One of the busiest and most attention-grabbing weeks of the tennis year has just finished. With players returning from the off-season in need of match practice, the first week of 2013 saw all members of the WTA top ten in action. Most chose to kick-start their Australian Open build-up in Brisbane, but Shenzhen and Auckland also attracted some big names.

Here is a brief rundown of what the WTA top ten achieved last week, and where they stand leading up to the first Grand Slam of the year…

Victoria Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka

The world number one looked in sensational form during her first two matches in Brisbane, defeating the dangerous floater Sabine Lisicki and then thrashing Ksenia Pervak. Unfortunately, a toe infection – apparently the result of a bad pedicure – forced her to pull out of a semi-final against Serena. Azarenka says should be fit and ready to defend her Australian Open title, and the limited match practice shouldn’t be a problem for such a focused player, but if the going gets tough in the early rounds in Melbourne, the injury may become a factor in the latter stages of the tournament.

Maria Sharapova

The French Open champion will be the only top ten player not to have struck a ball competitively before the year’s first Grand Slam, as a collarbone injury forced her out of her only planned warm-up event in Brisbane. The Russian is practising intensively, however, so the ailment appears to have been only a minor setback. Moreover, she didn’t play any lead-up tournaments before last year’s Australian Open, and made it all the way to the final.

Serena Williams

The American legend is the hot pick for the 2013 Australian Open title, and her exploits in Brisbane last week only confirmed her status as the front-runner. Serena charged through all four of her matches without dropping a set, and looked focussed and intense throughout – a worrying sign for her competitors. The younger Williams sister remains favourite to not only win a 16th Grand Slam title, but also recapture the number one ranking.

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Risk tennis a lost art form

Earlier this year I wrote an article about the pace of indoor surfaces and the demise of indoor carpet on the ATP and WTA tours. (see article here) Quick indoor carpet has been completely phased out in favour of medium paced indoor hardcourts based on the plexicushion surface. The slowing down in surfaces has led to a convergence in style of play and allowed defensive minded players to get to the very top of the game and stay there.

Recently Roger Federer called for surfaces to speeded up once again “It’s an easy fix. Just make quicker courts, then it’s hard to defend,” Federer said. “Attacking style is more important. It’s only on this type of slow courts that you can defend the way we are all doing right now.”

Roger Federer

When I spoke to the ATP spokesman back in February, he clearly gave the view the surfaces were slowed down and carpet phased out because there were too many complaints that the big serve was dominating tennis. That is a pity because my article clearly dispelled the myth that faster surfaces were only dominated by big servers, I pointed out that many baseliners loved the quicker surfaces.

Players like Ivan Lendl won over 30 tournaments on indoor carpet, much more tournaments on one surface than most players win in an entire career. Lendl won 5 year end Masters titles (ATP World Tour) and played in 8 straight finals between 1982 and 1989. Also Lendl won these titles against the likes of John McEnroe, Boris Becker, and Stefan Edberg.

Monica Seles was another player who excelled on indoor carpet, and yet both she and Lendl won multiple titles at the French Open, the slowest surface on tour. Martina Hingis also excelled on indoor carpet. In the mens game, Andre Agassi, Gustavo Kuerten, Lleyton Hewitt and Alex Corretja won the year end championships indoors whilst Jim Courier played in finals in 1991 and 1992 and Michael Chang in 1995.
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From Rafael Nadal to Victoria Azarenka to Andy Roddick, all players praised the retiring Kim Clijsters for her behaviour both on and off the court. Here’s a small sampling of their tweets:

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#1 in the world and leading the charge for a new era in women’s tennis, the Graphic Knit Tank and Flounce Knit Skirt define Victoria’s fast and fun style of play. A classic design remixed for ‘Vika’, the racer back silhouette of the Graphic Knit Tank provides great mobility. The Dri-FIT fabric and lightweight support of the Flounce Knit Skirt’s internal short will keep her cool and comfortable as she takes to the court.

Victoria Azarenka US Open outfit

Victoria Azarenka US Open outfit

2011 US OPEN TENNIS TOURNAMENT   /     ROGER FEDERER       -     Arthur Ashe Stadium Court, Flushing  NYC      -      09/03/11

All US Open 2012 posts are tagged US Open and are listed up below:

10 tips for your day at the US Open
US Open trivia

Fashion and gear:

adidas players outfits
Andy Murray adidas outfit
Ana Ivanovic adidas outfit
Fernando Verdasco adidas outfit
Maria Kirilenko adidas outfit
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga adidas outfit
Caroline Wozniacki adidas outfit
Kim Clijsters Fila outfit
Roger Federer Nike outfit
Maria Sharapova Nike outfit
Serena Williams Nike outfit
Victoria Azarenka Nike outfit
Petra Kvitova Nike outfit
Li Na Nike outfit
Sam Stosur asics outfit
Novak Djokovic Uniqlo outfit

A trip down memory lane:

Top 5 strange events at the US Open
US Open biggest upsets
1970 US Open: Margaret Court completes the Grand Slam
1971 US Open: Chris Evert becomes the “It Girl”
79 US Open 2nd round: McEnroe vs Nastase, chaos on court
1979 US Open: John McEnroe defeats Vitas Gerulaitis
1980 US Open: John McEnroe defeats Bjorn Borg
1981 US Open: Tracy Austin defeats Martina Navratilova
1981 US Open: John McEnroe defeats Bjorn Borg: Borg’s last Grand Slam match
Back in 1990: Sabatini and Sampras win their first GS title: part 1part 2
1991 US Open: Connors, 39 qualifies for the semifinals
1991 US Open: Seles and Capriati introduce power in womens tennis
1991 US Open: Stefan Edberg defeats Jim Courier
1992: Stefan Edberg defeats Pete Sampras
1994 US Open 4th round: Jaime Yzaga defeats Pete Sampras
2000 US Open: Marat Safin defeats Pete Sampras
2001 US Open: Venus defeats sister Serena
2001 US Open QF: Andre Agassi – Pete Sampras
2001 US Open: Lleyton Hewitt defeats Pete Sampras
2002 US Open: last Grand Slam title for Pete Sampras
2003 US Open: Roddick wins his first (and only) Grand Slam title
2004 US Open: First time to NYC for a French fan of Agassi
Andre Agassi gives the Open crowd one more thrill ride, August 31st, 2006
2011 US Open by the numbers

Recap and analysis:

Tennis’ Big Three at the US Open
The 2012 US Open favorites and their racquet
First week recap

Polls:

Who will win the 2012 US Open?

  • Roger Federer (39%, 73 Votes)
  • Andy Murray (29%, 54 Votes)
  • Novak Djokovic (23%, 42 Votes)
  • Tomas Berdych (4%, 7 Votes)
  • Juan Martin del Potro (3%, 5 Votes)
  • David Ferrer (1%, 2 Votes)
  • Other (1%, 2 Votes)
  • Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (1%, 1 Votes)
  • John Isner (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 186

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Who will win the 2012 US Open?

  • Serena Williams (35%, 39 Votes)
  • Maria Sharapova (23%, 25 Votes)
  • Petra Kvitova (14%, 15 Votes)
  • Victoria Azarenka (11%, 12 Votes)
  • Agnieszka Radwanska (6%, 7 Votes)
  • Other (5%, 5 Votes)
  • Kim Clijsters (3%, 3 Votes)
  • Caroline Wozniacki (2%, 2 Votes)
  • Sam Stosur (2%, 2 Votes)
  • Angelique Kerber (1%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 111

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