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Washington, Harkleroad, Bartoli, Liu Get Perspective
Ferreira Gives Up in LA; Venus’ New Dress

By Matthew Cronin

http://www.*******************/tr.net_photos_art/BARTOLI_sm_rg_03.jpgSusan Mullane/Camerawork USA​
Marion is lighter and evolving.

FROM THE BANK OF THE WEST CLASSIC – Before Mashona Washington and Venus Williams dazzled the crowds, it was an anti-angst Wednesday in Palo Alto. It began with Ashley Harkleroad after her loss to Jelana Kostanic, who says she has new perspective on her career after sitting on the sidelines for four months nursing a torn ligament in her elbow. She also has a new coach, Patricia Tarabini and no longer is engaged in Alex Bogomolov. Believe it or not, the teen was hating life at times last year when she was rising up the charts. Now being forced to qualify for Tier II tournaments, "Pebbles" is much happier.

"Before when I was ranked No. 35, I didn’t enjoy it," she said. " Now I’m very happy and enjoying everything about the game and life. That’s when you know it’s a matter of time before you work way up again. As long as you’re enjoying yourself and you’re happy, you play well. Before, I put a lot of pressure on myself. When I lost I took it as the end of the world and when I won I never gave myself credit. I was always worrying or thinking about the next day. You can’t do that. The first year on tour is always a learning experience. I realized what I'm going to do the next time around and its going to be a different story. I need to enjoy being out there, the nervousness, the pressure. If something stupid or bad happens to you have to learn to laugh it off and not go overboard. This time around will be a lot different. FYI: Harkleroad still thinks she has top 25 stuff.

Another 19-year-old, France’s Marion Bartoli, had a somewhat bizarre 6-1, 6-4 win over against Russia’s Elena Likhovtseva after she nearly squandered a 6-1, 5-0. Her serve is a bit of wreck, but she spun some in during the last game and the Russian framed away. "I thought she was going to retire because she was giving up on every point," said Bartoli. "She was double faulting, missing a lot, it was very strange. It’s hard to play against someone like that. Then I was afraid to close the match out and she began to play better. Fortunately, I got my serves in during the last game."

Bartoli suffered a hip injury when she slipped on grass at a tournament in Birmingham the week before Wimbledon, but says she at full health again. Like Harkleroad, she says she has a new view on her career. She’s lost 30 pounds due to a new diet that doesn’t include loads of sweets.
"It wasn’t good for me to eat like that because I was carrying to much weight and hurting my knees," she said. "I’m feeling great and trying not to play without expectations and putting pressure on myself. I’m enjoying it a lot more."

The same can be said for one of the tour’s true grinders, the 28-year-old Mashona Washington, who reached her first WTA Tier II quarterfinal by beating old Challenger-level foe Marissa Irvin 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. The younger sister of 1997 Wimbledon finalist Malivai, Washington has been pressing for a breakthrough for the past decade, but is just now on the verge of cracking the top 100. She’s a lucky loser here and has made the most of her chances. Like with the 19-year-olds, it’s all about taking the pressure of registering the W’s off her head that has mattered most.

"It was a matter of mentality before and losing focus during matches," said Washington. "I had to learn that everyone hits great shots and makes mistakes, but you have to move on to the next point. I always knew I had the ability and the strokes and that I was fit enough. I’ve always been the first player to get on the practice court and the last one to leave. But I didn’t’ believe in myself enough. This year, I said the hell with it, I’m just going to get out there, give it my all and if I lose, I lose."

Top seed Venus Williams brought out a new white dress for her opening match against Lindsay Lee-Waters. It didn’t fit quite right (Ms. Williams may have dropped five pounds or so doing wind sprints in the Florida heat the past two weeks) and she was frequently puling up her straps, but the skirt portion of it had fans talking. With slits coming up the sides, it looks somewhat like Serena’s Wimbledon edition. "Hers is a pleated cut, mine I call a handkerchief cut," said Venus, who wiped out Water 6-1, 6-1. "Hers is a great design, but I like mine, too."
BTW Serena is trying to convince Venus to co-buy a teardown house with her in West LA. Serena already owns a condo in Beverly Hills.

Two-time NCAA champ Amber Liu hasn’t decided whether she should go pro yet. She says that at summer’s end, she’ll go with her gut, but she’s aware that if she doesn’t turn pro in the fall, there’s no reason to do so after her junior year either. She’s improved a fair amount and has top-50 stuff, but she’s a smart economics majors who loves the Stanford lifestyle and hanging out with her friends. She’s not yet enamored with the idea of grinding on the sometimes-lonely tour, even though she knows she has nothing left to prove at the collegiate tennis level. Plus, she’s not convinced she can make enough money or be an impact player. She’s says her decision will be a lifestyle one and from the sound of her voice, it appears she’ll stay in college. But that’s just a hunch from a onetime PoliSci major and we could never figure the Econ folks out.
Mark Lyons /
Wayne is about to pack it in.
In and Around the Mercedes Benz Cup
By Tom McFerson

LSO ANGELES- It wasn’t exactly a shock to see Mercedes Benz Cup defending champion Wayne Ferreira go out to Paradorn Srichaphan. One played well, the other hasn’t. What was surprising was how meekly Ferreira accepted his first round fate. Gone was the fire and inspiration from last year’s run. Instead, fans watched a player who appeared to be almost going through the motions. The soon-to-be-retired South African’s response to reporters confirmed that: "…I don't have the motivation or enthusiasm to practice and train. Mostly motivation, the will, the want, the desire. I just don't feel like I have it anymore."

For all of the hype surrounding the US Open Series, the marketing of it at UCLA is minimal. No mention of the "US Open Series" on the scoreboards or web site, and no apparent mention of it on the clothing or products for sale on the grounds. The only real marketing effort seems to be the "US Open Series" emblems that are courtside, but those are lost amongst the larger sponsors.

Until Taylor Dent develops some kind of ground game, he can expect to stay an afterthought in American men’s tennis. His loss to Greg Rusedski proved again that Dent has no Plan B out there, no ability to grind and pull a match out when he isn’t serving at 65 percent. Right now, for Dent to beat a top player, he has to play a near perfect match. The ability to grind, at least for a few balls during a rally, would give him a bit more margin for error.

After the slew of player pullouts, tournament officials had to be sweating out Andre Agassi’s on-court activities last week – a World Team Tennis match in Philadelphia, followed by a charity doubles match at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Not exactly the most demanding of tennis, but, given Andre’s sore hip, it had to be a concern. Don’t believe for a moment that tournament organizers weren’t over at nearby St. Paul’s Church, lighting candles and handling rosary beads, praying for the superstar’s healthy arrival.

All of the players who pulled out of the tournament appeared to have legitimate reasons, although a few eyebrows were raised at Jan Michael Gambill’s "exhaustion" claim. Doesn’t seem like he’s played enough matches lately to be "exhausted."

Tommy Haas looked very solid in his win over Robby Ginepri. He served well and appears to be hitting his (sometimes-shaky) backhand confidently. Haas could face Agassi in the quarterfinals, a contest that would be a great measuring stick match for both players.

At Tuesday night’s post-match news conference, a reporter asked Agassi to play "Jeopardy" for a moment. What is the answer if (keeping in mind the rules of the show) the question is "Who is Andre Agassi?" After a bit of awkwardness, Agassi replied: someone who "hates ridiculous questions."
Three Wednesday wins that are worth noting: Nicolas Kiefer over Glenn Weiner, 6-4, 7-5; Rusedski beating Karol Beck 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(2) and Mardy Fish defeating Gilles Elseneer 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.

2,593 Posts
Thanks for the reports.

959 Posts
Ashley was #35? Was she reading the Chase to Champ Ranking?
Amber better stay in school:). Being a tennis player is just way too hard.
But nice to see these people having new perspectives though:).

17,731 Posts
Well I hope Ashley can get back up there, cos shes a good player, shell never win a slam or anything but shes certainly a lot better then the 116 or whatever she is ranked now.
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