Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Kirsten Flipkens Rebounds From Serious Health Issues In Miami

Kirsten Flipkens & Magdelena Rybarikova, Thursday 1.17.13
Kirsten Flipkens Recovers  From Illness To Be Better Than Ever
Kirsten Flipkens has spent most of her tennis career in the shadows of the big two in Belgian tennis of recent years - Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin. Now they've both retired she's been playing second fiddle to the next generation of Belgian tennis talent in the shape of Yanina Wickmayer, a top thirty player who could be top twenty with a little more luck and confidence.

Kirsten has had her own breakthrough in recent months after her best ever Slam performance in Australia, reaching the fourth round. She's now overtaken Yanina by reaching 28 in the WTA rankings to Yanina's 30 and is set to rise higher next week after her quarter final appearance in Miami, her best performance to date.

It's really difficult to predict who's tennis game is going to improve in leaps and bounds in any year and few at the start of 2013 would have thought that Kirsten would do so well, given the fact she's now 27, an age when most tennis players have already peaked. I doubt many would have predicted the extraordinary rise of Sara Errani or Angelique Kerber either in the last year, but at some point, something mentally or physically just 'clicks' for these players.

In Sara's case, it was the significant extra effort she put into training in the off season at the end of 2011. She improved her fitness to the point that it gave her confidence a boost, knowing that no opponent would be able to out run her in the course of a match. At this point, all she needed to work on was the technical aspect of her tennis game.

Kirsten seems to have fallen into another category, where circumstances conspire to allow a player to focus on exactly what is required to make big improvements in their game. This can sometimes be as a result of an injury or illness that gives them time to reflect on what they've already got and what they still need to do. A career threatening illness or injury in particular can really help this introspection, such that a complete recovery will often motivate a player to elevate their tennis to make the most of this 'borrowed' post layoff time.

One obvious example of this is Samantha Stosur's career. She was a very good doubles player and a good singles one before she contracted Lyme disease, but she never looked likely to be a Slam winner. Her illness took her to the point where even walking was difficult, so the elation of a complete recovery transported her tennis game to new heights, as she trained harder and focused more to make the most of her 'bonus' years in the game. The US Open title surely makes up for the year of misery she had in her early twenties.

In a slightly different way, Serena Williams is another example. Though she already had many Slam titles to her name, it seemed a couple of years ago that her focus had gone and she'd rather be promoting her new clothing range, Aneres. Her foot injury, followed closely by a life threatening blood clot on the lungs, forced her to reassess her priorities toward the tail end of her tennis career. She's now back to number one and looks determined to add to her already legendary achievements before she puts her feet up.

Kirsten's tennis changing moment happened last year when she experienced excruciating pain in her leg following an exhausting tennis match. She eventually found out that she had four blood clots in her calf, caused by a genetic weakness. She was due to fly soon after her match, a flight that could easily have killed her if the clots had not been discovered and treated. She now needs to take blood thinners before any flight.

Kirsten Flipkens - Rebecq 2012_05
Kirsten In adidas With Oakley Sunglasses
Her enforced recuperation period meant her ranking nose dived, she lost the support of the Belgian Tennis Federation and she found herself with a team of one. She always believed that she was a top 50 player, though, which helped her confidence, but she found herself having to find practise partners and organize every detail of her tennis day like a beginner. Weaker personalities would have given up but Kirsten grew stronger with a desire to get back to what she had and to fulfil every ounce of her potential.

She's now got a new coach and is still helped by her old friend and rival, Kim Clijsters - definitely a blessing to have in your corner. Kirsten doesn't have a powerful stature, so her tennis game relies on variety and unpredictability like Martina Hingis. It's all heading in the right direction at the moment, such that she might yet be able to call herself a world top twenty player.

Unfortunately in the quarter finals in Miami, Kirsten found world number 4, Agnieszka Radwanska just a little to wily but she did manage to take a set off her. It'll be interesting to see in the next few months if Kirsten can keep building on her current momentum, fueled by her new inner peace and resilience.

If you watched the match with Agnieszka, you'll have noticed Kirsten in the colors of the spring season, yellow and white. In Kirsten's case, adidas Adizero women's tennis apparel. She used to wear Nike, but adidas were first to recognize the dramatic improvement Kirsten has made recently. Adizero is one of the favorites of the WTA professionals and is worn by Ana Ivanovic, Angelique Kerber, Sorana Cirstea and fast rising teenagers, Kristina Mladenovic and Garbine Muguruza.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Adidas Apparel Shines In The Sun Of Indian Wells

Caroline Wozniacki
Caroline Wozniacki In adidas By Stella McCartney Barricade
The bright yellows have not just been in the sky at Indian Wells this year as the women from the adidas tennis camp have been rising like the sun to mark the occasion in their yellow tennis gear. With the return to form of three of their top stars and the fact that yellow features prominently in both the Barricade and Adizero lines, adidas yellows seem to be everywhere.

There's now three of adidas' best into the quarter finals - Angelique Kerber, Maria Kirilenko and Caroline Wozniacki. As little as a month ago, this success would have seemed very unlikely.

Angelique's rise to the top has stalled this year, when after a creditable (though not spectacular) performance at the Australian Open, she lost early in Doha and Dubai and looked to be lacking a little confidence after a back ailment hampered her earlier in the year. It just goes to show how easy it is even for a top player to 'fall back into the pack' when this belief in their game isn't there, even if everything else is.

Caroline Wozniacki's showing some fight again after a poor year in 2012 by her standards. I guess her loss of form shouldn't have been too unexpected either considering the pressures and upheavals in her life of late. She's changed racquets, changed coaches, added new sponsors and the world's number 1 golfer to her life. Oh, and she's created her own line of tennis underwear as well. It takes a special person to cope with all that and to have enough concentration left to win tennis matches against equally motivated players with a lot less on their minds.

Maria Kirilenko
Maria Kirilenko In adidas By Stella McCartney Again
Maria Kirilenko has been the most stable of the three, steadily creeping up the top twenty, though she's had her own high profile sponsorships and boyfriends. She got engaged to Russian Ice Hockey superstar, Alexander Ovechkin at the turn of the year after dropping her slightly less high profile Russian tennis playing boyfriend, Igor Andreev.

She's also regained her adidas By Stella McCartney tennis clothing when the Barricade range and Stella combined this year. Maria's not got her exclusive deal back but something's better than nothing. It seems that Stella is keen to let a handful of chosen adidas women players benefit from her elegant styles with the hope that if one of them is performing below par, another will be able to go deep into a tournament to make up.

So Caroline and Maria have been shining in their adidas By Stella McCartney Barricade apparel in Indian Wells and it's probably a better egalitarian arrangement. Angelique's been shining too but in adidas Adizero, very different in style but very similar in color.

With three players in the last eight, there's a good chance that an attractive adidas tennis outfit will feature all the way to the final, where it deserves to be.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Rebecca Marino Retires - Victim Of Hate Social Media Comments

Rebecca Marino (CAN)
Rebecca Marino Reflects On Her Future In Tennis
You might think that the hardest thing about being a professional tennis player would be the endless hours of practise and physical training necessary to be at the top of the sport nowadays. Tennis has become a truly global game in the last twenty or thirty years with a consequent increase in competition and the amount of dedication required to challenge the best.

Even strict control of diet seems to be an increasingly important consideration for the pro tennis elite. Novak Djokovic ensured this would be the case after his change to a gluten free diet seemed to coincide with his transformation into the world number one. Andy Murray's now followed suit and his game seems to have benefited too. Even the Williams sisters seem to be forgoing their steaks now for more healthy vegetarian fare though admittedly this was mainly in response to Venus' recent health issues.

As well as being physically near perfect, the modern tennis player has to ensure everything above the neck in in good order too. Mental toughness is considered by many to be the most important factor in separating the good from the great. The very best seem to play the important points better and not let changes in momentum in the match harm their mood and focus.

But the pressures of being a top tennis player are not just to be found on court. There are plenty of issues to be dealt with in the time between matches, some of which include dealing with the media, sponsorship deals, promotional work and dealing with the public and fans.

Rebecca Marino's an excellent young tennis player and looked set for a place in the top 30 for years to come, but the first signs that all was not well with her came in February last year when she took a six month break to recover from physical and mental fatigue.

Her return to professional tennis was short lived and a year on from her first 'retirement', she's decided to take an indefinite break. It seems that she's prone to depression, which can be difficult enough for sedentary people to deal with but completely debilitating for an athlete like Rebecca. The last straw has been derogatory comments on social media about some of her losing matches where gamblers have lost money as a result.

Some have been threatening and very distasteful, implying that she threw matches and wasn't trying hard enough. I've had some losing flutters on tennis myself, more often than not on James Blake for some reason, but I managed to avoid any animosity towards Mr Blake and to blame my own shortcomings. Since then I've learnt that it's much better to trade a tennis match to the point where you win whichever player is victorious, using companies like Betfair.

Lija Spring Season Zip Tennis Dress
I recommend that these internet bullies do just the same, so that if they're still not in profit at the end of a match, they've only got themselves to blame. That way, sensitive players like Rebecca can fulfil their potential without having to develop a thick skin like Marcelo Rios! Other players just try to avoid reading anything about themselves at all, which solves the problem, but is very difficult to do.

Rebecca's tennis clothing company, Lija are going to suffer a little too, in that their stylish, high performance tennis apparel isn't going to be seen in tournaments and on television as it likely would worn by Rebecca competing at her best. They haven't got a big advertising budget, so you're never going to see Maria Sharapova in their tennis gear, but they've invested in two young hopefuls who may soon rise up the rankings like Rebecca.

Tammy Hendler is from Belgium and already has some ITF singles titles to her name. Bianca Parsons is Canadian (like Lija) and is definitely an investment for the future as she's very young but shows great promise. If you can't wait for these two players to mature into top 30 players, you can always invest in Lija's innovative and classy tennis gear yourself. I particularly like Lija's Zip spring season tennis dress (see above).

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Italian Women's Tennis Pillars Seek Rebirth In Bogata

Flavia Pennetta Plays In Her Favorite US Open Tennis Tournement
Flavia Pennetta At Her Peak Before Wrist Surgery
A year's a very long time in tennis as two top Italian women tennis players, Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone would surely attest. At the start of 2012, Franscesca was ranked 11 and Flavia 20, but the rest of the year saw their rankings go into freefall.

To add insult to injury (literally in Flavia's case), at the same time, two other Italians' tennis careers have spectacularly gone the other way: Roberta Vinci is now a top 20 player and Sara Errani's now in the top ten after not even being on the radar of success at 45 in the rankings a little over a year ago.

These two players have also combined to produce the hottest women's doubles team around, even able to beat the Williams sisters, and are currently ranked number 1.

Now I'm sure Flavia and Francesca are happy that fellow Italians have filled the void they left, but I'm also sure that they would dearly love to replicate recent German success and have 4 players simultaneously in the top 20 to give Italy a Fed Cup team to be feared.

This week, Flavia and Francesca are in Bogata, Columbia on clay courts, hoping to rediscover winning form that each used to reliably bank on in previous years. They're treading a path recently trodden by none other than Rafael Nadal who's on a similar mission. He chose the clay courts of Chile to be the backdrop of his comeback.

Francesca's probably the slightly more desperate of the two to liberate her old form, as she doesn't have much reason for the loss of it. While Flavia wasn't playing at all during the latter months of 2012 due to a serious wrist injury, Francesca's rankings decline was due to inexplicably poor play on nearly every surface and a loss of confidence fuelling yet more poor performances.

Francesca Schiavone Finds Form At Last In Her New adidas Adizero Tennis Apparel
Clay courts have always given Francesca her best results, most notably winning the French Open in 2010 and reaching the final the year after, so a smallish tournament on clay should give her the chance to start afresh. Flavia's success has been across all surfaces, but her decision to play on clay might be to do with the fact it's a little easier on the joints after her long lay-off.

Both women passed the first match hurdle, though as you might expect, neither looked entirely convincing. Francesca was well on the way to her ninth defeat in a row against a qualifier, Sharon Fichman, but managed to scrape a victory in the third set. Flavia was also well down against Alexandra Panova but salvaged a win in three like Francesca.

This year could be make or break for both women, now the wrong side of thirty. Both have tasted success at the highest level and it must be tough playing 'kids' in the qualifiers, eager to take the 'scalp' of former top ten players such as Flavia and Francesca. If fitness and talent have anything to do with it however, both women should be returning to the upper echelons of the game before the year's out.

Flavia's been a long time wearer of adidas Barricade tennis apparel which this year has become the adidas By Stella McCartney Barricade collection worn also by the likes of Caroline Wozniacki and Andrea Petkovic. Francesca seems to have dropped Lotto tennis apparel at the start of the year and has signed with adidas too, but she's now wearing clothing from the equally alluring adidas Adizero range.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Britain's Cosmopolitan Women's Tennis Team Taste Fed Cup Success

Heather Watson  Laura Robson Looking to kick on after impressive 2012
Laura Robson & Heather Watson United For Team GB
Women's tennis in Britain could be set for a new golden era with a handful of talented young players pushing for success at the very top of the game.

There was a time when British women won Wimbledon every year, 21 years in a row in fact, but then Suzanne Lenglen and Helen Wills Moody spoiled the party for the Brits. Since then there's been only sporadic success - Virginia Wade was the last British Slam winner at Wimbledon 36 years ago!

The British hopefuls have gathered together this week for the Fed Cup Group I Europe/Africa matches in Israel and the five player team includes two seasoned professionals, Anne Keothavong and Elena Baltacha, and three relative newcomers, fast climbing the WTA rankings - Heather Watson, Laura Robson and Johanna Konta.

It's a sign of how small the world is becoming and how increasingly mobile it's inhabitants now are that the British team wouldn't look out of place representing the United Nations (if they had a tennis team). Laura and Johanna were actually born in Australia, Johanna's family having emigrated there from Hungary. Anne's parents are from Laos, Heather's mother is from Papua New Guinea and Elena's family is Ukranian.

Anne Keothavong (GBR)
Anne Keothavong Doing Her Bit For Britain & Wilson
The team captain, Judy Murray is Scottish and perhaps best known for being the mother of the ATP world number 3 Andy. Ironically, she might actually lose her British status next year if the Scottish people vote for independence in a referendum.

Judy seems to be an ideal captain for her disparate team, and has already engendered a strong team spirit, essential to get the best out of her talented individuals.

Elena's been injured of late and has plummeted in the rankings, but Judy still invited her along to help keep the emotional bond they all have unbroken. To further promote unity she had some pre match promotional shots taken of them all in identical red dresses.

So far it's all going to plan for the British team as they've dismissed Bosnia/Herzegovina 3-0 and Portugal, 2-1, but the toughest test will be Hungary today who haven't lost a match so far. Hungary have their own young tip-for-the-top in Timea Babos, so it'll be interesting to see whether the young Brits can pass this first test to eventually elevate themselves to the top tier of Fed Cup tennis.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Kristina Mladenovic Boosts French Tennis With Her Serbian Heritage

Kristina MladenovicWith Her Wilson Tennis Racquet
Kristina Mladenovic Set For Tennis Stardom?
Looking at Kristina Mladenovic's name, you'd be naturally inclined to think that she was the latest women's tennis talent from Serbia or Croatia, but she was born in France and is quite happy with her home in Paris. You can tell she's happy by the way she's been playing at the GDF Suez Open in Paris this week, disposing of three top 30 illustrious tennis names in successive rounds - Julia Goerges, Yanina Wickmayer and most impressive of all, Petra Kvitova.

True, Kristina roots do come from the Serbian part of the former country of Yugoslavia, as both her athletic parents hail from that part of the world, but like many born into that former war-torn region, her parents sought safety in another country. In Kristina's case, first Switzerland, then France.

There must be something in the air in the Balkans that promotes ability in tennis because there are so many good tennis players emerging from such a small area. Serbia has a smaller population than Virginia yet has produced a host of top male and female players. It has of course the world number 1 on the men's side, but there are many talented women too, including Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic and Bojana Jovanovski, not to mention the women with Serbian heritage like Kristina and former world number 10, Andrea Petkovic.

The partisan Parisian crowd consider their new women's tennis hope to be 100% French as you would expect, but their exaggerated hopes finally seemed to weigh on Kristina today as she faced a player closer to herself in the rankings, equally talented young German, Mona Barthel in the semi-finals.

Mona turned the tables on Kristina, returning her powerful shots with interest as Kristina had done earlier in the week to her hard hitting opponents.

Spring/Summer adidas Adizero Tennis Dress
Kristina's adidas Adizero Tennis Dress
Still, French Fed Cup captain and former double Slam winner, Amelie Mauresmo sitting in the stands seemed pleased with the week overall, as she'd confirmed Kristina was indeed a large part of the future of French women's tennis, and as a bonus, she'd managed to persuade current French number one, Marion Bartoli to compete for France again after a nine year absence.

Kristina's appearance is going to be as marketable as her tennis in years to come as she has a resemblance to Anna Kournikova, and speaks French, Serbian, English, Italian and Spanish, to show she's not just a pretty face. She looked as cool as any player in the stuffy conditions of the indoor Paris venue in her adidas Adizero tennis dress in vivid yellow/tech grey and matching Adizero Tempaia II tennis shoes. Kristina aggressively uses her Wilson Steam tennis racquet to great effect. Click the links above to get the look of the next superstar of women's tennis!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Adidas Women Tennis Stars Get To Share In Stella Style

Laura Robson & Maria Kirilenko
Laura Robson & Maria Kirilenko Look Suitably Pleased With Their New Stella Gear
Up to the start of 2013, only two top women tennis players have been lucky enough to wear the designer tennis apparel fruits of the collaboration between adidas and Stella McCartney - Maria Kirilenko and Caroline Wozniacki. The exclusivity of their sponsorship deal helped to emphasize the rarity and uniqueness of the tennis clothing. If you splashed out on Stella tennis gear, you were joining a club of one in the professional tennis game, so that made it even more special.

Now adidas and Stella McCartney have decided to broaden that club slightly, bringing Maria back into the fold alongside Caroline and adding adidas stalwarts, Andrea Petkovic and Laura Robson. This was made possible by merging two successful adidas apparel lines - Barricade and adidas By Stella McCartney.

Caroline Wozniacki seems to have taken the loss of her exclusive status and the upheaval in her stride. She's a naturally positive type and if anything appears to be enjoying the company and sharing the responsibility of promoting Stella's high-end tennis clothing.

I expect Stella's more than happy to be designing for Maria Kirilenko again because she is perfectly proportioned to bring the best out of any tennis clothing, let alone her finest designer apparel. Andrea Petkovic too has an excellent physique honed by many hours in the gym and on court, and she was the main face of women's Barricade tennis apparel before the merger. She's easy going like Caroline, and also like Caroline is a marketer's dream, effortlessly coping with tiring promotional events between the tennis.

Laura Robson's been brought in probably with one eye on the future and the fact she's British, like Stella. Laura's been tipped for the top for years now, yet she's only just turned 19. Her results recently indicate all the tipsters have been right as she's now regularly beating the best. Petra Kvitova can attest to that after her loss to Laura in the Australian Open and Laura sent Kim Clijsters back into retirement in 2012.

Laura, Maria and Caroline were recently given a chance to show off their new Stella Barricade tennis clothing for a promotion in a mirrored room. True to form, Caroline seems to be having most fun, but all three seem very pleased to be in the privileged position of having the multiple talents of adidas and Stella McCartney at their disposal. Andrea wasn't left out; she did a separate promo video with Caroline.

All the adidas By Stella McCartney Barricade tennis clothing you can see above is now available to buy online, so you can share in Stella style too. | | | | | | | |