Jan 012018
 
Svitolina eyes Grand Slam success

BRISBANE: Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina believes she can become world number one in 2018 despite a host of challengers for the coveted top ranking. Svitolina, currently ranked sixth in the world, was speaking after an impressive 6-2, 6-4 win over Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro in the first round of the Brisbane International on Monday. The 22-year-old cruised through the first set but was forced to fight harder in the second as Suarez Navarro began to find her range with powerful groundstrokes. But the Spaniard faltered while serving at 4-5 and Svitolina was able to close out the match in just under 90 minutes.Svitolina won five titles in 2017 on her way to a career-high world ranking of number three. She said she had worked hard during the off-season and there was no reason why she could not win a Grand Slam or take the top ranking. Five women held the top spot at various times in 2017 — Serena Williams, Angelique Kerber, Karolina Pliskova, Garbine Muguruza and current number one Simona Halep.Svitolina said her ability to raise her game to see off someone as dangerous as Suarez Navarro showed she was also capable of taking the next step. “This match was a good example that I can play a good level of tennis, a high level of tennis,” she said. “So I will try to continue to work and to, you know, to just be focused on these kind of things. “That’s what’s important for me — and then the Grand [Read More…]

Nov 212017
 
Grand Slam seedings cut to 16 from 2019

LONDON: Tennis chiefs have agreed to reduce the number of seeds in the four Grand Slam tournaments from 32 to 16 as part of a raft of rule changes aimed at widening the sport’s appeal. From 2019, Wimbledon and the Australian, French and US Opens will have only 16 seeded players in the men’s and women’s draws. Halving the number of seeds is an attempt to make the early rounds of the majors more interesting as it will open the possibility of higher-ranked players facing off before the last 16. There were 16 seeds at Grand Slams until after Wimbledon in 2001, when the US Open, motivated by demands from television networks, asked for 32 in the hope that stars would still be in contention in the closing rounds. The Grand Slam Board meeting in London also approved the Australian Open’s request to implement a 25-second “serve/shot clock” system in line with the scheme trialled at the 2017 US Open to speed up play. The timing of the pre-match warm-up will be strictly enforced, with one minute allowed after walk-on to be ready for the pre-match toss, followed by a five minute warm-up, then one minute to be ready to start the match. Violation of this timing may earn a player a fine of up to $20,000. The board has also moved to tackle the problem of players withdrawing from or purposefully lacking effort in first-round matches and still getting their full prize money.

Oct 022017
 
Chinese tennis needs to ?grow up?, says Li Na

WUHAN, China: Li Na said she’s sorry Chinese tennis has not moved on more since her retirement, as the country’s fruitless search for a new champion continues. Li’s two Grand Slam titles set the bar extremely high for her fellow Chinese, who have laboured in vain to match her trail-blazing achievements.The contrast was laid bare at last week’s Wuhan Open, where Li received a rock-star welcome during a brief appearance, but none of the Chinese players went beyond the third round. Following her rapturous reception in Wuhan, her home city, Li said she was disappointed that China hadn’t found a new star to love since she stepped off tour in 2014.“Actually, I didn’t like (that) people always remember me,” said Li, who won the French Open in 2011 and the Australian Open in 2014. “That means Chinese tennis didn’t grow up.” “(When) I decided to retire, I was thinking next day (new Chinese winners) would come,” she added.Hopes were high when Peng Shuai reached the 2014 US Open semi-finals, shortly after Li’s retirement, and Zhang Shuai won her second Guangzhou Open title this year. Wu Yibing also became China’s first boys Grand Slam singles champion at last month’s US Open. But nobody has consistently challenged at the highest levels. In Wuhan, five Chinese women were in the main draw but Wang Qiang was the only one to reach the third round — the best ever performance by a home player in the tournament. Peter McNamara, Wang’s Australian coach, said the [Read More…]

Sep 012017
 
US Open: Final major silverware up for grabs

This piece is being written amidst first round action, but a lot has already happened to have a decisive impact on the year’s final major even before the first point had been played at the US Open. World No 2 Andy Murray, the 2012 champion, who was unseated from the summit by Rafael Nadal only a couple of weeks ago, joined the likes of Novak Djokovic, Stanislas Wawrinka, Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori in an elite group of players absent from Flushing Meadows. For Murray and Djokovic, the two men that dominated men’s tennis in 2016 and have been the two most successful over the past five years, 2017 was as pear-shaped as it could get. That it came off the back of a historic year for both – Murray finishing the year as World No 1 and Djokovic completing the career Grand Slam in Paris – has made it an even bigger shock. Even so, what has arguably made their absence all the more conspicuous is the return to the top of men’s tennis for Nadal and Roger Federer – who have shared three majors and four ATP Masters 1000 titles between them this year, and barring a major upset should be the top two of men’s tennis post-US Open, regardless of the final outcome. Federer and Nadal, the two most decorated men’s tennis players, have not only defined tennis’ most illustrious era but also created the sport’s most high-profile rivalry. It was under the shadows of these two [Read More…]

Aug 292017
 
Sharapova gets down to business at US Open

Maria Sharapova begins to explore just how well she can finish at the US Open on Wednesday after a successful and emotional Grand Slam comeback following a 15-month doping ban. The 30-year-old Russian, who ousted second seed Simona Halep in her opener, faces Hungary’s Timea Babos for the first time in the second round of the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. And with Halep and British seventh seed Johanna Konta both ousted already, Sharapova would not see another top-10 foe until potentially 10th-ranked Dominika Cibulkova in the quarter-finals even as three top-10 foes lurk as possible semi-final rivals. The draw is wide open for a deep run by Sharapova despite her relative lack of matches and nagging injuries that allowed her only one hardcourt tuneup to the Open. “From the moment that I’ve been here, I’ve really understood what this means to me, to be back and to be playing,” Sharapova said. “Not playing a lot of matches coming into this, it almost seemed like I had no right to (beat Halep). And I somehow did. I think that is what I’m most proud of.” Sharapova served a 15-month doping ban after testing positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open, returning in April to fanfare and controversy. She missed Wimbledon with a thigh injury after being snubbed for a French Open wildcard but was given a wildcard into the US Open and wants to make the most of it. “I was obviously extremely excited. I realized how long it [Read More…]

Aug 232017
 
Sharapova determined to prove point on Slam return

NEW YORK: Former world number one Maria Sharapova makes her first Grand Slam appearance next week since serving a 15-month doping suspension, bringing renewed passion and resolve to the US Open. The 30-year-old Russian was given a wildcard into the tournament by the US Tennis Association (USTA), a move critics complained about earlier in the season but another key step in the road back for the five-time Grand Slam winner. “When it comes to tennis, good or bad — there’s really only one thing that I know for certain — I’ve missed it,” Sharapova wrote on the Players’ Tribune website. “Though these last two years have been tougher — so much tougher — than I ever could have anticipated… my passion for the game has never wavered. If anything, it has only grown stronger.” Sharapova was issued a two-year suspension after testing positive for the banned heart and blood boosting drug meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport reduced the ban on appeal.She said that she had taken it for several years and did not know it had been placed on the banned list at the start of 2016.  —

Aug 072017
 
Nadal eyes number one in Montreal with Murray sidelined

Rafael Nadal says he’ll focus on the foes in front of him at the ATP Montreal Masters this week, and not on his chance to return to number one in the world. A semi-final run in Montreal would see the Spaniard supplant Britain’s Andy Murray atop the rankings. “I don’t even think about that now,” Nadal said of number one. “I’m trying to have the right preparation now and that’s it. “I’m going to keep trying to play the way I did in the first part of the season, so if I’m able to make that happen, I hope to have a chance to do well.” The top seed is expected to open his campaign for a fourth Canadian title on Wednesday with a second-round meeting against either Croatian Borna Coric or Russian lucky loser Mikhail Youzhny. Murray is among the notable absentees from this key US Open tuneup. Novak Djokovic is taking off the rest of the season to rehab an elbow injury and US Open champion Stan Wawrinka has ended his 2017 campaign with a knee problem. Murray is trying to recover from a nagging hip injury in time for the final Grand Slam of the season that starts later this month in Flushing Meadows. Nadal claimed his 10th French Open title this year but bowed out in the fourth round at Wimbledon — his fifth exit before the quarter-finals in his last five appearances at the All England Club. Roger Federer, who seized his 19th Grand Slam [Read More…]

Jul 152017
 
Ageless Venus eyes historic title

Venus Williams bids to become the oldest Grand Slam champion in Saturday´s Wimbledon final LONDON: Venus Williams believes her big game experience will prove decisive as the American star bids to become the oldest Grand Slam champion in Saturday´s Wimbledon final against Garbine Muguruza. At an age when her contemporaries have long since retired, Williams is playing some of the best tennis of her glittering career and she can cap her remarkable renaissance on Centre Court this weekend. Back in the All England Club final after an eight-year absence, the 37-year-old hopes to become both the oldest Wimbledon and major winner since the Open era began in 1968. “There´s times where maybe you aren´t as relaxed as other moments, but it´s about handling it. I know how to do that a lot better,” said Venus ahead of her 16th major final. “For me it´s just about betting on myself every time. When I look across the net, I don´t think it´s the right mentality to believe in that person more than me.” Earning a sixth Wimbledon title, nine years after she last lifted the Venus Rosewater Dish, must have seemed like an impossible dream for Williams when she battled an autoimmune disease that left her fatigued and threatened to force her out of tennis. Yet, in the twilight of her career, Venus has hit a rich vein of form over the last 12 months. She was Australian Open runner-up in January to sister Serena, only to have her life thrown [Read More…]

Jul 122017
 
Venus stands in way of Konta's history bid

Johanna Konta has history in her sights as the world number seven bids to become the first British woman to reach the Wimbledon final for 40 years when she faces her childhood idol Venus Williams on Thursday. Konta displayed nerves of steel in her pulsating 6-7 (2/7), 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 quarter-final victory over world number two Simona Halep on Tuesday. The 26-year-old is the first British woman to make the Wimbledon semi-finals since Virginia Wade in 1978 and a victory over five-time champion Williams would make her the first Briton into the women’s final at the All England Club since Wade won the title in 1977. Born in Australia to Hungarian parents, Konta didn’t move to the UK until she was 14, but regardless of her heritage she has been adopted as one of their own by the Wimbledon fans. Now a resident of the sleepy seaside town of Eastbourne, the historic significance of her Wimbledon run, and the crowd’s reaction to it, has been an eye-opener for Konta, who until this fortnight could have walked unrecognised down any street in the country. “I’ve dreamed of success in every slam but I think it makes it more special because it is home,” said Konta, who was ranked outside the top 150 only two years ago. “I do get that home support, which I don’t get anywhere else. In that sense, I guess it makes it that much sweeter. “In terms of the home support, I feel very excited and very [Read More…]

Jul 102017
 
Wimbledon heavyweights braced for ?Manic Monday?

LONDON: For the first time since 2011, the top four men´s seeds have reached the Wimbledon last-16 with Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal taking centre-stage on ´Manic Monday´. The four stars have shared the Wimbledon title since 2003 when Federer won the first of his seven trophies at the All England Club. Djokovic has claimed three with defending champion Murray and Nadal winning two apiece. It´s the kind of domination that looks unlikely to end Monday when the fourth round takes place. Murray, who has battled hip pain, is the only one of the ´Big Four´ to have dropped a set in the first week. He faces unpredictable Frenchman Benoit Paire who is in the last-16 for the first time. “He has very good hands, moves well, takes a lot of chances, goes for his shots,” said Murray who has a 1-0 career lead over Paire. Murray has not lost at Wimbledon before the quarter-finals since 2006. Murray faces unpredictable Frenchman Benoit Paire who is in the last-16 for the first time Djokovic takes a 1-0 career edge over unseeded Adrian Mannarino of France into his last-16 clash, with that win coming at Wimbledon in straight sets in the second round last year. Former coach Boris Becker praised Djokovic for his first week performances after fears that the Serb had lost his love for the sport after losing all four Grand Slam titles he held last year. “Boris knows me very well. So he´s right when [Read More…]