A couple of months ago we heard that Aga Radwanska had suffered a stress fracture in her foot and would be out for the next 9997 months. Doctors had told her to pull out from the Australian Open, but she stubbornly refused to do so until the last moment. Crazily enough, it turns out that she made the right decision. As of today, it is confirmed that she will be competing in Melbourne next month. Much to the shock and surprise of her team and doctors, she is now hitting for around four hours per day with sister Ula Rad, and though she is still afraid to push her foot to the limit, she is apparently completely pain-free.
Lauren Davis and Ryan Harrison took the reciprocal USTA Australian Open wildcards on sunday, after winning their respective playoff finals. Davis, 17, romped to a 6-2 6-2 victory over the more experienced Coco Vandeweghe, while Harrison, 18, gained his wildcard with a hard-fought 7-6 (3) 6-2 6-7 (4) 6-4 victory over US Open Junior champion Jack Sock.
Over the last few days, it has been quite surprising to see just how unknown Lauren Davis is to the press and many of the most diehard fans. This year she has won three major junior titles in addition to transitioning a $10k futures and $25k Challenger title in her resume already, and so I assumed that there would at least be a buzz surrounding her. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. If you cast your minds back to 2008 when Coco Vandeweghe won the US Open at 18, the hype was almost unbearable. She was being widely being touted as the “next Lindsay Davenport”, and wildcards were being thrown at her left and right. Even though her immediate results earlier on were completely underwhelming, there was still a massive hype surrounding her and she has an abnormally large following. When she finally broke through with some solid results throughout this year, the hype machine went into overdrive. I think this match is a big reminder that hype doesn’t equal results. While Vandeweghe has been basking in all the attention, Davis has been working hard to continue to improve her game, and though she is three years Vandeweghe’s junior, it is Lauren Davis who will be going to Australia with a wildcard into the main draw.
As for Harrison, this is a great victory for him. It seems like he hasn’t been playing particularly well this week, but his work ethic and fight has driven him through this draw. After his strong showing at the US Open this year, he will be looking to do even better in Australia. And you know what? I think he’ll do just that. Sock has also had a very encouraging week, and from the various reports from this event, it seems like he is bonafide talent for the future. Definitely worth keeping an eye on in 2011.
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.
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?
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.