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American hardcourt battle begins as US Open Series kicks off

FEATURED COLUMNIST
Modified 22 Jul 2013, 14:46 IST

The last few days had been the lull before a storm on the tennis circuit. Except for Roger Federer trying out his new racquet and Serena Williams emerging victorious in an International-level event for the first time, the tennis scenario had been bereft of its biggest stars.

The battle of the hardcourts begins today

Today marks the beginning of a brand new battle at hand, a raging storm that will sweep over the tennis world for seven weeks as the US Open Series kicks off at Stanford and Atlanta. New hopes, new aspirations, new answers to plethora of questions – the US Open Series will be extremely intriguing this time after the unpredictable Wimbledon we got to witness.

Is every player eagerly embracing the squeaking and screeching hardcourts right from the beginning after dusting off the last few specks of red dirt and bidding farewell to the picturesque green lawns? Some have chosen the path of rigorous fitness programs while some want to test the waters early. For some it’s been a slow recuperation and rehabilitation while some want to recharge themselves through an idyllic vacation.

Different players have different modes of approach but the goal remains the same for each one – the US Open. And for that reason, Maria Sharapova, in spite of never having triumphed at Stanford, opted to withdraw from the West Coast tournament and immersed herself in quiet practice sessions with her new coach, Jimmy Connors.

On the other hand, Agnieszka Radwanska and Samantha Stosur want to make themselves battle-hardy early in this sizzling American summer and are thus the top two seeds at Stanford.

Defending champion Serena Williams fulfilled her commitment to her last clay tournament at Bastad and is thus a major absentee in the first of the US Open Series events. Wimbledon winner Marion Bartoli expectedly had numerous engagements post her euphoric win at SW19, and she realised she needed more time to gauge herself for the intense hardcourt battles after developing a hamstring niggle.

Naturally, a tournament that has been one of the most awaited WTA events on the calendar has been robbed of star power but the competition will nonetheless be fierce. As Wimbledon taught us the valuable lesson of never underestimating one’s opponent, Bank of the West Classic too can throw up quite a few surprises with the names of Dominika Cibulkova, Daniela Hantuchova and Jamie Hampton lurking in the draw.

That reminds us of another illustrious absentee who we last saw in a match where she grimaced and writhed in pain. Victoria Azarenka, last year’s US Open runner-up is much more at home on the hardcourts and her staunch determination and ferocity have been missed. But the wait will perhaps not be longer as it is learnt that the Belarusian has plans of making the much-awaited return at Carlsbad, the very next event in the series.

Besides, any tennis enthusiast will be anxiously looking forward to see if Sabine Lisicki and Kirsten Flipkens will be able to replicate their thrilling runs on the hardcourts. Both Petra Kvitova and Li Na had stunning results on the North American hardcourts last year and their returns too will receive attention.

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Martina Hingis’s return will garner a lot of interest

But even bigger news is being made by a former US Open champion who will be un-retiring once again – Martina Hingis. The latest inductee at the Tennis Hall of Fame still has all the deftness and touch needed on the doubles court and her comeback will garner a lot of interest.

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Published 22 Jul 2013, 14:45 IST
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