In recent years, women’s tennis has been dominated by star names such as Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova. With power and precision they have won everything there is to win with 35 Grand Slam singles titles between them as of April 2017. During this period of dominance, the Brits have had to take a backseat whilst they wait for another Virginia Wade or Sue Barker to emerge. As 2017 marks 40 years since a British woman last won a Grand Slam singles title, we decided to look at Johanna Konta, the nation’s strongest hope of ending that drought.
In an era that was being dominated so strongly by Serena Williams, winning a Grand Slam singles title was a tough ask for anyone else. Marion Bartoli and Sam Stosur won their only Grand Slam titles during this period of dominance but there was one winner that was an even bigger surprise. Flavia Pennetta entered the US Open in 2015 as the 26th seed and defied the odds to become only the second Italian woman in history to win a Grand Slam singles title. Whilst making her own piece of history, Serena was being prevented from making hers, in what became a story that nobody had predicted.
As Lauren Davis makes her way onto court, you could perhaps be forgiven for thinking you are about to watch a junior tennis match. At just 5ft 2in tall, the 23 year old American is, without a doubt, one of the shorter players on the WTA tour right now. Couple her size with her youthful looks and her opponent stood on the opposite side of the net may be fooled into thinking that they are in for an easy ride. However, the fact of the matter is, that when you come up against Davis, size doesn't matter and that is something that she has proven time and time again.
When Maria Sharapova received a ban from playing tennis due to doping, it is fair to say that the world of sport was shocked. Russian athletes have had a tough time of it recently and controversy surrounds a number of their sportstars but none of them come close to the reputation of Sharapova. Meldonium, the substance in question, has since become a word that is well known to tennis fans since this saga became apparent back in March 2016. The ban that was put in place by the ITF (International Tennis Federation) was appealed and reduced to 15 months. That time is almost up, so what next next for the 29 year old Russian?
In January we had a feature outlining three players that we feel will make a big impact on the WTA tour in 2017 (see here). Not wanting to neglect the fans of the ATP tour, we have done the same for the men. We have already seen an extraordinary Australian Open where Roger Federer rolled back the years to secure his 18th career Grand Slam title and there could well be more surprises to come. The French Open may be the closest Grand Slam for years as Rafa Nadal was firing on all cylinders in Melbourne and will no doubt feel he has another big title in him. But what about outside the top 10? Who can we expect to have a big year in 2017?
The recent coverage of Chinese sport, certainly in the British media, has been dominated by their domestic football league, the CSL. China is a huge country however and has so much more to offer the sporting world than simply paying huge sums of money for famous footballers, and signs of what they have to offer have started to emerge. Tennis may seem like an unlikely source of success for the Chinese but it is a sport gathering traction all the time as more and more players, especially in the women's game, move up the rankings. For young Chinese players there can be only one inspiration and that is Li Na.
Here we are in a new year and even though it is still January, the 2017 tennis season is well under way. Every year there are two or three players who send shockwaves throughout the tennis world by surging up the rankings and beating various well-respected opponents along the way. Recent years have seen the likes of Johanna Konta and CiCi Bellis climb the rankings in spectacular fashion and they show no signs of slowing down. Who will be the next female tennis players to take the game by storm and have a memorable 2017? We have selected three players who we believe will be catching your eye this year.
It is always a sad day for any sport when an icon, or maybe even just someone that you grew up watching and admiring, decides to retire. All good things must come to an end as the old cliché goes and 2016 saw the curtain drawn on what was a great career for one of the best tennis players that Australia has ever produced. Lleyton Hewitt, or Rusty as he is affectionately known, was one of a kind and the world of tennis lost a superb ambassador of the sport that every fan admired and enjoyed watching, when he decided to hang up his racket for the very last time.
The headlines of British tennis are almost always dominated by Andy Murray at the moment and rightly so. The nation is proud to have a world number one and enjoy celebrating that and everything else he has achieved in recent years. As Murray continued to please the crowds, the British women were quietly going about their business, improving all the time and gaining recognition around the world. The emergence of Johanna Konta allowed a fraction of the spotlight to be shone on the women's game here in the UK but she is not the only British woman to turn heads over the last 12-18 months.
For some people, age is just a number and is not something that is allowed to hold them back. This is true in all walks of life and sport is no exception. Sure there are certain disciplines where having youth on your side provides you with a huge advantage but there are also examples where the age of an athlete holds no bearing over what they can achieve. In 2016, Nick Skelton became an Olympic gold medalist at the age of 58. Also in 2016 there was an equally impressive feat in the world of tennis, as Leander Paes became a Grand Slam champion at the age of 42. I guess life really can begin at 40!
When Serena Williams won Wimbledon in 2015 the world of tennis felt that it was inevitable that she would go on to win the US Open that September. Serena had her perfect year all laid out because with that title would come the completion of the calendar Grand Slam, meaning that she had won all four major titles that year. Only Margaret Court and Steffi Graf had achieved such a feat in the Open Era. A 2015 US Open title would also be the 22nd Grand Slam singles title for Serena which would draw her level with Graf. There was a lot riding on her home Slam.
On the 14th of September 2015 the future of US women's tennis looked a little bleak. The new rankings had just been released following the US Open, where Serena Williams had missed the opportunity to complete the calendar Grand Slam by losing to Roberta Vinci in the Semi Finals. The tennis world, for the first time, was realising that Serena would not last forever and that perhaps her dominance was coming to an end. US tennis fans would surely now start to be looking to the future and at who would be the next American great to step up to the plate.