Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Spotlight On ... Thiemo de Bakker

Thiemo de Bakker became the first Dutch player to finish a year inside the top 100 since Raemon Sluiter ended the 2004 season at #84. The 21-year-old is currently ranked #96, after winning four Challenger titles over the course of 2009 in Tampere (d. Peter Luczak), Vigo (d. Thierry Ascione), San Sebastian (d. Filip Krajinovic) and Brasov (d. Pere Riba). The latter three Challenger titles were won in consecutive events, with the winning streak being broken in Alphen (l. to Michael Russell). He also reached the final of a Challenger event in Caltanisetta (l. to compatriot Jesse Huta-Galung), along with a semi-final in in Seoul (l. to Lucas Lacko) and a quarter-final in Kolding (l. to Ivan Dodig).

As a player on the Dutch Davis Cup team, Thiemo has played ties against Argentina (l. to Juan Monaco and Juan Ignacio Chela) and France (d. Gael Monfils, l. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga).

Monday, 26 October 2009

Spotlight On ... Sabine Lisicki

Sabine Lisicki shot to prominence at the 2008 Australian Open after reaching the third round as a qualifier and beating 16th seed Dinara Safina before losing to rising star Caroline Wozniacki. Her win over Safina was the first top 20 scalp of her career. She also qualified for WTA Indian Wells but lost in the opening round to fellow qualifier Greta Arn. She brushed aside that disappointment in fine style by reaching the fourth round of WTA Miami. She beat 5th seed Anna Chakvetadze for her first top 10 scalp. This result saw her rise to the outskirts of the top 100. She broke into the top 100 courtesy of a second round appearance in WTA Berlin. Here, she defeated Shahar Peer as a wildcard before losing to Sybille Bammer. The win over Peer was her third top 20 scalp. She reached the second round of Roland Garros, losing to 12th seed Agnes Szavay. Since then, her results have been less impressive, with early losses at WTA Birmingham, WTA s'Hertogenbosch (qualifying) Wimbledon and WTA Los Angeles and Montreal.

Sabine got things back on track with a quarter-final in WTA Cincinnati (l. to 3rd seed Maria Kirilenko) and a second round losses at the US Open (l. to 27th seed Alona Bondarenko) and WTA Seoul (l. to Samantha Stosur). In October, she reached the final of WTA Tashkent, beating top seed Shuai Peng before losing to 3rd seed Sorana Cirstea. She reached a career-high ranking of #49 in the same month.

Sabine's ranking slipped at the start of the 2009 season after she failed to defend the points gained in Melbourne the previous year, but she has still been racking up the wins. She reached the semi-finals in Memphis, beating 3rd seeded Lucie Safarova (l. to 2nd seed Victoria Azarenka). She stunned 2nd seed Venus Williams in the third round of Charleston and went on to reach the final (l. to Caroline Wozniacki) after also beating 6th seed Marion Bartoli in the semi-finals. This was followed by a second round in Stuttgart (l. to 3rd seed Jelena Jankovic) and a quarter-final in Estoril (l. to 8th seeded compatriot, Anna-Lena Groenefeld).

Sabine reached the quarter-finals of Wimbledon (l. to top seed Dinara Safina, after wins over 5th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova and 9th seed Caroline Wozniacki). Second rounds in Stanford (l. to 4th seed Jelena Jankovic), the US Open (l. to qualifier Anastasia Rodionova), Tokyo (l. to 7th seed Jelena Jankovic) followed this, but Luxembourg proved to be a return to form as she battled her way into the final (l. to Timea Bacsinszky).

She is coached by her father, Dr Richard Lisicki, who is a tennis coach. He introduced her to tennis at the age of seven.

Read Sabine's Luxembourg blog on the WTA Tour website here

Monday, 14 September 2009

Spotlight On ... Petra Martic

Petra Martic is a Croatian tennis player who broke into the top 100 today at # 89. Despite her ranking being outside of the top 100 until now, she has been playing quite frequently on the WTA circuit this year. She reached the second round of Roland Garros as a qualifier (l. to 24th seed Aleksandra Wozniak) and backed that up with a first round victory at the US Open (d. Severine Bremond Baltrame, l. to 9th seed and eventual finalist Caroline Wozniacki). In the middle, she reached the quarter-finals in Budapest as a qualifier (d. 8th seed Lucie Safarova, l. Edina Gallovits) and Portoroz, this time as a wildcard (l. to 5th seed Sara Errani). In 2008, she reached the quarter-finals of Portoroz (l. to Julia Goerges).

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Spotlight On ... Jesse Witten

Despite being ranked outside of the top 270, Jesse Witten reached the third round of this year's US Open before losing to 4th seed Novak Djokovic. Before this success, he had yet to win a round in an ATP Tour event but that didn't stop him dispatching 29th seed Igor Andreev and Maximo Gonzalez to book his place in round three.

As you might guess from his ranking, Jesse has been played predominantly on the lower rungs of the circuit. At the start of 2009, he was playing Futures tournaments in the US as his ranking was close to # 400. He won Futures events in Florida and Texas, and retired in the final of a Futures event in Alabama (l. to Sam Groth). Inbetween these events, he attempted to qualify for Indian Wells (l. to Paul Capdeville) and lost in the first round of the Sunrise Challenger (l. to Bjorn Phau). Moving up to the Challenger circuit, he reached the quarters in California (l. to Michael Russell) and Granby (l. to Ryler DeHeart) and returned to the Futures circuit to win an event in California. He qualified for ATP Washington but lost in the first round to Alejandro Falla in his last event prior to the US Open.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Spotlight On ... Petra Kvitova

Petra Kvitova reached the fourth round of Roland Garros in 2009 (like her qualifying compatriot Petra Cetkovska) with wins over top 20 player Agnes Szavay, Samantha Stosur and Akiko Morigami, before losing to Kaia Kanepi.

The nineteen-year-old Czech comes from Fulnek, and was ranked 87 (a career-high) going into the tournament. She had a lot of success on the ITF circuit (five ITF titles in the last couple of years), but she is no stranger to success on the WTA tour too. In February 2009, she got to the second round of WTA Paris, again beating Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain, before bowing out to Elena Dementieva. She qualified for WTA Memphis in the same month and defeated top seed Venus Williams in the first round. This was her first win over a top 20 player – not bad for someone who had only played four matches on the WTA circuit (including that match)! She was ranked 143, and currently holds the record for the lowest ranked player to beat Venus. She got her second win over a top 20 player when she defeated Israel’s Shahar Peer in a Fed Cup match earlier this year. She reached the second round in WTA Strasbourg just before Roland Garros, but it was in Paris that her results really caught the eye.

After Roland Garros, Petra suffered first round exits at WTA Birmingham and Wimbledon. She rebounded in WTA Budapest, where she reached the quarter-finals, but that was followed by second round exits in WTA Los Angeles and WTA Montreal (l. to top seed Ana Ivanovic) and a first round exit at the US Open. On the ITF circuit, she reached the quarter-finals in Sofia, and rounded off her 2008 season with quarter-final showings in WTA Zurich (l. to 2nd seed Ana Ivanovic) and an ITF tournament in Bratislava (l. to 8th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova).

Her 2009 season got off to an impressive start with a title win in Hobart, beating 7th seed Alona Bondarenko along the way. Early exits at the Australian Open (l. to 13th Victoria Azarenka), Paris (l. to Karolina Sprem) and Dubai (l. to Julia Schruff). She regained some form in Indian Wells with a third round appearance (l. to 4th seed Vera Zvonareva), but suffered more early exits in Miami (l. to Sabine Lisicki), Barcelona (l. to 2nd seed Flavia Pennetta), Estoril (l. to Yanina Wickmayer), Madrid (l. to Francesca Schiavone) and Wimbledon (l. to Maria Kirilenko). Moving onto the clay, she notched up a string of second round exits in Bastad (l. to top seed Caroline Wozniacki), Prague (l. to Zarina Diyas) and Portoroz (l. to Camille Pin), and on the hard courts, Toronto (l. to 9th seed Maria Kirilenko). Stepping down to the ITF circuit for some confidence, she lost early in Bronx (l. to Anastasija Sevastova).

These results made her impressive run at the US Open all the more surprising. Petra is currently in the fourth round (matching her run at Roland Garros last year) with wins over 27th seed Alisa Kleybanova and top seed Dinara Safina. She takes on Yanina Wickmayer, another of the Tour's rising stars, for a place in the quarter-finals.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Spotlight On ... Anastasija Sevastova

Anastasija Sevastova is a Latvian tennis player who qualified for the main draw of Wimbledon for her first appearance in the main draw of a Grand Slam. At the time, she was ranked at # 126 (just below her career-high ranking of # 121, which she achieved in June 2009).

Prior to this achievement, Anastasija's best results of 2009 have included winning ITF titles in La Palma (Spain) and Johannesburg (South Africa), reaching the second round of WTA Charleston (I. to 6th seed Marion Bartoli after qualifying for the tournament) and almost defeating Daniela Hantuchova in the first round of WTA Ponte Vedra Beach as a qualifier.

Post-Wimbledon, she broke into the top 100 after reaching the final of an ITF event in Prague (l. to 6th seed Sandra Zahlavova) and reached a career high ranking of # 95. She beat Tamarine Tanasugarn in the first round of the US Open, and gave a decent account of herself against 6th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in the following round.


Saturday, 5 September 2009

Spotlight On ... Melanie Oudin

It's been a while since American women's tennis had much to shout about at the Grand Slams outside of the Williams sisters, but 17-year-old Melanie Oudin has been doing a good job of flying the flag for the US this year. She booked her place in the fourth round of Wimbledon after beating Jelena Jankovic in three sets for her first ever win over a top 10 player. Although her good run ended today at the hands of Agnieszka Radwanska, the qualifier made a bit of a name for herself during the fortnight.

She was ranked # 124 going into the tournament (just one place below her then career-high). Although she has played in the main draw of Grand Slams in the past, this was by far her best result. Proving that it wasn't a one-off, she has risen to the occasion again during the US Open. She surpassed her Wimbledon result by reaching thequarter-finals with wins over Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova to add to her list of scalps. Coming into the US Open, she was ranked # 70 (three spots below her career high ranking of #67 achieved in August), but that looks set to rise significantly. Her quarter-final match against Caroline Wozniacki was probably a match too far given her exploits in coming from a set down to beat higher ranked opponents earlier in the tournament. Nevertheless, America has found a new sweetheart in Melanie.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Spotlight On ... Olivia Rogowska

Olivia Rogowska almost upset top seed Dinara Safina in the first round of the US Open yesterday and showed flashes of her potential. The Australian teenager recently turned 18 in the summer, and is arguably one of their big young hopes for the future (along with the likes of Jessica Moore and Bernard Tomic). She is currently ranked at a career-high # 167.

She won an ITF title in Sorrento (Australia) last season and has spent a good chunk of this season playing on the ITF circuit. She was given a wildcard for the main draw of the Australian Open, where she lost to 31st seed Alona Bondarenko in three sets in the first round. She was more successful as a wildcard at Roland Garros, where she reached the second round (l. to Katerina Bondarenko in three sets after beating Maria Kirilenko). Elsewhere on the WTA circuit, she failed to qualify for Wimbledon (l. to Regina Kulikova but beat 19th seed Yvonne Meusberger in the second qualifying round) and Stanford (l. to Lilia Osterloh).

Her results on the ITF circuit weren't particularly impressive at the start of the season, with second rounds in Burnie (Australia) (l. to 5th seed Erika Sema) and Sydney (Australia) (l. to 5th seed Junri Namagata), and a quarter-final in Mildura (Australia) (l. to 6th seeded compatriot Monique Adamczak). Moving onto the clay, she reached a final in Bundaberg (Australia) (l. to 2nd seeded compatriot Anastasia Rodionova after beating top seeded compatriot Jessica Moore and 5th seeded compatriot Emelyn Starr), and a semi-final in Ipswitch (Australia) (l. to Rodionova again in a slightly more competitive encounter). Back on the ITF circuit but switching to the US hard courts, she reached the second round in $75k Vancouver (l. to Rebecca Marino) and lost in the first round in $100k Bronx (l. to Masa Zec Peskiric). Bronx was her last tournament prior to taking on Safina at the US Open, so it seems that the Aussie likes a big stage.

Off Court Photos: Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Nicole Vaidisova, Radek Stepanek and James Blake


Above: Bethanie Mattek-Sands


Above: Nicole Vaidisova and Radek Stepanek


Above: James Blake

[Photo credits: tennisforum.com]



Upcoming Posts

Look out for new and updated Spotlight On ... posts on the following players soon:

  • Olivia Rogowska
  • Melanie Oudin (update)
  • Petra Martic
  • Jesse Witten
  • Josselin Ouanna
  • Anastasija Sevastova (update)
  • Stephanie Dubois
  • Barbora Zahlavova Strycova
  • Kai-Chen Chang
  • Tatjana Malek
  • Kirsten Flipkens

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Spotlight On ... Laura Robson

After claiming the 2008 Girls’ Singles title at Wimbledon, Laura Robson became the youngest champion since Martina Hingis. The fourteen-year-old Brit had been making waves on the junior circuit for a while already, having won four titles and made the final of several other tournaments. This was her biggest junior title to date though, and her first ever junior Grand Slam event. She rose from # 36 to #5 on the ITF junior rankings following her Wimbledon success.

She was born in Australia but moved to the UK as a child and now competes for Great Britain. Laura made her professional debut in a $10K tournament in France, where she entered the qualifying tournament. She qualified with ease and edged past Alice Balducci to win her first ITF main draw match. That was to be the end of her tournament as she sustained a shoulder injury during her second round match against the 2nd seed, and retired while trailing in the first set.

Her second ITF tournament was $75K Shrewsbury (UK). She was given a wildcard into the main draw, and beat compatriot Sarah Borwell for her second ITF main draw win. She had a mucher tough test in the second round against fellow rising star Urszula Radwanska, who is also a Junior Wimbledon champion, and looks set to crack the top 100 soon. Against the odds, she stunned Radwanska in straight sets and followed that up with a straight sets win over 4th seeded Israeli Tzipora Obziler, who is 21 years her senior. She took 2nd seed Maret Ani to three sets but fell away in the decider.

She gained her first WTA world ranking after scoring a point in $50K Barnstaple (l. to Angelique Kerber in the opening round), debuting at #550. She made her WTA main draw debut in WTA Luxembourg, losing to top 50 player, Iveta Benesova, in three sets in the first round. She won her first ITF title in $10K Sunderland before returning to the junior circuit for the Eddie Herr Junior International Championships and the Orange Bowl.

She kicked off her 2009 season with a final appearance in the junior Australian Open (l. to Ksenia Pervak). She reached # 1 in the combined ITF junior rankings in early 2009 following this run. Injury affected her season after that, and her next big tournament came at Wimbledon, where she received a main draw wildcard as a reward for her exploits at junior Wimbledon last year. She pushed Daniela Hantuchova to three sets but ultimately came up short. Turning her attention back to the junior tournament, she cruised through to the third round before losing a tight three-set match with Quirine Lemoine.

Back on the ITF circuit, Laura faltered in qualifying for $25K events in Europe. She has been awarded a qualifying wildcard for the US Open and beat 21st seed Stephanie Foretz in her opening match and followed up with a battling win over former top 50 player Aniko Kapros. She takes on Eva Hrdinova for a place in the main draw.

Off Court Photos: Jelena Jankovic

Off Court Photos: Maria Sharapova (Tiffany & Co and Instyle)



[Source: Tennisforum.com]

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Off Court Photos: Maria Sharapova



[Photo source: Tennisforum.com]


Monday, 24 August 2009

Title Watch: Federer and Dementieva Scoop Titles

In Cincinnati, Roger Federer claimed the title with a straight sets triumph over Novak Djokovic. The world # 1 had ended the run of the new # 2, Andy Murray, in the semi-finals to deny the Brit the chance to win back-to-back titles.

In Toronto, Elena Dementieva won an all-Russian battle against Maria Sharapova.

Martina Hingis Signs Up For Strictly Come Dancing

Martina Hingis has been revealed as one of this year's Strictly Come Dancing contestants.

The former world # 1 follows in the footsteps of fellow retirees Andrew Castle (who competed in the last series of Strictly), Monica Seles and Alicia Molik (who both competed in Dancing With The Stars).

It's fair to say that no tennis player has had much success in the dancing stakes on these shows, so Martina probably has her work cut out to change that!

Her dancing partner is yet to be announced.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Title Watch: Murray and Jankovic Take Spoils

Andy Murray beat an ailing Juan Martin Del Potro in three sets to clinch the Montreal Masters title. The Brit ensured that he would become the new world # 2 after dispatching Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semi-finals. This title was his fourth Masters Series title and the 13th title of his career. His next task is to defend his title in Cincinnati.

Speaking of Cincinnati, Jelena Jankovic defeated Dinara Safina in the final there to win her second title of 2009. Despite ending the runs of both Kim Clijsters (who is on her comeback) and Flavia Pennetta en route to the final, Safina found the going a bit too tough against Jankovic.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Title Watch: Del Potro and Pennetta Grab Titles

Juan Martin Del Potro successfully defended his Washington title with a 3-6 7-5 7-6 (8-6) win over Andy Roddick in the final. Andre Agassi was the last player to win successive titles at the tournament, back in 1999. The title was Del Potro's second of the year after Auckland (d. Sam Querrey). It wasn't enough to leapfrog Roddick in the rankings though, and the Argentine stays put at # 6.

In the women's event in Los Angeles, Flavia Pennetta held her nerve to overcome Sam Stosur 6-3 6-4. The Italian had ended Maria Sharapova's hopes of winning her first WTA title since returning from a shoulder injury after beating the former world # 1 in the semi-finals. The title was Pennetta's second of 2009 after her tournament victory in Palermo earlier in the season. In the rankings, Pennetta climbs two ranking spots to # 12 - one place below the career-high of # 11 that she reached in February. Stosur also jumps two spots to a career-high ranking of # 17.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Spotlight On ... Andrea Hlavackova

Andrea Hlavackova is a Czech tennis player who plays predominantly on the ITF circuit. She is ranked just outside of the top 200 and recently won a $25K ITF event in Bad Saulgal (Germany), having gone through the qualifying beforehand.

Her 2009 season got off to a slow start with second round exits in $25K Sutton (UK) (l. to Naomi Cavaday), $25K Stockholm (l.to Cavaday again) and $25K Jersey (UK) (l. to Monique Adamczak). Stepping up to $100k level for some much needed ranking points, Andrea lost in qualifying for $100K Torhout (l. to Claire Feuerstein) but picked up a lucky loser spot and reached the second round (l. to Nathalie Dechy).

Switching to the WTA Tour, she entered qualifying for Barcelona but was beaten by Mervana Jugic-Salkic in the opening qualifying round.

Reverting back to the ITF circuit, she lost in the opening rounds of $100K Johannesburg (l. to Marinne Giraud) and $100K Bucharest (l. to Andrea Petkovic). Dropping back down to $25K level, she reached a final in Szczecin (l. to Stephanie Gerhlein) and the quarter-finals of La Coruna (l. to Neuza Silva). Another attempt at WTA qualifying followed (l. to Elena Daniilidou), before the title win in Bad Saulgau.

Spotlight On ... Maria Fernandez Alvarez-Teran

Maria Fernandez Alvarez-Teran is a Bolivian tennis player, who is currently on the verge of the top 200. She plays a lot on the ITF circuit in South America, and recently won a $25k event in Brazil (d. Maria Fernandez Alves in the final) and reached the final of a $25k in Bogota (Colombia) (l. to Marina Giral Lores). Earlier in the year, she reached the quarter-finals of $50K Cali (Mexico) (l. to Tetiana Luzhanska).

Outside of South America, her best results have included a quarter-final in $25K Jackson (USA) (l. to Laura Siegemund, but d. Coco Vandeweghe in the second round) and a second round in $25K Osprey (USA) (l. to Tadeja Majeric).

World Junior Tennis Finals: USA and Spain Triumph

In the finals of the World Junior Tennis Finals, Spain defeated Portugal in the boys' tournament, while the USA beat the Czech Republic in the girls' event.

Carlos Benito gave Spain a lead after beating Rodolfo Pereira in the first singles rubber, and this was further extended when Albert Alcaraz defeated Frederico Silva. This was enough to gift Spain the title. Japan and the Czech Republic battled it out for third place, with Japan prevailing in the deciding doubles rubber.

In the girls' final, the Czech team gave the home crowd something to cheer about after Aneta Dvorakova beat Victora Duval in the first singles rubber. America hit back in the second singles rubber, with Sachia Vickery overcoming Petra Rohanova. With the final tied at one rubber apiece, the Americans teamed up to clinch the title. Third place went to Japan, who defeated Russia.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Roger Federer and His Twin Girls

Roger Federer has posted a photo of his twin girls, Myla and Charlene, on his Facebook fan page this week. In the photo (which can be viewed here), Roger and Mirka are both proudly holding a twin each.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Off Court Photos: Svetlana Kuznetsova

Here are some photographs from a recent photoshoot that Svetlana Kuznetsova took part in :










Spotlight On ... Carsten Ball

Carsten Ball reached the final in Los Angeles last weekend (l. to Sam Querrey) despite being ranked outside of the top 200. That success saw him leapfrog into the top 150 for the first time in his career at # 145. He gained scalps over a string of higher-ranked players, including # 75 Marc Gicquel, # 60 Leonardo Mayer and # 29 Dmitry Tursunov (who retired in the second set), before losing to Querrey in three sets.

His 2009 season got off to a slow start. As a wildcard, he lost in the opening rounds of Brisbane (l. to Thomaz Bellucci) and the Australian Open (l. to Michael Berrer). Stepping back down to the Futures circuit, he won a title in New Zealand and climbed into the top 200. Several Challenger quarter-finals followed in Baton Rouge (USA) (l. to Benjamin Becker), Tallahassee (USA) (l. to Danai Udomchoke) and Savannah (USA) (l. to Alex Kuznetsov) before he broke through to reach finals in Sarasota (USA) (l. to James Ward) and Yuba City (USA) (l. to Ryler DeHeart). Returning to the Futures circuit again, he won another title in Sacramento (USA) but suffered two successive losses to DeHeart on his return to the Challenger circuit. Just prior to entering the qualifying for Los Angeles, he had lost in the first round of a Challenger event in Kentucky (USA) (l. to Bruno Agostinelli) and had failed to win a match in his last three tournaments.

Although he plays for Australia, Carsten was born in Newport Beach in America and has his base over there. His father (and coach), Syd Ball, was also a tennis pro. He reached the Australian Open doubles and won eight doubles titles in total.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Spotlight On... Coco Vandeweghe

Coco Vandeweghe was a relatively unknown entity to many tennis fans until the 2008 US Open. The American teenager was given a wildcard into the women's singles draw and was unlucky enough to draw world number two Jelena Jankovic (who went on to lose to Serena Williams in the final) in the first round. She gave a solid account of herself in a 6-3 6-1 defeat, and turned her attention to the junior tournament. She had good success there, winning the title with scalps such as Tamaryn Hendler and Elena Chernyakova.

Most of her time up until that US Open was spent on the ITF circuit, but she did have a taste of the elite level. She made her WTA tour level debut back in 2006 as a wildcard entry in WTA San Diego (l. to qualifier Kateryna Bondarenko). She was given another wildcard in San Diego the following year (l. to Elena Bovina), and was given qualifying wildcards into WTA Indian Wells and the US Open. This year, she has had qualifying wildcards in Indian Wells, and main draw wildcards in WTA Miami (l. to fellow wildcard Sabine Lisicki) and WTA Los Angeles (l. to Marta Domachowska).

Her best results of the 2008 season included a semi-final in San Luis Potosi (Mexico) and a quarter-final in $50K Las Vegas (USA), in which she stunned top seed Aravane Rezai (who was ranked 53 in the world) in the first round before losing to 6th seed Meng Yuan in the last eight.

In 2009, Coco has gone under the radar for the most part. She has played predominantly on the ITF circuit, but ventured onto the WTA Tour to play Indian Wells (l. to Severine Bremond in the first qualifying round) and Miami (l. to Nuria Llagostera Vives in the first round). Her best results on the ITF circuit have been second rounds in Jackson (USA) (l. to 4th seed Maria Fernandez Alvarez after d. top seed Agustina Lapore in qualifying), Dothan (USA) (l. to top seed and # 72 Patricia Mayr) and St Joseph (USA) (l. to compatriot Irina Falconi). Based on this, it was something of a surprise when she took advantage of a wildcard entry into Los Angeles to dispatch # 58 Tathiana Garbin in straigh sets in round one.

Spotlight On ... Lucie Hradecka

She might have come up short in several finals this year (Strasbourg and Istanbul), but Lucie Hradecka is beginning to make her presence felt on the WTA Tour. The Czech is currrently ranked at a career-high of # 56 in the world following last weekend's final appearance in Istanbul (l. to Vera Dushevina in a very one-sided affair).

Although she has had some good success at WTA level this year, Lucie has also stepped down to the ITF circuit, where she won a title in Belfort (France). This kickstarted her 2009 season after early exits in qualifying for Hobart (l. to Maria Elena Camerin) and the Australian Open (l. to Ekaterina Ivanova). En route to the ITF Belfort title, she beat Andrea Petkovic in the quarter-finals and 2nd seed Vesna Manasieva in the final. This was followed by an ITF final in Midland (USA), where she gained revenge on Ivanova in the first round and took out 4th seed Stephanie Foretz in the semi-finals.

Her good form came to an end after this with early exits in Memphis (l. to Chanelle Scheepers in the opening round), ITF Clearwater (USA) (l. to Mervana Jugic-Salkic in the opening round), Indian Wells (l. to 5th seed Petra Cetkovska in the second qualifying round), Miami (l. to Julia Goerges in the first qualifying round), and Barcelona (l. to Yevgenia Savranska in the first round). Things got back on track with a quarter-final in Fes (d. 8th seed Shahar Peer, before losing to Melinda Czink) and a final in Strasbourg (l. to Aravane Rezai after beating three higher-ranked players in the form of Alla Kudryatseva, Kristina Barrois and Ayumi Morita). Quarter-finals in ITF Biarritz (l. to 5th seed Julia Goerges) and Prague (l. to 2nd seed Sybille Bammer) was followed by the final in Istanbul, where she again beat Petkovic in the semi-finals and managed to exact some revenge on Goerges in the second round.

In terms of the Grand Slams, Lucie's best showing is a second round at Roland Garros (l. to 22nd seed Carla Suarez Navarro). She narrowly lost out 8-6 in the third set to 13th seed Ana Ivanovic in the first round of Wimbledon. She has yet to play in the main draw of the Australian and US Opens but will do so in the latter this summer.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Spotlight On ... Georgie Stoop

Georgie Stoop impressed more than a few people at Wimbledon 2009 after pushing Vera Zvonareva to three sets in the first round. The Brit was ranked in the top 200 before an injury sent her back down the rankings. Having worked her way back up there again (her career-high of # 179 was achieved in May 2009), she won an ITF title in Spain this weekend (d. compatriot Katie O'Brien in the final). Her only previous ITF title came in Australia back in 2006, so this was a welcome return to winning ways.

The majority of her career has been spent on the ITF circuit, although she has attempted to qualify for the Grand Slams this year and was given wildcards into Wimbledon (l. to Zvonareva) and Birmingham (l. to compatriot Elena Baltacha).

Spotlight On ... Andrea Petkovic

Germany's Andrea Petkovic made a name for herself recently when she lifted the trophy in Bad Gastein (d. Iona Raluca Olaru in the final). She was ranked # 99 in the world prior to that tournament but that didn't stop her claiming her first WTA title. She followed that up with a semi-final showing in Istanbul (l. to

Andrea's best results had previously come on the ITF circuit, where she had notched up an impressive eight titles - including one in Bucharest in 2009. Success on the WTA circuit had eluded her though, with just three match wins to her name there and no sniff of a title. One of those match wins came at the 2009 Australian Open after beating fellow German Kathrin Woerle (l. to 15th seed Alize Cornet).

Like many tennis players, Andrea has struggled with injuries. In 2008, she spent eight months on the sidelines.

Although Andrea has lived in Germany since she was six months old, she was actually born in Bosnia and has Serbian ancestry. She is coached by her father, Zoran Petkovic. She speaks German, English, French and Serbian.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Spotlight On ... Iona Raluca Olaru

Iona Raluca Olaru is a Romanian tennis player who recently made the final in WTA Bad Gastein (l. to Andrea Petkovic). Along the way, she beat top seed Alize Cornet, 3rd seed Sybille Bammer and 6th seed Magdalena Rybarikova to record the best result of her career so far.

Having started the 2009 season outside of the season with early exits aplenty, she didn't even re-enter the top 100 until just before Roland Garros, after reaching the quarter-finals in Warsaw. An ITF title in Marseille (d. 3rd seed and top 100 player, Tathiana Garbin, in the quarter-finals) cemented her place in the top 100. The final in Bad Gastein saw her rise to a career-high ranking of # 53.

Click here to read Iona's 'Getting To Know ...' interview on the WTA website

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Follow Me On Twitter!

Drop Shots is on Twitter, so feel free to follow me. I'll be posting links to new posts so you can be alerted to updates without having to check the blog. Here's the link: http://twitter.com/dropshots

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Spotlight On ... Stefanie Voegele

Stefanie Voegele is one of Switzerland's biggest tennis hopes. The 19-year-old is currently ranked at # 75, which is a career-high ranking. She broke into the top 100 in May after qualifying for Roland Garros and getting to the second round and reached the quarter-finals of Birmingham (l. to 4th seed Li Na after beating 6th seed Ekaterina Makarova) shortly afterwards. The win over Makarova (who was ranked # 43 at the time) was her career best win. In July, she reached the second round in Prague (l. to compatriot Timea Bacsinszky). On the ITF circuit, she has made finals in Romania and Nottingham.

Stefanie was a member of the Swiss Fed Cup team this year. Her country faced Australia in their World Group II play-off, with Stefanie facing Sam Stosur and Jelena Dokic in her rubbers. Although she lost both clashes, she proved herself to be a tough cookie.

Click here to read Stefanie's "Getting To Know" interview on the WTA Tour website

Monday, 27 July 2009

Off Court Photos: Istanbul Cup


Above: Patty Schnyder, Ipek Senoglu


Above: Vera Zvonareva



Above: Vera Dushevina


L-R: Anabel Medina Garrigues, Vera Dushevina, Aravane Rezai, Patty Schnyder, Vera Zvonareva, Ipek Senoglu, Cagla Buyukakcay







Saturday, 4 July 2009

Spotlight On ... Noppawan Lertcheewakarn

After coming up short against British teenage Laura Robson, Noppawan Lertcheewakarn successfully hoisted the Girls' Singles title at Wimbledon today after defeating French top seed Kristina Mladenovic in three sets in the final. The Thai teenager is ranked # 406 on the WTA rankings, with a career-high ranking of # 314 that was achieved in May 2008. Noppawan has been likened to Monica Seles in terms of her style of play.

In 2009 so far, she was mixed ITF tournaments with the odd WTA event and has made a few forays back onto the junior circuit for the Grand Slam events. In February, she was given a wildcard into WTA Pattaya City (l. to Shahar Peer in the first round). Back on the ITF circuit, she suffered early exits in Sydney (l. to Ryoko Fuda in the second round after beating the top seed in the first round) and North Shore City (l. to Zi-Jun Yang in the first round) before reaching a final in Hamilton (l. to Ayu Fani Damayanti). Following this, she once again suffered early exits in Wellington (l. to So-Jung Kim in the first round), Hvar (l. to Karolina Kosinska in the second round), Bol (l. to Conny Perrin in the second round) and Makarska (l. to 8th seed Iveta Gerlova in the second round). All but Wellington were played on clay. It is pretty fair to say that her confidence probably wasn't that high going into junior Wimbledon, especially as she had lost in the first qualifying round of the senior tournament (l. to Vesna Manasieva, who went on to qualify for the main draw).