Thursday, December 30, 2010

TTA? Looks Back #10: Wayne Odesnik ... wow

You probably didn't think it would happen, but here we are: kicking off the top 10!

Earlier in the spring, one of the coolest things happened to me in my life regarding tennis: I posted something I wrote about Wayne Odesnik on tennis social networking site Tennisopolis, and none other than Brad Gilbert gave it a shout-out on his Twitter page! (I'm still blown away by that!)

That Odesnik story was something else, and now it looks like he's about to come back. I haven't formulated a complete opinion on that yet, but what I'm going to do is post a link to the BG-approved entry:

This Is My Brain on Drugs

Enjoy, and remember, just say no!

(Photo: AFP)

TTA? Looks Back #11: They'll always have the Serbia Open

The last entry before we enter top-10 land on the 2010 retrospective.

For years, before there was even a Tennis Talk, Anyone?, I always thought that American men should be able to succeed on the red dirt in Europe. But before 2010, the last time one of them had won a singles title on it was in 2003, when Andy Roddick won in Austria.

That was a far cry from the days of former French Open champs Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Michael Chang--and even French semifinalist Pete Sampras. And speaking of those '90s stars, the last time there was an all-American final on European clay was in 1991, when Agassi and Courier squared off for the French.

See, to me, it should be simple for guys to have success over there: Hit big serves, then hit big forehands, then you can work your way through a draw. It finally happened when two of the game's biggest hitters--Americans John Isner and Sam Querrey--used that philosophy to get to the finals of the Serbia Open. Querrey won the title in three sets over his doubles partner for the week--breaking the seven-year winless streak.

Both of the guys played a lot on the dirt over the season and had varying degrees of success. But if that Serbia Open was any indication, there's no reason they--and other U.S. men--can't have more of it in the future.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

TTA? Looks Back #12: The Surprise Slam finalists

So, I'm trying to crank out the countdown before the New Year's: Will I do it? Stay tuned!

OK, a show of hands if you had Robin Soderling, Tomas Berdych, Vera Zvonareva, Sam Stosur and Francesca Schiavone making finals at Majors this year.

Just what I thought: No one else raised theirs! (I did because I picked Fran to make the French finals! : )

Really, though, it was nice to see those above players get that far in Slams (even though Soderling had accomplished that the year prior). Berdych was supposed to start making Slam finals years ago, many predicted, but had developed into Marat Safin-lite: all the talent, but even less living up to it than the now-retired Russian. Before 2010, I would've bet money that Zvonareva didn't even think she would make a Major final, but she got to two of them over the year. If Soderling only would have finished runner-up once in his career, I wouldn't have knocked that. To do it twice now shows he's really legit.

And what you can say about the French finalists on the women's side, Stosur and Schiavone? I'll get to them later in the countdown!

Anyway, a tip of the cap to those players as their runs at the big ones brought more to the game.

(Photo: The Guardian)

Monday, December 27, 2010

TTA? Looks Back #13: Andy Murray's Slamless run continues

Hope you enjoyed your holiday weekend, if that's the holiday you follow! Anyway, here's the latest "look-back"!

After Andy Murray made the finals of the year's first Major, the Australian, I don't know if you thought this, but I certainly did: There was no way he was going to go through 2010 without picking up a Slam.

Despite going down to Roger Federer in straights there, he'd been playing him tough and winning most of their encounters. Plus, Rafael Nadal was looking like he was definitely slowing down. The rest of the guys on tour couldn't hold a candle to Murray when it came to playing on hard courts or grass. 2010 had to be the year that decades-long streak of Great Britain going Slamless came to an end.

However, as we know now, that definitely didn't happen: Murray didn't even pick up a regular title until the second half of the year. And there were a few weird things, too: like Mardy Fish owning him and falling to Stanislas Wawrinka at the U.S. Open. You hate to call a loss to Rafael Nadal "bad" under any circumstances, but Murray falling to him at Wimbledon can almost be considered one, in my humble opinion, at one of the Majors he's supposed to have his best shot at.

His 2011 is already off to an odd start to me with the plan to keep Alex Corretja on as coach for the first half of the year. Corretja's game when he was a top-level player was like a weaker version of Murray's, based primarily on defense. You would think Murray would have gone in the opposite direction if he wanted to ensure '10 didn't happen again. Maybe things will work out for him, but you can bet he doesn't want another year like the past one again.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Friday, December 24, 2010

TTA? Looks Back #14: Venus rose to the 2 spot

I know—shocking, right? There's actually another Look Back! Here's the latest!

There was a lot of shaking up on the WTA rankings this year. I mean, who woulda thunk Vera Zvonareva could end the year at number 2? This, though, is about a player who spent some time in that prime rankings real estate earlier this year.

Keeping in line with some of the shocking ranking movement, Venus Williams' rise to number 2 earlier in the year caught a lot of folks by surprise. She won two tournaments before the halfway point of 2010—a great start. V was really looking like a serious contender to pick up at least one Major and perhaps even make it to number one.

Injuries cut short her season, but before they came into play, there was that kerazy upset loss at her Slam, Wimbledon, to Tsvetana Pironkova in the quarters. And then, if you were to look at it, Williams probably should've won that semi against Kim Clijsters at the U.S. Open. Plus, I know Nadia Petrova's a tough clay-court player, but based on form going into the French this year, maybe Venus should have taken their quarterfinal match.

So, really, who knows how the year could have gone for Williams? She ended it at 5, which is nothing to sneeze at. Rising to 2 showed she still has it in her.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

TTA? Looks Back #15: Where Did You Go, Svetlana Kuznetsova?

The latest in the look-back series, where I do some of my best past-pondering!

Funny thing about the year-end WTA rankings: Only two Russian players finished in the top 10.

And one of them was not Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Believe it or not, she didn't even finish in the top 20, the first time since 2003 that that had happened. That's an interesting stat, considering she's a two-time Grand Slam champ who should be at the peak of her powers. In 2010, she won only one event and made one other semifinal, both during the summer hard-court season. Those results had you wondering if the year-long slump was over and if she'd be a true contender at the U.S. Open. But she fell in the fourth round there.

So what happened?

Truth be told, I don't know! But here's what I think: Kuznetsova is going to be one of those players that will have sporadic results over the course of their career, simply because tennis is not the end-all, be-all for her. She seems to be a social butterfly who enjoys life, and you can't be mad at her for that. I'm not too worried about her, and if she won a Slam next year, I wouldn't be surprised.

(Photo: AP)

Friday, December 17, 2010

TTA? Looks Back #16: Ernests Gulbis' maiden crown

The second in my reflections on 2010--Tennis Talk, Anyone?-style!

As I mentioned in my previous post, by the time Indian Wells rolled around a few youngsters had really been making waves on tour in '10. One of them was a guy many thought would've really made them back in '09. Or maybe back in '08?

Ernests Gulbis' start to the year wasn't really anything to write home about until he got to the stop in Memphis. There, he made the semifinals, bouncing two Czechs (how's that for a pun) out of the tournament--super-talents Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych--along the way. He lost to Sam Querrey, but so did a lot of players over the year. Time to pack up the bags and head to Delray Beach, Fla., for more tennis.

Now, if you've been following Gulbis over his career so far and saw that he was slated to play a tournament right after making a good run in one, you'd probably think, "He could lose in the first round as well as win the thing." Maintaining form hasn't meant much when it comes to guesstimating the young Latvian's chances on tour.

He didn't lose in the first round, so that was a plus. What he did do, though, was win the first tournament of his career, beating serving machine Ivo Karlovic in the finals in straights. As a matter of fact, he didn't drop a set the whole tournament! Could it be that he was finally ready to make his predicted-by-many move into the top 10?

It didn't happen, as he was slowed by injury. But it was nice to see him start to match some of the hype. And who knows? Maybe 2011 will see more titles come his way--or more first-round losses... you never know!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

TTA? Looks Back #17: The 'Lube' job at Indian Wells

OK, my calendar was a little off, but here's the first entry in my look back on 2010's biggest stories!

By the time the first Masters series event of the year rolled around in March, Roger Federer had already won the Australian, and young guns like Sam Querrey, Marin Cilic and Ernests Gulbis had already won titles.

However, it was an old dog showing the youngsters some new tricks in Indian Wells as Ivan Ljubicic won the biggest title of his career, beating Andy Roddick in the final.

Now, that win against Roddick was a good one, but perhaps a little more impressively were the scalps he claimed in the 16s and semis--Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. That win against Rafa was his first since 2005; back before Nadal was Nadal.

Anyway, it was nice to see Ljubicic, who had lost a lot of finals in his career and all of the Masters Series ones he played, come through to grab a big one. The rest of the year was kinda ho-hum for him, but he'll always have Indian Wells!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The TTA? countdown on 2010 starts tomorrow!

Hey everyone, please pardon the lack of posts over the past week and a half or so. I haven't forgotten about ye olde TTA?: It's my baby!

Anyway, to segue into 2011, starting Tuesday, I'm going to reflect back on '10 with a posting a day looking at the top stories of the year, countdown-style. I always try to switch it up when I'm looking back, so hopefully you'll like this year in review!