grand slam tennis

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Kiki Bertens makes the French Open semis: Who’s she, really?


Who is Kiki Bertens?

Sure, she’s that unseeded Dutchwoman who’s reeled off 12 wins in a row over the past two weeks to make the semi-finals of the French Open.

She now faces  top seed Serena Williams this afternoon.

We all know that—now.

But where was this wonder-woman prior to this?

What’s her record?

Her best result in a Grand Slam was at the 2014 French Open—again—where she made the fourth round as a qualifier.

It’s on clay that Bertens has really shined—taking a liking to the surface and clinching two WTA singles titles.

That explains a lot.

What’s her head-to-head record against the other three semi-finalists?

Bertens has played Samantha Stosur and Williams just once—losing to them in the Slams—the French Open and the US Open respectively.

She has a much more formidable record against Spaniard Garbine Muguruza holding a 3-0 lead. But these wins were aeons ago—the last one coming in 2014.

But her performances at Roland Garros so far have been stellar.

Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber, Daria Kasatkina , fifteenth seed Madison Keys and eighth seed Timea Bacsinszky.

Can it get better than that?

It surely can.

Maybe Williams will have an off day.

It won’t be easy. Bertens is carrying a left-calf injury.

And then, we could have a new French Open women’s champion.

Samantha Stosur at the 2009 US Open

Samantha Stosur at the 2009 US Open (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Stosur, Muguruza, Bertens.

Take your pick.

Muguruza’s been close before losing last year’s Wimbledon final.

Stosur has the US Open to her credit and has made a French Open final before falling to Francesca Schiavone.

It’s all good for women’s tennis—the more competitive the better.

But the news story of the year , of course, would be Bertens doing a mini-Leicester.

Can she? Will she?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Novak Djokovic: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t


Novak Djokovic wolves down Grand Slam titles.

What he said:

“It’s much easier for the wolf that is going uphill and running up the mountain—not easier, but he was hungrier than the wolf standing on the hill.”

Novak Djokovic savoured his 11th major and sixth Australian Open overall with a meaty metaphor.

Comparing himself to a wild canine on top of the mountain, he said that he could not relax as his competitors were wolves too and hungrier.

He added:

“You can observe it from different sides, but, I believe that all the guys that are out there fighting each week to get to No. 1 are very hungry to get to No. 1, and I know that. I can’t allow myself to relax and enjoy. Of course I want to enjoy, and I will, but it’s not going to go more than few days. After that I’m already thinking about how can I continue on playing well throughout the rest of the season each tournament.

Kind of a mindset that one needs to have if one wants to stay up there. Because I think you need to work double as hard when you’re up there.

I believe that I can win every match I play (and) I’m playing the tennis of my life in the last 15 months. The results are showing that.

But you can get a very big slap from karma. I don’t want that.”

The Djoker rounded off his reverie by assuring his listeners that he was ravenous to clinch his first French Open.

He said:

“Very hungry. But the wolf needs to eat a lot of different meals to get to Paris. Paris is a dessert.”

What he really meant:

“It takes more to stay at the top than to get there.”

What he definitely didn’t:

“What a wolf-pack we male tennis players are. Woo-hoo, Woo-hoo! Ready or not, here we come! Call me Wolverine!”

Still concussed Eugenie Bouchard sues for damages: USTA, USNTC named defendants


Eugenie Bouchard is not playing nice anymore.

WTA’s Most Improved Player of 2014  is suing the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and the United States National Tennis Centre (USNTC).

The Canadian beauty slipped and fell in the women’s locker room after a mixed doubles match at the US Open suffering a concussion the ill-effects of which have not worn off a month later.

The accident was caused by a cleaning agent that was left overnight on the floor and meant to be applied when the room is no longer in use.

Bouchard claims that there was no warning sign highlighting the state of the floor.

Bouchard’s lawyer, Benedict Morelli, said:

“If they were going to do that, they should have closed the door and locked it off. And they didn’t do that.”

Morelli added:

“We could be talking about millions and millions, we don’t know the extent yet.”

The World No. 39 has played just one match since retiring midway last week against Andrea Petkovic at the China Open  and withdrawing from tournaments in Wuhan, Tokyo and Hong Kong.

Bouchard is seeking actual, compensatory and statutory damages along with punitive damages, and wants a jury trial.

Chris Widmaier, the U.S.T.A.’s managing director of corporate communications, refused to comment saying it was against policy.

The suit states:

“Ms. Bouchard entered the physiotherapy room of the women’s locker room when she was caused to slip and fall by a slippery, foreign and dangerous substance on the floor.

The Defendants caused or created this slippery, foreign and dangerous substance to be on the floor, or knew or should have known that the slippery, foreign and dangerous substance was on the floor.

The Defendants failed to provide Ms. Bouchard with any warnings whatsoever regarding the aforementioned dangerous condition.”

Bouchard was named the world’s most marketable athlete last May by SportsPro, a UK-based magazine.

She was 2013’s WTA Newcomer of the Year.

It was in 2014 that she had her best results making the semi-finals at the Australian and French Opens. She was a finalist at Wimbledon and made the fourth round at the US Open. She attained a career-high ranking of 5.

This year, she suffered a slump in form but was regaining lost ground when she suffered her accident prior to her fourth round match against Roberta Vinci at Flushing Meadows. Vinci went on to make the final losing to compatriot Flavia Pennetta.

Concussions are a rare occurrence in tennis. It is a non-contact sport, after all.

WebMD describes it as “the most common and least serious type of traumatic brain injury. The word comes from the Latin concutere, which means ‘to shake violently.’ It is usually caused by a sudden direct blow or bump to the head.”

WebMD states:

“The brain is made of soft tissue. It’s cushioned by spinal fluid and encased in the protective shell of the skull. When you sustain a concussion, the impact can jolt your brain. Sometimes, it literally causes it to move around in your head. Traumatic brain injuries can cause bruising, damage to the blood vessels, and injury to the nerves.

The result? Your brain doesn’t function normally. If you’ve suffered a concussion, vision may be disturbed, you may lose equilibrium, or you may fall unconscious. In short, the brain is confused.”

The website adds:

“Concussions can be tricky to diagnose. Though you may have a visible cut or bruise on your head, you can’t actually see a concussion. Signs may not appear for days or weeks after the injury. Some symptoms last for just seconds; others may linger.”

Writing for Yahoo! Sports, Canada, Stephanie Myles cites the case of Sarah Borwell, a British player who was hit by American Lilia Osterloha’s ball at a WTA doubles tournament in Stanford, Connecticut in July 2010.

Myles says:

“‘Girls aren’t like boys where they go around you. She kind of went at me. I turned, and it hit the back of my skull, bottom left,’ Borwell said in an interview with Eh Game.

She kept playing, felt fine, and they won the match.

‘As soon as the adrenaline wore off I was a mess. I was feeling sick. I was dizzy, and my face swelled up on the lefthand side,’ Borwell said. ‘They monitored me for the evening, kept checking every hour and the next day, I had an MRI in San Francisco and they saw a bruise on my brain.’

Borwell was told she would probably be fine in a week. She went to San Diego for the next tournament but she still felt groggy, and had to stay in a dark room. She then flew to Montreal for the Rogers Cup, where they underwent what she termed some “basic tests” and was told she could go out and play.
She tried to practise. ‘I couldn’t walk straight, get my feet straight or anything,’ Borwell remembered.

A specialist who dealt with hockey players administered the SAC test. Orwell was asked to count backwards, month by month. She got as far as May. She couldn’t balance on one foot with her eyes closed. Her speech was slurred.

Orwell missed the US Open; she returned to action at the Quebec City tournament in mid-September, about six weeks after the original accident. Then she flew to India to compete in the Commonwealth Games, where she began having panic attacks just being around people and talking to them.

By the 2011 Australian Open (where she teamed up with Canadian Marie-Eve Pelletier), more than five months later, Borwell still was having issues, especially with verbal communication.

‘I’ve been hit before and if it hits you on the skull, you’re fine. But right at the base of my skull, it got a bit of the brain,’ she said. ‘When you have balls whizzing at your head … that was kind of the end of my career, to be honest.’

Borwell says it took her about a year to feel 100 per cent again. She continued to play, but she still didn’t feel like herself. ‘My short-term memory’s still not great. I’m finding it a lot more difficult to remember things, and my speech,’ she said.”

Wikipedia details post-concussion syndrome thus:

“In post-concussion syndrome, symptoms do not resolve for weeks, months, or years after a concussion, and may occasionally be permanent. About 10% to 20% of people have post concussion syndrome for more than a month. Symptoms may include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, anxiety, memory and attention problems, sleep problems, and irritability. There is no scientifically established treatment, and rest, a recommended recovery technique, has limited effectiveness. Symptoms usually go away on their own within months.The question of whether the syndrome is due to structural damage or other factors such as psychological ones, or a combination of these, has long been the subject of debate.”

Genie Bouchard has not been loquacious about the nature of her complaint on social media.

These are her latest posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram respectively.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 lists the duties of an employer as follows:

SEC. 5. Duties

(a) Each employer —

(1) shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees;
(2) shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.
29 USC 654

(b) Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.”

While the USTA and the USNTC are certainly not Bouchard’s employers, they are duty-bound to ensure safety of the players on their premises during  events they conduct.

We can only hope that Bouchard returns to the court soon putting aside the acrimony and recriminations that will certainly ensue from her legal action. WTA, too, wouldn’t wish to lose another rising star given that recent Grand Slam winners have been in the latter stages of their career opting out soon after realising their Grand Slam dreams. Li Na, Marion Bartoli and now Flavia Pennetta are the most recent additions to that brigade. Kim Clijsters is another.

The WTA tour’s marketability ebbs and flows with its players’ saleability.

One of their contemporary campaigns’  featured the tagline, “Strong is beautiful.”

Strong, in this case, is concussed and very much dizzy.

Serena Williams is no choker: Statistics don’t lie


English: Serena Williams at 2009 Australian Op...

Serena Williams at 2009 Australian Open, Melbourne, Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Does Serena Williams choke?

This must seem like a really stupid question given that Williams has 21 singles Grand Slam titles to her credit. She also has 13 doubles titles with her sister Venus.

Is this the hallmark of a choker?

I repeat the question: Is Serena a choker, that is, does she lose matches she was expected to win relatively easily?

This year’s loss to Roberta Vinci in the US Open semi-final is a case in point.

Serena had come into the year’s final Slam on the back of another Serena Slam.

Maria Sharapova was rendered hors-de-combat before the tournament qualifiers began.

This was her golden opportunity to go down in history as only the third woman in history to record a Calendar Grand Slam.

Alas, it was not to be.

Serena choked or at the very least appeared to.

She was not at her best, seemingly sluggish throughout the match. Her customary speed deserted her. Her Italian opponent was on song, storming back in the final two sets to make her first ever Grand Slam final.

To answer the question again, one has to check Williams’ record in Grand Slam tournaments.

What we need to know are the instances when Serena has lost in Grand Slams when she was doing well and expected to go all the way.

There are always giant-killers, there will always be giant-killers in any sport. That is the beauty and unpredictability of it. An underdog comes in and knocks out a fancied opponent. But it is rare that the unheralded player goes on to overcome every obstacle in his or her path. That kind of consistency is not to be suddenly expected from , say, a rank qualifier or wildcard unless their names are Goran Ivanisevic or Kim Clijsters.

That said, let’s look at Serena’s record in Slams specifically the instances when she lost out after making it past the first 7-8 days of the tournament.

Let’s look at her record when she has lost in quarter-finals, semis and finals after putting in all the hard yards to get that far.

Serena has an awesome record in Grand Slam finals: 21-4. Her record in women’s doubles is even more terrifying to her opponents: 13-0. Her four losses in singles finals have come against three opponents: her sister, Venus (2), Maria Sharapova and Samantha Stosur. Her mixed doubles record is 2-2; this was in the early part of her career before the 2000s.

Serena has appeared in 61 Slams with a winning percentage of 34%.

Steffi Graf has 22 singles titles in 56 appearances including qualifiers with a win percentage of 39%.

Margaret Court who holds the all-time record of 24 titles in 47 appearances with a win percentage of an astonishing 51% i.e. she won more than half of all the Grand Slams she played. Add to that 19 women’s doubles and 21 mixed doubles titles and you will just begin to comprehend her dominance of the game in her era.

Nowadays, Court is more known for her strong views on homosexuality and same-sex marriage in her role as founder-minister of a Pentecostal church called the Victory Life Centre. Court was raised a Roman Catholic but converted to Pentecostalism in the 70s.

Court states that she does not hate the LGBT community and welcomes them to be members of her congregation.

I digress.

Serena has made the quarter-finals or better 42 times, winning 21 thus equally likely to clinch the title or (somewhat) lose her way.

The table below chronologically lists Serena’s career losses in Grand Slams—quarter-finals and better.

Tournament Serena’s Ranking Stage of Tournament Opponent Opponent’s Ranking Eventual Winner
Wimbledon 2000 8 Semis Venus Williams 5 Venus Williams
US Open 2000 5 Quarters Lindsay Davenport 2 Venus Williams
Australian Open 2001 6 Quarters Martina Hingis 1 Jennifer Capriati
French Open 2001 6 Quarters Martina Hingis 1 Jennifer Capriati
Wimbledon 2001 5 Quarters Jennifer Capriati 4 Venus Williams
US Open 2001 7 Final Venus Williams 4 Venus Williams
French Open 2003 1 Semis Justine Henin 4 Justine Henin
French Open 2004: 2 Quarters Jennifer Capriati 7 Anastasia Myskina
Wimbledon 2004 1 Final Maria Sharapova 13 Maria Sharapova
US Open 2004 3 Quarters Jennifer Capriati 8 Svetlana Kuznetsova
French Open 2007 8 Quarters Justine Henin 1 Justine Henin
Wimbledon 2007 7 Quarters Justine Henin 1 Venus Williams
US Open 2007 8 Quarters Justine Henin 1 Justine Henin
Australian Open 2008 7 Quarters Jelena Jankovic 3 Maria Sharapova
Wimbledon 2008 6 Final Venus Williams 7 Venus Williams
French Open 2009 2 Quarters Svetlana Kuznetsova 7 Svetlana Kuznetsova
US Open 2009 2 Semis Kim Clijsters 19 Kim Clijsters
French Open 2010 1 Quarters Samantha Stosur 7 Francesca Schiavone
US Open 2011 28 Final Samantha Stosur 9 Samantha Stosur
Australian Open 2013 3 Quarters Sloane Stephens 29 Victoria Azarenka
US Open 2015 1 Semis Roberta Vinci 43 Flavia Pennetta

The statistics in the above table show that Serena has lost to an opponent who was ranked lower than her and not the eventual winner a total of just 5 times.

That’s 5 out of 21. It’s less than a 25% chance that Serena will lose crunch games to players ranked lower than her and not red-hot coming into the tournament and continuing that streak.

The players she lost to? Jennifer Capriati (2), Samantha Stosur, Sloane Stephens and Roberta Vinci.

Despite appearances, Serena is a model of consistency when it comes to performing at Grand Slam tournaments.

Her latest loss notwithstanding, Serena is difficult to get away from when she’s on song and at the top of her game.

Serena is a champion among champions.

Kim Clijsters

Kim Clijsters came into the tournament unseeded on a wild card after coming out of retirement. She went on to win the first Grand Slam of her career. The win lifted her ranking to 19.

 

Roger Federer can win another Slam provided…


I'm quite chuffed with how the camera coped, c...

I’m quite chuffed with how the camera coped, considering we were quite far back and I was lacking in tripod! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every time he makes a Grand Slam final nowadays, his fans go wild with delirium believing that an 18th Grand Slam is inevitable. Yet, the man comes up short. In 2014, it was Djokovic in five sets at Wimbledon.

This year, it was the Serbian again in four sets.

The Swiss last won a Grand Slam in 2012, beating Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in succession to clinch the title. It was also the year he was last ranked No. 1.

It is this ability to clinch Slams that has eroded over the years. The 17-time-champion no longer can produce the tennis required to beat the rest of the Big Four when it matters, where it matters, in successive best-of-five encounters.

This is unlikely to change as age catches up with one the modern greats of the game.

That is the bad news.

The good news is that he is not the only one suffering a loss in invincibility.

Nadal ceded his domination over the French Open this year losing to Djokovic who in turn surrendered his chance at a Career Slam by losing to Fedex’s fellow countryman Stanislas Wawrinka in the final.

That is the other piece of good news. Novak, if Roger can’t beat you, Wawrinka surely must.

Murray is not quite among the invincibles. Yet, he is a potent force on the comeback trail.

For Roger to win another Slam, the draw must be favorable enough to have him encounter just one of the above three at any stage in the tournament and preferably not the Djoker.

This is the blueprint for (immediately) imminent Grand Slam success for the Original Man.

Stan the man is two for two in Grand Slam finals


I thought I was going to be writing an article on whether Career Grand Slams have become de rigueur in the current age of tennis or we are blessed to have three to four outstanding players converge on the sport in the same era.

It was not to be.

Stanislas Wawrinka (va-vreeng-kah) had other thoughts.

The Swiss No. 2 (he’ll probably be No. 1 this week) defeated the World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in four sets on a Sunday afternoon in Paris.

He is no longer a one-Slam wonder.

Aficionados might have cribbed that his first Slam, the Australian Open in 2014, was handed him on a platter. A favourable draw and an injured Nadal were the variables that worked to his advantage.

But very few can begrudge him his second Slam. Djokovic may not have had enough time to recover from a grueling semi-final. But the Swiss had to fight hard to get to the finals, ousting his idol Federer on the way.

Wawrinka recently ended his marriage to  Swiss TV presenter Ilham Vuilloud.

Wawrinka said:

“We have enjoyed ten fulfilling years, with all the ups and downs that every couple experiences, but sometimes life is more challenging than one would hope.

Ilham and I were both blessed to create a family when our wonderful daughter Alexia was born in 2010. We have always tried to live our lives as a team and as a family, despite the challenges we have faced due to the demands of my career. To my great regret this isn’t possible anymore.

Ilham will always be the mother of my daughter and a person that I have a lot of love and respect for. We will always remain as a family. Now my priority is to do everything to protect Alexia during these challenging times.

I hope that the fans and the media will understand that I’ve always been very protective of my private life and wish to continue to do so not giving any further information about the situation.”

Nice guys do not have to always finish last.

Nadal , The Ferocious!


Jun. 07, 2010 - 06007490 date 06 06 2010 Copyright imago Schreyer Rafael Nadal ESP Playing The Final of The 2010 Tennis French Open in Paris AT Roland Garros 06 06 2010 Tennis men French Open Roland Garros ATP Tour Paris Award Ceremony Single Vdig xkg 2010 vertical Highlight premiumd RG Man Men Hommes Men Tennis Athlete Sportswoman Grand Slam Paris Roland Garros Clay France France Boulogne French Open 2010 Open French Tennis Championships Final Rafael Nadal Trophy Cup Victory Ceremony Award Ceremony happiness Emotion cheering Cup.

There’s nothing more dangerous than a wounded or cornered tiger and Nadal was a wounded tiger who had been licking his wounds ever since he was diagnosed with acute tendinitis in his knees in 2009. After being out for the most part of 2009 and unable to defend his 2008 Wimbledon crown, Nadal decided that it was time to ration out his appearances in the clay court season this time around. A little bit of rest and recuperation for his much abused knees could do no harm!

 


Quote of the day:

You can only be young once. But you can always be immature. – Dave Barry

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Women’s Lib!


Samantha Stosur playing the 2006 Hopman Cup.

Image via Wikipedia

It has been a women’s lib , of sorts, at the French Open this year with Samantha Stosur and Francesca Schiavone bulldozing all in their path on their way to the final at Roland Garros.

Samantha Stosur , with her all court play , has ousted Henin, Serena Williams and Jankovic in quick succession. This is her best result ever in any Grand Slam. But it should come as no surprise to followers of the game as her game has improved considerably over the past year or so. She is considered a doubles specialist and it is her play at the net that has served to unnerve and demolish her more accomplished rivals.

Quote of the day:
When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other. – Eric Hoffer

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Indian men at the Grand Slams


With Somdev Devvarman qualifying for the French Open main draw – his second Grand Slam appearance after the 2009 US Open, let’s look at the best Grand Slam appearances by any Indian male player in any men’s professional singles Grand Slam.

Quote of the day:
Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain – and most fools do. – Dale Carnegie

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