"You know, I felt like even though I was hitting the ball it wasn't going. I felt a bit tired. You know, Jelena, she's not No. 2 for no reason, you know."
Sunday, August 31, 2008
"You know, I felt like even though I was hitting the ball it wasn't going. I felt a bit tired. You know, Jelena, she's not No. 2 for no reason, you know."
All the same, Bartoli, the 12th seed, did pretty well, but in the end, she lost to the 29th-seeded Sybille Bammer in a really lopsided score: 7-6, 0-6, 6-4.
Meanwhile, Elena Dementieva took an easy lead over Li Na, saw it evaporate into a small lead, but took the first set, anyway, and cruised through the second. Li is moving and hitting better than ever, but she had too many unforced errors to win this match. Dementieva def. Li, 7-5, 6-2
Because I was on the road, I missed the match between Jelena Jankovic and Caroline Wozniacki. Wozniacki took the first set, and Jankovic said she plotted a strategy for the second set: Be more aggressive on one side, hit harder on the other, and put more spin on the ball. It worked. Jankovic def. Wozniacki, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1
Finally, Patty Schnyder overcame Katarina Srebotnik, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. Schnyder is now 4-1 against Srebotnik.
Thanks to all for your concern.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
In a slight upset, Flavia Pennetta defeated Nadia Petrova, and in a big upset, comeback player Anna-Lena Groenefeld defeated Alize Cornet, though Cornet made a remarkable comeback from 1-5 down in the second set. Finally, in an obviously hard-fought match, Severine Bremond defeated Tathiana Garbin.
There was one doubles upset today: Lindsay Davenport and Daniela Hantuchova defeated the number 13 seeds, Elena Vesnina and Vera Zvonareva, in straight sets.
Serena Wiliams def. Ai Sugiyama, 6-2, 6-1
Venus Williams def. Alona Bondarenko, 6-2, 6-1
Amelie Mauresmo def. Julie Coin, 6-4, 6-4
Agnieszka Radwanska def. Dominika Cibulkova, 6-0, 6-3
Dinara Safina def. Tamea Bacsinszky, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2
Flavia Pennetta def. Nadia Petrova, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3
Anna-Lena Groenefeld def. Alize Cornet, 6-4, 7-5
Severine Bremond def. Tathiana Garbin, 7-5, 3-6, 6-4
"Actually I learned how to play against her. She's very tough player, like a wall. Everything is going back."
"But I definitely think that it's a matter of another few months and then another player or couple of players are going to raise to the Number 1 ranking and really stay there for a while."
Can you win this tournament basically from the net?
"Like just running in?"
Well, I mean not just crazy...
"Oh, a Kamikaze mission, side mission?"
You ever consider yourself playing at your best?
"Yeah, a couple times in my career. Not too many."
When was the last time?
"I don't know. I have to think about it."
You every consider bringing back your beads from 1997?
"That was last millennium, so last millennium."
Friday, August 29, 2008
Julie Coin's golden moment should come to an end when she plays countrywoman Amelie Mauresmo, but we will most likely see some really good serving from her.
Nadia Petrova and Flavia Pennetta are invisible to the press, but both are very good hard court players, and theirs could be in interesting match.
Anna-Lena Groenefeld of the recent comeback and the huge serve, will go against French phenom Alize Cornet. Cornet can usually handle big servers pretty well, but Groenefeld--if she is feeling confident--could give her some trouble.
Timea Bacsinszky's best chance to hang around and wait for Dinara Safina to mess up her serve. But even that isn't likely to win her the match.
Serena Williams will probably get all she can handle from the flat-hitting Ai Sugiyama, but chances are, Williams will indeed handle it.
Who knew that Severine Bremond and Tathiana Gardin would meet in the third round of the U.S. Open? One of them will be in the round of 16, but who?
The talented but streaky Alona Bondarenko needs to take every trick she has to the court tomorrow because Venus Williams will be on the other side of the net. Bondarenko's best bet is for Williams' forehand to go hinky.
And my pick for the match to see (though in all likelihood, I won't) is the one between Agnieszka Radwanska and Dominika Cibulkova. This match should provide some really nice tennis. Radwanska is all about precision and toughness, and Cibulkova is up to the task. Neither player is likely to lose her nerve; however, Cibulkova is a bit vulnerable to leg injuries. Both players are good court thinkers and good shot-makers.
And though it was not an upset (for some of us, it was the expected outcome), Lindsay Davenport, former U.S. Open champion, was taken out in the third round by 12th seeded Marion Bartoli, 6-1, 7-6. Bartoli overwhelmed Davenport in the first set, then blew a chain of break points in the second, only to revive herself for the tiebreak, which she won, 7-3. Davenport had repeated problems with her service game, and--much of the time--looked like she would rather be somewhere else.
You see I'm closing up, because sometimes your comments‑‑normally I'm open person. I learned. I was still similar example. She did win Wimbledon, but this girl could win Wimbledon. She beat Maria Sharapova, and she came to this press conference, she so open, she wanted to say so much to the press, and it's like I won the US Open and I wanted to share myself, to share happiness when I won it. And also people started telling her, so you happy you won? She says, yes, I am. So were you angry with‑‑were you motivated? What did bring you motivation to beat Maria? Well, I was just motivated to be here. She's great player. And then, do you like her dress? And she says, no really. So can we say you're more motivated her beating her you did not like her dress? She says, well, whatever. Next morning it was in the press, "She hated her dress, that's why she beat her." This is why players close up, because we don't really mean it. I'm just trying to be open to show how the players feel.
I think through the press, Billie Jean King was saying about this, she was saying this, because through press it's not about our work, it's our job, but we communicate to the kids, to the world, you know. So many kids and people looking up for you. Looking at what you're going to do, to learn something from players.
So I prefer to give them the real message, how it is.
Right on, Sveta.
"I have gotten in trouble with the WTA before. I have been on the line as far as tennis apparel goes."
You caused quite a few problems there.
"Yeah, I guess so. It would have been nice to have caused her a few more problems."
...a few years ago, when you won this tournament, I'll never forget that, you were in this room and you were all starry eyes and it was so beautiful to see, how you said, you just...
"Now it's ugly to see me here?"
"I'm not too sure about my body. If I go into a split, who knows if I'll come back up, you know?"
Maria Sharapova and Chris Evert, each of whom has a tendency to be rather droll, did good jobs in the ESPN booth the other night. Bring them back, I say.
Justin Gimelstob is serving as Lindsay Davenport's hitting partner in Flushing Meadows.
Jelena Jankovic and her partner, Fernando Verdasco, have withdrawn from mixed doubles. Lindsay Davenport withdrew earlier.
In terms of quantity, Katarina Srebotnik is the current ace leader, with 24 aces to her name. That's an average of 8 aces per round, which makes her, mathematically speaking, still a tad behind Sorana Cirstea, who hit 17 aces in two rounds--and even with Julie Coin, who has hit 16 aces in two rounds.
I understand that a Russian commentator referred to Zhang Shuai as "having a fighting spirit, like a typical Asian." Because they all chop like Lady Snowblood, right?
Meanwhile, in mixed doubles, the unseeded team of Rennae Stubbs and Robert Lindstedt defeated the number 8 seeds, Nathalie Dechy and Andy Ram, 6-4, 6-4, in the first round.
The 28th-seeded Srebotnik, a player of considerable talent who has had a summer of mixed results, was back on track today as she used her steady serve and her doubles-honed net finesse to aggressively remove the third seed from the tournament.
Srebotnik took the first set by one break, and the second went to a tiebreak, which Kuznetsova swept, 7-1. But Srebotnik came back with even more aggression, and prevailed, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3.
Some time this month--we do not know the exact date--Roxie and Velma had their fifth birthday. The sisters were rescued as kittens by an animal rescue organization whose staff discovered them living with their mother in a yard in a small city outside of New Orleans. The owner of the house (who, of course, had never bothered to have the mother cat spayed), did not want to feed them. They were brought to our community, and we adopted them when they were five months old.
Roxie is wildly athletic, jumping and climbing on everything in the house, and often running fast around corners and hurling herself at walls. She has also broken a number of items--lamps, vases, candlesticks--some of which I valued a great deal; she is the first cat with whom I have lived who has broken things. Velma is calmer and better behaved, and is quite chatty. Being a tortoiseshell, she is easily spooked, however, and goes especially nuts when she sees one of us wearing rain gear.
A couple of years ago, we added two kittens to the household. Roxie continues to have somewhat conflicted relationships with them, though the situation is much better than it was. She is no longer attacking Tarzan all the time, and--though she would deny it--she is seen hanging out with Ziggy rather frequently. Velma gets along very well with both of them; she is, in fact, the resident social director. It goes without saying that the two sisters rule, and everyone knows it.
Roxie and Velma, for their part, are best friends, and they are wonderful friends to us.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
An (ever-)ailing Jelena Jankovic will face Wimbledon semi-finalist Zheng Jie. The 2008 U.S. Open courts are reported to have a high bounce, which should work in Jankovic's favor, rather than Zheng's. But sadly, Jankovic is a mess, and Zheng is tough. Anything could happen.
Olympic gold medal winner Elena Dementieva is favored to defeat Anne Keothavong, of course, though no one is safe in this draw, much less someone like Dementieva, who can have meltdowns from time to time.
Li Na faces young Russian Ekaterina Makarova, who has been rather impressive lately. And Patty Schnyder--more or less the forgotten woman in this tournament--will play Magdalena Rybarikova. Katarina Srebotnik gets a shot at Svetlana Kuznetsova--that could be a really good match, and Tatiana Perebiynis will play Sybille Bammer.
Of great interest to a lot of people is the third round match between Lindsay Davenport and Marion Bartoli. Bartoli is a lot like Jankovic in that we can anticipate she will have an injury or illness of some kind more often than not. Davenport has had trouble with her knee lately, but I think she is less physically vulnerable than Bartoli. But...if Bartoli is healthy and in her particular zone, she could give Davenport some trouble. Both of them like to dictate play from the baseline, and neither likes to move around a lot, though Bartoli is deceptively faster than people perceive.
Those are some interesting matches, but--to me--they pale next to the one that will be played between Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki. Unless something goes wrong, these two will put on a show. Wozniacki, who won Pilot Pen Tennis right before the U.S. Open began, is one of the hottest players on the tour right now, and Azarenka is capable of hitting powerful groundstrokes and showing the net skills she has honed in doubles play. We should expect three exciting sets.
I was reading that tennis players get a lower percentage of various event revenues than other athletes such as golfers, basketball players, football players. I was just curious, since you're pretty well‑known in this business, if it's a topic of discussion, if you have any thoughts on that?
"Not at this moment, no. Let me think about it so I make sure I say something real politically correct."
"This was tough, you know, when a coach doesn't want to hear a player opinion, even if I'm wrong, but at least he can talk--he can listen and then we can discuss and not always say his opinion. So I think this is the reason, like, why we started to fight a lot on the court. And then it was not‑‑I mean, I have enough stress on the court playing a match and if I go on practice and I'm still fighting with my coach, I don't need this."
"She's kind of an idol in France. Everybody loves her."
"She's pretty much relentless. I better be ready. That girl is a tough cookie."
"Yeah, it's very different, because the way I enter these tournaments now is completely different. I used to be favorite and now I'm more of really not knowing what's going to happen and how my game is going to be. So it's‑‑I don't know if I savor it more. It's more surprising probably."
When did you sense everything was going your way?
"When it was over."
Coin is ranked number 188 in the world, which makes this the biggest upset in U.S. Open history. The fact that Coin had never before made it to a tour event adds another amazing layer to this upset. Imagine...you try and try for years, but you never qualify for a tour event. Then you qualify for one, and it just happens to be one of the four majors. You take out the world number 40 in the first round, and in the second, you think--"What the hell? I guess I should go ahead and take out the number 1, as long as I've made it this far."
Coin has won four ITF circuit singles titles and five doubles titles. She is also that rare bird--a college graduate; she played tennis for Clemson University. In the U.S. Open qualifying tournament, the unseeded Coin defeated Amanda McDowell, former tour rising star Sesil Karatantcheva, and 25th seed Elena Baltacha.
I saw Coin make one of her failed qualifying attempts at the 2006 Family Circle Cup. She defeated Bethanie Mattek in the first round of qualifying, but then lost to Julia Vakulenko in the second.
Coin served extremely well, and was very steady in her match against Ivanovic. At one point in the final set, she was down 0-40, and she won the game, then went on to break Ivanovic at love. She did get shaky when she served for the match, and it took her three match points to end the affair. The fact that she could end it at all speaks to her remarkably stable state of mind.
Ivanovic has been healing from a thumb injury which caused her to withdraw from the Olympics, and she did not have much match play coming into New York.
Anna-Lena Groenefeld hit a 128 mph serve in the second round. (She whacked a measly 124 mph serve in the first round.)
You can read about the U.S. Open's green initiative here.
I read that Sofia Arvidsson wrote in a blog that Jelena Jankovic crossed out her name on the massage list and replaced it with her own. Who's the drama queen now?
The U.S. Open website provides a link for downloading wallpapers, but provides no wallpapers to download.
Fifty-eight years ago today, Althea Gibson became the first African-American woman to play a round in the U.S. Open. She won the match. Twenty-four years ago today, Steffi Graf made her U.S. Open debut.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
"I would have loved to, you know, take a nap on court, because I was really exhausted. But, you know, the rules are the rules. I had to keep going."
"Well, I was listen to the TV last night, and they were saying that it's not good for tennis if there is not a clear leader. It's better to have just, like, for example, with Henin. I don't know if to be agree or not."
"...I haven't changed anything technically. I think mentally I'm a lot stronger."
"I try to bring as little drama as possible, unlike some other players we have."
Although not a major upset on paper, one of the biggest surprises of the day was the 6-1, 6-2 defeat of Tamira Paszek by Magdalena Rybarikova. It wasn't just the suprise loss, but also the scoreline, that got my attention. In the first round, Rybarikova defeated Gisela Dulko, which also surprised me.
Credit to Perebiynis, who is capable of playing some very good tennis, but I was quite surprised to see Zvonareva make a second round exit.
Those were not the only upsets. 9th seeded Nathalie Dechy and Casey Dellacqua were defeated 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 by Klaudia Jans and Alicja Rosolska. The number 15 seeds, Maria Kirilenko and Flavia Pennetta, were defeated by Tathiana Garbin and Tamira Paszek, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, and number 16 seeds Eva Hrdinova and Vladimira Uhlirova lost to Stephanie Foretz and Camille Pin, who beat them 6-4, 2-6, 6-4
All of the above-named winning teams were unseeded.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Day 2 of the U.S. Open brought about two upsets on the women's side: Anna-Lena Groenefeld, as part of her tour comeback, defeated eleventh seed Daniela Hantuchova, and Timea Bacsinszky defeated seed number 31, Virginie Razzano, 6-4, 6-1.
Other interesting results also came about. Top seed Ana Ivanovic had to fight to stay in the tournament, but was victorious over Vera Dushevina, and Dinara Safina displayed more out-of-control serving. Julie Coin defeated Casey Dellacqua. The battle of the junior stars--Jessica Moore and Melanie Oudin--ended in a 7-6, 7-6 victory for Moore.
"Hopefully I'll be successful enough on the tour not to go to college."
"I think he's the person like he would be always next to you. Like whenever you need help he would be there."
"Nobody has ever asked me the size of my feet."
"At the academy, do you always play against men or girls, or who do you practice mostly with?"
Can you comment on the Serbian players now on the tour, how they seem to kind of start dominating?
"Do you think they're going to start dominating on the tour?"
Well, they're 1 and 2 now.
"1 and 2. You think they'll be dominating?"
"...we were making jokes at Olympics. I should try compete something else because I was just doing running and sprints."
This is your biggest press conference, probably, in your life?
"This is my only press conference."
Tracy Austin informed us that Lindsay Davenport now has a new fan base--moms. That may be so, I don't know. But with all the constant fuss about Davenport's and Bammer's motherhood, I am still waiting to hear glowing words about Tzipora Obziler's new motherhood. I supposed that one doesn't count, and God forbid anyone should mention it on the air.
Speaking of parenting, though, Ted Robinson impressed me (as he always does, with his language devoid of sexism and his refusal to appeal to 11-year-old males) with his comment that Patrick McEnroe's acceptance of a coaching job with Andy Roddick seemed like an awkward one, given that he has twins on the way. Can you imagine any other commentator (except, perhaps, Mary Carillo) saying that about a man?
As for John McEnroe...Ana Ivanovic's so-called fist pump is a lot of things, but "elegant" is not one of them.
And speaking of Ted Robinson and Mary Carillo...does anyone else think they were separated at birth? They not only look alike, they sound alike and have some of the same mannerisms.
A bit over two years ago, Anna-Lena Groendfeld was number 14 in the world, and she fell on hard times. Those hard times had to do with a bitter split from a coach, and probably some other issues. Her weight changed from bloated to rail-thin, and she just looked troubled in every aspect. Groenefeld has been working her way back in challengers, and she announced her return today at the U.S. Open by defeating the number 11 seed, Daniela Hantuchova, in straight sets.
Hantuchova has had some hard times herself lately. She had bones spurs in her foot that simply would not heal, so she was out for a long time. It is very unfortunate that she is out in the first round of the season's final major, but nice that Groenefeld can take some confidence from this match.
Groenefeld def. Hantuchova, 6-4, 6-2
Ahn has a 10-1 record on the ITF circuit, and--in juniors and in pro play--she has yet to lose a tiebreaker.
Safina needs to fix the service problem. Only Justine Henin can double-fault ten times in a match and continue to get away with it most of the time.
Safina def. Ahn, 6-3, 6-4
Monday, August 25, 2008
"....all my thinking is there in Beijing."
"I mean, honestly the kid has no idea if I've won or lost. He napped through my whole match today in the hotel."
You have a chance to be No. 1 at the end of this tournament, and there are several players in the same position. Why doesn't anyone want to keep No. 1 in women's tennis?
"Because Justine is not here anymore."
What's it like for you in New York when you walk through New York? What do you like here?
"I like the street number five."
Chakvetadze fell to countrywoman Ekaterina Makarova. Shahar Peer, an inconsistent player if ever there were one, was defeated by Olympic bronze medal finalist Li Na, and Kirilenko--up a break in the third set--was taken out by Tamira Paszek.
Makarova def. Chakvetadze, 1-6, 6-2, 6-3
Li def. Peer, 2-6, 6-0, 6-1
Paszek def. Kirilenko, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4
This loss has to really sting, coming just after Chakvetadze's failure to win the championship in New Haven. And especially since she has done so much to improve her game.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Dinara Safina is undeniably the hottest player on the tour right now, with a greatly improved mentality, but she showed some vulnerability in her service disaster in the Beijing final.
Serena Williams is totally unpredictable, and can never be counted out. She appears to be physically healthy, and that makes her a top contender.
Ana Ivanovic has not had much match play lately because of her thumb; on the other hand (no pun intended), she is not worn out from Beijing activity.
Jelena Jankovic is, as far as I know, still injured to some degree, and has not had much match play, but has to be very hungry, and her serve is much better now.
Venus Williams is considered a contender by some people, though I am not one of them.
If the Open were to be won by a first-time major title winner, who would it most likely be?
If the Open were to be won by someone not on the above list, who would it most likely be?
2007 Kristina Kucova
2006 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
2005 Victoria Azarenka
2004 Michaella Krajicek
2003 Kirsten Flipkens
2002 Maria Kirilenko
2001 Marion Bartoli
2000 Maria Emilia Salerni
1999 Lina Krasnoroutskaia
1998 Jelena Dokic
1997 Cara Black
1996 Mirjana Lucic
1995 Tara Snyder
1994 Meilen Tu
1993 Maria Francesca Bentivoglio
1992 Lindsay Davenport
1991 Karina Habsudova
1990 Magdalena Maleeva
1989 Jennifer Capriati
1988 Carrie Cunningham
Azarenka, Black, Davenport, and Maleeva were all seeded number 1. Only Davenport went on to win the U.S. Open as a tour player.
The song will have its debut tomorrow at the U.S. Open, where thousands of fans will hear it in surround sound.
Billie Jean King, friend of Venus Williams, and the woman for whom the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center is named, also had a song written for her, Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom."
Saturday, August 23, 2008
I love the new Times Square version of the U.S. Open "They're Coming..." television spots. It is my favorite of all I've ever seen, I think.
Maria Sharapova's 2008 U.S. Open dresses were designed, but they will look kind of empty on the court without Maria. The day dress is made of jersey, with velvet and frayed silk trim. The color is "concord," and there is black stretch velvet at the waist. The dress has a sheer overlay. The night dress is black with gold trim, with a body-hugging jersey under-layer and a sheer jersey over-layer.
How terrible is Heidi Klum's official T-shirt, anyway?
Not surprisingly, Jessica Moore is the Australian wild card who was not named in the original list. She will play none other than wild card Melanie Oudin in the first round.
Here is a nice piece on wild card Gail Brodsky.
And Todd Spiker informs us that Mariana Duque-Marino is a lucky loser who is into the main draw. In a regular tournament, the highest qualifying seed to lose in qualifying becomes the lucky loser, but in majors, anything goes, and Mathilde Johansson was overlooked by the powers that be.
Lucie Safarova has defeated Peng Shuai, 6-4, 6-2, to take the Forest Hills Tennis Classic title. Both finalists were unseeded in a tournament with only sixteen entrants and four seeds. Peng took out the top seed, Pauline Parmentier, in the first round.
But in the third set, we saw a classic Chakvetadze mental meltdown. This frustrates me no end because I so admire her tennis, and I was so pleased to see the additions she has made to her game. Chakvetadze has always had some head problems, and they have become worse since she experienced a trauma last December. Her under-achievement makes me cringe sometimes.
Until she played this match, Chakvetadze had a perfect record in finals: She had won seven out of seven. Today, Caroline Wozniacki ended that perfect record, and did it with style. Once she got past her first set problems, the unseeded Wozniacki was able to sieze control of the match, even giving back to her opponent several Chakvetadze-style wicked court angles. It was another very fine performance from Wozniacki, and the first set of the final was the only set she dropped all week.
We'll see if the commentators can keep from getting their tiny brains scrambled by the fact that two of the U.S. Open Series tournaments were won by Wozniack and Wozniacki, respectively. And speaking of commentators...Mary Joe Fernandez, how hard is it to learn how to pronounce "Chakvetadze" when what you are paid for is saying her name? And Fernandez and Patrick McEnroe, how hard is it to learn how to pronounce "Wozniacki"? Apparently just too hard.
I had my own problems with this match. Because it was a CBS feed, I missed the beginning because the local CBS affiliate felt compelled to air a storm update and then air the news that should have been broadcast during the long storm update time slot. But the corker came when--at 2 p.m., right before match point--the local station cut in with another storm update. All I could do was write an angry letter to the programming department.
Wozniacki def. Chakvetadze, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1
Ioana Raluca Olaru
Kristie Haerim Ahn
Maria Elena Camerin
Rossana De Los Rios
Twelve of the sixteen were unseeded in qualifying rounds. The highest seed to make it is De Los Rios, who was seeded number 10.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Thanks to ESPN for making Chak's overhead-whiffle-oopsie the Shot of the Day. I laughed my head off, even the third time I saw it.
Of course, the qualifiers have not yet been selected or assigned, but so far, here are some first rounds that look interesting to me:
Kaia Kanepi vs. Monica Niculescu: Niculescu has been playing rather well of late, and Kanepi missed a lot of court time because of injury, illness and surgery. All things being equal, Kanepi should get through this easily, but all things are not equal.
Nathlaie Dechy vs. Amelie Mauresmo: The two Frenchwomen are friends, and they have both seen better days in their tennis careers. When Dechy is at her best, she is very good. Mauresmo is looking really good so far in New Haven, however. In fact, she looks like her old self.
Marta Domachowka vs. Bethanie Mattek: Mattek should win this--unless Domachowska is having one of her good days. Domachowska is wildly inconsistent, but on a good day, she can blow just about anyone off the court.
Nicole Vaidisova vs. Petra Cetkovska: If Vaidisova were playing the other young Petra, I would take more notice. But even against Cetkovska, she will have to watch her nerves.
Samantha Stosur vs. Venus Williams: Sam Stosur has one of the best serves in women's tennis--first and second--and she will use it to try to go head-to-head with Williams.
Nuria Llagostera Vives vs. Francesca Schiavone: Here are two extremely tough clay cout specialists who are not out of place on hard courts. The match should be full of grit and craft, and should definitely be fun to watch. It could also be one that goes on for a long time.
Shahar Peer vs. Li Na: Eek--what a first-round match! Li has missed so much tennis because of two major injuries, each of which kept her off the tour for months. She just missed getting a bronze medal at the Olympics. On the one hand, that may have her feeling down, but really--considering all she has been through--her performance in Beijing was quite good. Good as she is, though, Li has never been that tough in the head department, and the patient, relentless Peer could take her to the edge. Peer is streaky, both players are good on hard courts, and anything could happen.
Ekaterina Makarova vs. Anna Chakvetadze: Chakvetadze is so fragile these days, one wishes she could have a really easy first round, just to get her started. Makarova may not give her that, though Chakvetadze should get through to the next round.
Lindsay Davenport vs. Aleksandra Wozniak: Davenport has a bad knee, and Wozniak is showing herself to be a good hard court competitor. If the knee is weak, Wozniack could end Davenport's last U.S. Open early.
Anabel Medina Garrigues vs. Tsvetana Pironkova: Pironkova is kind of the the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour's permanent dangerous floater. She has never been able to do that much with her career, other than cause damage. Medina Garrigues, a player of much skill, is also a hot-head. If Pironkova gets inside that head, something bad could happen.
And finally, my pick for the don't-miss first round match of the U.S. Open...
Tamira Paszek vs. Maria Kirilenko: The most likely scenario is that Kirilenko will glide gracefully around the court, doing what she does, and Paszek will bring a book and her lunch and pull up at the baseline for a long stay. "Contrasting styles" is understatement. I hate to see either of these players go home after the first round, but one will. Actually, I am a bit more intersted in seeing how far Kirilenko can go than Paszek, but I wish both of them could stick around a while.
Olaru def. Larcher de Brito, 6-2, 6-3
Cornet injured her left quad yesterday (she has had this injury before), and it was obvious that she could not move quite as well as usual. However, her service game today was much improved over yesterday's off-kilter service attempts. Wozniacki's service game was excellent, and as the match progressed, Cornet wilted physically, even double-faulting to give Wozniacki match point. It was her only double fault of the match.
I have liked these two players for a while, and watching them play one another was a treat, despite Cornet's injured state. When they met at the net to shake hands, it was obvious that they, too, had enjoyed the match.
Cornet's loss may turn out to be a blessing. She really needs to give that thigh a rest before the U.S. Open begins.
Wozniacki def. Cornet, 7-5, 6-4
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Steve Tignor--Serena Williams
Mary Joe Fernandez--Serena Williams
Darren Cahill--Ana Ivanovic
Jon Wertheim--Elena Dementieva (more or less--it's a somewhat coy prediction)
Brad Gilbert--Elena Dementieva
Ravi Ubha--Dinara Safina
Greg Garber--Dinara Safina
Sandra Harwitt--Venus Williams
Bonnie D. Ford--Dinara Safina
Matt Wilansky--Elena Dementieva
Bud Collins--Venus Williams
Amelie Mauresmo looked like...Amelie Mauresmo...in her match against last year's finalist, Agnes Szavay. Mauresmo blew some chances, but--in general--she served well, moved well and volleyed exquisitely. It was a relief to see her look like herself again.
Caroline Wozniacki upset Marion Bartoli, 6-4, 6-0, and Anna Chakvetadze defeated Sorana Cirstea, 6-3, 6-3.
Mauresmo will play Chakvetadze in tomorrow's semifinals, and Cornet will play Wozniacki.
Iveta Benesova def. Ekaterina Makarova, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4
Carla Suarez Navarro def. Martina Muller, 6-2, 6-0
Peng Shuai def. Vera Dushevina, 6-4, 7-5
Lucie Safarova def. Jamea Jackson, 3-6, 6-3, 6-0
Peng will play Suarez Navarro and Benesova will play Safarova in tomorrow's semifinal matches.
Sadly, Karatantcheva lost her second round qualifying match at the U.S. Open today. She was defeated by Julie Coin, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3.
The U.S. Open, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Open Era, begins on Monday, August 25. Conspicuous by her absence will be Maria Sharapova, but everyone else who matters (assuming Ana Ivanovic's thumb has healed) will be there. In no particular order...
Serena Williams: It is really hard to determine what Williams' chances are at the U.S. Open, but only a fool would count her out of contention. She has looked vulnerable lately, but if she is in the right frame of mind, she can do a lot of damage.
Dinara Safina: Now referred to as the "hottest player of the year," Safina is indeed red-hot. Her come-from-behind antics at the German Open, the French Open and during the U.S. Open Series have created more fan excitement than anything I can recall, but she really does like to cut it a bit close. The winner of the U.S. Open Series, Safina missed getting an Olympic gold medal because of serious problems with her serve. As a rule, Safina--like Justine Henin before her--can get away with some bad service games and redeem them with unusually good serves later, as well as great defensive play. She is going to have to overcome the service bug, however, if she is to win the U.S. Open. If she can keep her serve consistent, I see her as a major contender for the title.
Ana Ivanovic: Ivanovic has had problems with an injured thumb. Assuming that she is not injured, Ivanovic is nevertheless going into the Open without much match play. Anything can happen, but she has a disadvantage this year.
Jelena Jankovic: The eternally-injured Jankovic, if she can stay reasonably healthy in Flushing Meadows, still has a good chance to prevail. She can handle hard courts, her athleticism is superb, and it's about time she won a big one.
Elena Dementieva: The 2004 U.S. Open finalist and recent Olympic gold medal winner has, for all practical purposes, solved her service problem. That makes her dangerous, and she is once again in contention to win the U.S. Open. Like Jankovic, Dementieva can move around the court with speed and ease, and Beijing gold could give her renewed confidence.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Venus Williams: Though I do not expect Williams to win the U.S. Open, I wouldn't exactly fall down in shock if she did. Williams knows her way around a hard court, and if she gets a good draw, anything can happen.
Svetlana Kuznetsova: The 2004 U.S. Open champion is now an official head case. But her talent still puts her into the second tier of contenders.
Daniela Hantuchova: Hantuchova missed a lot of this season because of a serious foot injury. Hantuchova is also a notorious choker. But with all that, she is still always worth watching on a hard court. And who knows? She may even show up in Flushing Meadows with a winner's mindset.
Agnieszka Radwanska: Radwasnka is a savvy tactician who does not give up. She showed Sharapova the door in the third round last year, and she should be regarded as a danger this year.
Amelie Mauresmo: I won't go over all of Mauresmo's woes here, but I will say that she's been looking like her old self in New Haven, and that is a very good thing.
Victoria Azarenka: Victoria Azarenka is getting better all the time. The U.S. Open will provide her another opportunity to improve her toughness and her game. She is definitely worth watching.
Dominika Cibulkova: Considered a clay specialist at first, Cibulkova has shown herself to be a hard court contender. Unfortunately, she has been injured a lot this year, and her rhythm has consequently been interrupted a lot.
Alize Cornet: Like Cibulkova, Cornet first became noticed as a clay specialist. And while she is still better on clay than she is on hard courts, there is plenty of potential there, and she is one to watch. Unfortunatly, as of this posting, Cornet has sustained a left quad strain, so her ability to perform well at the U.S. Open is in question.
Vera Zvonareva: She started the season with a bang, then stalled, but got herself back on track with an Olympic bronze medal. Zvonareva is now back in the top 10, after overcoming all kinds of obstacles to get there.
Caroline Wozniacki: The Danish player has steadily improved, and is once again on my watch list. Like Cornet, she brings some fire to the court.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
I am really disappointed that she will not be part of this year's Open, especially after her unfortunate third round run-in with Agnieszka Radwanska last year. Her doctors failed to catch a torn rotator cuff tendon, and she played with the injury for months. She is now in rehabilitation, and we look forward to seeing her play later in the season. In the meantime--no matter how exciting the U.S. Open is--it just won't be the same without Maria.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Chris Evert holds the record for the most successive U.S. Open wins by a woman--6. She holds second place for the most wins of all time, and the record for most wins in the Open Era--9.
Tatiana Golovin has withdrawn from the U.S. Open.
Elena Bovina won the GHI Bronx Tennis Classic on Sunday, defeating Anna-Lena Groenefeld, 6-3, 7-5 (after being down 3-5 in the second set). How strange is it to talk about these two playing in a Bronx challenger?
Both Yuliana Fedak and Ayumi Morita have failed to get through the first round of U.S. Open qualifying.
The Lacoste 75th anniversary "Let's re-invent the future" television ad is too depressing to watch. Getting rid of wooden racquets was bad enough.
The above list, in fact, constitutes half of the draw. The Forest Hills Tennis Classic is played at the former site of the U.S. Open. Last year's winner was Gisela Dulko.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Cecil, who is from South Carolina, won her first pro challenger, the 10k Palmetto Pro Open, in June.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
In the meantime, Olga Govortsova has already posted an impressive first-round win against Alisa Kleybanova. Kleybanova's service stats are so poor, I have to wonder whether she played with an injury.
Safina is the tour's hottest player right now, but a rash of inconsistencies even greater than those displayed by Dementieva cost her the gold. This is Dementieva's second title, so to speak, of the year--she also won in Dubai.
Zvonareva began the season very strongly, then lapsed a bit, but has now placed herself back in high contention. Both she and Safina were substitutes on the Russian team: Safina was appointed to the team when Anna Chakvetadze decline to accept her spot, and Zvonareva was added when Maria Sharapova was forced to withdraw because of injury. Zonvonareva defeated Li Na to win the bronze medal match.
Nathalie Dechy's very impressive run in Cincinnati ended today when Nadia Petrova defeated her in the final, 6-2, 6-1. The unseeded Dechy had taken out Katarina Srebotnik, Maria Kirilenko and Aleksandra Wozniak to get to the final.
This is Petrova's first title of 2008. She and her partner, Maria Kirilenko, also won the doubles title, defeating Hsieh Su-Wei and Yaroslava Shvedova, 6-3, 4-6, 10-8.
Errani, number 41 in the world, won the tournament in Palermo earlier this year. Cecil is number 602 in the world.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
For her part, Petrova (who was once considered the most promising of all the Russians) went on a hot streak in 2006, literally slipped from it, and has never come back. The talent is there, however.
The Cincinnati tournament, a Tier III, is not part of the U.S. Open Series. However, this year it attracted a number of excellent players, including two--Dechy and Kirilenko--who have lovely and fluid games I especially enjoying watching.
Friday, August 15, 2008
The other semifinal match will be between 3rd seed Maria Kirilenko and 2nd seed Nadia Petrova.
Of note in the main draw:
Good friends and former doubles partners Gisela Dulko and Flavia Penntetta play each other in the first round. Patty Schnyder plays Jill Craybas again, and Alize Cornet plays Nicole Vaidisova again. Also, Amelie Mauresmo will have to deal with Kaia Kanepi in the first round, and what will probably be the first round match to watch--Dominika Cibulkova vs. Caroline Wozniacki.
Anna Chakvetadze is the top seed. She could potentially meet Sorana Cirstea, who defeated her in Charleston, in the third round (assuming she survives the second), but she is more likely to see either Pennetta or Dulko.
In the qualifying rounds, the top seed is Sara Errani. And surely, the hottest first round qualifying match has to be the once between Alla Kudryavtseva and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Also competing in the qualifying rounds are Julia Goerges, Andrja Klepac and Nuria Llagostera Vives.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
The tournament will be called the MPS Group Championships and will be held at the same time the Amelia Island tournament was held. Matches will be played on HAR-TRU clay courts.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Top seed Katarina Srebotnik hit eleven aces against Nathalie Dechy in their second round match in Cincinnati, but that was not enough to take the match. After two hours and twenty minutes, Dechy emerged the winner, 7-5, 2-6, 7-6.
Moments like this, and like Dechy's epic match against Ana Ivanovic at Wimbledon remind us of how much talent she has. When she returned from a major injury some time ago, she was not able to get her ranking back (it was as high as 11 in 2006), and she was getting older, so she began concentrating on doubles, which really paid off for her. But I like to watch her smart, elegant singles game, and I would really like to see her advance in the rankings again.
A yet-to-be selected Australian player will receive the last wild card.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Tonight, the top seed retired in the first round against Jamea Jackson, with Jackson leading, 7-6, 2-2. This tournament should have been a good one for Bartoli, but it has turned out otherwise.
I do not know what the injury is. Perhaps there is no injury, but instead, another bout of the illness Bartoli had in Montreal. One way or the other, it is more misfortune for her, and it is not a good sign.
Mauresmo's next opponent will be Belgium's Yanina Wickmayer.
Though the Cincinnati event is a Tier III affair, it is hosting some top players this year. In addition to Mauresmo, there are Marion Bartoli, Katarina Srebotnik, Maria Kirilenko, and Nadia Petrova, all of whom have advanced to the second round. Other players of note who are competing are Sabine Lisicki, Stephanie Dubois and Nathalie Dechy. Tamira Paszek was entered but had to retire during her first-round match.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Cetkovska def. Paszek, 4-6, 6-3, 4-1
In other Cincinnati news, Ekaterina Makarova was upset by Camille Pin, 6-2, 6-0.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
First, Davenport--who was on the verge of filing suit against Sony Ericsson Tour CEO Larry Scott--tells the world how much she respects him. And now she assures the world that--oh, yes--all Americans continue to respect their leaders.
I want the old Lindsay Davenport back--the one who spoke out, not the pod person who has replaced her. Though I have rarely seen eye to eye with Davenport on important issues ("rarely" being the key word), I have appreciated her candor and her willingness to stand up for herself and for the women on the tour. Now, more and more, she sounds like she's doing an on-court interview in Stepford.
Friday, August 8, 2008
Better news is that Kai Kanepi has returned from injury, illness and surgery.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Commentator and former doubles champion Pam Shriver has filed for divorce from Australian actor George Lazenby after six years of marriage. Shriver and Lazenby have three children.
Lazenby--who is alleged to have been offered a seven-picture deal but turned it down--played the role of James Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. He was also the European Marlboro Man. He was formerly married to Christina Gannett of the Gannett Newspaper Publishing family.
Shriver, who won 22 majors in doubles and an Olympic gold medal, is currently best known as a tennis commentator for ESPN. However, she also provides commentary for ABC, CBS, the BBC, and 7-Sport.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Tennis Channel is currently showing a new series, "Only At the Open." The first episode, about Monica Seles, features thrilling footage from the amazing 1991 phenom showdown semifinal between Seles and Jennifer Capriati.
A U.S. bankruptcy judge has ruled that Steve and Barry's may pay Venus Williams $250,000 owed to her under a contractual agreement. The clothing company, which handles Williams' ELEVEN line, has filed for bankruptcy.
Marion Bartoli has a go at the Rogers Cup organizers and the French Tennis Federation.
14-year-old Laura Robson has moved up to a ranking of number 5 among the world's junior players.
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Much praise should go to Cibulkova, though, who reached the final by taking out Elena Dementieva, Nadia Petrova, Jelena Jankovic, and Marion Bartoli. Wow. She will now be the number 20 player in the world.
By winning in Montreal, Safina has won the U.S. Open Series; no one could possibly catch up to her, points-wise. If she should win the U.S. Open, she will get an extra $1 million in prize money, and she will win bonus money for each round she wins. Bonus money also goes to the second and third-place U.S. Open Series winners.
I am amazed to hear some people say that Safina's recent victories are a sign of decreased quality on the tour. "But she's been beaten by so many top players!" I hear. Hello! She is not the same player she was two years ago, not the same player she was a year ago, not the same player she was six months ago. Here's a concept: improvement. Safina has become much more fit, and--more important--she has completely changed in the head department. Dinara Safina always had talent, but now she plays like a winner. If fans expect a player to never get past a certain point in skill level and toughness, then what is the point of athletic (or any) competition?
Safina, always a personable player and fun to watch, has been a breath of fresh air in the 2008 season. Keep it up, Dinara.
The doubles title was won by Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, who defeated Petra Cetkovska and Lucie Safarova, 7-5, 6-4.
The semifinal matches were delayed a day because of rain.
But Cibulkova will have some work to do to win the Rogers Cup, for her opponent is Dinara Safina, whose 2008 is turning into a glory year. Safina's obvious love of court drama was fulfilled in her semifinal against Victoria Azarenka. She won the first set, 6-0, then turned cautious in the second set, just as Azarenka worked up a full head of steam. After Azarenka took that set 6-2, I felt pretty sure Safina would snap back into the match, and she did. She served for it at 5-1 in the third, but was broken, and wound up winning the set 6-3.
Right now, Safina's only real weakness is her serve, or rather, the inconsistency of her serve. It ranges from brilliant to totally off the mark--often within the same game, a la Justine Henin.
This will be Cibulkova's second tour final. She was in the Amelia Island final this year, but sustained a foot injury during the match and kind of faded away. Maria Sharapova won that tournament, but if Cibulkova had not hurt her foot, I think the outcome may have been different.
It should also be noted that the doubles team of Maria Kirilenko and Flavia Pennetta upset the 2nd seeds, Kveta Peschke and Rennae Stubbs, Saturday--6-4, 6-0.
Saturday, August 2, 2008
I have been thinking about Amelie Mauresmo lately. She is my favorite player on the tour, so naturally, I would not let her go out of my mind. But she does seem to have gone out of the general tennis conversation, and that is a shame.
For those of us who held faith for years with Mauresmo, a happy day occurred when she won the 2005 Sony Ericsson Championships. It was a big day for her, too--one that turned her around psychologically. She began the next season by winning the Australian Open, and though she won it in a rather odd way--with opponents all around her dropping like flies--she nevertheless won it. But it was not the occasion it should have been for Mauresmo, since her opponent in the final, Justine Henin, was one of the players who dropped.
But Wimbledon would arrive, and once again, Mauresmo found herself in the final, again opposite Justine Henin, who was attmpting to obtain her career slam. Mauresmo won the championship in three sets, and her long-delayed moment of glory was felt by all her fans. I celebrated with champagne.
I always attend the Family Circle Cup, and in 2007, I was thrilled because Mauresmo was entered in the tournament. Then came the appendicitis, and she had to withdraw from a series of tournaments, including the Family Circle Cup. It took her a long time to recover, and when she did, her abdominal muscles were still weak; she sustained an abdominal injury shortly after going back on the court. That, too, took a while to heal, and by that time, Mauresmo--never known for her self-assurance--was in no woman's land.
This year, Mauresmo has struggled with a right thigh strain, a rib muscle injury and a left thigh injury, and she has subsequently tumbled to a ranking of number 36 in the world. Overlooked for a singles slot on the French Olympics team, she decided to forego the Olympics altogether. As of now, Mauresmo plans to play in Cincinnati and New Haven before competing in the U.S. Open, her least favorite major.
The Frenchwoman with the dry wit, beautiful one-handed backhand, and elegant game is now 29 years old. Years ago, she modified her serve in order to prevent the return of a chronic back injury, and after she did that, she remained relatively healthy until the incident of 2007. If she could get healthy again and regain her confidence, she could climb back up the rankings. She herself has said she believes she has another Wimbledon championship in her. But for now, Mauresmo is the forgotten woman. But not forgotten by her many fans.
Medina Garrigues and Ruano Pascual, a former world number 1, won the Slovenian Open last week, and also won this year's French Open.
Benesova/Zahlavova Strycova def. Medina Garrigues/Ruano Pascual, 6-3, 6-4
Azarenka, the tournament's 11th seed, will play Dinara Safina in the semifinals.
She muttered, she screamed, she tossed serves into the net. Dinara Safina, seeded 8th, did not get off to a good start against the multi-talented number 4 seed Kuznetsova. But this season, we have learned three things about Safina--she has true confidence, she is as fit as they come, and she likes to come from behind. No doubt, these facts resided somewhere in the mind of the often mentally fragile Kuznetsova.
It was a good match, with athleticism to spare, and after Safina figured it out, she emerged the winner, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Friday, August 1, 2008
From the moment she snapped to, Cibulkova played with precision and aggression, which led to her defeating Jankovic, 7-5, 6-2. This means that Jankovic will not become the number 1 player in the world, which is probably a good thing--for now. However, I would be willing to put money on Jankovic's continuing to play when she should take some time off. If she doesn't take time off, she is likely to remove herself from the contender list for the U.S. Open.
Then there was Marion Bartoli, who was already a mess of injuries before some people had even heard of Jankovic. There she was, limping across the court in her match against Ai Sugiyama, taking medical breaks and generally looking like someone on leave from the orthopedic unit. But the part of Bartoli that was working overtime was her head, and she took advantage Sugiyama's lapses of concentration, to defeat her in a rather stylish way, 6-2, 6-3.
Bartoli beat Sugiyama two weeks ago in the semifinals in Stanford, but prior to that, she had lost five times to her.
Bartoli's next opponent will be Cibulkova.
"He actually couldn't believe that I've been playing this long with this injury. You can imagine that I was not very thrilled to hear that my medical team did not see this tear in my shoulder back in April," Sharapova said.
I guess not. Had she known about the problem then, she would already be recovered from it. She is now on her way to Arizona for rehab.