2011 Year in Review 1
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WHAT’S INSIDE LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
GET TO KNOW MILOS RAONIC
INDIAN WELLS PREVIEW
GET TO KNOW DANIELA HANTUCHOVA
WHO CAN BREAK THE FANTASTIC FOUR?
ORDER ON THE COURT
FEDERER: READY TO RUMBLE
RACQUET AND SHOE REVIEWS
SHARAPOVA: WHAT WILL HER LEGACY BE
Theodore L. LePak firstname.lastname@example.org
Nick Georgandis Erik Gudris Robert Martin Chris Oddo Elena Scuro
Alberto Capetillo Juan Esparza
200 West 39th Street, Suite No. 11 New York, NY 10018 914-595-4211
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[USA] ANDY “ACE-ROD“ RODDICK
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IJSTERS [BEL] KIM “THE ROCK“ CL PURE DRIVE RACQUET VS NATURAL GUT STRING
OFFICIAL RACQUET, TENNIS BALL AND STRINGER OF THE FRENCH OPEN
Letter from the Editor As we march into the spring, we also jump into some great tennis. Indian Wells promises some glorious matches; simply looking at the draws makes me brim with anticipation. Then once the action ends in California we shoot right over to Miami to the Sony Ericsson, and then with very little hang time after that, we start up the clay court season. Clearly, we will be bringing tennis fans like you plenty of juicy content over the next few weeks. In this edition we feature the legendary Roger Federer on his quest to ascend in the rankings and the superstar Maria Sharapova out to make some noise and shake up the tournament. Both players have something to prove to the world and both are out to take on the desert by storm. In this edition, we have a favorite piece of mine, a piece that brings light to the question everyone in the tennis world is thinking…who can break the fantastic four? This is very intriguing question because Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, and Murray seem to have become the kingpins of the tennis game. I must thank my writers for their consistent and captivating articles. Tennis Now thrives due to their insight and input into tennis. Thank you to Erik Gudris and Chris Oddo, my two
workhorses who spend countless hours pounding on their keyboards to bring fresh content to the slider of Tennis Now. Elena Scuro for bringing insight to tennis fans on their favorite players. Nick Georgandis for writing his commentaries and keeping Tennis Now fresh and up to date with the media. A big thank you to my wingman, Rob Martin for his wisdom, advice, and input to Tennis Now. What would Tennis Now be if we did not have our top quality pictures? Over the next few tournaments I look forward to working with our fascinating photographers Natasha Peterson, Tony Chang, and Mark Howard. I appreciate all the time and trouble they put in to bringing us the best images in tennis. One thing that very few people realize is how much effort it takes our creative graphics team to put this magazine together. Therefore, thank you to my graphics team for putting this together, and also for dealing with the crazy requests of their editor and publishers. Last but certainly not least, I thank you the reader for your feedback and interest in making our magazine the best it can be. I hope you enjoy this edition and all the ones to come!
Theodore LePak Editor, Tennis Now Magazine
©2012 WILSON SPORTING GOODS CO. ©2012 Getty Images | Clive Brunskill / Mark Dadswell
Agniezka Radwanska Best Result: Semifinals (2010)
Listed at a generous 5’8”, Agnieszka Radwanska has only three losses so far in 2012, all coming to World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka. Despite her small stature, Radwanska has been piling up wins, elevating her to a career high ranking of No. 5 and gaining fast. One of the best tennis minds on the WTA, her lack of power can present problems with bigger hitters, but it’s impossible to count her out of any match.
Lotto Raptor Ultra II Lighter than previous generations, the Lotto Raptor Ultra II is designed for speed, one of Radwanska’s greatest strengths. With plenty of mesh in the upper and Syn-Pulse technology in the midsole, this is a shoe that gets her to the ball with plenty of time to work her magic. The 3-S and Adapto technologies ensure that this is not just a running shoe as they help to provide support and stability for side-to-side movement.
Babolat Pure Drive Lite More maneuverable than its original namesake, the Pure Drive Lite is Babolat’s answer to the player than wants power and spin in a lighter package. Whether it’s the precision ground strokes or the deft drop shots from Radwanska, this racquet offers plenty of quickness from anywhere on the court to give Radwanska that little bit of extra power she needs.
Babolat Team 12 Pack Blue This bag is not only big enough to fit everything Radwanska could need for the longest of matches, but it is nearly big enough to fit her inside! With three large pockets and designed to carry 12 racquets, gear is never far and the outer accessory pocket makes it easy to find small items and valuables quickly.
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14 by Chris Oddo
Can Djokovic Keep This Up? There are certainly differing views on the sustainability of Novak Djokovic’s supremacy at the moment. On one hand, there is the fact that confidence breeds more confidence, and Djokovic is clearly a player who knows he can win against anybody in the world on any surface and on any stage. But on the other hand there is time, the unconquerable villain that eventually puts an end to all dominant runs. Djokovic will head to Indian Wells on the heels of what must have been a disappointing loss to Andy Murray in the Dubai semifinal. At this point and time, it’s hard not to wonder: is Djokovic about to begin an inevitable decline that will bring him back to the rest of the pack? Or, will the tiny hiccup in Dubai provide that extra dose of motivation that Djokovic needs to reassert his dominance? One thing’s for certain: the dogs will be nipping at his heels in Indian Wells.
Is Murray Really Ready to Rumble? The Indian Wells title has always eluded the 24-year-old Scot, but there is the feeling that this year’s version of Andy Murray could be ready to make a bold statement at the BNP Paribas Open. Hopes are high regarding Murray’s future these days, and he’s proven, with his eye-opening five-set loss to Djokovic in Australia and his even more impressive straight-sets victory over him last week in Dubai, that’s he’s perhaps in the finest form of his career. Though his much-publicized relationship with coach Ivan Lendl is still very much in its formative stage, Lendl’s influence has obviously had a
photo: Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty
profound influence on the once fragile psyche of Murray. Murray, who was a ship without an anchor this time last year after a devastating loss to Djokovic in the 2011 Australian Open final, comes to the desert with a full head of steam, eager to prove that 2012 is his time to shine. 10 of the last 11 winners at Indian Wells also have Grand Slam titles on their résumés, and a title for Murray would undoubtedly add some validity to the argument that he could be a candidate for a breakthrough Slam later in the year.
Roger and Rafa: Still Viable Threats to Win it All If the aforementioned Djokovic ever does come back to earth, you can believe that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will be there to capitalize on the opportunity. Federer, who dashed to the Dubai title last week, is proving week in and week out that he can still match up with the top dogs of tennis. News flash: He still is a top dog. Federer’s won five of the last seven events he’s played, and even though he hasn’t won this event since 2006, his current form indicates that he’s so much more than just a sentimental favorite. The 30-year-old 16-time Grand Slam winner is in it to win it. Nadal, meanwhile, has been pretty much off the radar since losing to Djokovic for a seventh consecutive time in that marathon Australian Open final. Normally Nadal prefers to come into big events with some momentum and a few matches under his belt, but this year the Spaniard elected to take some much needed time off to heal. Will he be able to shake off the rust in time to play himself into the tournament? And more importantly, will his fresh legs provide him with the edge he needs should he find himself across the net from Djokovic in the later stages of the tournament?
Is it Just a Matter of Time for Juan Martin del Potro? World No. 9 Juan Martin Del Potro has played some of his finest tennis since returning from wrist surgery in the last three weeks, but he still hasn’t been able to get past Federer, and he still doesn’t own a top-four scalp since beginning his comeback (unless you count Djokovic’s Davis Cup retirement against him last year). That said, he appears ready to bust out and inflict the type of hard court damage that only Del Potro is capable of inflicting. He’s showing signs of steady improvement every week, and if that continues here at Indian Wells, we could have ourselves a surprise finalist.
(left to right)John Isner, Ryan Harrison, Mardy Fish
Which Americans Will Make Some Noise?
Dark Horses and Dreamers Either Federer, Nadal or Djokovic have won seven of the last eight BNP Paribas Open titles, and it’s difficult to conceive that anybody outside the big four has a chance at that crown. That said, It was only two years ago that No. 20-seeded Ivan Ljubicic won his first ever Masters title at Indian Wells. It’s why they take the time to make up the 96-player draw in the first place. Maybe someone like David Ferrer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Bernard Tomic, or Milos Raonic can step up, take the bull by the horns, and have the tournament of their life. It doesn’t seem likely, but a man can dream, can’t he?
30-year-old Mardy Fish, 26-year-old John Isner and 29-year-old Andy Roddick come in as the three highest-ranked Americans, but both Fish and Roddick have struggled to win matches at all this year. Perhaps a little home cooking—rowdy American crowds and fast hard courts—could be the recipe that sets them up for a rebound. Meanwhile, No. 11-ranked John Isner is just a month removed from his self-described best win of his career against Roger Federer in Davis Cup play. If Isner can execute the brand of aggressive trigger-happy tennis that gave him an edge against Federer that day, he’s definitely going to be a threat to make it past the round of 16 for the first time at Indian Wells. Beyond the established three Americans, 19-year-old Ryan Harrison is the best bet for an American breakthrough. The hardnosed youngster turned in a stellar performance in the desert last year, defeating three higher-ranked players before finally bowing out at the hands of Roger Federer in the fourth round. At 19, he’s the second-youngest player in the ATP’s top 100. That alone is quite an achievement, but Harrison has his sights set higher. He sees himself as a future top-tenner, maybe even a No. 1—but if that’s going to happen, he’s got a lot of proving to do. American teenagers Jack Sock and Denis Kudla have each been granted wildcards into the draw, and let’s not forget Donald Young, who staged the biggest upset of his career when he upset Andy Murray at Indian Wells last year.
Men’s Draw Preview Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have been placed into the same half of the draw at Indian Wells for the first time, along with Juan Martin Del Potro, David Ferrer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. In the other half, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray headline. Here’s a quick look at some of the finer points of the 2012 BNP Paribas Open draw, with a few picks thrown in for good measure.
Top Half Djokovic’s Quarter
It’s pretty hard to imagine Djokovic, barring some seriously lackluster play or a freak injury, not reaching the quarterfinals at Indian Wells. His most serious competition could come from either Kevin Anderson, Richard Gasquet or Florian Mayer. Gasquet and Anderson each own a single win against Nole, but neither came within the last three years. Things will get tricky when it comes to deciding Djokovic’s possible quarterfinal matchup. Nicolas Almagro will likely play Kei Nishikori in the third round, and Andy Roddick will likely play Tomas Berdych. Keep in mind that world No. 31 Roddick owns winning records against both Ivo Karlovic and Berdych, his possible 2nd and 3rd round opponents. If he can maneuver by those two ball-bashers, then Roddick might just have the momentum he needs to make a run to the quarters. The 29-year-old was a finalist at Indian Wells just two short years ago, so it’s not entirely out of reach. But if the seeds hold and Roddick is ousted, crowds won’t be disappointed at all when Nicolas Almagro and Tomas Berdych take a crack at one another for the first time since their bitterly contested Australian Open round of 16 match. In that match Berdych cried foul when Almagro pegged him in the upper arm with a ball at the net, and refused to shake The Spaniard’s hand after the match.
Pick: Djokovic 16
by Chris Oddo
It’s simple: If Andy Murray is on his game, we’ll likely be looking at our third Djokovic-Murray tilt of 2012. The new and improved Murray, aided by his new coach Ivan Lendl, should have no problem gliding by the likes of Viktor Troicki, Stan Wawrinka and Gilles Simon, and when he does he’ll likely face either Mardy Fish or John Isner in the quarters, a task he’s more than capable of handling. Fish, a former finalist at Indian Wells in 2008, is currently in dismal form. He’s won three of six matches on the year, but playing so close to his Los Angeles home could be just the tonic he needs to begin a revival of sorts. The 30-year-old is slated to meet fellow American John Isner in the fourth round should the seeds hold, and Fish owns a 3-1 edge in the head-to-head vs. Isner.
Pick: Murray Bottom Half Nadal’s Quarter
Rafael Nadal has a really favorable draw through the first four rounds. The highest possible seed he could see before the quarters is compatriot Feliciano Lopez (No. 15). Enigmatic Alexandr Dolgopolov could also cause a stir in Rafa’s section, but then again he could fade quietly into the desert night and not many would be surprised. In the quarters, however, things could get very tricky for Rafa. He’ll likely play either Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Janko Tipsarevic, each of whom possesses the big serve and the quick-strike game that could trouble Rafa in a best-of-three sets match, especially if the conditions are right. A few possibly entertaining matches in this quarter are TomicTipsarevic (round 2), Tsonga-Llodra (round 2) and Nalbandian-Cilic (round 2).
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by Erik Gudris
Will “Sunshine” Burn Bright Again in the Desert? As tennis fans drive down the I-10 freeway on their way to this year’s BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, they will be sure to notice the massive billboards promoting the two-week event, especially those featuring the defending champion Caroline Wozniacki. Wozniacki’s run to the title in the desert last year confirmed her No. 1 status at a time when the WTA was still dealing with the news of Serena Williams’s health scare and the lingering perception by many that the women’s tour was in real trouble mainly due to the lack of dominant player despite Wozniacki’s consistent stay at the top of the rankings. A year later, Wozniacki finds herself in a very different place, both personally and professionally, as she seeks to defend the biggest title she earned back in 2011. Her continuing romance with golf’s newest No. 1, Rory Mcilory, appears to be only getting stronger, though some have suggested that since she started dating the British Open champion last summer Wozniacki’s game has suffered as a result. Add in the recent turmoil of Wozniacki’s “firing” of her father, a move which didn’t last very long, and then her and her father’s abrupt hiring and then dismissal of Ricardo Sanchez as a consultant, and it’s easy to see how Wozniacki would have lost some focus as she continues to try and manage all the aspects of her off-court life.
photo: Marwan Naamani/AFP/Getty
Queen Victoria Fights to Keep her Crown But probably the biggest factor in Wozniacki’s recent abdication from the throne of women’s tennis is the emergence of Victoria Azarenka, who after retiring in her quarterfinal match against Wozniacki last year in Indian Wells, spent the rest of 2011 only getting better and stronger. Azarenka’s stellar run to the Australian Open title in January that propelled her into the No. 1 ranking has now given Azarenka the stamp of approval from the tennis world, that Wozniacki, despite all of her consistency in her 67 weeks at the top, could never quite get, no matter how many top 10 players she beat.
Now it’s Azarenka who, after tweaking her ankle in Doha last month, must prove that she can stay healthy and keep her momentum going against the elite of the tour who are not that far away in knocking her new crown from off of her braided head. Current No. 2, Maria Sharapova, who aside from Paris, took the rest of February off, will be looking to prove that she’s Azarenka’s chief rival despite her recent string of losses to Azarenka including in the Melbourne final. No. 3 Petra Kvitova, who hasn’t played a match since Australia after she was sidelined with injury and a viral illness, could easily make up ground on Azarenka since losing in the second round at Indian Wells last year, though it should be said Kvitova has had some lackluster results so far playing in the United States.
Radwanska, Steadily Ascending Also chasing after Azarenka are those players who are capable of surprising anyone, including themselves, if their games are on. Agnieszka Radwanska, fresh off her title run in Dubai, is now at a career high No. 5 with many tipping her to possibly win a Major soon. Azarenka took her out in the fourth round of Indian Wells last year, but “Aga’s” recent comments about the true severity of Azarenka’s ankle injury could make their possible quarterfinal match a must-see. Sam Stosur, who reached the semis of the event a few years ago, certainly proved she can beat anybody on a hard court, but she still seems prone to an early round exit even with her recent success in New York. France’s Marion Bartoli, will be feeling the pressure of defending her points from her surprise run to the finals last year, but she could certainly pull off an upset or two if she gets her double-handed game going.
Dark Horses and Dreamers This being the WTA, any number of darkhorses could emerge in the final days of Indian Wells to challenge Azarenka. Don’t forget Yanina Wickmayer reached the semis last year so it wouldn’t be a surprise if another woman in the top 20 made a similar run. Former champions Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic and Daniela Hantuchova all could pull off an upset but going all the way to the finals for any of these players feels out of reach. Also keep an eye on young American Christina McHale who, with the crowd’s support and being seeded for the first time, could reach the late rounds based on her solid backcourt game.
Even with a deep field, this year’s Indian Wells championship will probably be decided by what Azarenka and Wozniacki do and their results here could be a signal for what’s to come not only at Miami in a few weeks time, but for the rest of the season. For Azarenka, a title run in the desert would further cement her status as the one to beat. But a poor showing or, let’s hope not, another injury scare, could portend that “Vika” is still vulnerable to losing her top status. Wozniacki will face the added pressure of trying to defend her points from last year as she knows an early loss for her would send her further down the rankings and perhaps cause some of her star luster to fade. But if she could somehow defend her title, it would prove Wozniacki is still very much in the hunt to return as the tour’s No. 1. Indian Wells has been very good to Caroline Wozniacki in the last few years. In 2010, she rose to No. 2 in the world there and her title run last year confirmed her status as No. 1. Now Wozniacki will be seeking to prove that consistency still counts on the tour at a time when power seems to be rewarding those players that use it to their advantage. Wozniacki loves a challenge and she’ll be ready to prove that “sunshine” can still burn bright, not only in the desert, but also on one of the biggest stages that the sport has.
Women’s Draw Preview The women’s draw at the BNP Paribas Open appears to suggest that the top four seeds will reach the semifinals. But as we’ve seen in the past, Indian Wells is known for its surprises, especially in the final rounds.
Top Half Azarenka’s Quarter
Top seed Victoria Azarenka, if she’s fully 100%, should spend the early rounds fine tuning her game as she prepares for tougher opponents later on. Azarenka will first meet either American veteran Jill Craybas or young German Mona Barthel, and since it’s likely she’ll get past either very easily, that would set up a third round meeting with everybody’s favorite darkhorse Svetlana Kuznetsova. The toughest test for Azarenka could be in another German, Julia Goerges, who reached the Dubai finals last week and has proved she can beat anybody if her all or nothing groundstrokes find their mark. Waiting for Azarenka in the quarters could be either 2010 champion Jelena Jankovic or Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska who could meet in the fourth round in a matchup that could go either way based on their recent results, that is if both aren’t worn out from the rain plagued trip to Malaysia last week. Because of “Aga’s” recent comments in Doha questioning the severity of Azarenka’s ankle injury there, plenty will want to see a rematch just to see how the two friends, at least “Vika” claims they still are, react to each other. On paper, No. 3 seed Petra Kvitova and No. 8 seed Li Na should meet in the quarterfinals. But with Kvitova still a question mark after having not played last month due to illness and Li Na still dealing with a back injury and her nightmare loss to Kim Clijsters in Melbourne, it wouldn’t be a surprise if neither player made it to the final eight. Who could benefit from this? Perhaps young American and No. 32 seed Christina McHale who could meet Kvitova in the third round. Or Paris winner, No. 18 seed Angelique Kerber who
by Chris Oddo
proved she club anyone into submission with her lefty strokes. On the other side, there’s always veteran and two-time former champion Daniela Hantuchova who loves playing in the desert. Or what about Russia’s Anastasia Pavylchenkova, who, let’s face it, needs to do something to prove her top 15 status soon. The same could also be said for another former champion, No. 9 seed Vera Zvonareva who’s had a miserable start to the season. Bottom line: Kvitova has a great chance to reassert herself in the race for No.1, but a surprise semifinalist from this side wouldn’t be unexpected at all. Prediction: Azarenka vs. Kvitova in the semifinal.
Pick: Kvitova Bottom Half Wozniacki’s Quarter
Defending champion and No. 4 seed Caroline Wozniacki will have a tricky path just to reach the semifinals this year. With her recent slide in the rankings, she’s vulnerable going in but if her early round opponents can take advantage is really up to them. Wozniacki will meet either American Bethanie Mattek-Sands or Australian Open quarterfinalist Ekaterina Makarova in the second round. Shaui Peng or Ana Ivanovic could await “Sunshine” in the third round, and though both are capable of pulling off an upset, they’d still have to play their very best to do it. Wozniacki’s potential quarterfinal opponent could be the woman she beat in last year’s final, No. 7 seed Marion Bartoli. Bartoli’s side is littered with opponents who can be dangerous, or disappointing, depending on the day including Kaia Kanepi, Lucie Safarova and Francesca Schiavone who’s game is in a complete tailspin right now. If Bartoli and Wozniacki do meet in the quarters, Wozniacki would still be the favorite as she holds a five to two lifetime advantage over the Frenchwoman. But Bartoli will make the Dane earn her spot into the semis.
As the No. 2 seed, 2006 champion Maria Sharapova is the clear favorite to reach the semis out of her section. Sharapova could face either Jelena Dokic or Gisela Dulko in her opening match, but her only real early test could be against No. 16 seed Dominika Cibulkova in the fourth round. No. 6 seed Sam Stosur’s potential path to the quarters feels like a repeat of her 2011 U.S. Open draw. Stosur could meet veteran Nadia Petrova early and then face Russia’s Maria Kirilenko next. That is unless Germany’s Sabine Lisicki pushes Kirilenko out. Stosur is playing better, but she’s still prone to an early upset. And even if she does make it to the quarters, one can’t like her chances against Sharapova as the Russian holds a decided six to one record against the Australian. Prediction: Bartoli loses early, Wozniacki vs. Sharapova in the semifinal.
Final Predictions Both semifinals could feature all four top seeds, a boon to the event and a chance for fans to see who could challenge Azarenka not just for the title, but for her top ranking. Azarenka would still be the favorite, unless she faces Kvitova in the finals who could have a slight edge against Azarenka if the lefty Czech’s power game is really on. But the player with the most to prove is Wozniacki, who’s not just defending her title, but her status as someone who can remain in the hunt for No.1 at a time when power seems to reward those players who use it to their advantage. It’s Azarenka’s title to win, but don’t be surprised if “Sunshine” finds a way to burn her brightest inside the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
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Can Anyone Break Up The
Fantastic Fou in 2012?
Whether you call them the “Fantastic Four” or the “Big Three” with Andy Murray looking more and more ready to win his first Major, the fact is Murray, along with Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have dominated tennis and the top four slots in the ATP Tour rankings since 2008. The question many fans are asking is not when someone will come along and break up this hegemony, but if it will happen at all this year. The gap isn’t completely insurmountable between Murray and his closest challengers David Ferrer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who are only just 2500 points or so out of fourth place in the rankings. But that number might as well be 25000 considering how consistent Murray has been not only at the Majors but also at the Masters 1000 events where he often finds himself in the finals. Ferrer, especially on clay, is always a tough match for anyone, but it may be that he lacks the knockout punch needed to take out not only one of the elite quartet, but two or even three of them en route to the winner’s circle. Tsonga has the firepower as does Tomas Berdych, currently ranked No. 7, another player who’s proven he can bludgeon anyone with his huge serve and massive forehand. But for all their physical gifts, Tsonga and Berdych both have suffered mental lapses at crucial moments in big matches though Tsonga has improved in that department of late. Either one could certainly get hot at a Masters event again this year, but can they up their level at a Major and reach a final again? And what of Juan Martin Del Potro who is finally back in the top ten after his long climb back from injury? Despite being healthy again, his recently lackluster straight sets loss to Federer in Melbourne didn’t bode well for his chances this year to possibly break the stranglehold of the top four. Questions on Del Potro’s fitness linger as he would need to be in supreme shape if hopes to defeat several of the
top four back to back at a Major as he did when he beat Nadal and then Federer to win the U.S. Open in 2009. “Delpo” is still a work in progress, but perhaps his performance in Rotterdam this week will give us clues to his chances, especially if he faces Federer again. A few other names come to mind as having an outside shot to break into the top four, if not now but in 2013, but only if they have stellar seasons this year. Robin Soderling got as high as No. 4 near the end of 2010 before mono derailed his 2011 season and continues to keep him off the courts this year. Soderling, if he comes back healthy, could be firing down more thunderbolts from his racquet by late summer. Or it could be one of the young guns on tour like a Milos Raonic or even a Bernard Tomic who could start reaching a few more finals this year leading up to a breakout 2013, so long as injuries, as in the case with Raonic who is dealing with a sore knee this week in San Jose, or outside distractions, such as with Tomic who is literally in a court this week in Australia on speeding charges, don’t take away both young men for too long. Plenty of names with potential top four written all over them are training hard and biding their time to take their place in the penthouse of the ATP rankings. But even with all those current and future threats, it’s very likely that Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, and Murray will continue to see their names besides the numbers one, two, three, and four on the ATP Tour rankings all through 2012.
by Erik Gudris 23
Roger Federer Ready to Rumble Roger Federer is the most decorated tennis player of the Open Era. However, one record eludes and continuously motivates him. Federer is one week short of tying the total number of weeks a player has held the ATP’s No. 1 ranking held by Pete Sampras at 286 weeks. To start the 2012 season, Federer won two titles in Dubai and Rotterdam, but has lost at the Australian Open and withdrew from Doha as a precautionary measure for a back injury. Combined with his three titles to end the 2011 season, Federer has emerged victorious in five of the last seven tournaments he has entered, but still sits a substantial 4600 points behind front-runner Novak Djokovic. At the age of 30, Federer is quickly approaching “old age” in the tennis world for normal players, but the Swiss is far from normal. Aches and pains seem to have increased over the years, but intelligent scheduling and quick-strike tennis have allowed him to remain relatively injury free over the years, leading one to believe that he could remain competitive for at least a few more years. Of course, one must be realistic about the five titles for Federer, four of which have been indoors and all have been on quicker surfaces. The most common issue that arises in his losses is a flurry of errors, typically from the backhand side, a shot with little margin for error. This weakness is especially prevalent against Rafael Nadal, a man that has beaten Federer 18 times in 27 meetings. As the surfaces get slower, the Spaniard has additional time to unload heavy forehands into the backhand corner of the Swiss, drawing a number of errors and weak replies. Also hindering Federer’s ranking last year was Novak Djokovic who cut the Swiss down four times. Just as any
sports fan wants to see, if Federer is going to have a chance to take another record, he’s going to have to do it by beating the two players above him. His contemporary, Andy Murray, believes that if more tournaments were played on faster surfaces, Federer could easily take No. 1 back, saying, “If there was more tournaments on these courts, I think he could definitely be No. 1 in the world for the next few years. It really suits his game well. Just so many of the courts are so slow now.” With the slower courts, it will be more challenging for Federer, who will have to solve the problems he’s had with Djokovic and Nadal. From a realist’s point of view, it is definitely possible for Federer to add yet another record to his absolutely astonishing total, but he will need help from Djokovic and Nadal. With Djokovic being forced to defend so many points, it will be tough for him to maintain his large lead, and Nadal has room to move in either direction thanks to his consistent appearances in the Grand Slam finals. Federer on the other hand, had a subpar year in the Masters 1000 events as well as the Grand Slams, accumulating only 4900 points that he will be defending compared to 8080 for Nadal and an astronomical 10500 for Djokovic. With just a few of these events swinging in the favor of Federer, the Swiss could make some major headway even by the end of Wimbledon. Whether or not Federer will see the record of holding the World No. 1 rank for more than 286 weeks remains to be seen, but if anyone can do it, the holder of too many records and awards to count is the main.
What Will Her Legacy Be? It was just over a month ago when Maria Sharapova stepped onto Rod Laver Arena to take on Victoria Azarenka for the Australian Open title and the No. 1 ranking, a spot the Russian has not held since May of 2008. It seemed that fate was on the Belarusian’s side as Sharapova crumbled under a torrent of errors and frustration. Despite the dismal showing on the final Saturday, the tournament showed every facet of Sharapova’s game from sheer domination in four of her matches, to grinding out tough wins against Sabine Lisicki and Petra Kvitova, to a complete collapse against Azarenka. Often considered a veteran of the WTA, it can be difficult to remember that Sharapova, who won her first Grand Slam in 2004, is still only 24 years old. The current World No. 2 was knocked out of last year’s BNP Paribas Open by eventual champion Caroline Wozniacki in a semifinal that could only be described as what has become the typical “Sharapova loss” being bludgeoned 6-1, 6-2. It’s obvious from her numerous straightforward losses that there are significant holes in the Russian’s game, and while she is able to fight through them sometimes, it’s painful to watch when she can’t. Of her 14 losses in 2011, only one of them went to three sets, which is either an indication of a lack of interest in fighting back when she gets down, or simply the inability to overcome the weaknesses in her game. Having seen many of her losses, and even some of her wins, I am astonished at the number of errant balls that Sharapova sends flying when running to her forehand side. On the upside for the Russian, she often controls the outcome of the match on her racquet whether for better or worse. Her powerful, flat ground strokes allow her to hit through the court
but the lack of spin also makes her prone to a high number of errors. If Sharapova hopes to reach No. 1 again, she will have her work cut out for her with more points to defend than Azarenka through Wimbledon, but an ankle injury at the end of the season limited her to only five matches following the US Open. From a technical standpoint, her game has a number of weaknesses, but there is a distinctive change in Sharapova since she underwent surgery in 2008 to repair a torn rotator cuff. One could construe it as a disinterest in tennis with her focus on other business ventures and fashion, or it could just be contentment. This change is most evident in matches like those against Azarenka and Wozniacki, a sense of helplessness as errant shots come in droves, leading to a quick exit. As fans of tennis, many would like to see the best players battling it out for the grandest of prizes, but in recent years, Sharapova appears to have lost that fighting instinct that refused to surrender in any match. In her recent losses, she has appeared passive and resigned to second place. Whether Sharapova ever steps a foot on the court again, she will be forever remembered as a Grand Slam champion and former World No. 1. That legacy is secure, and it is simply up to her to decide where to go from there.
– Rob Martin
Get to Know: Milos Raonic Canadian Milos Raonic burst onto the scene last January making it through Australian Open qualifying and then scoring a few upsets before reaching the fourth round. Prior to his breakthrough, Raonic spent most of his time on the Challenger and Futures Tours. Now you can find him in the top 40 in the world and with three titles to his name, and counting. Here’s a little bit you may not know about him:
5. His Idol Is Pistol Pete Raonic is very open about the fact
1. He’s True To Canada Despite not being born in Canada
6. He Has Connections Last summer, Raonic was asked how
(Raonic was born in what is now Podgorica, Montenegro and moved to Canada with his family when he was three years old), he has remained loyal to his Canadian ties. “It’s important to me to defend the Canadian colors. And I don’t just do it in tennis. I might not follow hockey as much as the average Canadian, but I support several Canadian teams,” he said. “Basically, it’s a country with a lot of great things. And so yes, I’m proud to be Canadian.”
2. Summer Camp Was His Start Raonic has said he got his start in tennis at summer camp when he was eight years old. “A coach said to me, Please don’t give up the sport,” he said. Later his father found a place for him to play and he got his recreational start at first that then “led to something a lot bigger. That’s why I’m here today,” he said.
3. No Reality...Yet At the 2011 Australian Open, Raonic was told he had been compared to Mark Philippousis. He said, “I was a big fan of him. I followed throughout his career, most of his career. That’s a really good comparison to have.” But when asked if he had plans for a reality dating show, he said “No, not yet. Maybe after tennis.”
4. Home Is Where The Hockey Is Raonic ironically won his first title last year at the San Jose Open (defeating Fernando Verdasco in the final), played at the HP Pavilion arena which also serves as the home of the NHL San Jose Sharks. Despite being Canadian though, Raonic has said “I am not the biggest hockey fan but it definitely makes me feel like I am at home.”
that Pete Sampras was his idol growing up, and their similarities are uncanny. Raonic was able to meet him for the first time in San Jose last year and described the moment as “surreal,” saying “It was nice to connect the man to the game that I watched for so many hours. I taped most of his matches and watched them over and over again. If he was playing in Melbourne, my parents would let me stay up. Sampras was the person to study, the model to learn from. It’s something else meeting someone you’ve always looked up to.”
his life had changed since his rise in the rankings. He said there have been more perks and opportunities. He said, “For example, Drake is playing here in Toronto tonight, and I called this morning because I didn’t have a ticket and I got one.”
7. He Stays Calm At this year’s Australian Open, Raonic was asked for his thoughts on breaking racquets on court. He said “I have 10 racquets. I need to play with 10 racquets. I don’t have any to break.”
8. Milos On The Money Raonic says studying is one of his hobbies, specifically finance.
9. There’s A Song About Him Last year, some young Canadians wrote a song about Raonic and how he’s “revolutionized tennis in Canada,” made a video for it and posted it to YouTube. When asked if he had heard the song, Raonic said “I think it’s pretty sweet and nice, especially considering it was a school project actually. Even got the e-mail of one of the kids and sort of sent them thank you for it, because I think it was good on their part.” He added, “But I hope for the kids that they got a good mark on their assignment or maybe the teacher doesn’t think I was one of the big things to change in that last week in Canada.”
10. More To Come One area where Raonic can improve is in the Grand Slams. Since turning pro three years ago, he has never made it past the fourth round of a major. He also hasn’t broken into the top 20... yet. With room to improve, there’s room for success.
Get to Know: Daniela Hantuchova One of the most familiar faces in tennis is 28-year-old Daniela Hantuchova. Since 1999, the Slovakian has traveled around the world with the WTA Tour and is known to be one of the kindest and hardest working players. Get to know a little bit more about her. 1. Defending Champion Finally Defended Hantuchova
6. She’s Been In Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition
has won five WTA titles but it wasn’t until last weekend that she successfully defended a title. She won the Pattaya Open, defeating Maria Kirilenko 6-7, 6-3, 6-3 in the final.
In 2009, Hantuchova appeared alongside fellow tennis players Maria Kirilenko and Tatiana Golovin in Sports Illustrated’s famed Swimsuit Edition. The pictorial was entitled “Volley of the Dolls.” On being in the magazine, Hantuchova said “It was very, very exciting. I think it is every girl’s dream to be part of SI, and it was a fantastic experience.”
2. Career Mixed Doubles Grand Slam In 2005, Hantuchova became the fifth female tennis player to win the mixed doubles title in all four Grand Slam tournaments during her career: 2001 Wimbledon (with Leos Friedl), 2002 Australian Open (with Kevin Ullyett), 2005 French Open (with Fabrice Santoro) and 2005 US Open (with Mahesh Bhupathi).
3. She’s Multilingual Hantuchova speaks Slovak, German, English and a few Italian words. “With Slovak you can understand some other languages, like Czech, Slovenian, Croatian,” she said. “The first language I learned was actually German, because we’re so close to Germany and Austria, so in school that’s the first language they teach you in Slovakia.”
4. Tennis Preference Per her WTA profile, Hantuchova’s favorite surface is grass and her favorite event is Wimbledon.
5. She’s A Foodie Per her web site, Hantuchova lists her favorite foods as “whatever my mom cooks. When I travel I love Italian—pizza, pasta—I also like sushi and crepes with Nutella!”
7. Dream Boys And Deal Breakers Hantuchova said her dream guy is “someone who has the best heart, makes me laugh and is the best person inside.” When it comes to deal breakers, she doesn’t like “when the guy is late, speaks only about himself and doesn’t open the door for me.”
8. A Young Beethoven Hantuchova studied classical piano between ages 6 and 14.
9. Italian Influences Hantuchova has a thing for Italy. Her favorite city is Rome, her favorite movie is Gladiator and her favorite designers include Armani, Cavalli and Missoni.
10. Wiser With Age At age 28, Hantuchova has said she’s more confident, relaxed, calmer and mentally stronger on court. “I stay focused on my game without worrying about my opponent or doubting myself.”
ORDER ON THE COURT Pointers from the Pro
by Ian Westerman USPTA Tennis Professional
rela x! In this article I’m going to discuss something thats a large part of my teaching—being relaxed. I find that such a large majority of recreational players are tense and tight while playing and practicing tennis, and very few realize it, nor understand the implications that it has on their game. First off let me go over why this is so important. You will never realize your full athletic potential unless you learn to train your body and mind to stay relaxed. Obviously there needs to be a mental and physical sharpness and awareness to perform any kind of athletic skill at a competent level. However, actual tension of muscles while trying to execute a stroke, or anxiety of the mind and thoughts during a match are incredibly destructive to ones game. Today I will go over how essential a relaxed body is to your tennis. As a teacher of tennis I have done my best to study each stroke in tennis very closely. The more I can understand about technique the better I can serve my clients in improving their skills as much as possible. In watching a person’s strokes, tension and tightness is definitely way up on the list of things that I try to identify right away. Why? Because any muscle tightness during any tennis stroke immediately make every movement much more work and effort to perform. Worse yet, somebody who is very tight will not only have to work harder, but usually it means that some movements
and techniques of any given stroke won’t even be completed because their own body is holding them back. Take for example a forehand ground stroke. When behind the baseline and making a swing at the ball you have at the very least 78 feet of court at your disposal. A good ground stroke is lifted over the net and driven deep into the opponents court so as to keep them pushed back away from you and in a position that makes it difficult for them to attack. The longer of a path your racket travels before, during, and after contact the more likely you will accomplish the lift and drive necessary to hit such a shot. The shorter of a path your racket travels, the more effort it takes to hit the same shot. Basically, speed multiplied times length is going to equal your potential for power and spin on your forehand, and every other stroke requiring pace and spin. Now consider for a moment how many muscles must be summoned and used to create a deep and effective ground stroke. The human body has around 700, so it’s pretty safe to say dozens, and probably hundreds of muscles are in use depending on how advanced of a swing you have. The more relaxed those used muscles are the more freely they’re going to move, and the more potential will be available for both length of swing, and speed of swing. The more of them are tight, the less likely your swing will be long or fast to begin with, and even if you still manage it, it’s going to take a great deal more effort than it should. While reading an article recently I saw a great quote coming from the realm of martial arts. I’m sorry I don’t have the exact words nor the source, but it stated: “One’s ability to create power, is directly proportionate to ones ability to relax”. They know their stuff.
Lastly let me talk about where I believe a great deal of tension comes from in the first place. Failure. Listen to the average tennis player after missing a shot long or wide outside the lines: “oohhh, too much!”, “Darn, I hit it too hard again”. Rarely is this actually correct. If sound technique is used, a great deal of pace is available for any player to take advantage of. When said “too hard” shot is missed, most players’ immediate physical response is to become tentative on the following shot. This may or may not keep the next shot in play, and then the next time a shot is missed, often times the player tightens up even more. This is how people get stuck playing at the same level of tennis year after year. Rather than fix the actual technical reason that the ball left the boundaries of the court, a great deal of players will simply pull back physically to try and rein their shots in. The result after repeating this time and time again is short, tight strokes that take more effort and net less results. So in conclusion, stay relaxed! If you’re a better than average player please don’t think you’re exempt. Over the past several months I’ve been really rehashing my backhand ground stroke big time. Through less than great technique I’ve acquired a great deal of tension on that side, and it has taken a lot of conscious effort to start loosening it up again. If you’re an average, or less than average player then you’re in luck! This can really help you out a great deal. Next time you go out to practice really be conscious of your muscles as you swing. If your hand, arm, and core feel tight what so ever throughout any certain swing, then there’s a lot more to be had. Find a tennis professional who knows good fundamental technique and start getting everything you can out of your game!
“One’s ability to
create power is directly proportionate to one’s ability
Juan Martin del Potro Best Result: Semifinal (2011)
Nike Zoom Breathe 2K11
Known as “The Tower of Tandil” Juan Martin del Potro is the only person since 2005 to win a Grand Slam that was not named Federer, Nadal, or Djokovic, but a wrist injury sidelined him for much of 2010. Since recovering, he has stormed back all the way up to No. 10 and he looks to move even further. With the ability to hit big, flat ground strokes, he is one of the few that can take control of any match regardless of his opponent.
The name of this shoe fits its performance as the Zoom Breathe 2K11 is not only breathable and well ventilated, but also extremely fast. Thanks to the light weight Drag-On X upper, del Potro can get stability and durability without all the weight. With a Zoom unit in the heel and Lunarlon technology in the forefoot, the comfort is beyond compare for a shoe with this low-to-the-ground feel.
Nike Advantage Geometric Tennis Top
Wilson [K] Factor KSix-One 95
Nike hit a ace with the Advantage Geometric top in terms of moisture-wicking thanks to the Dri-Fit fabric, guaranteed to keep del Potro cool and comfortable on the court. Flat-lock seams and heat transfer graphics offer a distinctive look taking advantage of geometric 36 shaping 36 and color blocking.
Designed for the big swinger looking for control, the KSix-One 95 offers plenty of precision to rein in del Potro’s powerful ground game. The added stability provided by the cross-linked Karophite Black ensures that big ground strokes find their target while still offering feel when needed to put the point away.
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RACQUET REVIEWS The year continues on and the new racquets keep coming.
As the game evolves into a sport of bigger and harder hitting baseliners dominating the professional ranks, every other player wants to emulate that style. While many are not realistically able to dedicate hours each day to training, there is hope in sight. As racquet technology continues to advance, frames begin to provide more power and spin to make it easier on the player.
None of the racquets here will give you the feel of Roger Federer, but they will let you hit more consistently with less effort. All featuring open string patterns, these frames are designed for the modern game of baseline play with weights ranging from 10 ounces up to 11.6 ounces. You may not see some of these frames in the hands of the professionals, but don’t discount them if you are searching for something to make it easier to hit heavy ground strokes and dominate like your favorite player.
Babolat Pure Drive Roddick Pros: Power, Spin, Stability Cons: Not for Flat Hitters, Firm Feel Rundown: Think of the Pure Drive, and make it heavier. That’s what you have here; a racquet with even more power and the same feel to hit those heavy topspin ground strokes and bomb those serves for the stronger players needing a heavier frame. Along with plenty of power come the downsides, namely directional control and a stiffer feel. If the added weight isn’t a problem and you want to hit big from the back of the court, there is a reason other manufacturers try to match this stick.
Gamma RZR 98 Pros: Maneuverability, Spin Cons: Firm Feel, Low Power Rundown: Despite this being a solid performing stick, it is going to have a tough time getting past the fact that it’s made by Gamma. Formerly known as the Blackracquet.com 98, this frame was developed largely with aerodynamics in mind, and it shows with a number of subtle changes than allow it to move through the air faster than a traditional racquet. The result is incredible racquet head speed and spin generation, but a firm feel, a fairly low power level, and trying to get past public perception of not being one of “The Big Three” will limit its popularity.
Head Youtek IG Radical S Pros: Maneuverable, Moderate Power, Spin Cons: Stability, It’s certainly not a Radical Rundown: Head claims that the new “S” designation means that the racquet will have the same feel that the line is known for, while being a lighter weight to provide the experience to a broader range of players. Unfortunately, they fell a bit short on this one, not because of the racquet, but it simply does not have the same buttery feel of the Radical MP. It’s light and quick enough to be an excellent frame for doubles player or transitioning juniors, but it really deserves another name.
Wilson Juice 100 BLX Pros: Power, Spin, Not too Stiff Cons: Control, Not for Flat Hitters Rundown: It’s good enough for Victoria Azarenka and a host of other Wilson players, so it can’t be all bad right? If your game is to hit hard, heavy ground strokes, check this frame out. With its incredibly open string pattern and wide beam, the Juice 100 definitely offers maximum performance to those that take advantage of the topspin, but flat hitters will see the ball fly at times. Don’t hold Wilson’s marketing campaign against them, the frame is better than those YouTube videos.
Prince EXO3 Hornet 110 Pros: Power, Forgiving, Price Cons: Hybrid Technology, Low Control Rundown: This is Prince’s entry into the price-point racquet category, and they do a good job of it. At a retail cost of $99, this one will appeal to a wide range of players that need a bit of extra forgiveness and power that is associated with the EXO3 technology. On the down side, this frame only has the technology at the top and bottom of the string bed, so some may feel like they are only getting half of the benefit. Regardless, this is a solid starter frame as well as a frame for intermediates that enjoy the larger head and light weight.
SHOE REVIEWS Whether you are looking for the latest shoe, or just the right shoe for you, the search can be daunting. Even though nothing can match the feel of trying on a shoe for yourself, we can at least help narrow the list down based on what you are looking for, whether it be ultra light weight or maximum durability. We’re taking a look at five shoes that offer a variety of options whether you are an occasional or hardcore player.
Price does not always mean performance as we show with offerings from Prince and K-Swiss that provide a cushioned feel with an easier to stomach price tag. Other options from Babolat, adidas, and Yonex all provide something special, but as each player is different and each foot type has a different requirement, we hand off the final decision to the player.
Babolat Propulse 3 Pros: Ventilation, Durability, Traction Cons: Fit Not for Everyone Rundown: Not exactly a new shoe, but it still warrants a review in this age where shoes are lucky to last six months. In its second year, the Propulse 3 is still the most popular as Babolat has improved on previous models by making them more breathable without sacrificing stability. It’s hard to beat Michelin treads for traction, and that’s exactly what the Propulse has. The cushioned heel and low forefoot give the shoe a unique fit that is not for everyone, so be sure to try these on first.
Prince T-14 Pros: Wider Toebox, Attractive Price Cons: No Durability Guarantee, Ventilation Could be Better Rundown: An economical alternative to the new T-24, this one offers a slightly less durable sole and more mesh to lighten the shoe a bit. By placing most of the mesh along the inside of the foot, stability towards the outer part of the foot is not compromised. Many will either love or hate the graphics of the shoe, but the wider toebox makes it an excellent fit for players with a bit wider foot who want more options than just New Balance.
adidas adizero Tempaia Pros: Lightweight, Cushioning Cons: No Durability Guarantee, Narrow Fit Rundown: The women’s version of the adiZero Feather, this one has a unique fit that you simply must try on before buying. A raised heel offers plenty of cushioning in this lightweight shoe, but stability is certainly not on par with the barricade family. The adiWear 6 and adiTuff materials give the sole good durability, but this is more of a match-day shoe designed for speed. Frequent players will wear the sole down fairly quickly.
K-Swiss Ultrascendor II Pros: Lightweight, Versatile Outsole, Cushioning Cons: No Durability Guarantee, Rather Plain Looking Rundown: When you go about replacing a shoe as popular as the Ultrascendor, you have to make absolutely sure you get it right. This one is a little lighter without sacrificing the comfort thanks to a unique two-piece skeletized outsole. The shoe takes advantage of what they call a wavebone tread pattern, which makes it a solid choice for hard courts as well as clay courts. This is a good lightweight shoe, but it’s obviously not going to be the most durable thing out there.
Yonex SHT-308 Pros: Lightweight, Superior Cushioning, Great Traction Cons: No Durability Guarantee, Love or Hate Looks Rundown: The SHT-307 was one of the best all-around shoes we’ve ever tried, and Yonex actually made it better. The lateral stability was improved with an external TPU heel cradle, and the Y-Strap is now integrated inside the shoe rather than being on the outside. Not wanting to mess too much with a good thing, the Power Cushion remains for a comfortable and responsive ride. With everything that is good about this shoe, it definitely has a distinctive look, one which some players may not appreciate.
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Novak Djokovic Rafael Nadal Roger Federer Andy Murray David Ferrer Jo-Wilfried Tsonga Tomas Berdych Mardy Fish Janko Tipsarevic Nicolas Almagro Juan Martin Del Potro Gilles Simon Robin Soderling Andy Roddick Alexandr Dolgopolov Gael Monfils Stanislas Wawrinka John Isner Richard Gasquet Feliciano Lopez Marin Cilic Viktor Troicki Florian Mayer Fernando Verdasco Kei Nishikori
SRB ESP SUI GBR ESP FRA CZE USA SRB ESP ARG FRA SWE USA UKR FRA SUI USA FRA ESP CRO SRB GER ESP JPN
13,630 9,595 8,170 7,380 4,925 4,335 3,700 2,965 2,595 2,380 2,315 2,165 2,120 1,940 1,925 1,910 1,820 1,800 1,765 1,755 1,665 1,655 1,630 1,550 1,430
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
Azarenka, Victoria Sharapova, Maria Kvitova, Petra Wozniacki, Caroline Radwanska, Agnieszka Stosur, Samantha Bartoli, Marion Li, Na Zvonareva, Vera Petkovic, Andrea Williams, Serena Schiavone, Francesca Lisicki, Sabine Jankovic, Jelena Goerges, Julia Ivanovic, Ana Cibulkova, Dominika Peng, Shuai Kerber, Angelique Pavlyuchenkova, Anastasia Hantuchova, Daniela Vinci, Roberta Kirilenko, Maria Wickmayer, Yanina Pennetta, Flavia
BLR RUS CZE DEN POL AUS FRA CHN RUS GER USA ITA GER SRB GER SRB SVK CHN GER RUS SVK ITA RUS BEL ITA
8,980 7,680 7,095 6,270 5,850 5,825 5,160 4,390 4,340 3,810 3,580 3,575 3,196 2,950 2,725 2,585 2,545 2,485 2,465 2,456 2,450 2,260 2,180 2,135 2,080
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