Notes from here and there in the world of professional tennis, on Canadians and No. 1s:
• Marino wins: Tennis fans in the Saguenay region of Quebec were treated to great drama on Sunday as Rebecca Marino reached the final of the $50,000 women’s event held in Jonquiere.
The 19-year-old from Vancouver, who trains out of the national centre at Montreal’s Jarry Park, pulled out a 6-4, 6-7, 7-6 win over American Alison Riske to take the title.
Marino is putting together a breakthrough season. She qualified at the U.S. Open (a first Grand Slam main-draw appearance) and reached the second round, where she gave Venus Williams everything she could handle in a poised performance, in her Arthur Ashe Stadium debut.
The title in Saguenay bumped Marino’s WTA Tour ranking to a career high No. 127.
With Aleksandra Wozniak of Blainville, Que., taking the rest of the season off to heal her forearm tendinitis and start 2011 fresh, her ranking is going to tumble precipitously. It’s likely Marino could find herself the top-ranked Canadian woman at year’s end.
Already, she has blown past Stephanie Dubois of Laval, Que., Valerie Tetreault of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., Toronto’s Heidi El Tabakh and Toronto’s Sharon Fichman, all of whom have had trouble in 2010 living up to a promising 2009.
Marino will likely play four more tournaments. Wisely, all are smaller events, and all are in North America: Kansas City, Missouri; Troy, Alabama; Toronto; and Phoenix. If she can continue on the roll she’s on and do some damage, she certainly has a shot at getting her ranking high enough to get straight into the main singles draw at the Australian Open in January.
• Injuries, and more injuries: Dubois joined the ranks of the Canadian injured two weeks ago after the Bell Challenge in Quebec City. A bad back forced her to miss the Saguenay event and she also pulled out of the tournament in Kansas City next week. Dubois’s ranking now has dropped outside the top 150.
Marie-Eve Pelletier of Repentigny, Que., has withdrawn from the events in Asia she had planned the next few weeks due to an abdominal injury. She hopes to be back for the WTA Tour event in Linz, Austria in two weeks.
• Raonic on a Rebecca roll: If Marino is making waves on the women’s side, her Canadian counterpart on the men’s side is 19-year-old Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont. Raonic also qualified at the U.S. Open earlier this month, also his first Grand Slam main-draw appearance. Last weekend, he sailed through the qualifying at the ATP Tour event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Raonic will play Igor Kunitsyn of Russia (the lowest-ranked player to get straight into the main draw) in the first round Tuesday.
• Serena still out: The No. 1 woman in tennis remains off the courts as she returns from surgery to fix a cut on her foot, suffered in a mysterious incident involving broken glass that occurred right after Wimbledon.
Although she reportedly has started training again, Williams, who turned 29 Sunday, withdrew from this week’s big women’s event in Tokyo, and the next one in Beijing. But she’s hardly off the radar — the lady is everywhere.
Monday, she was on Oprah giving the TV hostess a foot massage and pedicure and promoting her line of “Glam Slam” nail polishes. Williams is often on the Home Shopping Network selling something or other, and she’s been to every fashion show from New York to London the last few weeks.
• Delpo’s back: He had been missing in inaction since January, when he was No. 4 in the world and lost to Marin Cilic of Croatia in the fourth round of the Australian Open. But after undergoing wrist surgery in May, 2009 U.S. Open men’s champion Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina is making his return to the ATP Tour this week at a small event in Thailand. Del Potro’s ranking is down to No. 36. Assuming the 22-year-old is healthy, he could face top seed Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals, which is a pretty tough draw for an event at the lowest rung of the ATP Tour ladder.
• Nadal big in Bangkok: The next time Nadal complains about the gruelling ATP Tour schedule and its effects on his tendinitis-plagued knees, remember that he has chosen to play that small tournament in Bangkok this week. Nadal also is playing in Tokyo next week and in the big Masters 1000 event in Shanghai the week after that. That’s three straight weeks on the hard courts.
To say Nadal doesn’t need to be in Bangkok is to understate the case, his No. 1 ranking is as secure as it can be. While the fans there will surely be thrilled to see him in person for the first time, there can only be one reason: a cheque with a whole lot of zeros at the end of it.
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