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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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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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Stosur Defeat Raises Fresh Doubts 0

Posted on June 23, 2011 by Pete South

Samantha Stosur continued her struggles with a first round loss at Wimbledon.

Samantha Stosur’s latest early Wimbledon exit further calls into question her ability to compete at majors. Combined with her freezing in the French Open final last year and a record of just three quarter final or better efforts at slams, it suggests the world number 10 cannot find her best game when it matters most.

The Australian’s poor Wimbledon record is one of the great anomalies in tennis. Stosur has fallen in the first round five times, reached the second on three occasions and has a best finish of the third round, achieved in 2009. Anyone with a free bet on US Open action may  want to bear her poor form in mind.

In that tournament she reached the doubles finals for the second consecutive year, which hints at why her singles record at SW19 is so hard to understand. Stosur is one of the best doubles players in recent times, possessing as she does a big and varied serve and excellent volleying ability. She is seemingly tailor-made for grass. Read the rest of this entry →

Maria Sharapova Leads the Field in the Women’s Tennis Power Rankings 11

Posted on May 18, 2011 by JA Allen

Russian Maria Sharapova

As the 2011 French Open gets underway next week, the women’s field remains wide open.  There is no clear cut favorite for the title.

In fact, there has never been a true favorite heading into Paris since Justine Henin announced her first retirement from tennis in 2008.

The champions crowned in Henin’s absence have been great surprises––like Ana Ivanovic in 2008, Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2009 and Francesca Schiavone in 2010.

The good news for tennis fans is that Kim Clijsters will be returning to action in Paris with her ankle severely taped.  The Belgian, however, will not have the needed warm-up time on the clay to give her adequate preparation for a win in Paris.

In addition to the top 10 women listed in our power ranking, there are other players who merit our attention as we get ready to crown another French Open champion in 2011.  These “also to be watched” players are as follows:

Kim Clijsters can never be discounted at any major tournament regardless of her physical injuries.  As the winner of the last two slams at the 2011 Australia Open and at the 2010 U.S. Open, Clijsters will be looking to win this French Open crown. This remains a title that has eluded her in the past.

Svetlana Kuznetsova won the French Open title in 2009 and has the game to win the title again.  After her campaign in Marbella where the Russian made the semifinals, Kuznetsova has not fared well on the clay.  She will definitely be looking to improve on the grounds at Stade Roland Garros.

Ana Ivanovic has done nothing to suggest that she can win the French Open title again. Still, as a former champion, she has to be considered as a dark horse coming in because she knows exactly what it takes to win it all on clay.  Everyone hopes to see the Serbian beauty win in Paris, but the odds are not in her favor this year.

Andrea Petkovic is another of the surging German women who has been making a name for herself on the World stage in tennis.  Although Petkovic has not done well on the clay, she is a dangerous player with the potential to do well on any surface.

Our top 10 rankings are based on the four most recent tournament results and the WTA ranking points awarded.  The points are aged with the most recent receiving the most points. Following are the top 10 women poised to win at Roland Garros starting Monday in Paris.

JA Allen, Marianne Bevis and Ronger Fengerer write the Power Ranking series.

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Previewing the Favorites at the 2011 French Open Championships… 4

Posted on April 27, 2011 by JA Allen

French Open gets underway in less than a month.

Last season the 2010 French Open marked the culmination of a player sweeping the major titles of the entire clay court season––the final act of the Tao of Nadal.

No man has quite dominated the red dirt so completely since Bjorn Borg did in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

That said, no individual has yet to equal Chris Evert’s record on clay, man or woman by winning 125 consecutive matches on the red dirt, and seven French Open titles in nine final appearances.

Is it possible that Nadal could surpass even the ice maiden?

There are few mysteries abounding about the results on clay in 2011. If Nadal can hobble on to the court, then he will no doubt win, according to the odds-makers.

The only unknowns come on the women’s side of the draw where no one stands out as a favorite to win. In fact the bookies remain fairly clueless.

Past winners like Ana Ivanovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova remain mired in unending slumps punctuated by an unexpected win or two along the way.

Francesca Schiavone who won it last year over the woman who was supposed to win, Samantha Stosur, may be the best bet.

The sure thing about watching the French Open is that it is not pretty. Play on the red dirt can be long and ugly on a hot afternoon with unending rallies from the baseline.  It often becomes truly survival of the fittest.

So, selecting who will be standing holding the trophies at the end of the French Open can be a futile exercise but here are the favorites and where they stand at the beginning of May…

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Australian Open 2011: Clijsters? Wozniacki? Who Will Win Down Under? 5

Posted on January 16, 2011 by JA Allen

Caroline Wozniacki is the new World No. 1 in womens tennis.

It is redundant to repeat that the women’s field in Melbourne is wide open.  This is because the 2010 defending Australian Open Champion Serena Williams is not competing,

The media has already taken a big bite out of the No. 1 seed, Caroline Wozniacki, finding her lacking in seasoning, flavor and a coup d’etat at any major.

Previously, the pundits did the same thing to Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina, hounding these ladies, driving them out of range of reaching that ranking again.

Wozniacki, however, is not quite as fragile or as susceptible to harsh, self-centered commentator remarks. Of course, the No. 1 seed wants to capture this title and will do everything in her power to win her first slam.

What everyone seems to overlook is that Wozniacki is 20 years old and her game is still evolving. Just as Nadal starting winning on one surface then improved his game to win on all surfaces over time––Wozniacki has not yet perfected her game.

The No. 1 seed is certainly not the favorite to win.  Belgians Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin are.

Most feel Venus Williams has not played enough good tennis in preparation for the Australian Open to win. Maria Sharapova, they feel, is also not in top form and perhaps never will be again.

Many look at Samantha Stosur to break through at home and win her first major. That would, indeed, please the natives.

In order for Wozniacki to win, she would have to play perfect tennis for two weeks, serving well plus out-hustling any player standing across the net.  The question is––can Wozniacki do it?

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    • Earl Morrall: The Perfect Backup
      November 16, 2019 | 10:46 am
      Earl Morrall

      In a career that started in 1956 and ended in 1976, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was never really a leading man, but he seemed to be part of the supporting cast for many huge moments in NFL history.

      The second overall pick in the 1956 NFL Draft out of Michigan State, Earl Morrall joined a San Francisco 49ers team that already included the famous “Million Dollar Backfield” of Y.A. Tittle, Hugh McElhenny, Joe Perry and John Henry Johnson.

      Morrall started four games during his rookie season, but just before the start of the 1957 season was traded along with guard Mike Sandusky to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for linebacker Marv Matuszak and two first-round draft picks.

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