Sunday, April 26, 2015

Martina Navratilova ends coaching partnership with Agnieszka Radwanska

After almost four months together, Agnieszka Radwanska and Martina Navratilova are officially done their coaching relationship, Radwanska announced through her Twitter account on Friday afternoon.

Navratilova was brought on in December as one of the first supercoaches on the women's tour, a trend that has become increasingly popular on the men's tour, in the hopes that her 18 Grand Slam titles and former World No.1 status would bring the former World No.2 closer to her first Grand Slam title.

Radwanska, whose best result so far in 2015 has been a semifinal run on home soil at the Katowice Open, will continue to work with her main coach, Tomasz Wiktorowski. Here's the Radwanska tweet:

I just wanted to thank Martina for her time and efforts over these last few months. It was a great experience to work with one of the all time greats. However, we both agreed that as Martina could not commit 100% to the project then it was not going to work as a long term partnership. We will stay friends and I wish her all the best in her personal and professional life.

I am stepping down as Agnieszka's part-time coach," Navratilova said in a statement.

"I think I underestimated the time it would take to make this a proper and good situation for both Agnieszka and me. I have quite a busy family life now as well as my TV work and other business commitments, which all combined make it impossible to dedicate the amount of time necessary to do a great job. Tomas Wiktorowski, Agnieszka's full-time coach, certainly knows what he is doing and he will be able to continue to build on some of the adjustments we were trying to make. I really enjoyed working with Aga and her whole team and I wish her all the best for the rest of the season."

Well that didn't last long, too bad. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Martina Hingis' comeback: wins, loses and beyond

Successful as she’s been in making a comeback in doubles, Martina Hingis’ sojourn back in singles was nonetheless somewhat under-par. Not only did her two Fed Cup singles matches end up disappointingly, there was also a decisive break to the winning rhythm she’d been on, since partnering Sania Mirza before Indian Wells. Lastly, Hingis’ attempt to rejoin the fold of singles tennis – for the third time – also cast attention about players trying to re-enter the sport following a prolonged absence.

Instances of such comebacks have then been both fruitful and unproductive in equal measures, dotting the pages of tennis history. Three noteworthy examples that however come to mind prominently are that of Martina Navratilova, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin.

Navratilova had a good run after coming back from her absence the early 2000s.The American’s case especially stands out for not only was she in her late 40s when she took to playing competitive tennis again, but it was also selective in that she only played in the grand slams – focusing on mixed doubles.

Speaking of Clijsters and Henin, the second time round, both experienced contrasting fortunes while taking a step back into the sport for the second time.

Clijsters, who retired to start a family, was always expected to return – given her own indications to the same. Following her joining the sport again, she won three majors – two US Opens in 2009-10 and one Australian Open in 2011– and even regained the world no. 1 ranking, before calling time finally in 2012. For her compatriot though, the road back proved to be a mixed-bag.

Henin did make it to the final of the Australian Open in 2010 as a wildcard. But there, she wasn’t able to match the penetrating game of defending champion Serena Williams. While she did win a set off the American, in the end it wasn’t enough to prevent Williams from winning her (then) fifth Australian Open title. The rest of the season was equally tumultuous for Henin for even though she won a couple of titles, she wasn’t able to make deeper inroads into the remaining three grand slams. A year later, after her third round loss in the Australian Open, she chose to retire in what seemed to be an abrupt end to her comeback.

Thus there may be several factors that go into consideration about attempting comebacks, each unique to each player. However, by far the most significant denominator – common to all – is that of time. Not only the time elapsed between retirement and comeback, but also the time thought out by the players to keep continuing, irrespective of whether the results meet their expectations or not.

Navratilova and Clijsters’ successes were hinged dually. One, the way both players focused towards playing to their strengths and the other, the way each used the time spent away from professional tennis to their advantage. Contrarily, Henin in spite of being away from professional tennis for only 16 months didn’t feel inclined to extend her career to beyond a season. This, in turn, raises the question as to whether she would have been able to better her performances by prolonging her comeback for some more time instead of putting a definite stop to it.

Hingis will need to introspect upon this last facet even in the wake of her declaration, in the aftermath of her losses in the Fed Cup, of not going back to playing singles. For, unpredictability still governs the Swiss’ decisions.

Her aspiration to participate in the 2016 Rio Olympics may have brought about her decision to play the Fed Cup, after all these years. But regardless of her ambitions and her declarations, fact remains that the elapsing of time has neutralised many of the key aspects of her game as far as singles’ concerned.

She wasn’t able to do much against Agnieszka Radwanska, who has a similar game in that she doesn’t have a big-hitting and power-packed game of her own, but relies on shot placement and excellent re-direction of the return as her bread-and-butter. That she came short against an opponent with a matching style of play then needs be the crucially decisive element, aided by the passage of time, spurring her to continue playing doubles alone.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Martina Hingis & Sania Mirza out in first round doubles at Porsche Grand Prix in Stuttgart

Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza’s perfect record together took a hit as they lost their opening match at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart. Who beat them?

Published April 22, 2015 12:15

STUTTGART, Germany – A long six weeks finally took its toll on Wednesday night as Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza – who had taken the doubles world by storm with back-to-back-to-back title runs at Indian Wells, Miami and Charleston – finally lost a match at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart.

After a travel-heavy last few days because of Fed Cup – Hingis headed to Poland, Mirza all the way back to India – the Swiss-Indian duo could be forgiven for not being their freshest. And Hingis – who even played two singles matches over the weekend – was treated for a back injury during this match.

After losing three straight games from 3-all to drop the first set, the No.1-seeded Hingis and Mirza showed some encouraging signs as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second set, even holding a point for 3-0. But the first-time pairing of Petra Martic and Stephanie Vogt held that game and broke them right back to even the set at 2-all, and they went on to pull of a straight set stunner, 6-3, 6-3.

Hingis and Mirza’s triumphs in Indian Wells, Miami and Charleston not only saw them shoot up to No.1 on the Road To Singapore doubles leaderboard, the year-long journey to the doubles event at the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global, it also propelled Mirza to No.1 on the WTA Doubles Rankings, the first Indian woman in tennis history to rise to No.1, in singles or in doubles.

Given the two teams’ credentials, it was a David and Goliath-like victory. Hingis and Mirza went into the match 14-0 together and with 70 WTA doubles titles between them – 44 for Hingis, 26 for Mirza.

Martic and Vogt were playing together for the first time and had one WTA doubles title between them.

I really hope they take the next couple of weeks off, and skip at least one of the clay court tournaments.  I think they both need it.  

Especially poor Martina who no doubt only aggravated her injury (although everyone seems confused on what that is) the leg or the back?.  

Given all that I really wouldn't call this a shock defeat.  Hope they both get some well deserved rest.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Martina Hingis coached Fed Cup doubles due to singles exhaustion

Switzerland's Martina Hingis says that while she was disappointed in losing to both Agnieszka and Urszula Radwanska in singles, she was pleased to have helped coach the deciding doubles rubber in last weekend's Fed Cup tie in Poland. 

The Swiss team of Timea Bacsinszky and Viktorija Golubic beat Agniezska Radwanska and Alicja Rosolska to win the tie, 3-2.

Hingis said that she could not play doubles because she was exhausted physically on Sunday. The former No. 1 was up a set and 5-2 against Urszula Radwanska, but lost the second and third sets, 7-5, 6-1. Hingis said that her legs were too tired. "We have to be realistic," Hingis said. "I am 34 years old and it’s not like I am 17 years old—I had 30 minutes before playing again. I was not going to be the team and save it."

Hingis, who is playing full-time doubles on the WTA and who has won her last three tournaments, said that she was helping Swiss captain, Heinz Gunthardt. 

"Pulling from the sidelines, a little coaching experience to help give confidence," she told the Fed Cup website. "I did the best I could do it. I was working the lines up and down almost having a cramp. You live your moments, that's your team spirits. I know the players, and that was the best option."

Hingis added that next year, she would only want to play doubles in Fed Cup.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Roger Federer aims to get more comfortable on clay before next tournament

Roger Federer was denied a 12th time in his bid for the elusive Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters title, and admitted that lack of comfort – both on clay and against Frenchman Gael Monfils – contributed to his third-round exit Thursday.

“It's the very beginning of the clay court season,” said the four-time Monte-Carlo finalist. “It's going to take me some time to feel 100 per cent comfortable... Not many guys are perfect this week. But it was a good week for me anyways to come here and practise with the best, play a couple of matches. At least gives me some information, if I'm trying to be a bit positive right now.”

Federer held a 5-3 lead in the second set tie-break, only to see Monfils win four straight points to clinch the 6-4, 7-6(5) win.

“I never felt at ease, and I never felt the way I wanted to be on the court,” said Federer, who was attempting to record his 200th match win on clay.

“There are many things I could have done better. I could have served better. I could have mixed it up a bit better. Also I didn't play my slice backhand well enough. There are some things I did a little bit better and some other things I didn't do well. Anyway, I never felt comfortable during the whole match… I only have to accept what went wrong and go from there.”

The 33-year-old Swiss shared that he would return home and “practise really hard” ahead of the inaugural TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open, which gets underway in 11 days, followed by the Mutua Madrid Open.

“I think the only thing I need to do is go out on the court and practise,” he said. “I need to play many hours and see what works best. We will analyse the practice I had on clay and those matches with Seve (Luthi) and (Stefan) Edberg. We'll try to see what the problems are. I think the important thing is to play well in practice and to play many sets. I'll be able to see what works and what doesn't work.”

It marked just the second time since last year’s Roland Garros that Federer had lost before the quarter-finals of a tournament. Ahead of Monte-Carlo, he had made back-to-back final appearances in Dubai (d. Djokovic) and Indian Wells (l. to Djokovic).

“I'm very happy how I worked, how I felt, how my body is, how mentally I feel like I'm in a good place,” said the World No. 2. “It's really my earliest loss besides the Australian Open probably in a year, since Rome last year. I've had a very consistent run. I'm aware of this.

“This is not going to put me under too much. I know it's the first tournament on clay. Of course, I was really hoping to do better because I felt there was an opportunity. Unfortunately, GaĆ«l played well today. It was always going to be a tough match.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Martina Hingis loses her 2nd singles match, Switzerland wins 3-2 over Poland in Fed Cup

Martina Hingis Facebook Fanclub

ZIELONA GORA, Poland (AP) -- Five-time Grand Slam champion Martina Hingis lost both her singles matches but finished on the winning team as Switzerland beat Poland 3-2 Sunday in a Fed Cup World Group playoff.

Swiss victory was sealed when Timea Bacsinszky and Victorija Golubic beat Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska and Alicja Rosolska 2-6, 6-4, 9-7 in a doubles match lasting over 2 1/2 hours on the hard indoor court.

Hingis was set to play in the doubles but injured her left leg in her earlier defeat by Urszula Radwanska and was substituted by Golubic.

Hingis was playing this weekend in her first competitive singles matches since 2007 and lost both of them to the Radwanska sisters.

On Sunday, Urszula Radwanska beat Hingis 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 to take the tie to 2-2 after Bacsinszky had easily defeated Agnieszka Radwanska 6-1, 6-1. On Saturday, Agnieszka Radwanska beat Hingis 6-4, 6-0.

The 34-year-old Hingis was playing in the Fed Cup for the first time in 17 years.

After her second retirement in 2007, Hingis played singles only in exhibition matches but won several doubles and mixed doubles titles.

Tremendous effort in singles by Martina Hingis even though she lost them both. She played extremely well in the second singles match against Urszula in particular.

If it wasn't for the leg cramps she would have won that match in straight sets.  Not bad for someone who (outside of exhibitions) hasn't played singles matches since 2007!.

I have to wonder though why the Swiss team captain didn't use Hingis in doubles on Day 2 rather then putting her in 2 singles matches.  Poor choice (there's a reason she's won three doubles titles back to back).

Really the only reason she lost was lack of singles match play and maybe a little bit of conditioning (3 sets are a lot more taxing when you're playing by yourself) vs when you're only responsible for covering half the court.

Throughout the match that brilliance that made her #1 in the world all those years ago was on full display.  Watching her game still makes me long for the good old days of crafty net play and long rallies.

So happy we get to see her genius shine in doubles this year.

Next for the dynamic doubles duo is Stuttgart Porsche Grand Prix.  Where back in the 90's Martina won 4 Porsche cars before she was even legally allowed to drive them :D.  

Good memories.  Best of luck to both ladies.  Hope they can bring home another trophy.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Martina Hingis defeated by Agnieszka Radwanska at Fed Cup in Poland

She stayed close with her for a long time, pushing the opening set about as close as possible, but Martina Hingis' first singles match in almost eight years ended in defeat to Agnieszka Radwanska.

Playing the first match of the World Group play-off tie between Poland and Switzerland, Radwanska and Hingis dazzled the Polish crowds with their classic all-court games in the first set, Radwanska drawing first blood with a break for 3-1, then Hingis breaking back right back to get back on serve, 3-2. Radwanska broke again for 5-3, then Hingis broke right back again to get back on serve, 5-4.

And it looked like Hingis was cruising in that 4-5 service game, storming out to a 40-0 lead and, after losing the next three points, winning the deuce point for ad-in, and another point to hold. But Radwanska won another three points in a row from there to sneak out the 49-minute set, 6-4, and from there the floodgates opened, as the Pole ran away with it in the second set to close it out, 6-4, 6-0.

"I can be proud of the way I played," Hingis said. "I think it was a great first set. I definitely had my chances in the set, at least to equalize and maybe even win one. I was getting a little bit tired at the end of the first set, but I'm proud of my performance today, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow."

Hingis, a former World No.1, was asked what's separating her singles game from the top players.

"The only problem is the physical part. That's what it always was, even when I was playing singles and doubles on the pro tour. I feel like I definitely have the game to hang on with the best in the world, and especially Aga, as she's not a power player who kills you off the serve or first return, or hits bombs right and left. You feel like you can always match up with her game, and I felt like I was right there.

"But she doesn't give you a single point for free - that's what makes her a great Top 10 player."

Radwanska was very impressed: "I had the break twice and things turned around both times, and she had 40-0 to hold for 5-all, so things were very dangerous," the World No.9 said. "The last game of the first set was key. I'm glad I could play my best tennis in that game because that was very important.

"I think she could definitely still play singles. She's already done so much on the tour in singles, so that's why I think she's just enjoying doubles right now, but she could definitely still play singles."

Radwanska also throroughly enjoyed the match: "You could see everything in that match - a lot of rallies, a lot of running, drop shots, spins, slices. It's always enjoyable for me to play against players like her. I'm just very happy I could play a very good game today, and win the match in two sets."

Timea Bacsinszky levelled the tie at 1-all afterwards with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Urszula Radwanska