Top 10 Grass court players #9

Nicolas Mahut & Coco Vandeweghe (Photo credit – ATP & WTA Player profiles)

ATP #9 Nicolas Mahut

Appearing just ahead of his French compatriot Richard Gasquet, Nicolas Mahut is ranked 9 on our list of grass court specialists. Mahut may be most known for the part he played in the longest match ever recorded, losing to John Isner in the first round at Wimbledon in 2010. Although Mahut is currently hovering around the 200 rank in the world, he has a fully stacked grass court resume including wins over Nadal and Murray at Queens’ London and Wawrinka on the grass courts in The Netherlands.

Currently aged 38, Mahut has played in 6 career ATP single finals, and all have been on grass, winning 3 Rosmalen Championships in The Netherlands (2013, 2015 & 2016) and winning the Hall of Fame Open in Newport, Rhode Island in 2013. Mahut has also lifted the Wimbledon Double’s title in 2016 & was runner up in 2019. Although the majority of his competitors have age and fitness on their side, Mahut’s experience on the grass is a force to be reckoned with to this day.

Photo credit – The Tennis Tribune – July 9, 2019

WTA #9 CoCo Vandeweghe

The former top 10 ranked WTA Player, CoCo Vandeweghe finds herself earning the 9th berth on our countdown. Currently ranked just outside the top 200 in the world as a result of sustaining an ankle injury which has kept her out of action for the guts of a year. CoCo has won 2 titles on the grass courts in The Netherlands, lifting the Rosmalen Championship trophy in 2016 and 2018.

With wins over a handful of top 10 players on the grass courts, such as Radwanska, Wozniacki and Johanna Konta, Coco has found her serve to be her main asset, which often is the deciding weapon on the grass courts. If CoCo can overcome her ankle injury, she is sure to be an unwanted opponent for many seeded players who could face her in the opening rounds of forthcoming tournaments.

Photo credit – The Tennis Tribune – June 18, 2016 – Aegon Classic Birmingham

Top 10 Grass court players #10

As Covid-19 has disrupted the 2020 Grass court season, The Tennis Tribune will be dedicating the next fortnight to the tours’ grass court specialists. Commencing today, we will be revealing who is ranked 10th in our top 10 list. Read below to find out who have earned themselves a berth in our competitive list of grass court players.

Richard Gasquet & Donna Vekic (Photo credit to ATP & WTA Player profiles)

ATP #10 Grass court specialist

Kicking off our top 10 ranked grass court specialists is the former top 10 ranked French veteran, Richard Gasquet. Gasquet who is currently ranked 50 in the world (Career high ranking 7) has achieved a considerable amount of success on the green turf. With 3 grass court titles to his name including back to back wins in Nottingham in 2005 & 2006, and most recently lifting the title at the Rosmalen Championships in The Netherlands in 2018. Gasquet who is probably most known for one of the best single handed backhands on the tour, has clocked up his most grand slam match wins at Wimbledon, reaching the second week on 7 occasions, including reaching the semi-finals in 2007 and 2015.

Although Gasquet may have had his best years behind him, most recently falling at the first hurdle at Wimbledon for the last 3 years, one can never count out the skilled grass court craftsmen! With wins over Andy Roddick and Stan Wawrinka at Wimbledon, Gasquet is sure to be a player that many will fear to play, and for that reason alone, Gasquet deserves a place in the top 10 list.

WTA #10 Grass court specialist

Commencing our list of top 10 WTA Grass court players, is the young Croatian Donna Vekic. Vekic made her professional debut on the WTA tour during 2012, and quickly became a fan favourite for many. Vekic first encountered success on the English grass reaching the final on her first attempt at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham in 2013, defeating 3 seeded players before succumbing to Daniela Hantuchova in a tight two set final (6 7, 4 6).  Vekic would later go on to achieve more success by adding the Aegon International tour in Nottingham as an annual event to her calendar. Vekic lifted the title in 2017, defeating Johanna Konta, and was most recently a runner up to Caroline Garcia in 2019.

Her best performance at Wimbledon thus far, is a 4th round showing in 2018, defeating the 2017 US Open Champion, Sloane Stephens in the 1st round. Vekic currently aged 23, has her best tennis ahead of her and is a main contender to lift the Wimbledon title over the next few years.

2018 awaits the return of Champions

After an eventful 2017, where we saw arguably the best two to have ever played tennis, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer re-emerge and dominate the tour by winning  two grand slams each and occupy the top two positions in the yearend rankings, the 2018 season is expected to be more eventful as we see the return of numerous ATP players who abruptly ended their 2017 season with injuries.

Novak Djokovic, the winner of twelve grand slam titles, is expected to make his return, after a lengthy six months off, at the Qatar Open in Doha. Djokovic is eying a three-peat in Doha, after lifting the title in both 2016 and 2017. Tomas Berdych, the 2015 Qatar Open runner-up and the last player to defeat Djokovic, is also set to make a comeback in Doha.

 

While the Qatar Open is underway, Andy Murray, who hasn’t played since Wimbledon, will be making his return to the Tour in Brisbane, a tournament which he has won on two previous occasions in 2012 and 2013. Brisbane will also see the return of the 2016 Champion, Milos Raonic. Both Murray and Raonic will have to up their game if they want to lift the trophy once more, as Brisbane will see the return of the 2017 Champion Grigor Dimitrov. Dimitrov ended a career best season with a tournament win at the ATP Nitto Finals.

After an injury prone season, Djokovic, Berdych, Murray and Raonic, will all be looking to commence the year with a win and re-affirm themselves amongst the elite top 10, after having seen their ranking dwindle from the top 10 to inside the top 25.

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EPIC BATTLE BETWEEN TWO FORMER FRENCH OPEN CHAMPIONS

As day 5 draws to a close, we will take a quick look at the stand out match of the day and possibly the match of the tournament thus far, what proved to be an epic battle between two former French Open Champions Svetlana Kuznetsova V Francesca Schiavone , the 2009 and 2010 Champions respectively. The last time these 2 faced off in a Grand Slam was at the Australian Open in 2011 where Schiavone won an epic battle after 4 hours and 44 minutes winning the 3rd set 16 games to 14. The expectations of their 2nd round encounter at the French Open was most definitely exceeded as Francesca won the match after dropping a very tight opening set.  The two veterans had a very contrasting season on the dirt leading into the second Grand Slam of the year. Svetlana the 18th seed had a relatively successful season on the red clay, having been runner up at the 3rd Mandatory tournament of the year in Madrid, losing to Petra Kvitova. While on the other hand Francesca was coming into the French Open with a losing streak on the surface, 3 losses to 1 win.

The former Roland Garros Champion Francesca Schiavone
2010 Roland Garros Champion –  Francesca Schiavone

2009 Roland Garros Champion - Svetlana Kuznetsova
2009 Roland Garros Champion – Svetlana Kuznetsova

After Svetlana took the opening set, winning the tiebreak 13 -11, Francesca’s pure grit and determination found herself taking the second set 6 games to 4. Going into the deciding set, Svetlana had the advantage of serving first however after failing to serve out for the match on multiple occasions, the Italian Magician Schiavone hit some fantastic range of shots to take the match by winning the final set 10 – 8.

What could quite possibly be Schiavone’s last season on the tour, she is ensuring to make it a memorable one.

Roland Garros 2015 – Analysis of the defending champions

Defending champions seek to continue their mastery of the red clay.
Defending champions, Sharapova & Nadal seek to continue their mastery of the red clay.

We are currently approaching the end of the first week of the second grand slam of the year “Roland Garros”, and the defending champions Sharapova & Nadal are still drop shotting it to live another day!

There were a lot of doubts around them prior to the start of  the tournament. Nadal “The King of Clay” didn’t have the best preparation on his favourite surface, having lost to Djokovic, Fognini, Murray & Wawrinka at all the warm up tournaments. In fact 2015 was his first year not winning a Master’s Clay tournament. Regardless of the results thus far, one can never rule Rafael out of the French Open, having won it 9 times out of the last 10 years. He had a relatively easy first round win against the french wild card Quentin Halys, with his serve only being broken once. His next opponent is his fellow Davis Cup compatriot Nicolas Almagro, whom he has beaten twice already this year, both in straight sets. Nadal leads the over all head to head 12 – 1, with Almagro’s sole win coming in Barcelona on clay in 2014.

Nadal is projected to meet Novak Djokovic in the Quarter Finals.  With Novak currently the bookies favourite having had a formidable start to the year winning the first grand slam of the year in Melbourne the “Australian Open” for a record breaking 5th time, the most in the Open Era as well as 4 Master titles thus far, one can see why this match is being labeled the match of the tournament and possibly the decider of the 2015 Champion.

Similarly to Nadal, Maria Sharapova who once described herself as a cow on ice whilst playing on clay , who later went on to reinvent her game on the red surface by reaching the final at the French Open 3 consecutive times and lifting the trophy twice has had a tough time in recent months on the dirt.

Sharapova who was aiming to lift the trophy at the indoor clay arena in Stuttgart for a fourth consecutive time was upset in the second round by the German Angelique Kerber. Sharapova’s disappointing form continued in Madrid where she was the defending champion, as she was defeated rather comfortably by her fellow Fed Cup teammate  Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2009 French Open Champion.

Maria subsequently traveled to Rome to participate in the Italian Open, having wanted to reignite her form on the surface. Sharapova regrouped and went on to lift the trophy for a 3rd time. With this result Sharapova guaranteed herself the second seed for the French Open, meaning she could not face her nemesis Serena until the final.

Sharapova who is currently battling a cold in the french capital of Paris has won her first two rounds with no hiccups. Sharapova’s third round match is scheduled for Friday the 29th May where she will face off against Sam Stosur for the 17th time. Maria leads the head to head with 14 wins, with the two losses coming on hard courts. Stosur is currently on a 7 match winning streak having won the international tournament in Strasbourg. Although Stosur’s sole grand slam win came at Flushing Meadows, one could argue that Clay is Stosur’s best surface having reached the Semi Finals at Roland Garros three times, with her best result been Runner Up to Schiavone in 2010. Thus this will be deemed to be Sharapova’s first real test of the tournament. If Sharapova manages to win this match, it is inevitable that Sharapova will play the final for the fourth time.

Both Nadal & Sharapova prove to be a force to be reckoned with on the dirt, and one can never disregard these champions regardless of what form they may have exhibited prior to Roland Garros.