Tag Archive | Nicole Vaidisova

Indian Wells: Crushings and crushes.

1. Ancic’s comeback lasted only two matches before he was crushed by Nadal, 62 62.

Oh Rafa. So mean to Super Mario. 😦

I’ll forgive you though, because you’re wearing those awful ‘grilled steak’ pants and need all the compassion you can get.

Surely Rafa has some input into Nike’s designs for him? If yes, then we need to convert Anna Wintour to Rafaelism, ASAP. If not, the Nadal team needs threaten that unless Nike comes up with better designs, Rafa will play pantless.

I’m sure many of us won’t mind.

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2. Talk about crushings, two Aussie women are through to the fourth round of Indian Wells after Sammy brushed past Pavsies, 63 60 in just over an hour. It’ll be a fun one next against a newly coachless Vera Zvonareva, who also sailed past Serbian-killer Ana Sevastova, 62 63.

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3. As some players sailed, others suffered crushing defeats. I don’t remember the last time I saw Fernando Verdasco bagelled. He looked listless and miserable as he flubbed his way to a 60 63.

All credit to Birdy, le Beautiful. Sometimes, when he gets on a roll, the only person who can stop him is himself.

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4. I missed the match completely: MJMS old-schooled Vika for a 76 62 win.

In related news, she is still my girl-crush. Flavs, who fizzled out in the third set against Shahar Peer, has been demoted.

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5. Match of the day between one of the most underrated players of the WTA – Sara Errani and one of the most overrated, Lady Jaja.

It was error-prone and exhausting. The momentum swung like a pendulum in a grandfather clock, yet somehow, it managed to stay entertaining.

JJ remained incapable of putting away a short ball to save her own arse, but the girl managed to run Errani ragged in the end. I’d love to see Sara E do some damage during the clay season.

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6. Talk about drama and pendulum swings, Alisa Kleybanova sweat-squeezed Mama Barbie right out of Indian Wells in a see-saw 64 16 76(4) win. Kim led 3-0 in the final set, and 4-0 in the tiebreak before Kleybs rallied back to play the match on her terms.

IT’S BALLBASHING YOU CAN BELIEVE IN FOLKS.

TYPE IN CAPS LOCK.

BE EXCITED.

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7. Nikki Vee retires from tennis at the age of 20. She is set to marry Wormy in July. Hands up if you thought she was the real deal at the age of 17?

Don’t be hard on yourselves/me.

Just realised for the first time that Nicole Vaidisova’s younger than me. The fact that she’s about to retire and get married just a year out of her teens both depresses and scares me shitless.

Any bets there’ll be a comeback within 3 years?

Uhuh.

xx doots

Picket Fence Newsreel: the star to every wandering bark.

Shakespeare once said that it is love that guides lost ships home. Personally, I call it GPS.

But what of the lost ships of the ATP and WTA tours? What keeps them playing instead of disappearing into the Moor of Lost Souls? What stands in between a bad month, a bad year and permanent retirement?

Perhaps Willy the Bard was onto something.

Attempting to fight their way out of the Moor of Lost Souls this week, Nicole Vaidisova and Michaella Krajicek both scored their first WTA wins since last June, with Vaidisova defeating Laura Granville 6-4, 6-2 and Krajicek battling past Julia Schruff 2-6, 6-1, 6-2.

I don’t like to talk about Nicole Vaidisova. She depresses me.

Something about her fall from grace makes Dinara Safina’s slam struggles look like a tea party. At this point, the only good thing I can say about Nikki Vee is that … she’s only 20. There is still time.

Also with a first tour win since getting injured last July, Anne Keothavong defeated Kristina Barrois 6-1, 6-3 in Memphis.

Meanwhile injury comebacks are all the rage on the ATP, Carlos Moya downed Filippo Volandri 6-2, 7-5 in the opening round of Buenos Aires, while David Nalbandian sailed past Potato Star Ace 62 76.

“It was a good comeback. I hesitated very little, hardly at all. I’ll take things day by day. I’ll need four, five, six tournaments to [get back] the rhythm of the circuit.” – Nalbandian

We may scoff at the residents of the Moor of Lost Souls – those players struggling with injuries and their own marbles – but sometimes I wonder, what is it that keeps them playing, day after day, when things aren’t working out?

Perhaps they have unfinished business left. Perhaps it’s that perennial question, “what else am I going to do?”

Perhaps it goes back to the very reason why they picked up a racket in the first place.

Roger Federer is no wandering bark. He’s parked safely in the Bay of Love after dominating the ATP Awards for 2009.

The Fed got the nod for 3 categories – Player of the Year (based on rankings), Fans’ Favourite (online poll) and the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award (selected by fellow players).

Blah-blah-blah-Fed-softens-his-rivals-with-strategic-niceness-and-baby-diapers.

I remember hearing a story years ago about James Blake receiving only one “get well” card during his spinal injury. It was from Roger.

It’s hardly a surprise then, that Fed’s 6th consecutive Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award is a record. But oh – never mind the judgement of his peers.

ROGER FEDERER IS STILL A DOUCHEBAG.

Full results:

Doubles Team of the Year (rankings selected): Bob and Mike Bryan (5th win in 7 years)
Most Improved Player of the Year: John Isner
Newcomer of the Year: Horacio Zeballos
Comeback Player of the Year: Marco Chuidinelli
Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year (ATP selected): MalVai Washington
Masters 1000 Tournament of the Year: Shanghai
Masters 500 Tournament of the Year: Dubai (5th win in 6 years)
Masters 250 Tournament of the Year: Bastad (8th win in a row)
ATPWorldTour.com Fans’ Doubles Favourite (online voting): Bob and Mike Bryan


In other news, top seeds Elena Dementieva, Flavia Pennetta, Caroline Wozniacki and Svetlana Kuznetsova were all upset in Dubai. In Memphis, there’ll no rematch between Roddick and Verdasco, as Nando was ousted by Jeremy Chardy in straight sets.

I doubt that it was what he had in mind when he entered the tournament, but somehow, I don’t think Nando’s too bummed about having that extra week to prepare for the Davis Cup.

xx doots

Offseason Newsreels: Open trials. Secret Weddings.

UPDATE: Yanina Wickmayer and Xavier Malisse have been removed from the list of suspended players and are now eligible to play tournaments. Will Craig Tiley give a wildcard to Wicky, who is obviously grossly over-qualified for the qualification rounds?

 

1. Despite having her one year ban suspended, the ITF claims that Yanina Wickmayer is still not eligible to play.

ITF spokesman Nick Imison said Tuesday that both players are still banned “until such point that we receive any further communication to suggest otherwise”.

Imison said the ITF is waiting to hear from the Belgian national anti-doping agency before it can make a formal ruling of their eligibility.

“Basically, it’s up to (them) to liaise with the Belgian court and make its decision based on that and inform us. As of last night, we hadn’t received any official correspondence at all.”

 

 

Since the Belgian ruling, Wicky was offered a wildcard to play at Auckland. She is also hoping for a wildcard to the Australian Open.

But the ITF maintains that the ban is still in force. “At this precise moment, she is ineligible to play,” Imison said.

“From our point of view, procedures are clear, and that if a decision is made by a national anti-doping authority, then these are sent though to us and then the ITF needs to make sure proper procedure has been followed,” Imison said. “At this stage, all we can say is that we await to receive the kind of relevant documentation and ruling from Belgium.”

Questions left unanswered:

  1. Does the Belgian court actually have jurisdiction for this or is it purely advisory?
  2. If the Belgian court does have jurisdiction over the matter, then surely its decision voids the bans? 
  3. On what authority then does the ITF or the Belgian national anti-doping authority propose to ‘liaise’ with a Court or to even consider the ban to be still in place after a court ruling declaring otherwise? The last time I checked, being assholes isn’t a legitimate ground.
  4. In addition to domestic courts, Wickmayer and Malisse have also appealed to the Court of Arbitration and the European Human Rights Commission. So whose decision counts here? Is the ITF bound to listen to any of these so-called courts, commissions or tribunals? 

One thing is for certain, you won’t find the answer to any of these in the media coverage on the matter. Most reports seem to accept that the ITF is free to just ignore a court ruling and Wickmayer can appeal to whoever the hell she wants. But what are the implications?

Does anyone – the ITF, WADA, the tournaments, Wickmayer and Malisse themselves included – actually know what’s going on? 

 

2. Nicole Vaidisova has won her first match in 6 months, defeating Katalin Marosi 26 64 64 round 1 at the ITF Dubai 75k tournament.

Yes. It has come to that. 

Word is that her current coach is Eric van Harpen, who used to work with MariKiri. 

 

3. The Swiss have a thing for marrying pregnant girlfriends in uber-secret weddings.

 Stanislas Wawrinka wedded his heavily pregnant concubine Ilham Vuilloud in a private civil ceremony on December 12. (Thanks FortuneCookie, HCFoo

 

 

Dude, couldn’t you have shaved for your own wedding? 

 

 

The couple is expected to have another wedding next year, after the birth of their child (children?!) in February. 

“We shall celebrate our union in a church ceremony with lots of guests when our child is able to carry our rings,” she said. (Swissinfo)

I can’t wait. Baby Stan will cause ovaries all around the world to flutter with excitement. Err, that is if ovaries are capable of fluttering. 

 

4. I hate agreeing with Pat Cash, but I do. The former Wimbledon champ had some sombre things to say about the state of tennis in this country.

 

”To be perfectly honest, it would be good to see greater depth in the Australian Open play-offs. 

”The reality is, even if they [the Aussies] dominate, to win a round in the Australian Open is still a big ask. If any of them get through and win a round or two, that’s a great achievement.

”In many ways Australia is behind the rest of the world, unfortunately.”

 

Cash is also reserving judgement on Bernard Tomic.

 

”I’m reluctant to say that he’s going to be a superstar, it’s not possible to judge that.

”He’s got work to do on his game, he’s got a lot of improvement and that’s a good thing.

”I wouldn’t expect him to set the world on fire in the next couple of years but in time, if he keeps working on his game, in two or three years he might be able to knock on some doors, the top 100 or top 50.

”He’s got a lot of potential but I’d be reluctant to say this is the kid to watch, it just adds too much pressure.”

”Bernard Tomic and some of those young guys should be getting through events and winning a round or two if they’re going to be world champions,” Cash said. ”I don’t think people realise how tough it is, particularly in the men’s game. It’s brutal.

”It’s a big difference to 20 years ago when I first started, there were some guys who weren’t very good.

”The girls, if they have a good run, can win a couple of matches if they’re lucky.”

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

 

It’s a sad state of affairs folks, and like Cash, I ain’t jumping on the Tomic bandwagon yet.

I’m not even sure that I want a seat on that bandwagon after Tomic’s snubbing of Hewitt at Wimbledon this year. I may not be the biggest fan of Hewitt, but the guy deserves more respect and less jealousy from the little twat.

 

5. Marat Safin has been elected vice president of Russian Olympic Committee.

What when how WHY?!

Oh, and he’s due to play in Buenos Aires this week, along with Moya and Nalbandian. 

 

6. I have no idea what the hell they’re even talking about, but this was way below the belt. 

 

 

 

Ouch. Who the hell is Skip Bayless and who is he to trash talk Andy Roddick for being one of the top 5 players of this decade?

 

Rrrrrrude.

xx doots

Basel: You have my permission to FRAZZLE.

If you were Novak Djokovic: you’ve played two bad matches, two good ones. You’ve posted good results all year, but with a terrible record in finals. And now you are presented with an opportunity to take out Roger Federer in Roger Federer Stadium, in front of his home crowd, right before the last Masters Series tournament of the year, is that extra motivation?

Or is that just Dootsie freaking out on a finals day over some potato-nosed douchebag from Basel? 

 

 

Like Stan the day before, Radek Stepanek had his chances, 3 match points in fact, and all credit to Nole for digging himself out of trouble with good serves and solid play. But he’s going to need some extra motivation … or for Roger to be off his game a little, which I’ve been waiting for all week, but it actually hasn’t happened.

I never thought I’d say this, but I miss the days when Novak Djokovic was just a pain in the ass. What happened to him? He learnt political correctness. He learnt to pay lip service to the press and other players. He learnt to downtalk his own game. He’s a lot nicer a person, less spectacular a tennis player. Like so: 

 

I wouldn’t say necessarily it was my good shots that prevented the loss. It was luck only,” Djokovic said. “I just tried to get some first serves in and at least get that advantage. On this (hard-court) surface, it’s crucial.”

Source: AFP

 

Must admit, I rather enjoyed the tensions between Jelena Ristic and Nikki Vee more than the match itself. Pumpkin-coloured and over-animated she might be, Jelena Ristic is full of win. 

 

 

 

Some ‘Federnelli’ piccies to warm your ovaries. Unless you don’t have one, in which case, you poor deprived child. 

 

 

 

How far we’ve come: okay shit, I love Rafa too.

I’m on a youtube binge again for old US Open series ads. Remember this? 

 

 

Oh Rafa! I love you and your … tongue.

With Federer doing alright again, I am feeling rather treacherous. 

A brunette Kuzzy, fringeless Sharapova, and a still relevant Vaidisova … ah the good old days. 

 

I think I still like the old road trip ads better. Here’s one from Fed last year that didn’t get a lot of airing time. 

Okay, maybe I’m not feeling that treacherous after all. 

 

Vodpod videos no longer available.

crushed bricks, smashed hopes.

Trivia: who in the WTA has the highest winning/loss ratio this year? (answer at the bottom of the post) 

 

Not much I can say about the men’s draw – take a wild guess as to who I think is going to win.

 

The only thing I might add is that the Draw Gods have not been kind – not only is Rafael Nadal the only real contender for the Roland Garros trophy, but he’ll be able to do it without having to face the double hurdle of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. Roger, on the other hand, would have to really earn his spot in the finals if he wants to defend his points there. Either way, I’m not putting anyone straight through to the semifinals at this stage except for Nadal, so I’m not even going to think about Djokovic v Federer until the middle of week 2. 

 

 

 

 

On the other hand, the women’s draw is as open as the men’s draw is closed. Picks are useless, but also damn fun, so here are mine: 

 

 

  1. Dinara Safina: the clear favourite, Safina’s got all the momentum with her, and the determination to prove her worth as the world no 1. Plus I’ve got a new theory: Safina 08-09 = Ivanovic 07-08. Berlin –> Roland Garros finalist –> Australian Open finalist –> Roland Garros winner. See how history works in perfectly repetitive narratives? One slight complication – she has by far the hardest draw out of all the contenders with Azarenka and Ivanovic in her quarter. 
  2. Venus Williams: results will show that Venus hasn’t had the ideal lead-up to Roland Garros, but history will tell you that if your surname was Williams, you don’t need no stinkin’ lead up. Unfortunately, Lisicki second round could complicate things a la Aussie Open.
  3. Svetlana Kuznetsova: you say no, the draw says yes, given that I don’t see Serena getting far with one good leg. 
  4. Caroline Wozniacki: I don’t really see it happening for Caroline to be honest, but it’s a choice of her, JJ and Elena D in that section of the draw, and recent form dictates that I pick her over the other two.

 

 

So not happenin’ for…

 

  • Ana Ivanovic: Ana’s becoming more and more forgettable these days. Get ready to say bye-bye to ranking points. 
  • Jelena Jankovic: if you had asked me who would win Roland Garros 3 months ago, I would’ve picked JJ. She has actually shown signs of improvement in the last few tournaments she’s played, but not enough. I do have a slice of humble pie waiting just in case though. 
  • Victoria Azarenka: she’s hungry, she’s been playing well, but at the end of the day, this is not her surface, not her slam and not the best draw for her. 
  • Vera Zvonareva: I actually wouldn’t be surprised if Vera decided to pull out last minute or retire mid-match along the way. Straight back from injury with no matches under her belt: it’s the kind of thing that Venus Williams does on grass, and Vera Zvonareva is clearly not Venus Williams. 
  • Maria Sharapova: goes without saying. But (and it’s a big ‘but’) – if, in the unlikely event, she managed to get past Nadia Petrova, fourth round would be doable.  

 

 

Grooming the Dark Horses

 

  • Carla Suarez-Navarro
  • Sabine Lisicki
  • Alize Cornet
  • Amelie Mauresmo
  • Anna Chakvetadze
  • Nicole Vaidisova

 

 

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Australian tennis is no longer worth analysing these days, simply because … well, Australian tennis doesn’t quite exist. But if anyone’s interested in the Aussies: bad news all round – Hewitt against old nemesis Karlovic first round (I believe Lleyton is 0-3 against the Croat). Should he get past Karlovic, he’s got the Spanish Terminator himself in the third round waiting. Wild card Bernard Tomic is up against Kohlschreiber first round. Dead meat.

Jarmila Groth (formerly Gajdosova) facing Kinnie Laisne of France and most likely Chakvedatze second round. Dokic v Sprem (and should she get past first round, which she most likely won’t – Elena Dementieva awaits) and Sam Stosur up against Francesca Schiavone

 

Trivia answer: Vera Zvonareva (.833). Half a mark if you answered Victoria Azarenka.

 

 

2009 Tennis Wishlist

Kaching, Kaching…

That’s the sound coming from the players’ wallets in Abu Dhabi right now. Nothing like a few good exhos to ease our way into a new tennis season, and if last night’s match between Fed and Muzza were anything to go by, we’re in for quite some year. The last time I tried to read too much into an exho was at Kooyong 2007, and the subsequent Australian Open taught me well. The rule of thumb when it comes to exhos is just to sit back and have fun, and fun I did have last night. Indeed as I type, I’m waiting for ABC (Australia)’s 6 hour coverage of the Hopman Cup to begin.  Rusty back in action? Safin and Safina teaming up? Bring it on! Where else on Planet Earth can you find daily 6 hour coverage of an exhibition tournament on free-to-air TV?  

 

And as we enter this new year, here is my tennis wishlist for 2009. I thought it might be fun to come back at the end of the year and see how many of these wishes came true. 

 

So if a little fairy came and granted me 10 greedy wishes for 2009, I would wish for

  1. Fed to break the Sampras record
  2. Tsonga to remain injury free for an entire season
  3. Australia to get back into the World Group
  4. Djokovics to start their own reality TV show
  5. Sharapova to recover from her shoulder injury
  6. Venus to win a slam, but not Wimbledon
  7. Serena to win her 10th slam
  8. JJ to win her first. 
  9. Kim Clijsters to come out of retirement
  10. Gasquet, Baghdatis, Vaidisova and Chakvetadze to find their marbles again. (Okay maybe that should count as 4 separate wishes). 

 

Hopman calls. So long!

In a time of mediocrity …

I was saying in the previous post about what a joke the No 1 spot in the WTA has become, well I just came across this fantastic FoxSports interview with Carlos Rodriguez, Henin’s former coach, about the state of WTA tennis, which I thought was an accurate summary of the current field – the Williamses and Sharapova, by far the best, both physically, technically and mentally, yet all three lack the commitment and regularity to play a full schedule and stay healthy all year long. Jankovic and Ivanovic, not quite there mentally. In particular, Ivanovic’s game unravels in the most fugly fashion when her Plan A fails. 

 

Interesting to see Rodriguez pick Vaidisova as the next talent. I like Nicole’s game, but she’s turned into a bit of an imploder this year. If she’s going to turn herself into a major contender, she needs to step up mentally big time.

 

Meanwhile, Justine Henin’s also double/triple/quardriple confirmed she will NOT be coming back =(

“No, no competition is over for me. For me, it’s definitely over. When I took my decision I knew it was forever. So I don’t say I will never be back for an exhibition or for another event in the future. But for me (playing) on the Tour? Yeah, it’s in the past and I won’t come back. I made the right decision and I stick to my decision. I will never change my mind about that decision.”

 

Boohoo Justine! Someone knock some sense into that woman before we descend from mediocrity to utter fugliness. 

 

Yes, Sharapova appears to be dating Charlie Erbersol. Good to see she’s making good use of her early offseason.

 

In other news, Roger’s confirmed his attendance for Kooyong, so has Stan the Man, Ernests Gulbis, Marcos Baghdatis, Fernando Gonzalez, Marat Safin and James Blake. Awesome, since I’ll most likely be going next year. Nadal, as I understand will not be participating for fear of fatigue. I think now that he’s got Wimbledon in the bag, he’s really looking to win a hard court slam, and he’s more likely to get the job done at the Australian than at the US Open. 

 

Rewatching the Henin v Sharapova AO 08 QF, what a match! 

 

Anyway, here’s the whole article:

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If Belgian and seven-time grand Slam champion Justine Henin had not unexpectedly retired in May at the relatively young age of 26, this topic might not be ripe for discussion. But with Henin joining other former Slam champs under the age of 29 like Martina Hingis, Kim Clijsters and Anastasia Myskina in early retirement, it’s worth noting.

“That’s the face of tennis today, with a player who is reaching No.1 without winning a Grand Slam,” Henin’s coach Carlos Rodriguez told FOXsports.com of Jankovic, who was 0-9 against Henin. 

 

“It’s a sign. She’s a good player, but when you see Maria Sharapova and the Williams sisters, they not only win Grand Slams, but they have the charisma. They give something extra, not only hitting balls. There’s more behind them.”
An intense and thoughtful man who took Henin out the juniors to tennis fame, Rodriguez and Henin just opened a branch of their 6th Sense Tennis Academy at the Mission Inn Resort & Club in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla. They both see an opportunity in the U.S., where many parents of juniors are looking for intelligent coaches with proven track records who understand that teaching children to be champions is more than just about stroke production.

 
Rodriguez says that one of the reasons that Henin is retired is that she’s looking to prove to herself that she can do more than just “hitting the ball” and will only likely consider a comeback once she has taken a very necessary mental break.

But what Henin left after she retired from her most dominant season ever in 2007 is a tour with three legitimate Hall of Fame players and a bunch of developing competitors who really couldn’t hold her worn out pair of socks. (Amen to that)

 

“I have a lot of respect for the other players, but outside of the Willamses and Sharapova, the rest are still really poor,” Rodriguez said.

It’s not like the Argentine doesn’t like the potential of some of the kids — it’s just that they are so wildly inconsistent. Take Roland Garros champion Ana Ivanovic, who is just 5-5 since winning her first Slam crown in Paris. Sven Groenefeld, whom Rodriguez considers the best coach on tour today, coaches the Serbian, but the 20-year-old is struggling mightily.

“I think Ana can do big things, but she needs more maturity,” Rodriguez said. “It’s very difficult for a player to learn what to do when she’s in trouble. Ivanovic is not able to have a Plan B or C to solve the situations, and she loses complete control. The coach can help with this, but in the end, it’s up to the player to find for herself what possibilities will work. The coach can only help you to a certain point.”

 

Rodriguez spent a little time this past summer working with former world No. 4 Anna Chakvetadze but couldn’t make it work with the Russian, who has spiraled downward to No. 12. On the outside, Chakvetadze appears to have all the ingredients that Rodriguez would like: foot speed, soft hands, the ability to take the ball on the rise and smarts. But he couldn’t get through to the 21-year-old.

Anna seems like she wants to work, but I told her, at the end of the day, deep inside of you, you don’t want to try to go further and to push yourself more to succeed,” he said. “I cannot help you if you don’t have the will to do something, even if I’m the best or worst coach in the world. She has the talent. But she’s really confused as to what she needs to do to succeed to do to become a No. 1 or No. 2 player in the world. She’s not ready to make the sacrifices it takes to go to the top, there’s not question about it. A champion is one inside and outside the court, and when you take Anna outside the court, she’s really a disaster.”

 
Somewhat incredibly, Rodriguez tabbed Nicole Vaidisova as the young player with the most potential. The Czech has the height, power and ball-striking capabilities to do major damage and has reached two Grand Slam semifinals, but the 19-year-old has had a depressing year, falling to No. 22 in the rankings. Vaidisova doesn’t always play smart or look motivated.

“She’s amazing,” Rodriguez said. “It comes back to the entourage she has around her. It’s so important. When you are talking mental, these girls are very strong, but when you are talking emotional, it’s very hard. The emotional takes over the mental and she completely loses the way. It’s a pity. I hope someone can take care of her because she’s charismatic and is a really good player, but her emotional (state) and the intelligence is not that good.” – LOL

 

Outside of the Williams sisters and Sharapova, there are no players on tour who can consistently win ugly when the chips are down, their bodies are aching and their foes are zoning on them. That’s part of the make-up that Henin had, her innate ability to fight like an alley cat even when being attacked by every mangy dog in the alley. 

 

“You can’t teach that,” Rodriguez said. “You can learn a lot of things, but you cannot change the natural personality of a player. With Serena, Venus, Justine and Jennifer Capriati, they have the personality that even when they weren’t enjoying it, they could go through. There’s no question that Maria, Serena and Venus are far and away from the other players. Their quality is too good.”

 

Henin put a hurt on all of those players, who also got back at the Belgian in some of the finest matches the tour has seen this century. They may not miss losing to her, but Serena and Sharapova have admitted to missing the thrill of the battle against Henin, trying to figure out which strategy would work against the cagey all-courter’s high-variety game.

But Henin isn’t coming back anytime soon, if at all, so now it’s up one of three other elite players to see if they can dominate like the Belgian did in 2007.

Sharapova just shut down her season due to her inability to recover a tear in her right rotator cuff, and when she returns to defend her Australian Open title in January, she will have more than likely have fallen out of the top 10 and will have missed the vast majority of the second part of the season. Whether the three-time Grand Slam champion can ever truly dominate is an open question.
 

“She showed that she’s able to dominate, but it’s not a question of once in a while, it’s a question of regularity and the only way she can do it is to concentrate 100 percent on her tennis,” Rodriguez said. “If Maria doesn’t do that, she’s never going to find the consistency throughout the year. In tennis, to be a champion, you have to choose to do everything you have to succeed in your sport. I think today Maria is unable to do so.”

Crossover celebrity Sharapova has always stressed that her tennis comes first, and it’s hard to argue with her resume. But it’s also clear that carrying a $26-million off-court portfolio every year can be demanding. Rodriguez doesn’t think that it’s only her injuries that are holding her back. “She has to concentrate, practice and live for her tennis — no endorsements, publicity and wasting time outside of the court with other things that distract you from No. 1,” he said. “Once and for all, in front of the mirror, she has to ask herself, ‘What do I want to achieve in my career?’ I have all the possibilities to be No. 1 and stay there for a long time, but this is the price I have to pay.”

 
Then there’s Serena, she of nine Grand Slam titles and with the ambition to go well into the double digits. Now 27-years-old, Serena appears to be on a one Grand Slam per year pace. She’s capable of doing better, but time is running short, and there’s little room for the party circuit if she’s ever going to dominate again.

She, Venus and Jankovic will tee it up in Stuttgart this week. If Serena wants to stay at No. 1, she’s going to have to keep her mind focused on the next six weeks — not an easy task after a hard year and when the offseason beckons.
 

“Serena has the quality, and everything she needs mentally and physically to do it she has,” Rodriguez said. “But is she going take care of herself and prepare to go into action? If she does that, I think Serena has another two or three great years left.”