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:]

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