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Old Oct 24th, 2008, 10:48 PM   #1
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"Too late for Vaidisova?"

Two weeks ago, Jelena Jankovic won three titles in as many weeks. The last female player to achieve this feat? Nicole Vaidisova, who went back-to-back-to-back in Seoul, Tokyo, and Bangkok in the fall of 2005.
That year, Vaidisova was one of the game’s rising stars. Even before her Asian three-peat, expectations were running high for the 16-year-old Czech newcomer. In just her second season as a pro, the press had her picked as the “next big thing” and “future of women’s tennis.” Standing 5-foot-11 with long blond hair, coming from Eastern Europe to train at the Bollettieri Tennis Academy, Vaidisova was, by all appearances, the second coming of Maria Sharapova.

Vaidisova had a 48-15 record in 2005. She reached the fourth round of the U.S. Open and went from a ranking of No. 77 at the start of the season to finish the year at No. 15. She was proving herself worthy of all the praise.
Adding to the fuss was that she had five WTA titles, having won two events in 2004. Only five other women have won as many titles before their 17th birthdays: Tracy Austin, Andrea Jaeger, Monica Seles, Jennifer Capriati, and Martina Hingis.

We know their stories. All but one of these prodigies would go on to be No. 1, the winner of multiple Grand Slam events, and considered among the greatest to ever play the game. (Jaeger got as high as No. 2 and twice reached the final at a major.) We also know that all five had their pro careers interrupted early, either because of injury, burnout, or circumstances beyond their control. In Sister Andrea’s case, apparently, it was God.
Since 2005, Vaidisova has added just one title to her career highlights. And, although she’s reached the semis at two majors and was able to push her ranking as high as No. 7 just last year, she’s become increasingly susceptible to illness and injury. As a result, she’s had to take off for long stretches, and has been unable to defend points and get back into the grind of the tour.

In April, to shake things up, Vaidisova did something drastic: she dropped the coach with whom she built her game, stepfather Alex Kodat, and picked up former Tim Henman coach, David Felgate.

At the U.S. Open, I was able to speak with Vaidisova after her first-round win about this change, which she said was difficult to make but necessary.

“It was 10 years [with Kodat] so that’s hard. But I think we each gave it our all,” she said. “The fact was the excitement part was gone. We’d seen each other every day and we wanted to switch that. It just stopped working so we just parted.”

On the difference Felgate has made so far, she said, “He definitely has got me thinking more positive. We’re more working on strategy than technique, and it’s a refreshing thing to do that and be more excited again for practice and stuff.”

And like every good athlete dealing with lackluster results, she remained positive.

“I feel like my game is picking up. Today, in my first round I played great. So I really feel like it’s turning around.”

OK, fine. In her next match at the Open, she lost to wildcard Severine Bremond in two sets, and then fell in the first round at her next two events. The game hasn’t picked up. In fact, after coming off that career-high rank of No. 7 last year, Vaidisova fell to No. 34 this week, the lowest she’s been in three years.

Now that this season appears over for Vaidisova, she can focus on her personal life, which involves cheering for her boyfriend/rumored fiancé, Radek Stepanek. She was in Madrid last week watching Stepanek lose to Roger Federer, seemingly unperturbed that her season had ended with a 19-19 record. Both she and Stepanek have kept their mouths pretty shut about the relationship. All she told me when I asked about him was that she was “very happy.” I couldn’t help wonder why that happiness isn’t carrying over to her game.

The other morning, I happened to turn to the Tennis Channel and there were Jankovic and Vaidisova playing each other. It was their quarterfinal match from 2006’s tournament in Linz. (Nice timing, T.C.) You could see how erratic Vaidisova’s ground strokes were then, how she goes for too much, tries to make every return a winner. And you could see her habit of constantly checking in with the folks in her box. She won a lot of easy points off her big serve and Jankovic’s unwarranted errors. She was No. 11 then, a spot above Jankovic, and ended up winning the match in three sets.

What a difference a couple years makes. Now Jankovic is ranked No. 1 and Vaidisova is… Well, I already mentioned that.

Vaidisova’s story remains unwritten. She turns 20 in April, so there is time to get back on the winning track. But judging by how far her game slid this year, it’s not looking like happy-ending material. The window of time to make great things happen is small in tennis, especially for women. Mary Pierce and Capriati, a washout at age 18, are two players who were able to turn things around and finally fulfill all their pent up phenom potential. Who knows if Vaidisova is still capable of back-to-back-to-back wins. I, for one, would just like to see her come back.

Sarah Thurmond is an associate editor for TENNIS Magazine.

http://www.tennis.com/features/gener...aspx?id=150146


What do you think? The title of this article is idiotic in my opinion, Nicole is 19 1/2. It is not "too late". The author does a good job of saying how big a f*ck up this year was for Nicole, but not how to make it better.
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Old Oct 24th, 2008, 11:42 PM   #2
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Re: "Too late for Vaidisova?"

If 2009 is just like 2008, the answer is yes. As she still looks for her first Tier II(Premiere beginning next year) final or above in her career while other players less talented has won or made the final in those types.
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Old Oct 25th, 2008, 12:04 AM   #3
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Re: "Too late for Vaidisova?"

Too late? No. But the bottom can fall out fast. See Elena Bovina and Jelena Dokic. OTOH, the same questions were asked about Daniela Hantuchova during her prolonged slump. Yet she ended 2007 in the top ten, is ranked #15 now.
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Old Oct 25th, 2008, 12:12 AM   #4
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Re: "Too late for Vaidisova?"

The answer is: we are not seers, most of us have no direct contact with the players, thus we cannot form an informed opinion. What remains is to:

1) wish all the best to the players who are talented but cannot regain form, or are going through periods of turmoil in their personal lives

2) hope for the best

3) be prepared for the worst
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Old Oct 25th, 2008, 12:39 AM   #5
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Re: "Too late for Vaidisova?"

Her game slid because she couldn't be stuffed to train anymore if she cares enough to start training like she used to. The old Nicole the one who was ranked #7 at 18 will be back

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Old Oct 25th, 2008, 12:49 AM   #6
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Re: "Too late for Vaidisova?"

Hm.. I sense doom for her.
I think the biggest difference between the best players and those that fail to get to the top is "Drive"
clearly the williams sisters have the drive to win (especailly at grand slams)
Henin had that drive.
Sharapova has that drive.
Mauresmo had it for a while.
Jankovic also has that drive (so I think she will end up winning a grand slam eventually)
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Old Oct 25th, 2008, 12:55 AM   #7
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Re: "Too late for Vaidisova?"

It's hard to predict what will happen with Nicole, but for me she is always TOP5 material. It's mostly depending on her - she must to find new extra-motivation, self confidence and together with hard work maybe we will see somehow in next 2-3 years same thing with slumped Nicole like with Jankovic in 2006 or Safina this season. Also dont forget former TOP10 players Dementieva and Zvonareva which not only cameback this season at 27yo and 24yo in TOP10... they both have careers best season this year and Williams sisters at 27yo and 28yo have best season in last 5 years, so its really way too early to say for some still teenager "too late"! But things seems already seriously in Nicole case for sure. It's unbelivable that after Sharapova all three "big-deal" young prospects which already at 15-16 shows big potential (Golovin, Karantantcheva and Vaidisova) is right now nowhere .
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Old Oct 25th, 2008, 01:22 AM   #8
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Re: "Too late for Vaidisova?"

It is not and never will be, till she reach 25!
If i could hope much for Sesil's Thunderous comeback, I could more for Nicole!
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Old Oct 25th, 2008, 01:39 AM   #9
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Re: "Too late for Vaidisova?"

It's definitely not too late when you look at other players who have made successful comebacks much later in their careers, but the situation definitely doesn't look good at the moment.
I think it's more of a mental thing than anything else so it's difficult to say what she can actually do to fix it, but if the drive/determination that she clearly had at 16/17 isn't there anymore, I don't think there's much she can do
It's hard to believe it was less than a year ago that I watched her beat Jankovic in the Sydney quarters. After that match I certainly didn't think she'd be in this position by the end of the season. She's never been one of my favourite players but she's too good not to be top 10 again. Hopefully she's back there sooner rather than later.
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Old Oct 25th, 2008, 01:49 AM   #10
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Re: "Too late for Vaidisova?"

I like Nicole and it sucks that she is having such bad results. As a huge Jankovic fan I think that she can turn it around because she is young and has the time. Unless she gives up there is no doubt she could pull a Jankovic and end next year in the top 5. She is a great player, and I think she is in a really bad slump, but I am still pulling for her to change it up and start winning again!!
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Old Oct 25th, 2008, 01:51 AM   #11
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Re: "Too late for Vaidisova?"

Good Article.. Thx.

I think Nicole needs to concentrate on tennis instead of hanging out and being "happy" with Stepanek. It's so stupid. You've chosen to play tennis as a pro.. you can't do whatever u want. It's wether tennis or relationship. Moreover, when it ruins you on court as much as it does to Nicole.
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Old Oct 25th, 2008, 03:21 AM   #12
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Re: "Too late for Vaidisova?"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Volcana View Post
Too late? No. But the bottom can fall out fast. See Elena Bovina and Jelena Dokic. OTOH, the same questions were asked about Daniela Hantuchova during her prolonged slump. Yet she ended 2007 in the top ten, is ranked #15 now.
and is currently in a huge slump
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Old Oct 25th, 2008, 08:51 AM   #13
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Re: "Too late for Vaidisova?"

Vaidisova did not, however, win three back-to-back tier 1/2 titles like Jelena did...
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Old Oct 25th, 2008, 10:00 AM   #14
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Re: "Too late for Vaidisova?"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seyz View Post
Hm.. I sense doom for her.
I think the biggest difference between the best players and those that fail to get to the top is "Drive"
clearly the williams sisters have the drive to win (especailly at grand slams)
Henin had that drive.
Sharapova has that drive.
Mauresmo had it for a while.
Jankovic also has that drive (so I think she will end up winning a grand slam eventually)
I think so. I think she is kidding herself if she thinks it will all come right. She's too happy with Stepanek to really have that drive. Saying you are motivated is not enough.

She walks out of her matches after each humiliating loss and doesn't seem to care nowadays. The old Nicole would have broken at least one racket if she had performed like that. It can be a good thing not to show your frustrations. But with Nicole - I think she's just not hungry enough to win now.
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Old Oct 25th, 2008, 11:36 AM   #15
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Re: "Too late for Vaidisova?"

for Nicole its attitude and aptitude thats in question.
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