Saturday, February 28, 2009
It didn't help Pennetta that Venus Williams was playing about as well as a person could play. It took her only an hour to defeat the defending champion 6-1, 6-2. I do not speak Spanish and could not follow, but it was obvious that Pennetta was very good-humored in her award-ceremony speech. I have no idea what happened to her--maybe it was just one of those bad days. Williams and Pennetta are now 3-3, head-to-head.
Friday, February 27, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Jelena Dokic is currently training at the Bollettieri Academy.
Eurosport has a biographical/analytical piece online about Alexandria Wozniak.
James Martin sees the so-called "sanctions" of the 2009 Roadmap (I can't stand even typing that phrase) for what they are.
Steffi Graf and Kim Clijsters will be among the players engaged in an exhibition event that will "test" (what--it might explode?) the new roof at Wimbledon.
Next for Williams is Agnes Szavay, who has been struggling to play every opponent she sees for some time now. A lucky loser, Szavay has somehow managed to get herself into the quarterfinals, where she belongs. This is a player who badly needs a confidence boost, and the knowledge that Williams is having to work too hard on the Acapulco courts could help her out.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Gisela Dulko did not have the same good fortune. The 4th seed fell to Maret Ani, 7-6, 6-3. Dulko's winning opponent in last week's Bogota final, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, is also out in the second round, losing to Petra Cetkovska. And 3rd seed Carla Suarez Navarro--probably still playing with an injury--lost to Barbora Zahlavova Strycov.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
According to the ARGWUS blog, Robert Radwanski--father and manager of the Radwanska sisters--has declared that his daughters will not play in Dubai next year. A protest against the treatment of Shahar Peer? No--a protest against the treatment of Aga and Urszula: "It's not politics. We just won't play where we are not welcomed. For the organizers of this tournament, if you're not Williams or Sharapova, you're no one. They have let us all emphatically feel it." That's not politics?
Kristie Ahn, a junior who impressed me at the U.S. Open, lost the final today at the SMASH Junior Cup in South Carolina. She was defeated in straight sets by Alison Riske, whose reward is a wild card into qualifying at the Family Circle Cup.
Anne Keothavong has finally made it to the world's top 50, coming in at number 48. So far, two-thirds of those voting in the Eurosport poll have said that Keothavong will not win a tournament this year. Keothavong complains that a lack of professionalism in the LTA has held her back, or--as the always-candid Brit told the BBC: "If I knew what I know now I could've been in the top 50 years ago." I don't have any trouble believing Keothavong. The last time I checked, the LTA was very busy trying to convince girls they could be athletes and still be "feminine."
Speaking of rankings, Kaia Kanepi is now in the top 20 (number 20).
Patty Schnyder's official website has disappeared, though the English version (never as good as the European version) is still online. I hope this is a temporary status. The website for The White Mile is still online, too. The last time Schndyer was interviewed about the book, which was to have been released in Europe July of last year, she said that she and husband/coach Reiner Hoffman became very busy and had not yet figured out how to tie all of the parts of the book together. There are still no excerpts on the website.
The Family Circle Cup--the first women's tournament to offer $100,000 in prize money, and the first to be broadcast on television--is played on green clay, which is a bit faster surface than European red clay, but is clay nonetheless. Players do a lot of sliding and there are a lot of service breaks, of course. The event is exceptionally well-run, and there is a lot of access to players. I have been attending since 2005 and look forward every year to my trip to Daniel Island (where the tournament is held) and Mount Pleasant, where we stay. Last year was the event's 35th anniversary, and it was very special.
Monday, February 23, 2009
For reasons unknown to me, Agnes Szavay had to qualify to play in Acapulco (as the top qualifying seed), and she was defeated in the final round of qualifying, this time by countrywoman Greta Arn, who is ranked number 160 in the world. The last time I was able to look at the scoreboard, Szavay was up 5-1 in the first set. She took that set, 6-1, but Arn took the next two--1-6, 7-5, 6-2.
Something is wrong with Szavay; I suspect it is something mental. I'm just taking an educated guess, of course, but perhaps this is one of those occasions when it would be best for her to play some ITF tournaments until her confidence returns.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Speaking of Dulko, it didn't exactly surprise me, but I'm sure it surprised many, to see her as number 4 on both 2009 Sony Ericsson WTA Tour power index lists. The television commentators always go on and on about how Dulko doesn't have the power to play whoever her opponent is, and while they are saying this, she is smacking the ball in a spectacular way. Last year, in Charleston, she gave Serena Williams a real run, and in the middle of one long rally, some terribly sexist--but accurate--man yelled out "That little girl can hit the ball!" It's true. Dulko is a very small woman, but she can really hit the ball.
The left-handed Martinez Sanchez reached the third round of the Australian Open this year, but was then defeated by countrywoman Carla Suarez Navarro.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Meanwhile, in Bogota, top seeds Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez defeated number 2 seeds Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta 7-5, 3-6, 10-7. Dulko and Pennetta had a better semifinal, in which they won a truly super tiebreak, 20-18.
Not that many years ago, all eyes were on a fifteen-year-old named Nicole Vaidisova. She could hit the ball hard and she had some talent. Many people expected great things from her, but now her name is barely mentioned; she is number 65 in the world. We were also watching the very talented Lucie Safarova, who turned out to be streakier than a kindergarten drawing, and is now number 50 in the world.
A couple of years ago, we watched some more players with great interest: Tamira Paszek, Agnieszka Radwanska and Agnes Szavay. Some of us also had our eyes on Caroline Wozniacki and Alize Cornet. Paszek has had her share of problems, and is currently ranked number 70. Szavay has been going out in the first round at most tournaments for several months now; her current ranking of 29 may soon look good if she doesn't change something soon.
The others have done better. Cornet, perhaps the most watchable of all of them, is number 11 in the world, but shows signs of significant mental weakness. She is still young, and can overcome that. If she does, I think she can have a very nice career. World number 12 Wozniacki, like Cornet, is a fiery player who has impressed many of us. She, too, should have a very nice career.
World number 10 Radwanska is a little harder to read. Radwanska is a very fine court thinker who can hit deadly accurate groundstrokes. But she tends to fold when she faces players who give her a lot of variety, such as Patty Schnyder and Amelie Mauresmo. Radwanska will have to learn how to handle these players (though--sadly--there are not many of them) if she is to improve.
That leaves Azarenka. For a time, Azarenka got into finals and lost them. She did that four times, in fact. Then she won Brisbane, and now she seems like a different player; now she has belief. Her performance at the Australian Open, unfortunately terminated by illness, was excellent. She just won Memphis, and did so by handily defeating Wozniacki.
Any of the above-named women could still break through in a big way, and it wouldn't surprise me. Players do things in their own time. But right now, the one who looks more and more like the real thing every day is Azarenka.
This time, Billie Jean King talks about being gay on the tour, but she just had to find a way to tell us--one more time, in case we didn't hear it the first ten times--that she really wasn't trying to help women when she became a sudden feminist hero. Really, she wasn't...
During the Dubai final, a Tennis TV commentator described Venus Williams as "sort of an octopus--you can't get around her reach."
Dubai organizers say that for Andy Ram, security will be no problem.
Tracy Austin has been appointed to the position of player development consultant for the USTA, and will report to Patrick McEnroe, who is the general manager of player development. Austin will help coach the players who are training in Carson, California, including: Sloane Stephens, Nicole Gibbs, Asia Muhammad, and Coco Vandewegh. (Thanks to Zoo Tennis for this link.)
I saw a transcript of an interview with Daniela Hantuchova, in which she makes it clear that--if Roger Federer were to ask her to be his mixed doubles partner, she would accept. Just to get this straight: Hantuchova has to sit and wait for Federer to ask her. After all, it's not like she holds a career Grand Slam in mixed doubles...
This is one tennis fan who sends a big virtual bouquet to Roddick for taking a stand that includes action.
You do the Hantuchova
and you turn yourself around...
One of Razzano's tactics was to turn her back on Williams before Williams served, thus slowing down the pace, at least symbolically. Razzano's serves were nothing to sneeze at, and she used her first serve very effectively throughout the set.
Before the set was over, though, Razzano would complain of lower back pain and would call for a trainer. She received treatment and continued play, but was broken by Williams when she served at 4-5, giving Williams the first set.
The second set was a completely different story, with Razzano double-faulting five times, and making errors even when she was handed great opportunities by Williams, whose serve also fell apart toward the end. It was because Williams' serve went to pieces, in fact, that Razzano avoided a second set bagel. Williams took the match, 6-4, 6-2.
Was Razzano's back problem what did her in in the second set? Maybe. Or perhaps it was just exhaustion. Or playing Williams. Or all of the above.
At any rate, Williams has now won her fortieth tour singles title, and is starting the 2009 season very impressively.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Does anyone have any insight about this?
Meanwhile, the unseeded team of Yuliana Fedak and Michaella Krajicek have knocked out the top-seeded team of Vania King and Alla Kudryavtseva and have reached the final.
Razzano had a lot of momentum then, but did not win any tournaments in 2008. In fact, she was not able to defend her Tokyo title because of a back injury. The world number 58 has been a streaky player for some time, and one hopes that her success in Dubai this week will put a stop to that pattern. This week, Razzano defeated both world number 2 Dinara Safina and world number 5 Vera Zvonareva. Now--having defeated Kaia Kanepi in straight sets in the semifinals--she has reached the final of a very big event, and waiting for her, once again, is Venus Williams.
Williams, for her part, put herself ahead 10-9 today, in Williams sisters match competition. She defeated Serena Williams 6-1, 2-6, 7-6.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Joining them will be 16th seed Kaia Kanepi, who defeated qualifier Elena Vesnina 6-3, 7-5. Kanepi's opponent will be Virginie Razzano, who played a stunning 7-6, 7-5 match to defeat Vera Zvonareva. The match was dramatic and tense--so much so that Razzano wept when it was over. It took Razzano too long to close the match, but close it she finally did, after hitting a stupendous fifty winners.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Serena Williams vs. Ana Ivanovic
Elena Dementieva vs. Venus Williams
Elena Vesnina vs. Kaia Kanepi
Vera Zvonareva vs. Virginie Razzano
Caroline Wozniacki vs. Michaella Krajicek
Anne Keothavong vs. Marina Erakovic
Sabine Lisicki vs. Lucie Safarova
Pauline Parmentier vs. Victoria Azarenka
Gabriela Sabatini was honored by the International Tennis Hall of Fame Sunday at the Copa Telmex tournament in Buenos Aires.
Andy Ram, Shahar Peer's countryman, has been granted a visa to play in Dubai.
CNN's "Revealed" follows Venus Williams both on court and off.
In the gossip category--Elena Vesnina is dating Anastasia Myskina's ex, and Serena Williams has been spotted again with Common.
Todd Spiker brings us some good news, for a change, about Julia Vakulenko. Vakulenko--now ranked a miserable number 349 in the world--recently won the Rancho Mirage $25k title in California.
The tournament should automatically lose the right to exist. I know that carries unbelievable financial and political ramifications, and sometimes you have to be willing to live in a two-faced environment. But if this tournament is going to send out invitations and only ask who they want, if that's the way they want it to be, then they're an exhibition.According to Ford, Sony Ericsson WTA Tour chairman and CEO Larry Scott said he has been concerned about the situation for more than a year. "I saw firsthand that there were some issues," Scott said. "I met with government officials and I told them I expected Shahar Peer would want to play the following year, and that whatever issues they had needed to be solved."
If we question the United Arab Emirates' ethics, the WTA's decision to invest in Dubai in 2003 and the tour's judgment in allowing the event to go forward without Peer, we probably also should question why the 55 players on site didn't caucus when they found out she was on the other side of the barbed wire and try to imagine how it would feel if it happened to them on the basis of race, religion or passport.
"There are so many other people involved. Sponsors are important to us," said Williams. "We wouldn't be here without sponsors. We can't let sponsors down. Whatever we do, we need to do as a team--players, sponsors, tour, and whoever--and not all break off in one direction. We are team players."
Williams also spoke strongly about Peer's right--and any player's right--to play in a tournament anywhere in the world. She is going to Miami soon to attend a meeting that will address the Dubai issue.
Other seeds gone today are Alize Cornet, who lost to Venus Williams, Marion Bartoli and Dominika Cibulkova--both of whom retired--and Anabel Medina Garrigues, who lost to Elena Dementieva. The Jankovic loss was the only upset, however. Virginie Razzano, not content to just take out Safina, also defeated Daniela Hantuchova today.
Zheng Jie fought hard against Serena Williams, but Williams pushed her into taking a lot of risks that resulted in errors. Williams was finding angles that probably made Zheng's head spin. It was a good match, with Williams winning 6-4, 6-2.
Also retiring today was Marion Bartoli, whose foot blisters took her out of her third round match against Vera Zvonareva.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Wozniacki looks very strong in the Memphis field; playing Dokic was probably one of the biggest challenges in front of her, and she handled that extremely well. Waiting for her, possibly, will be Victoria Azarenka, who is seeded second. 3rd seed Lucie Safarova lurks in Azarenka's side of the draw, however.
Other players who could possibly fight their way to the last days of play are Anne Keothavong, Sabine Lisicki, and even Michaella Krajicek, though she will be facing Wozniacki very soon.
There was also some illness. Urszula Radwanska, who prevailed over her 9th seeded sister yesterday, had to retire during her match against Camille Pin (making her a really "lucky loser") because of heat illness.
Sara Errani took a set off of Serena Williams, who not only won the match, but delivered Errani a third-set bagel. Venus Williams ran over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-0, 6-1.
Peskiric, who is ranked number 137 in the world, double-faulted elevent times in the match; Pennetta double-faulted ten times. The players' stats are almost identical, except that Pennetta was able to win more break points. In the end, though, that wasn't enough.
Monday, February 16, 2009
This is an easy decision to come by, based on what is right and wrong. Sports are about merit, absent of background, class, race, creed, color, or religion. They are simply about talent. This is a classic case, not about what country did what to another country. If the state of Israel were barring a citizen of an Arab nation, we would have made the same decision.
Solomon went on to say:
The entire field of competitors is diminished by this happening. It hurts them all. Shahar earned the right to be in the tournament. She’s been on a roll and could have won it. It’s just hard to imagine this happening in this day and age.Solomon also talked about having a "higher duty" because tennis has always been at the forefront of fighting different types of discrimination. (I'm not sure that tennis has always been at the forefront, but if Solomon believes it, and that is his motivation,then Justin Gimelstob should certainly not be in a Tennis Channel broadcast booth.)
Tennis Channel is the only entity to step forward and effect a formal boycott of the Dubai event. Diane Pucin, writing in The Los Angeles Times, has called for tour players to boycott the event:
It's too much to ask the WTA Tour to cancel the event. Not offending any sponsors seems more important than supporting a player who has been wronged, but what could have been an important statement by players supporting players seems to have been wasted.Pucin goes on to name several players who should well understand bigotry and the harm that war does to sport. I thought of those same players, too, when Peer was denied the visa. She concludes:
Dubai would have no tournament this week if the athletes stood as a group and said no play without Peer. The tour should be canceling the event now.
It's an egregious misuse of politics against sports and one player has suffered. The suffering shouldn't be Peer's. It should be that of the tournament directors who don't have the guts to buck politics. The suffering should go to the tournament sponsors and to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. They owe it to all the players to stand up for one.
Chakvetadze was beaten by Ayumi Morita, 7-5, 6-2.
In other Dubai news, things went better for Ana Ivanovic this time when she played Alisa Kleybanova in their second round match. Ivanovic won, 7-5, 6-4.
But there was other sister news. The wildly inconsistent Bondarenko sisters, Alona and Kateryna, defeated 6th seeds Yan Zi and Zheng Jie, 6-3, 4-6, 11-9. Alona also won her first round singles match against Olga Govortsova, but Kateryna lost hers to Virginie Razzano.
First Li, now Kuznetsova. In the next round, Vesnina will face either Tsvetana Pironkova or Dominika Cibulkova.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
The tour site has a nice piece on Julie Coin, who is playing in Memphis this week.
I continue to not like the dress style, but I am quite fond of the shade of orange worn by Jelena Jankovic during the Open GDF SUEZ.
The Billie Jean King Cup, which will be played in Madison Square Garden, will be broadcast live on HBO, 7:30 p.m., EST, on Monday, March 2.
Jarmilla Gajdosova was recently married to ATP player Sam Groth.
Laura Robson is now ranked number 2 in the world among junior girls.
Tennis TV is working out pretty well for me. I had some problems with it--and I still have a few--but I have straightened out much of the difficulty, and can now enjoy watching (when I'm not working--work really gets in the way of my tennis viewing) matches I would not ordinarily get to see. I bought a WTA pass only; I was afraid that if I bought the ATP pass, too, I wouldn't do anything but watch tennis in my spare time. I already drag a netbook around with me to check scores. Now--sometimes--I can even sneak a peek at a match while I'm typing or waiting.
Kaia Kenepi defeated her Dubai doubles partner, Tamira Paszek, 2-6, 6-2, 6-0. (Kanepi and Paszek were eliminated in the first round of doubles.)
Another up-and-coming player, Anastasia Pavyluchenkova, upset Maria Kirilenko, 6-2, 6-4.
Elena Vesnina, who, for some reason (if anyone knows the reason, please tell me) has significantly elevated her game this season, defeated Li Na, 1-6, 6-4, 6-4. Granted, Li is just returning to the tour, but this is still an impressive win from Vesnina.
Sony Ericsson WTA Tour chairman and CEO Larry Scott has issued the following statement:
The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour believes very strongly, and has a clear rule and policy, that no host country should deny a player the right to compete at a tournament for which she has qualified by ranking. The Tour is reviewing appropriate remedies for Ms. Peer and also will review appropriate future actions with regard to the future of the Dubai tournament.
I don't know what that means, but I do know this: A solution would be for tour players to boycott this tournament. I also know this: They won't do it. The players do not stand up to sexism (they seem to have internalized it very well, like the culture at large) or racism or ethnicism or discrimination against LGBT players, so there is no reason to think they will stand up for Peer. I just hope that "appropriate future actions" is not just a turn of phrase.
In Pattaya City, the victory went to number 2 seeds Yaroslava Shvedova and Tamarine Tanasugarn, who defeated Yulia Beygelzimer and Vitalia Diatchenko, 6-3, 6-2.
Amelie Mauresmo, the woman with the most beautiful game on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, had not won a tournament since Antwerp in 2007. Plagued with appendicitis, a post-surgical abdominal strain, several episodes of thigh strain, and a massive loss of confidence, the Frenchwoman was written off by many. But today, in her beloved Paris, she showed once again why she has so often been called "champion."
She could not have had a more formidable opponent. Elena Dementieva's extreme athleticism was on display (these are two of the top four or five athletes on the tour), and the two players gave the Paris crowd plenty
Photo courtesy of After Atalanta
of thrills with their beautiful shot-making. The first half of the first set was nothing but breaks of serve, but then Dementieva held. Her lead was brief, however, as Mauresmo brought the set to 5-all. She then won a tight tiebreak, 8-6.
Dementieva dominated Mauresmo in the second set, and won it, 6-2. In the third set, Mauresmo's confidence, serve and concentration returned, and--though she had to serve for the match twice--she won it 6-4. Mauresmo repeatedly used her backhand slice to throw Dementieva off balance, and--despite some rough patches--also used her serve to set up winning volleys. This was vintage Mauresmo--backhand slice, net rushes, lots of variety. Her forehand was looking pretty good, too.
Mauresmo wept when she won the match--her third Paris victory--as one would expect. Having been counted out over and over, she had much to prove, and she proved it. The season is just beginning...allez!
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Rybarikova stretched, but lost in the semifinals to Sania Mirza, 6-4, 5-7, 6-1. Zvonareva defeated Shahar Peer in the semifinals, 6-1, 6-4, so now it is down to Zvonareva and Mirza. Mirza has had her share of problems--political and physical--and it is good to see her in a final. She will have her hands full with Zvonareva, however.
Sam Stosur vs. Magdalena Rybarikova: If Stosur is going to have another loss of confidence, the young Rybarikova could clean up. But if the Australian plays the way she did in Fed Cup against Thailand, she should advance.
Amelie Mauresmo vs. Anabel Medina Garrigues: If Mauresmo is in form, she can get through this match with focused effort. If not, the relentless Medina Garrigues will make it hard for her.
Alize Cornet vs. Anna-Lena Groenefeld: Groenefeld has not impressed much since her outstanding 2008 U.S. Open comeback. But on a good day, she is a tough competitor, and if she can get into Cornet's head, she has a chance.
As far as I can tell, there is only one really interesting first round coming up in Memphis: Melanie Oudin will play her Fed Cup teammate, Jill Craybas.
Dementieva's opponent in the Open GDF SUEZ will be Amelie Mauresmo, the only Frenchwoman to survive the quarterfinals.
I hate it when one of my favorites plays another of my favorites, so it was with some uneasiness that I watched Mauresmo play Jelena Jankovic today. The first set showcased the Mauresmo we saw demolish Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarterfinals. She served extremely well, made some thrilling volleys, and maintained strong momentum to take the first set 6-2. Jankovic, for her part, was not serving that well or playing very aggressively.
In the second set, Mauresmo went away, losing her confidence and her serve. Jankovic had no trouble taking advantage of this situation, and she brought her own game up to a much higher level--the level that we expect of her. So lopsided was this set that Jankovic won it 6-0.
The third set did not begin well for Mauresmo--she was broken right off. But in a surprise turn, she broke Jankovic right back, then got the crowd even more involved than before. She then held, for the first time in a very long time, and--just like that--her confidence, and her serve, came back. She broke Jankovic to go up 3-1, then held, then broke Jankovic again. At 5-1, Mauresmo took the match on her third match point.
Despite the crazy nature of this match, it was nevertheless very enjoyable. As one of the commentators succinctly put it: Mauresmo won the short points, Jankovic won the long ones. There were some stunning rallies, with both women showing off their extreme athleticism. Jankovic's famous backhand down the line was on exhibition more than once, and Mauresmo showed yet again that she can volley her way to victory.
Friday, February 13, 2009
I know I join others in saying I hope that reporter--and all of Mauresmo's detractors--eat those words with a big helping of crow, on a stale croissant, and without the benefit of a fine French wine. Because Mauresmo is back, and she looks like she did in 2006. Today, she demolished Agnieska Radwanska, 6-2, 6-0, and it was a joy to see her do it. I don't mean this as anything against the Polish player, someone about whom I have written many good things. It was just such a pleasure to see Amelie being Amelie, and using that beautiful backhand to delight the French crowd.
The big question is whether Mauresmo's thigh will hold up--she has had repeated problems with it. If it does, she is in good form to cause some real damage on the tour. All we can do is hope, and send lots of positive vibes to her physio.
Elena Dementieva had an easy time of it against an obviously spent Nathalie Dechy. I got the impression Dechy had used up all her energy in her win against Patty Schnyder. Dementieva def. Dechy, 6-3, 6-2.
Serena Williams looked out of sorts in her first set against Emelie Loit, but got herself together to win, 6-4, 6-1.
Agnieszka Radwanska is a very good player, but she looked helpless against an in-form Amelie Mauresmo, who was the only one of four Frenchwomen to win her quarterfinal match--6-2, 6-0.
In the semifinals, Mauresmo will face Jelena Jankovic, and Serena Williams will play Elena Dementieva.
Elena Dementieva's mother is over her illness (or at least, she is better--Dementieva never said what the illness was) and in attendance in Paris.
Kimiko Date Krumm reports in her Pattaya blog that she still prepares rice balls for herself before every match.
Magdalena Rybarikova upset number 2 seed Caroline Wozniacki in Pattaya City, 6-4, 6-1. Rybarikova has now moved to the semifinals.
Maria Kirilenko has a new coach--her father.
Kirilenko, Tatiano Golovin and Daniela "I want to be noticed for my tennis" Hantuchova appear in the current Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. The mythology built up around this practice (and similar ones) is stunning. Kirilenko, Golovin, etc. are free to appear in any publications they wish, but please--doing so does not in any way "promote women's tennis," and people need to stop saying it does. It promotes the revenue of a sexist magazine, and of copyright-stealing websites that cater to one-handed surfers, who then post sexist and misogynistic comments about tour players. Which is is to say--it does the opposite of promoting women's tennis.
Golovin, by the way, is off the map. The last time I saw a photo of her, she was standing outside a nightclub, smoking a cigarette.
Serena Williams has joined the chorus of players who are protesting that the new doping policies are over the top. I think they are, too; they are identical to the rules used to handle prisoners who are on probation and parole. And this is from a doping control organization that has brought us a number of outrageous decisions (a la Kuznetsova, who I wish had sued their asses off) before the new rules even came into effect.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
I am never happy to see Schnyder defeated, yet I am always glad to see Dechy win. Dechy has an elegant game I like to watch. Following an inury a few years ago, she had trouble getting back into form, so she changed her focus to doubles. She has been quite successful in doubles, but I miss having her in the top 20 in singles.
In 2006, Dechy was number 11 in the world, in fact, and I wish she could have made her way to the top ten. People got to see her at her best during her 2007 Wimbledon match against Ana Ivanovic. That was the match Dechy thought she had won, and then Ivanovic's ball rolled over the net, keeping her in the match, which she eventually won. It was probably the best match of the tournament.
In the meantime, Jelena Jankovic defeated Li Na, something she has done only once before in five previous meetings. The final score was 6-0, 3-6, 6-2.
The other winners were Serena Williams (def. Karolina Sprem), Elena Dementieva (def. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova),
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
And speaking of Italians, Jelena Jankovic just squeaked past Francesca Schiavone, 7-5, 7-6.
In Pattaya City, wild card Noppowan Lertcheewakarn, who is junior world number 1, lost in the first round to Shahar Peer, with a score of 6-1, 6-0.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Some people say that engaging in the boycott makes the sisters poor role models because they are breaking tour rules. I say that standing up to bigotry always makes you a good role model. I remember when the teachers in my state went on strike, and dozens of parents were screaming about what bad role models they were, and about how much class their children were missing. But the thing is--those children learned more from seeing adults standing up for a cause--and for themselves--for a day than they could learn from a month of spelling and geography drills.
If the Williams sisters decide to break their boycott and play at Indian Wells--fine. But if they decide to stay away, I support that decision. Those who think it's time for the sisters to "get over it" need to spend some time in a large arena, listening to their countrypeople call them vile names because of their skin color.
It isn't the Williams sisters who need to change.
I have always thought that Vaidisova was mentally fragile, like so many other talented players on the tour, and I can't say that her lack of success surprises me that much. There is a lot of pressure on a so-called phenom, anyway. Look at Tamira Paszek, for example. Oh, wait--you can't look at her--she went out in the first round in Pattaya City, defeated 6-3, 6-4 by World Team Tennis star Yaroslava Shvedova.
On a brighter note, Karolina Sprem, who fought pretty hard to become a qualifier in Paris, won her first round in straight sets against the talented Petra Kvitova.
Monday, February 9, 2009
The story Flink tells about Goolagong's match against Mona Schallau is wonderful, and it is pure Evonne Goolagong. The little Aboriginal girl who stood outside the fence and watched people play tennis--the child who was given a racquet by Bill Kurtzman when he saw her peering through that fence, and who was then allowed to play, despite her race--became one of the greatest tennis players of all time. The tour's "Sunshine Supergirl," who had to endure both racism and sexism in her career, now works with indigenous children in her Goolagong Development Camp. Lucky kids.
Translated from the French: "That's a good question you're asking me, because in fact I did not want to play this tournament. I wanted to play in Pattaya (I won the tournament last year), but as Vera Zvonareva is already there, WTA appointed me to play here instead. I am not happy, I find that even bad, but what can I do?"
The TENFEM writer points out that the tournament's official website contains an official interview transcript entitled "Great to be in Paris."
I doubt if the two sentiments are really that inconsistent: A person can certainly not want to be at a particular tournament, but that person would have to be certifiably nuts not to want to be in Paris.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Kaia Kanepi vs. Anabel Medina Garrigues: Kanepi is coming off of a big Fed Cup win against Victoria Azarenka, and should be in fine form. She and Medina Garrigues are both known for not giving up until the last bounce of the final ball, so this could be a very good one--and it could be a long one.
Alona Bondarenko vs. Patty Schnyder: Schnyder is also coming off of two very good Fed Cup wins, against Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Sabine Lisicki, and appears to be in good form.
Amelie Mauresmo vs. Sara Errani: Errani beat Mauresmo in Fed Cup play this weekend.
Ekaterina Makarova vs. Daniela Hantuchova: Makarova is likely to give Hantuchova all she can handle.
Francesca Schiavone vs. Jelena Jankovic: You could consider that Schiavone may be worn out after her Fed Cup efforts--or you could consider that she may be very pumped up.
The USA Team's victory in Fed Cup this weekend marked the first time the country had been down 1-2 in Fed Cup competition and emerged victorious.
Billie Jean King says she is going to try to persuade the Williams sisters to give up their ban of Indian Wells. King just happens to be an investor in the tournament, and--pardon me for being a bit cynical--but ever since she began her campaign to "correct" our perception that she was an activist for women's tennis, I have ceased to trust anything that comes out of her mouth. We are living in very non-feminist times (well, that would be almost all times, wouldn't it?), to be sure, but I didn't think I would ever see King back-pedaling on the issue. I don't think that Venus and Serena can be persuaded to play in Indian Wells, and if you've ever heard some of the "apologies," then you will understand why I support the sisters in their boycott.
Amelie Mauresmo plays Sara Errani in the first round of the Open GDF SUEZ next week. Errani defeated her this weekend in Fed Cup competition.
Former world number 14 Elena Bovina, who has had a terrible time of it in her attempt to return to the tour, will be playing in Pattaya City next week. Junior world number 1 Noppawan Lertcheewakarn has a wild card into the main draw.
Here is one of the dresses that Maria Sharapova might have worn in Melbourne. I like it, and hope we get to see her in it.
Most of the talent in singles came from Gisela Dulko, who played some of her best tennis to defeat both Melanie Oudin and Jill Craybas. When Dulko's serve is on, she can be a formidable opponent, and her serve was definitely on during this Fed Cup tie. The other main Argentine player was Bettina Jozami, who has an interesting, but flawed, game. She lost to both Craybas and Oudin.
The USA team will play the Czech Republic in the semifinals. The Czech Republic upset Spain, 4-1, with Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova leading the team to victory. The other semifinal will be played between Russia and Italy.
Other final scores in the World Groups:
Serbia def. Japan, 4-1
Ukraine def. Israel, 3-2
Germany def. Switzerland, 3-2
Slovak Republic def. Belgium, 4-1
Patty Schnyder defeated both her doubles partner, Anna-Lena Groenefeld, and Sabine Lisicki, in her singles matches.
Poland was too much for the British team, however, beating them 2-1. Notable, however, is the score of the match between Agnieszka Radwanska and Anne Keothavong: Radwanska defeated Keothavong 7-6, 7-6. In earlier rounds, Keothavong had wins over Arantxa Rus and Agnes Szavay.
Joining Italy in the top half of the draw is Russia, who ended the weekend with a 5-0 lead over China. China had to play without the injured Zheng Jie.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
"It has never happened to me in my career, lost my cool," was Pennetta's comment after the match.
Mauresmo is reported to have observed that Pennetta also verbally insulted the umpire, and that she should have been removed from the match when she made the offensive gesture. Some reports state that Pennetta was given a warning for the verbal abuse, and may have been at risk of losing the match after she made the gesture.
At any rate, Pennetta is still playing in Fed Cup, and will next face Alize Cornet.
Russia 2, China 0
Italy 2, France 0
Argentina 1, USA 1
Czech Republic 1, Spain 1
World Group II
Belgium 0, Slovak Republic 2
Germany 1, Switzerland 1
Serbia 2 Japan 0
Ukraine 1, Israel 1
Friday, February 6, 2009
Australia and New Zealand have gone to the final of the Fed Cup Asia/Oceania Zone World Group I playoff. Australia posted a 3-0 win over Taiwan, and New Zealand defeated Indonesia 2-1. The winner of the final will move to the World Group II playoff.
Tennis Channel has some very funny footage of 15-year-old Maria Sharapova in its feature, "Their Game Before Fame." However, the host comments that--if tennis doesn't work out for Maria--she can always become a "cameraman." Because in order to operate a camera, obviously, you have to be male.
Steve Tignor says of Dinara Safina: "She’s also developing an intriguing, if unfortunate, persona as a terminal second-fiddle: Younger sister to a star, French Open finalist, Olympic silver medalist, Aussie Open finalist. Her current ranking fits her to a T for the moment..."
Steffi Graf and her husband, Andre Agassi, have become investors and spokespeople for the London-based online ticket sales company, Viagogo Ltd.
"Sometimes these dinners can be boring so as a team we found a few ways to amuse ourselves, one of which involved getting photos with badly dressed players and guests. None of us exactly looked like Kate Moss in our grey official team suits but we like to think we looked a bit better than a few of the other teams who wore poorly-fitted suits, hideous puff-sleeved jackets, tacky PVC boots – the usual Euro-trash attire…"
Jugic-Salkic, who has two Sony Ericsson WTA Tour doubles titles, is ranked 170 in the world in singles.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Schiavone was brilliant in 2006, almost single-handedly taking Italy to victory. Both Italy and France have had a hard time of it the last few years, however. Both teams would probably prefer a clay court. Expect Dechy to play doubles for France, most likely with Mauresmo as her partner.
Dokic, by the way, has been granted a wild card for qualifying in Memphis.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Frenchwoman Julie Coin has withdrawn from the Paris tournament, also.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Monday, February 2, 2009
If Sharapova has indeed withdrawn from these tournaments, then the "not enough training" explanation doesn't quite add up.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
10. People never learn: Some people, including players, thought it was amusing when a streaker ran onto the court during a doubles match. Not only did the streaker get onto the court--it took officials a painfully long time to get him off. What happened to Monica Seles could happen again, and apparently, it could happen easily.
9. Somebody bring me some water: Christina McHale is a young and relatively inexperienced girl. Couldn't someone--a coach or a trainer--have told her to adequately hydrate herself the day before a match in Melbourne? There is every indication that no one did. Or perhaps someone did, and McHale just didn't listen. The American wild card was easily out-playing her opponent, Jessica Moore, in the first round, but she wound up cramping all over and losing. It was painful to watch McHale, who stayed on the court to the bitter end. (One consolation, however, was that she and her partner won the junior girls doubles title.)
8. Are you being served?: Ana Ivanovic, last year's finalist, made a third round exit, defeated by Alisa Kleybanova. The 2008 French Open champion has not found her form since injuring her thumb, and is having serious Safina-like issues with her ball toss when she serves.
7. Could have used some more drama: Jelena Jankovic, world number 1 when she arrived in Melbourne, made a round of 16 exit, defeated by a very in-form Marion Bartoli in straight sets. It wasn't a surprise. The woman known as the tour's Drama Queen looked confused and sluggish on the court, and when she packed her things, she apparently left her newly improved serve in Florida.
6. But she was the favorite!...: More people picked Venus Williams to win the Australian Open than anyone else. But not Carla Suarez Navarro. The creative Spaniard dispensed with Williams in three sets in the second round.
5. If you can't take the heat...: Everyone talks about the heat rule, but no one really understands it. The roof was open, the roof was closed. Ask Svetlana Kuznetsova about the roof--she could tell you a thing or two. This was the hottest Australian Open on record, yet the roof was open a great deal. How hot was it? It was so hot, the rubber burned off of the tires of the wheelchair players' chairs, and the players wound up with burns and blisters on their hands. Oh, and Jelena Jankovic's feet got pretty hot, too.
4. Next time, skip lunch: Victoria Azarenka woke up the morning of her fourth round match and vomited. She felt better later in the day, and in her first set against Serena Williams, she looked fabulous. Azarenka took that set, 6-2, but after that, she was reeling and bobbing on the court, a victim of food poisoning. She took a medical break, was advised to retire, went back out and played a bit more, then had to call it quits. It wasn't pretty. The retirement created the biggest "if" of the tournament.
3. We're losing? You're kidding...: Cara Black, Liezel Huber, Daniela Hantuchova, and Ai Sugiyama played in the thriller of the 2009 Australian Open, a match that lasted three hours. Hantuchova and Sugiyama were down 2-5 in the third, and right when the officials were probably preparing the interviews and announcements, the 9th seeds turned it around, and forced a tiebreak. They had won the first set tiebreak 7-0, but this time--playing against the top seeds--they went down 2-6. No big deal--Hantuchova and Sugiyama won the tiebreak 12-10. In all, they saved seven match points, and won the quarterfinal match 7-6, 3-6, 7-6.
2. Mama said knock you out: Oracene Williams, coach and mother of Serena Williams, sat calmly in her box as her daughter demolished 3rd seed Dinara Safina in the final. It helped that Safina could hardly serve at all. Williams easily won her tenth major, 6-0, 6-2, and is again number 1 in the world.
1. Aussie Aussie Aussie!: I never dreamed I would be including Jelena Dokic in this list, much less as number 1, but the return of Dokic was indeed the biggest occurrence of this Australian Open. She won the wild card playoff in Australia, then went about defeating Tamira Paszek, Anna Chakvetadze, Carolina Wozniacki, and Alisa Kleybanova--all very tough opponents. She was finally stopped, in the quarterfinals, by Dinara Safina, and--had she not been exhausted--she probably would have had to be stopped by someone else. Dokic became the first woman in Australian Open history to play five consecutive three-set matches, and--though she obviously has some work to do on her game--she looks fit and confident. The former world number 4 says she is playing better now than she ever has. The crowd adored her, and her adopted country went all out to support her. For someone who has been off the tour for so long, and playing in her first major in five and half years, Dokic was simply outstanding.