Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bartoli, Radwanska and Cibulkova upset in U.S. Open 2nd round

Just when we were (well, sort of) getting used to the first-round upsets of Petra Kivotva and Li Na, along came today's big second round upsets. 8th seed Marion Bartoli went out to Christina McHale in straight sets (7-6, 6-2). Carlsbad champion Agnieszka Radwanska, the 12th seed, lost to Angelique Kerber, and 14th seed Dominika Cibulkova was upset by Irina Falconi. On top of that, Venus Williams withdrew from the tournament, and 20th seedYanina Wickmayer retired because of a back injury.

This is a lot to process. It is for me, anyway, because I'm still stuck at trying to figure out what happened to Kvitova and Li. Daniela Hantuchova is out, too, of course, and I didn't expect such an early exit from her, either. Radwanska has had her shoulder taped for several weeks because of a nerve problem in her shoulder, so her loss isn't a complete surprise.

2nd seed Vera Zvonareva is still around, but she had to work to get her second round win against Kateryna Bondarenko. She also had to tend to a lot of broken racquet strings.16-year-old Madison Keys took a set off of 27th seed Lucie Safarova, but in the third set, she looked tired, and she was rushing her play. All the same, it was nice to see her win a round and a set.

Alexandra Dulgheru, the woman who upset Petra Kvitova, was defeated in straight sets today by Monica Niculescu. Flavia Pennetta beat countrywoman Romina Oprandi, Peng Shuai defeated Tsvetana Pironkova (because someone had to), and 24th seed Nadia Petrova defeated Polona Hercog.

On Thursday, Victoria Azarenka will play Gisela Dulko, who falls into the "dangerous floater" category. Dulko played Azarenka in the second round of the U.S. Open last year, too, but that match didn't last too long. Behind 1-5 in the first set, Azarenka collapsed into a heap on the court, and had to be carried off in a wheelchair because of a concussion she sustained during a training session prior to the match. Dulko has a 3-2 record against the 4th seed.

Top seed Caroline Wozniacki will also be in action on Thursday; Wozniacki plays Arantxa Rus. 10th seed Andrea Petkovic, who's dealing with a small meniscus tear, faces an always-tough opponent in Zheng Jie, and Petra Cetkovska plays 16th seed Ana Ivanovic.

There were a couple of upsets in doubles today. 10th seeds Chan Yung-Jan and Anastasia Rodionova were defeated by Andreja Klepac and Anna Tatishvili, and 13th seeds Chuang Chia-Jung and Olga Govortsova were defeated by Liga Dekmeijere and Jelena Jankovic.

Venus Williams withdraws from U.S. Open

Venus Williams has not been feeling well lately, and she now has a diagnosis of Sjogren's syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that can cause everything from dry eye and dry mouth to joint pain and significant fatigue. Like other autoimmune disorders, Sjogren's syndrome occurs much more often in women than in men.

Williams, who won the U.S. Open in 2000 and 2001, withdrew from the 2011 Open today, giving her second round opponent, Sabine Lisicki, a walkover.

"I enjoyed playing my first match here and wish I could continue," Williams said, "but right now I am unable to. I am thankful I finally have a diagnosis and am now focused on getting better and returning to the court soon."

Williams hasn't played much this season because of injuries. She was unseeded at the U.S. Open, and defeated Vesna Dolonts in the first round.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

U.S. Open--what they said

Now I even lose all the confidence on the court. I was feeling, "Oh, tennis just too tough for me."
Li Na

I don't know if it's meant to be, or whatever.
Jelena Jankovic, on the return of Ricardo Sanchez

I tried to stop a couple of times, but I started losing.
Andrea Petkovic, on her dance celebrations

When I was serving for the match, I kept thinking, "I’m doing it for him."
Ana Ivanovic, whose grandfather died over the weekend

French Open is like three months already. I mean, is enough time to forget.
Li Na

I know that I'm back on track. I know that everyone has to write their stories, but I think we should move on. Ask me about something else, something more interesting.
Caroline Wozniacki

A subdued Serena Williams moves into second round of U.S. Open

Until she had her on-court interview, Serena Williams looked unusually detached this evening in Flushing Meadows. According to ESPN commentator Pam Shriver, the "Williams camp" was not pleased with the schedule; Williams was the last woman (along with her opponent, of course) to play her first round match.

It took the 28th seed only 56 minutes to defeat Bojana Jovanovski 6-1, 6-1. She hit 22 winners and made ten unforced errors.

Francesca Schiavone, the 7th seed, quietly advanced when she defeated Galina Voskoboeva. Also advancing were world number 1 Caroline Wozniacki, 2004 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and New Haven runner-up Petra Cetkovska. Mona Barthel of Germany upset 32nd seed Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, and Dallas runner-up Aravane Rezai lost to 26th seed Flavia Pennetta.

Jamie Hampton "retired" with only a few points left to play in her match: Hampton passed out on the court because of heat and dehydration. Her opponent, Elena Baltacha, reports that Hampton made a good recovery.

U.S. Open passing shots

Texas Tennis Open champion Sabine Lisicki was voted the best of the Xperia Hot Shots players. Lisicki had trouble getting to New York, but once she got there, she had no trouble getting to the second round. Her next opponent is Venus Williams, whom she defeated in Charleston in 2009.

Matt Cronin interviewed Flavia Pennetta at the U.S. Open.

Note to Brad Gilbert: The female official to whom you referred is not a "linesman."

Why weren't these people removed from the premises?

Andrea Petkovic is on a "movie marathon." She started with Pedro Almodovar's Todo sobre mi madre, which she says she loved. I like it a lot, too, and my wish for Petko is that she also see Volver and Los Abrazos Rotos. Today, the German star reported that there are certain movements she either can't make or is afraid to make because of her meniscus tear, but she's optimistic she can play her way into a better sense of comfort. And, as she also pointed out, she has both muscles and bandages to help her.

U.S. Open tournament director Jim Curley says that the courts are a bit slower this year because of a rain-filled summer. The courts were used less and power-washed less than usual. Curley says that the courts will play faster as the tournament progresses.

Right place, wrong forehand

...Got to cure this insecurity
I was in the wrong place
But it must have been the right time
I was in the right place
But it must have been the wrong song
...I was in the right world
But it seems wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong
Dr. John

It seemed wrong, wrong, wrong today when French Open champion Li Na, like Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova before her, went out in the first round of the U.S. Open. As if we didn't see enough forehand errors from the Czech player, we were subjected to another barrage of them today from Li. The 6th seed's opponent, Simona Halep, who hurt her ankle in Toronto, should be given credit, also. She played quite well, but--in the middle of the second set--she became shaky, and Li seemed to get her game back. But the 5th seed was too inconsistent, and Halep, instead of risking aggression, just kind of let Li implode. The strategy worked; Halep walked away with a 6-2, 7-5 victory, and Li ended the match with 54 unforced errors.

It's worth noting that both the Wimbledon and the French Open champion (both known for their ferocious forehands) were upset by Romanian players, though--in the end--Kvitova and Li each brought about her own undoing. And, by the way, what do I know? I predicted that both of these champions would pull themselves together for the U.S. Open. I expected both Li (who lost in the first round in 2010, also) and Kvitova to put their recent poor performances behind them and be very competitive in New York. Was I ever wrong. 

21st seed Daniela Hantuchova went out in the first round, too, by the way. She was upset 6-2, 6-3 by Pauline Parmentier. On a "normal" day, that would be pretty big news, but as it is, Hantuchova's exit is overshadowed by Li's. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

U.S. Open--what they said

After I warm up, I take a shower, I put my clothes on, I can even fall asleep. I can just wake up in one second, and I do some footwork drills and I’m ready to go.
Vera Zvonareva

I just remember I lost, and that was that. I got really popular; a lot of people were telling me I was, like, super cool, that they never saw me so intense.
Serena Williams, on the 2009 U.S. Open foot fault incident

She's the type of player who needs to remind herself about the feet.
Tracy Austin, observing Maria Sharapova

I absolutely loved the atmosphere today. I thought everyone was going to be supporting Maria.
Heather Watson

You know, I've always wanted to win the U.S. Open Series, so I can check that off the list.  I just have a couple more checks and then it will be good.
Serena Williams

I was four, and I walked through my parents' bedroom.  I think they were watching Wimbledon or something, and I decided I wanted Venus's dress.  They told me if I played tennis they'd buy me a tennis dress.  I said, All right, I'll try it. I have been playing ever since.
Madison Keys

Kvitova out of U.S. Open in first round

Today, 5th seed Petra Kvitova became the first Wimbledon champion in the Open Era to lose in the first round of the U.S. Open. Kvitova, who lost to Andrea Petkovic twice in a row during the U.S. Open Series, made 52 unforced errors in her opening round in Flushing Meadows. Alexandra Dulgheru, always a dangerous floater at majors, defeated Kvitova 7-6, 6-3. Kvitova held three set points in the opening set, but could not convert them. She made repeated forehand errors, had continuous problems with her serve, and generally just looked a mess throughout the match.

Only Kvitova knows why she performed so badly. She has had an abdominal injury for most of the year, and her asthma flares in humid weather, making this part of the season especially difficult for her. Some speculate that the Czech player is going through a psychological adjustment after suddenly becoming a famous sports personality. Any or all of those factors could be involved. I hope the rest of her season is better; Kvitova's potential is huge.

The 5th seed wasn't the only big player who had problems today. 3rd seed Maria Sharapova was taken to the edge by Heather Watson. Watson took the first set 6-3 in 36 minutes. In the second, Sharapova went up 3-0 and then 4-1. Watson held for 2-4, then broke when Sharapova double-faulted at 30-40. Both players looked in danger of being broken again, but held. However, at 5-all, Sharapova got the crucial break and took the set 7-5.

The 3rd seed went up 2-0 right away in the third set, and again had a 4-1 score. But just when it looked as though she would run away with the set, Watson broke her. The 2009 junior U.S. Open champion would win one more game; she was broken at 3-4, and Sharapova closed the set at 6-3, after two hours and 34 minutes. And while the 2006 champion was able to use her superior power and mentality to finally make the relentless Watson go away, one can't help but think that there are only so many times Sharapova can rescue herself in this fashion.

Sharapova hit 41 winners in her first round match, but she also made 58 unforced errors. Forced by Watson to stay in long rallies, the first-strike specialist often looked quite vulnerable.

Passing shots

The Radwanska sisters play one another Monday in the first round of the U.S. Open.

Vania King and Sania Mirza recently participated in a most entertaining discussion.

Here is Bobby Chintapalli's profile of U.S. Open 5th seed Petra Kvitova.

There is a new show court at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Be sure to see the action on Court 17.

Christina Fusano and David Martin are the winners of the mixed doubles title U.S. Open National Playoffs. Fusano and Martin now have a wild card into the U.S. Open mixed doubles competition.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

U.S. Open championship predictions

Jon Wertheim--Serena Williams
Matt Cronin--Serena Williams
Mary Carillo--Serena Williams
Ed McGrogan--Serena Williams
Patrick McEnroe--Serena Williams
Kamakshi Tandon--Serena Williams
Steve Tignor--Serena Williams
Mary Joe Fernandez--Serena Williams
Greg Garber--Serena Williams
Peter Bodo--Serena Williams
Todd Spiker--Serena Williams
Pam Shriver--Serena Williams
Matt Wilansky--Serena Williams
Cliff Drysdale--Serena Williams
Richard Pagliaro--Serena Williams
Ravi Ubha--Serena Williams

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Williams ready to compete for her fourth U.S. Open title

Serena Williams hasn't been to Flushing Meadows since 2009, but she enters the 2011 U.S. Open as a favorite to win the championship. She won in both Stanford and Toronto, and ended her pre-New York run as the winner of the U.S. Open Series. Yes, she was out for a year because of two surgeries and a serious illness, but she's back in a very big way.

The three-time U.S. Open champion should have no trouble getting to the third round (Bojana Jovanovski is the unlucky player who drew her in the first round), and then, she's likely to meet Victoria Azarenka. The two have an interesting history, which I won't go into here, and they last played in Toronto, where Williams had a straight-set win. Both players withdrew from Cincinnati--Azarenka because of a hand strain, and Williams because of a swollen toe. Also in Williams' quarter of the draw are Jelena Jankovic and Francesca Schiavone.

Top seed Caroline Wozniacki, who would theoretically meet Williams in the semifinals, has her work cut out for her. Daniela Hantuchova, Andrea Petkovic and French Open champion Li Na are all in that quarter, as are Tamira Paszek, Roberta Vinci and 2004 U.S. Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, all of whom (and especially Kuznetsova) can be difficult opponents. Wozniacki just posted a fourth consecutive victory in New Haven, which should give her a confidence boost, which she probably needs after crashing out early in both Toronto and Cincinnati.

2nd seed and 2010 runner-up Vera Zvonareva shares her quarter with Marion Bartoli, Sam Stosur, the injury-prone but dangerous Dominika Cibulkova, and Nadia Petrova. Dallas champion Sabine Lisicki and Venus Williams are in that quarter, too.

Maria Sharapova, also considered a favorite by many, has to contend with Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and Carlsbad champion Agnieszka Radwanska. Radwanska, unfortunately, has recently experienced nerve problems in her right shoulder. Peng Shuai is in that quarter, too, but her hip problems are chronic. Finally, it's worth noting that Flavia Pennetta--once a major hard court threat--is also in the Sharapova quarter. Though Pennetta's post-shoulder injury career has been less than stellar, her match against Bartoli at Wimbledon showed that--on the right day--she can still be a very tough opponent.

If we look at the top players' performances during the U.S. hard court season, we see mixed results. Williams and Radwanska (despite her shoulder) were strong performers. Li, Wozniacki and Kvitova probably made their fans quite anxious; Kvitova was beaten two weeks straight by Andrea Petkovic. Sharapova won in Cincinnati in spite of herself, but is that kind of toughness good enough to get her a second U.S. Open trophy?

The majors are different from other tournaments--even other big tournaments. Physical stamina is required to play seven matches, and mental stamina is just as big a requirement. Attitude is another key factor. There are players who become "switched on" at majors, and with that in mind, we should expect significant improvements in the games of both Li and Kvitova, who tend to shine at really important events. Li won this year's French Open, but she has historically given her best performances on hard courts. Kvitova prefers a faster surface, but certainly has the game to play on any surface.

So many questions swirl around us before this year's U.S. Open begins: Can world number 1 Caroline Wozniacki survive the constant pressure placed on her for not having won a major, and can she win this one? Will Sharapova's errant ball toss be her undoing? Can Azarenka avoid illness and injury long enough to make it through to the second week? Has the rather shy Kvitova recovered from the shock of becoming a sports celebrity? Should we be paying more attention to Zvonareva?

Perhaps the question that swirls the most is: Can anyone beat Serena Williams? She's the betting favorite (11/8), followed by Sharapova (6/1), with Kvitova and Azarenka (5/1) coming in third. Li has 12/1 odds, and the odds for Wozniacki are 14/1. Williams' return to hard court form has been rapid and impressive. At the majors, she tends to get better as she goes along and the matches become more competitive, but even in less than great form, she generally knows just what to do in order to win.

Lisicki beats Rezai to win Texas Tennis Open

Sabine Lisicki is the winner of the first ever Texas Tennis Open in Dallas. In the final, she defeated qualifier Aravane Rezai 6-2, 6-1 in just over 49 minutes. And while the result and the score have to be disappointing for Rezai, this tournament marked the first good run she has had in a long time.

Alberta Brianti and Sorana Cirstea won the doubles title. They defeated Alize Cornet and Pauline Parmentier 7-5, 6-3.

Sweet, Caroline!

World number 1 Caroline Wozniacki won her fourth straight New Haven title today. She beat qualifier Petra Cetkovska in a final that had to be stopped for rain when the score was 1-1 in the first set. It was a long rain delay, and it was a close set, which Wozniacki won 6-4. Cetkovska appeared to have more to give physically after that, but her level of play dropped, and she rushed too many points, winning just one game in the second set.

It was a wonderful run for Cetkovska, however. She played seven matches, and defeated the likes of Agnieszka Radwanska (whom she also upset at Wimbledon), Marion Bartoli and Li Na. Not bad for someone who had never before played in a WTA final. Wozniacki did what she does best--moved effortlessly around the court and hung in until her opponent snapped and made an error. Wozniacki also displayed a nice variety of shots in New Haven.

The doubles title was taken by 3rd seeds Chuan Chia-Jung and Olga Govortsova. They defeated Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci 7-5, 6-2.

Passing shots

Here's a preview of some U.S. Open Nike day outfits. Here is some more information. Sabine Lisicki, by the way, is now sponsored by Nike.

Arthur Ashe Kids' Day has been canceled because of Hurricane Irene.

Coco Vandeweghe says her goal at the U.S. Open is to get to the round of 16.

People share great memories of U.S. Opens of the past.

You can get to know New Haven finalist Petra Cetkovska.

Recycling and composting are priorities at the U.S. Open.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Wozniacki into 4th straight New Haven final

Three-time defending champion Caroline Wozniacki defeated Francesca Schiavone in New Haven this evening, and advanced to the final for the fourth straight year. Down a break throughout most of the first set, top seed Wozniacki came back to win a first set tiebreak, then defeated 3rd seed Schiavone 6-3 in the second set.

Wozniacki's opponent in the final will be qualifier Petra Cetkovska, who defeated 2nd seed Li Na 6-2, 5-7, 7-6. Cetkovska served for the match at 5-4 in the third, went down 0-40, saved three break points, but then double-faulted on match point. Li saved two match points in the tiebreak, and held a match point at 8-7, but didn't convert it. Cetkovska won on her fifth match point, with an 11-9 tiebreak score.

The New Haven final, to be played tomorrow, has been moved from 5 p.m. to 1 p.m.

In Dallas, 5th seed Sabine Lisicki defeated 8th seed Irina-Camelia Begu 6-0, 6-1 in the semifinals. In the other semifinal match, qualifier Aravane Rezai defeated qualifier Angelique Kerber 6-2, 3-6, 7-5. There were 24 doubles faults committed in the match.

U.S. Open qualifying rounds completed

The following players have qualified for the main draw of the U.S. Open:

Galina Voskoboeva
Marina Erakovic
Silvia Soler-Espanosa
Romina Oprandi
Reka-Luca Jani
Alexandra Panova
Stephanie Foretz-Gacon
Urszula Radwanska
Michaella Krajieck
Noppawan Lertcheewakarn
Laura Robson
Vitalia Diatchenko
Chan Yung-Jan
Ekaterina Bychkova
Karin Knapp
Aleksandra Wozniak

Friday cat blogging--Ziggy hearts eveyone edition

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rezai makes it to Dallas semifinals

It feels odd to make a big deal out of Aravane Rezai's run to the semifinals in Dallas, but she has had such a long and terrible slump that her success at the Texas Tennis Open is a big deal. Rezai, who had to qualify to get into the main draw, defeated Elena Baltacha 6-2, 6-2 today. She'll play qualifier Angelique Kerber in the semifinals; Kerber defeated Johanna Larsson 6-0, 6-1 in the quarterfinals.

In the other semifinal, Irina-Camelia Begu will play Sabine Lisicki; they are seeded 8th and 5th, respectively.

Cetkovska advances to New Haven semifinals

Once in a while, we get an opportunity to notice the Czech "Petra" who is not Kvitova. That would be Petra Cetkovska, the qualifier who upset 4th seed Marion Bartoli 7-5, 7-5 today in the New Haven quarterfinals. Cetkovska's semifinal opponent will be 2nd seed Li Na. Li defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 in a quarterfinal  filled with extraneous nuisances. There were two rain delays, and after the first set, Pavlyuchenkova went on a rant about the weather. In the third set, the Russian hurt her ankle. There were eleven breaks of serve and twenty double faults; at times, the match looked as though it would go on indefinitely, but it Li was finally able to put together a victory.

Earlier in the day, 3rd seed Francesca Schiavone received a walkover from Anabel Medina Garrigues, who injured her right knee. In the final match of the day, three-time defending champion and top seed Caroline Wozniacki defeated wild card Christina McHale 7-5, 6-3. McHale knocked Wozniacki out of the second round in Cincinnati. Tonight, however, McHale faded away after performing well for most of the first set; the change that came over her was sudden and inexplicable.

Saturday's final, originally scheduled for 5 p.m., has been changed to 1 p.m. as organizers try to avoid the possible consequences of a hurricane. There has already been a brief evacuation because of an earthquake.

Passing shots

Madison Keys has received a wild card into the U.S. Open main draw. Keys defeated 2010 winner Beatrice Capra 3-6, 6-4k, 6-0 in the U.S. Open Wild Card Playoffs. She had already qualified for the U.S. Open doubles main draw. 16-year-old Keys trained at the Evert Academy, but is now being coached by Adam Peterson in the USTA Player Development Program. Peterson is the former coach of Lindsay Davenport.

The latest issue of USTA Magazine has a feature called "In Your Dreams!" Sports journalists and former tennis stars are asked to describe a "dream" match between players of any generation. My favorite was Steve Tignor's: He would like to see Justine Henin play Evonne Goolagong. Martina Navratilova would like to see herself playing Serena Williams, and Chris Evert would like to see herself playing Martina Hingis. is revamping its "Open Source" blog and has hired C Note to run the show! Stay tuned...

Robin Anderson earned a wild card into U.S. Open qualifying by virtue of winning the U.S. Open National Playoffs. Anderson, who was unseeded, knocked out the top two seeds. However, she lost in the first round of qualifying to Naomi Broady, who defeated her 7-6, 7-5.

The earthquake that hit the U.S. East Coast was felt in New Haven, and the New Haven Open venue had to be evacuated Tuesday when the upper level of the stadium started shaking. Jelena Jankovic--who else?!-- was on the court when the stands began rattling. She was playing Elena Vesnina, who defeated her when play was resumed.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Serena Williams to be seeded 28th at U.S. Open

"After careful deliberation regarding Serena Williams' seeding, we decided to maintain the objective criteria in place to determine the women's singles seeds at this year's Open," U.S. Open tournament director Jim Curley said when the seeds were announced yesterday. Williams is now ranked number 29 in the world, but moved to the 28th spot at the Open because of the withdrawal of Kim Clijsters. Moving into the top 32--because of the withdrawals of Clijsters and Alisa Kleybanova--are Kaia Kanepi and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.

Williams is the winner of the 2011 U.S. Open Series, so bonus money (perhaps a lot of it) will come her way should she advance to the latter part of the tournament. Williams' only competition for the U.S. Open Series title was Agnieszka Radwanska, but Radwanska would had to have reached the New Haven final in order to win the series.

Jankovic and Radwanska both out of New Haven

Jelena Jankovic followed her lengthy Cincinnati fnal with a first round yesterday in New Haven. The 7th seed was defeated 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 by Charleston runner-up Elena Vesnina. Jankovic had a wild card into the New Haven tournament.

5th seed Agnieszka Radwanska had a second round loss to Petra Cetkovska in New Haven. Meanwhile, Christina McHale extended her run to the quarterfinals, and at that point, she will meet a familiar face. McHale is scheduled to play three-time defending champion Caroline Wozniacki, whom she upset in Cincinnati last week. Wozniacki was a winner yesterday, as was 3rd seed Francesca Schiavone.

In Dallas, Irina-Camelia Begu defeated Gisela Dulko, Johanna Larsson upset 6th seed Shahar Peer, and Elena Baltacha upset 3rd seed Julia Goerges. And though it shouldn't be news, it is: Aravane Rezai made it out of the first round by defeating Magdalena Rybarikova.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

McHale upsets 6th seed Kuznetsova in New Haven

Christina McHale continued her run of notable wins yesterday in New Haven when she defeated 6th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in the opening round. McHale defeated Kuznetsova 7-5, 6-3. The other seeds who played yesterday--Marion Bartoli, Agnieszka Radwanska and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova--all advanced to the second round. In doubles, however, 2nd seeds Anastasia Rodionova and Elena Vesnina were upset by Vera Dushevina and Sloane Stephens.

In the new Texas Tennis Open, 7th seed Jarmila Gadjosova was upset on the first day by Sorana Cirstea. Both Akgul Amanmuradova and Yanina Wickmayer retired with back injuries.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sharapova wins Cincinnati championship

In today's Cincinnati final, there wasn't as much drama as when Jelena Jankovic played Francesca Schiavone in the quarterfinals, but there was enough. Between them, Maria Sharapova (64) and Jankovic (49) made 113 unforced errors, and it wasn't always easy to watch the proceedings. Twenty of those errors were double faults. There were sixteen breaks of serve. Both players complained about their opponents' delays of play. The spectators in the stands were probably exhausted; it made me tired to watch this final, which was--to a great extent--a series of missed opportunities strung together.

Someone had to win, however, and credit goes to Sharapova for showing enough grit to slog through and get the trophy. It took her over two hours and 49 minutes to win, 4-6, 7-6, 6-3, and the result shows that she's as mentally tough as ever. Both players had better runs in Cincinnati than the final reflected, however.

In the doubles final, the dream run of Natalie Grandin and Vladimira Uhlirova was ended by 3rd seeds Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova. King and Shvedova won 6-4, 3-6, 11-9, with Grandin and Uhlirova saving a match point.

Jankovic and Sharapova to meet today in Cincinnati final

With her leg wrapped because of a meniscus tear, Andrea Petkovic confronted 2009 champion Jelena Jankovic in last night's Western & Southern Open, which Jankovic won, 7-6, 6-1. After getting broken in the first set, Jankovic put things right, and--as the match wore on--looked like the Jankovic of 2007 and 2008, but with a better serve. It was an excellent performance, filled with signature down-the-line shots and the kind of movement that sent the 13th seed all the way to the number 1 spot in the world earlier in her career.

Petkovic, seeded 9th at the event, was possibly hampered by her knee, but played well, and during the first set, gave Jankovic back a good deal of her own brand of tennis.

In the final, Jankovic will play seed 4th Maria Sharapova, who defeated 2nd seed Vera Zvonareva 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. Despite getting off to a great start (and hitting three consecutive aces at one point), Zvonareva eventually, visibly, lost belief in herself, as Sharapova began to control the rallies. Neither player did well in the second serve department, and together, they double-faulted 17 times.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Unseeded team in Cincinnati doubles final

The unseeded team of Natalie Grandin and Vladimira Uhlirova has reached the final of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. In tonight's semifinal match, Grandin and Uhilirova defeated top seeds Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik 6-1, 6-4. The team had already defeated French Open champions Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka, who were seeded 7th, as well as the ad hoc team of Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova.

Also in the final are third seeds Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova, who defeated Ekaterina Makarova and Zheng Jie 6-1, 6-3 in the semifinals.

Sharapova and Zvonareva to meet in Cincinnati semifinals

Maria Sharapova, seeded 4th at the Western & Southern Open, enjoyed her ninth victory over 10th seed Sam Stosur today. Stosur has never beaten Sharapova, and in today's 6-3, 6-2 quarterfinal, she was never able to get control of many of the rallies. The deficit in Stosur's defensive play made it relatively easy for Sharapova to keep the rallies short.

Sharapova's opponent in the semifinals will be countrywoman and 2nd seed Vera Zvonareva, who defeated Daniela Hantuchova 6-3, 7-6 in the quarterfinals. Hantuchova did a lot of things well--she always does--but her second serve failed her again and again. Tomorrow's match will be the tenth meeting between the two* Russians; Sharapova leads their competition 6-3.

Jelena Jankovic, who was clearly exhausted after last night's multi-faceted performance, got a break today when Peng Shuai gave her a walkover. Peng continues (for years, it seems) to suffer from a hip injury. Jankovic, seeded 13th, will play 9th seed Andrea Petkovic; Petkovic defeated Nadia Petrova 7-6, 6-1 today. Petkovic has already defeated Jankovic twice this year.

*Note to Lindsay Davenport: Maria Sharapova's nationality is defined by Maria Sharapova--not by you.

Clijsters withdraws from U.S. Open

2010 champion Kim Clijsters has withdrawn from the U.S. Open. Clijsters, in her official withdrawal statement, said that her stomach muscle injury has not healed. "I trained very hard this summer," Clijsters said, "and felt in a good shape to play the U.S. Open."

Clijsters has won the U.S. Open three times--in 2005, 2009 and 2010. The 2009 victory was significant because the Belgian player had just returned after being away from the court (she had intended to retire from tennis) for more than two years, and she had also given birth to a daughter. Clijsters' 2009 victory was a fitting climax to an especially dramatic U.S. Open. She defended her title last year when she defeated Vera Zvonareva in the final, and that, too, was seen as a significant victory.

In 2005, Clijsters easily defeated Mary Pierce in the U.S. Open final. Prior to winning that championship, the Belgian star had appeared in four major finals, and had lost all of them; three of them, she lost to countrywoman Justine Henin. This season, Clijsters won the Australian Open title after defeating Li Na in the final.

Both of Clijsters' tennis careers have been filled with injuries. Just this season, she injured her wrist and her shoulder, then injured her ankle while she danced at her cousin's wedding.

U.S. Open wild card playoffs quarterfinal results

The U.S. Open wild card playoffs, scheduled to begin yesterday, were postponed until today. Here are the results:

Julie Cohen (1) def. Nicole Gibbs (8)
Beatrice Capra (5) def. Ahsha Rolle (4)
Madison Keys (7) def. Ashley Weinhold (2)
Gail Brodsky (3) def. Jessica Pegula (6)

Last year's winner was Beatrice Capra.

Meanwhile, at the U.S. Open National Playoffs Championships, top seed Marie-Eve Pelletier was upset in the opening round by Robin Anderson of New Jersey. Anderson, who defeated Pelletier 6-3, 7-5, came from behind in both sets. Anderson won her first professional title this summer, a $10k event in Landisville, Pennsylvania.

Friday cat blogging--Happy Birthday! edition

Roxie and Velma have their 8th birthdays some time this month. We don't know exactly when because they came to us as rescued kittens. The sisters have very different personalities. Roxie (tabby) likes to scream a lot and run the household; Velma (patch tortoriseshell) is talkative and mellow. They both like a lot of attention.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

JJ's in Cincinnati--let the drama begin!

What could be more fun that watching former Cincinnati champion Jelena Jankovic and Francesca Schiavone (except that one of them has to lose)? During much of tonight's match in Cincinnati, they didn't look like they were having much fun. Jankovic dominated Schiavone throughout the first set, winning it 6-3, and for a while, it looked like she would dominate in the second set. But Schiavone, who is as good as they come at getting herself out of trouble on the court, began to move forward more, and it is forward movement that has created so much of her success. She broke Jankovic when she served for the match at 5-4, then broke her again when Jankovic double-faulted twice in one game.

Jankovic called for the trainer at the end of the second set, and had her thigh worked on. At 1-all in the third set, Schiavone played a sloppy game and was broken. She was broken again in the fifth game and asked to see her coach. Twice, Schiavone grabbed the front of his shirt and talked in a very animated fashion. She was broken again, and went down 1-5, but then she broke when Jankovic served for the match again.

By this time, the crowd was totally into the match. Schiavone moved Jankovic all over the court, and Jankovic was able to show off a lot of her signature movement in response. With a break point against her, Jankovic ran across the court, leaned over, and scooped up a backhand that sailed across the court and landed just inside the line. Even she was impressed.

Jankovic's tennis was all over the place in this match, and she was broken yet again. When Schiavone held for 4-5, the tension was palpable. The Italian player was making multiple errors (as was Jankovic), but she was also rushing the net and hitting some beautiful shots. Jankovic did hold at 5-4, and won the match 6-4, 5-7, 6-4. She then fell supine onto the court and kicked her legs up in the air. It was a fitting end to the dramatic two-hour and 38-minute event.

You could call this match a train wreck, but you could also call it a highly entertaining affair. Both players were upset with their coaches and with the chair umpire. There was yelling and staring and muttering and smiling. ESPN commentators referred to Jankovic's medical time-out as "spa treatment" as she lay with her head on her racquet bag and drank water while chatting with the trainer. But that's just JJ.

Ricardo Sanchez is back as Jankovic's coach, and it was good to see him in the stands. Darren Cahill described Sanchez's return as comparable to "entering a lions' den," but if anyone seems well-matched with JJ, it's Sanchez. Be sure to check out Bobby Chintapalli's great article on Jankovic, who recently talked with Chintapalli about everything from her distaste for practice to the problems currently faced by Caroline Wozniacki.

Haven't we seen this before?

The top seed went out in her first round, Andrea Petkovic beat Petra Kvitova in straight sets, Sam Stosur defeated Li Na: This is Cincinnati, but we've seen it all before--a week ago. As unlikely as it seemed that all three of these events could happen again so soon, they indeed did.

I talked about Caroline Wozniacki yesterday. Today, I ask: What is going on with Kvitova? Is it just her old pattern of playing inconsistently in tournaments? Is her injury (which she's had, in one form or another, since January) continuing to bother her? Or, as some have pointed out, is the high humidity just too much for her compromised respiratory system? I wasn't able to watch today's match (it wasn't available for viewing) and don't know why Kvitova took a medical time-out. Of course, it isn't unusual for someone to win a major and then slump--it could be as simple as that. Or it could be several factors. Whatever it is, I hope the Czech player finds the solution soon.

Petkovic defeated Kvitova for the second time in two weeks, and 10th seed Sam Stosur defeated 5th seed Li Na for the second time in two weeks, and the fifth time in her career. Today marked the first time Li has ever taken a set off of Stosur. Daniela Hantuchova upset 8th seed Marion Bartoli, 16th seed Peng Shuai defeated Shahar Peer, and Nadia Petrova defeated wild card Christina McHale, the player who upset Wozniacki.

2nd seed Vera Zvonareva defeated qualifier Petra Martic, and 4th seed (and wild card) Maria Sharapova defeated 14th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova.

2nd seeds Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta went out today; they were defeated in the quarterfinals by Ekaterina Makarova and Zheng Jie. Top seeds Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik advanced, as did Natalie Grandin and Vladimira Uhlirova. Grandin and Uhlirova defeated French Open champions Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka yesterday. Today, they defeated Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova. And in the final match of the day, 3rd seeds Vania King defeated 5th seeds and Rogers Cup champions Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond.

Wozniacki to get new coach

World number 1 Caroline Wozniacki has hired a new coach, according to a report in Tennis World. Piotr (known as "Pee-OH-ter" on Tennis TV) Wozniacki has coached his daughter throughout her career. Apparently, however, after Wozniacki's Wimbledon loss, a decision was made that she should have a new coach.

The identity of Wozniacki's new coach has not been made public. For those wanting Wozniacki news, however, details about her scuba-inspired U.S. Open dress have been made public.

Cohen seeded 1st at U.S. Open wild card playoffs

Julia Cohen is the top seed at the U.S. Open Wild Card Playoff, which begins today in College Park, Maryland. The field includes 2010 winner Beatrice Capra, Ashley Weinhold, Gail Brodsky, Nicole Gibbs, Madison Keys, Jessica Pegula, and Ahsha Rolle. The winner will get a wild card into the main draw of the U.S. Open, which begins on August 29.

Aravane Rezai, Casey Dellacqua, Jill Craybas, Lauren Davis, Sloane Stephens, Jamie Hampton, and Alison Riske have already received wild cards for the main draw.

Passing shots

Martina Muller has retired. The German player, who was once ranked as high as 33 in the world, has played very little tennis since she hurt her neck in 2009. Muller, who won the Budapest tournament in 2002, also was married over the weekend. She and new husband Florian Skibbe have a one-year-old son.

This week marks the first time that Jelena Jankovic has won back-to-back matches since the French Open. JJ says her serve is better than it was when she was number 1 in the world (agreed), but that her movement isn't quite as good. Jankovic, who says she has made a fresh commitment to her career, has accepted a wild card to New Haven.

Venus Williams has turned down a wild card into New Haven.

WTA leader Stacey Allaster recently pointed out that ATP players grunt, too, she also agreed to "look into" complaints about WTA players' "grunting." Allaster was inducted into the Rogers Cup Hall of Fame last week. Here is a recent New York Times interview with the WTA Chairwoman (WTA, take  note: the NYT doesn't refer to her as a man just because you do). Allaster appears to be sympathetic toward the sound-making players who are being criticized; this would be an excellent time for the tour to confront sexism within the culture and the sports  media. The issue isn't grunting, after all--the issue is the narrow and arbitrary expectations we have of women and girls. But I would be a fool to get my hopes up about the tour powers addressing that.

Meanwhile, Venus Williams sums it up best: "I kind of stay away from all of that stuff, especially topics like grunting which aren’t really relevant to real tennis."

Li Na, Petra Kvitova and Jarmila Gajdasova have all made commitments to participate in the 2012 Hopman Cup event. They will be teamed with Wu Di, Tomas Berdych and Lleyton Hewitt, respectively.

A fan writes to Jon Wertheim that "ESPN commentators Pam Shriver and Mary Joe Fernandez are obsessed with fist pumps." I was thinking that, too. In fact, according to their standards for tennis "emotion," Chris Evert would have lost every match she played.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Williams and Azarenka withdraw from Cincinnati

Serena Williams was scheduled to play 10th seed Sam Stosur in Cincinnati today, but instead, she withdrew from the tournament. The Stanford and Toronto champion woke up today with a swollen big toe on her surgically repaired foot, and decided not to risk further injury. "I don't think this is a good time for me to take a big chance," Williams said, in announcing her withdrawal. The former world number 1 felt some pain yesterday during her first round match against Lucie Hradecka.

Also withdrawing today was 3rd seed Victoria Azarenka. Azarenka withdrew from the Rogers Cup doubles final last week because of a strained right hand, and the hand strain caused her to withdraw today. Azarenka was scheduled to play Shahar Peer; instead, Pauline Parmentier was Peer's opponent. Peer defeated Parmentier in straight sets.

Advancing today were 13th seed Jelena Jankovic (def. qualifier Zheng Jie), Nadia Petrova (def. 15th seed Ana Ivanovic) and Daniela Hantuchova (def. Flavia Pennetta).

Wozniacki out of Cincinnati in 2nd round

Christina McHale
Last week it was Roberta Vinci; today it was wild card Christina McHale who took world number 1 Caroline Wozniacki out of a major hard court tournament in the second round. Wozniacki retired at the Swedish Open in early July, and has not since found her way back. Against McHale, she made a number of unforced errors on both sides, and did not look at all like the confident Wozniacki of earlier times.

Next week, the world number 1 plays in New Haven in a tournament she has won three consecutive years. Will her past success give her a confidence boost, or will Wozniacki continue to crumble under the pressure? She has long protested that holding the number 1 ranking without winning a major doesn't trouble her. Yet Wozniacki, like Dinara Safina before her, has been almost constantly scrutinized and criticized for her failure to win one of the four majors. Not helping her case is the fact that Serena Williams has returned to the tour, and that 21-year-old Petra Kvitova, just last month, lived up to her considerable potential and won Wimbledon.

Wozniacki, despite not earning a major title, has been a consistently big winner on the tour, grinding out matches with such accuracy, endurance and precision that she has worn down a number of very fine opponents. But in the really big tournaments, she has struggled. This year in Melbourne, she lost in the semifinals to Li Na. In the third round of the French Open, Daniela Hantuchova handled her in straight sets by serving at a high level and preventing the Danish player from establishing any rhythm on the court. At Wimbledon, Wozniacki lost in three sets to Dominika Cibulkova in the round of 16.

What does it  mean? The world number 1 is often taken to task for relying too much on defensive play and letting players with an attacking style dominate her on important occasions. That's a very sound theory, but I suspect that Wozniacki's unfortunate results at majors are caused by more than one factor.

The woman who is known as the Great Dane generally favors hard courts, and her one run to a major final was at the 2009 U.S. Open, when she lost to Kim Clijsters. Wozniacki's 2011 U.S. Open Series isn't going well at all. It isn't that unusual for a top player--for one reason or another--to have poor results in tournaments preceding majors. However, Wozniacki has no history of bringing her best tennis to the big four tournaments; rather, she has under-performed. We'll find out soon enough how just how much her U.S. Open Series losses have affected her. In the meantime, she'll be going for a fourth straight New Haven title.

Players talk about Cincinnati

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pennetta defeats Pavlyuchenkova in Cincinnati

Not that long ago, Flavia Pennetta was feared on hard courts. During the last several months, though--with the exception of her stunning (despite losing) performance in the third round of Wimbledon--she has had problems since returning from shoulder injury rebab. Today in Cincinnati, however, Pennetta caused the first upset of a seeded player. The Italian star defeated 12th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. Pennetta's next opponent will be Daniela Hantuchova.

Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova had a shaky match against Chanelle Scheepers. Kvitova, the 6th seed, won it 7-6, 6-3, but she double-faulted nine times, and didn't do very well converting break points. She's likely to play 9th seed Andrea Petkovic in the third round; Petkovic handily defeated Kvitova last week in Toronto.

Toronto star Roberta Vinci went out to Nadia Petrova in the first round today, though Vinci did win every game in the second set. Serena Williams, Li Na and Maria Sharapova also won their matches today, as did Toronto runner-up Sam Stosur. And yesterday, Shahar Peer defeated Sabine Lisicki in straight sets.

Tomorrow, top seed Caroline Wozniacki will play Christina McHale, who defeated Tsvetana Pironkova in the first round. This will be the first time that these two have played one another. If I were in Cincinnati, I'd want to see the match between Maria Kirilenko and Francesca Schiavone because I enjoy watching both of them play. Surely, though, all eyes will be on Rogers Cup champion Serena Williams and runner-up Sam Stosur; the winner gets 5th seed Li Na.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Williams defeats Stosur to win Rogers Cup title

After all the upsets that occurred in Toronto, it seems fitting that an unseeded player should win the tournament. Of course, Serena Williams is unseeded only because of her absence from the tour, but when you consider that predictions were made that she would never return to her old form--her victory in the topsy-turvy Rogers Cup seems just right.

Williams defeated 10th seed Sam Stosur 6-4, 6-2 in the championship match in much the same way that she defeated Victoria Azarenka in the semifinals: Her serve was just too good, and it allowed her to dominate. Stosur saw only one break opportunity in the match, and she was not able to convert it.

3rd seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond won the doubles championship by default when 4th seeds Victoria Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko gave them a walkover. Azarenka reported that her hand was injured and she could not play. There is speculation that Azarenka hurt her hand during a training session today.

Passing shots

Venus Williams has withdrawn from the Cincinnati tournament because of the viral illness that kept her out of Toronto. She has been offered a wild card into New Haven.

Katie O'Brien has retired from professional tennis. O'Brien reached her highest ranking, number 84 in the world, in 2010. The British player's last match was at a World Team Tennis event.

Laura Robson, Ksenia Pervak, Anna Tatishvili, Virginie Razzano, and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova all lost in the first round of Cincinnati qualifying.

Kamakshi Tandon reflects on the changes Li Na and Petra Kvitova face after winning majors.

"Canada: Where champions come to lose" is one of many "new" Rogers Cup slogans. Of course, by now, Da Vinci Code has been cracked.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Stosur and Williams to compete for Rogers Cup championship

10th seed Sam Stosur, who recently dropped out of the top 10, has certainly been in form in Toronto, and today, she made her way to the final. Stosur defeated 13th seed Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2, 5-7, 6-2. She hit 43 winners, most of which came from her forehand. Her victory, by the way, puts her back into the top 10 (as a victory would have done for Radwanska, also).

The match had some twists and turns. Both players held at love in their first service games; Radwanska would not hold her serve again until she was down 1-5, but at that point, she had another love hold. The opponents traded breaks at the beginning of the second set. Radwanska had opportunities to break when Stosur served at 2-3, but the 10th seed held. Both players then held at love again. Stosur held at love at 4-all, but was broken at love at 5-6; she double-faulted on the last point.

At 2-all in the final set, Stosur broke, and Radwanska would not win another game.

In the other semifinal, 4th seed Victoria Azarenka couldn't handle the serve of her opponent, Serena Williams. It wasn't that Azarenka played badly; rather, she seldom was able to get control of the match, which Williams won 6-3, 6-3. The 4th seed had only two break opportunities, and she was able to convert just one of them.

Defending champions Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta are out. They were defeated 3-6, 6-1, 10-6 by 3rd seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond. Dulko and Pennetta were seeded number 2 in Toronto. In the final, Huber and Raymond will play 4th seeds Victoria Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko, who defeated Nuria Llagostera Vives and Arantxa Parra Santonja 6-3, 6-3.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Azarenka and Williams to meet in Rogers Cup semifinals

Qualifier Galina Voskoboeva played her seventh Rogers Cup match today, and--not surprisingly--she didn't have much left to give. The surprise quarterfinalist who took out Marion Bartoli, Flavia Pennetta and Maria Sharapova reached the end of her run today when she was defeated 6-1, 6-2 by 4th seed Victoria Azarenka. Azarenka's semifinal opponent will be Stanford champion Serena Williams, who had to go three sets to beat Lucie Safarova. Azarenka and Williams have an interesting, if not long, history as opponents.

Carlsbad champion beat Andrea Petkovic 6-4, 6-3 today, so 13th seed Radwanska is into the semifinals. This is the second week in a row that Radwanska has defeated Petkovic. In the semifinals, Radwanska will play 10th seed Sam Stosur, who defeated Roberta Vinci 6-4, 6-1.

Voskoboeva and Vinci both had great runs in Toronto; Voskoboeva's was especially impressive because she had to go through qualifying to get into the tough main draw. Radwanska, playing for the first time without her father around to make inappropriate comments and put her down in front of everyone, is having a great U.S. hard court season.

Williams looked tired and out of sorts against an in-form Safarova, but that didn't stop her from finding a way to win. However, Williams can't afford to "find a way" against Azarenka. She's going to have to cut down on the errors and concentrate on breaking Azarenka's serve.

2010 champions Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta got a step closer to defending their title today. The 2nd seeds advanced to the doubles semifinals when they defeated Klaudia Jans-Ignacik and Alicja Rosolska.

Time to vote for your favorite Xperia Hot Shot

If you want to vote for your favorite Xperia Hot Shot, you can review the players' seasons by clicking on their corresponding videos (just don't expect all their names to be pronounced correctly). The winner gets $100,000.

Friday cat blogging--Toronto edition

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Toronto quarterfinals to be played on Friday

This is the quarterfinal lineup for the Rogers Cup:

Roberta Vinci vs. Samantha Stosur (10)
According to "plan," this quarterfinal was to have been played between Caroline Wozniacki and Stosur, but Vinci ruined the plan. Stosur is doing better at this tournament than she has done in a while, but that doesn't mean she isn't vulnerable to Vinci's tactics.

Agnieszka Radwanska (13) vs. Andrea Petkovic (11)
These two just played each other in the Carlsbad semifinals. In that match, Radwanska showed up with an injured shoulder and Petkovic brought along a gastro-intestinal disorder. Will this match be just as dramatic?

Galina Voskoboeva (Q) vs. Victoria Azarenka (4)
Voskoboeva has taken out Bartoli, Pennetta and Sharapova. Can she do it one more time? These two have not played each other in six years; a lot has changed since 2005.

Lucie Safarova vs. Serena Williams
Safarova has occasionally challenged top players, but she has done so on clay surfaces. The Czech player is in the quarterfinals by virtue of having upset 8th seed Francesca Schiavone. She lost to Williams in the Toronto quarterfinals two years ago, and Williams then lost to eventual champion Elena Dementieva.

More top seeds knocked out in Toronto today

Toronto public art
The power went out today at the Rexall Centre in Toronto, and the metaphor could not have been more appropriate. The two top-ranked players in the world, Caroline Wozniacki and Kim Clijsters, were already out of the tournament, as was Marion Bartoli, one of the season's hottest contenders. Today, 3rd seed Vera Zvonareva was eliminated, along with Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, 5th seed Maria Sharapova, and French Open champion Li Na.

"You never know how is it going in the head," Kvitova said in an interview earlier this week, dropping a hint that she perhaps wasn't mentally prepared for her first tournament since she won Wimbledon. The 7th seed took some time off, partly because of an abdominal strain that has bothered her since January, and with which she played seven matches at Wimbledon. Today, she brought the "old Kvitova" onto the court, as she hit, then hit harder, while continuing to make errors against a steady Andrea Petkovic. Kvitova's feel for the court just wasn't there, nor was she willing to slow down and change her strategy. It wasn't until Petkovic served for the match, in fact, that the Czech player looked a bit like the woman who plowed through the field at the All England Club. But it was way too little, too late, and Petkovic soundly defeated Kvitova 6-1, 6-2.

If it wasn't going too well in the head for Kvitova, it was going only slightly better for 6th seed Li Na. It's been a while since Li played, too, and it showed, as she was defeated 6-2, 6-4 by 10th seed Sam Stosur, who now has a 4-0 record against the Chinese player. Li was denied a chance to play as scheduled in the second round because she was given a walkover by Peng Shuai.

Vera Zvonareva, seeded 3rd, lost the Carlsbad championship last week to Anieszka Radwanska. They played again today in Toronto, Radwanska won the first set 6-4, then went down 0-4 in the second--then won the match 6-4, 7-5.

The "power outage" continued as qualifier Galina Voskoboeva, who had already taken out 9th seed Marion Bartoli, as well as Flavia Pennetta, went after 5th seed Maria Sharapova today. Voskkoboeva pulled Sharapova forward and backward with drop shots and lobs in what was not only an inspired performance, but was also a study in how to use variety to take control. Things took a bit of a turn, however, when Voskoboeva served for the match at 6-3, 6-4, 40-0. She double-faulted twice, then made two errors. When Sharapova to the ad point, Voskoboeva tossed her racquet, and then she was broken.

This was, of course, "supposed" to be the point at which Sharapova turned the match around against a lower-ranked (135 in the world), choking opponent, but it didn't go that way. Instead, she was broken back, and when Voskoboeva served for the match at 6-4, 6-5, she stayed calm and got the job done.

There was more in this notable 3rd round. Roberta Vinci, who sent top seed Caroline Wozniacki out of Toronto, beat Ana Ivanovic 7-6, 6-2 today. Francesca Schiavone, seeded 8th, lost in straight sets to Lucie Safarova.

Serena Williams had to work hard to win a very entertaining match against qualifier Zheng Jie, who looked better than she has in a long time, after sliding down the rankings because of injuries. Zheng's return of Williams' serve was outstanding, and she won the first set. Williams won the second, and at 3-all in the third, after a couple of momentum swings, it looked like the match could go either way. But then Williams increased the pressure on Zheng, and--as we have seen so many times before--the former world number 1 left the court the winner (4-6, 6-3, 6-3). This was an exciting match, and spectators got to see a lot of expert movement and shot-making.

Finally, 4th seed Victoria Azarenka escaped the fate of the tournament's other top seeds, and defeated qualifier Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-1, 6-2.

Dulko and Pennetta win 2nd round in Toronto

2nd seeds Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta won their second round Rogers Cup match today, defeating Marina Erakovic and Julia Goerges 4-6, 6-2, 10-6. Also winning were 4th seeds Victoria Azarenka and Maria Kirilenko, who were the beneficiaries of a retirement by wild cards Ana Ivanovic and Andrea Petkovic. Ivanovic had to stop playing because of a wrist injury.

Roberta Vinci, who's having a great run in singles in Toronto, is out in doubles. She and partner Sara Errai were defeated 7-6, 3-6, 10-2 today by Natalie Grandin and Vladimira Uhlirova.

Passing shots

Kim Clijsters has withdrawn from next week's Cincinnati tournament. Clijsters had to retire in Toronto because of an abdominal muscle tear.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands is hoping to play in Cincinnati. She withdrew from the Rogers Cup because of a tear in her right shoulder.

Serena Williams says she will play for the USA Fed Cup team in February, and if the USA defeats Belarus, she will play in April, also.

Tennis Stream is a new iPhone app that enables iPhone users to easily follow the Twitter acconts of professional tennis players.

Get to know Alexa Glatch.

Christina McHale, Sloane Stephens and Ayumi Morita have received wild cards for Cincinnati.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Top doubles seeds upset in 2nd round of Rogers Cup

The Rogers Cup started Monday, and there have already been so many upsets. So why should the singles players have all the fun? Today, in the second round of doubles play, Nuria Llagostera Vives and Arantxa Parra Sontonja upset number 1 seeds Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik, 3-6, 6-4, 14-12.

Also winning their second round match were 3rd seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond, who defeated Monica Niculescu and Shahar Peer.

In first round play, Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears defeated 7th seeds Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.

Vinci goes on Toronto upset tear

Roberta Vinci and her doubles partner, Sara Errani upset 5th seeds Sania Mirza and Elena Vesnina in Toronto today, beating them 2-6, 6-0, 10-7. But that upset was more like the icing on the cake because the "cake" was Vinci's upset of top seed and defending champion Caroline Wozniacki in the second round of singles play. Vinci came back from being 1-5 down in the second set--saving three set points--to defeat the world number 1 6-4, 7-5.

Vinci likes to use the backhand slice, and she used it effectively today against Wozniacki, keeping the ball low and then coming in with winning forehand shots. The two had never played against each other before, and afterwards, Wozniacki said of the Italian: "She breaks her opponent's rhythm. She slices the ball. It's tough to get under it, and then she really goes for it on the forehand."

Today marked the first time Vinci, who is number 22 in the world, has ever beaten a top-5 player; she lost in her previous 17 attempts.

The so-called "clever" players--to me, they are players with complete games--have gotten themselves noticed in the past several days. Agnieszka Radwanska won the championsip in Carlsbad, Vinci took out Woniacki, and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez (who has a variety of skills but doesn't always execute them well enough) defeated Daniela Hantuchova 7-5, 6-2 in today's second round. Martinez Sanchez is a qualifier in Toronto.

Another qualifier who did really well today was Galina Voskoboeva, the player who upset Marion Bartoli in the first round. Today, Voskoboeva defeated Flavia Pennetta in three sets. Peng Shuai, again suffering with a hip injury, gave a walkover to Li Na, and--though she needed six match points in an exciting tiebreak--Serena Williams defeated Julia Goerges 6-1, 7-6 (9-7). Also advancing were 3rd seed Vera Zvonareva (def. Nadia Petrova), 4th seed Victoria Azarenka (def. Stephanie Dubois 6-0, 6-0), 5th seed Maria Sharapova (def. Bojana Jovanovski), 7th seed Petra Kvitova (def. Anabel Medina Garrigues), 8th seed Francesca Schiavone (def. Ekaterina Makarova), and 10th seed Sam Stosur (def. Aleksandra Wozniak).

"You never know how is it going in the head"

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Clijsters retires in Toronto

She was back--and then she wasn't. Kim Clijsters, who's been off the tour because of a foot injury (which was preceded by injuries to her shoulder, wrist and ankle), started her U.S. Open Series play today in Toronto. Clijsters had a bye in the first round, and in the second round, she faced Zheng Jie, and beat her 6-3 in the first set. But with Zheng leading 2-1 in the second, Clijsters retired because of an injury to an abdominal muscle.

Clijsters, who is number 2 in the world, is also the defending U.S. Open champion.

Serena Williams had no trouble winning her 1st round match: She defeated Alona Bondarenko 6-0, 6-3 in just over 46 minutes, and posted first and second serve win percentages of 100 and 76.

16th seed Dominika Cibulkova retired in her third set against qualifier Iveta Benesova. Cibulkova, who was leading when she stopped playing, has struggled with injuries throughout the season.

Canadian wild card Aleksandra Wozniak blew away Shahar Peer, 6-0, 6-1. Another Canadian wild card, Stephanie Dubois, also won her first round match.

In first round doubles play, Marina Erakovic and Julia Goerges defeated wild cards Svetlana Kuznetsova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2-6, 7-5, 10-6. Kuznetsova and Pavlyuchenkova were both upset in first round singles play.

Passing shots

The Online Courses site is featuring a handy basic guide to understanding what Title IX is and isn't, and how Title IX applies to athletes. It still amazes me how those who least understand Title IX talk the most about it, so convinced are they that the law has "destroyed" sports. And there are some schools that go to great lengths to defy the law.

Here is a transcript of the recent ESPN SportsNation chat with world number 1 Caroline Wozniacki.

Sabine Lisicki leads in service speed this season. She hit a 125 mph serve in Stanford.

Venus Williams has a viral illness and had to withdraw from Toronto. Williams was replaced in the draw by Zhang Shuai, and the extra spot in the draw was given to Lourdes Dominguez Lino.

Coach David Taylor talks about Sam Stosur's slide out of the top 10 (story via On the Baseline).

Andrea Petkovic has entered the top 10, so in her honor:

Monday, August 8, 2011

Qualifiers do damage in first round of Rogers Cup

Five qualifiers won their first rounds in Toronto today, and three of them took out seeded players. Galina Voskoboeva upset 9th seed Marion Bartoli 6-3, 6-3, and Simona Hallep upset 12th seed Svetlana Kuznetsova 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. Also, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez defeated 14th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

Other qualifiers who won today were Greta Arn (def. Klara Zakopalova) and Zheng Jie (def. qualifier Alberta Brianti). Julia Goerges beat 15th seed Jelena Jankovic in straight sets, and Ekaterina Makarova defeated Canadian number 1 Rebecca Marino.

A lot of potentially good matches are scheduled for tomorrow. Stanford champion Serena Williams will play, as will  Carlsbad champion Agnieszka Radwanska and 2010 U.S. Open champion Kim Clijsters. Flavia Pennetta will play Maria Kirilenko, and Yanina Wickmayer will play Roberta Vinci.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Radwanska wins Carlsbad championship

Playing graceful, clever tennis (which, sadly, is now considered "special" and "unique") from all parts of the court, Agnieszka Radwanska showed today why some of us would be content to watch her for hours on end. The 2010 Mercury Insurance Open (formerly "San Diego," now "Carlsbad") runner-up defeated top seed Vera Zvonareva 6-3, 6-4 to win the 2011 championship.

Radwanska's serve has often failed her. Lately, her first serve has improved, though, and that has made her more competitive. Today, she seemed to be everywhere, finding keen angles and slivers of space, and vollying, slicing and hitting into them to perfection, over and over. It helped that Zvonareva was making too many unforced errors. From the outset, though, Radwanska controlled the match by serving well and by using her deft hands and quickness to create some highly entertaining points. The 3rd seed ended with first and second serve win percentages of 74 and 75. It was a polished performance in every way.

This is the first title Radwanska has won since she won Eastbourne in 2008, and it was long overdue. She sustained a shoulder nerve injury during the tournament, but continued to play. The injury did not appear to trouble her at all today. It should also be noted that Radwanska's father was not part of the picture today, and I have little doubt the coaching change made her more relaxed.

Top seeds Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik won the doubles title, defeating Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears 6-0, 6-2. Peschke and Srebotnik, the 2011 Wimbledon champions, are ranked number 1 in the world.

Carlsbad semifinals not short on drama

Agnieszka Radwanska injured her right shoulder during her quarterfinal match at the Mercury Insurance Open, but kept playing, and won. Later, the 3rd seed indicated that she might have to give her semifinal opponent, Andrea Petkovic, a walkover. But Radwanska showed up to play today, though she was obviously troubled by the injury, and had some trouble hitting off of both sides. Petkovic, the tournament's 2nd seed, won the first set 6-4, and it looked like she might be able to finish the match in straight sets.

But, as it turned out, Petkovic was suffering from a gastro-intestinal disorder (these g.i. problems seem to run rampant on the tour), and at 0-3 in the second set, she had an urge to vomit, but couldn't leave the court because her opponent was serving. When she was able to leave, she bounded off and ran through the stands to the nearest restroom. "Is it more embarrassing," she said after the match, "running off the court like a maniac or throwing up on court and being on SportsCenter for the next 25 years?"

(Good question. Pete Sampras threw up on the court and was called "tough." I suspect that a woman throwing up on the court would not get that kind of praise.)

But I digress. Radwanska, who said she became more relaxed after losing the first set, won ten straight games, which gave her a 6-0 second set and a 4-0 lead in the third. Petkovic fought hard and made a comeback, but Radwanska won the third set 6-4. And as strange as the match was--with one player injured and the other sick--it was also kind of fun to watch. Of course, I always enjoy watching Radwanska, and now that Petkovic has refined her game, I enjoyed watching her compete against Radwanska.

This is the second year in a row that Radwanska has reached the Mercury Insurance Open final. Last year, she was defeated in three sets by Svetlana Kuznetsova.

The second semifinal match wasn't as dramatic as that one, but it was interesting in its own way. Top seed Vera Zvonareva had to contend with 5th seed Ana Ivanovic, who--when she shows flashes of tennis brilliance--can be dazzling. And during portions of this match, Ivanovic dazzled. The situation was made more tense by the fact that Zvonareva had a terrible time closing sets. She served for the first set and was broken, then lost it 5-7. She got ahead in the second set, but it took her seven set points to finish. Not surprisingly, she needed several match points, too; after leading 5-1 in the third set, she had to fight off a determined Ivanovic.

Zvonareva won this entertaining match 5-7, 6-4, 6-4. Her backhand was on fire, and she was also able to use her experience in out-lasting an opponent in long, difficult contests.

Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik, the top doubles seeds, advanced to the final today when they defeated Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci 3-6, 6-4, 10-7.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Top 3 seeds reach Carlsad semifinals

Vera Zvonareva, seeded number 1 in Carlsbad, advanced to the semifinals yesterday when she defeated 12th seed Sabine Lisicki 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. Lisicki was noticeably upset after she lost the first set, and her game did improve in the second. However, she made repeated unforced errors (including nine double-faults), and frequently squandered opportunities. (Note to the broadcast staff I heard via Tennis TV: There is no one named Laszinsky playing for the WTA.)

Zvonareva's semifinal opponent will be Ana Ivanovic, who began her match against 4th seed Peng Shuai down 1-4. Then a couple of things happened: Ivannovic had a word with her coach, and Peng's long-time hip injury flared. It was all Ivanovic after these events, and the 5th seed walked away with a 6-4, 6-2 victory.

3rd seed Andrea Petkovic dominated wild card Sloane Stephens, and won their quarterfinal match 6-2, 6-1. Stephens' one winning game in the second set came was the result of her breaking Petkovic when she served for the match at 5-0.

Petkovic will play 3rd seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the semifinals. Radwanska defeated 8th seed Daniela Hantuchova 0-6, 6-4, 6-4. Radwanska sustained a shoulder injury during the match, but continued to play.

In doubles quarterfinal play, 2nd seeds Gisela Dulko and Flavia Pennetta were defeated 7-5, 2-6, 12-10 by Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Dushevina advances to 3rd round in Carlsbad

Vera Dushevina defeated 16th seed Polona Hercog yesterday in the Mercury Insurance Open, and will play top seed Vera Zvonareva in the third round. Dushevina defeated wild card Aravane Rezai in the opening round of the tournament.

Also moving to the third round was wild card Sloane Stephens, who upset 7th seed Julia Goerges 6-3, 7-5. Stephens' next opponent will be Tamira Paszek.

2nd seed Andrea Petkovic will play Virginie Razzano in the next round, and 3rd seed Agnieszka Radwanska will play Christina McHale.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Passing shots

Bojana Jovanovski sat alone in the Carlsbad airport for fifteen minutes on Sunday before calling Mercury Insurance Open tournament transport. "They said they were at the airport and looking for me; I said I was the only person here." Jovanovski, it turns out, was in Carslbad--but the wrong one. She had taken a flight to Carlsbad, New Mexico, which is 900 miles from San Diego. The Serbian player spent the night in New Mexico, then took a flight the next morning to the site of the tournament. She arrived thirty minutes before she was scheduled to play. Jovanovski lost in three sets to 9th seed Roberta Vinci.

Since winning the French Open, Li Na has signed $42 million worth of endorsement contracts. Nike is making an exception to its own rule so that Li can wear patches for both Mercedes-Benz and Taikang Life Insurance Company.

Is this while doing the watusi?

Coco Vandewegh has split with coach Tom Gullickson. She will work with Jan-Micheael Gambill at least through the U.S. Open.

Maria Sharapova has hired hitting partner Vladimir Voltchkov full-time.

Not surprisingly, Dinara Safina has withdrawn from the 2011 U.S. Open. Safina's back issues continue, and she doesn't expect to play "until at least the end of the year."