Thursday, May 31, 2007

Allee Mary Pierce

That's the new avenue on the Roland Garros site, named after you-know-who. Pierce is still out of commission from a bad knee injury, but is in Paris to see the opening of her street.

Australian Open to get a new surface--finally

The Australian Open always presents unique problems that have to do with the heat. The heat rule is ridiculous, but I suppose tournament officials are waiting for someone to drop dead on the court before they change it. There will be a bit of relief soon, however, when the tournament gets rid of its Rebound Ace courts and replaces them with a cushioned acrylic surface that has less rubber than Rebound Ace. What this means is that the courts will retain less heat, and that is good news, and should result in fewer injuries. The surface will retain its bouncy character, but instead of being made of rubberized mats, it will be made of layers of rubber-filled resin.

Sharapova playing with bad shoulder

When Maria Sharavpova's shoulder tendonitis didn't heal, her doctors told her to take another four to six weeks off, or get a steroid shot so she could play in the French Open. She chose the shot. From what I've seen on television, however, it looks like she might have been better off to extend her vacation; she is having obvious problems with the shoulder, which is inhibiting her serve. Too bad. It's not like Sharapova would have won the French Open, but I don't like seeing her playing while wounded.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Rising stars say goodbye to Paris

France's Nathalie Dechy, whose singles career has been on the decline, took out the talented young Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark in the first round. She now faces Amelie Mauresmo.

Ukraine's Julia Vakulenko, whom I expected to advance easily into the second round, fell to Ioana Olaru of Romania in the first round.

Yesterday, it was up-and-comer Agni Radwanska and Aravane Rezai who were sent packing by Mara Santangelo and Marion Bartoli, respectively. Today it was the extremely talented Tamira Paszek of Austria who lost to Justine Henin in straight sets (7-5, 6-1) and Caroline Wozniacki, who was defeated by Nathalie Dechy, who handed her a bagel in the third set. Dechy has struggled ever since she returned from a long injury break, and has not been able to return to her high position in the rankings. Perhaps this victory will serve as a confidence-booster for the talented Frenchwoman.

Another rising star to leave the scene today was Kaia Kanepi who lost, understandably, to Shahar Peer. And an even bigger rising star, Victoria Azarenka, was knocked out, 6-1, 6-1, by Karin Knapp.

It was a sad day for fans of Julia Vakulenko, who was beaten in straight sets by Ioana Olaru, who is getting quite a bit of attention these days. This was Olaru's first Grand Slam match. I saw her play last month in Charleston, and wasn't that impressed, but after hearing more about her, I think I must have seen her on a bad day.

Navratilova wants her Czech citizenship back

When Martina Navratilova defected from what used to be Czechoslavakia in 1975, she did so at great risk. She knew she might not ever see her family again, and that other Czech athletes might turn against her. They did, especially Helena Sukova, whose mother--Navratilova's former coach--was punished by the government for her protege's defection. Hana Mandikova also turned against Navratilova. Eventually, however, both players apologized to her and became friends with her again.

In her autobiography, Navratilova talked about how difficult defection was. For a long time, every time she went to a restaurant or some other public place and saw men in suits walking toward her, she assumed they had come to haul her out and send her back to Communist Czechoslavakia.

A few years ago, I saw Navratilova on television getting bashed by Connie Chung, who accused her of sounding "unpatriotic" because she expressed displeasure with the fascist leanings of the Bush government. During that interview, Navratilova said she had given up her dream of adopting a child because she thought that the bigotry against gay mothers was so strong.

Now Navratilova says she has had enough and is seeking to regain her Czech citizenship. Navratilova says she ashamed of the United States because of the Bush administration. One hopes she is just as ashamed of the news media, members of Congress, and the voters who put them in office.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What it is about Nadia Petrova?

Last year, when many expected her to win the French Open, she injured herself in practice and got taken out in the first round (and it is amazing how many people fail to mention the injury part). Today, she injured her back and went out in the first round again, sending Kveta Peschke into round two.

Also gone today is the talented Aravane Rezai, who retired in the final in Istambul because of tendonitis. It was a good idea, since she didn't want to risk not being able to play at the French Open. But she was defeated by her countrywoman Marion Bartoli. And though Bartoli, when she puts her mind to it, can be a formidable opponent, I can't help but think Rezai wasn't totally healed from Istambul.

French Open players to watch

When I listed the top contenders and the dark horses a few days ago in The Dees Diversion, I failed to list players to watch, meaning players who are not likely to win the Open, but who could go far into the draw. Here are some of them:

Dinara Safina

Safina was a finalist in Charleston at the Family Circle Cup, but had trouble with the high winds and was pretty easily beaten by Jelena Jankovic. Her clay game, however, is pretty good. She has already beaten Yuliana Fedak (whose game keeps getting better) in the first round, and she meets Tzipora Obziler in the second; that match should be no problem for her. Assuming there is no upset, Safina will most likely meet Francesca Schiavone, an outstanding clay court player whose game has gone seriously downhill.

Michaella Krajicek

Krajicek has talent galore, but to say she is inconsistent is to engage in significant understatement. She just cannot string together a set of victories, despite her talent. She won her first round against Severine Bremond, and there is every reason for her to get to at least the third round, but that all depends on which Krajicek steps onto the court.

Elena Dementieva

She was a finalist at Roland Garros in 2004 (in one of the worst Grand Slam finals I've ever seen), but things haven't gone so well for her since then. Now she is coming back from a long injury layover, which never bodes well. On the other hand, she just won the French Open warmup tournament in Istambul, but with some help from her opponent in the finals--Aravane Rezai retired with tendonitis, after making a spectacular run. Dementieva had an injury some time ago that caused her to perform a kind of compensatory serve as part of the healing process. Once she was well, she couldn't get back her real serve, and she is now known as the double fault queen of the tour. It's a shame, because Dementieva is a superb athlete, and one of the best defensive players around. She's Grand Slam material--if she can ever get her serve to work again.

Samantha Stosur

Sam Stosur, world number two in doubles, has a lot of talent in singles, too, but has not always known how to use it. She has a great serve, and a good second serve, but she has exhibited a choking mentality on the singles court. But you never know when Stosur is going to break through, and she is definitely worth watching.

Julia Vakulenko

Vakulenko had problems for a long time with both injury and illness, but now she is back. That's the good news. The bad is that she was recently injured again. But she's playing at the French, and her star is definitely on the rise. Vakulenko is a dangerous floater these days.

Anabel Medina Garrigues

One of my favorites, Medina Garrigues does not always play to her potential. For example, in Charleston, she handily out-maneuvered Venus Williams, but could not close out the expert shots she set up. However, Medina Garrigues just won the warmup tournament in Strasbourg (her second time to win it), upsetting number one seed Amelie Mauresomo, so she should be coming in with a lot of confidence, and she has the potential to go relatively far in her part of the draw.

Shahar Peer

Peer is nothing if not relentless. She has a tough first round against young Kaia Kanepi, but she should be able to get past that, and then she has a good draw until she comes up against...

Katarina Srebotnik

Srebotnik could give Peer trouble. She can give anyone trouble at any time. She is ranked number 20 in the world right now, and I can't imagine that anyone enjoys seeing her on the other side of the net.

Lucie Safarova

It has taken Safarova a while to grow into her game, but she showed everyone that game when she was the surprise quarterfinalist at the Australian Open. In two tries, she hasn't gotten past the first round at Roland Garros, but this year, she is a better and more confident player. She has her first round against Yulia Beygelzimer, who I used to think was a possible up-and-comer, but it looks like I was wrong. Safarova is someone to watch.

Anna Chakvetadze

Chakvetadze is always someone to watch. Nicknamed "Little Hingis" because she uses her mind to compensate for her relatively small frame, Chakvetadze is now in the top ten. She got to the third round in Paris in 2005, and she should get to the second this year, but if she survives to the round of 16, she will probably have to face clay expert Patty Schnyder. Schnyder is coming off of both illness and injury, but if she is feeling healthy, I like her to send Chakvetadze home.

Alona Bondarenko

What a long way Bondarenko has come, even winning her first tournament last year. She is definitely someone to watch, if you get the chance. In her first round, she plays Iveta Benesova, who isn't nearly the threat she used to be, and Bondarenko has a good opportunity to advance to the point of meeting Maria Sharapova, where I give her a decent chance.

Monday, May 28, 2007

"Nobody was counting titles like they are now"

Chris Evert, arguably the greatest clay court player of all time, won the French Open seven times. However, in 1976, 1977 and 1978--right in the middle of her streak--she opted not to play at Roland Garros. She was preoccupied with World Team Tennis at the time. She also chose not to play much at the Australian Open because she didn't want to be away from her family at Christmas. "Don't think I don't think about that now," Evert recently told ESPN about her decision to skip those three French Open tournaments. "Nobody was counting titles like they are now."

Assuming that Evert would have won at least two of three she skipped, that would have brought her Grand Slam total to twenty, and a couple more Australian Open wins would have tied her with Steffi Graf for most Grand Slams won.

Evonne Goolagong, Evert's great contemporary, also made a point of not playing all of the Slams; she just had other things she wanted to do.

Things have changed a lot since Evert and Goolagong played.

Evert's win-loss record at the French Open, by the way, was 73-6, and she holds the best career win-loss record (.900) of any player, woman or man, in history.

Welcome to Women Who Serve!

This blog will cover many aspects of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour--tournaments, matches, player news, tour rules and protocol, some legal issues, the tennis media, and sexism in women's sports, as it pertains to tennis. I have been blogging about the WTA for five years in The Dees Diversion, which covered many other topics, also. And while I do not pretend to be an expert on the game of tennis--there are some good blogs writtens by those who are--I have followed the tour for a long, long time as a fan. To get us started, here is my first French Open post, published in The Dees Diversion.

As of this writing, the French Open is pretty much rained out, and the resulting heavy balls could mean bad news for Patty Schnyder's game, so here's hoping for sunshine and low humidity soon.