The Comeback Kid
Without doubt, Jelena Dokic (currently trading on Betfair at around [23.0 ]to win the 2010 Australian Open) kicked off what would go on to be known as the year of the comeback in women’s tennis. Still only 25 years of age, but finally free from a plagued past (her troublesome father Damir is now serving a 15 month jail sentence for threatening an Ambassador) the born-again Australian returned from a three-year lay off as a wildcard – ranked at 187 in the world – to upset three seeded players en route to the quarter finals of the Australian Open. A tennis-mad nation also fell back in love with a young woman who had tested their loyalty in the past.
Thanks to an unwelcome combination of illness and injury, Dokic never hit those dizzy heights again in the rest of 2009. But the feisty baseliner still provided plenty of punch during those two weeks at Melbourne Park.
The Long and Winding Road to Recovery
Unable to defend her Australian Open crown, Maria Sharapova (priced on Betfair at 10.0 to win in Melbourne) tried to make her long-awaited comeback from nine months out after shoulder surgery at Indian Wells in March – but she lost in the opening round of the doubles and then decided she still wasn’t right to compete in the singles event. More costly time out of the game followed. Cue yet more anguish from the WTA marketing department.
In May, Sharapova dropped out of the top 100 for the first time in six years. The Russian’s lowest point came shortly afterwards on her return at Warsaw, when she had plummeted to 126 in the WTA rankings. When you consider all that – it makes Sharapova’s subsequent results in the second half of the season all the more laudable.
The new Scream Queen
Despite being just 16 years old, Michelle Larcher de Brito has been tipped for the top by those in the know for some time. But she made headlines for very different reasons at this year’s French Open as she grunted, shrieked and screamed along her way to the third round. One of her opponents at Roland Garros even complained that the noise created by Larcher de Brito put her off during rallies.
The Portuguese teenager is a graduate of Nick Bollettieri’s famous Florida tennis academy which also produced Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka – known as two of the loudest performers on court. De Brito’s decibel levels reopened the debate over whether on-court noise should be controlled – but even though umpires at Wimbledon did warn her about it, she rightly pointed out that there was nothing in the rules to say she couldn’t do it.
Racket Bags at Dawn
I’ve written plenty on the year-long battle for women’s number one before of course – but a reference to Serena Williams’ (currently 4.5 favourite to defend her Australian Open title) debut as a stand-up comedienne following the Wimbledon final is still worth a (dishonourable) mention. For those of you that missed it, Williams had just won her second Grand Slam title of the season at SW19 – when she chose to take a sarcastic swipe at Dinara Safina’s (15.5 to win the Australian Open) continued status as world number one:
‘I think if you hold three Grand Slam titles (as Serena did at the time) then maybe you should be number one – but not on the WTA Tour obviously. My motivation is to win another Grand Slam and stay at number 2. That’s where I am. Dinara did a great job to get to number one. She won Rome and Madrid.’
Perusing her results in the second half of this season – you could argue that Safina never really responded to that stinging attack.
Collapse of the Serbian Bloc
What a difference a year makes. At the end of 2008, Jelena Jankovic (17.5 to win the Australian Open) was world number one. Ana Ivanovic (23.0 to win in Melbourne) had also held the coveted top spot and was the reigning French Open champion. But 2009 couldn’t have been more different for the talented Serbian duo.
Jankovic blamed her poor results at the start of the year on overtraining during the off-season. But she never truly recovered even after that. Just two WTA Tour titles left her to sneak into the year-end championships in Doha in the final qualifying place.
Remarkably, Jankovic didn’t reach a single Grand Slam quarter final this season.
Ivanovic sunk even deeper, as she suffered her first ever opening round defeat in a Slam at the U.S. Open. Not long after, the former world number one then decided to call time early on her disastrous 2009 season. The previously killer weapons in her game – the bullet first serve, the rapier forehand – had all surprisingly crumbled as the year went on. Now in the midst of an extended rest from the game, Ivanovic will hope the New Year brings a change in fortune.
Reproduced with permission from betting.betfair.com. Ã‚Â© The Sporting Exchange Limited
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BIOGRAPHY: Eric Bailly