Monday, March 31, 2008

Sharapova enters Family Circle Cup

Yesterday, I wrote that Maria Sharapova was open to receiving a wild card to Charleston. In the meantime, she has signed on as a regular entrant. Though I cannot confirm it, I heard that this move was made possible because Julia Vakulenko has withdrawn.

As thrilled as I am about Sharapova's inclusion, I'm sorry to hear that Vakulenko will not be there. Last year, I was her one-woman cheering section and support at one of her matches. Vakulenko has a long history of injury, and it seems that just when she gets into good form, something else happens to her.

This news also means that Charleston's favorite, Patty Schnyder, has lost her first-round bye--unless one of the top players withdraws, which is always possible.

Sharapova entered the Family Circle Cup last year, but was one of several top players who had to withdraw because of injury.

On the last day of Women's History Month...

I'll let ken at After Atalanta do the talking.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Someone forgot to tell Chakvetadze she had to serve in her match

Check out these service stats for Anna Chakvetadze tonight:

1st serve: 48%
1st serve points won: 54%
2nd serve points won: 19%
double faults: 10

Her opponent, the undisciplined but feisty Sabine Lisicki, double-faulted eleven times, and won 25% of her second serves. She managed to break Chakvetadze seven times (Lisicki was broken four times), though, and beat her, 7-5, 6-1. But it couldn't have been too pretty.

It was a good run, but it's over

Michelle Larcher de Brito left the courts in Miami today, beaten 6-0, 6-2 by Shahar Peer. Larcher de Brito defended her Miami points, and then some, however.

The young player wasn't alone. Former world number one Amelie Mauresmo, who is having so much trouble after a season of serious illness and injury, was defeated by Zheng Jie, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4. And Kaia Kanepi, who took Patty Schnyder out of Miami last year, did it again today--6-0, 6-2.

It didn't end there. Daniela Hantuchova's former doubles partner (and former top 10 player), Ai Sugiyama, beat her 6-4, 6-7, 7-5. Caroline Wozniacki upset Katarina Srebotnik, 2-6, 6-3, 6-1. And of course, the second seed, Ana Ivanovic, was knocked out, too.

No Williams sisters in Fed Cup

According to Lindsay Davenport, neither Venus nor Serena Williams will be playing in the Fed Cup semifinal against Russia next month. Also, my understanding is that Dinara Safina may have been chosen as the fourth Russian Fed Cup team member, rather than Elena Dementieva or Vera Zvonareva, as previously announced by the Russian Fed Cup captain. I cannot confirm this, however, so if anyone knows for sure, let me hear.

(Update: I had some misinformation about Olympic and Fed Cup teams--please see correction in the comments section.)

Miami is known for its bagels, but this is ridiculous

Check it out:

Kuznetsova def. Chan, 6-1, 3-6, 6-0
Dementieva def. K. Bondarenko, 6-0, 6-4
Safarova def. Knapp, 3-6, 7-5, 6-0
Kleybanova def. Vaidisova, 6-4, 6-0
Kuznetsova def. Azarenka, 1-6, 7-5, 6-0
Kanepi def. Schnyder, 6-0, 6-1
Peer def. Larcher de Brito, 6-0, 6-2
Safina def. Bammer, 4-6, 6-1, 6-0

Sveta will soon have to have a bagel kiosk on the Sony Ericsson Open grounds.

Ana and the Queen

Hitting the deep, laser-like shots that have won her multiple titles, and pinning Ana Ivanovic to the baseline again and again, Lindsay Davenport announced her comeback on the big stage today by defeating Ivanovic 6-4, 6-2 at the Sony Ericsson Open. Davenport uncharactistically hit only one ace, but her service game was solid, and she repeatedly took advantage of Ivanovic's second serves.

Davenport will next face Dinara Safina, who beat Sybille Bammer, 4-6, 6-1, 6-0.

Sharapova open to receiving green clay wild cards

"If I'm ready, and if I've had a good week or nine days of practice, then I would definitely consider taking wildcards into Charleston and Amelia Island."

A wild card to Charleston is more likely, since that tournament begins a week after the Amelia Island tournament. That would be fine with me!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

'Cause it makes me that much stronger...Makes me work a little bit harder...

Fatigue, illness, injury, bad patch--whatever it is, it rarely keeps Jelena Jankovic from being a fighter! Tonight was no exception. Down 1-5 in the third set against Sofia Arvidsson, Jankovic broke her opponent twice to get to 5-all. Then it went to 6-all, and Jankovic found herself down 3-6 in the tiebreak.

She then saved five match points, and at 9-10, broke Arvidsson, and won the match on her second match point.

Credit to Arvidsson, who is having an excellent 2008 season, kind of out of nowhere.

Jankovic def. Arvidsson, 6-7, 6-2, 7-6

Tennis Channel was supposed to have shown tennis for five hours tonight, but all they showed was the "live" Federer-Monfils match, and even that was a somewhat delayed broadcast.

Kleybanova serves out of her mind--takes Vaidisova out of Miami

When you have a 70 first serve percentage, an 80 first serve points won percentage, a 69 second serve points won percentage, and you hit thirteen aces--chances are, you have won the match. That's what qualifier Alisa Kleybanova did, and number 12 seed Nicole Vaidisova has now been eliminated from the Sony Ericsson Open.

Kleybanova def. Vaidisova, 6-4, 6-0

Speaking of aces, Anna Chakvetadze hit seven of them in her 6-3, 6-2 victory over Tamira Paszek, but she also double-faulted nine times.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Bad news for Daniilidou

Eleni Daniilidou's retirement in Miami occurred because of a torn ACL in her right knee. She is going back to Greece to have surgery.

Szavay, Radwanska, Bondarenko, Kirilenko,and Bartoli say goodbye

In addition to Michelle Larcher de Brito's upset of Agnieszka Radwanska at the Sony Ericsson Open today, there were some other notable upsets. Elena Vesnina defeated Agnes Szavay, the always dangerous Kaia Kanepi defeated Alona Bondarenko, Sara Errani defeated Maria Kirilenko, and Caroline Wozniacki beat Marion Bartoli.

Vesnina def. Szavay, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1
Kanepi def. Bondarenko, 7-6, 1-6, 6-3
Errani def. Kirilenko, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6
Wozniacki def. Bartoli, 6-3, 6-1

Ready for the Big Girl tour? Larcher de Brito says "Yes"

It took two hours and twenty minutes, there were eleven breaks of serve, and the third set--from an electronic scoreboard viewer's vantage--appeared to be a thriller. Michelle Larcher de Brito has taken Agnieska Radwanska out of the Sony Ericsson Open, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5.

The 15-year-old from Portugal, who plays World Team Tennis and who unexpectedly won last year's Orange Bowl, entered the tour last year with a rank of 364, raised it to a high of 249, and is currently ranked number 255.

Larcher de Brito will play Shahar Peer in the third round.

Solid phenom list for Family Circle Cup

Last week, I announced that Agnes Szavay and Agnieska Radwanska would be playing next month in the Family Circle Cup in Charleston. Also playing will be Victoria Azarenka, Alize Cornet and Caroline Wozniacki. And, to add more young player fun, the line-up also includes Sara Errani and Dominika Cibulkova, who performed beautifully on the green clay last year.

Tamira, where are you?...

Friday cat blogging--secluded spot edition

There are few places as cozy as the corner chaise--just ask Ziggy Stardust

In case you're wondering where Sania Mirza is...

She has a wrist injury that caused her to withdraw from the Sony Ericsson Open.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

2007 tour player awards announced

The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour player awards for 2007 are:

Player of the Year--Justine Henin
Doubles Team of the Year--Cara Black and Liezel Huber
Karen Krantzcke Sportsman of the Year--Ana Ivanovic (silly me--I thought Ivanovic was a
Comeback of the Year--Lindsay Davenoport
Newcomer of the Year--Agnes Szavay
Most Improved Player--Ana Ivanovic
Service Award--Liezel Huber

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Larcher de Brito makes it to the 2nd round in Miami

Having lost the first set, Michelle Larcher de Brito was 1-4 down in the second, then found a way to force a tiebreak, which she won. She and opponent Ekaterina Makarova exchanged a few breaks in the third, and Larcher de Brito was down 0-30 when she served for the match, but she was able to win, despite double-faulting twelve times, and being broken eight times (Makarova was broken seven times).

Larcher de Brito, who entered the tour rankings last fall at 364, became the youngest player to win a main-draw match since the age-eligibilty rule was put into place in 1995. She defeated Meghann Shaughnessy in the first round in Miami. Shaughnessy, incidentally, is out again in the first round--this time defeated by Vania King.

Larcher de Brito will play Agnieszka Radwanska in the second round.

Larcher de Brito def. Makarova, 3-6, 7-6, 6-3

Domachowska to get another crack at Williams

Marta Domachowska, who some of us thought had dropped out off the face of the Earth, made a stunning comeback in Melbourne by getting to the round of 16 and giving Venus Williams a very tough fight. Williams won, 6-4, 6-4, but Domachowska, who is a good athlete, was entertaining and memorable.

Today in Miami, Domachowska beat Jill Craybas, 6-4, 0-6, 7-6, and now she goes to the second round to play--you guessed it--Venus Williams.

Dulko and Dellacqua both out of Sony Ericsson Open

Gisela Dulko, who has been working hard to achieve her highest ranking, was eliminated from competition today in Miami. She was defeated, 6-4, 7-6, by Tatiana Perebiynis. There was a total of nine breaks in the match, and Perebiynis won the tiebreak 7-1.

Meanwhile, new Australian star Casey Dellacqua was defeated by Anastasia Rodionova, 6-2, 7-6. Rodionova saved eight set points in the second set, then won the tiebreak 7-1.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

This and that....

"I won't dance--don't ask me": Monica Seles bombs again on Dancing with the Stars--graceful she isn't. I expect her to make an exit asap.

Anna Kournikova is being sued by songwriter Christopher Swann, who says he denied her permission to use his music on her DVD, A Date With Anna, but she used it, anyway--twenty-two minutes of it. Lions Gate Entertainment is also named as a defendant.

Maria Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anna Chakvetadze have been confirmed as members of Russia's Olympics team. A decision will be made soon as to the fourth member, who will be either Vera Zvonareva or Elena Dementieva.

The first round of the Sony Ericsson Open features a match between two phenoms, Tamira Paszek and Alize Cornet. What a draw!

Shahar Peer is being honored tonight with a dessert reception by the Beth David Congregation in Miami for being the first Israeli athlete to compete in the Arab world.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Henin to open another tennis center

Justine Henin, who recently opened Club Justine N1 in Belgium, is going to open the 6th Sense Tennis Academy in Orlando.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Ivanovic wins Indian Wells

I did not get to see the final because FSN Southwest did not broadcast it. At any rate, Ana Ivanovic defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-4, 6-3. Kuznetsova has developed the Patty Schnyder syndrome: Get into plenty of finals and lose them. I hope she turns that around soon. (I hope Patty does, too.)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Update on Sharapova

It's official: She has withdrawn from the Sony Ericsson Open, citing a shoulder injury.

Safina and Vesnina win Indian Wells

Dinara Safina and Elena Vesnina have defeated Yan Zi and Zheng Jie, 6-1, 1-6, 10-8 to take the doubles title at the Pacific Life Open. Unseeded Safina and Vesnina beat the sixth, fourth and eighth seeds to get to the final. Yan and Zheng were seeded third.

Radwanska and Szavay to play in Family Circle Cup

Two of the tour's most exciting your stars, Agnieszka Radwanska and Agnes Szavay, will play in next month's Family Circle Cup in Charleston. The Daniel Island tournament, a Tier I event, is one of only two clay tournaments played in the U.S.

Kuznetsova discusses karaoke and Dancing with the Stars

You ever look at yourself on YouTube? I was looking yesterday. I saw you do some karaoke.
"Oh, my God. This is disgusting. I tell you, I watched this. I sometimes I want to make my friends laugh and I show to them. They're like, Oh, my God."

"I did two karaokes. And I did once two at French Open. Second one was a little bit better. I been improving. Because just lower the net here, it's impossible to fall, you know. It's impossible to do worse, actually. I improved. Then I did one in US Open, but I never got to see this one nowhere. I love Serena's one, how she shake booty. That is hard. She got my trophy. Believe me, she teach me that. But I don't think I'm going to do."

And this...
Did you watch Monica last night on TV?
"I was going to watch but then I had dinner and I prefer dinner."

Sharapova considers skipping Miami

Citing fatigue, Maria Sharapova is giving some thought to withdrawing from the Sony Ericsson Open.

Kuznetsova and Ivanovic victorious in Indian Wells semis

I didn't get to see the entire match, but the 19-shot rally in the Sharapova-Kuznetsova semifinal match was not only breathtaking, but it showed a side of Kuznetsova we haven't seen for a while--the fighting side. It didn't matter what Sharapova gave her--Kuznetsova got it back. Sharapova apparently was off her game in the first set, got more on track in the second, and helped turn the third into one I was glad I saw.

Kuznetsova def. Sharapova, 6-3, 5-7, 6-2

In the other semifinal, Jelena Jankovic's first set service game was better than usual, and she was able to bring the first set to a tiebreak, but her performance in it was filled with uncharacteristic errors. She is usually able to shake off negative things like that, but the bad feeling clearly followed her into the second set, which Ana Ivanovic dominated.

Ivanovic def. Jankovic, 7-6, 6-3

Friday, March 21, 2008

Zina Garrison named Olympics coach

U.S. Fed Cup captian Zina Garrison has been named the coach of the U.S. Olympic women's tennis team.

I'm a bit behind here...

But this is the first time I've seen Vania King's Indian Wells dress. I like it.

All-Russian, all-Serbian semifinals to be played at Pacific Life Open

It's down to four. Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova will play one semifinal, and Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic will play the other. Sharapova and Kuznetsova have played each other seven times, and Sharapova has won four of those matches, including the last two. Sharapova leads 3-2 on hard courts.

Jankovic and Ivanovic have played each other six times, and Ivanovic has won five of those matches. She leads 3-1 on hard courts.

Possible interfering factors:

Ivanovic appeared to be bothered by the heat in her quarterfinal match against Vera Zvonareva. I say "appeared" because I'm not totally convinced she wasn't more bothered by Zvonareva's backhand. At 4-all int he second set, Ivanovic insisted (the umpire suggested she wait until the changeover) on taking a time-out to see the trainer, who felt her pulse while she had a drink and a bite to eat. She then returned to the court and broke Zvonareva.

Jankovic has been suffering with a cold since she arrived in Indian Wells. Having Wednesday off and having her quarterfinal opponent retire certainly helps, but illness lurks.

Friday cat blogging--spring chill edition

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Former champions to be on hand for Family Circle Cup's 35th anniversary

Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Rosie Casals, Conchita Martinez, , Mary Pierce, Jennifer Capriati, and Iva Majoli will all be on Daniel Island next month to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Family Circle Cup. There will be a big opening ceremony hosted by Bud Collins on Tuesday, April 15, then, on Saturday, April 19, there will be a Parade of Champions featuring several former winners of the tournament. Some of those players will also be on hand beginning Thursday, April 17, for interviews and autograph sessions. On Saturday morning, fans will be served breakfast, and Bud Collins will interview some former champions.

Rosie Casals, better known as Rosebud, was the first Family Circle Cup champion. She won the title in 1973, defeating Nancy Richey in the final, and collecting the largest check ($30,000) ever given to a female tennis player. The final was also the first women's tennis match to be shown on NBC.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Chan and Chuang upset in Indian Wells

The Pacific Life Open's number 2 seeds, Chan Jung-Jan and Chuang Chia-Jung, were upset today by Bethanie Mattek and Sania Mirza, who defeated them 7-5, 4-6, 11-9. Number 1 seeds, Peshke and Stubbs, have already been eliminated from competition.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

So unpretty

First it was Marion Bartoli and Angelique Kerber. I didn't see their first set in Indian Wells, but the second was not a pretty sight, with Bartoli losing a 5-1 lead, and Kerber looking like she was trying to figure out a way for Bartoli to win, anyway. I have been watching Kerber for a while and I think she has talent, but that set was painful to watch. Bartoli finally won it, and won the match, 6-3, 7-6.

This evening, it was Maria Sharapova and Alona Bondarenko. Each had moments of brilliance, but the overall match (or at least the first two sets) was fraught with errors and inconsistency. Both players had major service problems, and Bondarenko tended to follow a winner with an error. Sharapova, for her part, had trouble keeping the ball in the court. She finally prevailed, 6-2, 5-7, 6-4, after an entertaining final set.

Barry Tompkins, one of the commentators for FSN, talked about Bondarenko's negative body language. Obviously, he has not watched her before. Alona Bondarenko is restrained at her best moments, and somewhat dour at others, but that's just her court personality.

Notable in today's play was Ashley Harkleroad, who took Agnieszka Radwanska to three sets before being defeated, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.

Bausch & Lomb to end sponsorship of Amelia Island tournament

Bausch & Lomb, which has sponsored the Bausch & Lomb Championships in Amelia Island, Florida for twenty-two years, is ending its sponsorship after 2008. The company is giving up its sponsorship because of recent legislation that prevents it from entertaining doctors at the event.

Amelia Island, a Tier II event, is one of only two clay tournaments in the U.S. The tournament is looking for a new sponsor.

Li withdraws from Miami

Li Na missed Sydney, Dubai and Indian Wells because of a right knee injury, and now she has withdrawn from Miami. Out for several months last year because of a rib injury, Li roared back in 2008 to win Gold Coast. Now she is missing a substantial chunk of the 2008 season, also. What a shame.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A revisionist look at Evert and Austin

The great Chris Evert may be surprised to learn that she was a "no-good trasher" who "cannot hit the ball." Tracy Austin, too. That's how Evert achieved the longest clay court streak in tennis history. And how she won all those Grand Slams. But hey--Richard Williams can tell you all about it.

Thanks to Tennis X for the story.

Everyone--it's time to write a letter

Please, everyone--write a letter to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour and express your disapproval of Indian Wells television "coverage." As I and others have written, FSN is a loosely connected series of regional networks. If you get FSN West or North, you get to see a lot of the Pacific Life Open. If you get some of the other FSNs, like the one I get, you get to see almost nothing.

In the old days, you would have as much luck getting an answer back from the Sony Ericsson WTA tour as you would getting an answer back from Santa Claus, but these days, you can actually get a reply--if you are willing to wait several weeks. They need to hear from hundreds of us (so does the ATP) about this so that it will not happen again.

Monica Seles on her upcoming Dancing With the Stars gig

"I don't know a tango from a mango."

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Number 1 doubles seeds out in 2nd round of Pacific Life Open

The number 1 seeds at Indian Wells, Kveta Peschke and Rennae Stubbs, have been defeated in the second round by the team of Mariya Koryttseva and Vladmira Uhlirova, 1-6, 6-4, 10-8. Don't you just love the super-tiebreak?...

Nicole Vaidisova out of Indian Wells

Casey Dellacqua, who showed a big improvement in form at the Australian Open, whacked twelve aces tonight, and won a slot in the third round of the Pacific Life Open, upsetting Nicole Vaidisova, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4. Dellacqua will have her work cut out for her in the next round, when she plays Tamira Paszek.

Quote of the week

I'm not a great athlete. I need to have everything right and precise to compete well and people didn't think I could be a Top 10 player and now I'm there and he (father/coach) gives me the harder preparation that I need.

Marion Bartoli

What has happened to Sybille Bammer?

During the last part of the 2007 season, Sybille Bammer raised her game to a higher level, and gave us all a look at what we thought would be a great 2008 season for her. But so far this season, with the exception of her win over Svetlana Kuznetsova in Doha, she has had a bad time of it. Just last week, Anastasia Rodionova defeated Bammer in the second round of the Bangalore Open, and today, Chan Yung-Jan defeated her 6-1, 6-3 in the second round of the Pacific Life Open.

Bammer will now drop out of the top 20, which isn't something I expected to happen.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Insult to injury

It's bad enough that FSN Southwest is showing very little of Indian Wells. I waited all day to see coverage that isn't even live.

Dulko injured

Gisela Dulko retired after her first set against Lindsay Davenport at the Pacific Life Open today. She has had a lot of injury problems lately; this time it was a right quadriceps strain.

ESPN and FSN can both go to hell

ESPN has dumped Indian Wells coverage, of course, and FSN is not a network, but a series of regional networks. If you get FSN West, you get to see lots of the Pacific Life Open, and I think you get to see a lot of it if you have FSN North, too. I have FSN Southwest, and the coverage is terrible. And I've heard that some people have FSN channels with even worse coverage than FSN Southwest.

Thanks, ESPN.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Wozniacki upsets Kirilenko

The unpredictable Maria Kirilenko was emphatically eliminated from the Pacific Life Open today by the talented Caroline Wozniacki, 6-2, 6-0. Wozniacki's serve was definitely on, giving her high first serve percentages and a second service point win record of 80%. She never gave Kirilenko a break point.

Another big winner was Ashley Harkleroad, who beat Lucie Safarova, 7-6, 2-6, 6-4. Both women had trouble with their second serves, and each woman double-faulted ten times.

In doubles, sixth-seeded Peng Shuai and Sun Tiantian were upset by Dinara Safina and Elena Vesnina, 4-6, 6-1, 10-4, in the first round. Peng and Sun won the Bangalore Open last week.

China adds cat slaughter to its Olympics "preparation"

Not content just to kill stray dogs and to slaughter pet dogs in front of their families, or to siphon water from poor farmers, the Chinese government has now added cat slaughter to its list of Olympic "preparation" activities. Using 12th Century logic, China has frightened its citizens into sending their "diseased" cats to their deaths.

And still, not one country, not one athlete, has made a decision to boycott the event.

Miami wild cards announced

The following players have been given wild cards to the main draw of the Sony Ericsson Open:

Michelle Larcher de Brito
Coco Vandewegh
Sorana Cirstea
Sabine Lisicki
Anastasia Pivovarova
Stephanie Dubois

Qualifying wild cards went to Audra Cohen, Sloane Stephens, Marina Erakovic, Tammy Hendler, and Anna Tatishvili.

I think that two more main draw wild cards will be chosen soon.

Friday cat blogging--tete-a-tete edition

Tarzan checks out the turtle

And decides it's safe to drink the water

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Jankovic's luggage lost in Dubai

So she asked her mother to pack some things for her in Miami and bring them to Indian Wells. Only her luggage was lost, too. Read about it in Jankovic's Indian Wells blog.

Li withdraws from Indian Wells

Li Na has withdrawn from the Pacific Life Open because of a right knee injury. She withdrew from Dubai because of a leg injury, also.

Also withdrawing from Indian Wells is Laura Granville, who is reported to have a left wrist injury.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Update on Golovin

Tatiana Golovin is having surgery to remove a cyst on her hip. I don't know when the surgery will take place or how long she is expected to be out.

Angela Haynes pulls off upset in first round

I didn't pay any attention to the Pacific Life Open first round match between the talented Sara Errani and Angela Haynes; I just assumed Errani would move on. Surprise! Haynes beat her, 7-5, 6-2. I didn't see that one coming.

Zheng Jie beat down Emelie Loit, 6-0, 6-1, and Tsvetana Pironkova defeated Marta Domachowska, 6-4, 6-2. This also surprised me. Though Pironkova can sometimes put in a good performance, I thought the resurgent veteran would do better.

Also out is Nathalie Dechy, defeated by Mariya Koryttseva, 6-1, 6-4.

For Women's History Month, a shout-out to Sally Ride

When she was a little girl, Sally Ride liked to play football and baseball. When she was ten, her parents, probably realizing that their daughter did not have much of a future in those sports, gave her a tennis racquet. At age eleven, Ride was studying with the great Alice Marble.

Sally Ride went on to become number 18 among juniors nationally, and then moved on to Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, where a sportswriter called her the "best female college player in the East." Ride was torn between playing tennis and becoming a scientist. Then she transferred to Stanford. While she was there, Billie Jean King noticed her and encouraged her to play professional tennis, but Ride made a decision to leave tennis and pursue the sciences.

Everyone knows the rest of this story: Sally Ride became an astronaut, and at age 32, became the first American woman--and the youngest American--to be launched into space. She later became the first woman to be the Capsule Communicator ("Cap Com") at NASA's Mission Control. Because of her tennis training, Ride's hand-eye control was exceptional, and she could manipulate the mechanical robot arm better than anyone else, so she became the first woman included as a member of a shuttle crew.

When Ride left the space program, she worked at the Stanford University Center for International Security and Arms Control. She then became a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego, and Director of the California Space Institute. In 2003, she was asked to serve on the Space Shuttle Columbia Accident Investigation Board. She is the President and CEO of Sally Ride Science, a company she founded in 2001, that creates entertaining science programs and publications for upper elementary and middle school students, with a particular focus on educating and empowering girls.

2008 marks the 25th anniversary of Ride's first trip into space. I remember people standing at the launch site, carrying signs that said Ride Sally Ride! We honor her for her performance as an astronaut, but--had there been a different twist of fate--we might be honoring her as a tennis champion.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Navratilova is Czech again

Martina Navratilova has made good on her desire to become a Czech citizen again. She will now have a dual citizenship and retain her American passport. Navratilova defected from Czechoslovakia in 1975, and became a U.S. citizen in 1981. The Communist Party, meanwhile, stripped her of her Czech citizenship. A few years ago--after the Bush administration established its systemized attack on free speech--Navratilova spoke out about the irony of exchanging one suppressive government for another.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Top qualifying seed out in Indian Wells

Three of the top four qualifying seeds were upset in the first round of qualifying in Indian Wells today.

Rika Fugiwara def. no. 1 seed Alisa Kleybanova, 3-6, 6-1, 7-5

Barbara Zahlavova def. no. 3 seed Petra Cetkovska, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4

Aleksandra Wozniak def. no. 4 seed Erina Erakovic, 6-0, 6-4

Also upset were Stephanie Dubois and Yuliana Fedak.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Jankovic wants a full-time coach

Jelena Jankovic has never had a full-time coach, and she now says she must have one if she is to take her game to another level. There is actually only one more major level to which she can take it--Grand Slam success. A player with superb defensive skills, impressive athleticism and good court savvy, Jankovic nevertheless has some problems. One is her mediocre first serve, and another is her poor second serve. There is, of course, also that issue of having worn her body into the ground from overplay. I am hardly a tennis expert, but it seems to me that taking care of her body and getting a real serve would solve most of Jankovic's problems.

“I don’t want to be alone anymore,” she said. “I want somebody to help me improve my game. I want to listen to somebody who has better knowledge than I do.”

Serena Williams wins Bangalore

After her Bangalore Open semifinal, Patty Schnyder said that her game had held up well--except for her first serve. Apparently, she had the same problem in the final. I didn't get to see it because I am staying in a place where there is no Tennis Channel reception, but perhaps it is just as well. These close finals in which Schnyder loses are kind of heart-breaking for me. All the same, the woman who is supposedly on a slide down managed to get to the final, and she obviously played well enough to make it a close one.

Serena Williams def. Patty Schynder, 7-5, 6-3

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Schnyder to try for her first hard court win over Williams

Patty Schnyder ended Yan Zi's Bangalore run, and Serena Williams ended her sister's chances for another title, so Schnyder and Williams the younger will play in the Bangalore final tomorrow. Schnyder has beaten Wiliams twice, but those victories occurred on clay courts.

Azarenka out of Indian Wells

Victoria Azarenka's knee injury has not healed, and she will not be able to play in the Pacific Life Open. This is the injury Azarenka sustained in Paris.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Here we go again...

Tatiana Golovin has withdrawn from both Indian Wells and Miami. She just cannot stay uninjured for very long.

Blogging may slow down for the next several days

I'm taking a brief vacation and may or may not be blogging at the same level as I am now. So...just in case things slow down, readers will know why.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Dementieva and Safina enter Family Circle Cup

Elena Dementieva practices on the green clay of Charleston

Last year's finalist, Dinara Safina, has entered the 2008 Family Circle Cup. Also entering is recent Dubai winner Elena Dementieva, who was the finalist in Charleston in 2005.

This will be the 35th anniversary of the Family Circle Cup. Other entrants include former champions Justine Henin, Nadia Petrova and Jelena Jankovic, as well as Marion Bartoli, Patty Schnyder, Venus and Serena Williams, and Anna Chakvetadze.

Karatantcheva follows Bovina out the door

After defeating Elena Bovina in the third round of qualifying for the Tennis Channel Open, Sesil Karatantcheva was defeated today in the first round by wild card Madison Brengle, 7-6, 2-6, 6-2. An examination of the match statistics, however, makes me wonder how Brengle could have won.

Getting upset in Bangalore

It happened to Sybille Bammer, who was defeated in the second round by Anastasia Rodionova,
7-5, 6-2. It happened to Agnes Szavay, too: She was beaten in the second round by Akgul Amanmuradova, 4-6, 7-6, 6-4.

And in doubles, it happened to the Williams sisters, who lost to Peng Shuai and Sun Tiantian, 5-7, 6-2, 11-9

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Bud Collins to appear at Family Circle Cup's 35th anniversary

Fireworks, a marching band, a commemorative video, a color guard, and Bud Collins will all be part of a special ceremony at the Family Circle Cup on Tuesday, April 15. Collins will host the ceremony, and will introduce each player entered in the 2008 tournament.

Today is Anna Chakvetadze's birthday

Bovina out in 3rd qualifying round in Las Vegas

Yesterday, I wrote about both Elena Bovina and Sesil Karatantcheva, who--for different reasons--are trying to re-establish themselves on the tour. Today, they played each other in the third round of qualifying for the Tennis Channel Open, an ITF event, in Las Vegas. Karatantcheva defeated Bovina, 6-1, 4-6, 7-5.

There is an outside chance that Cara Black will not play at Wimbledon

It's a small chance, I think, but the British government is giving some thought to banning all Zimbabwean sportspeople from competing in the United Kingdom.

Monday, March 3, 2008

It makes me sad to report the cheery news that Bovina goes to the 3nd round of qualifying in Las Vegas

Former world number 14 Elena Bovina, whose 2005 right shoulder injury has kept her more or less out of competition for a couple of years, won her second qualifying round today in the Tennis Channel Open, an ITF women's event. Bovina, a talented and delightful Russian player, played two events in 2006. In 2007, she was plagued with Morton's neuroma, and had to withdraw from several tournaments because of continuing injuries to her right foot. She is now ranked number 333 in the world. It makes me sad that it is a big deal that she is into the second round of an ITF contest, but at least she is playing.

In other comeback news, Sesil Karatantcheva also won her second qualifying round in Las Vegas, defeating Amber Liu. Next, she plays Bovina.

Bovina def. Lu Jingjing, 6-3, 6-4

Karatantcheva def. Liu, 6-3, 6-3

Defending champion out in first round in Bangalore

Defending champion Yaraslava Shvedova met her match today in Bangalore

Yaraslava Shvedova, the 2007 winner of the Bangalore Open, went out in the first round today to opponent Akgul Amanmuradova, who defeated her 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Amanmuradova's next task is to play Agnes Szavay. Upset, anyone?

Can anyone but Henin win the French Open?

I bring this up because--though the Roland Garros contest is a few months away--people are talking about it. Henin is undoubtedly the one to beat in Paris. Here are the tour's veteran contenders:

Svetlana Kuznetsova: On paper, she is the top contender, and--in fact--she should already have won the French Open. Outstanding on clay, Kuznetsova has everything she needs to win in Paris--except nerve. In 2006, she folded in the second set of the final, made a series of unforced errors, and lost to Henin.

Nadia Petrova: In 2006, she was such a contender that I thought she was probably going to win the French Open. But she injured herself during a warm-up in Paris and consequently went out in the first round. She has not been the same since, and indeed, appears to be on a fast slide to hell, going out in the first round of almost every tournament she has entered this year.

Amelie Mauresmo: She has never done well on her home court, and now she is struggling just to remain on the tour. I list her because--despite her proclaimed preference for grass--she is an all-surface player, and has been a top clay court player in other tournaments. There is a strong argument that, she, too, should have already won in Paris.

Mary Pierce: Pierce has been out a long time with an injury. She says she's back now, and I expect she will get a wild card to Roland Garros, but it won't mean much. Pierce won the French Open in 2000, and she was the finalist in 2005, when she went to pieces--probably from fatigue--and gave a disastrous performance.

Elena Dementieva: Dementieva was the finalist in 2004, but lost to Anastasia Myskina. Her service problems have taken her out of contention for all of the big titles, but with her resurgence in Dubai, she becomes one of only a couple of veterans who have a chance to shine.

Serena Williams: Which Serena will show up at the French Open? We just never know. She has won it before, in 2002, but last year, she could not get past Henin, and the odds are against her getting past Henin now.

The recent contenders:

Ana Ivanovic: Ivanovic was the finalist in 2007, and--like Mary Pierce in 2005--totally wilted when she found herself playing on Suzanne Lenglen court on the last day, creating another of the most boring French Open finals in recent history; the officials should have just given Henin the trophy after the first set. Ivanovic says she has shaken off the nerves now, but whether she can make it to another final is debatable.

Nicole Vaidisova: Vaidisova has a lot of talent, but she, too, is shaky in the head department when it comes to big moments. She made it to the semifinals in 2006, and to the quarterfinals last year.

Jelena Jankovic: It is no secret that Jankovic is one of my favorite players on the tour, and yes, I do believe she has the potential to win the French Open. But of course, Jankovic has some issues that have kept her from winning a big one: Her serve is desperately in need of improvement, and she now has fitness problems because of over-playing in 2007.

Tatiana Golovin: I include Golovin because after she worked with Mats Wilander, the improvement in her game was dramatic. But she has recently taken a slide, and of course, she is chronically injured. As good as she can be at times, I don't give her much chance of emerging the winner at Roland Garros, but I also cannot count her out.

Jankovic makes a wise decision

And sounds like she means it.

Now, when are we going to hear that she's hired that service coach her mother mentioned?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Mauresmo speaks frankly

About her illness, her loss of ranking, and her depression, in the Sunday Times.

Peter Bodo wants Amelie to toughen up.

Will Mary Pierce get a wild card into the French Open?

She says she is physically fine again and ready to play in Paris.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Davenport wins everything in Memphis

Lindsay Davenport won the Regions Morgan Keenan Tennis Championships in Memphis without dropping a set, defeating Olga Govortsova, 6-2, 6-1 tonight in the final. She rested for an hour, and then--with partner Lisa Raymond--won the doubles championship, also. Davenport and Raymond defeated Angela Haynes and Mashona Washington, 6-3, 6-1.

Pennetta wins Acapulco

Flavia Pennetta, playing in her fifth consecutive Abierto Mexicano TELCEL final, has won the title, defeating Alize Cornet, 6-0, 4-6, 6-1. Pennetta won the title in 2005, also, and is now 24-4 at at the event.

Llagostera Vives continues her nice run

Nuria Llagostera Vives won her fourth career doubles title today, as she and partner Maria Martinez Sanchez defeated Iveta Benesova and Petra Cetkovska in the final of the Abierto Mexicano TELCEL tournament in Acapulco. Last week, Llagostera Vives won her second career singles title in Bogota.

Llagostera Vives/Martinez Sanchez def. Benesova/Cetkovska, 6-2, 6-4

This and that...

Eleni Daniilidou has split from her coach--no word yet on who the new coach will be.

In Bangalore, number 1 qualifying seed Ayumi Morita has been defeated by Melanie South, 4-6, 6-0, 6-0. Looks like an injury issue, yes?

Tracy Austin likes Agnes Szavay's backhand.

Sharapova on the Doha awards event: "Let me just mention that the noise of the motorcycles during the ceremony scared the living crap out of me...."

The White Mile, Patty Schnyder's book, co-authored by her husband and coach, Rainer Hoffman, is due to be released in Europe this month. However, since the excerpts that were to have been published in September of last year never appeared on the website, I suspect that the book's publication may be delayed.

Dementieva wins Dubai

In the first set of the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships, it looked for all the world like Svetlana Kuznetsova had her confidence back in a big match. She played superbly against Jelena Jankovic in the semifinals, and this looked like it might be another exciting, well-played match. But after the first set, the old Kuznetsova made an appearance--the one who gets tight when things are going wrong and just hits and hits and hits, without regard for accuracy or patience. It was not hard for Dementieva to capitalize on her opponent's weaknesses.

Dementieva def. Kuznetsova, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 (and check out the trophy!)

Cara Black and Liezel Huber won the doubles title, defeating Yan Zi and Zheng Jie, 7-5, 6-2.