Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Passing shots

Billie Jean King and Virginia Wade will be the coaches. The players will include Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Tracy Austin, Martina Hingis, Rennae Stubbs, Jimmy Connors, and Aaron Krickstein. That sounds irrsistible, and it's going to be a reality on Saturday, April 7, at 7 p.m. at the Family Circle Cup. 40 Love: A Night of Empowerment Celebrating 40 Years of the Family Circle Cup, a special evening presented by Dove, will include a stadium court dedication to Billie Jean King. The Original 9 of the WTA will be on hand, and proceeds will go to the WTA Player Assistance Fund. Tickets are available now from Ticketmaster.

Bruce Jenkins makes a passing shot at Caroline Wozniacki because she made one at Martina Navratilova. (And while I agree that Wozniacki is as unfunny as they come, I disagree that others don't even try. Jenkins is the second writer to make this remark in recent times, and it seems that he and the other man--I forget who it was--have somehow managed to miss the interviews and press conferences of Francesca Schiavone, Flavia Pennetta, Dinara Safina, Serena Williams, Andrea Petkovic, Maria Sharapova, and other genuinely witty and funny WTA players.)

Navratilova is going to be on "Dancing With the Stars." She and Chris Evert have turned down multiple offers to be on the show. "No, no and no" have always been her answers, Evert said a few years ago, but the show managed to get at least half of the pair to participate.

Here's some really good news: Alisa Kleybanova will play in the Sony Ericsson Open next month. Kleybanova has completed her treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma. She has a wild card into the Miami tournament.

Andrea Petkovic says she may be back on the tour in a month. She is recovering from a stress fracture in her back.

Melanie Oudin has moved to New York and is working at the USTA Player Development Center in Flushing Meadows.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Arvidsson wins Memphis, Babos wins Monterrey

Unseeded Sofia Arvidsson won the 2012 Regions Morgan Keegan Championships in Memphis over the weekend. Arvidsson defeated  4th seed Marina Erakovic 6-3, 6-4 in the final. The doubles title was claimed by top seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka. The Czech team defeated 2nd seeds Vera Dushevina and Olga Govortsova 6-3, 6-4 in the final.

In Monterrey, Timea Babos topped off a good week by winning the championship. Babos, who defeated Alexandra Cadantu 6-4, 6-4 in the final, also beat 2nd seed Sara Errani and 3rd seed Sorana Cirstea. Errani and her partner, Roberta Vinci, won the doubles title. The Italian team, seeded 1st, beat 2nd seeds Kimiko Date-Krumm and Zhang Shuai 6-2, 7-6 in the final.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Radwanska wins in Dubai

It wasn't that long ago that Agnieszka Radwanska told the tennis press that she planned to move into the top 5. She did that today by winning the title in Dubai. Radwanska, seeded 5th, defeated Julia Goerges 7-5, 6-4. "She doesn't give you anything," Goerges said after the match. "She doesn't do any mistakes at all. And when she does a few, it's at 15-all or 15-0, not in the important moments."

Goerges had a very good week, taking out Svetlana Kuznetsova, Daniela Hantuchova and Caroline Wozniacki. The match against Hantuchova was of especially high quality.

Neither finalist had to deal with either Petra Kvitova or Victoria Azarenka; both had to withdraw because of illness and injury, respectively.

Top seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond won the doubles title. Huber and Raymond defeated 2nd seeds Sania Mirza and Elena Vesnina 6-2, 6-1.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday cat blogging--February dreaming edition

Jankovic advances to Dubai semifinals

Jelena Jankovic upset 4th seed seed Sam Stosur in the Dubai quarterfinals Thursday, defeating her 6-4, 6-2. Jankovic, who is seeded 8th, will play Agnieszka Radwanska in the semifinals. Radwanska beat the ailing Sabine Lisicki.

Also winning in the quarterfinals was Caroline Wozniacki, who defeated Ana Ivanovic 6-3, 7-5. And Julia Goerges, in an entertaining and high-quality match, defeated Daniela Hantuchova 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. The two had never before played each other, and Goerges said it took her a set to figure out ways to throw Hantuchova off of her game. The German, who will play Wozniacki in the semifinals, hit 49 winners. Here's hoping that the Dubai final is as good as this match was.

In Memphis, the four who advanced to the semifinals were Marina Erakovic, Alberta Brianti, Sofia Arvidsson, and Vera Dushevina. And in Monterrey, Timea Babos, Greta Arn, Mandy Minella, and Patricia Mayr-Achleitner advanced. Babos upset 3rd seed Sorana Cirstea in three sets.

Quote of the week

"You shouldn't repair something that's not broken."
Caroline Wozniacki

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Serena Williams enters Family Circle Cup

2008 Family Circle Cup Champion Serena Williams has entered the 2012 event in Charleston. Williams, who has won 39 singles titles--including 13 majors--called the Family Circle Cup's upcoming 40th anniversary "an important milestone in women's tennis."

Willliams, generally considered the greatest player of her generation, will be joined by the Original 9 for the anniversary celebration. Her 2008 opponent in the final, Vera Zvonareva, will also be in Charleston, as will 2010 champion Sam Stosur and 2004 champion Venus Williams.

The Family Circle Cup has one of the richest histories of any tennis tournament, and--in many ways--was the event that launched the WTA into the mainstream of sports. The tournament is played on green clay at the Family Circle Tennis Center on Daniel Island. The event is a player favorite because of its relaxed atmosphere and because of the staff's dedicated attention to detail. Fans have a lot of player access, and can also enjoy interviews, clinics, Happy Hour on the lawn, and music.

The 2012 tournament will be held March 31-April 8.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Play begins in Dubai

It seems like it was only yesterday--wait, it was only yesterday--that I wrote that Petra Kvitova, who withdrew from Doha because of an Achilles injury--would be in Dubai this week. Kvitova, however, withdrew from the tournament because of illness. (Vera Zvonareva and Li Na also planned to be in Dubai but then withdrew.)

Top seed Victoria Azarenka is there, however, and while she got a day of rest because of a bye, Julia Goerges awaits her in round 2. Goerges defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova today. Also winning were Jelena Jankovic, Maria Kirilenko and Flavia Pennetta. Jankovic and Pennetta will play each other in the next round.

There was a doubles upset, however. 3rd seeds Daniela Hantuchova and Agnieszka Radwanska lost to Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai.

Meanwhile, in Memphis, Lucie Hradecka hit her usual ten aces, and Heather Watson lost to Sofia Arvidsson.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Kvitova to return in Dubai

World number 3 Petra Kvitova, who withdrew from Doha because of Achilles tendon pain in her right foot, is scheduled to play in Dubai next week. Kvitova has a bye in the first round, and in the second, she is most likely to face Dominika Cibulkova. Cibulkova has been in a slump lately, so both players are coming in with some issues.

First round matches of interest:

Julia Goerges vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova
Peng Shuai vs. Marion Bartoli
Maria Kirilenko vs. Monica Niculescu (the one I would most like to watch)
Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Sabine Lisicki

Azarenka wins Doha title

Any doubts about Victoria Azarenka's performance because of an ankle injury sustained in the semifinals yesterday were erased today--and quickly. Top seed Azarenka defeated Sam Stosur 6-1, 6-2, while holding first and second win percentages of 77 and 89. The world's number 1 player now goes to Dubai, where she has a bye in the first round. Azarenka is 17-0 for the season.

Top seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond won the doubles title by defeating Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears 6-3, 6-1.

The Bogota title went to Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino, who defeated Alexandra Panova 6-2, 7-5 in the final. Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino, who lives in Barcelona, is 19 years old. This is her first WTA title.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Injury a factor in Doha

Yesterday, Victoria Azarenka, Agnieszka Radwanska, Samantha Stosur, and Marion Bartoli all advanced to the Doha semifinals. They defeated Yanina Wickmayer, Christina McHale, Monica Niculescu, and Lucie Safarova, respectively.

Today, both semifinal matches were marked by injury. Bartoli retired with a calf injury after losing the first set 3-6 to Stosur. The Frenchwoman, who has played a lot of tennis lately, consulted briefly with the trainer, but then determined that she had too much pain to go on.

Stosur's opponent in the final will be top seed Victoria Azarenka. When you see Azarenka's name opposite Radwanska's in a draw, you make yourself comfortable and assume you will see three good sets. That didn't happen today. Azarenka won the first set 6-2. In the early part of the second set, Radwanska hit a drop shot, Azrenka went after it, and fell. In doing so, she injured her ankle. Azarenka lay on the court for a while (shades of days gone by), then proceeded to see the trainer and get her ankle bandaged. She limped for the remainder of the match, and--knowing she couldn't go three sets--she got the job done in two (6-2, 6-4), though she was broken the first time she served for the match.

The world number 1's strategy was very much that of a champion's, but of course, none of us knows what will happen with her ankle in the next several hours.

In doubles semifinals, top seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond defeated Kristina Barrois and Anna-Lena Groenefeld, and Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears defeated 5th seeds Nuria Llagostera Vives and Anastasia Rodionova.

In Bogota, Edina Gallovits-Hall's good run was ended in the semifinals by Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino, and Alexandra Panova beat Timea Babos. Panova will also play (with partner Eva Birnerova) in the doubles final. Birnerova and Panova, the top seeds, will compete against Mandy Minella and Stefanie Voegele.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Passing shots

Kim Clijsters has withdrawn from Indian Wells. Clijsters continues to have problems with her ankle injury.

Paola Suarez returned to doubles play today, but unfortunately, she and partner Gisela Dulko lost in the first round in Bogota.

Paula Ormaechea beat Jelena Dockic, one of her childhood idols, in the first round in Bogota.

I regret that I didn't mention this last week, but just for the record, Kimiko Date-Krumm wrote what I thought was one of the best tournament (Pattaya City) blogs ever.

Lindsay Davenport, who had her third child last month, will play World Team Tennis for the Orange County Breakers this July.

And that reminds me that, last night, Tennis Channel showed the 2005 Wimbledon women's final. It was really great to see such a terrific final again.

Safarova beats Wozniacki in Doha

She was three match points down in the third set, but Lucie Safarova still walked away the winner of her Qatar TOTAL Open first round match against 2nd seed Caroline Wozniacki. Safarova beat Wozniacki  4-6. 6-4, 7-6. Serving at 4-5 in the final set, Safarova went down 0-40, but then served herself right out of trouble in one of those "anything can happen in tennis" moments.

Sam Stosur, who lost to Sorana Cirstea at the Australian Open, defeated Cirstea 6-4, 7-6 today. Stosur broke Cirstea at 4-all in the first, then broke her again at 4-all in the second. In the second set, though, Cirstea broke her back and the set went to a tiebreak.

Vera Zvonareva had to retire again because of her hip injury, and an obviously tired Angelique Kerber, who won in Paris last week, was taken out 6-4, 6-1 by Tsvetana Pironkova. Yanina Wickmayer beat Francesca Schiavone, qualifier Kateryna Bondarenko beat Flavia Pennetta, and Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Maria Kirilenko. It was also a good day for qualifier Varvara Lepchenko, who defeated Julia Goerges 7-6, 7-6.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Keothavong knocks countrywomen out of Doha qualifying

Anne Keothavong had what was probably a distasteful job over the weekend. Both of her opponents in the Doha qualifying draw were fellow Brits. In the first round, Keothavong defeated Laura Robson 6-1, 6-1, and in the second, she defeated Heather Watson 6-4, 6-4.

Keothavong will play Tamira Paszek in the first round of the main draw. The top seed in Doha is world number 1 Victoria Azarenka.

Hantuchova defends title in Pattaya City

She had to play for over three hours, but defending champion Daniela Hantuchova won her second consecutive title in Pattaya City today when she defeated Maria Kirilenko 6-7, 6-3, 6-3 in the final. " was the first time I defended a title in my career," Hantuchova said, "but it's better late than never.!"

Hantuchova and Kirilenko are sometimes doubles partners. They were seeded 3rd and 4th, respectively, in the tournament.

Top seeds Sania Mirza and Anastasia Rodionova won the doubles title. In the final, they defeated Chan Hao-Ching and Chan Jung-Jan 3-6, 6-1, 10-8.

Kerber wins her first title

Angelique Kerber, the U.S. Open's surprise semifinalist, has followed up her Flushing Meadows run with continual improvement. Today, she won her first title, and a nice one at that. Kerber defeated Marion Bartoli 7-6, 5-7, 6-3 to win the Open GDF SUEZ in Paris. All week long, Bartoli had fought back from next-to-impossible situations, and it was easy to believe that she would fight back again in the final, even when she was down 0-4 in the third set. In fact, the Frenchwoman dramatically saved four match points on her own serve at 2-5 in the final set, and I, for one, thought she might break Kerber when she served for the match.

That was what happened in the second set. Bartoli broke when Kerber was a set up and serving at 5-3, so why not again? But Kerber--going against her own recent history, against Bartoli's huge fighting instinct, and against the crowd's wish for a French champion--stayed very cool and easily served her way to her first championship.

Bartoli was reduced to tears, and I felt for her. She had come back over and over all week, and not being able to come back one last time must have been hard for her to accept. Kerber, however, gave Bartoli all she could handle, matching her big groundstrokes and sometimes showing a bit of trickery to get Bartoli out of her rhythm. I thought it was a great match, and I was impressed that Kerber came back with such force after having lost her opportunity to win in straight sets.

It's hard to think of a player who has improved so much since Petra Kvitova made her big surge. Kerber is definitely someone to keep an eye on in the months to come.

Top seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond won the doubles title. They defeated Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Petra Martic 7-6, 6-1 in the final.

The Paris tournament also featured some favorites in the stands. In addition to Amelie Mauresmo, the event's co-director, we also got to see Martina Hingis, Monica Seles and Martina Navratilova. Mauresmo and Navratilova participated in the awards ceremony.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Bartoli and Kerber to play for Paris championship

Marion Bartoli did it again today--went down 2-5 and won the set. The 2nd seed's 7-6, 6-0 victory over Klara Zakopalova in the Paris indoor tournament put her into the final, in which she'll meet Angelique Kerber. Kerber, seeded 9th, defeated Yanina Wickmayer 6-7, 6-3, 6-4. Wickmayer, who was up 3-1 in the third set, saved four match points on her own serve in a dramatic game at 3-5.

Meanwhile, in Pattaya City, defending champion Daniela Hantuchova is once more in the final. Hantuchova defeated Hseih Su-Wei 6-4, 6-1 in the semifinals. Her opponent in the final will be Maria Kirilenko, who defeated Sorana Cirstea.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bartoli fights past Vinci in Paris

"I don't know how I got out of the match," 2nd seed Marion Bartoli said of her Paris quarterfinal round today against Roberta Vinci. Bartoli was a set and 1-4 down in the second set, and 2-5 down in the third. But after two hours and 40 minutes, she emerged the winner, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6. The two players have very contrasting styles, which made for a good show, even without the thrills.

Also getting a big win was Angelique Kerber, who defeated top seed Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-4. Yanina Wickmayer, who lost to Mona Barthel in the Hobart final, beat her today, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3. In the fourth quarterfinal, Klara Zakopalova took out 6th seed Julia Goerges, 3-6, 7-5, 6-1.

In Pattaya City, top seed Vera Zvonareva had to retire against Sorana Cirstea because of a left hip injury. Defending champion Daniela Hantuchova advanced to the semifinals with a win over Vania King, Hsieh Su-Wei defeated Sania Mirza, and Maria Kirilenko defeated Tammy Tanasugarn.

Laura Robson and Galina Voskoboeva retired earlier in the tournament, and in Paris, both Jill Craybas and Li Na had to retire in early matches.

Friday cat blogging--pillow takeover edition

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Venus Williams enters Family Circle Cup

2004 champion Venus Williams has entered the 2012 Family Circle Cup in Charleston. Williams is one of five women who won the event the first time she entered it, and she has an 11-3 record at the tournament.

"I’m very excited to return to the Family Circle Cup this year, especially because the Original 9 will be recognized for their significant contribution to women’s professional tennis," Williams said in announcing her entry. The WTA founders will be at the tournament to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

The event will take place at the Familiy Circle Tennis Center on Daniel Island March 31-April 8.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Italy beats Ukraine 3-2 in Fed Cup tie

The Italy vs. Ukraine Fed Cup tie had to go to a deciding fifth rubber today when Sara Errani was forced to retire during her match against Lesia Tsurenko. Tsurenko had already beaten Italy's Francesca Schiavone. Today, however, Schiavone staged one of her now-famous heart-stopping comebacks against Ukraine's Kateryna Bondarenko. Down a set and 1-5, Schiavone walked away with a 6-7, 7-5, 6-4 victory after two hours and 50 minutes.

Errani was unable to play doubles with partner Roberta Vinci, but Flavia Penetta--unable to play singles because of a back injury--paired with Vinci to defeat Tsurenko and Olga Savchuk 7-5, 0-6, 6-1.

Italy has won Fed Cup three times--in 2006, 2009 and 2010. In the semifinals, the team will play the Czech Republic. The Czech team defeated Germany 4-1, with Germany's one victory coming from Angelique Kerber. Sabine Lisicki lost to both Kvitova and Iveta Benesova.

Also advancing to the semifinals were Russia, with a 3-2 win over Spain.

This Fed Cup tie was marked by injury. Germany's top player, Andrea Petkovic, could not play, and neither could Victoria Azarenka of Belarus. Pennetta, of course, could not play singles, and Errani retired. Today, Serbia's Jelena Jankovic withdrew from Fed Cup competition because of a left thigh injury. The two teams began the day 1-1, and when Yanina Wickmayer beat substitute opponent Aleksandra Krunic and Bojana Jovanovski beat Kirsten Flipkens, a fifth rubber was needed.

Jankovic was scheduled to play doubles with Jovanovski, if a fifth rubber was required, but since she could not play, Krunic was asked to substitute again. The result was a very spirited effort by the Serbian team, who defeated Wickmayer and Alison Van Uytvanck 7-6, 4-6, 6-1.

This was Serbia's first top-tier victory in Fed Cup competition. The Serbian team will play four-time champion Russia in the semifnals.

The Czech Republic is the defending champion.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Passing shots

Great Britain's Fed Cup team, under the leadership of new captain Judy Murray, has reached the World Group II playoffs. The British team won against Portugal, The Netherlands and Israel, and then defeated Austria to secure a spot in the playoffs. The winning team is comprised of Anne Keothavong, Elena Baltacha, Heather Watson, and Laura Robson. Baltacha beat Israel's Shahar Peer in straight sets.

The qualifying draw of the Family Circle Cup has been expanded from 32 to 48 players. This means that 16 qualifiers, rather than 12, will advance to the main draw. Tournament prize money has also been increased.

Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario reveals, in her upcoming book, Arantxa, Vamos!, that her parents took all of her earnings and that she has no relationship with anyone in her family.

Paola Suarez is coming out of retirement to play doubles with Gisela Dulko at the Olympic Games. Suarez, who--with Virginia Ruano Pascual, won seven majors, will have to obtain special permission to play in the Olympics. She and Dulko have entered the tournaments in Bogota and Acapulco.

Sania Mirza says she will focus on doubles for the rest of the year. The often-injured Mirza plans to play singles again if she can.

Regina Kulikova has announced that she will take an extended break from tennis in order for her back injury to heal.

Czech Republic 2-0 against Germany in Fed Cup play

"It wasn't still easy to be focused in the head."
Petra Kvitova

It wasn't. After losing the first set of the second Fed Cup rubber to Germany's Julia Goerges, Petra Kvitova won the second, but then had all kinds of trouble winning the match. Part of her problem was that Goerges was playing at a very high level. But--and this is often the case when the Czech star plays--as many thrilling moments as this match contained, it contained just as many when people all over the world were undoubtedly groaning "Oh, Petra."

At 4-3, 40-15 in the third set, Kvitova appeared to be rather close to a victory, but was then broken. Suddenly, she was serving at 4-5, 0-30, but managed to save herself. Kvitova served for the set at 6-5 and was broken again, and then Goerges held at love. The momentum swings in the set were dramatic. And after two hours and 22 minutes, Kvitova had a 3-6, 6-3, 10-8 victory. Officially, this gives the Czech 22 consecutive indoor match wins, but actually--because of Hopman Cup--it gives her 26. Oh, Petra.

Kvitova's teammate, Iveta Benesova, played first, and she took care of Germany's Sabine Lisicki, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Russia ended the day 2-0 against Spain, with both Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova winning in straight sets. Serbia's Jelena Jankovic defeated Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens 7-5, 7-5, and Yanina Wickmayer defeated Bojana Jovanovski, so Serbia and Belgium ended the day tied 1-1. In Italy, Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko had a big 6-1, 6-2 win over Francesca Schiavone. That tie is also 1-1 because, in the opening rubber, Sara Errani beat Kateryna Bondarenko. Errani is playing singles because Flavia Pennetta has a back injury.

In World Group II competition, the USA leads Belarus 2-0, Japan leads Slovenia 2-0, the Slovak Republic is tied 1-1 with France, and Switzerland is tied 1-1 with Australia.

Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka was scheduled to play Christina McHale today, but Azarenka had to drop out because of a lower back injury. McHale defeated Anastasia Yakimova 6-0,  6-4; Yakimova won ten straight games and led 4-0 in the second set. In the second rubber, Olga Govortsova played Serena Williams very competitively in the first set, but lost her focus and was broken at love at 5-6. Govortsova wouldn't win another game.

Azarenka will play tomorrow if she is feeling better and is deemed fit to play.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Not to say "I told you so"....

Former world number 1 Caroline Wozniacki has fired her coach of two months, Ricardo Sanchez, and is now working with--all together now!--Piotr Wozniacki. Coach Wozniacki said that Caroline failed to get "new impulses" from working with Sanchez, and that working with two coaches (which you knew she was doing) caused his daughter to get confused.

Wozniacki lost her number 1 ranking after the Australian Open. Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka is now number 1, and Wozniacki is number 4.

Between the never-seen mystery coach and the barely-seen Sanchez, it seems more obvious than ever that the Wozniacki pair will continue to work together. Sanchez had signed a one-year contract, and one assumes he knew (I mean, if I knew) that Piotr Wozniacki was not going to step aside.

In March and April, Wozniacki has titles to defend in Indian Wells and Charleston (this is assuming that she'll play in Charleston). In 2011, she reached the third round of the French Open, in which she was defeated by Daniela Hantuchova.

Czech Republic to face Germany in Fed Cup play

The Czech Republic defending champion Fed Cup team will meet its first challenge of the new year this weekend. Petra Kvitova, Iveta Benesova, Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, and Lucie Hradecka will play Germany in the Porsche Arena in Stuttgart. The German team is comprised of Sabine Lisicki, Julia Goerges, Angelique Kerber, and Anna-Lena Groenefeld. Germany's top player, Andrea Petkovic, cannot play because of a stress fracture in her back.

Kvitova won all six of her Fed Cup matches last year. The upcoming World Group tie will be held on an indoor hard court, the surface on which the Czech star has had the most success.

Lat year, the Czech Republic defeated the Slovak Republic, Belgium and Russia.

In the other three World Group ties, Russia plays Spain, Belgium plays Serbia, and Italy plays Ukraine.