A real Ivanovic revival this time?

Ivanovic is coming alive.

FROM THE BNP PARIBAS OPEN AT INDIAN WELLS – Ana Ivanovic has had plenty of coaches, trainers and physios. Some have connected with her, some haven’t, but it’s fair to say that despite getting some pretty good advice since she won 2008 Roland Garros and briefly rose to No. 1, that she didn’t heed much of it, or was unable to absorb it, didn’t believe in it, or just wasn’t in then the mental state to make use of it. On Thursday after she reached her first WTA Premier mandatory semifinals since Indian Wells 2009 by whacking an ill Marion Bartoli 6-3, 6-4. Like she was in her upset of Caroline Wozniacki, she was quick and lethal off her forehand side and her often spotty first serve help up very well. She was vicious with her return and closed out points quickly.

There is absolutely no guarantee that this solid and inspiring play will continue throughout the year, but the world No. 16 does seem to get along well with the experience Sears, and does trust him. There have been so many times over the past few year that Ivanovic has spoken about playing aggressive and then was unable to keep the ball in the court, so her attempt to dictate was scoffed at by her foes. So what’s different now? “I worked so much on trying to get cover on the ball and just staying low,” she said. “I think also with confidence it comes that you sort of finish your shots. I felt like lots of times I would execute well in the past and I would doubt it so I would pull out a little bit, and then the result wouldn’t be as good as if I stayed through the ball. This is what I really work hard on, just finishing my shots and getting cover, especially on my forehand. It’s really weird that forehand has been my best shot, and Nigel, the first thing he said, ‘We have to work on your forehand. I’m like, why? It is the case, and I feel a lot more confident executing.” MORE FOR SUBSCRIBERS…

Maria Sharapova and her once close friend Maria Kirilenko has a bang-up, three-hour match that ended in a 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 win for the taller Maria. Kirilenko played brilliantly during the first set and half, mixing speed, power and inventiveness, but eventually Sharapova found her range, became less predictable and took over. Kirilenko had real chances to ward the end of the second set, but Sharapova out-toughed her mentally and finally began to win their forehand battles. Interestingly, Sharapova agreed with chair umpire Marija Cicak of Croatia

2011 WTA Review: Nos. 6-10


Sam is much more complete player.

Most improved awards usually go to younger players who make substantial rankings breakthroughs, but in 2011, amongst the veterans, No. 6 Samantha Stosur would get my vote. How she managed to go from having her backhand rated as a

WTA 2011 Review: Vika

Azarenka has to find away to stay off the trainer's table.

In some ways, this should have been the year that Victoria Azarenka won her first major as her game had developed to the point where with a little good fortune and some standout play when it mattered most, that she could have shown the world that she will be a major force to be contended with for years to come.

But Azarenka has not fully developed as a player yet, despite displaying flashes of brilliance, a hyper- aggressive mindset, one of the WTA

Murray matters again

Murray: so close yet so far

Andy Murray took down David Ferrer again, this time 7-5. 6-4 to claim the Shanghai Masters title, but more importantly he moved ahead of Roger Federer in the rankings for the first time, jumping to No. 3. The leap is well deserved as Murray won an Asian hat trick, also taking the titles in Bangkok and Tokyo. Winning any three tournaments in consecutive weeks is a huge feat physically and while neither Federer nor Novak Djokovic showed up in Asia this fall, Murray did take out a host of good players including No. 2 Rafael Nadal.


Rafa’s Angst: Nadal’s struggles continue

Rafa is straining.

Notes on a Draw Sheet

Rafael Nadal

Levels of Premiership

Ivanovic going deep would help ticket sales

FROM THE MERCURY INSURANCE OPEN – Despite the reduction in the calendar, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that we will ever see a player such as Lindsay Davenport in 1998 win the three straight Premier level events and the US Open again. It is becoming increasingly rare for top players to even compete three consecutive weeks, which was not the case with Davenport, Kim Clijsters and Venus Williams earlier in her career.

Now, when star players such as Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova make their schedules, if they choose to play Stanford, which is played three weeks after Wimbledon, there is almost no way that they are going to play the Mercury Insurance Open in San Diego and then Canada and Cincinnati. They do not have to play both Premier 5 level events in Canada and Cincinnati, but they have to play four of the five and since they would rather play those events in North America, they are going to make sure to get it down during the summer.

So consequently, San Diego, which is Premier level event the size of Stanford (neither of which are Premier 5s) is struggling to attract the cream of the top and was crushed when the super popular Kim Clijsters, young Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and defending champion pulled out. It

Bartoli now a real Slam contender

Coming off her best back to back Slam showings at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, France’s top players prepares for an assault on New York.

Wimbledon: no rest for weary on Manic Monday

Is Nadal injured?

There is a certain charm to Wimbledon

Azarenka’s angst

Vika cannot seem to stay healthy.

If Victoria Azarenka is going to win a Slam, she has to find a way to get healthy because her retirement count is now off the charts. On Thursday at Eastbourne, she retired for the fourth time in eight tournaments and twelfth time since the start of 2010 when down 62 20 to Marion Bartoli, she quit with a right groin injury. Whether its mental or just purely physical is hard to know, but what can be said is that it highly unusual and is happening right around every Slam. Someone in her camp better discover why or she never going to be consistent, serious threat.

Daniela Hantuchova finally found a way to best Venus Williams and took her out for the first time in 11 tries, 6-2 5-7 6-2. Give credit to Hantuchova who has had a fine month, but let’s not forget that Venus was playing just her third match since missing four and a half months of action due to hip and abdominal injuries

“The wind didn’t make it very predictable, but I give her credit for hanging in there. On a day like today, you have to just hang in there,” Williams said. “I think Daniela had a lot of motivation – we’ve been playing I don’t know how many years, and I am sure she has wanted to get a win against me for a long, long time…It wasn’t the best luck today, but I feel good about my preparation. More than anything I was able to get a lot of great competition. This has been ideal.”

Hantuchova will face Petra Kvitova, who came back to defeat the confounding Aga Radwanska 1-6 6-2 7-6(2). The lefty Kvitova certainly has a shot at Wimbledon and while Radwanska is a very smart player, she’s having trouble closing again and does not have a powerful enough game to do huge damage on grass.

No grass court lover, Sam Stosur came back from 6-4 4-2 down to best Vera Zvonareva 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-4, the second marathon match in a row for the Russian who had edged Serena Williams the day prior.

In Den Bosch, Roberta Vinci took out Yanina Wickmayer and Romina Oprandi upended Kimiko Date, Oprandi will face Jelena Dokic, who could be very dangerous at Wimbledon.

How about Kei Nishikori in rainy Eastbourne, first besting Rainer Schuettler 6-4 4-6 6-2 and then Radek Stepanek 6-2 6-3 in the quarters? Other semifinalists are Igor Kunitsyn, Janko Tipsarevic and Andreas Seppi…Irina Falconi qualified for Wimbledon, but Ryan Harrison was down two sets when the rain struck.

RG semis: Living & breathing tennis

Schiavone will face another savvy vet in Li

Neither the three-times Grand Slam champion nor the French femme fatale could contend with the wind or the occasion on Court Phillipe Chatrier, so on Saturday China