Posts Tagged ‘Serena Williams’

No American players ranked in the top 10 for the first time in tennis history

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

By Alexandra Willis

5 May 2011

Come next Monday, with just two weeks to go to the French Open at Roland Garros, and six weeks to The Championships at Wimbledon, there will be no American players ranked inside tennis’s top 10 rankings for the first time in the history of the sport. Serena Williams, the multi-Grand Slam champion, is currently the United States’ lone representative in the sport’s elite, but, having sat on the sidelines since July after severely injuring her foot, next week will see the younger Williams slide off the WTA computer’s top 10 players.

On the men’s side of things, Mardy Fish and Andy Roddick (the last American male to win a Grand Slam when he won the US Open in 2003), are sitting just outside the top 10, but still represent a decline in the longevity of what was once one of the sport’s most powerful nations.

Andy Roddick at the Australian Open 2011

A report by Bloomberg suggests that with so many other sports on offer to the modern child,  the United States Tennis Association are struggling to get talented youngsters to play tennis rather than soccer, basketball and many more. “Our best athletes aren’t playing tennis,” Max Eisenbud, Maria Sharapova’s agent, told Bloomberg. “There are so many different opportunities. When you are an American kid, you can play sports, you can become a singer, you can become an actor, or dancer, or go to school and become a doctor. If you are a great athlete, you can be in the WNBA, women’s soccer.”

By contrast, it is argued that the constantly increasing flow of tennis players from nations such as Russia, Serbia, Poland, the Czech Republic, is often down to fledgling stars being presented with tennis as a fait accompli, their only opportunity to excel in sport.

The flipside of the argument is that whereas once the likes of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, and Billie Jean King, Chris Evert and Lindsay Davenport effectively ‘cleaned up’ at the major tennis tournaments, tennis has since become a far more international game, and thus more popular as a result. There have been 30 different nations represented in the WTA’s top 60, while the sport is developing at a rate of knots in countries hitherto not known for their tennis background. Denmark for example, or Latvia.

“The WTA has a fantastic mix of established champions and rising stars in the game today, many of whom are very popular in the U.S. and transcend geographic boundaries,” Stacey Allaster, chairman and chief executive officer of the WTA Tour, told Bloomberg sports reporter Danielle Rossingh.

With young Americans such as Ryan Harrison and Christina McHale touted as future prospects, whether American tennis’s current dip in fortunes is merely a blip, a gap in the talent pool, or whether it is symptomatic of a deeper problem among the wealthier nations in the sport (Britain and Australia have experienced similar declines), remains to be seen.

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ALEX WILLIS: ‘Whenever I watch great people playing great tennis, I have this sudden urge to rush out onto the nearest court, brandishing my not-used-enough racket, and serve like Serena, hit forehands like Rafa, or backhands like Federer’

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

ALEXANDRA WILLIS is the former Deputy Editor of ACE Tennis Magazine, and alongside mag work and an affair with social media, has had the dubious honour of sitting in on a few tennis tournaments from time to time as part of her professional duties. If you happen to bump into her court-side, she’ll probably tell you that she went to Oxford (and not just shopping).

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By Alexandra Willis at the O2 Arena

23 November 2010

It may sound like barking up the obvious tree, but a tournament like the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals requires rather a lot of different bits coming together seamlessly in the right place at the right time. It’s a bit like making a giant cake. First you need the flour, sugar, eggs and butter – so that’ll be the players, venue, staff and spectators – whip it all up over a few weeks, bake it overnight, and hey presto, a super-sized tennis tournament that Maison Blanc would be proud of.

But there’s also the icing. The tiny little bits of added sugar and cream that make an event more than a few guys battering a ball about. The clouds of dry ice, the tv-style spotlights, the heart beats on crucial points, the music, the rock-star style introductions, the shops, the food…even the do-it-yourself paint splattering…all of these odds and sods mean that this is not just a tennis event, it’s a hula-hooping extravaganza.

One of the added extras is the shiny new Fan Zone, free to any visitor to the O2 this week, and complete with a smorgasbord of pointless and not-so pointless interactive devices. You can have your photo taken with the very same trophy that will be presented to the singles and doubles champions at the end of this week. My lifetime ambition. You can watch the world’s best singles and doubles players knock up on two superbly thought-out practice courts. You can pad around in sand with a Corona and lime, watched by a guy in overalls sitting in a lifeguard’s chair at the Corona Beach Bar. I’ll let you be the judge of which one you’d choose.

The Highland Spring Hot Shots Tour area at the O2

But there’s also the Highland Spring Hot Shots Tour area. Despite what you may think from Corona’s offering, this does not involve swigging shot glasses of hot water next to a backdrop of the Scottish Highlands. No. It serves a far more important purpose. I don’t know about you, but whenever I watch great people playing great tennis, I have this sudden urge to rush out onto the nearest court as soon as possible, brandishing my not-used-enough racket, and serve like Serena, hit forehands like Rafa, or backhands like Federer. Needless to say I soon remember that I can’t do any of that. But I do enjoy it.

So, what better way to take advantage of youngsters and oldsters being caught up in the tennis moment than to get them to actually play? And on the Highland Spring Hot Shots Tour, you don’t just hit the ball back and forth. You can whack targets, you can bosh serves, you can even, if you’re lucky, meet a real live tennis player. Of course, one child spending a few minutes hitting a sponge ball with Jamie Murray doesn’t mean they’re suddenly going to be hooked on tennis for life. But it’s a start. And when that one child becomes 500 a day, (not to mention the 300 adults), it’s suddenly far more than just a fad for fans.

Jamie Murray having a hit with some youngsters

“The Highland Spring Hot Shots Tour roadshow goes out to over 60 events around the country during the tennis season, so it’s great for us to help get tennis out on the road,” explains Leah Holmes, Sponsorship Executive at Highland Spring. “The interaction for the kids is fantastic – to have a game of tennis with Judy or Jamie Murray, that makes a lot of peoples’ days, and lets them take away a very special experience after their visit here.”

Managed by Phil Leighton and his Wirral-based Cross Sports team on behalf of Highland Spring and the LTA, the roadshows give many a young gun their first taste of tennis at Davis Cup ties, the summer events before Wimbledon, at The Championships itself, and of course, here at the ATP’s season-ending event. It’s amazing what happens to a group of 10-year-old boys when you tell them to try and serve the ball harder than each other.

This is not to say that we should have pop-up inflatable tennis courts on every street corner. They’d probably get run over by the Boris bikers. But getting fans, especially the young ones, to pick up a racket on the day they’ve seen Federer hit a hot dog can only be a good thing.

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Andy Murray and Laura Robson move up the pecking order as Serena Williams withdraws from Hopman Cup

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

By Alexandra Willis

25 November 2010

Andy Murray and Laura Robson have moved a step closer to taking home one of the famous Hopman Cup diamonds, after the British duo were moved up to second seeds following the withdrawal of Serena Williams from the 2011 event. Murray and Robson impressed on their debut in Perth last year, narrowly losing a tight final to the Spanish team of Tommy Robredo and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.

Williams, who has also been forced to pull out of next year’s Australian Open, has been struggling with injury since cutting a tendon in her foot outside a restaurant in July. “As I continue to rehabilitate my foot after the second surgery last month, it is with the utmost regret that I am withdrawing from the Hopman Cup and the 2011 Australian Open Championships,” the former world No.1 said in a statement. “As I recently learned, pushing myself back into my intense training too early only caused me further injury and damage.”

“While I desperately want to be back on the court and competing in the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, it is imperative for my health that I continue to work with my doctors to ensure my foot heals properly. This decision, though heavy on my heart, is the right one. I am praying for a healthy recovery and I promise my Aussie fans and my fans around the world that I will be back better than ever as soon as I can be.”

The 13-time Grand Slam champion has not competed since winning The Championships at Wimbledon in July, and as a result has seen her ranking slip from No.1 in the world to No.4. Being unable to defend her Australian Open title will cause her to drop further down the rankings.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley commented: “Serena is a great champion and we will miss her. We send her our very best wishes for a speedy recovery.”

Williams will be replaced at the Hyundai Hopman Cup, an ITF singles and mixed doubles event, by Bethanie Mattek-Sands, partnering John Isner, for Team USA. The top seeds remain the Serbian duo of Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic, Murray and Robson are seeded second, Justine Henin and Steve Darcis are seeded third for Belgium, and Francesca Schiavone and Potito Starace are seeded fourth for Italy.

The Hyundai Hopman Cup will take place from 1-8 January 2011 in Perth, Australia.

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Will Serena Williams ever be back?

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