Tenaciously Tennis

Kvitova Loses; Ivanovic Forced to Play Qualifying

In her first match since an unexpected run to the semifinals at Wimbledon, Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic lost against Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegele 7-5, 6-2 at the Slovenia Open.

Kvitova, the tournament’s second seed behind Jelena Jankovic, should have easily won against the 98th player in the world. Instead, she succumbed to mental pressure, which isn’t a good sign after the career-changing result. An interesting fact, Kvitova — now a career-high rank of 30 — is just two days younger than Voegele. The only time the two 20-year-olds met was at Stuttgart in 2007. Kvitova won that match in three sets.

Kvitova beat a string of seeded players to get to the semifinal match against Serena Williams. Players that fell due to Kvitova’s powerful athleticism and blistering serve included: Jie Zheng, Victoria Azarenka, and Caroline Wozniacki.

Hopefully, we aren’t seeing the (Melanie) Oudin-effect — where a string of wins against high-profile players at a major is followed up by paltry results for a stretch until confidence is regained. I don’t think this is the case. In fact, I’m not sure if even Oudin deserves such a poor reputation just yet. I believe Kvitova (and Oudin) have the ability to go strong at the US Open Series. If these two can get their heads back in the game, the US Open is wide open, especially with Serena’s injury, which might keep her from the year’s final major.

Just as Kvitova seems poised to be a player going places, 2008 French Open winner Ana Ivanovic is sinking to a new low. The once high-profile glamor girl from Serbia now must play the qualifying tournament at the Montreal tournament with her ranking of 63 in the world. I can’t say I blame the tournament directors for denying Ivanovic the wild card, and giving it to Canada’s Stephanie Dubois.

Ivanovic only made it to the second round at the French Open and the first round at Wimbledon. At other events, she’s barely won two matches in a row. Something needs to start clicking for Ivanovic, quickly. Otherwise, she might just end up as another Nicole Vaidisova — a player with big promise that retires years too early.


New Rankings In – Henin Hones in on Top Ten; Nadal and Ivanovic Slide Slippery Slope

With impressive play to start off the year followed by a blip at Indian Wells, Justine Henin finds herself well on the way to cracking the top ten. Henin, who entered the ranking system by playing in her third tournament, is now ranked 33. If she can avoid poor play as in Indian Wells and concentrate on strong showings at the Grand Slams, I see Henin cracking into not only the top ten, but the top five by the year’s end. She has the dedication and conviction needed to make a move back to the pinnacle of woman’s tennis, especially with shoddy play of many of the top players currently.

In contrast to Henin’s impressive ascent in the rankings are the cases of Rafael Nadal and Ana Ivanovic. Both fell in the rankings due to injury and bad form. In Nadal’s instance, injuries have continued to hamper his physical game, including in his upset to Ivan Ljubicic at Indian Wells. Last year, Nadal won the even, explaining why his semifinal showing simply was not enough to protect his ranking. Assuming his health is back on track, Nadal should be able to not only reclaim the number three ranking, but catch up to Roger Federer, regaining his number two ranking. Federer, despite an early lose to Marcos Baghdatis at Indian Wells, continues to shine as the world’s number one.

Along with Nadal’s ranking dip comes a much more disappointing figure: Ivanovic’s leaving the top fifty for the first time in year’s with her loss to Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia in her opening match at Indian Wells. Last year, Ivanovic was runner-up at the event. If Ivanovic can somehow find her form and improve upon her fourth round showing at the French Open, the event she won in 2008, things might just start looking up for the Serb. Maybe she can take some confidence in compatriot Jelena Jankovic’s win at Indian Wells. Hopefully, she does not burn out like the young Nicole Vaidisova, who recently announced her retirement from the sport after years of poor play.

Safina, Jankovic Continue to Disappoint

Current number two player in the world, Dinara Safina, and former world number one, Jelena Jankovic, continue to disappoint with the former sidelined by injury, while the later exits from a tournament early.

Safina, who had a rocky Australian Open, pulled out of the Indian Wells tournament recently. After fizzling out at the finals of the 2009 Australian Open and French Open, Safina has simply not looked the same. Citing injury, it seems that mentally, she’s also suffering. Big time. Not quite to the same extent as former top-ten player and French Open semifinalist, Nicole Vaidisova, but if things don’t being looking up for the Russian, she just may end the year outside of the top ten. There will inevitably be a slippery slop back into the top-tier of the woman’s game, especially with Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters, and Maria Sharapova making strong comebacks. Safina needs to regain the power and mental toughness that took her to the number one ranking. It won’t be easy, but I believe she still has the ability to make it to a Grand Slam final. The only question is, can she actually win one?

Like her struggling compatriot is the Grand Slam-less and other former world number one, Jankovic, who bowed out early to Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, at the Monterrey Open. She lost to…who exactly? Apparently, Sevastova is a 19-year old player currently at her career-high ranking of #73 in the world. With solid play like she took to Jankovic, maybe there’s a strong career from her for the future. She might be someone to keep an eye out for.

Anyway, Jankovic needs to get back on track and possibly take advice from her compatriot, Ana Ivanovic who, although struggling, is showing signs of life by recruiting Heinz Gunthardt, Steffi Graf’s former coach, to her team. I don’t see things picking up for Jankovic, or Ivanovic for that matter, before Indian Wells.

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