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Sports Then and Now



Counting Down the 15 Greatest French Open Champions of the Open Era… 1

Posted on April 29, 2011 by JA Allen

The French Open Grounds surrounding Stade Roland Garros

Thoughts now turn to the red clay of Stade Roland Garros––the next Grand Slam championship on the calendar.

The French Open begins on May 22 following the Masters 1000 tournaments in Madrid and Rome.

The French Open has often presented obstacles to many of the top players.  Pete Sampras never won on the red dirt nor did John McEnroe, although he came very lose in 1984.

Maria Sharapova could never capture this title and the Williams sisters never found the dirt to their liking, although Serena Williams did win the title in 2002 with her sister Venus as the runner-up.

In all eight men and seven women have won multiple championships since the Open Era began in 1968.

How do you measure the greatness of an athlete within their respective sport? What factors determine the degree of greatness over a period of time, be it years or decades?

Further, how do you determine who is number one in any given list or ranking?

First you must find a pattern and then you must determine the significant components of the ranking—does each factor merit being used as part of the overall equation? Sometimes it does, without question, like the score in a game. The highest or lowest score wins as in football or golf.

It is not always a simple task to determine who is the greatest because such discussions invariably have subjective components.

For this ranking, first consider the number of times a man or woman won the title.  Add in as well the number of times a player made it to the French Open finals since 1968 (Open Era) as the initial demarcation of greatness.

To be considered the player must have won the French Open more than once since 1968.

It should be noted that Rod Laver did win this tournament twice in 1962 and 1969, once in the Open Era. He also made the finals in 1968.

Roger Federer made four consecutive finals from 2006-2009, winning the title once in 2009.

That just proves how difficult it can be to win this tournament multiple times as these 15 players have done.

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A Decade of Tennis Divas: The Last 10 Lady Champions at Indian Wells 14

Posted on March 05, 2011 by JA Allen

The tournament at Indian Wells gets underway on Monday March 7.

The BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells gets underway starting March 7.

It is easy to see that the 36-year old tournament has grown into a major attraction for tennis fans in this country as the stands and grounds become packed with spectators each year when March rolls around.

Some tennis aficionados have grown so enamored with the annual event they now call it California’s version of a fifth major.

This year’s Masters Series 1000 Tournament, whose inaugural event took place in 1976, is now held annually at the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens after several location changes during its history.

It features both a men’s and a women’s draw with the top players attending, hoping to add this prestigious title to their respective resumes.

For the ladies field, the tournament gradually evolved into a top tier event. In the beginning it was non-sanctioned. It became, however, an official WTA Tour event in 1991.

Initially the women’s tournament preceded the men’s but in 1996 tournament sponsors along with the WTA and ATP decided to hold both competitions concurrently.

Unlike the men, the women have no player who has won this tournament three times.

In the women’s competition, however, seven players have won the tournament twice—Daniela Hantuchova 2002 and 2007, Kim Clijsters 2003 and 2005, Serena Williams 1999 and 2001, Lindsay Davenport 1997 and 2000, Steffi Graf 1994 and 1996, Mary Jo Fernandez 1993 and 1995 and Martina Navratilova 1990-1991.

Who will add to these totals in 2011?

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Nadal Closes the Gap on Federer: 10 Bold Tennis Predictions for 2011 2

Posted on January 07, 2011 by JA Allen

Nadal prepares another run at Federer records in 2011.

The 2011 tennis season is under way, and already the tennis world has zeroed in on the biggest game in town—potential showdowns between the No. 1 and No. 2-ranked players in the world, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer respectively.

They are both facing some stiff competition in Doha at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open as the final eight head into quarterfinal action.

With the return to action of Juan Martin del Potro and the constant presence of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, the rampant speculation about 2011 continues for the men.

For the ladies, the strange absence of the Williams sisters on tour leaves many questions about who will rise up and seize this season by the throat early on.

New No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki has yet to win a major. Will she this year? If she falters and fails, who might secure the No. 1 ranking?

The women’s game remains wide open until or if the Williams sisters return.

This brings us to 2011 and our top 10 predictions for the upcoming season.

No. 1: Someone other than Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer will win a major this year.

Will Novak Djokovic capture his second Slam trophy?

It is time for one of the top 10 to break the stranglehold and take away a major trophy.

Marat Safin won one in 2005 at the Australian Open, Novak Djokovic also won at the Australian Open in 2008 and Juan Martin del Potro denied Federer his sixth consecutive US Open title by taking it for himself in 2009.

But either Federer or Nadal has won the Wimbledon championship since 2003. Similarly, either Nadal or Federer has won the French Open since 2005.

Usual Suspects

World No. 3 Novak Djokovic

The Serb won the Australian Open in 2008, defeating Federer in the semifinals and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the finals. Since then, Djokovic has appeared in the semifinals of the French in 2007 and 2008, the semifinals of Wimbledon in 2007 and 2010 and the finals of the US Open in 2007 and 2010. Hard courts seem to be his best surface. A repeat down under?

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Ranking Tennis in 2010: The Top 10 Performances, Part 2 1

Posted on December 21, 2010 by JA Allen

No. 5: Serena Williams Fights Off the Henin Challenge

Serena Williams defeats Justine Henin: 2010 Australian Open Final

Serena Williams defeats Justine Henin to win the Australian Open in 2010.

Was there ever a  more anticipated final in women’s tennis than this one?

Perhaps in the past when Chris Evert met Martina Navratilova or Steffi Graf met Monica Seles before the 1993 stabbing.

With the exception of the French Open, in recent tennis history Serena Williams loomed as a juggernaut with her stranglehold on slam trophies.

But Justine Henin was a winner in her own right.

Henin, when ranked No. 1 in women’s tennis, abruptly retired from the game just prior to the 2008 French Open.

Now, the Belgian was back 19 months later, unseeded and unranked, to play the World No. 1 in the finals of the Australian Open.

The tennis world was abuzz at the Belgian’s rise from the ashes.

Henin, however, did not have enough weapons on the day––especially against the William’s serve to hold onto her advantage after the Belgian took the second set to even the match at one set apiece.

Henin earned break points against Serena in the third set, game two, but could only watch as Serena served rockets that skipped past her.  The Belgian’s spirit broken, Williams closed in out 6-2-3-6, 6-2.

Serena Williams equalled the record of Billie Jean King by winning this match, drawing her ever closer to legendary status.

Serena with 12 slam titles at this point was awarded her trophy by Margaret Court who leads all slam champions with 24 singles grand slam titles.

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U.S. Open Tennis: Greatest Lady Champions of the Modern Era 3

Posted on August 17, 2010 by JA Allen

Great Rivalries built the women's game into a prime spectator sport.

Heading into the 2010 U.S. Open, uncertainty reigns as several of the top seeds are currently sidelined with injuries.

First of all are the reports of Serena Williams’ recovery from foot surgery––leading to speculation that the younger Williams sister may not be fit enough to challenge for the U.S. Open championship.

Additionally will be the absence of Justine Henin with a right elbow injury suffered during a fall at Wimbledon. The pain and suffering could extend perhaps to Venus Williams who has pulled out of both Cincinnati and Montreal with pain in her left knee that prevents her from practicing.

Add to that wounded Russian Maria Sharapova who battled Kim Clijsters in the final in Cincinnati pulling out of the Rogers Cup after twisting her ankle during the match.

The end result is that a clear favorite for being crowned as this year’s champion remains shrouded in doubt––even though the odds seem to favor the younger Williams sister.  Will she notch another win in New York?

As we rate the top U.S. Open champions since 1968 on the women’s side, we look at both the number of final wins plus the number of appearances in U.S. Open finals.  If those are equal we look at the total winning percentages of each player.

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Women’s Tennis Power Rankings: Queen Serena Williams meets Queen Elizabeth 16

Posted on July 08, 2010 by JA Allen

The Queen of England visits Wimbledon and meets the Queen of the Court, Serena Williams.

Wimbledon is over––the year 2010 tucked away in the record books.  Centre Court now sports a roof and artificial lights, an abrupt departure from tradition in favor of increased revenue and pressure from major television outlets.

Most of the traditions, however, stay intact like bowing to the Queen, strawberries and cream and no tiebreak in the final set.

While the elongated fifth set has been an issue from time to time, in 2010 it became historically significant as Nicolas Mahut and John Isner battled over three days in their first round match which finally concluded after 11 hours of match play, 70-68 in the fifth set.

Neither player could play on after that match even though both tried, Mahut in doubles and Isner in singles.  For that reason alone, some sort of limit needs to be established.

Most of the talk was of the men.  Without a “suggestive” outfit from Venus, the women seemed invisible throughout the tournament.  U.S. coverage focused almost entirely on the Williams sisters––what there was of that.  As usual, the men stole the headlines and the regular television coverage.

So Serena’s amazing win, with her sizzling serve-breaking records, received less attention than usual as all the world continued the Rafa-Roger debate.  Too bad because the ladies put on quite a show!

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