Bernard Tomic’s struggles..

Back in the summer of 2011, Bernard Tomic was setting alight the tennis world with an impressive Wimbledon run, making the quarter finals as a qualifier. His mature performances that tournament led to many believing they were seeing a  grand slam champion and/or World No.1 in the making.

Since then, things haven’t been so easy for the 19 year-old. Tomic is currently on a six match losing streak, doing very little to impress after a promising start to the year where he made the fourth round of the Australian Open, losing in straight sets to Roger Federer.

The Aussie’s temperament has always been questioned and he is never far from controversy – Tomic and his team famously rejected the requests of Lleyton Hewitt for a practice hit. Hewitt’s manager claimed that the reason given for this was that Hewitt was considered “not good enough” but this was a claim denied by Tomic himself. More recently, Tomic was involved in a police stand-off over a dispute about traffic tickets he had accrued in his Orange BMW M3.

Much like another Australian with Croatian heritage in Jelena Dokic, Tomic’s controversies are not just on himself but also due to an overbearing father. At 16, Tomic was banned from the ITF Tour for a month after his father, John, had forced him to default the match by walking off due to the bad decisions he felt he had been on the wrong side of.

He is also alleged to have threatened Tennis Australia officials with the possibility of his son switching countries and representing Croatia on a national level after feeling Bernard was treated badly by the organisers of the Australian Open in 2010. During the Miami Masters, Bernard even asked the umpire if he could remove his dad from the stands as he felt he was an annoyance.

While Tomic has made his dislike of the clay clear in the past, he at least looks like is trying to do something to improve it by playing as many tournaments as he can on it, rather than shying away like some players do.

In an interview for the ATP website before the Monte Carlo Masters, Tomic felt he had new-found confidence and it was there to be seen as he defeated Denis Istomin in the first round to earn his first main tour win on clay. He felt that is issues on the dirt were mental and physical as opposed to a skill-set not suited to the surface.

“That’s the key for me playing on clay, is for me to feel physically fit. You know, today I felt good.  I’m starting to learn how to play on clay……… It’s a little bit more endurance.  I’ve got to put in my head to compete and to stay in there.  If I do that, then I can play with anyone on this surface.  Not like the last few years where if I’m down on clay, I stopped believing in myself and it’s tough to come back.  I keep complaining that clay’s not good.  You know, you just got to stay positive, play your game.”

Unfortunately since then, the results have been slow to follow but he did pick up his first French Open win with a straight sets victory over Andreas Haider-Maurer, but was dispatched of with ease in the next round by Santiago Giraldo. Most recently, Tomic was defeated (and bagelled) by Benoit Paire and lost to Thomasz Bellucci after having a 4-1 lead and a great chance to at least take a set against a good clay courter.

While it is definitely far too early in Tomic’s young career to write off his chances of ever succeeding on clay, major improvement will be needed in 2013 if he is to reach the ranking heights that many are expecting of him.

With the clay season now over for himself, Tomic has the chance to redeem himself on grass in the Olympics after a poor Wimbledon outing where he was sent packing in the first round by David Goffin. The loss of 350 points is a big issue for him and may see his ranking slip a fair bit if he does not have a good US hard court season.

Tomic, along with Ryan Harrison and Milos Raonic, is only one of three players born in the 90’s to be in the current top 50 so even if he hasn’t lived up to expectations from last year he is still progressing well for age and has plenty of time before he can be written off as overhyped.

With very few ranking points gained pre-US Open last year, a good performance in the Olympics, Cincinnati or Canada could set him up nicely for a seeding at the grand slam and a good chance to make the second week with a favourable draw. Tomic is already a winner there as a junior in 2009, having beaten Chase Buchanan in the final.

Even if Tomic has not gained the results on the clay swing this season, I think the experience will be good for him and he can only improve. For now, he needs to concentrate on putting some good results together in North America and defending the points he gained in Asia. If he maximises his potential as many think, in three or four years we could be seeing Tomic following the footsteps Lleyton Hewitt in picking up a grand slam or even world no.1 after the current dominant crop retire or fall out of contention.

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Filip Peliwo Wins Boys’ Singles Title

Just a day after Eugenie Bouchard became the 1st Canadian winner of a Grand Slam in Singles, Filip Peliwo completed the double with a shock victory over defending champion and No.1 seed Luke Saville in straight sets 7-5 6-4 to become the Wimbledon Boys’ Singles Champion.

After going down an early break, Peliwo reeled off four games in a row to take the first set 7-5 from 3-5 down. The second set followed much the same pattern with Peliwo recovering from an early break to finish off in style with an ace on championship point. In taking the title he will also take over the Junior No.1 ranking from his opponent.

With this victory Canadian juniors took home three of the four titles available as Eugenie Bouchard and American Taylor Townsend picked up the Girls’ Doubles title with a 6-4 6-3 victory of Ana Konjuh and Belinda Bencic.

Eugenie Bouchard Wins Wimbledon Girls’ Singles

In what will be her last Wimbledon as a Junior, Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard picked up the Girls’ Singles title with a 6-2 6-2 victory over Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina. On her way to the final Bouchard defeated the likes of Antonia Lottner and Anett Kontaveit dropping just one set. In a commanding display the Canadian was broke just once with an impressive winners to unforced errors ratio of 21 and 14.

Bouchard’s title is the first for a Canadian in a singles event at a Grand Slam and was the first final for any Canadian woman in 18 years. Her success is not just restricted to the singles circuit either, having teamed up with Taylor Townsend to reach the Girls’ Doubles final in which she will face Belinda Bencic and Ana Konjuh in an attempt to achieve an impressive double. Filip Peliwo also has a chance to bring Canada more success when he takes on the defending champion and No.1 seed Luke Saville in the Boys’ Singles final.

It will be interesting to see what kind of impact Eugenie has on the main tour and the victories in two Swedish ITF’s in May can only be promising for her. As with all Junior champions, she can look forward to at least a Qualifying Wild Card for next years tournament.

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.

Ace of Baseline is under new ownership!

Hi, due to Lewis’ limited time in which to update Ace of Baseline, he has handed over ownership of this blog to myself.

I am a fan of both tours and watch tennis most days, be it the main tours or challenger level. When it comes to my favourite male players I definitely prefer Federer over Nadal and also John Isner. On the WTA tour, I am a Maria Sharapova fan and also admit to being a bit of a Melanie Oudin fanboy!

I intend to carry on as Ace of Baseline with coverage of both tours up and coming stars as well as more regular previews and reviews of the weekly tournaments as well as anything else that takes my fancy.

I will hopefully have something up within the week but in the mean time will leave you with my predictions for the rest of Wimbledon 2012.

Mens

Djokovic d. Troicki

Gasquet d. Mayer

Federer d. Malisse

Youzhny d. Istomin

Ferrer d. Del Potro

Murray d. Cilic

Tsonga d. Fish

Kohlschreiber d. Baker

Djokovic d. Gasquet

Federer d. Youzhny

Murray d. Ferrer

Tsonga d. Kohlschreiber

Djokovic d. Federer

Murray d. Tsonga

2012 Wimbledon Men’s Singles Champion Novak Djokovic

Womens’

Sharapova d. Lisicki

Clijsters d. Kerber

Radwanska d. Giorgi

Peng d. Kirilenko

Williams d. Shvedova

Kvitova d. Schiavone

Paszek d. Vinci

Azarenka d. Ivanovic

Sharapova d. Clijsters

Peng d. Radwanska

Kvitova d. Williams

Azarenka d. Paszek

Sharapova d. Peng

Kvitova d. Azarenka

2012 Women’s Singles Champion Maria Sharapova

Let’s hope for a second week of great tennis and no rain!

Aaron

Post-Wimbledon Blues

In my early youth I believed June was the worst month of the year for sport; then I became a tennis fan and quickly realised July tops it by a long stretch.

Summer sports like golf and cricket don’t fill the void left by the football season’s conclusion and, besides the first week where the Wimbledon schedule spills over, tennis doesn’t either.

All the top players disappear for two to three weeks once Sue Barker’s wrapped up the closing ceremony on Centre Court and, due to my UK residency, so does the coverage of the sport.

Luckily I have a companion who bets and he’s always looking for a tennis punt. He’s been keeping me updated on which players have been making the most of this July tennis drought.

Here’s a summary:

The next big buzz after Wimbledon came from the Davis Cup. Bernard Tomic and Kei Nishikori were in action for Australia and Japan with both helping their respective countries to victory. Japan will next face India with the Aussies taking on Switzerland when the World Group Play-offs commence in September.

Ksenia Pervak continued her recent good form by reaching the semi-finals of the Gastein Ladies and losing out to third in the world Vera Zvonareva at the Baku Cup. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova lost in the quarter-finals of the latter event.

In a tournament where John Isner was the top seed, Grigor Dimitrov couldn’t make the most of another grass court event after his second round exit to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at Wimbledon. He lost to 18-year-old American Denis Kudla in Newport, Rhode Island before travelling to Atlanta and falling to Rajeev Ram in the first round despite being seeded fifth. In the same tournament, Ryan Harrison reached the semi-finals before losing to eventual champion Mardy Fish. Harrison is also well inside the top 100 and improving on his highest ever ranking position all the time while Dimitrov is still at a respectable #57.

Wimbledon semi-finalist Sabine Lisicki continued her remarkable comeback by reaching the same stage of the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, joining 22-year-old Dominika Cibulkova. The German was cast aside by an imperious Serena Williams whilst the Slovakian had to retire before her match with Marion Bartoli but her ranking has improved to world number 16.

Youngsters Tamira Paszek and Irina Falconi both made the semi-finals of the WTA International tournament the Citi Open. Austrian 20-year-old Paszek made the quarter-finals of Wimbledon and has seen her world ranking increase to number 36 in the world while American 21-year-old Falconi is back in the top 100. Bojana Jovanovski made the quarter-finals and Eugenie Bouchard reached the second round as a wildcard.

As the hard court events got underway Ernests Gulbis produced a stunning turnaround from recent form. The 22-year-old ended a five-match slump to win his first round match at the Los Angeles Tennis Open against fifth seed Xavier Malisse. From then on the Latvian seemed re-born, smashing former US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro 6-2, 6-4 en route to winning the tournament outright 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 against top 10 player Mardy Fish in the final. He’s now rose 29 places to number 55 in the world.

Ernests Gulbis

Life after the Sicki

Sabine Lisicki Sabine Lisicki, Germany’s former number one tennis player, looks to be heading back to the heights where she belongs.

Her success at the Aegon Classic is only her second WTA tour title but she should have won so many more by now had it not been for an ankle injury suffered in April 2010.

In 2008, she burst on to the scene as a qualifier reaching the third round of the Australian Open before making the quarter-finals at Wimbledon a year later.

A dramatic drop followed as her ranking points gained at SW19 were not defended and she even fell out of the top 200 this year.

Battling through qualifying events, her form gradually picked up and despite a second round loss to Vera Zvonareva at the French Open last month, where she had a match point at 5-2 in the third and lost it 7-5, a return to the top 100 followed.

Last week she overcame Peng Shuai and former champion at Birmingham Magdalena Rybarikova to set up her first final since the injury.

In fact, her match against Shuai was the first semi-final since the injury and after beating Daniela Hantuchova 6-3, 6-2 in the final today her ranking has increased 38 places to #62.

At 21, she still has every chance of matching her highest position of number 22 in the world and with the amount of older players proving their worth she could easily surpass it.

A top 50 place could be beckoning should she do well at Wimbledon and as an unseeded wildcard many players will fear facing Lisicki on grass.

Her serve, in particular, is back in shape having smashed a total of 43 aces over the whole tournament and eight in the final.

A sigh of relief can now be heard from across Germany as it looks like there are three high-calibre German players on the tour with Julia Goerges and Andrea Petkovic in the top 20 already. Surely one of them can banish the Steffi Graf era.

Grigor Dimitrov

Last week at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham I reluctantly purchased a programme for £5 to pile on top of the expenses of my four-day Parisian venture.

Maria Sharapova and Marion Bartoli were featured inside despite not partaking in the tournament whilst Ana Ivanovic wasn’t despite making the semi-finals. The joys of an ever-changing sporting landscape.

Luckily the advertisement-filled glossy proved a decent buy thanks to a three-page section entitled “The Next Generation”. You can see why it would be of some interest.

In it, there were six players (three from either sex) whom we are told to “keep an eye on”.

I arrogantly told my accompanying friend I’d been tracking Bojana Jovanovski, Heather Watson and Milos Raonic since the early days of this blog and had also covered Alexandr Dolgopolov and Christina McHale in some capacity too. But the one I hadn’t mentioned at all on here was Grigor Dimitrov.

This is how they described the Bulgarian:

Sees himself as a future world no.1 and believes he has no weaknesses. Former coach Peter Lundgren, who helped Roger Federer to his first Grand Slam title, has said that Dimitrov is a better player as a teenager than the Swiss was in his teens.

Without wanting to reach cocky-level again, I did know of Dimitrov before but thought against writing a post or checking his progress at Grand Slams or on tour.

Yet he’s being compared to Roger Federer? A closer inspection, therefore, is a must.

So far Dimitrov has reached a peak of #63 (on his 20th birthday no less) and hasn’t moved much from that position achieved a month ago, dropping just one place.

He’s quite a tall player at 6’2” and possesses the element that draws the Federer comparisons, the one-handed backhand.

His best achievements have been the boys’ singles titles at Wimbledon and the US Open which led to his junior world ranking of number one. Federer didn’t succeed with the middle of these three triumphs but did reach the final at Flushing Meadows losing to David Nalbandian.

And this is where the career paths begin to shift in opposite directions. Dimitrov has yet to win an ATP World Tour title or make a mark on the Grand Slam stage at senior level.

Comparing him to the greatest player of all time is daunting. Looking at his chances compared to his fellow prospects shows he’s still in with a chance of making it, albeit not to Federer’s level.

Also featured next to Dimitrov were Raonic and Dolgopolov. The former just turned 20 when he made it to the fourth round of the Australian Open before going on to win his first ATP World Tour title in San Jose whilst the latter made it to the last eight in Melbourne as a 21-year-old.

Therefore the next few months are going to be critical for Dimitrov. Raonic and Dolgopolov are now established top 50 players and earning seeding positions.

If Dimitrov is to make half as much impact as Federer he’ll have to catch up with the aforementioned duo rapidly. With the grass court season upon us, he may just do that but improving his return of serve is critical having only won 18% of 154 return games played this year.

Certainly, I’ll be looking out for him more in the next 12 months. The Federer backhand is the most wonderful stroke in the sport and to see it executed for another ten years at the top of the game via the hands of Dimitrov would be a delight.

Naomi calls it a day

Naomi Cavaday serving Today I awoke to the news Britain’s Naomi Cavaday has retired from professional tennis. It came as quite a shock but evenmore so when discovering her age.

At 22 it’s a vastly premature end to her career which only last year saw her reach a peak of 174th in the world. Having not played at all this year her current position of 231 isn’t too bad either for the British number five.

In an LTA announcement she doesn’t cite a specific reason for her retirement but revealed she’s been suffering from depression as well as an eating disorder.

Despite saying she’s ‘worked through and overcome these issues’ there must be some lingering effects or her announcement wouldn’t have been made, so it’s a huge shame these problems have halted her progression.

Her greatest moments came at Wimbledon, like so many other British players. The wildcard entries the young and inexperienced players receive every year are often the only times they ever have the affection and attention of their fellow Brits.

But they frequently fall in the first round to heavy tournament favourites and this was the fate of Cavaday in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Her loss to Martina Hingis is 2007 will be particularly haunting after holding two match points.

Her decision to reject a wildcard entry last year is admirable but somewhat daft. The likes of Elena Baltacha and Anne Keothavong only reached the top 100 in their mid-20’s and would have used their annual Wimbledon first round match as a springboard to get there.

However, Cavaday’s frustration is understandable. To have only one real match a year where people have their eye on you must feel unjust.

And even if you win, like in the case of Sarah Borwell, you can quickly be forgotten once the second round demolition has taken place.

The truth is if you’re not a touted prodigy like Heather Watson or Laura Robson then when June comes around it is your only highlight of the tour, if not your career.

The likes of Melanie South, Georgie Gent and Katie O’Brien along with male players Alex Bogdanovic and James Ward will testify that.

Baltacha and Keothavong are exceptions but it’s sad that we will never find out if Cavaday would have joined her fellow compatriots in making the top 100.

The decline of Roger Federer

Finale Roland Garros 2009 : Roger Federer Roger Federer should quit tennis by the end of the year.

His latest quarter-final defeat to the hands of Austrian Jurgen Melzer at the Monte Carlo Masters has proven how far he’s fallen.

Having already lost his number one world ranking to Rafael Nadal, the 16-time Grand Slam winner has dropped to number three in the world and looks more likely to fall further than return to his former glory.

It’s a sad state of affairs for the Swiss. Many people, me included, would say he’s the best player in tennis history so for his sake he should retire rather than turn into a Lleyton Hewitt.

Pete Sampras left the sport around the same age as Federer is now after winning the 2002 US Open and was remembered in such high esteem despite a similar bad patch during the turn of the millennium.

One hopes Federer can also produce one more triumph before retirement but here’s how I see the 29-year-old’s season from here.

He’ll no doubt lose at the French Open. Before it was always to Nadal in the final but the likelihood is he will fall at the quarter-finals or semis.

When he then loses at his beloved Wimbledon again the mind will then creep towards retirement. Losing to Tomas Berdych in last year’s quarter-finals was a huge shock and if he does something similar in 2011 it could spell the end.

Another tournament he’s always been dominant in is the US Open. Novak Djokovic has proven unstoppable on the hard courts during the early stages of this season and that may well see him crowned winner at Flushing Meadows should he continue his fine form on his charge to number one.

Come the time when the ATP World Tour Finals is set to take place Federer may have won a few more singles titles but his previous dominance will have diminished.

The chances are he’ll want to say goodbye to Wimbledon’s centre court so one more send-off year could happen but the end of the Federer reign is undeniably here.

Looking at it from a different perspective, what does that mean for the rest of the ATP tour? It certainly gives the likes of Andy Murray a chance of a first Slam and Juan Martin Del Potro the chance of more.

Djokovic and Nadal may be fantastic players but they’ve never really had a dominating career like the one Federer has had. Djokovic is reaping the benefits of Federer’s decline already and others could follow.

Whilst every major had Nadal or Federer as clear favourites some more of the top ten will be fancied in this new era of tennis.

As unfortunate a loss to tennis as Roger Federer is, it will blow the men’s tennis field a little bit more open.


Some classic Federer from his 2010 US Open fourth round tie against Brian Dabul

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