The LTA's Revolution: The Re-Discovery of British Women?
After the Christmas break the world of tennis will become thrust into life and action with the opening tournaments to the 2010 season.
For British prospects the woman’s side of the game has never seen such promise since the turn of the millennium with five players now looking to build upon impressive seasons in the 2009 season and progress towards the upper reaches of the rankings.
Here, I take a peak at the British stars looking most willing and able to perform and increase the exposure given to the Lawn Tennis Association after years of frustrated let downs.
#1: Elena Baltacha
Current World Ranking: Number 84
Career High Ranking: Number 84 (Achieved 14/12/09)
Although she has arguably progressed more than half of the way through her career there is still certain to me a great amount of fight within the Scottish-Ukranian machine that is Elena Baltacha. Boasting a massive serve and die hard attitude Elena finally climbed into the top 100 in 2009 and elevated herself back to her rightful position of Britain’s number one. Being the only player to force through the first round in more than one Grand Slam event she has the experience and required tenacity to succeed, and hopefully this will be the season that finally does it for her if she can produce a continuous display of her best attributes. Her downfall has in past seasons came with her inconsistent performances, never so true in Wimbledon this year when she produced a stunning display in round 1, before falling apart in round 2, comfortably losing a match she should have even more comfortably won.
Her first aim will be in following fellow country woman Anne Keothavong into reaching the top 50, but her sights must indeed be on improving on her third round efforts in previous Wimbledon and Australian Open tournaments.
If she can progress further she would at least equal Sam Smith who accomplished a fourth round berth more than ten years ago.
#2: Katie O'Brien
Current World Ranking: Number 88
Career High Ranking: Number 88 (Achieved 14/12/09)
In the same week that Baltacha reached the top hundred, Katie O’Brien joined her and stole some of the limelight after a season where her improved performance elevated her standing in the world of tennis.
The Brit has sadly never excelled when it comes to the Grand Slams but has shown great consistency on the WTA tour and could use this to inspire her to greater results in 2010 as well as a victory or two in either of the four main events. A run in the main events has proved elusive thus far but would surely be helped with further climbs up the rankings.
#3: Anne Keothavong
Current World Ranking: Number 99
Career High Ranking: Number 48 (Achieved 23/02/09)
It was always quite odd that a player such as Anne made the top fifty in the world with a record in Grand Slams that portrayed nothing remarkable. She has simply faltered on the biggest stages, never going further than a second round in various attempts, mainly at Wimbledon.
As Baltacha struggled through injury however Anne quietly progressed in the lesser events and various successes against players expected to be beyond her reach buoyed her to such a credible ranking.
Sadly injury finally got the better of her towards the end of 2009 and her ranking took a sharp decline after she was made to miss many tournaments.
What Anne has to do now is return with the type of consistency that progressed her position up the rankings. If she can accompany this with a credible grand slam performance or two she will garner more deserved attention.
Yet if she is unable to do the latter she may give herself little chance of re-reaching her former glorious peak, beginning her gradual exit from the sport as her career closes in on its climax.
#4: Laura Robson
Current World Ranking: Number 402
Career High Ranking: Number 330 (Achieved 14/09/09)
2008’s Wimbledon, forgetting Andy Murray was all about this girl for British hopes. She burst onto the scene with a junior title victory that gave her massive exposure and etched her into the mindsets as a name to look out for in future years.
Although she has yet to match this since, she has made a promising start to the main WTA tour, and in drifting away from the junior realm has showed great maturity and a few polished performances that warrant a reputation that will cause others to take note.
If she can gain a tournament win at all in the next season or progress through a grand slam past the first round then she may allow herself a steady line of progress and results to back up the success that the LTA expect.
#5: Heather Watson
Current World Ranking: Number 559
Career High Ranking: Number 559 (Achieved 30/11/09)
Whereas Laura Robson was the British junior star of 2008, Heather Watson took over the role in 2009 with a dominatory performance in winning the Junior US open title. Her progress has been closely monitored by the British press since that triumph and she has followed Laura Robson into the main tour with a couple of credible victories giving food for thought for others.
As it stands Watson seems more capable of producing the results on the main WTA tour, and will look with her fellow compatriot to improve her rankings as well as look towards possible triumphs at the London Olympics in 2012.
With both Robson and Watson now emerging on the circuit they can also look to inspire the older British players who will no doubt now have to fend off the rising rankings of both former junior players.
This is especially when these former junior players based on form look like eclipsing the previous efforts by the likes of Baltacha and Keothavong. They stand a great chance of becoming seeded players, and possible grand slam winners; something that has been forgotten by the British media in the last decade.
We obviously must not get ahead of ourselves of expectations of ranking tournament wins but the LTA seems to have produced successful substance in both players, which should and could translate into similar successes on the world arena.
The 2010 Season
All five of the aforementioned players appear to have 2010 in their grasps, with the availability to shine and confirm the revolution of the Lawn Tennis Association’s enhanced direction.
What we are looking for as optimistic fans and spectators is various tournament wins, accompanying a Grand Slam where all competitors progress confidently and inspirationally, as opposed to falling all too predictably at the first hurdle.
The quintet are looking able to reignite British interest in the sport of women’s tennis, providing they can continue the awesome sequence of results that have benefited each player.
So 2010 will be a very intriguing season indeed.