MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA (AP) - By 17, Vania King had won her first WTA title and cracked the top 50 in the rankings. There was just one problem _ she wasn’t sure she actually liked playing tennis.
“I came up pretty fast when I was 16 1/2, 17 and I didn’t really know why I was good,” the American said after her second-round win over 15th-seeded Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova at the Australian Open on Thursday. “I didn’t find enjoyment for myself. I was finding enjoyment because I was winning and other people were happy about it.”
In early 2007, she ended her coaching relationship with her father and went into a “downward spiral.” She contemplated quitting tennis and enrolling at Stanford.
She stuck with tennis but lackluster results sent her ranking plummeting. Then, at the end of 2008, she started working with Tarik Benhabiles _ Andy Roddick’s former coach _ and everything changed.
“He was the first one to say, ‘Look, you know, if you want to play, you play. And if you don’t want to play, you should stop now,’” she said.
Three years later, the 22-year-old King is finally enjoying what she’s doing, and succeeding. In 2010, King won the Wimbledon and U.S. Open doubles titles with Yaroslava Shvedova. Her singles ranking is up to No. 66 and she has achieved her best result by reaching the third round at the Australian Open. She next plays former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic.
King’s relationship with her father is on the mend as well.
“I think that helped me a lot with my tennis to have peace, to be balanced in my life, to be balanced off the court,” she said.
OLYMPIC NO-GO: Marion Bartoli says it’s unlikely she’ll play in the 2012 London Olympics because of a “heartbreaking” dispute with the French tennis federation.
Bartoli is France’s top tennis player and is ranked No. 9. But to compete in the Olympics, the International Tennis Federation requires she be on good terms with her national federation and have made herself available to play in the Fed Cup twice over the past four years.
Bartoli has feuded with the French federation over her independent coaching set-up with her father. He has not been allowed to coach during the Fed Cup. France captain Nicolas Escude left her off the French squad last year, saying the coaching situation made her “totally incompatible” with the team.
Bartoli had hoped for an exception from the ITF, but that’s a long shot. Barring that, she admits she has few options. She says she doesn’t have time to take her case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
“It’s really heartbreaking for me,” she said after her 6-3, 6-2 victory over Jelena Dokic in the second round of the Australian Open. “Honestly, I really do feel I have a chance to make a medal over there and especially at Wimbledon, on grass, where I had so much success in the past, and can’t go there just for some stupid reason.”
Bartoli reached the Wimbledon final in 2007, losing to Venus Williams.
“That’s a subject that I’m trying to avoid to speak about because just all the time, makes me really in a bad mood,” she said.
JANKO’S WORLD: Janko Tipsarevic is playing his first Grand Slam tournament as a top 10 player. Just don’t remind him.
Taking inspiration from Rafael Nadal, the No. 9-ranked Serb says he has told his coach not to talk about his ranking, in case it makes him relax.
“I read a great thing in Nadal’s book where (Nadal’s coach) Uncle Toni was always saying to him, ‘You’re not special because of who you are, you’re special because of what you do,’” Tipsarevic said Thursday. “I cannot expect opponents to give me victories just because I’m top 10. There’s a bunch of good players who were in my position … and then they drop. I really don’t want to have that.”
Tipsarevic advanced to the third round Thursday with a 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-4 win over Australian wild card James Duckworth. He faces former top 10 player Richard Gasquet of France in the next round. Tipsarevic reached his career-high ranking in November after making the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open and winning two ATP titles.
Off the court in Melbourne, he has been providing a behind-the-scenes video diary for the television channel Eurosport. He’s unlikely to watch the footage once it airs.
“I never ever watch TV in my life,” said Tipsarevic, who is famous for having a tattoo of a Dostoevsky quote on his arm.
As if to prove the point, Tipsarevic spent his entire news conference on Thursday flicking through a book on Davis Cup history, only occasionally looking up to glance at the assembled journalists.
MIXING IT UP: So much for the glamour pairing in mixed doubles at the Australian Open.
Andy Roddick and Serena Williams had entered the draw to practice in case they decide to play together at the London Olympics. But Roddick hurt his hamstring and withdrew from his second-round singles match on Thursday night.
After seeing Roddick’s injury, Serena tweeted: “Oh no my dubs partner!!!!! :(“
Two players that definitely won’t be playing together in London are Roger Federer and Martina Hingis. Federer asked Hingis last year about teaming up for Switzerland, but Hingis declined _ a decision she confirmed Thursday at Melbourne Park.
“We talked at the end of the season,” Hingis said. “I haven’t played for four years. He has to concentrate on singles and (men’s) doubles and I think it’s better that way.”
THEM’S THE BREAKS: Milos Raonic’s perfect serving start to the year has finally been broken.
The big-serving Canadian began the season by winning all 48 of his service games in four matches at Chennai, India _ the first player to win a title without dropping serve since Roger Federer did it in Halle in 2008. He served 76 aces and saved all 14 break points he faced.
Raonic also was perfect on serve in his first-round match at Melbourne Park. However, on Thursday, the streak ended when Germany’s Philipp Petzschner broke him twice in the second round. Raonic at least came away with a 6-4, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 victory.
“It’s always tough to close out a match,” Raonic said. “Especially for me a big part of closing out matches is my serve. I don’t think in the first game I put in any first serves.”
AP Sports Writer Caroline Cheese contributed to this report.
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