Monday, January 28, 2008

Tennis court dimensions

Court surfaces vary but the dimensions do not. There are grass, clay, cement, asphalt and rebound ace courts all of which require different skills to play on. There are also indoor courts made of carpet or cement. Some players, depending on where they are brought up, can never play well on all surfaces. Clay courters find it most difficult to adapt to other surfaces, especially grass. There are great players who have won on every other surface except clay, like Pete Sampras.

The dimensions are shown here. Some aspects need further explanation though.

In singles, the area described as the alley line is considered out if a player hits there, but they are in in doubles.

The net length differs for singles and doubles but it must be 3' 6" high at the posts (different for singles and doubles) and 3' at the centre. The posts must be positioned at least 3' outside the playing area. The net is supported by a cord and while serving, if the serve hits the net cord but goes into the correct service court a let is called and the server gets a replacement serve. Otherwise, the player takes his or her chances with the net cord.

The areas marked left and right service courts are where the ball must land after the serve, changing from where the server serves. The server cannot move his or her feet over the centre line or over the service line while serving. That would be called a foot fault.

All the lines must be drawn in the same colour but the lines sizes differ. The centre service line is 2' wide, all other lines are between 1-2" except the baseline which is 4" wide. The ball is in if it hits any part of any of those lines. Mostly the lines are white. This year I note that the courts are blue and the background green for the US Open. This is a change as all areas used to be green. It looks better.

Ads cannot be white or yellow as the ball can be these colours and the players vision could be effected.

Top 40 players in last 40 years is celebrating its 40th year by selecting who they think are the 40 best players in the last 4 decades. Males and females are rated together.

What does make a champion? Is it the number of singles titles won? Grand slam titles? Prize money? Types of surface? Length of time rated as number 1? will rate their first 4 best players in the November/December issue. Let's see if we can work that out.

Our survey revealed that our number 1 was Steffi, our number 2 was Pete, our number 3 was Martina N and our number 4 was Evert. We were wrong! But I did guess who the top 4 would be, just not what order they would be.' top 4
1. Pete Sampras
2. Martina Navratilova
3. Steffi Graf
4. Chris Evert
5. Bjorn Borg
6. Margaret Court
7. Jimmy Connors
8. Rod Laver
9. Billie Jean King
10. Ivan Lendl
11. John McEnroe
12. Andre Agassi

13. Monica Seles
14. Stefan Edberg
15. Mats Wilander
16. John Newcombe
17. Serena Williams
18. Boris Becker
19. Roger Federer
20. Ken Rosewall

21. Roy Emerson
22. Martina Hingis
23. Evonne Goolagong
24. Guillermo Vilas
25. Venus Williams
26. Jim Courier
27. Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario
28. Ilie Nastase
29. Lindsay Davenport
30. Arthur Ashe

31. Justine Henin-Hardenne
32. Tracy Austin
33. Hana Mandlikova
34. Lleyton Hewitt
35. Stan Smith
36. Jennifer Capriati
37. Gustavo Kuerten
38. Virginia Wade
39. Patrick Rafter
40. Gabriela Sabatini

Carlos Moya

I'm just watching Carlos Moya, real name Carlos Moya Llompart, from Spain play at Sydney 2006. It reminds me how much of a fan I was of him in his prime. He is now 31 but has won 1 grand slam event: Roland Garros in 1988 and was a finalist at the Australian Open in 1997. He also had a singles ranking of 1 in March 15, 1999, becoming the first Spaniard to rank No. 1 in the history of the ATP rankings (since 1973). He has been voted one of the 50 most beautiful people by People magazine. At the moment 10 Jan 2006, he is playing with jet lag in high humidity, having just lost in the final at Chennai. He is currently ranked 35.

He was born in 1976 at Palma de Mallorca, Spain. He turned pro in 1995. He consistently plays outstanding tennis and is still one of the best players in the world and has maintained a top position. He lives in Switzerland now. Carlos has won at least one title almost every year of his career earning him $11,627,379 in prize money. In the years he didn't win a title he was usually injured. He spent a week of mandatory military reserves duty in July 1997. He has a 20-7 career Davis Cup singles record in 15 ties.

Singles career titles: 18

1995: Buenos Aires;

1996: Umag;

1997: Long Island;

1998: Monte Carlo, Roland Garros;

2000: Estoril; 2001--Umag;

2002: Acapulco, Bastad, Cincinnati TMS, Umag;

2003: Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Umag;

2004: Acapulco, Chennai, Rome AMS;

2005: Chennai

Finalist in

1996: Bucharest, Munich;

1997: Amsterdam, Australian Open, Bournemouth, Indianapolis, Sydney Outdoor;

1998: Mallorca, Singles Championship;

1999: Indian Wells;

2000: Toulouse;

2001: Barcelona;

2002: Hong Kong, Monte Carlo TMS;

2003: Miami TMS, Vienna;

2004: Buenos Aires, Sydney;

2005: Umag;

2006: Chennai

Personal biography

Carlos began playing tennis at the age of six. He likes video games and travels with his Play Station and Minidisc and also enjoys music of U2, Bon Jovi and Queen. He is a big fan of the RCD Mallorca soccer team and friends with Spanish music group 'Cafe’ Quijano', who often watch his matches live. He went on stage with them in Barcelona and sang his favorite song ôLa Lola. He respects NBA star Karl Malone. He is involved in local charity efforts in his hometown of Mallorca and he donated all of his $52,000,000 prize money at Chennai 2006 to the Tsunami disaster. During his back rehabilitation in latter part of 1999, he took French, guitar and scuba diving lessons and got a tattoo of a dolphin on his right bicep. He is friends with pro golfer Sergio Garcia and pro basketball player Pau Gasol of Memphis Grizzlies. He is coached by a Spanish pair : Jofre Porta and Joan Bosch.

Return of serve

I don't know about you, but if you are an amateur like me, I find the return of serve from good male players almost impossible. Their serves just seem to whiz by without me being anywhere near in position.

Andre Agassi has always been considered the best return of serve in the professional men's game because he always takes the ball on the rise after it bounces and he hits it from within the baseline. It therefore returns to the server well before the server is really ready for it. The same applies to Lleyton Hewitt who is also a good returner of service. Perhaps the smaller men have to develop that skill earlier in their career to turn around their disadvantage in height to a weapon. Not that either of them are particularly small but male tennis players are getting taller and therefore can produce a serve that comes from on-high.

Return of serve tactics

To counter these servers who are serving at 200kmh, here are a few tactics.

Try to work out where the serve is going to go. Federer is excellent at disguising this, as he use the same ball toss for every serve. But not everyone can do this.


Use the correct grip for you. There are various controversies over this. Most inexperienced players use the forehand grip expecting that the ball will come to their forehand and if not, they run around a ball to hit with the forehand. But not so in the professional circuit. So the thing to do is use the grip that you can change the most easily if you need to. Hold the racquet with two hands so the non-playing hand can twist the racquet if necessary. Two handed players probably have an advantage here, like Agassi and Hewitt.

Recognise the cues. It is not the speed which causes problems, believe it or not, but the placement. Pete Sampras and Goran Ivanisovic could serve very fast but also anywhere in the square. But some players stand in a particular spot to serve that fast one and hold their racquet in a particular way. Otherwise they can't serve fast all the time. So you must observe the way the server serves. Watch the player play someone else. Try to work out the tactics so you know his/her habits when it comes to serve placement.

Ball toss

The toss of the ball is often a good clue. For example, if your right-handed opponent tosses the ball out to the right, chances are he/she is going to hit a slice ball on the first court and down the middle on the second court. Dementieva, for all her greatness at the moment, has a lot of trouble serving. Her most predictable serve is the slice to the corner to your forehand.

If the server is tossing the ball wide when he/she is serving to the forehand side and you know he/she can't disguise the ball toss, use a forehand grip. Similarly if the opponent can only hit a wide serve to the backhand court then get you backhand ready.

When a player is down break point they will most likely go for the serve that works best for them.

With serves increasing in speed and accuracy, the most the receiver can do often is use a compact swing. They don't wind up for the shot. It is called counter punching also. But the trick is not to hit straight back to the server, but down at their feet, if they are serve volleyers or where the server will have to stretch to get it.

Don't be predictable in where you stand to receive. You may have noticed how Venus Williams sometimes stands almost on the service line to receive. That can be very intimidating. Dance about so the server knows you are ready to move either way. If you know where the serve is going, or have a pretty good idea, stand somewhere that the server doesn't expect you to stand. Tennis is a mind game as much as anything else. Use shots that might not work all the time, but will unsettle your opponent.

Naturally, after you return the serve, you must get back into position pretty quickly as you would after every shot.

The volley

The volley
The volley is any shot played, except the serve and smash, that is played without the ball bouncing first. We usually refer to volleys as those shots played close to the net, but they can be played from anywhere on the court. The volley is a short, sharp motion. There is very little back-swing and a short follow through. Australians used to be very good with this shot as they were serve-volley players. They played with a continental grip, because that is the grip they used for serving and they could play the forehand and backhand volley all with this grip.

The forehand volley

This shot is played with your racquet hand. So, if you are right-handed, it is played on the right of your body. To be ready for a volley, lean forward, bend your knees and hold your racquet head upright.

When playing the shot you should turn your shoulders sideways and step towards the net with your non-racquet foot. That makes it easier to make the shot while the ball is in front of your body. Move your weight onto your front leg as you hit the ball with a sharp punch action without following through too much.

The backhand volley

This shot is played on your non-racquet side, holding the racquet with a backhand grip. backhand volley
The shot is played like the forehand volley except that you move your other shoulder forward towards the net.

The half volley

This shot is one played immediately after the ball has hit the ground and is usually played further back from the net or after a returner has placed the ball right near your feet. You shouldn't have to play this shot often. It's often played in a hurry because the opponent has got you out of position.

You must bend your knees low to this one and keep your wrist and back very strong. Your front knee will often be on the ground as you play it. You play this shot with a full follow through, unlike the usual volley. The racquet should be perpendicular to the ground as you play the shot.

Stefan Edberg was one of the world's best volleyers. Pat Cash was also very good as was McEnroe and Pete Sampras. Pat Rafter was one of the last great volleyers in my opinion. All of them admired the Australian style of play.

The drop volley

This shot is played in order to deliberately bring your opponent to the net or to win the point outright. It is usually played when the opponent is way back at the baseline. It is used a lot on clay courts because players tend to be baseliners.

This is a difficult shot as it requires excellent timing. You often see top players attempt this shot and fail to get the ball over the net. The ball must go over the net obviously, but only just. The ball should be hit with under spin or back spin so the ball bounces back towards the net. Keep the racquet above the wrist for this shot.

The serve and smash

The serve
Everyone serves differently. You can hit the ball into the correct service square underarm if you want and it is a legal stroke. Your feet must be behind the baseline on the correct side of the court. If your feet touch the baseline or the centre mark it will be a foot fault. See court lines for further explanation. The serve is another stroke that has changed a lot in the last 20 years. Then, a player's first serve would be equivalent to the power of a player's second serve today.

Also the purpose of the serve has changed. It used to be just to get the first point before running in to the net and playing a volley. Borg changed this way of playing. He used to be very accurate with his ground strokes and put lots of spin on them. He was hard to beat. So players developed the power serve. As we know the serve-volley game is a dying art now.

The pace of the serve has increased for both men and women. Steffi Graf had a very powerful serve. Good players seem to be able to produce an ace these days when they really need it. They have learned too to place the serve better. The fastest male server as I write is Andy Roddick as seen at men's tennis records. Women can serve at a faster pace with the new graphite racquets too. The Guinness Book of Records says that Venus Williams has served the fastest at 205 km/h. Roddick's fastest serve is 255 km/h.

Let's assume you are a beginner then.
Stand with your body side on to the court. The first serve begins from the ad court: that is, on the right side. Rest the ball against your racquet or anywhere that feels comfortable before you throw the ball up. Hold the racquet with a chopper or continental grip. All the different kinds of grips are explained here. Stand with feet apart behind the baseline, usually with your feet directed to the right if right handed and left if you are left handed. You may want to rock a little to get your balance.

Hold the ball lightly in your fingers and throw it upwards, a little in front of your body. Let go of the ball when your arm is stretched out. Your racquet hand should be back behind your shoulder and your arm is obviously bent. Aim to hit the ball just after it reaches its maximum height. Strike the ball at full stretch. While you are doing this, bend at your waist and use your non-racquet arm to balance yourself. You should bend your knees and arch your back also. If you do this you will be pushing up from your knees as you lower your racquet arm behind your back. I've found the bend of the knees the easiest way to get the technique right. On follow through, your arm should carry the racquet through in a sweeping curve down and across your body. The power of the serve comes from your leg strength when you push against the ground and up to hit the ball. When you get better at this action you should be leaving the ground when you push up to hit.

The position of the ball toss becomes critical as you become a better player. It is also very handy if the ball toss is the same for a left or right directed serve. The opponent then can't tell which way the ball is going to be served.

If you are left handed you will drive your opponents mad. No-one quite knows why, but the spin on the ball is greater for the lefties serve. The tennis player who is said to have the best serve is not the fastest, but a leftie called Wayne Arthurs from Australia. He is extremely accurate in his serve and serves close to the lines. He serves fast and he spins it very well. He rarely loses his serve, but his other tennis skills have not been good enough for him to become a great player.

Having said all this about how to serve, professional players learn different serves from different coaches and their grips vary as do their actions. I said before that the continental grip is best but many top players use the backhand grip. The backhand grip allows for a kick serve, which is when the server attempts to get a very high bounce on the ball. The ball toss varies too. It used to be thrown forwards for the serve volleyer to get into the net quickly. Now if a player isn't a serve volleyer, they tend to throw the ball more straight upwards.

The smash

The smash is about the same as the serve action except that you will not be foot faulted and do not have to stand anywhere to begin the smash. You may be running, but usually you need to get into position under the ball and smash as deep into the court as possible or at an impossible angle. Try not to hit with as much pace as you would the serve because you will usually win the point with a well-placed smash. Players try not to hit the opponent with the smash also, but you can hit it at a player's feet for an effective shot.

Use the same actions as the serve and don't let the ball drop too low. Position your feet well. It is best to hit the ball on the full because the spin can make a shot that bounces high quite difficult. Always keep your eyes on the ball. It may be better to let the ball bounce on some occasions because of wind or top spin, but you should attempt the same action.

The scissor kick is used to get extra height into your smash but Pete Sampras was well known for his high jumps before smashes too.

Spin and slice in tennis

Ball spin

Spin can be placed on any tennis shot. Spin can vary the depth, height, speed and bounce of a shot. There is top spin and slice (or back spin)

Top spin
Top spin makes the ball drop when it bounces. It spins in the same direction as the ball is hit.

To play it, hit through the ball from low to high. Make contact with the ball at about knee height and follow through to shoulder height. The faster the racquet head accelerates, the more topspin is produced.

Andy Roddick uses heavy top spin with every serve, because his serve being the fastest on record so far, he needs to ensure that the ball goes in.

The slice (or back spin)
Slice is made with control rather than power. It takes speed off the ball. Start with the racquet above the ball and hit down and through almost like you are cutting the ball. The bottom edge of the racquet strings should be in contact with the ball first. Slice is used for drop shots, low volleys and usual ground strokes. It can also be used as a counter shot to top spin and as an approach shot because it keeps the ball low. Pat Rafter used the slice a lot as an attacking shot, so he could get to the net for the next shot.

The physics of spin
Topspin needs gravity to work, so it can't be used on the Moon.
Actually, the ball spins fine, but spinning doesn't make it curve downward. The Moon has no air, and spinning balls only curve when they're flying through an atmosphere.

Physicists call this the Bernoulli Effect: Air pressure on one side of a spinning ball is higher than it is on the other side. High pressure pushes the ball toward low pressure--hence the curve. Swiss physicist Daniel Bernoulli wrote down the equations describing this curious phenomenon in the 18th century, setting the stage for Andy Roddick's devastating power game almost 300 years later.

The Bernoulli Effect is very important in sports. In baseball, it lets pitchers throw curveballs. In tennis and ping pong, it helps players ace their serves. In golf, it's responsible for the dreaded slice.

Forehand and backhand drives

Ground strokes
Any ball hit after the bounce is a ground stroke. The forehand drive and the backhand drive are the most used tennis strokes. It is better to move towards the ball than to wait until it comes to you.
The forehand drive is a ground stroke hit on the side of your handedness. i.e.. If you are right handed, the ball is hit on the right. To see how to hold the racquet for this drive read about tennis grips

Forehand drive
The skill in using a forehand drive is to get ready for it. Take the racquet back early to about shoulder height and step on to your front foot. Hit the ball when it is between waist and shoulder and in front of your body. Hold your wrist firm and keep your weight on your front foot. Straighten the leg after you have struck the ball. Finish the swing to shoulder height. Most players only use one hand for the forehand but many use a two-handed fist. Monica Seles used two-fisted forehand and backhand drives. One-handed forehand drives like Steffi Graf had though were real weapons.

Today, the forehand is taught differently from how I just described. Instead of standing side on to the net, these days players like Lleyton Hewitt, use an open stance.
They are taught to use the power of their legs. The modern forehand drive has the player produce a low to high swing with a swooping follow through and the open stance. Players have a much stronger upper body and this rotates as they swing. Much more topspin is also used these days. To use top spin the racquet is placed under the flight of the ball.

To recap:

Use the semi-western forehand grip
Take the racquet back early and with a looping action
Turn hip and shoulders on take back
Use a full hip and shoulder turn for more power
Hit up and through the ball with a low to high action
Keep the racquet vertical and parallel to the ground on impact
Follow through.

Backhand drive

The backhand is a ground stroke hit on your non-handed side. i.e.. If you are right handed, on your left side. Most players use the same grip for forehand and backhand, but not always. Read about grips here Two-handed backhands were used by younger players to give them more strength and they do give you more power, but not as much reach. You'll see the best players who use the two-handed backhand take their left hand off the racquet for a wide ball. In my opinion, there is nothing sweater than a one-handed backhand as played by Federer, Graf, Mauresmo or Henin-Hardenne.

For the backhand, once again it is important to be ready. Take the racquet back early and keep the wrist steady. Turn your hips and shoulders so they are side on to the net. You can support the racquet with your non-playing hand. Step in towards the ball as it bounces and bring your weight onto the front foot. Once again hit the ball when it is in front of you. Follow through as with the forehand.

Let's look at how players are taught the modern backhand. Firstly there is a lot more spin. The advantage of using spin is that there is a lot more margin for error, the bounce is higher, you can hit the ball on the rise, and make shots down the line with more accuracy. Players use an eastern grip and also use the lob more as an attacking stroke rather than a defensive one. Lleyton Hewitt is very good at this. The slice is used less often except for when a serve volleyer might use it to rush the net. Patrick Rafter, an Australian used to use this tactic often. Clay courters use it less often. The slice allows the player time to get to the net and use their volley skills if they have them.

To recap:

Use the eastern grip
Take the racquet back with both hands
Make a good hit and shoulder turn before you hit the ball
Step towards the ball
Keep your head still
Keep the racquet vertical at impact and use release your upper body to make the shot
Follow through.

Top 10 female tennis players (28 Jan 2008)


Top 10 male tennis players end 2007

1st Federer , R. 6630
2nd Nadal , R. 5980
3rd Djokovic , N. 5165
4th Davydenko , N. 2725
5th Ferrer , D. 2715
6th Roddick , A. 2155
7th Gasquet , R. 1895
8th Youzhny , M. 1845
9th Blake , J. 1710
10th Nalbandian ,D. 1700

Tennis racquet grips

Once tennis players only ever played with one hand, the left or right.
Now there are many variations. The two-fisted forehand and/or backhand is one difference. I prefer the traditional one-handed stroke and think it is a purer form of hitting. First though we need to know how to hold the racquet for each different stroke.

The forehand grip
Most players use the semi-western forehand grip. This is where the thumb is moved back and the arm is bent. There is a V formation on top of the handle. This grip is recommended for beginners.

Others use the western grip useful for when the ball bounces higher. The thumb is moved clockwise on the top of the handle. The palm of the hand is under the handle.. This makes playing of low shots more difficult but it is useful for shots that are waist high or higher.

The eastern forehand grip is known as the 'shake hands' grip because you hold the handle as if you are shaking hands with it.

The backhand grip
My backhand was never any good and most novices find this shot the hardest. It is difficult to change the grip during play. Move your hand anti-clockwise so your thumb tucks under the handle. The palm of your hand is on top of the handle. Don't allow a closed grip. Keep your fingers apart.
Now we must talk of the two-handed backhand grip. The same grip is used as in the one-handed backhand but the other hand supports the handle just behind the first grip.

It is recommended that club players use the eastern grip. This is where there is a V formation on top of the handle formed by the the thumb and first finger being placed between the top ridge of the racquet and the first ridge on the side of the racquet. This grip allows you to disguise your many different shots.

There is also the eastern backhand grip with the wrist completely behind the racquet and the thumb running along the back of the handle. This grip allows a lot of topspin and is often used on slow courts like clay.

The serve and overhead smash grip

Most players use the continental or chopper grip here. The continental grip is halfway between the forehand and backhand grips. The chopper grip is a bit like how you would hold a golf club but with the thumb placed round the racquet to touch the first finger. Some players use the backhand grip.

Tennis grand slams

There are four grand slams a year for tennis players.
Grand slams involve about 128 players in singles for both men and women.
No other events are held at that time.
Matches for men are the best of 5 sets and for women the best of 3 sets.
Many of the other tournaments are only the best of 3 sets for the men.

The first grand slam of the year is in Melbourne, Australia around mid January, our summer. The court has a rebound ace surface. It is called the Australian Open. The tournament was first played in 1905 as The Australasian Championships, became the Australian Championships in 1927 and the Australian Open in 1969. Since 1905, The Championships have been staged at six different venues as follows: Melbourne [46 times], Sydney [17 times] Adelaide [14 times], Brisbane [eight times], Perth [three times] and New Zealand [twice] in 1906 & 1912. In 1972, it was decided to stage the Tournament in the one city each year, as opposed to visiting various states across the nation, and the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club was selected due to Melbourne attracting the biggest patronage. Until 1987 it used to be on grass during December and I spent many a match at courtside at Kooyong before it was moved to Melbourne Park. As tennis became more popular and commercial, the Kooyong court became too small. The event moved to Melbourne Park and is now in January. It is the only Grand Slam event where the stadium has a roof so it can be shut if it rains or the temperatures get too high. It is played on a slow rebound ace surface. The surface has now changed to a hard surface, a bit like the US Open.

The French Open dates back to 1891 and has been played on clay at Roland Garros since 1921. It is in late May to early June. The ball bounces higher on this sort of court and suits baseline players. Rallies can be very long. The player can reach further because of the ability to slide.

Wimbledon is next on the calendar and is held in late June to early July, making it difficult for players to adjust to grass after clay in a short time. It has been held since 1877. Winning Wimbledon is considered the pinnacle of tennis. The surface is fast and the ball bounces low and unevenly so it suits serve volleyers, or used to, as this form of the game is disappearing.

The US Open is held at Flushing Meadows, Queens,NY in early September and has been played there since 1978. Before that it was in Rhode Island. It can be very noisy being just near La Guardia airport. It can also be very hot and very humid. The surface is a hard court made of Decoturf. It is considered the second most important tournament to win.


I was coached in tennis myself at the premier courts at Milton in Brisbane and then played Saturday tennis back in Melbourne. I was too young to be able to produce a good serve or strong backhand, but I developed a strong flat forehand. I played socially with better players than myself and did learn to serve better. But to be a better player I would have had to have much more coaching and much more practice.

So when my son was about 5-6 I got him some tennis coaching. He was still small then and didn't show great promise. He played Saturday tennis for a while and then later, socially with a friend who did have some serious coaching, more than my son or me.

The other day I agreed to go and watch them play. I soon summed up their skills and was pleasantly surprised to see that both could hold a good rally for some 10 strokes. I went from keeping score to coaching mode. My teaching training had come out to play. I stood at the back of them as they served to see where they were hitting the ball and with what kind of stroke.

There were really interesting differences in the 2 players. My son looked like Gustavo Kuerten and his friend looked like Roddick. They were playing better than I had seen much on local courts. It was synthetic grass with sand on it and the first thing I noticed was that my son made use of the sand to slide and played much more like a Latin American while his friend played more like an Australian or American. My son also played front on while his friend produced strokes the "Australian way".

My son's strengths were that he had a good sense of where balls were going to go and where to place them in reply. He used the court well, moving back to the centre after each stroke and moving in to the net when he could and played some nice drop volleys. He has a one-handed forehand and backhand. His forehand was solid and his backhand weaker. His opponent should have exploited that weakness but failed to. My son's serve was awful. No taking the racquet down the back or bending of knees and every serve would have technically been a foot fault as he threw the ball about 2 foot in front of him. But he got it in and once again his opponent should have taken advantage of this weakness by moving right in to take the serve on the rise but he didn't.

The friend's lack of skills in taking advantage of an opponent's weaknesses was compensated for with a very good serve and stroke technique. He did have a very good technique on serve but his placement of the serve could have been better. He had a strong forehand and backhand (two-handed), but over hit constantly. What my son had in touch and accuracy, his friend made up for with power. But he played a power game without ever coming to the net and tended to stay on the side of the court where he could play his forehand, leaving the forehand court open for my son's shots.

Well we had a debriefing after the game: a one set tie-breaker as it turned out with the friend winning by one point. It probably helped both of them play better tennis with someone watching them and someone who knew a bit about tennis. They both need some more coaching but not from me as I haven't got the equipment. They would both benefit. My advice to then was to play in order to get better, not to win. Teach each other their strengths and practice volleying, serving and rallies, rather than playing a set or two. I've yet to find out how they have gone.

What the experience showed was that young kids don't learn tennis well, because they are not strong enough to play all the shots required. They could get into bad habits which they may not be able to rectify later. Of course all the top players did start with a tennis racquet really early but it is difficult to know how much they were formally coached, rather than by their own parents. Parents can make coaches as I did too, but when it comes to the mental side of the game a top player needs someone who has been to the top him or herself.

Tennis exercises

Warming up exercises

You should warm up before playing any sport. Doing so will make you more flexible and will loosen up your muscles and joints. This assists in preventing injuries. What you see on the tennis court, a 10 minute warm-up session, is only the tip of the iceberg in the preparation tennis players have before a match. They will most likely have done the following exercises, hit up for an hour and been given a massage in the locker room, before we even see them. They will also keep warm at every stop in play, using track suits or towels and moving round near the chair.

We assume you are pretty fit. Don't do these exercises without being fit first.

Calf stretch

Stand with your feet, one in front of the other, about a metre apart. Lean forward so your weight is on the front foot, keeping the heel of your back foot on the ground. Hold that stretch for 20 seconds. Repeat with the other leg and stretch each leg 4 times.

Hamstring stretch

Sit on the ground with one leg outstretched in front of you. Keep the other leg bent so your foot is touching the knee of your outstretched leg. Reach forward and touch your toes. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other leg and stretch each leg twice.

Bench jump

Stand side on to a bench. Jump sideways up and onto the bench and down the other side. As you get better at this you can just jump over the bench. Do this 10 times.

Side bends

Stand upright and place one hand just above your waist. Raise the other arm up and over your head. Bend your body sideways and feel the stretch down the side of your body. Repeat on the other side. Stretch 6 times on each side.

Lower back stretch Sit on the ground with both legs straight out in front. Lean forward as far as you can. Hold the stretch for 3 seconds. Try keeping your legs as straight as possible. Repeat this stretch 6 times.

Neck stretch

Stand upright and place your hand on the other side of your head. Gently pull your head sideways until you feel the stretch. Repeat on the other side. Stretch both sides 4 times each.

Arm stretch

Bend and lift your arm behind your head. Push the elbow back with the other hand until you feel the stretch. Stretch each arm 4 times.

Push ups

Lie on the ground, face down, with your hands flat on the ground near your shoulders. Your toes should be tucked under. Push up, using your arms, keeping your body straight. Lower your body down again. Repeat 10 times.

Now you are ready for a hit up.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Federer loses in semi-final Australian Open 2008

I can't believe it. Federer lost to Djokovich in 3 sets. This ends the run of Federer in finals. He has been in the finals of grand slams for the last 10 times. Federer didn't look like the usual brilliant tennis player tonight. He looked nervous which meant he wasn't moving to the ball in the same way. He used too many slices to Djokovich and that doesn't work with this opponent.

And Nadal lost to Tsonga in 3 sets. So for the first time in a long time the seeded number 1 and 2 are not in the final.
It will be Djokovich (aged 20) vs Jo Tsonga (aged 22 with 2 years out of the game with injury) from France. I can't wait to see this final. Is there a turnover coming with the younger ones taking over the old aged 28s?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Why I like tennis

Why I like tennis
Tennis isn't always interesting and I've been wondering what makes for an exciting match.
Firstly though, my history with tennis, plays a part in my enjoyment of the game. Sports that I have never participated in are less interesting than those I have. Much of the male only sports like football (of all types) and cricket (though women do play this now) and motor sports, I have no interest in. Sports too which Australians don't play a lot of, are of no interest like baseball and curling. So, one's interest in a particular sport is much decided by what country you live in or even what region you live in.

Whether one likes sport at all is determined by many factors, probably most to do with the interests of one's parents. Although my father had a professional job as did I, he always maintained an interest in his beloved sport (AFL football rules). He never played that, but here in Melbourne, Australia if you don't barrack for an AFL team you are considered a bit of an oddity. Somewhat like in the USA if you don't follow a baseball team, I suppose.

My father also constantly made reference to a fit body and a fit mind. He maintained his fitness throughout his life by walking and playing golf. I haven't exactly followed suit in that regard because in the 60's when I went to university, women playing sport were considered to be weird or lesbian. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but in those days feminism hadn't exactly hit the scene in Australia.

So, from university on the only sport I played was social tennis, after having been involved all my high school years in swimming, hockey, tennis, gymnastics and softball. I knew the feeling of catching a softball at a crucial time. I loved my flat fast forehand in tennis. I loved the movement of the body. But now at a more advanced age, I don't play sport anymore and watch tennis and swimming instead. My partner, on the other hand, hates all sport. He went to one of those male only schools where, if you didn't play sport, you were a homosexual. He is very handy with a tennis racket however.

I started watching tennis on TV in 1978, so missed seeing the great Australian male tennis players. But it wasn't too late to see Evonne Goolagong, both on TV and in the flesh. She has been the only indigenous tennis player Australia has produced. She had such grace and I saw her at the Australian Open at Kooyong playing when she was 3 months pregnant with her first child.

I wasn't just interested in Australian players though, but then not as many countries were developing tennis. It's only in the last decade that people from Asian countries have played. Other new countries participating and doing very well now are Russia and all the countries in the Russian Federation or the independent countries after the breakup of the USSR. Spain and other countries in South America who are usually great clay courters, have now started to adapt to the grass courts and hard courts.

That brings me to the court surface. I generally don't like clay court games as much as grass. But grass has been deleted from the Australian tennis season now, using only hard courts or rebound ace. That's a pity in my view although let's hope Wimbledon will always stay on grass. It delivers the best kind of play, the serve volleyer, the best chance to win. Lleyton Hewitt was the first Australian player to change that kind of play. He is a baseliner and has been successful at that, so we in Australia are beginning to appreciate this kind of play more. I'll never forget the serve volleyers like Patrick Rafter (my all time favourite), Mark Philippoussis and Pat Cash though.

Why do I like tennis? It's a one on one game rather than a team game except for the Davis Cup. It is never the same game. It is like a game of chess. It requires fitness, practice and physical skills but at the top it requires a mental ability. The best players are mentally aware of where they are on the court and where the other player is. They are patient. They wait for the right shot to make a winner. They have good court sense. They fight for each point. And when they win they are exuberant. And when they lose they are very upset, whether they show it or not.

It's a passionate game. Every player can get better. There are records to be broken. There is enormous pressure. There are the chokers and those who cope better with the pressure. It is a psychological game and it therefore continues to be interesting. It isn't like barracking for a team. It is about appreciating great shots when they come. It's about appreciating athleticism and movement. And it is bathed in history.

All time winners female singles Wimbledon

884 Maud Watson
1885 Maud Watson
1886 Blanche Bingley
1887 Lottie Dod
1888 Lottie Dod
1889 Blanche Bingley Hillyard
1890 Helen Rice
1891 Lottie Dod
1892 Lottie Dod
1893 Lottie Dod
1894 Blanche Bingley Hillyard
1895 Charlotte Cooper
1896 Charlotte Cooper
1897 Blanche Bingley Hillyard
1898 Charlotte Cooper
1899 Blanche Bingley Hillyard
1900 Blanche Bingley Hillyard
1901 Charlotte Cooper Sterry
1902 Muriel Robb
1903 Dorothea Douglass
1904 Dorothea Douglass
1905 May Sutton
1906 Dorothea Douglass
1907 May Sutton
1908 Charlotte Cooper Sterry
1909 Dora Boothby
1910 Dorothea Lambert-Chambers
1911 Dorothea Lambert-Chambers
1912 Ethel Larcombe
1913 Dorothea Lambert-Chambers
1914 Dorothea Lambert-Chambers
1915 no competition
1916 no competition
1917 no competition
1918 no competition
1919 Suzanne Lenglen
1920 Suzanne Lenglen
1921 Suzanne Lenglen
1922 Suzanne Lenglen
1923 Suzanne Lenglen
1924 Kitty McKane
1925 Suzanne Lenglen
1926 Kitty McKane Godfree
1927 Helen Wills
1928 Helen Wills
1929 Helen Wills
1930 Helen Wills Moody
1931 Cilly Aussem
1932 Helen Wills Moody
1933 Helen Wills Moody
1934 Dorothy Round
1935 Helen Wills Moody
1936 Helen Hull Jacobs
1937 Dorothy Round
1938 Helen Wills Moody
1939 Alice Marble
1940 no competition
1941 no competition
1942 no competition
1943 no competition
1944 no competition
1945 no competition
1946 Pauline Betz
1947 Margaret Osborne
1948 Louise Brough
1949 Louise Brough
1950 Louise Brough
1951 Doris Hart
1952 Maureen Connolly
1953 Maureen Connolly
1954 Maureen Connolly
1955 Louise Brough
1956 Shirley Fry
1957 Althea Gibson
1958 Althea Gibson
1959 Maria Bueno
1960 Maria Bueno
1961 Angela Mortimer
1962 Karen Hantze Susman
1963 Margaret Smith
1964 Maria Bueno
1965 Margaret Smith
1966 Billie Jean King
1967 Billie Jean King
1968 Billie Jean King
1969 Ann Haydon Jones
1970 Margaret Smith Court
1971 Evonne Goolagong
1972 Billie Jean King
1973 Billie Jean King
1974 Chris Evert
1975 Billie Jean King
1976 Chris Evert
1977 Virginia Wade
1978 Martina Navrátilová
1979 Martina Navrátilová
1980 Evonne Goolagong Cawley
1981 Chris Evert-Lloyd
1982 Martina Navrátilová
1983 Martina Navrátilová
1984 Martina Navrátilová
1985 Martina Navrátilová
1986 Martina Navrátilová
1987 Martina Navrátilová
1988 Steffi Graf
1989 Steffi Graf
1990 Martina Navrátilová
1991 Steffi Graf
1992 Steffi Graf
1993 Steffi Graf
1994 Conchita Martínez
1995 Steffi Graf
1996 Steffi Graf
1997 Martina Hingis
1998 Jana Novotná
1999 Lindsay Davenport
2000 Venus Williams
2001 Venus Williams
2002 Serena Williams
2003 Serena Williams
2004 Maria Sharapova
2005 Venus Williams
2006 Amelie Mauresmo
2007 Venus Williams
2008 Venus Williams
2009 Serena Williams
2010 Serena Williams
2011 Petra Kvitova
2012 Serena Williams
2013 Marion Bartoli

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All time female singles French Open winners

1925 Suzanne Lenglen1926 Suzanne Lenglen
1927 Kea Bouman
1928 Helen Wills Moody
1929 Helen Wills Moody
1930 Helen Wills Moody
1931 Cilly Aussem
1932 Helen Wills Moody
1933 Margaret Scriven
1934 Margaret Scriven
1935 Hilde Sperling
1936 Hilde Sperling
1937 Hilde Sperling
1938 Simone Mathieu
1939 Simone Mathieu
1940 no competition
1941 no competition
1942 no competition
1943 no competition
1944 no competition
1945 no competition
1946 Margaret Osborne
1947 Pat Todd
1948 Nelly Landry
1949 Margaret Osborne duPont
1950 Doris Hart
1951 Shirley Fry
1952 Doris Hart
1953 Maureen Connolly
1954 Maureen Connolly
1955 Angela Mortimer
1956 Althea Gibson
1957 Shirley Bloomer
1958 Zsuzsi Kormoczy
1959 Christine Truman
1960 Darlene Hard
1961 Ann Haydon
1962 Margaret Smith
1963 Lesley Turner
1964 Margaret Smith
1965 Lesley Turner
1966 Ann Haydon Jones
1967 Francoise Durr
1968 Nancy Richey
1969 Margaret Smith Court
1970 Margaret Smith Court
1971 Evonne Goolagong
1972 Billie Jean King
1973 Margaret Smith Court
1974 Chris Evert
1975 Chris Evert
1976 Sue Barker
1977 Mima Jausovec
1978 Virginia Ruzici
1979 Chris Evert
1980 Chris Evert
1981 Hana Mandlikova
1982 Martina Navratilova
1983 Chris Evert
1984 Martina Navratilova
1985 Chris Evert
1986 Chris Evert
1987 Steffi Graf
1989 Arantxa Sánchez Vicario
1990 Monica Seles
1991 Monica Seles
1992 Monica Seles
1993 Steffi Graf
1994 Arantxa Sánchez Vicario
1995 Steffi Graf
1996 Steffi Graf
1997 Iva Majoli
1998 Arantxa Sánchez Vicario
1999 Steffi Graf
2000 Mary Pierce
2001 Jennifer Capriati
2002 Serena Williams
2003 Justine Henin-Hardenne
2004 Anastasia Myskina
2005 Justine Henin-Hardenne
2006 Justine Henin-Hardenne
2007 Justin Henin
2008 Ana Ivanovic
2009 Svetlana Kuznetsova
2010 Francesco Schiavone
2011 Na Li
2012 Maria Sharapova
2013 Serena Williams

All time winners female singles Australian Open

1922 Margaret Molesworth
1923 Margaret Molesworth
1924 Sylvia Lance
1925 Daphne Akhurst
1926 Daphne Akhurst
1927 Esna Boyd
1928 Daphne Akhurst
1929 Daphne Akhurst
1930 Daphne Akhurst
1931 Coral McInnes Buttsworth
1932 Coral McInnes Buttsworth
1933 Joan Hartigan
1934 Joan Hartigan
1935 Dorothy Round
1936 Joan Hartigan
1937 Nancye Wynne
1938 Dorothy Bundy
1939 Emily Wood Westacott
1940 Nancye Wynne
1941 no competition World War II
1942 no competition World War II
1943 no competition World War II
1944 no competition World War II
1945 no competition World War II
1946 Nancye Wynne Bolton
1947 Nancye Wynne Bolton
1948 Nancye Wynne Bolton
1949 Doris Hart
1950 Louise Brough
1951 Nancye Wynne Bolton
1952 Thelma Coyne Long
1953 Maureen Connolly
1954 Thelma Coyne Long
1955 Beryl Penrose
1956 Mary Carter
1957 Shirley Fry
1958 Angela Mortimer
1959 Mary Carter Reitano
1960 Margaret Smith
1961 Margaret Smith
1962 Margaret Smith
1963 Margaret Smith
1964 Margaret Smith
1965 Margaret Smith
1966 Margaret Smith
1967 Nancy Richey
1968 Billie Jean King
1969 Margaret Smith Court
1970 Margaret Smith Court
1971 Margaret Smith Court
1972 Virginia Wade
1973 Margaret Smith Court
1974 Evonne Goolagong
1975 Evonne Goolagong
1976 Evonne Goolagong
1977 Kerry Melville Reid (Jan)
1977 Evonne Goolagong Cawley (Dec)
1978 Christine O'Neill
1979 Barbara Jordan
1980 Hana Mandlikova
1981 Martina Navrátilová
1982 Chris Evert Lloyd
1983 Martina Navrátilová
1984 Chris Evert Lloyd
1985 Martina Navrátilová
1986 no competition Date change
1987 Hana Mandlikova
1988 Steffi Graf
1989 Steffi Graf
1990 Steffi Graf
1991 Monica Seles
1992 Monica Seles
1993 Monica Seles
1994 Steffi Graf
1995 Mary Pierce
1996 Monica Seles
1997 Martina Hingis
1998 Martina Hingis
1999 Martina Hingis
2000 Lindsay Davenport
2001 Jennifer Capriati
2002 Jennifer Capriati
2003 Serena Williams
2004 Justine Henin-Hardenne
2005 Serena Williams
2006 Amélie Mauresmo
2007 Serena Williams
2008 Maria Sharapova
2009 Serena Williams
2010 Serena Williams
2011 Kim Clijsters
2012 Victoria Azerenko
2013 Victoria Azerenko

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All time winners singles female US Open

Steffi Graf at „Dream Match 2008“, March 15, 2...Image via Wikipedia1887 Ellen Hansell
1888 Bertha Townsend
1889 Bertha Townsend
1890 Ellen Roosevelt
1891 Mabel Cahill
1892 Mabel Cahill
1893 Aline Terry
1894 Helen Hellwig
1895 Juliette Atkinson
1896 Elisabeth Moore
1897 Juliette Atkinson
1898 Juliette Atkinson
1899 Marion Jones
1900 Myrtle McAteer
1901 Elisabeth Moore
1902 Marion Jones
1903 Elisabeth Moore
1904 May Sutton
1905 Elisabeth Moore
1906 Helen Homans
1907 Evelyn Sears
1908 Maud Barger-Wallach
1909 Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman
1910 Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman
1911 Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman
1912 Mary Browne
1913 Mary Browne
1914 Mary Browne
1915 Molla Mallory
1916 Molla Mallory
1917 Molla Mallory
1918 Molla Mallory
1919 Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman
1920 Molla Mallory
1921 Molla Mallory
1922 Molla Mallory
1923 Helen Wills
1924 Helen Wills
1925 Helen Wills
1926 Molla Mallory
1927 Helen Wills
1928 Helen Wills
1929 Helen Wills
1930 Betty Nuthall
1931 Helen Wills Moody
1932 Helen Jacobs
1933 Helen Jacobs
1934 Helen Jacobs
1935 Helen Jacobs
1936 Alice Marble
1937 Anita Lizana
1938 Alice Marble
1939 Alice Marble
1940 Alice Marble
1941 Sarah Palfrey Cooke
1942 Pauline Betz
1943 Pauline Betz
1944 Pauline Betz
1945 Sarah Palfrey Cooke
1946 Pauline Betz
1947 Louise Brough
1948 Margaret Osborne duPont
1949 Margaret Osborne duPont
1950 Margaret Osborne duPont
1951 Maureen Connolly
1952 Maureen Connolly
1953 Maureen Connolly
1954 Doris Hart
1955 Doris Hart
1956 Shirley Fry
1957 Althea Gibson
1958 Althea Gibson
1959 Maria Bueno
1960 Darlene Hard
1961 Darlene Hard
1962 Margaret Smith
1963 Maria Bueno
1964 Maria Bueno
1965 Margaret Smith
1966 Maria Bueno
1967 Billie Jean King
1968 Virginia Wade
1968 Margaret Smith Court
1969 Margaret Smith Court
1969 Margaret Smith Court
1970 Margaret Smith Court
1971 Billie Jean King
1972 Billie Jean King
1973 Margaret Smith Court
1974 Billie Jean King
1975 Chris Evert
1976 Chris Evert
1977 Chris Evert
1978 Chris Evert
1979 Tracy Austin
1980 Chris Evert Lloyd
1981 Tracy Austin
1982 Chris Evert Lloyd
1983 Martina Navratilova
1984 Martina Navratilova
1985 Hana Mandlikova
1986 Martina Navratilova
1987 Martina Navratilova
1988 Steffi Graf
1989 Steffi Graf
1990 Gabriela Sabatini
1991 Monica Seles
1992 Monica Seles
1993 Steffi Graf
1994 Arantxa Sánchez Vicario
1995 Steffi Graf
1996 Steffi Graf
1997 Martina Hingis
1998 Lindsay Davenport
1999 Serena Williams
2000 Venus Williams
2001 Venus Williams
2002 Serena Williams
2003 Justine Henin-Hardenne
2004 Svetlana Kuznetsova
2005 Kim Clijsters
2006 Maria Sharapova
2007 Justine Henin
2008 Serena Williams
2009 Kim Clijsters
2010 Kim Clijsters
2011 Samantha Stosur
2012 Serena Williams

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

All time male singles winners Wimbledon

1877 Spencer Gore
1878 Frank Hadow
1879 John Hartley
1880 John Hartley
1881 William Renshaw
1882 William Renshaw
1883 William Renshaw
1884 William Renshaw
1885 William Renshaw
1886 William Renshaw
1887 Herbert Lawford
1888 Ernest Renshaw
1889 William Renshaw
1890 Willoughby Hamilton
1891 Wilfred Baddeley
1892 Wilfred Baddeley
1893 Joshua Pim
1894 Joshua Pim
1895 Wilfred Baddeley
1896 Harold Mahoney
1897 Reginald Doherty
1898 Reginald Doherty
1899 Reginald Doherty
1900 Reginald Doherty
1901 Arthur Gore
1902 Lawrence Doherty
1903 Lawrence Doherty
1904 Lawrence Doherty
1905 Lawrence Doherty
1906 Lawrence Doherty
1907 Norman Brookes
1908 Arthur Gore
1909 Arthur Gore
1910 Anthony Wilding
1911 Anthony Wilding
1912 Anthony Wilding
1913 Anthony Wilding
1914 Norman Brookes
1915 no competition
1916 no competition
1917 no competition
1918 no competition
1919 Gerald Patterson
1920 Bill Tilden
1921 Bill Tilden
1922 Gerald Patterson
1923 Bill Johnston
1924 Jean Borotra
1925 René Lacoste
1926 Jean Borotra
1927 Henri Cochet
1928 René Lacoste
1929 Henri Cochet
1930 Bill Tilden
1931 Sid Wood
1932 Ellsworth Vines
1933 Jack Crawford
1934 Fred Perry
1935 Fred Perry
1936 Fred Perry
1937 Don Budge
1938 Don Budge
1939 Bobby Riggs
1940 no competition
1941 no competition
1942 no competition
1943 no competition
1944 no competition
1945 no competition
1946 Yvon Petra
1947 Jack Kramer
1948 Bob Falkenburg
1949 Ted Schroeder
1950 Budge Patty
1951 Dick Savitt
1952 Frank Sedgman
1953 Vic Seixas
1954 Jaroslav Drobný
1955 Tony Trabert
1956 Lew Hoad
1957 Lew Hoad
1958 Ashley Cooper
1959 Alex Olmedo
1960 Neale Fraser
1961 Rod Laver
1962 Rod Laver
1963 Chuck McKinley
1964 Roy Emerson
1965 Roy Emerson
1966 Manuel Santana
1967 John Newcombe
1968 Rod Laver
1969 Rod Laver
1970 John Newcombe
1971 John Newcombe
1972 Stan Smith
1973 Jan Kodeš
1974 Jimmy Connors
1975 Arthur Ashe
1976 Björn Borg
1977 Björn Borg
1978 Björn Borg
1979 Björn Borg
1980 Björn Borg
1981 John McEnroe
1982 Jimmy Connors
1983 John McEnroe
1984 John McEnroe
1985 Boris Becker
1986 Boris Becker
1987 Pat Cash
1988 Stefan Edberg
1989 Boris Becker
1990 Stefan Edberg
1991 Michael Stich
1992 Andre Agassi
1993 Pete Sampras
1994 Pete Sampras
1995 Pete Sampras
1996 Richard Krajicek
1997 Pete Sampras
1998 Pete Sampras
1999 Pete Sampras
2000 Pete Sampras
2001 Goran Ivanisevic
2002 Lleyton Hewitt
2003 Roger Federer
2004 Roger Federer
2005 Roger Federer
2006 Roger Federer
2007 Roger Federer
2008 Rafael Nadal
2009 Roger Federer
2010 Rafael Nadal
2011 Novak Djokovic
2012 Roger Federer
2013 Andy Murray (First British male to win in 77 years)

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All time male winners French Open

1925 René Lacoste
1926 Henri Cochet
1927 René Lacoste
1928 Henri Cochet
1929 René Lacoste
1930 Henri Cochet
1931 Jean Borotra
1932 Henri Cochet
1933 Jack Crawford
1934 Gottfried von Cramm
1935 Fred Perry
1936 Gottfried von Cramm
1937 Henner Henkel
1938 Don Budge
1939 Don McNeill
1940 no competition
1941 no competition
1942 no competition
1943 no competition
1944 no competition
1945 no competition
1946 Marcel Bernard
1947 Jozsef Asboth
1948 Frank Parker
1949 Frank Parker
1950 Budge Patty
1951 Jaroslav Drobný
1952 Jaroslav Drobný
1953 Ken Rosewall
1954 Tony Trabert
1955 Tony Trabert
1956 Lew Hoad
1957 Sven Davidson
1958 Mervyn Rose
1959 Nicola Pietrangeli
1960 Nicola Pietrangeli
1961 Manuel Santana
1962 Rod Laver
1963 Roy Emerson
1964 Manuel Santana
1965 Fred Stolle
1966 Tony Roche
1967 Roy Emerson
1968 Ken Rosewall
1969 Rod Laver
1970 Jan Kodeš
1971 Jan Kodeš
1972 Andrés Gimeno
1973 Ilie Nastase
1974 Björn Borg
1975 Björn Borg
1976 Adriano Panatta
1977 Guillermo Vilas
1978 Björn Borg
1979 Björn Borg
1980 Björn Borg
1981 Björn Borg
1982 Mats Wilander
1983 Yannick Noah
1984 Ivan Lendl
1985 Mats Wilander
1986 Ivan Lendl
1987 Ivan Lendl
1988 Mats Wilander
1989 Michael Chang
1990 Andrés Gómez
1991 Jim Courier
1992 Jim Courier
1993 Sergi Bruguera
1994 Sergi Bruguera
1995 Thomas Muster
1996 Yevgeny Kafelnikov
1997 Gustavo Kuerten
1998 Carlos Moyá
1999 Andre Agassi
2000 Gustavo Kuerten
2001 Gustavo Kuerten
2002 Albert Costa
2003 Juan Carlos Ferrero
2004 Gastón Gaudio
2005 Rafael Nadal
2006 Rafael Nadal
2007 Rafael Nadal
2008 Rafael Nadal
2009 Roger Federer
2010 Rafael Nadal
2011 Rafael Nadal
2012 Rafael Nadal
2013 Rafael Nadal
Nadal is the first man to win 8 times in the same Grand Slam event.

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All time male winners singles Australian Open

1905 Rodney Heath

1906 Anthony Wilding
1907 Horace Rice
1908 Fred Alexander
1909 Anthony Wilding
1910 Rodney Heath
1911 Norman Brookes
1912 Cecil Parke
1913 Ernie Parker
1914 Arthur O'Hara Wood
1915 Francis Lowe
1916 no competition World War I
1917 no competition World War I
1918 no competition World War I
1919 Algernon Kingscote
1920 Pat O'Hara Wood
1921 Rhys Gemmell
1922 James Anderson
1923 Pat O'Hara Wood
1924 James Anderson
1925 James Anderson
1926 John Hawkes
1927 Gerald Patterson
1928 Jean Borotra
1929 John Gregory
1930 Gar Moon
1931 Jack Crawford
1932 Jack Crawford
1933 Jack Crawford
1934 Fred Perry
1935 Jack Crawford
1936 Adrian Quist
1937 V. B. McGrath
1938 Don Budge
1939 John Bromwich
1940 Adrian Quist
1941 no competition World War II
1942 no competition World War II
1943 no competition World War II
1944 no competition World War II
1945 no competition World War II
1946 John Bromwich
1947 Dinny Pails
1948 Adrian Quist
1949 Frank Sedgman
1950 Frank Sedgman
1951 Dick Savitt
1952 Ken McGregor
1953 Ken Rosewall
1954 Mervyn Rose
1955 Ken Rosewall
1956 Lew Hoad
1957 Ashley Cooper
1958 Ashley Cooper
1959 Alex Olmedo
1960 Rod Laver
1961 Roy Emerson
1962 Rod Laver
1963 Roy Emerson
1964 Roy Emerson
1965 Roy Emerson
1966 Roy Emerson
1967 Roy Emerson
1968 Bill Bowrey
1969 Rod Laver
1970 Arthur Ashe
1971 Ken Rosewall
1972 Ken Rosewall
1973 John Newcombe
1974 Jimmy Connors
1975 John Newcombe
1976 Mark Edmondson
1977 Roscoe Tanner
1977 Vitas Gerulaitis
1978 Guillermo Vilas
1979 Guillermo Vilas
1980 Brian Teacher
1981 Johan Kriek
1982 Johan Kriek
1983 Mats Wilander
1984 Mats Wilander
1985 Stefan Edberg
1986 no competition Date change
1987 Stefan Edberg
1988 Mats Wilander
1989 Ivan Lendl
1990 Ivan Lendl
1991 Boris Becker
1992 Jim Courier
1993 Jim Courier
1994 Pete Sampras
1995 Andre Agassi
1996 Boris Becker
1997 Pete Sampras
1998 Petr Korda
1999 Yevgeny Kafelnikov
2000 Andre Agassi
2001 Andre Agassi
2002 Thomas Johansson
2003 Andre Agassi
2004 Roger Federer
2005 Marat Safin
2006 Roger Federer
2007 Roger Federer
2008 Novak Djokavich
2009 Rafael Nadal
2010 Roger Federer
2011 Novak Djokovic
2012 Novak Djokovic
2013 Novak Djokovic

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Monday, January 21, 2008

All time male winners of US Open

1881 Richard Sears
1882 Richard Sears
1883 Richard Sears
1884 Richard Sears
1885 Richard Sears
1886 Richard Sears
1887 Richard Sears
1888 Henry Slocum
1889 Henry Slocum
1890 Oliver Campbell
1891 Oliver Campbell
1892 Oliver Campbell
1893 Robert Wrenn
1894 Robert Wrenn
1895 Fred Hovey
1896 Robert Wrenn
1897 Robert Wrenn
1898 Malcolm Whitman
1899 Malcolm Whitman
1900 Malcolm Whitman
1901 William Larned
1902 William Larned
1903 Hugh Doherty
1904 Holcombe Ward
1905 Beals C. Wright
1906 William Larned
1907 William Larned
1908 William Larned
1909 William Larned
1910 William Larned
1911 William Larned
1912 Maurice McLoughlin
1913 Maurice McLoughlin
1914 Richard Williams
1915 William Johnston
1916 Richard Williams
1918 Lindley Murray
1919 William Johnston
1920 Bill Tilden
1921 Bill Tilden
1922 Bill Tilden
1923 Bill Tilden
1924 Bill Tilden
1925 Bill Tilden
1926 René Lacoste
1927 René Lacoste
1928 Henri Cochet
1929 Bill Tilden
1930 John Doeg
1931 Ellsworth Vines
1932 Ellsworth Vines
1933 Fred Perry
1934 Fred Perry
1935 Wilmer Allison
1936 Fred Perry
1937 Don Budge
1938 Don Budge
1939 Bobby Riggs
1940 Donald McNeill
1941 Bobby Riggs
1942 Ted Schroeder
1943 Lt. Joseph R. Hunt
1944 Frank Parker
1946 Jack Kramer
1947 Jack Kramer
1948 Pancho Gonzales
1949 Pancho Gonzales
1951 Frank Sedgman
1952 Frank Sedgman
1953 Tony Trabert
1954 Vic Seixas
1955 Tony Trabert
1956 Ken Rosewall
1957 Malcolm Anderson
1958 Ashley Cooper
1959 Neale Fraser
1960 Neale Fraser
1961 Roy Emerson
1962 Rod Laver
1963 Rafael Osuna
1964 Roy Emerson
1965 Manuel Santana
1966 Fred Stolle
1967 John Newcombe
1968 Arthur Ashe
1969 Rod Laver
1970 Ken Rosewall
1971 Stan Smith
1972 Ilie Nastase
1973 John Newcombe
1974 Jimmy Connors
1975 Manuel Orantes
1976 Jimmy Connors
1977 Guillermo Vilas
1978 Jimmy Connors
1979 John McEnroe
1980 John McEnroe
1981 John McEnroe
1982 Jimmy Connors
1983 Jimmy Connors
1984 John McEnroe
1985 Ivan Lendl
1986 Ivan Lendl
1987 Ivan Lendl
1988 Mats Wilander
1989 Boris Becker
1990 Pete Sampras
1991 Stefan Edberg
1992 Stefan Edberg
1993 Pete Sampras
1995 Pete Sampras
1996 Pete Sampras
1997 Patrick Rafter
1998 Patrick Rafter
2000 Marat Safin
2001 Lleyton Hewitt
2002 Pete Sampras
2003 Andy Roddick
2004 Roger Federer
2005 Roger Federer
2006 Roger Federer
2007 Roger Federer
2008 Roger Federer
2009 Juan Martin del Potro
2010 Rafael Nadal
2011 Novak Djokovic
2012 Andrew Murray

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Parents as coaches

Have you heard of the dreadful soccer mums and dads getting pretty heated with umpires? Madness. I’ve always thought that had I had a talented tennis player son or daughter that in their early years all the driving to courts would have to be done by parents, but later if the child shows real promise that I would hand over the coaching to someone who knew what they were doing and didn’t have the intense relationship I would have with a child of mine. Then again, you think of all the sports in which girls (and boys) have been abused by coaches because a) coaches who are paedophiles go into that area and b) the coach also has a strong relationship with their charges and parents aren’t around to protect them. Controversially though, it isn’t only the stranger who commits child sexual or physical abuse. It may arise from someone in the family.

Consequently, I don’t think there can be hard and fast rules about who does the coaching. I remember watching a game at the Australian Open where Pete Sampras broke down while he was playing because his coach had recently died, so those bonds are strong.

The most outrageous example of having a father for a coach, who is not acting in the player’s interest has been Damir Dokic, father of Jelena Dokic. This has been covered in the Australian press a lot because Jelena played for and was Australian, but her father dominated her so much that Jelena always agreed with Damir’s complaints. This is difficult for the player especially when the father appears to be in a paranoid delusional state, accusing the Australian tennis officials of discriminating against his daughter when it came to seedings in one Australian Open. He has behaved badly across the world, cautioned by police at a Wimbledon warm-up tournament in Birmingham for abusive behaviour to both officials and players. After that Australian Open disaster, Jelena, still only very young, went with her father back to Serbia. Jelena changed her citizenship back to Serbian and refused to play for or come to Australia ever again. However, she has now cut all ties with her father. Her father isn’t keen on her choice of a Croatian boyfriend. Jelena has returned to Australia and will play for Australia again when she qualifies, but her tennis which started out so promisingly, has suffered a lot.

The rule under which Dokic was thrown out of Birmingham is informally known as the "Jim Pierce" rule, named after the father of French player, Mary. Pierce's was also highly publicized for his verbal abuse towards his daughter during a tournament. Mary broke with her father and is now playing as a 30 year old better than ever before. Both Pierce and Dokic were allegedly beaten by their fathers.

Croatian Mirjana Lucic has said that her father and coach, Marinko, terrorized her physically and mentally over a period of 10 years. Lucic and her family eventually fled to Florida and Mirjana has successfully rebuilt her life.

Martina Hingis was been coached by her single mother all her life. This must have led to an intense relationship. But her mother Melanie Molitor appeared to act in Martina’s interests. I remember when Martina lost to Steffi Graf in the French Open and was so upset she left the court side celebrations. It was her mother who sent her back. Now though Martina plays without her mother courtside and is doing well getting back into the top 20 after taking tennis up again in 2005.

BBC commentator, Chris Bowers, remembers a practice session when Steffi Graf was called away from her coach by her father, Peter, who was later imprisoned for tax evasion. "He shouted "Steffi, komm" and she just dropped everything and went," Bowers says.

We know though, that after her father was jailed, Steffi went on to become one of the best players ever. She now supports her husband Andre Agassi while he is on court.

Other families make sacrifices for their talented offspring. Anna Kournikova and her mother, Alla, left her father Sergei in and moved to , so that the 18 year old could attend the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida. Jennifer Capriati's family also moved to Florida, but the pressure of breaking records from the age of 13 eventually led to well-publicized personal problems. The same has happened for Maria Sharapova, moving with her father to Florida from leaving her mother at home for 2 years. However, despite the fact that you can see her father coaching from the sidelines, his coaching doesn’t seem to have effected her game.

Richard Williams, father of sisters Venus and Serena, always ensures the story is raised about the family's poor background amongst the gangsters of Compton, Los Angeles. There are no such problems in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, where they live now. Both parents support their children despite now being separated. Venus and Serena would probably thank their father for his determination to make them tennis players and therefore rich given that one of their sisters was recently killed in their old poor neighbourhood.

Other parents have had an immensely positive effect on their children's career. Marisa Sánchez-Vicario, for example, has been by her daughter, Aranxta's side throughout her career. However, Monica Seles' tennis has suffered greatly since the death of her father, Karolj, who also had a healthy coaching relationship with his daughter.

Presumably, Lleyton Hewitt would say that his family has only had a positive effect on him, but he would I guess. I find it unhealthy that his parents still follow him wherever he goes and are always in his box. Bec seems not to mind, but towards the end of Lleyton Hewitt’s relationship with Kim Clijsters, you could see Kim moving further and further from the player’s box. It seems that you have to support Lleyton 100% or you are not favoured by the family. That doesn’t seem very healthy. Also, it’s a bit embarrassing as an Australian to see such a cohort of supporters every time Lleyton plays.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Court vs King

These two rivals were very different from each other. They played each other through the 60s and 70s, but despite respecting each others games they never became friends. They were politically and psychologically very different.

They were great players and led in terms of prize money for their times.

Margaret Court

Margaret Court was born in Albury, NSW, Australia in 1942. She was always deeply religious and shy. She married at 25 and had 4 children. Her husband’s brother and father were Premiers of Western Australia on the Conservative side. Margaret thought Billie Jean was lacking in class and was a loud mouth. She criticized Martina Navratilova saying that because she was gay (Martina that is) she was not a good role model for tennis. Court was socially very conservative. She and King only met at the net to shake hands. Martina said that Court only ever said 3 words to her.

What Court did to revolutionize tennis though was to be very fit and she had a power game which overcame most other players for many years. She trained on court but also off it with weights, skipping ropes, and running. Her arms too were 3 inches longer than is usual for people so her wing spam at the net was huge. In mixed doubles men did not shield her at all.

She also won a Grand Slam in 1970. Only 2 other women have ever done this. Steffi Graf was one of them. So what ever we might think of Court as a person one has to admire her tennis ability. She also went back to tennis after having babies which very few female tennis players do.

She won 62 Grand Slam titles (with 24 of them being in singles). Both of these statistics remain records.

Margaret began by winning the Australian national title at 17 in 1960. This was to become the Australian Open. She was the youngest winner and progressed to be a world class tennis player. She won this same event 11 more times. It was still amateur tennis at this stage. Court didn’t travel overseas for events until the following year.

Billie Jean King

Billie could not have been more different from Court and though she had a great game she probably couldn’t be compared with Court. She grew up in swinging California having been born in Long Beach in 1943. She was a leader, loved competing and was opinionated.

She married young, but the marriage became one of convenience as Billie decided she was a lesbian and was known to have had an abortion. She fought for women’s rights. She certainly wasn’t socially conservative.

Billie Jean had a serve volley game and as she was short, couldn’t win from the baseline in long rallies. She had a good serve and used a lot of spin.

In 1971 she became the first women to win $100,000 in prize money for a year. She deserved it though as she had fought for better prize money for women and held many positions in tennis organizations. She was recognized for this work by the WTA naming the end of year championships trophy after her.

Both Billie Jean and Margaret Court played Bobby Riggs who was known as a chauvinist pig. He had been a tennis player and kept baiting the women to play. Court lost to him, but Billie Jean King beat him. The games were played in completely different spirits though. King had a point to make and there was much fanfare around the world about the match. The result showed the temperaments in the two women, rather than their lesser or otherwise talent compared with Riggs. It was said that Court lost her nerve while King was always known to be rock solid.

Wimbledon 1970

The match they have been remembered for was the Wimbledon Singles finals in 1970. King was in her prime having won Wimbledon in 1967 and 68 and would win it again in 72, 73 and 75. Court was playing the third rung in her eventual Grand Slam in that year. Court won 14-12, 11-9. There were no tie-breakers then. It remains the longest women’s singles final ever played at Wimbledon. The first set, going to deuce many times, was the longest set played by either men of women in a Wimbledon final.

Their records

Margaret Court won 92 singles and 48 doubles titles. She won 24 singles Grand Slams.
Billie Jean won 67 singles titles and 101 doubles. She won 13 singles Grand Slams.

Head to heads in Grand Slams

Australian Open: Court won 1 and Billie Jean won 1.
Wimbledon: Court won 3 out of 5 between them
US Open they won one apiece.
In Federation Cup Court beat King twice.
Both have been inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame: Court in 1979 and King in 1987.

McEnroe vs Borg

How strange that after all those years of rivalry it was just a week or so ago as of 31 Mar 2005 that Borg put his trophies and racquets up for sale and it was McEnroe who talked him out of selling them. Perhaps it isn’t that strange though, because despite their highly different personalities and styles of play, they really respected each other when it came to playing tennis. Both of them were great tennis players and their rivalry was such that not even McEnroe lost his temper when playing Borg because he knew he needed all his energy to beat him.

John McEnroe was born in in 1959 and was a brilliant junior tennis player like Borg had been, but McEnroe attended Standford for a short time before he went on tour full-time. He won the French Open mixed doubles at age 18 in 1977 and then went into the junior and senior US Open events of that year. He never played in the junior event because he reached the semi-finals of the senior event. That was when John McEnroe started to become hot news.

McEnroe went on to win 3 Wimbledons and 4 US opens. He never won the Australian or the French. He played many Davis Cups and a lot of doubles though. He played 2 of the longest Davis Cup games on record in 1982 and 1987. He won 77 singles titles and 77 doubles titles, but as of 2006 we hear that he will play senior doubles again, having seen Martina Hingis and Martina Navratilova come out of retirement to win a few events, I’m guessing.

Borg was born in in 1956. He won 62 singles titles. He won 6 French Opens and 5 Wimbledons. He didn’t venture down to much but I did see an exhibition match between Borg and McEnroe in 1981 at Kooyong and strangely enough it was during this match that he confided in both McEnroe and Gerulaitus that he was retiring. Borg retired at the ripe old age of 25, so he had accomplished much in that time.

The biggest match Borg and McEnroe played was the Wimbledon Singles final of 1980. Many commentators say that this was the greatest match ever played. So what makes it so special? I think a match up has to include not only brilliant tennis minds and players with high degrees of skill but also with very different styles. These days slug fests from the back of the court are not very interesting, in my view. Also 2 serve volleyers with great fast and accurate serves can make a match a bit dull. But this was the match up of serve volley (McEnroe) and baseline two-handed backhands (Borg). It was also the cool, very fit and athletic Swede against the hot-headed New Yorker who had the strangest but most effective serve and great eye-hand coordination to make him a great volleyer from the net. Borg was also every girls dream while McEnroe was a bit gauche then.

This match was also between a man attempting to extend 4 consecutive Wimbledon titles to 5 (Borg) and another who was attempting to win his first (McEnroe). In 1979-80 Borg had been number one and McEnroe had taken top spot for about 3 weeks. This match would decide the number one spot. They had played 7 times but never in a grand slam.

Borg won the match but it was very close, taking the spectators to highs and lows as all good sport should do. It went to 5 sets. The first Borg lost 1-6. He then won the second and third and should have won the 4th except for a thrilling tie-breaker which McEnroe won. This tie-breaker was outstanding. McEnroe held 5 set points and Borg held 5 championship points. Borg went on to win the 5th.

During their careers, they met 14 times and each won 7 each. That Wimbledon had been Borg’s finest win but McEnroe did go on being younger and playing for longer, to win many more grand slams. McEnroe always admired Borg. He said he was the finest athlete he had ever seen on a tennis court and Borg always found McEnroe’s left handed serve extremely hard to return.

McEnroe continued in the serve volley mode which made him such a great doubles player, but Borg revolutionized tennis in that the two-hander and the baseline play is now the norm. More’s the pity in my view as the “Australian” style is more to my liking, but ’s top player plays the Borg way. He’s not as good, but the kids of Borg’s time took on his style.

McEnroe is still around the tennis world being active in many of its institutions and in being a commentator. He really lights up the court when he goes on to interview players at the end of a match and I love his knowledge as a commentator. Borg however left the tennis scene at the age of 25 going on to 3 marriages, scandals and many business ventures. McEnroe also had marriage troubles and invited Borg to his second marriage. The difference now is that you get the feeling that McEnroe loved the whole tennis scene and history of the game much more than the self-contained Borg ever did.

Evert vs Navratilova

There was never such a long rivalry in women's tennis as between Martina and Chris. They met 80 times between 1973 and 1988. They often met in finals. Martina won 43 of the 80 times they met. Both won 18 Grand Slam singles titles.

Unlike other rivals they respected each other a lot and were friends.
Their styles of play were complimentary.

Chris was the first famous tennis player to use the two-handed backhand. She was a baseliner and held her emotions in check, such that people called her the Ice Maiden.
Martina was a serve volleyer and net rusher. She had a great sliced backhand which she could follow up and come to the net. Her volleying skills were also suburb.

Off court they were different also. Martina was born in Prague but became an American citizen. She was open about her lesbianism and took part in politics. She wasn't always popular as a result, but I remember in amongst my lesbian friends she was a heroine. They weren't interested in tennis much but went to it to get a glimpse of Martina. Martina lost millions of dollars in sponsorships because of her openness.

Chris was Miss American pie and accentuated her femininity. She was very popular. She had also been engaged to Jimmy Connors and for that reason became a celebrity. She had other high profile relationships: Burt Reynolds, President Ford's son and Adam Faith. She then married John Lloyd, a British tennis player. That marriage didn't last and she then married the Olympic skier Andy Hill with whom she has 3 sons.

Evert won 154 singles titles and Navratilova won 167. They were well matched on court.

Chris Evert

Chris Evert was very young by the standards of the day when at 16 she got to the semi-finals of the US Open, beaten by Billie Jean King.
Her achievements were astounding

* She was the first player to win 1000 singles matches
* Her .900 winning percentage is the best in pro tennis history.
* She won 125 straight matches on clay, the longest winning streak on any surface.
* Her record of 55 consecutive victories (set in 1974) stood until Martina Navratilova broke it 10 years later.
* Her 154 tournament victories (second only to Martina Navratilova) is the second highest amongst both men and women.
* Evert was the first female player to win $1 million.
* She won 6 US Opens, 3 Wimbledon’s, 7 French Opens and 2 Australian Opens.
* She won at least one Grand Slam tournament for 13 consecutive years.
* If Evert had won the titles which Martina beat her in, Evert would have won nearly 200 tournaments.

Martina Navratilova

Martina was born in Prague. Her parents divorced when she was 3. She took on her step father’s name when her mother remarried. He was her first coach. By 15 Martina won the Czech national championship. She became a pro at 16 and while in playing the US Open applied for a green card. She became a citizen in 1981. It took a while for her to adjust to a Western style of life and she didn't really get serious about tennis until 1978. By July of that year she became number one,
just after winning her first Grand Slam event: Wimbledon.

Martina's partners were just as high profile as Evert's had been. She and Rita Mae Brown, the author, were openly in a relationship as she was with Judy Nelson, another author. These women were always at her tennis matches and commentators didn't know what to call them. They usually ended up calling them "friends". Even now, only Amelie Mauresmo has been really open about her sexual orientation. Many of the other female tennis players are lesbian but they don't advertise it. Martina had
been a trailblazer for women's tennis but also for lesbians around the world.
Martina's records

* She won 167 singles titles, the most of any professional tennis player.
* She won at least one tour event for 21 consecutive years.
* She won 1440 singles matches. She won the singles and doubles titles at the same event 84 times. She and Evert are fourth equal in terms of their Grand Slam singles titles.
* With Pam Shriver she holds the record of 109 consecutive doubles matches wins.
* She won a record 9 Wimbledon titles.
* She won the singles, doubles and mixed at every Grand Slam event.
* In 2003 she became the oldest Grand Slam winner (in mixed)
* She was ranked no 1 for 331 weeks, second only to Graf's 373 weeks.
* She earned $20 million dollars. This was surpassed by Graf later.
* She had a consecutive match winning streak of 74 (the women's record)

Martina still plays tennis professionally and was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 2000. She is a keen skier and golfer and co-wrote 3 mystery novels. She is still an active supporter of lesbian and gay rights.

Maria Sharapova

Maria was born in Russia in 1987. She began hitting tennis balls at the age of 4 and at 6 she participated in an exhibition match in Moscow which featured Martina Navratilova. Martina recommended to her the Nick Bollittieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Florida. In 1995, Maria and her father, Yuri Sharapova, decided to move to Florida in the USA. This meant leaving her mother for 2 years in Russia because of visa problems and financial troubles.

At the age of seven Maria and her father Yuri, who could speak barely any English , boarded a plane to the USA with only $700. When they arrived at Miami airport the next morning, her father took her on the handlebars of a bicycle to the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy without any notice whatsoever. They arrived at the academy and one of the coaches checked her out. The story goes that Maria knocked his hat off with the tennis ball, thereby making a favourable impression. This led to her obtaining a scholarship. At the age of 9, she was signed up by a number of sponsors including Prince (racquets), Oakley and Nike.

She did train at the Bollittieri Academy and at 14 Maria turned professional. In 2002 she reached the final of the Junior Australian Open, after which she joined the senior tour with a ranking of 186. In 2003 she made her first appearance as a senior in the Australian Open. This is when I noticed her. She seemed to have such determination and self-composure at this young age. She also had a few fierce ground strokes. Later that year she made the French Open and won her first titles on the WTA tour at Tokyo and Quebec. She ended 2003 ranked 32.

Maria really came to everyone's notice in 2004. She was tall, athletic and attractive. She reached the third round of the Australian Open, and then she won Wimbledon. In doing so she became the second youngest Wimbledon women's champion in the Open Era (after Martina Hingis ) by defeating defending two-time champion Serena Williams in straight sets (6-1,6-4). In the process she also became the first Russian ever to win that tournament. She also won Birmingham, Seoul, Tokyo and the WTA Championships in that year. She was beginning to see some serious money. She topped the 2004 prize money list with $2,506,263, one of a record five women to earn more than $2 million in 2004. That's just prize money though. She has many big sponsorship deals.

In 2005 she won Tokyo, Birmingham and Doha. She reached the quarterfinals or better at all 15 events she contested, including reaching the semifinals at three of the four Grand Slams, and falling to the eventual champion at all four. She also became the first-ever Russian to become No.1 in the world, doing so between late August and October, holding the top spot for a total of seven nonconsecutive weeks before surrendering it to Davenport. She ended the year ranked No 4.

Maria is the richest female athlete in the world, according to Forbes Magazine (July 2005). She is coached by her father, Yuri Sharapov and Robert Lansdorp. She studies via the internet and loves reading. She is definitely one to watch in the future, because, unlike many of the other big talents at an early age, I think she is well looked after, without the problems other female tennis players have had with their fathers as coach. She also seems unaffected by her enormous fame.

There has recently been some gossip about Maria. On November 24, 2005 it was reported that a Florida production company has sued her over the right to market a documentary about female Russian tennis players. The law suit claims that Sharapova objected to the use of her name and image in the documentary. "Anna's Army: Behind the Rise of Russian Women's Tennis." The DVD has already been shown, but in September IMG, the agency which represents Sharapova, sent a letter accusing the production company of misappropriating her name. The counter sue is basically that in America, 'we have the right to make documentaries about current events, subjects of interests' according to the attorney L. Martin Reeder, Jr., who represents the production company.