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The Year That Was – Best Of Vintage 2010
BEST ATHLETE OF 2010 – In the Oct. 17 edition of The Observer (UK), sports columnist Kevin Mitchell called Rafael Nadal “the world’s most dominant athlete.” “With Tiger Woods yet to regain his winning form, only Usain Bolt, surely, challenges Nadal as the biggest individual star in sports that can be gauged by their international spread. An argument might be made for Manny Pacquiao, the Filipino boxing wizard, but not with any conviction. No footballer stands out like Nadal does, no cricketer, basketball player, swimmer, jumper, rider, driver, or hitter.”
BEST PLAYER (MEN) – Rafael Nadal enjoyed one of the best seasons in the Open Era, winning three major titles at Roland Garros (defeating Robin Soderling), Wimbledon (defeating Tomas Berdych), and the U.S. Open (defeating Novak Djokovic), where he became the youngest player in the Open Era at age 24 to complete the career Grand Slam. The muscular Spaniard also captured three ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophies, reached the final of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, and finished as the year-end No. 1 in the South African Airways 2010 ATP Rankings.
Click photo: Caroline Wozniacki finished the year ranked No. 1 without reaching a Grand Slam final, while Kim Clijsters won the U.S. Open and Miami and beat Wozniacki
in the WTA Championships final.
BEST PLAYER (WOMEN) – Is it Caroline Wozniacki, who won six titles this year, from a tour-leading eight finals: Ponte Vedra Beach, Copenhagen, Montréal, New Haven, Tokyo, and Beijing? No, the blond Dane did not even reach a Grand Slam final, and the flawed ranking system threw out her eight worst results which helped her rank No. 1. Is it Serena Williams, who played only six tournaments, yet won the Australian Open and Wimbledon and reached the French semis? No, despite her terrific record at the majors, her record was way too short. The honor goes to No. 3-ranked Kim Clijsters who boasted both quality and consistency. The 27-year-old Belgian won five tournaments, including three big ones: her third U.S. Open, Miami, where she defeated Azarenka, Stosur, Henin and Venus, and the season-ending Tour Championships in Qatar, where she knocked off Wozniacki in the final after ousting Azarenka, Jankovic, and Stosur.
BEST MATCH (MEN) – Novak Djokovic courageously staved off two match points with two winners – a swinging forehand volley and a rocket forehand – to upset five-time U.S. Open champion Roger Federer 5-7, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 in the U.S. Open semis. Afterward, an ecstatic Djokovic said, “It’s one of those matches that you will remember for the rest of your life, not just because you won against one of the best players that ever played this game, but coming back from match points down and playing good tennis to win in the end. I am very proud of myself.” Honorable mention goes to the terrific semifinal at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals where Rafael Nadal outlasted Andy Murray, who blasted 53 winners, 7-6, 3-6, 7-6.
BEST MATCH (WOMEN) – Kim Clijsters survived two match points before winning her eagerly awaited rematch with fellow Belgian Justine Henin 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 in the Brisbane International final in January. About Henin, who was playing her first tournament out of retirement, Clijsters said, “She showed she’s already a top player, very competitive and talented.” Ashley Cooper, a 1950s Australian star, called their duel the best women’s tennis match he had ever seen. A close second was Clijsters’ 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 victory over world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha.
BEST SURPRISE CHAMPION – Only two weeks before her 30th birthday, undersized (5’6”) but highly gifted Francesca Schiavone, who had never before advanced past the quarters of a major, won the French Open. The flamboyant Italian shotmaker upset four top 11 seeds, including Samantha Stosur in the final. The stunning tour de force catapulted Schiavone to a career-high No. 6 ranking.
BEST DAVIS CUP FIRST FOR SERBIA – Down 2-1 entering the final day, unseeded Serbia celebrated their first Davis Cup title after Novak Djokovic tied it with a convincing 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 victory over France’s Gael Monfils and then Viktor Troicki thrashed Michael Llodra, who had not lost a Davis Cup rubber all year, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 in the deciding rubbed to secure a memorable 3-2 victory inside a rocking Belgrade Arena Sunday. “It’s historic,” exulted Djokovic. “This is our biggest success as individuals, as a team, as a country.”
BEST UPSETS (MEN) – Defending champion Roger Federer saw his record run of 23 consecutive appearances in Grand Slam semi-finals end when he was upset 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros to less athletic, but hard-hitting Robin Soderling, a player he had previously beaten 12 times in a row. At the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, 5’6” Olivier Rochus, ranked No. 59, shocked 6’2” Novak Djokovic, ranked No. 2, by 6-3, 6-7, 6-4.
Click photo: American brothers Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan clinched the year-end No. 1 ATP Doubles Team Ranking for a Tour record sixth time.
BEST UPSETS (WOMEN) – Tsvetana Pironkova, a 150-1 longshot, stunned five-time champion Venus Williams 6-2, 6-3 in the Wimbledon quarterfinals. At Marbella in April, Beatriz Garcia Vidagany, a Spaniard ranked No. 258, shocked Kim Clijsters 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.
BEST CAREER COMEBACK (WOMEN) – Justine Henin. Just having Henin – whom Billie Jean King once called “the best pound for pound athlete tennis ever had” – back on the Tour after a 20-month “retirement” is wonderful. Though hampered by injuries, the 28-year-old, seven-time Grand Slam winner managed to play nine tournaments and the Fed Cup. Her abbreviated season was highlighted by gaining the Australian Open final, where Serena Williams defeated her 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, winning titles at Stuttgart and 'S-Hertogenbosch, beating Elena Dementieva, Vera Zvonareva and Caroline Wozniacki to reach the Miami semis, and gaining the Brisbane final in her first tournament.
BEST FEDERER PARTING SHOT – If you thought Roger Federer was over the hill or even declining a little bit, the 29-year-old superstar disabused you of that misguided notion when he outclassed the field with five victories − beating opponents ranked Nos. 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7 in the world – to capture his fifth season-ending ATP World Tour Finals title. The only player to get a set off near-perfect Federer was archrival Rafael Nadal, who was overpowered in the 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 final in which he won only 13 points against Federer’s serve. “You played unbelievable all during the week,” Nadal accurately said afterward.
BEST DOUBLES TEAM (MEN) – American brothers Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan clinched the year-end No. 1 ATP Doubles Team Ranking for a Tour record sixth time. The 32-year-old twins’ memorable season included two Grand Slam titles – the Australian Open and the U.S. Open − giving them nine in their career, and four ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles (Rome, Madrid, Toronto, Cincinnati). The Bryans also were ATP World Tour Doubles Champions in 2003, ’05-'07 and ’09.
BEST DOUBLES TEAM (WOMEN) – Only three weeks after they debuted as a team at Birmingham where they reached the semifinals, unseeded Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova won their first Grand Slam titles of any kind at Wimbledon, upsetting four seeded teams. Proving it was no fluke, they captured the U.S. Open doubles crown, again knocking out four seeded teams. A close second were Venus and Serena Williams, winners at the Australian and French Opens, plus Madrid, while losing only in the Wimbledon quarters. Unfortunately, they played only four tournaments, a record too short to be awarded the top spot.
Vania King (right) and Yaroslava Shvedova
BEST DOUBLES RECORDS – Bob and Mike Bryan broke Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde’s mark of five year-end No. 1 finishes when they achieved the feat for the sixth time in 2010. The Bryan brothers also eclipsed the Woodies’ mark of 61 career titles as a team with their total now at 67. They are 11-0 in finals during the season, and if they finish the year without a loss in finals, they will become the first team in the past 30 years to win at least 10 titles without losing in a final. In February, they became the first duo in the Open Era to secure 600 match wins as a team.
BEST MARATHON MATCH – In the most memorable though relatively unimportant match at Wimbledon, 6’9” American John Isner battled unheralded Frenchman Nicolas Mahut for a record 183 games and a record 11 hours and five minutes over three days. After a record-setting, combined 215 aces, a record 113 smacked by Isner, and a record 70-68 deciding set, Isner prevailed 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68. If you think that caused urological torture for spectators, consider the 1939 test cricket match between England and South Africa that saw 1,981 runs scored and took place over eight days!
BEST MUTUAL RESPECT – “It’s not because we are from the same country that we must be the biggest friends. There is so much respect between the two of us, so I know sometimes people would love to hear there have been problems between us, but that’s not the case, never in the past,” Justine Henin, quashing suggestions about animosity between her and fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters.
Gianluigi Quinzi won 37 straight ITF junior matches.
BEST JUNIOR PROSPECT – Gianluigi Quinzi, who was named 2010 Tennis Europe Junior Tour Player of the Year. This fearless 14-year-old lefty prodigy from Port Giorgio, Italy, won 37 straight ITF junior tournament matches in 2010 and trains at the IMG/Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy where he won a tennis scholarship at age 8. “I have my father’s strength [of character], but, mentally, I’m more like my mother,” the talkative, 6’ tall Quinzi told World Tennis Magazine. “She was a champion skier. My mom says it’s OK to lose. My dad says you have to win, you have to win.”
BEST DAVYDENKO CONFIDENTIAL – “I am not Paris Hilton. I don’t want to be like this. I don’t want to be like Nadal, Federer. These guys I never see by breakfast. They stay in the room and take room service,” confided world No. 6 Nicolay Davydenko, who in early January had beaten both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal the last two times they played, on why he doesn’t mind keeping a low profile.
BEST SERENA CONFIDENTIAL – “I’m telling you, I don’t think about that kind of stuff. My thing is I love my dogs, I love my family, I love going to the movies, I love reading, I love going shopping. I would like to be remembered, ‘yeah, she was a tennis player, but she really did a lot to inspire other people and help other people.’ That’s what I think about, not about Serena Williams won X amount of grand slams.” —Serena Williams, saying she is not concerned with breaking the record for career Grand Slam titles.
BEST VENUS CONFIDENTIAL – “I feel like I have so much left in my strings to accomplish. I love playing. I want to win each tournament I play. I want to win the majors, play doubles and be in the Olympics,” confided Venus Williams, after overpowering Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-2 in the Australian Open first round. Unfortunately, Venus failed to win a Grand Slam title for the second year in a row.
BEST FEDERER CONFIDENTIAL – “Took me a long time to figure out that staying calm was going to be better for my game than not. I realized that only about at 20 years old. A long time coming sometimes,” confided Roger Federer. Known for his volatile temper as a teenager, he attributes his successful career partly to becoming calm.
John Newcombe: "Coming to the net can
BEST CRITIQUE OF TENNIS EVOLUTION – “There’s next to no variety because modern rackets make it possible to hit the hell out of ground strokes, which means coming to the net can be suicidal. Learning the game with wooden rackets taught you guile and improvisation. I like Justine Henin, who still has that beautiful one-handed backhand, and Andy Murray, who can come up with the unexpected.” — John Newcombe, 1960s-’70s Australian star, on the worst thing about the game today, in The Times (UK).
BEST HUMANITARIAN I – Maria Sharapova, whose parents lived in the region until the Chernobyl nuclear explosion forced them to leave shortly before she was born, donated $250,000 to the United Nations Development Program to provide children affected by the Chernobyl disaster with access to sporting activities. Sharapova said, “It has always been my dream to contribute to the recovery of a region where I have a personal connection.”
BEST HUMANITARIAN II – The Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year award went to Rohan Bopanna, a Hindu, and Aisam Ul-Haq Qureshi, a Muslim. The doubles team, nicknamed “Indo-Pak Express,” are seeking to build a bridge of friendship between their respective countries with their motto “Stop War, Start Tennis.” Qureshi was recently named a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador.
BEST SAMPRAS CHALLENGE TO USTA – “I have time on my hands. If the USTA wants to step up, I’ll make a champion. These young guys are still green, and I see so many things in their attitudes and games that need changing. I’m available for services.” — Pete Sampras, the 14-time Grand Slam singles champion who earned $43 million prize money during his storied career, saying the cash-flush United States Tennis Association has rejected his undisclosed price for coaching promising American juniors.
BEST SHAHAR PEER APPRECIATION FOR VENUS – “Doesn’t matter if it was this year or the year before when I didn’t get the visa. She stood up in that final and spoke for me. And when we did play over there and we played on an outside court, she was very humble. She always feels for me. She understands what I feel. She was the only one to step up and speak for me and show that she cares about these things.” —Shahar Peer, who was barred from the 2009 Dubai tournament because she is an Israeli, on Venus Williams who then spoke for the WTA when she said, “All the players support Shahar. We are all athletes and we stand for tennis.”
BEST VENUS CONNECTION WITH SHAHAR PEER – Venus Williams, who was honored in New York with an award from the Anti-Defamation League for her staunch support of fellow player Shahar Peer, said, “We have a certain special history together. I know she would have done the same thing for me or any other player. My parents both came from the South in the ’40s and ’50s, and just – you know, it was an outrage really. Just like, ‘Are you serious? Can you really exclude someone?’ This is professional tennis in 2010. We’re all athletes here. The feeling inside of me was just one of almost rage and discontent. Like, ‘Is this for real?’ ”
BEST CRITIQUE OF BLAKE – “The best guys have a little more variety. He’s like a guy who throws a 98-mph fastball. There are days when he’s unhittable. He’ll beat anybody but to consistently do that over seven matches in a major is quite difficult. At this point it would be a tall order to put it mildly for him to make a deep run into a major,” analyzed John McEnroe, not optimistic about the future of former world No. 4 James Blake who, at age 30, was then ranked No. 55 and falling fast, in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
BEST SIGN OF U.S. DECLINE – “It’s a big thing to say, ‘Look, there’s no American in the top 10.’ That’s certainly not something I take lightly. But it’s not that surprising when you look at the way the game has changed and the global nature of the game. Players are coming from all over the world,” pointed out Patrick McEnroe, the U.S. Davis Cup captain and general manager of player development for the U.S. Tennis Association, on the fact that no American men were ranked in the top 10, in the Aug. 9 rankings, for the first time since the ATP rankings started in 1973.
BEST STAR-STRUCK ADMISSION – “I surprised myself. I thought, it’s not going to be a big deal. I’m on the tour for many years. I’m grown up. But it was incredible. He tells you, ’You win with your mind and your heart.’ He promised to hit with me,” related world No. 2 Novak Djokovic, star-struck when he met “lifetime idol” Pete Sampras for the first time while tuning up for the Indian Wells Masters 1000 tournament.
Click photo: Mardy Fish lost 25 - 30 pounds and, at 28, finally began to live up to his considerable potential.
BEST ANATOMY OF TWO RIVALRIES – “We’re not from the same country, so that changes many dynamics in a rivalry. Then again, we’re not the same age, so that changes again…. We respected each other immensely and actually almost appreciated the other guy for being there and pushing you to become a better player, and I guess at times even a better person.” — Roger Federer, on the difference between his rivalry with Rafael Nadal and the tense and discordant rivalry between Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras.
BEST MEDIA CRITICISM OF MARDY FISH – “Surely, he is kicking himself for not kicking the French fry habit earlier. Might he have been a consistent top 10 player all these years, battling his buddy Roddick? Might he have (gasp!) a Grand Slam title? He will never know. But he feels there’s still time.” — Michelle Kaufmann, Miami Herald sportswriter, on career underachiever Mardy Fish, who decided to lose 25 pounds at age 28.
BEST STOSUR CONFIDENTIAL – “People keep saying, ‘You’ll get another chance, you’ll get another chance.’ I hope they’re right. Everyone just kept telling me how proud they were of me. It was happy but also sad and disappointing all at the same time. It’s amazing how a match can affect you afterwards. It’s definitely going to hurt for a while … [but] it will make me better and hungrier to get to that position again,” confided Samantha Stosur about her bittersweet emotions after losing the French Open final to underdog Francesca Schiavone.
BEST BILLIE JEAN POINT ABOUT TECHNIQUE AND PRESSURE – “The great Billie Jean King has always said a stroke is only as good as it can be under pressure. Pressure shows whether you have sound fundamentals or not. And Serena’s fundamentals have always been more solid than her sister Venus’s,” pointed out astute TV analyst Mary Carillo, on the major difference between the Williams sisters.
BEST “HOW TIMES HAVE CHANGED” – Serena Williams received $2.1 million Australian ($1.875 million U.S.) for winning the 2010 Australian Open singles title, while Margaret Smith received an umbrella for winning the 1960 Australian Championships singles title.
BEST IVANOVIC CONFIDENTIAL – “I see myself as two different persons. Once you are coming up and you have no expectations, you are hungry for success, you don’t really know what the stakes are. You have no fear. Once you actually get in a position to defend some points and there is more outside pressure coming in, it is a lot different story,” related former world No. 1 and 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic before plummeting in the rankings, after she routed Zheng Jie of China, 6-3, 6-0, while blasting 22 winners to Zheng’s 5 to advance to the U.S. Open third round.
Roger Federer with Queen Elizabeth: At a luncheon she advised him to hit more backhands
down the line.
BEST FANTASTIC FEELINGS – “I feel fantastic. I’m so, so happy. I worked so hard to get here. This is my first U.S. Open in, I don’t know, seven years or something. It feels incredible. It just feels so rewarding. I grew up winning since I was six years old. Once that has been taken away from you for years and you haven't had that feeling, [to get it back] is incredible, confided Mirjana Lucic, a 1999 Wimbledon semifinalist at age 17 and now 28, after earning her first Grand Slam victory in more than eight years with a 7-6, 6-1 first-round win over Australian Alicia Molik.
BEST KINDNESS – “It’s true also when I was struggling, she was [text] messaging me. She was very supportive. That’s really rare and really nice to see. In those times, you know who your friends are.” – Ana Ivanovic, revealing an anecdote about Kim Clijsters’ kindness after the veteran Belgian trounced her 6-2, 6-1 in the U.S. Open fourth-round.
BEST ROYAL ADVICE – Queen Elizabeth, seated next to Roger Federer at the Wimbledon player luncheon with the Queen, said to him, according to Federer: “She said I should hit more backhands down the line.”
BEST RUSSIAN QUOTE – Asked what it’s like when two Russians play each other, veteran Nadia Petrova said, “It’s like war.”
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How to Develop Consistent Approach Shots
Should your approach shots be hit hit a topspin, underspin, or relatively flat stroke? Well a lot depends on your style of play, your opponent grip and court position, and how confident your are hitting each of the shots. If you own all three shots, you can mix it up and make things more difficult for your opponent. The key here is to practice different scenarios and Tom Avery takes you through the drills step by step.
Building Your Serve Using the Pete Sampras Model
Pete Sampras rode his serve to 14 Grand Slam titles. Playing with incredible confidence, in many matches he needed but one good return game per set, knowing his serve would rarely if ever be broken. Aces delivered seemingly at will, many have and did serve harder, but no one has ever served with the combination of speed, forward spin, and accuracy. Want to serve better? Jim McLennan takes you back to the basics. And no one was ever more basic than Pete Sampras.
ProStrokes 2.0 – Ai Sugiyama's Serve and Net Game
Ai Sugiyama retired at 34 years old, in September of 2009 after playing 19 years on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. During that span she won six single singles titles and 38 doubles titles. Her best ever singles ranking was 8th, but she excelled at doubles becoming the first Asian women to hold the No. 1 ranking. But her most notable achievement was her Grand Slam streak, playing in 62 straight Grand Slam events. Never a big hitter, she played a baseline retrieving game, but she was solid off both wings and held her own–and then some–staying remarkably fit for years. New this issue, Sugiyama's Serve and Net Game.
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