to Rogowska. Why? Well, the answer is simple. Every time the figurative excretement hit the fan, Rogowska would fail to deliver the definitive blow — hitting double faults, routine errors and her level just generally dropping off. Aesthetically, her game still looked great. But as the pressure rises, it becomes insanely tough to hit the same risky shots she was hitting at 1-1 in the first set.

Still, she does deserve a hell of a lot of credit. After all, it was a miracle that she was able to even record one win this week, considering she arrived here off the back of a double bagel defeat to the world #390, Mihaela Burzarnescu. And as a fan, I couldn’t be more pleased with her progress. Following Rogowska’s victory, Jelena Dokic and Alicia Molik took to the court in their highlighy-anticipated semifinal match. But it was hardly a match as Jelena stormed through, dropping only 4 games en-route to securing her finals berth. Tomorrow the pair will meet in the final of the AO Playoffs. In stark contrast to Olivia, Jelena prides herself on being 100% about substance. That’s not to say Dokic’s game is ugly — her strokes have always been astonishingly pleasing to the eye, and when at her best, not many hit the ball as powerful and cleanly as Dokic, but she knows her priorities and she sticks to them. Let’s hope that in time, Olivia Rogowska will learn to do exactly the same.



www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiwKI9U3P00

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And Then There Were Four: Australian Open Playoffs Semi-final Preview

The Round Robin group stages have been completed and out of the four groups come Olivia Rogowska, Sophie Ferguson, Jelena Dokic and Alicia Molik. It’s pretty great how this all turned out – though not seeded 1-4, these players really are the 4 most deserving semi-finalists, and were undoubtedly locks for wildcards regardless of what happened. We have the two former top tenners in Alicia Molik and Jelena Dokic, then we have Sophie Ferguson who is edging towards the top 100, and then Australia’s brightest young hope, Olivia Rogowska. So let’s take a closer look.

[2] Sophie Ferguson vs [5] Olivia Rogowska
It’s been a long and hard year for Olivia Rogowska, after all the expectations that came with a semi-breakthrough 2009, it all went horribly wrong. One of the most poignant images was her going from almost taking out the world’s number one tennis player at the biggest stadium and tournament in the world one week, to competing in an Aussie $25k in front of about 10 people, in a club smaller the Arthur Ashe Stadium itself the very next week. The massive contrast in environment had her flying head first back down to earth. Suddenly, the slippery slope was in motion as her motivation to play these tiny events evaporated, which in turn led to her performing poorly, which of course meant she lost all confidence and belief in her game, and suddenly she was out of the top 200 and in a deep hole. Her nadir came at the end of last month when she was double bageled by the 390th ranked Mihaela Burzarnescu.

For Sophie Ferguson however, this year has been full of positives. A career high of 109 in July, the highlights of the 24 year-old’s season include reaching the finals of the Biarritz $100k and qualifying before defeating Wimbledon semi-finalist Petra Kvitova at this year’s French Open. Amongst the likes of Sam Stosur, Jelena Dokic and Alicia Molik, she is often the forgotten Aussie, but she shouldn’t be.

I see this match going either way. Sophie Ferguson undoubtedly begins the match as the firm favourite, taking to account their ranks and their respective year on tour, but at the same time I am actually liking Rogowska’s chances. Her opponents this week may pale in comparison to Ferguson, but I think the 19 year-old’s three matches have really given her a chance to dial herself in and hit the ball far cleaner than she has done over the last couple of months. She has the goods to brush aside Ferguson, and I am beginning to think she will do just that.

[1] Alicia Molik vs [3] Jelena Dokic
The second match of the day, and easily the marquee match of both draws, pits old friends Alicia Molik and Jelena Dokic against each other. We all know these players. In the red corner we have the former world number eight Alicia Molik. Her best result at the Australian Open came in 2005 when she reached the quarterfinals before playing an incredible match before losing 9-7 in the third to Lindsay Davenport. It was a heartbreaking loss, even more-so since she put up one of the greatest performances of her career in that match. However, Molik today is at a completely different point in her career. After retiring and then re-retiring like the WTA player she is, Molik’s second career has been quite underwhelming, with countless first round exits and blowouts to lower-ranked players. Still, she asserts that she is at peace with her career, and she is enjoying this second chance as her career winds down.

In the blue corner sits Jelena Dokic. Former world number four, her best performance at the Australian Open came, of course, at the incredible tournament of 2009. Jelena’s progress through the Australian Open in 2009 is one of those tennis moments that will stay with you for a long, long time. And rightly so. However, since the 2009 Australian Open, Jelena’s last two years on tour have been characterised by a series of bad luck. Countless illnesses and injuries have plagued her, and her yo-yo weight stemming back to her days of depression have further complicated things. But throughout all this hardship, she has kept her spirit and is as determined as ever.

Both players may enjoy serving big and crushing their groundstrokes, but this remains an interesting match-up. While Alicia’s serve is undoubtedly the more potent and consistent, both of Jelena’s groundstrokes easily outmatch Molik’s. Thus, Molik will inevitably be hoping to serve well and turn this match into a “who blinks first” serving contest. With Jelena’s serve so double fault-prone, this would swing the match dramatically in Alicia’s favour. For Jelena, the key of the match will be to get as many returns back and dominate Molik in the rallies. Should be a cracking match.

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Serena Williams Withdraws From Doha. What A Liar!

Remember a couple of months ago when that lying, fat slag of a world number one pulled out of the US Open (and all tournaments leading up to it) because she wanted to eat McDonalds and attend movie premieres? Well, we thought she had finally put down the act, but it turns out she hasn’t. After withdrawing from Linz last week, she has now decided to play skip the Year End Championships after “re-injuring” her tendon and having “surgery” on it (yeah, like we believe her). She now gets to sit out for the rest of the year while attending as many events as possible, and eating all the McDonalds she likes. I’m sure she’s estatic.

But seriously, yes, Serena is out. She posted on her website confirming the news that she did indeed undergo surgery again yesterday. What’s worrying is that the injury took just about 3 months to heal the last time round. The Australian Open is also 3 months away. Will she be fit in time to defend her her title? I mean, by now we all know that she could still win a major (especially the Australian Open) without even stepping on court for six months beforehand. But still.

Guess the dreaded boot will be making a reappearance in the near future.

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