April 11, 2009

A Blast From the Past

After almost a month of high-intensity matches in Indian Wells and Miami, dominated by current all-stars and rising talent, this week some smaller tournaments were able to bring some not-so-new names to back into the spotlight.

Early exits by top seeds in Houston could have allowed players like Jurgen Meltzer and Jeremy Chardy get into their own groove. Instead, it was even lesser-known players like Bjorn Phau and Wayne Odesnik who made it to the semifinals. The #100-ranked American triumphed over the German Phau in straight set to make his first ever ATP final.

There he'll face the winner of a match that pits twenty-one year old Evgeny Korolev against former #1 Lleyton Hewitt, who's trying to recapture his one-time success in Houston. So far, he seems to be on a roll and hasn't dropped a set on his way to the semis. A win later today would earn him his first final round match since Las Vegas in 2007.

A little further east in Marbella, Spain, where Serena Williams lost her #1 ranking and her #1 round in the same day, a struggling Jelena Jankovic was able to get back on track. She lost her first match at her last two tournaments and has been upset by players like Kaia Kanepi, Marion Bartoli and Amelie Mauresmo, all of whom she should be able to beat. With Serena gone, though, she might have been able to pull together the confidence she needed to make her first final this year.

There she'll face Carla Suárez Navarro, who famously defeated Venus Williams in the second round of this year's Australian Open. Since Melbourne she hasn't been able to put together back-to-back wins and has lost to players ranked #71, #134 and #136 in the world. But this week she gained entry to the first WTA final of her career with a win over Sorana Cirstea. A title in Spain could give either woman the momentum she needs to start the clay-court season off strongly.

But some of the biggest comebacks were in Casablanca, where 22nd-ranked Igor Andreev claimed the top seed. He was ousted this morning by former world #1 Juan Carlos Ferrero who, six years later, is now in the triple-digits. Ferrero pulled off upsets of Christophe Rochus, Victor Hanescu and Andreev all in straight sets. As a prize, he gets to meet France's Florent Serra, a man who hasn't won a title since Adelaide in 2006, but also hasn't dropped a set this week in Morocco.

So as one-time stars try to make another play for tennis's elite, current #1's might be getting a little nervous. The last few weeks have done nothing if not shown just how tenuous the grip on the top spot is.

1 comment:

Kavitha said...

And so it goes -- most of the winners last week were players that haven't seen a championship podium in years.

Lleyton Hewitt outmanned the much less-experience Wayne Odesnik in straight sets for his first title in two years while Juan Carlos Ferrero "upset" the fifth seed Florent Serra and won his only crown since 2003.

Jelena Jankovic was the least dramatic with her win over Carla Suaรกrez Navarro -- she was #1 just earlier this year and took home four titles last year. Nevertheless, I'm sure she's happy to be back on track for 2009.

That makes three former #1 players all back on top -- at least for now.