October 21, 2010

How the Mighty Have Fallen

This seems to be a common theme in my posts recently -- that once-unstoppable stars seem to be struggling recent months -- and that trend has continued into this week's tournaments across Europe.

It started early in Stockholm, with the sixth, seventh and eighth seeds all losing their opening matches on Tuesday. And Tomas Berdych, who's only won a handful of matches since his stunning run to the Wimbledon finals back in July, followed up with his own first round exit on Wednesday.

Over in Luxembourg last year's most-improved player, Yanina Wickmayer saw her U.S. Open win over Patty Schnyder avenged, falling fairly quickly in her opener. And second seeded Aravane Rezai, a breakout during the clay court season, was trying to put together back-to-back wins for the first time since July. But after a tight win over qualifier Mona Barthel, she was smacked down by veteran Kirsten Flipkens yesterday, only winning one game in the forty-seven minute drubbing.

Then there's Moscow, where today former world #1 Jelena Jankovic, the surprise winner in Indian Wells in March, fell to seventeen-year-old qualifier Zarina Diyas -- ranked #268 -- in straight sets. After beating both Williams sisters on her way to the Rome finals, she hasn't lost to a player in the top twenty since the French Open and hasn't beaten one since May. Her exit comes a day after three-time champ Nikolay Davydenko, one of my favorites to win the Australian Open so early this year, lost two tiebreaks to Uruguay's Pablo Cuevas.

Now it's not all bad news for these players. We all know that tennis loves a comeback story -- ask recent Linz champion Ana Ivanovic, suddenly back in the top thirty, and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, at a career high ranking after following through on his Bangkok title. And with the 2010 season wrapping up, there plenty of time to reflect on what needs to be worked on and changed next year. None of these guys or girls are at the end of their careers, and they might just need to rework a few kinks.

And I sure look forward to their triumphant returns.

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