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By Rohit Sharma
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The 2000-09 decade can be easily considered as one of the most competitive decade women's tennis has ever witnessed. With no clear domination of a single player, there were twelve different Grand Slam winners from and a series of nail-biting rivalries that regaled the tennis arena with some breath-taking tennis. As we bid goodbye to the past decade, let's take a look at some of the brightest names of the last ten years -
10- Martina Hingis
We kick off our list of the 10 best female tennis players of the decade with the player who rose to stardom not once but twice in the span of 10 years. Martina Hingis had won five majors by the time the nineties came to a close and was seen as one player who could hold off the rising challenge of players like Venus Williams, Serena Williams and the Belgians Clijsters and Henin. Although her dreams of winning another slam were shattered by a rejuvenated Jennifer Capriati and the Williamses, who repeatedly got the better of the Swiss star, Hingis' Grand Slam resume in the 2000's turned out to be pretty impressive. She made it to the final of the Australian Open three years in a row (2000-02) and managed semifinal berths at the U.S. Open and French Open to confirm her consistency at such a stage in Sport. However, her biggest triumph was the 2000 WTA Championships, where she regained the top form. Hingis' comeback in 2006-07 was marked by three tour titles and quarterfinal finishes in Melbourne and Roland Garros, which won her the 'Comeback player of the year' awards at the 2006 Laureas World Sports Awards and the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour accolades. Her elusive career finally came to a sad end when she was tested positive at a drug test conducted during the 2007 Wimbledon. The Swiss player however, maintained her innocence over the entire issue and quietly announced her retirement from professional tennis. The Swiss superstar will always be remembered for the myriad of records she set by winning Grand Slams at such an early age, coupled with her elusive feats and a whopping 43 Sony Ericsson WTA Singles titles she won during her 14 years as a tennis professional. Hingis was included in TENNIS magazine's list of 40 Greatest Players of the TENNIS era at the 22nd position.
9- Svetlana Kuznetsova
At No.9 comes a player who is famous for her quiet yet astonishing rise to super stardom amidst a vast crop of Russian starlets who were making their mark on women's tennis by being a part of the so-called Russian-Revolution. Svetlana Kuznetsova first tasted the Grand Slam success at the 2004 U.S. Open where she silenced some of the biggest names to clinch title glory. Her next major triumph was the Sony Ericsson Open title in 2006 where she regained top form after a disappointing 2005. By reaching the 2007 final at Flushing Meadows in the presence of WTA giants like Sharapova, Williams sisters and Mauresmo, Kuznetsova proved that her previous efforts were not a flash in the pan. Kuznetsova also finished Runner-up at the 2006 French Open to Justine Henin, thereby confirming her all-court finesse. The 2009 season brought another Grand Slam triumph for the Russian, who beat compatriot Dinara Safina to claim her second career major title. In a span of 10 years, Kuznetsova won 10 Sony Ericsson WTA Singles titles which included several tier-I tournaments. Although a lot of her success was somehow overshadowed by compatriots Dementieva and Sharapova's consistent performance through the years.
8- Jennifer Capriati
Jennifer Capriati broke into the international tennis scene in the nineties when she became a teen prodigy by becoming the youngest Grand Slam semifinalist at the tender age of 14. Unfortunately it didn't take her long to be re-labelled, this time as a teenage burnout, as she fell victim to the intoxicating world of drugs and marijuana. At the turn of the millennium, Capriati made rigorous efforts to re-establish herself as the game's powerhouse and achieved the dream by winning her first Grand Slam title at the 2001 Australian Open. Capriati's comeback success continued with a marathon win over Kim Clijsters at the 2001 French Open. She also made it to the semifinals of the other two majors at Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows the same year. Her 2002 Aussie Open victory over Martina Hingis was considered by many as the most entertaining match in the Open era. Capriati did come close to winning majors twice at the U.S. Open in 2003 and 2004, but lost closely fought battles to Henin and Dementieva. Her last professional match was at a tier-I tournament in Philadelpha in 2004, although 2001 remains the best year of her career for which she won the Laureas Sportswoman of the Year Award.
7- Lindsay Davenport
Although Lindsay Davenport shone the brightest during the late nineties when she claimed two Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon and U.S. Open, 27 of her 55 singles titles came after her triumph at the 2000 Australian Open, making her the first Grand Slam champion of the new millennium. What followed was not only dominating but also miraculous. After her last major triumph, came a series of final finishes with a Williams on the other side of the court. She lost consecutive slam finals to Venus Williams in New York and Wimbledon and finished runner-up again in 2005 to Serena Williams (Melbourne) and Venus Williams (Wimbledon). However, it was Davenport who ended the 35 match-winning streak of the elder Williams in 2000 when she won a three set nail-biter in Linz against Venus. The 2004 season turned out to be an astonishing comeback year for the American, who had managed to win only one title in the past two years. A tour-leading seven instilled the belief in the American that she could regain the top spot in the strong presence of the tour's biggest names. The next year only strengthed her position in the arena when she added few more tier-I titles in her kitty and finished the year as No.1 for the fourth time in her career. With the announcement of her pregnancy with her first child in 2006, Davenport took a break from the tennis world and made a brief comeback in 2007 and won two more titles. She repeated her success in 2008 with two more victories in Auckland and Memphis, but ever since, could not find the primal form to achieve more success on-court. In 2007, Davenport was named the WTA comeback Player of the Year at the association's annual awards.
6- Amelie Mauresmo
Amelie Mauresmo first hit headlines when she reached the final of the 1999 Australian Open, however the media took more interest in the fact that eventual champion Martina Hingis referred to the Frenchwoman as 'half-a-man'. Years later, similar comments hit the news when Lindsay Davenport questioned her playing style by categorizing it to be more masculine on court. Despite being under severe scrutiny and uninvited media attention, Amelie Mauresmo held on to her nerves and her patience to win the first major title of her stellar career by winning the 2006 Australian Open, beating the Belgians, Clijsters and Henin en route to her win. Till 2006, Mauresmo was considered by many as the greatest player never to have won a slam. She came pretty close to reaching finals in 2004 and 2005 at Wimbledon, but lost to Davenport and Serena Williams on both occasions. Although the third year proved lucky for the Frenchwoman who captured the second Grand Slam title by beating Justine Henin in the 2006 Wimbledon final. Despite both her major wins, it was Mauresmo's triumph at the season-ending WTA Championships in 2005, that got her the long due recognition. The subsequent years brought mixed success for the Frenchwoman, who rose to the top spot in WTA Singles rankings and helped her nation win several Fed Cup ties including the title in 2003. Mauresmo's last singles title came in February 2009 on her home-soil in Paris where she captured the Open GDF Suez. However, inconsistent results led the Frenchwoman to finally put an end to her professional tennis career as she announced her retirement from the Sport on December 3rd 2009. Mauresmo was named WTA's Player of the Year for her remarkable 2006 season and also went on to receive France's highest honour - The 'National Order of the Legion of Honour' by French President Jacques Chirac.
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