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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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World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka Duel in Dubai 3

Posted on February 17, 2012 by JA Allen

Novak Djokovic has won the Dubai Tournament consecutively for the past 3 years.

While oil and water may not mix, oil and tennis seem to merge beautifully. That will become perfectly obvious as the oil-rich United Arab Emirates hosts its annual tennis extravaganza on outdoor hardcourts in Dubai beginning on February 20, ending March 3, 2012.

The tournament known as the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships will begin with a week-long foray featuring the top women in the world to be followed later by the top-ranked men as the second week gets underway.

The luxurious accommodations plus the rich setting make this venue one of the more popular ones for the tennis pros who journey here year after year.

In fact, it remains the site of one of Roger Federer’s chief training centers where the Swiss comes to get his body in prime condition for the long season ahead—usually during the hot month of July.

Despite the home court advantage, Federer has not won in Dubai since 2007.  He will be hoping to change that this year.

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Playing the Tennis Rankings Game: Reviewing the Top 10 in 2011… 9

Posted on November 02, 2011 by JA Allen

Novak Djokovic of Serbia, the new world No. 1 in men's tennis.

What a difference a year makes. Nothing brings that point home more than looking back at the men’s and women’s tennis rankings at the end of 2010—and comparing it to today’s ranking.

For the last two years,  the ladies’ rankings were as follows:


  1. Caroline Wozniacki
  2. Vera Zvonareva
  3. Kim Clijsters
  4. Serena Williams
  5. Venus Williams
  6. Samantha Stosur
  7. Francesca Schiavone
  8. Jelena Jankovic
  9. Elena Dementieva
  10. Victoria Azarenka


  1. Caroline Wozniacki
  2. Petra Kvitova
  3. Victoria Azarenka
  4. Maria Sharapova
  5. Na Li
  6. Samantha Stosur
  7. Vera Zvonareva
  8. Agnieszka Radwanska
  9. Marion Bartoli
  10. Andrea Petkovic

Only four of the WTA top ten ranked women at end of 2010 appear again in the top ten in 2011 after the ladies concluded their battle for the 2011 WTA championship.

Many of the perennial “standards” have faded from sight with no Williams sisters or Kim Clijsters making the cut.

For the men, the story is a bit different. While the ATP top ten ranked players at the end of 2010 had a different order, most of the names are the same in 2011—now, as the final three men struggle to make the ATP elite eight field for the 2011 year-end championship.

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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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Petra Kvitova Captures Wimbledon: Tops the Women’s Tennis Power Ranking 7

Posted on July 08, 2011 by JA Allen

Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic Wins Wimbledon

Who has not heard the news? A whole new era is afoot in women’s tennis.

Considering the players who captured headlines and the attention of tennis pundits during the second week of the 2011 Wimbledon Championships – you quickly surmised that the usual suspects were missing in action.

Gone was defending champion Serena Williams who had held the Rosewater Dish aloft four times, hoping that 2011 would bring her five.

Another Wimbledon win would tie Serena with her older sister Venus Williams who had won the All England Club Championship five times. Venus was also no longer in the house.

Absent, too, were French Open champion Li Na, who lost in the second round in a fierce contest as well as the No. 1 seed Caroline Wozniacki who failed again to make the Wimbledon quarterfinals.

No. 2 ranked Kim Clijsters never checked in for Championships, still sidelined with an ankle injury.

That left the field wide open for a newly invigorated Maria Sharapova, the wide-eyed power game of German Sabine Lisicki, the finely-honed game of Victoria Azarkena and the excellent grass-court assault of Petra Kvitova.  It was a worthy fortnight – an ultimate contrast in competence and mental fortitude.

The “Power Rankings” are compiled and presented by JA Allen, Marianne Bevis and Feng Rong using . We present the periodic rankings at least four times a year.

Following are the latest top ten in our women’s tennis power rankings as determined at the conclusion of the 2011 Wimbledon Championships in London.

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      March 10, 2018 | 11:05 am
      Mike Gminski

      Mike Gminski

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was a star big man who achieved great success at Camden Indoor Stadium in the era before Coach K and the One-and-Done big men became the norm at Duke University.

      Much like recent Duke big men Marvin Bagley III, Jayson Tatum and Jahlil Okafor, Mike Gminski made an immediate impact for the Blue Devils. However, because he played 40 years earlier at a time when few players left college early, Gminski spent four years racking up stats and success in Durham.

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