Archives for December 2013

Brisbane Day 3: Serena ankle deep in injury fears

Serena 2012 Aussie

Serena is hoping that her legs stay healthy


BRISBANE:  After her scrappy and somewhat scratchy 6-4, 6-4 victory over Andrea Petkovic in her opening match of her 2014 campaign at the Brisbane International on Tuesday, Serena Williams has won 91 of her last 95 matches dating back to loss to Angelique Kerber at 2012 Cincinnati. In that stretch, she has been more dominant than two great males, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Clearly, she does not have a rival as good as those two do when considering how evenly matched the Spaniard and Serb are. But while the ATP’s Big 4 (which also includes Andy Murray and Roger Federer) is certainly more impressive and more accomplished than the WTA ‘s other top 3 players are, the women’s tour has far more depth, and it’s not like Williams can cruise to victory when she has to face top drawer competitors with hefty resumes like Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka own. Both are in the Brisbane field, as are players like Petkovic, a former top 10 player who when in good health is very fast, has hard and deep groundies and a bullet return,

But returning serve against the woman who clearly owns the hardest and most accurate serve of all time? That’s a big ask, especially in the clutch. Petkovic hung with her from the baseline at times, but Williams showed more variety there, whipping short angled groundstrokes to pull the German off the court and then powering balls down the line. Williams later said that this was the type of match at she wanted:  a stern test a again a very good player when she knew she would have to play at a high level from the first ball. So she was quite satisfied with the win.

“It was an intense match, which was really good,” the 32-year-old said.

In the past two years in Australia, Williams has suffered ankle injuries that dashed her dream of winning a sixth Aussie Open crown. In 2012 she twisted her ankle in Brisbane and couldn’t move in an upset at the hands of Ekaterina Makarova in Melbourne. Last year, she ended Brisbane healthy and with a title but then hurt her ankle at the Australian Open and eventually went down to Sloane Stephens.

So on Tuesday afternoon on Pat Rafter Arena, Williams had her ankle strapped high and tight. She admitted that the potential of another injury is in her head.

“I put extra wraps on them today,” she said. “ I told my physio, Let’s do some extra ones.  I don’t want anything to happen.  Please.  I think it is [mental].  But at the same time, definitely wasn’t mental when I took those falls and my ankle was like this big.  I just don’t want that anymore.”

Subscribers get daily emails which today also include more on this story, and reports on Roger Federer and Nick Kyrgios


Nadal sees no point in change

Nadal IW 10 tr MALT8576

Rafael Nadal has insisted he has no intention of following the recent trend of a number of top players by changing his coaching setup, making it clear he will be sticking with his uncle Toni, whose time working with his nephew has yielded 13 Grand Slam titles. While Nadal’s main rival according to Betfair this year, Novak Djokovic, recently hired Boris Becker, in just one of a number of coaching changes made ahead of the 2014 season.

Djokovic’s decision to hire Becker came following a host of former Grand Slam winners from yesteryear to be handed important coaching roles over the winter. While Roger Federer has linked up with Stefan Edberg in a bid to amend his slide and get the Swiss star back up the Betfair odds, Richard Gasquet has taken on Sergi Bruguera, Marin Cilic has renewed his partnership with Goran Ivanisevic, and Kei Nishikori has acquired the services of Michael Chang.

A change of coach helped turned Andy Murray from an almost man to a two-time Grand Slam winner, winning the 2012 US Open and 2013 Wimbledon titles following his link up with Ivan Lendl. And while there is no doubt Murray’s decision has paid off, Nadal has made it clear he won’t be following suit, sticking with his coaching setup heading into a 2014 in which the Spaniard will be looking at holding onto his number-one spot, something you can bet on with Betfair.

“I will stick to my team. I always feel when I play bad, it is my fault and when I’m winning I’m doing the right things. I had success in my career with the same team. I had good and worst moments with the same team. I understand if anything goes wrong, nobody is responsible more than me.”

Nadal will head into the first Grand Slam of the year as a narrow second favourite behind four-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic for the title in Melbourne, although the current world number one won’t be being written off by many.

This article was submitted by Betfair and was not written by writers.

Brisbane Report, day 2: Vika invokes “Girl Power’

azarenka new team

From left, Azarenka’s longtime manager Meilen Tu, her new physio Stephanie Turpin, a friend in Thailand, Azarenka, and new fitness trainer Christa Pryor


BRISBANE:  Belarussian Victoria Azarenka has been Ms. Australia during the past two seasons, winning back-to-back titles at the country’s Grand Slam. In 2012, she came of age by devastating Maria Sharapova for the crown, which keyed her ascent to the No. 1 ranking. She became the second player of her generation to hold up one of her sport’s biggest trophy, following Petra Kvitova, who win Wimbledon in 2011. She surpassed her then good friend Caroline Wozniacki by reaching No. 1 and winning a major, something the Dane has yet to do. She left another member of her generation, Dominika Cibulkova in the dust, and then after winning her second major at the 2013 Australian Open, eclipsed Kvitova (whom she hasn’t played since 2011), as the tall and powerful Czech has been  unable to win another major due or reach No. 1 to her often poor health and erratic play.

Azarenka is a tough, in-your-face sort who is an interesting character and is endearing to some, but she can ignite controversy. That’s what occurred last year in Melbourne when some accused her of gamesmanship in her semifinal win over Sloane Stephens when she took a medical timeout at a critical moment in the contest. She was not penalized severely on court, but off the court; she was put through the ringer. She faced the music the day before the final, meeting the press head on while at the same time her coach, Sam Sumyk, called some critics vultures.

Subscribers get daily emails which today include more on this story as well as Roger Federer’s thoughts on his new racket and more…



TR Insider, Brisbane 2014, Day 1: Sharapova on Sven

sharapova groeneveld


FROM THE BRISBANE INTERNATIONAL: Four-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova hasn’t played match since early August and arrived in Brisbane with two new team members, coach Sven Groeneveld and physio Jerome Bianchi. Sharapova split with her coach of two and half years , Thomas Hogstedt, right after Wimbledon and then had a briefly experiment with former No. 1 Jimmy Connors, which didn’t work out for a few reasons, one because they had had a different idea of which style  she should play, and two, because she was so upset that her shoulder was aching that she couldn’t listen to anyone.

Groeneveld has worked with a slew of top players including Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki, and  Andy Murray, among others. The Dutchman seems to suit Sharapova personality as he is calm, well mannered and smart. She is already impressed and is optimistic about their future..

“From the first time we met I really liked what he had to say,” Sharapova said of Groeneveld. “ He came in as a very experienced person, player.  He started from the very beginning of the game, and one of the things I’ve always liked in a coach is when he coached against me ‑ and he’s been there for many years coaching against me ‑ and I like when someone comes in and is honest and truthful and says it like it is.He’s that.  He puts it all out on the table.

Subscribers get daily emails which today include Sharapova talking about her boyfriend Grigor Dimitrov, Caroline Wozniacki’s troubling pull out, Victoria Azarenka return to the site of “Pedicure Gate” and more


Picture of the Day, Federer hires Edberg


Toni Nadal, Patrick Mouratoglou win Coach of Year polls

Coach of the Year/ATP


Toni Nadal/
Rafael Nadal
Magnus Norman/
Stan Wawrinka
Ivan Lendl/
Andy Murray
Marian Vajda/
Novak Djokovic

Coach of the Year/WTA


Patrick Mouratoglou/
Serena Williams
Carlos Rodriguez/
Li Na
Sam Sumyk/
Victoria Azarenka
Marko Jankovic/
Jelena Jankovic

There has not been a more interesting off-season in recent memory when it comes coaching changes than in 2013. There have been a slew a moves amongst notable players, which began shortly after the WTA season ended and culminated with Maria Sharapova’s hiring of Sven Groeneveld.

Here is my analysis of the major WTA coaching changes.

The after the ATP season ended, the guys shifted into high gear and in the last week alone, Novak Djokovic announced he had hired Boris Becker, and Roger Federer asked Stefan Edberg to consult with him, at least in the short term. Kei Nishikori is now working with Michael Chang and Goran Ivanisevic coaching Marin Cilic again.

As Magnus Norman, the former Roland Garros finalist and coach of Stan Wawrinka tweeted: “Lendl,Goran,Chang and now Becker and perhaps Edberg as coaches on the @ATPWorldTour. Should do coach tournament. Sure not top seed anymore’

Before touching on the significance of those partnerships, a few words about our current Coach of the Year polls, which you can vote in here.

On the ATP side the nominees are:

Toni Nadal for Rafael Nadal; Marian Vajda for Novak Djokovic; Ivan Lendl for Andy Murray and Magnus Norman for Stan Wawrinka. On the WTA side, the nominees are: Patrick Mouratoglou for Serena Williams; Sam Sumyk for Victoria Azarenka;

Carlos Rodriguez for Li Na; and Marko Jankovic for Jelena Jankovic.

As of the morning of December 20, Lendl and Norman were leading the men’s poll. Murray became the first man since Fred Perry in 1936 to win Wimbledon and that alone says that his coach did an excellent job in preparing him for the biggest match of his life on the biggest stage in his nation and, to many folks, the most important venue in the sport.

Norman helped Wawrinka become a better all-around player and a much more confident person on court, which is why he was able to finish the year in the top eight for the first time and become a serious threat at the Slams.

Toni Nadal did a fantastic job helping Rafa adjust to Djokovic’s newfound strengths and helping his nephew add a few new elements to his own game while he was out with an injury, which is why Nadal had the best year of any player out there, won two majors and finished No. 1.

While Vajda now wants to take a back seat to Becker after eight year at the helm, it cannot be dismissed that he helped Djokovic regain the confidence he lost after losing to Nadal in the US Open final and go undefeated during the fall.

After Serena had her most consistent year ever and only lost four matches, Mouratoglou has to be given credit for helping her keep her mind on court all season long. She hadn’t shown an ability to do that as a veteran player until this year and now once again she is the dominant figure in her sport.

Sumyk is an underrated coach who has done an excellent job with Azarenka overall. She managed to win the Aussie Open amidst controversy, score two wins over Williams and, while she could have played much better in the third set of the US Open final and of course at the WTA Championships when she was wiped out, she remains Serena’s most threatening rival, and that is partly because her coach has helped her refine her game and keep her head in matches.

Rodriguez has made Li a player to fear on every surface and she trusts him enough to actually make net charging a part of her repertoire, which could be the addition that takes her to another Slam title.

Anyone who watched Jelena Jankovic flounder in 2012 (and before) knows just how far she has fallen and it took a family member – namely her brother Marko – to understand where she was and where she needed to go to regain her former top five form. She finished the year in the top 8 and once again is filled with vim and vigor.

Here are my quick thoughts on the recent ATP coaching moves.

Djokovic hires Becker: Clearly Djokovic wants to work with an ex-No. 1 who has won Slams to perhaps do with him what Lendl did with Murray: give him some key tips as to how to handle himself in Grand Slam finals. He also wants to be able to go on the attack more often, which Becker did pretty consistently. The Serbian will not morph into a serve and volleyer like Becker was, but he can improve his volley and his transition game.  Two big questions arise: Becker has never coached full-time and, will Djokovic be patient with him if he has to learn on the job; and given that Becker is a very public person who likes to discuss issues with the media, will Djokovic tolerate that if Becker criticizes him to the world or try to muzzle him?

Federer trains for a week with Edberg: The Swede says he is willing to consider working more with the Swiss than the week together they spent in Dubai. Edberg is Federer’s hero, so he clearly respects him, but what exactly can the Swede do with a great but aging player who is behind the eight ball when it comes to being able to be the rest of the so-called Big 4 again? Serve and volley? Chip and charge? Maybe, but Federer’s prior coach, Paul Annacone preached that and it didn’t turn out to matter much in 2013.

Nishikori and Chang: The American has coached before, doing a stint with Peng Shuai, so he does have some experience. Like Nishikori, Chang was an undersized player during his era, but the former world No. 2 was steadier than Japan’s top player is now, was mentally tougher and frankly was better all around. Nishikori needs to improve his fitness and play more patiently before he takes big rips at the ball.  Chang, who was very hard worker, can help him with that.

Ivanisevic and Cilic: These two Croatians have worked with each other in the past.  Ivanisevic is a bold, self-confident person who can perhaps convince Cilic to stop doubting himself. He also needs to figure out why his student hasn’t come close to living up to his top-5 potential. From the outside, that looks like a very complex jigsaw puzzle.



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).

Laura Robson wins Player Tweeter of the Year Poll over Federer

Tweeter of the Year


Laura Robson 25%
Roger Federer 24%
Serena Williams 19%
Tomas Berdych 13%
Stan Wawrinka 5%
Maria Sharapova 4%
Andy Murray 3%
Ivo Karlovic 3%
Caroline Wozniacki 2%
Sofia Arvidsson 1%

What entices a person to follow a particular player on Twitter whom they are not a huge fan of? A great sense of humor? Strong opinions? Honesty about matches and tour issues? Profound statements? Great photos? Some or all of those qualities apply to the 10 following nominees for Tweeters of the Year. Here are examples of each of their work. All are worth following, but the spunky teen Laura Robson took 2013 honors.

Sofia Arvidsson Sofia_Arvidsson 10 Dec

I love going to the dentist…#SaidNoOneEver


Tomas Berdych @tomasberdych 17 Nov

Why I deleted?I wanted to dance with Djoky tonight…I am #sad he is not here!?!


Roger Federer For his #AskRF sessions, @shankerer:

And what is Mirka getting for Christmas? 🙂 #AskRF @rogerfederer: A hashtag


Ivo Karlovic @ivokarlovic 9 Dec

Nadal would of have triple double. #KobeReturns


Andy Murray @andy_murray 8 Nov

who loses their hair first out of me and rafa?


Laura Robson  ‏@laurarobson5 12 Dec

You know you’re injured a lot when your hospital invites you to the opening of the new MRI machine. #athleteproblems

Stan Wawrinka @stanwawrinka retweeted this, @svenja_mastro 14 Sep

Luthi was asked who he’d like to play next year. “There’s no more Ecuador?”, was Stan’s reaction when someone named the potential opponents.


Maria Sharapova @MariaSharapova 23 Sep

Strapless dresses continue to dominate award show red carpets. Not exactly pushing the envelope.


Serena Williams @serenawilliams 30 Nov

I did something I have never done before today-I played tennis in Argentina with blind kids. The ball made noise. They listened and than hit


Caroline Wozniacki @CaroWozniacki 21 Sep

Not good for your confidence when you go from being a small to an extra large over night! #japanesesizes #asia



Vickery, Johnson surprise with Aussie Open Playoff wins

Sachia Vickery went from maybe to the USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoff women’s champion, taking out fourth-seed Victoria Duval in two easy sets.

In a little over an hour, the decade-long rivalry that started when they first played at age 7 had a new chapter as Vickery breezed through the favored Duval 6-2, 6-3. Vickery gained entry into the tournament when Melanie Oudin pulled out with rhabdomyolysis.

Former two-time NCAA champion Steve Johnson also won a free pass into the Australian Open main draw by defeating Tennys Sandgren in five sets. Both Johnson and Vickery won three matches against other up-and-coming American players and collected the wild card. The USTA has a reciprocal agreement with Tennis Australia.

Even Duval’s history at Life Time Athletic at Peachtree Corners (she trained here for a few years), could not help her raise her game on an indoor hard court on a rain-soaked day in Georgia. Her long forehand stroke and accurate placements couldn’t help her overcome Vickery’s tenacious power.

Vickery delivered repeated body blows, determined to keep Duval off balance and unready for her next groundstrokes. She was consistently coming up with one more shot and relying on her power off both wings.

At 2-5 in the first set Duval double faulted to set up a set point. Then, Vickery shows rare variety and delivers a drop shot Duval can’t handle. First set: Vickery.

Throughout the second set, Vickery kept up the attack while Duval showed a lack of intensity. Even though Vickery’s second serve was very attackable, Duval didn’t put up much resistance.

Vickery and Duval who made a big splash in last year’s US Open, moved to 2-2 in the third set but then Duval lost her way. Vickery slammed an ace up the T and followed up with a nice drop shot. Later in the set Duval was unhappy with first serve let call and lost the point. Then, Vickery sailed a super defensive lob up near the lights that dropped right smack on the baseline. With that break, Vickery moved on to put away the match.

In a post-match press conference, Vickery said, “I was getting ready to go to Auckland, and my coach was like, ‘Well you might get in.’ She called both her mother, Paula Liverpool, and her coach, USTA National Coach Kathy Rinaldi, after the match. “So, I was like, ‘Yeah, we’ll see what happens. If it happens, great. If not, I have qualies.’ … I’m very religious, and my mom always says God puts things in situations for a reason.”

Sandgren Lets One Slip Away

One match point. One shot at an entry into the Australian Open main draw. One double fault.


Steve Johnson takes down Tennys Sandgren in five. Ron Cioffi/

That was the disappointing story for Sandgren. He had Johnson in his sight, after winning the first set and then crushing him with a bagel in the third.The final count was 4-6, 6-3, 0-6, 7-6(5), 6-1 with the former University of Tennessee star Sandgren watching a match he could have won come up in the loss column.

In the fourth set’s twelfth game, Sandgren had his sole match point. But, Johnson pounded another ace.

The momentum went back to the Tennessean in the tiebreak, as Sandgren had two-point leads as late as 5-3. But, Johnson proved a quick-handed return of serve can be a heart-breaker. He took the last four points and escaped.

“I just kind of ran the best play I could. Luckily, it worked, and here we are,” Johnson said. “That’s just tennis. He’s one point away from winning, and 20 minutes later I’m up a break and trying to squeeze him for another one. … I’m excited to finally win a five-set match,” he said. “I’m 0-for-4 in life, 0-for-3 this year, so I’m glad to get one.”

Johnson was contemplating withdrawing from the tournament because of a leg injury.

The fifth set was all Johnson. Even though he experienced some leg problems earlier in the match, he pickup up steam while Sandgren continually bent his legs and seemed to be stretched beyond his endurance. Johnson found new confidence at the net, angling off winners and using his overhead effectively.


Petkovic takes “Coolest Women Player” category

Germany’s Andrea Petkovic is dancing now as she has won the 2013 Readers Poll for Coolest Woman Player. She had a 13% lead over Laura Robson.

Coolest Woman Player


Andrea Petkovic 48%
Laura Robson 35%
Marion Bartoli 11%
Bethanie Mattek-Sands 5%

There are plenty of great personalities on the WTA. In fact, outside of the generally outstanding level of play, it’s that element that has made it the world’s most popular women’s sport. A good 50 players could have been nominated for the “Coolest Women’s Player” category in the 2013 readers poll, but four caught our eye: the honest and eclectic Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli; the carefree and outspoken Bethanie Mattek-Sands; the introspective yet bold Andrea Petkovic; and the precocious and daring Laura Robson. Make your voice heard by voting on the right.