Player of the week: Anabel Medina

Spanish Anabel Medina is one of the best players of the WTA Tour on clay. She has won 7 of her 8 WTA titles in that surface. There are two very special tournaments for Medina: Palermo, where she has won four times (2001, 2004, 2005 and 2006) and Strasbourg, where she has collected three titles (2005, 2007 and 2008).
Last week she successfully defended her title in Strasbourg. On her way to the final she had to defeat Klara Zakopalova, Ana Vrljic and Timea Bacsinszky, although she took advance of Flavia Pennetta's withdrawal on the quarter finals. But the final was a major challenge as she had to overcome several match suspensions due to rain and a very critical situation being 6/4 4/2 down to Katerina Srebotnik. Then Medina showed her best tennis, as she always does in Strasbourg, to win the second set in the tiebreak and the third set by 6/0.

Now she has her highest hopes in Roland Garros, the greatest tournament on clay, where she will try to upset some favourites and finally get a remarkable result in a Grand Slam.


WTA ranking as of 26-May-2008

Elena Dementieva couldn't defend her title in Istambul and drops one spot to #8 as Venus Williams climbs to #7 in the only change in this week's Top 20. Career-high rankings for Istambul semifinalists, Tsvetana Pironkova gains 4 spots up to #43 and Agkul Amanmuradova breaks into the Top 50 for the first time moving from #58 to #50. Strasbourg runner-up Katarina Srebotnik moves from #30 to #24, while semifinalist Timea Bacsinszky goes from #71 to #63 and Yung-Jan Chan is the Top 100 greatest gainer moving from #80 to #68.

CurPrvNameCountryRank pts.Tours.
1(1)Maria SharapovaRUS411615
2(2)Ana IvanovicSRB392218
3(3)Jelena JankovicSRB375524
4(4)Svetlana Kuznetsova


5(5)Serena WilliamsUSA283613
6(6)Anna ChakvetadzeRUS273124
7(8)Venus WilliamsUSA260613
8(7)Elena DementievaRUS259020
9(9)Marion Bartoli


10(10)Daniela HantuchovaSVK212223


Hot gossip: Harkleroad to appear in Playboy

American player Ashley Harkleroad, one of the most beautiful players on WTA Tour, will appear on the August edition of men's magazine Playboy. Harkleroad, who was highlighted in WTA hotties a few months ago (read article), will be the first tennis player to appear in the magazine.
“I was just laying there for three weeks, and, you know, an offer came to me,” Harkleroad said. “I thought, well, I’m not really doing anything right now so I thought about it and it was something that I did. I’m proud of my body. I was representing a female athlete’s body.”
“It was hard work, but, you know, it was just a completely different experience. It was fun. I think it comes out July 13th. It’s the August edition. So you’ll see for yourself."
We'll keep an eye on it.

Meanwhile, you can see Ashley's gallery here

Week #22-23 preview: Roland Garros

Roland Garros (FRA), Grand Slam, €7,077,680

This year's French Open, which takes place in Roland Garros, will be conditioned by the retirement of World's #1 and 4 times champion here Justine Henin two weeks ago. Henin was a real master on clay and her domination in Roland Garros included the titles in 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007. So this year's tournament is really open, with at least five players trying to take Henin's crown as World's #1 and Roland Garros champion. Australian Open's champion Maria Sharapova is the new leader in the WTA ranking, but clay is not her best surface and has suffered some problems in her shoulder lately. Last year's runner-up Ana Ivanovic is expected to become a Grand Slam champion and feels good on clay, but doesn't look at her best at the moment. Jelena Jankovic was considered the best player on clay after Henin, so has a good chance here to have finally a remarkable performance on a Grand Slam. Svetlana Kuznetsova also performs well on clay and was already a runner-up here in 2006, but still needs to improve her regularity and mental strengh. And finally Serena Williams who is nearly unbeatable when she's fit and focused, and this season it seems that she is. On the other hand, some of the best performers this season so far, such as Vera Zvonareva, Elena Dementieva, Dinara Safina, Agnieszka Radwanska, Victoria Azarenka or local talent Alize Cornet, will try to get into the final rounds.

Week #21: Titles for Radwanska and Medina

Agnieszka Radwanska confirmed her progression in this 2008 season and captured her 2nd title of the year in Istambul. 2nd seed Radwanska defeated 1st seed and title holder Elena Dementieva in the final in straight sets. The tournament presented a weak draw for a Tier III with just four players inside the Top 50, so there was a good chance for lower ranked players to get some good points. Two players who are showing a good form lately, Tsvetana Pironkova and Akgul Amanmuradova completed the semifinals and will keep on climbing in the rankings.
A better field was shown up in Strasbourg, where Spanish Anabel Medina retained her title in her 3rd victory here in the last four years (2005, 2007 and 2008). Medina had to comeback from a set down in a very though final against Katarina Srebotnik which was suspended twice due to rain. Swiss Timea Bacsinszki upsetted 2nd seed Alona Bondarenko for a place in the semifinals, while the other semifinalist was Yung-Jan Chan from Taipei, who upsettted 3rd seed Virginie Razzano and took advance of the early loss of 1st seed Marion Bartoli.

Istambul (TUR), Tier III, $200,000
Final: Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) def Elena Dementieva (RUS) 6/3 6/2

Strasbourg (FRA), Tier III, $175,000
Final: Anabel Medina (ESP) def Katerina Srebotnik (SLO) 4/6 7/6 6/0


Latent heat: Tsvetana Pironkova

20 year old Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova has been considered one of the most promising players since she reached the Top 100 in 2005 being just 17 years old. Although in 2006 and 2007 she kept into the Top 100, her progression seemed to be stuck.
But last week she got back into the spotlight upsetting 1st seed and world's #2 Ana Ivanovic in the big Tier I of Rome. Pironkova went through the qualy and won 5 matches in a row, including victories over Ivanovic and Berlin's semifinalist Victoria Azarenka in the 3rd round to reach the quarters, where she lost to Anna Chakvetadze in 3 sets. With this result she broke into the Top 50 for the first time in her career, reaching a career-high ranking at #47.

And this week she's going to improve that career-high ranking again, as she has reached the semis in the WTA tournament in Istambul, where she has been defeated by 2nd seed Agnieszka Radwanska, again in 3 sets. She's yet to win a title and even to reach a WTA final, but it seems that promising Tsvetana is finally turning into a reality.


Player of the week: Alize Cornet

After her great performances in Amelia Island and Charleston, we featured Alize Cornet in our Latent heat section as one of the most promising players on WTA Tour. We warned about her possibilities in the clay season, as her gamestyle perfectly suits this surface. And we were right, as this week Alize has got her best result reaching the final in a major tournament as the Tier I of Rome.

And it wasn't an easy way for Cornet, as she had to went through the qualy to get in to the Main Draw. She stormed past her rivals to reach the quarter-finals, no one was able to take more than 7 games to her, even local Top 20 Francesca Schiavone or World's #4 Svetlana Kuznetsova were destroyed by Cornet. Cornet progressed to the semis by walkover due to Serena Williams injury and there she had to come back from a set down to beat World's #6 Anna Chakvetadze in a very emotional match.

Unfortunately, world's best player on clay since the retirement of Justine Henin, Serbian Jelena Jankovic, was too good for Cornet, who had no chance in the final. But surely she will have more chances to win a big title, and definitively she is one-to-watch in the French Open starting next week
You can watch Alize's gallery here.

WTA ranking as of 19-May-2008

Maria Sharapova takes the lead in the WTA ranking after the unexpected retirement of Justine Henin. Almost every player in the Top 20 benefits from this and gain positions. Rome's runner-up Alize Cornet breaks into the Top 20 for the first time as she goes 14 places up to a career-high at #20. Great climb also for Rome's quarter-finalist Tsvetana Pironkova, who goes from #64 to a career-high at #47. And also career high rankings for Romanian Monica Niculescu, who is the greatest gainer going from #111 to #84 and breaking Top 100 for the first time, and for British Anne Keothavong at #97, becoming the first Brit in the Top 100 since Samantha Smith in 1998.

CurPrvNameCountryRank pts.Tours.
1(2)Maria SharapovaRUS418116
2(3)Ana IvanovicSRB392218
3(4)Jelena JankovicSRB375525
4(5)Svetlana Kuznetsova


5(6)Serena WilliamsUSA283613
6(8)Anna ChakvetadzeRUS273124
7(7)Elena DementievaRUS263020
8(9)Venus WilliamsUSA262614
9(11)Marion Bartoli


10(10)Daniela HantuchovaSVK212223


Week #21 preview: Istambul, Strasbourg

Istambul (TUR), Tier III, $200,000
Elena Dementieva will try to defend her title in Istambul, while young Agnieszka Radwanska will try to keep on climbing in the rankings and veteran Nadia Petrova will try to get her best tennis back. But beware of Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova, quarter-finalist last week in Rome, and teen Romanian Sorana Cirstea.

Strasbourg (FRA), Tier III, $175,000
Marion Bartoli will be the top seed in Strasbourg, where there will be a good fight for the title with a lot of candidates, including Alona Bondarenko, Virginie Razzano, Katerina Srebotnik and clay specialists Flavia Pennetta and Anabel Medina.

Week #20: Jelena Jankovic retains her title in Rome

Jelena Jankovic defeated French teen Alize Cornet to win the title in the Tier I of Rome for the second year in a row. Jankovic benefited of the early exits of the other favourites. Ana Ivanovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova were upsetted by Tsvetana Pironkova and Cornet respectively, while Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams retired in semis and quarters respectively due to physical problems. On the other hand Cornet was the sensation of the tournament, going through the qualy to the final and upsetting 3rd seed Kuznetsova and 6th seed Anna Chakvetadze on her way.

Rome (ITA), Tier I, $1,340,000
Final: Jelena Jankovic (SRB) def Alize Cornet (FRA) 6/2 6/2


Hot news: Henin Retires From Sony Ericsson WTA Tour

Source: Sony Ericsson WTA Tour

Tributes are flowing in from around the world for Justine Henin, who on Wednesday announced her immediate retirement from the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. The 25-year-old Belgian became the first woman in the history of professional tennis to retire from the sport while ranked No.1 in the world.

Henin, winner of 41 Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles titles – including seven Grand Slam championships – is currently in her 117th week as the world No.1, sixth on the all-time list. She has amassed $19,461,375 in career prize money and compiled a 493-107 win-loss record in singles. But more importantly than any statistics, the 5-foot, 5 3/4-inch (1.67 m) Henin was renowned for her spectacular backhand, incredible athleticism and unrivalled mental fortitude and work ethic.

...read more

Hot news: Henin to quit tennis according to Belgian media

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP)
Justine Henin is quitting professional tennis, according to a Belgian newspaper. The 25-year-old Henin, the top-ranked player in the world, will make the announcement Wednesday, Het Nieuwsblad reported.
Henin has been battling fatigue and not playing well. This year she lost to Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Italy’s Francesca Schiavone. Last week she was ousted from the Berlin Open in the third round and this week she pulled out of the Italian Open.

Latent heat: Victoria Azarenka

18yo Belarusian Victoria Azarenka is considered one of the biggest promises on women's tennis since 2005, when she captured Australian Open and US Open junior titles, as well as Roland Garros and Wimbledon junior doubles titles and was named ITF Junior World Girls Champion. Then she joined the WTA Tour and was slowly progressing till last year when she got into the Top 30 by reaching two finals (Estoril and Tashkent), Last 16 round in the US Open and getting and emotional win over Maria Sharapova in Moscow.

But this year, her goals look even bigger and she has turned into a more complete and dangerous player. Although she started the year reaching another final in Gold Coast, her results were not too good until two weeks ago, when she reached the 4th final of her career in Prague, which she lost to Vera Zvonareva. But this week she has got the best result of her career so far, reaching the semifinals of the big Tier I held in Berlin, defeating world's #8 Anna Chakvetadze en route. With this result she has broken into the Top 20 reaching a career-high ranking at #19.

Although her gamestyle is quite similar to Maria Sharapova's, with powerful groundstrokes, she has got her best results on clay. She has yet to win a title, but nobody doubts that she will get it soon.

You can watch Victoria's gallery here


Player of the week: Dinara Safina

Dinara Safina has achieved this week the greatest success of her career by winning the Tier I in Berlin. Although everybody is aware of Safina's potential, her lack of regularity and her weak mentality has kept her away from reaching higher goals in her career. But this week she has shown a great mentality as she has come back from a set down in three matches on her way to the title. Furthermore she has defeated world's #1 and best player on clay Justine Henin, as well as former #1 and probably best player at the moment Serena Williams. Despite losing the first set to both of them, she didn't give up, neither did she in the final against Elena Dementieva. If she keeps this mental strength she's going to be a really though opponent for all the players.

WTA ranking as of 12-May-2008

Maria Sharapova and Jelena Jankovic gain one spot up to #2 and #4 while Berlin's runner-up Elena Dementieva climbs from #9 to #7. Berlin's champion Dinara Safina goes from #17 to #14 and semifinalist Victoria Azarenka gains 7 spots to break into the Top 20 for the first time and reach a career-high at #19. Promising youngsters Sabine Lisicki and Yanina Wickmayer break into the Top 100 at #89 and #99 respectively, while Colombian veteran Catalina CastaƱo is the greatest gainer going from #122 to #92.

CurPrvNameCountryRank pts.Tours.
1(1)Justine Henin


2(3)Maria SharapovaRUS398615
3(2)Ana IvanovicSRB392217
4(5)Jelena JankovicSRB375525
5(4)Svetlana Kuznetsova


6(6)Serena WilliamsUSA283613
7(9)Elena DementievaRUS267021
8(7)Anna ChakvetadzeRUS259624
9(8)Venus WilliamsUSA251613
10(10)Daniela HantuchovaSVK225724


Hot shot: Nuria Llagostera poses naked for a Spanish magazine

Source: www.interviu.es

Spanish Fed Cup hero Nuria Llagostera posed naked for Spanish magazine Interviu

Week #20 preview: Rome

Rome (ITA), Tier I, $1,340,000
Second Tier I on red clay which should clarify the form of the top players with a view on Roland Garros. Justine Henin will skip the event due to fatigue, but this time Maria Sharapova will join Ana Ivanovic, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Jelena Jankovic and Serena Williams as the main favourites for the title. Venus Williams will also comeback to the Tour after her "indefinite break" which finally just lasted a few weeks. Berlin's champion Dinara Safina and one of the best players in 2008, Vera Zvonareva, should be also taken into account.

Week #19: Fantastic Safina wins in Berlin

Third all-Russian final of the season and first Tier I title for Dinara Safina, who came back from a set down in the final against Elena Dementieva. Safina enjoyed a fantastic week and showed an improved mentality to came back from a set down and defeat world's #1 Justine Henin and former #1 Serena Williams on her way to the final. Also a good result for runner-up Dementieva, who upsetted seed #2 Ana Ivanovic and #4 Jelena Jankovic on her way to the final, and for youngster Victoria Azarenka, who progressed to the semifinal in her best result in a big tournament.
On the other side top players such as Anna Chakvetadze, Nicole Vaidisova, Shahar Peer and Patty Schnyder continued with their dissapointing season and lost in their first matches. Also dissapointing performance for Justine Henin, who couldn't get her best game back despite playing on red clay and lost on the Last 16 round to the eventual champion Safina.

Berlin (GER), Tier I, $1,340,000

Final: Dinara Safina (RUS) def Elena Dementieva (RUS) 3/6 6/2 6/2


On fire: Vera Zvonareva

After not being able to play regularly in past seasons due to different injuries, Russian Vera Zvonareva is enjoying a fantastic season. She reached her first final early in the year in Hobart. In Doha she reached another final, this time in a Tier I. But she got her best level this spring, with remarkable performances in the big Tier Is held in Indian Wells (quarter-final), Miami (semifinal) and Charleston (final). And finally she got her first title of the season last week in Prague.
Up to date, she's ranked #5 in the Race to the Championships, she's the player with most matches won (31) and she is very close to getting back in the Top 10, especially as she has no points to defend until the US Open.

Zvonareva is also known for being one of the most emotional players on Tour and a few years ago it was not strange to watch her crying on the court after a defeat. This makes Vera one of the most appreciated players by the fans, along with her nice and friendly personality and her beauty.

You can watch her gallery here


Hot topic: Sharapova vs WTA Tour

Without any doubt, the controversial statements of Maria Sharapova against the WTA Tour has been the hottest topic of the last few weeks. It all started when Maria withdrew from the Tier I being held in Berlin this week. Players must give an injury reason to wothdraw from a tournament they have been scheduled by the WTA, but this time Maria was sincere and confessed she was healthy, so she will be probably fined. Here is the statement on her website:
"As many of you know, the WTA tour makes many players enter tournaments that they know the players will not be playing. I informed the WTA several months ago that if I played Charleston, I would have to pull out of Berlin. Now they are forcing me to give an injury for the reason why I am pulling out or they will give me an additional fine on top of the 125,000 fine already given to me. I am a very giving person, but I refuse to give anymore of my money to the WTA tour.So I want everyone to know that besides getting sick the past few days, I am healthy and I am looking forward to playing Rome. The good news is that the new road map for next year should solve all these problems."

And this week Maria has charged against the WTA Tour again. The reason is a photoshoot that the WTA has scheduled during the tournament of Rome for its new marketing campaign which may last for 4 hours. According to the WTA rules, the players must collaborate in different marketing and social activities during the tournaments, otherwise they may be fined. Thus Maria and the rest of the players have taken part throughout the years in a lot of events and activities. But Maria's patience is over. She has said that she doesn't like to be involved in photoshoots the day before or during a tournament, as she may get tired and lose her concentration. And she has asked her fans through a poll on her website what should she do, go to the photoshoot or skip it and be fined. Furthermore Maria has critised the attitude of WTA Tour executives who "don't ever listen to players and walk around like they are the stars" and has warned to start talking about the what is really behind the scenes at life on Tour.

So who do you support, Maria or the WTA Tour?


Player of the week: Kimiko Date-Krumm

Former Japanese player Kimiko Date surprised everyone when she announced a month ago that she was coming back to the Tour. 1970-born Date played regularly in the early 90s reaching a career high ranking at #4, with semifinal appareances at Australian Open in 1994, Roland Garros in 1995 and Wimbledon in 1996 and winning 7 WTA Tour titles until she retired in 1996 at the age of 26. That means that Date is 37 years old nowadays and it's been more than 11 years since she quitted.

So nobody really expected anything from Date's comeback. But she has surprised everyone once again, as in her first tournament, a $50,000 ITF in Gifu (Japan), she has gone through the qualy to reach the final of the main draw. On her way to the final, she not only defeated Top 200 players such as Rika Fujiwara and Melanie South, but she also upsetted 1st seed Aiko Nakamura, a very solid Top 80 player. Unfortunately, Kimiko lost in a very close 3-set final to veteran Top 80 Tamarine Tanasugarn. But that's not all, as Date also took part on the doubles event reaching another final and taking the title this time.

This week she takes part in another $50,000 ITF event in Fukuoka (Japan) where everybody will pay attention to her. Maybe they are not the most important tournaments, but what Date is achieving at 37 years old is worth to mention and she's a well deserved player of the week.

WTA ranking as of 5-May-2008

No changes in WTA Top 10 as only minor tournaments were played last week. Amelie Mauresmo and Francesca Schiavone get back into Top 20 gaining two places up to #19 and #20 respectively. Fes champion Gisela Dulko gets back into the Top 50 going from #62 to #48, but greatest gainer in Top 100 is Estonian Maret Ani who goes from #129 to #96.

CurPrvNameCountryRank pts.Tours.
1(1)Justine Henin


2(2)Ana IvanovicSRB415717
3(3)Maria SharapovaRUS398615
4(4)Svetlana Kuznetsova


5(5)Jelena JankovicSRB375525
6(6)Serena WilliamsUSA272612
7(7)Anna ChakvetadzeRUS263024
8(8)Venus WilliamsUSA251613
9(9)Elena DementievaRUS244021
10(10)Daniela HantuchovaSVK225725


Week #19 preview: Berlin

Berlin (GER), Tier I, $1,340,000
The first Tier I on red clay will be a good test for the contenders to the Roland Garros title. Justine Henin, Serena Williams, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic will be the main favourites for the title. Venus Williams, indefinitely out of the Tour, and Maria Sharapova, who withdrew last week and critized the WTA Tour for scheduling the player's tournaments, will skip the event. In fact, 25 of the Top 30 players will play in Berlin, which shows the high level of the tournament and assures high quality matches from the first round.

Week #18: Titles for Zvonareva and Dulko

Vera Zvonareva confirmed again that she's one of the best players in this 2008 season so far and captured the title in Prague. Zvoraneva was the clear favourite for this Tier IV title and didn't find too much opposition, although on her way to the title she had to defeat WTA 30 Katarina Srebotnik and WTA 26 Victoria Azarenka, who was the runner-up.
In the weak Tier IV of Fes the main favourites also confirmed their status and the final featured the two top seeds, Spanish Anabel Medina and Argetinian Gisela Dulko. The title was for Dulko, who won a close final decided in two tiebreaks. Dulko suffered an injury February but played impressively the whole week, so she seems to be fully recovered.

Prague (CZE), Tier IV, $145,000

Final: Vera Zvonareva (RUS) vs Victoria Azarenka (BLR) 7/6 6/2

Fes (MAR), Tier IV, $145,000

Final: Gisela Dulko (ARG) def Anabel Medina (ESP) 7/6 7/6