Venus Williams and 9 Tennis Stars We Would Love to See Hit the Comeback Trail

Michael Ann McKinlayContributor IIISeptember 28, 2012

Venus Williams and 9 Tennis Stars We Would Love to See Hit the Comeback Trail

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    There comes a time for most athletes when they simply can't produce the same results that they did years before.

    Such decline could be due to age, injury setbacks, or simply the state of the game changing—and in some cases all three.

    Whether their time has really come and gone, the athletes listed below would like a second beginning to prove they still having something to offer the game of tennis.

    Let’s look at five men and five women who we would like to see revive their career, or end their career on a positive note. 

Lleyton Hewitt

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    Lleyton Hewitt, like so many players of his generation, was victimized by the dominance of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

    Luckily for him, though, he twice experienced being ranked as the world's No. 1 player (at the end of the 2001 and 2002 seasons) and, at the age of 20, became the youngest male tennis player ever to hold that ranking. He also won a US Open and a Wimbledon singles title.

    Hewitt, however was unlucky with his health, as he has gone through multiple hip surgeries. Foot and wrist injuries have hampered him the last couple of seasons. 

    With his current generation on the outs (Andy Roddick and Juan Carlos Ferrero retired this past month) Hewitt’s road to retirement seems closer as he turns 32 this February.

    I’m sure home country of Australia would love to see “Rusty” give one last try and reach the second week of the Australian Open this upcoming January.

Venus Williams

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    Venus Williams is the most accomplished player on the list, having won seven Grand Slam titles. However, her diagnosis of Sjogren’s syndrome in 2011 added more trial to an already declining career. 

    2012 did show promise, as Venus defeated Petra Kvitova in Miami, reached the semifinals in Cincinnati, and battled against Angelique Kerber at the US Open. And in doubles, teaming with sister Serena, she won Wimbledon and a gold medal in London.

    Venus will turn 33 next year; it seems like next season could be the last one for Venus to leave her mark. Venus deserves to end her career on a high note, to be remembered less for the illness she had to battle than for the remarkable talent she's always been.

Robin Soderling

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    Robin Soderling has put on quite the disappearing act—he has not played an ATP match since summer of 2011 after winning Bastad—due to a wrist injury and mononucleosis. 

    Best known for handing Rafael Nadal his only loss at the French Open and then taking out defending champion Roger Federer the following year at Roland Garros, Soderling was a welcome challenge to the “Big Four”. He was considered a Grand Slam contender before his injuries and has major work to do to get back to the top of the men’s game. 

    Soderling has a strong game, with powerful groundstrokes, and should bounce back like Juan Martin Del Potro did this season.

Jelena Jankovic

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    Like her compatriot Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic has struggled since once holding the No. 1 at the end of the 2008 season—a year which she reached the US Open final.

    Unlike Ivanovic, Jankovic claimed the top ranking without winning a Grand Slam title, which prompted criticism from the press. 

    Since 2010, Jankovic has yet to reach the final weekend at a Slam and has had a forgettable 2012, losing early at Wimbledon and the US Open.

    Jankovic rode a powerful two-handed backhand to success during the 2007-2009 seasons, but her willingness to play most events on the WTA tour has physically worn her down.

    Like many on the list, Jankovic still has time to revive her career.

James Blake

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    Unlike many on this list, James Blake has already had a career comeback of sorts, recovering from a severe neck injury and the loss of his father to overtake Andy Roddick in 2006 as the top ranked American. He ended that season ranked No. 4 in the world.

    However, he began to slip in 2010 and is now currently ranked 99th in the world. This year’s US Open was the first time he reached the third round since the 2010 US Open.

    Blake’s best tennis days might be behind him, but he knows what it takes to have another resurgence in his career. 

Svetlana Kuznetsova

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    Svetlana Kuznetsova tasted success early in her career, winning her first Grand Slam at the 2004 US Open when she was just 19 years old. 

    Despite set backs in 2005, Kuznetsova finished in the top 10 from 2006 to 2009, winning her second slam at the 2009 French Open. She was a finalist at the 2006 French Open and 2007 US Open, losing to Justine Henin both times. 

    Inconsistency has haunted Kuznetsova for the past couple of seasons, but she has a strong enough game that—if she returns to form next season—she'll find herself in the mix in a number of tournaments.

Nikolay Davydenko

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    Remember when Nikolay Davydenko was favored to beat Roger Federer at the 2010 Australian Open because of his previous victories (most notably the 2009 ATP tour semifinals) over the Swiss? 

    Yeah, that seemed like a decade ago. Davydenko has since struggled with a wrist injury that he suffered in the latter part of 2010. He was ranked inside the top 10 from 2005 to 2009, and was once described as one of the most underrated players on the ATP tour.   

    Though he did show a spark at this year’s US Open—going up two sets to love against American favorite Mardy Fish—it is hard to tell where Davydenko is headed. The 31-year-old might just have a season or two left, and it would be exciting to see the underdog surprise on a big stage one final time.

     


Ana Ivanovic

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    The pressure of being world No. 1 after a great first half of the 2008 slam season (finalist in Australia, title at French Open) got to Ana Ivanovic; she saw her ranking fall to No. 22 by the end of the 2009 season. 

    Ivanovic’s serve, specifically her ball toss, has been erratic over the years and a lack of confidence has accelerated her decline—surprising for a player that fist pumps after every point she wins. 

    However, Ivanovic seems to be in the middle of a career resurgence, thanks to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal appearance since her 2008 French Open title run.

    So, the Serb appears more than capable of becoming part of the Grand Slam title talk again. Her serve and forehand—reliable weapons during her successful 2007-2008 seasons—seem to have improved this year,

    Despite not playing to her full potential, Ivanovic has still maintained a top-30 ranking, and, as of this week, she's positioned just outside the top 10.

    The 24-year-old still has plenty of time to climb up the WTA rankings and go deep in major tournaments. 

Marcos Baghdatis

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    The always smiling Cypriot came out of nowhere during the 2006 season, reaching the Australian Open final, Wimbledon semifinals, and giving Andre Agassi’s last victory with a thrilling five setter in New York. 

    Since then, Marcos Baghdatis had stolen the spotlight on a few occasions—like his epic 2008 battle against Lleyton Hewitt at the Australian that ended at 4:34 a.m. or his victories over Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal during the 2010 season. 

    If he can get his tennis-racquet smashing under control, he is capable of making a comeback. He showed a lot of fight in his battle against Andy Murray at this year’s Wimbledon. 

    Look for the Cypriot to get back on his feet at the 2013 Australian Open and redeem himself for his bad behavior. 

Melanie Oudin

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    Melanie Oudin was a victim of early success, reaching the second week of the 2009 Wimbledon and then storming the US Open later that summer, defeating Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova to reach the quarterfinals.

    She was 17 years old, and the youngest quarterfinalist at the US Open since Serena Williams 10 years prior. 

    Oudin then fell victim to a “sophomore slump” from which she has yet to fully recover. She did capture her first WTA title this past spring in Birmingham, but has since 2009 she has failed to reach the third round of any Grand Slam event.

    The bad news for Oudin is that another crop of young Americans (like Sloane Stephens and Christina McHale) are making big breakthroughs and slowly pushing Oudin out of the picture. 

    Oudin is very young, just turning 21 this past month, and is still in the early stages of her career.