Sunday, July 31, 2011

Azarenka & Kirilenko win Stanford doubles title

Victoria Azarenka, the defending champion in singles at the Bank of the West Classic, didn't get to defend her singles title, but she and partner Maria Kirilenko won the doubles championship. Seeded 2nd, Azarenka and Kirilenko defeated top seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond 6-1, 6-3. Today is Azarenka's birthday, so winning another doubles title was a nice present.

At the Citi Open in College Park, Maryland, the doubles title was claimed by top seeds Sania Mirza and Yaroslava Shvedova. Mirza and Shvedova defeated 2nd seeds Olga Govortsova and Alla Kudryavtseva 6-3, 6-3 in the final.

Serena Williams wins her first Stanford title

Serena Williams, having easily disposed of both Maria Sharapova and Sabine Lisicki in Stanford earlier this week, beat 3rd seed Marion Bartoli today in the final, and won her first Bank of the West Classic title.

The first set was very competitive. Bartoli, serving exceptionally well, got an early break, and had several chances to get a second break when Williams served at 2-4. But Williams held in that long, tense game, and went on to break Bartoli when she served for the first set at 5-4. That break of serve would be a turning point, with Williams taking the first set 7-5, then going up 5-0 in the second. Bartoli's service game became more tentative, and she also had some type of issue with her hand, which just served to make matters worse for the Frenchwoman.

Williams, by the way, hit eleven aces in the final. Her net game was solid, and she was able to take control against the only real competition she faced all week. We won't see her again until she competes for the Rogers Cup next month, but there is no reason to believe she will do anything but improve during the next several weeks. Those who predicted that Williams could come back after her illness but not be dominant might want to re-think this issue.

The Stanford title is Williams' 38th. It's also the first regular tour event she has won since she took the Charleston title in 2008. The last championship that Williams won was the 2010 Wimbledon title. It was not long after her Wimbledon victory that she sustained a foot injury, which led to her having two surgeries, a hematoma and a pulmonary embolism. Williams was able to return to Wimbledon this year, but lost to Bartoli in the round of 16.

Petrova wins inaugural Citi Open

Nadia Petrova won her first title since 2008 today. She defeated top seed Shahar Peer 7-5, 6-2 to win the inaugural Citi Open championship in College Park, Maryland. Petrova, who received a wild card into the event and was seeded 2nd, has had problems with dizziness in recent months. The Russian player was a break  down in both sets today, but relied on her first serve to overcome deficits. She finished with an 83 first serve win percentage.

Peer, known for her ability to fight when she's down, saved three break points when she served at 3-4 in the first set, but then failed to capitalize on a break point against Petrova in the next game. The 1st seed played for over three hours against Tamira Paszek in the blazing heat yesterday, then had to go back to the court to play doubles.

The Citi Open title is Petrova's tenth.

Passing shots

Kimiko Date-Krumm has some nice things to say about Li Na.

Agnieszka Radwanska says she will probably get a clothing sponsor next year.
Victoria Azarenka, who turns 22 today, recently spoke her mind to Bobby Chintapalli.

World number 3 Vera Zvonareva will be the top seed at the Mercury Insurance Open in Carlsbad next week. Zvonareva recently won the Baku Cup.

Here is an interview with Heather Watson.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Williams and Bartoli to compete for Stanford championship

Serena Williams and 3rd seed Marion Bartoli will compete tomorrow for the Bank of the West Classic championship. Bartoli, the 2009 champion, did not play today because her semifinal opponent, Dominika Cibulkova, withdrew from competition. Cibulkova, who sustained an abdominal strain, had an MRI this morning, and was advised to stop playing. Bartoli's quarterfinal opponent, Ayumi Morita, retired after the first set because of an ankle injury.

Williams eliminated Sabine Lisicki in straight sets in tonight's semifinal match. Despite Lisicki's recent comeback, she is simply not (yet?) the same player who won Charleston in 2009. That player had finesse and control and a really good second serve; the one we saw in Stanford tonight had a hit-and-miss first serve and real problems with her second serve. She was easily dominated by Williams, though--in the fourth game of the second set--it looked like she might break through.
Williams defeated Lisicki 6-1, 6-2, and did so with relative ease. She did look winded at times, however, which is to be expected of a player who has had to overcome so much physical stress, and who missed almost an entire year of play on the tour. 

In doubles, 2nd seeds Victoria Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko defeated 3rd seeds Julia Goerges and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 4-6, 6-3, 10-5. In the other semifinal match, 1st seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond defeated Shuko Aoyama and Rika Fujiwara 6-1, 6-2.

Quote of the day

"The only time she wants to move inside the service line is to shake hands."
Katrina Adams, referring to Tamira Paszek

Peer meets challenge from Paszek

The top seed in at the Citi Open, Shahar Peer, had to fight back against 3rd seed Tamira Paszek in the semifinals today, and she was up to the task. Paszek won the first set 6-3, and she served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, but was broken. There was a break in play before that, however, because the Austrian player had to be treated for heat illness.The set went to a tiebreak, and Peer won the first point with an ace up the T. Paszek thought she had won the second point, but Peer considered the point a let since the ball was dead.

The umpire then had to make a determination about whether the ball was actually broken or just lacking air. When she was able to sqeeze the ball almost flat, she determined that it was broken, but Paszek argued that because it was playable, it was a legitimate ball. Unable to get satisfaction from the umpire, she asked to have the referee come out; however, he immediately deferred to the umpire, so the point had to be replayed. Paszek lost the next four points, and ultimately lost  the tiebreak. Peer went on to win the third set 6-3.

2nd seed/wild card Nadia Petrova won the other semifinal match. Petrova defeated Irina Falconi 1-6, 6-1, 6-3.

Top doubles seeds Sania Mirza and Yaroslava Shvedova advanced to the final when they defeated 4th seeds Peer and Sloane Stephens 6-0, 6-1. Their opponents in the final will be 2nd seeds Olga Govortsova and Alla Kudryavtseva.

Peer advances to both semifinals in College Park

Top seed Shahar Peer advanced to the semifinals in College Park yesterday when she defeated 8th seed Alberta Brianti 6-1, 6-2. Other semifinalists are 3rd seed Tamira Paszek (def. Stephanie Dubois), Irina Falconi (def. Virginie Razzano) and 2nd seed/wild card Nadia Petrova (def. 5th seed Bojana Jovanovski 7-6, 7-5).

In doubles, 4th seeds Peer and Sloane Stephens defeated Liga Dekmeijere and Alexandra Mueller in the quarterfinals. 2nd seeds Olga Govortsova and Alla Kudryavtseva advanced to the final when they defeated 3rd seeds Brianti and Eleni Daniilidou.

Williams beats Sharapova in straight sets in Stanford

Some things don't change. Maria Sharapova may be working her way back to the elite section of the WTA, and Serena Williams may be rusty after having to take almost a year off--but last night in Stanford, history ruled. Williams efficiently defeated Sharapova 6-1, 6-3, posting a win over the Russian for the sixth consecutive time. 2nd seed Sharapova had continuous problems with her serve and forehand, and struggled to control rallies.

Williams, who is now 7-2 against Sharapova, will play Sabine Lisicki in the semifinals. In an interview after her quarterfinal match, Williams acknowledged Lisicki's fast, powerful serve, and--referring to her own--noted, "I'm so 2000."

Lisicki hit fourteen aces against Agnieszka Radwanska. The German defeated 5th seed Radwanska 7-6, 3-6, 6-2 in a match whose outcome was hard to predict. Radwanska served for the first set at 5-4 and was broken. At 5-6, she went through eight deuces and saved four set points, but then lost the tiebreak (though she made somewhat of a comeback in that, also). The 5th seed then took the next set from a clearly flustered Lisicki. The German player had trouble getting her first serve in, and--in contrast to her opponent--made a number of unforced errors. The third set was a different story, however, with Lisicki taking control at the very beginning with a break, and raising her level of play enough to stay in control.

Radwanska's surgical game can mean trouble to big hitters like Lisicki, but the Stanford match was not unlike others Radwanska has played. She did the exacting work, but, in the end, was beaten by someone who likes to be in hitting contests. As a fan of Radwanska's, I'd like to see her new (as long as that lasts) coach help her learn to close big matches better. Her service game has improved, which is nice to see.

In other quarterfinal action, 8th seed (and wild card) Dominika Cibulkova easily defeated qualifier Marina Erakovic, 6-1, 6-1, and after just one set of play, 3rd seed and 2009 champion Marion Bartoli was handed a retirement from Ayumi Morita, who injured her right ankle.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Top seed upset in Stanford

Victoria Azarenka, the number 1 seed in the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, was upset yesterday in the second round by qualifier Marina Erakovic. Erakovic defeated Azarenka 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.

Sabine Lisicki hit thirteen aces last night in Stanford, and defeated her doubles partner, Sam Stosur, 6-3, 7-5. Also winning were Ayumi Morita and Serena Williams, who needed three sets to prevail over Maria Kirilenko. The night before, 2nd seed Maria Sharapova won a tough three-set contest against Daniela Hantuchova, and 3rd seed Marion Bartoli defeated Rebecca Marino.

Meanwhile, in College Park, top seed Shahar Peer defeated Alla Kudryavtseva 6-1, 6-4. Peer's next opponent will be 8th seed Alberta Brianti.

Friday cat blogging--tough day at the office edition

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Passing shots

Gisela Dulko married Real Madrid midfielder Fernando Gago on Tuesday. There is speculation that Gago, who is dealing with a hamstring injury, will leave Madrid and return to Boca.

Maria Kirilenko reports that Elena Dementieva and her new husband, Maxim Afinogenov, sang at their wedding.

Get to know Patricia Mayr-Achleitner.

Melanie Oudin is currently ranked number 100 in the world; Christina McHale is ranked number 65.

Kim Clijsters, Petra Kvitova and defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova have withdrawn from the Mercury Insurance Open, which will be played next week in San Diego.

"...nerves played a part to impress the new coach..." Ana Ivanovic said of her loss to Ayumi Morita in the first round in Stanford.

Tomasz Wiktorowski, captain of Poland's Fed Cup team, will coach both Agnieszka and Urszula Radwanska this summer. Throughout their careers, the Radwanska sisters have been coached by their father, who has spoken abusively to them during and after matches, and who has said some truly off-the-wall things to the press. Agnieszka Radwanska says she isn't sure whether the break from father Robert will be permanent.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Washington Kastles win World Team Tennis championship

The Washington Kastles won the 2011 World Team Tennis championship this past weekend, and in doing so, became the first team in WTT history to establish a 16-0 season record. The Kastles defeated the St. Louis Aces 23-19. Finals weekend, which took place at the Family Circle Cup Tennis Center in Charleston, was interrupted by three rain delays.

Arina Rodionova was chosen the Most Valuable Player of the finals. She defeated the Aces' Tamira Paszek in the singles final, and she and Rennae Stubbs defeated Paszek and Liezel Huber in doubles. Stubbs became the fourth player in WTT history to be part of five championship teams.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Williams moves easily into 2nd round in Stanford

Serena Williams needed less than 48 minutes tonight to defeat Anastasia Rodionova 6-0, 6-0 in the first round of the Bank of the West Classic. Also advancing to the next round were Maria Kirlenko, who upset 6th seed Julia Goerges, and Ayumi Morita, who upset 7th seed Ana Ivanovic.

Today in College Park, at the new Citi Open, top seed Shahar Peer won her opening round match against qualifier Ryoko Fuda. 2nd seed Nadia Petrova, who has a wild card, also advanced to the second round, as did 3rd seed Tamira Paszek.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Zvonareva wins Baku Cup

Top seed Vera Zvonareva won the Baku Cup title today. Zvonareva defeated 7th seed Kristina Pervak 6-1, 6-4 in the final. The doubles title was won by 2nd seeds Mariya Koryttseva and Tatiana Poutchek. They defeated top seeds Monica Niculescu and Galina Voskoboeva 6-3, 2-6, 10-8.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Zvonareva and Pervak to meet in Baku final

Top seed Vera Zvonareva will compete against 7th seed Kristina Pervak in the Baku Cup final tomorrow. Zvonareva defeated Mariya Koryttseva in the semifinals, and Parvak defeated Galina Voskoboeva. Koryttseva and Voskoboeva will play each other in the doubles final. Koryttseva and Tatiana Poutchek are the second seeds; Voskoboeva and Monica Niculescu are seeded number 1.

Friday, July 22, 2011

How Kvitova won Wimbledon

Pavlyuchenkova upset in Baku quarterfinals

2nd seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova double-faulted 27 times today in her quarterfinal round at the Baku Cup. She was upset 6-7, 6-4, 6-3 by Galina Voskoboeva, who is joined in semifinal competition by Marija Koryttseva (def. Kateryna Bondarenko), Kristina Pervak (def. Aravane Rezai) and top seed Vera Zvonareva (def. Anna Tatishvili).

Pavlyuchenkova played three rounds and seven sets, and had a total of 59 double faults.

Friday cat blogging--snug edition

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Zvonareva advances to Baku quarterfinals

Top seed Vera Zvonareva advanced to the Baku Cup quarterfinals today when her second round opponent, Kristina Kucova, retired because of a leg injury. Zvonareva led 6-0, 3-0 at the time of Kucova's retirement.

Also advancing was 2nd seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who defeated qualifier Elena Bovina 6-4, 6-0. Pavlyuchenova double-faulted 25 times in the first round, but reduced that number to seven in today's match.

Also in the second round, Kateryna Bondarenko upset 4th seed Ekaterina Makarova 6-1, 6-4, and Anna Tatishvili defeated lucky loser Tatia Mikadze 7-6, 6-3.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Peer to headline inaugural Citi Open draw

World number 24 Shahar Peer will lead the field of 32 singles competitors at the new Citi Open tournament that starts on July 23 at The Tennis Center in College Park, Maryland, just outside Washington, DC. Among those joining Peer are Polona Hercog, Wimbledon quarterfinalist Tamira Paszek, Bojana Jovanovski, Sania Mirza, Zheng Jie, and wild card Nadia Petrova.

Peer, who has been training in Florida with new coach Harold Solomon, spoke briefly today about her participation in the upcoming tournament. She said that she and Solomon had made a few changes in her game, including her service motion, and that she feels very good about the upcoming U.S. hard court season. The world number 24 will also play in Toronto and Cincinnati before going to the U.S. Open.

Peer also talked a little about her unique relationship with Reebok. The Israeli player said she enjoys wearing bright colors and participating in the design team. She is the only player on the tour who wears Reebok.

The new Citi Open is one of only three WTA International events in the U.S. In addition to featuring the singles field of 32, the tournament will also host a singles qualifying field of 32, and a doubles field of 16. The semifinals and finals will br broadcast live on Tennis Channel on July 30 and 31.

The Tennis Center at College Park is a USTA Regional  Training Center and is home to both the Junior Tennis Champions Center training program and the tennis teams of the University of Maryland.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Martinez Sanchez and Medina Garrigues win titles

Spanish doubles partners Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez and Anabel Medina Garrigues became champions today, but not in doubles, and not even at the same tournament. Martinez Sanchez won in Bad Gastein, where she defeated wild card Patricia Mayr-Achleitner 6-0, 7-5. Medina Garrigues defeated Polona Hercog 6-3, 6-2 in the final. Medina Garrigues was the 5th seed; Hercog--who won in Bastaad last week--was seeded 7th.

This is Martinez Sanchez's fourth WTA singles title. Medina Garrigues' new singles title is her fifth in Palermo, and her eleventh overall. It is also her tenth title on clay.

Eva Birnerova and Lucie Hradecka  won the doubles championship in Bad Gastein. They defeated Julia Goerges and Jarmila Gajdosova 4-6, 6-2, 12-10. Hradecka has now won the doubles title five times in a row.

The Palermo doubles title was taken by top seeds Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, giving them a total of five titles as a team. Errani and Vinci defeated 2nd seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Klara Zakopalova 7-5, 6-1.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Passing shots

Li Na will head a two-day event, Li Na and Friends, in Wuhan on December 17 and 18. She will be joined by Sabine Lisicki, Carlos Moya and Pete Sampras.

Here are photos of the Wuhan Nike Sports Night in which Li and Kevin Durant recently participated.

The USTA has awarded 78 university scholarships worth over $400,000.

Christina Aguilera she isn't!

World Team Tennis is going strong. Here is the schedule. The final will be played in Charleston July 22-24.

Serena Williams recently won the ESPY for Best Female Tennis Player.

Wild card Mayr-Achleitner in Gastein Ladies final

Patricia Mayr-Achleitner used her wild card to advantage today when she defeated 8th seed Ksenia Pervak 6-0, 6-0 and advanced to the final in Bad Gastein. Her opponent will be Maria Jose Martinez Sancehz, who defeated Kateryna Bondarenko 6-1, 7-6.

In the Palermo semifinals, top seed Flavia Pennetta was upset by 7th seed (and Bastaad champion) Polona Hercog, 6-2, 6-2. In the other match, 5th seed Anabel Medina Garrigues defeated 8th seed Petra Cetkovska 7-5, 6-3. The Palermo doubles title was won by Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, the top seeds. They defeated 2nd seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Klara Zakopalova 7-5, 6-1.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Pennetta advances to Palermo semifinals

Top seed Flavia Pennetta defeated 6th seed Tsvetana Pironkova 6-2, 6-2 today in Palermo. Pennetta advanced to the semifinals, in which she will play 7th seed Polona Hercog. Hercog defeated 4th seed Klara Zakopalova 6-1, 6-1. The other semifinalists are 8th seed Petra Cetkovska, who upset 3rd seed Sara Errani, and 5th seed Anabel Medina Garrigues, who defeated Irina-Camelia Begu.

Cetkovska and Errani played for three hours and 16 minutes, and broke each other 16 times. Cetkovska prevailed with a score of 5-7, 6-3, 7-6.

Errani and partner Roberta Vinci, the top seeds, have reached the doubles final. Their opponents will be 2nd seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Klara Zakopalova.

In Bad Gastein, Patricia Mayr-Achleitner and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez advanced to the semifinals.

Kleybanova diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma

Alisa Kleybanova, who has been off of the tour since May because of chronic lethargy, is being treated for stage 2 Hodgin's lymphoma. The Russian player, who turns 22 today, is in a hospital in Perugia, Italy. "The good news," she said, "is after I do treatment for a few more months, if I feel well, there's a chance I'll be able to play tennis again."

Kleybanova is currently ranked number 28 in the world. She reached her highest ranking, number 20, in February of this year.

Here is a letter that Alisa Kleybanova wrote today to the tennis community. Women Who Serve joins the community in wishing Alisa a fast recovery.

Friday cat blogging--this end up edition

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Passing shots

Irina-Camelia Begu, who lost to Roberta Vinci last week in the Budapest final, upset her today in straight sets in the second round in Palermo. Vinci was seeded 2nd in the tournament.

Sybille Bammer has played her last professional match.

It's always worth taking the time to see the Bad Gastein player party photos.

You can get to know Caroline Garcia.

Elena Dementieva is getting married this weekend. Klaudia Jans was married just over a week ago.

Simon Reed says that Caroline Wozniacki's problem is not mental.

There's some talk about Martina Hingis playing mixed doubles with Roger Federer in the 2012 Olympic Games.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pennetta gets past Johansson in Palermo

It took her almost three hours, and she repeatedly had to come from behind, but top seed Flavia Pennetta reached the quarterfinals of the SNAI Open in Parlermo today. Pennetta defeated Mathilde Johansson 4-6, 7-5, 7-5. Johansson led 5-3 in the second set, and she led 3-0 and 5-3 in the third. Pennetta, last year's runner-up, will next face Tsvetana Pironkova, who defeated Sorana Cirstea today. Pennetta was also the runner-up in 2004, and she won the tournament in 2009.

In Bad Gastein, Julia Goerges and Jarmila Gajdosova upset top seeds Natalie Grandin and Vladamira Uhlirova in the first round of doubles. Goerges and Gajdosova were seeded 1 and 2 in singles, but were both defeated in the opening round.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Top seeds out in Bad Gastein

The top two seeds at the Gastein Ladies event were upset today in the first round. Laura Pous-Tio defeated number 1 seed Julia Goerges 6-1, 2-6, 6-1, and Johanna Larsson defeated 2nd seed Jarmila Gadjosova 6-4, 6-2. 5th seed Lourdes Dominguez Lino and 7th seed Barbora Zahlavova Strycova were also upset, by Patricia Mayr-Achleitner and Carla Suarez Navarro, respectively.

In Palermo, Budapest champion Roberta Vinci and Bastaad champion Poloma Hercog both advanced to the second round. Vinci and Hercog are seeded 2nd and 7th at the tournament.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Vinci wins Budapest championship

Roberta Vinci won her sixth WTA title--and her third of the season--today, when she defeated Irina-Camelia Bagu 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 in the final of the Budapest Grand Prix. The champion, seeded number 1, went down 2-4 in the third set, but came back, as she has done all week. Vinci was two points from a loss to Timea Babos in the second round, and she had to save match points against Zuzana Kucova in the quarterfinals.

Vinci is currently ranked number 25 in the world; this is the highest ranking of her career.

Top seeds Anabel Medina Garrigues and Alicja Rosolska won the doubles title, defeating Natalie Grandin and Vladamira Uhlirova 6-2, 6-2.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Hercog wins Swedish Open

Polona Hercog won her first WTA title today, defeating Johanna Larsson 6-4, 7-5 in the final of the Swedish Open in Bastaad. Hercog had to save a match point against defending champion Aravane Rezai in the second round. In the semifinals, she had to play 7th seed Barbora Zahlavova Strycova for 2 1/2 hours. Hercog was seeded 8th in the tournament.

Lourdes Dominguez Lino and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, also unseeded, won the doubles title. They defeated 3rd seeds Nuria Llagostera Vives and Arantxa Parra Santonja 6-3, 6-3 in the final.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Wozniacki retires in Sweden

World number 1 Caroline Wozniacki retired yesterday against Sofia Arvidsson in the second round of the Swedish Open. Wozniacki won the first set 6-2, but early in the second set, had to stop playing because of a shoulder injury. Arvidsson went on to defeat Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 4-6, 7-6, 7-6 today in the Bastaad quarterfinals. Also winning in the quarterfinals was 7th seed Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, who upset 2nd seed Flavia Pennetta 6-4, 5-7, 6-3.

In Budapest, the top two seeds--Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani--won their second round matches today.

Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova has withdrawn from next week's Gastein Ladies event, which begins next week in Austria. Kvitova sustained a leg muscle injury during her time at Wimbledon, and withdrew from the Austrian tournament because, she says, she needs to rest and let the muscle heal.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Passing shots

Scroll down to see a photo of 17-year-old Petra Kvitova.

Speaking of Kvitova, here she is with Wimbledon gentlemen's champion Novak Djokovic, posing for official photos.

Lindsay Davenport has withdrawn from World Team Tennis because she is pregnant, and her doctor has advised her not to compete.

Caroline Wozniacki and Alize Cornet broke each other 16 times today in the first round of the Swedish Open. 6th seed Iveta Benesova, who just won the Wimbledon mixed doubles championship, was upset 6-2, 6-0 by Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.

In Budapest, 4th seed Lucie Hradecka was upset by Eva Birnerova.

Former world number 1 Serena Williams is now ranked number 175 in the world, making her the official Dangerous Floater from Hell. She is expected to get a wild card into the main draw at the U.S. Open.

 It's official: Wimbledon and ESPN have signed a twelve-year contract. NBC had the Wimbledon contract for 43 years, and showed only some of the big matches live in all time zones. Viewers in the USA will now be able to watch matches live, and those whose ISPs provide ESPN3 will continue to have access to a wider variety of matches.

Li honored in Beijing

Li Na just returned to China for the first time since she won the French Open, and was honored today in a ceremony in Beijing. The event took place in Sanlitun SOHO, in Li's home province of Hubei. And while Reuter's reported that Li's public gratitude to the Chinese government is "something she has not done often," that is--of course--not factual. Throughout her second career, Li has publicly thanked the government of China for its support.

Other than attending the ceremony, Li has stayed home and tried to avoid the limelight in her native country.

Here is a gallery of photos of the ceremony for China's Golden Flower. The photos are lovely--be sure to look at them.

At the Champions' Ball

Monday, July 4, 2011

Passing shots

NBC has lost the Wimbledon tournament, which is the least of the punishments the network deserves for its constant imposition of blackouts, which forces people without fast enough Internet connections to watch big matches after the fact--and forces the rest of us to watch on inferior screens. The assumption is that NBC was outbid by ESPN.

3rd seed Lucie Safarova was upset today in the first round of the Swedish Open. Safarova was defeated 6-3, 6-4 by Vesna Golonts. The tournament is played on clay, Safarova's best surface.

Meanwhile, in Budapest, 3rd seed Klara Zakopalova advanced to the second round with a win over Han Xinyun.

The Djoker lifts the Venus Rosewater dish.

It's time to get to know Anna Tatishvili.

Nike and Wilson have a champion.

My Wimbledon top 10

My top 10 Wimbledon occurrences, in ascending order:

10.  Serving notice: Serena Williams is back. She lost in the round of 16 to Marion Bartoli, but--as she herself put it: "I can only get better, and that can potentially be really scary...." And after being out for a year and dealing with really serious health issues, getting to the fourth round was really quite an accomplishment.

9. If I don't do it, you know somebody else will: Dominika Cibulkova came back from a set down and defeated world number 1 Caroline Wozniacki in the round of 16. Had Wozniacki won, she would have faced Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals, and one can't help but believe that Sharapova would have still advanced to the semis. Wozniacki's chances will be better at the U.S. Open.

8. Playing the wild card: Sabine Lisicki's ranking, as of today, is up 35 places because of her Wimbledon run to the semifinals. When Lisicki is healthy, her serving alone can get her places. The German wild card upset French Open champion Li Na in the second round, but fell to Maria Sharapova when the final four played. Lisicki has endured a lot of illness and injury since her 2009 Wimbledon quarterfinal run, but made her official comeback when she won the Birmingham title in June.

7. Drama under the roof: On the third day of the tournament, Venus Williams beat Kimiko Date Krumm 6-7, 6-3, 8-6 under the roof on Centre Court. 40-year-old Date Krumm gave Williams all she could handle for three hours. The attacking Japanese star finally lost her nerve in the latter part of the third set, but she and Williams will be remembered for the exciting contribution they made to the first week of the tournament.

6. Oops, I did it...: 2010 semifinalist Tsvetana Pironkova, who has been all but invisible during the last year, returned to Wimbledon to defeat Venus Williams--just like she did last year. Pironkova beat Williams 6-2, 6-3--the same scoreline she had against Williams last year. Pironkova said that she always finds the Wimbledon atmosphere "relaxing." Really.

5. Czhechapalooza!: Czech players won the women's singles, doubles and mixed doubles championships. Petra Kvitova, Kveta Peschke and Iveta Benesova were joined by Czechoslovakian-born Martina Hingis, who was half of the winning Ladies Invitation doubles winning team (played against Czech-born Martina Navratilova and Czech Jana Novotna).

4. A long way back: 2004 Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova hadn't made it to the semifinals since 2006. She did it this year, though, and was the favorite to win the tournament. Sharapova played with a rotator cuff injury after her doctor failed to diagnose it, then she had to go through rehab twice. She has had issues with her serve ever since, but her 2011 Wimbledon run (and a French Open run to the semifinals) must surely give her some hope.

3. We're number 1!: Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik, the most successful doubles team so far this year, won their first major title at Wimbledon. This was Srebotnik's fifth time to be in a major women's doubles final. The team is now ranked number 1 in the world.

2. Bartoli def. Pennetta, 5-7, 6-4, 9-7: This was the highest-quality--and the most thrilling--match I saw at the tournament. Grass is generally Pennetta's weakest surface, not to mention that 2011 has  not been a very good season for the Italian, who sustained a shoulder injury that kept her out of the game for a while. But something pulled her switch in third the round of Wimbledon, and she put on a show of volleys, drop shots and groundstrokes that took Bartoli to the edge. The fighting Frenchwoman--who sometimes appeard to be on her last leg--paced, sweated, and even threw her parents out of the stands. Unfortunately, someone had to win, and Bartoli, in a stunning display of toughness, did so after three hours and nine minutes. The third set lasted an hour and sixteen minutes, and when it was over, the pair had hit 110 winners. (Pennetta's friend and countrywoman, Francesca Schiavone, would, immediately after, play on the same court--and also lose--in a match against Tamira Paszek that went on for three hours and 41 minutes.)

1. The Rock rocks Wimbledon: 8th seed Petra Kvitova, the player who said her only ritual was to eat a pineapple with her fitness coach every night of the tournament, didn't need any rituals or lucky shoes to win the championship. When it mattered, Kvitova kept her sometimes-errant forehand in check, turning it into a force; and she used her dominating backhand, aggressive style and huge lefty serve to dash the hopes of former champion Maria Sharapova in straight sets. Kvitova also took care of Yanina Wickmayer, Tsvetana Pironkova and Victoria Azarenka, and emerged with a mean of 77 and 60 in first and second serve win percentages. Not so much in spite of  her brief lapses, but more in light of them, the Czech's mental strength cannot be over-stated. Hers was a champion's performance from beginning to end.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Benesova and Melzer win Wimbledon mixed doubles title

Iveta Benesova and Jurgen Melzer won the Wimbledon mixed doubles championship today. The 9th seeds defeated 4th seeds Elena Vesnina and Mahesh Bhupati 6-3, 6-2. Benesova and Melzer had outstanding service stats, and hit more than twice as many winners as their opponents. This is Benesova's first major title.

Not surprisingly, Esther Vergeer and Sharon Walraven, the top seeds, won the women's wheelchair doubles title. They defeated 2nd seeds Jiske Griffioen and Aniek Van Koot 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. (I'm still looking for an update on Korie Homan, so if anyone has one, please post it.)

Lindsay Davenport won the Ladies Invitation doubles title, defeating Martina Navratilova and Jana Novotna 6-4, 6-4.

2nd seeds Eugenie Bouchard and Grace Min won the girls' doubles title. Bouchard and Min defeated Demi Schuurs and Tang Hao Chen 5-7, 6-2, 7-5.

The girls' singles championship was claimed by 12th seed Ashleigh Barty of Austrailia. She defeated Russia's Irina Khromacheva, the third seed, 7-5, 7-6. Barty hit seven aces and double-faulted eight times. She hit 26 winners to Khromacheva's 31, but made only 18 unforced errors. Khromacheva made 28.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Wimbledon--what they said

She's a Grand Slam champion. She has a tremendous amount of potential to go even further and achieve many great things. If she keeps playing like that and keeps her level up, absolutely. She has a great game for it, yeah.
Maria Sharapova

I'm playing for so many years, so this is, we say, the cherry on the cake.
Kveta Peschke

We knew her game was ready--she's ready.
Ted Robinson, referring to Petra Kvitova

We've been waiting for this a long, long time. I've been in four finals before...
Katarina Srebotnik

She also has an aggressive mentality that does not quite dovetail with her understated personality and which allowed her to shrug off the inevitable unforced errors and keep taking big cuts at Sharapova’s serves.
Christopher Clarey

Did you think she might start to feel the pressure?
You can't think about her, you've just got to try to do things from your own side, and I came up short today.
Maria Sharapova

I don't know how she (Lisicki) felt, but our battery was loaded.
Kveta Peschke

...Today I have to speak for myself, to tell you something I feel deep down in my soul....You scare me.
James LaRosa, in his letter to Petra Kvitova

She was hitting really powerful and hitting, you know, winners from all over the court...
Maria Sharapova

The 21-year-old Czech didn’t just meet the moment; she kicked the moment’s ass.
Jon Wertheim

Peschke and Srebotnik win Wimbledon doubles championship

2nd seeds Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik won their first major today. It took them just an hour and nine minutes to defeat the unseeded team of Sabine Lisicki and Sam Stosur 6-3, 6-1.

Lisicki and Stosur had to finish their semifinal match first. The high-drama doubles semifinal of yesterday evening was over in just twelve minutes today. Lisicki and Stosur, after being broken twice when they served for the match on Friday, defeated Marina Erakovic and Tammy Tanasugarn 6-3, 4-6, 8-6. Later, after both the women's singles and men's doubles championships had been played, Lisicki and Stosur returned to the court to play against Peschke and Srebotnik.

"They looked sharper around the net," wrote Matt Trollope about the 2nd seeds, "frequently coming out on top of volley exchanges and making their opponents look like two singles players trying their hand at the tandem game." Peschke and Srebotnik broke Lisicki and Stosur six times.

Peschke and Srebotnik also won titles this year in Auckland, Doha and Eastbourne. They are currently ranked number 6 in the world, but will be ranked number 1 when the new rankings are published.

Benesova and Vesnina in Wimbledon mixed doubles final

Iveta Benesova and her partner, Jurgen Melzer, will play Elena Vesnina and Mahesh Bhupati in the Wimbledon mixed doubles final. The 9th-seeded Benesova and Melzer defeated 8th seeds Chan Jung-Jan and Daniel Nestor in the semifinals. Vesnina and Bhupati, seeded defeated 4th, defeated Hsieh Su-Wei and Paul Hanley.

In Wimbledon girls' competition, Demi Schuurs and Tang Hao Chen have advanced to the doubles final. Their opponents will be 2nd seeds Eugenie Bouchard and Grace Min. In singles, 3rd seed Irina Khromacheva defeated 2nd seed Caroline Garcia 7-6, 3-6, 6-1 in the semifinals. The other finalist is 12th seed Ashleigh Barty, who defeated Indy De Vroome 6-4, 6-1.

In wheelchair doubles, top seeds Esther Vergeer and Sharon Walraven will compete against 2nd seeds Jiske Griffioen and Aniek Van Koot.

Finally, the Ladies Invitation doubles championship will feature Lindsay Davenport and Martina Hingis against Martina Navratilova and Jana Novotna.

What she said

 Comments from Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova:

"I like big challenges like this one..."

"I don't want to change, I just want to be like everyone else, I'm nothing special."

"Some special tactics, it wasn't."

How do you think winning Wimbledon will change your life?
"I don't know; I don't think about it."

"I cried after I met her. It was emotional for me. She said 'I knew it.'"
on seeing Martina Navratilova after the final

Is the the best match you've ever played?
"Well, I think so..."

Petra Kvitova beats Sharapova in straight sets to win Wimbledon

When Petra Kvitova--after winning her first Wimbledon title--looked up at the royal box and blew a kiss to Martina Navratilova and Jana Novotna, the small gesture spoke volumes. Navratilova, Mandlikova, Sukova, Novotna, Hingis--all these champions had something in common: They were born in what was then Czechoslovakia. The Czech Republic currently has a number of gifted players, but it is the 21-year-old, left-handed Kvitova who has moved far ahead of her countrywomen. Playing with  a tough mentality, line-painting groundstrokes, and a big tricky serve, Kvitova now has a new credential--2011 Wimbledon Ladies Champion.

Kvitova generally hits a high number of aces in a match, and she also tends to experience a second-set mental lapse. Today, she hit only one ace--but it was memorable--and her "off" time lasted only a few moments. The Czech player, who--until she made an appearance in the 2010 Wimbledon semifinals--had never won a match on grass, faced 2004 champion Maria Sharapova in the final. Sharapova, seeded 5th, had not been to a final at the All England Club since she upset Serena Williams seven years ago and won the title. After going through a misdiagnosis, two rehabs, and on-going post-rotator cuff surgery service problems, Sharapova had finally put herself in the position to win another major. Perhaps more significant, she was able to return to the scene in which she became an instant sports superstar.

Sharapova had not dropped a set on her way to the final. She won the coin toss and opted to receive, after which she immediately exposed Kvitova's only real weakness, her movement, and broke her. Sharapova then went down 0-40, however, and was broken at 15. She had a break point against Kvitova in the next game, but the Czech player used her serve to set up winners that enabled her to hold.

When Sharapova double-faulted at 2-all, it was hard to tell whether this was just a "normal" double fault, or whether the service demons that have followed the Russian around lately had found their way onto Centre Court. It would turn out to be the latter. Some expert serving and clinical ball-striking, combined with Sharapova's flustered double-faulting and too-careful serving took Kvitova to a 5-2 lead. Sharapova managed to save a set point on her own serve, but then Kvitova served four almost-unreturnable serves, held at love, and won the first set 6-3.

Sharapova has a well-deserved reputation as a fighter, and Kvitova has that tendency to let a second set go by. She was also making her first appearance on a show court on the last day of a major final. All signs pointed toward a Sharapova takeover. But Kvitova is that rare young player who seems oblivious to "the signs." She just keeps looping that big serve and delivering blazing groundstrokes into the corners. In the Wimbledon final, she also used her backhand slice to good effect to change the direction of the ball.

Sharapova was broken right off in the second set, then Kvitova--double-faulting twice in one game--proceeded to hold. Showing a deft touch, she scooped a ball almost from the court surface to a spot just beyond the net. The second double-fault took the game to deuce, but Kvitova prevented trouble with two more big serves.

It was starting to look like "now or never" time for Sharapova. She must have thought so, too: She held at love. The next game was problematic for Kvitova. She double-faulted again, and she also made an incomprehensible mistake when she powered a smash directly into Sharapova's hitting zone. Sharapova hit a winning lob, and Kvitova was broken. There were four deuces in the  next game, but the 8th-seeded Czech player eventually won it on her second break point with a crosscourt backhand that elicited cheers from spectators. At that moment, the faintest hint of a smile crossed Kvitova's face as she walked to the service box.

At 3-2, Kvitova entered her "lost" zone. She made what would be considered "nervous errors," was broken when she missed a routine volley, and suddenly, it was 3-all. Again--it would have been natural to assume that Sharapova was on her way to turning the match around. And once again, the drama of the moment barely affected Kvitova, who went on to break Sharapova on her second break point.

Kvitova would hold in the seventh game. After Sharapova held at love for 3-5, Kvitova had a look on her face that was something between anxious and weary, with perhaps a little more weight on the weary side. She looked that way when she served for the match, too, but her affect belied her escalating mental strength. Kvitova held at love, hitting her only ace on match point. She was the 2011 Wimbledon champion.

With Kvitova's victory, not only has Czech tennis returned to the forefront, but the "next generation" has finally broken through in a very big way. I find it more thrilling when an older, "true" veteran--especially one who has struggled, like Francesca Schiavone or Li Na--wins a major. But it is also very exciting to see a younger player (who has done nothing but improve over the last couple of seasons) give notice to the tour that she has arrived, with a vengeance. Petra Kvitova has not yet met her potential, a fact which must be a bit scary for some of her peers. She has a huge serve, she's mentally tougher than many of her opponents, and she plays well on all surfaces.

"I'm nothing special," the new champion told the BBC. Many would disagree.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Wimbledon--what they said

I don't care about the noise. When I play I don't think about it. I just play my game. Azarenka was also noisy and I don't care.
Petra Kvitova

...She's got a lot of confidence coming in here, and the sense of feeling of having nothing to lose...
Maria Sharapova're playing with nothing to lose...
Of course I have something to lose...
Petra Kvitova

I think she was a little fortunate against Lisicki, that the German didn't play a little better.
Jason Goodall, commenting on Maria Sharapova

How are you feeling, are you nervous?
No, I'm not nervous, and I'm looking forward for tomorrow, for sure....
Petra Kvitova

My family it's priceless really. My parents have been through so much with me. No matter how good or bad the times have been, they've kept me at a certain level. They've taught me so much in life.
Maria Sharapova

Maria is one great competitor. She will win.
Pam Shriver

Given the enormity of the occasion, I have to go with Sharapova...
Jason Goodall

At this time, I have to give the edge to Sharapova because she plays like a champion, she feels like a champion, and she refuses to lose in the big moments. I think this is going to be a very interesting match and I am going to pick Sharapova in three sets.
Nick Bollettieri

Finally, we get some semifinal drama!

The Wimbledon semifinals haven't offered us much in the way of thrills--until today. However, the unseeded team of Sabine Lisicki and Sam Stosur, along with lucky losers Marina Erakovic and Tammy Tanasugarn, took care of that problem. Earlier in the day, 2nd seeds Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik had a surprisingly routine straight-set win over 4th seeds Sania Mirza and Elena Vesnina, but there was nothing routine about the second semifinal.

In the course of play, Tanasugarn argued repeatedly with officials about the impending darkness on the court, and Erakovic also questioned the officials' decision to have the players stay on the court. Tanasugarn was hit twice with the ball, courtesy of both opponents, and Erakovic had to have a medical timeout when she hurt her arm.

The first set lasted 32 minutes, and Lisicki and Stosur won it, 6-3. Erakovic and Tanasugarn then went up 5-1, but it wasn't until their 11th set point that they were able to put the set away at 6-4. Needless to say, the level of tension was very high. That set lasted just six minutes short of an hour. By the time the third set began, there was quite a bit of anxiety in the air. Lisicki and Stosur got off to a fast start, and were soon up 5-2. Their opponents were still complaining about the lack of light, but were told to play on. Play on they did, breaking Lisicki's serve, to go up 3-5.

Erakovic and Tanasugarn then went up 30-love, after which Erakovic double-faulted. They went up 40-15 when Tanasugarn hit a winning volley, and then, on Erakovic's second serve, they won the game. At 4-5 in the third, they asked one more time for play to stop, and--one more time--their request was denied. Lisicki and Stosur then served for the match again, and this time, it was Stosur's serve that was broken, at 15, as Tanasugarn repeatedly hit to the Australian's backhand.

Then the match was postponed because of darkness, after the participants played 48 minutes of the third set. Play will resume tomorrow.

Friday cat blogging--Daniel's edition