Dreaming Big, Fearing Little

Alison Riske has the last name to fit her mindset, but more importantly, she has the mindset to fit the grueling grind that is life on the WTA Tour.  After passing on a scholarship to Vanderbilt (where her big sister Sarah once attended) in 2009, Pennsylvania native Alison Riske has made a steady climb up the rankings to justify her sacrifice.


Her decision wasn’t an easy one, but now that it’s in Riske’s past, she can focus on the business of establishing herself in the highly competitive world of professional tennis.  “It’s kind of a touchy subject,” Riske said about going pro in an interview with the WTA this summer.  “I mean, they (Vanderbilt) had been planning on me being there, and so I feel really bad about that to this day. But I’m living my dream.”


Sports fans have become accustomed to praising those athletes who altruistically forego money for an education, but in Riske’s case, her story is every bit as inspiring – perhaps even more so.  Knowing full well that tennis is a young person’s sport, Riske opted out of Vanderbilt two weeks before she was due to arrive on campus, and since has embarked on a journey across the globe that has not only broadened her view of the world, it has also strengthened her bond with her sister Sarah, who is a now her coach and confidant.


Riske’s story is about more than just tennis, family, or seeing the world.  It is a symbol of courage, conviction, and the undying thirst for the game.  It is about believing in your dreams, and having the gusto to back them up, even during adverse times.


2010 was by no means an easy campaign for the 19-year-old.  Riske bounced around the challenger circuit and only entered one WTA main draw (via wildcard) in the first half of the year.  Then she broke through in the big way on the grass in Birmingham (The Aegon Classic), qualifying and rolling all the way to the semifinal round where she lost to Maria Sharapova in three sets.


“This is the best tennis I’ve seen her play at any time,” her sister Sarah said of the effort, which was good enough to earn Riske a wildcard into Wimbledon, where she lost in three sets to Yanina Wickmayer in the first round.


Later in the year, Riske went on an impressive tear that saw her in the finals of four consecutive challengers, the last three of which she won.  With a career-high ranking of No. 115, Riske will enter 2011 as the 9th-ranked American woman on Tour.


Riske is happy to have made her way close to the top-100, but she isn’t done dreaming yet.  Her and her sister/ coach set monthly and annual goals, and she is intent to work on her mental game this year as well as her strokes.  “I’ve been working on the mental side more than the actual playing side,” Riske told the WTA. “Of course I spend hours on the court, but you know, all these girls have the ability to beat the best but I feel it’s those who believe in themselves that can take it to top players. I’ve tried to work on just knowing that I belong here and in terms of my game, being aggressive, and knowing that no matter what’s happening in a match, things can turn around.”


She’s proved that she can win at the WTA level, but next year, she’ll have to prove that she can do it consistently.  But win or lose, Riske is too smart not to enjoy the ride.


“I fall in love with every town I go to,” said Riske. “Each town I decide I want to live there one day.”


Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/tennis-articles/dreaming-big-fearing-little-3951049.html

Would FIFA benefit from Hawk-Eye Technolgy ?

With the swift exit of England from the World Cup comes a renewed call for “goal-line” technology in football. If this “Hawk-eye” technology was first tested on Cricket pitches as early as 2001, with Professional Tennis approving its use in 2005, why is FIFA so far behind the times? Viewers watching on TV are already privy to super slow-motion replays, so why not use these video feeds to triangulate and chart the path of the ball?

Whilst goal line technology carries a 5% chance of inaccuracy, it is a far cry from the gross margins of error seen on the very obvious English goal during England’s final game of the World Cup. FIFA claims that errors add to the dynamics and organic nature of the game, but the vast majority of fans and players alike want the misjudged calls from umpires and linesman to be corrected.

Looking into the past, the 2007 Wimbledon Championships implemented the Hawk-Eye system as an officiating aid on Centre Court and Court 1, with each tennis player being allowed 3 incorrect challenges per set. During the finals of Roger Federer against Rafael Nadal, the latter challenged a shot which was called out. Hawk-Eye’s camera showed the ball as in, just barely clipping the line. The reversal agitated Federer enough for him to request (unsuccessfully) that the umpire turn off the Hawk-Eye technology for the remainder of the match.

FIFA may have a point. Perhaps the game should be left to human error, in turn preserving the raw nature of the sport. After all, there is more of a dialogue between two people, than man versus machine. If Hawkeye was used in 1981, we might well have missed John McEnroe’s outburst of “You cannot be serious!“, something that has defined him as a sports hero. Like it or loath it, you can bet that the debate on its use will continue to rage on.


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History of English Lawn Tennis – 1413 AD

Imbued in English culture is a love and creator of Sports of all kinds.I have a website where I have listed and linked to the 100+ various sports and games created by us Brits. One of our favorite summer games is Lawn Tennis which It is believed a form called Real Tennis was first played over 600 years ago by English Royalty.

Royal interest in Real Tennis began with Henry V (1413–22) but it was Henry VIII (1509–47) who made the biggest impact as a young monarch, playing the game with gusto at Hampton Court on a court he had built in 1530, and on several other courts in his palaces. It is believed that his second wife Anne Boleyn was watching a game of real tennis when she was arrested and that Henry was playing tennis when news was brought to him of her execution. During the reign of James I (1603–25), there were 14 courts in London. Today Real Tennis is still played at Hampton Court including by English Royalty like Prince Edward.

In England, during the 18th century and early 19th century as real tennis bacame less popular, three other racquet sports emerged: Racquets, Squash Racquets and Lawn Tennis (the modern game).

Its establishment as the modern sport can be dated to two separate inventions. Between 1859 and 1865, in Birmingham, England, Major Harry Gem, a solicitor combined elements of the game of rackets and played it on a croquet lawn in Edgbaston. In 1872, he moved to Leamington Spa and in 1874, with two doctors from the Warneford Hospital, founded the world’s first tennis club. The Courier of 23 July 1884 recorded one of the first tennis tournaments, held in the grounds of Shrubland Hall.

In December 1873, Major Walter Clopton Wingfield devised a similar game for the amusement of his guests at a garden party on his estate of Nantclwyd in Llanelidan, Wales. He based the game on the older Real tennis. At the suggestion of Arthur Balfour, Wingfield named it “lawn tennis,” and patented the game in 1874 with an eight-page rule book titled “Sphairistike or Lawn Ten-nis”, but he failed to succeed in enforcing his patent.

Dates of first Tennis Grand Slams

1877 Wimbledon UK Championships and is played on grass.

1881 US Open Championships and played on grass until in 1977 on clay court.

1891 French Open Championships and played on grass until 1912 on clay court.

1905 Australian Open Championship and played on grass until 1988 on hard court.

In 1877 the All England Croquet Club formally changed its name to the All England Croquet Lawn tennis Club and held the first Lawn tennis Championship in July 1877. The referee was Henry Jones who devised the rules for the tournament with the help of a 2 man committee. Players were made to change ends after each set , matches were the best of 5 sets. Twenty two men entered the first championship. The shape of the court changed from hourglass to the modern rectangular. The net

was 5ft high at the posts and in the 3 ft 3in at the centre. The first champion was Spencer Gore.

It always amazes me how from a little Island like England we created and gave the world over 100 sports and games that have dominated the world. My family tree has been traced back to the early Kings of England from the 7th. Century AD. This has given me an interest in English history and the sports England have created.

Please visit my Funny Sports and Tennis Art Prints Collection for sale @ http://www.fabprints.com/SPORTS.html

My other website is called Directory of British Icons: http://fabprints.webs.com

The Chinese call Britain ‘The Island of Hero’s’ which I think sums up what we British are all about. We British are inquisitive and competitive and are always looking over the horizon to the next adventure and discovery.

Copyright © 2010 Paul Hussey. All Rights Reserved.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/tennis-articles/history-of-english-lawn-tennis-1413-ad-2368517.html

1966 – 1968 in Women’s Tennis

The women’s tennis scene changed a lot in 1968. Up to 1968 the tennis world had been in an era that we know today as the amateur era. In this era there were only certain players that were allowed to play in the Grand Slam tournaments. These Grand Slam tournaments consist of the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open. These tournaments are well known as the most competitive and most sought after tournaments in the world of tennis.

As mentioned before, only amateur players were allowed to play in these tournaments for a time. This was the case with the Australian Open in 1968. However, following the Australian Open there were some changes made that allowed professional players to play in these tournaments. This would be the beginning of what we know as the “open era.” Today you will often hear about players and how they have the most wins in specific events since the beginning of the “open era.” This refers to the time from the 1968 French Open until today.

In 1967 the tennis world really saw the emergence of one of the greatest players to ever play the game. Billie Jean King won her first Grand Slam tournament in 1966 and then she really turned it on in 1967 and managed to take home two more Grand Slams. The dominance of Billie Jean King continued in 1968 in what would be the last Grand Slam of the amateur era. She managed to take home the victory in the Australian Open which meant that she would be the winner of the last three Grand Slam events in the amateur era. She was really dominating the woman’s tennis at this point.

However, Nancy Richey wasn’t about to let her run away with all of the Grand Slam tournaments in 1968. Richey was the winner of the Australian Open in 1967 and she still had enough in the tank to take her second and final Grand Slam tournament in 1968. Richey won the first event of the open era by taking the Grand Slam title at the French Open.

Billie Jean King wouldn’t let a loss at the French Open slow her down. She still had a chance to take home another Grand Slam at Wimbledon and it was beginning to become clear that Wimbledon was where King played best. She had already won at Wimbledon in the two previous years and she continued to dominate in 1968. Over the course of her career King would win 6 of her 12 Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon.

That victory would be the last Grand Slam title of the year for King and Virginia Wade was ready to step in to take the first Grand Slam victory of her career. She took home the US Open. This Grand Slam title would be the first of three titles that she would win over the course of her career.

Schiavone – One Slam Wonder or Genuine Contender?

Francesca Schiavone was 2010′s feel-good story of the year. To casual sports fans, she did not even register on the Richter scale (in fact she probably still doesn’t). Even casual tennis fans would have been hard-pressed to describe her as anything other than “Italian, about number 30 in the world, never really won much…” Even the die-hards would have struggled to name her two tournament wins prior to the 2010 season (Bad Gastein 2007, Moscow 2009).

And then it all came together. After a decade spent in the top 50 but outside the top 10, the diminutive, ever-smiling 30-year-old from Milan cooked up a perfect storm in the first half of the year. Fourth round of the Australian Open, a Fed Cup win over Ukraine and then her third title, on the Barcelona sand. A 6-0, 6-2 thrashing of Lucie Safarova in the Fed Cup semis at the Foro Italico should have heralded a fine “home” tournament but her Roman holiday came to an early end when she fell to eventual (and shock) winner Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.

This was a mere blip however in the irresistible rise of Francesca Schiavone. Roland Garros was around the corner, and the time was ripe. The returning Justine Henin was short of match practice, Kim Clijsters was absent, Serena and Venus don’t really “do” clay (ditto Maria Sharapova) and the Russian red dirt revolution of 2009 was very much ancient history, with Svetlana Kuznetsova and Dinara Safina plummeting down the rankings. Not that this should take anything away from Schiavone’s victory. She defeated Na Li, Maria Kirilenko, future world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki and former French Open finalist Elena Dementieva en route to the final, then battled tooth and nail against another surprise package-turned-top ten stalwart Sam Stosur on the final Saturday.

The match ebbed this way and that, particularly in the second set when the Australian led 4-1 only for Schiavone to break back then hold as she twice served to stay in the set at 4-5 and 5-6, curling aces deftly into the corners. And then came that tie-break. When destiny called Francesca picked up the phone, whipping those forehands of hers where her arm seems to move at the speed of light (watch her carefully next time she plays…), haring into the net and volleying with aplomb. Moments later the breaker had been secured 7-2 and with it the first ever Grand Slam title for an Italian. And after destiny came calling, it was Silvio Berlusconi’s turn next as Schiavone was handed a cellphone while still on court with her country’s president on the line!

The usually bubbly Schiavone was sublime after the match, saying: “I always dreamed I could do it and I always believed in myself – not in trophies or tournaments, but in myself. It means that everyone has the chance to be who they want to be and do everything in their life, because this is what happened to me.” A press conference to melt the hearts of even the most cynical journalists…

And what of 2011? Will she return to the ranks as it were, and go back to being a Fed Cup stalwart (with an exemplary 24-15 record carved out over a decade) and merely a lower seed at the Slams? Was 2010 the exception that proves the rule? I think not. She reached the final eight of the US Open in August and if she can remain focused (right after the French Open, she had two weeks of photo-shoots and phone calls topped off by a first-round defeat Wimbledon), then she is among the favorites to retain her Roland Garros crown. All she has to do is believe in herself.


Savvy Szavay Ready To Rise

The Scene

If I cast my mind back a few years to when the Marion Bartoli Fan Blog began, the WTA rankings were jam-packed full of fresh teenage produce, bursting at the seams with vitality, and ready to satisfy a hungry sports consumer. In the minds of the tennis intelligentsia and business arm of the game, these young starlets were the foundations upon which the future prosperity of the WTA would be built.

Now, some 3 or 4 years later, the rapid-reaction Public Relations and Image force has been called back to base, and simply listing the names; Chakvetedze, Cornet, Golovin, Paszek, Krajicek, Vaidisova, Szavay, feels as morbid as Emily Dickinson poetry, or a memorial to those lost in battle – average age 19. Will there ever be a resurrection in the fortunes of the risers of yesteryear? Will we see a renaissance in a sport that just like the pop music industry, seems to require or crave a constant turnover of new blood in order to generate consumer interest and growth? What about the player Pete Bodo once described as the “the least well-known of this unknown generation,” Agnes Szavay?  Hard to believe she will turn 22 in late December.

Agi made an astonishingly rapid rise up the ranking during 2007. Starting the year at No. 185, and ending the year a top 20 player – chiefly on the back of titles in Beijing and Palermo, plus a tremendous quarter final US Open debut. By the spring of 2008, she was on the cusp of the top 10.

The Homeland

The Hungarian star suddenly became a small ray of sunshine in a country short on internationally recognised sporting role models. Hungarian sport is still to this day significantly defined by  legendary soccer player Puszkas, half a century after his exploits with the ‘Mighty Magyars’ and Real Madrid.

For a modest landlocked country with an unfortunate history, facing tough IMF austerity measures, and emerging from bitter civil unrest on the streets of capital city Budapest, successful sporting role models take on cosmic significance. They come to represent the aspirations of the people in times of hardship, and become emblems of personal integrity when political figures (not to put too fine a point on it) inevitably disappoint. Enter Agnes Szavay; a genial, outgoing and intelligent young woman with characteristically sculptured Hungarian features, voted Hungarian sports woman of the year… It’s a huge meta-narrative on young shoulders.

My own long time Hungarian friend would mention now and then, that she had seen Agi in this magazine or on that show, and how everyone was really excited by her stunning rise. In an email dated 26 Sept 2007 she wrote simply “Agnes Szavay is good :) She is among the first 20 now on the world ranklist. :)

The Slump

But even as the WTA was busy conducting special video shoots of a smiling fresh young blonde on top of the Empire State building, and grocery chain Spar was busy launching a glossy TV commercial featuring Agi as the honey-trapper, things on court were beginning to take a downturn in the latter half of 2008. The Magyar prodigy went 4/9 over the summer hard court and indoor season.

Unsettled in her coaching arrangement, Agi parted company with Hungarian coaches Zoltán Kuhárszky, and József Bocskay. Persistent back problems also forced her to rework her serve. The axiom of her game had become a liability. Bocskay later referred to her obliquely as a “tennis tourist.”

By the time she returned to her homeland to play the International clay event in July of 2009, Agi had slid to No.37 in the rankings and was without a coach for several months. Agi freely admitted she was struggling for confidence. Fate couldn’t have choreographed for her what happened next, more perfectly, as she claimed the title in front of a delighted home crowd, and also in front of new coach Karl-Heinz Wetter. Things were slowly beginning to improve, or at least, the rot had been stopped.

The Coach

47 year old Wetter’s resume includes 12 years with solid compatriot Jurgen Melzer, and a spell with Latvian wild man Ernests Gulbis.

“I only worked with ATP players in the past, he told the Szavay fan site, “so working with Agi was a new experience for me.  It’s different, just like in real life, girls are different from boys.”

The no-nonsense Wetter also specialises as a fitness coach, but makes no special accommodations for the fairer sex when it comes to putting his player through her paces. He took Agnes altitude training in the Austrian Alps earlier this year. Wetter feels, “her fitness and mental strength have developed the most” during his first 12 months in the job.

Perhaps more than anything Wetter has brought stability and a paternal hand to Agnes, who has not been without her off court challenges in her young professional life; the separation of her parents a few years back and a variety of muscular and viral problems, including glandular fever and the aforementioned back problem are just some of the tests she has had to overcome.

With her ranking now safely ensconced in the mid 30’s for much of the past 18 months. Wetter feels that Agi’s successful defence of the Budapest title in July, followed the week after by a 5th career title on the clay of Prague, has helped her confidence. He also believes her steadily recovering serve will one day exceed 200 kmh.

The Game

Courtside for the Bartoli v Szavay match at Eastbourne this year, I had a close up view up of that serve. Yet it wasn’t the 8 aces which Szavay served that day which impressed me the most, or the perennial Fila headband, but the way she would “get her racquet under the ball in order to relieve the rally of pace, then hit a powerful deadly shot next time. She would try changing the pace mid-rally.” Even on a very windy day by the seaside at Devonshire Park, Szavay offered copious winners out wide, cheeky drop shots from the baseline, and displayed touch, slice, spin and every articulate and sensitive racquet skill in her tennis vocabulary. In the end she gave a Wimbledon finalist and one of the very best grass court players in tennis, all she could ask for over three hard fought sets.

Maybe Agi could have been a bit less passive here, or chose a better shot there, but in all fairness that would be an overly critical ‘expert’ type analysis. The truth is I left my seat with an abiding respect for her contribution to the match. If Szavay takes the best elements from her performance that day, and maintains the level over the required distance, then she will soon convert those close run defeats (which Wetter laments) into victories.

The Redemption

If Agnes Szavay is successful in her goal of returning to the top 20, it will not only provide a boost to her avid group of fans, but also a nice little boost for a homeland she cares so much about. After the appalling toxic sludge accident at the MAL aluminium plant in Kolontar, which hit news casts worldwide last month, Agi and her fan club were quick to organise fund raising for the victims, and get involved in relief support with volunteers on the ground. That’s Agi.

So top 20? Yes, she can do it. She has to knuckle down, stay healthy, and keep body and mind together. There is nothing wrong with this young lady. The goods are there, and I for one will be keeping an eye on the fortunes of the young Hungarian next season.

Agi, never give up !

Melanie Oudin: Get Ready to ‘Believe’ Again

“Now it’s like. . . over. I guess I’m a little tiny bit relieved now. I can kind of start over, start over from all the expectations from like last year. And now I can just go out and hopefully do really well the rest of the year and keep working hard.”

Melanie Oudin, after losing to Alona Bondarenko in the second round of the U.S. Open, a year after making the quarterfinals

“Today is the best I’ve played in a long time. I felt confident out there.”

Oudin, a few months later after defeating 2010 French Open champ Francesca Schiavone in the finals of the Fed Cup.

Shedding the pressure of carrying a nation’s hopes—at least for a little while—can do wonders for a player, it seems. A solid win over a top 10 star at the end of the season should give the 19-year-old from Georgia, USA enough momentum to carry into next year, making her a Player to Watch for 2011.

After that run at the 2009 U.S. Open, where she defeated such big-name players as Maria Sharapova, Elena Dementieva and Nadia Petrova, Oudin became “America’s Sweetheart” over the course of a few days. However, that’s a lot of weight for any player to carry—particularly one who hadn’t even made it to the semifinals of a WTA Tour event at that point. So, with that in mind, 2010 was destined to be a year of adjustment for Oudin. And while she was making those adjustments, her fellow competitors were doing the same when it came to figuring out Oudin’s style of play. The same players she snuck up on the year before were more prepared this trip through the cycle.

Despite that, she did reach her first career tour semi final early on, but the year was filled with patchy results going into the U.S. Open, the site of her greatest professional result. While the loss there caused her ranking to plummet, Oudin gained more knowledge about life on the Tour. Her first tournament post-NYC was in Quebec, and there she managed to make the quarterfinals before falling to tour veteran Lucie Safarova in three hard-fought sets. And at the beginning of November, Oudin made the finals at an ITF event in Phoenix, Ariz., her best run all year.

Between those two came one of the biggest wins in her young career, the victory over Schiavone, at Fed Cup, where she’s always shined. Back-to-back finals for the U.S. in the team event with Oudin leading the way shows she has the “confidence” to succeed and that she will always “believe” in herself (to quote her customized Adidas shoes.)

And Oudin’s counterpunching style of play and foot speed always make her a threat against players that hit bigger than her, which helped her hit a career-high ranking of 31 in 2010. In 2011, look for her to move back to that level and possibly beyond. Also, expect her to be even more prepared to handle all that comes with being “America’s Sweetheart.”

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