Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Happy Birthday, Happy Freedom

Today is Martina Hingis's 29th birthday. Perhaps more important, today marks the end of her two-year ban from professional tennis. Though Hingis has no intention of playing on the tour, the ban also prevented her from attending tournaments, doing commentary, and even being recognized as a past champion.

The bittersweet career of Martina Hingis--marked by both tennis genius and significant under-achievement--was hampered by both Hingis's immaturity and by chronic injury. Then, to literally add insult to injury, there was the ban. Anyone who reads this blog knows where I stand regarding the ban and the doping law enforcement establishment, so I won't go into that.

I'll just say Happy Birthday, Martina.

Jankovic highest seed in Tokyo quarterfinals

Seeded 7th, Jelena Jankovic is the highest seed left at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. Jankovic advanced to the quarterfinals when her opponent, Elena Vesnina, retired with a left thigh strain. Here is the quarterfinal lineup:

Iveta Benesova vs. Maria Sharapova
Magdalena Rybarikova vs. Agnieszka Radwanska
Victoria Azarenka vs. Li Na
Jelena Jankovic vs. Marion Bartoli

Bartoli and Jankovic have played one another eight times, and Bartoli has won five of those matches, including the last four.

Oudin first to enter 2010 Family Circle Cup

Melanie Oudin is the first player to enter the 2010 Family Circle Cup in Charleston. The tournament will take place April 10-18 on Daniel Island, South Carolina.

Last year, Oudin went through qualifying, upset 9th seed Aleksandra Wozniak in the second round, and was defeated in the third round by Marion Bartoli.

Oudin has a 38-13 record this year, and is ranked number 42 in the world.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

5 more seeds out in Tokyo 2nd round

The continuation of second round play yesterday resulted in another five seeded players leaving the Toray Pan Pacific Open. 3rd seed Elena Dementieva lost to U.S. Open quarterfinalist Kateryna Bondarenko, 4th seed Caroline Wozniacki had to retire against Aleksandra Wozniak because of a viral illness, and 6th seed Vera Zvonareva was upset by Alisa Kleybanova.

Magdelena Rybarikova upset 13th seed Nadia Petrova in straight sets. It can be argued, however, that the most interesting result was the upset of 12th seed Sam Stosur, who was defeated 6-0, 6-1 by Maria Sharapova. Sharapova held two match points to achieve a 6-0, 6-0 score, but Stosur was able to stop her. It should also be noted that Sharapova, serving with an 87 first serve win percentage, hit seven aces--and only one double fault. Fans waiting for a turning point may have just found it.

Monday, September 28, 2009


The new Tampax ad featuring Serena Williams is one of the worst commercials I have ever seen. "Mother Nature" is a kind of 1960s club lady, and the entire thing is inane. Serena is actually kind of funny, but, really--what were they thinking?

IMG has signed Li Na as a client.

For those who enjoy irony: The latest issue of Tennis--which is devoted to issues involving older readers and tennis players--manages to insult older citizens by referring to an older chair umpire as "senile." Having already insulted women and the LGBT community, the magazine's slur toward people over 50 comes as no surprise, and I suppose the editors' lack of insight isn't exactly shocking, either.

Melanie Oudin and John Isner will represent the USA in the 2010 Hopman Cup competition.

For the first time in 18 years, there are three British women in the world's top 100--Anne Keothavong, Elena Baltacha and Katie O'Brien.

Tom Perrotta says Kim Clijsters may dominate Justine Henin next season. Steve Flink says Henin will dominate Clijsters, but that Clijsters will make it harder for her to do so.

Qualifiers gone wild

Qualifiers had a time of it in Tokyo today, knocking three top-seeded players out of the Toray Pan Pacific Open. There were only three second round matches played, but they all involved qualifiers and upsets. Top seed and wild card Dinara Safina lost to Chang Kai-Chen, who was already someone worth keeping an eye on. Chang defeated Safina 7-6, 4-6, 7-5 in a two hour and 44-minute match. Chang double-faulted nine times (Safina had eight double faults), but she also hit seven aces.

2nd seed Venus Williams fell, too--at the hands of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who won their match 7-6, 7-5. And Andrea Petkovic defeated 5th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 4-6, 6-3. (When Yaroslava Shvedova said "We're coming!" she wasn't kidding.)

There were notable goings-on in the first round, too: Ai Sugiyama had to retire in the last singles match of her career. She became ill with g.i. problems during her match against Nadia Petrova. I don't know whether she'll be able to play doubles, but I certainly hope so. 16th seed Virginie Razzano was upset by Iveta Benesova (the third set score was 6-0); wild card and Hansol Korea Open champion Kimiko Date Krumm was defeated in three close sets by Aleksandra Wozniak (Date Krumm, by the way, is back in the top 100); and Hansol Korea Open finalist Anabel Medina Garrigues was defeated by Peng Shuai.

Other notable players who went out today in the first round were Francesca Schiavone, Alona Bondarenko and Sorana Cirstea.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pennetta and Ivanovic upset in Tokyo

9th seed Flavia Pennetta and 10th seed Ana Ivanovic were upset in the first round of the Toray Pan Pacific Open today. They were defeated by Roberta Vinci and Lucie Safarova, respectively.

Three qualifiers--Chang Kai-Chen, Andrea Petkovic and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova--moved on to the second round.

The end of an era: Sugiyama retires

Ai Sugiyama announced a few weeks ago that she was retiring at the Toray Pan Pacific Open, and the tournament began with a farewell ceremony for her. For fans who have been following tennis for a long time, it's hard to think back to a time when Sugiyama was not a name on the tour. Just over five feet, four inches, Sugiyama stood as a dramatic contrast to the tall, powerful players who arrived on the scene at the beginning of the last decade, but she held her own--and then some--staying remarkably fit for years, and attracting a wide fan base.

Ranked as high as number 8 in the world, Sugiyama won six singles titles; two of those wins were at the Japan Open. As good as Sugiyama was in singles, however, it will be her doubles play for which she will be most remembered; she won a total of 38 doubles titles. She and Julie Halard won the 2000 U.S. Open, and--teamed with Kim Clijsters--she won both Wimbledon and the French Open in 2003. Sugiyama and Mahesh Bhupati won the 1999 U.S. Open mixed doubles title.

Sugiyama was also a long-time member of the Japanese Fed Cup team, and she was a member of the Japanese Olympic team on four occasions. She has played in the main draw of 62 consecutive major events, which is the record for both the WTA and the ATP.

Coached by her mother, Fusako, for her entire career, Sugiyama is also part-owner of a family business that incorporates a number of recreational establishments, including a tennis academy. An avid golfer, she has always been fond of tournaments in venues where there are good golf courses.

Between her business interests and golf, one might think that Sugiyama is looking forward to a busy life. However, just recently, she said she had mixed feelings and that, "I can't imagine not playing tennis." It will also be hard for fans to imagine tennis without her.

Peer wins second title in a row; Govortsova & Poutchek win 2nd in a row, too

Last week, Shahar Peer won the Guangzhou International Women's Open, her fourth Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Title. Today, she won her fifth title in Tashkent, defeating Akgul Amanmuradova, 6-3, 6-4.

Olga Goverortsova and Tatiana Poutchek won the doubles title. They were also the champions last week in Guangzhou.

Date Krumm wins in Seoul

Having defeated both the top seed and the defending champion, Kimiko Date Krumm took her Seoul victories a step farther today, defeating 2nd seed Anabel Medina Garrigues 6-3, 6-3 for the Hansol Korea Open title. This was Date Krumm's 8th career title, and her first in 13 years. Tomorrow is the Seoul champion's birthday: She will be 39.

Chan Yung-Jan and Abigail Spears won the doubles title.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Henin on Henin

"I realized that I'm too young to be at home, to be settling down. I need to move, I need to be free, I need to have some adrenalin in my life. I'm still not ready to calm down and have a normal life. There are things that I want to do first. Maybe I was trying to grow up too fast. I have no regrets, though. I've experienced a lot of things since I retired"
Justine Henin, from an interview in the Daily Telegraph

Qualifiers set for Tokyo

The following players have qualified to play in the main draw in Tokyo:

Kateryna Bondarenko
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Jill Craybas
Alexa Glatch
Andrea Petkovic
Urszula Radwanska
Sania Mirza
Chang Kai-Chen

Bondarenko and Pavlyuchenkova were the two top qualifying seeds. 3rd seed Melanie Oudin was defeated by Jill Craybas in the second round of qualifying.

Shvedova upset in Tashkent

Number 1 seed Yaroslava Shvedova was upset today at the Tashkent Open by Akgul Amanmuradova. Amanmuradova defeated Shvedova 6-4, 7-6, and will play 2nd seed Shahar Peer in the final. Peer defeated 4th seed Olga Govortsova, 7-5, 6-2.

At the Hansol Korea Open in Seoul, Kimiko Date Krumm continued her comeback campaign by winning her semifinal, defeating Maria Kirilenko, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. In the final, she will play 2nd seed Anabel Medina Garrigues, who defeated Anna-Lena Groenefeld, 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hantuchova answers question about doubles

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has been wondering with whom Daniela Hantuchova will play doubles now that Ai Sugiyama is retiring. She addresses this issue in her Seoul blog, in the question and answer part:
We're playing our last tournament together in Tokyo. It's really sad, but I'm really glad I'll be a part of her last tournament. Ai has given me so many wonderful memories on the court, and we're great friends, so it's going to be tough to see her go. She's such a great fighter and a great person. The tennis world will miss her, for sure I will. It won't be easy to find another one like her. Next year I may play some doubles here and there but I'm really going to try focusing on my singles. One of the reasons I was playing doubles so much was because Ai was one of my best friends, and we were having so much fun.

Hantuchova upset in Seoul

First seed Daniela Hantuchova lost in the quarterfinals of the Hansol Korea Open today. Hantuchova was defeated 7-6, 4-6, 6-4 by Kimiko Date Krumm. Other quarterfinal results include:

Maria Kirilenko def. 7th seed Vera Dushevina, 7-5, 7-6
Anna-Lena Groenefeld def. Chan Yung-Jan, 6-0, 2-6, 7-5
2nd seed Anabel Medina Garrigues def. Magdalena Rybarikova, 6-3, 6-3

Meanwhile, in Tashkent, the top seed, Yaroslava Shvedova, won her quarterfinal match against 6th seed Monica Niculescu, 6-7, 7-5, 6-2. Here are the remaining quarterfinal scores:

Akgul Amanmuradova def. 5th seed Stefanie Voegele, 6-1, 6-4
4th seed Olga Govortsova def. Darya Kustova, 6-3, 2-6, 6-2
2nd seed Shahar Peer def. qualifier Alexandra Panova, 6-4, 64

Friday cat blogging--pillow edition

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"No matter what I did with the ball, she kept getting it back."

An opponent talking about Jelena Jankovic? Arantxa Sanchez Vicario? You might think so, but the player was Jean Hepner, who--on September 24, 1984--engaged in a 29-minute, 643-shot rally against Vicki Nelson. The match was played in the first round of a 50k Virginia Slims Ginny tournament at the Raintree Swim and Racquet Club in Richmond, Virginia.

"I thought I was going to go crazy." Nelson said after the match, which she won, 6-4, 7-6 (11). The match lasted 6 hours and 31 minutes, making it the second-longest match of all time, and the longest played in a single day. The tiebreak lasted an hour and 47 minutes.

"There was tons of lobbing," according to Nelson. "I would try to come in and she’d lob me again." After winning the point in the 643-shot rally, Nelson collapsed because of leg cramps, and had a time violation warning called on her. She was able to pull herself together and return to the baseline, however.

Hepner says she didn't realize the match went on as long as it did because she was in a "hypnotic state." For her amazing mental and physical endurance, Hepner, who was ranked number 172 in the world left with $475 in prize money. Nelson (ranked 93), who lost in the second round, took home $775.

Of her win, Nelson said, "It took me a long time to get up the nerve to come in, but she finally hit a short lob and I put it away--forever."

Henin focused on Wimbledon

My guess--and I'm sure the guess of many others--was that Justine Henin's primary goal in returning to the tour was to win the one major that eluded her--Wimbledon. Speaking of her serve and what she needs to do to win in London, Henin says "I am not [tall], so technically it has to be perfect." Her goal is to have a 70 first serve percentage, and she and coach Carlos Rodriguez are making Henin's serve a priority. Henin has always had a good serve, but after her return from serious illness, she tended to miss more first serves than she had before.

Henin credits her competition against Kim Clijsters as making her stronger. However, she says her return to the tour was more influenced by Roger Federer's breakthrough in winning the French Open.

Clijsters announces 2010 schedule

Here is Kim Clijster's schedule for next season:

Australian Open
Fed Cup
Indian Wells
(one more possible tournament before French Open)
French Open
Eastbourne, Rosmalen, or both
U.S. Open
Doha, if she qualifies

Also, the Carl Gantois Cup for 12- and 14-year-olds has been renamed the Kim Clijsters Cup.

Clijsters is currently ranked number 17 in the world.

Williams withdraws from Pan Pacific Open

Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Pan Pacific Open, which takes place in Tokyo next week. Williams is reported to have knee and toe injuries.

2008 Tokyo champion Dinara Safina, who was not originally scheduled to play in the tournament, will be on hand to try to defend her title.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Look at the little rascal hustle!"

Some time during the third set, that's what commentator Tony Trabert shouted when Tracy Austin scrambled around the court picking up ball after ball in the 1981 U.S. Open final. Tennis Channel showed the match last night as part of its "Classic Matches" series.

I enjoy watching that match because it took so many twists and turns: Martina Navratilova cleaned up in the first set, but then she started throwing forehand volleys into the net, and she couldn't stop double-faulting. With the wind constantly blowing, Austin did anything she could think of to keep Navratilova on the baseline, including hitting a good many lobs over her head.

There were some great rallies, and on three occasions, Navratilova made over-the-shoulder shots with her back to the net. Two of them were good, and one of them was a stunning winner.

Navratilova had just become a U.S. citizen in the late summer of 1981, and she had never won in New York, so her desire to win was huge. She would have to wait, though: Austin defeated her, 1-6, 7-6, 7-6. When the match was finally over, Navratilova sat down and cried.

Sadder, though, was Austin's fate. She was out for a few months with a back injury before the 1981 Open. When she won the title, she must have thought that the worst was over, but it wasn't. Austin's back problem became so bad that it took her out of serious competition and forced her to retire at a very early age. Hers is, in fact, one of the really sad sports stories because her potential was so great. She won the U.S. Open twice, and we can only guess how many more big titles she would have claimed had she remained healthy.

Pavlyuchenkova and Bammer upset in Seoul

Chan Yung-Jan defeated 6th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 today at the Hansol Korea Open. Also upset was 8th seed Sybille Bammer, who was defeated 6-1, 7-5 by Magdalena Rybarikova. Yesterday, 4th seed Sorana Cirstea was upset in three sets by Anna-Lena Groenefeld.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Justine Henin announces return to tour

I know now that when a player says she is never coming back to the tour, I can just sit and relax and wait for her comeback announcement. Lindsay Davenport said she couldn't imagine ever returning after she had her first child, but she came back. Kim Clijsters said her body was too battered and in pain to return, but she came back. Justine Henin said she was too burned out to ever return, yet today, 16 months after her retirement, she announced her comeback.

When Clijsters returned, her remarks indicated that the time away from tennis was what enabled her to play again: Her injuries healed, and she learned new ways to train so that she can avoid getting injured so much. Henin is saying something similar--that her mental fatigue has healed, and her desire to play has returned.

Henin is announcing her comeback just a week after Clijsters won the U.S. Open. "Subconsciously, it might have had an impact," Henin said of her countrywoman's success, "but it certainly was not the most important reason."

One cannot help but guess that Henin would like to achieve a career slam, which she would do if she won Wimbledon. Of the three players (excluding Clijsters) who gave Henin the most trouble--Venus Williams, Serena Williams and Amelie Mauresmo--only one would probably now be a viable rival for the pre-retirement Henin. Mauresmo, sadly, is fading away, and Venus's winning record over Henin was achieved a long time ago; they have not played each other in years. As for Clisters, she has a 10-12 record against Henin, which looks good on paper, but Henin won all of the really big matches they played.

Of course, we don't know if we're getting the pre-retirement Henin, or some other version of her, and we also don't know how some of the more successful younger players will handle her game. We do know that there will be plenty of interest in future Clijsters-Henin matches. Henin intends to play in the 2010 Australian Open, which should spice things up considerably.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Molik wins ITF event

My understanding, when Alicia Molik returned to the tour, was that she was going to be playing doubles only, but that does not appear to be the case. Molik, entered as a wild card, just won a 25k ITF event in Darwin, Australia. She is entered in another ITF event, also in Darwin, this week.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Czink wins first title

Melinda Czink, a left-hander from Hungary, won her first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title today, defeating (also left-handed) Lucie Safarova, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 in Quebec City. Czink, who was seeded 5th at the tournament, made her top 50 debut in August.

Top seeds Vania King and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova won the doubles championship, defeating Sofia Arvidsson and Severine Bremond Baltrame, 6-1, 6-3.

Peer is new Guangzhou champion

Shahar Peer, the 5th seed at the Guangzhou International Women's Open, defeated 8th seed Alberta Brianti, 6-3, 6-4 in the final today to win the 2009 championship. This is Peer's fourth Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title.

Olga Govortsova and Tatiana Poutchek won the doubles title, defeating Kimiko Date Krumm and Sun Tiantian, 3-6, 6-2, 10-8.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Safarova and Czink to meet in Quebec City final

4th seed Lucie Safarova and 5th seed Melinda Czink will meet tomorrow to determine who is the 2009 Bell Challenge champion. Safarova defeated 8th seed Julia Goerges 6-3, 6-2.

Czink got the better of 3rd seed Aleksandra Wozniak, defeating the local favorite 6-3, 6-3.

In doubles, Sofia Arvidsson and Severine Bremond Beltrame defeated 4th seeds Alla Kudryavtseva and Riza Zalameda, 7-5, 6-2. Arvidsson and Bremond Beltrame will play in the final against Vania King and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova. They defeated Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Aleksandra Wozniak, 6-4, 4-6, 10-5.

Peng retires in Guangzhou

3rd seed Peng Shuai retired with a right wrist injury in her semifinal match against Shahar Peer today in Guangzhou. Peer, the number 5 seed, will play Alberta Brianti in the final. Brianti, the 8th seed, defeated 7th seed Ayumi Morita.

The doubles final will feature the team of Kimiko Date Krumm and Sun Tiantian against the team of Olga Govortsova and Tatiana Poutchek.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Quarterfinals completed in Guangzhou and Quebec City

The four remaining seeds advanced today in Guangzhou:

8th seed Alberta Brianti def. Anastasija Sevastova, 6-4, 6-2
7th seed Ayumi Morita def. Olga Savchuk, 6-3, 6-4
3rd seed Peng Shuai def. Alexandra Panova, 6-2, 6-3
5th seed Shahar Peer def. Chan Yung-Jan, 6-3, 6-1

Meanwhile, at the Bell Challenge in Quebec City, 1st seed and defending champion Nadia Petrova retired against 5th seed Melinda Czink with a viral illness while Czink was leading, 7-6. Other seeds advanced:

3rd seed Aleksandra Wozniak def. Alla Kudryavtseva, 6-1, 6-1
4th seed Lucie Safarova def. wild card Bethanie Mattek-Sands, 6-3, 6-4
8th seed Julia Goerges def. Lilia Osterloh, 6-2, 6-4

Friday cat blogging--window ledge edition

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Zina Garrison has settled her lawsuit with the USTA. Garrison filed a racial discrimination lawsuit earlier in the year, claiming that she was wrongly dismissed as U.S. Fed Cup captain. She also alleged that she was paid less than U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe, and was held to a higher standard than McEnroe. Details of the settlement have not been disclosed.

Larisa Preobrazhenskaya, Anna Kournikova's coach at the Spartak Tennis Club in Moscow, died this week at the age of 79. She was the most honored coach in Russian tennis history.

Don't miss WTA Backspin's "Players of the Decade" feature.

Vera Zvonareva was fined $1,500 for her use of profanity at the U.S. Open.

For the first time, when the USA plays Italy in the final, the official Fed Cup website will feature live streaming of matches (Thanks to On the Baseline for this news.)

Top seed out in Guangzhou

Anastasija Sevastova defeated number 1 seed Anabel Medina Garrigues today, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1, at the Guangzhou International Women's Open. Meanwhile, 3rd seed Peng Shuai advanced to the third round. Zheng Jie was seeded 2nd in the tournament, but withdrew because of a left wrist injury.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I finally got to see the U.S. Open mixed doubles final

It was on Tennis Channel today. Unfortunately, it won't be aired again--at least not any time soon. Carly Gullickson was as impressive in mixed doubles competition as anyone I've seen lately, keeping the match lively with sharp volleys and well-placed lobs, and also serving accurately and cleverly, and moving well. I'm keeping my eye on Gullickson as a doubles player who could go places.

It looks like no China Open for Clijsters

Not long ago, Kim Clijsters requested a wild card for the China Open. However, after her win in New York, she said "I can go to Asia and play all those tournaments (referring to Beijing and Tokyo), but I’m not."

Clijsters does plan to compete in Luembourg.

Fernandez and Zvereva on ITHF nomination ballot

Of the twelve people who were recently announced as possible 2010 International Tennis Hall of Fame inductees, two are very successful tour doubles players--Gigi Fernandez and Natasha Zvereva, who appear on the list as a team.

Fernandez won 17 majors, including five consecutive French Open titles. She won a total of 68 career titles, and was ranked number 1 on four different occasions.

Zvereva won 18 majors in women's doubles, and won the Australian Open mixed doubles title twice. Zvereva was also ranked as high as 5 in the world in singles.

Fernandez and Zvereva won more major titles than any team in the open era except for Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver.

Chakvetadze out for 4 to 6 weeks

Anna Chakvetadze has been diagnosed with a stress fracture in her right foot, and will be not be able to play for four to six weeks. She says she may try to play in Moscow.

"The doctors gave me this boot that I have to use for the next three or four weeks. I must admit having them on is like weird and funny. I feel like I’m a pirate."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Aleksandra Wozniak is blogging from Quebec City.

You can see post-U.S. Open final photos of Kim (and Caroline) here.

Esther Vergeer, whose match win streak is historic, barely makes $40,000 a year.

Melanie Oudin appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres Show today and now owns a tennis outfit inscribed with the words, "Laugh, Dance, Believe" on the skirt. Oudin will appear this evening on the Tonight Show.

Some new ranking numbers:
Caroline Wozniacki--6
Kim Clijsters--19
Yanina Wickmayer--22
Gisela Dulko--32
Kateryna Bondarenko--34
Melanie Oudin--44

Srebotnik upset in Guangzhou

Katarina Srebotnik, the 4th seed at the Guangzhou International Women's Open, was upset in the first round today by Olga Savchuk, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2. Srebotnik has only recently returned to the tour after suffering two successive injuries.

Top seed Anabel Medina Garrigues defeated Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-1, 4-6, 6-4

Sexism, Serena and Kim

Ann Killion, ironically writing for a sexist publication, makes several points about gender and the U.S. Open with which I strongly agree. There is no doubt in my mind that those in power in sport (and everywhere else)--both women and men--think it is just fine for men to lose their tempers, and "wrong" for women to do so. (I even saw a comment on a blog suggesting that Williams be gender-tested because her rage was so great.) Serena Williams, while often publicly embracing patriarchal values off the court, nevertheless--as an athlete--rubs against the grain of those values.

I also agree with Killion that way too much has been made of Clijsters' motherhood. It was indeed a great feat for Clijsters to have to begin her training from scratch after giving birth so that she could play again, and I applaud her hard work and determination. But the "balance" question is driving me nuts, as it always does. Clijsters "balances" motherhood and a profession the way millions of women--and men--do, every day.

However, I do not agree with Killion that the the line call was "ticky-tacky." What is the point of having rules if officials arbitrarily decide they should not be enforced at certain points of a match or a tournament? And--having seen the Tennis Channel footage--I also disagree with the "questionable" part.

Finally, I disagree that Williams' act was merely an "outburst." It was at first, but then it became something else when physicality was added to it. I do agree with Killion, however, that the chair umpire could have found something to do besides just sit there. And I do join others in thinking that a few "outbursts" from previous decades also crossed the line, but were tolerated.

So although I cannot go along with everything Killion has to say, I'm really glad that someone has devoted an entire column to the sexism aspect of what happened on Saturday.

As for those who make sexist and racist attacks on Serena and on the lineswoman: They appear to be less interested in discovering and analyzing what happened than they are in exploiting the event as an opportunity to express their disdain for those who are neither male nor Caucasian.

Dementieva and Wozniacki qualify for Sony Ericsson Championships

Elena Dementieva and U.S. Open finalist Caroline Wozniacki have qualified to compete in the Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha. They join Dinara Safina and Serena Williams, who have already qualified. There are four remaining slots.

Four doubles teams will also compete; Cara Black and Liezel Huber have already qualified.

Quote of the day

"Dear Kim, Congratulations with your magnificent victory. Once again, Jada can be very proud of her mama. Your achievement is just fantastic! Warm applause to you and your whole family. Best regards,"

From Justine Henin's website. Henin is expected to hold another press conference tomorrow. Fans speculate that this one will be about you-know-what.

My U.S. Open top 10

Melanie Oudin showed us that you don't have to be the tallest to be imposing.

This was the strangest U.S. Open I have ever seen. Generally speaking, the French Open is my favorite of the four majors, but the non-stop drama in New York this year made the other tournaments pale by comparison. In fact, other majors may seem a bit dull after this one. Here are my top 10 U.S. Open occurrences, in ascending order:

10. We don't know her, and anyway, she's Belgian: Pam Shriver had never heard of her. Brad Gilbert called her Wicker Chair. Yanina Wickmayer didn't get very nice treatment from commentators in the U.S., but that didn't stop her from going all the way to the semifinals. Sure, she had help from the disappearing draw in her half, but she had a respectable run, taking out 16th seed Virginie Razzano, Peng Shuai, Sara Errani, Petra Kvitova, and Kateryna Bondarenko.

9. Pardon?: Heather Watson, Great Britain's top-ranked junior, became the first player from that country to win the U.S. Open junior girls championship. Fellow Brit Laura Robson made it to the semifinals.

8. I hope they have built-in shelves: Serena and Venus Williams won their 10th doubles major in Flushing Meadows. It's getting hard to keep track of the number of trophies the sisters have collected over the years.

7. And maybe someday, they'll pronounce her name right: Caroline Wozniacki broke through big-time at the U.S. Open, going all the way to the final. She played clever tennis and held her nerve admirably throughout two weeks of play. She has had a stellar season so far, and is now number 6 in the world.

6. Where is everybody?: The early round upsets were stunning. In the first two rounds, we lost Sybille Bammer, Alisa Kleybanova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Marion Bartoli, Anabel Medina Garrigues, Patty Schnyder, Sabine Lisicki, and Elena Dementieva. The third round featured the upsets of Victoria Azarenka, 2006 champion Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams, and world number 1 Dinara Safina. Eventually, the draw was so emptied of top names that two unseeded players competed in the semifinals.

5. Who needs tactics?: "'s not like we strategized at all," Carly Gullickson said when she and Travis Parrott won the U.S. Open mixed doubles championship. But they must have done something right: They took out the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 6th seeds, as well as another team comprised of award-winning players, and at least one player on each team had won at least one doubles major.

4. Mam-ma Mia!: Flavia Pennetta, in the second set of her round of 16 match against Vera Zvonareva, smacked five glorious winners to save six match points, and in doing so, created the most thrilling extended episode of the tournament.

3. Foot fault!: The foot fault call heard 'round the world led to all hell breaking loose in the women's semifinals and beyond. "All hell" included: reporters hurriedly distributing incorrect information about both the call and Serena Williams' shockingly rageful response, intense outrage from people who saw only the poorly shot CBS footage, indignant suggestions that the rules of tennis be followed arbitrarily, the usual sexist and racist attacks on Serena Williams, a barrage of sexist and racist attacks on the lineswoman who made the call, and more irrational and crude pronouncements than I care to list.

2. The power of belief: Scooting around the court with her pink and yellow shoes and imperturbable attitude, Melanie Oudin made knocking off tall Russians look like so much fun, I wanted to do it. Pavlyuchenkova. Dementieva. Sharapova. Petrova. The player nicknamed "Little Miss Upset" frustrated a veritable matryoshka of Russian players, but before she could remove the last one, Caroline Wozniacki did it for her, then defeated Oudin, also. Nevertheless, the tough-minded 17-year-old with "BELIEVE" stamped on her shoes had one of the most exciting and memorable runs in recent tournament history.

1. Remember me?: Comebacks are popular these days, but they're hard to pull off. Not so for Kim Clijsters, who left the tour over two years ago, had a baby, started training all over again, played in two tournaments, then dropped in to win the U.S. Open. Her run was as dramatic as the tournament itself, and included a 6-0, 0-6, 6-4 win over Venus Williams, as well as a 7-5, 6-4 win over Serena Williams.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Williams sisters win U.S. Open women's doubles championship

The U.S. Open championship match between Serena and Venus Williams and the world number 1 team, Cara Black and Liezel Huber, had featured entertaining moments. With Cara Black unable to hold her serve, however, the Williams team found it relatively easy to win the championship, 6-2, 6-2.

Serena and Venus Williams have won three of the four major tournaments this year; Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual defended their French Open.

Serena and Venus Williams now hold ten major doubles titles and two Olympic gold medals in doubles. They also have also earned the career Grand Slam in doubles.

Oudin withdraws from Bell Challenge

Melanie Oudin has withdrawn from the Bell Challenge in Quebec City because of a left thigh injury. Oudin played with her thigh wrapped throughout her run at the U.S. Open.

Quote of the day

If 18 months ago we called you in the hospital and said, 'Guess where you're going to be in a couple of years?' what would you have said?
"I would have gone 'click.'"
Kim Clijsters

Sunday, September 13, 2009

U.S. Open--what they said

"...I was surprised myself that I wasn't more nervous."
Caroline Wozniacki

"Serena went over to the linesperson and voiced her displeasure."
Craig Gabriel, writing on Serena Williams' website

Sexism award of the day (perhaps of the tournament):
"There were no histrionics and no hormonal outbreaks, just two proud and gifted jocks going about their business."
Bonnie D. Ford, writing for ESPN

"I just wanted to get back in the rhythm of playing tennis, so I have to thank the USTA for giving me the wild card to come back here."
Kim Clijsters

“Last night everyone could truly see the passion I have for my job. Now that I have had time to gain my composure, I can see that while I don’t agree with the unfair line call, in the heat of battle I let my passion and emotion get the better of me and as a result handled the situation poorly. I would like to thank my fans and supporters for understanding that I am human and I look forward to continuing the journey, both professionally and personally, with you all as I move forward and grow from this experience.”
Serena Williams

"I think it's important not to look back too much and say, If I would have won this point, maybe it would be different. I think it's important just to say, Okay, Kim was better than me in this and this, and I need to improve this to be better for next time. Hopefully I can hold up that trophy one day."
Caroline Wozniacki

How's it feel to win a Grand Slam championship?
"Well, actually when I won, I hadn't realized I'd won. I thought, oh, I won the match. And then I put my racquet down, and it finally began to sink in."
Heather Watson

"I don't have words for this."
Kim Clijsters, upon winning the tournament

Clijsters gives new meaning to "comeback"

Tonight in Flushing Meadows, wild card Kim Clijsters became the first unseeded woman in history to win the U.S. Open. She defeated 9th seed Caroline Wozniacki 7-5, 6-3, in a match that contained momentum shifts early on, lots of wind, and--after she steadied herself--a dominant performance from Clijsters.

The 2005 U.S. Open champion went up a break right away, but Wozniacki was able to not only get that break back, but to break Clijsters, who had difficulty handling the high bounces coming at her from Wozniacki's backhand. Wozniacki was also winning points at the net, and Clijsters was making unexpected errors.

At 5-all, however, the match took a turn, as Clijsters began to hit with more power and more accuracy. She broke Wozniacki, then held to take the first set. She was dominant in the second set, using a combination of power and tenacity against her opponent.

Clijsters hit 36 winners and broke Wozniacki five times. Wozniacki, however, has plenty to be proud of, reaching her first major final in fine style, and performing well in the final. She is the first player from Denmark to reach a final in a major tournament.

Kim Clijsters retired from professional tennis over two years ago. Her interest in returning to the tour was stirred by her training for an exhibition match played to celebrate the construction of the new Centre Court roof at Wimbledon. This summer, she played two U.S. Open Series matches before entering the Open as a wild card, and lost to Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina.

When Clijsters retired in 2007, she said her body was too damaged for her to go on, and that she was in pain much of the time. She said recently that all the time off aided her body in healing, and that she believes she now knows more about how to prevent injury. A year and a half ago, she gave birth to a daughter, who charmed the crowd tonight when she reached for her mother's shiny new trophy.

In a U.S. Open packed with drama from start to finish, it seems only fitting that the popular Belgian player's comeback is the final statement. When the rankings come out next week, Clijsters will be in the top 20, where she belongs.

Williams fined $10,000--investigation continues

Serena Williams has been fined $10,000 by the U.S. Open for verbally abusing and threatening a lineswoman in her semifinal match against Kim Clijsters. That is the maximum fine allowed for penalizing unsportswomanlike behavior. Williams must also pay $500 for breaking her racquet.

The committee investigating the incident will determine whether it can be considered a "major offense." Such a finding would lead to additional penalties for Williams.

Vergeer and Homan win U.S. Open women's wheelchair doubles championship

After defeating Korie Homan 6-0, 6-0 (in an odd turn, the men's championship match had the same score) to win the U.S. Open women's wheelchair singles championship, Vergeer teamed with Homan to win the doubles championship. The team from The Netherlands defeated Daniela DiToro and Florence Gravellier, 6-2, 6-2.

Unseeded team wins U.S. Open junior girls doubles championship

Valeria Solovieva and Maryna Zanevska have won the U.S. open junior girls doubles championship. Solovieva and Zanevska defeated 3rd seeds Elena Bogdan and Noppawan Lertcheewakarn 1-6, 6-3, 10-7 in today's final.

Solovieva is Russian, and Zanevska is from Ukraine.

Vergeer wins U.S. Open with 6-0, 6-0 score

For years, Korie Homan has played in finals against her doubles partner, Esther Vergeer, and she has lost. Today, at the U.S. Open, Homan failed to win one game in the women's wheelchair championship match. Her first and second serve win percentages were 43 and 11, respectively, and she saved only one break point against her.

This is Vergeer's seventh U.S. Open singles championship. She has now won 374 straight matches.

Heather Watson wins junior girls U.S. Open

Heather Watson of Great Britain, the 11th seed, defeated Russian Yana Buchina in straight sets (6-4, 6-1) today to win the junior girls U.S. Open championship. In the semifinals, Buchina knocked out 2008 junior Wimbledon champion Laura Robson, also from Great Britain.

Watson, who is 17 and is based in Florida, is her country's number 1 junior player.

U.S. Open miscellany

Be sure to check out the classic match highlights on the U.S. Open website. You can watch Billie Jean King, Rosie Casals, Evonne Goolagong, Lindsay Davenport, and Katarina Srebotnik.

USTA Executive Director Gordon Smith said yesterday that constructing a roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium would be too expensive, and not that practical, considering that it does not rain often at the tournament.

Contrary to what some are saying, Serena Williams was not defaulted from her semifinal match, but for those who enjoy trivia: The last player who was defaulted at the U.S. Open was Caroline Wozniacki. In 2006, Wozniacki, a junior, won the first set of her first round match against Alexandra Panova, but then was disqualified when she allegedly shouted obscenities as a linesperson. Wozniacki denied saying anything inflammatory.

Kim Clijsters is the first wild card to ever reach the U.S. Open final.

Elena Dementieva, winner of the U.S. Open Series, has received the Order of Honor, which is awarded to Russian citizens for high achievement in government, economic production, scientific research, and sociocultural, public, and charitable activities. The award also recognizes merits in training highly skilled personnel, training the growing up generation, and the maintenance of legality and law.

ITF to investigate Serena Williams incident

According to Yahoo! Sports, the International Tennis Federation plans to launch a formal investigation of Serena Williams' comments and behavior directed at a line judge in last night's U.S. Open women's semifinals. Members of the ITF will meet with members of the Grand Slam Committee and U.S. Open referee Brian Earley. Some representing the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour will also be on hand for the investigation.

It is expected that Williams will have to pay a large fine because of the incident.

Wozniacki in U.S. Open final

Caroline Wozniacki, the 9th seed at the U.S. Open, will play Kim Clijsters tomorrow for the championship. Wozniacki defeated the unseeded Yanina Wickmayer 6-3, 6-3, in a match that was played in Louis Armstrong Stadium after a lengthy rain delay, while most eyes were on the Williams-Clijsters match in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Wickmayer hit three times as many winners as Wozniacki, but she also made three times as many errors. Wozniacki's clever, careful and clean play has allowed her to finesse her way to the 2009 final in a tournament that has featured one surprise after another.

To get to the final, Wozniacki defeated Galina Voskoboeva, Petra Martic, Sorana Cirstea, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Melanie Oudin, and Wickmayer.

Wild card Clijsters carved her path to the final by defeating Victoriya Kutuzova, Marion Bartoli, Kirsten Flipkens, Venus Williams, Li Na, and Serena Williams.

Both players defeated close friends--Cirstea (also her doubles partner), in Wozniacki's case, and Flipkens, in the case of Clijsters. Wozniacki took out Oudin, who became an instant celebrity when she upset four Russian players in succession, and Clijsters now joins a small group of players who have defeated both Williams sisters at a major event; this was Clijsters' second time to do so.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

U.S. Open--what they said

"I'm still in shock."
Kim Clijsters, on winning the match when her opponent received a point penalty at match point

"...I didn't think I would get a point penalty. I don't think about it. So, you know, I've been more positive on the court lately."
Serena Williams

"I think two night matches has really helped me. I mean, it's the world's biggest stadium we're going into, and it's different. But now I've tried it twice this year and I won two times. I won it one time against Melanie where the whole crowd was behind her. So I think I got some experience there, and hopefully that can help me tomorrow."
Caroline Wozniacki

"She said she was sorry."
Serena Williams, reporting what Kim Clijsters told her during the handshake

"Some of my best practice sessions have been with her."
Kim Clijsters, speaking of Ai Sugiyama

Do you think the lineswoman deserves an apology?
"An apology for?"
From you.
"From me?"
For the yelling and what you said.
"Well, how many people yell at linespeople? So I think, you know, if you look at--I don't know. All the people that, you know, kind of yell at linespeople, I think it's--kind of comes sometimes. Players, athletes get frustrated. I don't know how many times I've seen that happen."
Serena Williams

Serena Williams upset in U.S. Open semifinal, in more ways than one

I wrote just a few days ago that we should continue to expect very strange things to happen at this U.S. Open, but I certainly wasn't expecting the events that occurred tonight in the semifinal match defending champion Serena Williams played against Kim Clijsters. And by that, I mean everything that happened.

Williams is fond of saying that she sometimes "goes crazy" at a major, referring to the times that she has been upset. But those upsets (defeats by her sister at Wimbledon notwithstanding) always occur in the first week. Once Williams gets to the second week, she just gets better, and until tonight, that pattern was fully evident.

Tonight's match was originally scheduled to take place yesterday, but a lengthy rain delay caused a postponement. Perhaps because of the long wait, Williams was obviously not herself when she stepped onto the court. Her usually superior second serve was just not there, she missed a lot of first serves, and she had to cope with the rapid and deep returns of her opponent.

Angry with herself for making so many errors, Williams broke her racquet after the first set, and was given a code violation warning. Clijsters won that set 6-4. Williams immediately broke Clijsters when the second set began, but she was then broken back. Though she continued to have trouble with her serve, Williams did begin to look much more like herself, and before long, the match became competitive. I think it's fair to say, in fact, that many spectators expected to see a third set.

At a dramatic point in that set, both women held at love. But Clijsters broke Williams at 5-all, and suddenly, Williams was serving at 15-30. She missed her first serve, and her second serve was called a foot fault. Williams did not think she made the error. Unfortunately, players cannot challenge foot faults--only shots. The call, which was not overruled by the chair umpire, gave Clijsters match point. That's when Williams lost it: She walked over to the lineswoman and, using a word widely considered obscene, threatened to shove the ball down the woman's throat. And then, racquet raised, she walked even closer to the lineswoman's chair.

That was the end of the tantrum, and Williams returned to her rightful place on the court. But by this time, the lineswoman had gotten up and reported the incident to the chair umpire. The tournament referee was called to the court, and since the verbal abuse was Williams' second violation of the match, she had to default a point to her opponent. That was, of course, match point, giving Clijsters a 6-4, 7-5 win. Clijsters looked stunned, and continued to look that way for some time.

There is a lot of doubt over whether Williams actually foot-faulted, which only makes the entire incident more troublesome. There is, of course, no excuse--ever--for threatening an official (or anyone), but when I saw Williams explode, I had to wonder: How close to the surface has this volcano been smoldering? For surely no one has been the victim of more ridiculous line calls and umpire passivity than Serena Williams.

There is no doubt that the use of electronic line calling came a little earlier than expected because of Williams' 2004 U.S. Open quarterfinal against Jennifer Capriati. Then there was the now infamous "hand incident" involving Justine Henin in the semifinal of the 2003 French Open. And in the third round of this year's French Open, there was even an "arm incident" involving Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.

At no time, when any of these incidents occurred, has Williams been able to do anything but just shake her head, look exasperated, and--in the case of the 2003 French Open--shed some tears.

Was it, then, just a matter of time before years of holding in her on-court anger caught up with her? Williams was having an "off" night tonight, and her tension was palpable. This entire U.S. Open, on the women's side, reads like some type of strange astrological phenomenon, so I suppose we can hardly be that surprised that Williams finally unleashed her fury during this bizarre fortnight.

Clijsters was the better player tonight, and she earned her victory. Williams will now have to deal not only with the loss, but with the public consequences of her inappropriate behavior.

One more time: Vergeer and Homan in women's wheelchair final

The U.S. Open women's wheelchair final, not surprisingly, will feature Esther Vergeer and her doubles partner, Korie Homan. In the semifinals, Vergeer defeated Aniek van Koot 6-0, 6-1. Homan won her match against Sharon Walraven when Walraven retired after the first set.

Robson out of U.S. Open junior competition

Laura Robson is out of junior girls U.S. Open competition. She lost to Yana Buchina, who defeated her 1-6, 6-3, 7-5. In the final Buchina will play Heather Watson, who defeated 11th seed Daria Gavrilova.

Lertcheewakarn upset in quarterfinals

Noppowan Lertcheewakarn, the junior girls number 2 seed, was upset today in the quarterfinals by Heather Watson of Great Britain. 11th-seeded Watson defeated Lertcheewakarn 6-2, 6-1.

Other quarterfinals winners were Daria Gavrilova, Laura Robson and Yana Buchina.

Because of the weather, the quarterfinals were moved to the Sound Shore Indoor Tennis Club.

Friday, September 11, 2009

U.S. Open--what they said

"I cannot imagine a life without tennis. I feel sad, forlorn. It will be a completely different life after the retirement."
Ai Sugiyama, confirming her retirement after the Pan Pacific Open

"It would just be kind of weird to put a roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium."
Serena Williams

Friday cat blogging--U.S. Open edition, part 2

Thursday, September 10, 2009

U.S. Open--what they said

"...I just think my game just suits doubles more, and maybe that's why I have more success in doubles. But...I definitely love doubles. I probably could say I like doubles a little bit more than I do singles probably because it's less stressful."
Carly Gullickson

"It is magnificent, that is evident."
Justine Henin, on Kim Clijsters' comeback

"We didn't really have a game plan our whole week here. Like it's not like we strategized at all, but we just played really well this whole week."
Carly Gullickson

"You were a brat back then, you were a little brat."
Chris Evert to Pam Shriver, humorously recalling their U.S. Open final

Melanie Oudin--gone from Flushing Meadows, but not to be forgotten

In the U.S., just about anything positive is soon turned into a cliche by the news media. After Melanie Oudin defeated Maria Sharapova, Melanie Mania began, and people who never watch tennis tuned in to see Little Miss Upset. It was indeed a one-of-a-kind sports upset story. Oudin upset Pavlyuchenkova (though that victory went practically unobserved), then the U.S. Open Series winner, then the 2006 champion and media queen, and finally, the estimable Nadia Petrova. All Russians, all highly regarded.

Over and over, we heard about Melanie's pink and yellow shoes, about her twin sister, about how Oudin still lays sod at her tennis club, and about her 16-year-old boyfriend. Eventually, the young star had to have security guards surrounding her at all times. She has signed a contract with BackOffice associates, and will make a couple of major appearances on television talk shows next week.

Throughout the tennis blogosphere and on tennis forums, dozens were quick to point out that it was no big deal to defeat a group of mentally collapsing Russians (whatever happened to: "The top players always find a way to win even if they are not playing well"?), that Oudin "has no weapons," and even that Oudin has no talent.

So we have two camps--those who have made Melanie a national pop craze, and those who have quickly jumped in to tear her down. Business as usual. And though I agree that we cannot really predict what kind of career Oudin will have, you can't put a price on her mental toughness and ability to think positively most of the time. Her forehand and movement are very good, and she has learned to use her slice effectively. Her serve is improving, and I expect we will see more enhancements to her game as she learns what she needs to do to advance.

To me, Melanie Oudin is a breath of fresh air. I followed her junior career, and I saw her play in Charleston. The fight in her is impressive, and her poise on and off the court belies her age and relative inexperience. She is a joy to watch. Her idol is Justine Henin, who--at Melanie's age--was known mostly as a very talented player who tended to choke. Oudin, whose stance on the court and use of positive emotion does frequently remind me of Henin, seems just as driven as her idol. Her coach's attitude even reminds me somewhat of the attitude of Carlos Rodriguez, the man who pushed Henin to improve her serve and come to the net.

What Oudin did at the 2009 U.S. Open will probably always be remembered, as it should be. I wanted her run to continue, but I wasn't really surprised that it ended in the quarterfinals. Oudin's detractors would do well to remember that she also reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon, taking out the 6th seed along the way. And while I was very unhappy to see Jankovic go out, I was impressed by Oudin's attitude. Having watched her in April, though, I wasn't that surprised by her results. She has that little something extra, and it's located in her brain.

So here's to Melanie...Thanks for giving us a string of unrelenting thrills. Know that you gained many fans. Stay strong, and keep doing what you do.

Gullickson and Parrott win U.S. Open mixed doubles championship

The unseeded American team of Carly Gullickson and Travis Parrott won the 2009 U.S. Open mixed doubles championship today. To get the trophy, Gullickson (who was a last-minute substitute for Abigail Spears) and Parrott took out almost all the big names in mixed doubles. In fact, they defeated an entire gallery of doubles and mixed doubles champions:

Number 6 seeds Nadia Petrova & Max Mirnyi
Sania Mirza & Daniel Nestor
Number 3 seeds Lisa Raymond & Marcin Matkowski
Number 1 seeds Liezel Huber & Mahesh Bhupati
Number 2 seeds Cara Black & Leander Paes

Gullickson and Parrott defeated Black and Paes 6-2, 6-4.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

U.S. Open--what they said

"I've never met her before, so shaking her hand after the match was the first time I met her. It was crazy."
Melanie Oudin, on her match against Maria Sharapova

"...I just wanted to keep her mostly on her backhand side, but also make her run to her forehand."
Caroline Wozniacki, on her strategy against Melanie Oudin

"I missed a few opportunities. I was pretty mad at myself. I kept fighting and kept hanging in there and just came back."
Yanina Wickmayer

"I knew kind of what I was getting into with the crowd and everything. I talked to my dad, who is my coach, and he said, 'Go into your own bubble.'"
Caroline Wozniacki

Did you surprise yourself at all with how strong you were mentally here?
"I think I did sometimes, but I've always been strong mentally. That's been one of my like key strengths, and I think that I can still get stronger mentally. Today I was a little bit fragile, I think."
Melanie Oudin

"Even if I had a break point she didn't give me a chance to win it. She just played unbelievable. When she was break point down she kept hitting winners."
Kateryna Bondarenko, referring to Yanina Wickmayer

"Usually, I don't like to think about my matches ahead of time, but this time, it was impossible."
Caroline Wozniacki

Pam Shriver, meet Yanina WIckmayer

Caroline Wozniacki's opponent in the U.S. Open semifinals will be Yanina Wickmayer, a young Belgian who may or may not have been insulted by Pam Shriver on ESPN tonight. Given Shriver's penchant for sarcasm and her admission a day or so ago that she didn't know who Wickmayer was, I'm of the opinion that the insult occurred. In interviewing Wozniacki, Shriver, rolling her eyes, said "Your next opponent is (pause) Yanina Wickmayer." The crowd booed her.

There is really no excuse for a commentator to not know who a semifinalist is, no matter strange she may think the draw is. And there is certainly no excuse for making a humiliating comment, even a subtle one, about Wickmayer's success at the Open. Wickmayer is ranked number 50 in the world, yet I didn't hear Shriver make a snide remark about world number 70 Melanie Oudin when she reached the quarterfinals.

I first saw Yanina Wickmayer in Fed Cup competition last year when she defeated both Bondarenko sisters. She's a good hitter with an especially good serve, and she knows how to vary it. She reached the Birmingham final this year, but lost to Kateryna Bondarenko, whom she defeated today in the U.S. Open quarterfinals. Like a lot of youthful big hitters, Wickmayer is inconsistent, and prone to making errors. She is also something of a hothead, which has gotten her into trouble.

On her way to the semifinals, Wickmayer defeated 16th seed Virginie Razzano, Peng Shuai, Sara Errani, Petra Kvitova, and Kateryna Bondarenko.

Some will win, some will lose

And while some may be born to sing the blues, Melanie Oudin isn't part of that group. She'll sing them for a while, I'm sure, and then she'll get back to business. A 17-year-old gobbled up by the American hype machine, Oudin finally caved in tonight against a steady Caroline Wozniacki, who defeated her 6-2, 6-2 in the U.S. Open quarterfinals. Oudin had enough brain power to set up her shots, but then she repeatedly failed to execute them. Hers backhand slice helped her set them up pretty well, but the forehand that brought her so much success throughout the tournament failed her over and over tonight. In addition, her footwork and movement no longer had the dead-on timing we saw from her earlier in the tournament.

Oudin's anxiety was obvious before she even came out of the tunnel. There may have been some physical fatigue, but to me, it all looked mental. And the more errors she made, the more forlorn she looked. She said later that part of the problem was that Wozniacki wasn't giving her any free points, and she felt pressured to hit winners. Wozniacki, for her part, played a smart match, hitting Oudin into awkward court positions that she might have thrived on a week ago, but that overcame her in her first night match. Oudin's anxiety was so tangible, it didn't take her opponent long to play into it. The young American did not acknowledge any anxiety in her press conference; in fact, she more or less denied having it, but it was hard to miss.

In the first set, Oudin went down 0-4, but holding after going to deuce seemed to make her a little more confident. Interestingly, from the beginning, she served better and more consistently than she had in other matches. Meanwhile, Wozniacki--skillfully moving Oudin out of her comfort zone--kept the pressure on, and went up 5-1. It was only then that Oudin saw her first break opportunity. Wozniacki saved the first break point, but was broken on a double fault. Oudin saved two set points at 2-5, but Wozniacki took the set on the third one.

Doubtless, there was high hope that the second set would produce a different Oudin, like the one who--all last week--needed one set to figure things out. She did begin the second set with solid defense, but then mishit an overhead shot. She followed that error with her now-signature forehand down the line, and took Wozniacki to deuce twice, but did not break her. That failure was the probably the writing on the wall for Oudin fans; the other Melanie would have broken her opponent and turned everything around.

In the third game, Oudin had more break chances, but again, she could not convert, and injury was added to insult when Wozniacki held with a lucky netcord drop-over. At 2-all, Wozniacki saved two break points in a very long game. Serving at 2-3, Oudin saved two break points, but then lost her serve with a not-so-lucky netcord ball. And that was that. Wozniacki held, then broke Oudin's next serve to win the match.

Wozniacki hit five winners in the match--all in the first set. Oudin hit only eleven. She also made more than twice as many errors as Wozniacki.

When the whole thing was over, Oudin looked crushed, but, given the strength of her character, she won't let this defeat get her down for long--and she won't stop believing.

Update, sort of, on Lisicki

According to Sabine Lisicki, her scan "went well." She is in Florida undergoing rehab for her injured ankle. Lisicki, you'll recall, rolled her ankle going after Anastasia Rodionova's match point shot in the second round of the U.S. Open. These days, Lisicki seems to be in rehab more often than she is on the court.

Williams sisters join Black & Huber in U.S. Open semifinals

Since the U.S. Open began, I have generally watched two matches at once (a practice I don't recommend). This afternoon, however, it was hard to take my eyes off of the quarterfinal match between the Williams sisters and the comeback Chinese team of Yan Zi and Zheng Jie. Venus Williams had a consistently troublesome serve, which opened the door for the aggressive team of Yan and Zheng. Zheng is the showier of the two, and some of her volleys are stunning, but many times, they are set up expertly by the quiet and steady Yan.

Serena Williams served for the first set at 5-2, and was broken. Yan and Zheng held, as they continued their aggressive tactics. Up to this point, Venus was the only player who had not been broken, but when she served for the set at 5-4, she double-faulted twice. Serena rushed the net and saved a break point, but the team was broken when Venus double-faulted a third time.

When Yan and Zheng served at 5-all, there was a thrilling rally which ended when Zheng went to the net to save a break point. The Chinese team was broken on the next break point, however, and the Williams team held to take the set 7-5. The Williams sisters went up an early break in the second set, but were broken, then Yan and Zheng were broken right back. When the Williams team served again, Yan and Zheng had a break point, but Zheng over-hit a volley, which went long, and the Williams sisters were able to hold for 6-4 and the match.

(Note to Doug Adler: Four women on the court do not "man" their positions.)

In the other quarterfinal, top seeds and defending champions Cara Black and Liezel Huber faced Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez. Black and Huber took the first set 6-3, and the Spanish team took the second, 6-2. In the final set, Black and Huber went down 4-5, 0-30, but found a way to hold--because that's what Black and Huber do. At 5-6, sitting on the bench during the changeover, Liezel Huber turned to her box and gave a thumbs-up to her team. The team then faced another break point, but saved that one, too, then broke the Spanish team. Black and Huber then held for a 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 victory.

In the semifinals, Black and Huber will play 3rd seeds Sam Stosur and Rennae Stubbs. The Williams sisters, who are seeded 4th, will play the 13th seeds, Alisa Kleybanova and Ekaterina Makarova.

Wickmayer defeats Bondarenko in U.S. Open quarterfinal

Kateryna Bondarenko had a winning record over Yanina Wickmayer coming into the U.S. Open, but today, it was the Belgian who prevailed, 7-5, 6-4, in what turned out to be an entertaining, and sometimes tense, match. Bondarenko, probably the victim of nerves (or perhaps just being a Bondarenko), seemed a pale figure throughout much of the first set, letting Wickmayer dictate almost every rally with her inventive service game and tough groundstrokes. When she was about the lose the first set at 3-5, though, Bondarenko suddenly came to life, broke Wickmayer, and saved a set point. She then held for 4-5. Wickmayer held, then broke Bondarenko. At that point, the set became very exciting. Bondarenko wound up saving five set points, but her effort wasn't good enough.

Bondarenko--with her sister, Alona, and her chihuahua, Princess, looking on--broke early in the second set, and Wickmayer smacked her racquet on the court (or so I heard). Wickmayer remained tense for a while, smacking balls around and coming close to getting hereslf in trouble. But then she calmed down, and went back to dominating the match. She broke Bondarenko at 4-all, and then held to become a semifinalist at the U.S. Open.

Wickmayer could be more consistent, for sure, but on the big points, she came through. Surprisingly, she served only one ace. She hit twice as many winners as her opponent, and they were almost even on unforced errors. Bondarenko was never dominant enough, and getting off to a rather flat start didn't help.

Given Wickmayer's fighting spirit and the Bondarenkos' tendency to be inconsistent, I can't say I'm that surprised that this match went the way it went. Recognition goes to Todd Spiker for naming Wickmayer a semifinalist several days ago.

Two Belgians in the semifinals...feels like old times.

Dear ESPN: Can you say "priority"?

I know that Yanina Wickmayer and Kateryna Bondarenko don't matter to you, but how many times do we need to see the interview about the tournament's security slip last night, or hear about men's matches that have already taken place? It was a women's quarterfinal at the U.S. Open, and a good one, at that. There was no excuse for breaking away after the first set.

ESPN did return to the match, but after four games had been played in the first set, one of the players had been broken, and Wickmayer's racquet had been smacked down on the court. Then we had to put up with hearing from three commentators how surprising that was. Rennae Stubbs (of all people) had to send a text message to them to inform them of Wickmayer's temper.

20 years ago this week, Chris Evert said goodbye

This quarterfinal week marks the 20th anniversary of the final U.S. Open match of the great Chris Evert. She was defeated 7-6, 6-1 in the 1989 quarterfinals by Zina Garrison. Evert defeated Monica Seles 6-0, 6-2 in the round of 16.

Evert reached her first U.S. Open semifinal at age 16. She went on to win the event six times, and retired with a 101-12 record at the tournament. Seventeen of nineteen times, she reached the semifinals.

U.S. Open miscellany

Melanie Oudin's story has topped all other stories, especially in the U.S., as well it should. However, this U.S. Open also gave tennis fans a chance to see more of the lovely game of Yaroslava Shvedova, the player who upset Jelena Jankovic. In addition to having a game worth watching, Shvedova also has a compelling on-court personality. Trivia you should know: Oudin defeated Shvedova on her way to the round of 16 at Wimbledon.

Speaking of Oudin: She had to check out of the Manhattan Marriott on Sunday because her reservation expired.

Serena Williams took some time off from the Open to throw the first pitch at a Yankees game.

John McEnroe said yesterday that a strong coach is very important, especially on the women's side "because of the travel." I'm sure he'll have competition, but it will be hard to top this gem as the most offensively patriarchal statement made by a commentator during the tournament.

This was almost certainly Ai Sugiyama's last U.S.Open. She speculates that she will retire after the Tokyo tournament. Sugiyama reached the U.S. Open round of 16 in singles in both 2003 and 2004. She and Julie Halard won the doubles championship in 2000.

Brooklyn filmmaker Alan Rich has filed a suit against the USTA, claiming the organization discriminates against wheelchair competitors by refusing to sell broadcast licensing rights to their matches. Rich, who is making a documentary about wheelchair tennis, claims that--since the networks do not broadcast wheelchair matches--he should have the right to do so. State Supreme Court Justice Michelle Weston is expected to make a decision today.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

U.S. Open--what they said

What were your observations of Kim's match with Venus? What discussions have you had with Venus, if any, about that match?
"Well, I just saw how well she moved. Seems like she's even faster than what she was before. I was thinking that maybe I should have a baby and then I'll come back faster."
Serena Williams

On match point, it was a very long rally. Did you think in your mind, Well, I saved a lot of them the other night?
"Yes. Why not?"
Flavia Pennetta

"...I love watching Oudin play, Wozniacki, Wickmayer, it's so much fun for me to just watch on TV and see the emotions that come out of them when they win a match. I get so happy when I just see that."
Kim Clijsters

Is it harder to play against somebody who is nice as opposed to someone who is maybe a pain in the ass?
"Obviously, yeah, but I can--if I can play against Venus, I can pretty much play against anyone."
Serena Williams

Why does she have to lose the first set?
"Just to continue to annoy me and stress me out."
Brian deVilliers, Melanie Oudin's coach

She (Flavia Pennetta) said that you have a certain intensity on your face when she plays you. Are you aware of your intensity out there, especially on your face?
"No, I'm not aware of it, but I see it after in photos. I'm pretty horrified sometimes."
Serena Williams

Why was he (Agassi) your favorite player?
"No, I mean, you can saw picture before. He was long hair, and he can do whatever he want. And then I just feel like yeah, I just think maybe some day I was like him, like I can do whatever I want."
You have long hair.
"Yeah, but I didn't haven't have a good baseline like him."
Li Na

"...when I get in the court, I always try to think I can win the match. I don't go in the court and just say, 'I hope to make a good game and then will we see.'"
Flavia Pennetta

Doesn't sound at all like, you know, you carry any grudge, you know, 'You beat my sister so I want to beat her,' at all. I'm wondering, in the past, has that ever been a factor? Has that ever happened? Is there ever a time someone beat your sister and you said, 'I really want to beat her because she did that?'
"I'm a really good actress. Thank you."
Serena Williams

Stupid question of the day:
Your baby's getting ready to take a nap and you're getting ready to go to work. How difficult is it for you to balance that?
Pam Shriver, to Kim Clijsters

Boorish question of the day:
You're enjoying this so much. I'm curious if you plan on having more children? If so, ideally when might that happen?
Question to Kim Clijsters

Stosur & Stubbs in U.S. Open semifinals

3rd seeds Sam Stosur and Rennae Stubbs defeated 8th seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Nadia Petrova in straight sets today at the U.S. Open to advance to the semifinals. They will play the winner of what should be an intriguing quarterfinal: Black and Huber vs. Llagostera Vives and Martinez Sanchez. The top seeds and defending champions, Cara Black and Liezel Huber, have won six championships this year, as have the 6th seeds, Nuria Llagostera Vives and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.

Also winning their quarterfinal match were 13th seeds Alisa Kleybanova and Ekaterina Makarova, who upset 10th seeds Maria Kirilenko and Elena Vesnina in an all-Russian contest. Kleybanova and Makarova will play the winner of a quarterfinal featuring 4th seeds Serena and Venus Williams and 11th seeds Yan Zi and Zheng Jie, who are working on their comeback as a top doubles team.

Top seeds upset in U.S. Open mixed doubles

Unseeded Americans Carly Gullickson and Travis Parrott are enjoying quite a run at the U.S. Open. In the first round, they upset 6th seeds Nadia Petrova and Max Mirnyi. In the 2nd round, they defeated Sania Mirza and Daniel Nestor, and in the quarterfinals, they upset 3nd seeds Lisa Raymond and Marcin Matkowski.

Today, Gullickson and Parrott upset number 1 seeds Liezel Huber and Mahesh Bhupati to get to the final. Their opponents will be 2nd seeds Cara Black and Leander Paes.

Gullickson entered the women's doubles competition with partner Alexa Glatch. They were defeated in the third round by the 10th seeds, Maria Kirilenko and Elena Vesnina, after upsetting the 7th seeds, Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai, in the second round.

Williams and Clijsters go to U.S. Open semifinals

The scoreline does not quite reflect what a high-quality, entertaining semifinal Serena Williams and Flavia Pennetta played on Arthur Ashe Stadium tonight. Williams, the 2nd seed and defending champion, won the match, 6-4, 6-3, and--precisely because she was pushed hard by Pennetta's defense--she produced an especially beautiful display of serves (including 7 aces), volleys and well-smacked winners. Her serving was especially good. Pennetta had only a couple of chances to break Williams, but the 2nd seed was never broken.

The first set included really good serving from Pennetta, as well. But at 4-5, her serve suddenly melted, and she was broken. (How many times has this happened to players when Serena is on the other side of the net?) In the second set, Williams raised her level even more, and was usually victorious in long and exciting rallies that reflected the talent of both players. One of those rallies--perhaps the best--occurred right before match point, when Williams sneaked a forehand down the line and became a U.S. Open semifinalist.

Williams' opponent in the semifinals will be wild card Kim Clijsters. In this morning's quarterfinal, Clijsters played Li Na, who was defeated as much by crippling anxiety as she was by Clijsters. The Chinese number 1 did not look comfortable on the court, though she did set up several winning shots. The problem was that when she went to hit the winner, she would make an unforced error. Li did this repeatedly, though--for a little while in the second set--she looked as though she might really compete. Clijsters won the match 6-2, 6-4.

Williams and Clijsters have not played each other in about 6 1/2 years, and Williams leads 6-1 in their competitions. Williams won all six of their hard court matches, and Clijsters won the one tmie they played on carpet, defeating Williams in the 2002 tour championships.

Monday, September 7, 2009

U.S. Open--what they said

"I started believing I could do it, and I did!"
Melanie Oudin

"I just hit too many unforced errors, and I could not control my emotions. And I wanted it so much, so it was pretty hard to control."
Svetlana Kuznetsova

"She came back, and after winning her previous matches in the same way, she probably thought, 'I can do it again.'"
Nadia Petrova, referring to Melanie Oudin

...are you still nervous when you're 6-0, 5-0 up?
"Actually, I was nervous whole match."
Kateryna Bondarenko

"She said to me, 'This is going to take some getting used to.'"
John Oudin, on his daughter's instant celebrity

Why did you go there (Saddlebrook)? Capriati?
'Well, went there when I was nine. I lost my mom when I was nine. I wanted to get away from home. I loved playing tennis. I was actually only playing for half a year. So I really enjoyed it, but just wanted to get away from home and do other stuff, be around other people. That's why we left."
That was a mature decision. Was it your decision?
"Yeah, it was completely mine. I still don't know how I did it when I was nine. I guess I was older than I thought I was."
Yanina Wickmayer

"I was creating the point or I was losing it. This was it."
Svetlana Kuznetsova

You know, that you have a big draw, big possibility to go far in this draw. Are you thinking about that?
"I did not see the draw. Seriously, I didn't see it."
You want to see it?
"No, thank you."
Kateryna Bondarenko

"...maybe I was a little bit lucky, but that's what tennis is all about. Sometimes you're playing amazing and you lose a match, and sometimes you're a little bit lucky. It's one point that can change the whole match."
Caroline Wozniacki

"I don't actually mean to lose the first set."
Melanie Oudin

No Russians in U.S. Open quarterfinals

For the first time in eight years, there are no Russian women in the quarterfinals of the U.S Open. The Russian emergence that occurred at the beginning of the last decade is still going strong, but--thanks largely to Melanie Oudin--several of the top Russian players, including the one thought most likely to win this year--are gone. Oudin also took care of one up-and-coming Russian player, and a few others went out early in the tournament. The remaining Russians, Dinara Safina and Svetlana Kuznetsova, were removed by Petra Kvitova and Caroline Wozniacki.

Here is the quarterfinal draw:

Li Na vs. Kim Clijsters: Clijsters is the favorite here, but the Li forehand is on fire at this tournament, and that could make for a really good match.

Flavia Pennetta vs. Serena Williams: Williams is the favorite here, of course, but Pennetta's spectacular display of mental strength and tennis mastery last night should create interest in the match.

Yanina Wickmayer vs. Kateryna Bondarenko: Bondarenko has a 4-1 career record against Wickmayer, with the last victory coming recently in Cincinnati. Nevertheless, nerves may be the most important factor in this match. Bondarenko, by the way, has yet to drop a set at the Open, and she has upset both Gisela Dulko and Ana Ivanovic.

Melanie Oudin vs. Caroline Wozniacki: If there were poetic justice, Oudin would be playing Svetlana Kuznetsova, which would give her five Russians in a row. Kuznetsova lost her round of 16 match, though, so Oudin's brief Russian-stomping run is over. One has to wonder whether the 70th seed can survive another three-set thriller. I don't think the occasion will bother her too much, though it may trouble Wozniacki. Or not. Wozniacki held her nerve to defeat Kuznetsova, and she may be on the verge of more of a breakthrough.

Bondarenko and Wickmayer to meet in U.S. Open quarterfinals

I thought the round of 16 match between Kateryna Bondarenko and Gisela Dulko might be interesting. It was, but not in the way I expected. I wasn't able to watch the match, but the stats indicate that Dulko served badly--really badly--and Bondarenko played a very clean match, which she won 6-0, 6-0. Apparently, Dulko was overcome by the occasion and just could not get into the match. She's a very good player, and this is a very surprising result.

I was also unable to watch the match between Yanina Wickmayer and Petra Kvitova, and I really wanted to. Not surprisingly, Kvitova made a lot of unforced errors. And Wickmayer, up 5-2 in the third set, was almost broken at 5-all, but wound up winning the match 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.

There was a significant upset in doubles today: 11th seeds Yan Zi and Zheng Jie took an important step in their comeback by defeating 5th seeds Daniela Hantuchova and Ai Sugiyama, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

U.S. Open: Kuzzy out, Woz in

Until today, Caroline Wozniacki had not reached the quarterfinals of a major tournament. But tonight, in Arthur Ashe Stadium, she defeated the 2004 champion 2-6, 7-6, 7-6 in the round of 16. Kuznetsova hit nine aces, four of them when she was in a state of desperation, saving match points. Yet at other times, when she needed just to keep the ball out of the net, she couldn't do it. The number 6 seed also hit 59 winners, while her opponent hit only 16.

Those strange number help tell Kuznetsova's sad story in tonight's match. She served well, and she had the match on her racquet, even serving for it in the second set, but she became so error-prone that--for long patches--she could not do anything right. And while she dug herself out of hole after hole--in the end--she was too overcome by the occasion to create a victory. 2 hours, 23 minutes, and 63 unforced errors after the first ball was hit, the Russian went out, a victim more of her own undoing than anything else.

Having said that, I should add that Wozniacki hung in very well, and demonstrated, by winning both tiebreaks, that she could handle the occasion. Her defensive play was often excellent, and--unlike her opponent--her spirit never flagged. She made Kuznetsova work hard for almost every point, and she also displayed considerable ahtleticism in many points.

Wozniacki's victory means that Melanie Oudin will not get another shot at taking down a seeded Russian in the quarterfinals. The 9th seed took care of that for her, breaking one of the oddest patterns to ever emerge in a major tournament.

It's not nice to fool Mother Russia

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Elena Dementieva. Maria Sharapova. Nadia Petrova.

The list reads like a Russian tennis encyclopedia--the junior mighty, the once-mighty, the U.S. Open Series winner, and the 2006 U.S. Open champion. All out of the 2009 U.S. Open, all removed by the player Tennis Channel has nicknamed Little Miss Upset.

At a U.S. Open that is already bursting with thrilling moments, Melanie Oudin, the 17-year-old American, has provided some of the most spectacular. Today, she was up against a woman who is not only one of the tour's best servers, but also one of the tour's best volleyers. Lucky for Oudin, Nadia Petrova is also one of the tour's more mentally fragile competitors.

Petrova, serving big and coming to the net to make expert volleys, easily won the first set 6-1, overwhelming Oudin, and suffering no injury from Oudin's mediocre serve. To the casual onlooker, the scene looked like the prelude to a flight back to Georgia for the American. But to those who have been paying attention, it looked like a pattern: Lose the first set to an important Russian, hang in for a while, and--as the shoes say--believe.

Belief may be Oudin's greatest attribute, but it takes more than belief to win a big tennis match. Superior movement and a cracking forehand help, too. And in this match, Oudin's backhand defense was good enough to set up just enough winners for her to keep competing.

Then there was Petrova. The 13th seed, who is loaded with talent, is known for not being able to hold herself together mentally when things get tough. Such was the case today, when even her net points began turning into errors. Spewing balls every which way, Petrova looked confounded by her own inability to play the sharp points she had played in the opening set.

Two points from going down 3-5 in the second set, Oudin reversed the momentum and was able to stay in and play in a tiebreak. It seemed almost inevitable, after Petrova double-faulted, that Oudin would win that tiebreak. She quickly went up 5-0, and won it 7-2. She arrived on the court for the third set looking amazingly fresh and confident, and hit groundstokes into corners while her opponent continued to make errors. And just like she did against Dementieva and Sharapova, Oudin pulled off a three-set win, 1-6, 7-6, 6-3.

Oudin's performance at the Open is not like anything we have seen in a while. After she defeated Petrova, she placed her palms against her hat, and for a moment--in that stance--she looked just like her tennis idol, Justine Henin.

People like to talk about a "dream run," but this one really does seem like it is part of a dream. Every time I write Oudin's name on my drawsheet, I do so with a certain amount of awe. When she has mastered the weaknesses in her game (which I believe she will do), what will she be able to do? She has won 17 of 21 three-set matches, she doesn't seem bothered by huge occasions, and she is only 17. Her coach says he's hoping she'll grow another inch, but what she lacks in height, she makes up for in depth. Ask any Russian.
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Sunday, September 6, 2009

U.S. Open--what they said

I don't think people were surprised it went three sets, but the first two sets were...
"Very weird."
Kim Clijsters

"I knew I didn't have the physical ability for a third set. I knew that in the middle of the second set."
Vera Zvonareva

"...I'm not even going to tell you what was going on in my mind. Yeah, I was shaking. My arm felt like 50 pounds or more. But I just told myself, 'Look, don't give it away like that.'"
Kim Clijsters, on serving for the match at 15-40

Safina, because the day session ran long, her match was supposed to be the first on at night on Ashe got moved to Louis Armstrong. She was disappointed in that. She thought it was disrespectful that the women's match got moved. Any opinion on that? If placed in a situation like that, would you be upset?
"Well, why didn't they move the men's match again? They were second on."
She said they told her they wanted to give fans the chance to see a best of five set match and they moved her to Armstrong.
"Yeah, I think that was just a good thing to tell her to silence her at that moment. But I have to take her side on this. I think that she was first on. She should've played at 7:00. They should have moved the men's match. Simple as that, that's how it should be done. If you're supposed to play a match, you're supposed to play it, and then you move the next match."
Serena Williams

"...I never thought that I was going to be back. Never, ever did I doubt it or did I think about it even."
Kim Clijsters

Flavia, down six match points--how did you do it?
"Oh my god."
Flavia Pennetta

Non arrenderti mai! Pennetta saves 6 match points and goes to quarterfinals in Flushing Meadows

Some of Flavia Pennetta's tennis--especially in the serve department--left much to be desired tonight in her U.S. Open round of 16 match against 7th seed Vera Zvonareva. But much of it was superb. Zvonareva, who recently said she was thinking too much about her ankle and not enough about her shots, showed up with heavy strapping around both knees, yet she moved expertly around the court, hitting accurate groundstrokes on both sides, and winning repeatedly at the net.

In the first set, Pennetta went for too many winners too quickly and wound up making too many errors. The 10th seed lost that set, but slowed down in the next set, exercising more patience in the rallies, some of which were beautiful. She missed several opportunities, however, to take advantage of Zvonareva's second serves, and found herself painfully close to losing in straight sets.

Then, serving at 5-6, the Italian put on a stunning display of the toughness for which she has become known. Saving four match points, she forced a tiebreak, then saved two more match points to win the tiebreak 8-6. Saving six match points is dramatic under any circumstance, but what made this occasion so special is that Pennetta saved five of them with winners, creating one of the most thrilling moments of the U.S. Open so far.

At the beginning of the third set, Zvonareva started fooling with the tape around her knees, and got into a minor argument with the chair umpire about needing a pair of scissors to adjust the tape. Umpire Lynn Welch pointed out the obvious--Zvonareva should have called for a trainer between sets. Zvonareva continued to focus on the tape, and virtually stopped focusing on the match, though--it should be noted--she still made some good shots. But it was all Pennetta by this time.

When Zvonareva fell down in straddle position, she took some time to beat her knee with her racquet before she got up. She whacked herself in the head. She became the Zvonareva of years ago, when her emotional meltdowns took her out of the top 10. The Russian still likes to crack her racquet now and then, but she said last year that now, she does it as a way to release tension, and it doesn't disturb her game. But not tonight. Tonight she simply went to pieces.

Zvonareva later said that--in the middle of the second set--she knew she wouldn't physically last through a third set. That being the case, one has to wonder why she played so conservatively in the latter stages of the middle set. If she was going to wear out, anyway, what could it have hurt her to play more aggressively and try to grab a straight-sets win?

The only answer I can come up with is that Zvonareva hoped Pennetta would get tight and make a fatal error She guessed wrong. Pennetta, with a 3-6, 7-6, 6-0 win, goes to the quarterfinals. It is her second year in a row to do so. She will play defending champion Serena Williams, who overwhelmed Daniela Hantuchova with a 6-2, 6-0 win.