Friday, August 31, 2007

Half of remaining draw in to round of 16

RockYou FunNote - Get Your Own

Though it was no surprise to some of us, Sybille Bammer upset her way into the round of 16 by defeating Elena Dementieva, 6-1, 6-2. Bammer has really raised her game this summer, and though I was a bit surprised by the scoreline, I wasn't surprised by the result. Most of the matches were two-setters, though it took Jelena Jankovic three sets to ward off Alize Cornet, and it took Marion Bartoli her usual three sets to defeat always-tough Lucie Safarova.

Tomorrow's third round is the round of phenoms: Nadia Petrova faces Agnes Szavay, Martina Hingis plays Victoria Azarenka, Patty Schnyder has to contend with Tamira Paszek, and Maria Sharapova gets Agnieska Radwanska. How many phenoms will make it to the round of 16?

Top doubles seeds out at U.S. Open

Maria Elena Camerin of Italy, who used her inside-out forehand to give Serena Williams a spirited second round match earlier this week, joined Gisela Dulko in taking out the number one seeds in doubles today

Cara Black and Liezel Huber went out in the second round today, defeated by Maria Elena Camerin and Gisela Dulko, 1-6, 7-6, 6-2. The unseeded team will probably face Corina Morariu and Meghann Shaughnessy, unless there is another upset. Morariu played doubles with Patty Schnyder for some time after she lost her long-time doubles partner, Lindsay Davenport, but Schnyder has been playing with doubles specialist Janette Husarova lately. Dulko was playing with Flavia Pennetta, but has been playing with Camerin lately.

Friday cat blogging--tennis fan edition

Velma keeps up with the U.S. Open scores

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Service coach needed--badly

Watching Martina Hingis serve is making me cringe. The rest of her game is as sharp as ever, but even if her back and hip do completely heal (which is questionable at this point), that second serve is going to get eaten by any number of players. The odd thing is that I have seen Hingis serve really well since she came back onto the tour. She will serve very well for a few games, then go back to executing mediocre first serves and poor second serves. Her coach says that in practice she serves really well. So she has the ability to deliver serves that are good enough to win matches, but she does not deliver them consistently. If this is a head problem, I hope she gets someone to help her. And if it is just a service problem, surely there is a specialist who can help her.

Note to Jelena Jankovic: Though you are not in need of this specialist as much as Hingis is, it wouldn't hurt you to sign up, too.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bethanie Mattek watch

Mattek, though expected to go out in the first round of the U.S. Open to her pal Madison Brengle, won their match, 6-4, 6-1. You'll recall that the witty, shock-dressing Mattek has completely retooled her game, and says it will be a while before she sees the results pay off. Despite her great serve, she probably won't see those results in the second round: She plays Shahar Peer.

The only photo I could find of Mattek in her first round is one shot at such an angle that I refuse to give the photographer publicity by linking to it. For the record, though, she is wearing a gold metallic dress and matching headband.

August 30 update: I just saw Mattek's latest outfit--metallic silver and black--and I am now rather forgiving of the photographer.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

No one admires Federer more than I do...

But until last night, he didn't know who Althea Gibson was.

Hantuchova says goodbye

Julia Vakulenko of Ukraine defeated 9th-seeded Daniela Hantuchova today in the first round of the U.S. Open

I knew that an in-form Julia Vakulenko could take out Daniela Hantuchova, but since her excellent performance at Wimbledon (almost taking out Svetlana Kuznetsova), Vakulenko--perhaps hampered by a pre-Wimbledon ankle injury--has been off her game. But, as I wrote a few days ago, if she were to get back into form, she could escort Hantuchova out of the U.S. Open, and she did: 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.

Jim Courier just joined the list of lazy, stupid commentators

No surprise, I know. He just suggested that all players either change the suffixes of their last names, or--if there are more than eight letters in a last name--use their first names only on the tour. Of course, it was kind of a "joke," but he emphasized that pronouncing names needs to be "easier for us." Once again, the names are not that hard to pronounce, if you bother to learn how to pronounce them correctly. And again, Courier, McEnroe, Fernandez, and their ilk are being paid extremely good money to talk about the players--that would include pronouncing their names correctly. And finally, it is just plain rude to not bother to correctly pronounce someone's name.

Angelique Kerber does herself proud

No one wants to meet Serena Williams in the first round of anything, let alone the U.S. Open, and especially on the first night, right after a huge ceremony honoring Althea Gibson. But Angelique Kerber of Germany did not let the occasion hamper her game. Kerber got back an amazing number of balls, placing them well enough to keep rallies going, and sometimes placing them well enough to position herself quite strategically. What might have been a complete snooze turned into a lively and entertaining match. Final score: Williams def. Kerber, 6-3, 7-5

Tennis Week inteview with Marion Bartoli

Right here.

In honor of the Open...

From the poshest tennis ghettos
to the swimming pools of Serbia,
they come to Flushing Meadows,
New York's own twist on suburbia.

From Florida and Russia
and the red clay courts of Spain,
Svetlana, Nicole and Masha
seek the glory and the fame.

Sharapova's in red glitter
as the current title-holder.
Will she show up looking fitter,
or be hampered by her shoulder?

Henin's looking good to win it;
she may leave New York quite rich;
or will she try to slice and spin it,
but be distracted by an "itch"?

This season Serena had to miss
because she hurt her thumb,
but whoever counts her out of this
is, in a word, just dumb.

Ivanovic has a forehand shot
that startles, rips and dazzles.
Again and again, she finds the spot,
and leaves opponents frazzled.

Though Venus has won it all in Queens,
some say her day has past.
But she's as hungry as she was in her teens,
and as strong, as sharp, as fast.

Last year at the Open,
JJ lost because of nerves.
This year, her fans are hopin'
she can ratchet up her serves;

she's got the speed, the brain, the will,
the backhand down the line.
but she needs a first serve that can kill,
and a second with some spine.

Anna Chakvetadze plays
with guile and style and rhythm;
when the winners arrive in the final days,
is she fit enough to stay with 'em?

We know that Patty Schnyder
probably won't emerge the winner,
yet her fans still really need her--
we adore our lefty spinner!

Can Bartoli burn a third degree
with those two-handed missiles?
When she's in that zone and swinging free,
her racquet almost sizzles.

Amelie can't be there this year,
Martina's body aches.
It makes me want to shed a tear,
and to hope, for both their sakes,

that soon they will feel good again,
and reach another peak,
then settle among the highest ten
and stay there every week.

So many more to watch and cheer--
Safina, Kuznetsova,
the Bondarenkos and Peer,
Srebotnik and Petrova,

Medina Garrigues and Safarova,
Zvonareva and Paszek,
Bammer, Mirza, Hantuchova,
Dementieva and Krajicek.

Maria will have to step it up
or she'll see her title gone;
but she may still be the one to lift the cup--
we hope the lid stays on!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Golovin upset in first round of U.S. Open

A few days ago, I listed Tatiana Golovin as a player to watch at the U.S. Open, but most people didn't get to watch her at all. She was eliminated tonight by American wild car Ahsha Rolle, 6-4, 1-6, 6-2. Talk about making good use of your wild card.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Mirza and Santangelo run over Black and Huber

Photo courtesy of After Atalanta

Mara Santangelo usually plays doubles with Alicia Molik, but this week, at Pilot Pen Tennis, she played with Sania Mirza, and they won the tournament tonight with a stunning victory over world number one team Cara Black and Liezel Huber, 6-1, 6-2. Santangelo and Mirza served for the match at 5-1, but were broken, so they had to break back to win.

Dulko wins Forest Hills

Gisela Dulko won her second career singles title today in Forest Hills

Gisela Dulko defeated Virginie Razzano, 6-2, 6-2, today to win the Forest Hills Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Classic in Forest Hills, New York. This was Dulko's third tournament final this year. She was a finalist in Pattaya City, and she won in Budapest.

Kuznetsova wins in New Haven

Svetalana Kuznetsova won her first tournament of 2007 today, in New Haven

Mary Carrillo called it The Curse of Kuznetsova. Three of her Pilot Pen Tennis opponents retired in their matches against Svetlana Kuznetsova, including today's finalist, Agnes Szavay, whose back injury forced her to stop playing in the middle of the third set. A sluggish, error-prone Kuznetsova lost the first set, 4-6, but she picked her play up considerably in the second set, winning three games before her opponent had to retire. Of course, it helped that Szavay's movement was restricted.

Had she won today's match, Szavay would have become the first qualifier to win a Tier I or Tier II tournament in WTA recorded history.

Note to CBS commentators and umpire Lynn Welch: It just doesn't take that much effort to learn how to pronounce a player's name. You could, for instance, ask the player how to pronounce it. Or you could look it up on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour website. It isn't hard to do...really. Her name is pronounced "SHAveye." I wish the players were more assertive about the pronunciation of their names, but at any rate, there is no excuse for the laziness and rudeness of the commentators and umpires.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Sharapova unveils 2007 U.S. Open dress

When your U.S. Open dress is the best dress ever worn in a tennis tournament, it is kind of hard to follow your own act. I wonderd what Sharapova was going to do, and though I find the 2007 dress beautiful, it was bound to disappoint, after last year's little sparkly black piece of elegance.

By the way, I also thought Sharapova's 2007 U.S. Open Series dress was terrific.

Maria Sharapova is a Fathead

In fact, Sharapova is the first female Fathead.

U.S. Open--some interesting first rounds

The U.S. Open draw has been published, though, of course, it does not contain the names of the qualifiers and lucky losers. Both Maria Sharapova and Jelena Jankovic have very tough draws, whereas Justine Henin has a string of qualifiers (not always easy, I know).

First rounds that we know about that could be interesting:

Katarina Srebotnik v. Alicia Molik--Back in the day, before she fell victim to a really bad inner ear infection, Alicia Molik was in the top 10. She was out for a long time, tried to come back and had more problems with the infection, and finally did return to the tour, but without many good results. The hard-hitting Molik has talent, and that talent could begin to manifest itself at any time. Srebotnik is a formidable opponent who does not beat herself, so this could be an unusually spirited first round. Or not.

Julia Vakulenko v. Daniela Hantuchova--Vakulenko had an excellent year up until hard court season, when things just fell apart. She came dangerously close to taking Svetlana Kuznetsova out of Wimbledon, in a tightly contested match that went more or less unnoticed. Given her current level of success, one would imagine her falling to Hantuchova in the first round of the Open. But if Vakulenko were to get her form back, she would be a definite threat to remove the sometimes shaky Hantuchova from the year's final Grand Slam contest. An in-form Vakulenko is someone no one wants to see in a first round. This has the markings of being one of the best--if not the best--first round matches.

Kaia Kanepi v. Sania Mirza--Mirza's post-injury return to the tour has received a lot of attention, largely because of her excellent performance at this year's Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, where she reached the final. She has defeated some very good players this summer, including Patty Schnyder, Shahar Peer, Dinara Safina, Sybille Bammer, and Tatiana Golovin. Kanepi, on the other hand, is a gifted young player who has stayed beneath the radar since she entered the tour. She has had some good wins in the past, and should be considered upset material if the conditions are right.

Flavia Pennetta v. Peng Shuai--Pennetta has not found her form since she returned from a long injury layoff, and most likely will be eliminated by Peng, maybe in straight sets. I list this match, however, because one never knows when a formerly good player will find her form again.

Shahar Peer v. Meilen Tu--Peer is the runaway favorite here, but her game has been a bit weak lately, and Tu has been known to take out a top player now and then, just because she can.

Agnieszka Radwanska v. Akiko Morigami--Radwanska is one of the hottest phenoms on the tour, and Morigami is an established giant-killer (she almost took Venus Williams out of Wimbledon this year). When the two-hander gets going, she can be very tough, so Radwanska may have her hands full.

Friday cat blogging--TGIF edition

Tarzan gets comfortable

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Paola Suarez to retire after U.S. Open

The word is out that Argentine player Paola Suarez, who reached a career high of number 9 in the world in singles, and who was half of the world number one doubles team of Suarez/Ruano Pascual for many years, will retire after the U.S. Open. I have been expecting this for some time, and in fact, I'm surprised she has lasted this long. I remember reading a couple of years ago that she wanted to retire, and Virginia Ruano Pascual had talked her out of it. Suarez has been wrecked by injuries the last couple of years, and Ruano Pascual now plays doubles with Anabel Medina Garrigues.

Suarez retires with 4 Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles titles and 44 doubles titles, including 7 women's doubles Grand Slam titles. She is a 5-time member of the Argentine Fed Cup team, and a 3-time member of the Argentine Olympic team.

Sadly, Suarez lost her first qualifying round at the U.S. Open this week. She will play doubles with Roberta Vinci.

Chakvetadze talks, and she's worth hearing

If you have The Tennis Channel, don't miss the new "Center Court" interview with Anna Chakvetadze. Chakvetadze, who is charmingly amusing, talks about her fitness problem, about not liking to be compared with Hingis (one of her chidhood idols), and about coaching during matches. She dispels the "fact" that she does not have a coach; she has frequently had one, but not one who travels with her. And, she says, she would not want a coach to come onto the court in between sets. "I like to stay alone and think alone about my game."

Chris Myers made such a big deal about how "difficult" it is to pronounce her name. He couldn't stop talking about it. Chakvetadze says this is a problem in the United States and in France. This whole affair puzzles me. I spotted Chakvetadze a long time ago and started following her career because I thought she was going to be somebody important. I learned how to pronounce her name the first time I ever saw her. It is easy to pronounce unless you are a total idiot. But Myers, like the ESPN commentators, has to go on and on about how hard it is. At least he asked her how to pronounce it, which is more than the ESPN comentators do.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Henin nominated for Sportswoman of the Year

World number 1 Justine Henin is one of 8 nominees for Sportswoman of the Year, an award presented each year by the Women's Sports Foundation. One individual and one team athlete is honored each year for exceptional performances during a period from August of the last year to July of the current year. You can view the other nominees and cast your vote here.

What is going on with Yuliana Fedak?

She raised the level of her game significantly this year, producing some really good wins, and today, she lost to number 168 in the world, Olivia Sanchez, in the first round of qualifying for the U.S. Open. To be fair, it was close--7-6, 6-3--but close isn't good enough.

Today, New Haven is Upset City

Eleni Daniilidou of Greece defeated number 7 seed Sybille Bammer today in New Haven

Agnes Szavay, who won her first WTA Tour tournament last month in Palermo, took out Pilot Pen Tennis number 2 seed Daniela Hantuchova today, 6-5, 6-3. I saw the first set on television, and Hantuchova's serve just was not there for her.

Number 7 seed Sybille Bammer, who has been playing really well lately, was defeated by Eleni Daniilidou, 1-6, 7-5, 6-2. Daniilidou is a talented player who has never come close to meeting her potential, but lately, she has been on an upswing, for some reason.

Next up for Szavay is Alona Bondarenko, a player whose career I follow, and who took out Sania Mirza today, 6-3, 0-6, 6-3. And next up for Daniilidou is 4th seed Dinara Safina.

Davenport discusses her comeback on ESPN

In an interview with Pam Shriver, Lindsay Davenport said today that she gives herself about one more year in pro tennis, and that she wanted to play in the U.S. Open really badly, but does not believe her footwork is good enough yet. She also said she was looking forward to the Olympics.

U.S. Open just a few days away!

The greatest road trip in sports comes to a conclusion in Flushing Meadows on August 27, when the U.S. Open begins

Who are the contenders?

Justine Henin--The world's number 1 player hasn't won the U.S. Open since her dramatic victory in 2003, when--cramping throughout much of the match--she defeated Jennifer Capriati in the semifinals in one of the most exciting matches I can recall (it lasted 3 hours, and Henin was down 5-3 in the second set, and 5-2 in the third; on 10 occasions, she was 2 points from defeat). Though afraid she would have to withdraw before the final, she went on to win the title, defeating Kim Clijsters, 7-5, 6-1.

Henin was the U.S. Open finalist last year, losing to an astonishingly in-form Maria Sharapova, who just couldn't do anything wrong the entire tournament. Henin has a lot going for her this year: Sharapova has suffered with a shoulder injury for much of the season and has often seen her serve suffer because of it, and Serena Williams has been out with a thumb injury since Wimbledon. Henin showed in the Rogers Cup final last weekend that she is still the most impressive player on the tour, and her chances of winning a second U.S. Open title are very good.

Maria Sharapova--The defending champion has had a troublesome season because of a shoulder injury that has never totally healed, but has healed enough for her to compete. And recently, she sustained a shin injury (for the second time) that put her out of competition. But she did manage to win the Acura Classic in San Diego in between injuries, and her play in San Diego was very impressive. If Sharapova's shin injury heals (it healed quickly the last time), she still has a good chance to defend her title.

Serena Williams--As of this writing, no one knows whether Williams will be at the Open. I suspect she will not, since she had to withdraw from Pilot Pen Tennis in New Haven this week. But on the off chance that she plays in Flushing Meadows, I make her a contender. She entered this year's Australian Open with no matches behind her at all, and pretty much blew everybody away. She can do that; she is Serena Williams.

Jelena Jankovic--Some say she doesn't have what it takes to win a Grand Slam tournament; I am not one of those people. Jankovic, who was on her way to beating Henin in the semifinals last year when she had a mental meltdown over a line call, is as gifted a tennis player as you will see on the tour. She needs to work on her serve, but the rest of her game ranges from very good to breathtaking. In seven tries, however, she has not beaten Henin.

Venus Williams--Williams' dramatic sweep of Wimbledon has led many to call her a contender in New York. We should remember, however, that Williams came dangerously close to going out in the early rounds of Wimbledon, and that when her forehand goes off, it goes way off. On the other hand, it is hard to count her out. I counted her out for Wimbledon, and I ate my words.

Ana Ivanovic--Did Ivanovic lose in her first Rogers Cup match because she was tired? Many say she did. She had just won the title in Los Angeles, and perhaps was too exhausted to compete well enough to defend her Rogers Cup title. But Ivanovic has also shown herself to be a streaky, though very much improved, player. With that wicked forehand, improved movement and new confidence at the net, Ivanovic can certainly win the U.S. Open.

The dark horses:

Anna Chakvetadze--There are darker horses than Chakvetadze, but she still seems a bit physically fragile. Chakvetadze has been ill for several weeks with a virus or cold, and had she not gotten sick, it is possible she would would have won more than one U.S. Open Series tournaments. Chakvetadze is kind of streaky, too, but she could make more of a breakthrough at any time.

Svetlana Kuznetsova--It seems odd to list 2004 U.S. Open winner Kuznetsova as a dark horse, but--as talented as she is--she has not been able to raise her game to a level that would make her a real contender. But her talent and her experience make her someone to consider.

Nicole Vaidisova--She has been out for a while with glandular fever, and hasn't had much match play lately. Were it not for that, she might be considered more of a contender by some. Vaidisova is undeniably talented, but she has yet to prove that she is tough enough to stick with it during the rough patches of a match.

Players worth watching:

Marion Bartoli--Following Bartoli's glorious Wimbledon run, things have gone downhill because of illness and injury, much to the disappointment of her fans. But even if she cannot repeat her Wimbledon phenomenon, Bartoli is always worth watching. She has had a very good season, and when she is on, she is razor-sharp.

Tatiana "I'm more French than Marion Bartoli" Golovin--Russian-born French player Golovin, in between taking swipes at her countrywoman, has been trying out Mats Wilander as her latest coach. The improvement in her game was evident in her semifinal match against Jelena Jankovic in Toronto. Golovin is much more aggressive and is moving better. Unfortunately, she has a history of ankle injuries, and you never know when she is going to go over on one of them.

Nadia Petrova--What to do about Petrova? She swept the clay courts last year, then suffered an injury while practicing for the French Open, and she hasn't been the same since. Petrova has had to deal with both injury and low motivation, about which she has been very candid. She is a very gifted player, however, despite not meeting her potential.

Daniela Hantuchova--She clawed her way back to the top 10, and she runs hot and cold, but she is usually worth watching.

Martina Hingis--Will Hingis even be at the Open? She thought her long-running hip injury had totally healed, but now both her hip and her back are giving her trouble. It pains me to list her as a player to watch, rather than a contender.

Sybille Bammer--Though she was taken out of Pilot Pen Tennis today by Eleni Daniilidou, Bammer has been playing quite well lately.

Lucie Safarova--Safarova has been a bit streaky lately, but her performance at Wimbledon was quite impressive, and the second set of her match against Jelena Jankovic was the best set of women's tennis I've seen all year.

Sania Mirza--Back from an injury layoff with greatly improved skills, Mirza could be dangerous at the U.S. Open.

ESPN chat with Patty Schnyder today

At 5 p.m. EST, right here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Henin is odds favorite to win U.S. Open

Among those who bet, Justine Henin comes up with 13/8 odds to win the U.S. Open, followed by Serena Williams, with 3-1, then Maria Sharapova, with 11/2 odds. As of this writing, no one knows whether Serena Williams will play because of her thumb injury.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sharapova wins U.S. Open Series

With 122 points, Maria Sharapova is the winner of this year's U.S. Open Series. If Jelena Jankovic had won the Rogers Cup today, she would have surpassed Sharapova, but she did not. And if Patty Schnyder would have won this week's Pilot Pen Tennis tournament in New Haven, she would have surpassed Sharapova. But Schnyder was taken out in the first round today, so Sharapova is the clear winner.

If Sharapova defends her U.S. Open title, she will get a $1 million bonus. If she is the finalist, she will get a $500,000 bonus. If she makes it no farther than the semifinals of the U.S. Open, she will get a $250,000 bonus, and so forth. If Jankovic wins the U.S. Open, she will get a $500,000 bonus. Here is the breakdown.

10 things you may not know about Maria Sharapova

1. She is a United Nations Development Programme Goodwill Ambassador.

2.She is left-handed, though she plays with her right hand. Sometimes, however, she will suddenly switch the racquet to her left hand and convert a backhand to a forehand.

3. The person she would most like to meet for coffee is Marilyn Monroe.

4. She has a significant stamp collection.

5. Her middle name is Yuryevna.

6. Her favorite cuisines are Russian and Thai.

7.New York is her favorite city, but she is saying more and more good things about Paris these days.

8. She makes a point of always being on time for appointments and interviews.

9. She did not win any junior Grand Slam tournaments, but she was the finalist in the 2002 Wimbledon junior championship, where she was defeated by her countrywoman, Vera Dushevina.

10. She really does use her Canon Powershot camera all the time.

Henin beats Jankovic again, wins Rogers Cup

Though it didn't end the way I wanted it to, the Rogers Cup final was fantastic, especially the second set, with Jelena Jankovic saving five match points in an eleven-deuce game that was as exciting a game of tennis as you'll see. But Henin won that game, and then went on to serve for, and win, the championship. In the first set, after a very tough battle, Henin ran away with the tiebreak. In both sets, she came from behind, as she so often does.

This makes Henin's record against Jankovic 7-0, with all but the 2007 French Open match being extremely close. The most memorable (and the one I wish I could forget) of their contests was last year's U.S. Open semifinal, when Jankovic was about to win the match, but went to pieces over an umpire's call that upset her. Henin, like the rest of us, noticed how fragile Jankovic was after the call, and then grabbed the match from her.

One does not generally think of two players with a 7-0 (or, from my personal viewpoint, 0-7) record as having a rivalry, but because the matches are so close, it seems to legitimate to call it one. I thought Jankovic would do it this time; she certainly played better today than she did against Tatiana Golovin yesterday.

Final score today: 7-6, 7-5

If you're going to New Haven to see Lindsay Davenport, you should get there early

Unfortunately, she and New Haven partner Lisa Raymond meet Cara Black and Liezel Huber in the first round of Pilot Pen Tennis. An upset is always possible, but I wouldn't count on it.

Other Interesting first round matches:

Patty Schnyder v. Francesca Schiavone (Schiavone's lagging career has had an upswing lately)

Sania Mirza v. Anabel Medina Garrigues

There will probably be one or two more interesting first round matches once the qualifiers are put into the draw.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Williams out of Pilot Pen

Serena Williams, still dealing with her thumb injury, withdrew yesterday from the upcoming Pilot Pen tournament in New Haven. It is looking less and less likely that she will play in the U.S. Open.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Bartoli--injured again, and sick, too

Last night, Marion Bartoli was suffering from back pain in her match against Dinara Safina, which she won, 6-2, 6-7, 6-0. I wondered whether she would be okay for today's quarterfinal, and she was not: she retired in the second set of her quarterfinal against Yan Zi. The retirement, however, was due to a viral illness. Just like last year, there is a virus going through the tour; Anna Chakvetadze also had to retire from the Rogers Cup tournament because of it.

A couple of years ago, Bartoli was a walking injury, retiring, it seemed, from more matches than she played. Things got better in 2006, however. She has had a minor wrist injury since Venus Williams took it to her in the Wimbledon quarterfinal, but that appeared to be almost healed when she got to Toronto.

It is very frustrating to watch Bartoli struggle since her grand run at Wimbledon. She is a genuinely gifted player who has a lot going for her, but if gets into one of these injury patterns again, she will not meet her potential, which, in my opinion, is quite a potential. I'm never glad that anyone is ill, but it's good news to know that perhaps the back injury isn't that serious.

Dear ESPN...

Have you totally lost your minds? The Jankovic-Razzano Rogers Cup quarterfinal match had just begun--only three games played--so ESPN2 decided to air the Kuznetsova-Golovin match, which was over. ESPN does this kind of thing all the time, sometimes even calling it "live coverage."

And while I've got your attention: Mary Joe Fernandez, you're not a bad commentator, as far as ESPN goes (and when you're not calling a Sharapova match), but would you please stop saying "work ethic" over and over?

U.S. Open wild cards announced

Here is the list:

Lauren Albanese
Madison Brengle
Alexa Glatch
Jamea Jackson
Ahsha Rolle
Ashley Weinhold
Audra Cohen
Jessica Moore

Moore is from Australia.

Friday cat blogging--sister smash edition

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Klepac has plenty to be proud of

Andreja Klepac of Slovenia, ranked number 141 in the world, held her own against world number one Justine Henin in Henin's debut Rogers Cup match yesterday. Henin won in straight sets, as expected, but Klepac managed to make it a good match, with hard hitting and good court thinking. It was, in fact, a better match than the 6-3, 6-1 scoreline indicates. There were some worthy rallies, and Klepac kept her cool throughout.

Klepac has been on the tour since 2004, and has three ITF tournament singles wins to her credit. Only a month ago, she achieved a career-high ranking of 123 in the world. Justine Henin was the first top-20 player Klepac had ever played.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What I don't like about the challenge system

The challenge system, which is now used in all Grand Slams and also in the larger tournaments, is, by all accounts, popular with most players and fans. But NBC commentator Mary Carrillo has a complaint about it, and I agree with her: Carrillo does not like limiting each player to three challenges (with extra challenges in the tiebreak). As you know, each time a player is wrong in a challenge, she loses that challenge. So if she is wrong three times, she loses all of her challenges. If she is right three times, she still has three challenges left.

Carrillo argues that a player should get all the challenges she wants, and I make the same argument. Though it may add some element of excitement for fans to see players lose their challenges, such an arrangement does not support the professional process; i.e., that pro tennis players are both making a living and striving to do the best they can do. The Hawkeye system is a great innovation; therefore, use it. The presumption of the current system is that players would abuse it if allowed to, and that is another way of saying "These professionals are not really professional." If players are expected to show up for tournaments, press conferences and personal appearances, then they should also be expected to judiciously utilize a challenge system.

To make matters worse, the line callers' accuracy percentage is not very good. I was stunned to hear Pam Shriver (I know--I should never be stunned by anything that comes out of Shriver's mouth) say last year that the line callers did a great job--they were right 70% of the time! In fact, during last year's U.S. Open series, stats kept for a week showed that the line callers were right only 65% of the time.

65 and 70% are pretty poor percentages. Let players use Hawkeye.

Rogers Cup: All fall down

Yan Zi of China took out Rogers Cup defending champion Ana Ivanovic in straight sets

Maria Kirilenko, whose promising career went seriously south and has seen a recent upswing, injured her left knee today in her match against Marion Bartoli, and had to retire.

Ana Chakvetadze, who has been sick for a few weeks, probably should not have entered the Rogers Cup; in fact, it was my understanding that she had withdrawn. She retired during her match against Virginie Razzano.

Elena Dementieva said goodbye today, when she was defeated by Francesca Schiavone, 6-7, 7-3, 6-2. Schiavone's sagging career has also been on the rise again. And Meghann Shaughnessy, whose once excellent career took a serious slide and is looking a bit brighter these days, took out Lucie Safarova, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5.

But the biggest fall of all was that of defending champion (and new East West Bank Classic champion) Ana Ivanovic, who made her exit in the second round. She was defeated, 6-3, 6-1, by qualifier and doubles specialist Yan Zi, who has qualified for a number of tournaments in a row recently. A legitimate argument can be made that Ivanovic was too tired after her run to the Los Angeles title, especially after the semifinal grinder between her and Jelena Jankovic. An argument can also be made that Ivanovic, despite her immense talent, still isn't very consistent. And of course, both of these arguments may be relevant.

Li and Mauresmo out of U.S. Open

Li Na's injury is serious, and I suspected she would not be well in time for the U.S. Open. Amelie Mauresmo recently took some time off from playing tennis after her slow recovery from appendicitis and the onset of a groin injury. I hoped she would show up for the season's last Grand Slam, but her doctor has advised her against it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Illness update

There is always a lot of talk about injury on the tour, but not as much about illness. Nicole Vaidisova has been out for a while with glandular fever, and Sam Stosur is recovering (or perhaps, as of this writing, recovered) from a virus. Jelena Jankovic had a cold during the East West Bank Classic last week, and Anna Chakvetadze came down with a cold right after she won the Stanford title. Apparently, she was ill the entire time she was in San Diego for the Acura Classic. (Earlier in the season, Patty Schnyder had a cold and had to retire from a match because the trainer had no nose spray in her bag.)

We all expect players to play through minor injuries and illnesses, and they do, but we should also understand that they are not going to be playing at their highest level when they do so, and that their bodies are not likely to withstand the demands of the next tournament.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Update on Bartoli's right wrist

After the Wimbledon final, Marion Bartoli said that returning Venus Williams' serves and groundstrokes made her wrist vibrate, but she didn't think she had injured it. Unfortunately, that turned out to be untrue, and Bartoli has been wearing wrist tape to try and speed the healing process. She says she's okay now.

It's taken all season, but Stubbs is again a winner

Multiple Grand Slam winner Rennae Stubbs, who had years of success with partner Lisa Raymond, and also a lot of success with partner Cara Black, has won her first tournament of the 2007 season. She and Kveta Peschke, her most recent partner, took out top seeds Alicia Molik and Mara Santangelo in just forty-three minutes yesterday in the East West Bank Classic.

Yesterday's victory had to be special for Stubbs. She has come close all season, but has not lifted a trophy until now. Stubbs has won four Grand Slam doubles titles, two Grand Slam mixed doubles titles, and 53 other titles in her career.

Shvedova current Power List leader

Venus Williams has already left the top of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour's new Power List, replaced, for now, by Yaroslava Shvedova. For those who care...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Ivanovic wins East West Bank Classic

Ana Ivanovic defeated Nadia Petrova, 7-5, 6-4, today to win the East West Bank Classic in Los Angeles. Petrova got a walkover from Maria Sharapova, who sustained a foot injury, but being much fresher than Ivanovic wasn't enough. I didn't get to see the match because of problems with the ESPN2 signal. One thing is clear: Ivanovic has raised the level of her game and is a force with which to be reckoned. (I am a big fan of her countrywoman, Jelena Jankovic, who I fear may have at least partially burned herself out with too much match play.) Now Ivanovic goes to Toronto to defend her title there.

Not the final we were expecting

I was expecting a Sharapova-Jankovic final at the East West Bank Classic, but instead, we're getting a Petrova-Ivanovic final. The Ivanovic-Jankovic semifinal, though it didn't go the way I wanted it to go, was a great match. Nadia Petrova got a walkover from Maria Sharapova, who is having trouble with her left shin again. Petrova almost got a makeover from Virginie Razzano in their quarterfinal match. If Razzano hadn't sustained an injury in the third set, there is a decent chance we'd be preparing for an Ivanovic-Razzano final.

Nadia Petrova is a really talented player who has lost her way. This would be a great opportunity for her to find her game again and win a big tournament. But if Ivanovic keeps playing the way she did today, she'll most likely be lifting another trophy tomorrow.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Hingis and Stepanek break engagement

It's over.

Ivanovic prevails in a match to remember

In all fairness to Jelena Jankovic, it can't be that easy, playing with a cold in the latter stages of a tournament. But she hung in for three thrilling sets in her semifinal at the East West Bank Classic. On the other side of the net, however, Ana Invanovic put up one of the best fights of the season, coming back from near-defeat over and over and over. Ivanovic's forehand and Jankovic's backhand were on display, in all their brilliance, providing fans one of the best matches of the year. Jankovic's defense was excellent, as usual, and her down-the-line shots would be admired by Chris Evert herself. But it was Ivanovic who squeezed out the victory, with her impressive forehand, excellent serving, light-touch volleys, and fighting spirit. Final score: 4-6, 6-3, 7-5

Ivanovic will face the winner of the Maria Sharapova-Nadia Petrova semifinal. Ivanovic won the U.S. Open Series last year. Next week, she will try to defend her Rogers Cup title, which is suddenly looking much easier because of all the withdrawals from Toronto.

Sharapova and Chakvetadze out of Toronto

Maria Sharapova and Anna Chakvetadze have withdrawn from the Rogers Cup tournament in Toronto next week. Sharapova withdrew from it last year, too. Their withdrawals follow those of Martina Hingis, Nicole Vaidisova, Sania Mirza, and Venus Williams.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Sometimes good news doesn't last long

Less than two weeks ago, I published the good news that Martina Hingis's hip injury was 100% healed. Not so. The pain in her hip has crept back, and she also has back pain. She has withdrawn from the Rogers Cup Tournament in Toronto next week. Hingis was a finalist in the tournament last year, so she will lose a lot of ranking points.

Nicole Vaidisova has also withdrawn from the Toronto tournament, but she is supposedly hitting again, after recovering from mononucleosis. Also withdrawing is Sania Mirza, who cited "personal reasons."

Friday cat blogging--birthday edition

Roxie and Velma are four years old some time this month. We don't know the exact date, so it is a month-long party.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Razzano on fire in Los Angeles

Yesterday, Virginie Razzano upset Shahar Peer, 6-1, 4-6, 7-6, at the East West Bank Classic in Los Angeles. Today, she took out one of the season's hottest players, Sania Mirza, 6-1, 7-6. Next up for Razzano, who is ranked number 52 in the world, is Nadia Petrova.

It's hard to breathe in L.A.

Yesterday, Eleni Daniilidou, who was involved in a close and exciting contest against Maria Sharapova in the East West Bank Classic, retired because of respiratory problems. Daniilidou has been sick all week, and the match proved to be too much for her. Today, Daniela Hantuchova retired during the second set of her match against Elena Dementieva. The reason? Respiratory problems.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Venus Williams withdraws from Rogers Cup

Citing tendonitis in the knee and exhaustion, Venus Wiliams has withdrawn from the Rogers Cup tournament, which will be played next week in Toronto.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Radwanska wins first title

On Sunday, Agnieszka Radwanska became the first Polish player ever to win a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title, when she defeated Vera Dushevina, 6-1, 6-1, in the final of the Nordea Nordic Light Open in Stockholm. Throughout the tournament, Radwanska lost only 20 games, the lowest number of games dropped in a title run this year.

Earlier this year, Radwanska was presented the Tour's Newcomer of the Year award.

Li out of Los Angeles; Mauresmo out of U.S. Open Series

Li Na, still not recovered from a serious injury, has withdrawn from the East West Bank Classic in Los Angeles this week. She will be replaced by a lucky loser.

And the word is that Amelie Mauresmo is skipping the entire U.S. Open series, something she hinted, via her coach, that she might do. The presumption is that she will not play in the U.S. Open, but one never knows. It was after a terrible period of exhaustion and frustration in 2005 that she came back and won the Year-End Championships. At any rate, I imagine we will see her during indoor carpet season. It just isn't the same without her.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Notice anyone missing?

Sandra de Jenken, probably the only chair umpire with a fan base, hasn't been around much since Wimbledon. I'm told that she generally avoids the hardcourt season and shows up only for the U.S. Open, but I also hear that she has left the WTA to umpire for the ATP. Of course, she is one of the umpires with elite status that also allows her to umpire for either the ATP or the WTA in any ITF event, such as Fed Cup, Davis Cup and Grand Slam tournaments.

If de Jenken, the first woman to umpire a men's Grand Slam final, has stopped umpiring regular WTA events, it is a real loss to women's tennis. On the bright side, the move means that someone has finally noticed that a chair umpire's gender does not matter.

I tried to get a photo of de Jenken in Charleston this year but couldn't. If the news about her switch turns out to be fact, then I'll wish all the more I had gotten her picture.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

WTA Tour prepares for Olympics

The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour recently announced an agreement with the ITF and the IOC that will grant ranking points to women who participate successfully in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. WTA Tour rankings will be used to determine the top 56 acceptances in the 64-player draw. Ranking points were also given in the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

Under a new agreement, countries will be able to send up to six players to the Olympics, as opposed to the usual four. Four singles players can be entered, and--if there is a doubles player ranked in the top ten--a separate doubles team can also be entered.

Justine Henin won the Olympic Gold Medal in 2004. Amelie Mauresmo won the silver, and Alicia Molik won the bronze when she recovered from being down 1-5 in the third set of her match against Anastasia Myskina.

Sharapova wins Acura Classic

When Patty Schnyder took the Acura Classic final to a third set, I was filled with hope, but that was dashed quickly when Maria Sharapova dialed every part of her game up a notch and blew Schnyder away, 6-0 to defend her 2006 title. During the first half of the first set, Schnyder's game was error-filled (except for her serve); after that, it was actually pretty good. In their other six meetings, including that excruciating (may I never have to see it again) 2007 French Open match, their matches have been very close. Not this time.

Patty Schnyder has won only one Tier I tournament in her career, and she has been a finalist in four Tier I tournaments. She was a finalist twice in what has become "her" tournament--the Family Circle Cup. The first time, she was unseeded, and beat all the top players in the world to get to the final, where she was beaten by another unseeded player, Iva Majoli. The second time, 2006, I was there: She fell in three sets to Nadia Petrova, after having taken out defending champion Justine Henin. For a player of Schnyder's skill to have only one Tier I win is a real shame. I could write paragraphs about this subject, but I won't. As a diehard Schnyder fan, I find these Tier I final losses hard to take.

On another note, Sharapova's new service motion seems to suit her just fine, and she has a good chance of defending her U.S. Open title.

Final score today: Sharapova def. Schnyder, 6-2, 3-6, 6-0

The rivalry no one talks about

There isn't a rivalry with more depth in women's tennis than the one between Patty Schnyder and Elena Dementieva, yet it is rarely discussed. Prior to their Acura Classic semifinal yesterday, they had met twelve times, and each of them had won six of the matches. After last night, Schnyder now has a slight edge, with her 7-6, 6-0 win.

And what an odd win it was. Dementieva has been out with a training-induced injury, and though she has had trouble with her serve since she did a post-injury temporary service compensation some time ago, she has shown improvement throughout the Acura Classic. But last night, she had problems again. And there was a difference: Usually, Dementieva shrugs off her double faults and moves on. Last night, she became upset by them, possibly because she thought they were more or less behind her.

Schnyder, for her part, did all the things she does best--spinning, slicing, changing pace, and staying steady on the ground. Her serve was not as sharp as usual, however. And then there was the now-famous closing difficulty. She served for the first set at 5-3 and was broken. But that was nothing compared to the difficulty she had serving for the match. At 5-0, 40-0--a dream position--she saw Dementieva not only save six match points, but create three break points. Credit to Schnyder, though--the match ended on her seventh match point.

She now faces Maria Sharapova in the final. Schnyder has had a great week, looking like her old self again, and for her fans (and I am an enthusiastic one), that is great news.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

I had a nice surprise today

For some time, I've bemoaned the fact that I do not have The Tennis Channel. When I asked my cable provider to provide it, a representative said the company wanted to provide it, but was unable to get possession of the batch of channels that included The Tennis Channel.

I learned today, however, that I now have it! The nagging question is: How long have I had it and not known? What ESPN unscheduled or cancelled matches could I have been watching all along? It's probably better for me to not know.

How hard would it have been for the Acura Classic to swap the semifinal matches?

Anna Chakvetadze, who played a grueling, almost 3-hour match last night and had to have been both mentally and physically exhausted (she had an obvious leg cramp) was made to play in the early semifinal match today. An argument could be made that fitness is part of the game, but there aren't many players--if any--who could make that type of quick recovery from that type of match. The mental fatigue is probably as great as the physical.

A better argument is that Chakvetadze should have closed her first set against Venus Williams last night and saved some time. Because she should have.

But these arguments aside, it makes no sense to schedule any night match player for the early match the next day unless it is necessary, and it wasn't necessary today. Would a not-exhausted Chakvetadze have beaten Maria Sharapova? Maybe. But at least it would have been an interesting match, and the fans would have gotten their money's worth.

Final score: Maria Sharapova def. Anna Chakvetadze, 6-3, 6-2 (or, as someone on a tennis forum put it, San Diego Organizers def. Chakvetadze).

Friday, August 3, 2007

Friday cat blogging--window watch edition

Roxie and Velma watch birds and squirrels, or wait for one of us to come home

Thursday, August 2, 2007

2 down, 6 to go

Justine Henin and Jelena Jankovic have qualified for the Sony Ericsson WTA Year-End Championships in Madrid. There are six more slots available. Here's a look at the race as of right now:

1. Justine Henin
2. Jelena Jankovic
3. Ana Ivanovic
4. Svetalana Kuznetsova
5. Serena Williams
6. Anna Chakvetadze
7. Maria Sharapova
8. Venus Williams

Waiting in the wings are Marion Bartoli, Nicole Vaidisova and Amelie Mauresmo.

I love it when my favorites win, and hate it when they lose

I experienced both feelings tonight, when Patty Schnyder defeated Martina Hingis, 6-1, 6-7, 6-3 in San Diego. I was thrilled for Schnyder--she really needed this win. But I was disappointed to see Hingis go out. It is only her first tournament back from weeks of either playing injured or recovering from her injury, so perhaps she will do better in her next tournament. Had the score been the other way around, I would have had the same mixed feelings. And it was obvious--after the first set--that quite a battle ensued, with numerous breaks of serve. Hingis had a high first serve percentage, but not a high first serve success percentage. Her serve remains her biggest obstacle.

Hingis and Schnyder have played each other twice this year, and Schnyder has won both matches.

Sharapova joins Mauresmo and Henin

And changes her serve in order to avoid more injury. It's still too soon to tell how much Henin's modified serve is protecting her, but there is no doubt that Mauresmo's put a complete stop to her chronic back injuries.

Top seed falls in Stockholm

Dominika Cibulkova took out top seed Anabel Medina Garrigues in the 2nd round of the Nordic Light Open today

One of my favorite players, Anabel Medina Garrigues, number 1 seed at the Nordic Light Open, was defeated today by Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia. Cibulkova served for the match at 5-2, but was broken; however, she served it out successfully at 5-3. I saw Cibulkova play in Charleston this year, and I was very impressed. She easily beat the number 1 qualifying seed, and it looked for a while that she might even take out Tatiana Golovin. Her overall play was excellent, and her drop shots were memorable. Final score today: 6-3, 6-7, 6-3

In other Nordic Light news, Caroline Wozniacki defeated Elena Vesnina, 7-5, 6-1. This sets up a contest between phenom Woznicacki and phenom Agnieszka Radwasnska in the next round.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Williams and Zvonareva withdraw from Los Angeles

Serena Williams and Vera Zvonareva, both injured (though Zvonareva's injury is not as serious as we first thought it was) have withdrawn from the East West Bank Classic in Los Angeles next week. They have been replaced in the draw by Angelique Kerber and Elena Bovina.

"She was a cute little girl"

Ten years ago, before the Acura Classic became the Acurac Classic (it was the Toshiba Tennis Classic then), Martina Hingis, entering the tournament with a 50-1 record, defeated Venus Williams 6-2, 6-1, and defeated Mary Pierce 6-0, 6-2. Her opponent in the final was crowd favorite Monica Seles, whom she defeated 7-6, 6-4. "She was a cute little girl," Seles said of Hingis.

Twenty years ago, when the tournament was Virginia Slims of San Diego, world number 20, Italy's Raffaella Reggi, defeatd unseeded world number 60 Anne Minter of Australia, 6-0, 6-4, to claim the title. Minter had upset top seed Lori McNeil in the semifinals. Jana Novotna was a member of the winning doubles team that year.

If you like, you can continue this walk down the Acura Classic's memory lane here.

Fact checkers needed for stories on Bartoli

Throughout Marion Bartoli's amazing Wimbledon run, the ESPN commentators repeatd the incorrect "fact" that Bartoli's best achievement at a Grand Slam tournament had been to reach the 3rd round. I should never be surprised by the ignorance of anyone on ESPN, but it was really lazy reporting, considering that Bartoli had just reached the round of 16 at the French Open a few weeks before. (And anyway, why wouldn't the tennis media know this?) I saw this "fact" pop up again in the Orange County Register today.

A little fact-checking would be in order.