FROM THE PACIFIC LIFE OPEN IN INDIAN WELLS – China's Shuai Peng, who took a tight 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 match over France's talented yet erratic Stephanie Foretz on Thursday. After she fell to Peng in San Diego last year in her only lost in the summer hard courts, Kim Clijsters declared that Peng would soon become a Top 5 player. She hasn't yet (she's fallen to No. 60) and the reasons why are too exhaustive to go in detail:
The abbreviated version
- She spent a good part of last year battling with her provincial team and national federation as to who should coach her, how much money she should give back to government and federation, what clothes she should wear, where she should train, etc. She's a very independent sort who spent a fair amount of time training under in Delray Beach and got a taste of freedom, on court and off. As a result, she's the most promising player of a fair-sized lot of solid Chinese players, reaching a career high No. 31 last year, the highest ever for a Chinese player.<LI class=body_copy>After the Chinese Olympics last year, her province stopped paying her coach. She was forced to play in the Chinese national games on four different occasions last year, and was tired of being told where and when she could play. Consequently, she threatened to quit the national team, but eventually she and the federation worked out a deal where she pays some of her own expenses and hires her own coach, but the federation will pay that coach. <LI class=body_copy>The Chinese national tennis team has a deal with Nike for clothes and shoes and Peng doesn't seem to thrilled with her outfit. <LI class=body_copy>Peng hasn't played since the Aussie Opens because she had some corns on her feet removed and couldn't walk for five weeks. She also got sick.
- She's now traveling with the rest of the Chinese national team and is no longer working out in Florida.
She teared up considerably when talking about the emotional turmoil she went through with her federation last year. She wants to move on, but doesn't feel like she will progress in a big way unless she finds a new coach whom she can relate to and, of course, whom the Chinese Federation can afford.
Peng did say she will play Fed Cup for China this year and compete in the '08 Olympics in Beijing.
"I don't like to talk about the last two months," said Peng, who still is without a coach. "I just want to move ahead."
She is a terrific ball striker who needs to improve her movement and serve in a big way, but if she can find some peace of mind, she should crack the Top 20 this year. But, if she can't work out her troubles at home and develop a situation she is comfortable with, she may fall out of the Top 100.
'Hard designation' hard on Pacific Life Open
There's no question that the Sony Erickson's WTA Tour's decision to hard designate Miami has hurt the women's Pacific Life Open field, with only eight of the Top 21 showing up. "Hard designation" means that every player must show or risk a fine, like at the Slams. Amelia Island, which is the week after Miami, is sure to suffer, too.
However, most players seem to favor the tour's move, with SoCal's Lindsay Davenport backing up CEO Larry Scott by saying that it's the NASDAQ-100 that's been the most supportive of the WTA over the years, offering then more prize money and making the biggest contributions to their bonus pool. Loyalty should always be honored.
The WTA will move to hard designating more Tier Is in the future, but Indian Wells will have a tough time getting on that list because it's played just before Miami. Additionally, since the Super-Nine formula of hard designations has essentially failed on the ATP Tour with the stars choosing to play when they want to, it's difficult to see a similar system working on the injury-riddled WTA Tour either. Heck, the WTA can't seem to get the Williamses to play anything these days (even though they may show for Miami). Serena's fines must have hit a solid $300,000 by now, but she's not playing.
A broken wrist may have broken the career of Alexa Glatch.Henin-Hardenne says she's picking her schedule based on how her body's feeling. The belief here is that the Clijsters would have attempted to defend her Indian Wells title if the tour would have let her out of Miami. There just doesn't appear to be a surefire formula for success.
We've been propping American junior Alexa Glatch for a couple of years now as the nation's most promising girl, but the tall blonde jockette took a major step backwards in November, when she busted her right wrist and left elbow when she slammed into a dog on a motor scooter. She just started practicing three weeks ago and, on Wednesday, was plastered by Martina Sucha in her first match back. Glatch said the wrist fracture was almost career ending, but added that her elbow is almost completely healed and her wrist is feeling much stronger. But, when she got back on court a few weeks ago, it was if she had picked her racket up for the first time again. She's trying to stay positive, but it's not easy. During the off-season she parted with her coach, Katie Schulkebir, and picked up Adam Peterson off the Lindsay Davenport waiver wire.