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PAPA FEDERER

Si l’année dernière c’était « l’année Rafael Nadal », cette année 2009 est sans aucun doute l’année « Roger Federer ». Le suisse, 28 ans le 8 août prochain, est au firmament. Telle une étoile irradiant la planète tennis de son talent, Roger est désormais le seul joueur de tennis de l’histoire à détenir 15 titres du Grand Chelem. Surclassant Pete Sampras, qui était jusqu’alors avec ses 14 titres, le recordman absolu en Grand Chelem. Et pourtant en ce début d’année 2009, rien ne laissait présager un tel scénario pour Roger. Battu de plus bel par son éternel rival, Rafael Nadal, en finale de l’Open d’Australie, Roger semblait sombrer de plus en plus dans la défaite. Le suisse laissait la tornade espagnole gagner de plus en plus de terrain et s’installer tranquillement sur le fauteuil de numéro un mondial. Mais Roger n’a jamais abandonné, même malmené, même quand tout le monde s’empressait de dire que les Djokovic, Murray, Del Potro et autres allaient le doubler, le laisser sur le bord de la route. Pour beaucoup, Roger était presque dépassé bien qu’étant le plus grand champion de tennis de tous les temps. 

Après cette défaite à l’Open d’Australie, on voyait mal comment Roger allait parvenir à arrêter la machine Nadal à Roland Garros, où le majorquin restait sur quatre victoires d’affilée dont trois remportées sans équivoque face à lui. Tout le monde se souvient de la déculottée magistrale que Nadal a infligé au Suisse l’année dernière sur la terre ocre de Paris…ne lui laissant que quatre petit jeux à se metrre sous la dent. Roger s’était sans doute, à ce moment là, dit que la Coupe des Mousquetaires lui serait à jamais inaccessible. Mais un champion n’abdique jamais et  c’est au moment où on s’y attend le moins que les victoires tant espérées arrivent. En le battant en finale de Madrid, tournoi de préparation juste avant Roland Garros, Roger Federer avait enfin évité de passer une nouvelle fois à la trappe sur terre battue face au Maître Nadal. 

Un signe qui ne laissait en rien profiler la défaite de Rafael Nadal en 1/8èmes de finale de Roland Garros. Le Roi est tombé. Non pas sous les coups de Federer, mais sous les coups droits dévastateurs d’un inconnu ou presque à ce niveau sur terre, Robin Soderling. Avant cet exploit, Soderling était réputé sur le circuit comme un bon joueur mais ayant un caractère difficile. Rien, absolument rien, ne le prédisposait à sortir le maître des lieux en quatre petits sets d’autant plus qu’il n’avait jamais dépassé le troisième tour à Paris avant cette édition. C’était donc un autre joueur qui s’était chargé de priver Rafael Nadal d’un cinquième triomphe consécutif sur la terre parisienne. Roger, comme les autres joueurs, a été simple spectateur du cataclysme tennistique que la défaite du Majorquin a créé dans le tournoi. Il était dès le lendemain de la disparition de son rival du tournoi, le logique favori. 

Mais rien n’était joué, loin de là…surtout au moment où Roger se retrouvait mené deux sets et un break dans son match des 1/8èmes de finale face à Tommy Haas. La situation devenait une nouvelle fois dangereuse pour lui. Allait-il être capable d’accrocher enfin le titre à Paris maintenant que sa plus grande menace avait disparu du tournoi? Roger finit par s’imposer dans ce match face au coriace Haas en cinq sets, mais de nouveau, l’épée de Damoclès vint une nouvelle fois se pointer au dessus de sa tête…en la personne de Juan Martin Del Potro. L’Argentin bouscula le Suisse jusqu’au 5e set, avant de capituler à son tour. 

La finale l’opposait donc au tombeur de son rival, Robin Soderling. En trois sets bien sentis, Roger brandit enfin le seul tournoi du Grand Chelem qui lui manquait, Roland Garros. Avec ce titre, il rejoignait Pete Sampras, rentrant dans le cercle très fermé  » des joueurs aux 14 titres du Grand Chelem », et devenait le deuxième joueur de la décennie, après André Agassi, à s’adjuger les quatre tournois du Grand Chelem. Après cette campagne parisienne enfin réussie, Roger n’était plus q’un très bon joueur, mais devint une légende. A Wimbledon c’était encore une autre histoire, le champion c’était Rafael Nadal. L’Espagnol avait réussit l’exploit d’extirper le titre des mains du Suisse au prix d’une des plus grandes batailles de l’histoire du tennis. L’année dernière, le monde entier avait considéré la victoire de Nadal sur gazon, comme une passation de pouvoir. Roger était résigné et ne pouvait que se rendre à l’évidence: il n’était plus le meilleur joueur du monde. 

Cette année 2009 était une nouvelle chance pour lui de croire en sa formidable étoile, qui lui avait permis de conquérir quelques semaines auparavant Roland Garros. Annoncé pour participer à cette édition, Rafael Nadal fût contraint de déclarer forfait à la dernière minute pour blessure. Pour Roger, le forfait de Nadal ne pouvait qu’être en sa faveur. Le Suisse se balada tout au long de tournoi, enchaînant les démonstrations de tennis, étouffant ses adversaires de tout son talent… avant de rencontrer Andy Roddick en finale. Andy Roddick avant cette finale, c’était 18 défaites sur 20 matches joués face au Suisse. 

Autant dire que l’Américain partait au casse pipe mais cette fois-ci, à la surprise générale, les chose ne se sont pas passées comme prévues. Roddick a fait mentir les statistiques. Roger se retrouva sur le point d’être mené deux sets à rien avant de revenir dans le match au prix d’une malheureuse volley ratée de Roddick, mais le cinquième set fût tout simplement époustouflant. Les deux hommes se livrèrent une bataille des plus féroces jusqu’à 14 jeux partout! Un score qui en ferait pâlir plus d’un. Aucun ne semblait vouloir abdiquer et on se demandait vraiment si il y allait avoir une fin. Le dénouement de cette finale vit Roger Federer prendre le service de son adversaire pour s’imposer: 16/14. 

Ce « 16/14″ expédia Roger Federer au Royaume d’un seul homme: le sien! En effet, il devint, à ce moment précis, le seul joueur avec 15 tournois du Grand Chelem notés sur son curriculum vitae. La légende qu’il était déjà en remportant Roland Garros, devint plus ou moins relative au vu de ce qu’il venait de réaliser: Il est tout simplement unique en son genre. De plus, le fauteuil de leader de circuit lui était de nouveau acquis. Ce qui est effarant, c’est le peu d’années qu’il a mis à réaliser cet exploit: à peine 6 années! Quand Pete Sampras en avait mis 11 pour aligner 14 titres du Grand Chelem. A ce rythme, on peut donc se demander combien de titres du Grand Chelem Roger aura en sa possession à 31 ans? (Âge que Pete Sampras avait lorsqu’il a mis un terme à sa carrière). 

A 28 ans, Roger a déjà tout réalisé, même personnellement: Il est un jeune marié, papa de jumelles depuis le Jeudi 23 Juillet. Que dire sauf qu’il est né sous une des étoiles les plus irradiantes qui existent sur la planète tennis? 

Serena Williams and Roger Federer: The 1981 born Champions

They both totalize twenty-six Grand Slam titles in a decade! Serena Williams and Roger Federer are undoubtedly the most successful tennis players of their generation. Roger,being the greatest tennis player in history and Serena, the player with the most Grand Slam titles won in the decade and the most successful player so far since Steffi Graf. They were born the same year, 1981, and make the most money on tour. 

They achieved in a rather short lapse of time what most will never achieve in a life time! Their names will be engraved in the history of sports forever. Those 2009 Wimbledon Championships were once again, the scene of their talent. They won so many times at the same time that they should inspire each other: 

1999: Serena Williams is the first of the two to engrave her name on a Grand Slam trophy. It was at the US Open. At 17 years old, she defeated in the final another teen, Martina Hingis in straight sets. It was the start of a long series of Grand Slam titles… 

2002: Serena will wait three years before clinching three other slams. Yes, three! From mid 2002 to late 2002. Serena wins the French Open, the Wimbledon Championships and the US Open in a row! She becomes only the second player to do so, after Steffi Graf. The cherry on the cake was her ascending to World number one at the end of the year. 2003: Serena completed the so-called « Serena’s Slam », winning the four Grand Slams in a row. Indeed, in January of that year, she claimed the Australian Open for the first time, defeating her sister Venus, for the fourth time in row. At just 21, she had already collected five Grand Slam titles. She made it six by winning back-to-back Wimbledon, once again outplaying her sister, Venus. In this very Wimbledon, Federer had his first taste of  Grand Slam victory, downing Australian Mark Philipoussis in the final. He was 21 as well. 

2004:  Roger Federer established himself as the newfound champion, collecting the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open. Only the French Open slipped through his fingers, defeated in the quarters by Gustavo Kuerten. At almost 23, Federer was the new world number one and held four Grand Slams. Serena did not do so well, reaching her only Grand Slam final in Wimbledon that year. She was looking forward to achieving the hat-trick but was surprisingly beaten by Russia’s new sensation, Maria Sharapova. 2005: At the Australian Open, Serena Williams bounced back overcoming Lindsay Davenport in the final after a year-and-a-half drought without majors. Roger fell in a thriller final to Marat Safin. 

At the French Open, Roger Federer is stunned in the semis by a new powerful young gun who goes after the name of Rafael Nadal. He’s 19 and made his first ever debut at the French Open. Roger went on winning Wimbledon and the US Open back-to-back just like in 2004. 2006: Roger kept the momentum, claiming the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. But once again, he remained a French Open finalist, falling to Rafael Nadal for the second straight year. It’s the beginning of the so-called « Nadal/Federer rivalry ». 

This year was Serena’s worst year ever. Her best result was a US Open fourth-round finish, falling to Amélie Mauresmo. She plummeted over the hundredth rank and gained a lot of weight. 2007: To the exasperation of everyone, Serena Williams bounced back once again, crushing Maria Sharapova in the Australian Open final for her eight Grand Slam title. Roger Federer also claimed the title in Melbourne. They were reunited in victory at the same time after four years. Just like in 2006, and the year before, Roger was a third-time-French Open finalist, still falling to relentless Rafael Nadal. Federer, just like in 2006, clinched Wimbledon and the US Open. 

2008: Roger had been feeling Rafael breathing down his back for three years now. But that year, his five-year-supremacy was contested, not only by Nadal, but by a newcomer on tour, Novak Djokovic. In 2008, Roger, for the first time ever in five years, only managed to clinch one major: the US Open, his thirteenth Grand Slam title, a title away from Sampras’s record. At the Australian Open, he was beaten in the semis by Djokovic, at the French Open, he suffered a three-set demolition from Nadal ( the most lopsided final ever between them)and at Wimbledon, he surrendered to his rival in the most epic battle of all time in the final. For the first time in five years, Roger was not the world number one anymore, but the world number two; behind Nadal. Roger still managed to win the Olympic Gold Medal in doubles with compatriot, Stanislas Wawrinka. Serena Williams reached the Wimbledon final for the fourth time but lost to her sister, Venus. 

Both sisters went on winning the Olympic Gold Medal in doubles. At the US Open, Serena held her ninth Grand Slam title ( tying Monica Seles’s Grand Slam record), and third US Open. She claimed back the WTA top spot after a six-year-wait. 2009: Serena Williams wins her fourth Australian Open, crushing Dinara Safina in the final for her tenth major. It’s the second time in her career, she reels off the US Open and the Australian Open back-to-back. She claims the Wimbledon title for the third time after 2002 and 2003, defeating, once again, her big sister, Venus. Roger Federer finally puts an end to a four-year French Open finalist drought. The long-awaited French Open title came his way. He defeated in the final, Nadal’s conquerer, sensation Robin Soderling. Roger ties Sampras’s record with this title (14) but immediately break it in Wimbledon, defeating Andy Roddick in the final after a four-hour battle. 

He now stands as the only tennis player with 15 Grand Slam titles to his name. In Wimbledon, Roger gets a record-breaking fifteenth Grand Slam title and Serena, an eleventh one. She is now a title away from Billie Jean King’s record. Just like in 2003, they were reunited in Wimbledon as the most successful 1981 born Tennis Champions. The year is not over yet though…. 

WIMBLEDON’S AFTERMATH

What conclusions can we draw from this year’s Wimbledon Championships? 

We can point out that the Williams sisters remain the queens of the British Grass. 

Indeed, they were untroubled in this Wimbledon except Serena Williams, who was on the verge to give in to an inspired Elena Dementieva. This match was the peak of this Wimbledon in the ladies’ draw. Serena Williams showed once again, that her fighting spirit was still intact and that once she had survived this kind of matches, there was no stopping her. Therefore, it was no surprise to see her beat her sister, Venus, for her third Wimbledon crown and her eleventh Grand Slam title. She is the real world number one for having claimed three of the last four majors and she’s not done yet. 

Venus Williams was the one to have seriously whooped a still-slam-less Dinara Safina in the semis with a 6/1 6/0 demolition. She was, by far, the most impressive player of this year’s Wimbledon, leaving the extreme minimum of games to her rivals, iron-controlling her encounters from strat to finish. The only player who could stop her was her sister…and that’s exactly what happened even though she was the obvious favourite for the most. 

Right behind the Williams sisters, in terms of performance in this Wimbledon, was Elena Dementieva. The 28-year-old Russian showed in her close clash against Serena Williams, that she was now weaponed to clinch a major victory on grass. Prior to this anticipated battle, Elena was nearly as impressive as the Williams sisters for having straight-setted her way to victory with outstanding ease. She did not lose to Serena Williams because she played horrendously, on the contrary, Serena was the one rallying from behind, trying to catch up with her. She did lose because Serena forced her way to victory; thanks to her relentless fighting spirit and unquenchable thirst for victory. On this particular point, Elena will have to work to catch up with Serena, to hope winning those kind of tight three-setters next time. 

In this Wimbledon, Dinara Safina was sloppy, rusty, and troubled. Those flaws were made clear in her semi-final whitewash by Venus Williams. As the reigning world number one, Safina was given a hard time on grass, three-setting her way to victory almost each time before desperately drowning in the last square against the best. 

At least she managed to make it to the semis for the first time in her career, but her void in slams becomes more and more apparent. She’s mentally weak against players that hang in there, who never give up. She will have to be the toughest if she ever plans on winning a slam one day. For the moment, the world number one’s pressure seems to neutralize her game. 

In this Wimbledon, she was not better than a junior playing a major for the first time (ouch!). 

Outsiders such as Sabine Lisicki and Agniezka Radwanska made clear that tennis was not just all about top seeds. They proved that they could survive tougher opponents, especially Lisicki, who defeated  Caroline Wosniacki and French Open reigning Champion, Svetlana Kuznetsova. The latter  is still trying to find her way on grass. 

Disappointments came from the Serbs: Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic. 

Jankovic seems to tire out. After hard-working 2007 and 2008 seasons in which she reached at least the quarters of every single tournament she was enlisted, she seems to run out of air. Her fourth round loss to American qualifier, Melanie Oudin, was filled with drama. Indeed, Jelena seemed to have been sunstroke but some may say that she was just pretending to, because she was overpowered by the teenager. Anyway she lost and the summary is that she has not beaten a top 10 player since the season has started. The funniest thing on this drama-filled match is that Jelena explained in the press conference that her defeat had to do with what she called  » women’s problems ». I don’t think that anyone understood what she meant, and nobody cares anyway (ouch!). 

The other dramatic end was for Ana Ivanovic. The 21-year-old former French Open Champion pulled out of her fourth-round-clash against Venus Williams because of a thigh injury. She was down a set (lost 6/1) and won the second-set first game. Ivanovic seemed in great shape before pulling out, no one really understood. Anyway she has been struggling on tour ever since she won the French Open last year. Now ranked 13, Ivanovic is searching for the tennis that enabled her to be on top last year. Where did it go? I guess it went back to Serbia (ouch!). 

Overall in the ladies’draw, there was no suprise seeing the Williams sisters taking all in a slam that can be considered as their private garden. 

 

As for the men, Roger Federer, as usual, fulfilled expectations. Nadal being an absentee, he was expected to win this year’s Championships. This victory is singular because it was his 15th Grand Slam title, overtaking Sampras’previous record of 14 and his own record as well. 

Roger Federer, if anyone was still doubting, is a living legend of Tennis. He is the only tennis player in history standing with the number 15 as the number of Grand Slam titles won! The one and only. But it wasn’t easy at all. It took him four hours to grab the title because of an unexpected excellent Andy Roddick on the other side of the net. 

Prior to this battle, Federer used to routinely beat the American but this time around, no one expected including Roddick himself, that he would actually hang in there until 14 games apiece in the fifth set! The 26-year-old Texan seemed to be determined to win over an opponent that he lost to on eighteen occasions out of twenty! But unfortunately, he didn’t manage to avoid a nineteenth loss as Roger seemed to have « lady luck » by his side. 

Roddick was leading a set and held 5 set points in the second set though, but his missed backhand volley sealed Roger’s triumph. 

Roger, with this title, now hoists fifteen Grand Slam titles, the stunning sixtieth title of an overstellar career at just 27 years old! On top of his collection of titles, Federer claims back the world number one ranking. A rank he lost eleven months ago to Rafael Nadal. 

Everything seems to go his way so far this season althought it hadn’t started on the rocks with his Australian Open Final loss to Nadal: 

He has now won the French Open for the first time of his career after a four-year- French Open Final drought, claimed back the Wimbledon title becoming by the way, the only player with 15 majors , and got married to his long time girlfriend who is expected their first child in August…his birthday month. What more can he ask for? 

He can for sure, with this career, retire from tennis and see how hard it will be for future generations to catch up with his records. 

Talking about catching up…Andy Murray has a lot to catch up as he failed to become the first British Wimbledon finalist in 73 years. Murray fell at the hands of Roddick in a semi-final four-setter. He disappointed an entire nation by stumbling over two steps away from the title. 

The much anticipated battle for the title between Federer and Murray had a lot of people coming to Wimbledon this year…the crowd was rooting for him, and this infatuation would have been bigger if he had stolen the title away from the obvious favourite. 

 I was among those who thought that Murray should have beaten Roddick, because he was a much bigger threat for Federer than Roddick. Indeed, Murray has beaten Federer six times out of eight matches so far. He was, therefore, more weaponed that Roddick to blast him off. Moreover, Federer remains on four consecutive defeats against the British player. 

If the final between them had happened, it would have been a much tougher challenge for Federer regarding his match record against Murray. 

Unfortunately, the dream final for the British never happened but i bet that one day…it will not be a dream anymore. 

There is another player who dreamt awake in this Wimbledon. At 31 years old, Tommy Haas reached his career high in a slam by storming into the semis. Haas kind of breezed past Novak Djokovic in the quarters to set up a remake of the last French Open fourth-round with Roger Federer. Unfortunately, Federer edged past him with control even if it was somehow tight. 

Haas was the outsider of this Wimbledon and wouldn’t have thought standing at this stage of the competition, but he had. No matter how old you may be, you can still face tough challenges: that’s the lesson we can learn from a grown player such as Tommy. 

It was also a dream run for resurgent Lleyton Hewitt and Juan Carlos Ferrero:Former world number ones who all made it to the quarterfinals when much younger players such as Juan Martin Del Potro or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga didn’t go past the fourth round. 

Hewitt’s fighting spirit is still alive! Indeed, Andy Roddick had to go through a topsy-turvy five-setter to switch him off for good in the tournament (ouch!) 

Ferrero’s story was a fairy tale because he was actually invited to enroll the draw! He must have been surprised to go all the way to the quarters, beating on the way a top ten player: French Gilles Simon. 

This Wimbledon was placed under the sign of the dream for gigantic croatian player, Ivo Karlovic as well. The six-foot-ten juggernaut signed the ace record of these 2009 Wimbledon Championships: indeed, he served out 55 aces in the tournament. Federer is right behind with 50 aces hit. At 30 years old, Karlovic was a quarterfinalist, only beaten by Federer himself. 

Karlovic proved that you couldn’t expect winning against the best just firing aces. There’s something more consistent to bring on court. 

For Fabrice Santoro, the dream ended for good. The 36-year-old French Veteran continued his farewell campaign in Wimbledon, losing in the second round to Juan Carlos Ferrero. 

There will be no Santoro on grass courts anymore but he still managed to overpower Nicolas Kiefer in the first round…only to surrender in the next round. 

He somehow left Wimbledon on a good note: with one victory. 

As a way of conclusion, Roger Federer closed out this year’s Wimbledon with a dreamy and unreachable record for the most: fifteen Grand Slam titles in six years. Wow! 

FRENCH OPEN’S AFTERMATH

Which conclusions can we draw from this year’s French Open? 

What’s for sure is that it’s been a long time since i haven’t watched such a thrilling French Open. 

Thrilling because of the successive upsets. Indeed, i like upsets, there’s no worst tournament than a tournament in which you are sure to find all the favourites in the last square. It’s so boring that it’s useless watching. Instead, a slam with upsets, is exciting because anything can happen. Competition is sharp, fierce, there’s much more action. Players are 100% ready to fight to pull through! 

In the ladies draw, despite the eviction of numerous top seeds expected to do much better ( Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Venus Williams among those), the two most expected favourites of this year’s French Open made it to the final: Dinara Safina and Svetlana Kuznetsova. The surprise came from the winner of this year. As the only player to have beaten Safina during the season on clay, Kuznetsova wasn’t expected to clinch the title. 

I wil not go as far as saying that she wasn’t able to, but she had been a potential winner since she had reached the French Open final for the first time in 2006, losing to Justine Hénin. 

Moreover, she is considered to be oversensitive in critical moments, and i thought that she was going to break down somehow. Surprisingly, she controlled herself perfectly, Safina was the one to be all over the place. 

Safina really lost it at the worst moment. She was the most impressive player during those 2 weeks, losing only one set overall. She seemed calm, determined, focused and confident all at once. I woudn’t have thought that she was going to lose her composure at the most important moment of the tournament. She was overprepared for this title and should have won. 

Unfortunately, her nerves deserted her when she really needed them to claim the title. 

In the men’s draw, there were no drama just History. Roger Federer entered the legend for good for being the second man ony, after André Agassi, to hold the four Grand Slams’ trophies. Roger is truly one of a kind. I’m happy for him because he had been trying to reach out for the French Open for so long, that i can’t believe that he actually got it now. His dreams came true. After the storm, shines the light. 

The finalist, Robin Soderling, is this year’s French Open hero. The Swedish juggernaut who came to stop Nadal from tying Bjorn Borg’s record at the French Open. 

He tried to overcome Roger but he stumbled. Probably too much for one man. 

He is the big revelation of this tournament and we haven’t finished hearing from him yet… 

The big loser got to be Rafael Nadal. The Mallorcan didn’t even make it to the quaterfinals, and lost for the first time ever in Paris. Tennis fans realised that he was just a young man and that, like anybody else, he could lose on the red clay. He’s not invincible, even if he was on a four-year winning streak. Someday it had to stop. 

The good news is that Rafael Nadal is now far from being the awkward teen who took the French Open by storm 4 years ago. At the time, he was just another talented spanish clay player. Ever since, he progressed a lot and managed to win other slams than Roland Garros, proving that he was more than a gifted clay player. He won Wimbledon and the Australian Open. Even if this loss at the French Open is a real downturn in his already stellar young career, Rafa will hopefully bounce back.

Last year’s ladies winner, Ana Ivanovic, was disappointing enough to fall in the fourth round. 

The 21-year-old Belgrade native didn’t manage to win back-to-back titles…and it was expected. Indeed, her losing streak prior to the French Open couldn’t enable her to win again. Moreover, she didn’t play any of the tournaments on clay this season. Therefore, it was no surprise to see her lose to the revelation of the year, Victoria Azarenka. 

In the ladies’ draw, just like in the men’s, it was « the French Open of outsiders ». Samantha Stosur, Sorana Cirstea ,Dominika Cibulkova were not expected at this level. It shows once again, that anything can happen in a slam. Top seeds should not take matches for granted. 

This French Open was a success. The attendance record was once again broken this year compared to last year. There’s now officially one detail missing to make it perfect… the so-called roof every other slam already has installed.

2009 French Open: Ladies’ forecast

Last year, everyone expected Justine Henin to walk away with the title for the 5th time… Unfortunately for her fans, i didn’t happen. The 26-year-old tennis young retiree announced her retirement from the tour 2 weeks before the beginning of the Slam. She left the French Open orphan of a Champion and the tour without a real leader. Everyone was taken aback learning the news, but things had to keep on going.  Ana Ivanovic worked her way to the title, defeating Dinara Safina in straight sets, and became  by the way, the new world number 1. A fairy tale all players dream of at 20 years old. Ana was the second serbian player in 18 years to claim the French Open ( Monica Seles was the first in 1990). After this title, Ana failed to confirm, struggling to stay on top. The tour was searching for a leader, but the leader was changing all the time…until Serena Williams straightened things up reeling off 2 Grand Slams: the 2008 US Open and the 2009 Australian Open. Capturing those majors in a row, established her as the definite world number 1 until the lead deserted her again…going in the hands of Dinara Safina. Anyway, this season, we can’t predict whether Ana will be able to repeat her success from last year or walk out title less. Back-to-back titles at the French Open are rare, and Ana doesn’t seem to be consistent enough to achieve it. She still lacks confidence and her recent results are quite disappointing. However, a slam is a slam, it’s a different atmosphere. She can be boosted by the challenge to repeat her performance and actually repeat it…no one knows. But she will have to play good tennis otherwise her defending campaign will turn into a nightmare. It’s up to her and the kind of tennis her opponents will deliver.   

POTENTIAL WINNERS  A player knows what he is capable of but never knows what his opponent is capable of. So far, the best player on clay is undoubtedly, Dinara Safina. The 23-year-old World number 1, reeled off 2 titles ( Rome and Madrid) to position herself as the leader. Although she worked her way to those titles, she never gave up, and will go into the French Open, buoyed with her success on that surface. Svetlana Kuznetsova is once again among the favourites. She was twice finalist in Stuttgart and Rome this season: She won Stuttgart but was downed in Rome, each time against Safina. Last year, she was a sluggish semi-finalist falling to…Safina again. She’s weaponed to claim the title but lacks confidence. That’s probably the only problem preventing her from conquering Paris. 

Venus Williams isn’t used to be listed among the French Open favourites, although many omitted she was a finalist there in 2002. Anyway, her semi-final showing in Rome, where she was on the verge to upset Safina after a thrilling three-setter, and her title in Acapulco, prove that she can make it. Venus has always been a threat because she’s the kind of player, capable of completely overpowering her opponent when she’s on top of her game regardless the surface she’s playing on. At 29-year-old of age next month ( June 17), Williams is experienced enough to understand that this year may be the last year she’ll get the opportunity to get that title after such a long career.  Caroline Wosniacki was the surprising finalist in Madrid where she dismissed an in-form Amélie Mauresmo in the semis, to book her place to the final. Unfortunately, she was downed by Safina, but proved enough to be a favourite for the French Open. If she wins, she will be the first Danish player ever to clinch the Suzanne Lenglen Cup! 

Jelena Jankovic‘s results on clay so far are not good enough. Indeed, last year, she could be considered as a French Open favourite for having won back-to-back titles in Rome, but this season, she’ll arrive into the French Open with one title only: won in Marbella. She may have won a title but she’s far from the level she used to have on that surface. Her disappointing results in Rome and Madrid don’t predict the best for her at the French Open but she cannot be counted out. 

Serena Williams is the big riddle of this year’s French Open. The 27-year-old has not won a single match on that surface so far, ousted or pulling out because of a persistent right knee injury. In those conditions, i don’t really see how she’ll suddenly recover and win…but i don’t know what to expect from her, as anything can happen with her… a strenght she has been playing with for a long time now. The only thing to do is to wait and see.  Last year, everyone was waiting for her to win but she surprinsigly fell in the 3rd round, this year, she’ll arrive into the event less ready than last year but she can still win…Go figure out?! 

Ana Ivanovic should be the first favourite of this year’s French Open as she’s the reigning Champion, but lately, i don’t know what to expect from her just like Serena. The reason is that she’s just not around, therefore i don’t know what she’ll be like this year. Ana has been struggling to stay on top ever since she won the French Open last year. Even if she’s ranked n° 8, she went through a series of losses and disappointments. Therefore, i don’t know if she’ll be confident and strong enough to win in Paris back-to-back.  In the end, i’m puzzled by the absence of a real leader for this year’s French Open. Last year, Justine Henin was the queen but she left without even defending her title. This year, it’s like each and every player is a potential winner. Even Serena Williams, who won the last 2 Grand Slams and considered by many as the « real World Number 1″ doesn’t look like she will actually compete because of her on-going  injuries. The only player standing is Dinara Safina, because she proved with her 2 straight titles that she could walk in Justine’s footsteps but it may be too soon to say it as she has yet to win the French Open. 

Serena Williams est à la place qu’elle mérite

Serena Williams n’a jamais été du genre à mâcher ses mots quant à son ambition de redevenir, un jour, N°1 mondiale.

C’est chose faite depuis près d’un mois, après sa 4e victoire en 6 ans à l’Open d’Australie. Elle s’impose de nouveau au cours d’une année impaire, c’est à croire qu’elle le fait exprès! 

Serena, comme à son habitude, a pris son temps avant de triompher. Premiers tours hésitants, fin de tournoi éclatante… Dinara Safina peut en témoigner. La russe a subit les assauts intraitables de l’américaine, balayée 6/0 6/3. Victoire qui a offert à l’américaine le droit d’être de nouveau sur le toit du tennis mondial. Avec ce 33e titre en poche, Serena devient l’athlète féminine ayant gagné le plus d’argent au cours d’une carrière: un peu plus de 23 millions de dollars. A seulement 27 ans, elle peut se féliciter du chemin parcouru depuis son éclosion sur le circuit il y a déjà 10 ans.

What will 2009 be?

Now that 2008 is coming to an end, everybody is looking ahead. What will 2009 be?

Unfortunately we can’t foresee the future, and players on tour can’t either.

So the only thing we can do, is to bet. Bet that Jelena Jankovic will probably win her first Grand Slam, bet that Rafael Nadal will certainly keep the momentum but will have to face stronger competition with Murray, Djokovic, Del Potro… and others breathing down his back closer and closer…

Bet that Roger Federer will struggle more than ever to stay on top, but we shouldn’t count him out yet, he hasn’t given up.

Bet that Serena Williams is searching for more power, searching for the kind of power she once had 6 years ago when she was undoubtedly THE QUEEN on tour. As she failed to win the French Open for the second time this year, she will have another shot in 2009.

Bet that Venus will be mindset on the Australian Open and the French Open, the Grand Slams missing to her pedigree. And why not a 6th Wimbledon in her racket?

Bet that Novak Djokovic is the biggest threat to Nadal’s supremacy and that he can only get better.

Bet that Ana Ivanovic will put herself together and get back on top after her late-2008-slump.

Bet that Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils aka  » The Frenchies », will rock in 2009 as 2008 saw them hatched out.

And finally bet that 2009 will be as good as 2008 on the tennis planet!

 

And Jelena stands as the new WTA Leader

Jelena Jankovic fought hard this season to reach this goal and she made it!

The 23-year-old serbian player has managed to follow Ivanovic’s footsteps by becoming the second serbian player to be number 1 in the world. And it was not obvious, as Jankovic had to go through a winning streak ( 3 titles in a row) to take the reigns of the tour. Compared to her 2 previous years, Jankovic went a step higher this season by reaching her first Grand Slam final at the US Open. Unfortunately,  a wall stood between her and the title… Serena Williams.

At the Masters in Doha, Jelena had another shot to capture a major, but again, she failed to do it, falling to eventual champion Venus Williams in the semis.

In order to be really considered as a champion, Jelena would better not miss her 2009 season, during which she will have to prevail in a slam. Otherwise, her credibility as number 1 will be questioned. Starting next January, the 2009 Australian Open is another opportunity for her to prove she’s the best player in the world, because for now, her detractors say that there is a « real number 1″ and  » a number 1 in the rankings ». The problem is that no player really prevailed this season. Indeed, Grand Slams were won by 4 different players: Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic, Venus Williams and Serena Williams. Therefore, there was no real number 1 and it’s been a long time since a player has dominated consistently. The last player who was at the top undoubtedly was Justine Henin last season.  2009 can be Jelena’s if she finds the key to win slams, a major gap in her career that has to be fulfilled urgently!

First Titles at the Masters for the 2008 season ending

Venus Williams and Novak Djokovic are rookies…because they each won their first title at the Masters!

It’s all the more suprising for Venus, who has been in the game for 14 years. Indeed, The 28-year-old tennis superstar had reached, prior to this title, only the semi-finals twice at the WTA Masters! To capture her 39th career title, Venus had to outplay Russian Vera Zvonareva in a three-setter: 6/7 6/0 6/2. The match could have been shorter if Venus hadn’t wasted 7 points in the first tie-break…nevertheless, she successfully managed to put herself together in the last 2 sets to completely overpower Vera, who was all over the place…as usual, because she couldn’t find the game to stop Williams from prevailing easily. Anyway, it was a fantastic season-ending final, not just because the last two to qualify for those Masters were the finalists but as well, because Venus and Vera were really eager to win. It showed so much on their faces that you couldn’t miss it. As an example, Venus who’s always quiet and tempered in every match, was encouraging herself during the final. With this title, Venus closed out a good 2008 season, enriched of 3 more titles ( Wimbledon in June, Zurich in October, and the Doha Masters), and climbed the rankings as well with a 6th position. We also have to mention double tiles won along with her sister, Serena, at the Wimbledon Championships and the Beijing Olympics.

Novak is certainly not a surprise as he has been progressing so much since his breakthrough last year, but we could have thought that it would be harder with Roger Federer, Andy Murray and the others around who all cram their game off to be part of the « final 2008 party »! But he did it! He closed out a season during which he won his first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open , and now, stands 10 points away from Roger with this title! Indeed, Novak is just 10 points from outwitting Federer of his current second rank. The serbian player was just too focused, too consistent, too hungry to take another big major, and Nicolai Davydenko couldn’t do much about it. The Russian was ousted in straight sets and still hasn’t find the way to victory in major events.

Novak confirmed that he is a champion and can definitely be the world number 1 one day, but he will have to be very good because Nadal, Murray and other contenders will not wait for him to keep the momentum…

Serena Williams…de retour aux affaires, mais pour combien de temps?

Samedi 6 Septembre 2008, Serena a enfilé de nouveau le costume qui lui va si bien… celui de n°1 mondiale.

En battant Jelena Jankovic en finale de l’US Open, la cadette des Williams s’est adjugé son 9e titre du Grand Chelem mais surtout, est revenue au sommet. Rang qu’elle avait occupé pour la dernière fois de Juillet 2002 à Août 2003, soit près de 5 ans. 5 années durant lesquelles elle aura connu des hauts et des bas avant de renaître de ses cendres tel un phénix sur le Arthur Ashe Stadium court.

Cette victoire était capitale pour la suite de sa carrière, elle se devait de prouver ( surtout à elle-même) qu’elle était de nouveau capable de tenir les reines de circuit, après le retrait prématuré de Justine Hénin, sa grande rivale.

Ce fût chose faite au prix d’une finale haletante au cours de laquelle Serena et Jelena livrèrent une bataille épique durant 2h. Le score est sans doute rude, 6/4 7/5, mais il ne retranscrit absolument pasl’intensité de la rencontre! Un 3e set aurait pû être disputé si Jelena Jankovic n’avait pas laissé passer 4 balles de 3e set, sans doute nerveuse devant l’enjeu, et surtout systématiquement contrée par l’efficacité des coups de son adversaire, qui ne souhaitait sous aucun prétexte jouer une manche décisive; qui aurait sans doute été le set de tous les dangers.

Nouvelle n°1 mondiale, Serena Williams a finalement réussi son pari, revenir « au top », quand ses détracteurs la voyaient déjà arrêté le tennis et se consacrer à sa carrière dans le showbiz. Elle était bien seule à y croire sur le circuit (avec ses fans) même si toutes ses rivales savaient qu’elle en était capable… elle a en effet suffisament prouvé dans le passé qu’elle pouvait ressurgir de nulle part et gagner là où personne ne l’attendait.  » Revenir de l’impossible », une activité que Serena maîtrise. Son formidable mental l’a toujours sorti de situations périlleuses, et on peut en citer des exemples: Open d’Australie 2003, 2005,2007… Grand chelem au cours duquel elle dû puiser dans ses plus profondes ressources mentales et physiques pour s’imposer contre toute attente. Kim Clijsters, Lindsay Davenport, Nadia Petrova, et Maria Sharapova s’en souviennent….

Aujourd’hui, Serena est la reine du circuit, et rien ni personne ne pourra le lui enlever. Elle est la première joueuse de l’histoire du tennis à avoir mis autant de temps pour reconquérir le fauteuil suprême. Mais la question est sur toutes les lèvres: pour combien de temps? Quand on connaît la forte compétition qui règne sur le circuit, on se demande si elle pourra tenir le rythme et surtout son rang. Il faut aussi tenir compte du calendrier, exhaustif, pour lequel Serena devra se contraindre à suivre si elle veut conserver sa suprématie. En effet, actuellement elle ne joue pas beaucoup de tournois et il faudra que ça change, si elle compte tenir la dragée haute. Avec une joueuse comme Jelena Jankovic, juste derrière elle au classement, qui enchaîne les tournois à tours de bras, il va falloir qu’elle mette les bouchées doubles et se consacre exclusivement au tennis. On attend de voir…

 

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