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.

ITALIAN TRIO DOMINATE FEBRUARY 2016!

It’s roughly 9 months since my last post and as February draws to a close I decided that it is about time that The Tennis Tribune was updated, and what a surprise of a month it was for the WTA Tour – who would have thought that an Italian trio would dominate the circuit, of which 2 would go onto win the biggest titles of their career thus far?! But first lets take a look at why the trio went on to win these titles.

The health of many of the players is often questioned at the start of every tennis season, have they recovered from the injuries that were sustained during the previous year; will they exhibit the form they showed in January; could they have picked up injuries “down under” during the Happy Slam that could potentially derail the start of their season?! You may be wondering what these questions have to do with the Italian’s winning titles during February, well let me provide you with some analysis that may ring some alarm bells for you!

The first pit-stop of the month was in Russia where the inaugural Premier event in St Petersburg was held, with 128,450 USD & 470 ranking points being awarded to the winner. These type of events usually attract a few top 10 players, have a guess how many of the elite top ten turned up …… zilch , nada, none! Therefore an open field was evident for this event, with no clear cut favorite to lift the trophy it was a title to be won by anyone…… enter the first of the Italian trio, the tour veteran Roberta Vinci, a player who was 5 days shy of turning 33 years of age upon lifting St Petersburg Ladies’ Trophy. Now credit is due to Roberta, she is a former Double’s World Number 1, a player that holds at least one of all the 4 Grand Slams in Doubles, a feat that is only met by a few others including another Italian, Sara Errani, a player whom we will discuss later on in this post.

The field at Russia did include a pair of former WTA world number 1’s, the Siberian Ana Ivanovic and the Dane Caroline Wozniacki – you may now be thinking “I think TheTennisTribune is mistaken, the Premier event did include some of the elite top ten” – well the answer to that is no, the former number ones are no longer at the top of their game – they are hovering around the top 20 mark. Furthermore Alize Cornet who had a strong start to the year by lifting the Hobart Trophy, was on the entry list for the Russian event ended up sustaining an injury in Australia and had to pull out of the tournament. Cornet has since announced in a recent interview that she has severe back problems and will be absent from the sport for up to six months. As a result of this, her ranking will drop and unfortunately her participation in the 2016 RIO Olympics is in jeopardy, with only the top 4 players being allowed to represent their country if they are ranked in the top 56 in the world. There were a few skilled teenagers who are destined for greatness that particapted in this event, the young Swiss Belinda Bencic and the Russian Daria Kasatkina, both whom are former Junior Grand Slam Winners. Although Bencic did make the final, Roberta’s experience & confidence which she gained due to being runner up at the 2015 US Open ultimately led her on to win the biggest title of her career. This win ultimately had a great bearing for her, a fortnight later she was propelled into the top ten in the world for the first time.

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Roberta planting a kiss on the Inaugural St Petersburg Ladies’ Trophy!

The second of the Italian Trio, which I briefly mentioned already is Sara Errani. At five foot five, she holds a number of career accolades to her name, she is a former top ten player, a singles’ grand slam finalist, a former doubles world number 1, and a winner of the 4 Grand Slams in the women’s doubles event.  Before arriving to Dubai, Sara had a poor start to the year with only 2 wins to her name and 5 losses. She even speculated about taking a week off and not competing in Dubai. Similar to St. Petersburg, Dubai is a premier event which rewards 470 ranking points to the winner as well as a hefty payment of 465,480 USD.

Unlike St Petersburg, Dubai had a packed field with 8 of top ten players on the entry list. However before the tournament had even commenced, 4 of the top ten had withdrawn due to injury; Serena Williams, Agnieszka Radwanksa, Lucie Safarova and the 2016 Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber. The attendance at the tournament was expected to drop as these players usually draw huge crowds. The tournament was to experience another setback, as all of the seeded players ended up losing their first match at the tournament, which proved to be a first in the history of the WTA.

As a result of these unforeseen circumstances, the title yet again could have been lifted by anyone and it was Sara who made the most of this opportunity and ultimately served a heavy defeat on Barbora Strycova in the final.  Due to winning the biggest singles title of her career, Sara once again broke back into the top 20.

 

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Sara Errani posing with her 9th Singles Trophy at Dubai

Whilst the premier event was being played in Dubai, there was an another event being played on the other side of the world in Rio de Janeiro. This is an international tournament which offers 280 ranking points to the winner accompanied with a modest cheque of $43,000.

The field at Rio featured a handful of players ranked in the top 100 and once again this title had no front-runners. The only former top ten player that ended up traveling to Rio to compete was the last of our Italian Trio , Francesca Schiavone. At 35, Francesca is near the end of her professional career which has seen her become a grand slam winner at Roland Garros in 2010. Similar to Sara Errani, Francesca had  a poor start to the year, where she failed to qualify for the Australian Open which disappointingly ended her consecutive streak of competing in Grand Slams where she had an astonishing feat of 61 Grand Slams. Francesca revived her year by winning her 7th title which should help her quest to earn herself a berth at the next Grand Slam as she broke back into the top 100.

francesca rio 2016
Francesca celebrates after claiming her 1st title in 3 years

February proved to be full of surprises, and I am sure March will feature a few more surprises including the return of Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams who haven’t played since the Australian Open, as well as the return of Venus Williams competing at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells after a controversial boycott which saw her not participate for 14 years.

Till next time,

Your’s truly,

#TheTennisTribune !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.