Hantuchova is still there: Will she stay, or go?

Daniela Hantuchova plays a $25K. Photo: Mal Taam/MALTphoto

At the beginning of their careers, the younger players have to start at the ITF and USTA Pro circuits.  Everyone wants to reach the top pros, but you have to rack up some wins on the smaller circuits.

If you’re not winning titles at this level, at least you have to improve every year, so you could win more consistently. Some willmove on, while others are stycj there for a very long time.

If you’re not moving up the WTA/ATP level, you would have to decide: Do you want to stay, or do you want to go?

This week, in at the Morgan Run Women’s Open in Rancho Santa Fe/San Diego, three major players are still hanging on:
Michelle Larcher De Brito, a popular Portuguese  player who cracked the top 100. But she is now ranked No. 242.

The American Maria Sanchez,  who played at USC and was the No. 1 collegiate player throughout the 2011–2012 season. But, when she turned pro at the WTA, she was close to reaching the top 100, but could not.  Now she is ranked No. 414.

And believe it or not, the former No. 5, Daniela Hantuchova, is there at Morgan Run. The Slovak once reached the Australian Open semifinal. She won Indian Wells. She loves Southern California, but she is 33 years old and had a bad year in 2016. You know, 2015 wasn’t very good either.

Hantuchova breezed through the first round with a double bagel over Louisa Stefani. But, the rising top seed, Kayla Day, eliminated her in the second round 7-6(3), 6-1.

Hantuchova is ranked 245. If she is ready to retire, or is she thinking that ‘hey, Serena Williams is 35 years old, and she just won a major in January at the Aussie Open. If she could go it, maybe I can.’

Can she?

In a few weeks in IW, maybe we can see Hantuchova finds some wins and some peace of mind.

The Top 10, February 7-15: the winners and finalists

Stan Wawrinka: The Swiss said that he felt dead when he walked on the court against Novak Djokovic in the Aussie Open semis and lost in five sets, somehow disappearing in the fifth when he couldn’t run and went down 6-0. But against Tomas Berdych in the Rotterdam final, he shined, coming through 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and capturing his ninth title. He was very aggressive, fast and confident. Maybe 2 out of 3 is easier than 3 out of 5?

Tomas Berdych:  The tall Czech shocked Rafa Nadal in the quarters of the Aussie Open, then falls to Andy Murray in the semis when they were arguing, but he got back right up and looked stellar until the final at Rotterdam, taking out Andreas Seppi, Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon. Sure, he could have been smarter in the third set against Wawrinka, but he is very consistent this year, which is a good thing.

Kei Nishikori: Even though he is ranked No. 5 and well above the other competitors in Memphis, it is difficult to win the tournament year after year. On the court, he was very fast and the striking serves that bombed away indoors. The Japanese struggled day in and day out, as now everyone wants a piece of him. He needed three sets to best Ryan Harrison, Austin Krajicek and Sam Querrey, but in the final against Kevin Anderson, he was very clean. Nishikori has won the tournament three titles in a row. And now he wants to learn a guitar? Sweet.

Kevin Anderson: The tall and huge server has been pretty consistent over the past year or so, but he has to start beating the top 10 opponents. In the semis, he was calm and cool over Donald Young, but in the final against Nishikori, he didn’t return well at all. If the 28-year-old will ever reach a Grand Slam final, he has to get better overall.

Pablo Cuevas: The Uruguayan has improved quite a bit over the past two-years or so, winning the Sao Paolo tournament on clay over Luca Vanni in the final 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(4). Cuevas is now ranked No. 23. Believe it or not, he is 29 years old, which means he had worked and worked to be competitive. But he has yet to go far at the Slams. Maybe in RG this year?

Luca Vanni: How the heck did he reach the final? He is now ranked No. 108 at 29 years old, which is not very high. It took him forever to be good enough, but the 6-foot-6 played extremely well at some Italian Challengers on clay last year and was ready to rumble Sao Paolo. He was darn close.

Andrea Petkovic: Over the past nine days, the German has been terrific overall. She came through in marathons over the Aussies in Fed Cup, and then in Antwerp, she pushed past three women in tiebreaks. Fortunately or unfortunately, Petkovic won the title because Carla Suarez couldn’t play the final due to her neck, but the German cracked the top 10. As long as she super consistent, she will never get tired.


A rare resurgence for Dani Hantuchova. Photo: Mal Taam/MALTphoto

Carla Suarez: It’s too bad that the Spaniard couldn’t walk out for the final because she was hurt, but she did take some but she did take out with Camila Giorgi, Monica Niculescu, Francesca Schiavone and Karolina Pliskova, which was excellent work.

Daniela Hantuchova: Out of nowhere, the one-time No. 5 won the Thailand Open title again, upending the young Ajla Tomljanovic. The 32-year-old Slovak isn’t what she used to, but on some days, she is feeling right, and mixes and matches to fool her opponents. She has won three titles in Thailand. Can she do it against at Indian Wells next month? Doubt it but you never know when she is on.

Ajla Tomljanovic: The 21-year-old has now reached the top 50, which is good overall. Why she is up and down? Is it because she is very powerful and is still learning to play. The new Aussie resident is working with her coach, David Taylor, who helped Sam Stosur at 2011 US Open. Tomljanovic has a long way to go, but you will see her upset some notable during the big tournaments in 2015.

Ms. Three-Setter: Hantuchova goes the distance again and again


Daniela is true warrior.

MELBOURNE – With her tall and slender frame, Daniela Hantuchova may not look like a paragon of fitness, but given that she has unofficially played more three setters in singles than anyone else on tour  — a whopping 263 – and won 181 of them, that indicates a lot of physical and mental staying power.

On Wednesday at the Australian Open, the 30-year-old Slovakian outlasted Karolina Pliskova 6-3 3-6 12-10. It was just another day in the office for Hantuchova, who will display a stone face on court, but is often full of joy off court, When told of her three-set mark later in the day, she cried out, “Whoo-Hoo! It feels great. I am really proud of the fact that for so many years I have been able to be here, healthy and ready to play and the longer the match it’s better for me. I have to deal with the younger players and the longer the match, the more they get tired.”

So does she almost expect to get in a three-setter every time she goes out to play?

“I would be stupid not to,” she said with a laugh.  “You always want to win in two, but I know that if it goes three I will be OK. The tennis you can’t control because it’s either there or not, but the  fighting is something you can control.”

Unfortunately Hantuchova faces a dreadful scenario in the next round, trying to stop No. 1 Serena Williams, who hasn’t lost a match in nearly five months and has been plastering the field since she arrived Down Under after Christmas.

Hantuchova has played Serena nine times, seven of those matches at the Grand Slams. The only time she beat her was in the third round of the 2006 Aussie Open, a  6-1 7-6(5) win at tournament when Serena came in out of shape and paid for it.

“I remember I made her move,” Hantuchova recalled. “But obviously she has done amazing things since then. She’s a great champion and I admire everything she has done.”

They have faced off at three Wimbledons, where Hantuchova only won a set. She should have taken her down  in 2007 in the round of 16  when Serena was hurt and hobbled, but Serena sent for her shorts late and Hantuchova crumbled.

They also played three times at the US Open, but the Slovakian didn’t manage to win a set there. And the last time they faced off, in New York in 2009, Serena blew her out  6-2 6-0 in the round of 16.

“They kind of ruined my Grand Slam career,” said former top-5 player Hantuchova in reference to the Williams  sisters, “Especially the years when I was playing really well I always had to play her or Venus. The only time I made the [Grand Slam ] semis was here in 2008 when I didn’t have to play either of them in the quarters. I think I had chances to go deeper back then, as well as I was playing. It wasn’t easy.”

Hantuchova’s and Serena’s most notorious match was in Los Angeles in  2006 in the third round when Serena took her out 1-6 6-3 6-3. The Slovakian claimed she bumped into her on purpose during a changeover early in the second set. A photographer sitting courtside said that Williams also swore at Hantuchova.

“She always does that,” Hantuchova told me at the time. “She did say something to me on the next changeover, but I’m not sure what it was.” She also  accused Serena of faking an injury timeout, a charge that Serena denied.

But that is now water under bridge, at least under the public bridge of pro tennis, even it is still continues to wash over their private ones and take them far downstream away from a friendship.

Hantuchova has been competing at the pro level  since 1999 and  has played more than 1,300 matches in her career, which doesn’t count Fed Cup, where she has been competed in 35 matches.

She  is not as quick or agile as she was when she came on tour, but she still owns a sweet two-handed backhand to die for, has been blessed with soft touch, has developed a bigger forehand and a good first serve. But she serves nowhere with the force and accuracy of Serena,  who owns the best one of all time.

“About 80%,” Hantuchova said when asked how much Williams’ great serve has to do with her domination. “When she on it’s like a man’s serve. Her power is incredible and she really serves well when she needs to”

Hantuchova acknowledged that she herself is going to have to serve great in order to win her third-round match against Serena at the 2014 Aussie Open on Friday.

Oh and just one more thing

“Just win the last point,” she said with a coy smile.

Vote for the 2013 Sexiest Female Player

Victoria Azarenka

Julia Goergeshantuchova_1528609_10151938565244682_44085042_n
Daniela Hantuchova

Bojana Javanovski

Maria Kirilenko

Alize Lim

Maria Sharapova

Sloane Stephens

Elena Vesnina

Caroline Wozniacki

Zheng Jie

Click  here for the gallery and to vote on  our 11 candidates for 2013 “Ana Ivanovic” Sexiest Female Player.

The award is named for Ana Ivanovic, who won the award for the first five years of the poll, 2005-2009. Past winners include Maria Sharapova (2012), Caroline Wozniacki (2011) and Maria Kirilenko (2010).

Hingis’ fabulous return, big changes for Ivanovic


Will Martina commit to the long-term?


By Matt Cronin

FROM THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA OPEN AT CARLSBAD – There weren’t two more happy people in San Diego County than Martina Hingis and Daniela Hantuchova on Wednesday night after their 6-1 6-1 victory over Julia Goerges and Darija Jurak. After a somewhat nervous start to Hingis’ second comeback, they devastated their foes, who reached the Stanford final last week  but looked totally overwhelmed by an in- synch pair who played smarter and much more inventive yellow ball.

At 32, Hingis remains a remarkable volleyer, perhaps the game’s best, and she returns very accurately and with a fair amount of force from her favored backhand side from the ad court, too. She owns topspin and underspin lobs to die for, and always seems to be the right position, because she has a unique (and learned ability) to read the plays. Hantuchova herself brings a lot to the table with the right partner: a big first serve, hard returns off both wings, competent volleys and laser like passing shots when she’s in position.

So now the question is: can they become the world’s top ranked doubles pair? Much of that is on the Swiss, because she has to maintain her commitment to playing a full schedule. She is set to contest four events — Carlsbad, Toronto, Cincinnati and the US Open as according to her New Haven is out — and says that if they are successful she will continue on.

“If it’s a complete disaster, I would not want to continue, but I hope that’s not the case,” she said. “I don’t have any expectations, but I wouldn’t put myself in this position if I didn’t feel that I couldn’t compete at this level. In [World] Team Tennis I was good enough, but is it good enough to be able compete at this level? We’ll see.”

Anyone who knows Hingis even a little bit realizes what a dogged competitor she is and how much pride she has. I reminded her yesterday that during her second comeback in 2007, when she was fading away in singles, that she said she wouldn’t never just be a double specialist because she saw herself as a singles competitor.

But that was then and this is now. She’s 32 year old and is in terrific shape, but she’s in doubles shape, or World TeamTennis shape if you like, which means no two-and-a-half hour singles grind fests. She does not want to have train for 6-8 hours per day to get herself back into singles shape and figures she can do half of that and be just fine in doubles. So at least now, a singles comeback is out and although she says it’s not in the back if her mind right now (like a doubles return actually was for the past six years), like her friend and doubles partner at the senior Slams, Lindsay Davenport, I think there still remains a possibility (albeit slight) that she puts herself out there in singles again. If she sees there is a possibility that she can make a breakthrough at the big tournament again (say at Wimbledon which is the least physical  of all the majors) she will be very tempted to throw her visor in the ring.

But she won’t this month.

“Not at this point,” she said. “That’s a different world. Even TeamTennis [where she has played singles in shortened format] is brutal. You have to put so much effort into it. Playing tournaments is the easy part, but it’s all the behind the scenes training that people don’t see, the 6-8 hours of training and really the older you get, the harder its gets. I wouldn’t want to come out and play one or two matches and lose in third round. That’s not my type of personality.”

However, when I pressed her on a  ‘never again’ her reply was a laughing: “C’mon, leave me alone.”

What Hingis clearly sees is a wide-open doubles field. The Williams sisters only play the Slams and with Venus’ poor health, they might not be doing that much longer. She doesn’t feel like Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci can overpower her and doesn’t fear well-coordinated yet sometimes inconsistent pair of Lucie Hradecka and Andrea Hlavackova. Katerina Srebotnik and Nadia Petrova are as old as she and the 30-year-old Hantuchova are, and even though Russians Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova have improved a great deal as team,  they cannot match she and Hantuchova’s talent level.

Simply put, Hingis doesn’t fear any regular doubles player.

“It’s different as when we used to play there were so many more singles girls who played doubles: the [Williams] sisters, me Anna [Kournikova] and Lindsay [Davenport],” she said. “There were like six to eight of the  top 10 who played doubles. Now it’s just a few girls in the top 10 who play doubles. There is much more of an opening now.”

Why is Hingis returning? Yes she misses the  competition and yes she loves to play. But perhaps there is another reason that is crystal clear but has not been emphasized as much: she felt a little lost during those weeks and months when she wasn’t around the sport. Perhaps one of the reasons is because her personal life has fallen into a bit of chaos, but she and most of the world experience that on an annual basis so that can’t be all of it. It is largely because tennis – not horseback riding, not commentary, not pushing a clothing line –  really is her life.

“This is where I feel the most comfortable, feel the most natural and this is what I know the best,” she said.

‘Radical’ changes for Ivanovic

Ana Ivanovic is going through another coaching change and at this point in her career it would be foolish to think that it will make a massive difference. because she been through enough coaches already and whether she will re-enter the top 5 again is now almost entirely on her.

She didn’t not buy that opinion when I tossed her way on Wednesday, and I can see her reasoning why: if you don’t think that your team is going to make a big difference, than why have one at all?  To me, the answer to that is so you can form a group around you that supports your needs and follows your lead. In a sense, that is what her situation is anyway.

She split with her coach of two years Nigel Sears after Wimbledon, and won’t have a full time coach for the rest of this summer. She is currently traveling with her hitting partner,  Nemanja Konitc (whom apparently does have some input)  a fitness coach, Zlatko Novovic, and a physio, Branko Penic.  She will also work with adidas Player Development coaches Sven Groeneveld (who coached her to the 2008 Roland Garros crown) and Darren Cahill when they are available, which in the Aussie case isn’t going to be that much through the US Open due to his TV obligations.

“That was big change, but I really felt like I needed it because it was good, but I was stuck in the same place and I really needed to make a transition and I needed to hear a fresh voice,” Ivanovic told me. “It was a big change and tough decision but it came both ways.”

Ivanovic is an intelligent woman who spends a lot of times thinking, but she is also very emotional and at times seems to make decisions based on her gut more than her head. Sears is very competent coach and did so some good work with her but in reality, from July 2011 to July 2013, she only improved one ranking place from No. 18 and to No. 17. There were periods during the past two years when she performed much better than she did from mid 2009 to mid 2011, but she has not been a huge factor at the Slam or Premiers on a consistent basis and that’s where she wants to be. She’ll take half the blame for that or perhaps more, but she is right in indicating that it can’t all be laid at her feet if she was trusting his advice.

“It’s always two ways,” she said. “You have your opinions and the other person his own and he wanted to get the best out of me and I’m sure it was frustrating for him that he couldn’t get me to do the things that he wanted. But sometimes you need  a fresh voice and you need someone to influence you better. It was a mutual agreement.”

My suspicion was that after she played such a shockingly bad match in loss to Eugenie Bouchard at Wimbledon that she hit a tipping point. I also thought that after she pushed Maria Sharapova hard twice in RG warm-ups that she should  have been sorely disappointed with her performance in her  loss to  Agnieszka Radwanska at Roland Garros.  But she says that wasn’t the case.

“Its not a match in particular,” she said.  “I was disappointed in the loss at Wimbledon, but it wasn’t that, it was over period of time and there were a lot of the same things and repetitions and it was good week, bad week and not getting me to where I  wanted to go  I felt like I needed to do something radical.”

The 25 year old’s goal is to be a super elite player again and while she has shown flashes of that since her great 2008, she has not been that competitor consistently. That really frustrated her and combine that with some undisclosed personal problems, after Wimbledon, she took 10 days off of fitness and tennis and went to Spain to be with her family where she hung out with her brother, cooked with her mother and laid by the pool and on the beach.

Now she’s in Carlsbad, back to the drawing board trying to find a way down the road to greatness, which of late has been full of potholes.

“It’s keeping the hard work and working on the confidence and I feel my game has been there, but the confidence hasn’t and physical and mental level hasn’t been there the whole match,” said Ivanovic, who did look impressive in upsetting defending champion Dominica Cibulkova 4-6 6-3 6-2 in the first round. “Getting all that in balance and to keep the comfort level is going to make a big difference.”

But here’s her dilemma and it’s one that most players face: how to keep improving and working the right way with long term goals in mind, while at the same time not getting frustrated with negative results.

“It’s tough, she said. “It’s about finding what works for you.”



Lepchenko no longer living in bubble & not counting points

Lepchenko Stanford 13 TR MALT0854

Lepchenko’s year got off to an ominous start when her father collapsed in Brisbane.


By Matt Cronin

FROM THE BANK OF THE WEST CLASSIC AT STANFORD, DAY 2 – 2013 started off the wrong way for Varvara Lepchenko and it hasn’t gotten much better since, although she is hopeful she has turned the corner.

How emotionally trying was her start to the year? Consider this: just before her first round match at the season’s first event in Brisbane, she was walking out to transport with her father and sometimes coach Peter. He told her wasn’t feeling very well and all of the sudden he collapsed to the ground, and had to be rushed to the hospital where doctors discovered he had a multiple ulcers which were sapping his blood supply to the tune of 60 percent of his total. A strong and driven man who Varvara says tends to stress out too much, Peter did recover, but she was out of sorts to the point where her focus was nowhere to be found in her 6-2 6-1 loss to Serena in a match she was looking forward to.

Usually, like many players, she finds the court to be a refuge where she can put her off court problems behind her. But not on that day as reality slammed her harder than a Williams’ bullet forehand into the chest.

“It’s different when someone is in a very critical state and it can make a big difference in your life,” she told TennisReporters.net at Stanford. “It was very hard to concentrate.  I am very close to him. It gave me a totally different perspective on life. I was just living in my bubble. There are so many other things in life more important than just tennis.”

Lepchenko had come into 2013 with a career high year-end ranking of No. 21, She had the best season of her life in 2012, where she reached the fourth round of Roland Garros, the semis of Seoul and the quarterfinals three times including when she qualified for Madrid.

But she wasn’t thrilled with her movement coming into 2013 and couple that with having to switch roles from being cared for to caretaker for her dad during the month of January and her Australian season went down the drain.

But then cast into a major role in a Fed Cup tie against Italy away on clay, she responded brilliantly in singles. Captain Mary Joe Fernandez knew that the lefthander was perhaps the only player outside of Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens (both of whom were absent) who could take down the might Italians on red dirt and she rose to challenge, battling past Roberta Vinci on day one and then smoking 2012 Roland Garros finalist Sara Errani on day 2.

A native of Uzbekistan who didn’t become a US citizen until the fall of 2011, Lepchenko has been dying to picked for Fed Cup. She loved being one of the team leaders and the go-to player, but she had caught a virus that weekend and after her match against Errani she was spent. However, Fernandez had to pick her for doubles to partner with Liezel Huber because rookie Jaime Hampton was way off her game and last minute substitute Melanie Oudin was having back issues. Lepchenko says that she wished she didn’t have to play the doubles, but understood why Fernandez took the risk of going with her because she has actually become a very competent doubles player and was on a roll. She was the captain’s only realistic option, but she was too tired to have a positive effect on the match and Errani and Vinci stopped she and Huber in what would have been an incredible upset abroad.

“I had nothing left,” Lepchenko said.

The she experienced about the same thing that Slovakia’s Dominica Cibulkova did during the next few weeks. Another top-25 player, Cibulkova had given it all in her nation’s 3-2 win over Serbia in Fed Cup, collapsing with body cramps on day two in marathon match. Like Cibulkova, Lepchenko still felt obligated to try and play Doha, which a Premier 5 level event that players who sign up for it must at least attend and if they don’t try and compete the face ranking (and possibly financial) penalties. So even though she had a fever, Lepchenko tried to complete her match against Klara Zakopalova, but couldn’t and finally retired down 7-6 (8) 3-0.

“That was terrible. I felt so awful,” she said of her physical state.

One of the reasons why there are still so many players dealing with multiple injuries – some small and some significant – is because they don’t stop and take time off to heal. The tennis calendar is a gerbil wheel and unless you are already an accomplished player who has won majors and has a lot of money in the bank courtesy of massive off court earnings (i.e. Serena and Maria Sharapova), it’s not easy to skip big events even if your body is telling your to do so. Lepchenko was new to the top 25 and had elite player goals, so instead of skipping one or two of Doha, Dubai, Indian Wells and Miami; she played every single one and compiled a 1-3 record. Admittedly, that was not a smart thing to do.

Armed with a dangerous left-handed forehand, slice serve and a pretty good two handed backhand, Lepchenko did have some reasonable expectations on the clay and while she didn’t play badly, unlike in 2012 when she was finding ways to gut out three setters, this time she lost a series of crucial ones to Venus Williams (Charleston), Svetlana Kuznetsova (Estoril), Kaia Kanepi (Brussels) and to Angelique Kerber in the third round of Roland Garros. There she had her chances, but she had suffered a foot injury in her second round win and wasn’t quick enough. She went down 6-4 in the final set.

Once again, she stubbornly didn’t rest long enough and lost both of her matches on grass. However, her first round defeat at Wimbledon did give her time to go home and heal, but she often drives herself too hard and her father had to tell her to take a day off before her 6-2 6-4 win over Michelle Larcher de Brito at Stanford on Monday.

“I need someone to tell me to stop,” she said, and then laughed and mentioned that her father was out on the courts practicing his own serve because he was unable to get it right. “He’s obsessed but he loves the game,” the 27 year old said.

Right around Wimbledon, she decided to change her coaching situation. She had been working with the USTA for the past three years to great success, but felt she needed more one-on-one attention. Her father is back in the mix and she’s trying out Roger Smith as an addtrional coach, who most recently oversaw Donald Young’s career and before that, Sloane Stephens’.

Lepchenko is currently ranked No. 40 and of course would like to be seeded at he US Open. She had to defend 402 points through New Haven, which isn’t a huge amount, but substantial enough to where she is going to have to have at least two pretty good results if she going to crack the top 32 by the time the US Open starts. She’s playing Stanford, Carlsbad, Toronto and Cincinnati, but won’t play New Haven. If she focuses of process rather than results – just like she did last year – she could end up in a very good place again. That is her plan.

“I’m not thinking I need to win this tournament, or get to this ranking,” said Lepchenko who will play Tamira Paszek in the second round of Stanford. “Of course it’sway in the back of my mind, but the main focus is improving little details in my game. I hear a lot of girls and some of my friends asking ‘what points do you to defend before the US Open,’ but I have to defend points every single week. If you aren’t hitting the ball well, who cares about the rankings? Everyone wants to win, but if you sit on the computer all the time counting points, it’s not going to get you anywhere.”

Also of note from Stanford

 While the talented yet streaky Olga Govortsova’s 6-2 6-4 win over Samantha Stosur wasn’t a stunner given that the Aussie has had a sub par year, Urszula Radwanska’s 6-1 6-3 win over Christina McHale was a bit of stunner score-wise. McHale continues to struggle with her confidence and is playing way below her level. Coco Vandeweghe, who reached last year’s final is loving the quick courts again and thumped Monica Niculescu 6-0 6-3. Veteran Daniela Hantuchova seems to be back on track again and she out-thought Yanina Wickmayer 6-2 4-6 6-0. The Slovak then went out and practiced right after the match. Why? “That’s me,” she said. “Why make it easy when I can make it complicated?” Here is Hantuchova talking about her upcoming doubles partnership with Martina Hingis.











The Wrap: Week of Feb. 18: Tsonga is at home at home

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Tsonga has won five of his titles in France

Imagine if a fast court Slam were played in France? Do you think Jo-Wilfried Tsonga would have a better chance of winning a major? I sure do. On Sunday, Tsonga captured his 10th ATP title by fending off a match point against Tomas Berdych in a 3-6 7-6(6) 6-4 triumph in Marseille. Tsonga also saved five match points in his quarterfinal win over Bernard Tomic, many of them with winners, which clearly indicates clutch play.

Tsonga has won five of his 10 career titles at home, including his sole Masters Series crown in Bercy back in 2008. Maybe home country advantage doesn’t mean that much in the grand scheme of things given that many players tend to perform better on surfaces and in conditions that are more to their liking, but recall that last year that Tsonga came reasonably close to taking out Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros, and clay is without question his worst surface.

As an attacking player, Tsonga likes quick conditions and presumably Marseille was to his liking. Berdych is tough indoors too, and quite tough on Tsonga given that the Czech had beaten him the last three times they played.

Now both men will head to Dubai, where Novak Djokovic is back in ATP action (he did play Davis Cup) for the first time since the Australian Open, and Roger Federer returns in an attempt to defend his title. Djokovic has a huge lead over Federer in the rankings and isn

Fed Cup: Lepchenko comes up big for US, tied with Italy 1-1

lepchenko fed cup 2013

A happy Varvara hung in tough in the 3rd set

Varvara Lepchenko had been waiting for years to show off her game on the big stage for the United States and she can through in dramatic fashion grabbing a 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory over Roberta Vinci to even the US Fed Cup tie with Italy 1-1.

The crucial victory came after Sara Errani has cracked Jamie Hampton 6-2, 6-1 in a contest that the young American was never in. Errani dictated for much of the match while Hampton was often wild and unsure of herself.

But that was not the case with Lepchenko, who never fell under Vinci

TR 2012 Year-end top 50: The Women, Nos. 31-40

Ula hasn’t cracked the top 5 yet like her big sisters has, but she had a career year.

Thus continues our review of the top 50 singles players on the ATP and WTA Tours. We resume with the women ranked Nos. 31 -40.

31. Urszula Radwanska


Body Double

Daniela didn’t expect to find herself on the cover.


FROM THE MERCURY INSURANCE OPEN IN CARLSBAD, CA – It was interesting to see and hear ESPN bring in a group of its women reporters to defend ESPN The Magazine