Monday, August 31, 2009

U.S. Open--what they said

"My mistake is that I don't always finish off my movement the way I should. I'm kind of already preparing myself for the next shot while I didn't even finish my serve yet."
Kim Clijsters

"...it was a good chance for me, so I wasn't totally upset. I was pretty excited."
Alexa Glatch, on playing Serena Williams in the first round

You have this tennis thing down pretty well. I was at Yankee Stadium Friday night. Were you working on your pitching?
"...They kept saying, 'I hope you can get it there.' I thought, I can get it there easy. I think I got the sports mixed up."
Serena Williams

"...those injuries I had were never really like career-threatening. They were a problem because they were always lingering and they kind of stopped me from, you know, from moving the way that I wanted to, especially the hip and the lower back."
Kim Clijsters

"Suddenly, she'll have a little glitch, and sometimes she can make a meal of it."
Virginia Wade, speaking of Daniela Hantuchova

The occasion didn't call for it, but can you still do the splits that you were so famous for?
"I can. Yeah. I'm not going to do them right now, but..."
Kim Clijsters

Venus's knee, Daniela's head, and other assorted items

Where to begin? On this first day of the 2009 U.S. Open, Sam Stosur had to face a player she would have preferred to avoid. Ai Sugiyama, a former top 10 player, had a 3-1 record against Stosur coming into the Open, and Stosur had never gotten past the first round at Flushing Meadows. Stosur looked flat, Sugiyama looked ready. But Sugiyama got a bit tight in the third set, and Stosur was able to post a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 win.

25th seed Kaia Kanepi was upset by Chang Kai-Chen, Kirsten Flipkens took out Jelena Dokic in straight sets, and Marion Bartoli all but ran over Rossana De Los Rios, who won one game. The closest match no one saw was the one between Sybille Bammer and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez. It went on for 2 hours and 52 minutes, and was finally won by Martinez Sanchez in a third set tiebreak.

Venus Williams had knee problems again tonight, and received treatment early in her match against Vera Dushevina. Dushevina won the first set in a tiebreak, but--even though her opponent was hurt--it seemed inevitable that Dushevina would collapse. The Russian has a nice backhand and can play some good tennis, but closing a big match is another matter for her. Sure enough--six breaks, eleven aces, and seven foot faults later--Williams prevailed, 6-7, 7-5, 6-3. She hit 53 winners and committed 54 unforced errors, and toward the end of the second set, was two points from defeat.

Williams made it through knee tendonitis at Wimbledon, but the hard courts of Flushing Meadows present quite a challenge.

Then there was Daniela Hantuchova. Not content to wait until later in the tournament to stop the hearts of her fans, Hantuchova did an early staging of her well-known Carnival of Doubt. She expertly cruised through the first set, and part of the second, easily handling Meghann Shaughnessy. Shaughnessy significantly picked up her game in the middle of the second set, but she had plenty of help from a suddenly shaky Hantuchova. When Shaughnessy took the second set, commentator Virginia Wade said she felt genuine pain for anyone watching who happened to be close to Hantuchova.

This time, though, Hantuchova was able to get back on track and win the match 6-2, 4-6, 6-1. It was nice to see Shaughnessy again, but it was also nice to see Hantuchova regain her mental strength. For now.

Note to ESPN commentators: Keep up!

Tonight, Mary Carillo, Pam Shriver and Chris Fowler had a lengthy conversation about whether it is fair for the women to always get the first night match at the U.S. Open. The discussion went on and on, but the problem is--the procedure has already been changed. As of this year, the women will not automatically play the first night match.

I'm sure I'm not the only fan who knows this, but why, oh why, don't the commentators know it?

Speaking of commentary, there were numerous glitches this morning with the new U.S. Open website live streaming. Most of them appear to have been fixed, however, and the video is crisp and easy to watch. So far, the commentary is very good, too.

It was hard to believe that live matches were shown on both ESPN2 and Tennis Channel most of the day. In the U.S., one generally has to have Direct TV or ESPN 360 to be able to watch several different matches during a major. My problem today, however, was limiting the number of matches I could realistically watch.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Preparing for the Open

Players aren't the only ones who prepare for majors. Some of us like to watch classic matches the week before. Today, I watched the 2003 semifinal match between Justine Henin and Jennifer Capriati, and--even though I knew the outcome--it was almost as nerve-wracking to watch it today as it was in 2003. It remains one of the greatest women's matches of the last several years, and features a rain delay, injury, thrilling rallies, beautiful shot-making, temper tantrums, and enough momentum swings to exhaust spectators. Capriati was so close to winning so many times, but the brilliant, cramping Henin was tougher.

After winning the knock-down-drag-out semifinal, Henin told officials she was doubtful about playing in the final, but she did play, she did defeat Kim Clijsters, and she won the first of her two U.S. Open titles.

U.S. Open health report

Though injury and illness affect players throughout the year, we have come to expect additional problems as we enter the last part of the season. This year's U.S. Open is no exception:

Maria Sharapova: She says her shoulder feels good, but she is having a problem adjusting to her new serve, and there is obviously a fitness issue.

Dominika Cibulkova: Her thigh strain was bad enough to keep her out of the Open.

Anne Keothavong: She's out for the rest of the season because of a left knee injury.

Sabine Lisicki: Her shoulder injury was not as serious as some feared, but she has had virtually no hard court play.

Jelena Dokic: Just back from recovery from mononucleosis, she, too, has had no chance to play on hard courts.

Tamira Paszek: Paszek is out, supposedly for months, because of a lower back injury.

Alexa Glatch: Glatch also has been suffering from lower back problems.

Agnieszka Radwanska: Radwanska, once again, has a tendon strain in her hand, and it is unknown at this time how she will be able to handle playing at Flushing Meadows.

Katarina Srebotnik: She's back, after experiencing two unrelated injuries.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Spanish team wins 2 in a row

Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, who--just last week, won the Rogers Cup--won the Pilot Pen tournament tonight. The top-seeded Spanish team defeated Iveta Benesova and Lucie Hradecka 6-2, 7-5. This is the sixth title of the year for Llagostera Vives and Martinez Sanchez.

Srebotnik tells her story


And a sad story it is. Apparently, Katarina Srebotnik's Achilles injury was not terribly serious, but the shoulder injury was, and it continues to bother her. Srebotnik explains that she was bored while she was waiting for her foot to heal, and she may have overdone it on the machines at the gym, where she injured her shoulder.

During the 10-month layoff, Srebotnik's long-time coach, Biljana Veselinovic, decided to stop coaching her. Srebotnik is currently auditioning coaches, and at the end of the year, she will select the person who is to be her next coach.

In 2008, Srebotnik was number 20 in the world in singles, and number 4 in doubles.

Dementieva wins U.S. Open Series

Elena Dementieva has won the 2009 Olympus U.S. Open Series. Dementieva--a favorite going into the U.S. Open--won the Rogers Cup, and made it to the semifinals in both Stanford and Cincinnati. Coming in second was Flavia Pennetta, who tied with Jelena Jankovic in points, but whose participation level in the series was greater.

Dementieva, Pennetta and Jankovic now stand to win bonus prize money at the U.S. Open.

Good times never seemed so good--Wozniacki wins Pilot Pen


Pilot Pen defending champion Caroline Wozniacki, who defended her title today in New Haven, shook hands with her opponent, then sat down to the strains of "Sweet Caroline" emanating from the loudspeakers. It isn't often these days that a player defends a title, so Wozniacki has a lot to be proud of as she travels to Flushing Meadows for the U.S. Open.

The match was delayed almost three hours because of rainy conditions, and the wind continued to gust throughout play. Elena Vesnina, Wozniacki's opponent--who eliminated Gisela Dulko, Sam Stosur, Anna Chakvetadze, and Amelie Mauresmo from the tournament--did not have a good day. Serving well and playing aggressive tennis, she should have turned the final into a very tight competition. But Vesnina could not stop making unforced errors. Though she hit three times as many winners as Wozniacki, she also also made four times as many errors. At one point, after netting a sure-thing volley, the droll Russian--eyes rolling--applauded herself.

This was Vesnina's second final in a year in which she has dramatically improved everything about her game. She has more work to do in the mental toughness department, but she also has a lot with which she should be very pleased. Wozniacki has also had an excellent season, and goes into the year's last major with a strong record, a more finely tuned game, and a lot of confidence.

U.S. Open experts' picks

Greg Garber--Elena Dementieva
Mary Carillo--Serena Williams
Bonnie D. Ford--Serena Williams
Sandra Harwitt--Elena Dementieva
Kamakshi Tandon--Elena Dementieva
Ravi Ubha--Serena Williams
Matt Wilansky--Elena Dementieva
Steve Tignor--Elena Dementieva
James Martin--Serena Williams
Peter Bodo--Venus Williams
Tom Perrotta--Elena Dementieva
Abigail Lorge--Elena Dementieva
Jon Wertheim--Serena Williams

This post will be updated as needed.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Wozniacki and Vesnina to meet in Pilot Pen final

Defending champion and 2nd seed Caroline Wozniacki had to play her semifinal match against 3rd seed Flavia Pennetta on an indoor court at Yale when it became obvious that the rain in New Haven was not going to stop. Only 300 spectators could fit, and a tin scoreboard was used. Wozniacki defeated Los Angeles champion Pennetta 6-4, 6-1.

The other semifinal, also played indoors, featured 8th seed Amelie Mauresmo and Elena Vesnina. Vesnina defeated Mauresmo 5-7, 6-1, 6-2.

Because of the rain delay, neither the U.S.'s ESPN2 or Tennis TV broadcast the matches, and the electronic scoreboard was down, so I have no idea what actually happened in either match, though I've been busy making some reasonable guesses, especially about the second match.

Wozniacki has a 2-1 record against Vesnina, and on hard courts, a 1-1 record. A tiebreaker in Wozniacki's favor gave the Pilot Pen defending champion a win over the Russian in the semifinals of the 2009 Ponte Vedra Beach tournament (won by Wozniacki), a clay court event. Earlier this year, Vesnina defeated Wozniacki in three sets on a hard court in Auckland.

In doubles, top seeds Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez defeated Jill Craybas and Lisa Raymond, and will play Iveta Benesova and Lucie Hradecka in the final.

Miscellany

Sania Mirza continues to have problems with her wrist. She has recently received more treatment, and says that--while she is not without pain--she feels ready for the U.S. Open. This wrist problem has lasted a very long time.

Here is an interview with Vera Zvonareva.

And an interview with Melanie Oudin.

Martina Hingis will be a contestant on the new season of Strictly Come Dancing.

Vera Zvonareva recently walked the runway for K-Swiss in New York City.

Officials of the U.S. Open are warning players not to use Twitter in such a way that they might violate anti-corruption rules. No word on violating anti-narcissism rules.

U.S. Open 1st rounds of interest

Some first rounds in Flushing Meadows that may be of interest (there may be more when the qualifiers are added):

Petra Kvitova vs. Alisa Kleybanova--New balls, please. These two can hit the ball very hard. For those who like slugfests, this could be one.

Patty Schnyder vs. Lucie Safarova--Two under-achieving left-handers meet in the first round.

Yanina Wickmayer vs. Virginie Razzano--Both like to drag it out and squeeze the last drop out of a match.

Ana Ivanovic vs. Kateryna Bondarenko--Jon Wertheim picks this match as his Blue Plate Upset Special, and he could be right.

Aravane Rezai vs. Sabine Lisicki--Lisicki has missed most of the hard court season, and her lack of preparation could make her vulnerable against Rezai. The last time she returned from an injury layoff, she struggled.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs. Melanie Oudin--Two phenoms meet in the first round.

Tsvetana Pironkova vs. Maria Sharapova--Pironkova thrives on this type of thing. The relentless baseliner has had a so-so career, but at big moments, she has a tendency to raise her level and become pesky.

Katarina Srebotnik vs. Nadia Petrova--Srebotnik has been away for a long time and cannot be expected to do much at the U.S. Open. Petrova--with her big serving and wonderful net skills--should be a major force in women's tennis, but she isn't.

Agnes Szavay vs. Shahar Peer--It has been a hard climb back for both players. At her best, Szavay is very good, and at her best, Peer is a scary human backboard.

Julia Goerges vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova--Goerges is another player who, out of nowhere, can rise to the occasion. She could give Kuzzy quite a workout. Or not.

Kirsten Flipkens vs. Jelena Dokic--What an odd pairing. I really like to watch Flipkens play, and wish that she could move herself to a higher ranking. Dokic hasn't had the season she may have expected to have, and Flipkens might trouble her.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands vs. Iveta Benesova--Mattek-Sands is a good server and a decent hard court player, and Benesova has one of the better service games on the tour (which should translate into a higher ranking, but it doesn't).

Lucie Hradecka vs. Elena Vesnina--This match has potential, but only if Hradecka brings her best game.

Sam Stosur vs. Ai Sugiyama--Stosur is one of the hottest players on the tour, but the veteran can still bring it on.

Sybille Bammer vs. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez--Bammer is hot again, but she'll have to work against Martinez Sanchez.

What they'll be wearing

Here are pictures of the U.S. Open day and night dresses for Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams. Sharapova will wear dusty mauve, which may or may not look good with fluorescent green piping. I would prefer a different color for the piping, but Nike has not consulted me. The night version of the dress has a somewhat different pattern, and is navy and silver (it looks black in this photo). I like the hooded silver jacket.

Williams will wear wear a hot pink--more likely, magenta--dress with black trim during the day, with the colors reversed for night wear.

Friday cat blogging--sleepy friends edition

Thursday, August 27, 2009

U.S. Open--a look at the competition


It seems like almost every year, the television commentators tell us that the field for a major is "wide open." The term has been used so much, it almost has no meaning. However, this year, the U.S. Open field really is wide open--not because there is no dominant player on the tour, but because the top players all have such obvious vulnerabilities.

Here is a look at the players who could win in Flushing Meadows, as well as some other players:

THE CONTENDERS:

Dinara Safina: The world number 1 does well--very well--in majors until she gets to the end, or near-end, of the line. Then her nerves take over. It doesn't help that every week, there is a media conversation about her unworthiness to be number 1. Safina has everything else it takes to win the U.S. Open, but without the mental toughness, she cannot win it. Nevertheless, she is a top contender, and this could be the time she figures it out.

Serena Williams: Williams has two modes when she plays in majors--struggling at the start, then mowing down the competition--and "going crazy" (her words). In the latter mode, she collapses without warning; in the former, she simply cannot be beaten. The longer she plays, the better she gets, and she is very much a top contender to win this year.

Jelena Jankovic: How delightful to once again be able to list Jankovic as a contender to win the year's last major. She had a bad year, characterized by a ridiculous training regimen that rendered her unable to do all the things she does best, and by her mother's serious illness. But she has overcome both of those problems, and has also emerged with a consistently better serve. Once again, everyone's favorite drama queen has a good chance to deliver her greatest drama ever.

Svetlana Kuznetsova: She won the Open in 2004, then struggled with what appeared to be the psychological part of her tennis. Kuznetsova, an athlete of extreme talent, runs hot and cold, but she ran very hot this spring when she won the French Open. Kuzzy likes the hard courts, and there is every reason to look at her as a contender in New York.

Elena Dementieva: Dementieva, who just won the Rogers Cup title, has often been called the best player on the tour without a major title. She has come close, but has had to settle with finalist status. Dementieva is a very unpredictable player. Just when you think she cannot win, she pulls off a tennis miracle. And just when you think she cannot lose, she collapses. She has everything it takes to win the U.S. Open; the question is whether she can put it all together at the same time.

Kim Clijsters: After some thought, I decided that--yes--Clijsters is indeed a contender. Why not? Sure, she has recently lost to both Safina and Jankovic, but she is still Kim Clijsters, and--unlike Safina and Jankovic--she has won the U.S. Open. Since the field really is wide open, I'm putting Clijsters on the list of contenders.


THE NEAR-CONTENDERS:

Venus Williams: Williams has won the U.S. Open twice. Twice she didn't play because of injuries, and of the eight times she lost, six of the losses were to the eventual winner. The luck of the draw simply has not been good for her. She could always surprise me and win this year, but unless she is playing at Wimbledon, there are now players who know how to beat her, and anything less than an easy draw could do her in.

Maria Sharapova: Sharapova's 2006 U.S. Open victory was stunning in every way. From the first ball she struck, she looked like a champion. Even her clothes were especially stunning. And in the final, she made the mighty Justine Henin look ordinary. That was then. If Sharapova can regain her fitness and her serve, she will win the U.S. Open again. But this is not the year.

Flavia Pennetta: The champion in Los Angeles and the first Italian to reach the top 10, Pennetta is tenacious and clever, and she packs more power than some might think. She is also a load of fun to watch. Pennetta reached the U.S. Open quarterfinals last year, and she is having an excellent season in 2009. Generally considered to be a level down from being a "real" contender, she is nevertheless a true danger on hard courts, with her big hitting, sound thinking and easy moving.

Victoria Azarenka: Earlier in the season, I thought I'd be listing Azarenka as a major contender to win in New York. But she no longer appears as formidable, or as ready to do something really big. Still, she has the ability to go far in the draw, and she could surprise all of us.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Samantha Stosur: The term "blessing in disguise" comes to mind when I think about Stosur's unfortunate illness two years ago. When she returned to the tour, it took her a while to get her bearings, even in doubles, but what has emerged is a new Sam Stosur--one who appears ready to meet her considerable potential. With her serve and forehand, and her volleying skills, Stosur is at home on almost any court. And now that she has increased confidence, we are more likely to see her stick around a while in a tournament.

Vera Zvonareva: Poor Zvonareva. Just when she was playing the best tennis of her life, she sustained a really painful ankle injury in Charleston. Now she's back, but she is going to have to work hard to return to her pre-Charleston level. All the same, Zvonareva is a very good athlete with a blistering backhand, and she is well worth watching.

Alisa Kleybanova: Her run in Toronto gave a lot of people an opportunity to see the hard-hitting Kleybanova's considerable tennis skills. She has a big serve, and a lot more. Kleybanova is also fiercely competitive, and therefore, a player you should see if you can.

Sabine Lisicki: Speaking of big serving, practically no one has a bigger--or more varied--serve than Lisicki. She also has a huge forehand, and the best drop shot since Patty Schnyder came on the scene. But Lisicki has had an up-and-down season because of injury and illness. She spent some time off the tour because of injury, then became ill and spent some time in the hospital. Upon her return, she began to double-fault a lot. She reached the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, but became a victim of anxiety and insufficient fitness, and lost the match. Then she had to retire in the middle of the Los Angeles tournament because of an injured shoulder. She withdrew from Cincinnati and Toronto, and is currently in rehab. The outlook is good, but the spirited German has had almost no match time on hard courts this season, and we cannot expect to see her at her best in New York. But she is still worth watching.

Caroline Wozniacki: Wozniacki is a fiery and talented player who routinely gets to the quarterfinals and semifinals of tournaments, and sometimes wins them. But she has not been able to make the kind of dent in the tour that would make her an elite player. The U.S. Open gives her an opportunity to go to a new level.

Zheng Jie: A good rule of thumb these days is to watch Zheng at every tournament. When she is playing at her best, she is capable of upsetting some big players.

Marion Bartoli: The Stanford champion is very unpredictable. Prone to injury and retirement, she is also prone to flashes of amazing tennis, and is a world-class returner of serve.

Sorana Cirstea: Cirstea is now ranked number 25 in the world, and there isn't much to stop her from climbing higher in the rankings. The versatile Romanian seems to make herself fit in wherever she goes, and she is capable of hanging around a while at the U.S. Open.

Agnieszka Radwasnka: Unfortunately, Radwanska's second serve--unless she can figure out how to never employ it--is such a deficit in her otherwise lovely game, it takes her out of competition at the highest levels. I would think she would be working on developing a real second serve day and night, but what do I know? Still, Radwanska's keen anticipation and laser-like groundstrokes make her a player worth watching.

Other players to watch are Sybille Bammer, Elena Vesnina, Gisela Dulko, and Melanie Oudin. And Katarina Srebotnik is finally back, after a long time off the courts.

Mauresmo slices and volleys her way to New Haven semifinal

The match wasn't pretty, but Amelie Mauresmo's tennis was often beautiful in her Pilot Pen quarterfinal match against top seed Svetlana Kuznetsova tonight. Sometimes looking like the great Mauresmo of 2006, the 8th-seeded Frenchwoman did everything she could think of--slice, serve and volley, increase topspin--to stay in the contest with French Open champion Kuznetsova. She also served well, which helped her quite a bit.

The first set was tight, and Mauresmo--always a good bet in tiebreaks--won it 11-9 in a tiebreak, saving five set points along the way. In the second set, she looked sluggish, and Kuznetsova won rather easily, 6-2. But in the third, all of Mauresmo's energy and finesse returned, as Kuznetsova made more and more errors. Serving at 5-3 for the match, Mauresmo held at love, but only after delivering one more superb backhand down the line.

Both players made plenty of unforced errors, and Mauresmo hit only half the number of winners her opponent hit. Despite the messiness of much of the mactch, however, there were some highly entertaining rallies, especially with Mauresmo spending so much time at the net.

In the semifinals, Mauresmo will play Elena Vesnina, who defeated Anna Chakvetadze 6-1, 7-5. The other semifinal match will be played between 3rd seed Flavia Pennetta and 2nd seed Caroline Wozniacki. Pennetta defeated Magdelena Rybarikova 6-2, 6-2, and Wozniacki defeated Virginie Razzano 6-4, 6-3.

In doubles, Iveta Benesova and Lucie Hradecka defeated Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko when Kateryna had to retire because of a thigh strain.

U.S. Open qualifying update

Here are some players you may know who are already out in the first round of U.S. Open qualifying:

Petra Cetkovska
Abigail Spears
Betina Jozami
Yuliana Fedak
Anne Kremer
Lenka Wienerova
Nicole Vaidisova
Rika Fujiwara
Krisina Kucova
Akgul Amanmuradova (ret.)
Sloane Stephens
Virginia Ruano Pascual
Coco Vandewegh
Hsieh Su-Wei
Julia Vakulenko
Elena Bovina

There are many others; the above is a somewhat arbitray list of players who--for one reason or another--might be better known.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Vesnina upsets Stosur in New Haven

It got a bit dicey toward the end, but Elena Vesnina managed to pull off an upset of one of the tour's hottest players today in New Haven. She defeated 9th seed Sam Stosur 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Though she has had her ups and downs, this has been a really good season for Vesnina.

Also advancing to the quarterfinals today were 3rd seed Flavia Pennetta, who played a close match against Iveta Benesova, and 2nd seed Caroline Wozniacki, who defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Agnieszka Radwanska retired against Virginie Razzano because of an inflamed wrist tendon, and top seed Svetlana Kuznetsova had to fight for almost two hours and forty minutes to ward off Yanina Wickmayer.

Just when I was getting used to seeing Kim again

Justine Henin is contemplating a return to professional tennis. 

Both Clijsters and Henin were absolutely firm in their resolve to remain retired--Clijsters because of her beaten up body, and Henin because of burnout and a desire to get on with her life. A sample of two suggests that Belgian women may not be that credible, despite being very convincing.

Cibulkova withdraws from U.S. Open

World number 16 Dominika Cibulkova, has withdrawn from the 2009 U.S. Open because of a right rib injury. Cibulkova, who was a semifinalist at the French Open, would have been seeded at Flushing Meadows.

Alberta Briani now moves into the main draw, and Agnes Szavay becomes the 32nd seed.

In related news, Sabine Lisicki has confirmed that she will play in the Open.

New ways to watch the U.S. Open

If you live in the U.S. and are fortunate enough to have Direct TV or ESPN 360, you have a lot of choices for watching the U.S. Open. Direct TV will show six matches at a time. If you do not have either of those venues, you still have plenty of choices, though, thanks to the USTA's new live streaming project.

The U.S. Open website will stream up to five matches at a time in high definition throughout the tournament. Also, Tennis Channel will stream some matches throughout the tournament, also.

In addition--though ESPN2 will provide most of the weekday coverage of the tournament--Tennis Channel will provide live broadcasting of some matches on outer courts!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chakvetadze advances to quarterfinals of Pilot Pen

Former top-10 player Anna Chakvetade defeated Sybille Bammer today to advance to the quarterfinals in New Haven. Her next opponent will be either Elena Vesnina or 9th seed Samantha Stosur.

Amelie Mauresmo also advanced to the quarterfinals. 8th-seeded Mauresmo will face either top seed and doubles partner Svetalana Kuznetsova or Yanina Wickmayer.

Advancing to the second round today were Stosur, Marion Bartoli, Flavia Pennetta, and Caroline Wozniacki.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Kleybanova out in 1st round in New Haven

It wasn't surprising to see Alisa Kleybanova--who played her heart out in Toronto last week--make a first-round exit in New Haven today. She was defeated 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 by Yanina Wickmayer. Kleybanova can get some rest now, get her back treated, and be fresh for the U.S. Open.

In doubles, 2nd seeds Chuang Chia-Jung and Yan Zi were upset by Liga Dekmeijere and Urszula Radwanska.

Miscellany

After two years of going out of their way to ignore Tzipi Obziler's motherhood, the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour finally mentioned it, just as Obziler was walking out the door.

Mary Pierce says that she is coming back next year.

I keep forgetting to mention that I really like Maria Sharapova's U.S. Open Series outfit.

The last three times the Rogers Cup was held in Toronto, the winner went on to win the U.S. Open.

Tennis Channel is showing classic U.S. Open matches all this week, as well as its "Only At the Open" series.

If you haven't read The Open Book, published for the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Open, I urge you to do so. Having the book is worth it for the photographs alone, but there is also a lot of great information and historical press coverage.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Update on Lisicki

Good news for fans of Sabine Lisicki: She says her doctor reports that the shoulder injury is not that bad. She is continuing to rehab and is experiencing improvement. Unfortunately, after her retirement in Los Angeles, she had to withdraw from both Cincinnati and Toronto.

Petrova upset in first round of Pilot Pen

Two Russians who have struggled to return to their former tour glory struggled against each other today in the first round of the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament in New Haven today. After losing the first set at love to wild card and 4th seed Nadia Petrova, Anna Chakvetadze won the second set in a tiebreak, then went on to win the third set 6-4.

Chakvetadze's next opponent will be Sybille Bammer, who defeated Anabel Medina Garrigues in the first round today. The Spaniard has had a hard time of it lately, dealing with a knee injury and losing in early rounds.

7th seed Dominika Cibulkova has withdrawn from New Haven with a right rib injury. Replacing her in the draw is lucky loser Varvara Lepchenko.

Spanish team wins Rogers Cup

Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, seeded 6th in Toronto, upset 4th seeds Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs today to win the Rogers Cup. Llagostera Vives and Martinez Sanchez defeated the Australian team 2-6, 7-5, 11-9.

This is the fifth title of the season for the Llagostera Vives and Martinez Sanchez.

Dementieva wins Rogers Cup


Maria Sharapova may not yet be ready for prime time, but she's certainly showing all the old Sharapova spirit. Looking tired and sometimes puzzled during today's Rogers Cup final, she nevertheless willed herself to make a number of small comebacks in a match dominated by 4th seed Elena Dementieva. The two players combined to hit 17 double faults, and there were some frustrating moments, especially for Dementieva, who went about her business the hard way. But some of the rallies were superb, with both players demonstrating outstanding defensive play.

Sharapova, however, made twice as many unforced errors as her opponent, and Dementieva won the title, 6-4, 6-3, in just over two hours.

Today's victory is Dementieva's 14th Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title, and her 50th match win of the season. Dementieva is now 14-14 in tour singles finals.

Jamea Jackson to coach at OSU


Some people have probably been wondering what happened to Jamea Jackson. She quietly retired, and last week, was hired to be an assistant tennis coach at Oklahoma State University.

Jackson was ranked as high as 45 on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, was a member of the U.S. Fed Cup team, and led the team to its 2006 victory over Germany.

Jackson was the first player to use the new challenge system; she challenged a call in her first round match in Miami in 2006. That same year, she defeated Maria Sharapova in the Birmingham semifinals, but lost the final to Vera Zvonareva.

Thanks to On the Baseline for the link.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Stosur & Stubbs upset Black & Huber to reach Rogers Cup final

3rd seeds Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs upset tops seeds Cara Black and Liezel Huber in Toronto tonight, 3-6, 6-3, 10-7.

Stosur and Stubbs will play 6th seeds Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez in the final. The Spanish team upset 4th seeds Daniela Hantuchova and Ai Sugiyama 6-4, 6-4.

Sharapova & Dementieva to play in Rogers Cup final

Elena Dementieva had a fairly easy time of it against Serena Williams in Toronto today, once she got the opening set tiebreak out of the way. Dementieva dominated that tiebreak, and never looked back. Williams just went away, and Dementieva got a ticket to the final with a 7-6, 6-1 victory.

Much more entertaining was the second semifinal, featuring Maria Sharapova and Alisa Kleybanova. During the first set, Kleybanova looked as flat and tired as one might expect, given last night's 3-hour+ thriller. Sharapova took that set 6-2, but Kleybanova came out fighting in the next set; more important, her serve returned. She went up 3-0, then 4-1, but Sharapova caught up, and even had an opportunity to break at 4-all. But Kleybanova held, then broke to take the set. Her level dropped in the last set, however, and Sharapova's rose. Kleybanova's game fell apart at 4-all this time, and Sharapova walked away with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 victory.

Some observations about this match:

Kleybanova moves around the court far better than one would think. I was reminded of Marion Bartoli, who moves deceptively well.

Sharapova knows how to play some fine defensive tennis.

Double-faulting is still the order of the day (a total of 21 in this match).

Kleybanova is one tough cookie.

I enjoyed this match a lot, though not as much as the Kleybanova-Jankovic contest, which I found enthralling, despite the fact that JJ lost.

U.S. Open junior wild cards announced

Here are the wild cards for the U.S. Open junior tournament, courtesty of Zoo Tennis (and look for Colette's posts on the New York Times Straight Sets blog during the U.S. Open):

Julia Boserup
Gail Brodsky
Jacqueline Cako
Alexandra Cercone
Lauren Davis
Ester Goldfeld
Grace Min
Asia Muhammad

Sharapova to play in Toronto semifinals

Late last night, Maria Sharapova became the fourth Rogers Cup semifinalist when she defeated Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2, 7-6. Sharapova had a rather easy first set. Then Radwanska went up a break in the second set, but was broken back. She then broke again to go up 5-2. Sharapova brought the score to 5-all, broke Radwanska, but then was broken back. She prevailed, however, in the tiebreak, and will play countrywoman Alisa Kleybanova in the semifinals.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Larcher de Brito leaves Bollettieri Academy for new home in France

Michelle Larcher de Brito has departed the Bolletieri Academy and is now training at the Mouratoglou Academy in Paris. The 16-year-old Portuguese player--who is, unfortunately, known more for her screaming than for her significant tour potential--will join young Russian star Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who is among the group known as the elite pros at the French academy.

Kleybanova wears down Jankovic and goes to the semifinals

The great backhand down the line vs. a great forehand down the line. Ridiculous line calls. Perseverance of admirable proportions by both players. An umpire who said "deuce" so many times, it must have begun to sound like a nonsense word to her.

That description only begins to sum up the Toronto quarterfinal match between Alisa Kleybanova and 5th seed Jelena Jankovic. Only last night, Jankovic was on the court late, involved in a very close match against Kim Clijsters. But tonight's match may have made that one seem tame. Those who bought a ticket to see it got their money's worth and a whole lot more.

Alisa Kleybanova, who hit 13 aces in the course of the 3-hour and 16-minute affair, was relentless. She had five set points in the first set, but Jankovic took it in a tiebreak (10-8). In the second set, Jankovic saved five more set points, only to see Kleybanova win on her sixth set point, also in a tiebreak (9-7).

I was exhausted, just watching them, and I can only imagine how they felt. Kleybanova's vulnerable lower back troubled her, and she got some treatment from the trainer. While that was going on, Jankovic saw the trainer for her knee. In the third set, Kleybanova broke early. There were nine deuces in the second game, and it looked as though the match might go far into the night. But although Jankovic continued to play well, the Russian was able to find another level and break her again, this time at love. Serving at 2-5, Jankovic set up a shot that looked like the game was going to deuce, but an unlucky (her first) netcord bounce took the ball out of the court, and she was broken for a third and final time.

Kleybanova's 6-7, 7-6, 6-2 victory was a hard-fought one. No one comes back from near-defeat better than Jankovic, and Kleybanova had to start from scratch over and over. It didn't appear to bother her. Many of the rallies were thrilling, and Kleybanova's shot-making was most impressive. She faces the winner of the Sharapova-Radwanska match in the semifinals.

Why does she keep beating me?

The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour site is now featuring an entertaining piece, "The Case of the Pesky Nemesis," which analyzes some of the winning records that some players have over other players who are ranked very high. The Flavia Pennetta-Venus Williams rivalry is, of course, well known, but did you know that Alona Bondarenko has a 3-1 record against Svetlana Kuznetsova?

Here is a quotation from Pennetta that I like: "When I play a great player like Venus, I just go in the court and think I can beat them. Because most of the players get on the court and think, 'Oh, I would like to make a good match.' If you go on the court and just think you want to make a good result, not lose 6-, 6-0, you can never win against them."

Top seed upset in New Haven qualifying

Top qualifying seed Sara Errani went out in the first round of New Haven qualifying today. She was defeated, 6-1, 6-4, by Varvara Lepchenko.

Also going out were Warsaw and Bad Gastein champions Alexandra Dulgheru and Andrea Petkovic.

Both Maria Kirilenko and Olga Govortsova retired in their matches.

Dementieva and Williams advance to Toronto semifinals

The first set played by Elena Dementieva and Sam Stosur in today's Rogers Cup quarterfinals contained plenty of exciting rallies, and plenty of breaks of serve. Dementieva was broken when she served for that set at 5-4, and that was the fourth consecutive break. There were more to come: She broke Stosur right back--at love, no less, when Stosur double-faulted on the final point. Then Stosur broke Dementieva when she served for the set a second time, which forced a tiebreak, which Stosur dominated.

The next set might as well have been played at a different tournament. Stosur's game, especially her serve, collapsed, and in no time, Dementieva had taken the set 6-1. Stosur got back into the mix in the third set, but she still made too many errors, and Dementieva won it, 6-3. Stosur double-faulted a total of nine times, which--by recent standards--isn't so terrible, but it hurt her.

In the second quarterfinal match, the bright run of Lucie Safarova ended when a near-perfect Serena Williams (who has qualified for the Sony Ericsson Championships) was just too good at everything she did, effectively shutting Safarova out of the match. In under an hour, Williams won the match, 6-2, 6-3, losing a total of five points on her serve.

Dementieva and Williams will compete against each other in the semifinals.

Friday cat blogging--underside edition

Rogers Cup quarterfinals set

Here are Friday's Toronto quarterfinals:

Alisa Kleybanova vs. Jelena Jankovic: The big-hitting Kleybanova got a bit of a break in that Jankovic played a grueling third round very late Thursday night because of a rain delay. She is going to be tired. But she will still be JJ.

Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Maria Sharapova: Sharapova has her serve under better control now, which will make it harder for the clever Radwanska to get the best of her.

Samantha Stosur vs. Elena Dementieva: Dementieva had a bad day Thursday, but that doesn't mean she will have a bad day twice in a row. One way or the other, she will face a player who continues to find her considerable potential. If Dementieva's serve is on, it could get interesting. If it isn't, she could be in trouble.

Lucie Safarova vs. Serena Williams: Suddenly Safarova...but the game now gets harder. The two have met only twice, both times on hard courts. Williams won both matches, but one of them was a very close affair. Safarova's confidence is doubtless on the rise, but confidence sometimes fades when Williams is on the other side of the net.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Safarova continues her great run in Toronto


If you are a fan of Lucie Safarova, I feel for you. As a big fan of a notable left-handed under-achiever, I know how frustrating the experience is. Safarova has a great deal of tennis talent, but it is hard for her to string together victories. Suddenly, in Toronto this week, she's found her groove. First she took out Kaia Kanepi, then Ana Ivanovic, and today she defeated the formidable Zheng Jie.

It was an interesting day. Both Bondarenkos went out, but not without fighting. (After all, they're the Fighting Bondarenkos.) Alona fought the wind, then she fought her coach. She fought Serena Williams, too, but even Bondarenko's considerable second set boost couldn't get her to a third set. Kateryna gave Agnieszka Radwanska a harder fight, in a match that held an unexpected momentum swing in the second set. However, Radwanska prevailed, 7-5, 6-3.

In the battle of the hard hitters, Alisa Kleybanova defeated Aravane Rezai. Sam Stosur easily defeated Virginie Razzano, and Shahar Peer took Elena Dementieva to the edge, but lost.

Maria Sharapova upset 7th seed Vera Zvonareva in a match in which Zvonareva showed all of her trademark frustration, especially in the first set, when she just couldn't seem to do anything right. Sharapova took that set 6-2, with Zvonareva holding her serve only once. Zvonareva then began the second set by double-faulting four times in a row, which is a bit extreme even for these days of double-faulting 17 times in a match.

Zvonareva had the trainer wrap her ankle during the match. She also pulled herself together, and the second set contained moments of brilliant shot-making by both players. A few of the rallies were breathtaking, in fact. Sharapova--whose serve has suddenly improved--won, 6-2, 7-6. Both Russians are on the comeback path, and here's hoping that both of them continue to improve. (If anyone knows whether Vera has split with Sam Sumyk or whether she just had a substitute coach in Toronto, please let me know.)

Finally, there was the battle of the straddle. Wild card Kim Clijsters and 5th seed Jelena Jankovic, two of the best and most flexible movers around, took to the court quite late because of this evening's hour-and-a-half rain delay. Clijsters took the first set easily, but Jankovic bounced back and took the second. Serving at 3-4 in the third, Jankovic saved four break points before finally getting broken. Clijsters, serving for the match, immediately went down 0-30, and was soon broken. Jankovic held, then broke again, and went on to win the match 1-6, 6-3, 7-5.

U.S. Open wild cards announced

Kim Clijsters, as everyone knows, has been given a wild into the main draw of the U.S. Open. Here are the other seven players to get wild cards:

Gail Brodsky
Mallory Cecil
Alexa Glatch
Vania King
Christina McHale
Kristina Mladenovic
Olivia Rogowska

The following players have received wild cards into qualifying:

Sloane Stephens
Coco Vandeweghe
Kristie Ahn
Lauren Embree
Irina Falconi
Asia Muhammad
Alison Riske
Nicole Gibbs
Laura Robson

I'm a bit disappointed that Vandewegh and Stephens didn't get main draw wild cards. Vandewegh received one last year, and had the misfortune to draw Jelena Jankovic in the first round. She then went on to win the tournament in the junior division.

Williams sisters to own a stake in Miami Dolphins

On Tuesday, the Miami Dolphins are expected to announce that Venus and Serena Williams are the latest celebrities to own a stake in the team. Negotiations may or may not have been completed, depending on whom you ask.

Gloria and Emilio Estefan and Marc Anthony recently bought small Dolphins shares, and the addition of the Williams sisters will allow the team's ownership to further reflect the cultural diversity of south Florida.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sharapova and Clijsters advance in Toronto

My favorite tennis moment today came when Sybille Bammer--having just broken Maria Sharapova and gotten to 40-0 on her own serve--hit a ball out and brought the score to deuce. "Oh, stop it!" the commentator yelled, and I had to laugh, because that's exactly what I was thinking. There were nine breaks of serve in the match, six of them occurring in the second set. Bammer received a standing ovation when she left the court--she fought hard--but really, she had multiple opportunities to be victorious. Instead, Sharapova won, 6-3, 7-6. She double-faulted 17 times, which appears to be the new number for double-faulting frenzies.

There were several upsets in the second round today. In addition to Dinara Safina and Flavia Pennetta, 8th seed Caroline Wozniacki and 9th seed Victoria Azarenka were also defeated. Zheng Jie defeated Wozniacki 7-5, 6-3, and wild card Kim Clijsters defeated Azarenka 7-5, 4-6, 6-1. 11th seed Ana Ivanovic was defeated by qualifier Lucie Safarova, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3. Also upset was 16th seed Dominika Cibulkova. Alisa Kleybanova, saving six match points, defeated her 6-1, 4-6, 7-6.

Patty Schnyder gave 5th seed Jelena Jankovic a hard time, but Jankovic prevailed, 7-5, 6-4.

In doubles, 5th-seeded Hsieh Su-wei and Peng Shuai were upset by Akgul Amanmuradova and Alla Kudryavtseva, 4-6, 7-6, 10-5.

Safina upset in Toronto

The hard-hitting Aravane Rezai took advantage of top seed Dinara Safina's service difficulties in their second round match today in Toronto. There were 14 breaks of serve in the match, and Safina double-faulted 17 times. Her coach departed before the match was over so that he would not have to see his charge overwhelmed by Rezai's backhand.

Safina is now out of the running to win the U.S. Open Series. And 12th seed Flavia Pennetta, who was tied for first place in the series coming into the Rogers Cup, was also defeated today--6-3, 6-1, by Virginie Razzano. What I don't understand is why Pennetta played in Toronto: She was utterly exhausted by the time she reached the semifinals in Cincinnati, her ankle was hurt, and she had blisters on both feet. While I appreciate Pennetta's willingness to go on, no matter what--perhaps it was time for her to stop and take a rest.

Miscellany

David Shoemaker has been named president of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. He was previously the organization's chief operating officer. (Unlike Stacey Allaster, Shoemaker has not been given a gender change in his new title.)

Sony Ericsson also has a new president. Bert Nordberg, a long-time Sony Ericsson Silicone Valley software manager, has been named to the post. Nordberg's job will be to better position the company, which has struggled against competition like Nokia and Samsung.

Twitter has become the playground of professional tennis players, most notably Serena Williams on the women's side. That's all I can say because no enticement exists that could get me to read anything on Twitter.

As an ensemble--that is, with the jacket included--Kim Clijsters' U.S. Open Series outfit is probably my favorite so far this year.

Speaking of Kim, she has a wild card into the main draw of the China Open.

Here is another stupid tennis idea that I hope does not become reality.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Williams and Kuznetsova both out of Rogers Cup in 2nd round

Only two second round matches were played today in Toronto, and both resulted in major upsets. Sam Stosur defeated 6th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 6-3, and qualifier Kateryna Bondarenko defeated 3rd seed Venus Williams 1-6, 7-5, 6-4.

Kaia Kanepi had another "good" loss, this time going out 6-4, 7-6 to Lucie Safarova. Kanepi is having a poor season, but her last few matches have been rather competitive. Yaroslava Shvedova slipped past Daniela Hantuchova, 7-6, 7-6, and Shahar Peer played a typically long Peer match, lasting three hours. She defeated Monica Niculescu, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6.

In doubles, 7th seeds Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Patty Schnyder served for the match twice in the second set in their first round competition with Vera Dushevina and Anastasia Rodionova--and twice they were broken. Dushevina and Rodionova won the match 3-6, 7-6, 10-7. Yan Zi and Zheng Jie were defeated by Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki, and 8th-seeded Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Nadia Petrova were upset by Alisa Kleybanova and Ekaterina Makarova.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Schiavone, Bondarenko & Sharapova score upsets in Toronto

In the first day of Rogers Cup play, three seeded players were eliminated from competition. 15th seeded Amelie Mauresmo lost (again) to Francesca Schiavone, 13th seeded Marion Bartoli lost to Alona Bondarenko, and number 8 seed Nadia Petrova was defeated by Maria Sharapova.

Bartoli, who won the Stanford tournament--the first of the U.S. Open Series contests--lost to Kim Clijsters in the first round in Cincinnati last week.

Anabel Medina Garrigues, who has not done well at all in singles this season, also went out in the first round, to Patty Schnyder.

El Tabakh goes out in style

Heidi El Tabakh didn't make it past the first round of the Rogers Cup, but her small run was certainly impressive. First she defeated top qualifying seed and up-and-coming player Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and--for an encore--she took out Sania Mirza.

Today, El Tabakh had the misfortune of meeting Sam Stosur in the first round of the main draw, but that didn't appear to bother her. Stosur won, 7-6, 7-6, which tells you a lot about the match. In fact, El Tabakh held set points in both sets. No doubt, her inexperience hurt her in the tiebreaks, but she still made a good showing, breaking Stosur both times she served for the match.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Black & Huber win Cincinnati

Top seeds Cara Black and Liezel Huber won the Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open today. The world number 1 team defeated 7th seeds Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-3, 0-6, 10-2. Black and Huber have won five titles this year.

Jankovic finds redemption and takes home Cincinnati trophy


Italic"I had to bring some excitement back to tennis," Jelena Jankovic joked when ESPN commentators remarked that her Cincinnati win today put her back into the mix of serious U.S. Open contenders. Though relishing her drama queen reputation, a more serious Jankovic talked about the problems she has had this year--getting her body back to its optimum state after having bulked up too much, and dealing with her mother's serious illness.

Jankovic was to have parted company with coach Ricardo Sanchez, but that didn't happen, and today, she heeded his advice to be aggressive and dictate play. Of course, dictating play is not Jankovic's style, but as she said in the post-match interview, had she engaged in lengthy cross-court rallies with her opponent, Dinara Safina, "she would have blown me off the court."

Instead, Jankovic focused on her serve, which has continued to improve, at least in the first-serve category. Playing a very clean match in which she committed only 16 unforced errors, Jankovic moved Safina all over the court, and waited for opportunities to use her signature backhand-down-the-line or to force Safina to mishit the ball.

Unfortunately, the world number 1 didn't need that much help. Having lost the first set, she then went into a mental meltdown, the likes of which we have seen before. Only yesterday, she looked brilliant in her semifinal match, but today, her error-strewn play made it easy for her opponent to close the match.

For her part, 5th seed Jankovic summed up the match in an interview: "I played some great tennis, and it's been a while since I've done that."

Trophy ceremonies for WTA matches are rarely shown on ESPN, though almost all ATP trophy ceremonies are shown. Today, there was some time left, so it looked as though we might get to see the ceremony, but just as it began, ESPN went to a commercial. I was able to see the ceremony on Tennis TV, but most ESPN viewers were once again denied the pleasure of seeing a WTA event from start to finish.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Safina and Jankovic to meet in Cincinnati final

The word that best describes today's Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open semifinals is "unfortunate." Both matches left much to be desired, but in oh, so different ways.

Flavia Pennetta, at one point in her match, told her coach she simply no longer had legs. Exhausted after playing 11 straight matches, and moving around with a wrapped ankle and blisters on both feet, Pennetta could barely keep up. It didn't help that her opponent, Dinara Safina, played about as well as one could ever hope. Obviously, Pennetta needs a rest. In under an hour, Safina won the match 6-2, 6-0.

Then there was the other semifinal, which dragged on for two hours and 45 minutes because both players tried so hard to lose it. The score--7-6, 0-6, 7-6--says a lot, but you had to see it to truly appreciate the bizarre nature of the contest between Jelena Jankovic and Elena Dementieva. Dementieva hit twice as many winners as the off-kilter Jankovic, and was superb at the net, but she also made 55 unforced errors. And she double-faulted 17 times, so those of us who thought she had "moved on" in the service department were not exactly right.

Winning a game meant virtually nothing in this match; there were 15 breaks of serve. Two of those occurred on the two occasions when Jankovic served for the match. And the match had a rather poetic conclusion, in that the final tiebreak was a microcosm of the entire match: Dementieva went up 5-1 (a mirror image of her opponent's first set tiebreak score), then 6-2, and failed to convert any of her four match points. Instead, she wound up the loser.

I am an admirer of both Jankovic and Dementieva, and could hardly stand to see them both play so poorly. While I was watching, I had visions of Safina relaxing in her hotel room, planning a massage and shopping spree. Of course, the real Jelena Jankovic could always show up for tomorrow's final, and that would give the crowd the best show yet.

El Tabakh uses wild card well

Heidi El Tabakh won the recent Rogers Cup playoff to determine who would get a wild card into the qualifying rounds. She got through her first qualifying round today by taking out the number 1 seed, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2. Pavlyuchenkova also failed to make it through qualifying in Cincinnati, where she was also the top seed.

Also going out in the first round of qualifying today was Michelle Larcher de Brito.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Cincinnati doubles semifinals set

5th seeds Virginia Ruano Pascual and Zheng Jie moved to the semifinals of the Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open when they received a walkover from 2nd seeds Daniela Hantuchova and Ai Sugiyama. They will compete against 7th seeds Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, who--despite losing the first set 0-6--defeated Alisa Kleybanova and Ekaterina Makarova.

In the other half of the draw, top seeds Cara Black and Liezel Huber will face Akgul Amanmuradova and Monica Niculescu.

Jankovic and Dementieva ease through to semifinals in Cincinnati

Caroline Wozniacki had a very bad day today in Cincinnati, winning only a third of her first serve points against Elena Dementieva. 8th-seeded Wozniacki won only one game on her serve in a match number 4 seed Dementieva easily won, 6-2, 6-1.

Sybille Bammer had even worse success with her second serve, winning only 18%. The first set of her quarterfinal match against Jelena Jankovic sent Bammer back to the snack bar--this time, for some cream cheese. It took Jankovic just over an hour to win, 6-0, 6-3.

5th-seeded Jankovic will play Dementieva in the semifinals. Jankovic has a 6-3 record against Dementieva, and 5-2 record against her on hard courts.

The other semifinal match will feature world number 1 Dinara Safina and 14th seed Flavia Pennetta. Safina is 6-0 against Pennetta in tour matches.

Quote of the day

"...it's a dream come true for me. I always hoped to be one of the best players in the world, and now I'm there. So it's crazy."
Flavia Pennetta, on entering the top 10

Useless stat of the year

"No mother has knocked off a number 1-ranked player since Evonne Goolagong Cawley beat Chris Evert in the finals of the Virginia Slims of Boston in 1978."
Associated Press

Pennetta enters top 10

For the first time in her career, Flavia Pennetta has entered the top 10 in the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour rankings. It was a long time coming, but no one has worked harder than Pennetta to raise the level of her game. She had a previous high ranking of 11, but today--when she defeated Daniela Hantuchova in Cincinnati--she gave herself the push she needed to enter the elite group of 10.

Pennetta has now won 15 straight matches. She won back-t0-back tournaments in Palermo and Los Angeles, and she is now the first Italian woman to make it to the top 10. In typical Pennetta form, she did lose control of her serve in her Cincinnati quarterfinal, and she also had to fend off a serious fight from Hantuchova toward the end of the match. Hantuchova saved six match points, but could not break Pennetta, who finally sealed a 6-3, 6-3 victory.

Safina ends Clijsters' Cincinnati run

It may not always have been pretty, but Thrill Ride threw off Kim Clijsters today in the Cincinnati quarterfinals. Down 0-2 in the first set, top seed Dinara Safina proceeded to pretty much run over Clijsters for a 6-2 set win. But in the second set, Clijsters found her way.

It looked like there would be a third set, but I don't call the world number 1 Thrill Ride for nothing: Down 1-4 in the second set, Safina took it to 2-4. In her next service game, Clijsters went up 40-0, and Safina reeled off five straight points to break her. Then Clijsters, serving at 4-4, faced a break point, but saved it with a sharp forehand. She was broken, however, on the next break point.

Safina then served for the match at 5-4, but Clijsters broke her. Again, it looked as though there would be a third set, but Safina broke again, then held to take the second set 7-5.

She lost her quarterfinal match, but Kim Clijsters--returning to the tour after a 27-month absence--has a lot to be proud of this week.

Miscellany

Monica Seles will play an exhibition match at the Rogers Cup event.

Sybille Bammer now has a 2-0 career record against Serena Williams.

65% of Eurosport website poll respondents believe that Kim Clijsters can win another major.

You can now download and install a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour toolbar.

Nancy Griffin, a resident of Raleigh, North Carolina, wins matches against men, so men refuse to play her.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands is wearing tube socks again!

Friday cat blogging--birthday edition

Roxie (r) and Velma turn six years old some time this month. Rescued from an undesirable situation, they were adopted at the age of five months, so all we know is that their birthday is some time in August. They are the best sisters ever, and inseparable friends. We call Roxie the "Queen of Everything," but Velma also rules, in her own subtle way.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The rivalry continues: Pennetta defeats Venus in Cincinnati

Today in Cincinnati, Flavia Pennetta extended to match win streak to fourteen, and she also extended her head-to-head record against Venus Williams to 4-3. 14th-seeded Pennetta is now a breath away from being in the top 10 for the first time; she has been ranked as high as 11 in the past. If she makes it to the top 10--and there is every reason to believe she will--she will be the first Italian woman to do so.

With all of Pennetta's impressive tennis skills, it has taken her a long time to gain belief. That, plus a more reliable serve, has done a lot for her.

Overheard at Cincinnati snack bar: "I want what Sybille's having"

Having already taken out both Zheng Jie and Agnieszka Radwanska, Sybille Bammer extended her Cincinnati run today by upsetting 2nd seed Serena Williams. I saw very little of this match; Williams made a lot of unforced errors--47, to be exact--and Bammer held forth quite well. She had to serve for the match twice, but she prevailed at 7-5, 6-4. The word is that Williams was ill today, which certainly would have affected her level of play.

Also continuing her good run was Kim Clijsters, who defeated 6th seed Svetalana Kuznetsova, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2. Victoria Azarenka double-faulted 11 times (what is it with all the double faulting?) in her match against 5th seed Jelena Jankovic, who won the match 7-5, 7-6. Daniela Hantuchova defeated Vera Zvonareva, and Elena Dementieva defeated Sorana Cirstea.

Caroline Wozniacki won her third round match against Melinda Czink when Czink retired with a lower back injury. Czink upset Ana Ivanovic in the second round.

And finally, top seed Dinara Safina defeated Peng Shuai in straight sets to advance to the quarterfinals.

Many of us didn't get to see Clijsters play this week

So here's a peek at her in action in Cincinnati:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Obziler to retire tomorrow

Tzipora Obziler, known better as Tzipi, will retire from professional tennis tomorrow. Obziler, who is 36, was a long-time member of the Israeli Fed Cup team. Her highest Sony Ericsson WTA Tour ranking was 75. Obziler is expected to become either a tennis coach or administrator of some type.

As a consequence of the "No lesbians here" approach to professional tennis, Obziler has repeatedly been omitted from publicity about mothers on the tour. She and her partner have a daughter.

Bammer continues her winning ways in Cincinnati


Yesterday, Sybille Bammer took out Zheng Jie out of competition in the first round of the Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open. To top it off, today, she upset 13th seed Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-0, 7-5. I didn't see any of this coming. Bammer's next challenge will be Serena Williams.

As for Venus Williams, her next challenge will be rival Flavia Pennetta, who defeated Agnes Szavay today. The Woz women had another go at it today, too, with Caroline coming out the winner in three sets. Melinda Czink defeated 11th seed Ana Ivanovic, and Kim Clijsters moved to the third round by defeating Patty Schnyder.

In doubles, there were two upsets today. 3rd seeds Hsieh and Peng were defeated by Dushevina and Rodionova, and 4th seeds Pennetta and Raymond were defeated by Kleybanova and Makarova.

I miss the pairing of Chan and Chuang, and now it looks as though the team of Yan and Zheng has split, also. I don't have any information about the dissolution of these teams, however.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Paszek out for the season

Tamira Paszek, who is under investigation for doping, has requested a protected ranking while she takes six months off to let her back heal. Paszek is accused of violating a doping rule by having her blood enriched and replaced. The procedure involved enriching her blood with a homeopathic treatment.

Thrill Ride almost derailed by Vinci

She's at it again. Dinara Safina came within a hair of going out in the second round of the Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open today. Her challenger was the often-dangerous Roberta Vinci, who came close to breaking Safina to win the second set, and who served for the match in that set. Vinci was also up a break in the final set, but stilll could not defeat the world number 1, who, after double-faulting 10 times, took the match, 2-6, 7-5, 6-4.

15th seed Dominika Cibulkova was upset today in the first round by Peng Shaui, and 10th seed Nadia Petrova was upset by Alona Bondarenko, who served superbly against one of the better tour servers. A bit of a surprise (well, to me) was Sybille Bammer's defeat of Zheng Jie (6-2, 4-6, 6-2), and 6th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova had to work hard to defeat Lucie Safarova, 6-3, 6-7, 7-6. The Russian hit 10 aces.

In doubles, 6th seeds Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Patty Schnyder were upset by Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko, 6-4, 6-2.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Clijsters wins first round in Cincinnati

Wild card Kim Clijsters, playing on the tour for the first time in over two years, upset 12th seed and Stanford champion Marion Bartoli in the first round of the Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open tonight. This is the first year that the Cincinnati tournament has been given premier status, and this new status was given an extra boost by Clijsters' entry.

Bartoli's service stats were not that good, and she converted only 2 of 10 break points.

Clijsters' next opponent will be Patty Schnyder, who defeated Gisela Dulko 6-4, 6-0.

Also upset today was 16th seed Virginie Razzano, who lost to Anna-Lena Groenefeld. Victoria Azarenka defeated Kaia Kanepi 6-3, 7-6, which means that Kanepi continues her losing streak. This was a very respectable scoreline, however, and Kanepi hit 9 aces.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Clijsters returns in Cincinnati--Bartoli awaits her

The Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open begins tomorrow, and the most anticipated feature of the tournament is the return of Kim Clijsters to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Clijsters has her work cut out for her in the first round--she plays Stanford champion Marion Bartoli. Here are some other interesting first round matches:

Peng Shuai vs. Dominika Cibulkova: Cibulkova hasn't had too good a time of it lately, and it doesn't help for her to meet Peng in the first round.

Gisela Dulko vs. Patty Schnyder: I wish I could watch this match--two players whose styles I really enjoy should give spectators a good match.

Carla Suarez Navarro vs. Aleksandra Wozniak: The clever Suarez Navarro competes against a returning-to-form Wozniak, last year's Stanford champion.

Melania Oudin vs. Ana Ivanovic: Oudin made it through qualifying, only to find herself competing against the world number 11. If Ivanovic serves well, Oudin will have all she can handle.

Elena Vesnina vs. Anna Chakvetadze: One Russian is having her best season to date; the other is beginning--maybe--to find her way again. If both play at their best levels, this could be an excellent match.

Kateryna Bondarenko vs. Magdalena Rybarikova: They have played each other only once, and Rybarikova won. Bondarenko, like her sister, is streaky, but has been more consistent lately. This, too, has the potential to be an entertaining match.

Anastasia Pavlyenchenkova, the top qualifying seed, was upset in the final qualifying round by Tatijana Malek. Malek defeated Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 6-2.

Chuang & Yan win Los Angeles championship

The team of Chuang Chia-Jung and Yan Zi defeated Maria Kirilenko and Agnieszka Radwanska today in Los Angeles to win the LA Women's Tennis Championships doubles title. Chuang and Yan (whom most people know from their respective pairings with Chan and Zheng) won the match in a super-tiebreak, 6-0, 4-6, 10-7.

Neither team was seeded.

Non c'è problema!--Pennetta wins L.A. championship in straight sets


Serving well, returning extremely well, and--most of all--holding her nerve, 10th seed Flavia Pennetta overcame 13th seed Samantha Stosur today to win the LA Women's Tennis Championships. This was Pennetta's 17th tour final, her 8th tournament win, and her first victory at a premier tournament.

It was a long time coming. The Italian player, who does well on both clay and hard courts, has it all--a good serve, a good return of serve, physical power, exceptional movement, and some nice strategy. Sometimes she has lost because her opponent was just better, but often, she has failed to win a big match because of a mental lapse.

Having a mental lapse at big moments has also been the hallmark of Stosur, who has now lost five finals. She allowed Pennetta to dictate the match today, and as she became increasingly frustrated, she made more errors. Her serve, usually the finest feature of her game, got her out of a few tough spots today, but was not the strength it has been throughout the tournament.

It's interesting that the first two victories in the 2009 U.S. Open Series have gone to very good players (Marion Bartoli won Stanford) who have had problems realizing their potential on the tour. To get to the final, Pennetta defeated--among others--Nadia Petrova, Vera Zvonareva and Maria Sharapova.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Stosur and Pennetta to play for Los Angeles championship

Though Sorana Cirstea was hardly hobbling around the court today in her Los Angeles semifinal against Samantha Stosur, she looked kind of flat, and it is logical to conclude that yesterday's foot injury played a role in today's performance. It didn't help that Stosur was putting on a serving clinic. The Australian was crisp and efficient, and in just over an hour, she won the match, 6-3, 6-2.

Not so crisp and efficient was the semifinal played between Flavia Pennetta and Maria Sharapova. The first set was as fine a display of tennis as we have seen Pennetta demonstrate. She served extremely well and defended cleverly, which led to a 6-2 win.

Sharapova became more aggressive in the second set, and Pennetta's level dropped off. At 4-all, there was a turning point for the Russian: Serving at 0-40 after double-faulting twice, she found a way to win the game. She then brilliantly broke Pennetta, showing off all the old Sharapova moves and Sharapova spirit, and taking the set.

The final set was a jumble of double-faulting (Sharapova), unsteady nerves, shifting momentum, unforced errors, shaky service games, and tough rallies. Sharapova went up a break early in the set, but Pennetta caught up. By this time, Pennetta's service game had eroded. We often see this decline in service from Pennetta, who is capable of serving extremely well (as she did in the first set). Pennetta did well to tolerate her own third set shortcomings and continue to take advantage of Sharapova's double faults (16 for the match) and unforced errors. Her 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 victory puts her in the final for the second year in a row.

Pennetta and Stosur have never played one another, which should make this Los Angeles final especially interesting. This is one of those championships in which I hate to see either of them lose.

Top 3 seeds out in Los Angeles doubles competition

We are down to the semifinals at the Los Angeles Women's Tennis Championships, and only one seeded team--Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai--remain in competition. Hsieh and Peng are seeded 4th.

3rd seeds Flavia Pennetta and Lisa Raymond lost in the first round. In the quarterfinals, top seeds Sam Stosur and Rennae Stubbs were eliminated, as were 2nd seeds Daniela Hantuchova and Ai Sugiyama.

In the semifinals, Hsieh and Peng will play Maria Kirilenko and Agnieszka Radwanska, the team who defeated Stosur and Stubbs. In the other semifinal contest, Vania King and Monica Niculescu--who got a walkover from the quarterfinals--will play Chuang Chia-Jung and Yan Zi, who defeated Hantuchova and Sugiyama.

Pennetta upsets Zvonareva in Los Angeles

Last year's Los Angeles finalist, Flavia Pennetta, is just one match away from having another chance to win the LA Women's Tennis Championships. Last night, she defeated number 2 seed Vera Zvonareva, 6-4, 6-2. Pennetta, who is seeded 10th, will next play Maria Sharapova.

Sharapova through to Los Angeles semifinals, but it wasn't pretty

In her first set against Urszula Radwanska in their LA Women's Tennis Championships quarterfinal match, Maria Sharapova served well and won the set 6-4. In the second set, her serve went to pieces, and she double-faulted 11 times (as opposed to twice in the first set). The ESPN commentators had a field day analyzing the psychological, physiological and sociological aspects of Sharapova's condition. She would probably have been amused if she had heard them.

Sharapova didn't have to worry, though. Radwanska, who--unfortunately--emulates her sister's second serve--went to pieces in the latter part of the second set, squandering almost every good opportunity she had. She muttered and stumbled and generally made it easy for Sharapova to dig herself out of a hole. After she won the match 6-4, 7-5, Sharapova looked and sounded subdued. In an interview with Pam Shriver, she said that during the period when her shoulder was bothering her a lot, she developed many bad habits while compensating. It will take her a while, she explained, to unlearn those bad habits.

In the semifinals, she will face either 2nd seed Vera Zvonareva or 10th seed Flavia Pennetta, either of whom will return her serve better than it was returned last night. Stay tuned...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Stosur too good for Zheng in Los Angeles

A shaky Sam Stosur lost her first set to a focused Zheng Jie in their LA Women's Tennis Championships quarterfinal today. But when the second set began, Stosur was a different player, gradually finding her rhythm against Zheng, and eventually using her mighty serve to dominate, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Stosur's next opponent is Sorana Cirstea, assuming Cirstea is able to play.

Miscellany

World number 1 Dinara Safina has qualified for the Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha.

Charles Bricker lays into the ESPN commentators for being too lazy to pronounce Marion Bartoli's name correctly--imagine how delighted I was to see this--and goes on to write humorously, but affectionately, about Bartoli.

Bricker again--this time, glad to have some real stats on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour site, but not so happy about having to search for them.

Dinara Safina is the number 1 seed at the upcoming Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open in Cincinnati. Kim Clijsters has a wild card into the tournament.

James LaRosa asks whether women on the tour can make friends with their peers. The answer--duh--appears to be "yes."

Not surprisingly, Li Na has withdrawn from both the Cincinnati and Toronto tournaments.

Lisicki out of Cincinnati

Sabine Lisicki, who had to retire in her 3rd round match in Los Angeles, announced earlier this evening that she has withdrawn from the Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open. Lisicki is having problems with her right shoulder and cannot serve. I will provide more information as I get it. I hope I will have good news soon.

Paszek to play for now

Tamira Paszek has been given permission to continue playing on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour until a decision is made about her possible ban for allegedly violating anti-doping rules. Paszek's attorney says that the homeopathic enrichment of her blood did not violate the rules. A decision will be made in about seven weeks. If the ban is upheld, it is not expected to be a very long one.

Cirstea goes to Los Angeles semifinals, but not without drama

There was a medical time-out. There was foot wrapping and unwrapping. There were tears. There was conflict with the chair umpire. And there was a brief, but impressive, tantrum.

Sorana Cirstea, who does not have a good record against Agnieszka Radwanska, entered the court today in Los Angeles with a good game plan, and was even able to carry most of it out in the first set, which she won in a tiebreak, after losing a chance to serve for it. Some time during that set, she hurt her right heel, and she had to have treatment for it. She looked to be quite troubled by it, and later, she told her coach she could not push off on it. "Then you have to change your tactics," he said.

Cirstea crumbled in the second set, which she lost, 1-6. Even a more than casual observer would have expected her to either retire or just slog through the last set and leave the court "a winner," as Sven Groenefeld advised her. She was hurting. She was frustrated. She was angry. And it did wonders for her. She steadied herself in a way that did not seem possible, and which appeared to unglue her opponent.

Cirstea did what any smart opponent of Radwanska's should do--she took advantage of Radwanska's throwaway second serve. Her first set confidence returned, but Radwanska fought back. Then, when Radwanska served for the match at 5-4, Cirstea broke her. Cirstea then held, and on her third match point on Radwanska's serve (which included a double fault), she won the match--probably as much to her surprise as to anyone's. It is unknown whether Cirstea's foot will permit her to perform well (or to perform at all) in the next round, but she has to be pleased with her effort today, and she has to be pleased with Groenefeld, who obviously helped her believe in herself.

Friday cat blogging--tete-a-tete edition

Ziggy Stardust relaxes on top of the loveseat with his friend Velma

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Los Angeles quarterfinals to be played Friday

Here is the lineup for the quarterfinals in Los Angeles:

Zheng Jie (14) vs. Samantha Stosur (13)

Sorana Cirstea vs. Agnieszka Radwanska (8)

Urszula Radwanska vs. Maria Sharapova

Flavia Pennetta (10) vs. Vera Zvonareva (2)

Injuries and upsets in Los Angeles--top seed out in 3d round

It wasn't a good day for Li Na, Francesca Schiavone and Sabine Lisicki. All three had to forfeit matches in Los Angeles because of injury. Schiavone and her partner, Tathiana Garbin, gave their quarterfinal opponents a walkover because of Schiavone's right hamstring strain, and Lisicki retired against Sorana Cirstea in the third round because of a right shoulder injury.

Not surprisingly, it was her knee that led Li to give Urszula Radwanska a walkover in their third round match. Li's injury problems--especially regarding her knee--have effectively shut her out of having the career many of us presumed she would have when she returned to the tour after her retirement (strange that her name is never mentioned among those of retired players who have returned to the tour). We can hope that she is able to solve her knee problem, but it certainly doesn't look good for her.

There were four upsets today. 13th seed Sam Stosur defeated 6th seed Ana Ivanovic, 6-3, 6-2 and 10th seed Flavia Pennetta upset 5th seed Nadia Petrova. Also, the team of Maria Kirilenko and Agnieszka Radwsanska upset 1st seeds Stosur and Rennae Stubbs, 6-3, 7-6.

And finally, number 1 seed and defending champion Dinara Safina was defeated 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 by 14th seed Zheng Jie. There were 13 breaks of serve in this match. The last one occurred when Safina served at 4-all and was broken at love. Zheng then held at love to win the match.

Sharapova passes 2nd round test in Stanford

There was some anticipation about Maria Sharapova's second round match against Victoria Azarenka at the LA Women's Tennis Championships last night. Sharapova, obviously still struggling with her serve (as are so many) double-faulted twelve times, but she defeated the 3rd seed 6-7, 6-4, 6-2.

There were two other upsets yesterday. Urszula Radwanska defeated 7th seed Dominika Cibulkova, 6-4, 6-7, 6-4. And Sorana Cirstea defeated 4th seed Caroline Wozniacki, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6. Cirstea also defeated her friend Wozniacki in the third round of the French Open.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Wozniak and Lisicki brush past opponents in Los Angeles

Last week, I wrote that Sabine Lisicki--since her return from injury and illness--cannot stop double-faulting. And so it goes...Today, in her first round in Los Angeles, she double-faulted eleven times against Kimiko Date Krumm. Krumm served for the match at 5-4 in the third set, but was broken, and Lisicki wound up winning 7-6, 2-6, 7-5. But this madness has to stop.

Aleksandra Wozniak defeated Bethanie Mattek-Sands 7-5, 7-5. Ayumi Morita retired because of a GI illness, and seven of the qualifiers are out in the first round; only Jill Craybas is still standing.

Szavay out in first round in Los Angeles

Just when Agnes Szavay was ending her slump and returning to form, she met Elena Vesnina in the first round of the LA Women's Tennis Championships. Vesnina, who is having her best season to date, defeated Szavay 6-1, 6-0. As good as Vesnina has become, that is still a most puzzling score.

Also in the first round, Anna Chakvetadze upset 11th seed Virginie Razzano, Lucie Safarova upset 15th seed Kaia Kanepi (who is not having a good season), and Jill Craybas upset 16th seed Francesca Schiavone. Nicole Vaidisova won two games against Yanina Wickmayer, Coco Vandeweghe defeated Tathiana Garbin, and Anastasia Rodionova retired from her match with a left ankle injury.

A slight detour, and a blog I recommend

Before I published Women Who Serve, I published The Dees Diversion--which covered a variety of social and political issues, including feminism--and I wrote for the Mojo Blog, the official blog of Mother Jones. One of my favorite blogs from those days--and still a must-read for me--is Tennessee Guerilla Women. I am quite pleased to have something I wrote featured there today.

I do not generally link to my work on the Web (I sometimes publish in electronic literary magazines, and last year, I did some guest blogging prior to the U.S. election), but since Tennessee Guerilla Women was kind enough to mention and link to this blog, I am using this opportunity to do likewise.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Pouchkova saves 3 match points to give Washington Kastles first WTT championship

The Washington Kastles have won their first World Team Tennis Championship. The Kastles defeated the Springfield Lasers 23-20, a win sealed when Olga Pouchkova saved three match points to defeat the Lasers' Vania King.

Kastles team owner Mark Ein called it the most exciting WTT match he had ever seen, and "a dream come true to win this in front of our fans."

Vania King named WTT Most Valuable Player



Vania King of the Springfield Lasers has been named the World Team Tennis female Most Valuable Player for 2009. King had a 65% winning percentage this season, posting 61 singles games and 40 women's doubles games. This was King's first time to play World Team Tennis.

Named female Rookie of the Year was Liga Dekmaijere, who played for the St. Louis Aces. Dekmeijere won 52 women's doubles games.

Miscellany

Marion Bartoli has withdrawn from the LA Women's Tennis Championships. Bartoli has a calf strain, and had she stayed in, she would have had no rest at all between tournaments. Sam Stosur has taken her place in the draw, and lucky loser Varvara Lepchenko has also moved into the draw.

Here is an interview with the refreshingly thoughtful and articulate Andrea Petkovic.

The Boston Lobsters recently wore numbers on their jerseys for the first time. Team members wore the number 20 to commemorate teammate Martina Navratilova's 20th year as a World Team Tennis player.

Bud Collins will soon be writing a Thursday column for the Tennis Channel website.

Quote of the day

"I know what to do on the big points, I know what my strengths are, and I improved my weaknesses as well. I've also improved my movement a lot, and physically, to be able to hang in there against these types of players--it's important to me mentally."
Marion Bartoli

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Williams sisters win Stanford doubles title

Venus and Serena Williams won the Stanford doubles championship today, defeating unseeded Chan Yung-Jan and Monica Niculescu 6-4, 6-1. The Williams team was seeded number 2.

Update on Paszek

The Austrian anti-doping agency has requested that its disciplinary committee sanction Tamira Paszek with a temporary ban because of a treatment she received involving extracting, enriching and replacing her blood. Paszek's defense was that she did not know she had broken any rule by having the treatment. She now has seven days to respond to the committee.

Bartoli avoids 6-0, 6-1--defeats Venus to win Stanford


Last night, after her semifinal victory over Samantha Stosur, Marion Bartoli--when asked what she planned for the final against Venus Williams--said her first goal was "to avoid 6-0, 6-1," the scoreline of Williams' semifinal match against Elena Dementieva. No worries. Bartoli played the kind of tennis of which she is capable, but which she does not always create. The 3-hour match was everything a final should be--exciting, exhausting, filled with brilliant shot-making, and filled with some odd detours.

One struggled with her serves, the other struggled with her nerves.

2nd seed Venus Williams, whose first serve is one of the best on the tour, had two problems: She was not getting her first serve in nearly as much as she needed to, and she was playing Bartoli, who really doesn't care how good her opponent's first serve is. To some extent, today's match was a repeat of Bartoli's semifinal match: The 8th seed was content to let her opponent hit a multitude of winners while she went about the business of running down every imaginable shot, over and over, until her opponent made an error. The error-prone Williams was happy to oblige--way too many times.

But Bartoli, who was last year's finalist, had her own problems. After handily winning the first set 6-2, it looked as though she might cruise through the second, but Williams would not let her do that. When Bartoli served for the match at 5-3 in the second, she was visibly a bundle of nerves (ESPN commentators said she had told her coach, during the break, that she was excessively anxious), and was easily broken. Williams brought it to 5-all, held easily, then broke the still-unnerved Bartoli when she served to force a tiebreak.

Perhaps to the surprise of some, Bartoli opened the third round by breaking Williams, and then the final round see-saw was in place, with momentum going back and forth. Williams broke Bartoli to even the score at 3-all, but Bartoli broke again. Once again, it looked as though Bartoli might be able to win the match by breaking Williams when she served at 3-5, but again she was forced to serve for the match. With nerves intact this time around, she used her solid and inventive serve to seal the 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 victory.

From my viewer's standpoint, it appeared that Bartoli could have gone out to celebrate a lot sooner if she had used her down-the-line shot more often. When she did use it, she was successful, but there were several times in this match when she could have used it to win valuable points. The rallies became shorter as the match went on, but in the first two sets, some of them were long and outstanding. Bartoli is an expert returner of serve, and her own serve can be very good, as it was today.

I wish Bartoli would utilize her father, Walter, as a coach only, and hire a trainer who could keep her in shape without over-training her. I have always suspected that some of her injuries and fatigue are direct results of excessive and inappropriate training. Getting the Stanford title, however, should do wonders for her confidence. I hope so. I'm one fan who has waited a long time for a Bartoli victory of this caliber, in a final against someone as formidable as Williams.