The Golden Girl: A Look At Yaroslava Shvedova

With Kazakhstan’s campaign to boost its sporting profile, a number of Russian imports have converted nationality to represent the side at international level. From Ksenia Pervak and Galina Voskoboeva to the feisty Yulia Putintseva, there is no doubt they are acquiring some very useful players. However, Yaroslava Shvedova appears to be the greatest prospect with back-to-back Grand Slam performances indicating she may be back to the form that took her into the top 30 back in June 2010.

Her performance at the French Open last month matched her best Singles performance of her career, also in Paris in 2010. As a qualifier she reached the quarter finals defeating and handing out a bagel to the reigning champion Na Li before dropping out to Petra Kvitova, but not before giving the Czech an almighty scare by taking a set and break lead.

On the back of her exploits in France, she was awarded a wildcard to Wimbledon where she continued her great form. While giving Serena Williams a big test was very impressive, she will be forever remembered for her third round match against Sara Errani. Shvedova pulled off the very rare feat of a golden set** – where no points have been dropped in the winning of a set. Shvedova hit 14 winners including four aces on her way while Errani made only one unforced error, indicating it was much more about Shvedova playing well than Errani playing badly.

Ironically, she also holds the closest attempt at this record for a female when she won the first 23 points against Amy Frazier at the Memphis tournament in 2006 before going on to lose the next 2 sets without winning a game!

Much like fellow tennis star Janko Tipsarevic, Shvedova’s prescription eyewear makes her much more identifiable. It is not coincidence that once the rain fell and she had to remove her glasses that her game suffered, losing three games in a row to fall to a 5-7 defeat including two double faults to give Serena the crucial break points that she was not going to fail to convert.

Shvedova’s power game can match up with the best and this was in full force when she matched Serena for large points and even dictated many of the points. She moves well and is impressive at the net, something she can owe to her vast doubles experience. Her serve is a big weapon too with only Sabine Lisicki and Serena Williams serving a faster individual serve at any point at Wimbledon this year. Her first serve is consistently over 100mph and her average second serve speed was faster than Serena’s in their encounter.

Although Shvedova has picked up impressive wins in her singles encounters, there is no doubt the majority of her success has lay in the doubles. Her partnership with American Vania King led to a 5-4 record in finals winning Cincinnati, Washington and Moscow as well as back-to-back Slam victories at Wimbledon and US Open. With the Olympics coming up, the pair have disbanded for the time being with Shvedova teaming up with Galina Voskoboeva to play in London.

After an impressive 2010, the next year was not so good for Shvedova. Injury had caused her to miss the Australian Open and when she returned things didn’t get any better – winning only four main draw matches before the US Open. While some success was found on the Asian swing, she resorted to playing a number of challengers to regain form having made the quarter finals in her last tournament of the year in Taipei. March 2012 saw her make two ITF finals in Mexico, losing to Kiki Bertens in Irapuato and defeating Monica Puig in Poza Rica. Upon returning to the main tour she made a small run from qualifying to make the third round before suffering defeat to Sabine Lisicki in Charleston.

I think there is no arguing Yaroslava’s talent and she can definitely be a fixture of the top 20 and possibly top 10 in future. As with many women, talent is usually not the issue but the consistency of playing level. If she can showcase the form she has shown recently on a more regular occasion then she will be going deep into slams more and more often.

** Hot on the heels of Shvedova’s golden set was one completed in Panama City Challenger qualifiers by Colombian Felipe Escobar against the local Luis Nieves.

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Dark Horse Del Potro?

After his recent title victory at the Estoril Open, is it worth a punt on Juan Martin del Potro to win at the French?

Well, yes, it’s certainly worth a couple of pounds, dollars or whatever your currency may be but just don’t bet your mortgage on the 22-year-old Argentine.

Rafael Nadal is still far and away the favourite to claim a sixth crown at Roland Garros at just 24-years-old. And should he lose it’s most likely going to be to Novak Djokovic.

Del Potro is a rare breed though, being one of only four men on the tour who have won a Grand Slam since Andy Roddick in 2003.

That scenario was also true with Djokovic before his unbelievable 2011 form brought an Australian Open title, several other ATP wins and advertising deals aplenty.

Djokovic is now considered by some to be the best player in the world right now after two tour final victories over Nadal when he’d always been living in the shadows of the Spaniard and Roger Federer. So can del Potro get there also?

Another Grand Slam is definitely possible. A French Open success this year may be too much for a man still climbing the rankings after being at number 484 last February following a wrist injury.

Now at #32 the 2009 French Open semi-finalist might not have the stamina to go two weeks on clay with the extended best of five set format.

But players must be wary. A straight sets win over the 2009 and 2010 French Open finalist Robin Soderling last week proves the dark horse tag is suitable.

We’ll learn more from del Potro this week in Madrid, especially with a third round match-up with Nadal on the cards.

Del Potro

Elsewhere in the Mutua Madrid Open:

  • After disappearing from the tennis scene for a while Bojana Jovanovski returned to WTA action with a first round 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 win over Greta Arn.
  • Kei Nishikori lost his first round match to Spain’s Pere Riba 2-6, 2-6.
  • Dutch 22-year-old qualifier Thiemo de Bakker saw off world former world number one Juan Carlos Ferrero 2-6, 7-5, 6-4.
  • Doubles specialist Vania King has aided her cause for a top 100 return in the singles rankings after a 6-1, 7-6 (7-5) win over Nadia Petrova.
  • Wildcard Arantxa Parra Santonja is enjoying a resurgence in form. The 28-year-old beat Flavia Pennetta and Andrea Petkovic in the first and second round respectively.

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