Saturday, February 28, 2009

Williams wins in Acapulco

Remember the pod people in Invasion of the Body Snatchers? During the first set--and much of the second set--of tonight's final in Acapulco, I felt that someone had invaded Flavia Pennetta's body and taken it over. Someone who couldn't move and couldn't hit, and whose feet were hopelessly weighted down with Mexican clay. This was the worst performance I have seen from Pennetta in a very long time.

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.

Llagostera Vives and Martinez Sanchez win all-Spanish final

Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez have won the doubles title at the Aierto Mexicano TELCEL tournament in Acapulco. They defeated Lourdes Dominguez Lino and Arantxa Parra Santonja 6-4, 6-2 in the final. Llagostera Vives and Martinez Sanchez are ranked number 18 and 21 respectively in the world

Krajicek through first round of Monterrey qualifying

Michaella Krajicek, a player with abundant talent and equally abundant bad fortune, was given a wild card for Monterrey Open qualifying, and has gotten through to the second round of qualifying. Krajicek defeated Chanelle Scheepers 6-3, 6-2

Friday, February 27, 2009

Williams and Pennetta to meet in Acapulco final

When Venus Williams defeated Flavia Pennetta in Zurich in 2008, she reversed a winning streak by Pennetta that had gone on since 2007. Pennetta had defeated Williams in Bangkok in 2007, and in the French Open (round of 16) and Moscow in 2008. Williams had defeated her once before--in Seoul in 2007, and tomorrow, she will try to bring the rivalry to three matches apiece.

Pennetta defeated Iveta Benesova today to reach the final, and Williams defated Barbora Zahlavova Strycov.

Pennetta recently said that Williams's game has never particularly bothered her. It gives many other players fits, of course, but Pennetta likes to play Williams. Their paths to the final have been quite different: Williams has struggled somewhat, and Pennetta has cruised through. Pennetta is the defending champion, so the pressure is on her to retain the title. This is her sixth consecutive Aierto Mexicano TELCEL final.

One bit of pressure is off, however: The top Italian player and her doubles partner, Gisela Dulko, were eliminated in the semifinal today by Lourdes Dominguez Lino and Arantxa Parra Santonja.

Friday cat blogging--fine art edition

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Acapulco semifinals set for Friday

It took Venus Williams three sets to put away Agnes Szavay (6-2, 5-7, 6-1), and she is now into the semifinals of the Albierto Mexicano TELCEL in Acapulco. Her opponent will be Barbora Zahlavova Strycov, who defeated Maret Ani in the quarterfinals. The other semifinal will feature defending champion Flavia Pennetta and Iveta Benesova. Pennetta defeated Petra Cetkovska, and Benesova defeated Mathilde Johansson.


Dudi Sela says that Shahar Peer is partly to blame for getting shut out of Dubai because she didn't apply for her visa early enough. The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour begs to differ--not to mention that the visa was promised to her a year ago.

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.

Fun In Acapulco--maybe not for Venus

Venus Williams struggled in her first round at the Abierto Mexicano TELCEL tournament, but did defeat Nuria Llagostera Vives, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2. Llagostero Vives broke Williams' serve four times. Yesterday, she struggled again, this time with Greta Arn, who broke her serve only three times, but kept her on the court for two hours and forty-three minutes. Williams won the match, 6-3, 6-7, 6-4.

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

Szavay moves on, Dulko doesn't

Agnes Szavay had a bit of a difficult start, quickly falling to 1-4 down in the first set of her second round Acapulco match against Roberta Vinci. But she turned the set around, then won the match 7-6, 6-4.

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.

Domachowska to come back earlier than expected

Marta Domachowska, you'll recall, was recently diagnosed with probable appendicitis, missed both Fed Cup and Paris, and was expected to be off the tour for some time. However--whatever it is that was wrong with her her--doctors say that no surgery is required, so Domachowska will most likely return at Indian Wells.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lucky loser Szavay makes it to round 2 in Acapulco

Agnes Szavay, who became a truly lucky loser in Acapulco, has won her first round. She defeated 15-year-old Anna Orlik 7-5, 7-5. Her next opponent will be Roberta Vinci, who upset Lucie Safarova in the first round.


Lindsay Davenport, along with her oh, so misunderstood friend, Justin Gimelstob, will be two of the commentators for Fox Sports Network's coverage of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells next month. The Fox Network channel in my area rarely shows tennis, and I can't say that fact is making me especially unhappy in this case.

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.

Azarenka and Wozniacki enter Family Circle Cup

World number 11 Victoria Azarenka and world number 13 Caroline Wozniacki have entered the 2009 Family Circle Cup. Last year, Azarenka lost in the third round to Elena Dementieva, and it was a close and well-played match.

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

Szavay continues her decline

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

Martinez Sanchez wins in Bogota

Gisela Dulko, like Dinara Safina, has two serves--one is deadly, the other is practically nonexistent. She brought the second one to her final in Bogota today, double-faulting thirteen times against Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez. Martinez Sanchez upset Dulko 6-3, 6-2, to win the title.

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

Doubles winners in Memphis and Bogota

Victoria Azarenka, who won the singles championship in Memphis, teamed with the woman she defeated--Caroline Wozniacki--to win the doubles championship, also. 2nd seeded Azarenka and Wozniacki defeated Yuliana Fedak and Michaella Krajicek, 6-1, 7-6 for the title.

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.

Phenom flashback

What's next for Victoria Azarenka?

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.


Fans of the great Chris Evert (and those who want to know why so many of us are fans) will enjoy watching the 16-year-old Evert display nerves of steel in the midst of staving off six match points in the third round of the 1971 U.S. Open. This was Evert's U.S. Open debut, and here, she is playing Mary Ann Eisel, who is also impressive.

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...

Azarenka wins Memphis

It took Victoria Azarenka only an hour and ten minutes to claim the Regions Morgan Keegan Championsips title tonight. She defeated Caroline Wozniacki 6-1, 6-3, breaking Wozniacki five times. This is Azarenka's second title; she seems to have overcome her collapses during finals.

Dulko and Martinez Sanchez to meet in Bogota final

3rd seed Gisela Dulko and 7th seed Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez have advanced to the final of the Copa Sony Ericsson Colsanitas tournament in Bogota. Dulko defeated Edena Gallovits 6-3, 6-3 in their semifinal match, and Martinez Sanchez defeated Patricia Mayr 7-5, 7-5.

Black and Huber win Dubai title

Cara Black and Liezel Huber defeated Agnieszka Radwanska and Maria Kirilenko in Dubai today to take the 2009 doubles title. The top seeds posted a score of 6-3, 6-3, and won their third title in a row.

We have our hero, and he's not in the WTA

In her editorial about the Shahar Peer situation, Aaress at On the Baseline turned the tour's marketing phrase, "Looking for a Hero," on its head. Well, we finally have a hero, and his name is Andy Roddick. Roddick, the defending champion in Dubai, has withdrawn from the tournament because of the Dubai officials' refusal to grant Peer a visa.

This is one tennis fan who sends a big virtual bouquet to Roddick for taking a stand that includes action.

Venus takes Dubai and wins her 40th title

The first set in the Dubai final between Venus Williams and Virginie Razzano was filled with really great tennis from both players, and was a pleasure to watch.

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

What is going on with Firefox?

For the past week or so, I have been unable to access current Sony Ericsson WTA Tour draws on the tour's website when I use Firefox. I can access them fine with Chrome and Internet Explorer.

Does anyone have any insight about this?

Wozniacki runs over Keothavong

Anne Keothavong won one game in her quarterfinal match against top seed Caroline Wozniacki in Memphis today. The victory sets up a final between Wozniacki and 2nd seed Victoria Azarenka, who defeated Sabine Lisicki, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6. Azarenka and Wozniacki are doubles partners in Memphis. They have made it through to the semifinals, but have not yet played their semifinal match.

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.

Tour sets conditions and fines Dubai

The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour has fined the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships $300,000 for its refusal to allow Shahar Peer into the country to play in the tournament. The tour has also made plans to provide Peer with ranking points and payment, and to compensate her doubles partner, Anna-Lena Groenefeld. There are several new caviats involved in the tour's agreement with Dubai, which you can read about here.

Williams to meet Razzano in Dubai final

Toward the end of 2007, Virginie Razzano did something she had never done before--she won a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour tournament. Then, the following week, she won a second one, in Tokyo. Her opponent in that final was Venus Williams, whom she defeated 4-6, 7-6, 6-4.

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.

Quote of the day

"I think my serve has gone somewhere on vacation and I need to go there and catch up with it."
Serena Williams

Friday cat blogging--tabby strut edition

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dellacqua to have shoulder surgery

For some time now, Casey Dellacqua has been complaining of shoulder pain. She modified her service motion, but that didn't help. Dellacqua says she tried everything she could to heal her shoulder without surgery, but her efforts were in vain. She will undergo surgery on Monday, and will be back some time mid-season, which could mean after Wimbledon.

Remember Charlie Brown and Lucy and the football?

"...before I’m going to put Dubai on our 2010 calendar 100 percent there are additional guarantees, assurances and measures we are going to require to just make 100 percent sure what happened last week couldn’t possibly happen again."
Larry Scott

Semifinals set in Memphis

Sabine Lisicki upset Lucie Safarova in Memphis today, and a slight upset was performed by Anne Keothavong, who defeated Marina Erakovic. The top two seeds--Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka--defeated Michaella Krajicek and Pauline Parmentier, respectively. Wozniacki and Keothavong will meet in the semifinals, as will Lisicki and Azarenka.

Williams to meet Williams again

Venus Williams defeated Elena Dementieva today in Dubai in straight sets, and her sister defeated Ana Ivanovic, also in straight sets. The sisters will now meet in the semifinals.

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

Quarterfinals set in Dubai and Memphis

Here are the quarterfinal draws:

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


Tennis Week is featuring an interview with 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.

Ford speaks out about the Dubai situation

Bonnie D. Ford, writing for ESPN about Shahar Peer's visa denial, has taken to task everyone from cowardly officials of the United Arab Emirates to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour leadership to the players themselves. Ford interviewed ESPN commentator and former tour star Pam Shriver about the situation. Says Shriver:
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."

Says Ford:
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.

Williams says boycott was out of the question

According to a BBC report, Venus Williams--whom many consider to be the unofficial spokeswoman for women's professional tennis--said today that a boycott of the Barclays Dubai International Tennis Championships was never an option for members of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.

"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.

Dubai is getting interesting

First we lost number 2 seed Dinara Safina, and now we have lost number 3 seed Jelena Jankovic. Jankovic lost her third round Dubai match to Kaia Kanepi, a player I've been watching for a long time. Kanepi beat Jankovic in straight sets (6-2, 7-5), even going to a 4-0 lead in the second set. JJ hasn't look like herself at all this season, which is a disappointment to her fans, and unfortunate for women's tennis.

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.

Heat illness takes out a second player

Yesterday it was Urszula Radwanska. Today it was Dominika Cibulkova who was overcome by the heat in Dubai and had to retire against Elena Vesnina in the third set of their third round match.

Also retiring today was Marion Bartoli, whose foot blisters took her out of her third round match against Vera Zvonareva.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"Looking for a Hero in Dubai"

Aaress at On the Baseline says it well.

Dokic out of Memphis in first round

Jelena Dokic said during Fed Cup play that she was expecting a post-Melbourne letdown, and she got one tonight in Memphis, when top seed Caroline Wozniacki defeated her 6-2, 6-1 in the first round of the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships.

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.

Safina out of Dubai in the 2nd round

There was one great big upset today in Dubai; Virginie Razzano took out 2nd seed Dinara Safina, 6-4, 6-2 (or, as the metaphor-challenged WTA site says: "Dinara Exits Stage Left But Others Sail On"). Safina double-faulted twelve times, and her chronic double-faulting has pretty much made her the new Dementieva.

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.

Pennetta out in first round in Bogata

First seed Flavia Pennetta had a bad day in Bogata today. Even after a rain interruption, she wasn't able to prevail in her match against Masa Zec Peskiric, who defeated her 6-3, 4-6, 7-6. Pennetta was down 2-4 in the third set when the rain came. She managed to get the break back, but then lost in the tiebreak.

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.

Your worst suspicions are true

Dubai officials feared a fan boycott if Shahar Peer play in the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Tennis Channel reverses plan to broadcast Dubai matches

The semifinals and the final of Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships were scheduled to be broadcast live on Tennis Channel this Friday and Saturday, but the channel's chairman and chief executive, Ken Solomon, along with the board of directors and staff, decided to suspend the broadcasts. Tennis Channel is taking this action in protest over the denial of a visa to Israel's Shahar Peer.

Said Solomon:
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.

Larcher de Brito watch--into the 2nd round in Memphis

Michelle Larcher de Brito finished off Sofia Arvidsson, 6-2, 6-0, in thirty-nine minutes today in Memphis, in the first round of the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships. Qualifier Michaella Krajicek upset Alla Kudryavtseva, and Julie Coin was defeated by Pauline Parmentier.

Dubai first round--same song, who knows which verse...

Agnes Szavay and Anna Chakvetadze both went out in the first round in Dubai today. Szavay was defeated 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 by Camille Pin in a match in which Szavay double-faulted nine times. People tend to dismiss Pin because she cannot serve (why didn't she ever do something to fix that?), but the rest of her game is pretty good.

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.

All kinds of sister news

The big sister news is that Urszula Radwanska (Radwanska the younger) defeated her sister, the 9th seeded Agnieszka, in straight sets today in the first round in Dubai.

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.

Vesnina posts her first top 10 win

Yesterday, I wrote about Elena Vesnina's significant improvement, which began--seemingly out of nowhere--this season. Today in Dubai, she had a breakthrough, getting the first top 10 win in her career. Vesnina defeated countrywoman and 7th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-4, 3-6, 6-0 in the second round.

First Li, now Kuznetsova. In the next round, Vesnina will face either Tsvetana Pironkova or Dominika Cibulkova.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mauresmo withdraws from Dubai

Open GDF SUEZ champion Amelie Mauresmo has withdrawn from the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships. The way the draw is set up, Mauresmo would have traveled overnight, arrived in Dubai and played her first round without any chance to rest.


Ana Ivanovic is now being coached by Craig Kardon. Kardon has worked with Martina Navratilova, Lindsay Davenport, Mary Pierce, and Jennifer Capriati.

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.

Interesting first day in Dubai

Let's start with Julia Shruff. The German veteran, ranked number 137 in the world and competing as a qualifier, defeated the up-and-coming Petra Kvitova, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.

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.

Peer denied visa to play in Dubai

Despite assurances that she would be allowed to travel to Dubai to play in the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships, Shahar Peer has been denied a visa. The Israeli player, who made history by playing in Doha last year, learned of the visa denial Saturday night. Peer had been scheduled to play Anna Chakvetadze in the first round.

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.

Doubles victories of the week

Cara Black and Liezel Huber, the top seeds in Paris, have won the Open GDF SUEZ, defeating number 2 seeds Kveta Peschke and Lisa Raymond in the final. Black and Huber won 6-4, 3-6, 10-4.

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.

Zvonareva wins Pattaya Open

Vera Zvonareva defeated Sania Mirza today in Pattaya City, 7-5, 6-1, to win the title. Zvonareva was the top seed, and this was an expected win. Fans of Sania Mirza can be happy, however, that the Indian player has made it to a final so early in the season.

Victory for Mauresmo!

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

Mirza to play Zvonareva in Pattaya Open

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I do not like it when highly-ranked players enter smaller tournaments, unless they are coming back from injury layoffs. The top seed in Pattaya City is Vera Zvonareva, who is ranked number 5 in the world. Caroline Wozniacki, number 12 in the world, was there, too, but she was upset in the quarterfinals by Magdalena Rybarikova. I wish those two had not entered, but they did. The argument in favor of their being there is that other players have to stretch in order to beat them, and I understand that.

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.

Interesting first rounds in Dubai

Probably the most interesting first round match coming up in Dubai next week is Radwanska vs. Radwanska. The sisters will have to face each other to determine who goes to the next round. Other first rounds of interest:

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.

All about the Andalucia Tennis Experience

The Andalucia Tennis Experience, Spain's new Sony Ericsson WTA Tour tournament, will premiere in April. You can read about this clay court tournament here, and get more information from and about tournament director Conchita Martinez here.

Mauresmo overcomes Jankovic, knee overcomes Williams

When I heard that Serena Williams had withdrawn from her semifinal match against Elena Dementieva in Paris, my first thought was, of course, that her knee was giving her trouble. Unfortunately, that was a correct guess. Williams said that her knee problem emerged again during her quarterfinal match against Emelie Loit, and that she felt pain during her warm-up today. She decided it wasn't worth making more trouble for herself, so Dementieva got a walkover.

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

Welcome back, Amelie!

Velma and Roxie say "No worries--Amelie has this thing sewn up."

For many years, fans of Amelie Mauresmo stood by patiently as other tennis fans and members of the media called her a head case and said that she would never win a major. She won two, plus the Sony Ericsson Championships. After the illness/injury disaster of 2007, Mauresmo's fans--of whom I am a very loyal one--have stood by patiently as one tennis website not very nicely begged her to retire, and as countless tennis fans have said brutal things about her. Just this week, a reporter in Paris said that there was no media interest in her at all at the Open GDF SUEZ.

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.

Semifinals set in Paris

For various reasons, I was able to see only the last Open GDF SUEZ set between Jelena Jankovic and Alize Cornet. I don't know what the rest of match was like, but the last set wasn't pretty. Jankovic's service problem are as bad as they were before she improved her serve (where did she leave that serve, anyway?), and Cornet was just a flat-out emotional mess. Jankovic def. Cornet, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

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.

Friday cat blogging--heart edition

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Frenchwomen get business done in Paris

Three of the Open GDF SUEZ second round winners who emerged in Paris today are French--Amelie Maruesmo, Alize Cornet and Nathalie Dechy. Mauresmo defeated Monica Niculescu 6-1, 6-2; Cornet defeated Daniela Hantuchova 1-6, 6-4, 6-2; and Nathalie Dechy defeated Patty Schnyder 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. Yesterday, Emelie Loit defeatd Kaia Kanepi 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.

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

Mauresmo takes out Errani with ease

Amelie Mauresmo delivered revenge with a capital R today in Paris, when she defeated Sara Errani, 6-2, 6-0 in the first round of the Open GDF SUEZ. Errani defeated Mauresmo last week in Fed Cup competition.

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

It's February...

...The forced hyacinths are blooming, the rose industry is rubbing its collective hands...and it's once again time to argue about the Williams sisters and Indian Wells. Billie Jean King is trying to persuade Venus and Serena to call off their boycott of the tournament, which is now called the BNP Paribas Open. Serena does not sound too interested; Venus is very close to King, however, and I suspect she is the one who will get the most words from the tour's major founder.

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.

Quote of the day

"Why should he even care? I don't like putting my nose in others' business."
Jelena Jankovic, on Roger Federer's statement that someone who has never won a major should not be ranked number 1 in the world

First round exits--business as usual

Nicole Vaidisova was defeated in the first round in Paris today by Emelie Loit, 6-1, 6-4. Yesterday, Agnes Szavay was defeated 7-6, 6-2 by Li Na. There is certainly no shame in being defeated by Li, but it was Li's return to the tour, which might have given Szavay a bit of an edge. (On the other hand, Li returned last year from months off and won a tournament right away.)

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

A lovely piece on the great Evonne Goolagong

Evonne Goolagong is one of my two favorite female tennis players of all time. Every generation produces one player of extraordinary grace, and Goolagong was that player for her generation. Steve Flink of Tennis Channel interviews Goolagong and writes about her. As he recalls, hers was one of the great one-handed backhands of the tour's history. Goolagong, like Evert and some other players of that time, did not attend all four of the majors every year. Had she done so, she would doubtless have more than seven majors to her record. But probably not the U.S. Open: Goolagong was the finalist at the Open four years in a row, and then finally gave up and retired.

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.

Kanepi labors to take out Medina Garrigues

I predicted that the Kaia Kanepi-Anabel Medina Garrigues match would be a good, long match--and it was. Medina Garrigues won the first set, 6-3, and Kanepi won the second, 6-2. Kanepi served for the match at 5-4 in the third, at which time Medina Garrigues saved three match points, and had a break point. Kanepi saved that break point, then Medina Garrigues had a second break point, and Kanepi saved that one, too. But then Kanepi double-faulted, giving Medina Garrigues a third break point, which she converted. Any hope the Spaniard had was short-lived, however. Kanepi broke her at love, and won the match on her next match point.

You have to hand it to Radwanska...

She has no internal editor. The candid, sometimes sullen, world number 9--who does not suffer fools gladly in interviews and who always speaks her mind--had this to say when asked by reporters at the Open GDF SUEZ what she thinks about the new rules about obligatory play:

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

Open GDF SUEZ first rounds of interest

Play begins Monday at the newly named Open GDF SUEZ in Paris. The qualifiers have not been placed into the draw yet--at least not the versions of the draw available for our viewing--but, given what we have, there are a few interesting first round matches:

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.


Nadia Petrova has withdrawn from Pattaya City with a suspected stress fracture in her right foot. The good news is that she has recovered from viral meningitis.

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.

USA to meet Czech Republic in Fed Cup semifinal

The USA-Argentina Fed Cup contest went all the way, with the doubles rubber determining who would go to the semifinals. World number 1 Liezel Huber, playing with ITF star Julie Ditty rose to the occasion and defeated Argentina, 6-2, 6-3.

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.

Great Britain finally loses, but Keothavong's score is still impressive

Great Britain has been rolling along nicely in the Fed Cup Europe/Africa Group. The British team defeated Luxembourg 3-0, The Netherlands 3-0, and Hungary, also 3-0.

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.

Italy goes to Fed Cup semifinal

Italy has sent a strong message to its Fed Cup host nation by winning all four of the rubbers played this weekend. The first day, Flavia Pennetta defeated Amelie Mauresmo and Francesca Schiavone defeated Alize Cornet. Today, Pennetta easily defeated Cornet, 6-2, 6-2, and Sara Errani defeated Mauresmo, 6-3, 6-4. Italy also won the doubles rubber, 6-4, 6-4.

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

The $2,000 digit

Flavia Pennetta was fined $2,000 today for making what many cultures consider an obscene gesture toward the umpire in Pennetta's match against Amelie Mauresmo. Pennetta thought she had won the second set tiebreak, but the umpire, Louise Engzell, overruled the call, and Pennetta had to keep playing in order to win the tiebreak.

"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.

Fed Cup scores

Here are the scores for the first day of Fed Cup play in the two World Groups:

World Group
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

Italy takes 2-0 lead over France in Fed Cup

It was a great Fed Cup day for Italy. Flavia Pennetta defeated Amelie Mauresmo, 2-6, 7-6, 6-4, and Francesco Schiavone defeated Alize Cornet, 6-1, 2-6, 8-6. Pennetta came back from a set and a break down and forced a tiebreak. During the tiebreak, she was up 5-1, and eventually had two set points at 6-4, which she lost. However, she went on to win the tiebreak, 9-7. Pennetta, by the way, was down 1-4 in the third set, and won five straight games.

Petrova enters Family Circle Cup

2006 Family Circle Cup champion Nadia Petrova has entered the 2009 tournament, which is held on Daniel Island--right outside Charleston--in April. The Family Circle Cup, played on green clay, is the oldest all-women's tennis tournament in the U.S. Last year, the tournament celebrated its 35th anniversary with a number of special events. Bud Collins served as tournament host, and guests included Chris Evert, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Martina Navratilova, and Rosie Casals.

Friday, February 6, 2009


Jelena Jankovic has replaced Maria Sharapova in the draw for the Open GDF SUEZ in Paris.

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.

Safina sets up training base in Croatia

World number 2 Dinara Safina will begin training in Croatia as of next month. Safina and her Croatian coach, Zeljko Krajan, have invited the town of Varazdin to enter a partnership to oversee the construction of tennis courts, to be paid for by Safina.

Anne Keothavong makes the best of it

From her Fed Cup blog:
"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…"

What I like best about Fed Cup...

Is that it is unpredictable. I'm not into country vs. country sports, but I enjoy Fed Cup because lesser known players often rise to the occasion. Doubles specialist Mervana Jugic-Salkic is one of those players. In her Bosnia/Herzegovina rubber against Poland, she defeated world number 9 Agnieszka Radwanska, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6.

Jugic-Salkic, who has two Sony Ericsson WTA Tour doubles titles, is ranked 170 in the world in singles.

Interview with McHale

Thanks to Zoo Tennis for this link to an interview with Australian Open junior doubles champion Christina McHale.

Friday cat blogging--furniture edition

Here, Tarzan uses Velma as a footstool. Not long ago, when I was writing and sorting papers in bed, I used Tarzan as a desk. At our house, we give a whole new meaning to the term "cat furniture."

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Quote of the week

"I am finally becoming a steady cook, which doesn't mean much because apparently you only become a good cook when you're a grandmother."
Maria Sharapova

Better news about Sharapova

Maria Sharapova has again confirmed that her shoulder is fine, but that she just isn't ready to compete. "You are never really going to forget 'how' to hit a tennis ball but what you do forget is how much work and repetition you must put into every single day in order to get back to where you were."

France and Italy to meet again in Fed Cup

France, the only nation to have always competed in the top division of Fed Cup, meets Italy this weekend on a hard court in Orleans. Alize Cornet, Amelie Mauresmo, Nathalie Dechy, and Severine Bremond will play for France, which won Fed Cup in 1997 and 2003. Italy won Fed Cup in 2006, and will be represented by Francesca Schiavone, Flavia Pennetta, Sara Errani, and Roberta Vinci.

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.

Tanasugarn--up 6-4, 5-2--loses to Stosur in Fed Cup

At a set and 2-5 down, Sam Stosur broke Tammy Tanasugarn and won eleven straight games to win a Fed Cup match for Australia in the Asia/Oceania playoffs. Australia was already up 1-0 because Jelena Dokic won her rubber against Suchanan Vitraprasert.

Dokic, by the way, has been granted a wild card for qualifying in Memphis.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Keothavong joins list of Szavay defeaters

Anne Keothavong has defeated Agnes Szavay 6-3, 6-2 in their Group 1 Europe/Africa Zone Fed Cup match. Szavay's losing streak is such that she needs to change something--anything--quickly, before she is unable to win any matches at all.

Sharapova's recovery in question

A couple of days ago, I wrote that Maria Sharapova had withdrawn from both Paris and Dubai. Eurosport now confirms this. Sharapova said she did not play in Melbourne because she had not trained enough; Eurosport reports that she has not fully recovered from the injury.

Frenchwoman Julie Coin has withdrawn from the Paris tournament, also.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mirza withdraws from Fed Cup team

Sania Mirza, citing an abdominal muscle strain, has withdrawn from India's Fed Cup team. India is participating in the Fed Cup Asia-Oceana play-offs.

Williams is WTT top draft pick

World number 1 Serena Williams was the top draft pick in today's World Team Tennis draft. Williams will be the headline player for the Washington Kastles, and will play four matches.

Mattek off of Fed Cup team for February

Bethanie Mattek is not only the highest-ranked American woman not named Williams--she lives just down the road from the site of the U.S.'s upcoming Fed Cup contest with Argentina. All the more pity that she has had to withdraw, citing a hip injury that caused her to miss the Australian Open. She has been replaced by Julie Ditty.

Monday, February 2, 2009

No confirmation yet, but it doesn't look good for Sharapova right now

Maria Sharapova, who withdrew from the Australian Open because, she said, she had not done enough post-rehab training, has allegedly withdrawn from both the Open GDF Suez and the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships. I don't generally post unconfirmed material, but I have reason to believe this is fact.

If Sharapova has indeed withdrawn from these tournaments, then the "not enough training" explanation doesn't quite add up.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

My Australian Open top 10

Here are my top 10 Australian Open occurrences, in ascending order:

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.

Mirza and Bhupathi win Australian Open

Wild cards Sania Mirza and Mahesh Bhupathi have won the 2009 Australian Open mixed doubles title. They defeated Nathalie Dechy and Andy Ram, 6-3, 6-1 in the final. The pair from India were the finalists last year.