Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A nice touch

If you haven't checked out the header on the Acura Classic website, be sure you do.

"I always thought I'd be quite good playing maybe 100 years ago"

Douglas Robson took on the task of persuading some WTA and ATP tour players to have a go with a wooden racquet, and the results were interesting. He made the offer at both the Pacific Life Open and the Sony Ericsson Open, and he got varied results. For those of us who rue the day wooden racquets became obsolete, this experiment is especially interesting.

Both Ana Ivanovic and Maria Kirilenko refused to so much as touch the wooden racquet Robson offered. Svetlana Kuznetsova got totally into it, and said that she could win with the racquet. "I don't think it's a big difference. It's the same control, but [the difference is] the power. You have to hit it harder but it's also bigger control." Vania King, on the other hand, declared that it would be "almost impossible [to win a match on tour] unless your opponent misses every single shot."

Martina Hingis said "It didn't feel that bad.
You'd have to get used to it and find out the strength and weakness of the racket because the strategy would definitely have to be a little different." And I agree with Robson that if players still used wooden racquets, Hingis would probably be number 1 in the world again.

The best response came from Daniela Hantuchova: "It was coming off the racquet pretty well....I always thought I'd be quite good playing maybe 100 years ago."

Thanks for nothing, ESPN

Last weekend, I was surprised and disappointed to find that only one of the Stanford semifinal matches was shown live on ESPN2. The other was shown late at night, and I already knew the outcome, though I did watch it. I just checked the ESPN schedule, and that is going to be the pattern throughout the U.S. Open Series.

The Tennis Channel, which my cable company cannot get, is showing a fully live schedule, as is CBS, with its tournaments.

ESPN2 has always shown the U.S. hardcourt season live, even before the U.S. Open Series was established in 2004. The Series is obviously paying ESPN a busload, shall we say, of money, and in exchange, we get one live match per day.

Davenport to play in Bali

Yesterday morning, I heard a rumor that Lindsay Davenport would be playing singles in the Commonwealth Women's Tennis Classic in September, but I didn't want to report it until it was confirmed as fact. On the Baseline has now confirmed it.

Davenport is scheduled to play doubles with Lisa Raymond in New Haven later this month.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Ivanovic gets wild card to East West Bank Classic

She says she's healthy and ready to play in Los Angeles, where she will be seeded third.

And now for some good news...

Martina Hingis says her hip injury is now 100% healed. The nagging injury has given her problems for months, and it's great to hear that she is healthy again.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Acura Classic offers some tasty first round matches

Qualifying is complete in San Diego, and play begins tomorrow. Some first round matches of particular interest:

Gisela Dulko v. Tatiana Golovin--Golovin should win, but on those occasions when Dulko can still find her form, she can be dangerous.

Kateryna Bondarenko v. Sybille Bammer--Bondarenko's game has improved a whole lot; this should be a good one.

Alla Kudryavtseva v. Julia Vakulenko--This should go to Vakulenko, but Kudryavtseva gave Venus Williams a lot of trouble at Wimbledon. Can she be just as troublesome on a hard court?

Alona Bondarenko v. Peng Shuai--A match I wish I could see. Bondarenko has become a very solid player, but when Peng is on, she can take down almost anyone.

Michaella Krajicek v. Yuliana Fedak--Fedak's game has improved a lot this year, though she hasn't been so lucky lately. Still, the match could be interesting. Fedak had to win two qualifying rounds to get into the main draw, but she will have her hands full with Krajicek.

And finally...Shahar Peer v. Sania Mirza--It is quite unfortunate that the two some-time doubles partners must meet in the first round. Mirza just finished as a finalist in Stanford, and Peer, though inconsistent, has the ability to hang in and play very tough.

Enough with Chakvetadze and the emotional fragility thing

There was a time when Anna Chakvetadze would cry on the court, much like Vera Zvonareva used to. Naturally, she developed a reputation for being emotionally fragile, but--listen up, Mary Joe Fernandez--she stopped doing it a long time ago. She grew up. It's true that earlier this season, Chakvetadze shed a few tears on the court, but that was because she was so physically exhausted, she doubted she could stay in the match. But on ESPN, there is always considerable babble about how emotionally fragile the Russian player is.

Chakvetadze is a fairly mannered woman, and the expressions that cross her face range from frustration to amusement. This is part of what makes it so much fun to watch her. But having these kinds of mannerisms is not a sign of weakness. Anna Chakvetadze has played in six Sony Ericsson WTA Tour finals, and has won all six. We should all be so emotionally fragile.

An unpleasant coincidence

Patty Schnyder leans on husband/coach Rainer Hoffman

Last week, Anna Chakvetadze revealed something rather strange in a press conference. She said that Reiner Hoffman, who is Patty Schynder's husband and coach, had been one of her hitting partners for a while, and he had helped her get help with a physio or some such periperal thing. She said she was therefore surprised to hear Hoffman had told the press that he had been coaching her. She said no coaching had ever taken place, and she sounded none too pleased with Hoffman's statement.

Lo and behold, Hoffman turned up this week at the Bank of the West Classic to give special help, in the form of quasi-coaching, to Sania Mirza, the woman who took his wife out of the tournament. And there he was, coaching and cheering her along in her final against Chakvetadze. He even got a coaching warning at one point. According to the ESPN commentators (which doesn't mean much, I know), Mirza's family asked Hoffman if he would help her out. But seeing him in the stands as part of Mirza's team looked, shall we say, awkward, considering Chakvetadze had just called him out to the tennis press.

And Chakvetadze aside, why is Hoffman helping another player when his own wife is having problems with her career? Or even if she weren't having problems with her career.

Chakvetadze wins in Stanford

Anna Chakvetadze, already coming off a win in Cincinnati, won the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford today, 6-3, 6-2, in a lackluster final against Sania Mirza. Mirza's play has been special this week; she combined her dangerous forehand with better footwork and better thinking. Both players had to be exhausted by the time they reached the final. There were rain delays and match play was doubled up; Chakvetadze played her singles semifinal yesterday afternoon, and had to play her doubles semifinal last night.

It was Mirza who looked sluggish and awkward on the court today, possibly because of exhuastion, possibly because of the occasion, and most likely because of both. Chakvetadze, for her part, has had serious service problems since Wimbledon, and they were on display today. She also got her braid caught in her racquet, something I've never seen happen before.

Chakvetadze's semifinal match against Daniela Hantuchova was a roller coaster of momemtum changes, and no real rhythm was ever established. In the end, Hantuchova seemed to fold as Hantuchova is known to do, and Chakvetadze, who later said "I served like my grandmother," won the match. I should add that I bet her grandmother would not have committed twelve double faults.

Chakvetadze, by the way, has now played in six finals, and has won all of them.

The 9th time is the charm

Schiavone finally wins!

Francesca Schiavone had been in 8 finals in her career and had never lifted a trophy until today, when she defeated Yvonne Meusburger, 6-1, 6-4, in the Gastein Ladies in Bad Gastein, Austria. There is a little irony to Schiavone's win because it comes during a time when she has slipped down the rankings and has not had the match success she is accustomed to. Here's hoping this victory will get her entertaining game back on track.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

AAP picks Vaidisova for "Get Caught Reading" campaign

The Association of American Publishers has a media series similar to that of the American Library Association's "Read" poster series, which showcases celebrities who read. Next up is Nicole Vaidisova, known for lugging a bag of books to every tournament.

The ALA poster series already has a tennis star--Serena Williams.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday cat blogging--sleepytime edition

Ziggy Stardust crashes on a favorite blanket

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I laughed until I cried

And you will, too. Ever wonder what the outtakes from the U.S. Open Series promotional spots are like? Now you can see them.

Chakvetadze to work with Lansdorp

From On the Baseline comes news that at the completion of the Acura Classic, Anna Chakvetadze will be working with Robert Lansdorp, who is ready to teach her to hit harder. With harder hitting and a little more mental toughness, "Little Hingis" could become really dangerous.

Huber becomes an American citizen

South African-born doubles specialist Liezel Huber was sworn in as an American citizen yesterday. Huber has lived in Houston for some time, and, with her husband, has provided a lot of aid to Katrina and Rita victims in Louisiana. She is currently ranked 4th in the world in doubles, and she and her partner, Cara Black, are leading the doubles race to the Year-End Championships.

More information on the Bartoli defeat in Stanford

Marion Bartoli, it turns out, played much of yesterday's match with a stomach virus and an injured leg, which--despite credit to Lilia Osterloh--probably explains her loss. On the one hand (or perhaps I should say the one leg), this news can stifle some of the "Wimbledon was a fluke" talk. On the other hand, Bartoli has always been injury-prone, and if she starts getting injured a lot again, things really will go downhill for her. In 2005, she retired from so many mathces, it was hard to keep track of them.

The degree of viciousness spwewed about Bartoli's Wimbledon success is stunning. She has always been a talented, if unorthodox, player, but she has been hampered by injuries and--I suspect--her head. And while it is true that she weighs more than most of the other players, which may or may not contribute to her court health, the delight people take in making fun of her is obscene. Bartoli has the game to go very far, and I, for one, hope that the Stanford loss doesn't bring her spirits down.

As for the people who like to call Bartoli names--they are injured to a far greater degree than the refreshingly candid and inventive Frenchwoman ever will be.

2nd seed Bartoli out of Stanford

Wild card Lilia Osterloh defeated Marion Bartoli, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 tonight in the 2nd round of the Bank of the West Classic.

Go figure.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Latest withdrawals

Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Acura Classic in San Diego, which begins in about a week. The thumb injury that Williams sustained earlier this summer, and which kept her out of the tournaments in Cincinnati and Stanford, may keep her out of much of the U.S. Open Series.

Sam Stosur has also withdrawn from the Acura Classic, wisely opting to get more rest and not tempt a relapse of her virus.

Maybe some children don't count

The sports media loves to write about "moms on tour." How does Sybille Bammer do it? How How did Evonne Goolagong do it? Such articles have increased since new mother Lindsay Davenport has announced she is returning to the tour: How will Davenport do it? Once, I actually saw a feature about dads on the ATP tour, and even though it was equally stupid, at least it acknowledged that men, too, are parents.

So far, though, these articles have not mentioned a word about Tzipora Obziler, who became a mother this summer. Obziler's partner gave birth while Obziler was playing her first round at Wimbledon. Even up-to-the-minute Wikipedia has not added this piece of information about the Israeli player.

Perhaps we will hear some news about Obziler's new arrival, or perhaps the children of lesbians just don't count. It's a wonder Bammer gets so much publicity about her motherhood, given that she is not married to her child's father.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Mary Pierce excepted, countrywomen ignore Bartoli's Wimbledon run

It's a bit of a surprise she didn't hear anything from Amelie Mauresmo, but perhaps Mauresmo was in too much of a funk. The Golovin saga apparently continues.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sequera wins gold medal at Pan American games

Venezuelan player Milagros Sequera won the gold medal in women's tennis at the Pan American Games today. Sequera defeated Mariana Duque of Columbia, 3-6, 7-6, 6-1. Sequera, a six-year Sony Ericsson WTA Tour veteran, is ranked 50th in the world. Earlier this year, she won the Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Fes, Morocco.

This is Sequera's second Pan American Games gold medal; she also won in 2003.

Chakvetadze wins in Cincinnati

Top seed Anna Chakvetadze beat Akiko Morigami in straight sets today to win the Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open in Cincinnati. Morigami was a finalist in 2005, also, when she was defeated by Patty Schnyder.

Final score: 6-1, 6-3.

Agnes Szavay wins first singles title in Palermo

Hungarian player Agnes Szavay defeated Martina Muller today to win the Internazionali Femminili di Tennis di Palermo. Szavay is ranked number 53 in the world, and had her breakthrough season in 2005.

Final score: 6-0, 6-1

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Bovina returns--again

Elena Bovina, the talented and charming Russian player who was ranked number 14 in the world when injury struck, has had as hard a time of it as anyone on the tour. First, it was her left foot, at the beginning of the 2005 season, and then it was her right shoulder. She stopped playing after her last Fed Cup match that year, and did not attempt to play again until the end of 2006. She then lost in the first round at both Moscow and Hasselt. Since then, she has withdrawn from all events because of continuing problems with her shoulder.

The good news is that Bovina's name appears in the draw at the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, which begins Monday. She has a tough first round against Peng Shuai, and is likely to make an early exit. Assuming her shoulder has finally healed, Bovina will have a tough time working her way back up the rankings after so long a lay-off. Flavia Pennetta is struggling with that problem right now, and she wasn't out as long as Bovina. The game changes, new opponents present new problems, momentum is lost, and confidence dwindles. It has taken Daniela Hantuchova (who was not injured, but who had other issues), a former top-five player, four years to get within breathing distance of the top 10.

At any rate, here's hoping the best for Bovina. I, like many other fans, have certainly missed her.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A delightful tribute to Evonne Goolagong

Evonne Goolagong is one of my favorite players of all time. Here is a charming 1981 tribute to her.

Schnyder out of Cincinnati

2005 Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open champion Patty Schnyder was eliminated from competition this evening when Akiko Morigami defeated her, 6-3, 6-1 in their quarterfinal match. The Monica Seles-style player from Japan is a dangerous floater wherever she goes (she almost took Venus Williams out of Wimbledon), and this evening, she was able to take advantage of Schnyder's service problems.

Next for Schnyder is the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, where she was the finalist last year. She had a great run, taking out Tatiana Golovin in the semifinals, but falling to Kim Clijsters in the final. Schnyder should have several Tier I and II titles by now, but instead, she has often wound up a finalist. Oh, how very frustrating it is to be a Patty Schnyder fan...

Sprem out for at least 6 months

Karolina Sprem at the 2007 Family Circle Cup, where she was having trouble with her knee, and eventually had to retire because of her hip

Karolina Sprem, once a hot up-and-comer on the tour, has had nothing but injuries for the last few years. Her elbow has been giving her trouble for at least a year, and now she must drop out of the tour for a while. I do not know whether she is going to have surgery, but that seems like a logical step.

Golovin to be coached by Wilander

Tatiana Golovin of the chronically bad ankles has hired Mats Wilander to coach her throughout the U.S. Open Series. After the U.S. Open, she will make a decision as to whether she will continue with Wilander. The Frenchwoman, once considered her country's brightest promise, has had her career stalled repeatedly by her ankle problems. And she seems to have some other issues, too.

Friday cat blogging--spotted edition

Tarzan shows his spots. Those are Roxie's feet by his head. This was one of those rare moments when Roxie let Tarzan get near her.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Patty Schnyder talks about the Rodionova default

From her Cincinnati blog:

I just heard about what happened to Anastasia Rodionova yesterday, that she was defaulted. Rainer and I were talking to people who saw it and it sounds like it was a bit of an over-reaction from the umpire or referee. I don't think she did anything really bad. Sometimes people get angry and hit the ball like that and it hits people, but that didn't happen. I don't believe she should've been defaulted. And now it's being played up a lot by the media... but what can you do?

Though I was not there, this was my first thought, too. Unfortunately, fans tend to not like Rodionova because of her attitude and her temper, and people nearly always forget that unfairness is unfairness. No one "deserves" to be treated unfairly, as some fans are saying. If Rodionova did nothing especially wrong, it doesn't matter what she had done in the past; she does not deserve unfair treatment. And regardless of whether Rodionova deserved the default, the fans who prompted her outburst needed to be defaulted, too.

U.S. Open series begins Monday for WTA Tour

It's called the greatest road trip in sports, and for the past three years, it has made the U.S. hard court season more interesting. The U.S. Open Series includes all of the big money (for the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, that would be Tier I and Tier II) touranments that lead to the U.S. Open. For the women, the series begins Monday at the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford. Then the show rolls on to the Acura Classic in San Diego, the East West Bank Classic in Los Angeles, the Rogers Cup in Toronto, and Pilot Pen Tennis in New Haven.

The top three finishers the U.S. Open Series are eligible to win bonus money at the U.S. Open. In 2005, Kim Clijsters broke the bank by winning both the series and the U.S. Open. Her $2.2 million purse was the biggest in women's tennis history. In its first year, 2004, Lindsay Davenport swept the series, and looked as though she would win the U.S. Open. Unfortunately, she sustained a foot injury in her semifinal match and lost to eventual champion Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Since its inception, the U.S. Open Series has also shown some highly entertaining television spots. These spots began running this year during the Wimbledon tournament. So far, I haven't seen any I like as much as last year's, but the season is young.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Latest tournament withdrawals

Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford. She will be replaced by Jill Craybas.

Justine Henin has withdrawn from the Acura Classic San Diego, and will be replaced by Alla Kudryavtseva.

Now even I'm convinced Davenport is returning

I have avoided reporting the so-called news about Lindsay Davenport's return to pro tennis because all it consisted of was "maybe" and "we'll see" and "Olympics." No more. Today, Davenport announced she has entered the Pilot Pen tournament in New Haven in August. She will play doubles only, with Lisa Raymond.

Davenport gave birth to her first child five and a half weeks ago, and--prior to that event--had said she could not imagine ever returning to the tour. Her sudden departure was bittersweet for fans, who wished her well, but who wanted more of her. The last few years of her career have been frustrating for fans---and I'm sure for her--as she was a repeated finalist in Grand Slams, but could not win them. She was hampered by a semifinal injury in the 2004 U.S. Open final, by total exhaustion (she literally could not move at one point in the final) in the 2005 Australian Open final, and by Venus Williams in the thrilling 2005 Wimbledon final.

Davenport has three Grand Slam titles and an Olympic gold medal, but most fans and experts agree that in the past few years, she was a better player than she was when she won those tournaments.

More information on Rodionova's default from Cincinnati

In this news story.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Rodionova defaulted from Cincinnati tournament

Russia's Anastasia Rodionova was defaulted from the Cincinnati tournament today

Anyone who has ever seen Anastasia Rodionova play tennis know she is hot-tempered. Today, her temper got her thrown out of the Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open in Cincinnati--or did it? I don't have too many details yet, but I know that she was very annoyed with some fans who were yelling while a point was being played. The umpire told them to stop, but something else must have happened because, a bit later, Rodionova whacked a ball into the fence. The umpire consulted with the tournament referee, Rodionova was cited for being unprofessional and causing potential danger, and then she was tossed out.

Rodionova isn't exactly a player you warm up to easily, but she is probably no brattier than Nicole Vaidisova was a couple of years ago or Marat Safin was until recently. And none of them is even worth mentioning in the same breath as the outrageously crude John McEnroe. I am not saying this to excuse her behavior. I just want to know what it is she said that got her defaulted. Because hitting a tennis ball into the fence is not that uncommon. In fact, Rodionova told the news media that she hit the ball into the middle of the fence precisely because she did not want to create any danger.

If anyone is wondering about Jennifer Capriati

Here is an update, but it isn't very pretty.

Mauresmo to take some time off

Amelie Mauresmo leaves the Wimbledon court after her first round win
Photo courtesy of After Atalanta

Loic Courteau, Amelie Mauresmo's coach, says that Mauresmo "really needs to completely recharge her batteries, to re-energise, to come back with new ambitions and goals." He even implies the possibility that the world number 6 will skip the U.S. Open, but I think that is unlikely. Mauresmo has been down before. As a matter of fact, in the latter part of the 2005 season, she said she was so burned out, she did not think she could go on. She then proceeded to win the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Year-End Championships, which was a big turning point in her career.

Mauresmo has had an unlucky year. Appendicitis caused her to miss the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, the two U.S. Clay tournaments, and most of the European clay court season. Returning to the tour with chronic abductor problems, the defending Wimbledon champion was dismissed in the Wimbledon round of 16 by Nicole Vaidisova. And last weekend, she lost a crucial Fed Cup match to Italy's Francesca Schiavone. It is no wonder she is feeling down. Her only victory this year has been at the Proximus Diamond Games in Belgium, where she spoiled everyone's fun by defeating hometown (and retiring) favorite, Kim Clijsters.

"For now," says Mauresmo, "the urgent thing is to cut off to take some holiday. Right now I need the sea, the warm sea. To go off on a boat.

"I need to change my environment a little bit, to leave a little bit the world of tennis. To exit all of this. Moreover, if there had not been the Fed Cup, I would have already been in the break."

She plans to take off at least two weeks. Her fans--and I am an enthusiastic one--hope her injury will be totally healed in time for her to participate in some of the U.S. Open Series.

Patty Schnyder is blogging from Cincinnati

Right here.

Schnyder was the first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour blogger. She wrote that blog one year ago in Cincinnati.

Exacty how much "personality" does she want?

Responding to USA Today's questions about the impact of the three-year-old U.S. Open Series, "top player" (I'm not sure how USA Today came up with that) Ashley Harkleroad said:

I think tennis in the U.S. is not doing well because people would rather watch football, basketball or baseball. Making people more aware? Not really, I don't think so. Tennis is boring--no personalities anymore. (Andy) Roddick's got a personality, but that's about it. They need to do something different. Something needs to happen.

I agree that people would rather watch football, basketball or baseball. Americans like team sports, and especially testosterone-loaded team sports. But Harkleroad must live in a hole to believe there are no pro tennis personalities. Pro tennis is a veritable stage show of antics, wit, candor, charm, and glamour. Maria Sharapova, Rafa Nadal, Serena Williams, Martina Hingis, Marat Safin, Amelie Mauresmo, Sam Stosur, Marcos Baghdatis...come on. Is Francesca Schiavone screaming in Italian and making sexy signals to her boyfriend not enough personality? Is Dmitry Tursunov putting on a tennis skirt and imitating Sharapova not enough personality?

Perhaps Harkleroad believes that American viewers do not care about players who are not American. Where would she ever get a silly idea like that?....

But even if viewers restrict their interest to Americans, we have the Williams sisters, who have added as much personality to tennis as anyone has to any professional sport. And we have Bethanie Mattek, and that's as good as it gets.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Another good laugh via Mauresmo


Vaidisova withdraws from both San Diego and Los Angeles

Citing continued injury, Nicole Vaidisova has withdrawn from both the Acura Classic and the East West Bank Classic. She will be replaced in Los Angles by Martina Hingis. Ana Ivanovic has also withdrawn from the tournament in San Diego.

Meanwhile, the field in Cincinnati shrinks more every day. The latest two players to withdraw are Meilen Tu, with a left wrist injury, and Severine Bremond, who is ill. The tournament had already lost Vaidisova, Marion Bartoli, Serena Williams, and several others.

Krajicek crashes out of first round at Palermo

Number one seed Michaella Krajicek was defeated in straight sets today by Eva Birnerova at the Internazionali Femminili di Tennis di Palermo in Italy. Some of her fans say that Krajicek, a grass expert, should avoid clay courts. However, Krajicek was the virtual star of the Family Circle Cup in April; that is, she was until she went to pieces during her quarterfinal match. Granted, the green clay of Charleston, where Krajicek took out top seed Nicole Vaidisova, is not as slow as Italian red clay, but it is clay, nevertheless. Krajicek's problem is not the court surface--it is her head.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Russia to meet Italy in Fed Cup final

Venus Williams' two singles victories were not enough to carry the U.S. into this year's Fed Cup final. Russia was victorious in the doubles match, as Nadia Petrova and Elena Vesnina defeated Williams and doubles specialist Lisa Raymond 7-5, 7-6. The tiebreak score was 7-1. Russia will meet defending champion Italy in the final in September.

Defending champions back in Fed Cup final

Italy's Francesa Schiavone has led her team, the defending champions, into another Fed Cup final

Team Italy, last year's Fed Cup champion, eeked its way out of a semifinal contest with France to return to the Fed Cup finals again this year. Today, Francesca Schiavone defeated France's Tatiana Golovin, 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 to even things up, 2 matches apiece. Then she went straight to the doubles court, and with partner Roberta Vinci, defeated Severine Bremond and Nathalie Dechy, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2

Schiavone, a very gifted player, has seen her career take a serious decline in the last year or so. The most talented WTA player to have never won a tournament, despite being in several finals, Schiavone tends to cave in to pressure at big moments--except during Fed Cup. At Fed Cup, she appears to thrive on pressure. During the Fed Cup semifinal, she defeated not only Golovin, but also Amelie Mauresmo.

Other final Fed Cup scores:

Spain def. Czech Republic, 4-1
Germany def. Japan, 3-2
China def. Belgium, 4-1
Israel def. Austria, 4-1
Ukraine def. Australia, 4-1
Slovak Republic def. Serbia, 4-1
Croatia def. Chinese Taipei, 3-2

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Sanchez-Vicario inducted into International Tennis Hall of Fame

Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, the woman Bud Collins nicknamed the Barcelona Bumblebee, was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame today. The first Spanish woman to win the U.S. Open (1994), Sanchez-Vicario won the French Open three times, and she also holds ten Grand Slam doubles titles--six women's and four mixed. The indefatigable Spaniard also holds twenty-nine WTA career singles titles and sixty-seven doubles titles. She was on the tour for sixteen years, guiding Spain to all five of its Fed Cup victories, and--with two bronze and two silver medals--is the most decorated Olympian in Spanish history.

The Barcelona Bumblebee was probably the counter-puncher of all time on the women's tour, keeping her opponents on the court until all hours in lengthy rallies, in which she covered an amazing amount of ground. She was also the nemesis of the two greatest players of her generation--Steffi Graf and Monica Seles.

In recent years, Sanchez-Vicario, who speaks five languages fluently, has continued to play an active role in tennis. It was she who first noticed Russian star Svetlana Kuznetsova, who trained at Spain's famed Sanchez-Casal Academy (co-founded by Sanchez-Vicario's brother, a former doubles champion). Sanchez-Vicario put Kuznetsova in touch with Martina Navratilova and they became doubles partners. Kuznetsova credits much of her rise in the sport to the mentoring she received from both Navratilova and Sanchez-Vicario.

Fed Cup: U.S. and Russia at 1-1

The Fed Cup semifinals began today, with Russia winning one match (Anna Chakvetadze def. Vania King) and the U.S. winning the other (Venus Williams def. Nadia Petrova). The second match managed to be very competitive and lopsided at the same time, with Williams taking a bagel break in the second set. Final score: 7-6, 0-6, 6-4.

In the other semifinal, France won one match when Tatiana Golovin defeated Tathiana Garbin, and Italy won the second when Francesca Schiavone defeated Amelie Mauresmo, 7-5, 6-3.

Ukraine is 2-0 against Australia, thanks to the Bondarenko sisters.

You can see other results here.

Friday, July 13, 2007

U.S. Open to close lockers rooms to reporters

Last year at the U.S. Open, after Andre Agassi played the final match of his career, female reporters were barred from the men's locker room, in violation of U.S. Open media rules. Despite inviting gender equality, male reporters still went to the men's locker room, and female reporters to the women's locker room. To correct this discrepancy, the USTA has decided to close both locker rooms to all reporters. Other exclusive player areas will be open to members of the news media.

Golovin sounds off about Bartoli and Fed Cup

Tatiana Golovin's take on Marion Bartoli's refusal to play in the Fed Cup semifinal this weekend is that the rules are fine as they are, and Bartoli needs to learn to play without her father/coach around. Fair enough (though the French team is really biting its nose to spite its face). But Golovin takes it a step farther and declares that--though she was born in Russia--she feels "more French" than Bartoli.

The interview is in French, but the translation is pretty obvious, oui?

Friday cat blogging--TGIF edition

Roxie and Velma chill out on the sofa

Thursday, July 12, 2007

More Fed Cup withdrawals

Nicole Vaidisova and Ana Ivanovic have both pulled out of their respective Fed Cup competitions. Ivanovic has also withdrawn from the Acura Classic in San Diego. Vaidisova is ill and Ivanovic has a knee injury. Her knee was bandaged during Wimbledon, and she says she was in quite a bit of pain at that time.

Time for a teacher conference?

I generally enjoy reading Steve Tignor's "The Wrap" on tennis.com, but one of his Wimbledon report card grades puzzles me:

Marion Bartoli: B+
It was nice to meet a new player and see a new face, and her Pierce Brosnan comments were classics. She was also entertainingly quirky on court. But it isn't a great advertisement for the women’s game when the Wimbledon finalist has such a fundamentally funky forehand. Not that it isn’t effective; it just isn’t ready for prime time (or breakfast time).

It's news to me that Bartoli is a new player; I've been keeping up with her for a long time. I suppose the phrase means "new to television viewers," but almost anyone who isn't Maria Sharapova or a Williams sister is new to television viewers. And as for the forehand--if it was good enough for Monica Seles, it's good enough for me, though I acknowledge that Bartoli's grip is as eccentric as some of the rest of her game. I readily concede that Tignor is an expert on tennis, and I am not, but come on--that forehand was lethal. If Venus Williams had been knocked out in either of those two excruciatingly close early rounds she had (perhaps not a good advertisement for women's tennis?), I have little doubt that we would now be saying "2007 Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli," as I'm pretty sure she would have taken out either Sharapova or Ivanovic the same way she dismissed Jankovic and Henin.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Latest world security threat--Maria Sharapova

Check it out in her latest doodle.

Tu to replace Serena Williams in Fed Cup semifinal

Serena Williams withdrew from the USA-Russia Fed Cup semifinal today because of the leg, wrist and thumb injuries she sustained during Wimbledon play. She is being replaced by Meilen Tu. Meanwhile, Russia's Fed Cup captain is still trying to get a visa so he can travel to Vermont for the semifinal this weekend.

Also, Australian Sam Stosur, who withdrew from mixed doubles at Wimbledon because of a viral infection, has had to withdraw from Fed Cup because of that infection.

Kim Clijsters pregnant

Newly retired Belgian tennis great Kim Clijsters is pregnant, her father has announced in his blog. Clijsters will marry basketball player Brian Lynch this Saturday in Bree, Belgium.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sharapova now out of Fed Cup

Just four days after saying she could play in the Fed Cup semifinal this weekend, Maria Sharapova announced today that she cannot do so because of her shoulder injury. Her replacement will be Elena Vesnina. Sharapova is the second team member to pull out of Fed Cup; Svetlana Kuznetsova, also suffering from a shoulder injury, has also withdrawn.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The tables are turned, but the language remains suspect

The U.S. Open Series 2007 promotions have begun, and it is going be a task for the promoters to outdo last year's great "Road Trip!" spots. In one of the new spots, players say what they like about the series, and Russia's Elena Dementieva says "American boys!"

That would be cute, perhaps, except that Dementieva is going to be 26 in a few months, which--despite popular opinion about females under 60--makes her a woman. Young men are hardly ever called "boys" in our culture, only young women, so there are only two reasons, both probably unconsciously motivated, for giving Dementieva this script:

1. If we let her say she likes boys, the implication is that she is a girl, and since she is an attractive blonde with long legs, she, of course, has to be a "girl."


2. If she were to say "American men!" it would imply that she is a sexual being, rather than a sexual object.

My guess is that both cultural values were in play when the script was written, and, in a way, they are really the same: As long as Dementieva can be seen as a girl--not an adult--then she is non-threatening. By the same token, if one of the 25-year-old ATP Tour men said "American girls!" we all know that he could mean females from legal age up.

Kuznetsova out, Kudryavtseva in

I learned a few days ago that Svetlana Kuznetsova had hurt her shoulder and would not be playing in the Fed cup semifinal against the U.S. this coming weekend, but I wanted to wait until I knew who her replacement was before I said anything. Now I know--it is Alla Kudryavtseva, the player who gave Venus Williams so much trouble in the first round of Wimbledon.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Bartoli denied spot on French Fed Cup team

Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli (doesn't that have a nice sound?) will not be playing for her country when France plays Italy laster this month in Fed Cup competition. Team captain Georges Goven has reportedly denied Bartoli a spot on the team because she asked to have her father/coach accompany her. The team will consist of Amelie Mauresmo, Tatiana Golovin, Nathalie Dechy, and Severine Bremond.

Meanwhile, Flavia Pennetta reportedly will not play for Italy because she lost in the first round of Wimbledon. Pennetta has struggled to get her old form back after a long injury layoff, but has been doing better lately. Considering that Bartoli was Pennetta's first round opponent at Wimbledon, one can hardly call her early exit a disgrace.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Venus Williams wins Wimbledon in style

Marion Bartoli, playing better than the finalists in the last two Grand Slam women's finals, did not have enough game or--perhaps more important--enough speed, to do much damage to Venus Williams in today's Wimbledon final. Williams, who came close to losing in both the first and third rounds, went on a roll once she got to the round of 16, playing incredible grass court tennis, and today was no different. Bartoli gave it her best, and lost the first set just 4-6, but her formidable serve was off today, and she was unable to position herself to do the kind of damage she did earlier in the tournament. It was a relatively easy win for Williams, at 6-4, 6-1.

I picked Williams as a dark horse to win the tournament, but there were people who said from the beginning that she would take it. With her huge serve, superb athleticism, fast pick-ups, and booming groundstokes, Williams is a grass court player to be feared by all. She now has four Wimbledon titles, putting her in grand company: Martina Navratilova won nine, Steffi Graf won seven, and Billie Jean King won four. Both Navratilova and King were in the stands when Williams won her fourth today.

This has been an incredibly competitive Wimbledon tournament for the women, with some very well-played, exciting matches. It is the best Grand Slam tournament I have seen in a long time.

There was no shortage of drama. The defending champion, Amelie Mauresmo, went out in the round of 16. Serena Williams sustained a very painful injury in her round of 16 match, but then went on to win it. Jelena Jankovic and Lucie Safarova played a set (the second) in their third round match that was one of the best sets of tennis one could ever hope to see. If you missed this match and you have Wimbledon Live, by all means, watch it--or at least watch the second set.

And then there was Marion Bartoli, who--in my opinion--is still the big story of this Wimbledon tournament. Bartoli's career had been stalled because of repeated injuries. For a while, she seemed to be retiring from more matches than she played. But last year, everything started to come together, and the Frenchwoman who plays Monica Seles style (in more ways than one) and who has the strangest service motion you will ever see, began quietly knocking her opponents out of tournaments. She won three tournaments last year--the first three she had ever won--which should have signaled something to fans and the sports media, but apparently it did not. Just last month, Bartoli reached the round of 16 at the French Open, though every commentator today said that she had never gotten past a third round in a Grand Slam. (You have to wonder what they are doing that is so important that they cannot be bothered to check the records, or why they wouldn't know that, anyway--I did.)

Bartoli's stunning upsets of world number 3 Jelena Jankovic and world number 1 Justine Henin were more than memorable, and on the way to accomplishing these difficult tasks, she also managed to take out Shahar Peer and Michaella Krajicek. I don't think anyone will be making fun of Bartoli's unorthodox serve and peculiar training regimen for a while. There is now some pressure on her to perform well in the U.S. Open series. Grass is obviously her surface, but her style of game should also translate well to a hard court. And pressure does not seem to bother Bartoli very much. One sportswriter referred to her as "an ambitious, two-handed terror." Here's hoping she progresses even more and picks up a tournament win soon. She was the most exciting factor in this year's Wimbledon, and a joy to watch.

In the meantime, number 1 doubles seeds Lisa Raymond and Sam Stosur have been eliminated by Katarina Srebotnik and Ai Sugiyama, 1-6, 6-3, 6-2. Stosur and partner Bob Bryan had to withdraw from mixed doubles because Stosur has been suffering with a viral infection. In the other semifinal, Cara Black and Liezel Huber defeated Alicia Molik and Mara Santangelo--winners of the French Open--6-4, 4-6, 6-1.

Player of the day: Venus Williams, who proved one more time that you can never, ever count a Williams sister out.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Thank you, Mary Carillo

Yesterday on NBC, during the Djokovic-Hewitt match, the commentators were discussing the pronunciation of the Serbian player's name. One of them said: "It's 'JOKE-a-vich'--I asked him." Which prompted Mary Carillo to say something to the effect of "Asking the player--what a novel idea."

Amen. It's easy to look pronunciations up on the tours' official sites (at least I know they are right there on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour), and it's just as easy to ask the players. I have written many times that I wish players were more assertive about this issue, but commentators resist being corrected. After being told how to pronounce Djokovic's name, John McEnroe explained that it might "take him a while" to learn this. Hello! He is paid--a lot of money, I might add--to talk about tennis players. How hard is it to learn how to pronounce their names?

A couple of years ago, ESPN did an entire feature on the pronunciation of Sesil Karatantcheva's name, which she kindly pronounced for them (and it isn't hard to say), and after the feature was over, they proceeded to--you guessed it--mispronounce her name.

And then there was the time that poor Claudine Schaul had the audacity to ask the commentators to pronounce her name correctly. Cliff Drysdale was just beside himself with anxiety, and Pam Shriver--no surprise--was sarcastic, and blamed Schaul for the fact that she and Drysdale were saying her name wrong.

Sharapova commits to Fed Cup

After her Wimbledon loss, Maria Sharapova said she wanted to check with a doctor about her shoulder before she could commit to playing the Fed Cup semifinal against the United States this month. Apparently, she got the go-ahead, and will be part of a team that also consists of Nadia Petrova, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anna Chakvetadze.

My name is Bartoli. Marion Bartoli.

In her post-match interview today, Marion Bartoli revealed that one of the factors that turned her game around in her semifinal match against number 1 seed Justine Henin was that she looked into the stands and saw Pierce Brosnan, one of her favorite actors. "I said to myself, 'It’s not possible I play so bad in front of him. I saw he was cheering for me, so I said, 'Oh, maybe it’s good.' I kept going and I won, maybe a little bit for Pierce Brosnan."

For her part, Henin said "I still don't really realize what did happen. I don't understand what did happen." I'm sure she doesn't because, once Bartoli got rolling, it all seemed to happen so quickly. Henin said she wasn't surprised by her opponent's level of play, that Bartoli has been working very hard, and now it is paying off. Henin also said something very telling (for a change): "I know her personality. I knew she wouldn't be afraid to win the match."

Brilliant Bartoli too good for Henin

In the back of my mind, I knew Marion Bartoli had the game to possibly upset world number 1 Justine Henin, but several factors prevented me from believing she would actually do it: Bartoli did not seem fit enough to go through another very tough match, the strong wind forecast for today is not generally kind to the very flat balls Bartoli hits, and Henin has the type of mental toughness that Chris Evert had.

It turns out Bartoli was fit enough, handled the wind well enough--placing just-right spin on her balls, and was even tougher than Henin. In the first set, she looked lost, obviously stunned by being on Centre Court in a Wimbledon semifinal. But even as she lost that set 1-6, I was thinking "She won't go down like this--not this way." Sure enough, from the moment the second set began, the Frenchwoman was a different player. Throughout the tournament, she has come from behind, usually with the help of a rain delay, but today, she did it during a rare interval of sunshine. She found her groove again, sometimes channeling her idol, Monica Seles, playing double-handed on both sides and finding wicked angles over and over. Henin, like Jelena Jankovic--whom Bartoli beat in the round of 16--is extremely fast on the court, but Bartoli just kept them coming, patiently waiting for Henin to make the error. She took the second set, 7-5.

The third set was all Bartoli. It was obvious, by that time, that Bartoli was inside Henin's head, just as she got inside Jankovic's. At 0-5, Henin won her first game, and it was over when Bartoli served for the match.

Bartoli has a very good (though very strange) serve, she volleys well, hits deadly groundstrokes, and moves better than one might think she would. She will have her hands full when she faces Venus Williams tomorrow. Williams dispatched semifinalist Ana Ivanovic rather easily, 6-2, 6-4, and is certainly going to be the fresher of the two. Normally, there would be a day of rest between the semifinals and the final, but because of all the rain, all the matches are backed up.

Player of the day: Marion Bartoli, who--not content to take out just the number 3 seed--went one better and took out the number 1, denying Henin a chance to win the one Grand Slam that has eluded her.

Remembering Althea Gibson

Entrance to the lovely Althea Gibson Club Court at the Family Circle Cup Stadium on Daniel Island, South Carolina

This month marks the 50th anniversary of Althea Gibson's first Wimbledon victory, marking the first time an African American person won a the English championship. She defended her title the next year, and also won the U.S. Open those two years. In both 1957 and 1958, Gibson was the first African American ever to be designated Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press.

Throughout her career, Gibson would five Grand Slam singles titles (two Wimbledon, two U.S. Open, one French Open), five Grand Slam women's doubles titles, and one Grand Slam mixed doubles title. She was also a finalist in two Grand Slam singles championships, a finalist in two women's doubles and one mixed doubles championships, and was ranked number one in the world.

Gibson was born in South Carolina and grew up in Harlem. Her career began very late by today's standards, as well as by the standards of her time, but racial segregation prevented her from playing at many clubs, and thereby halted her rise to prominence in the tennis world. A right-hander with a big serve, Gibson was considered intimidating by her opponents. After her many wins, which included 56 singles and doubles titles, she played pro gold, since there was no pro tennis available. When the open era began, she was too old to be very competitive, though she played pro for a little while.

One of the classic stories about Gibson concerns her arriving at one of her U.S. Open finals matches to see a banner hanging from the stands which read Go Back To The Cotten Plantation Nigger. Gibson turned to her opponent and said "Someone can't spell 'cotton'." (Reminds you of a recent sign, doesn't it?) When she won the Wimbledon doubles title with Englishwoman Angela Buxton in 1956, the crowd barely responded, not just because Gibson was a person of color, but because Buxton was Jewish. The two became lifelong friends.

Gibson was not vocal about race issues, and did not participate in the Civil Rights movement of the 60s. She mostly stayed head-down and concentrated on being a champion, believing that achieving high status as a sportswoman would be her best contribution to equality.

Althea Gibson was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1971. From 1975 to 1985, she was the State Commissioner of Athletics for the state of New Jersey. She died in 2003 at the age of 76. Gibson was the author of one book, I Always Wanted to Be Somebody, which she wrote in 1958.

Friday cat blogging--Wimbledon edition

Velma watches the action on Centre Court

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Down to the last 4--will there be any surprises?

The questions being asked now are: How many games will Marion Bartoli take off of Justine Henin, and how many games will Ana Ivanovic take off of Venus Williams? The chances for an upset on either court are slim, and that speaks especially well of Williams, who has to play the tournament's number 6 seed.

I think Williams will continue to play the way she played during the round of 16 and the quarterfinals, which could mean a straight set exit for Ivanovic. In her recent Eastbourne semifinal against Henin, Bartoli won five games. Considering how good Bartoli's grass game has become, she should be able to take a few games in her Wimbledon semifinal--unless physical exhaustion gets the best of her; she is not exactly a picture of fitness. Or unless she freezes at the sight of Henin across the net, which I do not think will happen.

Contingency factors:

1. At any time, Williams' forehand can go wild, which could allow Ivanovic to take control of the match, at least for a while.

2. People who saw Ivanovic's quarterfinal match against Nicole Vaidisova report that Ivanovic's movement was not too good. Poor movement was the weakest link in Ivanovic's game for a long time, but she appeared to have overcome it. Whether she has a minor injury or is just returning to a bad habit, a continuation of inadequate court movement would make it easy for Williams to grab a quick victory.

3. Ivanovic had a great French Open run, but froze in terror when she faced Justine Henin across the net during the finals. However, she displayed a lot of grit today in saving match points and going on to grab what looked like a certain victory from the shaky hands of Nicole Vaidisova.

4. If you make a list of Justine Henin's tennis flaws, you will have plenty of room left on the page to compile your grocery list and a complete set of errands for the week. But Henin does have one weakness which occurs when she is a bit anxious (for the first couple of years after her long ilness break, it happened all the time, but the tennis press ignored it)--she double-faults. Multiple double faults do not seem to affect the outcome of her matches, but in such a seemingly one-sided contest as the one coming up, a double-fault string could give Bartoli some cheap points.

5. One of the players could sustain an injury--imagine that. (The most likely candidate is Marion Bartoli, who may hold the match retirement record for the tour.)

6. Rain delays are likely. Bartoli has come back after two rain delays to play her best tennis of the match, so a rain delay in her semifinal might give her more games. Isolated heavy showers are expected tomorrow.

7. High winds are also predicted for tomorrow, and a strong wind can either serve as somewhat of an equalizer, or it can knock one player out altogether. All four players hit the ball hard; however, Bartoli's beautiful angle shots are extremely flat, and therefore vulnerable to being swept away.

Wimbledon, Day 10

The last two quarterfinals were played today--one rather efficiently, the other with some thrills. Venus Williams defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 6-4. Despite her struggles in early Wimbledon matches, Williams has looked more and more like a champion in the last few days. Kuznetsova herself was in danger of going out in the first round when she played an ever-improving Julia Vakulenko, but since that difficult win, she cruised through until she got to Williams. Williams served well, and was successful in her net approaches. Kuznetsova is a great all-around, all-surface player and a gifted athlete, but Williams on grass was too much for her today.

The other semifinal was less predictable, with two of the tour's younger stars, Nicole Vaidisova and Ana Ivanovic, battling it out in three sets. Vaidisova took the first, Ivanovic took the second, and then the fun started. Like Serena Williams, Vaidisova is a high-risk player, willing to chalk up errors in exchange for getting in some big, decisive winners. That was the kind of game she was playing today, and it looked like it was going to work for her. She broke Ivanovic immediately in the third set, and held that break until Ivanovic served at 3-5 and Vaidisova held three match points. Ivanovic, determined not to give her opponent the match on her own serve, saved all three match points in rallies that were thrilling.

She then had an easy hold to even it up at 5-all. Vaidisova, not known for her calm manner on court, proceeded to go to pieces mentally, an occurrence that did not elude Ivanovic, who broke her in the next game, with Vaidisova throwing in a double fault for good measure. Ivanovic then had a mental moment on her first match point, but prevailed on her second. Final score: 4-6, 6-2, 7-5

Fans of Sam Stosur--take note: She and Bob Bryan withdrew from mixed doubles today because Stosur has come down with a viral infection. She and Lisa Raymond are scheduled to play a quarterfinal match tomorrow in women's doubles.

Player of the day: Ana Ivanovic, who refused to lose the match on her own serve, then sensed her opponent's crack-up, and moved in skillfully for the victory.

May you receive the gift of renewed confidence

Guess it depends on how you define "exciting"

This Sony Ericsson WTA Tour poll shows that an overwhelming number of people who voted think that the Williams/Hantuchova match has been the most exciting match so far. Yes, it was tense to watch Serena return from looked like a tournament-ending injury, and to see Hantuchova melt away. But all that was boring compared to the Safarova-Jankovic match, especially the second set. I haven't seen a more exciting set this year.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

A Wimbledon match I enjoyed a lot today

This afternoon, I watched the BBC broadcast of the 1972 Wimbledon semifinal between Chris Evert and defending champion Evonne Goolagong, two of my all-time favorite players. It was shocking to recall how different everything was: There were wooden racquets, of course (oh, for those days...), the players took their breaks standing up with a towel and a paper cup they had to fill with water, and there was no need for a trainer to come out. The commentator repeatedly referred to Evert as "the little girl," proving that--though we haven't really come that far--at least today's commentators are not quite that sexist.

The tennis dresses were wonderful, and Goolagong's was part of an entire ensemble that included a very smart jacket. I'm sure there are people today who would laugh at the players' outfits, but I thought they were both quite attractive. In fact, it would be nice if they were replicated for a couple of contemporary players to wear.

17-year-old Chris Evert already had an expressionless face, regardless of how things went, though she did become a bit tense when her 6-4, 3-0 lead disappeared. And Goolagong was her mellow, good-humored self, regardless of how things went. The first set was bad for the Australian, who made a number of errors and tended to let Evert control from the baseline. But after she got herself and her serve-and-volley game together, she began to glide around the court in that special way she had, hitting those fabulous volleys with ease. I think of her sometimes when I see Amelie Mauresmo gliding from side to side and gracefully finishing points at the net.

Goolagong won the match, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, though she would go on to lose in the final to Billie Jean King. In fact, Goolagong would not win Wimbledon again until 1980, and her opponent in that final would be Chris Evert.

After watching today's power players whack very fast balls, take numerous injury time-outs and scream loudly with every point, it was a real treat to watch Evert and Goolagong play this exciting match on grass, with all the drama but none of the trauma.

Bartoli's rain delay strategy

Anyone who watched Marion Bartoli's defeat of Michaella Krajicek in today's Wimbledon quarterfinal saw a very different Bartoli emerge after the rain delay. Some of us wondered if she watched the first set and studied the shots like she did during her long rain delay in her round of 16 match against Jelena Jankovic. She did not. Instead, she went to sleep. Bartoli said she had not gotten enough sleep the night before, and the rain delay gave her a perfect opportunity to take a nap. She awakened fresh and proceeded to win the next two sets.

Wimbledon, Day 9--the news that is ignored

Television commentators, at least in the U.S. rarely talk about doubles action, but there was plenty of it today at Wimbledon, as teams tried to catch up from the many rain delays. Number 1 mixed doubles seeds Mike Bryan and Lisa Raymond were upset by the British team of Melanie South and Alex Bogdanovic, and Kateryna Bondarenko and Jordan Kerr upset number 4 seeds Kevin Ullyett and Liezel Huber.

In women's doubles, Shuai Peng and Yan Zi defeated number 3 seeds Yung-Jan Chang and Chia-Jung Chuang. Yan usually plays on half of the very successful team of Yan and Zheng, but Zheng Jie was injured and had to withdraw from Wimbledon. The Williams sisters were playing doubles for the first time in years, but gave their opponents, Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual, a walkover because of Serena Williams' injuries.

Notice that I said "injuries." We were all expecting Williams to have trouble moving because of the terrible leg injury she sustained in her round of 16 match against Daniela Hantuchova, but it was a thumb injury that gave her trouble, and that possibly caused her to lose her quarterfinal match against Justine Henin. Williams had a lot of trouble executing her backhand, except for her one-handed backhand slice. It was tough to see Williams lose this way. Final score: 6-4, 3-6, 6-3

Meanwhile, Venus Williams turned on some kind of inner switch and mowed down Maria Sharapova, 6-1, 6-3. And Marion Bartoli, who looked so exhausted after her victory yesterday over Jelena Jankovic, proceeded to get a second wind and take out Michaella Krajicek in three sets. Krajicek won the first set easily, with Bartoli looking rather sluggish, but after a rain break, Bartoli once again dominated with her bizarre but powerful serve, and her abilty to find wicked angles at all parts of the court. It would have been exciting to have either of these fine players enter the semifinals. Final score: 3-6, 6-3, 6-2

Bartoli also played doubles today with her partner Meilen Tu, and they defeated Nicole Vaidisova and Barbora Zhalavova Strycova, 7-5, 7-6.

Player of the day: Venus Williams, looking like the Wimbledon champion she has been three times in the past

That would be a resounding yes, duh!

Writing for the Wimbledon website, Kate Battersby asks: "Be honest. Had it occurred to you that Venus might beat Maria Sharapova today?"

Post match press conferences are always bad, but this one was beyond the pale

It was nice to see Amelie Mauresmo, who normally takes the tennis press's idiocy in stride, give some of the "interviewers" what they deserved after she failed to defend her title at Wimbledon. Here is a typical exchange:

Q. Are you very disappointed or just disappointed?

AMÉLIE MAURESMO: What do you think?

Q. From your face I see disappointed, not very disappointed.

AMÉLIE MAURESMO: Well, I'm a good actress then.

Q. So are you, yes or no?

AMÉLIE MAURESMO: I think I answered that.

Q. Who do you think is going to win the championship now?

AMÉLIE MAURESMO: I don't care right now.

Q. You must be very disappointed not to care.

When I think of how much money these people must make, it makes me feel ill.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Wimbledon, Day 8--not my day

Marion Bartoli, seeded number 18, took out number 3 seed Jelena Jankovic in today's round of 16 play

My favorite WTA player, defending champion Amelie Mauresmo, played a lackluster, error-filled match against Nicole Vaidisova today, and was eliminated in the round of 16. Mauresmo had a long post-surgery layoff, and was not expected to do that well. But when she got to the tournament, she lit up and was playing extremely well...until today. Final score: 7-6, 4-6, 6-1

To make matters worse, my only other favorite still in the draw, Jelena Jankovic, was taken out in the round of 16 by Marion Bartoli, a Frenchwoman who plays Monica Seles style--two-handed on both sides--and who has been on a roll lately. They each took a set, and after a rain delay, it was all about Bartoli. Some of us have predicted for some time that Jankovic was going to run out of steam--she has played so many tournaments--and today may have been the day that happened. Or she just may have been sideswiped by a good player who had nothing to lose and was out for revenge: Jankovic defeated an injured Bartoli in straight sets in the French Open round of 16. Final score: 3-6, 7-5, 6-3

Also eliminated today were phenom Tamira Paszek, defeated by Svetlana Kuznetsova, and Nadia Petrova, who was beaten by Ana Ivanovic.

Player of the day: Marion Bartoli, who eliminated the number 3 seed and now goes to the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam, a career first. She will face Michaella Krajicek, which means that--no matter who wins--Wimbledon will have a surprise semifinalist.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Wimbledon, Day 7--even more drama

The rains came again, and along with them, some predictable match results, though some matches were rather close. Not a surprise was Tamira Paszek's three-set upset of Elena Dementieva. Paszek faces Svetlana Kuznetsova next, and I think the chances are reasonable for another upset. Of all the rising stars on the tour, it is Paszek who stands out a bit, partly because she seems to have the fearlessness that is necessary to perform upsets at major tournaments. She's only 16, but when we recall Chris Evert and Martina Hingis, we know that being very young does not have to be a handicap.

The outstanding match today, though, was the one played by Serena Williams and Daniela Hantuchova. Lately, we have been seeing the Hantuchova who rose up the rankings a few years ago, and she was in good form much of the time when she played Wiliams today in their round of 16 match. There was certainly no shortage of drama: Toward the end of the second set, Williams collapsed on the court because of a strain in her left calf. Her pain was palpable, and she received treatment. After the treatment, it looked as though she might retire, but she kept going. Luck was with her--it began to rain so hard that play had to be delayed.

Two hours later, Williams emerged all bandaged and in a track suit, and unable to move side to side very well. Hantuchova won the set in a tiebreak, and in the third set, Williams was once again dominant. She broke Hantuchova at 2-3, and in the next game, Hantuchova had a break point on Williams, but a 76 mph kick serve threw Hantuchova off balance, and she was never able to regain ground; in fact, she folded under the pressure of the moment, and made it easy for Williams to take care of the set. Final score: 6-2, 6-7, 6-2

Player of the day: Serena Williams--brave and clever and a champion through and through, though there is another side of this story: A doctor who checked Williams said she risked long-term injury if she went back on the court without getting her leg scanned. We will all have to stay tuned.

NBC fires Bud Collins

I'm sure this move by NBC is upsetting a lot of people, but I'm not one of them. I have always found Collins excessively annoying, despite his knowledge of tennis. And a few years ago, when he lumped some very talented young players into a group he described as "players who cannot play," I was really ready for him to go.

This is Collins' last Wimbledon. If NBC is getting rid of Collins because of his age, shame on them. If they are getting rid of him because he is creepy, I'm all for it.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

American Fed Cup team announced for semifinals

I have been so busy reporting on Wimbledon that I forgot to mention Fed Cup: The team that will play in the semifinals against Russia will consist of Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Vania King, and Lisa Raymond. The event will be played on a hard court in Stowe, Vermont on July 14 and 15. The Russian team has not been announced.

The winner will play either defending champion Italy or France in February.