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2012 French Open: Who Will Shine, Maria Sharapova or Serena Williams? 38

Posted on May 25, 2012 by JA Allen

The French Open gets underway on Sunday with Sharapova one of the favorites.

Finally, grand slam No. 2 gets underway Sunday, May 27, 2012 in Paris.

Thankfully, it marks the end of the ever-increasingly dull, dusty and predictable clay court season for the men.

While watching men play tennis on clay is second only to watching the grass grow, the women have presented far more entertainment on the clay in terms of survivors—overlooking the shrieking, sliding and assault of injuries.

Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova enter this year’s French Open as the early favorites according to the latest news centered on the ladies draw for the second grand slam of the season.

Of the two, most look to Serena Williams to conquer the clay this season. The fact remains, however, that Serena Williams has not done so for a decade. The last time the younger Williams sister won the French Open title was in 2002. It turned out to be her only trip to the final, falling short in each of her other nine attempts.

Sharapova, on the other hand, has never yet made a final on the grounds of Stade Roland Garros.

The reason pundits and fans find Williams the most probable champion is because there is no viable clear-cut favorite on clay. Roland Garros has crowned highly improbable champions every season since Belgian Justine Henin first retired for in 2008.

In 2008 Serbian beauty Ana Ivanovic stepped up large to claim the French Open crown and the No. 1 spot for the ladies. She quickly faded after leaving Paris when her game fell apart and her ranking slowly sank of sight.

Next up, Svetlana Kuznetsova skyrocketed from the field in 2009 to steal the championship away from fellow Russian Dinara Safina who also lost the final in 2008. But like Ivanovic before her, Kuznetsova could find no more magic after leaving the grounds of Roland Garros in 2009. Since winning in Paris, Kuznetsova has disappeared, her ranking slowly receding.

The feisty Italian Francesca Schiavone refused to lose in 2010 as she wrestled the championship away from a revitalized Samantha Stosur. The Aussie, after defeating the former French Open winner Justine Henin, followed by Serena Williams and Jelena Jankovic, could not quell the determination of Schiavone to seize the championship—her first at age 29.

But in 2011, Schiavone was the one who suffered defeat from an improbable source—Li Na of China who was also winning her first major. Like the three champions preceding her, however, Li Na suffered from post-French Open syndrome. Her game suffered and her ranking fell.

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Forecasting the Fortunes of the Top Seeds at the 2012 French Open 13

Posted on May 04, 2012 by JA Allen

The 2012 French Open gets underway on May 27, 2012

The clay-court season has offered few surprises so far for the men on tour.

Rafael Nadal has re-established his iron foothold on the red clay, offering his opponents a healthy dose of lethal backspin and Majorcan aggression. There is something about breathing red dust that instills Nadal with an air of invincibility few can overcome.

For the ladies, Queen Victoria Azarenka has bowed to few, trying to cement her grasp on the No. 1 ranking.

Losing only to Marion Bartoli at Indian Wells, Azarenka demonstrated no nervous tics or signs of relenting her perch at the top of the women’s game. That is, until she was buried under a siege of Russian ground strokes thrown at her by world No. 2  Marian Sharapova at Stuttgart.

Sharapova pulled the proverbial rug out from under Azarenka in Germany during the finals on Sunday, winning 6-1, 6-4.

The women’s top four players—Azarenka, Sharapova, Petra Kvitova and Agnieszka Radwanska appear to have established some sort of stability for the ladies, although certainly not on a par with the men’s top four—Novak Djokovic, Nadal, Roger Federer and  Andy Murray.

In a few weeks, both the men and the women will roll into Roland Garros for the second Grand Slam of the season.

Those at the top will continue to be favored to win, but there may be some surprises on the terre battue in Paris.

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Petra Kvitova Proves When You’re Hot, You’re Hot in the Latest Women’s Power Ranking 12

Posted on October 31, 2011 by JA Allen

Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic wins in Istanbul.

From the beginning, 2011 made its mark as the “Year of Injuries” for the top-ranked women in tennis.

Serena Williams, who cut her foot on broken glass after the 2010 Wimbledon Tournament, was out of tennis for most of the year.

Sister Venus Williams also suffered from illness and injury throughout 2011.

Kim Clijsters, who won the 2011 Australian Open over Li Na of China, sprained her ankle and never was able to compete fully after April of this year.

Justine Henin retired for the second and last time in January of 2011 after further injuring her elbow at the Australian Open. It was the same elbow she injured in a fall at Wimbledon in 2010.

For the most part the old guard was disappearing, it seemed, in the blink of an eye. That meant new champions would emerge.

Therefore, 2011 quickly evolved into the “Year of the Newcomers” in women’s tennis.

Li Na won the 2011 French Open, to claim her first major title.

Petra Kvitova, barely 21, won the 2011 Wimbledon title, defeating former champion Maria Sharapova in the final—even though the Williams sisters were competing once again.

Samantha Stosur finally won her first major at the US Open defeating Serena Williams in a brilliant display of tennis acumen and nerve.

The 2011 season culminated in Istanbul at the TEB BNP Paribas WTA Championships where the elite eight women met to battle for the final title of the season.

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Women’s Tennis Power Rankings: Queen Victoria Azarkena Reigns after Miami 5

Posted on April 08, 2011 by Ronger Fengerer

Victoria Azarenka won the women's championship in Miami.

Since the conclusion of the first major of the year—the Australian Open—there has been 11 tournaments and ten winners on the WTA tour. The only double-titlist? Caroline Wozniacki, the current world No. 1.

These Power Rankings focus more on the recent tournaments, aiming to give a measure of form rather than overall ability. In the current case, results from the last two Premier Mandatory events at Miami and Indian Wells will largely decide the rankings.

However, that won’t do justice to many titlists who aren’t featured in the power rankings.

Here’s a quick list of honorable-mentions:

Petra Kvitova won her second title of the year at Paris, also triumphing at Brisbane at the begging of the season. She subsequently rose to a career-high ranking of No. 14. However, she was unable to keep her momentum going, winning only one out of her next five matches.

Daniela Hantuchova won the Pattaya City title without dropping a set. Before that, she had lost all four of her matches of the season, including a first-round exit at Melbourne. Since then she has suffered two more first-round defeats. The talented Slovakian is competing at the clay-court event at Charleston this week.

Magdalena Rybarikova, another Slovakian currently ranked No. 69 in the world, won the Memphis title back in February, only her second career-title. In her first tour-level match since then, she lost in the first-round at Charleston this week.

Lourdes Dominguez Lino is a 30-year-old veteran from Spain, currently ranked No. 46 in the world. She won the clay-court event at Bogota in February, also winning there in 2006. In fact, those are her only two career-titles. She lost in the second-round at Marbella this week.

Gisela Dulko won the clay-court event at Acapulco, her first singles title in three years, though she is the current No. 1 in doubles. She did not have much success on the hard-courts, suffering three first-round exits already. Maybe the clay season will do her some good.

Jelena Dokic was the surprise winner at Kuala Lumpur, beating Francesca Schiavone in the first-round. It was her first title since 2002. Unfortunately for the former world No. 4, she also lost in the first-round at Charleston this week.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova successfully defended her title at Monterey this year. She won her first career-title there last year. She reached her career-high ranking of No. 14 after a third-round effort at Melbourne. She is the youngest player in the top 50 and should have a very successful career.

Without further ado, here is this week’s top ten list.

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Jelena Jankovic Sits Atop Women’s Tennis Power Rankings 9

Posted on March 30, 2010 by JA Allen
Jelena Jankovic won the tournament in Indian Wells and tops the Power Rankings this week.

Jelena Jankovic won the tournament in Indian Wells and tops the Power Rankings this week.

The action is hot and heavy this week in Miami. It marks the end of the traditional hard court season in America before the world turns to clay in April.

The surprises on the women’s tour continue as Serbian Jelena Jankovic overcomes her slump to take the No. 1 spot in our Power Rankings this week after winning the tournament in Indian Wells.

You just have to wonder who will orchestrate the next big surprise as the women fight for positions in the quarterfinals at the Sony Ericsson Open.

The Top Ten

1. Jelena Jankovic (Last Power Ranking: NR; WTA Ranking: 8 )

Last Four Tournaments: Sony Ericsson Open Miami [R16+], Indian Wells [Winner], Monterrey [R32], Dubai [R16].

Power Ranking Points: 681

Just when everyone was erecting a tombstone to mark the passing of Jankovic’s career, the Serb came back and won it all at Indian Wells. Jankovic progressed into the fourth round in Miami, so things were definitely looking up for her. The question remained––had she found her form and her energy level which had been missing in action for so long?

She had some tough matches awaiting her in Miami that would demonstrate if the Serb had the right stuff to continue her upward path. Unfortunately for Jankovic, she lost her fourth round match to Australia’s Samantha Stosur 6-1, 7-6.

As the tour moves on to the clay courts, counterpuncher Jankovic still hopes to climb back to the top of the WTA rankings.

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