Tuesday, August 31, 2010

U.S. Open miscellany

Today, I heard a commentator call for on-court coaching all the time. He said that if a player didn't have a coach, the USTA could appoint one (I know---it sounds like a Miranda warning). I'm not sure how that would work for the hundreds of players who do not play for the United States. In more ways than one, the commentator needed to think this dreadful idea through a bit more.

Sania Mirza says that she is managing her wrist pain, and is glad to be resuming her career. Mirza, who was out for several months, has an impressive forehand.

When I saw a photo of Maria Sharapova's daytime dress, I wasn't sure if I liked it. Now that I've seen it on her, I like it very much. The night dress is beautiful, even by itself, in a photo.

I can't bring myself to dislike Nadia Petrova's unusual outfit as much as I think I'm supposed to. (Speaking of Petrova, what was that with Petkovic's dance, after a first-round win?) Aravane Rezai's outfit is another matter.

In the U.S. Open preview issue of Tennis magazine, Steve Tignor writes yet another tribute to Flavia Pennetta--and it's another good read.

Beatrice Capra is the U.S. Open's Player of the Day.

U.S. Open--what they said

Every match I win now, it's like winning an entire tournament.
Mirjana Lucic

Keep your mind on your business and stay away from your box and the stands.
Jimmy Connors

...her swing of the racquet is very different. First two games I was just trying to understand how she managed to what she manage and how she manage to do that.
Svetlana Kuznetsova, referring to Kimiko Date Krumm

What goes through your mind when you toss the ball up to serve these days? Trying to think of some sort of image that I could describe as you're staring down a break opportunity for her, she's swinging at the ball, you hit some great second serves in the match.
You're making this a little too dramatic for what it was.
Maria Sharapova

She’s so joyless from the first point I want to run over and stick a party hat on her head....
James LaRosa, on Jelena Jankovic

I feel great, even though I'm wrapped all over right now. It looks bad, but I feel really good.
Mirjana Lucic

You've played in all the big stadiums around the world. Is the wind in Ashe the windiest, or where do you rank it?
It's kind of, you know, it's kind of swirling. You know, from one side the ball kind of flies, and then on the other side it just know, your balls go short and it's tough. But it also kind of changes directions at times.
Jelena Jankovic

In the crunch, Jankovic simply played a little less poorly.
Michael Kimmelman

...when you first came on the tour, you know, you had Steffi Graf talking about you and people really putting some pressure on you?
...Well, I mean, that was the least of my problems always.
Mirjana Lucic

Li out of U.S. Open, Jankovic barely survives

Simona Halep served for the match today at 5-4 in the third set. She and her opponent, 4th seed Jelena Jankovic, played an error-filled mess of a match that Halep might have won had she been at a higher level of fitness and prepared to face the intense heat. But credit to JJ: When it came down to the end, something snapped into place, and she forced consecutive errors from her exhausted opponent to (finally) win 6-4, 4-6, 7-5. Halep was up 5-1 in the second set, and almost ran away with it, as Jankovic made a string of unforced errors. (During the third set, my mind wandered to that Australian Open first round in which Jankovic saved herself  at the last minute from an upset by Tamira Paszek.)

8th seed Li Na, a semifinalist at the Australian Open, did not fare as well. She was defeated 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 by 2009 quarterfinalist Kateryna Bondarenko, who took advantage of Li's run of unforced errors. Also going out were 26th seed Lucie Safarova (def. by Tamira Paszek), 30th seed Yaroslava Shvedova (def. by Lourdes Dominguez Lino), and Bronx challenger winner Anna Chakvetadze (def. by Urszula Radwanska).

Jarmila Groth took a set off of Maria Sharapova, but then went to pieces mentally. She double-faulted 14 times--an unfortunate trend among big servers on the tour. Sharapova defeated her 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.

The Coco Vandeweghe Watch is over. Vandewegh won one game against Sabine Lisicki, who is trying to put her game back together after experiencing a series of injuries and illnesses and a consequent loss of form and confidence.

The player who probably feels the worst today, though, is Magdalena Rybarikova. She believed that Aravane Rezai's last shot in a first set tiebreak was out, but it called good, and Rezai won the tiebreak 7-5. Rybarikova had the second set on her racquet at 6-5, but blew it with a forehand error. She then went down 0-5 in the tiebreak, and fought her way to 5-all. Rezai, the 18th seed, won that tiebreak 9-7.

As close as that contest was, however, I have to acknowledge the competition between John McEnroe and Chris Fowler over who can blather on the most while possessing the least amount of knowledge--not just about the women's tour, but even about U.S. Open procedures. ESPN, I have a deal for you: I'll do the job, and display a quarter of the ignorance for half the money. And I won't insult half of the players.

Monday, August 30, 2010

U.S. Open--what they said

...the doctor told me that she didn't think I was going to grow much more. It was a pretty sad day.
Melanie Oudin

How do you feel about a potential matchup with Melanie Oudin in the third round, should you both get that far?
Ah, you are flying too much.
Francesca Schiavone

Your next opponent is a 19-year-old Australian. What do you know of Sally Peers?

That she's a 19-year-old Australian.
Kim Clijsters

I was just happy to have the shoes.
Martina Navratilova
(responding to a question about whether she ever had anything imprinted on her shoes)

Do you think people were attracted to you, to your game, because you took such risks, in the final, especially?
...I attract them because I'm beautiful. ...No, you have to ask to them why they come to watch me, but I'm really happy.
Francesca Schiavone

I took that loss quite hard and there were a lot of things to get over after that match but it was one of those things that would make me or break me.
Elena Baltacha, on her loss to Petra Martic at Wimbledon (she beat Martic today)

Obviously, you know, hopefully not Wednesday, but hopefully she can do well, you know, and have a really good career.
Kim Clijsters, referring to her 2nd round opponent

What were your thoughts on John Isner's match at Wimbledon and how he's handled all of the attention since?
Well, I know that he's probably more sick of talking about his Wimbledon match, more than I'm sick of talking about last year's US Open.
Melanie Oudin

Stosur gets past Vesnina in 1st round of U.S. Open

Elena Vesnina's first set against Sam Stosur in the opening round of the U.S. Open was very well played--and very well served. The second set went to a tiebreak, which Stosur won. By the third set, it was all about the 5th seed, as Vesnina's form slipped away, and Stosur took control, winning 3-6, 7-6, 6-1.

Venus Williams smacked ten aces against Roberta Vinci. There was a moment when Williams stretched for a volley and felt some obvious pain, but she recovered quickly. The 3rd seed looked in surprisingly good form (she hasn't played during the U.S. Open Series), and defeated Vinci 6-4, 6-1. Vinci is always fun to watch, and the first set was competitive. Williams' next opponent is Canadian qualifier Rebecca Marino, who defeated Ksenia Pervak.

Defending champion Kim Clijsters went down 0-4 in her second set against Great Arn. She got through this bad patch, however, and won the match 6-0, 7-5. Melanie Oudin--who has obviously been working on her backhand--hit winners consistently against Olga Savchuk, whom she defeated 6-3, 6-0. Qualifier Savchuk made only two points in the second set. The match was played on Arthur Ashe Stadium, and Oudin was anxious at the beginning, but straightened herself out.

Olga Govortsova fell onto her wrist during her match against Elena Dementieva, who won in straight sets. Govortsova did not appear to recover very well from the fall. Christina McHale hurt her leg in her match, and--though she was heavily bandaged by a trainer--she could no longer push off to serve successfully. Vania King defeated her with the odd score of 6-3, 0-6, 6-1.

Daniela Hantuchova, looking confident at the net, defeated Dinara Safina in straight sets. Qualifier Mandy Minella had a surprise win over Polona Hercog, and Zheng Jie won two tiebreak sets (7-0 and 7-1) against Timea Bacsinszky.

U.S. Open miscellany

As Cole Porter said, brush up your Shakespeare! You've never before experienced this deconstruction of Hamlet.

During Arthur Ashe Kids' Day, both Roger Federer and Kim Clijsters were interviewed. Federer, the father of one-year-old twins, was asked about this year's Open compared with last year's; Clijsters was asked how she "balances" playing tennis and being a mother.

The U.S. Open promotional spot with the players on famous leaning New York skyscrapers is wonderful.

Geoff MacDonald suggests we watch Victoria Azarenka, Kaia Kanepi and Coco Vandeweghe.

There are great practice and training photos all over Forty Deuce.

Cibulkova--good for her--was the lone player to attend the Dunlop party, where she tended bar.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Peschke & Srebotnik win Pilot Pen

Top seeds Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik won the doubles title in New Haven tonight. They defeated Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Meghann Shaughnessy 7-5, 6-0 in the final.

This is the second title of the year for Peschke and Srebotnik.

Pre-U.S. Open miscellany

Venus Williams says she will not play women's or mixed doubles at the U.S. Open.

The Mets played the Astros on Friday, and Kim Clijsters threw the first pitch, on behalf of the Mets. She was introduced as "one of the best female athletes in the world." God forbid she should be introduced just as one the best athletes.

Vera Zvonareva did a photo shoot for the Vanity Fair website today.

Vania King says the U.S. Open is the least accommodating of all the majors.

Sabine Lisicki and Maria Sharapova have been hitting together at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Panasonic has signed a three-year contract to sponsor the U.S. Open. The company will team with CBS Sports and the USTA to produce 3-D versions of the high-def matches shown on both weekends.

Mirza qualifies for U.S. Open

After three rounds of play, we now have sixteen qualifiers who will enter the main draw of the U.S. Open. Notable among them is Sania Mirza, who has had so much difficulty with multiple injuries to her wrist. Also qualifying are top qualifying seed Akgul Amanmuradova, and former early-teen sensation Michelle Larcher De Brito.

Laura Robson's big serve was not enough to save her from a third round loss to doubles expert Nuria Llagostera Vives, who defeated her 2-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Here is a complete list of U.S. Open qualifiers:

Akgul Amanmuradova
Nuria Llagostera Vives
Monica Niculescu
Mirjana Lucic
Sally Peers
Tamira Paszek
Mandy Minella
Lourdes Dominguez Lino
Rebecca Marino
Irina Falconi
Maria Elena Camerin
Zuzana Kucova
Zuzana Ondraskova
Olga Savchuk
Sania Mirza
Michelle Larcher De Brito

Quotes of the day

"I challenge that theory."
 Chris Evert, commenting on John McEnroe's remarks about the tour

"I just think it's rubbish."
Billie Jean King

Wozniacki wins 3rd straight New Haven title

Nadia Petrova said that if she hadn't thrown her back out early in the third set of her New Haven final against top seed Caroline Wozniacki, she might have been able to launch a serious challenge to take the title. Perhaps. The back injury certainly didn't help, but throughout the match, Petrova exhibited the frustrating streakiness for which she is known.

Petrova managed to hit twelve aces--four of them in one game (I haven't seen anyone do that since Lindsay Davenport did it several years ago), but she, like her opponent, had problems serving into the bright sun. Petrova repeatedly set up sure-thing winning shots, but failed to execute them by hitting the ball long. Wozniacki won the first set 6-3, but in the second, Petrova--looking a lot like Thrill Ride did before her injury--broke Wozniacki three times to win that set 6-3. She did it the hard way--working around her own errors--but her opponent was making more errors, too.

Wozniacki went up 2-0 in the third set, and Petrova called for a trainer because of an obvious back injury. She then went down 1-3, but broke Wozniacki to get back on serve. She then had significant difficulties with her serve, and was broken at love. Wozniacki took the set 6-3, and thereby won the New Haven tournament three times in a row. This is her fourth title this year, and her tenth career title.

"I'm on a roll," she said afterwards. Wozniacki, who is seeded first at the U.S. Open, won the Rogers Cup in Montreal before going to New Haven. She is also the winner of the U.S. Open Series. Should she win the U.S. Open, she will get a $1,000,000 bonus. If she is the runner-up (which she was last year), she will get a $500,000 bonus. Should she make it no higher than the semifinals, she would get a $250,000 bonus.

Kim Clijsters placed second in U.S. Open series points, and Svetlana Kuznetsova placed third. They, too, are eligible for bonuses.

Chakvetadze wins Bronx challenger

Former world number 5 Anna Chakvetadze won the 100k ITF Bronx challenger today. Chakvetadze defeated 7th seed Sofia Arvidsson 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.

4th seeds Kristina Barrois and Yvonne Meusburger won the doubles title. They defeated 1st seeds Natalie Grandin and Abigail Spears 1-6, 6-4, 15-13.

Chakvetadze plays Urszula Radwanska in the first round of the U.S. Open, and she is in the same part of the draw as 8th seed Li Na and 11th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova.

U.S. Open--experts' predictions

Here are the U.S. Open champion predictions of some well-known tennis commentators and writers:

Darren Cahill--Caroline Wozniacki
Jon Wertheim--Kim Clijsters
Kamakshi Tandon--Maria Sharapova
Greg Garber--Maria Sharapova
Pam Shriver--Caroline Wozniacki
Bruce Jenkins--Svetlana Kuznetsova
Steve Tignor--Maria Sharapova
Ravi Ubha--Kim Clijsters
Steve Flink--Maria Sharapova
Pete Bodo--Victoria Azarenka
Sarah Unke--Venus Williams
David Rosenberg--Maria Sharapova
Matt Wilansky--Victoria Azarenka
Bonnie D. Ford--Kim Clijsters
Brad Gilbert--Victoria Azarenka
Mary Joe Fernandez--Maria Sharapova

Friday, August 27, 2010

Chakvetadze & Arvidsson to compete in Bronx final

Unseeded Anna Chakvetadze advanced to the final of the 100k ITF Bronx tournament today, with a semifinal defeat of 8th seed Ekaterina Madarova. Chakvetadze won the match 6-3, 6-3. In the other semifinal match, 7th seed Sofia Arvidsson defeated 2nd seed Klara Zakopalova 7-6, 6-3.

Wozniacki to go for 3 straight New Haven titles

Stellar footwork, beautiful volleys, double faults followed by aces, match points saved, and so close to a win....only to see it fade away.

All one can say is: Elena's back.

Elena Dementieva, the Queen of Quirk, who defeated Marion Bartoli in a frustratingly inconsistent quarterfinal match, said she wanted some tough matches so she can be prepared for the U.S. Open. Dementieva tore her calf muscle during the French Open and had to drop out for a while. She was given a wild card into Pilot Pen Tennis, and--despite her loss to top seed Caroline Wozniacki in tonight's semifinal match--the 4th seed certainly got what she asked for.

This was one of those matches that "should" have been a final. The shifts in momentum, and the fighting spirit displayed by both players, made the match exciting, to the extent that it was impossible to predict the winner until the very last moment. There were thrilling rallies, great volleys, expertly delivered lobs, and some good serving. There were also a lot of twists and turns, which came as no surprise, since Dementieva and Wozniacki are two of the best defenders in women's tennis. Both women missed a number of opportunities to win games rather routinely, but that just created more tension for the spectators.

Wozniacki got off to a slow start, making repeated errors--including on her serve--and winning only one game in the first set. She broke Dementieva right away in the second set, then held serve, though neither she nor her opponent held serve again in the set, which Wozniacki won, 6-3. Despite the breaks of serve, there was plenty to enjoy in the second set, but the best was yet to come.

Dementieva took the lead in the third set, but--knowing the patterns of both Wozniacki and Dementieva--it was hard to take that lead too seriously. Wozniacki fought her way back, but Dementieva took it to 5-4 and served for the match. Wozniacki broke her, and the tension moved up a notch. Wozniacki went up 6-5, and Dementieva, serving at 0-40, hit three consecutive winners to save three match points. She then made two more consecutive points, and then three more, to go up 3-0 in the tiebreak. She seemed to be on a fast path to victory, but it was Wozniacki who won the tiebreak 7-5, and--after two hours and 35 minutes--she had fought her way to her third consecutive New Haven final.

Dementieva, on the other hand, got stuck in the Pilot Pen semifinals for the fourth time in her career.

The defending champion won the Rogers Cup last week, and had to play her final two matches on one day because of rain delays. However, play started late in New Haven because of rain, and Wozniacki--who had a bye in the first round--received a walkover from Flavia Pennetta in the quarterfinals. She received some brief medical treatment during tonight's match, but seemed fine afterwards.

Wozniacki, who won the tournament in 2008 and 2009, will play Nadia Petrova in the final. Petrova was leaving Montreal for New York when she was given a last-minute wild card into the New Haven draw.

Petrova goes to Pilot Pen final

Maria Kirilenko was next to perfect in her first set against 8th seed Nadia Petrova today in the New Haven semifinals. Her clean, stylish game (one I always enjoy) got her a 6-2 set win, as Petrova had issues with consistency, and with her backhand. Shortly after that set ended, however, Kirilenko's received treatment for back pain (she has a history of back problems). When she returned to the court following treatment, she was making an obvious effort to keep the points shorter, and it didn't work for her.

At the same time, Petrova pulled her game up to the considerably high level of which she is capable. The backhand began to work very well, and the 8th seed took the last two sets at 6-2 apiece.

Often, when an opponent is injured, a player has some difficulty competing against her, but Petrova said it was Kirilenko's injury that gave her a chance to sharpen her mentality and get her game back on track. Petrova had a setback this summer because of heat illness that she experienced in Cincinnati, and she said she was grateful to get a wild card into the Pilot Pen draw.

She has used that wild card well. In the final, she will play either top seed and defending champion Caroline Wozniacki or 4th seed Elena Dementieva, who also came into the tournament via a wild card.

Petrova hit eight aces in her semifinal match today, and is now the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour ace leader for the season.

As for Kirilenko, she has hurt her back right before a major tournament in which--if healthy--she has the potential to do quite well. Here's hoping this is more of a tweak than an injury--the current situation is getting more serious by the minute.

Quote of the day

"John is more than entitled to his opinion, and he is a well-respected leader in our sport, but I hope when someone makes comments he's also looking at the data."
Stacey Allaster, referring to John McEnroe

Friday cat blogging--home improvement edition

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pre-U.S. Open Miscellany

Anastasia Pavlyuchenko began her stay in New York by doing a photo shoot for Babolat.

Laura Robson defeated Jelena Dokic 6-1, 6-4 in the first round of U.S. qualifying. Of note: Robson hit eleven aces.

"Even though she’s a mom, success still matters a great deal to her," says Matt Cronin of defending champion Kim Clijsters. (Because we all know that having a child wipes out all desire and ambition in women.)

Vera Zvonareva and Lisa Raymond are two of the players who have designated tomorrow as a shopping day in New York.

To prepare for the Open, Maria Sharapova has been training at the Bollettieri Academy.

Serena Williams was co-commentator for Nike's Prime Time Knockout last night at Pier 54 in Manhattan. Victoria Azarenka was one of the participants.

Limping toward Flushing Meadows

You don't have to be a hundred percent fit to win a major; Serena Williams is living proof of that. "What parts of you are wrapped?" a reporter asked her at one of the majors. "What parts of me aren't?" she replied. On the other hand, Williams is kind of special when it comes to not letting things like chronic injuries and hot spots get in the way of her winning trophies.

Right now, as we approach the U.S. Open, those enjoying good health (as far as anyone knows) include such players as Caroline Wozniacki, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Vera Zvonareva, Francesca Schiavone, Li Na, Marion Bartoli (imagine that), and Agnieszka Radwanska.

But good health isn't everything. Sabine Lisicki and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, for example, have recovered from their injuries, but have had very little match play to prepare for the Open.

Then there are the injured, who may or may not be feeling good enough to compete at a high level. Defending champion Kim Clijsters recently injured her hip, though she says she is now feeling better. Likewise, Sam Stosur says she has totally recovered from a case of sore right arm. Dinara Safina is--for now--pain-free, and one can only hope that she remains so.

Flavia Pennetta injured her foot today, Maria Sharapova recently sustained a foot injury, and Jelena Jankovic has a not-as-recent ankle sprain, whose status is unknown. Venus Williams says she's ready to compete, but she's having knee problems, again. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has been struggling with a hip injury, and just the other day complained of shoulder problems, also, though she has begun hitting again. Ana Ivanovic, who may or not be in a state of comeback, has injured her ankle. Elena Dementieva--a perennial U.S. Open contender--tore her calf muscle during the French Open, and it's still bothering her.

Hard courts are tough on the joints, so we may see some our favorite players at a loss to produce their best tennis, or perhaps at a loss to play several consecutive matches. We could see some retirements, too. There are also players like Bartoli and Victoria Azarenka, who are somewhat injury-prone under any circumstances.

The U.S. Open field is never an injury-free field, but this year seems to be especially bad. With both Serena Williams and Justine Henin unable to compete, and with bad ankles, hips, knees, and feet pervading the top of the rankings, the most we can hope for is that the best players can press on, even while somewhat injured.

The land of (missed) opportunity

That's where Marion Bartoli resides, in case you want to drop by and have a chat and some coffee. For the entire first set of the 6th seed's quarterfinal match against 4th seed Elena Dementieva in New Haven today, she squandered chance after chance--seven in all--to break, but was able to succeed with only two of them. She was broken four times by Dementieva, who won the first set 6-3.

Bartoli raised her level of play in the second set, which she won 6-3. Dementieva quickly moved out in front in the third, but had trouble closing the match, which she finally did--6-3, 3-6, 6-2--on her seventh match point.

Sometimes this match was hard to watch. Dementieva had some obvious trouble with her injured thigh, but that seemed to go away. She did tell interviewers, however, that she is trying to avoid long rallies. The Russian also muttered and chatted and yelled--often at her mother--throughout the three-hour affair. "...what are you telling her?" Mary Joe Fernandez asked her. "You don't want to know," the 4th seed replied.

Dementieva will play defending champion Caroline Wozniacki in the semifinals. Wozniacki won her quarterfinal match by default when she received a walkover from an injured Flavia Pennetta. The top seed's move to the semifinals also means that she has won the U.S. Open Series.

Bartoli double-faulted twelve times, and Dementieva double-faulted seven times. There were 37 break opportunities in the match, and twelve breaks of serve.

The other semifinal will feature two Russians. Maria Kirilenko defeated wild card Dinara Safina 6-3, 6-3 in the quarterfinals, and 8th seed Nadia Petrova defeated 2nd seed Sam Stosur 6-2, 6-1. Petrova is now 4-0 against the Australian.

Pennetta gives Wozniacki a walkover in New Haven

I hope I haven't delivered a blogger's curse, for it was only a couple of days ago that I said to someone, "Flavia doesn't seem to be having any trouble with her foot lately." The Italian has had problem with her feet for a while, and even considered having some foot surgery. Today, she withdrew from her New Haven quarterfinal match because of a foot injury.

I don't know, of course, whether Pennetta's injury is part of her on-and-off chronic syndrome, or whether it is just a run-of-the-mill foot injury. Whatever it is, it couldn't come at a worse time. One of the world's best hard court players doesn't need to hobble into Flushing Meadows.

Keep an eye on these U.S. Open 1st round matches

If Maria Sharapova were hoping for a good first-round warmup at the U.S. Open, then her hopes have probably been realized, for she will play Jarmila Groth. I was disappointed when I saw Groth's unfortunate first round draw; I enjoy watching her, and was hoping she could equal her French Open (where she had a wild card) and Wimbledon round of 16 runs. Of course, it may not be a walk in the park for Sharapova, especially if Groth brings her biggest serve. The Australian appears to like playing on a big stage, so this could be a good match.

Svetlana Kuznetsova could probably think of someone she'd rather face in the first round that Kimiko Date Krumm. Date Krumm's big tennis days are behind her, of course, but she gives every match everything she has, she's still a very good player, and her attitude doesn't tend to dip, unlike some of her peers. (Date Krumm, by the way, is back in the top 50.)

Two big hitters, Coco Vandeweghe and Sabine Lisicki, also meet in the first round. Under "normal" conditions, this wouldn't be a match of much interest. But Lisicki has not played many matches since she sustained her last injury, and this is a chance for the wild card to advance. Of course, Vandeweghe is a very undisciplined hitter, so anything can happen.

Daniela Hantuchova and Dinara Safina are also first-round opponents, though it's hard to accept that one of them will go home so early.

Wimbledon champions upset in New Haven 1st round

Since they won the championship at Wimbledon, Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova have had a hard time getting past early rounds in tournaments. They were knocked out in the first round in Cincinnati; in Montreal, they lost in the second round. And yesterday, they lost their opening match to Chuang Chia-Jung and Olga Govorstova.

Gisela Dulko, the tour's current leader in doubles wins, played with Ipek Senoglu this week, and they lost in the first round to top seeds Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik. 4th seeds Cara Black and Anastasia Rodionova also lost in the first round. They were defeated 6-4, 3-6, 12-10 by Anabel Medina Garrigues and Yan Zi.


Here are photos of Maria Sharapova's U.S. Open dresses. I was hoping she'd do some type of deep blue at night, and here it is. (It's supposed to be a deep purple, but it's definitely a purple with a lot more blue in it than we generally associate with the color.)

And speaking of Sharapova, don't miss the latest edition of the Backspin Time Capsule (warning to JJ fans--you'll relive the whole 2006 U.S. Open nightmare).

Lisa Raymond will never have to worry about leaving her iPod where I can get my hands on it.

Serena Williams will resume playing in Tokyo at the end of September.

2009 junior U.S. Open champion Heather Watson lost today in the first round of qualifying for the 2010 U.S. Open main draw.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has begun practicing for the U.S. Open, so fingers crossed....

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New Haven seeds advance to quarterfinals

It's raining again in New Haven, but it was clear for most of the day, and the seeded players advanced. Elena Dementieva, the wild card who is seeded 4th, had to work extra hard to get her victory: It took her three hours to defeat Kateryna Bondarenko 7-6, 6-7, 6-4. Dementieva didn't help her cause by double-faulting twelve times.

Wild card Dinara Safina had a close call, too, but defeated Daniela Hantuchova 7-6, 7-6. Maria Kirilenko defeated Timea Bacsinszky, and Carolilne Wozniacki (1), Marion Bartoli (6), Flavia Pennetta (7), and wild card Nadia Petrova (8) all advanced to the quarterfinals.

Rain continues to stall U.S. Open qualifying

It rained in Montreal, it rained in New Haven, and it's raining in Flushing Meadows. Not many first round U.S. Open qualifying matches have been played because of the ongoing storms.

Players already knocked out of the first round include Alison Riske, Karolina Pliskova and U.S. Open National Playoffs champion Alexandra Mueller.

Assessing the effect of power on the women's game

The New York Times published a feature today on how power has changed the women's game. Michael Kimmelman looks at racquet technology, power training, and the influence the Williams sisters have had in shaping the tour. This kind of story has been written many times, but Kimmelman makes the current story more personal and anecdotal than some other writers have. All in all, it's a good read.

(Kudos to Kimmelman, too, for stating that Stacey Allaster is a chairwoman, despite her own failure to identify herself as female in her official title. I have come to expect a lot of sexism from the Times, so this was a nice surprise.)

The slide shows on power and hard hitting are quite unusual, and I wish I knew what the Times photo editors were attempting. Be prepared to laugh at both the music and the costumes. And why on Earth would Sam Stosur's backhand be featured instead of her forehand?

Having just watched this, the story only made me long for less power and more art and grace. The participants in the 1985 U.S. Open final had enough "power" for this viewer.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Stosur advances to quarterfinals in New Haven

All but one of the seeded players advanced today in New Haven, though a couple of them had to work hard to get a victory. In the first round, 6th seed Marion Bartoli lost a first-set tiebreak to Alona Bondarenko, then went up 5-3 in the second. There were then a series of service breaks, and another tiebreak ensued, which Bartoli won. She then won the third set, 6-3. It was a lengthy match with a total of seventeen double faults committed.

In the second round, 2nd seed (and wild card) Sam Stosur lost the second set to Sara Errani, but won the match, 6-1, 3-6, 7-6, saving match points to get to a tiebreak.

In other first round play, 7th seed Flavia Pennetta defeated Alisa Kleybanova 6-4, 6-4. Maria Kirilenko defeated qualifier Elena Vesnina, Olga Govortsova defeated Andrea Petkovic, and qualifier Anastasia Rodionova defeated Tsvetana Pironkova.

Also in the first round, Timea Bacsinszky upset 5th seed Yanina Wickmayer 6-3, 6-1.


The tour's "Looking Back at a Legend" series is now featuring one of my all-time favorite players--the great Evonne Goolagong.

Oracene Price says that her favorite player to watch (outside of Venus and Serena, of course) is Jelena Jankovic.

You can see some of Alona Bondarenko's wedding photos here.

Now that Pilot Pen has withdrawn its sponsorship, the New Haven tournament is looking for a sponsor.

Defending champion Kim Clijsters says she may have some strapping on her leg at the U.S. Open, but that she is fully fit.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is having trouble with her shoulder, as well as her hip. Pavlyuchenkova withdrew from New Haven competition.

Lisicki out in 1st round of Bronx challenger

Sabine Lisicki has been knocked out of the 100k Bronx ITF tournament in the first round. She was defeated 6-3, 6-3 by countrywoman Kristina Barrois. Barrois will face yet another German, Angelique Kerber, in the second round.

Also going out in the first round were Iveta Benesova (def. by Kerber), Alize Cornet (def. by Tathiana Garbin) and Stefanie Voegele (def. by Barbora Zahlavova Strycova).

The top seed is Lucie Safarova, who advanced to the second round by defeating Gabriela Paz.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Schiavone out of New Haven

Dinara Safina, who is working on a comeback, made a good start in New Haven tonight by defeating 3rd seed Francesca Schiavone 1-6, 6-3, 6-1. Thrill Ride, who is in the tournament as a wild card, will next compete against Daniela Hantuchova, who defeated Kaia Kanepi 7-5, 6-3.

Qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands also advanced. Mattek-Sands defeated Alexandra Dulgheru. And in a match that lasted three hours, lucky loser Dominka Cibulkova defeated Melanie Oudin 6-2, 5-7, 6-4.

Raymond & Stubbs upset in 1st round of Pilot Pen

Lisa Raymond and Rennae Stubbs were upset in the first round in New Haven today by the ad hoc team of Raquel Kops-Jones and Alla Kudryavtseva. Kops-Jones and Kudryavtseva defeated the 2nd seeds 5-7, 6-2, 10-5.

GOOD day, Sunshine!

2nd seed Caroline Wozniacki won the Rogers Cup today. Because of the constant rain in Montreal, Wozniacki had to play her semifinal match this morning, and then play the final this afternoon. She easily defeated a rather flat 11th seed, Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-2, 6-3 in the semifinals.

8th seed Vera Zvonareva won her semifinal match 7-6, 1-0 when 10th seed Victoria Azarenka retired because of a left foot blister. When Azarenka retired, all I knew was that she had a problem with her foot, and I thought "Oh, no--there goes another ankle." But a blister, though most unfortunate for Azarenka, is something that will heal in plenty of time for the U.S. Open.

In the final, Wozniacki defeated Zvonareva 6-3, 6-2. Wozniacki now heads to New Haven, where she is the defending champion. Lucky for her, that tournament is running behind because of rain, also.

Dulko leads tour in doubles play for the season

Gisela Dulko, with six doubles wins for 2010, currently leads the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour in doubles wins for the season. Dulko has won five tournaments (Miami, Stuttgart, Rome, Bastad, Montreal) with regular partner Flavia Pennetta, and one (Bogota) with Edina Gallovits.

Dulko is ranked number 7 in the world in doubles, and she and Pennetta are ranked first in the 2010 Race to the Sony Ericsson Championships.

Quote of the day

"In Moscow, we'd have a huge vent. They would do something to stop the rain forever. They have special planes to move the clouds away. That's why it never rains in Moscow. If you plan your vacation, come to Moscow in August."
Svetlana Kuznetsova

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rain wipes out Rogers Cup again

Caroline Wozanicki and Svetlana Kuznetsova resumed their semifinal match today, but the respite from rain lasted only long enough for Kuznetsova to score one point. When the match was delayed on Saturday, Wozniacki led 2-0, and now the score is 2-0, 0-15. Victoria Azarenka and Vera Zvonareva have yet to play one point in their semifinal match.

The doubles semifinals and final were moved indoors.

In the meantime, Pilot Pen first round play was postponed because it rained in New Haven.

1985 U.S. Open final--one of the best ever

We all know what players do to prepare. What I do is to watch at least one great U.S. Open final from years ago, and today, I watched one of my all-time favorite finals of any tournament--the 1985 U.S. Open final, featuring Hana Mandlikova and Martina Navratilova. Navratilova was the defending champion, and the final was twisty and thrilling and unforgettable.

When Navratiolva and Mandlikova faced one another, it must have been like looking in a mirror, so similar were their games. They were not only the best volleyers of their generation, but two of the best volleyers in the history of women's tennis. They could also serve well and construct points well. Mandlikova was the artist of her generation, in that she played with the type of grace that comes along only now and then (Bueno, Goolagong, Sabatini, Mauresmo).

It was blazing hot that day, 25 years ago; the on-court temperature reached 100 degrees. Neither player wore a hat or a headband. Mandlikova blazed into the first set with such breathtaking, attacking accuracy, there was nothing the defending champion could do. It was only when she served at 5-0 that Mandlikova experienced the force that was Navratilova. The defending champion broke her, held, broke her again, and eventually brought the set to a tiebreak.

The Mandlikova of only a few years before would have been done in by her failure to close the set at 5-0. But this was the calmer, more mature Mandlikova, who--despite frustration--fought her way through the tiebreak to take the first set. It must have taken something out of her, though, because her often-formidable serve collapsed in the next set, which Navratilova won 6-1.

Mandlikova broke early in the third set, but Navratilova would have none of it. The pair continued their volley-to-volley pattern, displaying hands so fast, spectators were in an almost constant state of excitement. Both players hit winning passing shots, and some stunning baseline returns came off of Mandlikova's racquet. But to the end, much of the match was about the volleys, with each woman sometimes just shaking her head over what her opponent had just accomplished at the net. Mandlikova lost some aggression in the last set, but managed to compete her way to a 5-3 lead. She had match points, too, but Navratilova saved them, which led to a second tiebreak.

And just as she did in the first five games, Mandlikova used her considerable aggression to quickly go up 6-0. Navratilova saved a couple of championship points, but the tiebreak was all about Mandlikova, and she soon won her only U.S. Open title. The graceful Czech fell supine onto the hot court, having just become one of the few women to win major titles on all three surfaces.

During the match, one of the commentators mentioned that Mandlikova was often considered the most gifted player of her generation. She had it all--the serve, the volley, the tactics, incredible shot-making, and superb athleticism. It was her impatience with herself that got in her way, and her mental game caused her to be inconsistent. She won four majors, but that always feels like such a small number in proportion to her unforgettable talent.

It was great seeing this match again. Unfortunately, I cannot imagine any 2010 final that can deliver the artistry that pervaded the 1985 championship match.

Dulko & Pennetta win Rogers Cup championship

Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta have done it again. The hottest doubles team of the year has won the Rogers Cup championship, defeating Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik 7-5, 3-6, 12-10 in Montreal today.

The semifinals and the final were all played indoors today because of the unrelenting Montreal rain. 2nd seeds Dulko and Pennetta defeated Monica Niculescu and Shahar Peer in the semifinals, and Peschke and Srebotnik defeated Anabel Medina Garrigues and Yan Zi.

Pavlyuchenkova withdraws from New Haven

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who was scheduled to play juniors peer Melania Oudin in the first round of Pilot Pen Tennis, has withdrawn from the event; the world number 22 has been dealing with a hip injury lately. Lucky loser Dominika Cibulkova will replace Pavlyuchenkova in the draw.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Rain halts play in Montreal

The singles and doubles semifinals were supposed to have been played today in Montreal, but after continuous rain delays, the "action" involved only two games in the match between 2nd seed Caroline Wozniacki and 11th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova.

When it became obvious that the evening's light rain was only going to get worse, the players entertained the crowd a while with some silly exhibition tennis. Kuznetsova hit a tweener, which brought up a question that's always in the back of my mind: Why don't WTA players hit them on a regular basis? (And where is Gabriela Sabatini when you really need her?) Kuznetsova also used the handle of her racquet to pop a few returns, and when she and Wozniacki got bored with that, out came a soccer ball. After they showed off their football skills, they sat together and waited to hear whether they would be instructed to....wait some more.

They didn't have to. Play was canceled for the day. What happens tomorrow, of course, is completely dependent on the weather, but if it doesn't rain, there will be matches played simultaneously. Wozniacki was up 2-0 in the first set when the rain came, and Victoria Azarenka and Vera Zvonareva haven't even seen a court yet.

In doubles, Monica Niculescu and Shahar Peer are slated to play 2nd seeds Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta, and Anabel Medina Garrigues and Yan Zi will play 3rd seeds Kveta Peschke and Katerina Srebotnik.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Caroline Wozniacki will be the number 1 seed at the U.S. Open; she is last year's runner-up.

Former top juniors (number 1 and 2, respectively) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Melanie Oudin will compete in the first round of Pilot Pen Tennis. Oudin defeated Pavlyuchenkova in the first round of the 2009 U.S. Open.

Longines and Steffi Graf will host the Center Court for Kids Tennis Clinic on September 2 at Central Park Tennis Center. Graf, a Longines Brand Ambassador, will be assisted by other tennis pros in providing instruction to fifty girls from the metro New York area.

Daria Gavrilova is the girls' singles champion of the inaugural Youth Olympic Games.

The 100k ITF Bronx tournament begins on August 23. A lead-in to the U.S. Open, the tournament features a main draw of 32 players. This year's entry list includes Sabine Lisicki, Anna Chakvetadze, Ekaterina Makarova, Iveta Benesova, and Klara Zakopalova.

"Last woman standing" may take on a new meaning

The withdrawal of the world's number 1 player from the U.S. Open would be unfortunate under any circumstances, but placed in the context of the current run of injuries on the tour, Serena Williams' announcement simply turns a bad scenario into a worse one. Justine Henin, who has an injured elbow, was already out of the Open, Maria Sharapova hurt her heel in Cincinnati, and today, defending champion Kim Clijsters hurt her hip in Montreal.

Sam Stosur has a wild card into the New Haven main draw, but she had to skip both Cincinnati and Montreal because of a sore arm. Venus Williams has knee problems again. And Ana Ivanovic--who was just starting to look like herself again--injured her ankle in Cincinnati. As of this writing, she is hopeful, but not certain, that she'll play in the U.S. Open.

It doesn't end there. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez is just returning from a knee injury layoff, so New Haven will be her only U.S. Open warm-up. The often-injured Sabine Lisicki recently returned to the tour and has had very little match play, and today, Wimbledon doubles champion Vania King retired in Montreal, though I don't know the reason for the retirement. World number 2 Jelena Jankovic recently hurt her ankle.

The U.S. Open is a huge event, and it doesn't bode well that so many good players are either injured or are just returning from injury layoffs. Among the world's top five players, only Caroline Wozniacki is known to be totally healthy, having recovered from an ankle injury she sustained in Charleston. I say "known to be" because I have no idea what Jankovic's health status is at the moment. Here's hoping that she, Stosur, Venus Williams, and Ivanovic will all be feeling fit by August 30.

Zvonareva advances to Rogers Cup semifinals

8th seed Vera Zvonareva had a great day in Montreal, defeating 5th seed Kim Clijsters 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals. Clijsters took a medical break after the second set, and returned to the court with her left thigh wrapped. She said later that her movement was hampered, but she could still hit, so she kept going. Zvonareva, for her part, played beautifully, exhibiting the compact, but stinging, backhand that so often wins her points.

Clijsters tried to arrange an MRI during the coming weekend, but said the local hospitals were all full, so she will have one done at the beginning of next week.

Zvonareva will compete against Victoria Azarenka in the semifinals. 10th seed Azarenka defeated 17th seed Marion Bartoli 6-2, 7-6. Bartoli led throughout the tiebreak, but could not convert four set points. The match was a mix of really big hitting and many double faults.

The other semifinal match will feature 11th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, who handily defeated Zheng Jie today, and 2nd seed Caroline Wozniacki. Wozniacki defeated 6th seed Francesca Schiavone in straight sets.

In doubles, 6th seeds Chan Yung-Jan and Zheng Jie were upset by Monica Niculescu and Shahar Peer, and Wimbledon finalists Elena Vesnina and Vera Zvonareva lost to 2nd seeds Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta.

Ivanovic withdraws from New Haven, Safina and Petrova get wild cards

Ana Ivanovic, who injured her ankle in Cincinnati just when she was making a comeback, has withdrawn from the Pilot Pen event in New Haven. In the meantime, wild cards for the event have been given to former world number1 Dinara Safina and world number 21 Nadia Petrova. Elena Dementieva and Sam Stosur also have wild cards into the New Haven event.

The top seed in New Haven is defending champion Caroline Wozniacki. Last year, Wozniacki won a rain-delayed final that was hampered by gusts of high wind.

Qualifying began today; wild cards Coco Vandeweghe and Christina McHale both lost in the first round, and Vania King retired at the end of the second set of her match against Anastasia Rodionova.

Capra wins U.S. Open wild card

Beatrice Capra defeated Madison Brengle 7-6, 6-4 today in the U.S. Open Wild Card Playoffs final. Her victory gives her a wild card into the 2010 U.S. Open main draw. Capra, who is 18, is ranked number 10 among the world's junior players.

Serena Williams withdraws from U.S. Open

World number 1 Serena Williams has withdrawn from the 2010 U.S. Open. Williams cut her right foot on broken glass this summer and has to have surgery. She has not totally healed, and on the advice of her doctors, is skipping the Open.

Williams referred to the withdrawal as "one of the most devastating moments of my career."

Friday cat blogging--power nap edition

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dementieva upset by Zheng in Montreal

Zheng Jie defeated 4th seed Elena Dementieva 7-6, 6-4 today in the third round of the Rogers Cup. Zheng made it all the way to the semifinals of this year's Australian Open. She is the only unseeded player remaining in Montreal.

Also going out in the third round was 7th seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who was defeated 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 by 11th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova, who recently won the title in San Diego.

Iveta Benesova's run was ended abruptly by 17th seed Marion Bartoli; Benesova won one game. 10th seed Victoria Azarenka defeated 9th seed Li Na, and 2nd seed Caroline Wozniacki wore down 15th seed Flavia Pennetta by engaging her in a series of very long rallies. Pennetta seemed more mentally tired than anything; Wozniacki really likes these long rallies, and appears to have almost endless mental and physical energy.

Here is the quarterfinal draw:

Marion Bartoli (17) vs. Victoria Azarenka (10)
Kim Clijsters (5) vs. Vera Zvonareva (8)
Svetlana Kuznetsova (11) vs. Zheng Jie
Francesca Schiavone (6) vs. Caroline Wozniacki (2)

7 of 8 U.S. wild cards announced

The following players have received wild cards into the main draw of the U.S. Open:

Chelsey Gullickson
Jamie Hampton
Christina McHale
Shelby Rogers
Coco Vandeweghe
Sophie Ferguson
Virginie Razzano

The eighth wild card will be given to the winner of the U.S. Open Wild Card Playoff, which is currently underway.

The USTA has also announced eight players who have received wild cards into U.S. Open qualifying:
Julia Boserup
Beatrice Capra
Irina Falconi
Nicole Gibbs
Alexa Glatch
Krista Hardeback
Madison Keys
Sloane Stephens
Alexandra Mueller

Mueller was awarded her wild card after she won the first annual USTA Playoffs.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Benesova knocks out top seed two days in a row

Yesterday, Iveta Benesova stunned Montreal spectators by taking out Rogers Cup top seed Jelena Jankovic. She liked the experience so much, she repeated it today. She and partner Barbora Zahlavova Strycova upset top doubles seeds Liezel Huber and Nadia Petrova 7-6, 1-6, 11-9.

Benesova's next opponent in singles will be the winner of the 2nd round match between lucky loser Kimiko Date Krumm and 17th seed Marion Bartoli. Benesova and Zahlavova Strycova will face Anabel Medina Garrigues and Yan Zi.

Clijsters overcomes tough challenge from Mattek-Sands

Tonight, for a set and a half, qualifier Bethanie Mattek Sands threw everything she had--and she had a lot--at 5th seed Kim Clijsters in the second round of Rogers Cup play. Mattek-Sands looked like she was putting on a clinic on how to beat the sometimes error-prone Clijsters, using serve-and-volley and all of her other doubles skills to overtake the Cincinnati champion. Mattek-Sands won the first set 6-4 and went up 3-0--saving two break points to do it--in the second.

It was when Clijsters served at 1-4 in the second set that things started going wrong for Mattek-Sands. She had two break points, and had she converted either of them, she would have gone up 5-1. But Clijsters saved them both, and from that point on, the match turned around. The Mattek-Sands serve, which was beautiful for the first half of the match, began to fade. At 4-2, Mattek-Sands was broken at love, and Clijsters went on to win the set 6-4.

The 5th seed went up 2-0 right away, but then Mattek-Sands found a way to break back. Clijsters was on a roll by this time, though, and she broke Mattek-Sands again--and then again--to take the third set 6-3. Her opponent was so close--and yet ultimately so far--from pulling off a huge upset. It was an enjoyable match, however, and one which kept spectators enthralled for almost two hours and fifteen minutes.

Lucky loser Patty Schnyder provided spectators with a lot of entertaining tennis, too, but was not quite consistent enough to get past 2nd seed Caroline Wozniacki, who defeated her 7-5, 7-5. Agnes Szavay upset 13th seed Yanina Wickmayer, and Dinara Safina upset 18th seed Nadia Petrova, who hit fifteen aces.

In second round doubles play, Wimbledon champions and 4th seeds Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova were knocked out by Monica Niculescu and Shahar Peer.

Henin out for the rest of the season

Justine Henin announced today that she will not play for the remainder of the 2010 season because of the elbow injury she sustained in July. The former world number 1 fell during her quarterfinal match at Wimbledon, and damaged ligaments in her elbow. She expects to begin practicing again in October.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pennetta defeats Hantuchova in Montreal

The big news today in Montreal was, of course, the upset of top seed Jelena Jankovic. However, there was another quite notable match played by 15th seed Flavia Pennetta and Daniela Hantuchova. It was notable because Pennetta was at her best, managing Hantuchova from the baseline, and displaying the type of clever tactics that make her such a good hard court player.

Pennetta won the first set 6-0, and--as one would expect--the second set was more competitive. In fact, Hantuchova served for it at 5-3, and when the score reached 30-all, there was an especially thrilling rally which Pennetta won. She followed that with a perfect drop shot, brought the score to 4-5, and never looked back.

What I've observed about Pennetta is that when her serve is on, her confidence stays high, and she is a major threat. But it does go off, and then she gets into trouble, not only for obvious reasons, but--or so it appears--because she loses her mental drive. Today, she played at a high level, and Hantuchova was simply not able to move well enough to keep up.

All the seeds, except for Jankovic, advanced. Lucky loser Kimiko Date Krumm defeated qualifier Monica Niculescu, and Agnes Szavay defeated Gisela Dulko 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 in a tightly contested match; Dulko did herself in with nine double faults. 18th seed Nadia Petrova had to fend off a three-set challenge from Lucie Safarova, and 11th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova won a three-set match when her opponent, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, once again wound down in the third set.

In doubles, 5th seeds Alisa Kleybanova and Ekaterina Makarova were upset 4-6, 7-6, 10-8 by Anabel Medina Garrigues and Yan Zi.

Benesova upsets Jankovic in Montreal

There are certain players on the tour who sometimes rise to the occasion, meet their potential, and play truly great matches. One of those players is Iveta Benesova, whose lefty serve is never something to take lightly. Tonight in Montreal, she was simply all over 1st seed Jelena Jankovic, maintaining her aggression and refusing to give Jankovic any type of rhythm. In fact, the way Benesova defended was positively Jankovician, to borrow a term from the WTA Backspinner.

Fans who really know women's tennis know that Benesova can crack mentally, and that Jankovic is very good at coming from behind. After the Czech player stayed tough enough to win the first set in a tiebreak, she immediately held, and then broke Jankovic. Then she held again, but when Jankovic brought the second set score to 1-3, I thought "okay, it's coming." Soon, it was 3-all, and this would be the time in the match when the momentum would turn--only it didn't. Well, maybe for a moment, when Benesova had trouble holding to go to 4-3. And still, I thought the momentum would turn.

But Benesova broke Jankovic again, and then--in a scenario I could never have predicted, even after watching the entire match--Benesova held at love to win the whole thing 7-6, 6-3. This was a skillful, gutsy performance from the world number 75. After she waved to the crowd, the qualifier (who has now played five matches) held her hand up to her mouth, as if to say "I can't believe I just did that."

But she did.

Jankovic, who hit 25 winners but made 30 unforced errors, may still be suffering the effects of a sprained ankle, but there is really nothing that can take away from her opponent's performance. As for the world number 3, she needs to get herself together for the U.S. Open.

The unfortunate consequences of Melanie Mania

If Melanie Oudin could have a new word imprinted on her shoes right now, that word would probably be "forget." The 18-year-old from Marietta, Georgia has not had as good a season as she might have expected. Today, she lost to Fed Cup teammate Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the first round of the Rogers Cup, and the loss probably wasn't much of a surprise to fans.

Oudin has had good runs this year in Paris (semifinals), Memphis (quarterfinals), Ponte Vedra Beach (quarterfinals), and Charleston (quarterfinals); everywhere else, she has fallen in the first or second round. At Wimbledon, where Oudin made it to the round of 16 last year, she was defeated in the second round by the ever-threatening Jarmila Groth. Her season has been inconsistent so far, and fans tend to remember the failures, rather than the successes.

As the U.S. Open approaches, I can't help but consider what a task it must be for Oudin to just go about her business. Her run last year was one of the most exciting events in women's tennis during 2009. She became a media darling, which is just about always a bad thing, especially in the U.S. We like to turn people into overnight icons, and then tear them down with the same enthusiasm with which we created them.

Melanie Oudin does not exist to "save" U.S. tennis. She is a spirited young player with a great forehand and great footwork, and she has all kinds of problems with her serve. My best guess is that--at this point--she has significant problems with her confidence, too. While her image is being flashed all over television (she's the "upstart" in the U.S. Open Series promos), she's losing matches. Just this week, she acknowledged that she has probably done too much media lately.

Does she need a better handler? Maybe. She's a poised young woman, but the operative word is "young," and maybe she could use a bit more guidance than she currently gets. She certainly could use some help with that serve.

But my objective here is not to tear down Oudin; rather, it is to suggest that we should leave her alone. The 2009 Wimbledon and U.S. Open runs were remarkable--so much so, that Oudin cannot live up to them. I still think that she has a good deal of potential, but--for whatever reason--she has not met it this year. I have seen her play twice this year--in Charleston and in the Fed Cup semifinals--and there is just something about her that pulls me in. As readers of this blog will know, I'm definitely not looking for someone to save U.S. tennis: I just enjoy Oudin's on-court persona, and I appreciate the things that she does well.

I have no idea whether Melanie Oudin will find a way to serve better and more consistently, and to use her other skills to move up in the rankings (she is 44 now, but a drop after the U.S. Open is expected). I certainly hope she does; I don't want to see that forehand go by the wayside. But she could also fade away; only time will tell. She'll be 19 in September, and for women's tennis these days, that's young.

In the meantime, no one can take away her 2009 Russian-smacking mission at the U.S. Open. Maybe it was too much, too soon. Maybe it was just one of those things. Some fans still want to believe...as corny as that may sound. But  in the end, Oudin is simply an 18-year-old who--like any 18-year-old--doesn't need to be bludgeoned by vicious criticism before she even has a chance to call herself an adult.


David Rosenberg says that Kimiko Date Krumm's comeback is the most overrated. Some would beg to differ.

Venus Williams and Polo Lauren are partners for a virtual clinic Williams is doing on August 26, and they have also put their heads together to create a tennis dress and a limited-edition U.S. Open polo shirt. Depending on how these projects go, Williams and Polo Ralph Lauren may extend their partnership. Williams has already formed a partnership with the Gilt Group, and says that her EleVen clothing should be in traditional retail outlets next year. The partnership with Polo Ralph Lauren is, it would seem, a departure from the EleVen philosophy of creating athletic clothing that is easily affordable, so it appears that Williams may be branching out and offering more than one EleVen line.

Melanie Oudin and Jamie Hampton may play doubles together at the U.S. Open.

Elena Dementieva says that every time she plays, she feels nervous and excited. "As long as I as I feel that way, I'll keep playing."

Bethanie Mattek-Sands will blog for USA Today during the U.S. Open.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Rogers Cup play begins

Three qualifiers and a lucky loser advanced to the second round of Rogers Cup competition in Montreal today. Jarmila Groth defeated Alona Bondarenko 7-6, 6-2, Iveta Benesova defeated Sara Errani 6-3, 6-2, Vania King beat Anabel Medina Garrigues 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, and Patty Schnyder had a 6-7, 7-5, 6-2 win over wild card Virginie Razzano.

Kaia Kanepi upset 14th seed Shahar Peer, Dinara Safina had a straight-set victory over Andrea Petkovic, and 16th seed Aravane Rezai defeated Petra Kvitova 6-7, 7-5, 6-3, which is about the scoreline I expected.

Canadian wild cards Aleksandra Wozniak and Stephanie Dubois lost to Timea Bacsinszky and Klara Zakopalova; the latter match went to three sets.

Sharapova out of Montreal

Maria Sharapova, citing the pain she felt in her left foot during the Cincinnati final, has withdrawn from Rogers Cup competition. Patty Schnyder got the lucky loser designation and has already advanced to the second round with a win over Virginie Razzano.

Venus Williams had already withdrawn from the tournament because of continuing problems with her knee.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Clijsters wins Cincinnati title in bizarre final

After she won the Cincinnati title, Kim Clijsters said that, during the rain break, she went back to her hotel and got her serve, which she had somehow left there. That was as good an explanation as any. Clijsters and her opponent, Maria Sharapova, took turns double-faulting all the way through the match. Clijsters had so much trouble with her serve during the first set, she lost it 2-6. And while it's true that even a good server on the tour sometimes shows up unable to serve very well (can you say "Pennetta"?), that person generally is not Kim Clijsters.

But this match wasn't just about serves; it was also about rain delays. Rain began to fall in the second set, and after Clijsters saved several break points, it came down hard. There was a resumption of play later, but then it rained again, dragging the match out even more.

Down 3-5, Clijsters saved three match points on her own serve, then broke Sharapova to get to 5-all. The second set went to a tiebreak, which Clijsters began with a double fault, and she soon found herself down 0-3. She quickly caught up, though, and won the tiebreak 7-4.

We sometimes hear that the Worldwide Web brings the world into our living rooms. And sometimes, that isn't a good thing:

Because no television channel showed either the Toronto or Cincinnati final live, I had streams going on two computers and was doing my best to watch both the Federer-Murray match, and the Clijsters-Sharapova final. There was hard rain in Toronto, of course, and even more rain delays then there were in Cincinnati. Sharapova called for a trainer because she had pain in her left heel, a condition which would, of course, give her trouble with her serve. I understand that Clijsters called for a trainer, too.

But I don't really know, because it was during this time that I heard the loudest thunder I've ever heard. After I recovered from the boom!, I realized that our power had gone out, which means we had no router. Only our house was hit (a fuse was blown out), so I grabbed a raincoat and took one of the computers down to the local coffee shop. I should have thought to transfer some notes to a flash drive, but I was in too big of a hurry.

By the time I arrived at the coffee shop and got everything going, it was obvious that Clijsters was about to win the championship. I watched the rest of it, and I watched the trophy ceremony (nice trophy). Sharapova wound up with more winners than Clijsters, but both made more errors than they hit winners. Between them, they double-faulted 21 times. It wasn't pretty.

I was actually a bit surprised that Sharapova came so close to winning the match, given her fatigue level these days. But the best thing she can do is play matches (though perhaps not too many), and that's exactly what she's doing.

(I'm probably one of the few who liked Clijsters' old-school Fila outfit--at least the version with the red top--but I did. And while we're on the subject of tennis outfits, I liked Rennae Stubbs' Nike ensemble, too.)

Our efficient electric company showed up and gave us power again, so my iPod and candlelight time didn't last very long.

Kirilenko wins consecutive doubles titles

Last week, Maria Kirilenko and partner Zheng Jie won the doubles championship in San Diego. Today, the Russian, paired with Victoria Azarenka, won the championship in Cincinnati. Azarenka and Kirilenko defeated 4th seeds Lisa Raymond and Rennae Stubbs 7-6, 7-6.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sharapova to contend for Cincinnati title

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova ran out of fuel in the third set of her semifinal match against Maria Sharapova tonight in Cincinnati. Pavlyuchenkova, faced with multiple break points against her, double-faulted several of them away. This is a disturbing pattern in Pavlyuchenkova's otherwise inventive, excellent game, and something she needs to work on.

It wasn't Sharapova's best night, either. She made repeated groundstroke errors, but was able to take control at the end, when it mattered. In a sometimes entertaining, sometimes frustrating, match that lasted over two and a half hours, Sharapova took the victory at 6-4 (Pavlyuchenkova double-faulted twice to get broken at 4-all), 3-6, 6-2. She will play Kim Clijsters in tomorrow's final.

Ivanovic retires in Cincinnati with foot injury

Ana Ivanovic's luck couldn't be much worse. Just when she was playing really well again, she had to retire in the Cincinnati semifinals because of a foot injury. Shortly after play began, Ivanovic hit a forehand long, then winced in pain. She said she heard something crack in her foot, and--though she had the foot taped and made an effort to continue playing--she had to retire. Her opponent, 4th seed Kim Clijsters, was ahead 2-1 when the retirement occured.

In a moment I'd rather forget, Clijsters told ESPN--not once, but three times--that she "knew (Ivanovic) wasn't faking it."

Clijsters will play either Maria Sharapova or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the final.

1st round Rogers Cup matches I wish I could see

The Rogers Cup draw is full of juicy first rounds, and it's going to get even better once the qualifiers are assigned. In the meantime, here are some first round matches I wish I could see:

Kaia Kanepi vs. Shahar Peer: If Kanepi's game is on, she could make Peer work hard, and this could turn into another knock-down-drag-out Peer special.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova: Pavlyuchenkova bumps into yet another countrywoman in the very first round.

Aravane Rezai vs. Petra Kvitova: Rezai is a bit more consistent than Kvitova (which is saying something), but if Kvitova has one of her good days, this could be quite interesting.

Andrea Petkovic vs. Dinara Safina: One has a problem winning, and the other, is, well....Dinara. Each is capable of serving very well on a given day, but will it be this day?

Flavia Pennetta vs. Daniela Hantuchova: Pennetta generally shines this time of year, and Hantuchova will have to stay very consistent to stop her. Both women have games that are enjoyable to watch.

Stosur accepts wild card into Pilot Pen

Sam Stosur, who has been dealing with an arm injury, which forced her to withdraw from both Cincinnati and Montreal, has accepted a wild card to play in New Haven at the Pilot Pen tournament. Stosur reports that her arm is healing and she should be ready for the U.S. Open. However, she will not play doubles for the rest of the season.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sharapova goes to semifinals in Cincinnati

10th seed Maria Sharapova made her way to the Cincinnati semifinals this evening with a 6-1, 6-4 defeat of 16th seed Marion Bartoli. Bartoli, who served so well in her quarterfinal match against Caroline Wozniacki, could not command her service game the way she did in that match. Sharapova, on the other hand, won with 97% of her first serves. She also hit nine aces.

Unfortunately, it isn't at all unusual for Bartoli to have a great service game, and follow it with one that just isn't good enough.

Sharapova will play countrywoman Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the semifinals, and the former world number 1 is the favorite.

The other semifinal will be played between 4th seed Kim Clijsters and Ana Ivanovic, who are also former number 1 players.

Pavlyuchenkova into Cincinnati semifinals

I can't recall the last time (there must have been some time) that a player was down 1-5 in both the first and second sets of a match, and won the match. But that was the situation Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova found herself in today at the Cincinnati quarterfinals.

Pavlyuchenkova went down 1-5 in her first set against 12th seed Yanina Wickmayer, saved three set points, then went on to break, go to 6-5, and break again. Down 1-5 in the second, set, she broke, but lost the set 3-6. The young Russian (now know as the Teen Queen, since she's the highest-ranked teenager on the tour) went up 4-0 in the third, and wound up winning that set 6-1.

This has to be the bitterest of losses for Wickmayer. Pavlyuchenkova, on the other hand, is showing fans the kind of fighting tennis that made her the junior world number 1. It has taken her some time to adjust to playing on the tour, but now she is getting results. Pavlyuchenkova has now won nine straight matches.

For qualifier Akgul Amanmuradova, the Cincinnati quarterfinals were a trip back to reality, as an in-form Ana Ivanovic defeated her 6-1, 6-3.

And for 11th seed Flavia Pennetta, it was a pattern her fans have seen too many times--barely lose the first set, then fade somewhat in the second. Pennetta was up a break in both of her sets against 4th seed Kim Clijsters. The set was highly competitive, with the Italian salvaging nine of ten break opportunities against her.

The set went to a tiebreak, which Clijsters won, 8-6. Pennetta played well in the second set, but her level clearly dropped. To be fair, she made several shots that very few players on the tour could have gotten to, but Clijsters, like Jankovic, is one of those players who can get to almost any ball. (And for the tennis commentators and writers who say that Clijsters has stopped sliding on hard courts, all I have to say is: Pennetta wishes.) Clijsters took the second set 6-4.

The last quarterfinal, between Maria Sharapova and Marion Bartoli, will be played later today.

Friday cat blogging--birthday edition

Some time this month, sisters Roxie and Velma celebrate their 7th birthdays. We don't know the exact day because they were rescued as kittens, so we're choosing today to say Happy Birthday to the sisters!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Jankovic and Wozniacki both taken out in Cincinnati 3rd round

Qualifier Akgul Amanmuradova played the match of her life today in Cincinnati. She upset top Jelena Jankovic 7-6, 6-4 in the third round. Amanmuradova hit twelve aces, didn't double-fault once, and had first and second serve percentages of 80 and 75. Jankovic never saw a break point opportunity.

2nd seed Caroline Wozniacki, who has defeated 16th seed Marion Bartoli the last few times they have played each other on hard courts, was upset 6-4, 6-1 by Bartoli today. When the Frenchwoman's serve is on, she is very hard to beat, and today it was as on as it has ever been. Bartoli rolled through the match like a woman on a mission. Those who live in the U.S. got to see her extended interview, which was almost as good as the match.

10th seed Maria Sharapova defeated 7th seed Agnieszka Radwanska 6-3, 6-2, 11th Flavia Pennetta defeated 6th seed Vera Zvonareva 6-4, 6-3, and 12th seed Yanina Wickmayer defeated 8th seed Li Na 2-6, 6-2, 7-6. Istanbul champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova defeated 13th seed Shahar Peer 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

Also advancing to the quarterfinals were Ana Ivanovic who defeated Elena Vesnina), and 4th seed Kim Clijsters who defeated wild card Christina McHale.

Here is the quarterfinal draw:

Yanina Wickmayer vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
Akgul Amanmuradova vs. Ana Ivanovic
Kim Clijsters vs. Flavia Pennetta
Maria Sharapova vs. Marion Bartoli


The Williams sisters are scheduled to play for team USA in the Fed Cup final in November. Serena previously said that she usually "cannot walk" by November, and Venus's knee is giving her trouble, so those who cheer for the USA will have to wait and see if the pair are healthy enough to compete.

Here is Bobby Chintapalli's interview with Vera Zvonareva.

Lindsay Davenport deconstructs Sam Stosur's kick serve (thanks to Forty Deuce for finding this).

You can get to know Coco Vandeweghe.

The tour's "Looking Back at a Legend" series continues with a feature on Margaret Court.

Sam Stosur has withdrawn from the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Anastasia Rodionova announced yesterday that she will play on the Australian team.

Quote of the day

"I believe in myself so much, and I believe I can do it. Because I believe so much, I put more pressure on myself.... Maybe that’s why sometimes for me it’s tougher to come back—because I cannot relax. I keep fighting and keep fighting and sometimes I’m never relaxed on the court."
Vera Zvonareva

Ivanovic says "thanks, but no thanks," to Rogers Cup offer

Ana Ivanovic, as most readers know, wanted a wild card into the Rogers Cup tournament. The former Rogers Cup champion was turned down because tournament officials were holding the wild cards for Canadian player Stephanie Dubois, in case she needed it. That's what Ivanovic says tournament director Eugene Lapierre told her management.

But that isn't exactly what Lapierre told the press. "...the fact is that she hasn't demonstrated that she deserves a wild card," is what he said. Ivanovic says that not only do these remarks contradict what her management told her Lapierre said, but she also found the remarks "unnecessary."

This week, Ivanovic was offered a Rogers Cup wild card, and she turned it down. The 2006 champion says she has no problem qualifying to play in the tournament, but that she now feels unwelcome in Montreal, and she is obviously not happy with the way things were handled.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dementieva upset in Cincinnati

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova defeated 3rd seed Elena Dementieva 6-1, 6-3 in second round play in Cincinnati today. Dementieva had problems with her serve, and was broken half a dozen times by Pavlyuchenkova.

Also going out was Dinara Safina, who was defeated 7-5, 6-2 by 4th seed Kim Clijsters. Elena Vesnina upset 5th seed Francesca Schiavone, and 10th seed Maria Sharapova defeated Andrea Petkovic 6-3, 6-1. All other seeds advanced, and so did wild card Christina McHale, who defeated Ayumi Morita.

In doubles, Wimbledon champions Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova lost in the first round to the team of Sania Mirza and Monica Niculescu. Mirza and Niculescu defeated the 5th seeds 6-3, 1-6, 10-6. Wild cards Carly and Chelsey Gullickson advanced to the third round with a win over Julie Coin and Lucie Hradecka.

2009 U.S. Open--a hard act to follow

I like the U.S. Open; in fact, it's my second-favorite major. But after last year's drama fest, I'm trying to keep my hopes at a reasonable level. 2009 was in a class of its own, and it's safe to say that, this year, we're not going to be rushing to our television sets or computer screens for the latest dose of high drama.

Don't expect a small Russian-slayer in pink and yellow shoes to appear and inject world-wide excitement into the proceedings. Don't expect a feisty Italian to stand in one place and hit five winners to save six match points (though you still may see some bandages getting unwrapped by a certain emotional Russian). Don't expect a line call to trigger some of the greatest prolonged nastiness and misinformation in the history of the sport. Don't expect to see two Chinese players lighting up the proceedings in the semifinals. And don't expect a just-returning mom to sweep through the draw and win the whole thing, taking out both Williams sisters along the way.

I was sad when last year's U.S. Open was over because the event had become like a mini-series you couldn't help but watch, even though you had to continually suspend disbelief. So what can we expect this year?

World number 1 Serena Williams, who stepped on some glass in a Miami restaurant, is out of the U.S. Open Series. Maybe she has her feet propped up and is watching it on television, surrounded by her flashy nail paraphernalia organized in Hello Kitty boxes. Maybe not. Maybe she's just waiting for the trip to Flushing Meadows, where she'll be bandaged who knows where, and where she'll routinely begin mowing down the field.

What about Maria Sharapova? She's looking better, but is she really ready to play seven consecutive matches?

Svetlana Kuznetsova just won San Diego, but does it mean anything more than that?

Jelena Jankovic is always a strong contender, but--back pain, a cold, a sprained ankle, hot feet--the tennis version of "The Princess and the Pea" has trouble getting through those last couple of matches.

Elena Dementieva is always a contender, too, but appears to be winding down, at least somewhat.

Li Na did so well last year, and is such a good hard court player, I'm putting her into the mix.

The defending champion, Kim Clijsters, hasn't been playing much tennis lately, though she is competing in Cincinnati. She had a serious injury earlier in the season, but is reported to have healed. Her chances of defending her title are actually not bad.

That's it, as far as contenders go. There are some other top players who will (probably) be there, but I don't know how far they will go. Sam Stosur (whom I don't consider a contender) has a bad arm, Venus Williams (whom I don't consider a contender) has a bad knee. Flavia Pennetta and Agieszka Radwanska could go pretty deep in the tournament, but they have limits. Vera Zvonareva could make another big run, so I give her dark horse status. Same goes for Caroline Wozniacki.

Finally, is there anyone who could sneak past the field and become a surprise champion? It's doubtful, but that would be some drama.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sharapova wins debut round in Cincinnati

Playing in Cincinnati for the first time in her career, Maria Sharapova defeated San Diego champion Svetlana Kuznetsova today. Sharapova double-faulted eleven times, and both players had to deal with the effects of the heat. But the 10th seed had a 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 win in a match that lasted two hours and twelve minutes.

The heat was too much for 15th seed Nadia Petrova, who retired when her opponent, wild card Christina McHale, was up 7-6, 5-3. Considering how extremely hot (and often humid) this summer has been, we might see other players retire from heat illness this August.

Top seed Jelena Jankovic won her first round match against qualifier Vera Dushevina, defeating her 6-4, 3-6, 6-1. Note: Jankovic hit eleven aces.

Other winners today included 11th seed Flavia Pennetta (def. Zheng Jie), Gisela Dulko (def. Lucie Safarova), Andrea Petkovic (def. wild card Coco Vandeweghe), and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (def. Daniela Hantuchova).

Notable doubles team who lost in the first round were Chuang Chia-Jung and Olga Govortstova, Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci and the Bondarenko sisters.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Jovanovski upsets Rezai in Cincinnati

Bojana Jovanovski, the young Serbian player who got herself noticed during the Fed Cup World Group playoffs, had the biggest win of her career today. In the first round in Cincinnati, Jovanovski defeated 14th seed Aravane Rezai 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. Jovanovski is ranked number 98 in the world.

The other upset today was Ana Ivanovic's 2-6, 7-6, 6-2 defeat of 9th seed Victoria Azarenka. Azarenka won the Stanford title earlier this month. In the next round, Ivanovic will play either Yaroslava Shvedova or Alla Kudryavtseva.

Also defeated were Sabine Lisicki, who is returning from a long injury layoff, and Dominika Cibulkova. Lisicki was defeated by qualifier Monica Niculescu, and Cibulkova lost to Alona Bondarenko.

In first round doubles play, wild cards Carly and Chelsey Gullickson upset 6th seeds Alisa Kleybanova and Ekaterina Makarova 3-6, 6-1, 10-8.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Quote of the week

"I had different coaches and everyone was messing up my game. Everyone had a different opinion on how I should play. It took me time to work this out."
Svetlana Kuznetsova


Sam Stosur has withdrawn from the Rogers Cup. She had already withdrawn from Cincinnati because of pain in her right arm.

The tour has published a brief profile of the great team of Paola Suarez and Virginia Ruano Pascual. 

Sabine Lisicki and Kim Clijsters have been practicing together in Cincinnati.

Jelena Dokic won the $75k ITF tournament in Vancouver. She defeated Virginie Razzano 6-1, 6-4 in the final.

As of next week, Coco Vandewegh's ranking will rise from 205 to somewhere in the mid-160s.

She's....back! Kuznetsova wins San Diego

There were times, during the Mercury Insurance Open final, when both opponents played very well. But other times, one would take a turn at being an anxiety-ridden mess. Agnieszka Radwanska, the 4th seed, took the first turn, stepping onto the court with most of the magic of her quarterfinal and semifinal successes eluding her. She was obviously anxious, evidenced mostly by her lack of instinct and her indecisiveness about shot-making. It didn't take Svetlana Kuznetsova long to go up 4-1.

Radwanska straightend herself out a bit, but Kuznetsova took the set 6-4.

When the second set began, the 4th seed was a different player--the player we've watched for the last couple of days. She defended better, though she did go down 3-5. When Kusnetsova served for the match, she was broken. Radwanska easily held. The set ended up in a tiebreak, with Kuznetsova once again in charge. She went up 4-0, then 6-3, and the whole affair appeared to be about over--until Kuznetsova became so anxious, she double-faulted twice, and ended up losing four match points. Radwanska--by this time quite steady--won the tiebreak 9-7.

The third set was a good one, featuring some of the best shot-making of the match. But as the set wore on, it was Radwanska who faded, and Kuznetsova who rose to the occasion, hitting winners left and right. With a 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 victory, the Russian was able to hold the trophy.

For Radwanska fans (count me as one), the loss was tough, but at least everyone got to see a lot of the 4th seed's best tennis throughout this tournament. For Kuznetsova, the win couldn't come at a better time. With the U.S. Open around the corner, the 2004 champion with the mighty forehand has declared herself a contender.

Kuznetsova was not the only one to make a comeback: Zheng Jie, whose doubles stardom has waned, won the San Diego tournament with partner Maria Kirilenko. The 4th seeds defeated 2nd seeds Lisa Raymond and Rennae Stubbs 6-4, 6-4.

Wozniacki wins title in Copenhagen

Top seed Caroline Wozniacki defeated 7th seed Klara Zakopalova 6-2, 7-6 today in the Danish Open. Julia Goerges and Anna-Lena Greonefeld, also the top seeds, won the doubles title, defeating Vitalia Diatchenko and Tatiana Poutchek 6-4, 6-4. 

Complaints about line-calling went on throughout the tournament.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Radwanska & Kuznetsova to play for San Diego title

Two players I especially enjoy watching are Agnieszka Radwanska and Daniela Hantuchova, so it was a treat to see them compete against one another in the San Diego semifinals. Radwanska has a very clever all-court game, and Hantuchova has a rather elegant game. Both play no-nonsense tennis, and I watch them whenever I have a chance.

Tonight, both players were in fine form, but it was the often-overlooked athleticism of Radwanska that gave the 4th seed the edge, and kept her in the excellent form she displayed against Shahar Peer yesterday. She defeated Hantuchova 6-4, 6-1.

In her quarterfinal match, Radwanska made only nine unforced errors. In tonight's match, she also made nine, and seven of those were made in the first set. She executed a couple of successful over-the-shoulder backhands, a winning one-handed backhand, and a number of stunning volleys. Hantuchova raised her level and saved seven match points on her own serve at 1-5, and--after a ten-deuce game (in which both of Radwanska's second-set unforced errors occurred)--she held for 2-5. The 20-minute game provided some high drama, and showed Hantuchova at her very best. Radwanska, however, then served for the match and won it 6-4, 6-2 on her eighth match point.

The match was choice entertainment. Indeed, the 20-minute game was choice entertainment on its own.

In the other semifinal match, 5th seed Flavia Pennetta's glory was cut short by Svetlana Kuznetsova, who looked better than she has in a while. However, it was also cut short by Pennetta herself, whose serve sometimes goes completely to pieces. Today was one of those times. Kuznetsova played quite well, but--as the match wore on--Pennetta offered less and less resistance. Kuznetsova won 6-4, 6-0.

Kanepi out of Cincinnati qualifying

Top qualifying seed Kaia Kanepi was eliminated from Cincinnati qualifying in the first round today. Kanepi was defeated 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 by qualifying wild card Hsieh Su-Wei.

Also going out in the first round of qualifying were 3rd seed Elena Baltacha (def. by Julie Ditty), Sania Mirza (def. by Bojana Jovanovski) and Alison Riske (def. by Vania King).

Stosur withdraws from Cincinnati

Sam Stosur has withdrawn from next week's tournament in Cincinnati. She has had a problem with pain in her right arm since she played her opening match in Stanford. After her quarterfinal loss in San Diego, Stosur consulted a doctor, who advised her to give the arm some rest.

Wozniacki and Zakopalova to meet in Copenhagen final

Top seed Caroline Wozniacki defeated Anna Chakvetadze today in Copenhagen, in a semifinal match whose momentum turned several times. Wozniacki dominated the first set, Chakvetadze dominated the second, and the third--which featured three breaks of serve--was up for grabs. Grab it Wozniacki did, which gave her a 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 victory. Chakvetadze, I should add, is in pretty good form again, and had an enthusiastic cheering section in the stands (which she probably appreciated every time "Let the Sunshine In" blared from the speakers).

In the other semifinal, 7th seed Klara Zakopalova defeated 2nd seed Li Na 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 in a match that featured at least one very questionable line call.

Wozniacki and Zakopalova have played each other only once before, and Wozniacki won in three sets.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Radwanska puts on a tennis show in San Diego

Everything the talented Agnieszka Radwanska does well, she did even better tonight in San Diego. Going into her quarterfinal match against Shahar Peer, who had a 1-3 record against her, Radwanska brought her very best game. She served well (her first serve is significantly better than it used to be, but her second is still her weakness), she read the court with her usual cleverness, and she volleyed expertly.

The 4th seed used every trick in her repertoire tonight, and it was all just too much for Peer. Radwanska was all over the court, she made very few errors, and in just over an hour, she had a 6-2, 6-0 victory.

Kanepi is top qualifying seed in Cincinnati

I was thinking about Kaia Kanepi today, wondering what she was up to in the U.S. Open Series, and I just learned that she is the top qualifying seed in Cincinnati. Kanepi will face Hsieh-Su-Wei in the first round of qualifying. If she wins that, she will play the winner of the match between Nuria Llagostera Vives and Shenay Perry.

Helping at the main draw ceremony will be Sabine Lisicki, who is returning to the tour after a long injury layoff. Maria Sharapova will play on the opening night of the tournament.

Qualifying takes place this weekend.

"She couldn't really stop herself from winning"

I missed this piece on Dinara Safina when it was published over a week ago; it is worth reading. In it, the former world number 1 explains that she re-injured her back because she returned to the tour too soon (she was gone for so long), and she also explains what now makes her spine vulnerable.

After she re-injured her back, some of you will recall, Safina could not walk for a week. She then did a few weeks of rehab in Argentina. She says she has to make sure that she positions her hips and pelvis correctly, or she has spinal pain. The key, she says, is to make her core stronger through exercise so that she will get the kind of support she needs for her back.

Countrywoman Elena Dementieva suggests that Safina played in too many tournaments, but that "She couldn't really stop herself from winning." Safina says: "...people are starting to lose respect for me, so I have to earn the respect back." She says she knows what she has to do, and she isn't giving up.

Venus Williams withdraws from Cincinnati

Venus Williams has withdrawn from the Cincinnati tournament next week. The world number 4 is experiencing pain in her left knee and, according to her doctors, cannot play again until she is pain-free.

Pennetta moves smoothly to San Diego semifinals

Flavia Pennetta, seeded 5th in San Diego, played Samantha Stosur for the third time today, and for the third time, she won in straight sets. Pennetta, serving cleverly and playing a clean match, defeated the 2nd seed 6-4, 6-3. Stosur had only one break opportunity, on which she capitalized. Pennetta, on the other had, had thirteen break opportunities, and converted four of them. The Italian made 14 unforced errors, compared with Stosur's 37.

In the other early quarterfinal, Svetalana Kuznetsova found herself down 2-5 against Coco Vandeweghe in their first set, but she came back to win that set 7-5. She then easily won the second set 6-2. Vandeweghe, who has a formidable forehand, made a lot of backhand errors, and became more careless as the match went on. She concluded the match with 24 winners and 44 unforced errors.

In the third quarterfinal of the day, Daniela Hantuchova defeated Alisa Kleybanova 2-6, 6-4, 6-3. Hantuchova was 0-3 down in the second set, but came back with a better serve for the latter half of that set and the rest of the match. Kleybanova made the final set close, but Hantuchova prevailed.

Brad Gilbert calls for on-court coaching in ATP matches

Citing the "success" of on-court coaching on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, commentator, former pro, and former coach Brad Gilbert (Andre Agassi, Andy Murray) called for on-court coaching in the ATP today. In agreement with him was Darren Cahill, who also said that on-court coaching has been "very successful" for the women's tour. Finally, Patric McEnroe also agreed that the ATP should have on-court coaching.

Though I cannot imagine the ATP going in that direction, it was disheartening to once again hear praise for the disastrous WTA experiment that eventually became a terrible reality.

Chakvetadze advances to Copenhagen semifinals

Qualifier Anna Chakvetadze (that still sounds strange, doesn't it?) defeated 6th seed Polona Hercog in straight sets today to advance to the semifinals of the E-Boks Open 2010 in Copenhagen. Top seed Caroline Wozniacki also advanced, defeating Julia Goerges 3-6, 6-0, 7-6.

The other quarterfinal winners were 2nd seed Li Na, who defeated 8th seed Angelique Kerber, and 7th seed Klara Zakopalova, who defeated Sorana Cirstea.

In doubles, top seeds Goerges and Anna-Lena Groenefeld and 4th seeds Vitalia Diatchenkova and Tatiana Poutchek advanced to the final.