Wimbledon 2011 – Ranking Review

The grass court season is over and with the end of Wimbledon it means more ranking points have been lost or gained during the fortnight.

The women’s top 20 is pretty much unchanged with Petra Kvitova up one place after her Grand Slam success, progressing two steps further than her performance last year.

Sabine Lisicki is the biggest mover in the top 100 after having no ranking points to defend and then duly making it to the semi-finals. She’s jumped 35 places from #62 to #27 and sits just six places from her highest ever ranking position which she achieved in 2009.

Laura Robson’s first round victory was enough to see her enter the top 200 again and to a career high of #185.

The 17-year-old beat Angelique Kerber and rattled eventual finalist Maria Sharapova but lost to the Russian. She can now take heart from a season which looked like a step backwards as she’s now 32 places ahead of where she started in January having been much lower than that.

After always being behind her sister Karolina, Kristyna Pliskova has now moved ahead of her 19-year-old twin following a first round appearance against Marion Bartoli thanks to getting though qualifying. The Czech left-hander is in a career high position of #188.

Austrian Tamira Paszek has moved into the top 50 from #80 after the 20-year-old’s quarter-final run as Bojana Jovanovski dropped out of it.

There were also ranking rises for Rebecca Marino, Christina McHale and Coco Vandeweghe. Heather Watson remained at #106 and one place ahead of 19-year-old Misaki Doi who has shot up from #133.

The significant mover from the men’s tour was not surprising. Bernard Tomic’s breakthrough quarter-final run as a qualifier means he’s not only into the top 100 but deep into it at #71, an increase of 87 places.

Fellow 19-year-old Ryan Harrison is on the edge of the top 100 after qualifying and progressing to the second round. He’s at an agonising 101 in the world.

Grigor Dimitrov and Kei Nishikori both went up two places after second round appearances and had decent matches against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Lleyton Hewitt respectively.

Milos Raonic and Alexandr Dolgopolov dropped a solitary place and are next to each other in the mid-20’s of the rankings. They’ll be looking at the return of the hard courts to make further impact this season.

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Sabine Returns

Prior to Sabine Lisicki’s incredible victory against French Open champion Li Na, this post was due to be titled “Anyone for bagels?” as the young players struggled to make an impact at Wimbledon this year.

Two 19-year-olds in Melanie Oudin and Kristyna Pliskova were destroyed 6-0 in their opening sets of the first round before going out to Ana Ivanovic and Marion Bartoli respectively.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, another 19-year-old, made it to the second round but after reaching the quarter-finals at Roland Garros and being 14th seed it was a surprise to see her lose in straight sets to Nadia Petrova.

Sticking with the pre-20 age group Simona Halep almost produced a stunning result against one of the title favourites Serena Williams.

The Romanian, who beat Bojana Jovanovski in round one, took the first set versus Williams before the American turned up the heat and showed why she’s won at The All England Club for the past two years. Halep eventually lost 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 and saved suffering a bagel in the last set.

Second round casualties also came for Rebecca Marino, Polona Hercog and Christina McHale with the latter producing a great first round result beating 28th seed Ekaterina Makarova 8-6 in the third set.

Speaking of 8-6 in the third set, Sabine Lisicki is now firmly back amongst top level tennis again. You may have heard her story several times over the last few hours but it’s worth repeating.

Ranked outside the top 200 this year having been out for seven months with a severe ankle injury, the current world number 62 and Aegon Classic champion saved two match points to reach the third round of Wimbledon over Chinese sensation Li Na.

The tennis was outstanding, the drama even better and now her chances of equalling the quarter-final run she had in 2009 is seemingly possible.

Her next opponent is another Asian player but with very much less experience. Japan’s Misaki Doi is 19-years-old and ranked outside the top 100 but has come through qualifying and Bethanie Mattek-Sands’ tennis ball sleeves along the way to the third round.

Another good match-up is Maria Sharapova vs. Laura Robson. If Robson wants to announce herself on the WTA Tour then she’ll have no better chance to do so against the woman who won at SW19 as a 17-year-old.

Robson is at that age now and although her chances of emulating her junior win on centre court in the seniors, a victory over the fifth seed would top anything she’s done in her career up to this point.

For her compatriot Heather Watson, it was a disappointing end to a steady-looking win as an elbow injury ultimately left her serving redundant and an often wild Mathilde Johansson took the match 2-6 6-4 6-4.

The men didn’t have much luck either although there were some promising signs which still need to be decided tomorrow.

Grigor Dimitrov has been likened to Roger Federer and you can see why. He possesses such talent and looks like a Grand Slam winner of the future.

This year Jo-Wilfried Tsonga proved to much of a task to overcome after several rain delays but the recently turned 20-year-old fought all the way to the end, producing wonderful tennis along the way.

On the other courts Bernard Tomic and Ryan Harrison were busy announcing why they’ve been hyped along with Dimitrov.

Tomic continues tomorrow against Igor Andreev after winning the third set to make it 2-1 and David Ferrer will try to come back from 2-1 down against Harrison.

Elsewhere the dream third round tie between Milos Raonic and Rafael Nadal didn’t materialise after the Canadian had to retire in the previous round whilst Kei Nishikori battled but couldn’t prevent Lleyton Hewitt rolling back the years and taking a first round win. Alexandr Dolgopolov also lost to Fernando Gonzalez in the opening round.

Wimbledon 2011

A little thing called Wimbledon returns tomorrow and it never fails to deliver shocks, surprises, high-quality and new names.

Take, for example, last year. Petra Kvitova reached the semi-finals as an unseeded player and is now ranked in the top 10.

In my mind, she’s a Grand Slam winner in the making. Three WTA titles have come since then and with the Williams sisters rusty after only just coming back from injury, Kim Clijsters out and the courts on grass again, the 21-year-old could easily match her performance or even go beyond it.

Perhaps the biggest surprise 12 months ago belonged to Tsvetana Pironkova whom I’d followed every year at SW19 where she’d lose in the first or second round but mostly the first. Remarkably she then made the semi-finals.

Her record of zero WTA titles and only ever reaching the second round of the other majors indicates the 23-year-old’s unbelievable run was indeed a fluke and should those first round exits return then the 32nd seed will dramatically fall out of the top 100.

She can, though, savour and draw inspiration from beating Venus Williams (again) and should they meet this year, it will be very interesting.

Vera Zvonareva provided a different form of shock last year as her career renaissance started. Aged 25 and seeded 21st, not many expected her to reach the final but since then she’s come close to winning the US Open and has been in the top 5 of the rankings ever since.

It’s not just restricted to the women either. Tomas Berdych reaching the final, beating Roger Federer along the way, will go down as a monumental upset and despite all the hype of a “Fedal” final, the last two have been contested with Andy Roddick and Berdych.

Wimbledon Court One Panorama

The young players looking to make a name for themselves this year include a wealth of British talent. Laura Robson, who split from her coach just days ago, and Heather Watson have been given wildcards along with German Sabine Lisicki, a former quarter-finalist who’s back for the first time since that 2009 last eight appearance.

Kristyna Pliskova, junior Wimbledon winner in 2010, has made it through to the first round having qualified and will not have it easy against Marion Bartoli who was another shock face in the 2007 women’s final after conquering Justine Henin from a set and a break down in the semis.

In men’s qualifying Bernard Tomic is finally regaining the sort of form which saw him reach the third round of his home tournament, the Australian Open.

Despite being outside the top 150, he reached the first round in the French Open and has followed that up with a second first round appearance at Wimbledon.

There was also good news for American Ryan Harrison who qualified as a lucky loser. Tomic plays Nikolay Davydenko, Harrison faces Ivan Dodig and Grigor Dimitrov (the man compared to Roger Federer) will play 20-year-old German qualifier Cedrik-Marcel Stebe.

Elsewhere, Milos Raonic is in the same group of eight as defending champion Rafael Nadal while other men’s matches to look out for include Lleyton Hewitt vs. Kei Nishikori, Fernando Gonzalez vs. Alexandr Dolgopolov and Dmitry Tursonov vs. Ernests Gulbis.

The women’s draw contains a whole host of 20-year-old qualifiers but regularly-tracked American teenager Sloane Stephens didn’t join them after defeat in the second round of qualifying.

There are so many more young players in the women’s field than the men’s so some selected highlights include Christina McHale vs. Ekaterina Makarova, Melanie Oudin vs. Ana Ivanovic and Simona Halep vs. Bojana Jovanovski.

Ace of Baseline’s main coverage over the two weeks will centre around the juniors which start on 25th June but news from the young up-and-coming players in the main draw will also be featured. The full draws for the men’s singles and women’s singles are available via the official Wimbledon website.

The Pliskova Sisters

From the Williams sisters to the Bryan brothers, tennis siblings are becoming as frequent as Novak Djokovic’s 2011 wins.

Along with that aforementioned foursome of multi-talented singles and doubles players, the Radwanska’s and Murray’s have also emerged.

And with today marking the 19th birthday of another sister combination it’s a fitting time to introduce Czech twins Karolina and Kristyna Pliskova.

Kristyna Pliskova Karolina Pliskova (CZE)

Hailing from the small town of Louny, the pair currently sit either side of the top 200 fringes but neither has yet broken into the top 100.

Although twins, it’s pretty easy to tell them apart. Karolina stands one inch taller with brunette hair (as opposed to blonde), has a tattoo on her left arm and leg (Kristyna only has one on her wrist), and uses the opposite hand to her lefty sister.

Their record at junior level is pretty sporadic. Although Karolina won the Australian Open juniors last year her only other successful Slam run was at the quarter-finals of the US Open juniors.

Early first and second round defeats at the French Open and Wimbledon respectively are a stark contrast to her achievements in Melbourne where she defeated young Brit Laura Robson 6-1, 7-6 (7-5) in the final.

Kristyna lost in the semi-finals that year to Robson but did win a junior Slam at Wimbledon six months later. First and second round defeats for her at Roland Garros and Flushing Meadows show how typically in sync the Pliskova sisters are but with five ITF titles to her name and a top 200 spot, Karolina just edges out Kristyna.

But just in case you were wondering, they have played each other before; Kristyna coming out on top 5-7, 6-2, 6-0 for her only ITF victory.

No doubt there is a long way to go before the duo begin registering on the public’s consciousness. Although 19 is a young age on the surface (pardon the pun), the players who make it to the top have often already reached great heights on the professional circuit by that time.

And any suggestions that a career in doubles might suit better is squandered by their dismal ranking and failure to make an impression on the ITF circuit.

Neither have made an appearance at a professional Grand Slam thus far but this year they’ve both abandoned the juniors to improve on the senior tour.

Written on their joint website, both aim to make the top 100 this year in order to appear in more Grand Slam tournaments. Being the same age means there’s likely to be a pattern in their progression so a career in doubles could well materialise if improvements are made.

Don’t be fooled by the introduction though, a career anywhere to the level of the Williams sisters or the Bryan brothers is pretty much out of reach but they could certainly make a mark on the WTA tour in the future.

Williams Sisters Karolina and Kristyna Pliskova have a huge task matching sport’s greatest sister act Serena and Venus Williams

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